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Mark & Karen
Ramstead
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North Wapiti Siberian Husky Kennels
Yukon Quest 2006 - Tales from the Trail

November 25, 2005

 
A Musher's Day

A number of years ago I was doing a school presentation on mushing and my adventures, when I was approached by a young man that told me he wanted to be a musher when he ‘grew up’. A few days later his Mom called me at home and asked if he could come out and work with me for a bit to get a feel for what it was all about. I readily agreed.

He came out and worked about 3 or 4 days with me. We did yard chores, ran dogs, did more yard chores…basically the stuff I do everyday.

Then I received a second phone call from Mom. It seems that that young man felt we weren’t doing enough ‘fun stuff’. I indicated that what we were doing was a normal day in my life – and if he was interested in doing this ‘for a living’ down the road, it was necessary that he realized that the job was mostly chores.

That was the last I heard from them.

I was thinking about him yesterday as I was feeding dogs. I think that some folks think that, because I don’t have a ‘regular’ job that my days are carefree and fun filled. Now, don’t for a second get me wrong, I chose my life, I love my life and I hope to be able to continue to live this way for a long time – but carefree and fun filled, it isn’t. I thought I’d give you a run down of what yesterday was like for me. Yesterday was not an extraordinary day – it was fairly ordinary, for a day when Mark is working night shifts, which happens around 7 days a month.

My morning started late, at 6 am rather then the usual 5 or 5:30 am. I don’t usually set an alarm clock, as I spent many years living by one and now detest the things, so occasionally I will oversleep alittle. I checked the temperature, let Kara outside, stumbled around and found clothes – making it out the door just after 6:30.

I mixed up 2 buckets of soup for the main string (then divided it between 3 buckets to save my back – a full bucket weighs about 40 lbs), filled another bucket with their Eagle Ultra kibble and another with their Amaize cookies. Everything was hauled out to the ‘feeding staging area’, yard lights turned on and the feeding began.

The 29 main string dogs each got about a cup and ˝ of kibble and 2 or 3 cookies. That is followed by 2 scoops of soup (if I remember right, that is around 7 cups of water).

By the time I finished up with food and water for the main string, Mark had arrived home and was having his breakfast. Because I was running behind, but still wanted to say ‘Good Morning’ to him before he headed for bed, I told the puppies they were going to have to wait for breakfast and headed back inside to visit with him for 20 minutes.

By 7:30, he was in bed and I was having breakfast and coffee. Unfortunately, I only had a bagel for breakfast – and although it was a good-sized bagel, I need protein in the morning. I can do without lunch – even dinner – but if I pass up a good breakfast at this time of year, it is pretty much a guarantee that my body will be rebelling by 10am.

I did dishes, checked email, decided which dogs I was running that day, did up a batch of sweet and sour pork ribs for the slow cooker, booked my reservations for a hotel in Dawson City for the Quest… generally puttered at a variety of chores and tasks until about 9:30 at which time I headed outside again.

I fed and visited with the puppies, did some repairs to my 4 wheeler, gathered harnesses and began hooking up dogs. By 10:30, I pulled the quick release and was off on a run.

The weather has been warm, so I’ve been doing pretty short runs with the team and stopping to water often.

The run was nice. I even spotted a bald eagle visiting the valley – very unusual. I figure he was drawn in by the dead deer someone had dumped just off one of our trails (nearly had a mess with that the other day, but the dogs shot by the carcass before they figured out where exactly it was. I’ve been avoiding the area until the scavengers can clear the mess up better). 

By the time I got back in the yard, watered the team, put them away, picked up harnesses and ganglines, and got back to the house, it was after 1. I had a bowl of popcorn for lunch, watched a bit of the National Dog Show on TV (didn’t stick around to watch the Working Group though – no time) and then headed out to do chores. 

I played with puppies and got to work on shovelling, taking time to visit with the dogs as I worked. I didn’t quite get finished (boy, I miss having Anna around to shovel during the week. Her schedule now that she is back in school and the shorter days mean we only have her shovelling the yard on Saturday and Sunday. I’ve been advertising for a Canine Waste Management Technician for weekdays, but no luck so far) by 3pm when Mark gets up, but headed back to the house anyway. When he is working nights, I really only see him for 2 hours a day, so I like to spend as much of that time as possible with him. 

I finished up dinner preparation by 4, we ate dinner and by 5 he was off to work. Because I lost at Backgammon (very unusual), I did dishes, then paid bills (okay, at this time of year, it is more like ‘juggled bills’), answered emails, ran a couple loads of laundry through, mailed out some packages I needed to get to, and worked on some of my Quest preparations. I had planned on getting out to feed by 7, but before I knew it, it was 8. 

Now I need to prepare 5 buckets of soup and fill 2 bucket of kibble (one Ultra for the main string, one of Power for the rest of the yard). Everything (which I estimate to be over 200 lbs of food and water) gets hauled out to the feeding table. Yard lights on and time to begin. Kibble to everyone first, then water, and then pick up the bowls and visit with the 25 non-main string dogs. Lastly, some time to play with the food covered puppies (life would be cleaner if they didn’t think eating was a full contact sport). 

I hauled all the empty buckets back to the garage and took out meat for tomorrow’s morning feeding. Back out into the yard, yard lights shut off, 4-wheeler moved up to the garage for the night (my newer machine is not at all fond of starting after spending a night outside – Mark’s older machine has no problems with that). Final task is to head over to feed and water Fly and the 6 dogs in Geriatric Park. 

I cleaned up alittle in the garage and then at 9:45 went back into the house. 

I put on the kettle, made myself a cup of hot chocolate, watched the last 15 minutes of ‘What Not to Wear’ and then headed off to bed. 

Tomorrow will be alittle different. Temperatures are getting colder, so I’ll be able to stretch my runs back out to 3 or 4 hours. Mark is on days off, so I can probably squeeze in my time on the treadmill (I do about an hour a day, 5 or 6 days a week) and we will try to get one or two camping trips in there too – but all and all, there is really no break in the schedule until about March! J But as I said – I’d live my life no other way! 

All for this morning – I’ve already put myself behind schedule!

Karen

Karen's Diary - Yukon Quest 2006 Edition


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