Saturday, October 24, 2009

Sled Dogs Galore

So, this morning I headed over to my old professor's house to meet her sled dogs and ask her about sledding. Sue's property was everything I could wish for in a place to create a homestead on. (And it's for sale! Too bad we're moving in two months.) She had a beautiful old craftsman-style home with a gorgeous, golden tree that was shedding in the front yard, and the back room had this incredible view of the mountains and her well-treed backyard.

We headed straight outside to meet the dogs. I could tell she was excited to share with me. In fact, later she told me all sled dog owners love talking about their dogs. We came up to a small paddock of good-sized fenced-in runs each with one or two dogs in it. The dogs were, of course, very excited to see us and leaped and yelped for attention. They weren't quite what I was expecting. Of course, they were very dog-like, but I was expecting the typical Siberians or malamutes. It turns out that most of Sue's dogs were ones that were retired and that she had rescued or adopted. And they were all Alaskan huskies. This was a new breed to me, but they were still so beautiful!

The first dog we met was all white and a sweetheart. We went into a few of the pens to scratch ears and rub down backs. Sue introduced me to them all, and made special note of the dogs that took her through the Iditarod. I had no idea that she had completed that race! (Which is something like 1100 miles long. Wow. Now that is a fun time.)

We then headed to a much larger fenced in run that had a pack of at least 6 dogs altogether. Some of these had also run the Iditarod with her. It was wonderful to hear each dog's story and amazing that she could tell them all apart! One dog was absolutely huge and looked like he had a little greyhound in him. (not all were pure breed)

Last she took me into the shop building where she housed her 3 sleds, harnesses and food for the dogs along with everything else sled dog related. She even had a special truck that was made for transporting the dogs in their own separate compartments. I could tell she'd been doing this for quite a few years and she just loved it. In fact, she'll be moving back to Alaska at the end of the year and her face lit up at the thought of being able to train her dogs, taking off from her yard as opposed to here in Utah where she has to transport the dogs just to get to a good running trail.

Aaah, it was a good time and I learned a lot. I don't think I'll ever do races. Well, maybe short ones. But the thought of having working animals that will pack and pull for you and to help you enjoy the outdoors and their company... that's what gets me excited. We're moving to Maryland soon, and I even found a website for someone out there that races their dogs. So, you can be sure I'll be paying them a visit! It'll be something really fun to look forward to in a new and different place.

Sue pointed me to this great website to learn more about sledding, races, and even finding dogs for sale or free! Sled Dog Central

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Adventures in Homemade Mittens

At one of the last farmer's markets there was a booth where they were selling recycled wool sweater mittens. Each pair was colorful, unique, and lined with warm fleece. They were $15 a pop, so I didn't buy any. I was determined, however, to make my own. It was a great idea!

So, the other day I went to the thrift store and casually combed through the women's sweaters and SCORE! The first wool sweater I happened upon was actually a pretty dark green with pink, blue, and white stripes. (I was expecting to come across the most hideous sweater on the planet, but I sure lucked out!) Needless to say, I bought it.

And my mitten-making adventure began. I wanted to line them with fleece, and not wanting to go out and buy any fleece, I cannibalized an old Old Navy fleece scarf. (We have a lot of scarves lying around. My husband used this black scarf a lot, but I consoled him that the exact scarf duplicate in red stripes would be just as warm.) So, using a website and Jenna's idea from Made From Scratch I set to work.

Actually cutting the sweater had me sweating. It was a beautiful sweater and I didn't want to waste a thread, especially with a dumb mistake like making them too small. It was about five minutes before I could make the first cut. But I did it! The cut-out mittens looked pretty promising.

Now, I've sewed a lot in my life (mostly historical dresses), but that doesn't mean you'll never make mistakes. My fleece linings didn't work out because the wool outer mitten was just the right size. I didn't make them big enough to fit a lining. And, on top of that, the fleece lining is too tight. Dang it. Wasted scarf. (Sorry, honey.) But the plain wool mittens fit just right and are beautiful and warm. I'll have to test them on a cold windy day to see if I need to make another pair that's bigger with lining. Thank goodness I have a lot of sweater left!

Here are my step-by-step pictures to my winter mitten-making:

After tracing around my hand and adding seam allowance, I cut out my paper pattern and then cut out the fleece.

Next I cut (nervously) cut out the wool.

Looking good so far!

Hey, what do you know? It fits like a glove!

Don't they make a beautiful pair?

This is the way to go, folks. Custom fit gloves - no elastic in the band needed to make it fit and you can pick the wool you like, recycling a sweater in the process. A great all-around project if you ask me!

I think the next pair I'll make them a little more roomy in the finger area, but I am sure feeling pretty darn proud of myself! Wouldn't you?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


I got a great idea from Whistling Wind Farm's blog. They have a checklist of all the things they want for their homestead. One of my faults is that I am always wanting new things or wanting to try out new hobbies, so my wish lists are always so long! The good thing about lists is that instead of buying the thing I want right out, I just put it on my list and if it's a true want I will remember. If it's not a true want, I'll forget about it or even eventually take it off my list. Lists are my budget lifesaver. Now if I visited the Lehman's website and perused my wishlist of homesteading books on, my homesteading checklist would triple in size. Which would be completely embarrassing.

So, anyway, I put my list on the side bar of my blog to remind myself of my goals and things that are important in working toward my homesteading goals. Try it out and make a list yourself! You might be surprised how much you already have accomplished. As I made my list I realized how much I already do have: like a sewing machine, a pressure cooker and canning supplies and a few good gardening tools.

Monday, October 19, 2009


Just take a look at that face!

I want a dog. Really bad. And a cat. But mostly right now, I want a dog. My husband doesn't really understand this. My whole life I grew up with an array of animals: cats, birds, fish, gerbils, guinea pigs, even a ferret. Then, for one blissful year, we lived in the backwoods - it was really the sticks - and we watched the landlord's two big fluffy dogs. I'm not sure what kind they were, but they were beautiful. It was fun to watch them scampering through the woods, barking at the squirrels who surprisingly barked right back. That was the only time we ever had dogs. And they weren't even ours.

About a month ago, my sister and I went to a Scottish festival. There was some random booth there of someone trying to sell their border collie pups. My sister and I cuddled with the puppies, snuggling into their downy black and white fur. I have never seen such adorable, heartstring-pulling puppies in my life. How I wanted to bring one home! I might have, if it wasn't forbidden by our rental contract. Someday.

My dream dog is a Siberian Husky. Or an Alaskan Malamute. Both are incredibly beautiful. And I've always wanted to try out mushing. I'd name my first pup Edison. I think if there was a soul dog match for me, it would be a sled dog. At least I think so. I've never really considered myself a dog person, but is that just because I've only grown up with cats?

I just remembered that my geology professor in my last semester of school mentioned she raced sled dogs. It was amusing to picture her mushing dogs when she was teaching us about natural disasters. She's lived in Alaska, so I guess I shouldn't have been surprised.

Also, in this burst of gun-ho, I just found out that the county where I live has a mushers association! Who knew? I was too shy to ask as a student, but now that I've graduated, I felt better about e-mailing my professor to see if I could come meet her dogs. This is a huge step for me. I've never done anything toward my dream of having a sled dog. Well, I'm going to check this out and see if I'm cut out for a life with canines. Not necessarily right now, but in a few years when we've got a patch of land. I'm stoked.

Turkeys and Roadkill

Since moving to the southwest side of town where it is more rural, I've noticed this random pair of wild turkeys that live close to the protected river trail which borders the main highway. I have occasionally see them poking about on the corner at the stoplight (which actually has a nice crosswalk considering it's a highway.)

A few weeks ago I saw one of the pair wandering around at the corner and my mind instantly said "Mmm! Thanksgiving dinner!" I laughed to myself, but then became a little worried as the wild gobbler was really close to the traffic and I was concerned it would quickly become roadkill. Indeed it was a miracle the turkeys weren't already a pile of feathers and fluff on the side of the road.

Then not too long ago I saw both turkeys hanging out at the corner once again. They seemed to be waiting for something. The light turned green for cross traffic and those turkeys promptly began strutting across the street at the crosswalk! I was amazed! Smart turkeys? Who knew? Apparently their sojourn at the corner with blazing traffic night and day had made them street-wise. In fact, I had to wait to turn left until they made it safely across the crosswalk to the other side. I haven't seen them since.

Living in suburbia most of my life, I have still felt I was always a country girl at heart. I love being in nature enough to be able to smell it engulfing me every day. However, I have been mildly surprised by how much nature still startles me - certain evidence that I am still really a suburban girl.

For instance - my son and I were taking our usual walk past our outskirt homesteads (most especially to visit the farm dog). Along the way I have been astonished by how much roadkill we encounter. And strangely, it is roadkill of only one kind: snakes! It is not very pleasant to cruise by, pushing the stroller where the roadkill is at our very feet - squished serpentine shapes laid flat by careless passing cars. What's even more strange is that I counted six dead snakes in a single 100 foot stretch! I didn't point them out to my son, but he noticed anyway and seemed unfazed when I told him it was a dead snake. We even found a dead, unsquished one which was much more interesting in its 3-D form, pristine and round as if the snake had stretched out for a nap. All this squished snake business has been a reminder to me that when I have my farm/homestead at last we will be dealing with the death of animals a lot more often.

Monday, October 5, 2009


It's a success! I have made my first ever successful mozzarella cheese!! You have no idea the amount of relief I feel; and exhilaration! The cheese tastes so delicious and I made it all myself. I'd have to say the difference was the milk. This time I used a local dairy's milk sold at the grocery store (the dairy is in a city about 80 miles away) and I think that because it is so close the milk hasn't had that drastic of a past in heating and cooling as longer range milk has.
Another thing that led to my success was patience and heating the milk curds longer than the recipe said - like 4 times longer. I had to do it because the curds weren't separating from the whey, but eventually it turned out beautifully! I found great help from this website. The pictures are very enlightening. Also, that website doesn't say how much salt to add, but I found 1/2 tsp. added the right amount of saltiness.

I think I'm making pizza tonight...

Sunday, October 4, 2009

It's All Over Folks

Well, it's all over. The growing season is done - for my container garden at least. We had two nights of freeze in a row and it shriveled up my jalapeƱo plants and killed my tomatoes. My kale just keeps on truckin'. I need to bring my herbs in before the cold kills them. September 30th was like a magic day. It went from warm to freezing and it's stayed cold ever since. I guess I'll never get used to how the fall comes in northern Utah. I guess it's on account of the high elevation. Not that I'm complaining. I am so excited that fall is here!!

Right now I've got two sugar pumpkins baking in the oven. It's my first attempt at baking pumpkins since 2005. Back then I had to add water to get the pumpkin to be smooth enough and I had no idea what I was doing and it was a disaster. I think one of the most important skills to learn for homesteading is that if you don't succeed the first time, don't be afraid to try again.
To prove that to myself I not only have those little pumpkins baking, I also have a gallon of local milk sitting in my fridge waiting to be turned into mozzarella. This will be my 3rd attempt. I am determined to have a successful mozzarella! No more ricotta, people! I'll let you know how it turns out.
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