Logsplitter Woes

A big part of our life every summer and/or fall is splitting wood for the winter. If we’re ahead of the game, it gets done in the summer. If not, we’re scrambling to get it done in September and October. This past fall, in 2014, we were delayed because we had ordered a new logsplitter from the DR people, which was an electric, Rapid-Fire, kinetic logsplitter. So it has a flywheel that propels a ram against a wedge and is supposed to equal a 22-ton hydraulic splitter. Uh-huh. Let me just say that our 10-year-old 4-ton hydraulic splitter does a better job than this new-fangled kinetic one. It just can’t handle splitting a log in one pass.

Steve had to make several, sometimes as many as six, hits with the ram to split a dry log that was less than 10 inches in diameter. I couldn’t even use the splitter because I don’t have enough strength in my shoulder to whack the ram arm that many times in a row. This is a far cry from their advertising claims. We love the DR products, don’t get me wrong. We have a Powerwagon that we bought in 2000 and it’s still going strong in 2015. Our first brush mower lasted 11 years with heavy usage. And as I mentioned we have one of their 4-ton hydraulic splitters. I just think they missed the boat with this Rapid-Fire kinetic splitter. You’re better off going with a gas-powered splitter or an electric hydraulic splitter. It’s useless to us if I can’t even use it as I’m supposed to be the one doing the bulk of the splitting. Steve cuts and moves the wood, I split and stack.

Steve and I are not newbies to splitting wood, needless to say, and we know what works. We need a machine that’s going to perform whether we are splitting a 12-inch round that has been sitting around for two years, or a 14-inch green round from a tree that blew down a few weeks ago. It’s no fun to split green wood but sometimes we have no choice.

Maybe someday we’ll decide that cutting and splitting our own wood is just too much trouble. I hope that day never comes since it will mean that I’ve gotten OLD.  :-)




The Big Thaw

It’s January in Montana, so that means one thing:  it’s getting warm. Contrary to popular belief, we don’t freeze all winter. Every January we have a week or so of warm weather, immediately followed by a deep freeze that turns all the remaining snow into sheets of ice. If we’re lucky, the rain we’re having today will at least melt all the snow off the driveway. If not, the resultant ice will turn the driveway into the Olympic luge training course that I’ve written about in previous posts.

Needless to say, we invest in YaxTrax, which allow us to walk on the icy driveway and road without the annoying groin pulls that inevitably result from trying to waddle down an icy road. The doggies must have their daily walk, after all.  :-)  Luckily, we don’t have to be watching the weather every minute of the day since our roof is now watertight. Yay!

It was 45 degrees today, practically a heat wave!


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.



Yes, Virginia, there is an internet

One of the challenges of living in the country, and especially in the trees, is getting a fast, reliable internet connection. Until a few years ago, we were still on dial-up, if you can believe that. We finally got a satellite dish with Wildblue service, which some days feels just as slow as dial-up. What they don’t tell you about satellite is that they oversell the service so you’ve got too many people trying to squeeze into an itty-bitty information tube.

Now, Steve and I are not high-tech by any means, but we do like to surf the net, so a fast connection is a plus. Fast is a relative term in the country. We recently explored getting satellite and onto a Verizon 3G (soon to be 4G) connection when our builders accidently damaged our satellite cable. We completely forgot to warn them about where it was, so it was our fault completely. We found out that we’d have to pay twice as much per month as we’re paying now, and we’d get half the download usage. So, uh, no to that!

Last year the phone company put fiber optic cable up the highway that our road connects to, and we have hopes that someday we’ll be able to get DSL or something similar. Today we were listening to Radio Swiss Jazz over the internet connection through our stereo, and it was a treat. We got FAP’d by Wildblue last year about this time and realized that we never want THAT to happen again, so we tend to be judicious about our internet usage.

The hardest thing is when I go to visit my family in the big city, and I get on my computer to check me email and boom! It loads so fast! When it comes down to it though, I wouldn’t trade my comfy country life for a fast internet connection.

I think….


How you know that summer is over in Montana

1. August 1st arrives.

2. Your first tomato ripens in the garden.

3.Trees that were green the day before are now yellow. The next day, the leaves are gone.

4. You can see your breath when you go outside in the morning to drink your coffee.

5. You have a sudden, inexplicable craving for soup.

6. It’s 70 degrees during the day, and 30 degrees at night.

7. The lawn is cold and crunchy in the morning.

8. All the animals scream for extra food so they can put on their winter fat. And I do mean scream!

9. The golden raspberries yield up their second crop of huge yellow berries.

10. It feels good to get in the hot tub again.


The Tales are back!

After a hiatus of 7 years (gulp!) I decided to start writing my Tales again. I really enjoyed reading my old Tales while posting them here, and I hope you enjoy them as well. I’ve currently got four blogs going, so we’ll see if I can keep up with everything. :-)  I imagine my dog and food/garden blogs will all overlap to some degree, but for this blog I really want to focus on the things that make country life so enjoyable, unique and entertaining. After 13 years of living here, I think we’ve pretty much got the hang of it, but every now and then we still get surprised.


~ Dooney


Summer Tales From Montana ~ 8-29-05


And up your nose, and down into your lungs, and follows you into the shower….It’s late summer in Montana, and this year that means smoke from wildfires. There are about 8,000 acres under burn in the local area, but it’s almost as bad smoke-wise as the summer of 2000 when hundreds of thousands of acres were burning. We have to keep the windows closed and the air cleaner running just to avoid burning eyes. Dad, you and your hose need to make a trip to Montana…we could use firefighters like you! :-)


We woke up one morning to find that it had become fall overnight, just when my basil has finally decided to grow. That’s the way the seasons go here. The nights are cold and damp now, and the deer are hungry. They’re actually coming up onto the front porch to eat my potted flowers! Our first frost is only a few weeks away. It’s been a fun summer – dunking in glacial Kootenai Creek in June, swimming in the Bitterroot River with the dogs in July, putting the down comforter back on the bed in August. The growing season has been so short this year, I’ve only actually gotten three tomatoes out of my garden. Better luck next year!


Steve and I have finally started our garage remodeling project. We spent this past weekend taking the garage doors off (easy) and ripping sheetrock off the walls and the underside of the loft (hard!). We’re taking down all the sheetrock and fiberglass insulation and replacing it with foil/foam radiant barrier insulation. Better R-value and, more importantly, prevents the 97% radiant heat loss that fiberglass does not address. Plus, it won’t kill you, which is something we look for in home building materials. :-)

Luckily, there’s a place in Missoula that will take the fiberglass and resell it. It’s this great place that takes donated home materials and resells them cheap. We bought the doors and a window for our new office for a grand total of $67. Wouldn’t Bob Villa be proud?


Steve and I spent May and June creating some beautful flower beds and a smaller, fenced garden in our front yard (see website for pics). It’s a good thing I took pictures last month because the deer have decided they really like what I planted and they’ve eaten it all. We tried a couple of sprays on the plants that are supposed to repel the deer, but the ones that live around her must have defective taste buds. I think next year we’ll fence the whole sheebang.


We finally replaced our ailing woodstove, so we don’t have to choke on smoke all winter, too, but it means it’s that time of year where our life becomes all about trees. We’ll be taking breaks in our new career as home remodelers to put up some more wood for the winter. We still have a bunch left over from last year since we had such a mild winter, but the Farmer’s Almanac and the oldtimer who lives down the road say it’s going to be a harsh winter so we’d better be prepared. Of course, the new stove has no chimney because the stove installer found that our chimney was damaged and he didn’t have all the parts to fix it. He’s so busy, he couldn’t even tell us when he’d have time to come back with the new parts. I hope it’s before Christmas, or I’ll have to wear Boots on my head as a hat. She wouldn’t like that.


Tales From Montana ~ 4-2-04

Yes, after an absence of almost four years, the Tales are back! I stopped writing them after Cowboy Joe died…I guess it was just too sad, or maybe my life got too boring. Now I’m feeling inspired again, but you may still get bored. :-)


We got a call yesterday from a neighbor two doors down, who also happens to be a patient of Steve’s, saying that there was a brown dog and a black dog down by the river on their property. Could it be Charlie and Jack? Yes it could. Jack has become notorious for leading Charlie on secret missions. The most astounding one occurred last year while we were on vacation. The dogs were missing us and figured we might be at our friends house, two miles away…across the highway! From various sightings we figured out that they followed Kootenai Creek under the highway to where it meets the Bitterroot River. They then followed the Bitterroot a couple of blocks and came up the bank right at our friends house. They were soaking wet and exhausted and Jack immediately flopped on the lawn and went to sleep.


We still have hundreds and hundreds of trees on our ten acres and they have an annoying habit of falling over or snapping off in a big wind. Five years has taught us a lot, however, and Steve has invested in a larger chainsaw. We now have cutting, stacking, and burning down to an art form. We’ve already done enough work this year to fill our woodstove for the next three years and we’ve burned all our winter fat off. We also almost lost control of a little grass fire…no big deal as it turned out, but I experienced about five minutes of true panic while beating at the flames with a shovel. Steve pointed out that the object was to smother the flames, not fan them by beating at them. Okay, I lose firefighting technique points….the forest service won’t be calling me this summer.


It’s been almost a year since Steve closed his California office and stopped traveling every three weeks. We still look at each other with smiles of amazement that we get to live here full time…together. Charlie is particularly happy to have Steve home full time but still doesn’t understand why Dad can’t spend every available minute with him. He will typically get impatient while Steve is treating someone and barge into the office looking for love. He slinks back out a few seconds later after Steve boots him out, then when Steve comes out at the end of the treatment, Charlie glues himself to Steve’s side, his head in perfect petting position. If you’ve met Charlie, you know what I’m talking about!


A lot has happened in the four years since my last “Tales”, including a trip to the Australia Olympics in 2000. I never got around to writing a Tales From Oz, but a lot of interesting things happened. We got to learn how to drive a right-drive stick shift campervan, which means we had to shift with our left hand while sitting on the right side of the car and driving on the left side of the road. A dyslexia nightmare. We discovered how to drink a mocha in Oz, and it only took us a week. You see, they don’t use chocolate syrup, they use powdered, unsweetened chocolate and put the sugar on the side. Maybe it was jet lag, but it took us a while to figure out that we had to add the sugar – doh! The other thing we found out is that Paul Newman has a lot more flavors of spaghetti sauce than he lets on. We had sauces that I’ve never seen in a store in the US. What’s up with that?

In 2002, Steve officially started his practice here in Montana. Sometimes he would see 14 people in a day, give a health lecture that night, then get up the next morning, pack the truck and drive to California. That’s why in 2003 he closed the California office! Now he’s gaining quite a good reputation in the valley and we typically get people saying “Six of my friends told me I need to come see you”. Yesterday a physical therapist told him that he’s the talk of the medical community grapevine, so go figure. As usual, he’s weeding through the new patients to determine which ones will do the work and make the necessary lifestyle changes and which ones just want to get “cracked” and pay the bill. It’s always an adventure! The practice is becoming regional, as we have folks from Oregon, Washington, California, Wyoming, and Idaho coming to see him.

2003 was our year for travel and fun. Steve went on a spiritual pilgrimage to Mexico and then we took a Caribbean vacation complete with a dolphin swim. I just put our vacation pictures on my website if you want to have a look. We spent a week communing with the dolphins near Bimini and then nine days living in luxury in Jamaica. It was a great vacation, but we are happy to stay home this year. This will be the first time since we moved here that we get to spend spring together in Montana. It’s a special time of year here….

Our furry friends are still lots of fun…we gave the goats away because they wouldn’t do their job of eating knapweed. They are happily residing at a friends’ farm. We got our

Black Jack

dog Black Jack six months after Cowboy Joe died and he’s a treasure. We found a new home for our cat Chester the Molester because he wouldn’t stop trying to kill Boots. We figured we’d be a one-cat household until Little Miss Amelia showed up last summer and charmed the socks off of us. Boots wasn’t too thrilled, but she’s starting to accept it since Little Miss doesn’t spend most of her day plotting to kill. Well, she does kill mice and bring them into the house occasionally. She left one on the kitchen floor for me the other day, then brought in another big fat one for herself and started to play with it. I threw her and it outside and she proceeded to bat it around (it was already dead)

Little Miss

and finally she ate it and left the head right outside the door. About a month ago I found a mouse head in the kitchen when I accidentally stepped on it! EEEWWW!


I’m finally doing something I’ve wanted to do for a long time – taking riding lessons. I don’t think I’ll be buying a horse anytime soon as they are a major time and financial committment, but I’m having fun learning how to take care of them and how to ride properly. I haven’t invested in a pair of boots yet, or those funky, form-fitting, rich-lady-with-a-riding-crop pants. It’s just jeans and Danner boots for moi. I got a gold star this week for my trot-posting abilities, which makes the over-acheiver in me happy. I’m taking lessons at a stable that teaches riding to handicapped kids to help them learn how to control their muscles (it’s called riding therapy), so the horses are gentle and the instructors are very patient. A perfect combo for a beginner nervous-nelly like me. I’m getting used to it now, though. I go in, groom my horse, clean out her hooves, put on her bridle (harder than it looks), put on the saddle and cinch her up. Horses have distinct personalities and don’t always feel in the mood to have all this stuff done to them. The horse I usually ride gives you one chance to put the bit in her mouth, so you better do it right. The other day the wind was blowing and the horse spooked and I almost fell off since the horse was being led by the instructor at the moment and I didn’t have the reins in my hand. Yikes! It’s a good thing my chiropractor lives in my house!


In Memory of Cowboy Joe ~ 6-14-00

Our sweet boy Cowboy Joe left us today. He and Charlie were playing rough in the backyard as usual and Charlie grabbed Joe’s collar, it got stuck in his bottom teeth and as they both twisted to get free Joe choked to death. By the time I went out to take them for their walk, realized what had happened, and got Joe’s collar off, he was already dead. We tried to revive him but he had been dead too long.

We cried a lot, and still are, and we buried him under his favorite squirrel tree. He was such a sweet love, and we miss him so much already. Charlie doesn’t even know what happened and hasn’t even started to miss him yet. We feel so lucky to have had Joe in our lives. We’ll remember his cute ears; sometimes he looked like Yoda and sometimes he looked like the Flying Nun. His beautiful brown eyes were full of love and trust and he always wanted to cuddle. We are so glad we had the chance to rescue him from dying in the desert and show him what it was liked to be truly loved. He showed us how to love, how to trust and how to live with joy. I’ll never forget what he looked like running across the property jumping like a gazelle.

Think of Joe with happiness for the joy he brought to us.


Tales From Montana ~ 6-4-00


Am I in a Hitchcock movie? For the last week, the robins who are usually so calm and look so cute hopping around in the yard have been trying to fly through my living room window. The first morning it happened, one little guy spent three hours flapping up to my front window and then sitting on the porch railing. He didn’t stop until I put out my fake owl (with the rotating head – it’s more lifelike). Then he moved around to the back door and I’ve had to put another owl out back. Either he’s attacking his own reflection, or he thinks this house is totally hip and he wants to hang out inside. He doesn’t know about Boots the Bat Killer, apparently.


It’s a brand of Montana-brewed beer, and it’s also the sad fate of my newly planted Golden Chain Tree, which was gummed by a moose early this morning. Mr. Moose showed up last night on the back five while I was walking the dogs. Luckily, Charlie was on a leash and although Cowboy Joe was free he didn’t challenge the moose too much. I looked up, and there he was, about forty feet away and walking towards me. I got a little worried because a moose will charge you if he’s in the mood, and I’m not up on moose body language so I couldn’t tell if he was in the mood. I got the dogs herded back to the house (including Tazz, who I’m dogsitting, a deaf boxer who isn’t easy to herd since he can’t hear – Jenn, he looked like he wanted to chase the moose!), grabbed my camera and got some shots of the big boy. He’s a teenager with 8-inch, fuzzy antler-ettes. He got tired of posing and hoicked himself off toward the mountains.

He came back an hour later when my friend Marlene was here for coffee, so we went outside to check him out. He trotted into the front yard right in front of the house and Marlene thinks he was going to bed down for the night, but Charlie spotted him and started barking, and he ran back across the driveway to my neighbors backyard and plopped himself down over there. When I let the dogs out this morning, Joe ran to the front of the house and immediately started barking. I went out to investigate and here’s Mr. Moose ambling up the driveway toward the house. I snapped a few more pictures of him and Joe barked some more, then Mr. Moose decided he was hungry and went over to munch on my poor little tree. He rubbed the side of his head against it, lifted a front leg and rubbed his nose in his armpit (don’t ask me why, maybe Marlin Perkins would know) and then started to chew on the trunk.

Well, nature-lover or not, I didn’t want him to destroy my tree, so I tried to shoo him off, which is not effective when he’s six feet tall at the shoulder and I’m barefoot and in my pajamas. Technology won out, however, because I jumped in the car and drove it past him and he spooked. He gave up on the tree but started to eye my newly planted garden, so I backed the car up and he took off behind the barn and into the backyard. I haven’t seen him since, but people tell me that a moose will get on a visitation schedule, especially if there are good munchies around. I fear for my tree. :-)


As if fighting the racetrack wasn’t enough, I’m now involved in a water rights dispute with the Wicked Witch of the West. Our wealthy rancher neighbor-lady has for years been diverting water from Kootenai Creek that’s supposed to flow to 5 properties on my side of the street. Apparently she’s old and cranky and likes to sue people. So, we’re fighting her in Water Court to get access to the water again. People apparently get into extended blood feuds over water rights in Montana. I don’t think I’ll go that far, but I am learning all kinds of things about headgates, flow rates, pipeline systems, ditchriders and other stuff I’ve never heard of. If all goes well, which it will, we’ll have a ditch or a pipeline on the front of the property that we can use to irrigate the pasture. That spells a watery end for the obnoxious knapweed, which won’t grow if it’s watered a lot (another of nature’s mysteries!). If I could just get the moose to eat the knapweed….hmm….