Summertime, Montana-style

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Beautiful Montana

There is no denying that we live in one of the most beautiful, incredibly scenic parts of the world.

Big sky.

Rocky Mountains.

Crystal blue rushing waters that beckon to fly-fishermen and women everywhere with their plump, shiny trout.

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Enjoying some ah-time on Upsata Lake

Or tranquil, peaceful sapphire lakes that lull you into a coma-like state of relaxation while your husband tries, (again) to catch supper.

Montana is elk, bison, antelope and bears.

It is poetry, songs, stories and deep thoughts.

And we are so lucky to have found our tucked-away piece of Paradise in the middle of nowhere.

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Close to home, late last summer

But the country that has inspired former Presidents and adventurers doesn’t give up her splendor that easily.

There are certain responsibilities and risks that go along with enjoying summertime in Montana.

Like wildfires.

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Not what I wanted to see when walking the dogs Friday evening.

A wicked electrical storm had moved through the area bringing bolts of lightning and gusts of wind.

That’s a bad combination after a dry spring and summer in timber country.

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Aerial view of the same fire complex yesterday that is 6 miles from town. (Not my photo.)

We had our first town meeting on these fires and although they look frightening, other than the smoke-filled skies, they shouldn’t pose much of a threat.

They are 3 separate fires burning in the same general area.

A few roads and trails are closed but for now we should be alright.

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From our meadow a couple of years ago.

Until the next storm and the next lightning strike.

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From a couple of summers ago; fire camp was along our back driveway for this fire.

We all plan ahead and we all fall into a routine of watching every nearby mountain closely for plumes of smoke, especially after a storm.

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Storm moving in two nights ago on the farm.

We bring up all of the pet crates from the basement and keep them by the ferrets and in the garage so we can put our hands on them in a moment’s notice.

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No joke. Just took this picture.

We call our friends who live across the valley from us because the billowing smoke rising from their neck of the woods wasn’t there a few hours prior.

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Fire across the meadow last week just outside of Ovando. All evacuees are back home and things are good. Thank-you, fire crews!

We pay attention to weather reports and we make sure the horse trailer is hooked up to the truck just in case we have to move in a hurry.

And we breathe the smoky air and try not to exercise much in it and we watch the weather reports and we curse the wind and long for rain and make sure the InciWeb site is listed as a Favorite.

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Dipping into nearby Clearwater Lakes a couple of years ago.

There are often little reminders to be aware because it isn’t always lightning that creates the problem.

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Last summer, along our driveway- brush fire out of control.

When I saw the flashing lights and smoke up the driveway last year it was a humble reminder that it could just have easily been us whose brush fire got out of control.

There is no time to plan when you’re talking about forest fires- the planning has to be done ahead of time.

Because you aren’t going to be able to stop Mother Nature if she wants to hurl another storm your direction. And the fires only take off and get out of control because the beautiful treed forests we love to hike in and explore are on gorgeous Montana steep slopes and peaks, making them a challenge to get to if needed.

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Storm rapidly moving in the other night.

Fires aren’t the only hazard we have to respect and watch out for this time of year in this enormous state.

Bordering US Forest Service land brings some fascinating neighbors.

Like Grizzly Bears!

We had the amazing opportunity to help Fish & Wildlife workers track a female Grizzly whose collar had stopped moving.

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Bob and Alistair tracking Fen.

We used our trusty Ranger, “Steve” to get into the woods behind our house and then set out on foot with Bob and Mike to find Fen.

Fen is an important sow who FWP have studied for 8 years.

She’s had several cubs in that time and has never been a Nuisance Bear- the information they gather from her is purely for science.

You can imagine how relieved we all were to find out why the collar had stopped moving.

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Thankfully, it was just the collar that wasn’t moving anymore.

Bob and Mike used their tracking devices and we hiked through thick brush, over and under fences, through creeks and up and down slopes.

Bob told us about Fen and how he really hoped she had merely slipped the collar as opposed to the alternative.

None of us wanted to find Fen.

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The creek where the collar was found, discussing the possibilities. Maybe Fen took a bath and rubbed up against the tree just off to my right.

We are thankful that it doesn’t appear she was shot because the $5000 collar was intact.

So we hope Fen is out there living the life of a Montana Grizzly Bear, doing Grizzly Bear things and maybe leading us to her again in the future so we can re-collar her and learn some more.

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Fen’s collar… these things are pretty skookum!

It wasn’t her first slipped collar, Bob told us, but it was her most expensive one.

Summers around this place can be pretty amazing.

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Me, Mike and Alistair after a successful tracking expedition!

With ranching in Montana comes yet another summertime responsibility.

When you have livestock and animals who depend on you, even if they are more pets than anything, you have to be prepared to do the right thing.

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APHA Dash With Gusto, our ranch stallion

We plan for forest fires and we also plan for the winter.

If you have aging animals who won’t survive the winter you have to do something about it when you can.

Especially when they are over 1000 lbs.

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Dash a couple of winters ago

It sadly fits right in with the year of attrition that’s been going on around these parts.

The good thing, if there is one, is that I’m a veterinarian and can do these things right at home.

The bad thing, is that I’m a veterinarian who is their Mummy and its just a shitty situation, even though it was absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt, the right thing to do.

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Dash, our noble stallion, a couple of winters ago

One of the kindest, sweetest stallions I have ever known needed us to step in.

We have raised horses and hay for many years and have the tools and equipment and land to handle these things.

The details and specifics were taken care of.

The rocky soil was dug with the backhoe.

The meds were drawn up.

We laid Dash with sweet little Cooper-cat last Sunday.

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Handsome Dash, flirting with Maggie 2 summers ago

Its summer in Montana. Life on the farm. Fyfe Life.

Whatever you want to call it you still have to get through it however you can, breathing the smoky air when its there, carrying the bear spray on every hike and maybe with a tear or two in your eye.

My eyes are sore right now from the memory and the smoke outside.

And yet I love it here.

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Dash in a late snowstorm last year

I love the distinct seasons and the challenges each one brings.

Everything I do and have done helps me face the next day or the next challenge, whether its a smoke plume or a pink fluid in a couple of large syringes.

Montana is hard work, sweat, humility and fear.

It is strength. Courage. Determination.Compassion.

And love.

If you have never been to Montana you should come visit.

Maybe call ahead first, though.

We might be out tracking Grizzly Bears.

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Bear trackers!

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A few winters ago, Dash peeking through the fence.

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Sticking close by when I went to dig a hole in his frozen creek.

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A sunny day behaving as a sofa, goofing around with Alistair. Dash was a sweetheart and we will always remember him with love and a smile.

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A piece of our beautiful big boy. xo

 

10 thoughts on “Summertime, Montana-style

  1. Joyce Jensen

    Tanya, you have a special knack for sharing your Montana life. Our Montana is a fantastic place to live, and you summed up the hazards and joys we face in this beautiful part of the country, especially with the challenges we have with our animals. Never met him, but Dash was a very handsome boy and I’m sure brought you much happiness.

  2. Thanks, Joyce. Dash was a sweetheart on top of being so handsome. He and the barn cats hung out with the kitties on the railings during the winter. And we wouldn’t trade a thing about our western lives in Montana, would we? 🙂

  3. Marty

    Hey Tanya… Tears are flowing…again… for Cooper & Dash. I always feel how blessed & lucky we are to have our pets…and some are blessed & lucky to have moms & dads like You and Alistair!!!! Love you guys!!! Marty

    • Aw, thanks, Marty! I agree- we are so lucky to have these amazing animal companions who love us no matter what and are always happy to see us. Dillon is one lucky boy, too! xo

  4. Susan Mohr

    Sad and happy memories for you. Love how you express these deep feelings…wear them on your sleeve. Love you guys even though we seldom cross paths. Sue and Glenn

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