Saturday, April 30, 2011

Montana Critters - Creative and Crafty

I love the animals here.

Back east, it would be a mini-thrill of excitement to see the occasional deer or hawk.

In our area of Montana, one can see hundreds of deer, hawks- and that's a slow day.

There are elk, bison, mountain sheep, and antelope, either on the road or close to it.  Gold eagles, bald eagles and hawks frequently fly overheard.

Grizzly and black bear, mountain lions and mountain goats are several of the more elusive-but-present critters.  Mule deer and and whitetail deer reach large numbers in the valleys.  Fox, coyote and wolves wander wide territories in search of food.  And the domestic cattle, horses and sheep graze over huge  ranges.

Here's a collection of photos personally taken be either me, Dan, Don, or Rachel's fiancee Paul (a special thanks to Paul--- many of these beauties were taken by him):

Mom and baby deer eating our grass in the front yard late last summer:

a mountain sheep couple on the road as we drove past them:

a very rare mountain goat trekking across the Ranch:

not the actual grizzly, but giant grizzly tracks by our house (that's Dan's foot for comparison):

more mountain sheep by the roadside:

our dog Pepper (she's a Montana critter, too...)

Pepper and Paul building an igloo:

most Montana horses live outside all winter:

elk looking for winter food:

the nearest town, Gardiner, is a lot like the Alaskan town in the TV series "Northern Exposure":

five o'clock rush minute on the Gardiner bridge:

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Braggin' Rights #2

Ok, in an earlier post I let loose on how wonderful our talented daughters are, and how I was so proud of them.

This time the kudos and hurrahs have to go to gentle husband Dan and his woodworking talent.

Dan has long dreamed of (and completed) various wood projects, and he's in his element now on the Ranch with many practical things to build (cabinet doors, wood storage shelves, etc. etc.)  He has the time to create and build, and he's putting his many woodworking tools gathered over the years to good use.

Kudos to him for arriving at a point in Life where there is more 'doing' and less 'dreaming'!  

Before Montana, Dan was traveling so much with work that he had little time to create.

From our past lifetimes, here's our solid cherry bed headboard that Dan built and we moved with to Montana:

Here's the deck he single-handedly built on our home in Ohio:

You get the feel.... good man, good building skills.  And now the time to let his creative juices flow!

While hiking around on the hills, fields, and mountains on the Ranch, Dan came across a derelict antique wood stove left behind many years ago. 

(This is actually a pretty common phenomenon in Montana- the hills are valleys are littered with carcases of old trucks, cars, tractors, farm implements, homesteads, and so on.  Since it's high, dry country, the remains don't fall apart easily.)  Dan salvaged the oven door and a couple of the hot plates on top and developed an idea.

The one bedroom guest house on the Ranch needed a new bed nightstand.  It's a log cabin with western decor, and Dan decided to create a wooden ranch stove look-alike as a nightstand.

He used reclaimed wood from the Ranch, did some building, carving, and construction (along with Don, Dan's co-worker), and this is the end result:

The coffee pot has now been converted to a lamp!  Here are more detailed photos:

What a neat, original idea!   I love that man....... :)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Tom Boy vs. Cottage Clean

I’ve written in past posts of our home we live in that I named Gerta (see here ).  The name seemed to fit her- she’s a former hunter outfitter/cowboy wrangler’s house with good bones and plenty of space.

I now realize ‘she’ and I have been locked in a subtle battle for many months, and we’ve had strong differing opinions in regards to her personality.

Built in the 1970’s, Gerta is dressed out in dark brown wood paneling and trim, a bedroom with orange shag carpeting, beige carpeting in the great room, beige linoleum in the kitchen and bath, etc.  In my perfect world, she would have had light, bright colors with that popular airy style that people envy today.

I quickly accepted the fact that Gerta would never be a dreamy refuge without an exhausting amount of work and funds, so I focused on my second goal- a ranch house that was tidy, clean and spiffy.

That’s where the battle began.  Silly me- I imagined our new home would like and appreciate a fresh-scrubbed look.   

I was wrong.

Over the months Gerta has shown me that she loves the Tom Boy look- dirt smudges, crumbs and all.  It’s ‘ranch dirty’ for her; and the harder I try to clean her up, the more she sabotages my work.

Take the time I finally got the basement cleaned up from moving- got all trash removed, washed and waxes the floors, etc.  She decided to let the basement flood with water backing up from the drain pipe.
Dan and I frantically cleaned up the mess, washed (and waxed!) the floors again, and she literally spit in our faces again with more basement flooding- this time with water and septic residue.  More frantic cleaning ensued with carpets now being removed and floor scrubbing.  (Notice the waxing has now disappeared- one small victory for her.)

After more trials and errors, and stress and strain, it was determined that the septic system was dead.  Gerta was a sick puppy.   

But she had dragged things on until the dead of winter, and the blind digging of leach beds in the back yard (after removing mounds of snow) left a mud/dirt wasteland ready to be tracked in for months. 

Score one for Gerta.

Then there was the leaking from the ceiling in the basement (drywall removal and mess), 

and the copious amounts of dust she cheerfully blows forth from the heater vents, 

and the carpet/linoleum stains that will never go away…… I finally came to a realization.

Gerta likes dirt.  She’s happiest when the dog sheds hair, when there’s muddy shoe prints on the floor, when the furniture looks grey with dusts only two days after dusting.   

She spent most of her life with men tromping around in mud-caked shoes and week-old clothes drinking beer and talking about the deer/elk they shot.  Men whose idea of cleaning was to drag a mop over the kitchen floor once a year whether it needed it or not.

I was taking a Tom Boy and trying to make her wear a frilly dress.

The battle’s not over yet.  I now understand where she’s coming from, but it can’t be one-sided.  She has to give some, too.  And ‘giving’ does not mean more dirt.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Ranch Dirty

Right now my world is a place of mud and ice.  The snows are s-l-o-w-l-y melting, and although they look snowy, they have transformed into icy, gritty, hard-packed mounds that are fighting their last battle with the warmer temps.

(‘Warmer’ mostly means temperatures in the middle thirties to low forties.  And over the weekend we got eight inches of snow, so it’s an ongoing battle.)

Where the snow has given way, there is slushy dirt and gravel.  The ground squishes and oozes mud on boots when stepped on.  The trucks and ranch vehicles are covering in a thick frosting of dried dirt, and the layers continue to grow.

To make it more interesting, our back yard is a sea of torn-up dirt clods with muddy rivulets of water leaking past into the pasture below.  (Last winter our septic system decided to die, and the new leach beds were put in after clearing out the drifts of snow.)  Our dog Pepper loves the outdoors, and regularly comes to the back door with paws packed with mucky dirt.

The roads are a disaster- one has a choice between snowy slush to skate on, or gooey mud trenches that spray mess everywhere.

The pastures and fields are covered with animal poo that, until now, have been frozen poopsicles.  Since the elk, deer, coyotes, dogs, and other critters wander freely, fragrant reminders of their visit are also on the roads, yards and walkways.  Not stepping in some kind of poo is an impossibility.

One bit of hope for Spring are the birds- both robins and bluebirds have returned.  This morning, while walking up to the work barn for our morning meeting, I realized the bird chatter was a new sound.  “This too shall pass,” I thought.  The snows will melt, plants will grow, the mud will turn to dirt, and we’ll have elk babies to watch as they scamper around.

All griping aside, once I resigned myself to muddy boots, coats and clothes, there is an ever-changing panorama of wildlife, weather and mountains to feast my eyes on each day.  Poopsicles aside, it’s a beautiful place to live.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

What Dan Saw on His Trip to the Grocery Store

Here is a normal day/ normal trip to the grocery store in Gardiner.

What do you see when you go the the grocery?

Muddy roads.......

Buffalo by the side of the road.......

Cowboys chasing buffalo back into Yellowstone (that's called hazing, folks)...

Antelope roaming on the range.....

And mountain sheep taking a roam on the range as well.

All for a gallon of milk..... :)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

March Mish-Mash

Whew!  March whizzed past quickly this year.  The beginning of the month had lots of snow up here in the basin, while the town of Gardiner proper (in the valley) lost the snow accumulation.  Up in the mountains, the piles of plowed snow on the ranch loomed higher and higher:

Meanwhile, the bison in Yellowstone were on the move out of the park amid much controversy.  Some bison have brucellosis, a disease that could be transferred to cattle.  The policy has been to 'haze', or harass the bison back into the park.  So far, the bison don't 'get it'.  They are happy to follow their instinct of wandering for dormant grass to graze, and with an animal this big, one hesitates to argue.

A herd of 14 decided to take our mountain road upwards and onwards to find better pasture.  A good part of this dirt road has steep hills on either side, and holds about 1 1/2 cars.  They quickly took over the road...

Dan got this photo of the determined buffalo as they marched upwards.  Shortly after, a park ranger drove up ahead of the pack and forced them back down:

I was AWOL from Montana March 15-29, when I flew across the pond and spent a week each with Rachel/Paul and Erika/Ben.  It was wonderful to visit both of our girls and 'significant others'- to see how where they live, have fun visiting their towns, staying up late for silly and serious chit chat, and enjoying each others' company.  Here's a great photo of Rachel and Erika:

Erika's belly is getting bigger by the day, and she has an early August delivery date.  Mama and baby are doing fine.

Once back home, the snow was s-l-o-w-l-y melting.... until yesterday.  A mini mountaintop snow storm added several inches and was a strong reminder that Spring will is not ready to visit.  It was lovely to see all the green grass and blooming plants in the UK!  Sigh.....