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Huskies Howling on the Homestead

Huskies Fall Training with 4-Wheeler




Howling Husky Homestead is located outside of Homer, Alaska. Part of an original federal homestead, the land had never been worked so it was a field of tussocks without a flat place to pitch a tent the first night we camped out. There was no road, electricity, or water, and each step towards building our homestead has been a major lesson in the "not so simple life." The first building we built, of course, was the outhouse.  It became a memorial outhouse to a dear friend of ours who brought some night glow stars for the ceiling and died suddenly of a brain aneurysm several years ago. Now friends bring a star ornament to hang in the outhouse when they come to visit and going to the outhouse has become a celestial experience!

The next building was our dog shed to store all of the dog food which we buy by the ton. The dog shed was our temporary residence while we worked on the "big house"---12 x 16 feet with a sleeping loft. A tight fit for one person, two was definitely a crowd but we often had ten or more folks over for a cozy dinner in the depths of winter. In the last two years, there have been two major add-ons-a big room to sleep and work in (writing, sewing, repairing gear, and all the other chores), strategically located right next to the dog yard so we can keep a look-out for moose and the occasional bear in the middle of the night, and a country kitchen for our enormous wood cookstove.

Beyond the dog yard, there is a small log and timberframe cabin where our dog handlers live. Each year we have people from around the world apply to be dog handlers. They spend six months to a year with us, helping to care for the dogs and learning about dog mushing. A big red barn stores all of our sleds and the second story is home to our interpretative mushing museum. We have a wonderful time hosting guests from diverse backgrounds who visit the homestead and meet the huskies---school groups, Elderhostel, travel writers, a rotary exchange group from Thailand, and tourists who shy away from the crowds and want a unique experience.

Amidst all of this building, we brought electricity in, built a road, and drilled for water. The road and finding water proved to be far bigger challenges that we had anticipated. We drilled 525 feet for water, the deepest that anyone had ever drilled in the area, and didn't hit water. We built a sauna that year, after our hopes of having a shower had been dashed, and spent another winter melting snow for water. The next spring, a water douser came out and using a pair of pliers to feel the magnetic pull, she located water for us at 30 feet! Our new road washed out in several places during the first spring "break-up" and we learned a valuable lesson.  When you build a road, you are also building a moat in terms of drainage--roads on hills need lots of culverts and each year we battle run-off which often seems like a small glacier letting go!

 Since we are off the maintained road system, we have to maintain our road which often requires heavy equipment due to the high winds and heavy snows that we get. Our neighbor has a weather station and calls us with the latest reports so we can be prepared to walk in or out if the road is blocked, rotate all of the dog houses away from the wind, and secure everything so it doesn't blow away or get buried during winter storms.

There's always a lot to do at the homestead as we try to become more self-sufficient. In summer, we get salmon to cook up for the dogs. In the fall, there are moose and caribou scraps from the hunters to be processed and frozen for winter dog snacks. We have four freezers that are just for meat and fish for the dogs. A small greenhouse offers the wind protection and extended season we need to grow cucumbers and tomatoes since the snow often stays on the ground through May. We have beehives in several locations to take advantage of the different wildflowers---fireweed and lupine along the hayfields, chocolate lilies and wild irises in the swamp. Our latest addition is a small chicken coop so we'll have fresh eggs! And lots of time we just have to stop whatever we're doing to listen to the sandhill cranes croon in the high grass, to watch the young eagle land roost in the tallest Sitka spruce, and just laugh at the big black ravens' teasing dance around the dog yard to steal the huskies' bowls. Everyday brings new challenges and surprises, and there's definitely easier ways to live but we love it up here on Husky Hill!

Linda & Al



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