June 20, 2018
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Summer may not be long enough to complete to-do list

Julia Bayly
By Julia Bayly, BDN Staff

FORT KENT, Maine — Is it just me, or now that the state has finally shaken off one of the longest, coldest winters anyone can remember, it seems summer is now slipping away at warp speed?

According to the calendar, summer has not even officially started yet. June 21 is technically the first day, but the way things are going around here at Rusty Metal Farm, I will be lucky if I cross off the final item on my summer to-do list before it ends on Sept. 23.

Of course, I have only myself to blame.

Back in March, ordering new egg-laying chicks to supplement the aging Rusty Metal chicken flock seemed like a really good idea.

Given that they arrived mid-May, I had plenty of time to get a poultry nursery set up out in the garage, complete with heat lamp and a baby-sized chick feeder and waterer.

A week later, the new Rusty Metal honeybees — likewise ordered in the middle of winter — arrived and were moved into their new hive, where they are currently buzzing about pollinating everything in bloom they can find.

But there remained one more addition. Actually, make that three more additions.

Again, because it seemed like a good idea at the time, in April I arranged to add three more dogs to the Rusty Metal Sled Dog Team.

And so it was, in the midst of covering one of the biggest stories to hit northern Maine in years, I found myself taking a break last week and making a nine-hour, round-trip drive to the Greenville area to Lone Wolf Guiding Services to pick up Mars, Frog and Turtle.

It is my hope these three will be just the new blood needed to get the team and I through the 2015 Can Am Crown 30-mile sled dog race next March.

Lacking a truck or trailer designed to haul more than one dog at a time, I was able to fit two dog crates in the back of my pickup for Frog and Turtle — rambunctious younger dogs — and opted to let Mars — my new leader, ride in the back seat.

It was a bit of a roll of the dice putting a strange dog in the cab of the truck.

Would he behave during the drive? Try to jump out if I had to stop for anything? If I did have to exit the truck, would he then let me back in?

Turns out, he was the perfect gentleman the whole time.

It was a warmish day, but I knew Frog and Turtle would have a constant breeze back there in the bed of the truck.

To keep Mars comfy, I blasted the air conditioning all the way home. He was happy as a clam, but I am fairly certain I ended up with touch of frostbite.

Once here and moved into the existing dog yard, there was minimal fuss from the new dogs or the resident team, as everyone was getting along with everyone else.

I should have known it was going too well.

After the new dogs had been here for all of three days, I heard a huge commotion from outside and when I looked, there was Turtle, free from his run and having a grand time playing with Mars.

Ever try to capture an Alaskan Husky who does not know you yet?

I am still trying to figure out how that dog managed to have every inch of his body near enough to get petted except the part with the collar.

Eventually, I was able to gently get hold of that collar, at which point Turtle whipped around, pulling me clean off both feet as he galloped across the driveway dragging me along.

He is most definitely “Turtle” in name only.

From that point on, my days have whizzed by in a sort of dog-chickens-bees cycle in which everyone has been fed their special meals — growth development pellets for the chicks, egg production pellets for the laying gals, high-quality kibble for the sled dogs and sugar syrup for the honeybees.

On the housing front, the older chickens have moved into their summer home and the chicks into the “big girls” coop, where they look almost lost in all that space.

New pens and runs are slowly going up in the dog yard, while the bees are doing well enough in honey production that it’s almost time to add another level to their hive.

In between all this, there are lawns to be mowed, gardens tended, trails to brush out, firewood to survey and trees to prune.

And maybe, just maybe, it will all be in the bag by Sept. 22, the first day of fall, just in time to make that winter to-do list.

Julia Bayly of Fort Kent is an award-winning writer and photographer who writes part time for Bangor Daily News. Her column appears here every other Friday. She can be reached by email at jbayly@bangordailynews.com.


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