We’ve hit mid-January and we’re getting into true north country winter now. We finally got more snow and a cold snap that should keep it around for awhile. It took a few months, but I finally mastered the art of heating this place. I’ve been feeding the wood stove all day, instead of just in the evenings, and the majority of the house has reached a steady 65°F. The wood pile is still stacked pretty high. At this point, the propane is a backup resource that I’m hoping I won’t need to refill until the summer, when prices are cheaper. There’s a pile of wood seasoning outside, another pile ready to be split, and an endless forest to harvest for future heat. But that’s work for warmer days.

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I’m settling into a comfortable rhythm here. There are challenges, but I feel like I’m succeeding more than failing. It could be that I lowered expectations (both for the team and myself), but I’ll take whatever easy wins I can get. A day’s “To Do” list might just be “clear fallen tree from trail”, but taking a chainsaw out into the woods and moving a large tree—by myself—is something I’ve never done before. (And I did it!)

The dogs had their annual wellness exams last week. Whenever I move, it means developing a relationship with a new vet. While waiting to be seen, I could hear the staff in the back room, clearly dismayed at the upcoming task of evaluating five huskies (and Dexter). I brought them in one at a time to make things easier, of course, but even a solo husky is enough to make vets sweat. They’re known for being vocal and hard to handle. I’m happy to report that my gang destroys that stereotype. Each dog was perfectly well behaved as their blood was drawn for tests and rabies shots were administered. I think we won over the staff, which is good news, since I’m sure we’ll be back. The bill for six exams was very reasonable and, most importantly, all the dogs are healthy.

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This past weekend, we started exploring deeper into the trails that cross the back of me and my neighbor’s properties. The dogs were starting to get bored, so adventuring further has got them fired up. I’m just as excited to get familiar with the land around us—especially the back of my own property. We’re far from our goal of an overnight expedition or mushing 30 miles at a time, but I’m seeing fundamental pieces fall into place.

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Once I know my own land well enough, I can cut a trail towards the back of it for next season, and that will be our “test” campsite. I’ll have the dogs run the trails they’re most familiar with, camping gear packed in the sled basket, and we’ll do our first overnight right on my property. This seems like the safest, most sensible first try. Once we’re comfortable with that, we’ll take those skills out to another trail.

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