Friday 23 May 2008

May 23, 2008 Jessie Arnold's Life

I might have magical powers, as it seems my prayers for rain were more then answered. Wednesday morning we woke up to overcast skies and a good steady rain falling. But by Thursday afternoon, the same overcast skies and steady rain was kinda getting old - although I really wasn't complaining!

I did just the minimal required chores in the dog yard, which was fine with the dogs who wanted to stay curled up in their houses anyway. I spent most of the day catching up with some inside work.

I did find a bit of time for some not so productive, raining day things - namely some reading. Any of you that have visited the house know I love books and my reading tastes span a pretty wide spectrum. I also like to mix up more serious reads with some 'lighter' ones. So I was pretty happy when the new 'Jessie Arnold' book arrived in the mail. For those of you not familiar with Sue Henry's mushing heroin, Jessie was first introduced in "Murder On The Iditarod Trail" a slightly campy but enjoyable mystery set, you guessed it, on the Iditarod Trail.

Over the years I've read all of the series - quick, easy stories that are a nice break from more serious tales and heavier reads - and I've come to a conclusion - I want Jessie Arnold's life.

Not that I don't love my own life - I surely do, but Jessie seems to have all the 'perks' in my life - and none of the hard stuff. Yeah sure, the occasional dead body shows up on her dog trails and folks are occasionally shooting at her or trying to burn her to a crisp in cabin fires - but she never seems to be fretting over sponsorship, her dog yard chores take a mere line in a paragraph and training runs are put on hold without concern. In this most recent book, she and her handsome state trooper boyfriend are actually planning a 10 day trip 'Outside' over Christmas. I wish (for the trip, I mean - not the 'handsome, state trooper boyfriend'. I'm pretty happy with my handsome electrician husband).

Jessie was portrayed by Kate Jackson in the TV movie version of 'Murder on the Iditarod Trail'. I'm still looking for the checkpoint with the hot tub and drinks with little umbrellas in them that Jessie enjoys on her Iditarod. Eight years and I still haven't found it.

I also covet Jessie's team, well, maybe not her team, but as well trained a team as hers. I nearly choked on coffee when I read the paragraph that had her planting her snow hooks and walking back behind her team to check on something she had run over on the trail - especially since this was her first training run of the season on a sled!! 

Even with Kara, my version of Jessie's beloved leader, Tank, in lead I'd still be chasing that team through the woods of Alaska.

Jessie's evening also often includes dropping by the neighborhood bar for a drink and a game of pool with friends. Mine?? Well, they usually involve a TV show or two, while bustling around answering emails, doing laundry, or other such menial chores - and then collapsing into bed early so I'm ready for the next day's early morning.

Ah well, I must get on with my day. It may not involve a weekend helping friends fix up a light house or a riverboat cruise on the Yukon River, but I do have to run into Perryvale to pick up the mail!!!

And btw, this morning the sun is shining and the skies are blue. You just couldn't ask for a prettier morning, with mist and raindrops still hanging on the trees - straight out of a novel!


Monday 19 May 2008

May 19, 2008 Spring Storm

As much as I adore winter, as most of you, I love the arrival of spring. Last week, seemingly overnight, the valley burst out green as the popular trees buds popped open.  The evenings are long and lovely, with it being light until almost 10 pm now.

Unfortunately, one thing spring has not brought with it this year is rain. Since our big dump of snow last month, we have been entirely moisture free! It may sound pleasant, but the county of Athabasca is already under a 'fire advisory' - and the last few mornings smoke from nearby (but thankfully not too nearby) fires has hung heavy in the valley. 

The last 3 or 4 years have been wet, with a low fire risk, and have lulled us into a false sense of security. This is a wake up.

The last couple days have been bitterly windy - further drying out the ground and hindering hardworking firefighters. As each new cloud bank blew in, I'd look to the sky and plead for rain, but no matter how dark and dreary looking, they all blew off without leaving a drop of moisture.

Last night, by the time we went to feed at 8pm, the wind had vanished and the skies were completely clear. The dogs spun around their chains, kicking up a blanket of dust over the dog yard.

Mark had to be up at 4:30 am to leave for work, so he headed to bed at 9:30, but I decided to stay up and let it cool down before trying to fall asleep. I've been stalling off on replacing the flannel sheets and the bed is really toasty with them on.

Around 10:30 my eye was caught by a flash off to the north. There are some kids camping in the valley this weekend, so at first I wasn't sure what the flash was caused by (thought maybe they had a ATV out late and I had seen a headlight in the woods) but one look at Fly, who had begun to shake like a leaf and drool, confirmed that our first thunderstorm of the season was upon us (Fly has a few 'issues' - thunderstorms are his biggest one)

Now, as a kid I LOVED thunderstorms. I have this childhood memory, don't know how accurate it is, but I remember sitting on the porch of our families' first house with my Dad watching storms blow in. I think because I associate thunderstorms with him, they always made me feel safe.

But then I grew up, fell in love with a pack of dogs and became responsible for their welfare. Now thunderstorms scare the heck out of me - especially during dry times when they are not accompanied by rain, as was the case last night.

I stood out on our deck and watched the first wave of the storm move further off to the north. Behind me far off flashes were scattered through out the skies to the west, heading our way.

Fly, my 'fearless' guard dog was plastered against the back wall of his dog house and the 'Candies', having never experienced a thunderstorm before, barked defiantly at the night sky.

It was about 11:30 that I decided I needed to quit worrying and just get to bed, but once there, I just stared at the ceiling as the flashes lit up the house every minute or so.

Then the temperature display on my ceiling began to drop. From 13, to 12, to 11 and down to 10 in a matter of moments. Suddenly, the sound of rain hit the roof - hard. The fussing in the dog yard stopped instantly, as I'm sure the dogs all ran for the protection of their houses.

I snuggled down into my flannel sheets and fell asleep with a smile on my face.

I don't think a huge amount of rain fell overnight, but everything this morning seems cleaner and fresher - well, except for Fly, he looks like he has a bad hangover! We certainly need more rain, a lot more rain, but even that little bit last night was a welcome thing.


Wednesday 14 May 2008

May 14, 2008 Spring, Puppies & Work

Well, I have been so negligent in writing diary entries, that I've left myself with a huge number of things to talk about. Where to start..where to start...
Well, first off I think most of you have heard that I made a venture back into the work force a few weeks back.

The pulp mill that Mark works for was looking for 'tank watchers' for their annual 'shutdown'. The job involves sitting and watching contractors work in vessels, ensuring their safety. It isn't a complicated job, so since I have a pulse and I'm in fairly desperate need of money to pay off lingering Iditarod bills, it seemed like a perfect match. 

A day of training, steel toed boots on, safety glasses, hard hat and visy vest in tow and I was ready to start earning a paycheck.

I'd be lying if I said the job was mentally stimulating, and the work environment is about as opposite from my 'normal' work environment as one can get. It was dim, stinky and dirty (okay - maybe the 'dirty' was no different then normal for me!) but it really made me appreciate even more the fresh air and blue sky I work until most of the time!
The toughest part of the job was the long hours - it was just over a week of 12 hour days. My shift was 6:30 to 6:30 and in order to save gas, I commuted with Mark, who was working 6 to 6, so basically, we were away from the house from 5am - 7:30 each day.

Now even that would have been okay, had not the temperatures plummeted and water buckets in the kennel froze, forcing us to go back to watering dogs at each feeding. Thank goodness for Markus Husch, who was waiting for us at the house each night to help with feeding. Even with his help, we wouldn't finish chores till around 9pm - then it was time to cook, eat our dinner and collapse into bed - only to get up at 4:15 to do it all over again!
I wasn't sad to see my stint end - but I was happy to get the paycheck!
Right after that ended, Colleen Hovind showed up for a visit. Having Colleen around always boosts my spirits and the two of us spend two weeks buzzing about cleaning up the kennel, catching up on house chores, working on the gardens, playing with puppies, and even running a few teams! I was definitely sad to see her head back to Saskatchewan last Sunday.
Spring is sure making its presence noticed. There is a lot of bird activity around the valley, the Pasque flowers are poking up out of the brown forest bottom, and the Siberians are shedding! I even heard rumor that the hummingbirds are back. Time to dig out the new feeder I bought last fall - after Bait wrecked the old one in a bold move to try and catch one of the little aerial acrobats. No, he was not successful. Doubt he ever will be, but he is an optimist.
We have a couple litters of puppies on the way. First up with be Kara with a litter of Moses kids. She is due June 19th and already has a bit of a 'baby bump'. The other litter is Watt x Sprite - due at the end of June. I tried to breed Nahanni too, but for some reason the timing was just never right with her and she never really stood for Nik.

Moses & Kara
Watt & Sprite

As was already mentioned on the NorthWapitiNews list, Batdog has moved to a new home. He is living with Mark and Pat Ellinger in Minnesota. Ellinger's already have 2 dogs from us - Mork (14) and Spider (9) (no, that is not the Spider that was on my team this year). I just knew that Batdog would be the perfect match with this family and as much as I would have liked him to hang around here awhile longer; I just couldn't deny him such a great opportunity. Pat flew up to pick him up mid April and reports he has settled in fabulously!

A few other dogs will be moving on to homes in Sweden, Illinois, Arizona and elsewhere in the next few weeks. I will be sure to keep everyone updates on who is leaving and where they are going!
Well, I'm sure there is more to report - but lunch is calling - so I'm off to the kitchen!
Happy Spring!