|Our water stop, a secret artesian well en route. One of us drives the Toyota with trailer carrying our training cart.|
|One of use drives the big white beast we refer to as "Milton" which carries all of the dogs and gear.|
|We are packed to the gills! There are 21 large dog crates in there along with everything we and the dogs need for several weeks!.|
|Basking in the glow of beeswax candles used for light and ambiance as Neil cooks dinner using our new propane combination over, griddle and stove.|
|My bed for the trip. Relaxing with Copper and Blueberry.|
A flurry of beeswax candles orders and wholesale inquiries has brought me back to Watertown sooner than planned. Excellent reason for cutting my northwoods trip short while Neil remains to tie up some loose ends for a couple days.
Creativity blossomed as I basked in the after glow of my time spent at our Irish Creek Homestead during my 7 hour drive home. This was a welcome change as creativity has been illusive to me lately. Sorting through the complications to get to that "simple" desired lifestyle leaves the mind weary. And I mentioned driving "home". The word "home" isn't quite fully identified for us as we continue to travel from central Minnesota to the Arrowhead Region of Minnesota awaiting the sale of one home and the completion of another.
As I drive, behind me, in the box of my 17' cube van, snugly resting in large straw-lined crates, are my 21 husky companions. Next to me, two small house dogs keep close company. I'm in a bit of a fog as I drive down the "Trail" to the main highway. I've just spent the past four days working painstakingly on our building project with Neil and running the sled dogs, all in a place that doesn't take long to refresh my soul. I've not seen a shower for those four days and that fact quickly presents itself in a mix of other smells traveling home with me on my journey south that includes balsam fir, dusty straw and dog. All in all, the atmosphere is an extension of the north and is welcome, extending my feelings of relaxation.
I stop at the Subway in Grand Marais for a quick meal, knowing it will be the only one I have for the rest of the day. The dogs can't remain in their crates for much longer than the drive home and the temperatures are warmer than I would like so I am a bit on edge, despite the relaxation fog that remains. I've got a pass-through door in the cube van that keeps me in close contact with the dogs. I check in on them as I drive and sing to them whether they like it or not. As I walk up to the counter to order, I notice two people that I know from a few years ago in a completely different setting; out of context. It became quickly apparent that I was still in northwoods solitude mode as I stumbled over my words, greeting them, then completely losing my train of thought, standing silent looking at the wall and then apologizing for my disconnection. My social skills come and go just as my creativity can and today, those social skills were virtually non existent. "Not to worry," one of my old acquaintances quickly rescued me and says, "I remember how it was when I first moved up here".
Halfway through the drive, I began to feel that lull that threatens to prolong an already long trip as you struggle with boredom and monotony. Coffee time! I'm not a coffee drinker so this sudden desire for coffee does come with the knowing of consequences far reaching into the night. I'll be up late whether I like it or not but at least I'll be able to keep myself going for the remainder of the journey without petering out. I do have a full schedule of events upon my arrival that comes with traveling with a truck full of sled dogs.
I stop at a wayside just an hour from home, knowing that once I get home, I'll have no time for myself until all of the dogs are removed from the truck and tucked into their kennels for the night.
I arrive "home" just before 7PM. The dogs know we're home and begin rustling around in their crates and Klaus sets everyone off with his cheers of anticipation that this trip might finally be over. Any idea what it looks like to arrive home after a trip away with 21 sled dogs? Let me paint the picture.
I park the cube van down by the kennels, open the back of the van and muscle the steps Neil made out of the back. Neil made those out of two pallets. This invention makes it so much easier to go up and down and up and down into the van 21+ times to retrieve dogs and gear. I move several items out of the isle so that the dogs will have a clear pathway. First, I begin with the older dogs and puppies, until all 21 are out and into their respective kennels. Next, I pull the cube van up by to the front door and let the house dogs out. They run around in the yard a little then into the house they go. I quickly feed them, head out to the cube van to get the sled dog food and right back into the kennels I go. The veteran dogs know that I'm now in "buzz" mode which means they just step back out of my way and let me run around like a crazy person. I know full well that after a 7 hour drive and an intensely physical several days before that, if I'm not able to sustain the adrenaline push for just a little while longer, I won't have any hope of getting inside and sitting down to relax before I just plain crash. Now, the puppies, well, they aren't as familiar with "buzz" mode. Poor Zola follows me around briskly with a nervous "smile", puzzling. She'll learn.
This time of year, I scatter feed the dogs which means they each have a special place they eat and their food gets scattered in that area, be it on top of or inside a dog house. Scatter feeding keeps them busy and also helps to eliminate stomach bloat by forcing them to eat more slowly and pick at their food versus wolfing it down, allowing excessive air intake. Stomach bloat can be deadly.
After feeding, I needed to dump and refill their water buckets. Each bucket contained a combination of maple, oak and birch tea that had been steeping for several days. Before I left, I decided to leave the water in those buckets versus dumping them out so that upon our return, they would have something to drink before I could refresh it. While the water buckets filled, I collected the poop which is something a musher becomes very familiar with and even has serious conversations about. The color, texture and appearance are all important factors to the health of a dog. I can't tell you how many times Neil and I have rejoiced over the fact that so and so finally pooped this afternoon and it looked really good!
Collars then needed to come off. Since our dogs live in kennels with anywhere from one to three house mates, we remove collars to make sure everyone stays safe. Sometimes, their play can become intense and we don't want anyone catching their jaw on someone's collar. The collars are new for this season. The color of choice is blaze orange in celebration of Minnesota's first ever wolf hunting season. (NOT) Can you believe that over 26,000 people from all over the United States applied for a license to kill Minnesota wolves? Apparently ONLY 6,000 licenses were given. Great. And do you know that this season begins November 3rd and ends January 30th? Whether you agree with wolf hunting or not, the fact remains that people mistake dogs and who knows what else for deer during deer hunting season and my dogs have the appearance of wolves and now we have a wolf hunting season. We train our dogs beginning in October and then run them through the winter. We not only need to worry about deer hunting season but now they need to be fully outfitted with blaze orange for wolf hunting season. Then there is always the unknown. What exactly will occur when people from all over the US who have never even seen a wolf come to my neck-of-the-woods looking to hunt them? It's a scary situation, to say the least. Having said that, we're doing everything we can to make certain we and the dogs will be seen and safe.
OK. Dogs are fed, water buckets filled, collars off. Did I remember to get everyone off the truck? So I count again. Yep. All 21.
Now it's my turn. I immediately head in to turn on the beeswax candle tank and stock it with wax blocks. I'm going to have a busy day of making candles tomorrow!. Then I run to the truck to retrieve only what I need for the night. I head inside and wash my hands. I can see a distinct line that separates the clean hands from the rest of my dirty, dusty self. Shower time! But instead, I quickly sit down at the computer and type up a blog post before my creativity disappears with the coffee buzz. And now, a photo! You can't do a blog post without posting a photo too. So I dig through my photos and pick a few most fitting out of the 187 taken. That should do it. Now off to shower and/or eat, whichever calls as I head in that direction. Oh, did I mention it is now 10:10PM, 3 1/2 hours after I arrived home? And I still have a coffee buzz. This could mean another blog post or at least some photos posted on facebook.