Author: Kylie Ramaker

Fall / Winter 2017

Fall / Winter 2017

Summer has come to a close and school has started up.  We are missing the sisters being away at school all day. Dog training season has began. Damon has started to put miles on the team after the temps dropped below 60 F degrees.  Tillie, our hunting dog, got to run with the team as long as she was having fun, but about a month into training, she started to slow.  Then she sat  down on a run, which in the mushing terms means, I quit.

Our old girl, Olive, still tries to hobble out to get hooked up, yet can’t even walk on her own most days.  But she still tries.

The team howls and howls to run.  They can’t wait to put on the miles. The amount of howling is almost ridiculous. They cry if Damon leaves in the dog truck without taking them with or for taking them for a run.  It’s really something to experience watching these dogs howl and howl to run.  It is so noisy before they run but the second that they start, it’s silent.

The training started at five miles at a time.  It increases no more than 10% a week to keep the team injury free. And  48 dogs started the training process.  Being in Minnesota, you would think that we would have plenty of snow to run on.  But no, it’s only been in mid-December that we have had enough snow to run the trails.  All the other training miles have had to be on the roads and with a 4 wheeler instead of a sled.  The gravel is really hard on paws, so Damon hasn’t been able to increase the miles like he wants. He’s only getting in 40-50 miles at a time. Crazy amount of miles to a newbie like me.  I can’t imagine going five miles with 18 dogs in front of me, in below 0 temps, on the back of a four-wheeler. Holy smokes, I got bored on the three-mile ride I took with them one day.

As the season has progressed there continues to be highs and lows.  Damon came home tonight excited to share that he put some of our young girl dogs up in lead for the first time and they were rock stars.  And you would never know it from their personality and size.  One is painfully timid.  The other surprise of the day was our “little sisters”.  They are two little girl dogs named Norma and Aurora.  Both are tiny and sweet, but they are some of the hardest working dogs on the team.  They keep the tempo fast and pull hard.  It’s been great watching them mature.

However, on the low side, the team had two cuts tonight.  Our Koyak just doesn’t seem to be pulling with intensity and Damon worries that he’s just not enjoying it.  It might be the roads/ four wheeler versus snow/ sled running. And he’s doing so-so, but they have to make seven cuts in the next week.  Also, our little Yettna seems to have hurt her shoulder.  I guess that it has something to do with running on the roads, but she probably won’t be healed before they leave for Montana.  It’s not worth pushing her too hard and ruining her experience or possibly hurting her for a longer period of time.  The next time they run and don’t put these two in, they are going to be heart broken.  The  mournful howl that follows sounds absolutely depressing.

So far it’s been the dog’s decision or an injury to cause the cut.  But now it’s the Musher who has to make the heartbreaking decision on who gets cut. The Musher takes into consideration the dog’s performance, health, and heart.  Like the little sisters, for instance, they are small but have lots of heart.  There are stronger dogs that do just fine, but heart and attitude carry more weight than size and strength.   A lot of decisions have to be made in the next four days.  I am not envious of those decisions that have to be made.

Well, for now, I better sign off.  I have another ten days of single parenting (not including the eight days before this), seven visitors coming for the weekend, packing up Damon and the dogs to leave for Montana a week before the race starts, and then packing up myself and the kids to leave for eight days in Montana.  I’m excited, but lots of work to be done.

Stay with me, I may need a hand to hold.

Bland Clothes, Rich heart

Bland Clothes, Rich heart

Just the other day I was wearing high heels and taking the train either downtown Minneapolis to my design job or to the airport flying to a job sites all over the US.  I probably had an Au Bon Pain coffee in hand and was either reading a book or scrolling through my blackberry. (Yup, it was a while ago).  Shopping at Saks on my lunch break or heading to the Central Library to take in the light at one of my favorite buildings.  Now, my days look much different.  I load up three kids in a dust covered, ten-year-old minivan with mud/dog poop on my boots to go to the local library, town pool or grocery store. There is probably a dog or two trying to hitch a ride and maybe even a cat.  It’s loud and hectic and I’m probably yelling at someone to stop yelling.  I spill my home brewed coffee down the front of my target T-shirt and say “Dog-gone-it!”.  Because that’s what I say now.  Wally probably says, “Mommy. Mad.” I try to take a deep breath like Daniel Tiger has taught us, but I’m pissed.  I really needed that coffee and I’ll have to chuck the shirt in the “work-out” pile because that stain won’t come out. At these moments, I long for my former life.

I can’t order takeout, but am forced to learn how to cook local, organic and healthy. We don’t visit a variety of parks and zoos any longer, but play ninja warrior on our woodpile, fallen trees and hay bales.  The closest grocery store is 15 mins away but now buy our beef and pork in 1/4 or 1/2 increments from local farms.  We don’t try out the newest restaurants anymore.  You are more likely to find us taking our herd over to a friend’s or family’s house for drinks and dinner. We are entertained by a campfire and lighting bugs instead of going downtown to a pub or concert.  And we get to wave to the cows that produce our milk and watch them graze in their field.  We don’t have the choice of french immersion schools or a variety of sports to play for our children, but know most of the families we see at school functions.

This is not the life that I envisioned; it’s better.

We get the experience of yurt roller skating giggles, puppet shows, painting old boxes into a pretend school bus, spy adventures, reading books in a pile of leaves and lots of cuddles by a cozy fire.   We are loved deeply by our friends and family because we invest in their lives as they are in ours.  We have less money, less stuff, less energy and less worry.  We are filled with contentment and peace. Our clothes, shoes, cars are bland.  But we are rich in spirit and mind.

When I dream of the quiet of my previous life or doubt our decisions of yurt and family, all I need to do is open my eyes/ears to see/hear the joy of our lives.

Stay with me, I may need a hand to hold.

Kool-aid or Wine?

Kool-aid or Wine?

So what is the first thing that pops into your head when someone says they live in a Yurt?  Some crazy hippie without shoes dancing in a field of flowers? Well, I will have you know, that I have never been committed to a mental facility and that I always wear shoes/ sandals.

And do you know why I don’t dance in a field of flowers without shoes? Because I don’t have fields of wildflowers. Instead, I have fields of thistles and an exuberant amount of nettles.

Well, good o’ Facebook introduced me to a whole new application of the weed that has taken over our property. Do you know all the great things you can do with Nettles?  For starters, you can make tea from it.

9 Amazing Benefits of Nettle Tea

Second, you can make natural dyes from it.

Third, you can dry it, break it down and spin yarn from its fiber.

Photo from:

I learned how to spin fiber a number of years ago and have the honor of spinning on Damons great, great grandma’s spinning wheel that she brought with her from Germany. (As I write this, it makes me realize that I’m closer to that crazy hippie than I realize).  I wonder what she would think about nettle fiber spinning.  If she is anything like her great, great, great grandson, she would love the ingenuity of it all.

So I’m not sure if I’m drinking the kool-aid or turning water into wine, but I do know that I have a whole new appreciation for something I couldn’t stand just a month ago. My love/hate relationship with nettles is the complete analogy to my experience so far with the Yurt.  I really do have a love/hate relationship with this place.  I love the peace and quiet.  My family just came home as I’m writing this.  I honestly heard them turn onto our road, one mile away. It’s that quiet. But, I hate being so far away from some conveniences and people.  I love the beauty of the woods, flowers, wind, animals..etc., but don’t really care for all the work that’s involved to take care of all these things.  I love seeing the billions of stars at night because of the lack of light pollution, but the darkness can be deafening.  And since we have no exterior lights on the yurt, I sure hope I don’t get lost one of these nights.

Stay with me, I may need a hand to hold.

I Quit!

I Quit!

112 degrees Fahrenheit…Yup, that’s the high temperature that has been logged INSIDE the yurt this summer.

As the temperature has been rising, so has my anxiety.  Being that it is summer, we have been busy with outdoor playing, activities, and visits with family and friends.  However, I’ve been dreading coming back home daily because of the heat.  The air isn’t moving into the yurt and it just gets hotter and hotter.

So I did what any good wife would do…. I took the kids on a road trip for 10 days and left my husband home to figure it out.   Okay, not my finest moment.

But like any good husband, Damon figured out the heat issues.  First, we needed to add a screen door so that all four sides of the yurt could be open, breathe, and circulate.  Secondly, the dome needed to be covered to keep the sun/ heat out.  However, the dome needs to be raised so that heat can escape out of the top.  But then we needed a screen to keep out the bugs while the dome is open.  And being that our home is a glorified tent, it’s not like I could go to Amazon and search for “Yurt Dome Screen” or “Yurt Dome Sun Shade”.  Boy wouldn’t that have been nice!

So, we dusted off the sewing machine.  Even after careful measurement, we had to redo it THREE times.  I’m not the best sewer by any means and sewing in a circle is even harder. We were pretty excited when it finally fit.  We used shade cloth from the Army surplus store and sewed a ribbon of Velcro to it.  Then we adhered the other side of the Velcro to the iron ring that houses the dome and voila! A dome screen was born.  Thankfully the sun shade is simply a piece of poly that sits on top of the dome to cover it.  It’s fastened down like a tent rain cap. Pretty simple, pretty amazing.

All these adds have made the temperature drop significantly inside the yurt.  It’s also super helpful that God is keeping the outside temperatures so mild this summer.  And we  have also added A/C to the yurt.  Wow! It’s like a “normal” house.  We have been leaving the air off during the day so the yurt can breathe and with the kids going in and out of the door, all the cold air escapes rather quickly.  But at night, we shut all the windows and turn on the air and it’s pretty darn dreamy.  Being able to sleep in cool air and not being sticky has brought me an amazing amount of contentment. I feel like a normal person some nights.

Again, most nights I hear Damon working on stuff in the garage over the hum of the air conditioner. My husband has lots of projects on the horizon for the next few months. Picnic table making, cleaning out our woods, cutting wood for next year, adding a deck and sidewalk to the yurt.  I just hope that my agenda of lazy summer days, playing with the kids, having lots of friends and family over, taking a few vacations, weekends away, campfires, and holding puppies doesn’t get in the way of his project schedule.

Stay with me, I may need a hand to hold.

Praying for heat….

Praying for heat….

I’ve been praying for heat… and boy do I have it.

As the snow thaws, our dog sledding comes to an end for the season. The sleds are getting hung in the shed and gear is getting mended.  We are getting feeling back into our fingers and toes and the frost buildup on the base of the yurt has begun to thaw.  We are anticipating warmer days and summer activities like planting a new garden, getting a few chickens, planning road trips, outings and camping trips.  We are going to end-of-the-year programs, potting a few flowers and soaking in all the natural vitamin D we can. We are even getting to do homework outside these days.

As I begin to think about a garden, my short-term goals are very small versus my long-term goals.  Someday I really would like to grow as much produce as possible that our family eats and I’d love to grow them from heirloom seeds. I’ve had a fascination with heirloom seeds. (See links below for reasons to invest in heirloom seeds).  But this year we did mostly heirloom seeds from Seed Savers and part organic seeds/plants from Lowes.  We planted green beans, cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, carrots, kale, a variety of lettuces and herbs and lots of beets.  i love me some beets. So the garden’s in and fingers are crossed.

Few links to Seed info and Homesteading:


Since we have one musher, ten dogs, two cats, three kiddos, and myself to feed, we decided that having a few more mouths around would be a good idea.  Five new hens made their way to me for Mothers Day. (I was the one who suggested this… what am I becoming?!)   Boy are they fun! Kids are loving holding them and watching them grow. We are learning about dust baths and adding oyster shells to their diet.  And we are really looking forward to gathering our own eggs at the end of summer.

As the temp outside rises, the temperature in the yurt continues to climb and doesn’t show any sign of cooling. It continues to be ten degrees hotter inside the yurt than outside.  With temperatures in the high 80’s it makes it very uncomfortable to be inside. I was not prepared for this challenge and I am really struggling with the heat.  As we are finding out, the dome acts like a greenhouse and magnifies the sun and heat coming in.

So stay with me… I may need a hand to hold.

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