Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Dora and the dishwasher, or the problem with two-inch collar rings

Working on the sit-stay with two of the peons
I don’t understand why the servants leave the canines unattended as they are always getting in trouble.  

The other night while Susan, one of my servants, was busy in another part of the house, Scott, my other servant, proceeded to fill the dishwasher.  He became distracted and went outside, leaving the dishwasher open.  This isn’t a problem for me or the other felines in the house as we prefer to take our tithe from the kitchen table and counters.  The canine creatures, however, will scavenge from any place, including the dirty dishes.  

Dora, usually not the dumbest of the canines, decided to take advantage of the servants’ lack of attention and busily applied her disgustingly long tongue to every dish she could reach.  She was actually enjoying this.  Until.  Yes, there is usually an “until” when you talk about canines, isn’t there?  The stupid beast’s collar ring caught on the lower section of the dishwasher.  

If she had been a feline, she would simply have removed the ring from whatever it was hooked on.  Not surprisingly for a canine, however, she panicked and fled to the far side of the room, which also happens to be the far side of the house.  She ran faster than I've ever seen a canine run.  That is especially impressive when you consider the fact that she took the lower section of the dishwasher with her, scattering plates and utensils willy-nilly throughout the room.  

THAT brought the shirking Susan running!  The other canines came running, too, until Susan used the Voice I have given her permission to use under certain critical circumstances.  Tweed, Sally, and Declan all stopped in their tracks.  Dora, the idiot, crawled over to her, expecting sympathy for the destruction she had wrought. 

INJUSTICE!  The servants yell at us, the royal felines, for taking our due reward from the counter tops.  Do you think that ingrate yelled at the canine which had broken two of her grandmother’s pink willow dinner plates?  NO!  She did quite the opposite, in fact, asking the wretch if she were alright and giving her a friendly and comforting—comforting!—pat at the same time.  

Scott, the useless servant who started it all by leaving the dishwasher open and unattended, crept in as the other was cleaning up.  He took one look at the scene and realized what had happened.  He has been much more careful with the dishwasher since that night.  I am disappointed as it has been my fervent hope that Francis or Aidan, the other two felines in the house, would crawl in for a washing.  I will have to devise a different plan.  

Sincerely, Nokta, queen of the house

Sunday, January 22, 2012

In Our Own "Yard"

We moved to the middle of nowhere so we wouldn't have to travel to be where we wanted to be.  Scott has explored some of the forest roads and other trails in the area on his mountain bike.  I've explored the same as well as some of the hunter-walker trails while hunting.  Aside from that, we haven't really explored the national forest land directly behind us.  It can't really be explored during the warmer months because it is alder and tamarack swamp.  Last year my foot was broken.  There always seems to be something keeping from going.  Today, for example, we procrastinated until nearly 1:00 and had pretty much decided to wait until next week to go. 

Fortunately, I happened to look out the upstairs window at just the right time.  There was a coyote crossing the front yard to check out the deer carcass we had thrown in the weeds!  It was pretty cautious and paused frequently, offering plenty of opportunity to take its picture.  Camera limitations mean the photos can't be blown up much.
Mr. Coyote
Mr. Coyote spurred us into some exploring of the back forty.  Lesson learned:  Taking all four dogs requires a lot more preparation.  Tweed and Declan stayed near us while Dora and Sally disappeared into the forest.  We decided to go home, where Declan found and proudly showed off a piece of suet that was out for the birds, Tweed took off solo down the road, and the girls eventually wandered back. 
Twenty Feet Apart

Once we had everyone contained, we put the boys in crates in the basement and tried again with just the girls.  It is amazing how thick it is out there, even without leaves on the trees and undergrowth.  We don't know how far we went, but we did find a couple of national forest boundary signs. 
Scott at Forest Boundary Sign

Scott saw a vole and we both saw a tree that had been stripped of much of its bark by a porcupine.  Who knows what the girls saw.  By the time we got home, we were all pretty tired, especially little Dora who had spent most of her time trying to keep track of both the humans and her mother.  She is a game little dog. 
Pooped Pup
 Next time, we'll have a plan for our explorations. 

Happy Trails! 


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Winter in the Northland

Be careful what you wish for.  I have complained that we not only don't have enough snow to do anything with but also that the temperature has been so high that what little snow we had has become useless.  No, we did not get two feet of snow overnight.  What we got were colder temperatures.  It was -21F/-29C when we left home this morning and is -10F now. 

Tweed's Frosty Whiskers
That isn't too bad, really, even with windchills of -30F or so.  Sure, your nose hair freezes at those temperatures.  Few people turn off their cars when out running errands.  The dogs run out, do their duty, and immediately scream to be let back in the house.  It becomes more important to keep your car's tank at least half full, just in case the road decides to send you into the ditch.  Normal winter precautions.

When we got home from work this evening, we realized we hadn't run the dishwasher.  We were originally going to run it last night, then this morning so the dishes would be clean when we got home.  Scott started it shortly after we got in then took a load of laundry downstairs.  I wanted to fill my water bottle at the kitchen sink.  Nothing--no water.  I went upstairs to confirm the lack of water.  Nothing again. 

Okay, maybe the dishwasher and washing machine together were too much for the well pump.  Scott was NOT washing any laundry.  Oh, dear.  We shut off the dishwasher and went to the basement where we discovered that, as you may have guessed, the pipe coming in from the well had frozen somewhere. 

To make a long story less so, with the help of neighbor Jeremy, we found where the pipe came in as well as where it was frozen.  It took tearing apart the woodwork a bit but there is now heat going to the pipe and the water has begun to trickle.  We may not need all those buckets of snow after all.  

Stay warm!


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

She Who Whispers in the Direction of Wolves

Dora Expressing Her Inner Wolf
There is nothing quite like shopping on an empty stomach after a long day at work for making me cranky.  By the time we got home after 7:00 last night, I was ready to growl at little Dora, who never does anything bad, or even Sally, who is my Best Buddy. 

So, poor Sally is searching the yard while I'm out collecting bowls for dinner and is unlucky enough to find a poopsickle.  I yelled at her to drop it, threw a bowl on the ground, stamped my feet, and called her a bitch.  (Well, she is, right?)  That calmed everybody but me down instantly. 

Back in the house, the dogs were all quiet as I prepared their salmon.  Even the cats were more patient than usual and Scott stayed far away.  Declan and Tweed set me off again when we went out to the dog yard with the bowls.  Tweed quit barking when I said enough.  Declan prefers to run in circles around me barking hysterically.  I don't think he hears me then, so I yelled NO at him. 

He actually listened this time and they all sat in their obedient little semi-circle, waiting for me to put down their bowls and release them so they could eat.  As I stood there, glaring at Declan, the sweet, tenor voice of a wolf called to me from the forest.  It was the first time I've heard a wolf and it was very calming; it brought peace.  The wolf told me that everything was alright with the world, that I am where I am supposed to be right now. 

I ate my own dinner on the front deck, listening for more wolves.  I was rewarded not only by more than one wolf, but also by two owls.  Life is good in the north woods.

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year's Day Observed

The library was closed today and, though it was the last day I could have gone hunting this season, the windchill was too low for me to feel like wandering around the forest.  Therefore, after a lot of procrastination and some structured physical exercise--I rode my bike almost nine miles in the basement--the dogs and I went on our first training run of 2012.  I didn't take the camera this time as it is the same road as usual and getting a little boring, visually.  The temperature was about 5F when we left the yard at 3:30 this afternoon.   

Running Down the Road
The 45 degree turn out of the driveway was pretty exciting at 10mph.  Declan was surprised to look back and see the outside runner of the sled several inches off the road and kindly accelerated with the girls to get me back on track. 

This was a training run, so I didn't care about speed (yeah, right!).  We were practicing "on by" and "gee," though not too seriously.  The main idea was to NOT turn right on the road we always turn right on and TO turn right into the driveway without going several feet beyond it and me getting off the sled to physically turn them.

As we approached the road I didn't want to turn on, I began calling on by, repeatedly, violating every obedience rule I know.  Do you think it worked?  Not a chance!    The girls did as they always do and I had to stop them, set my snow hook, and turn them the way I wanted them to go.  It's a good thing they are IRWSledders and not huskies, as the hook came loose as soon as the sled turned. 

The girls happily took off in the direction I wanted to go, with Declan gamely pulling behind.  I didn't want to be out very long, so after they managed to lope up a longish hill, I stopped them for some praise and to turn for home.  Alright!  An opportunity to work on "come about."  I had moderately more success with this than with "on by," if only because we were stopped and the girls got tired of trying to figure out what I was trying to tell them. 

The run home was fairly uneventful, stopping once to get the girls' inside front legs back on the proper side of their neckline and then waiting for a car to go by.  I believe it was somewhere on the short stretch home that we hit our top speed of 17mph.  It's a good thing speed didn't matter because our overall average speed of less than 10mph was pretty slow.  Shaving the bottoms of the plastic runners and not running the sled on gravel would probably help a little.  ;-) 

I was toasty warm in my HotChilis base layer, fleece mid layer, and wind-resistant outer layer.  Hand knit wool socks in my mukluks kept my feet from getting cold.  I still couldn't feel the tips of my fingers as I unhooked the dogs, but they warmed up quickly once we got inside. 

For a view of the road with snow, check out our latest YouTube video. 

Happy trails!


Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy Holidays!

The past week at Fiddlin’ Irish Red and White Setters has been filled with mushing, friends, and music. 

Several friends came to our Friday After Winter Solstice Party.  While most came after dark for great conversation and food, a couple came early enough for some outdoor fun.  Thank you, Ed and Doris, for helping with my shooting by bringing your clay thrower.  Thank you again, along with Jane and Laura, for bringing along the delightful desserts!

Scott and I spent Christmas day at Jane’s house.  It was fun to spend time with some of her siblings—thank you, Theresa, for helping with my computer—and our friend Jean.  I wish there were more “holidays” to have dinner parties on. 

The youngsters and I took advantage of the snowy road to take the sled out.  I’ve discovered we don’t travel as fast on runners as we do on wheels, but the dogs are still pulling well.  I can’t wait to get them out on better trails so that I can get some nice video to share on our YouTube channel.  Thank you, Jane, for the video camera--I am looking forward to seeing how well it works on the dog sled. 

New Year’s Eve was incredible!  FriendsOnTheRange has been providing the music for Petrell Hall’s annual dance for the past five years.  This was my third year playing for it and it was loads of fun, especially since we had Morgan and Bobby, talented musicians on fiddle and cello.  I’ve never played that style of music with another fiddler before and would like to keep Morgan (and Bobby, of course) around.  Alas for me, they live in Alaska and don’t currently plan to relocate to Minnesota. 

I hope your holiday season has been as camaraderie-filled as ours and that 2012 brings you all the prosperity you need and want.