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A Life of Chaos

November 8, 2016

Wow! I can’t believe it’s been well over a year since my last post here! Time flies when you are running around madly trying to get everything done.

This past year has been way too busy to enjoy, but here’s to hoping we’ve got that under control a little bit. With jumping into the homesteading life like we did, we found that we had a very hard time keeping ahead of what needs done. As such, we’ve been pretty much running from dawn to dark just to keep our animals fed and watered, cleaned and housed; and the garden from being completely grown over. I think we’re finally starting to get on top of the projects and should have at least a little breathing room for other pursuits.

I am expecting to be back to posting about our adventures this week! Wish me luck! Wait! Forget that! Wish me energy!

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John Denver Lied

May 3, 2015

Don’t get me wrong, I do like John Denver songs – a lot! But life on the farm is not laid back. At least it’s not on this farm! There is always so much to do, and so little time to get it all done! Perhaps on more established farms, things can become a little more relaxed, but in trying to build this farm, we find ourselves behind the curve every day.

When we get up in the morning its triage. What things are most important to do first today? How can we get into the shop to do our actual paid work and still get the garden worked on, or horses’ feet trimmed? Which project is most important to finish first, the goat pen, or the rabbit cages?

Take yesterday, for instance: We milked and had breakfast, and then started our regular chores. While doing chores, we realized that today was the only day that we could cook for the dogs in the next three days, because we had appointments scheduled. We also had to butcher three roosters and I was planning on canning and drying some citrus too. And somehow we needed to get in the shop too. Laughable! We were already tired, so we really didn’t want to do any of it. Alas, that wasn’t an option. The food we had for the dogs would go bad if we didn’t cook it right away, and we’d just be throwing money away on feeding those roosters if we didn’t get them in the freezer.

Some of the food we've been gleaning to feed the dogs.

Some of the food we’ve been gleaning to feed the dogs.

So, LJ started the fire (we use a big rocket stove styled cooker for our dog food) and chopped potatoes while I finished feeding the dogs. Then LJ headed off to set up her butchering area while I tended the fire and chopped up the rest of the food that needed cooked.

This style of cooker has to be tended regularly, you can’t just bank the fire and walk away, so I spent the next several hours running back and forth from house to dog yard – doing dishes and slicing oranges in the house, then adding wood to the fire and changing out what was in the stock pot as things finished cooking. LJ butchered roosters and checked the fire in between each bird.

Canning the chicken takes a lot of pressure off the already cramped freezer!

Canning the chicken takes a lot of pressure off the already cramped freezer!

We finally got the canning and the butchering done and the dog food all cooked, and had a chance to sit for a little bit before doing afternoon chores. By then there was no possibility of getting into the shop. The list of things that didn’t get done was, as usual, far greater than the list of things that did get done. We can’t focus on the “not dones” though, and just have to be happy with the “dones”. We crawled in bed early, watched a little Netflix, and crashed. Cursing the clock this morning when it said it was time to get up.

So much needs done, and it all needs done right away, that sometimes we have a hard time prioritizing the work. I joke often that we need clones of ourselves to do some of it. Or we need to quit sleeping – that would help too! We spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to lighten the load. Obvious answers like: getting rid of some of the animals, forgetting about gardening, or paying someone else to do some things get rejected every time. That would be too easy, and we are gluttons for punishment!

There are many reasons that we are so busy here right now. One of them is that when we started setting up the property, we never had any intention of a farm. Another is that once we decided to start raising animals, we went crazy and got too many too quickly. This is why we are having to play catchup with building coops, cages, pens, and shelters. We also try to do as much ourselves as we possibly can. We could pay to have the horses’ feet done, but we really can’t afford to. We could buy a building to make a new coop too, but again, no money.

We are trying to find ways to make our work more efficient – changing fences so we can use the quad and trailer to haul things, building coops that are easier to clean. Until we can finish these projects, we’ll always be behind and tired, I suppose. Perhaps we will be tired even when these things are done. So why do it? I occasionally ask myself this question, and others certainly ask it of us. We love having the animals – we love growing our own food – we love being self-sufficient! To do this – to live this way – it requires a lot of commitment in time and energy, and yet the reward is far greater than any paycheck can be. We provide for ourselves, we know where our food comes from, we know how to store that food, and how to care for our animals.

In our 40’s, we felt like we were all out of adventures. Homesteading is our new adventure. It’s a whole new batch of things to learn! I think we will probably always be tired, always be struggling to get the work done; we’ll never have enough money. But we’ll be fulfilled. And that’s everything we need,

A view worth stopping to admire!

A view worth stopping to admire!

Changing it Up – Orange Chocolate Chip Cookies

February 19, 2015

Just a quick note. I have a recipe to share with you.

A while back, we had the good fortune of gleaning some oranges. We ate some, canned some, and dried some. I was a little unsure what I would do with the dried oranges, but needed to get them preserved. Later I tried dipping them in chocolate, which is a great treat by itself, but I wanted to capture that chocolate/orange taste in a more subtle way.

Orange Choc Chip Cookies

These are lovely warm, but the orange taste really comes out when they are cool! Enjoy!

Orange Chocolate Chip Cookies:

2/3 cup shortening
2/3 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 TBS vanilla
3 1/2 cups flour
1 tea baking soda
1 tea salt
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (darker is better!)
1/2 cup chopped dried oranges

Cream the first 6 ingredients, mix in the dry – add in the chips and orange last.

Bake at 375 on ungreased cookie sheets until the cookies are done the way you like them!

I think other dried fruits will be equally tasty in this recipe and hope to try them soon. If you do, please let me know how they come out!

How Dogs Ate us out of House and Home, part 4

January 22, 2015

Like a true addict, I wasn’t going to stop running dogs just because it was bad for me! Sure, I had a bad trip and swore I’d never do it again, but that memory faded quickly enough and the addiction got hold of me again. LJ, ever undaunted by little things like terrifying, life-threatening, out of control dog teams, never had to question her sanity – she knew this was her new passion and there would be no changing that!

Running in the dirt, or mud – which was more common for us – was fine. But when you think of mushing, you don’t conjure images of dogs and people covered from head to toe in mud; instead you picture a beautiful snow scene for the dogs to run through, serenely pulling a sled.

Snow did come, in the form of several wet inches in the Olympic Mountains, so we took a couple of dogs and that new sled of ours out for a test run. The sled had steel runners, which stuck horribly to that wet snow. It was not a very fun run, but at least not traumatic. Clearly we needed better snow and better runners!

We kept training on the cart, and going to the dirt races. Our conversations over dinner were almost always about the dogs; they were clearly taking over our life! I would find myself at work, daydreaming about running dogs, making lists of which dogs to run together, and planning out training schedules. My work performance definitely started to suffer!

Getting to run in the snow was becoming a constant desire. Becky and Joe got our sled fixed up with QCR runners – we just needed snow! Driving up to the mountains every weekend wasn’t really something we could afford, so we started dreaming of moving to the snow – and out of the constant rain.

Running a team with two sleds and two drivers is a great way to train.

Running a team with two sleds and two drivers is a great way to train.

A job came available in Cle Elum – it would be an advancement for me, and a move to snow. I was very comfortable in my job, and as I stated before, didn’t really care for chaos and change, but the opportunity was too great, so I applied and was hired to be the new computer geek for the Cle Elum Ranger District! The Forest Service paid for the move, but we would have to find a place, and that would prove to be one of the biggest challenges yet.

Moving with 20 some dogs and 5 horses was not an easy task. The Forest Service paid for the household move, but not the animals. We had to ferry them over the pass in our two horse trailer – pulled by our old ’68 ford pickup – in January – several times. We had chickens then too, but as fate would have it, when we drove over to check out the area before moving, Judy Blue got out and ate all the chickens – one problem solved!

A friend introduced us to another musher in the area that might be able to house our dogs for a bit. He was scary! Big, hairy and grumpy! And he didn’t really seem too excited about us keeping the dogs there. We didn’t like the idea of leaving our dogs so far away – we’d have to drive about 20 minutes one way to care for them, twice a day. The rest of the time they would be on their own, not in the most secure or comfortable of housing. It wasn’t a great situation and we felt like we needed to really push to get property.

The realtor we contacted to help us was really lousy, and there were not a lot of options out there that we could afford. A 25 acre piece of rock and scrub with a creek running through it came up and had a lot of potential. Trying to be nice new potential neighbors, we went over to the closest house and introduced ourselves. We explained to the folks that we had sleddogs – that they could be noisy at times, and that we were hoping to purchase the property right next to them. Their reaction was favorable – they seemed really interested in what we were doing and were welcoming. We asked them to call if they had any concerns – and then we waited for about a week.

We heard nothing from our new neighbors so went ahead and closed on the property. It was then that we discovered that the local land owners were going all out with the anti-welcome wagon! There was a petition against us! It was signed by a lot of people – some that lived more than 10 miles away from our property! Like a wildfire, this anti-sleddog sentiment spread through the county. Ridiculous! Crazy! These people were quite mad! They were afraid our dogs would eat their grandchildren, for crying out loud!

There was no going back. We had signed the deal and had no other recourse. Our county isn’t really that small, but it’s a ranching and farming community and folks stick together. It’s great when they are your friends, but it’s awful when you are the outsider. Public hearings were held and we witnessed new laws being arbitrarily decided by the county commission. It felt unreal – like a bad movie we were in the middle of. I was shocked that people could actually behave so ignorantly. Our attorney, the one that was getting every scrap of money we made, took the matter up with the superior court and the rulings were overturned, but the matter was far from over.

We moved onto that property with our horses and dogs and a travel trailer. The neighbors cut our fences and turned our horses loose. They called the sheriff and the county permit people – daily. Every time we left for work, we were afraid of what we’d find when we came home. LJ was about ready to start shooting people.

This was the worst year and a half of my life. The property was beautiful, but we were miserable because of the constant harassment and stress. The lawyer was getting all of our money, and we started to get to know the sheriff deputies on a first name basis. LJ took work as a wildland firefighter and was gone quite a lot. While she was gone, I got a notice from the county saying that I had to pay a $1,500 fine or would be arrested for the dogs barking!

LJ on the line fighting wildland fires

LJ on the line fighting wildland fires

It really was the straw that broke my back; I freaked. Liz called me from fire camp, tired and having stood in line for 45 minutes to get to a payphone (cell phones were large and expensive back then, we only had the one). I told her about the letter and what had happened and that we had to do something, anything! – to get out of this situation. She responded calmly that she’d give it thought and call me the next day. The next day she called with an idea that she was sure I wouldn’t like: Sell everything, quit my job, hit the road with the dogs. Two years ago, I would have laughed at her! All I said was, “okay.”

Selling the horses was the hardest thing. Nothing else really mattered that much. Those scary people that hosted our dogs when we first moved over had gotten to be great friends, and they let us move back over onto their property for the time being. I put in notice at my job, and when LJ’s work was done for the season, we started building a dog box for the truck suitable for hauling all of our dogs and housing them continually. We also built a utility trailer to haul our supplies in and to live in.

Living quarters for us and the dogs - pulled by the ever reliable "Sumbitch"

Living quarters for us and the dogs – pulled by the ever reliable “Sumbitch”

What still stands today as our most painful defeat in life, also gave us the courage to strike out on the best adventure of our lives. It would change us forever!

Living free and happy!

Living free and happy!

Silence from Kaos Farms

January 18, 2015

I realize it’s been months, literally, since I’ve posted anything here and I wish to apologize!

Things here at the farm have been absolutely nuts! But I am working on the next article of the “Dogs” series, and will get it posted soon!

Thanks for hanging out with us!

Too Much of a Good Thing?

November 7, 2014

SamhainNow is the time of the Celtic New Year, a time that always has felt more like the end of one cycle and the beginning of another to me than January does. We take this time to look back on the year and be thankful for the good, dismiss the bad, and to make plans to change the things we don’t like about our lives.

It was far worse than it looked

It was far worse than it looked

In October of 2013, we were hit by a semi-truck. While the accident could have ended so much worse than it did, it still put us into quite a tail spin over the course of the year – financially, spiritually, and physically. In spite of that, this last year has been a year of great expansion for us. We decided to expand our chicken flock, to get goats, and to get rabbits. On top of that, we discovered free feed in the way of brewers mash, free wood from a couple of different places, free discarded produce from a local grocery, free apples for the picking, and we were given a bunch of free wool to spin!

All of this is wonderful! Having more animals allows us to produce more of our own food; the angora rabbits bring an opportunity to make a little money selling yarn spun from their fiber. Free feed allows us to feed these animals for a lot less money – and it also keeps that stuff out of the landfill. The free wood means that we’ll have the means to stay warm and to cook no matter what – and we are helping someone out by getting this wood out of their way (and again, keeping it out of the landfill). The free apples (we picked about 200 pounds!) were also headed to the landfill, and now are sitting in our storage room waiting to be dried or canned. Any bad apples went to the critters who enjoyed them immensely. The free wool is again an opportunity to make a little money by selling homespun yarn. All this doesn’t cost anything but time – lots and lots of time (and energy).

A typical day's shopping - wood, mash, and produce, as well as purchased feed and groceries

A typical day’s shopping – wood, mash, and produce (fresh apples this day), as well as purchased feed and groceries

Our place has gone from a messy kind of lived in look, to utter disaster! There are piles of lumber, firewood, shavings, and wool everywhere. The house and storage areas are piled high with food waiting to be processed, clothes that need repaired, paper that needs shredded and turned into fire bricks…. It’s a small space and we’ve got way too much stuff! There just hasn’t been time to get things organized.

We live way below the poverty line and free stuff is always most welcome! However. We have spent this year exhausted! We are on the run constantly – picking up this stuff, building fence and shelters, taking care of animals, cleaning pens, processing food, and cutting wood. And somewhere in this rush, we have needed to get into the shop to work at our paying job (we build working dog equipment for Alpine Outfitters), LJ has a book to finish (see her first book here: www.battlesworn.com), we have sleddogs that need a job, and horses that are bored out of their minds! We aren’t as young and strong as we used to be. LJ has a permanent back injury that severely limits her daily activity, and I’m just generally beat up. This lifestyle is killing us!!!

I didn't have a pic of one of us humans asleep - but this is how we feel! :)

I didn’t have a pic of one of us humans asleep – but this is how we feel! 🙂

LJ describes it as our P vs NP problem – Problem verses No Problem. This is the lifestyle we want, but we aren’t happy in it right now. So what do we do to turn this problem into no problem? Solution number one is to simply get rid of some animals and cut back on our workload. Neither of us wants that. People tease us that once animals come here, they never leave (and they live forever) – and it’s true. Once we get our hands on them, we don’t like to let them go. I can’t imagine sending them off to live with someone else. Some of our animals will be butchered soon, and that will cut back on a few, but not many. (I know that sounds like a conundrum, and I will try to address that in another article)

Solution number two is to work harder. A perfect solution in theory, but in reality, we’re doing as much as we possibly can! We aren’t twenty anymore! Whether we like it or not.

Solution number three, and our favorite, is to somehow earn more money so that we can purchase things to help us do our work easier, or so we can pay someone else to do some of it for us! Making more money seems like the right solution, but also a nearly impossible one. We don’t buy lottery tickets and we are too busy to get a second job!

As it turns out the third solution might just work. We have finally settled the claim for the accident, meaning we can drop the stress of dealing with that, and we will have some money to pay off some of our bills, and to buy a couple things that might help with the work. If we can work smarter, not harder, we might just solve our P vs NP! We will see what the new year holds for us.Math-on-Chalkboard
In contrast to all this expansion, our life has seen some harsh contraction too. This year we have had to put six of our old sledodgs down. It was their time to go, and we had more than a decade of joy with them, but it still hurts. One of the worst things about having animals of any kind is that they never live as long as we wish they would. Since many of our dogs are siblings from the same litters, we tend to have them grow old all at once, making the loss even greater.

The last of the dogs that we raced are gone now, and it feels like we’ve lost a whole era in our life. Yes, we still have sleddogs, but those old dogs, they were with us when we lived on the road and put a thousand miles on the runners in a winter. They represented the time in our life when everything we did was for the sake of racing dogs and anything else was incidental. It was a great time, and badly missed!

This is also the time of year we celebrate those we’ve lost in this world. Samhain, or Halloween, represents the time of year when the veil between the world of the living and world of the dead is thinnest and souls can cross over to visit. It is a time to ask for guidance from our ancestors. We remember and honor the family that has gone before us, the beautiful horses that we spent our youth with, and all those great dogs! The loss is sad, but there are so many happy memories.

Three who have gone before us - enjoying a fantastic snow storm a few years back

Three who have gone before us – enjoying a fantastic snow storm a few years back

What would they say to us? Stream, the world’s best lead dog, would say, “Run more, worry less! Roll in the snow and be joyful!” Spirit, my forever horse, would say, “There isn’t a hill too steep to climb! Charge headlong at your troubles and you’ll be fine!” LJ’s mom would certainly advise us to do what makes us happy no matter what the cost, and Dad Gordon would tell us that we needed to work hard and play later!

As we start this new year we have hope that things will be a little easier and that our abundance won’t become a curse. We’ll give thanks for the wisdom we have gained and will continue to gain in the time to come. May the blessings of the Beaver Moon shine bright on all of us, in this world and the next!

Full Moon

How Dogs, Part 3 – Jet Fuel

October 28, 2014

I asked LJ to write the next installment of our story about our life with sleddogs because she tells it best! Enjoy!

DOGS!!!! How can I spell that word and send the shivers of excitement coursing through your veins like a shock of electricity? Well, I can’t, but that is how I felt when it came to running dogs. It still is, if I allow untampered adrenaline to take control. Close your eyes and imagine the wind in your face as you stand on the runners of a 25lb sled, whisking through the snow with the trees laden with newly fallen flakes. A river runs beside you, thick with ice over the rocks, but still churning water swirling down the mountain.

One of our very favorite places to run.  A pic from many years ago.

One of our very favorite places to run. A pic from many years ago.

Listen to the sounds of padding feet of a dozen dogs, panting breath, the water, and the wind. Drop your body low on the runners, grasping the handlebar tightly as you expertly navigate a tight corner doing about 20 mph. It’s like flying, I think, or at least the closest thing to it. There are few things that can compare, and they are all equally or more dangerous. What? Dangerous you say? How can running dogs be dangerous, it’s not like a motor bike after all!

Well, I can tell you many stories of the dangers of dog sledding, but today I am going to talk about what happens when you add jet fuel to a dog team.

We, that is, Laura and I, were learning as much as we could about sled dogs. We were still running a few Alaskans, some of our show dog champions, and the rest of the team was made up from our rescues. So, quite a combination of dogs. However, it is not just the dog that makes a team competitive. I am, well, crazy competitive. Back then, even worse than I am now; now I am mellow.

We were learning more from whatever source we could, and currently, we had made some feed changes to our dog’s diets that included a high fat, high protein kibble and supplemented with Champagne Race Diet; which is a meat specially formulated for sled dogs by a famous dog musher named Charlie Champagne. Let me explain in more scientific detail. The average dog food contains somewhere between 10-15% proteins with 7-10% fats. We began feeding a high quality food formulated for canine athletes with a 30% protein/ 20% fat. Added to this we had the Champagne Race Diet, which is 39% protein and 46% fat.

We had been feeding this new diet to the team dogs for about a week, with no chance of getting out to work them. Finally, the weekend came; along with about four-five inches of very wet snow. We lived in Western Washington at the time, so wet snow was still snow to us. But we couldn’t postpone running any longer. The dogs were going crazy in their kennels, and we had waited all week. Anyway, when I made a plan to do something, I did it, no matter the consequences!

We ran on old logging roads that were mostly abandoned, and ran miles and miles. It was brisk and cool, and the dogs bounced about as we harnessed them. Laura was introspective, eyeing the wet, sloppy snow.

“Do you think this is a good idea? Hooking up ten?”

“They need to run,” I answered, not understanding why she did not understand this.

No more was said on the matter, and we began hooking the dogs to our little red, three-wheeled cart. It was tied off to the truck, so we could hook the dogs up without worrying about them leaving before we were ready. By the time we had six hooked into the lines, the cart was lifting into the air and slamming back to the ground as the dogs hit the lines with a power we had never seen before.

This was our 3 wheeled cart at a race many years ago.

This was our 3 wheeled cart at a race many years ago.

“I think six is enough,” Laura stated worriedly, her face filled with concern and reserve.

“It’ll be fine,” I said, “but we can tie that old tire on behind the cart to add weight.

This old tire probably weighed another 50 lbs. or more, and Laura agreed, “Yeah! That’s a great idea!” (note from Laura: One 50 pound tire does NOT make up for even one 50 pound dog’s power! What was I thinking?!)

So I attached the tire to the cart with a spare rope we had in the truck. It seemed like a good safety feature to me!

Ten dogs hooked up, hitting the lines with a frenzy of adrenaline and power that I could never have believed dogs could possess. The cart was flung about, smashing into the ground and then flying back into the air. I stepped on with confidence, adrenaline perhaps pumping through my veins as well, imagining the speed and power these dogs were going to take off with – much like a racehorse, springing from the starting gate. Laura stepped on the cart beside me, her face grim but determined.

I popped the quick release snap and we bolted away from the truck… for about twenty feet. Then, yep, as all inexperienced teams get, a tangle in the lines. Dogs tangle themselves, and other dogs, in the most miraculous ways, and it’s all unexplainable just exactly how it happens.

“Just let them run that way,” Laura suggested.

“They could get hurt, and they won’t learn that way,” I argued as we stood on the jolting cart.

“What if I can’t hold them once the tangle is free? What if you miss the cart?” she asked.

I shook my head, glancing back to the tire dragging behind us. “I can always jump on the tire. The drag will stop them, and then I can run and jump on the cart.”

She nodded and I got off the cart and went up to the front, untangled the dogs, and… yeah, they were very powerful! The cart took off, and I missed the handle. The tire came along and I easily bounced onto it. Excellent plan! But then, suddenly, the tire stopped, and I watched in shock as the cart, Laura, and the dogs flew off at a supersonic pace!

The rope had broken! I was on my feet and running instantly. Although I could do a nine-minute mile in the Army, I was no match for a team of dogs loaded with jet fuel. Laura was standing on the brake, the cart swinging wildly back and forth through the slush with no traction. She started screaming, and although I was running full out, all I could do was watch her and the dogs disappear over a low hill. I, of course, did not stop running. I couldn’t hear screaming anymore, and this gave me hope that she had been able to stop the team.

I topped the hill, and sure enough, Laura had managed to get the dogs stopped. The cart was turned on its side and she was sitting on the handle bar, just like we had been taught to do by another old musher. It appeared to be working! The dogs were not patient. They were slamming themselves into the lines, screaming and yelling. The cart moved several inches every time they crashed forward, but I was almost there!

I was maybe fifteen feet from them. I could see the tears on Laura’s face as murderous eyes met mine. Then the cart suddenly lifted completely into the air. Laura was flung up with it. The cart landed on its wheels and Laura on the passenger seat in FRONT of the handlebar and steering bar! They surged away, and I had been sooo close. I ran!

I watched Laura (mind you at that time she was not really athletic) as she crawled from the front of the cart, over the handlebar, and back into driver position. Amazing! Again, she managed to halt the team and flip the cart over, once again, bravely, sitting on the handlebar. I was close this time… I reached them, and sat on the handlebar with her. The dogs were screaming, surging against their tugs, so full of power and energy that they had no sense of wait.

“I am NOT going any further!” Laura screamed at me, her voice topping the sound of the dogs. “I am NEVER f$%#Q@ running dogs again!”
“We just have to let them run the energy off,” I told her, hoping my own calm would affect her near insanity.
“NO!” she yelled, eyes fearful and yet thunderously angry. “This is it! I am walking back to the truck. If you want to run them, go ahead.”

“I can’t take them alone,” I tried to sooth her. “What if there is a bad tangle and someone gets drug because I can’t stop them? I need you to come with me. I won’t let them get away from me again.”

“I can’t.”

“You HAVE to!” I ordered her, hoping this change of tactic would make a difference.

“NO, I don’t!”

The cart was beginning to move again with each tug, just a few inches, but it was a signal that the dogs were working up to a more powerful frenzy.

“We will never be able to flip this thing back up, and both of us get on in time,” Laura finally yielded to the greater need. “But once this trip is over, never again!”

“If I miss the cart again, I will grab the rope,” I promised her.

Laura eyed me warily, “I will kill you if you miss.”

“Ready then?”

“Ready.”

Together, we flipped the cart over together. Only, as Laura leapt onto the footboard, she knocked me aside. But they didn’t get away; there was that rope, trailing behind as the dogs and Laura zipped off. I leapt for it, seizing it in both hands. I was ripped off my feet and landed in the slushy wet snow. Laura was standing on the breaks, screaming at the dogs, though she managed a glance behind to find me fishtailing around the road behind her.

Have you seen Indiana Jones and the Lost Arc? You know, how he holds onto his whip, dragging behind the truck and crawls hand over hand up the whip? Well, then you have a great visual of what I was doing. The dragging wasn’t so bad, the snow made for a nice lubricant over the gravel and dirt. I reached the cart, my elbows banging onto the ground and keeping me from getting a good grip on the bars of the rig. But, I managed to get my upper body on the footboard. The dogs, miraculously, stopped briefly, I leapt up the remaining way, and then the team exploded off down the road.

Like this, only in slush!

Like this, only in slush!

Finally, we were on the cart, side by side, as it should be. All was safe, right? We let the dogs run full out, hoping to kill off some of that maniacal energy. They ran, for a couple of miles without slowing up one bit. Then we came to a T in the road. Here, we always, always, had turned right. Turning left led back to the paved road in a mile or so. What did they want to do? You’re right, they wanted to turn left.

“You are not getting off this thing,” Laura told me emphatically. “They can just run that way. It’s more than a mile to the pavement, by then they should be worn out enough to get turned around.”

I called the turn again to our leaders, but they ignored me, and the team began to slam the cart again. I started to get off. Laura put a hand on my arm. “If you get off, so do I.” she told me straight.

So we let them turn left. They charged along the road for another half mile where we approached a bridge across a very swollen creek. Suddenly from the brush popped out a little yearling black bear, crossing the road. As if the dogs hadn’t needed something else to stoke the fires!
Laura stood on the break and I steered the cart to the side of the road, driving us straight into the ditch and a big bush. The front of the cart was entangled and we came to a hard stop. Not a second passed before I leapt off the footboard and raced to the leaders. Their eyes were glazed over with eagerness, perhaps madness. I grabbed them by their neckline and “circled the wagons”. That is, brought the leaders around to the wheel dogs, letting everyone become hopelessly tangled.

“Holy crap!” we said together as we watched the terrified little bear scurry off the road and into the brush.

We watched in silence, waiting for the big momma bear to show up, but thank the Gods, she never did!

“This is the last straw,” Laura told me as we stood there in the rain and slush, with the creek burbling its way to nearly over the bridge we had to cross on the way home. “I am NOT getting back on that (imagine some serious swearing here) cart. I will take some of the dogs and lead them back to the truck. Go, run the others. I will be at the truck when you get back.”

“That’s like, nearly three miles,” I told her.

“Did you not hear me? No cart!”

She was done, finished with the business. We unhooked the quietest four dogs and I struck out with the other six, back the way we had come. I knew she was miserable, and that a three-mile hike in the 4-inch slush was not going to improve things. When I came to the T, instead of making the run I had originally planned, I turned the dogs towards the truck. The leaders made the turn expertly and they were trotting properly as I stopped at the truck.

I watered them, threw four into the truck, and hooked two back to the cart. My plan was to meet up with Laura and the six dogs could pull us. Foiled again! I was no more than a hundred feet away from the pickup when the front wheel of the cart fell off. Yes! Came completely off! Not the tire but the entire front wheel assembly! Well, that settled it. I loaded up the dogs, and met Laura with the truck instead.

She laughed when I told her about the wheel, and she said. “I guess we’ll have to get Dad to weld that back on before we can run again.”

You heard that right: ‘Before WE can run again.’

LJ