I am currently living at a remote ranch in Alaska taking care of over 90 living animals in the middle of this cold, cold winter environment. This is my third winter in Alaska and I feel l like I am just getting comfortable with thriving in and really enjoying this extreme season myself, now I am in the process of figuring out how many other mammals survive in the North and how I can help them thrive through all of the seasons. Five months ago I knew nothing about working with animals. I have had a few cats in my life, and I just got my first dog. I went to a week long horse camp in the Girl Scouts when I was 12 years old. That was about all unless you count the many articles I had read and time I had spent dreaming about a homesteading lifestyle, but that was far from getting my hands dirty. I had never seen a large animal born in real life, never stood knee deep in "poop soup" while trying to herd a 600 pound pig down a narrow hallway, never chased a horned yak with a stick around a pasture, and I had definitely never held an animals legs apart while it was being castrated. I used to be a vegetarian for over twenty years, I never gave a thought to what it would take for me to create a lifestyle for an animal being raised for meat. I never imagined my life path would bring me here and I could never have guessed how much I would enjoy these new experiences.
What I did know was how much I loved the area where this remote ranch is located. My boyfriend Goose and I had spent the fall of 2015 exploring areas of Alaska that were new to us. We had no plan or itinerary other than to live and play in wilderness areas that we had never tromped through before. Several times over those months we found ourselves returning to one particular location, on the edge of the largest stretch of protected wild in North America, at the base of massive mountains, down a 42 mile gravel road. As we explored we found ourselves wishing that someday we could make this place our home. We assumed there was no work anywhere close to this remote region and we resigned to a hopeful dream of perhaps building a cabin here in future years when we were ready to escape the necessity of regular employment. Less than a year later we were offered a job care taking for this ranch which sits at the north end of that 42 mile gravel road at the edge of the wilderness we had only dreamed of calling home someday. We were thrilled with how our dreams had manifested so quickly and we were eager to jump into the unknown of our new journey.
Together Goose and I are learning every day what it means to run a ranch with pigs, yaks, alpacas, chickens, cows, horses, geese, ducks and dogs. We have learned that pigs can dig under, damage, push open, lift up or jump over almost any kind of fence or gate if they really want to. We have learned that geese can be easily herded down roads or across fields with a bucket of grain and a dog. We have learned how hardy these critters are in -35°F nights. We have learned about unfreezing water troughs, mucking out stalls, growing sprouted fodder for feed, driving a tractor, shearing alpacas, breeding pigs, building shelters and fences, deterring predators, layering compost, slaughtering birds, giving shots, lancing wounds, and most importantly how to bond with and create a happy life for many different animals. I have learned more in these past months than I ever could have imagined and we still have at least four more months of learning in the cold until we get to learn about the challenges and joys of working with nature through the fast and furious Alaska spring and summer sun. It is going to be an adventure, an adventure like no other that I have been on before and I am excited!