Hoo Yip Hoo Yip Hoo

It’s late afternoon, I’m sitting in our office, the portable air conditioner is blowing a moderately warm breeze into the tiny room. It’s difficult for our portable air conditioners to counter the second half of the day, when the sun beats down on the back of our home, which is lined with windows. Fortunately, we purchased another a/c unit this year, so instead of it remaining as hot inside as outside, we are able to stay pretty comfortable. Not necessarily cool, but not, “Did you know you could sweat there?” either. It would likely be even more comfortable if I’d take my hoodie off and stop drinking hot chocolate.

Not long ago I went outside to check for Muggabee, which is what we decided to name the little grey cat. He hasn’t been around for the last two weeks. Before that, he was looking a bit rough. I hope he’s okay. Occasionally he disappears for a while so let’s hope that he’s just adventuring. He hates the other cats who come around, so it’s possible he’s just avoiding them.

There are a lot of cats now. There is a black tortoiseshell with a fat, stubby tail, a black one with a long bushy tail, a grey one with long fur and a bald patch on his side, a short-haired grey one with a white face, and two giant cats we’ve named The Little Raccoon and The Big Raccoon. I’m done naming them. To name them is to adopt them emotionally and I don’t want to have six cats in my heart. I don’t even like cats.

Pickwick, on the other hand, is here every day again. He’s a little skinnier than when he emerged from wherever he was holed up over the winter. He’s growing on me a bit but his moodiness is absurd. A few days ago he bit me, swiped at my arm, then proceeded to rub against my legs as though he hadn’t just morphed into a fluffy feral monster. Let’s hope he doesn’t have rabies.

The sun is finally dropping behind the hills. The warmth of the day is fading. The weather in Montana is amazing. While it’s occasionally blazing hot, the heat is dry, and the evenings are cool. Tonight, for example, we should drop to 52°F. How can you not love a summer where you can open your windows in the evening and listen to the coyotes howl?

Title From:
Coyotes
by Don Edwards

You Keep Spinning on Your Compass Spoke

For most of my childhood we didn’t have a television. My mom would spend evenings reading poems and stories to my sister and I, as we sat, picking at the splintering wood, on our old front porch. She encouraged summer reading programs and the money she splurged on us was usually spent at Scholastic Book fairs. Later, when I hit my unfortunate rebellious phase and began skipping school, I would go to the library. I don’t think my mom even knows that. She undoubtedly thought I was hanging out with a Bad Crowd, smoking in alleyways, sketching my first tattoo. Nope. Library.

Thanks to an early exposure to the beauty of poetry and the adventures offered in books, I love reading. It doesn’t matter what it is. If someone is blogging about the power of their mage in World of Warcraft, or how they’ve just created the very best homemade auger sealant, I’ll read and enjoy what they have to say. However, I realize not everyone enjoys very specific topics that don’t relate to them, so here’s where I give you a warning: I’m about to write about geocaching.

Geocaching has been explained like this, “I use multi-million dollar satellites to find Tupperware in the woods.” That’s pretty accurate. You use your GPS to navigate to a hidden cache somewhere in the world. Actually, everywhere in the world, even Antarctica. Once you find the cache, you sign the log, re-hide the container, and log your find online. It’s a lot of fun! Not only does it take you to places you may otherwise never visit, it encourages activity. Whether you’re an urban ‘cacher’ or you prefer trudging through the wilds, you’re out and about.

This past weekend we started exploring Montana, geocaching, and looking for a place to hide one of our own.

We drove over to Bozeman, which reminded me a great deal of Boston, and which made me feel very uncomfortable. Bozeman is quite pretty but seems to be very shopping-oriented and designed to look like Montana without feeling like Montana. I would feel guilty walking down the Main Street sidewalks with muddy boots, is what I’m saying.

Then we traveled around Big Timber, which is an area we’ve camped near before, and love. We went up near Big Timber Peak, which still has snow covering its rocky top. It’s always impressive to see the mountains out here, after living for so long around the Appalachian mountains, which (not to be disrespectful) feel more like big hills now.

Grass Range was our next stop, a place we have also been before. Brian spent 86% of the drive there saying, “You cannot recognize a house you’ve never seen before and we’ve never been on this road!” Then five minutes before we rolled into town he said, “I recognize that house.”

Unfortunately, we didn’t find a place to hide our cache, but we did find quite a few existing caches that were inventive and placed in beautiful spots.

If you’ve never geocached before, give it a try. There’s a free app ($NO – iPhone | Android | Windows Phone), I recommend the one from Groundspeak, that will let you find a few without requiring the purchase of the full version ($10 – iPhone | Android) or a fancy GPS unit. Though they’re not as exciting as those found on the full version, it’s still a great way to get a taste for the game that’s going on all around you.

Title From:
Come What Come May
by Miner

Riding Wildfire

It’s been beautifully springy here recently. We’ve had the windows open, airing the place out. Now everything is covered in a thin layer of dirt. The winds were gusting at 60-75 mph today, blowing everything from dust, leaves, and horse poop into the air. We were lucky enough to avoid the power outages the poor folks in Billings are dealing with, for which I am especially grateful. I hate being without power when living on a well. My first thoughts when the lights flicker are 1.) I better use the bathroom now and 2.) I should fill the bathtub so we can flush the toilets later. With the electricity in our Connecticut cabin being so unreliable, we kept buckets of water on the porch for emergencies. So far we haven’t had to do that here but I may start just to be safe, especially if winds like those today are commonplace.

Along with the dust, leaves, and horse poop, the winds brought smoke from a nearby wildfire that’s burning out of control. Fire season here makes me as nervous as hurricane season in Louisiana. Brian grew up in Louisiana and lived there when we met. I was always resistant to settling there because the idea that every year I’d experience the very real possibility that my house could be there and gone after one storm, made me extremely uncomfortable. Now we live where the very same thing could happen. Although unsettling at times, it’s definitely a risk I’m willing to take in exchange for being able to live in such a gorgeous state. Not that Louisiana isn’t pretty, but there is that whole humidity thing.

Note: The picture here was taken in Worland, Wyoming, over the summer. The fire was an impressive controlled burn on a field.

Note: The song for the title of this post is going to be stuck in my head for days, I just know it.

Title From:
Wildfire
by Michael Martin Murphey

A Cold Wind’s Whispering Secrets in Your Ear

In every state I’ve lived in, someone has used the line “If you don’t like the weather here, give it ten minutes and it’ll change,” but never has that been more accurate than my time here in Montana.

Last Saturday we had our windows open, enjoying the mid-sixty breezes that brought the smell of crunchy fallen leaves and wood smoke drifting through the house. By Sunday night we had the heater cranked up to counter the drop to single digits and snow was whipping furiously in every direction.

In our tiny Connecticut cabin, we had a monstrous wood-stove we relied on for all our heat. There were a few baseboard heaters but they couldn’t keep the drafty former-stable-turned-home above freezing and there is a charge on Connecticut electricity bills for “transfer” as there are no power plants in the state itself, so they have to purchase power from neighboring states, which means any electricity you use is essentially doubled in price. Rather than experience more than one $600 electricity bill, we burned.

Unfortunately we don’t have any alternate source of heating in our home here, where -11 seems to have cemented itself as our daily temperature. Hopefully the electricity is a bit more reliable than it was back in New England. So far, so good.

Title From:
Kingdom Come
by Civil Wars

Nothing Compares to Waking Up in the Sunshine

Since the last time I posted a photo here we:

1. May 2013: Left our old farmhouse in Iowa and moved to Connecticut where we lived in a tiny cabin. It was nestled in a valley along the Housatonic river, in the Berkshire mountains, in the “quiet corner” of the state. There was no cell service or internet and everything was at least 40 minutes away, but there were bears, coyotes, peace, and beauty.

2. June 2014: Bought a cap for our truck, put all our belongings into storage, and headed west — vagabonds with a dream of living in Montana.

3. Summer 2014: Spent three months (hot, hot, hot, hot summer months) camping near a town called Ten Sleep in Wyoming. It was wild and the world smelled like sage. We befriended a few lonely horses, watched a pair of pronghorns grow, had breathtaking moments every day, and saved a dog named Deets.

4. September 2014: Settled in Montana, exactly as we set out to do.

5. Took 9-million pictures.

Title From:
Big Sur
by Miner