Sunday, May 30, 2010


Ignore the iceberg picture at the top /title page. The ice is long gone. The current spell of "hot" (70-80), dry weather, accompanied with the appropriate wildfire smoke, make the ice photo look quite refreshing. Entirely inaccurate, but refreshing.

Last winter provided half the usual snowfall, so now the run-off is all gone and the river is low...way low! Looks like fall before freeze-up. Until we get significant rainfall the river will stay low and the smoke will continue.

All of which fuels my mood to work on the sled. Really, who builds a dogsled in May? Me, I guess. My shop was congested with snow machine repairs (and the snow machine "repairers") all winter, preventing me from making any progress. Now it's all green lights and I'm cruising through every intersection.

Last time I was working on the "stanchions"; the upright supports attached to the runners.      Each stanchion has a "tenon" (male element) which fits into a "mortise" (female element) that has been cut into the runner. Actually, I'm using "false runners", which are another piece of wood that lays on top of the actual runner, but you get the idea. If you don't, check out the photos.

The mortise / tenons are all cut by hand using a drill, a hand saw, a chisel and a file.

Once the pieces fit, the stanchions are lashed into place (this is where I was loosing skin in the previous post; today I was smarter and wrapped my pinkie fingers with duct tape)
Then the stanchions in turn are mortised and fit to accommodate the "cross pieces", which space the runners and support the "basket"

So, as you see, progress is being made. I should point out that a lot of work is being omitted here; work that involves this...

...and this...

More to come in a while.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Break-up; The Finale'

The water level is dropping steadily, the river has crested, the peak is past and break-up 2010 will soon fade into a foggy memory. Or in my case, it will be forgotten entirely.

In a few days the trailing remnants of last winter's ice will clear and boats will spring into action. The river/highway will support travel once again; only the vehicles will have changed. For the next half a year we will enjoy watching it flow by our little village on its way to the sea.

In the coming months driftwood will be collected (by those with the time and foresight to prepare for the inevitable season of frost), and several runs of fish will pass by. The fish, like the firewood, will be sought, harvested and put away. Life in a wilderness is always dictated by the changing seasons. As in Ecclesiastes, there is a time for everything.

So then why exactly am I spending my days working on a dog sled? Not really the time for dog mushing, is it? If you remember, last winter I began the project (see posts dated...probably...December?) but time constraints forced me to shelve it. My plan is to get it done now before I'm consumed with all the usual summer stuff. The plan appears to be working.

Today I was finishing the stanchions and tying them to the runners. My fingers started shedding some skin, so I had to quit for the day. Next time I'll try to post  some current photos. 

Monday, May 10, 2010

Break-up; 5-10-10; and a weird thing

The ice broke last night, ran for a while, then stopped.

Still stopped, 24 hours later. Getting kind of boring, but better than flooding I guess.

The muskrat notice was posted at various locations around town. A dangerous muskrat? Seriously?  I know they get a little "wild" this time of year, seeking mates and claiming territory, but c'mon. Just step on it or kick it or something. It's only a rat!

Break-up; 5-10-10

The ice "moved" late yesterday afternoon. After "running" for a few hours it stopped, and remains so.

Now we wait.

We will not know if there will be flood until the ice runs for a day or two and the break-up "front" has moved further down river.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Break-up; 5-9-10

The river ice is spoiling fast, like over-ripe fruit in the hot sun. Any day (any moment) the increasing force of the rising water level will overcome the dying ice. Losing its grip on the shoreline, the ice will be forced into motion, carried along on the current. And that, officially, will be "break-up" on the river.

When the ice crumbles and flushes out, the open water / boating season will begin, completing the transition from cold, white winter into warm (relatively speaking), green summer.

Local inhabitants are as anxious for the new season as the migrating waterfowl, passing overhead daily. Cranes, geese, ducks and swans are all looking down upon this riverside community as they move along the sky way, eagerly intent upon reaching their summer homes. More feathered travelers arrive throughout the region hourly; eagles and ospreys, swallows and swifts. Even my dear friends, the robins.

Time to get the boat ready for a busy season of fishing and firewood. But the ice must go first.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Sign of the Apocalypse? 5-4-10

April 1, 2010:
A man living in N. California, his house adjacent to a forested State Park, relates the story of a wild "boar" (it may have been a "sow"; no one actually determined the gender of the swine) crashing through his sliding glass door and pursuing his cat around the kitchen. 

No word was given on how the swine was eventually removed from the premises. Did the pig leave in the same way, did it opt to go out the front entrance, or did the man put the pork in the oven for dinner?  Questions that remain unanswered.

What we do know...

-His house was attacked by a wild animal, and
-It happened on the 1st of April.

You may suspect a foolish motive here, but I know the man personally; he tends NOT to play the jester.

May 3, 2010:
After two weeks of Milwaukee Bucks fans chanting their "Fear the Deer" slogan during the first round of the NBA play-offs, the mascot lives up to the hype.

Two deer plunge through the front door on a restaurant and run amok while local patrons are watching their favorite (and "deerest") team battle on the hardwood. Eventually the deer are subdued and returned to the wild, but they made their point. Bambi lives!

(I'm not making this stuff up)

March, 2010:
A local school teacher in Chignik Lake Alaska is out for run a mile or two from town. She is pursued by wolves and attacked. After a considerable struggle she is killed and eaten by 2-3 wolves; confirmed by Alaska State Troopers.

Date...yet to be determined:
A pale horse, whose rider is "Death" and followed closely by "Hades" are given power over a fourth of the earth, " kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth."

...and I live in Alaska???