Road Tale

After driving for two days from Montana to Los Angeles, I came up with 10 Signs That You Are Back In The City:

1. The slow lane is the new fast lane.

2. 70mph is the new 40mph.

3. All the cars are really clean.

4. No gun racks in the truck cabs, no elk bodies in the pickup beds.

5. Tailgating is not a pickup bed picnic at the football game. It’s a bit more dangerous.

6. Nobody waves, and if they do you get really worried.

7. Butt rot! (See my Naomi Chapter on “Owie, My Butt Hurts!”

8. Every hour is rush hour.

9. You can pick up a wi-fi network almost anywhere, even if you don’t want to.

10. Swear words. All over the place (in my car).



Turkey day

Every day is Turkey Day at the ranch these days. The turkey herd (is it a herd?) that lives in the neighborhood have started visiting twice a day, minimum, since I put out birdfeeders a few months ago. They come around to scrounge up the stuff that spills out of the feeders. They’re kind of skittish but they don’t seem to mind the construction mess and noise too much. I can even go out there while they’re here and throw out some more food on the ground. That’s when the fun starts! These turkeys are rather vicious to each other. They’re fat and sassy and they have attitude. They also have no compunction about leaving turkey poop all over the place. Molly thinks it’s a buffet. Ewww!


Our very own forest fire

It’s kind of hard to tell from this photo, but the dark ground is actually burned grass. In total, about an acre of grass burned.

A couple of years ago we had a little forest fire experience on our property. Now, keep in mind that we have been lighting fires on our property for 13 years and this was our only mishap. We have about 7 acres of trees, so cleanup is an on-going activity, and once you cut up a tree for firewood, you have to deal with the leftovers, called the slash.

So in April of 2009, we were walking around the property trying to figure out what our next cleanup project would be, and Steve decided to have a small bonfire, because, you know, we’re pyros. :-)  He choose a small, and I mean small, pile of old sticks, cleared the grass around it and lit it up. We felt pretty secure having a fire because it had actually snowed the day before and the ground was still quite damp, although the dusting of snow had melted. Piece of cake!

Well, I was busy fiddling around in the woodpile behind the barn when I heard an ominous crackling noise. I knew the small fire Steve had planned shouldn’t sound like that. I turned around and saw a four-foot wall of  flame in the forest! I ran back there and Steve was beating at the flames with a shovel. I shouted to him that trees were going up in flames and that I was going to call the fire department. I ran back to the house and made a 911 call in a severe panic.

About 10 minutes later, five fire trucks roared up the road that runs along the back of our property. Luckily, I had been coherent enough on the 911 call to tell them to go to the back of our long property. Within another 15 minutes the fire was out. And, it only burned on our property, so we didn’t have to apologize to the neighbors. The fire chief was very nice and said that even the most carefully burned slash piles can get out of control. We told him how big the original fire was and he was astonished that it got out of control. What happened was that just as Steve lit the fire, a gust of wind came up and threw the flames across some dry grass. Just timing…

It caught really well because that is a part of our property that has a lot of tall grass growing in the summer and we don’t ever cut it. So in the spring, there is a lot of trampled down dry grass. The good news is that even though some small trees and bushes burned, most of what burned was grass that was covering a lot of old slash. So that summer we got a lot of that area cleaned up and took care of a lot of dry fuel that could have been a problem in the future. The grass in that area grew back bright green within a few weeks and we’ve never had a problem since.

We’ve both been reluctant to light fires since that incident, but we are always careful. One of the great things about living out in the country is the freedom to burn stuff. :-)  Sometimes nature takes things out of your hands though.


Oh The Mold!

Our latest construction adventure is that the south half of our roof has been taken off and a whole new world of mold has been discovered. Black mold, red mold, white mold, we got it all! Thanks to our Bitterroot Builder (translation=cheap idiot) our non-ventilated roof has been condensing moisture for the past 18 years. We also uncovered the ant condo that our insect friends built a couple of years ago. All the tenants were dead, thankfully. The upshot is that all of the tongue-and-groove ceiling above our loft is being replaced. And we’re supposed to get 3-9 inches of snow in a few days. It just doesn’t get any more exciting than this! (I hope)

We’ve been sleeping with black mold a few feet above our heads for about 13 years. I wonder how much of our family health problems have been due to that fact. I guess as we get older we’re just gonna get healthier! Luckily, we have our two great builders who are fixing everything. They’ve got eyes on every part of the house and they’ve found several problems that we didn’t even know were there.

It’s been gratifying to take loads of moldy foam board to the dump and get rid of it. I wish there was some way to zap it out of existence altogether!



Dooney’s Wild Kingdom

What! I’m just bein’ me!

Something I never experienced until I moved to Montana is having wild animals in my home. Our younger cat, Little Miss, is the one who has made this happen. Little Miss is a voracious hunter, sometimes bring three or four squirrels in the house in one day. (!) The good side to this is that she’s healthy and self-sufficient. The bad side is….she likes to share! Yep, as any owner of a hunting cat will tell you, they love to show you how great a hunter they are.

Little Miss will typically hunt in the wee hours of the morning (5 am), coming back in sometimes only minutes after she’s gone out and yowling loudly to let us know she was successful. Usually at night it’s a mouse. With any luck, it’s dead. Sammy usually runs downstairs to see if he can get her to drop it. Again, I always lay in bed hoping the mouse is already dead. Otherwise, I’m the one who has to hunt it down the next day and rescue it. One early morning she brought it up to our loft bedroom and let it go, so the next morning I woke up with a mouse on top of my feet!

During the day, just about anything goes. Little Miss has brought in birds, squirrels, mice (of course), and on two occasions a ruffled grouse that was bigger than her. Several times I’ve had to catch birds, and once I had to catch a squirrel that she thought would be a nice addition to the upstairs bathroom. In any case, she almost always brings her kill inside to eat it. Steve somehow taught her to take it into the downstairs bath and jump into the big clawfoot tub to eat it. That way, the mess is contained and easy to clean up, and if it’s a live mouse, it can’t get out of the tub and run around the house.

One day, however, I had the tub full of water and she jumped in there with a mouse. I heard a huge splash and she came running out of the bathroom soaking wet and without the mouse. So, I put on my mouse-catcher gloves that day. After that fiasco, Little Miss starting taking her kills into the shower in that bathroom, which works pretty well too. However, when we have guests I always tell them to check the shower before they step in. :-)

I’ve already blogged about the bats in the house, which Boots was kind enough to help me with. Our new roof will take care of the bat intrusions. Luckily, Little Miss seems to be slowing down a bit as she gets older, and this past summer she didn’t bring in nearly the variety of animals she has in the past, and I think all the squirrels in the neighborhood know to stay away from our house!



Fire on the mountain

When you live near the forest, in the country, one of the things that you have to be prepared to face is fire. We live 1/2 mile from the Bitterroot Mountains, and our property is mostly treed. So it was inevitable that in 2009 a forest fire started (or was purposely started) in the canyon at the end of our road.

At first, it was a small fire that probably could have been easily handled. The Forest Service, in typical government fashion, decided to let it burn. Of course, they’ll deny this but they actually said in a news story or press release that they were going to let it burn. Later when everyone got really mad about how the fire was handled, they denied saying it. Anyway, with high winds it quickly started to burn out of control. It started about 3 miles back in the canyon, so 3-1/2 miles away from our home, but with 60-mile-per-hour winds, guess how quickly it could have been at our doorstep? We frequently have windy afternoons.

We actually were under a pre-evacuation order, which means they want you to start thinking about packing up. One night I went outside to see if I could see the fire, and to my horror the entire hillside a few miles north of us was on fire! The wind had kicked up and the fire had jumped into the next canyon and was burning down toward the valley floor very quickly. When I saw that I ran inside and told him we needed to start packing immediately.  We packed our valuables and a lot of his chiropractic equipment into the back of our big Chevy stake bed truck and drove over to a friend’s house. Three or so days later we brought it all back.

A few weeks later we had a severe wind warning, which can mean the kind of wind that would bring the fire to our property, so we packed up again, drove to our friends house and actually unpacked everything. When something like this happens it really makes you evaluate what is important in your life. I realized that as long as my animals and my husband were safe, nothing else really mattered. If the worst happened, we would rebuild our house and make something new and wonderful.

We left our things at our friends house since we really didn’t know what was going to happen. The fire started in the middle of July, and it was three months before the weather in the mountains was cold enough to snow and put out the fire. It was the most stressful three months of our lives! I’m really glad our house didn’t burn down but it was a good lesson in putting things in perspective.



Those pesky jays

Every spring and fall, a couple of Stellars Jays come to visit, sit on the porch railing, and scream at me to give them something to eat. They usually stay a week or so and then they’re gone. This year, I put out some cute birdfeeders that I got from Gardener’s Supply and the jays have stopped screaming and started pigging out.

The new feeders are just like a glass tire shape and the feed sits in the bottom. The birds can sit on the edge or jump inside and pig out. I have mine hanging in the aspen trees out front. This one jay couldn’t figure out how to get inside the bird feeder, so he hopped around the branches awhile, then started bouncing on a branch near the feeder. As he bounced close to the feeder, he would stick his head inside and grab a bite of food. It was hilarious! I wish I could have gotten a movie of this bird desperately bobbing on the branch, just trying to get another bite. After a few days, he finally figured out that he could just hop inside.

I always thought Stellars Jays were migratory birds because I only saw them briefly in the spring and fall. Now that I have food out on a regular basis, they’ve stuck around. I felt kind of guilty, like I was throwing them off their migration schedule and they’d be stuck here all winter, huddling together with little hats and scarves on to stay warm. :-)  But my bird book says they don’t migrate…whew! Now they only scream at me when the feeders run low.