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March 29, 2012: Breakup

It’s finally begun. Breakup: that time of year in Alaska in which the snow melts and the mud appears. It’s not so bad, because warmer weather and sunshine predominate. The term breakup is an insider phrase, familiar to Alaskans, but not to most of those who live in the Lower 48. It also has a double meaning. As lore has it, Alaskans tend to pair off with one another in the fall, and then part company in the spring. This is the way many supposedly get through the winter.

I knew that breakup was here when I looked up today, and saw water dripping off the roof. I checked the thermometer – it was close to 50 degrees, verifying that I was correct. For me, the onset of breakup coincides with puddling in the horse pen. Sure enough, the area under the overhanging, what we call the second shelter, had a fair amount of water in it.

What this all means for me is that I’ll spend the next few weeks raking old debris, and moving snow and water around in the pen. We aren’t yet at the stage where we can begin breaking the hardpack in the front area of the pen, nor can we begin digging trenches and moving water around. I predict that this phase of breakup is about two weeks away. Each year breakup is different – the amount of snow and the time of onset vary. We now have more snow on the ground and on the rooftops than usual. But the timing is neither early nor late.

The sun’s also setting later – now at about 9:15 p.m. No one is happier to see this than me. I can now get out at 3 p.m. and go riding—and be assured that everyone will get out. Today I even had time to brush Tinni out.

It’s appearing as though the worst of breakup is going to coincide with Signy’s foaling date. This morning Pete took the measurements for yet another gate – when it’s in place we’ll have two horse pens, and a bigger outer area. This way we’ll be able to keep Tinni here. It means a bit more work, both shuffling horses around, and making sure that they all get out. But I can do this.

Greenhouse shedding snow
Greenhouse shedding snow

The snow is moving down the barn roof
The snow is moving down the barn roof

The snow first bends then breaks
The snow first bends, then breaks

I took Raudi for a ride today. On the return trip back up Murphy Road she spooked and did a 360. I went flying off her back, and hit the road hard. I laid there for a minute, wondering if I was okay. My hip was sore, but not too bad. I was pleased because Raudi could, if she’d wished, taken off. But instead she waited quietly for me to readjust the saddle and get back on her. She spun around again, two more times. I stayed on just fine.

I’m going to attribute her bad behavior to it being spring. It was a long, cold, snowy, windy winter, and so lost energy is returning. The road has ice in the mornings, but in the afternoon it’s soft. This too is another sign of easier days ahead.

Next: 112. 3/30/12: Mitten Madness