Silver Linings

August is my least favorite month.  Day after day in the 90s makes me crabby and lethargic, mostly ’cause it’s too hot to sleep.  And the yard is dried up and crispy, and the long-awaited spring and summer weather are sadly over, and thoughts are focused on fall.  If we could just get through August!  We were lucky this year – half of August treated us to cooler temps and some rain!  Go figure.  To be fair, there are a few advantages to the late summer misery and I try to enjoy them as best I can.  Like  –

It’s serviceberry season!  Yay.  You’ve gotta catch them just right.  I watch them on our walks around the lake.  Can’t be too green, can’t be drying up and shriveled.  I didn’t go hog wild this year but picked enough to make some tasty syrup with a one-of-a-kind taste.  Yum, worth the trouble but Coop didn’t understand the fascination at all!

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He’s a little happier going kayaking.  Only a little though.  Stumps are a threat and there’s lots of splashy things in the water he doesn’t understand.   Coop’s a trooper though and mostly glad to be out with mom, and always manages to get himself and mom soaked.  I know he laughs inside 😊

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It’s also finish-up-chores season.  This year my deck was ready for sanding and staining.  Yuck, but so nice when it’s done.

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In the mornings I’ve been sitting on my freshly stained and rearranged deck and enjoying the fruits of my labor.  And my garden.  August heat does wonders for homegrown tomatoes and there’s not much better than home grown veggies.

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The throbbing days will continue for another six weeks or so.  It won’t be long after and I’m sure I’ll be looking back and wishing for some of their warmth.   When that happens I’ll do a silver linings blog on the advantages of winter again, and please be patient with my rantings 😉

 

The Undercover Book Tour and the Traveling Gate

It was a long time in the planning.  A long time – inspired by dreams of a new truck.  What better thing with a new, reliable truck than a road trip!  (Read my blog “Tribute to a Truck” to see what I had to give up, still breaks my heart.  It went to a good home, though, so have to move on.)  Of course family came to mind.   Two trips morphed into one and plans came together, including delivery of said new truck.

It was the perfect time of year.  Wild flowers in Utah were at their spring peak.  Penstemon painted road cuts a bright orange.  Blue flax poked out of roadside greenery.  Lake Powell was a planned stop.  The temperature was perfect.  Coop played in the water.  The view of the diminishing water source was alarming.

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Crossing into the Arizona desert didn’t show off with any flowers but the colors of the mesas and rock formations made up for it.  My favorite southwest flower is the bougainvilla, and it was in profusion for all of my southwest travels.  Once I was on the coast there were flowers and blooming trees that were now unfamiliar to me, but my favorite, the jacaranda, was still showing off.  I had visits with all my family and a couple of friends.   The trip was a success in many ways!

Another part of my road trip plan was to distribute The Sparrow’s Choice, of which I have plenty of copies to share.  I visited six states and numerous locations in each of those states received at least one. 

Books were surreptitiously left or volunteered up front.   My book is now in Nehi, Utah, Prescott, Az, Phoenix, Poway, California, Rancho Santa Margarita,  Dana Point, Mission Viejo, Placer County, Monterey,  and Ft. McDermitt, Nevada.  Even if no movie producers pick up a copy of my book, I wish happy reading to all those who come across it.

Book collage

As a bonus to my trip, I was able to bring home a gate that my dad built 60+ years ago.  For years it served as the crossing point from the front of our house to the back, hanging there keeping us little kids secure through our vulnerable years.  It served as my back stop when I learned to ride a unicycle.  And dad built it…

After being stashed in my mom’s shed after the addition of a garage, the gate now has a new home.  It’s exact function hasn’t been determined but it’s glad to be stationary again.  From Phoenix on it was tucked in the back of the truck, silently enduring a 2000-mile trip tucked under camping equipment, scavenged rocks and sliding around on sea sand and miscellaneous souvenirs I tossed in the back of the truck.  It had a couple of days to stretch its boards a bit in Mission Viejo.  It handled the trip like a champ.

Gate collage.jpgIt will have a good view wherever it ends up.  It may become house decor.  I’ll keep you posted.  In the meantime, it’s wondering what kind of place this is – distant hills, big pines, cooler temps and new smells.  It wonders where the bougainvillea went 🙂

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It was the perfect time of year.  Wild flowers in Utah were at their spring peak.  painted road cuts a bright orange.  Blue flax hid in the roadside greenery.  Lake Powell was a planned stop.  The temperature was perfect, though the view of a diminishing water source was alarming.  Crossing into the Arizona desert didn’t show off with any flowers but the colors of the mesas and rock formations made up for it.  My favorite southwest flower is thand it was in profusion for most of my trip.  Once I was on the coast there were flowers and blooming trees that I hadn’t a clue about, but the jacaranda, one of my favorites from my days in Southern California, was still showing off.   

Undecided

They slide back and forth, not based on the calendar at all. Seasons, in Montana as probably everywhere, can’t make up their minds and keep us guessing. We try to be tolerant, knowing how this game is played, but we are OVER WINTER. We were led to believe it was gone. It’s supposed to be spring! Silly us for trusting Mother Nature.

Two weeks ago I took a break and headed to Glacier Park. It was a glorious sunny day. Roads were clear in the Park though lined with icy berms and slippery trails. Coop and I had a hard time finding a place to walk that wasn’t slick or too deep with slush. The scenery was exquisite though, per usual. Spring was definitely teasing us visitors.

Glacier collage

The ice on Lake McDonald was melting and leaving pretty ripples and fuzzy ridges as it shifted and shoved against the shoreline.

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Back home Flathead Lake was breaking up.  It froze over this year, the first time since 1993.

Flathead ice

Flocks of swans are stopping over in the open bay, heading north to nest – to Canada or Alaska? Eagles ate their lunch on the edge of the ice. The last week of March I played tennis three times!  It makes me laugh when I can snow shoe and play tennis in the same week 🙂Snow tennis

Then the rain started. My driveway is clear. The dirty snow in town is almost gone. Gravelly trenches drain away the melt off. The grass is greening up. Yellow daffodils heads hang drowsily before they will finally, in a week or so, look up and brighten the season.

Here’s my woodpile, sans snow.  Since I had to climb up on top of it and dig through snow and cut the tarp six week ago, I now have a mess 🙂

 

Spring woodpile

It warmed enough to use the BBQ. I’m kind of a fair weather BBQer and I waited until it reached 45 again before firing it up 😉  Someone gave me a butchered rabbit so on the grill it went. I made it stand up for a few minutes to get its belly well roasted. Nice way to start BBQ season.

Rabbit dinner

Then today it snowed, dropping into the low 30s – are you kidding!!!?? Our patience is wearing thin! I moved potted plants back in the garage and got my boots back out. Mother Nature is laughing, the joke is on us!

There is one predictable certainty, one of few in life, though there is no solace in this – mud season will be next!

Buried Treasure and…

The continuing challenge to keep Cooper happy!
The forecast has been bleak in Montana, cold winds, wind chills and hazardous driving warnings. Time to come up with some more firewood! I had to be serious this time. As before, the search was the hard part – where the heck is the wood pile?20190228_125829

I shoveled and shoveled. I ended up with steps in the snow, eventually coming out on top of the wood pile. Eureka! Lots of fat, dry chunks of fur waiting under a tarp to be split and roasted.

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The wheelbarrow still had it’s nose out of the snow bank, minus a bolt, but I fixed that and moved on quickly. I split wood a couple of sessions (yep, it heats twice) and ended up with fir and maple to last us through this arctic blast.
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Coop is happy.  Mom is happy.

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After a visit outside today, in a brisk 17 degrees, he actually came in and warmed his chocolate butt on the hearth, standing as close as he could to the stove.  Aahhh, life is good!

How to Keep Your Dog Warm and Happy

DON’T RUN OUT OF FIREWOOD!  He will sulk and pout!

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I feel a little like Aesop’s grasshopper but I shouldn’t, I worked hard all summer in my woods.  Never the less, I had no choice but cut some wood this week.  😉

First I had to find the wheelbarrow  – –

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That was half the battle!  I sawed up a couple of days’ worth of logs and delivered them to the front door – –

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And now all is well!  Phew!!!  Nothing better than a warm, happy dog!

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Trade Offs

Way up here in Montana we were blessed clear through Christmas with almost no winter – no snow, no ice, only a little chilly. And we were grateful. At least those of us who don’t ski 🙂  It was chilly enough to keep the wood stove going, though, and Coop enjoys every minute of that.

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Clear horizons, warm skies and sunny beaches all beckon to me over the winter, and my family and friends down in the southwest wonder why I’m up here. Here’s why:

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These trees are in my yard. I take pictures every year after ice fog has come through – I can’t help it! It looks good enough to eat!

I’ve bussed kids up to our ski resort twice since Christmas, after winter finally arrived in all it’s beauty.

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Yep, it’s a nuisance in many ways, but it’s worth it – winter wonderland every day. On my last trip to the ski resort I took my snow shoes and ventured less than 300 feet from the lodge before feeling miles from anywhere.

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Way out in the snowy woods I did hear a front-end loader plowing snow up by the resort 🙂  but still the solitude was palpable.

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A creek cleared a way for itself through heavy snow, a pond froze over, and stumps have fallen victim to snow piling up on their heads.

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This was the view from my house before the sun set tonight:

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The sun and warmth will be back soon enough. The trade offs are worth it. Perspective counts for everything – in life, health, prosperity, and weather! Happy New Year!

Before the Snow Flies

We got a taste of winter around the first of the month. We kept working outside, enjoyed the wildlife, and, in the chillier hours, Coop luxuriated with his first fire of the season while I enjoyed tea, apple/blueberry pie and a good book.

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Now we have spring again and there’s still so much to do in these last few days before the snow flies – yard work, wood splitting, playing! For the playing part I made two escapes this week, feeling like we’d been given a treat and I had better take advantage of it.

First I headed down to the bison range. I don’t know where all the buffalo were hiding, I only saw two, but both were magnificent.

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Elk are doing their bugling thing this time of year and I hoped to hear it. By the time I came across the elk herd (first picture below) it was noon so they were probably done with their longing calls for the day. It was certainly a big herd, maybe 100? There were five or six bulls mixed in that were amazing.   Coop waited patiently in the truck, enjoying the sun, when I stopped to get pictures 🙂

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The switchbacks down the back side of the preserve are always interesting.   Hard to watch the road while you’re enjoying the view!  I’ve driven down this in a school bus twice – like a Disneyland ride!

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And all the antelope that are always over there weren’t. No clue where they could have been either.

I walked Coop for a bit before we headed home. In the picnic area we saw a bull elk lying down by a bathroom. Odd.

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He moved his head now and then. Maybe he was overwhelmed by the size of his rack? I know I was!

Then yesterday I headed up the north fork of the Flathead River just west of Glacier Park. I haven’t been up there in years and it was as pretty as I remember. All the gold is from larch, a deciduous conifer.  There were quite a few “needle peepers” up and down this remote dirt road but Coop and I still managed to find peace and quiet.

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There are a lot of river access areas and places to enjoy the view toward Glacier. This area was part of my “stomping grounds” when I first moved to Montana. Lots of reminiscing went on, some good, some bad. I’ve had a couple of flat tires up there but have also seen moose, camped in a forest service lookout, and eaten at the restaurant at the far end of the road that has no electricity!

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I always take a picture of my trusty truck – me and that truck have had some great times, most of them in Montana!  It’s been a good week – warm days, painted landscapes, memories old and new and, for me, the end of another year as we wait for the snow to fly!