8seasonshuskies, katharinakochhartke

The stillness that follows the storm


Time is a strange thing. Especially the time division in days of the week. I grew up on a farm and I know Saturdays and Sundays, but even on these days the daily routines with the animals were done. Even back then I thought it was beautiful and absolutely natural. Animals and weather provide the necessary work.

Up here in northern Sweden the conditions are more extreme, the weather is harder, and the seasons determine many of my daily jobs. I love that. There is something deeply satisfying, be it sawing, stacking and splitting wood to have enough firewood, shoveling snow in winter, fishing in summer for us and the dogs, doing construction projects in the snow-free time … I guess you can image that the list is much longer.

The decision to take care of about 30 sled dogs implies no weekend and set vacation days per year. I don´t want to change that. My year is strictly divided into training and racing season and the non-training and racing season. Training begins for us in September, from January to March we start in various races and April and May are reserved for mountain tours. The rest of the year I prepare for the upcoming training and racing season.

Summer routines

Winter wood will be made from April, around 30 cubic meters of birch wood will be sawn, split and stacked.

Here in Sweden there is a saying “Veden värmer flera gånger” (the wood warms you up several times).

In May I love to visit my parents, siblings and grandparents in Germany during the asparagus and strawberry season – very tasty!

And from June to September construction projects or repairs to the house and kennel are carried out, buildings are painted if necessary, potatoes are grown and berries are picked.

Time challenges

I am a total time optimist, and preferably everything should be done in one day. And while I am still working on a project, I keep thinking of new ones.

Are you familiar with that? So far I have not been able to change that, but I am learning to set priorities.

In addition to my time optimism, I can be very pedantic and perfectionist. Quality is extremely important to me. But that is okay. Only when I think I have given everything, and the result is very good can I appreciate and enjoy it.

Explaining my quality standards to others is not always easy for me. Misunderstandings can occur. I can definitely get better …

Moving forward

It is now mid-July. Johanna took her oath at the court last week. She confirmed that the bankruptcy documents had been compiled in full, that all debts were listed correctly, and that all property of the company had been handed over to the administrator. The bankruptcy proceedings are now officially complete. Not one day has passed since the company’s property got picked up, that I was not reminded of it.

There is now free space everywhere on the property. Where the grill hut stood are only a few stone slabs left. The stone floor is deserted where the panorama sauna was standing. The parking lot is empty, no trailer, no training cart, no canoe trailer, no canoes.

The equipment shed is completely gone, a temporary fence made of euro pallets closes the gap. In the shed where the kick bikes, skis and snowshoes were, are only some reindeer skins and empty packaging from the auctioned snowshoes left.

Only my “rescued” dog sled is lonely and abandoned in its shelter. He and I are eagerly waiting for the winter to come back.

Mona and Johanna often remind me, that I should visualize the pick-up and the resulting emptiness for you in a video. Mona actually filmed that day and there is more than enough footage. But it is really difficult for me. Why should I show that? That miserable moment?

The topic is now closed for me, I look ahead – continue to work to finance our life with the sled dogs. I just want to focus my time and energy on positive things that can create or change something.

Only 6 weeks left

There are only 6 weeks left until the training session, it should start on 1st September. I just do not have a training vehicle yet. The UTV (a kind of larger quad) is gone, the kick bikes are no longer there. Not that they were really an alternative for autumn training. Because training 24 dogs with a kick bike or bicycle is not an option. We need an ATV or UTV. I have already written to several companies and dealers and hope for some kind of sponsorship or partnership. So maybe it will be a little cheaper. As soon as it gets colder, the dogs just want to run – run and pull. I must have found a solution by then.

Now in summer the dogs are rather sluggish and frugal due to the warmth. They chill in their kennels in the sun or in the shade. Look forward to being in the playground every day. There they run and play, sniff, dig, splash, … When it gets cooler in the evenings, they play in their kennels – some wild and some wilder.

When it gets more autumnal and the temperatures drop below 10 degrees, they can no longer be held. Then they want more. And I do not mean to play a little more. They want to use the energy they gathered in the summer. They want to run and pull!

300 hours

Until the snow arrives I need a training vehicle on wheels. To be able to handle the wild pack, it has to be heavy, at least 350 kilos, maybe a little more. Imagine how much power 14 sled dogs have! So completely relaxed and with new energy after the summer break … Always impressive even for me!

The training paths go over gravel roads and across the forest, so the vehicle should be as compact as possible and have plenty of ground clearance for the rough terrain. Good brakes are a must and as much space as possible for equipment and water. An ATV or Quad is a good alternative. A UTV, also a quad but with a roof and steering with steering wheel and pedals, offers more storage space and is actually gentler on the hands and my thumb tendon.

I spend many hours on the ATV or UTV. 24 dogs are in training, so 2 teams of 12 dogs. My training plan is already set. In September each dog should run approximately 300km, in October 500km and in November 800km. In December we should be able to switch to the sled, maybe already in November. I spend a total of 300-350 hours per fall training on the ATV / UTV.

A UTV has the advantage that it has a steering wheel and you brake with pedals and accelerate, like in a car. An ATV is more suitable for really bumpy or narrow paths, but it is accelerated with the thumb and the hands, despite thick gloves, are quite unprotected against the cold and the headwind. I have had tendonitis in my thumb many times, nice if I can avoid that.

Ball games

Even if the huskies are rather cozy in summer they want to be challenged, especially mentally. I recently started to find out which of the dogs are enthusiastic about ball games. An effective way to mentally challenge them. Blizzard and Flash really enjoy it. Blizzard is crazy about the balls. She is super attentive and learns quickly. Nice to see that I can activate her better.

In summer she often does not know what to do with her energy, despite the constant running and playing in the playground. Interestingly, so far only Blizzard, Flash, Storm and Thunder really like playing with the balls. These 4 are siblings, the mother is our wonderful Bamse and the father is our Yuko. Yuko lives today with Jens, a friend in southern Sweden, who also has a sled dog team with 3 other dogs. Incidentally, Yuko has always been in love with balls ?.

R.I.P. Bamse

I recently reported on Bamse in a blog post. She had recovered well after we found an ulcer in her. Unfortunately, a few days after the blog post about her, her condition deteriorated. It was almost as if she had been waiting for to be named on our website like all the other dogs. Bamse secured her place in the pack and especially in my heart long time ago. She soon became worse. She had trouble urinating, became restless and sluggish at the same time. It quickly was clear that we would have to make an appointment with the veterinarian to put her to sleep.

Her condition worsened within a day and the next morning I had to make the difficult decision. Bamse had to be put to sleep. It was so quick after all. Still hurts a lot not to have her here with us anymore, but the memory of her will remain in my heart forever. After the severe loss of Leo, Bamse had left us a few days later. An emotionally challenging time. It makes me even more comforting that her puppies Blizzard, Flash, Storm and Thunder keep me busy every day with their joy for life and almost overwhelming energy.

But I am also working to find out if my other sled dogs are crazy about something else than pulling. Maybe ropes, hurdles, swimming or tracking? It is very exciting to get to know the different personalities of the huskies even better.

Kennel make-over

As I said – it is only 6 weeks until our autumn training will start. Most of the projects we have planned for this summer have begun, some have already been completed or are coming soon. We are still making the kennels “fresh” at the moment. The dogs dug a lot last summer and spring. Since we had put a too little gravel when setting up the dogyards, the loamy soil came up and the ground was super wet and loamy in spring. This is not so good for the paws and is difficult to clean. So we ordered 50 tons of gravel and we are distributing it in the dogyards right now.

First we fill the holes with soil or large stones, rake straw remnants and dog hair and last but not least we make everything even.

Then we shovel the gravel into the dogyards by hand, so that a thick, approx. 15 cm high gravel bed is created. Then wooden floors are installed on the edge. We can partially clean and reuse the old ones. But we need some new ones.

We get those from Åke from the neighboring village. He has a small sawmill and is very skilled at crafting. He and his wife Åsa are real fans of our sled dogs. They have supported us many times in recent years. Åke is always impressed about the cleanliness of our kennel.

“Jag har någ aldrig sett renare hundgårdar” (“I’ve never seen dogyards which are so clean”)

With a twinkle in his eye he continues:  “De bajser aldrig, eller hur?” (“They never shit,or?”)

We get the floors sponsored by him. We are very grateful for that! Last year he suffered a stroke of fate himself. He has lost a large part of his forest through a big fire and with it a large part of his pension. A hard blow since he is already retired. Now he works a little longer. Nevertheless, we get the floors from him. There are no words for that. I hope that we can continue to impress him.

We put every single floor carefully and joyfully in the kennel and enjoy when every dog enthusiastically stretch out and laze on them.

Tables and screening walls

The “freshening up” of the dogyards also includes two other projects, new tables and screening walls. All our dogyards have an increased lying area, on one hand because the animal protection law requires it but on the other hand because the dogs simply love it! However, some of the previous tables are a bit too small (there can only be one dog on it instead of two) and some are too high.

Some time ago we put cable drums as tables in the dogyards. The dogs like to play in the kennel and then they jump wildly on the table and down again, chase around the table, jump on it again, almost fall down and so on – you can imagine it. In the long run, this is not so good for the shoulder joints. So now I am making new tables in the right height. The first ones are already finished and Sopin and Storm can hardly be moved from their new tables.

The second project is a screening wall, to separate the playground from the adjacent dogyards. Maybe you saw in one of my videos that the playground is right behind the dogyards. Since we attach the huts to the outside of the yards, they are located in the area of ​​the playground. Especially for Numit, Kitkat and Quartz it is a wonderful activity to jump from hut roof to hut roof and to drive the others who are not free-running crazy. This often leads to a big “hello”, so I block their view a bit with planks. Less “hello” – more relaxation for everyone.

If it were that easy – as soon as I put up the first planks, the first females are in heat. You might have seen in my dog-puzzle video how complicated it can get during the heating time. Switching dog combinations in the dogyards to avoid unplanned litters and discussions.

The only one that worries me right now is my Dika. She is very restless and so far I have not found anything to make her tired and a little more balanced. But I am diligently looking – sure that I will find something.

New dog partnerships and shirt campaign

For the care of the dogs I have received donations from wonderful people in the last few weeks. Jana has taken on two sponsorships, for Oreo and Heine. And Jompa also has a sponsor with Rainer.

A few days ago, you received the first t-shirts from my donation campaign. So far, everyone has been thrilled and very satisfied with the quality. I made a design with the silhouette of my female Storm. This served as an imprint for various tops in organic cotton.

In a time-limited campaign, you could then buy T-shirts and hoodies in a crowdfunding campaign. All the earnings go to the dogs, of course. It went great and I am totally thrilled that the design is so well received and that so many people want to support us. That gives hope for the future. THANK YOU SO MUCH!

Of course, I already have a lot of ideas for other designs. I am already looking forward to realize them. Maybe with Storms 3 siblings, Thunder, Flash and Blizzard, as a special edition. (If you don´t want to miss new designs sign up for my newsletter below or follow our social media pages @8seasons.huskies)

After all, time is relative.

More projects

Until autumn training starts we have freshened up the kennel, made a new shelter for the sled, built new garden furniture and a raincover for the dogs in the playground,… did I say that it is only 6 weeks until the autumn training? Up until 2 weeks ago I thought we could paint the house this summer and lay a new sewage pipe in the basement, I have already postponed that to next summer. But more t-shirt designs are still possible!

I would also like to pimp our cabin. Would be great to have an oven, dog boxes, better seating and a table inside. So that we have a place for briefings during the training period, like our very own musher cafe.

If I start right away, I will be done tomorrow ?

Time seems stretchy at times. In summer it feels like minutes turn into hours, the sun does not go down and it is daylight 24 hours a day. You can work outside for a long time, last week I was outside sawing planks until 11 p.m. It is good that the neighbors have similar routines or that they don’t mind the nightly noise.

And my dogs? They do not care about the time. No matter with day it is of the week! The main thing is that I am there and that something is going to happen!

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