Sunday, October 12, 2014

Traveling with the Sun

I spent the day with the sun.  Arm in arm we toured the autumn celebration, Festival of the Trees.  The sun shifted as the day went by, sliding from one character to the next like a one man show. 

We began our day traveling north to Vermont, the sun giving just enough soft light for glimpses of the bright orange and red leaves, bright scenes popping up through the fog like vignettes.   

As morning came fully the sun’s new minted light was crisp and clear, each feature seen in perfect detail.  I drove through Woodstock, past farms and fields, houses with chimneys wafting evidence of the warmth within, all with the backdrop of color.   Bright yellow leaves tipped with red as if the trees were on fire, red leafed sugar maples, orange leaves, yellow leaves, the variety endless and design flawless.  From there we traveled to Hartland for breakfast with friends, a house on a knoll with a view.  I left the sun outside and went in to enjoy the meal and warmth. 

Home again south to Massachusetts, the sun stronger and richer as the day wore on, the afternoon spent working outside feeling the warmth on my back, seeing the light reflected on bright trees and the still water of the pond.

Then again the sun changed, drifting away.  The first sign was the cool air that told of coming dark.  So I went with this late day sun to tend my sheep.  I watched them graze in a rich green pocket, surrounded by fiery trees, color potent and alive like a witches brew in the late autumn light.  I said goodbye to the sun. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

A Day to Rest

We had a bit of time to rest before the long trip home.

West coast of Scotland, somewhere north of Ullapool. I had travelled every direction but west so I did that today. This west country was stark and lovely. The hills were covered with moss and ferns and heather, life that survives the cold winds. Somewhat north of these hills there was a rolling flat, sea green with a purple froth of heather. The strong wind made even these close to the ground plants sway in waves.

Moneypenny (my GPS) told me to "follow the road for 25 miles". The road was one lane. It is late summer yet in that landscape you felt winter winds at your back. I made good time, drawn to the tamer lands to the east.

Visit Scotland if you get a chance. It is a beautiful country, vistas changing in feel yet always lovely. Each turn invites you to stop and learn the story of the land.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The End

It is over. I have enjoyed myself and learned a lot and given a respectable showing. A day here to get organized and maybe do some hiking then we start the long trip home.

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Expatriate

Today I was a Norwegian. I found myself surrounded on three sides by Norwegians in the stands watching the semi finals. There were no competitors left standing from the USA or Canada and the Norwegians had four competitors in the semis. Their enthusiasm was infectious so I decided to root for the Norwegians. They even provided me a Norwegian flag. If you want to have fun, spend time with the Norwegians. Apparently there are a lot of sheep in Norway. Also wolves, lynx, wolverines and bears.

Photo by Ester Nordby

It was not all play today. I studied how handlers managed the sorting on the marked sheds. I have some work to do. New skills for me and my dogs to learn and improving communications. I also saw at least one top handler unable to sort a collared single to either end to take. That makes me feel a bit better.

It was cold and damp sitting in the stands. The running was long and I was cold and hungry. Okay I am always hungry. I was extremely hungry today. I decided to leave before the last four runners. A Scot on the row above told me I would miss the winning run. Sure that he knew one of the upcoming teams was particularly skilled I turned to ask him which. His grin and laugh gave him away.


This afternoon we left the trial and drove a few miles to Nigg for a walk on the beach. Song has spent a lot of time in a crate and needed some freedom both physically and mentally. She is a very curious dog and loves to explore new places.

Nigg Beach

Nigg Beach

We got back in time to see a lovely run by Gene Sheninger and Sweet, just a point from qualifying for the semis.

I did some late shopping, meat for Song and a nice Scottish steak for me. I cooked it up and settled for the first delicious bite when I noticed a bat flying around the kitchen with me. They are protected in Scotland, a high fine for injuring or killing one. Though there is no rabies here as a member of our local board of health I am aware of a rabid bat in my home town that bit someone. This little guy made me uneasy. I was able to get him out to the sun porch by flapping a towel (as he swooped towards me). I opened the door to the outside so hopefully he has found his way out by morning.

Semi finals tomorrow. Sadly there will be no handlers from USA or Canada. I will watch and learn.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


There is a risky joy in anticipation. We await great events in our lives, savoring the possibilities, seasoned with optimism and imagination. Reality is hard pressed to compare.

Today began with the chance at the semi finals and then the finals. Dreams of seamless runs. I sent Song and her outrun was closer than usual, lacking the expected flare out near the top. My sheep had decided to quit the setout area at all costs and Song was trying to get there to catch them. Two sheep were bolting for the side of the field. She caught those, brought them to the ones bolting straight down, and somehow made the fetch panels. I was of no help as she decided to forego my advice until she had the situation under control. I attempted to regain radio contact after the fetch panels when I heard a voice right behind me "Don't panic. You are getting a rerun." I waited a run to allow Song to catch her breath and allow my dreams to come out from hiding.

Second time her outrun was flawless, leaving my side to angle out and up, adjusting out further as she watched her sheep at the top. Her lift was clean and accurate. The top of the fetch I felt like I was hanging on by my fingertips. She still had the bit in her teeth. We got things settled for a solid drive, good split, very good pen, then could not get the single. We had almost two minutes but I could not sort a collared ewe into position on either end.

Now I adjust to reality as my new starting point, planning to improve my skills, improve my execution of the job. In no time I will add the spice of optimism to the main dish of practice and preparation and hard work. I will again savor the risky joy of anticipation.

Song was the first pup born in the first litter I bred. Born, raised and trained in my house. I am proud of her.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

More Trials

This video is from a short walk with Song at dawn. I am not sure exactly where we were. I pulled in at a B&B in the evening on my way from the Westruther trial on Saturday afternoon, headed to Lockerbie for another trial Sunday. The birdsong is somewhat lost in the video. This was beautiful country, with hills dropping to lakes and fields, laced with stone walls and clusters of old stone buildings on the farms.
Sunday Morning Walk

Ran in two more trials today, both on mules. I was the second runner at Lockerbie this morning. A lovely site with the post at the top of a hill. Not a brilliant run but we finished.

Exhaust pen at Lockerbie

Lockerbie trial looking out over the field


Scotland is surrounding me with breathtaking beauty. I did not have time to stop for pictures on my travels this weekend, and how could I have decided which beautiful landscapes to record as every turn brought another. I needed to put a go pro camera on the roof of the car.

Then I drove up to the Glendevon trial, another beautiful site on a hill. A cool sunny afternoon watching dogs among like minded people. Song and I had a very good run. I left soon after to drive down to visit a friend in north Wales. I picked up my email tonight to find we were second place. At least 70 dogs ran.
Glendevon Trial Field
Glendevon "Scotloo"

Geraldine GPS continues to prattle on about imaginary roundabouts. I am learning to parse the reality from her ramblings.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Let the trials begin

Loch Ness on my way to the Fort Augustus trial early Saturday morning. It is a very long lake, rimmed by hills and cliffs. The setting feels primitive, as if mankind is merely a visitor trespassing on nature's secret garden.
Loch Ness

Today we went to two trials. The first in Fort Augustus had a flock of very spirited blackface. I ran fifth. I watched my sheep plunging wildly back and forth across the top of the field while the competitor before me attempted to finish the course. My girls tried every option to avoid being set, dashing each direction, splitting in various configurations and dashing different directions, but in the end were briefly stabilized in the intended zone. Song tends to lift with more deference from a left hand gather but the girls looked more fragile on the right so I sent right. Sure enough, ready or not here I come Song came up over the rise with more force than I felt the situation called for. Overriding my opinion she declined to stop. And the setout dog refused to let the sheep go. And Song was going to bring me sheep. All this provocative action is Song's excuse for blowing off all stop whistles until the fetch panels which by some miracle we made. Now for the turn. The four blackies decided I was Satan. This would have been flattering if they had conferred me some of the powers of Satan, something I might be able to use to pull a reasonable run out of the hat. Instead they just crossed themselves and said three Hail Marys as they dove away from me. Song did manage to settle them somewhat once away from me on the drive. Our lines were not horrible but we missed both panels. Now for the chute. I could not get far enough away from these girls holding the rope. Song did some excellent work holding them in the working area but I did not see success as a likely outcome. We retired to let the next victim go to the post. Already I saw a fresh packet darting across the top.

I did not stay long after my run, heading four hours southeast to another trial in Westruther. I am getting pretty handy with friendly Fred the rental car. On this next leg I discovered he manages the windshield wipers for me, turning them on and off and adjusting the speed as needed. Geraldine GPS, on the other hand, can be very annoying. A protracted incident that began with an imaginary roundabout had me ready to toss her out the window near Edinburgh. The drives have been lovely but now I have a schedule so no time to stop for photos.

The Westruther sheep were mules. Light but reasonable. Song's sheep broke hard to the other side as she ran out. I could not see her from the post to see if she had caused this but when she came into view again she was running wide off them still. She worked quite well with decent lines but my failings lost us both drive panels. She was great at the pen and I handled it well too. The split was easy.

Now I am in bed at a B&B somewhere on route to the next trial. Poor Song is spending the night in the car.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Travelling the Highlands

This cairn was more interesting than the castle. Double stone walls with earth between, strong and insulated.

Castles get boring. Somehow water tumbling over the stones in a lush gorge never does. This needed sound so I chose video.
 Big Burn Falls, Golspie, Scotland (Video)

Song did not want to keep in her crate in our room. She kept trying for the little sofa. We compromised.

I really enjoyed the tour of the whiskey distillery. Cardu was founded by a woman. She distilled illegally when she began. When the law came to her kitchen distillery she would put dough on the table and dust her apron with flour to disguise the smell of yeast. Then she would excuse herself and duck out back to run a red flag up the pole. This warned others that the law was about. Regardless she was caught several times, with her farmer husband going to jail for her. They did not send women to jail.
The stills were beautiful, the process fascinating. The tour started by testing our noses on scents that can be found in the mature spirits and ended with sampling and trying to identify the scents. At the outset they listed the ingredients and I realized I would not be able to enjoy the samples as there would be gluten. They suggested I just sniff them. So I bought a bottle of the one I enjoyed most while sniffing.
About 2% of the whiskey evaporates every year it matures in the casks. They call this "the angels' share".

Thursday, August 28, 2014


Did the mandatory castle tour today. I was looking for moats and drawbridges, dungeons, towers and crenelated walls with walkways I could follow while imagining pouring boiling oil on the enemy hordes below. This castle was a letdown. Very pretty and it did have a drawbridge. Most of the tour featured the living spaces with ancient finery. The gardens were lovely though I don't see who would want a 7 foot tall thistle variety in their garden. Walking through these gardens did make me see that adding an 8 foot tall stone wall surrounding the entire space would add much charm to my gardens.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Friendly Fred the Rental Car

"Friendly Fred" my rental car. Once I got over the 6 speed manual transmission (do you really need six gears?) Fred has been a trooper. If I fail so badly with the clutch that I kill the engine he restarts himself. How sweet is that? No whining, no foul mouthed recriminations, just gets that engine going again so fast the other drivers need never detect my incompetence. Fred even disengages the parking brake for me when I put him in gear. Mind you it took me 24 hours to find the parking brake as it is just a small switch on the console. I was looking for a pedal or lever. Fred also turns the engine over if I turn the key partway for power then delay starting. He protects his battery. Maybe I should have called him "Hal".

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Off and Away

Puppies farmed out; sheep all settled back at the home field; paperwork completed; bags packed; plenty of food for the adult dogs staying with mom; lawn mowed; crate loaded.  Tomorrow Song and I begin our journey to Scotland. 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Summer Evening

Some people came home from work and went shopping today.  Some caught up on chores, then sat to watch TV.  Me, I sprinted through chores to snare some time to work dogs.  Then I hitched the trailer and took sheep and dogs to a large hay field to work. 

The new growth is just beginning after the first cutting, clover filling between the cut stalks, restoring the rich green.  The surrounding forest is an intricate tapestry, dense and detailed, drawing the eye past the leaves, past the graceful trunks, into the dark, where the wild things are.  Late evening sun burnishes the domes of the clouds with color like a ripe peach.  Varied and buoyant birdsong provides the soundtrack.

I don’t have much time.  Each dog gets a short bit of work.  My sneakers are saturated from the evening dew.  I finish training and load the sheep on the trailer.  Reluctant to leave, I let all the dogs out for a gallop.  The Border Collies race across the field, so far off they look like birds on the horizon.  My old Belgian Dare stays closer these days, enjoying the role of voyeur to the younger dogs’ racing.  Low fog follows me across the field, quiet and alive, ghosts of the earth.  Time to get home, I walk back to the van and call out into the mist.  One by one my dogs appear, tired, content, happy to go home for dinner.

And people think I’m the crazy one.

Thursday, March 27, 2014


Some feel that a scientific view of the world is sterile, lacking beauty and magic.  When I see a sunset, a hummingbird hovering before his floral feast, or the buds unfolding in spring, I am always enamored of the complexity behind the visual beauty.  Knowing that each is the culmination of an elegant interplay of events, built of particles and energy, each behaving precisely as explained through mathematics, gives an intellectual texture to the view that involves my senses all the more.  I love science.  I understand some of what I see and enjoy any chance to increase my understanding of the workings of the world, whether miniscule at the particle level, or the broader patterns of behavior and action that are compiled from those components.  The mind itself is one of our senses.  Understanding brings richness to any experience. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Quarry Road Sled Dog Race

I ran Song, Levi and Cass in the 2.5 mile recreational class.  No placements, just a fun run.  Good thing as I've never run three, had no experienced leaders, and Cass has had little mileage.  I cut the course short at the end as the dogs had worked hard enough for me mentally.  I learned that Cass is a creative and adventurous leader.  Some of her choices were not trails at all, but she took the lines with gusto.   

Then I ran Marcus, Pi, Chord, and Jag in the 4 dog race.  They were great.  Ran well, we even managed to pass a couple teams and be passed on the fly.  They had no concept of following the groomed trail.  In fact Marcus said "Hey, check out this awesome snowmobile track down the power lines!" and took us all that way quite quickly.  Got that settled.  We had a couple more of those before the end.   

 The course was hilly and twisty.  My dogs worked their butts off for me mentally and physically.  I held the sled and ran best I could up the bigger hills.  Among the many things I learned was be ready and dressed to do some running.  By the end I'd figured out a few things I was doing incorrectly as far as how to handle the sled on that course.  In particular I was trying to not use the brake so much down hills to save the dogs.  I realized towards the end I need to use the brake enough to keep a taut gang line for them to lean into, and more importantly to keep the sled lined up with the dogs.  Otherwise when the trail curved back up the hill the dogs hit a hard sideways pull.  Getting the balance on braking will take some work.

Pi was my savior in lead.  She does not have directional commands, but I watch where she’s looking.  If not the trail I want I slow them.  She’s learned to make a different choice then I’ll give her the cue to move out again to confirm.  For most of the decisions this worked. 

I’d like to think we could have placed well “if only” we had not had our mishaps and I had not stopped them on the side of the trail while several bunched teams passed (they don’t have commands to stay on the side while running).  In reality, those times allowed my dogs some respite from the hard work.  We  are nowhere near as fit as the teams we were running against.  These mushers are all about conditioning, starting the dogs up in the fall and building the mileage.  

There were 10 dogs in the heat, and we were 7th.  I think our time was decent, but did not think check it in the excitement.  I’ll have to wait till they post the results.   Our competition was mostly sprint dogs, leggy pointers and crosses, some Alaskan huskies.  My biggest dogs were small there.  Good thing I'm a little person.  The guy who won came sweeping by me with 4 rangy dark dogs, striding along like ring wraiths, all business, very impressive particularly since we’d given him little room to pass.  He grinned with a friendly “Hi Border Collies” as he went by. 

The people there were awesome, friendly, relaxed and very helpful for a novice with questions like “to which side of the trail should I pull over to let someone pass”.  Jim and Sharon Perkins came so I have these great photos.  The sun was shining.  The people were friendly.  I accumulated a lot more knowledge.  It was a great day.
All photos by Sharon Perkins.  Do not copy.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

She's Back!

Mamma Cass is back on the sled team! Her bags are drying up, particularly the front two that are under the harness. I just did a short run with her today, a couple miles. She ran in lead with Song in a 4 dog team. She was looking to be a great lead dog when I had to pull her out for maternity leave. Still looking great despite not having the mileage and training of the others.  She is ecstatic to be back at work.

I wanted to try my dogs in a 4 dog team as a race I want to go to this weekend does not have a 6 dog class. They did fine. Conditions were dreadful, icy and rutted. A decent path for the dogs but the sled would get in the ruts. Been a while since I've used the brake that much and flipped the sled anyway. Slow motion capsize. Then there was the turn where I'm hanging off the back with one leg turned under, other one almost on my knee, also going fairly slowly and desperately trying to keep the sled upright. I succeeded (that time)!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

And They're Off

I did not feel like going out with the sled today.  The conditions were going to be hard and fast.  I like fresh snow, so pretty and helps slow the team down.  A few inches of fresh snow softens the landing for any mushing mishaps.  Also a few warmer days and filling out some dog trial entries had my mind thinking stock work.  However despite thinking stock work, my pastures are still full of deep snow and ice, and my dogs had not been out for 5 days so they were getting mighty antsy.  Besides, the reason (rationalization) behind this dog sledding adventure is that it will keep my dogs in shape.  
I arrived at my chosen trail and found the conditions even harder and slicker and rougher than I expected.  Oy.  I tied the gangline off to a sturdy tree and looked over the lumpy, frozen field my dogs would soon be racing across on the way to the trail through the woods.  Oy.  As I hitched I felt the usual surge of adrenaline, fueled by the screaming and bucking dogs.  All hitched I stood on the runners, gangline still secured, and considered my fate for a few moments before reaching down to pull the release and sever my connection to that stalwart tree. 
The first stretch of this run is a slightly uphill winding trail through the woods.  I enjoy the relative silence of running the team.  Today my background music for the first mile or two was the loud grinding and scraping of the drag mat on the ice.  I relish some dare in my life, but that first strip had the adrenaline welling up through my body and sweating out any open pore.  Finally we made it to the railroad bed, straight and level.  Whew.  This route is out and back on the same trail.  I’d have to go back through those icy curves downhill on the return trip.  Not ready for another bobsled run I decided to take the dogs quite a ways, ensuring a slow and settled team for the home stretch.
We went 8.1 miles, our longest run.  We also clocked our fastest time, over 25 mph.  I’m alive and I think perhaps I should show up at church tomorrow. 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Snowmobile

4.7 miles today with the sled. The dogs were great. I went out to a good straight trail that had been well groomed by snowmobiles. On the way home we had a nice long strip where everyone settled into a good even trot and all tug lines were taut. I have more trouble keeping the team pulling evenly as we slow down. Two snowmobiles came up behind us. I was able to stop the team and quickly lead the front dogs to the edge so they could pass safely. One of the dogs, Jag, spooked a bit as they went by. The others did not care at all. The snowmobile drivers were very courteous. As always the dogs bolted off any stop like greyhounds at a track and following those snowmobiles was no different. Over 20mph and I wondered if the dogs were trying to catch them.

Saturday, February 22, 2014


Yay, today is the first day of summer! How do I know this?

1 - I wore a ball cap instead of a ski hat when I took the dog sled out this morning.
2 - I shoveled the snow away from the lambing jugs with just a fleece jacket on.
3 - The sun was shining.
4 - Absolute proof, I got a great big coffee ice cream cone on the way to get grain.

Tough Going

Tough run with the sled this morning. We got another 4 inches of snow late Wednesday evening which was thick with a crust this morning. The surface underneath was soft and often gave way. According to the dogs it was hard pulling the sle
d. According to me it was hard steering the sled. We only went 3.3 miles and were all tired. The sled runners got stuck on tracks in the thick crusty snow. I'd finally get it turned off the side of the trail and then could not straighten it so we'd end up in the deep on the other side. Judging from my tracks, wandering from one side of the trail to the other, I was MUI - Mushing Under the Influence. I learned to hop off the runners to steer when we were going slow as it was easier to turn the sled with no weight.

It was good for us, learning to work through some tougher conditions. ("Good for who? We did all the work dragging your lazy butt through that rough surface and you drove the sled like a drunken sailor" say the dogs.) If I can go out tomorrow I'll go to a very straight trail that is likely to have been well packed by snowmobiles.

I took video today, not exciting as the going was tough.  Over 30 minutes for a short run. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Winter of the Dog Sled

I look at the forecast, 50 degrees and rain coming Friday.  This is New England and right now we have a very deep snow base.  It won’t all melt this weekend.  Add some fresh snow on top and I’ll be off on my sled again.  But it is late February, few runs left at best for this winter.

Driving a dog sled is something I’ve wanted to do for years, much like working dogs on stock.  I’ve always been one to go ahead and do what I want, mostly for the better.  Certainly buying that sled last year turned out well for me.  There were hours of work refinishing and re-lashing it, entertainment for the long winter evenings as the sled spent over a month on saw horses in the living room.  Finally complete I knew nothing on training the dogs.  I asked a friend if I could park at his place so I had room to work out the kinks of driving the dogs.  Once we got rolling we could run right up into town forest from there.  Hah, not so easy.  Failed start after failed start, rearranging dogs, finally some 50 tangles later they all started in the same direction.  Shusshhhh, I urged them on and we flew!  Not far, but enough to get the adrenaline racing and give me a high.  It rained the next day.  It was March and that was my one run of the winter. 
This year I started with the first snow.  It was a great year for snow.  Again the sled spent time as the centerpiece of the living room while I installed new brakes, re-oiled the wood, altered a used sled bag to fit, made a glove bag, learned to splice rope and made a new bridle so it would turn better.  Again dark winter evenings were enjoyed working on my sled.  But this year we were always ready to go. 
And go we did.  Little by little my team came together.  My nerves were jangled every time I hitched them, bucking, barking, and screaming like rabid apes at the start.  I learned to tie the gangline off to the van or a tree while hitching the dogs, then pull the release and feel the snap as the sled takes off down the trail.  At first the runs were barely a mile, stopping frequently to untangle the lines.  As winter progressed we’ve gone from 1 to 2 to 3 to 6 mile runs.  As the runs got longer the dogs settled and learned to travel as a team.  Good advice from experienced mushers helped me teach them to work as a unit.  I’ve learned to steer the sled better, work the brakes, ride the trails more smoothly.    The dogs still start out like cheetahs.  Indeed we’ve gone as fast as 24mph, though mostly we travel at a quiet lope and sometimes I can ease them back to a steady trot.  We’ve gone from short runs pieced together from bursts of speed between tangles to long runs that open with a mile of strong gallop and settle to a quiet lope.   I still begin with an adrenaline drenched high as I let them open out and run at the start.  Now I move to the relaxed enjoyment of sliding through the snowy woods, working the turns, feeling the flex of my sled as it slips around a curve, watching the dogs stride along smoothly together, looking down the snowy path as we sweep along in relative silence.  We still have to stop at most intersections so I can lead the team to the correct trail.  I don’t mind.  It gives me a chance to give each dog a rub behind the ears and word of appreciation as I walk back to the sled. 
Who knows what next winter will bring.  Maybe good conditions for our trails, maybe not.  I am not about to start filling my house with Alaskan huskies and give up the stock work.  The few opportunities for my dogs to work sheep this snowy winter have given me and them great enjoyment, though only pushing the stock back into the drifts so I can put out feed.  Regardless I will always remember this winter as the winter of the dog sled.  The winter my dogs and I learned to run together as a team, flying through the snowy woods with unabashed euphoria. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

4th Storm in a Week

Today's run, 4.4 miles including up and down the backside of Blanchard Hill. That was steep. I held onto the handlebar on the sled and let the dogs pull as I jogged up. Thought I might have a heart attack at the top. On the way down I shamelessly had one foot on the drag mat brake and the other on the bar brake. That and the deep snow kept things under control. 

We went for about a mile walk along part of the route afterwards. It had been snowing so hard you could not tell we'd been there before. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Stop Right There

A good stop is essential on a working dog. Not only does it allow you to control the stock, it also allows you to stop the sled team on a winding trail before the sled gets pulled into the rock or tree or ravine on the inside of the curve. Today I was thankful for good stops.

New trail, winding and very pretty. At points I barely had the sled around one curve when my leaders were going around the next curve. Just over 3 miles today.

I'm beginning to take a run with no tangles for granted. I spend more time taking in the snowy woodlands, hearing the birds, the footfall of the dogs, and the quiet swish of the sled.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

iPhone on the Lam

Good dogs waiting patiently while I look for my iPhone. I dropped it between the runners when fumbling trying to take pictures while simultaneously hanging onto my big mittens. I saw the phone slide under the drag mat brake. I assumed it was back behind me, but in fact it had snagged under the mat so that when I stood on it to brake I was standing on the phone. I think perhaps I should check to be sure I took out the "complete coverage for the complete idiot" policy on my phone. The good news is the phone survived just fine. They really are tough little buggers.

All this and the moving photos were blurry. Not a lot of light and the sled vibrating I guess. 5 miles today and not a single tangle. Two road crossings. My leaders attempted a couple side trails on the way home, but we were moving at a moderate pace so I was able to stop them before the entire team was committed.

Friday, February 14, 2014

1 album, 5 songs

I get a chuckle that Beethoven's 9th Symphony is described as "1 album, 5 songs" on my iPhone.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Another Snow Storm?

I took the dog sled out this morning for a quick local run before the snow gets too deep on the trails. The dogs did great. They are really learning to travel as a team. I would have had a lot more fun if I had bought the new goggles BEFORE I went out. I was blinded the whole way, squinting and blinking. How did the dogs see? 2.5 miles and they were all organized and pulling the entire way. Only one tangle, right at a place where the sled goes over some big rises as we go around a turn, easy to get some slack lines as the sled drops. We seem to consistently run at about 20 mph at the start. Probably no big deal for real mushers, but to me it feels worthy of Cape Canaveral. 

I got a fresh trailer load of small bales over at the field this morning too. It’s a bit dicey backing the trailer up to where I can park it out of the way of the drive. The van was sliding sideways on the snow, usually a bad thing. It actually slid at just the right point to drop that trailer right where I needed it with no corrections. Must be a good day!

Sheep have enough feed to keep them till mid-morning tomorrow. Dogs are exercised and happy. I’m ready for the storm, I hope.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Back to Shepherding, at least part time

This weekend I had to put aside my musher persona for a bit when I remembered that lambing is coming so it was time to do CDT shots and see if any ewes needed worming. Did the CDT yesterday on the way out to go sledding. Today I wormed, again on the way out to the trails. Levi displays BC versatility going from packing the ewes in for me to wheel dog in my sled team. All in a day's work.

5.9 miles today, and all on the trails I planned! I've gotten much better at riding the curves on the sled. If I get my weight right the sled just sets on that inside runner and arcs around the curve. If not, well I flipped it again today. Who would have thought "face plant" would be a term I'd be using to describe my dog driving experience.

Saturday, February 8, 2014


Tried a new trail today. The start was a problem as parking was across the road with enough traffic that I could not just drive them across. Meant a fair bit of scolding which I hate to do. 

Then I got lost. The good part is this meant the dogs pulled me along a curvy trail up a big hill. I jogged along for a bit but could not keep up so parked my feet back on the runners and let them pull my lazy butt up. I let them loose to run around a bit at the top while I took pictures. Not a good idea. That gave them time to replenish the crazy juice so when I hitched them to go back down the steep and winding trail they were loaded for bear. I stood on the drag mat brake as hard as I could the whole way down. I should have used the bar brake, much stronger, but to use the bar brake I had to take my foot off the drag mat. The hill was steep, the dogs fast, and the curves were coming at me one after another. I was afraid of that un-braked moment I needed to switch to the better brake.  

Then I got lost again finding the way home, missed a turn. So we went back and forth a bit until some cross country skiers told me how to get back. We went over 6 miles. All this distance and work got them well settled so we actually had a good strip where we were trotting along with the team strung out nicely. And since they were all calm I was able to take a picture one of the times I was off the sled trying to figure out where to go next.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Musher Math

I've made some investments in control. The line is tied off to the trailer hitch of the van. This allows me to hitch the dogs while they buck and scream and try to start. When I'm ready to go I just pull the stick and I'm released. First time I stop I tuck the stick back in the sled bag. The flat mat is a drag mat brake. I use that to slow them down. I've been known to stand on it with both feet. The horizontal bar closest to the sled is my new bar brake, finally installed. Took some work on my sled to get that on correctly. That can stop the sled quite well in a variety of conditions. You can flip the drag mat brake up out of the way so that it does not act like a snow plow or get in my way if I need to jog along up a hill.

Here is today's video installment. Very deep snow and not well tamped by snow machines yet. Just skip from 6:05 to about 9:50. That is me deciding that there is no viable outlet and turning the team around. Our usual trail was deep and the sled just got stuck. Now I know why they have those toboggan style sleds so in deep snow the sled rides up on the snow rather than gathering snow beneath it like a plow. Though I threaten Jag (wheel dog on the left) with his life several times, he did manage to control himself so lives to run another day. He loves to bolt off early, taking the team and sled with him.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Magical Day Sledding

Today was one of those magical days when the air was soft, the colors rich, the light lovely through the trees. You almost expected to see Mr. Tumnus watching from the woods. We ran out 2.5 miles, going smoothly with Pi and Marcus in lead. Then I unhitched and walked back the way we came, giving me time to savor and record some of the scenes along the way.

Towards the end of the walk back I found this little stream bubbling along under a delicate layer of ice. Watching the bubbles gurgling along under the ice was addicting.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Mushometer

The Mushometer! We went 3.5 miles. Top speed of 21.1 mph. Average of 10.4 mph (includes one untangle and me being slow to pause the Mushometer when we unhitched). Best part, it is easy to use and much less persnickety than LogMyRun.