Monday, December 21, 2009

"The long and short of it"; 12-21-09

So that was it; the shortest day of the year? Today was a short day? Really? Well then, thank God for that! But it didn't seem like it.

My day began long before sunrise (OK, the sun comes up really late right now, like 11:37am* late, but still). I knew a mountain of white had descended upon my humble home and village equivalent of my "yard" during the long December night. About a foot of it was waiting patiently for me to begin my struggle to rearrange the pretty snowy blanket into crumpled piles, strategically located in out of the way places. I ruined the lovely Christmas scene, but it makes walking a lot easier.

(My buddy just called from a "neighboring" village. He's on the phone right now, wondering if we got snow? He didn't. For real? Hard to believe. We got buried!)

The snow was so bad I even brought my old plow back out of retirement, and it performed wonderfully, saving a lot of back strain. I still shoveled my porch roof, the back room and the wood shed, which = a lot of hard work. Whew! To say I perspired a fair amount would be an understatement.

In addition, I had to move a lot of snow around the dog-yard also. Slogging my way around the yard in a foot or more of fresh snow gets tiresome.

All in all, it was a very fatiguing day. Seemed R-E-A-L-L-Y long to me.

So tell me again, why exactly was this considered the shortest day of the year?

*according to (a goofy site called "cityfinders tried to tell me the sun came up at 9:32. I don't want to be disagreeable but it looked real dark at 9:30 this morning)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

"Mushing into the sun"; 12-13-09

Why do they call it "mushing"? And who are they, anyway?

Mushing Running a dog team can be...well, it can be incredibly frustrating, especially if they don't actually RUN. Over the years I've had more than my share of leader problems. Without an adequate leader you don't have a team. What you do have is a tangled mess. But enough of that.

This year I have a TEAM. And I have good leaders. One in particular, who's name is "Mouse". She is much more than the name implies (well, she does kind of look like a mouse, sort of). This dog has changed my whole world, as far as dogs are concerned (my deepest, heartfelt gratitude to Aily Zirkle will remain for years to come).

Running dogs is the ONE thing I do for me; to unwind, to forget about the stresses of living where I do, to just get out and have fun...

...and fun it is! If you like animals (dogs in particular), if you appreciate the cooperative effort of humans and animals working together (those guys in India and S.E. Asia riding on their working elephants are the extreme example), or if you like skiing and the idea of roping up a bunch of animals and hanging on for dear life seems appealing, dog mushing may be the sport for you. It's the sport for me, that I can tell you, and yesterday was a blast.

Today should be more of the same.

Friday, December 11, 2009

More sled; 12-11-09

Another couple of hours spent ripping birch for the sled. Saw dust is piling up as the second birch log gets chainsawed into rough lumber (and I'm talkin' R-U-F-F).

Now the pieces are in the shop to dry a while before the skilsaw and planer turn them into stanchions and crosspieces (vertical and horizontal structural members of the sled)

The sunrise / sunset pics are included just for fun. Think of them as dessert. The great thing about living at a "high" latitude is the prolonged fun you get when the sun makes its first and last appearance every day. Today was special; real special!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

"Fighting the Constitution"; 12-9-09

I was at a community meeting last night. Assemblies such as this are not uncommon in small, rural communities; a lot like the "Town Hall" meetings that are stylish among politicians serving on a much larger scale; except our's really takes place in our "town hall".

We discussed a number of issues but the most popular topic was the drug and alcohol theme, directed at the three Alaska State Troopers who were on hand for that exact purpose.

"Conditions of release", "probation violations", "bootlegging", "closing the local liquor store when temps drop below minus thirty", etc., were some of the conversational "threads" we pursued.

Importation of drugs / local drug dealing was a topic I wanted to discuss. Around here (as most everywhere) drugs are very easy to get. And, this being a small community, everyone knows who the dealers are. We usually know when they have brought in a new supply too (the steady stream of vehicles and visitors to their house is unmistakeable).

So it should be easy to catch them...right?

Not right. There's just one problem; the "C" word.

I was talking with two of the Troopers after the meeting. I basically said, "We know who they know who they are...they board airplanes in Fairbanks to fly out here...why not just apprehend them at the airport, send them to jail, and we all live happily ever-after.

But there is a centuries-old document that stands in the way; the Constitution. I was reminded we are all protected from "unlawful search and seizure", so "you'll have to change the Constitution." was the man in blue's reply.

"There's a lot of stuff in the Constitution I love to change."

"Yeah, me too. But actually doing it is the hard part."

So there we are, in upside-down America. A land where the document itself is valued more than the people it was written to serve. Where criminals have abundant freedoms to victimize the law-abiding population.

A couple of inconsistencies came to mind.

#1: Border Patrol. They apparently aren't crippled by the same "probable cause" impediments. I've crossed in and out of Mexico many times. Thankfully, the Border Patrol guards at the port of entry can search anybody. They don't have to wait until they see contraband falling out of some one's pocket. They can use dogs. They can detain people. If they don't like the way you look, you get searched. Sure, it slows down the process of crossing, but we all recognize it's necessary.

Why don't they do that in Fairbanks, Anchorage or similar locations?

#2: Rural communities can pass local ordinances to limit or totally prohibit importation of alcohol. They are usually referred to as "dry" communities. With such and ordinance in place, peace officers, Tribal, even local governmental representatives may lawfully search baggage and passengers entering their village.

...but you can't do this to prevent the importation of drugs...which are not legal...anywhere???

"Well, maybe we can just pass an ordinance prohibiting the importation of marijuana and cocaine?" I sarcastically said to the Trooper.

"Yeah. Wouldn't it be nice if it was that simple."

Only in America; where you can legally search people, without probable cause, to stop the importation of alcohol, a legal substance, but not weed and crack!

I'm thinking the Constitution needs to be changed. Who wants to help?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Sled; 12-2-09

Another day of progress on the sled. Today I trimmed/planed the runners a bit more, then I cranked up the steamer.

As you can see, the "steamer" is nothing more than a "modified" empty 55 gallon barrel. (These things are everywhere around the north, and they get used for everything. I've made woodstoves, a dog food cooker, this steamer and who knows what else). Actually, I'm using half a barrel for the fire and another one for the steamer. Versatile objects, to be sure.

Get everything ready to go, dump in about 15-20 gallons of water (hint; using hot water will save time and firewood), put in the runners, plug the holes with rags and steam away. After an hour or two I put one on the bender and gave it a try. It seemed a little stiff so I steamed them another 30 minutes +/-.

End result; the runners are now bent. I will move the bender into my shop so they can dry and cure, enabling the wood to hold its shape.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Sled; 12-1-09

Another day working on the sled runners. Drawknife, planer, chainsaw and circular saw all seeing action this afternoon.

Both runners are ready for bending. The video shows the runners laying on the bender.

The "bender" was made from a spruce log/stump. I shaped it following the natural curve of a large root coming off the stump, using copious amounts of chainsaw and axe.

After a lengthy steaming process, the runners will be bent and fastened to the bender, left to dry and cure before actual sled construction begins. More when it happens

OK, the video wouldn't load, so check out the pics (hope they'll load)