Blood, Sweat, and Snow Storms

It’s been a wild week for the northeast and for this little homestead. We spent half of it back in Jersey while we waited for the dog yard fence to be finished. I had planned to go back south anyway—I had tickets to see a comedy show with friends. I managed to squeeze in some dinners and plenty of family time while I was down there, too.

An early winter storm threatened to strike on Thursday evening, right when I had planned to make the trip north. Thankfully, my job schedule is flexible, so I took the morning to beat the storm up here. I also had time to grab some groceries and gas for the snow blower. We were slated to get anywhere from 5” to 12”+, which actually isn’t too serious for Tug Hill standards. Still, this was my first major snow event up here and I felt like doomsday prepping.

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The snow didn’t really hit us until after I went to bed (and after hammering New Jersey and New York City), but I didn’t get much sleep. I was up every few hours to peak out the window and make sure we weren’t completely buried. By 6:30, I was bundling up to assess the damage and get to work. The dog yard fence was completed just in time and the first chore was to dig out the perimeter. I think we got between 10 and 12” by morning, with another 3-4” falling throughout the day. The last thing I want is for the 6’ fence to shrink as the snow level gets higher, so I’m maintaining a path around the edge of the yard.

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Next, I spent some time fighting with my snow blower until I finally figured out how to get it running. After that step, operating it was a (really fun) breeze. I cleared paths to the dog yard gates, to the front porch, and most of the rear driveway up to the pole barn. I was inside by 8:30 AM, wild-haired and sweaty despite the cold. By 10 AM, a local friend was able to swing by and plow the rest of my driveway. (Thanks Roy!) I had no where I needed to be since I work from home, but it was nice to know we had “survived” our first storm. I’d still prefer to get my own plow truck as soon as possible, but I have the phone numbers of nearly a half dozen guys with plows, so I should get by.

The main reason I needed to clear the driveway was so that my parents could get to the house on Friday night. They spent a second weekend in a row at the house with me, putting down new floors and helping me paint the dining room. Between work and the dogs, these renovation projects would have taken me months, and the results would not have been anywhere near as good. At this point, the living room is ready for furniture and the dining room just needs a floor. One more weekend should do it, just in time for the Christmas tree to go up.

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The dogs have been patient and (for the most part) stay out of our way while working on the house. I’ve been getting them out for brief but tough runs since the snow fell—the first two were slow slogs as we broke trail and the third was on hard, punchy snow that threw them all off their usual rhythm. The new Prairie Bilt sled handles well, though getting back on the runners is always a bit of a challenge each year.

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Now that the team has been getting frequent hookups and more space, fights between Hubble and Dexter have gone down—but they haven’t completely stopped. Shortly after my parents arrived, the dogs rushed out to investigate their bags. The smell of food was lingering on one of them, and I suspect that set off both Dexter and Hubble in a nasty brawl. It took a little bit of a struggle (and my Mom spraying us all with the sink) to get them separated, and Dex was on the losing end with a split ear.

I don’t know if you’ve ever dealt with a bleeding dog ear, but it’s pretty much the most awful non-serious injury. And Dexter has big, floppy, blood-filled ears. He went trotting through the house, bleeding and shaking his head, spattering the walls and floor like a crime scene. I cleaned and iced the ear, applied liquid bandaid when the bleeding stopped, and then he’d shake his head and start it all up again. It took a solid hour of my mom petting his chest and holding him still for the ear to fully close up, without him reopening it by shaking. (Styptich powder has since been ordered) In the end, he’s fine, and the ear looks much better than it did.

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All in all, I’m exhausted. I’m very grateful I’ve had so much help with renovations and with snow management; this whole home ownership thing would be a heck of a lot harder without family and friends around. The snow will get more extreme, though, and I’ll need to get comfortable managing it on my own.

Through all these life changes, I worry that my team and our expedition goals are taking a hit. I’m glad I reset my own expectations and let this season be mostly for settling in and learning, because there’s no way I’d be ready to set out for a long, overnight trip by January or February. I still hope to get there by next season, but I’m beginning to question and rethink my distance goals—and my mushing ambitions in general. Don’t worry, it’s nothing earth shattering. I’ll save that for another post, though. If you’ve read this far, thank you for sticking around. Happy trails!

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