Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The warnings were swift and ample

Well, it's official. There's no turning back now. Not in my mind, anyway. With the sales of Lead Dog Mead underway, and more sponsors and supporters jumping on board, my plight for the 2011 Iditarod has become a reality. Even though it's still more than a year away, I wake up at night with thoughts of the Dalzell Gorge, the Happy River Steps, the Farewell Burn, Little McKinley, the Blueberry Hills, Norton Sound, even Cape Nome. Don't get me wrong, I'm really excited to see the trail and the villages and meet the people and simply to run 1,000 miles with my dogs, but, yeah, I'm pretty nervous. I guess I'd be more worried if I wasn't nervous at all. Mostly, I have visions of wiping out on the main drags of downtown Anchorage during the ceremonial start. As a photographer, I know about waiting for that great action/wipe-out shot during a dog race and for those of you who know me, I have a reputation (if only in my own mind) for crashing and dragging at the start of races.
Training is going well though we're still running through water and mud. No snow and no cold, makes Jilly a grumpy girl.
All the dogs are doing well and a couple of the yearlings have shown that they are promising leaders. We're still relying on Capiche, Bully and Drake a lot but hopefully once the younger leaders-in-training get more confident we can start giving the older ones a break. I've also been trying our teenage dogs up front but to no avail. I guess Doyon (aka Sweet D) showed the most promise, though he gets distracted by anything (rocks, puddles, his own feet) when there's not another dog butt in front of him. Oh well, he's secured a spot in the back of the team.
Lead Dog Mead is selling well at the Winery and at stores throughout the state. Also, I acquired a new sponsor yesterday. Terri Segesser, owner of T.J. Seggy's in Soldotna, AK, has donated $250 worth of diesel fuel for when we travel to races this season. Thank you, Terri!
We're still working on details for the winter tour biz, but we've already had some inquiries so I'm very optimistic.
As promised, here are some random photos from the past couple of weeks.

Rich and his burnin' loins. Just kidding (Sorry, Lou). Rich made a grate for the top of the wood stove so we can have hot water for the dogs.

A rare cool morning.

Our 'kitchen.'

Bedroom, living room, dining room, TV room...etc, etc, etc.

Rich steppin' out. This is our new cabin. She's tiny but mighty and soon to be a little less tiny. Jason and Kelly (our landlords/friends/fellow mushers) are building a bedroom on the back of this little beast. Just that little extra bit room will be a big improvement.

We still marvel at the beauty outside our front door.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

It's a black fly in your Chardonnay

I have a new issue. One I've never had to deal with or have even thought about before. I have moths. Moths that are eating my clothes. I mean, seriously, does that really still happen? I guess so. You'd think it'd be a good excuse to buy some new clothes, but broke mushers don't get a chance to go on shopping sprees very often, unless it involves the brand names 'Taiga' or 'Redpaw.'
I'll have to go to Ulmer's and get some sort of pesticide, I suppose. Now I'll smell like dog shit and moth balls, oh joy!
Training is going well, though we've been having some minor leader break-downs during the past few runs. The dogs and I are learning from every run but I still have so many questions and my instinct is to call one my mushing mentors for help, but I know there is no one answer. It makes me realize how much I still have to learn and how it's easy to run dogs, but hard to train them.
We're plugging away and the dogs' hearts are all in the right places, so that's a big bonus. It has finally cooled down enough here and we've even dipped below freezing on a few occasions. With frozen bogs and sink holes, everyone's morale is up. We had a head-on pass yesterday morning with a local sprint musher and the dogs passed beautifully despite very, very tight trail conditions. It was a nice ending to a frustrating run where every leader we put up front was in opposite world (gee meant haw, etc.). Sigh. And let it go. It's gone. Tomorrow's a new day!
OK, photos of everything, including the moth-snack clothes are coming soon, I swear!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Mud treatments for free at Spitfire Kennels!

What is up with the weather here? I mean, really? What the hell is going on? It's 55 degrees outside!! We were told that where we are living now has enough snow by this time of year to be doing 35-mile runs ON A SLED! Yeah, right. We're in a mud hold on the four-wheeler careening down slip-n-slide trails while the dogs are up to their tits in mud. It's nuts. So, why am I complaining about things I have no control over? Well, it's kind of my thing, in case you haven't noticed.
Anyway, we're making do by splitting the dog runs into two: one in the morning before work and one in the morning after work. That way, they're still getting the miles on them, just not all at once because it's so hot out.
The dogs are doing really well and our young superstars: Mr. Lahey, Maude, Wayne and Bubbles are awesome! Lahey and Maude have been running in lead a lot and are starting to take commands. It's so rewarding to see these young dogs coming into their own. Drake, Capiche and Hazel have been our go-to leaders with Omar starting to shine in the front position. Bully runs in lead on the days he feels like it, but I don't want to over do it as he's older and sensitive. The rest of the crew get moved around in the team and they have all really taken to charging right through open water...there's a lot of it around here. It's all very exciting and I can't wait for snow.
Our new cabin is growing on me, actually, more than that, I'm really starting to love it. The dogs have lots of space in the yard and the pups (Cinch, Alice and Ruby, in case you'd forgotten) get to run loose every morning. Alice is our current escape artist. She gets out of the puppy pen often, but then just runs laps around it until we open the gate and she jumps back in.
I just applied for a business license for Spitfire Kennels and am currently working on getting some winter tours set up. We're getting brochures made, joining the Chamber of Commerce and the Bed and Breakfast Association to get our name out in the community. We'll also be working closely with Don Cotogno, owner of Timber Bay Bed and Breakfast, to work out a partnership for the winter. Of course, this is all in the planning stages but already we have a lot of support. And if all goes well this winter, well, who knows?? Don will also be doing our website (spitfirekennels.com) so stay tuned for the launch of that. It's been my dream for a while now to not only live and race with sled dogs, but earn my living with them, too. Rich and I are really motivated to make this work and I hope that some of you will visit us sometime and meet the dogs before hopping on a sled and taking off into the hills outside Homer.
Photos soon, I promise.
Also, Lead Dog Mead is now for sale at the winery and it's been selling really well. It's a Fireweed honey wine and part of the proceeds will go to Spitfire Kennels. Bill and Dorothy at Bear Creek Winery have been so generous and flexible. We're excited to have them on board!
Also, I'm just finishing up a review of Ken Anderson's 2009 Iditarod journal for the next issue of Mushing Magazine, so check it out.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

This is life, so we'll survive

I know I've used that title before, but it's something I've had to repeat to myself many times over the past week or so.
We're in (as much as we can fit) to our new cabin. It's nice. It will only get better.
I've had two serious meltdowns in the last few days. The first one I had to assure Rich that this was me at my worst. Poor guy. He's been the rock during this whole move and usually he's the stressed out one. Anyway, the dogs are great and we're loving being able to train from the yard. I think I'm going to steal Libby's mantra of 'trucking the dogs for four-wheeler training is against my religion.' Yep, no more truckin' except for races of course and maybe a camping trip or two.
Our new cabin is down in a hole with no cell service and I have to come into town for internet right now, so my access to the outside world is limited for the time being.
The Lead Dog Mead is being released this weekend and we've already sent three cases to stores in Fairbanks! Who knew Mr. Lahey would be such a huge star?
OK, photos of our new cabin and then our new cabin being moved by an excavator (it's portable!) and some pics of the pups coming up in a bit. Stay tuned.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Maybe I'm a poor girl, but it doesn't bother me at all

There's a mouse in our cabin. I know what has to be done, but I'm hesitating. I named him Grundel. I tried to get Roy to eat him, but he's more interested in the couch.
We move in two days so I have until then to get the mouse out.
Training is going well, we bumped up miles the other day and are running on new trails in the dark...the dogs LOVE it! It's getting colder here and it did snow, but nothing stuck. Work is slowing down and we're debating whether or not one of us should get another job. I hope not, but we do what we need to, to do what we want to.
We bottled a new wine at work. It's a mead, actually, which means it's a honey wine. It's called Lead Dog Mead and I made a label with Mr. Lahey (our newest lead dog) on it. A few bucks from every bottle sold will go to Rich and I and our Iditarod plight. It's a cool way to sponsor us and I can't wait for the release. I'll be there with Mr. Lahey. Gold Hill in Fairbanks is excited to release it too and it'll be sold around Alaska.
Here's the label:

We need to tweak the label a little but you get the gist. Exciting times around here.
More photos to come soon.