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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Wimzi and Sister Sasha

Sasha and Wimzi

Wimzi and Sasha will be 6 months old on Monday. Although they look a bit alike, they have two completely different body types. It is so fun to see the different lines in one litter express themselves.

Although Sasha appears to be a bit taller in the photos, they are actually within a quarter inch of each other. Wimzi is 25 inches at the shoulder and Sasha is 24 3/4 inches. Sasha continues to take after her grandpa Zulu in body type while Wimzi is more like grandma Jesse, the foundation female for what we call our "Zulu" line. Jesse is more stocky and muscular. So, like grandma Jesse, Wimzi is just plain solid with a little bit of leg versus Sasha who is very leggy!

Jesse's lines originated in a kennel that bred racing endurance dogs for the Beargrease Marathon. Zulu's lines originated with Susan Butcher's famous lead dog Granite. Her lines were bred for the Iditarod. Since our Zulu line began, we have not been selecting for racing traits but for freight and trap line dog characteristics which were more traditionally found in bush villages in Alaska where dogs were used for subsistence living including the type of work done on a trap line team.

Canicross Hike 2010 - Luce Line Trail

Sasha's first Canicross Hike. She leans into her harness just like Uncle Klaus.

Cute "little" Sasha

A tangle of happy dogs

There we go. A little more straight.

Marilyn with our German Sled Dog member(German Shepherd). Conan is cooling off with a wet shammy on his back. What a great idea!

Kristen and Ziggy lead the way. Ziggy is a black lab/pointer cross and leans into his harness like a pro.

Diane and Sierra take a rest. Sierra has a huge beautiful coat and did well with the heat.

Chad and Katsu. Chad adopted Katsu from Adopt-A-Husky 6 years ago.

Our bicycle training moment

Rich took Oken out today so he could get his dog "fix". He doesn't have any dogs.... yet.

Horses approach as we practice our "haw over" command. This means to stay to the left.

Although the road is closed no one seems to believe it and they continue on until there are barricades. Our biker friends passed by twice which gave White Feather another exposure to this type of vehicle and how to behave when one approaches.

Last but not least, the cyclers! We caught Sasha misbehaving as she ventured out to get a closer look.

Temps were in the mid 60s when we began our hike at the Points Unknown Kennel this morning. Oken and White Feather where the chosen ones for this hike because they were two of only a few that were fully shed. We would love to work with others but this heat only allows for the "naked" dogs to be relatively comfortable. The humidity has been higher than ideal so we planned to meet at 8AM.

The county road near the kennel is closed for construction so we headed out on this route to catch the Luce Line Trail. Three water stops were planned and each time, they were much needed as the humidity and temperature slowly crept up.

There were some great training moments on the trail with bicycle traffic and folks with dogs on leash. Thankfully on leash! When we hit the county road on the return, bikers, horses and groups of bicyclists created even more distraction. Oken didn't bat an eye at any of the distraction and is becoming a seasoned lead dog. White Feather, just having turned a year old, is still learning about such distractions and nearly jumped out of her skin when the first group of bicyclists came rushing by.

All in all, it was a great 2 hour hike. We had TWO dogs in attendance that were not northern breed dogs! We'd love to have more! You can teach any dog how to pull!

Sunday, July 18, 2010



The pounding on the roof was intense

Hail became tiny missiles as it dropped into the Oake Lake

Leaves shredded from trees

A pocket of pea size and dime size hail

The dogs made it through without injury!

What a mess

Hail! When a southern accent is applied to the expletive, it sounds the same, and it was one of several uttered when I realized there was a dangerous storm on the way yesterday and I had no time to move the sled dogs to a safe location. I had 10 minutes to get myself and the house dogs to the basement before reported rotating clouds and baseball size hail were to literally hit the area.

I was beside myself as I watched the clock, hoping for a quick arrival and an even quicker departure of this storm. I remember hoping that the sled dogs would have the sense to duck into their dogs houses and I was hoping like "hail" that if there was a tornado touch down, it wasn't any where near my dogs. There was nothing that could be done but wait. I rushed upstairs to check radar and take photos of the storm's progression then swiftly returned to the basement. Each time I went up, it increased in intensity to the point I remained in the basement. Last trip up and it was indicated that there was no longer a tornado threat. Thank goodness. At least that worry is gone. Later I found out a tornado did indeed touch down about 3 miles south of the Points Unknown kennels.

The hail went from dime size to golf ball size quickly and lasted for, what seemed like an eternity. When it appeared as though the golf ball size hail subsided, I ran out to check on the sled dogs and tried not to show my intense concern as I greeted them with a light "Hey guys! How is everybody doing?". Many of them were sopping wet. Their eyes were like saucers and they were alert. They appeared to be physically fine. So I told them I would be back in a while and after a big sigh of relief, I ran back to the house. On the way, I caught a glimpse of my two year old Toyota Tacoma. It had been pummeled by hail. It's only a truck. That's what insurance is for. Sadly, the apple and pear orchard was devastated with nearly 60% of all of the fruit on the ground. The remainder is hanging on the trees bruised and broken wide open. The dogs and people are just fine which is the most important thing. Even though it stings, everything else is meaningless in the bigger scope of things.

The storm ended and I spent the next couple hours out playing with the dogs to try and assess their condition. No bumps on the head or other injuries were noted. They were indeed just fine. Can you believe that within a half an hour of the end of the storm, before anyone could have possibly absorbed the magnitude of it, someone pulled up in my driveway trying to sell me a new roof?! I remember saying, what I thought was under my breath, something about the arrival of the vultures as he handed me a brochure. Looking at his face, I'm not so certain it was under my breath and I quickly felt bad that my attitude may be adversely affecting him. I'm sorry, but this is just not the right time to try to push your business. There is something called tact and I didn't feel it was being exhibited here. And I'm sure he was wishing he would have caught me on a different day. Try again the day after the storm like the rest of the vultures did. I was in a much better mood today!

After feeding the dogs, I attempted to wind down when word of another band of storms was on the way. This time there were winds reported as high as 80mph. Geez. Not more. Thankfully, we only got some rain out of the latest storm which then gave way to a much needed decline in the humidity which had been sky high for weeks.

Today was a glorious day and the way I would like all summer days to be - mid 70s and breezy. If I wanted to live in Florida......

Minnesota Honey Producers

Bee yards are pin pointed on a map

The honey extraction begins in this room

Stainless steel tanks holding the extracted honey

I spent a lovely few days at the MHPA (Minnesota Honey Producers Association) yearly conference. It was the first of its type for me and I couldn't have asked for a group of more friendly and sincere people with which to spend some time. There were some excellent speakers that included an organic farmer/beekeeper from California named Randy Oliver who is heavily involved in honey bee education (educating people, that is) and is active in the political arena when it comes to saving our honey bees and other pollinators.

Did you know that some of the very best honey bee research is being done in Minnesota? Dr. Marla Spivak is heading this quest for honey bee knowledge and has been active in the MHPA for years.

This would be my first introduction to the association members as their new State Fair Booth Manager and I was warmly welcomed. I was asked to prepare a slide show presentation that told "my story" and of course, the sled dogs took up the majority of that talk. I mentioned how I am used to giving talks to this size a crowd but only with a sled dog by my side so if they happen to see me reach down to pet the air on occasion, they'll know what in the world I was doing. I don't have a very quick wit and often wonder how I will ever make it through long presentations but end up doing alright. It helps when you have a very forgiving audience, which I did! Writing is so much easier because you get to ponder.....

A visit to a commercial honey bee operation made the weekend complete. The Honls have nearly 5000 bee hives in too many locations to count. They are migratory beekeepers and move their bees out west to California for Almond pollination in the Minnesota winter months.

After a wonderful couple of days I was anxious to get back to the sled dogs and pick up the house dogs from the "resort" where they had been housed during my time away. Being very much an introvert, the fact that I had to be "on" for three days straight took a heavy toll on me and I couldn't wait to get home and take a nap but not after visiting with the dogs first.

After my nap, the skies appeared to be not as happy as they were earlier in the day. The weather radar and television broadcast indicated that there was a storm on the way. Little did I know what would soon come.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Canicross Hike; Minnewashta Regional Park

Wading in the water

Hailey with her "fav", Mr. Zodi

White Feather "hit the deck" when the dock began to rock.

Jasny with Mia

Waiting for Mia to jump off the dock

Weekend temps and humidity were awful and not conducive to a canicross hike of good length. We arrived at 8AM hoping to get a good hike in before the heat came. An hour long hike is all we could manage as the dogs were showing signs of being overheated. We spend just about as much time in the water as we did on the trail. The dogs loved the water! The people were pretty happy to be standing in it as well.

This was Jasney's first canicross hike! And she didn't even know she would be handling a dog all of her own until she stepped out of the truck. Surprise! She did a super job and caught on quickly.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Water Bucket Frog

Tuloon would never dream of drinking contaminated water

Our Froggie friend

A sunny day, lounging in the pool

Today will be the third time I have "saved" this little guy from what I thought continued to be a bad decision on his part. Making your way into a sled dog's water bucket can often mean a swift death. Froggie knew who he was dealing with. There was no way that Miss Tuloon would even consider drinking from a water bucket with a slimy green thing floating inside much less would she even contemplate placing said slimy green thing in her mouth!

Tuloon's water was up next for changing and since our froggie friend appeared to be safe and enjoying his swim I would leave him there until I changed the water. Until then, I placed Topa in with Tuloon for a moment while I swapped some other dog play groups around. Remembering about Mr. Frog and how I had just placed an unknown factor upon him(Topa), I quickly walked toward the kennel and was taken aback when I saw Topa, ever-so-gently, scoop him up in her mouth and place him on the ground. No blood, no gore. Just an intact frog with a sled dog standing over him, looking down and puzzling at its means of getting from place to place. Topa cocked her head from side to side and watched as he hopped under the dog house. She then walked over and took a drink from the frogless water bucket.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Moment of Reflection

Photo by Hailey
Me and Klaus

Life here on Oake Lake has been so unbelievably busy for far too long. There are very few times when I actually get a chance to sit and reflect. I just had one of those chances! All of this hard work will pay off when Points Unknown moves to where our heart and soul belongs; in the northwoods.

Believe it or not, while growing up in a U.S. Forest Service family, I recall resenting that we lived in the woods in the Appalachian Mountains for a period of time, away from just about everything and "in the middle of nowhere". Maybe it was because there was no snow. I remember being completely disgusted that we were cutting a Christmas tree down in the woods of all places! I just stood by the car and checked my hair in the mirror. Clearing a portion of the Ice Age Trail with the YCC (a division of the Forest Service) one summer was horrific as I recall picking 36 ticks off myself on the drive back to the base, complaining the entire way. When we moved to Upper Michigan and Wisconsin it was "What?! I've got to walk to the bus stop in all of this cold and snow?" You've got to be kidding me.

Alright, so I wasn't the easiest kid. I was(and still am) fiercely independent. I rebelled against everything my parents stood for at the time, like many kids, and one big thing just happened to be the great outdoors! Instead, I spent hours upon hours practicing my trumpet from about grade 6 onward, losing myself in the music. This progressed to a college music scholarship to study Classical Trumpet performance. And where is that trumpet now? It has been sitting on its stand being moved from room to room in hopes of getting my attention to begin playing again. Oh, I have tried a few times. Most of those attempts were in the dog yard. It wasn't pretty. You just can't "pick up" a trumpet and play. It takes a lot of conditioning of the lip muscles. Ask the dogs.

So what happened?! I've discovered that those core values that are ingrained upon you as a child do come back around. Then you get to choose what to do with them. If it's something you'd like to discard to make a better path for yourself, then it's your choice. But if it is something that makes your heart sing, sticks with you and feels apart of you then you explore it and see where it takes you!

Now 41,(Did I really write that?) I was able to reclaim my passion for the outdoors and discover a passion for working dogs in my early 20s. That passion for the outdoors was always there, I just hid it well. As a child, I spent hours carving necklace pieces from southern shale in the Appalachian Mountains in our front yard and in the "middle of nowhere". Swimming lessons at YCC camp in the lake, snapping turtle stew, beaver and bear sloppy joes, catching fireflies and bumble bees in jars, making sand candles on the shores of Lake Michigan with my mom, tromping through the woods on a regular basis, canoeing, fishing, hunting (once), starting my own little campfires at age 5 in the nearby woods (oops), camping in leaky tents; all of these things and more are apart of me and have brought me to where I am now. Where I am now is making plans to move up to the "middle of nowhere" with a bunch of sled dogs. Life has come full circle. Life is good.

This is what it is all about; what this blog is all about. "The quest for a more simple life; working with traditional sled dogs".

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Kennel Tour

The entrance to the dog yard with our Clematis in full bloom.

Picket fence serving as a bowl drier.

Four kennels are "lakefront"

Route up the hill to either the "dog yard" play yard or the "back yard" play yard.

Double gated entry into the back yard for the safety of our little house dogs.

The "dog yard" play yard is all uphill so a lot of exercise can be had by the dogs as they chase each other around.

Interior kennel with another behind it.

We've been pretty happy about our kennel set up and will try to come up with a similar and more improved version once Points Unknown moves to what has been our winter home in the past, for good. At the moment, there are eight, 6' high kennels which will be expanded to nine, 10' high kennels up north. We have two very large fenced-in play areas currently with only a 4' fence around them. Our new home will have three even larger play areas with 10' fence around them as the snow gets much deeper and there are more concerns about predators.

A big concern for us is that the mosquitoes and black flies are outrageously thick during a couple months of the year so we will have indoor/outdoor kennels so the dogs can escape the bugs. The doorways to the interior portion of the kennel will be swinging metal, heavy duty, dog doors so that the little buggers don't just follow them inside. Of course, this indoor kennel will need to be well ventilated if the temperatures increase outside. More details in the works!

Our plans are coming along nicely and we feel lucky to be able to provide our dogs with such luxury, even if it means that the home for the humans becomes smaller and less luxurious.

Product Testing

Miracle Coat "No Fly Zone"

Springtime "Bug Off Garlic"

We're testing a couple new products in the kennel as alternatives to using chemicals.

Miracle Coat "No Fly Zone" is an herbal insect repellent that we have been applying to the dogs' ears to deter flies as these nasty creatures like to snack on the tips of ears and can leave them raw if not tended to properly. So far so good. It seems to work well, however it does need to be applied every couple of days and the dogs have become concerned about the spray bottle pointed at their head. We've begun following the "squirt, squirt" with a treat and this seems to make it tolerable for them.

Springtime "Bug Off Garlic" was recommended to us by Amanda whose kennel we recently visited. Once in the system, it is supposed to repel flies, ticks, mosquitoes and fleas. When the package arrived, I could smell it coming in the arms of the UPS driver! THAT is how strong it is. We purchased the Equine version because it was a better deal for the amount of dogs we have. We've been using it for almost two weeks and it takes between two to four weeks for the garlic to penetrate the dogs' tissue so we haven't seem much difference at this early stage. At first, some dogs loved it and others despised it. We give 1tsp per day and it is sprinkled over their food. Now that there was been a pattern of one meal a day with garlic, the dogs are more accepting of it but do eat quite a lot slower so it may also be a good deterrent for stomach bloat! (Dogs that inhale their food can develop a condition called stomach bloat where there is too much air and/or expanded food in the dog's stomach than it can handle and gas within the stomach is created. It is a very uncomfortable and potentially deadly condition.) The verdict is still out on this product but if it doesn't work out, we've got an awful lot of garlic we'll just add to our own diets!

Couple's Winter Adventure on Website!

Sandy and Corey take turns running the sled dogs

The 2011 Points Unknown Family Winter Adventure that will be taking place at Boyd's Mason Lake Resort near Hayward, Wisconsin has been posted on our website!

Please click here for more details!

Family Winter Adventure on Website!

A family out on the trail with the Points Unknown sled dogs.

The 2011 Points Unknown Family Winter Adventure that will be taking place at Boyd's Mason Lake Resort near Hayward, Wisconsin has been posted on our website!

Please click here for more details!

BWCAW Reminiscing

Zulu, one of the foundation males of our kennel passed away in January of 2010 at the age of 13 1/2 years old. This was his last trip to the BWCA. He shows his contentment and happiness by rolling in the snow, while all the time keeping his line tight. Phoenix is in point with Klaus. This was Phoenix's first trip of this kind.

Photo by Mark Schwartz
We discuss our route

Zulu leads us down the lake

Our base camp at US Point with Canada on the other shore.

The dogs are staked out on the ice with ice screws and enjoy their lounging time after a long run.

Vast views

Everyone's interest is peaked as a human walks back from the hole made in the ice for dog water.

Beautiful skies!

From nowhere comes a snow storm dumping heavy wet snow on us all.


Everyone relaxes at base camp. When sleeping and curled up in a ball with their noses under their tail, they are trying to conserve heat so they can remain warm. Notice that most dogs are stretched out which means that the temperatures are quite warm for them. Zulu is up and on call as he usually was.

Sweet Pea stretches from a good night's rest as Klaus gazes stoically into the distance.

When it's 90+ degrees outside and a warm breeze is blowing in my face, I can't help but take myself back to some special winter adventures we've done with the dogs to remind me that winter is just around the corner. Soon the warm breeze will be replaced with healthy crisp air that makes me feel more alive.

It's been several years since we've been able to take a trip by dog team into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northern Minnesota due to our busy winter touring schedule but this year we have made certain that two trips are on the quickly filling calendar. One trip is scheduled for our advanced group of participants that have gone through our rigorous training regime over the years and are now ready to go beyond trail running. We'll be taking this group on a winter camping trip by dog team where they will learn detailed points of this activity as they will need to be self sufficient. A mandatory navigation workshop will take place prior to the event and they will be tested on their abilities. We will be traveling as a group, however in the event that we become separated, they will need to know how to navigate their way back.

Our guests will receive a list of maps they will need, an extensive list of gear and a guide on how to prepare ahead of time, the food they will for the journey.

Our first trip into the BWCA will be solely for us to enjoy time alone in the wilderness with our dogs which has been something we haven't had the time to do the past several years. This will be Neil's first time winter camping on a frozen lake in the middle of the wilderness. Considering Neil spent 22 years in the British Army and participated in all kinds of adventures, chosen or not, from northern Ireland to Germany to Iraq, I'm quite certain he will be a natural. And because we will be in the company of the dogs that he loves and spends hour upon hour caring for, I'm sure it will be a very rewarding trip for him.

Think good ice and just enough snow! (Too much snow in the BWCA can mean slush and difficult times breaking trail for the dogs)