May 23, 2008

Montana Wildlife

Its abundant to say the least. I'm still working on getting deer pictures, but I'm going to wait till this fall when the bucks have their antlers again.
These two deer were out and about the afternoon it was snowing....before it got real deep and heavy. The rest of the herd was across the hill, and came out to meet them.

This is an antelope. She was fussing at me for intruding on her morning when I was birding at the creek. She was kind of across the pasture, so you migh not be able to see her real clearly.

This is a fire ant nest. Jessica and I stumbled across them just starting their nest in an old burrow. I went back a couple of days later and took this picture. They were still at work, but had already filled the borrow entrance with grass and straw.

This is a muscrat. He was busy finishing up his day while I was stalking the owl you'll see in the next blog entry.

Animal Tracking

When the creek started going down, I liked to go to its banks and check the mud for tracks. There were lots to see.

These adorable little things belong to a racoon. There were more of these tracks than any other, including some from "sumo coon" that were almost as big as my palm. He was a healthy fellow.

These are from some bird, probably a killdeer I think, because I saw lots of these little birds on the road and in the hayfield in front of my house.

And I also saw, but did not photograph, deer tracks, of which there are always a million everywhere, including in my yard.

Can you identify these?????

Kudos to who ever can tell me what these are from. Each print is as large as my palm. They are deep in the mud, and so somewhat distorted. There appear to be no toe marks, but definatly deep claw marks. Some prints seem to have four toe/claw marks, others seem to have 5. I have compared them to photos on the internet of the following prints: coyote, bobcat, dog, mountian lion, black bear. The closest match I can find is black bear, but only one picture matched, the others I looked at didn't come close. They are really too large for bobcat and coyote, there are no large dogs running around near our place that we have seen....in a year or more.....and we know that there are mountain lions in the area, but it didn't really look like their prints. The claws are not retracted, but maybe he was trying to grip in the slick mud (it was very slick, beleive me). Also, we've never heard of black bear in the area, those years and years ago they were native to eastern Montana, but supposedly some were released somewhere in eastern Montana at some point in the not so distant past.

I emailed them to a proffesor in the ecology department at MSU Bozeman, and he replyed that they were not clear enough to identify.

Whatever it was it crossed the creek at the crossing by my house, heading towards us, not away!

Birding in Montana

These are a few of the birds I saw while I was home. Some I've seen before, but two were new to me.

This is the Western Meadowlark....the fields are full of them, and their song....its one of the most beautiful bird songs I've heard. They sing all day! This is Montana's state bird.

These are two ducks that flew by me at eye level. I was standing on a cliff about the creek looking for three snow geese I'd seen that morning. The geese were gone, but this pair was still around. I havn't identified them yet. They look like mallards, but several species of ducks have similar markings. I havn't looked at my book for them yet.

This is a Common Yellowthroat. My bird book said the only time you see them is when the male perches on the highest grass stalk and sings his mating song.....well.....apparently you also see him when he's hopping around in the grass by your bedroom window.

These are three little sparrows I snapped a shot of at sunset as I was stalking an owl perched in the tree across the yard. I'm not sure what kind of sparrow they are. I havn't looked them up yet. But I like the picture.

This is the owl I was stalking. I couldn't get a good shot of him because he was facing the sun. So I got him in shadow and I got a good picture of his front while he was watching me, but its from a distance and this copy is too small to see detail. He is a Long Eared Owl. He was really pretty. I got pretty close one night, but didn't have my camera. The next night he decided he didnt' like my hassling him, so he kept his distance.

This is a Yellow Warbler. There were several in my yard on Saturday and a couple of them were hunting in the grass beneath my bedroom window. In fact, they chased off the Common Yellowthroat you saw earlier. They were really pretty, especially when the sun hit them. Brilliant gold!

In addition to these, I saw several herons, a Rufous Sided Tohee (common in TN too), Mourning Doves, several species of sparrows, hawks, etc etc etc.

May 22, 2008

A Funny Picture of Carlie Jean

The day it was snowing so hard, I was looking for something to do, and I ended up standing in front of my bookshelf, and for whatever reason, I pulled out my senior yearbook and was flipping through it in the living room while I waited for something to heat on the stove as I was getting dinner together.

So whatever I was heating got hot, and I put my yearbook down on the couch, opened to my place, and went to the stove. And a few minutes later, I turned around and was met with this cozy little scene.

"Which one is you Mom? I don't see you anywhere."

May 21, 2008

Tristan and Evonna

Tristan and Evonna....it sounds like the story of two star crossed lovers, but its not. Its a tale of sadness, neglect, and salvation.

On Friday, May 16, Rachelle had to deliver a puppy to the airport in Rapid City, SD to be shipped to its new owner. (If you havn't seen her toy poodles they are adorable. Check out the link to Darling Poodles in my favorite places. She just had two new litters.) I went along for the ride, ready to enjoy a day just us girls. Its about a three hour drive and we left at 6:00 that morning. After delivering the puppy to the airport for his flight, we had some time to kill. She was also shipping out one of her stud dogs, and picking up a new one. So we went to eat, and browsed through PetSmart, and then went to the mall. Rachelle had told me that weeks ago, she had been to the pet store in the mall and they had some Chinese Crested puppies for sale, and we wanted to see that they had been sold, for it had been a while since she had seen them.

The pet store was depressing. It smelled bad, was closed in and dark, and the kennels, if you could call them that, were less than optimal. It was not a happy place to be. And there in the midst of it all, sat four Chinese Crested puppies, now 5 months old and "on sale." There were three powder puffs and a hairy hairless. It was heart breaking. The little wafes had been there since they were 7 weeks old, which is too early to be away from momma anyway, but especially too early to have to face this kind of dismal existance. Two of the powderpuffs were in one kennel and the hairy hairless and a powderpuff female were in another kennel. Rachelle had held the hairy hairless before and so we got those two out and visited with them. They were friendly, wagging their tails, but nerves and skittish too, and we knew right away that we wern't possible leaving them there. They had been there too long already, and no one was going to buy them because no one knows what they are and they wern't trimmed up to look like themselves anyway. So....after debating what to do, and pondering how much trouble we would get in when we got home...we wheeled and dealed a little with the owner of the store, and got them for $300 a piece. Now this sounds ridiculous to many, but consider they were originally $995 and thats a standard price (or higher) for Cresteds. So we felt it was a worthy cost and a doable price, and whisked them to safety...and to the vet at PetSmart for a check up. We didn't want to take anything home to our healthy babies.

As we left the mall a brisk wind hit us, and the puppies scrambled. Can you imagine being 5 months old and never have felt the wind? It was sad.

Other than a slight fever in Evonna, probably due to stress, we got a clean bill of health on both puppies and hit the road for home.

Here are Tristan and Evonna their first night at home.

They both stayed with Rachelle because I can't have three dogs in the truck. Thats too many. So she adopted Evonna for me.....thanks Rachelle...and I plan to visit often.

Rachelle cleaned them up and brought them both to see us Saturday morning. We watched them out in the yard and discovered that at 5 months old, neither of them knew how to run. They bunny hopped. They also don't know what treats are, or what to do with toys because they never had any. Its really sad. But they are adjusting well, have figured out running and how to climb up stairs in less than a week, and are thuroughly enjoying their home.

Here they are looking like proper little Cresties.

And looking so much happier.


I in no way, shape, or form condone purchasing pets from petstores. I believe that to do so is to condone animal abuse and support puppy mills. The only reason we made an exception for these two is because they had been there so long and the store owner made the comment that it was a mistake getting this breed and he'd not do it again. I feel very stongly that if you are going to purchase a pet, it should be done after much research and consideration of what your needs and wants are and what pet will best fit that. Also, you need to find a responsible breeder from which to purchase the puppy.


May 20, 2008

Mt Rushmore

So one might be wondering what can be so wonderful spending two weeks at home with no power. But wonderful things still happen. To begin with, we were at home, which is always wonderful, even if we're chasing sheep around in the blowing dirt for shearing, or tramping around in the mud, or sitting in the dark. Its all wonderful because its home and its Montana.

But, you probably would like something a little more concrete than that. So here's one thing we did while we were home that was fun.

About a week after the storm hit, while we were still powerless, but mostly dried out, our friends, Brandon and Jessica, came over from Billings. We had left our jeep in Billings to have some warrenty work done on it, and so they brought it to us. They arrived Saturday morning and after visiting, we all loaded up in our pickup and drove a couple of hours down to Belle Fourche, SD where Brandon had ordered a new Dodge pickup that had arrived and wanted to go home. It's a beautiful truck by the way....really beautiful.

We met Brandon when we were hauling cows last fall. We hauled a couple of loads with him down to New Mexico and back through a Wyoming snow storm to Billings. It was fun and the rest is history. Now he and Malcolm live on the phone together, talk constantly, mostly about trucking because they eat, drink, and breath trucking, and we get together with him and his wife Jessica when we're in Billings. But they've never had opportunity to come out to our place. Here's Brandon and Malcolm deep in conversation about something....probably fuel prices, or sceeming ways to be more proffitable. Actually they do talk about other things than trucking, and I think this was one of those conversations.

While Brandon was doing his paperwork, Malcolm and the sales guy were chatting. They know us there because....well because as big as the west is, its also very small, and we had bought our cattle trailer from them last fall, and they just know us. So anyway, they were chatting and looking at the parking lot at all the bright new shiny pretty pickups, because thats about all they sell there, and then there was our pickup sitting amongst them. Our red brown mud encrusted pickup. And so while we waited, because they new us and they're super nice people, the sales guy had their shop guy take our pickup and wash it for us. Just because! And we really like them, not because they washed our truck, but because they are honest and nice, so if you're in the area and you need a new vehicle, check out Scott Peterson Motors in Belle Fourche, SD.

When Brandon was all done, we loaded into his new shiny pickup and drove down the street to eat at a place the sales guy had recommended which turned out to be our new favorite place to eat in Belle Fourche, and then we headed south to Mt Rushmore. We did the walk there around the faces, and went to the museum, but it closed just as we got there so we didnt' get to see the film or much of the stuff. It was still a fun trip though, because Jessica and I had never been there.

After that, we headed home, and got there around 11:3opm, and Jessica and Brandon were our first overnight guests in our almost 6 years together. That was fun. They were planning to head to Billings in the morning, but you know how that goes. It was the first warm day after the snow and its was beautiful and wonderful and we played around the ranch all day exploring places, and pulling apart old equipment so Brandon could get the old steel wheels for his yard, and they ended up not leaving till aroun 1:00 in the afternoon. It was a lot of fun, and fun to have company.
If your wondering why the coats in May, its because it was like in the upper 30's at Rushmore. The next day it was around 80 degrees. Talk about extremes. Also another little note of interest. Belle Fourche, SD is the center of the nation.....if you include Alaska and Hawaii in the mix.

May 19, 2008

Montana Life Lesson #8 - Expect the Unexpected

Hello all....and sorry I was gone so long. Actually I'm not that sorry, because truth be told, I would have stayed gone a lot longer, probably forever, because if I was gone from this blog it would mean I was still home.

Anyway, I know I said I'd be back around the 12th, but you see....we live in Montana now, and wierd things happen....like freak May snow storms that nock out your power for weeks on end....

And yes I'm serious. Here's what happened.

We picked up Malcolm's little sister from school in Bozeman and delivered our load in Miles City on April 30. We were home by 8:00 that night. We dropped Justine off first at their parents house, where we stayed and sat around the table and chatted for a couple of hours. Somehow the talk turned to the weather and we were telling stories of late snow storms and things like that. I think what brought it up was the snow that was supposed to go through south of us....way south of us. Our forcast, when I checked earlier that day to see what my vacation was going to be like, was for temps in the 40's-60's and like 30% chance of rain on a couple of days.

Well....we went home, put away groceries, and went to bed at 11:00, and it had started raining...a huge blessing because we were terribly dry and in desperate need of rain. So it was raining and that was good and we were happy snuggled into bed at home.

Apparently I woke several times in the night....isn't it sad that my bed at home is a "strange bed" that I have to get adjusted too....and everytime I woke up it was raining...rather hard. And I thougth this is good....we need the moisture. And I'd turn over and go back to bed.

The girls got me up at 5:00am to go potty and it was lightly drizzling and soggy. We went back to bed.

The girls got my up at 6:00am to go potty (they had gorged themselves when we got home...they always do) and there was white dusting on the ground. I did a double take because after all I was still groggy and the light was still early morning light. Yep...a dusting of snow.

We got up at 7:30 and it was raining again...lightly....the dusting of snow gone.

Rachelle came to eat and we hooked up the old Nintendo set...nerdy arn't we?...and Malcolm and she got into a deep competition at Mario Brothers...the original. And around 10:00am it started snowing nicely, a pretty snow of large flakes that dusted the ground quickly and we all admired it and thought how pretty and how odd, but the big stuff is south of us...no worries.

Around noon, it was really coming down...like we couldn't see the creek across the road from our house, and we had a couple of inches probably, and Rachelle and Malcolm kept commenting, quietly and between intense segments of competition...."this isnt' good." To me, it was still so pretty and we were cozely tucked in, and I was enjoying the day.
Around 1:00 the power started blinking, and at 2:00 it went out. The end of the Mario Brothers competition.....and the beginning of a new experience for me. And it was still snowing.

So there we were...no power, no phone, no heat, no water (because our well pump runs off electricity). But still I was like thinking this is kind of fun. Because you know....where I come from the power goes off...and a couple hours later (at MOST) it comes back on and life goes on and in the mean time you pretend you live 100 years ago and its all fun.

By I guess 6:00 it still wasn't back on, Rachelle had gone home to dress her dogs and see to things there. She had a brand new litter of puppies (they were born the previous night) and she was worried about keeping them warm. Malcolm had the worst case of cabin fever I've ever seen...he doesn't do well just sitting, and he decided he was going to drive up to his parents and see if they needed help with anything. I told him I'd ride along because I knew the road would be a mess, but I also know he's capable of driving in the muck and getting us back. I was going to bring the girls, but he didn't want to in case we got stuck, because it was still snowing really hard, and it was cold and if we got stuck we'd have to hike to a neighbors and the girls would get cold. So that made sense, and I left them confined to the hallway in their little summer T-shirts with their bed, a blanket, and a couple of chewies, and a fire in the hearth. He tryed to convince Rachelle to come too, but she was adament about staying put and told us we shouldn't try it. The road was going to be too bad from last nights rain. But Malcolm was intent on getting away, he knew his parents had a generator, and thus...something to do! And off we went.

There were several inches of snow on the road, and our road was a mucky mess because its still packed dirt, without gravel, and its was supremly soggy and slippery. But me in all my delirius joy over snow, thought it was fun sliding throught the mud. We arrived at his parents and discovered that the loss of power was due to the pole in their yard that had the transformer on it being nocked down. Therefore, everyone down the line was nocked out too. We sat and visited some more, I think we helped feed lambs that night, but I'm not sure, and around 9:00 or so we headed home through the ever deepening snow. And we got about 2 miles from their house and there was a power line laying on the road, and we just drove across it no big deal, and we got another mile and almost went sliding into another line that was hanging at fence height across the road, and there we stopped. There was no way around or across, so Malcolm decided to turn around and head back because his Dad had said if we didnt' call from Rachelle's (who has an "antique phone" for just such occasions of no power) in about 30 minutes (and we'd been gone 15 already) he'd come after us in the tractor. So Malcolm's turning around, and we kind of made a big rut in the mud and snow, and kind of got stuck in it, and even had the front tires of the truck slip over the edge of the bank at one point, which would have been our doom...we would have been walking or waiting on the tractor for sure, but by some miracle Malcolm managed to get out of it and finally turned around, and we headed back to his parents house.

So we had a slumber party at his parents house, and Rachelle...bless her heart...got out of bed and hiked through the snow storm to my house, and rescued my babies from impending doom as Cresty Popsicles because I'm a bad mommy who abandons her children to heatless houses and hardly clothed for the weather. She took my babies in like any good foster mommy would do and even let them sleep with her and her two Cresties and informed me the next day that 4 Cresties in the bed was WAY too many...it got a little toastie in there, because they put off so much body heat. So for future reference, two is enough, four is too many.

Ok, I got off track. Anyway, the next morning it had stopped snowing and in the clear air of morning we saw this....

(these were taken a day after the storm and it had already melted considerably)

Its about a mile from the house to the road and only about three poles were still standing. And this is what it looked like pretty much anywhere you went. Because of the snow piling up on the lines, and the direction of the wind, almost all the poles that ran east to west were snapped off like toothpicks. Poles holding lines that ran north to south were fine.

There was concern about livestock. Two years ago a storm like this came along in April and they lost about 40 calves because the cows took them down into a low area to get out of the weather, then the calves layed down, and sadly the cows all bunched up together like that walked all over them. And since most of the herd had already calved they were turned out to pasture and obviously had gone to shelter. So Malcolm and his Dad went out to see what the results were for this storm. They brought in about 4 calves that were down and cold, and there were others over the course of a few days, but most recuperated. In the end, only three calves were lost. Also two of the bucks (they had 4 bucks for the sheep) died hovered up next to the corral gates where they had tryed to get out of the storm. And around 30 ewes who had been turned out because they didn't have lambs (for various reasons) were no where to be seen and assumed lost. However, two days after the storm they appeared out in the pasture. No one ever went to count how many came through. A few of them were lost, but not sure on exact numbers.

(the missing ewes miraculously appearing from no where)

We made it home that afternoon, after the power company sloshed their way out there and cut all the lines down off the road...there were many....and the snow had begun to melt already. By the next day it was almost completly melted....all of it, even though there was nearly a foot of it. It just vanished.

Now...you'd think thats where the adventure ends, but no...it goes on. You see rain all night and a foot of melting snow, and knowing that south of you, just a little way, in Ekalaka, they got about 4 feet of snow, and all thats melting too....well that kind of means the placid little creek in front of your house that you usually drive across on the four wheeler and don't get you feet wet....well that kind of turns into a raging river in just a matter of a couple of days. And it doesn't go down....for days and days and days. And because the main line crosses the creek out in the pastures, the electric company couldnt' get to us. In that previously mentioned snow storm of two years ago, it took two weeks for Rachelle to get her power back on. This time they expected it to be longer. So....Malcolm took Justine back to school on Sunday and bought a generator for us in Billings, Miles City and surrounding areas being sold out for obvious reasons. So for the next two weeks I ran the generator a couple hours every morning and evening to keep the fridge and deep freeze mostly cold and frozen, did laundry with the washer, but had to hang clothes to dry on clothes hangers hung over window blinds and the yard fence because the generator wouldn't power our dryer, washed dishes sparingly, and tryed to remember not to flush the toilets when the generator was off because without it, we had no water. And we didnt' run it continually because it burns about a gallon of gas an hour. Malcolm's parents had to run theirs continually because they had a lot of bum lambs in the barn sitting under heating lamps to keep warm, and had to have hot water to make bottles for them. In fact, before we got our generator I cooked like this....

and when their generator went out one morning, we had the guys carry in buckets of water from the pump in the lambing barn, and heated water with the same burner to make bottles, and we had everyone of Peggy's pots scattered over the kitchen heating milk and water and it was a big mess, but it worked.

So we went about our days. And you would think the road would dry out nicely, but it continued to rain off and on for about 4 days after the snow melted, and it just got soggier and soggier and it was like this.....yeah we needed moisture in a bad way....but lets be realistic here....the ground can only take so much! SO....you get the soggy picture? There was water standing everywhere, and the road was a mess, and our bright red pickup was lumpy and brown from the mud stuck all over it.

About a week after the storm, the electric company was still working on things, but still hadnt' gotten to our end of the county, so even Malcolm's parents were still without power. And that Friday, in the morning before they had fed lambs, their generator went out. And there they were, no power, no water, no bottles for hungry lambs, and cold lambs at that because there were no heat lamps working. Luckily, a neighbor, (who also has a "fixit shop" had a generator they could use so they got back on line later that morning, and the next day the "calvary"rolled in, leaving muddy tracks behind them, but still there to save the day. The power was back on at their house a couple days later.

But they still couldn't cross the creek to get to us. And so we waited, and ran the generator a couple hours morning and evening, and hoped they'd get to us before we had to leave so we wouldnt' have to pack the deep freeze up to his parents house. In the mean time it had dryed out enough to bring home the yearlings, so Malcolm and his Dad made 7 trips to Bowman, ND to the feedlot where they had spent the winter and brought them home, all the time being thankful they had decided to wait, because you see, the morning we woke up and it started snowing..that was the day they were going to start bringing home the cows. But because it had rained all night, they wanted to let the road dry out some. It would not have been good to have the cows home for the snow storm.

Thursday afternoon the power company came down on fourwheelers to see how it looked (they could come down our road, just not across the creek to part of the lines that were down). They didnt' want to cross the creek. It was still high, but had gone down quite a lot. So Malcolm demonstrated to them that it was crossable by crossing it on his four wheeler and he took the bull dozer up there so he could pull their equipment across if needed. They stared working setting poles that evening. Friday they would have had us back on, but while pulling a line, the line and a pole snapped, so they had to get that refixed. They got all the lines and poles that were down in the corrals too and Saturday around noon our power came back on. Celebration....

And Sunday morning we left for work. So....didnt' get to enjoy the power much, but I did get to wash and DRY a load of clothes (no more stiff jeans), and we didnt' have to leave worrying about the freezer full of venison thawing out.

How's that for a vacation???

Lots more to tell about and share. So....

to be continued....