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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Nature's Beauty on Oake Lake

Pink Asters against the brilliant blue skies

Honey Bee, leg pouches filled with pollen, atop a Purple Aster

Sunrise over Oake Lake in the early Fall. A time progression.

Seconds later and a different camera setting

And then seconds later, same camera setting and different sun effects altogether.

McKenzie and Wahya's New Home

Rich and McKenzie

Lexy with McKenzie

Wahya with Lexy

Their new house!

Their new kennel!

I had the opportunity to spend some time this morning with Rich and his human family and new canine family additions. Wahya and McKenzie have been with them now for three weeks and appear to be very comfortable and settled in their new home.

They've got an enormous kennel that, when the gate is open, leads up to the family's deck. Both dogs go for a bike ride and a run with Rich every morning. The bike ride is so that Rich can actually handle both of them on the canicross run and be able to keep up. They want to go fast!

Nine year old Lexy has been working with them on "sit", "down", "shake" and "stay" and has done a pretty nice job! I've been told that Juniper, their senior cat, has been providing a lot of entertainment for the dogs from the windows above.

Both dogs will be skijoring with Rich this winter in various events and also spending time with us at Points Unknown for some of our events. Later in the winter, they will be joining us on our Advanced Women's Adventure in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Neither have been on an extended stay in the BWCA before so this will allow for some fun new experiences for both dogs.

I was so happy to see the dogs and people as happy as they were during my visit. I believe we've found a good fit for everyone!

Zodi, Zala and Oken Turn Three!

Zodiak - I'm a stoic boy with an excellent work ethic and a strong will. I can also get very goofy at times.

Zala - Even though I'm just a peanut, I pull just as hard, if not harder, pound per pound, than anyone else in the kennel. I'm also very sweet and love to hang out on the couch.

Oken - I'm a very sensitive boy and can't wait to do absolutely anything you ask.

Happy Third Birthday!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Almost Recovered

Tuloon chews her Nylabone.

Tuloon refuses to chew on her bone again until I put away the camera. Her "helicopter" ears tell it all.

Zala enjoys her bone.

Tuloon and Zala were spayed on September 14th. It's been 10 days and they are almost ready to begin spending time in the dog yard. Tuloon needs to take back her position as queen of the kennel as Topa is getting pretty snotty lately to some of the other dogs. Tuloon is the only one that seems to be able to put her in her place.

Both girls have become accustomed to hanging out in the evenings on the couch or cushy dog bed, chewing a Nylabone with jerky flavor in the center. Hmmm, hmmm! They'll continue to get their turn but it is now almost time to begin letting the others get a turn as well.

These two also need to begin spending more time outside as the weather begins to change so they will be sure to get their thick winter coats. They'll need them this winter as we take our trips into the Boundary Waters Canoe area for the first time in a few years. This will be Zala's first time on an extended BWCA trip. Tuloon went for the first time when she was two years old. She was in lead with Sweet Pea and was supposed to be following right behind my team. Instead, Miss Tuloon decided to take her musher on an adventure of her own as they veered away from us by about a mile, touring the shores and checking out various wildlife tracks and a deer kill by a wolf pack. Little stinker. No harm done. They were always in sight and finally caught up to us just before we reached our destination for the night.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

First Run of the Fall 2010 Season!

A beautiful sunrise greeted us on our first run of the season.

Wimzi seriously ponders the idea of her first run.

Here she is, looking relaxed and having fun!

First team out. Klaus and Oken. Wimzi and Sweet Pea. Ilo and Topa.

Our newly modified cart with hydraulic brakes, thanks to Neil!

Ilo and Topa

Klaus and Oken

Wimzi in lead with Klaus at 7 1/2 mos old!

Topa in lead with Klaus.

Ari's smiling face.

Ari and Journey

Ari's towering build

White Feather in lead with Phoenix

I am amazed that I am posting about our first run on September 19th. Historically, we're lucky to get out by October 1st. Thank goodness for an early fall!

Having added five "new" dogs to our teams this year, I was excited to see the new dynamic unfold. Would the newbies learn proper trail manners from me and the other dogs quickly? Would there be bad habits that would need to be address and would there be anything new I have not dealt with yet? (This is always a given and what a great way to expand your experience and knowledge even though, at the time, you might not think so.)

Ilo and Ari are older and had run on teams in the past so know the basics but not don't know what we expect. The other additions are White Feather and Topa, who ran a bit last season but were not full fledged members due to their young ages. And then there is 7 1/2 month old Wimzi who will get a taste of the trail early on but will not be a full fledged member until later on in the winter.

Tuloon and Zala would not join us as they as still recovering from their spay surgeries. They rested peacefully in their comforter laden crates in the sun room.

Yesterday, Hailey and I spent several hours preparing for our run. Lines had to be checked for flaws, equipment had to be rounded up and given a once over and most of all, we had to get in the "zone". I wasn't quite ready to run yet!

We loaded dogs to the beginnings of a spectacular sunrise. It was 50 degrees and overcast. Had it been clear, we would not have run as it would have warmed up much more quickly.

Our main objective for the runs was to just get the dogs running again and not to worry about much else. As with many plans you make with dogs, things change and I found myself working on Oken's "gee over" AND leaders! The runs were going so well, I decided to give several dogs a try at lead. In a nut shell, we had two very successful runs. Here's how they went:

Klaus and Oken in lead. Klaus was distracted by Oken's forgetfulness of the "gee over" command. I moved Oken to point position (behind the leaders) on the way back and put Little Miss Wimzi up in front. This was her very first run and her very first time in lead. We had done so much canicross hiking with her as a younger puppy that she was comfortable right away being in the team and then in lead. Had we sensed any stress, she would have remained in the team but there wasn't the slightest. As with most of our first timers, she ran and pulled like heck as she looked back at the other dogs and cart chasing her. This didn't seem to bother her. She just appeared to be assessing whether she should be concerned and opted not to be and went about her merry way, in lead, at 7 1/2 months old and for a mile and a half. This was enough for her first time.

It was then Topa's turn in lead. She had begun the run in wheel with Ilo. Since Ilo is an adult and just being introduced to the team, we want him to remain in wheel position(at the very back) where it is less stressful for him and the others until he has had more time with us. There were no issues what-so-ever with Ilo except for a little bit of cheering before he was hooked up. We teach our dogs to remain silent and calm at hook up. This doesn't work for some of our dogs despite early consistent training, in which case, they are allowed to be themselves, within reason and unless it becomes obnoxious. Back to Topa up in lead. Excellent. Held the line tight and ran straight ahead. She even held a tight line while we were stopped and taking dogs off the line. Only one little blip when a flock of birds surprised her by flying out of a bush along the trail. She did a puppy jump up to try and catch a few but didn't miss a step as she continued forward on the trail.

Sweet Pea did what Sweet Pea does. Behaved well, set a good example for the puppies and new dogs, pulled and remained silent.

Second team out began with Phoenix and Journey in lead. We ran into a group of long distance bicyclists that were camping along the trail. This completely freaked Journey out and she moved all the way to the left side of the trail and froze and refused to get any closer. This is part of who Journey is. We've tried to train this out of her but you can't train out something that lies deeply rooted within a dog's temperament. Yes, we can try to introduce her to all kinds of strange and different things and experiences and it will help but it won't eliminate the problem. At that moment, it appeared as though being in lead was just too stressful for her so she went back in wheel with Ari and was completely calm and comfortable there. Phoenix then lead alone for the remainder of the trip out.

Ari, being an adult and new, just like Ilo, will remain in wheel until we all feel more comfortable as a cohesive team. He is known to be a line biter and Hailey saw that behavior briefly once, made a voice correction and he stopped. Good dog! Otherwise, he pulled his heart out for which he is also known. He takes after his brother Phoenix.

Zodiak and White Feather were in point position to start. Zodiak is one that can't hold back his exuberance at hook up and will wail at the top of this lungs until he is hooked up. He is also one that needs to have a very strong authority figure otherwise he will take over. I've managed to exert enough authority to keep those tendencies at bay but always have to be on top of it. He never gets anything for free. He is also a dog that puts his heart and soul into his job. He's a good and honest worker.

White Feather was doing exceptionally well in point so we decided to move her to lead with Phoenix. Head to the ground and back arched at the start as she pulled more than her fair share, she soon settled into a nice and even trot and remained on the right side of the trail! Thank goodness! A dog that appears to be a natural righty. This means less work for me!

White Feather kept the line tight with Phoenix as we took the dogs off the line and loaded everyone into the truck. It is just so gratifying to think about all of the time, energy and hard work you put into your puppies to get them to the point of their first official runs in lead.... and they do it! And they do it well!

What a great morning out on the trail with the dogs.

Dog Shots

Hailey thoughtfully prepares the shots. (Trying not to laugh at the photographer)

Gently grabbing a handful of skin, she eases the needle into Zodiak's neck.

Hailey gave four shots yesterday!

We don't vaccinate every year as over vaccination causes terrible health problems. It has been three years since their last Parvo/Distemper Vaccination and since we've had a rise in distemper in the area, it was time. Hailey learned how to give vaccinations and every dog got one but Wimzi. Her booster is due in about 5 months.

This time of year we also worm the dogs. This will be done within the week. Each dog also gets monthly heartworm medication.

Ari Goes to Obedience Class!

Ari at obedience class.

What fun it was to take Ari to obedience class yesterday! He arrived shortly before the State Fair rush began and I have been absent and feeling very bad about that. He's been fitting in well but I want him to be more bonded to me and taking him to obedience class will help to lock this in more quickly.

He did a great job for our first time. We've got an excellent trainer that seems to be spot on when it comes to diagnosing canine behavioral issues. She validated my suspicion that Ari is an extreme Omega and this is where his fear aggression was stemming. He had the attitude of "I'll get you before you get me". He also has some over exaggerated social behaviors that scare the other dogs. Once he's gotten to know them he no longer feels the need to fly into their faces and wrap his mouth playfully around their necks.

I've had an issue with Ari's recalls. He appears to want to come and has good eye contact but when he gets close he veers off and averts eye contact. This behavior didn't appear to be the same that you'll see from a playful or defiant dog that really doesn't want to come and is just teasing you. After discussing this with our trainer, we are suspecting that he is doing to me what he would do in the pack; coming close to the "leader" or "alpha" then remaining detached so as not to cause conflict. He is being an extreme Omega. He remains close and lets me scratch his head or his back but will not come near my face. It will be fun working out different training methods to use on this boy. But generally, he should be treated like any of the other dogs and expected to do something in exchange for something he wants. This will make him feel as though someone other then he is in charge. Omegas desperately need to know that someone else is in charge otherwise they become very nervous and difficult to handle. All in all, what a wonderful boy he is!

Tuloon and Zala Spayed

Zala and Tuloon just arriving home from the vet.

Plans were made prior to the fair to have Tuloon and Zala spayed before fall training began, which is historically October 1st, so that they can be healed and ready to run! They went in on Tuesday and are recovering nicely. They are both so good in the house and have caused absolutely no trouble. I recall having Inuit Dogs in the house after a spay and having to keep them tied around my waist so they don't eat anything (including the little house dogs) and don't pop their stitches from their exuberance!

It was a bid sad and considered the "end of an era" when Tuloon was fixed. She has had two exceptional litters. That was enough for her and now it is time for her (and us) to not have to be concerned about those hormones that flair up a couple times a year! Having two less females intact will create less tension in the dog yard. Wimzi, White Feather and Topa will be the new generation.

Quick Get-A-Way

A little log cabin model sits at a rest stop on our way up north. We went in to take a peek.....

Trail clearing!

We had beautiful weather!

Northshore, south of Grand Marais. The beauty!

We were fortunate to catch a glimpse of this little guy at a favorite dining place in Grand Marais. The folks at The Pie Place said this baby has been spotted up in their crab apple tree and is also the suspect in the beehive tipping incident.

After all products had been retrieved from the fair, Neil and I headed to our northwoods get-away for a quick trip while Chris looked after the sled dogs. We had hoped to do some trail clearing but found that our bodies and minds were still very fatigued after our previous month of intense work on the fair so we ended up doing less than we had hoped and eating more than we had hoped. It was still so nice to be up north, breathe in the fresh crisp air, witness the changing of the season and relax.

Post State Fair

Creamed Honey and Honey with Comb in the Jar

Creamed and Liquid Honey

Many different colors and flavors of honey based upon the flowers the bees visit. They create honey from the nectar of flowers.

Honey is art.

Before the rush at the Honey Ice Cream and Honey Lemonade stand. Enjoy it while you can.

At the sampling counter.

Honey Booth

The view from my office perch, high atop the Honey Booth.

The Honey Candy booth buzzes with activity.

The smiling faces of the "Candy Ladies".

It's hard to believe that I haven't posted for an entire month. This shows how completely consumed I have been with everything having to do with the State Fair Honey Booth. I've got a lot of catching up to do!

Imagine being someone who feels most at peace in the serenity of the woods and in the company of dogs either alone or with one or a few good friends. Then imagine placing yourself in a huge mob of people at the "Great Minnesota Get-Together" for 15 hours a day and 12 days straight! Over stimulated is an understatement! I did manage to get myself in the "zone", focusing on the task at hand and individuals rather than the congested crowd. I do enjoy educating folks about honey and bee products and I had a wonderful, hardworking and knowledgeable group of people working at the booth that made my time there so much easier. When I had to go out into the crowd, my tunnel vision kicked in. The deep and slow breathing began.

The adrenaline was the only thing keeping me going most of the time as a full night's sleep was not possible. Neil got up before me and headed into the fair before it opened to restock the shelves. I followed within an hour and settled in for the day. Neil returned to feed the dogs and sleep then all dogs got out to play in groups while he restocked the truck for the next day. I returned home at 10:30PM, just in time for bed. My poor dogs. I was so exhausted upon my return home that I was only able to make my feet move those few more steps into the dog yard in the dark but three times during my 12 day event. The first night I visited, I recall the mournful howls upon my departure that continued on and off throughout the night. My heart strings got tugged a little too hard that night. I could imagine what my dogs were thinking, knowing that I am home but not coming out to visit them and when I do, only for a few moments.

As I write this, I am reflecting on the fact that the dynamic in the kennel always changes when there is change. Ilo and Ari recently came to live with us, McKenzie and Wahya went to their new home while I was away and Neil was the main caregiver during my absence. This is a A LOT of change and the dogs are acting out a bit, trying to find their place within all of the change. This will all take time to settle. Patience is a good thing.

So, the Fair! It was a great success and a lot of honey was sold when it needed to be sold. (My mantra payed off!) As is life, there is always something new to learn and I sure learned a lot and cultivated a routine and system that I can apply next year, making it so much easier. Yes, changes will be made and on the top of the list is more staff for the Honey Ice Cream Booth! My poor scoopers worked their wrists off this year and won't need to work quite as hard next year.

We also learned a valuable lesson from the State Patrol and are thankful that we were pulled over by the Vehicle Inspection officer the day after the fair as we went to retrieve our products. Upon inspection, the officer discovered broken leaf springs on either side of the axle. DANGEROUS. We has no idea and were told that if we loaded the truck with the amount of honey we had planned to load that day, we could potentially have had a fatal accident as the leaf springs and axle collapses. This was fixed as soon as it could be and in the meantime, Neil took several trips to and from the fair in the Tacoma to pick up product. I made a point to call the officer to thank him. He was caught off guard as he said he had never gotten a thank you for giving someone a citation. Well, he got one from me! We were in the right place at the right time. Things happen for a reason. Thank goodness.

Now here we are, stepping back into our "real" lives again. The fair experience was a wild ride I will look forward to again next season. But not any sooner. I need a break. When asked how I felt about the pace during the fair I responded - I have been out winter camping with the dogs on a windy lake with 40 degree below zero temps for a week. Been cold to the bone and cramped in a tiny tent as the winds attempted to uproot us. THAT was easier than what I had just been through! Don't me wrong. I loved it. Just not interested in doing it more than once a year, thank you very much.

Sincere thanks goes out to each and every one of those who helped make the MN Honey Producers Association State Fair Fundraiser the success it was! It could not have been done without all of you!