I haven't been around recently, and here's why: Lets go lets go lets go! And we're off! This was the best New Year's I've ever had, hands down. The last 5 years I've had to work the holiday overnight but this year celebrated coming into my first year ever as fully self-employed. I can't believe it's only been 6 months since I took the leap! mbala, kenket, blackteagan, and I decided to go dogsledding in nothern MN for the holiday. Ket and Teagan drove in from Denver and we headed up - I love northern MN so much and was thrilled to be able to share it with some of my closest friends. It's really an enchanting, amazing place - very wild, extreme, secluded, and beautiful. We were hosted by Kathleen of Wintermoon SummerSun Adventures in Brimson, MN. It was a truly wonderful, unforgettable trip for all of us! The weather cooperated (only 20 below at night and getting into the teens during the days) - the snow was perfect and conditions were ideal. Me with one of the lead dogs, Balto. Kathleen had 47 dogs, many of which she bred and raised from pups. Speaking of pups... here's Kenket with an armful. :) Roman and I with two more. Group photo! This one found a warm spot by the woodburning stove and didn't want to leave. One of the neatest aspects of the trip was the fact we were staying there at the cabin (no running water - here I am pumping some! and electricity completely from solar panels) - we got the chance to be involved in all aspects of the care and working of the dogs, as well as living out there off the land. Here's Mbala taking his turn with the water chores - you can see the 100 year old Finnish cabin behind him. Kathleen has lived there for 35 years! In the summer, the dogs eat kibble, but in the winter they eat a slurry of raw meat and lard - I admit I'm happy I don't have to feed any of my animals ax-chopped-meat-chunks. :) The dogs were all amazingly friendly and well behaved. It was obvious the care and love Kathleen had for her pack. Kathleen showed us her methods of rotating the dogs so they all get exercise, as well as harnessing and hitching them. When you harness the dogs you have to lift their front end (put them in 'rear wheel drive') since they are insanely excited to go and very powerful! Mbala and I driving sleds. It's so much fun!! ' Teagan and her team. Kathleen did an awesome job of teaching the sledding skills - we started off as a human dog team running, pulling a sled while the musher learned to control the sled, brake and set the snow hook. After just running up and down her long driveway I have that much more respect and amazement for what incredible athletes the dogs were. We started off riding in the sleds then progressed to driving and trying out different trails. It's exhilarating and addictive. It's inspiring how much the dogs love what they do! When they are harnessed they are pulling and jumping straight into the air, barking and wagging, they want to GO! One of my favorite dogs in the yard, Uno-tuk. I just love his wolfy face! Another really pretty dog, Lichen - you can see the wolf influence there really well! Obviously wolf hybrids don't make good sled dogs, persay, but a lot of the Alaskan huskies have a mix of breeds (including wolf blood) to help with their endurance, speed, and strength. Each dog has its own house and space, they certainly use those to get out of the wind. Here's Hund. Another of my favorite dogs - Trondheim. He was just gorgeous! He was closely related to the puppies as well, I bet they will grow up to be charmers. Look at that prance! One of the resident malamutes, Sparky. Woo woo! Retirement in style! Kathleens oldest dogs earned their place inside the cabin and some were 16 years old! For a big dog, especially a working one - that's incredible. It is definitely a testament to her incredible care. :) The lodging itself was a beautiful little handbuilt cabin the four of us shared. We had to get up at night to add wood to the stove, it was cold enough while you slept to see your breath most of the time. Running to the outhouse at 20 below makes you really appreciate running water! It also makes the traditional Finnish sauna, which is about 200 degrees, feel absolutely awesome. We were also treated to a New Year's celebration at the town hall in Brimson (a town of about 30 people) which was a blast. They had a live band and contra dancing (kind of like square dancing) and it was really funny. I actually danced and Mbala went all out - I don't think he sat out a song. He used to square dance in the Czech Republic and had a great time reliving some of that. It was about as midwestern as you can get. :) The dogsledding was wonderful, and I can fully see why so many people who do it end up with 50 dogs and a cabin themselves. Ket and Teagan are already planning a trip back to do some more - when you go back you get to work on more advanced things (more dogs, longer trips, etc.). I know Mbala and I are unlikely to ever have sled dogs of our own but I'd really, really love to have a small group of reindeer someday. Then I can take people out for sleigh rides and use them to pull sledges with hay/fencing/etc. around the farm. I guess I really am Saami down to my core. After our adventure there was done we headed into the town of Two Harbors on the coastline of Lake Superior. We saw quite an amazing site on the way - a giant barn full of snow. I'm not kidding, someone had moved tons of and tons of snow into this barn - it was in the middle of nowhere and a very snowy area. It really didn't make any sense. :> We had a delicious dinner at a steakhouse/grill in town and stayed at a tiny motel outside of Gooseberry State Park. In the morning we hiked the few mile long trail down the frozen river to the shoreline of the Great Lake. Frozen waterfalls! At the end of the trail you are treated to a beautiful view of Superior - the ice on the rocks and coating everything on the coastline is gorgeous. It's so far you can't see to the opposite shore and this is one of the most narrow parts of the lake, it's crazy. It gets so cold, too, you can see amazing cold-mirages moving in the distance. There were lots of deer and in the summer when we hiked the trail we saw wild otters, too. :) After that, we headed back through Duluth into the twin cities - stopping at the Sofawolf household to hang out with brerandalopex. We all went out to dinner at Saji-Ya on Grand Ave. in St. Paul which is delicious. It's a Japanese/sushi place - I don't eat fish but their tempura is amazing. It was a lot of fun - I'm really happy we've gotten the chance to know Brer and Alo better this year - they are awesome. :) We headed home after that for what has become our tradition of movie-watching-uber-food-slumber parties. I also made mimosas with fresh-squeezed clementine juice and a lot of kick (no wimpy breakfast drink mimosas for me ;) and plum wine spritzers. Super for goofy-movie-drinking-games. Courtesy of the Blotches. :) Such a sweet surprise! <3 I had purchased some north woods cookbooks up in Gooseberry and was eager to try them out. I made creamy chicken wild rice soup which turned out to be divine and berry-stuffed french toast (from homemade, fresh honey wheat bread) the next morning. I love to cook and host so much, it makes me full of happy. :) Ket and Teagan got us an amazing knife set for xmas - it is AWESOME! They were horrified at the old crummy knives I was using before (which couldn't cut through butter). Slicing hard parsnips like they were marshmallows... I'm in heaven. The Czech tradition says 'on the new year, as all year' - if this is true, I couldn't be happier. Awesome company, awesome adventures, a great start to 2009. I know this year will be hard - the economy is in shambles and there's so much to get back together but I trust that things will get back on track and in the right direction. I've decided to really bed down and work on some long term projects I've been meaning to do while I have the time to do them. In the future, when we do get land, that sort of time is going to be nearly impossible to find. So now, while we're in this smaller place, seems the right time to do this. Happy New Year's, everyone!!!