This is my attempt at describing what it’s like for me in Alaska. I’ll take a typical day and break it into separate posts, so you aren’t overwhelmed by text. This is the first post, covering my mornings. Update: now with more pictures!
My life here in Alaska seems to contain an unending parade of buckets.
I spend a significant portion of each day with a bucket in my hand, mostly the 5-gallon variety, but occasionally the smaller 1-gallon pail and the medium sized cat litter container (it has a handle, it’s a bucket). There is also the variety of bucket that I carry around at the end of a long handle, but I’ll get to that.
I wake up in the morning, check my email, eat a quick breakfast, and walk our two dogs. I then amble up to the garage, where I fill three 5-gallon buckets with dog food. I fill those buckets with another bucket. I add water with another bucket. I also add some fat, in the form of lard or frozen chicken fat, liquefied in the microwave (and it smells great). The three dog food buckets are placed on a bright orange plastic sled, which I drag into the dog yard to the sound of 40-some dogs telling me they’re hungry, as loud and often as they can.
I pick up a bucket, and carry it to each dog, dumping a saucepan full of food into their bowls. Some dogs also get medicine with their food, but not with every feeding, so that can be confusing sometimes. Some of the oldest dogs also get raw meat scraps with their kibble, to entice them to eat more. I pick up and carry each of the three buckets around the yard until they are empty, then return the buckets and sled to the garage. That takes about an hour.
After feeding, I let the puppies out of their fenced in yard, and allow them to run around while I scoop the yard. This involves the bucket with the long handle I mentioned above. In one hand, I hold this long handled bucket (think long handled dustpan, only totally enclosed except one side). In the other, I hold a metal bar that’s attached to a flat metal plate. This is the chipper. I use it the whack at dog poop that’s frozen to the ground (snow, since October), and after it comes loose, I smack it into the scoop bucket. I visit every dog circle, and scoop whatever I find. When the scoop bucket is full, I dump it into a bright blue sled, and continue scooping. Once the yard is clean, I take the blue sled and dump it into a pit away from the yard.
Some things I’ve learned about scooping:
- First and foremost, never smile, laugh, sing, mouth-breath, or otherwise part your lips while whacking a frozen turd with the chipper. Turd-dynamics dictate that not all poops will dislodge in a single piece, and some may explode when high-velocity contact is made with the chipper, resulting in frozen poop fragments traveling in an upward trajectory.
- Some frozen poops are actually well-disguised freshies. See lesson 1, only replace “frozen poop fragments” with “splatter.”
- Some of the dogs like to pulverize their evacuations, for some reason. In snow, this ends up resembling something akin to mint chocolate chip ice cream. For this, the chipper is useless, and a rake has to be employed.
- In the winter, the poop pit tends to fill almost to the top with snow, which means I have to walk farther into it than during the summer. The lesson here is that just because the top is covered with 2 feet of frozen water, it doesn’t mean what’s underneath is frozen. Tread lightly.
- Dog turds, when frozen and accompanied by a not insignificant amount of snow and ice, are heavy, especially when collected in a bucket at the end of a long handle.
After scooping, I put the puppies back in their fence, usually by holding a bucket (the 1 gallon pail) with some dry food in it above their heads and then tossing it (the food, not the bucket) into their barn and then slamming the door after they race in to get it.
Depending on the weather, I sometimes dump some yummy raw meat in a bucket, and fill it with hot water, which I carry around and give each dog a scoopful of warm broth.
Sometimes I have little projects to do, like drilling holes in the cans we use for dog dishes so we can hang them on the posts, repairing dog houses, adding straw to the houses, or building a chew-proof door out of plywood, aluminum siding, a hand saw, and a hammer, for a dog that lives in a can. More on him in a later post, I promise.
That’s it for the morning dog duty, so I now grab a couple of different 5-gallon buckets, and fill them with tap water from the boss’s house. I carry these about 100′ back to our cabin, and pour them into a big Rubbermaid container, then plug in the sump pump that’s sitting in the Rubbermaid. All that water gets pumped into a giant 35 gallon bucket that’s installed at about head-height in our bedroom/office/living room. Now we can do dishes!
At this point (~11:30am), it’s definitely time for second breakfast, since I burned off those two pieces of cinnamon toast long ago. Second breakfast can be a bowl of cereal, a grapefruit, or bacon and eggs, depending on the level of my hunger vs. my patience to fix something complicated.
For the next couple of hours, I read, study, update my websites, take pictures, take tech support calls, research tech problems or new gadgets, waste time on Facebook, etc. If I’m unlucky, we’ll have run out of fuel oil for our heater, so I’ll have to get out the fuel pump (made in Indiana, ironically), and hand pump 40-odd gallons of fuel oil from a big can on the ground into a big can on a platform beside the cabin.
Next: Part 2, Afternoons