Friday, July 28, 2006

summer in Alaska

I took Sam's mum to Pioneer Park today for a dog sled ride. She really enjoyed it. Ken, the musher I used to handle for, started a summer tourist business giving cart rides with his and Gwen's Iditarod dogs. They also bring in puppies and have a display on the race with equipment and clothing for people to check out. It's a good idea and well-done, but hasn't really gotten the response they were hoping for. I think once the word gets out however, it will be a big money-making enterprise. Tourism is obviously big in AK, as it is in the Yukon, and everyone's looking for a piece of the pie. The big, fat tourist pie.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

This ain't no crack shack

Ladies and gentlemen, your friend and mine, Mr. Jim Brader. (applause)
Well, sorry about the delay but I've got parental units coming in from all corners. I sent my parents off for a night at Chena HotSprings Resort for a soak in the springs and personal energy tour from Gwen, the brains behind the company's geothermal power-plant project. My dad's excited to see the operation up close and is looking forward to talking with Gwen. (he has been ever since he started harnessing the power of a tiny, natural spring on our 75-acre sugar bush. It's only enough energy to light up a 60-watt bulb, but it's something)
Sam's mum arrived last night. She's 79 and she's adorable. She lives in a place called Shell Knob (actual name) population: 42 (actual size).
So, now we've got the parents down and siblings to go. Sam's brother and sister-in-law arrive Saturday and my sister comes the following Wednesday. My sis asked if we had cable, if she could bring aerosol hairspray on the plane and if there was a Sam's Club here. Yikes. I told her, no, no and yes, but if she wants to step foot in that place, she'll have to do it alone. I did not tell her that we have no running water, no door on the outhouse and the sun doesn't set until 1 am.
We'll see how this turns out.
So, the new cabin is nearing its first phase of completion. The roof is on, the insulation is in the ceiling, the vapor barrier is on, the gable ends are trimmed, and the doors and windows are ready for installation. Olaf and Cim just have to put the material on the ceiling and the gable ends on the inside, make the stairs and install doors and windows. The trim will go on on the inside and viola, we have a cabin. Of course, there's still lots to do once they're done. We've decided on ceramic tile for the first floor. We also have to treat the logs inside and out, which requires sanding first, install cabinets, counters and appliances including a wood stove and oil monitor, and, well, move in. We hope to be in and done by September.

SIDEBAR: Sam talked in his sleep last night. Actually it was pretty incoherent, so I don’t know if you could call it talking. I was jolted out of sleep by him yelling what, to me, sounded like ‘I dooooo youuuu, I dooooo yooouuuu! Heeya! Hey!’ It was weird. It didn’t even sound like him at all. Maybe he’s possessed.

SIDEBAR #2 Sneaky Pete has developed a golf-ball sized lump on his chest. It might be an abscess or a bee sting because it has grown just in the last couple of days and is rather soft. I will try to drain it today (yummy) and if not, he’ll have to go in and have it removed. If I do take him into the vet, I’ll have him neutered as well. He’s taken a liking to his sister Parker and she’s just at the right age (about six months) for her first heat. I have no interest in breeding my own dogs yet and an accidental litter is not in the cards right now, especially a litter from a brother and sister (cue the banjos).

That’s it for now. Peace and love from the shack without crack. Oh yeah, I can't figure out the video thing, so sorry.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Mush you huskies!

So I think I found out how to put video on my blog. I think. This is a clip of me on a training run in the White Mountains North of Fairbanks. I'm trying to edit the one of me smashing a wasps' nest and then running into the cabin screaming like an infant, but I haven't figured out the editing program yet. Has anyone used Vegas?
Anyway, enjoy the video and I'll try some more tomorrow. Oh yeah, my parents arrived last night relatively unscathed. The roof is on the new cabin and the boys are making good progress after a few days of slow going.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

don't poop on my parade

So today Bully and I marched in the Golden Days Parade. Golden Days is not a senior citizen festival, it's a three-day celebration of the founding of rush, golden days, you get it. So anyway, yesterday friend Julie, who is the executive director of the Yukon Quest, phoned and asked if I would walk along side the Quest float with several other volunteers and their Quest dogs. Since Bull did the Quest this year with Regina (the musher I handled for) he was the clear choice for the parade. It was pretty funny actually. There were four of us walking with dogs and sled dogs typically are not used to walking on a leash so they pull really hard, which you don't really want to discourage them from doing because that's what they do: they pull. So there we were getting dragged down the parade route trying to hand out stickers and dog biscuits. You know, when I was a wee lass (shut up Kelly) a parade was about marching bands and clowns and a weird guy pushing a chicken in a baby carriage and the guy who shoveled up all the horse crap whom my mum oddly enough took the most pictures of. I guess I haven't been to a parade since I was little but today I was surprised to see children lining the streets not to clap for the band or throw stones at the guy with the shovel, but with bags open and begging for candy. It was worse then Hallowe'en. Back in the day if one of those clowns chucked a lifesaver at you, you considered yourself lucky, but today was ridiculous. Some appreciated the stickers but most were looking to score some sugar. When we ran out of stickers I started putting dog biscuits in the kids' bags. They could only see the next potential score so none really noticed. So the parade was fun. Bull enjoyed all the attention but for the most part ignored everyone. He pooped in the middle of the road and I had to clean it up in front of an audience who squealed with disgust. I left a little on the road so they could have that remembrance of us. He also stopped several times to clean his testicles (they say if you 'clean' for more than a few seconds you're not...never mind) And he was startled by a gaggle of wiener dogs that were on the float in front of us and by a pigmy goat. Who doesn't love a parade?!
Yesterday I watched several seagulls attack a bald eagle. It was crazy. Cim and Olaf got half the roof on yesterday and were supposed to come back today to finish it but didn't.
Anyway, until tomorrow.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Keep on movin' don't stop now

(the house as of two days go. Bull with the wedding flowers. And the roof truss with my name on it...I couldn't resist getting a pic of that!)

So, here we are nearing the end of July and summer in Alaska. People around here are getting ready for winter though the weather remains beautiful and warm. Olaf and Cim started putting the roof on this morning after finishing the framing yesterday. Sam and I really appreciate their hard work and attention to detail but we (and by we I mean me) are anxious to move it. Sam seems a little ambivalent towards leaving our little rental cabin, but I know underneath that laid back exterior he's as excited as I. The family starts arriving Monday (gulp) with my parents getting here first, then Sam's mother, then his brother and sister-in-law. My sister will also make the trek North for the first time, even though I lived in Whitehorse for six years. Friends Trisha Testegonad and Graeme McEleran will come up from Whitehorse for the wedding party. The dogs are really great though I had a scare yesterday when Bull took off after a moose and was gone for about half an hour. I let all the dogs loose a few times a day but am nervous because we are close to the road. On the advice of Olaf who said 'if you love 'em, tie 'em up' I might keep them in the pen until we build the big enclosure. They really love running around but if one of them got smucked on the road, I'd never forgive myself. Raven is improving slowly but surely. She nows tries to dry-hump the puppies but her back legs are still weak and she ends up flipping on her back then jumping up and blaming the pups with a growl. It's pretty hilarious. Once the family gets here, we'll all go to Chitna to dip net for salmon. That and a moose we hope to get this fall will fill our freezer for the winter so we don't have to buy any questionable supermarket meat. I've changed the format for comments so that anyone can leave them, not just members of the blog. So feel free, just keep it clean...MARGARET. This is a G-rated blog.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

from outhouse to your house

So, we're almost done with the outhouse project. We just need a roof and some other minor details...It was interesting working with Sam on this can learn a lot about the man you married by building such an intimate structure. I learned that Sam is meticulous and takes a lot of pride in his work. A noble attribute indeed. I also learned that he has no boundaries when it comes to outhouse banter or posing for blog photos in the outhouse...I'll spare you all the gory details...enough said.
ANYWAY, I had a fun day with friend Margaret picking out flowers for the wedding party. I bought five HUGE, and I mean HUGE, 'porch pots' full, and I mean full, of big, beautiful flowers. One of them is as tall as I am. Did I mention they were huge? I also bought four, 55-gallon drums for water. I know it doesn't sound exciting, but when you have no indoor plumbing, hauling water in five-gallon buckets every few days gets old fast. I'm going to pick out songs with the bluegrass band we hired tomorrow night, so if anyone's who's coming has any requests, let me know. The dogs are great, Sam's great, I'm great. I have to announce that Kelly Crowe is the winner of the name-that-kennel contest. It looks like Soggy Bottom Kennels might just stick. Kelly, you've won a no-expense-paid trip to beautiful Fairbanks, Alaska, where you'll be treated to cleaning up the dog yard for six nights and eight days. While in Squarebanks, you'll be treated to the finest kibble, I mean food, around. And you'll get a scenic tour of all the garbage dumps where you'll do as the locals do and jump in to big bins of trash. (Sadly, Fairbanksans are proud of their dumpster diving prowess and I hear fights have even broken out over high profile items) I'm all for the three Rs but jumping into trash bins is where I draw the line. I will, however, clean up dog crap with gusto each morning and chop and mix raw meat each day to keep my brood happy. Funny how that works. The Nomad is still leaking and the ceiling is about to cave in any second. Sam has suggested a 'pole-barn' over the trailer which is essentially tarps strung up all over the place. That's another thing that Fairbanks-folk pride themselves on: living with, on or under ugly blue tarps. If you've noticed the theme in many of the photos on this blog, there is usually a blue tarp involved. In fact, I had ordered a nice white canopy for the wedding party, but, alas, Sam put the kibosh on that, stating that we had plenty of tarps around in case it rains. I guess I'll spruce up the place with the fortune I spent on flowers...
Cim and Olaf, or Sven and Oli as Marg calls them, finished framing in windows and doors on the second story today. The roof tin will come tomorrow. I went and picked out a wood stove today and that will also go in this week. Although family will be arriving next week, I won't hesitate to put them to work...there's just too much to do before the snow flies in just a couple months. So, yes mum, you will be working and yes, you can paint the outhouse. Peace and love from tarp central...

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Rude awakening

So this morning at about, oh I don't know, 4:30, I was jolted out of a deep slumber by Strider and Sneaky Pete barking their arses off. It wasn't a play bark, it was an alarm bark (they have different barks for different occasions). So I reluctantly got up to investigate (Bull and Sam slept through the chaos) and found two (I thought there were three but that's really unlikely) moose munching on some greens to one side of the Nomad. The two boys were going crazy but the moose were like 'yeah, I hear ya, but I also see the fence' So they took their sweet-ass time moving on. Meanwhile, every dog in a 10-kilometre radius was up and barking. Ahhh, Alaska. The pics are of Bull at the site of our outhouse, which we almost finished today, and Sam and I last night. The weekend was consumed with building the outhouse so I have somewhere to, er, collect my thoughts. Friends Eric and Becky came over for dinner last night with their little one Eli. Becky and I picked out colours for the annual tie-dye party...should be fun.
Bull has developed a new habit of pretending he's sleeping to avoid doing something he doesn't really want to. For example, the other night he was hunkered down in my sleeping bag which I wanted to get into to go to bed. His eyes were open but as soon as I told him to get down, he shut his eyes really tight and ignored me. I even shook him a little and still, he faked being sound asleep. Funny.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Happy birthday, mum!

Here are some new cabin pics. The trusses and upstairs deck went up yesterday. The roof and windows will come today. It rained really hard last night and the Nomad let me down. The old roof just isn't what it used to be. Luckily, I guess, it just leaked in the closet and not on me. I'd like to wish my mum a happy birthday and say thank you to Sam's sister Rebecca for the birthday card and well-wishes. I'd also like to give a shout out to Mary Fox for the nice message she left last night. Thanks girls! Are they playing the music already? I'm out of time...Peace and love from a soggy-bottomed trailer on Farmers Loop Road.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

OK, so this is the house as of yesterday. I was just at the property and the trusses are up as is the second-story balcony. So it already looks much different than these photos. The little black and white pup is Jillian. The photo below that is Ruffles then Sneaky Pete, the all black pup. The brown boy is Strider and of course the orange and white girl is Parker.

Enter: the dogs...exit: peace and quiet

So, yesterday I picked up Strider, who is Raven's brother and Ruffles, who is their mother. I also got Sneaky Pete and Parker, my two pups. So now my fledgling mushing operation includes six dogs. Bull, Raven, Strider, Ruffles, Sneaky Pete and Parker. The sad, and I mean funny sad, thing is that Strider is my only decent race dog at the moment. Bull's getting a little old, although I will try him out and see how he does in training. He did finish half the Quest this year after all. Ruffles is retired and was pretty much just part of the Raven-Strider deal. Raven, as we all know, is crippled though she does hobble around pretty good and is definitely happy to have her mum around.

(Parker, five months old)
And Sneaky Pete and Parker will be harness broken, but too young to race. So, sad but true I actually only have one sled dog. I'm still trying to think up a name for my kennel. Sam suggested something with the word Crash because, well, I've had a lot of crashes on the sled and that day I backed into a tree and crumpled the back of my truck...c'est la vie....
As for our new cabin, all the logs are on and the roof trusses are going up later today. Sam and I are really, REALLY, excited about it all. Our friends and family have been so generous and helpful in this stressful process. Thanks to all.
So when I went up to Windy Creek Kennel to get my two pups yesterday I stopped by to visit with Lance Mackey who just moved to Fairbanks from the southern part of Alaska. Lance has won the Yukon Quest (1,000-mile sled dog race from Fairbanks to Whitehorse) for the last two years in a row. He was seventh in the Iditarod last year (1,000-mile race from Anchorage to Nome) and hopes to win this year. His father and brother have both won the Iditarod. Anyway, I know him and his wife from covering the Quest for the Yukon News and stopped in to welcome them to the neightbourhood. His wife Tonya told me they named one of their puppies after me. So maybe some day in a few years, you'll all hear about how Jillian won the Quest or Iditarod in lead for Lance Mackey...! Of course, needless to say, she is the cutest, smartest, funniest pup of all their litters...she also eats her own poop, but whatever....we all have our faults...

More pics to come...I'm outta time

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

home sweet trailer...and cabin

The house as of a couple days ago and, of course, the Nomad. (Yes, the rainbow follows the Nomad wherever he goes) The house now has the second-story logs on and the second-story floor. More photos to come...

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Lovin' the Nomad

OK OK OK! Sorry about the delay with updates but cheese and rice people, I'm livin' in a trailer! Yes, that's right. Jillian has gone Alaska white trash to the fullest tarps and all! So. The story goes a little something like this: I want to start getting the few dogs I have from a musher friend's already overpacked yard. BUT, where we're living now, we can't have more than one. So, we pulled out an old camper-trailer that Sam had stored at a friend's place and moved it onto the property so I can live there and bring some dogs over. That way we can start bring over our stuff a little bit at a time and there will be someone there all the time to hold down the fort. Good thing, too. Last night John, John and Marg came over for a little trailer-warming bbq and a truck pulled in at about 9 or so. They were surprised to see people there and drove off. Weird. What I really need is a big, pink NO TRESPASSING sign. Hmmm, I wonder where I could get one of those. Anyway, Raven and Bull spent the night in the trailer with me and, needless to say, I got very little sleep. Raven ended up sleeping on my head because she was freaked out by her new surroundings and a bit thunder outside. Bull, on the other hand, wasn't afraid at all, but found the full-length mirror and stood in front of it for at least an hour wagging his tail madly at himself. And, being the tiny but mighty trailer that the NOMAD is, his tail kept smacking against the wall. He'd admire himself for while, then look at me in the mirror then turn his head and look at me for real, then act surprised that I was actually there, then turn back to admiring himself. So, on to the important stuff. The house is going up fast. The second-story beams are on and the last five or so rounds of logs should be on by tomorrow. The roof trusses arrive on the Thursday. Cim and I are going to get flooring and lumber for the second-story balcony today. It was about 30 degrees yesterday and those boys were working hard so I went and got them some popsicles and Italian sodas. It was a nice switch from all the rain we've been getting, but man, was it hot. Today, Sam and I cleared some more land for dogs and I'll go up to Windy Creek Kennel to pick up Sneaky Pete and Parker, Strider and Ruffles tomorrow to bring them to their new home. Exciting. Anyway, I'm sure you're all fast asleep by now so until tomorrow...
Peace and love from the Nomad...
Oh yeah, my friend Gwen, an Iditarod and Yukon Quest musher, who is also a brilliant engineer, is heading up the geothermal power plant project at Chena Hot Springs, about 75 kilometres from Fairbanks. This project and power plant is not only setting a precedent in the North but across the North America. It's a huge deal and we're all very proud of Gwen. Check out for more details and perhaps some ideas you can use at home for alternative energy.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

errichten Sie dieses Haus... schneller, schneller!

Well, this little Alaskan cabin is going up fast! Those Germans...
I had a good birthday; low key but nice. Sam got me a toolbelt with some of my own tools to help build our new home. Ran errands in town, doors, never ends. Tomorrow's another big day, we'll put the beams up for the second floor. AND, I get to build an outhouse!! Hurray! Tomorrow evening Sam and I are going to see What'd ya know? It's a funny radio show on NPR that we listen to all the time and that will be taped here in Fairbanks. Should be fun. Raven is still improving and can now wag her tail.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Born on the 5th of July

Huey Lewis shares my birthday...except he was born like, what? a century ago? I had his 45 when I was about 12. Happy to be stuck with you. Sam just told me when he was college he went to see Stevie Ray Vaughn OPEN, yes, OPEN for Huey Lewis. Isn't that hilarious??
Here are some things that happened on my birthday...
Naval hero David Farragut was born in Tennessee, 1801
First Lady Mary McElroy was born, 1841
The Salvation Army was founded in London, 1865
The bikini bathing suit made its debut in Paris, France, 1946

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

German engineering

More progress...Today Sam and I built the deck while Cim and Olaf got the floor insulated and two rounds of logs put on. Sam also erected our power pole with the help of friends Mark and Greg. We arrived at the property in the morning to see that a moose had tromped down the driveway. Later, Sam and I went to a local tourist park to take in some bluegrass. Raven is doing much better. It's really quite amazing. She's still stumbling around, but actually jumped on the couch all by herself tonight. Hopefully, she'll just keep improving. I have my doubts that she'll run in the team again, but she's a sweet girl and nice to have around.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Progress! Check out Olaf and Cim workin' hard. This is exciting!!!!! Raven has miraculously made a turn for the better. She's actually sort of walking around. She's wobbly but she's walking.

Bull and Raven relaxing on the couch. Raven is on an IV fluid and DMSO drip in the photo. Since taking a turn for the worse Friday night, she hasn't gotten any worse. I've decided to wait and see for a few more days. Her spirits are high and she's still eating well. She rides around in my truck all day and seems content to do so.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Happy Canada Day.