Dog Days

The days have shortened and the sun is hanging lower and lower, but Fall stubbornly refuses to give way to winter’s snow. As the warm weather hangs on, (warm being relative of course, the fact that it is staying above zero at night warrants a warm spell around here) I find my dog Howie sleeping in random spots around the grounds soaking up the sunshine. I can’t help but smile and think what a rough life for a dog. IMG_7485IMG_7898

When, we made the decision to move up here, I knew Howie would be in heaven. He has become such a larger than life character here at the lodge, photo bombing and entertaining guests with his tricks. I once heard a saying, “Whoever said diamonds are a girls best friend, never owned a dog” and well, I completely agree. IMG_7810Picture 121 Howie came into our lives after a long search for just the right dog, basically cheap and healthy. I grew up with black labs and Joe grew up with a German Shepherd, so we both got a little of what we wanted with Howie, who is a lab/shepherd mix. When we went to pick out a puppy, he was the last male left, while I was drawn to one of his sisters who was sweet and calm, he was a restless ball of energy, rummaging around the place with the biggest pot belly I had ever seen on a puppy. IMG_0076  IMG_0047 IMG_0075 IMG_0136_4 From the start, he was full of personality, lovable, restless and way too smart. He inherited the labs love of water and retrieving, and the German Shepherd’s vocal tendancies…. not barking, but vocal grunts and groans. He gives a clear indication of his feelings, while physically obeying, he lets out long groans that let you know he is unhappy about it. The other lab trait that he inherited is a little less pleasing, there is no other way to put it then he is a gluttonous, pig. As a puppy, I once found him splayed, all four legs out, on a pile of dog food eating, (he had ripped open the bag). Another time, he ate every single dandelion out of our yard, which at first was exciting, then he threw them all up in a disgusting pile. He occasionally sneaks into the compost pile, but he always tells on himself immediately. I look at him and he melts and slinks to his dog house, and I know he is ashamed of himself. Howie also tries to trick Joe or I into feeding him a second breakfast. Our rule is whoever heads out to the outhouse first feeds Howie breakfast, but he will try and trick the next person out by going and sitting by the shed door as if he hasnt been fed… sometimes stooping as low as to bring us his dish. Luckily, we are onto his scam, but it doesn’t  stop him from trying. Frankly, not once in his five years have we ever forgotten to feed him, he would never let that happen.

"Did you forget something?"
“Did you forget something?”

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In October, Howie turned five years old, sometimes I think he will never grow up or slow down. His energy is endless, even as a puppy we taught him to run on a treadmill because we could never wear him down. On hikes he is always ready to go further, he will play fetch until he falls over (literally), runs along side when we bike, and will catch anything you throw at him for as long as you want. He has never been one to wander or run away, he loves spending time with us and there is no such thing as “personal space” when he is around. When, I am sitting up on “Bear Point” glassing for animals, he tries to get as much of himself touching me as possible, at times getting tangled in the straps from my binoculars. He shamelessly uses me to block the wind for him, but I let him since his black coat provides an extra bit of warmth.

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Owning a dog like Howie has been a lot of work, but his unconditional love has rewarded us a thousand times over. I am greeted with excitement everytime I walk out the door. He is convinced that something wonderful is about to happen, even when all I do is walk to the outhouse. He is gentle and kind, loves everyone, and never tires of hugs and affection. Howie is quirky and his antics fill us with laughter. Life in the bush, at times, can be harsh and cold, tiring and mundane, but Howie’s constant enthusiasim reminds me life is an adventure and you never know what lies around the corner.

He still lets Joe pick him up like this….only he is a lot heavier now!
He still lets Joe pick him up like this….only he is a lot heavier now!

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On days, when it is quiet and lonliness starts to creep in he slips his nose into my hand as I walk or rests his head on my shoulder and the world is a warmer place. Some may prefer the cold, brilliant sparkle of diamonds, but as for me I prefer the warmth of my dog’s copper eyes. IMG_2482

Ice, Ice Baby

Well, its that time again…. Time to haul water for the tanks. We have no snow, but the lake and the spring are frozen. So, we get to dig a hole in the lake ice and haul water. First, we have to check the ice on the lake to ensure it is thick enough for us to walk on.

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The boys (Howie and Joe) are obsessed with the ice. Its all I can do to get them off of it at the end of the day! Joe loves hatcheting the ice and Howie chases the pieces that fly across the lake.

We found a good spot to place our hole with easy snow machine access  once the snow falls. For now, its the long drag across the lake.

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Today, we loaded the sleds with our buckets and harnessed Howie. He is learning that life here isn’t all fun and games. He loves to play, but when it comes to the work, lets just say he is a little less enthusiastic. We are easing him into learning to pull a small sled.

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It took about three trips with all the buckets full to fill the tank, the hardest part being hauling the buckets by hand up the hill to the lodge and then up the ladder to the tanks.

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Its time consuming and we are all exhausted after the venture, but we are happy to have it done. The effort it takes to get the water has helped us become masters at not wasting water. Its funny how precious something becomes when you labor for it. At the end of the day even Howie got a little break.

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While the ice has added to our work, it has also brought new amusements. Joe made a little ice rink for us and we dug out our skates and tested it out. Joe started getting pretty fancy by the end of our skate time. I think I better get us some hockey sticks and a puck before he learns how to do a triple lutz!

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Now, that our chores are done we get to settle in with some hot cocoa and enjoy the warmth of the fire. (Though, someone keeps asking about oatmeal cookies, so maybe I will bake  cookies first.) Our most basic needs   take a lot of work and effort out here, but our lives our so simple that we are never in too big of a hurry to stop and have some fun.

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"I don't want to be a sled dog!!!….wait are there treats involved?"
“I don’t want to be a sled dog!!!….wait are there treats involved?”

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Foraging

Winter has been creeping in slowly, the nights colder and the sun slower to rise up over the mountains in the mornings. However, our snow has held off, other than a few skiffs that quickly melted. We have been trying to take advantage of the delay by foraging for late bog cranberries and collecting cottonwood seeds.

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I had to keep an eye on Howie during my berry picking, since the bog cranberries are harder to get to he was tempted to just help himself to my bucket!

I have always heard about a way to make the ” balm of gilead” (mentioned in the Bible) from the seeds of the cottonwood tree (or any tree in the poplar family) and have wanted to try it. It is supposed to be excellent for cuts and scrapes, as well as sore throats and coughs. I love finding local herbs and plants that have medicinal benefits, it is quickly becoming a lost  art. So, Joe and I headed out a few days ago to collect the buds, we have a  small clump of cottonwood trees on the north bank of the lake.  When picking the buds, it is better to wait until they freeze, because the resin is very sticky. We probably should have waited another couple weeks, we did get a little sticky, not too bad though. We used the acidity from some high bush cranberries to help get it off.

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The beavers have been busy preparing for winter as well, they had already taken down a few of the trees and were busy working on another! I am always so amazed at their work! How they get some of those trees and branches through the tundra to the lake puzzles me!

Anyway, I simmered the buds with coconut oil on the wood stove for about 24 hour or so, strained it with cheesecloth and then poured it into a jar and let it solidify. (You can use other types of oil, but i prefer coconut oil for using on the skin) I can’t wait to test it out! I am hoping to also use it on Howie’s feet this winter. (He is always cutting them up on the ice and hates wearing booties) I will let you know how it turns out!

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Its amazing how quickly we adapt to becoming resourceful when supplies aren’t readily available. I find myself thinking more and more about how to harvest and preserve the natural resources around us. I am so thankful for knowledge passed down to me from my parents on how to live from the land. There is still so much I don’t know, but life is a schoolhouse and every day a chance to learn something new.

Laundry Day

Today we tackled laundry, not a big deal for most people, but since the spring has frozen we have to haul the water for the laundry and use the old wringer washer. (I never realized how much water you use to do a load of laundry!)

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First off, Joe had to heat up the motor for the wash machine with a heat lamp, so it would be warm enough to start. Then, while I put the soap, warm water, and clothes in, Joe hauled water for the wash cycle. There were times when living in town I thought my wash machine was noisy, well, i changed my mind…..it purred like a kitten! The Maytag wringer motor is so loud you have to wear ear plugs!

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The washing part is simple, just keep and eye on it. Then, my favorite part…. the wringing. (seriously, it is my favorite part)

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Then, all that’s left is to hang them on the line. Its funny, it takes twice as long, but I have a new appreciation for clean clothes and a sense of accomplishment.

Success!!
Success!!

So, for the rest of the winter the old Maytag and I will keep us all looking (and smelling) respectable! I have to admit it was kind of fun…. not so sure I will feel the same when its below zero.

Until Spring!!!
Until Spring!!!
Its a good to not need to wear clothes!!!
Its good, to not have to wear clothes!!!