Monday, December 09, 2013

We are getting so excited! I just got back from the Iditarod Rookie Meeting in Anchorage.  Its been an interesting weekend full of great information and catching up with and making new mushing friends. Plus the reality is setting in.....
The Cosmic Canines are running the Iditarod!!!

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Now that I am in civilization, I can catch you up on our adventures in the bush. I kept a diary and translated them into blog entries. I will post them over the next week so you can get a taste of our fall and early winter activities.  

It is good to be back with the dogs again. During the month of September, we ferried the dogs down the Yukon from Circle to Fort Yukon, six at a time, starting with the females, then the race dogs, then the yearlings, and on down until slowly, the dog yard in Two Rivers emptied into a silent and lifeless void that I almost couldn’t even look at without turning my head. The last trip even Cosmos, my Jack Russell Terrier jumped a ride in the little 14 foot skiff 90 miles down the mighty braided river, off to the bush to wait for my arrival. The chickens and goats were farmed off to the neighbors. I was packed and ready.
Those last couple days I felt amputated and lost. No jingling collars or the ribbed sound of chain drug across a dog house door when I went out to the outhouse early in the morning. I missed the quiet rumble of the dog yard. The bleating demands of the goats. The needy following of the chickens at my feet. All gone. It was like I didn’t exist. The night sky was especially brilliant with thousands of stars and the dusty milky way swirling, seeming even higher, more distant. At this moment I was a tiny point in an infinite expanse, not a Goddess in my own universe, a realization that almost gave my soul vertigo.
I flew over on a little six seater Navajo plane, though I was the only passenger. The plane was so packed with mail I had to wriggle my way through the boxes and bags to just get into my seat. I had been to Fort Yukon at least a dozen times but never travelled by plane, only by boat and dog team. It was a beautiful flight over. The sun glancing off the wings, the clouds gathered around, over the White Mountains, and at the last minute over the wide river plain, in an arch turning over the tiny village and onto the airstrip.
The plan is to put in some quality early season training in the bush for both the dogs and myself. A simple life where I can focus on the dogs. Where I can travel, off into the wilderness, unlimited miles, and have trapper’s cabins every 30 miles to camp at. I plan to stay until race season begins, running first on an ATV then as soon as the rivers and lakes freeze, on a moosehide toboggan.
I settled in quickly. It took me just a couple hours to turn the tiny shack of a cabin where I’m staying into a cozy little haven. The kids, young and old alike to stop by now to see what magical things the miniature stove, originally destined for the dump, can produce. Only one burner works, the oven can barely fit one pie pan, and a stump needs to be propped against the door to make the seal to get up to temp. but still I have been baking biscuits, cakes, bread, and cookies on my off time. Strategically placed scarves and a little bit of wrapping paper give the 12x14 cabin a little d├ęcor.  Before it was just a little shelter, now it’s almost homey.
The dogs were already training hard. Now I vary their training alternating between fast runs with the whole outfit hooked up and hard slow runs with smaller teams. There are wood roads and meadows we can loop around, through golden grasses turned silvery with frost and down dirt paths patched with fibrous ice. Into the glowing morning, glistening, everything bright and sugared from the overnight freeze. It rained a couple of evenings then got colder through the night. Now every tip of the diamond willows have a tiny sphere of glass, frozen in anticipation, waiting for the sun to give fall that probably won’t come until spring. So now even the twisted rabbit willow patches border  the swamps and creeks look like regal, magical places. The rosehips are plump and frozen into sweetness and make the perfect syrup for morning pancakes. They trim the edges of the trail, their valentine red standing out amongst the gold and silver.
On wood hauling days, I hook up 8 dogs and head out to the wood yard with the little wagon. The dogs have their camp spot, where I give them water, and they take a nap while I help Jay and a couple local kids cut and load up the truck. They deliver that firewood to elderly, single mothers, and others in need as part of an energy assistance program. The money earned is split and I send my share off to the bank to be put away for the race season. I then cut up the scrap wood and trees labeled too small for sale and load them up into the wagon. We haul it back to be used to fire the dog pot and the barrel stove in the cabin.
We live pretty close to a subsistence lifestyle. The dogs are fed salmon caught in the fish wheel this summer and fall, bear, beaver, moosescraps, cabbage from the garden, rice, and used fryer grease. They have gone through less than 2 bags of commercial dog food in over a month. Still, they are fat, and muscled up, sleek, and eat up trail like mad. They can run hard and fast, or haul heavy loads steady and strong. Their shining fur glistens in the low sunlight, and sheds the cold river fog.
A couple local kids cut wild grass and hauled it over on a wagon with a four wheeler. They earned some extra cash to buy junk food and pop at the AC store, and now all the dogs have a good little bundle of grass lining the bottom of their houses for insulation. The rest was stored under the high cache to replenish the houses throughout the winter.
We too are living off moose, caribou, ducks, goose, grouse, salmon, and rabbit. For breakfast we have bannock or pancakes. And my favorite whitefish eggs. I put up garden vegetables, and berries, jams, ketchups, bought some honey from my neighbor. We also have lots of potatoes and cabbage stored away. The humans eat good around here too!
Many evenings I run a couple of miles, past the graveyard that holds the resting bones of Hudson Stuck,  around the airstrip and out to the Yukon River. I like to time it so that I can watch the sun set behind the islands out in the river. It feels good to stretch the lungs. Stretch the mind.

So far the season is coming along nicely. And so is the team. This whole adventure was a good idea for our bodies and our souls. We are impatiently awaiting what this winter will unfold. But one thing we do know we will be ready for anything. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

By request: A Day in the Life

Recently my mother told me on the phone, "I have no idea what you do in your life. I feel so disconnected. I mean your day to day life." So here it is A Day in the Life, with all the little details for my mother.

3:30 am: Alarm. I hit snooze. I purposely wake up 15 minutes early so I can have the luxury of hitting snooze button.

3:45 am: Alarm, real deal. First thought, “Coffee.” Nothing happens in my life without first coffee. I start the water in a kettle on the stove. Head out to the outhouse. Cosmos, my Jack Russell usually comes out with me. Assess the weather and swing by the dog yard on my way back in. “Good morning! Good morning!”

3:50am: Back inside making coffee. I like organic, shade-grown, free-trade medium roasts from South America, and I like them strong. So I grind them fine and put lots in the filter. I use one of those cone drip-into-your-cup type models. I prefer French presses, but the clean-up without running water is a pain. I also put a pinch of cinnamon and a few drops of pure vanilla on top of the grounds before I pour the water over it. Sometimes I add warm frothed goat’s milk and honey. Mostly I drink it black.

3:52 am: Drink coffee and look at facebook. At this time in the morning it’s mostly posts from my east coast friends, or late night insomniac posts from my Alaska friends.

4:00 am: Head outside to hook up a dog team. About half of them are trained to run and meet me at the line. Right now I am running 14 dogs, the rest of the team is already in Fort Yukon. We run a few miles, lots of stops, slow pace. We are working out kinks and getting our groove on. I give them fresh water on the line when we return.

5:00 am: I unhook the dogs. Most of them are trained to just run back to their house. I feed the pups. And then feed the adult dogs. The meal is kibble and leftover dog pot juice from the night before. I mix a high quality kibble with an economy kibble.

5:15 am: More coffee. Breakfast, usually cereal with goat’s milk. I change up the cereal all the time, but it has got to be organic. I like Cheerios and Muesli types the best.  Sometimes I’ll make a little egg sandwich,  some multi grain bread such as Dave’s Killer Bread, bacon, sprouts I grew, and eggs from the Cosmic Chickens

5:25 am: I head out to milk the goats, feed the chickens, water the garden, and check for eggs. Maybe pick some vegetables for my lunch.

5:45 am: I make my lunch, a smoothie for mid-morning, and a coffee to go. My smoothies are made from homemade goat yogurt, frozen wild berries, acai berries, local honey, flax seed, spirulina, and juice. Thanks to Jodi Bailey for turning me on to the smoothie thing!

6:00 am: I leave for work. It takes me about 45 minutes to get to work.

6:45 am: I start work. I work at Mainscape Landscape Maintainance. I work for my friend Ryan Hughes, you may know him, he helps out on the Quest and was the one passing out those “I will” bracelets last year. We have a contract on the Army Base to maintain their residential lawns. Mostly I just rehab the yards that families have moved out of. I get a list of yards to complete for the day. I mow, trim, and edge each backyard. Shovel soil and reseed them, fill the holes. I pull the weeds and trim the hedges in the front beds. It’s physical work, and I really like it.

3:30 pm: I get off of work. I try to get out of town as soon as I can, but sometimes I have to run a few errands.

4:30 pm: I get home, and check on everybody. Give the dogs water, feed the pups a light meal. Water the garden, let the goats out to free graze (not in my garden!). Clean the dog yard.

5:30 pm: Cook and eat dinner. Most nights I grill meat or fish and vegetables. Start the dog pot. Anything and everything goes in the dog pot. Beaver, horse, fish, people’s freezer clean-outs, scraps, cabbage, and some things I’m not allowed to mention. Don’t worry it’s not like Mr. Woo on Deadwood!

6:30 pm: I hate to admit it but sometimes I take a nap. I notice this usually happens when it’s super warm out during the day. Most days I try to accomplish some project around the yard.

7:30 pm: I go for a run or do yoga.

8:30 pm: I take the pups out for a run. I free run them on my bike. They run about 3 or 4 miles right now at about 8 miles an hour. They are about 2 months old. We will have to bump up to an ATV soon.

9:30 pm: I feed the pups and the dogs from the dog pot mixed with kibble. Water the garden. Milk the goats. Clean up around the house. Work on blog stuff.

10:30 pm: I go to bed. I usually watch a movie on Netflix, I like independent films and action movies. I usually fall asleep before the end. 

Wednesday, August 07, 2013


In the morning, early, 
before my rooster crows, 
before there is a stir in the neighborhood. 
Even the midnight sun quietly simmers 
behind the black spruce on the edge of the yard, 
procrastinating shine. 
 That is when the dogs, full of salmon soup, 
and I, full of coffee, 
head out into the morning. 
The air smells of blueberries and moss 
and the little ponds and swamps are just whispering fog into the sky. 
That is when we go and practice our 
becoming one. 
Trying to harmonize our pulse; 
mine, the dogs, that gangline, 
every tugline, every footfall, every breath, every thought. 
As we wind through the tall and dewy grass and low laying mist 
we evolve 
from being a girl 
and a four wheeler 
and 14 dogs, 
into a team. 
This is what we practice, 
for only after this, can we truly begin to train.

In the evening, 
it still hot, 
but cool enough for the mosquitoes to come out and hunt. 
The dogs have finally roused from their sun beat stupor. 
There is a quiet buzz of the neighborhood’s chores, 
human and animal. 
The sun is quietly balancing, tip 
to tip on the short black spruce 
on the otherside of the yard.  
This is when I take the puppies, 
full of salmon, goat milk, and rice, 
And I, full of Kombucha,
out into the world. 
They burst out 
like a chaotic, churning cloud. 
Sniffing, exploring, every which way. 
I get on my bike and give command. They know it now. 
They are discovering meaning. 
To my words, and to their spirits. 
The confusion transforms with that command 
into 8 smiling, bounding little puppies. 
Off we go down the dirt roads and trails; 
we kick up the smell of the mid-day heat, 
and the lingering forest fire smoulder. 
They drive, and jockey, and glance back at me for validation. 
I am teaching them, 
we are not a girl 
and a bike 
and 8 puppies. 
We are a team. 
And now they know, 
we are in search of the becoming one. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Now is the time to be a part of Team Cosmic!

So... at the end of the week is the first day to sign-up for the 2014 Yukon Quest. Every year we have managed to be at this fun event, last year we were even first to be at the Fairbanks sign-up party! It is a great way to say, "YES! We're ready!", its good promotion for the Quest, and there's always that incentive of winning the drawing to get your entry fee back.

The Cosmic Canines will definitely be entering the 2014 Yukon Quest, however, summer is short (thank God!) and the projects list is long, so I don't know if we will be able to be there. There are a lot of time-sensitive things that need to be done around here, and I need to invest the money we have now in them. As much as I want to just blow them off and jump right in, I also really want things like.... indoor plumbing. You know little things that make life easier 
so I can spend more time with the dogs!

But I was thinking......what a great opportunity for someone to join the Team Cosmic! I can promise everyone that this going to be an exciting and awesome year for us. I began rebuilding the Team 3 years ago and this is the beginning of the culmination of that vision. This is the year to be a part of our adventure, this is when it starts getting good.

An Entry Fee Sponsor would be a Major asset to our Kennel.
So in return we want to offer a special "thank you" for this lucky supporter. It would include a seat at our table at the Yukon Quest Start Banquet, my official sled bib, and a Spring Adventure for you to take with the Cosmic Canines. The adventure would be custom designed for you. 
You could also come on down town on Saturday and be a part of the festivites! 

Let's kick the season off right!