Just Pottering On

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23 July 2016       2.00 PM       74 F        Cloudy

Summer in Alaska is a time of great activity.  The near perpetual daylight for weeks on end, means that one’s perception of time gets a bit distorted. It is not uncommon to find yourself outside doing chores or gardening at midnight and thinking that it must be getting close to dinner time.

This summer, we’ve had some wonderful sunny weather, days of endless sunshine and temperatures in the 80s – which is verging on the ridiculously hot for us and the dogs. It has however, meant that our garden has done well, in great part due to the generosity of the Willow Garden Club, who organised a program to donate a variety of plants to those who were affected by the Sockeye Fire. The splash of color that our new flowers have brought is always a welcome sight.

Additionally, we’ve been enjoying the fruits (literally) of our labours. I say “our”, but last summer a dear friend brought over and planted quite a number of strawberry plants. Those have flourished remarkably – so much so that they’re at risk of taking over the driveway, never mind the patch of garden they were put in – but they have produced a great number of delicious strawberries and we did intend to thank Carrie for her hard work by giving her some of them. But, you know, they just tasted so good and ummm, well, we ate them all.
We haven’t had the same success with our raspberries, similar to to the strawberries, the plants themselves are making a land grab, plus we got several more raspberry plants from the Willow Garden Club, but for some reason, none of our bushes flowered, and we managed a total haul of 5 raspberries, yes  FIVE, not pounds, not gallons,   five solitary little berries.  But our rhubarb, which survived the fire,looking just a little frazzled around the edges, continues to live up to rhubarb’s reputation as the plant you can’t kill.  Our 4 have so far given us 6 kilograms of rhubarb, and we’re hopeful of a good second harvest as well.
The beans we planted, courtesy of WGC and Carrie are also doing well and have been fun to watch grow. They were starter plants, germinated by the kids at the local Elementary School. Labelling of the different varieties was, let’s call it broad brush – everything was “bean”.  So far, we have identified, french beans, runner beans and yellow wax beans.

Of course, living in Alaska, we are encouraged to take full advantage of the opportunities to get fresh meat and fish. As someone who is a terrible shot at anything more than about 50 yards away, I tend to shy away from hunting. The fact that we’re not the biggest fans of the taste of moose either (whisper that, it seems to be sacrilegious to admit it out loud up here) means that is less of an issue for us anyway. However, the fishing is a different tale, and the opportunity to bring home fresh salmon and halibut is always seized, when offered.
I’m not long back from a trip to Seward to go halibut fishing, which also doubled as a sightseeing visit, never having been there before. The trip was great, the fishing good, the scenery wonderful and the natural wildlife amazing. As well as catching halibut, rockfish and a ling cod, we saw several whales, lots of sea otters, a couple of sea lions and a porpoise or two.

Heading out of Seward

Heading out of Seward

One of the many glaciers we got to see on the trip

One of the many glaciers we got to see on the trip

Floating Sea Otter

Floating Sea Otter

Sunbathing Sea Lion

Sunbathing Sea Lion

With our house finished being rebuilt, our furniture finally delivered, and all of the back garden fences reinstalled, it’s time to move back in to our home and resume normal living.
This past year or 13 months have been rather eventful, here’s hoping for a quieter year to come with a winter full of running dogs and lovely snow.

Goodbye Teague

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Harry, Teague and Seven at 2 years old

Gealach Mor Teague  5 Sept 2003 ~ 10 March 2016    (flanked by Harry and Seven)

Today, we say a stunned, heartbreaking farewell to Teague.

It has often been said that these dogs are incredibly stoical – and that many of us don’t regard that as a trait that is very helpful, as time and again, the first indication any of them give about being unwell, it is usually something major. And so it was with Teague. At bedtime, he was fine, at 4 AM he was uncomfortable and by 9.00 AM at the vets, he was gone.

Puppy Teague

Puppy Teague

We’re still in a state of denial and disbelief. Partly, because his sister Seven, was saved by our vets at the end of January following a ruptured spleen caused by a hemangiosarcoma. Her diagnosis isn’t especially hopeful, and we are constantly watching her with varying degrees of trepidation. To lose Teague in such a manner, and the vets suspect that it was a hemangiosarcoma in his chest that had ruptured, was a gut wrenching blow.  Teague had been a house dog since he retired a couple of years ago, and he was a steadying, calming influence, as well as a wonderful cuddler. A dog who loved people, from a very young age, he was also one of my main leaders and a strong favourite of my wife.

Teague and I, after the Can-Am 30, Fort Kent, Maine 2005

Teague and I, after the Can-Am 30, Fort Kent, Maine  March 2005

Goodnight to our sweet boy.

Goodnight to our sweet boy.

We wish our darling boy Teague safe travels to the Rainbow Bridge, and to the joyous reunion he will have with his 5 brothers and his sister, as well as his parents Vader and Beth. Carry our tears and our unending love to them all.

Little Bundles

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So, if we take Yuri of Seppala for a little walk and to visit Queen of Seppala, nature dictates that 9 weeks later, give or take a day or two, we’re going to be blessed with the arrival of little bundles of joy.

Yuri of Seppala

Yuri of Seppala

And so, it turned out to be.

Queen and her 2 pups

Queen and her 2 pups

On 11 February 2016 we became the happy caretakers of another 2 Seppala Siberian Sleddogs, when Queen whelped 2 little girls. They are growing well and Queen is finding looking after 2 much easier than taking care of the 6 she had last time. Actually, we’re finding it a whole lot easier too.

Puppies Day 1

Puppies Day 1

Now, at 6 weeks old, they are developing nicely, growing well and are as pretty as all get out. We finally gave them names, Kenzi is pup #1, and Bella is pup #2.

Mum is taking good care of them

Mum is taking good care of them

6 weeks old, chewing on toys

6 weeks old, chewing on toys

Queen still lets them suckle, but it's on her terms at this age.

Queen still lets them suckle, but it’s on her terms at this age.

Still looking good after 6 weeks of nursing.

Still looking good after 6 weeks of nursing.

Kenzi  (R) and Bella  (L)  on 27 March, contemplating the big wide world.

Kenzi (L) and Bella (R) on 27 March, contemplating the big wide world.

The colouring of the girls is still developing and changing, as it always does. But it’s looking like we’re going to lumbered with another couple of whites………..  at least at first glance. Both of them do have some colour, in the shades of isabella white. Kenzi will, in all likelihood, like her half brother Eris, be a piebald, but with such light shading that it isn’t very noticeable. Bella has much more of the isabella colouring and it is fairly obvious in real life.

Welcome to Gealach Mor, girls.

Smile and say “thank you”

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Please forgive the lack of productivity on here for the past few months. As always, I do have a fairly good excuse.

Most of those of you who read this, do so because you have an interest in us, our dogs, sled dogs generally, or life in Alaska and will probably be aware of the events here in Willow last June. If for some reason, you don’t know, then in a nutshell, there was a bit of a fire.

Actually, it was quite a big fire, and ended up consuming around 7,500 acres, 55 homes and quite a few other structures. I’m not going to go into a lot of detail, but we were in the path of the fire and had to evacuate all our dogs with practically no advance warning. Things were slightly more complicated because my wife was back in the UK, so I was dealing with our 51 dogs on my own. Our friends, Mille and Joar, who also stay here were similarly a person down – Joar was in Norway, so it was just Mille for all their dogs. Thanks to wonderful friends appearing at the crucial moment, we duly managed to get everyone out and ended up camping at Underdog Feeds for a week. Late that Sunday night, I got a phone call from my friend Leo, who was working on the fire crew, to say that he had been by our place and that it was gone. Just like that, we were homeless.  As were many others.

This is all that was left of our home.

This is all that was left of our home.

It was a week before we were allowed back home. Fortunately, the dogyard had survived relatively unscathed and most of the working dogs could go back to their usual spots and routines. For us humans and the house dogs, it was a bit more of a “make do and mend” situation. As described in an earlier post, one of our old girls was unable to cope with all the stress involved. For the rest of us, we resolved to make the best of the situation and resolutely cheered ourselves on with cries of “it could have been so much worse”.

Friends, strangers and organisations rallied around with offers of help, physical, financial, emotional and most importantly, food ! Which is how this post got it’s title. I feel awkward with attention and was quite uncomfortable with the whole thing – friends know this and gave me good advice.  Just smile and say thank you.  And you know what, that really helped.

9 months on, we are well on the way to rebuilding our home.  I now own more than one pair of pants – having driven away from the house that day in June with just the clothes on my back. We’ve survived an Alaskan winter in our temporary home and while the dogs haven’t run very much at all, they have had plenty of free running and hugging time.

And that, dear readers is why I haven’t posted this winter.

 

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