What’s Up, Docs?

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Luigi and Phillipa helped me make a fun little bling-video

If you ask me what’s new or going on or how we’re doing these days I might pause for a few seconds before I answer.

I’m just trying to remember where I am.

After Alistair’s surgery to remove hardware from his pelvis on May 6th we returned to Montana to begin his slow recovery.

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Short hikes out back… found some back-up body parts for Alistair!

Somehow I managed to keep his activity to a minimum and the healing process has gone well. The main thing is that the pain from the migrating pins is gone so the surgery was a success! The recovery phase now is the soft tissue healing.

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Cleopatra had other ideas for the spare parts.

But we still had to get back to Bismarck to tend to our horse herd and our garden so we loaded up the 3 dogs and hit the road for the 11 hour drive yet again.

We abandoned the cages and brought the “Magic Blanket” instead and the dogs travelled beautifully, even if Miss Cleo was a little bit dramatic about the whole thing.

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Drama Queen

Highway 200 is a sparsely-populated trek across the plains. We often encounter enormous farm machinery or equipment being hauled on equally ginormous rigs and we don’t see many other travelers.

Which is probably why you can still have a bona-fide cattle drive taking up the road!

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No joke! Cattle Drive!

The moo-ing and occasional “yip” from the cowboys (riding ATVs, not horses) was old school Montana but hey, when you have to move the herd several miles down the road what else are you going to do?

 

We finally got by them (moo!) and made it back to our own herd in sunny North Dakota.

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Our beautiful bunch a couple of summers ago.

Its where we had a nest full of new neighbors and a slightly peeved Mother!

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This year’s nest built right on top of last year’s.

The nest appeared last summer and a new one was built on top this year. Its location is cleverly tucked away from the winds that blow constantly but not so clever in that its immediately outside of our front door.

The adult robin continued to bring worms up and we tried to make an effort to use the side door through the garage when we could.

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Closer view of the new kids on the block.

The babies grew and grew and the day after I took this photo they were out of the nest, flying around on their own. They hovered near the area but we never saw them in the nest again and another cycle of nature has been completed.

Bismarck is also where we got our garden up & running.

Its a large garden that Alistair has tweaked over the years. This was the first year I was there to help get everything in the ground.

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Grow, my pretties, grow.

5 types of potatoes, 8 different tomato plants, 8 each of cauliflower, spinach and broccoli, red and yellow onions, herbsherbsherbs, pumpkin, cucumbers, squash varieties and 3 types of corn.

YUM!

The only thing now is hoping that the North Dakota winds don’t destroy things like they did after the first planting last year.

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Hang in there, Troops!

Our farm is also where we had to take care of a few equine-related things.

Vaccinations. Deworming.

Combing out tangled manes and tails and moving pastures.

And saying goodbye.

We laid Brutus and Raven to rest on the same day and even though we both knew it had to be done it still hit me harder than I thought it would.

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Brutus in March this year.

Brutus, a bay Paint gelding we raised had injured himself years ago at a trainer’s and could never be ridden. His labored mobility had become difficult to watch and with a new worsening respiratory condition this spring we laid him to rest on the farm he was born on.

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Last June, Brutus is in the very center.

And then there was Raven.

A Fyfe Farm staple and Boss Mare for almost as long as I have known Alistair.

We bought her as a yearling in 1995 at a reduced price because of a hoof injury she had sustained that made her an un-rideable well-bred American Paint Horse broodmare.

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Raven and baby Shilo just a day or two old.

She produced some gentle, gorgeous, personality-laden foals over the years and was an exceptional Mama.

Raven never minded us being right in with her and the foals and each one has been fun and relatively easy to work with.

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Shilo goofing around with Alistair with Raven right there.

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Shilo, a little bit older, still enjoying being played with.

While she always had that misshapen rear hoof it never bothered her over the years. She really had a great life for a horse.

Never had a saddle on her.

Always top quality hay and big pastures to run around.

She had the herd’s respect.

And three of her foals stayed on the farm and became part of the herd.

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The ladies & their foals, they were the Magnificent Seven that spring. (Raven in the center with Shilo).

Last September we noticed a forelimb lameness that suddenly appeared. It didn’t go away. In fact, it got worse. During my trips back to Bismarck it became clear that she was struggling to get around and was dropping her weight and not shedding out well. One of the easiest keepers of the herd was starting to look tough.

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Shilo and Raven last June, clearly thriving.

So it was Time.

Raven sedated calmly near the rest of the herd before Alistair slowly led her to the area where we had buried Brutus just a couple of hours beforehand and she let me rub her a little before I gave her an intra-venous boat load of tranquilizers and she got stoned and wobbly and kept eating the rich, thick grass in front of her and then I injected the pink solution and I kissed her one last time.

And I choked up walking away as Alistair climbed up into the tractor again that day.

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Raven and Frankie, who grew to be the tallest horse on the farm.

The herd dynamic definitely changed that day. When we did vaccinations and deworming of the remaining 13, having to separate them in small groups, they all seemed more anxious and worked up to be apart from each other.

They whinnied, they nickered, they kicked up and ran around.

And now 2 are coming back to Montana this week with Alistair and UB because its time to get the pasture here gobbled up and hopefully it will be time for some riding.

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Most of the remaining herd.

And Alistair is healing, having good days and great days and Loki and Cleo are so tight with me its becoming difficult to walk around the house and I think that’s enough driving and uncertainty for awhile and I’m not sad because of what we had to do, I’m just sad because everyone and everything keeps getting older and I’m sad they are gone even though its the circle of life and everything has a cycle and I know that our second year of Attrition hasn’t been any easier than the first but I also know that’s how it goes and I’ll be damned if I bottle it up and develop Compassion Fatigue.

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Mother Nature wants us to have apples this year.

And there are so many wonderful things going on that make me want to smile right now. Happy Hubby. Garden. Loki (sleeping on my foot right now). Rain. Springtime.

While things occur that make me feel sad I’m still very happy, even if I have to pause when you ask how things are going. My head and heart have been kind of full lately.

Its what it is.

Its what’s up.

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UB, Cleo & I at our favorite rest stop along highway 200.

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Our blind little wonder heading out on her own trek at the rest stop.

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Many moons ago with Raven & Shilo (Katie in the background).

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Big Frankie and his mom.

Happenings

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Fall colors on our local golf course just off the 16th green

Its been a few weeks since I last blogged.

Its cool at night and the mountain world we live in is awash with crimson, gold and brilliant amber.

The smoke is gone and most of us aren’t living with the fear that the next lightning strike could be The One.

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Outside of Lincoln, MT on my most-recent road trip.

My silence in the blogosphere wasn’t intended.

I just haven’t had time.

I went to Bismarck twice in September which is a ten or eleven-hour haul one-way.

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Cruising through Great Falls, MT!

The first trip back was for a wedding in our old community of Watford City. The bride was radiant, the ceremony was lovely and the reception was fantastic.

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Showgirls! The beautiful bride, Kira was in my Tiny Tot skating class back in 1997 and toured with Disney On Ice. I’m so proud she can blame me for this corruption!

A great part about the day was exploring highways, houses, ice rinks and medical clinics in towns we used to live in.

We reminisced together about people we knew and adventures we shared in Hazen, Beulah and Watford City.

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Our former home in Hazen, ND

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Alistair’s former clinic in Beulah, ND

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Our ice rink (brrrrr!) in Hazen where Alistair drove the Zamboni, we co-coached high school hockey and I taught power and figure skating.

We joked during the drive about names and faces we may or may not remember. Who would be at the wedding and what their spouse’s name was. How the town of Watford City, the heartbeat of the oil patch, had changed and what incredible developments had taken place since we left in 1997. How so many license plates were not from North Dakota anymore.

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Our former home in Watford City, ND. We couldn’t give it away when we moved!

When we first moved there in 1994, we were as foreign as it got being from Canada.

Now Watford City is a melting pot of cultures, colors and beliefs.

While so much within the town itself has changed, it was wonderful that our relationships with great friends had not.

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Alistair & I with Corey, one of our Junior Gold hockey players from the late 90s!

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Alistair and Gretchen (the mother of the bride) together again!

It was a beautiful day, a beautiful time, and now a beautiful memory.

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The ice rink in Watford City doubling as rodeo grounds during the off-season.

Then it was back to Bismarck where my hair, teeth and garden were tended to and I was again amazed by the jobs that are out there.

I’ve said it before- that you have to be a fool to not be able to find work in Bismarck right now.

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Jobs of all types for all skill levels exist on almost every road I drove on. Its a sea of neon signs offering why THIS is the place you should work!

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There aren’t enough workers for the jobs so each business is trying to out-entice the other.

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I think they actually spelled their name wrong… seriously, if you want to impress people you should know how to spell your company’s name!

Restaurants, delis, hotels, driving companies- you name it, they want YOU!

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Most of the jobs are entry-level but that’s why the imbalance. The pay, while quite decent from the looks of things, is entry-level. Rent, sadly, is not.

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Its an employee’s market right now. Why stay someplace where your demanding, asshole boss rides you about being online all day when you can work just about anywhere else in the city? Bosses are having to curtail their complaints!

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The moral of all of this is that regardless of training, education and maybe even motivation, if you have a place to stay and you want to work and you don’t mind a bit of wind and you don’t care about oceans or mountains but you like pheasants and Labrador retrievers and wearing camo and driving your pick-up with its gun rack and you are totally cool with winter temps, Bismarck might be right for you right now!

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(I joke about the camo and pickups… we have just as many in Montana and Bismarck is really a very nice city with universities, golf courses, fun restaurants, a nightlife and bustling airport.)

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most of the herd in Bismarck

My most recent trip back was to help Alistair out for a planned surgery to scope his knee.

Again.

He came through with grace, his terrific sense of humor, less ratty cartilage in his right knee and a ridiculous need for greasy food.

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Post op that afternoon. You have to love him!

I brought the 3 dogs with me on this trip. They did great and seemed to like “helping” their Daddy with his recovery.

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UB making sure Daddy rested like the doctor told him to!

And everything was going well as I drove us home across highway 200 until little Loki reminded us all of the year we have been having and that she’s got some issues.

Loki had her first seizure.

In her crate in the back seat of the truck at a rest stop between Jordan and Lewistown.

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Loki and step-gammy in Bismarck.

It lasted 20 to 30 seconds (which feels more like 2 to 3 minutes) but it ended and she got a bit of a walk before we felt like we should continue.

And Alistair and I pretended we weren’t medical professionals for a few minutes.

“What do you think caused that?” asked Mr.Fyfe.

“I don’t know,” Mrs.Fyfe replied.

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Snoozing Loki loves being under the covers!

Pretending was fun but it didn’t last long.

We both know that epilepsy isn’t a disease for older animals or people. And we know that she is about 14 years old.

And we know she doesn’t leave our eyesight when she’s outside because of her own blindness and that we didn’t change her food and she had no access to toxins or medications and the other dogs were fine and that she has had her share of personality changes that we like to call quirks this year on top of some unusual infections that might mean her immune system is busy elsewhere.

Like maybe in her brain.

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The same rest stop on a previous trip back to Bismarck.

But that’s all I want to say about that because she has been absolutely fine (albeit a bit yeasty… one of the new issues) since then.

Eating, drinking, peeing, pooping, playing, kicking up the grass, bonking into Chiddy Pats, snoring, begging for Chicken Mozarella and cuddling into us at night.

She is tolerating the various meds & shampoos I am trying to combat the yeasty smell (think wet tortilla) and we are loving her much as we can.

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Loki’s winter gear.

And we’re heading towards her least favorite season but we will make it as special as we can for her.

So seasons change and houses sell and kids grow up and young adults get married and jobs are everywhere and dogs get old and some get tumors and knees get operated on and golf balls get hit and we try to enjoy every moment because sometimes our special old companions might not be with us.

And that, my friends, has been our happenings of late and why I haven’t blogged until now.

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Our old property outside of Watford City, ND

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One of the bride’s skating classmates, Zane from Tiny Tots all grown up!

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My writing “assistant”.

The Smoke Has Lifted!

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The smoke from the forest fires made for some scenic sunsets.

As I sit at my computer on a dreary, chilly day with the heater turned towards my legs, I am thankful for the rain.

It is what most of us out west are hoping is a Season-Ending-Event.

The end of fire season for another year.

I’m not sure, though, because it could heat up again but they are calling for snow at higher elevations and we’ve had our propane fireplaces going the last two nights.

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Jockey & Mouse, starting their annual quest for inside-house-membership

We are all loving the fresh air and actually being able to smell the live green forest trees versus the burning ones.

The smoke and the fires were pretty intense this year.

Vast acres in Washington, Idaho and Montana were consumed by flames.

29 homes in Rock Creek, British Columbia were lost, not to mention the nearby campground thanks to a relentless surge of fire that came on too strong.

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The smoky view at Holland Lake a couple of weeks ago.

It was a bit creepy just last week playing late afternoon golf in the thick smoke, hearing the unmistakable “whooka-whooka” sounds of the helicopters flying low with their buckets over the 14th fairway.

Every golfer on neighboring holes stood still and looked upwards, like something out of War of the Worlds.

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View straight up from the local 14th fairway. Not your typical golf scene.

So we are all breathing sighs of relief that we can breathe fresh air again.

But as thrilled as I am to hopefully see the end of this year’s Fire Season, I’m sad that it could be taking Summer with it.

Didn’t Summer just start?

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Sunny Saskatoon earlier this summer!

Weren’t we just up in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan for my 10-year veterinary school reunion?

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Alistair… my man of golf!

Weren’t we just getting to explore some golf courses in Bismarck and planning to spend some time playing on them?

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Also my man of hay.

Weren’t we just hauling hay bales?

Didn’t we just have our July wedding anniversary and weren’t we talking about getting the canoe out this year or planning to ride the horses and improve our golf game and maybe get the big boat out on the lake?

What the Hell?

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A fun afternoon last month on our beautiful local course.

We did manage to do a ton of things, though, even if a ride in the canoe wasn’t one of them.

And we laughed a lot, too.

A LOT.

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Ooooops!

You can’t help but laugh when you turn the corner on the golf cart path and see this.

Okay, maybe the assistant golf pro who was standing with the father of the 2 young girls who did this weren’t laughing but we sure were.

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I was pretending to take pictures of Alistair on the neighboring hole as I watched this…

The course superintendent showed up and managed to get things sorted out.

And we actually have improved our golf game this year even if it meant playing with smoky skies.

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A smoky day with big smiles, great friends, and just a few ‘mulligans’. Its golf, Fyfe-Style.

Alistair and I also played in a club member tournament, which generally isn’t our style. We were told it was all for fun and most people wouldn’t care but one of the guys in our foursome cared.

He was a bit intense about how much he cared and he complained way too much about “only” making par on several holes.

He relaxed as the day went on and he made more pars and I kept hitting trees and Alistair had a beer and the guy finally admitted having a bottle of Captain Morgan’s in his cart.

He laughed a lot more and a lot louder the more he sipped.

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Golf cart parade the morning of the club member tournament!

He wasn’t overly relaxed when I snapped our foursome photo at the end of it all.

He and the other guy started to get really nervous and anxious about me sharing it on social media.

Or my blog.

It turns out they were both involved in some special ops overseas years ago and are probably still Wanted by some foreign individuals.

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This is what I think about that!

Which is par for the course when you live in the middle of nowhere. I have always said a large part of the population is here because they are hiding.

But I digress.

Back to my laughter this summer.

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Zeus and Frankie were pretty worked up one smoky afternoon last month…

I had UB and Cleo out for a walk along our driveway when I saw the 2 geldings kicking and bucking while they snorted and huffed.

Then they just stood there.

Staring.

At the Cottonwood trees.

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My new friend!

And the black bear within.

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My vantage point between 2 anxious geldings.

I spent a long time watching my new friend (after I got the dogs back in their kennel). I wondered how close I could get without risking being THAT photographer and I tried to keep Zeus and Frankie calm so the bear would relax a little bit.

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He made his way over to the berry tree and spent an hour defying gravity.

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Up the tree, down the tree. Up the tree, down the tree.

A little video action of my new friend:

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My little circus bear!

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This is not photoshopped!

Eventually he came down when Frankie just couldn’t handle being calm anymore and he hid behind one of the cottonwoods close to the fence.

Then he peeked out at me, which I took to be a sign that it was time to head back to the safety of the house.

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Peeking at me and the crazed horses.

He has left his evidence everywhere around the farm and Loki has peed on all of it and I check the trees every day and the berry bushes next to the house and I haven’t hiked out back since that evening and I keep my eyes peeled.

And I got to see him once more further along our driveway a few days ago.

He let me get another picture, too.

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More berries!

I have smiled often this summer.

We continue to enjoy the harvest from our lush garden in North Dakota, where they are experiencing a rainforest type of ecosystem which is in stark contrast to the dry west.

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Bright bounty from the ND garden!

The brilliant reds, greens, yellows, purples and oranges lightened up the smoky days and continue to offer crisp color during today’s thunderstorm going on right now.

There is light when there is dark, just as there is humor and happiness when there is sadness.

Which we have certainly known this year.

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From hubby when he got back to Montana this last trip. Just because.

So if Summer decides she has had it for the year and Fall moves in we are going to be okay with that.

I’ll take it if it means Fire Season is done.

And I’ll take it because its not our nature to complain.

Its our nature to adapt.

In typical Fyfe Style.

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Adapting to the chilly temps yesterday on the local golf course in our cart, Norman.

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Making the best of it. Fyfe-Style.

One Week

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While my blog title may bring to mind the catchy tune by the Barenaked Ladies, this isn’t about them.

Even though I am Canadian by birth and therefore can lay some sort of claim to the band.

I even saw them once and have the T-shirt to prove it!

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Some of the gang in Bismarck- Shilo, his mom, Raven and Susie

No, this blog is about the week I have had and how everything can change in such a short amount of time.

One week ago I was back in Bismarck, North Dakota, home of the hubby and most of our horses and fields of hay that needed to be cut.

Its that time of year.

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fields of hay during baling

New Neighbor has been a nuisance this year, pestering Alistair about getting his field cut and baled even though the man knows nothing about farming.

(If you recall last summer’s blog about the baling event he also knows nothing about hard work and sweat and how to get a job done.)

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The neighborhood hay bine that cuts the fields of grass and alfalfa and lays it out in rows. Its also a nice, shady spot for Howard’s dogs, Chili and Ginger.

Putting up hay isn’t something you can teach in a 15-minute discussion.

Running our expensive tractor and using Howard’s hay bine and figuring out what to do when & if things go wrong while listening to weather reports and checking weather websites and watching the skies to know when to cut and how long to leave the grass on the ground before baling is something of an art form.

It takes years to learn and try to perfect the skills so you have working equipment and dry (but not hot) hay bales to load into your barn for winter.

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Good hay!

In the end, we didn’t cut our hay. The weather timing wasn’t right with Alistair’s work schedule and New Neighbor still had no clue how to do anything.

Howard also wouldn’t let NN use the hay bine.

But Howard, an exceptional neighbor, cut his field and we stayed in Bismarck an extra day and helped him and his wife and a friend haul bales in the hot summer sun.

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Howard, baling his field while we loaded them up.

Many hands make for light work.

Even little girl hands like my own are useful.

I got to be the stacker.

Meaning I got to ride on the flatbed trailer like a surfer on a giant surfboard along the bumps and corners and sudden brakes, stacking the bales in neat, tidy, tight rows while the men tossed them up at me.

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One of my masterpieces.

The men get to do the heaving of the bales and the negotiating of the nice trucks into and out of the barns.

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Totally NOT my job!

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And he makes it! Go, Alistair!

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This is just a bit too tight of a parking spot for me to negotiate…

Howard has a bale elevator which makes for a better day for your back. We all stacked the trailer loads of hay and then drank water or nibbled popsicles and wondered where New Neighbor was while we debated the merits of a Toyota pickup in terms of guts and glory and talked about their daughter and her baby in Texas and didn’t talk about the daughter they lost and we watched Howard get the baler going again & again after dropping a bale.

And then we would go get another load.

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Just dropped another bale but Howard got it all going again.

Its the kind of work that you sort of enjoy because you are really earning a glass or two of wine later and you know you’re helping out and your neighbors really appreciate it and you are using just about every muscle you have in the blazing hot sun.

Its the kind of sweat that you would get if you sat in a sauna fully clothed for a few hours.

Its the kind of tradition that you don’t celebrate or plan ahead for because you really don’t know what the weather will do or if you will be in Montana or North Dakota or how many people will show up to help and its just something that needs to be done.

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Little girl, after yet another load was stacked into the barn.

I’m so glad we were there to help.

Even if I could feel every muscle in my body for days afterwards.

Its not Pretty Girl work.

Its not sparkly.

Its not something you look forward to.

You just do it because its the right thing to do (which NN obviously didn’t get… he was tinkering around in his garden when we drove up our driveway after 3 hours of hauling bales.)

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Bale moving along on handy-dandy bale elevator with Alistair working the upper levels of stacking inside the barn.

But then we played in our garden, which has been fantastic this year given the amount of moisture Bismarck has had.

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Our ND garden

It has been trampled and crushed by torrential rains and incredible winds twice this year and has withstood frost at least once.

Not everything survived but Alistair replanted when he could and shrugged his shoulders when he couldn’t.

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basil-basil-basil!!!!!

We enjoyed some yummy meals and continue to do so with the produce we brought back to Montana.

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Lovelies for my spaghetti sauce last night!

With all of the animal changes going on at the Fyfe Farm we didn’t need someone to stay overnight because I brought all 3 dogs with me.

Even blind, little Loki.

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Loki snooooooooze in Bismarck. (Insert snoring sounds….)

She lived in and visited our home there throughout all of her life and it always amazes me how she remembers how to navigate inside and outside of the house.

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Loki, UB and Cleo enjoying a Bismarck cuddle with Daddy

They travelled well with me and even though Cleo is mostly deaf she would look up at me from the passenger seat if my singing became too… well… I don’t what it was but it was “too” something given the square-face look she gave me.

But what is a woman of the 80s & 90s supposed to do when Four Non Blondes are belting out What’s Going On?

(Poor Cleo…)

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Non-singing portion of the road trip at our favorite doggy rest stop between Lewistown and Jordan, MT.

And we’re back to Montana and more changes occurred.

Or, had to be made.

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Cooper xoxo

Cooper wasn’t having any fun anymore and it was time to say goodbye.

How did we know?

She didn’t vocalize or try to get into the office anymore. Her weight loss was profound.

She got out of the cat bed when Boomer joined her and laid off by herself in a corner of the kitchen.

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Last month, Cooper enjoying the morning sun on our back deck

She wasn’t going out on the deck with the others in the mornings and that was maybe what clinched it for me.

I laid our 20-something year old companion in her Daddy’s lap and sedated her as she softly purred.

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Cooper Fyfe, back in the day, with one of her many garter snakes

And we remembered all of the special things about our short-haired, all-black, clawless wonder who found us in 1997.

How she would wrap both arms around your neck when you picked her up.

How she smacked the bejeezus out of me when I joined Alistair in ND after the 2 of them had bonded for a month.

How she groomed a terrible open wound on his hand he earned from trying to hold a crazy mare back with a rope.

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Oscar and Cooper, lovers for many years (Bismarck, many years ago)

And how she truly, deeply loved Oscar and wailed for 3 months after we said goodbye to him.

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more Oscar & Cooper shenanigans in Bismarck

Her peaceful presence is missed and our numbers are dwindling.

Its not easy.

Its not sparkly.

Its not something we wanted to do.

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More Oscar & Cooper moments

But its our deal with the animals- donate your reproductive organs at the door and get along and we will give you the best life we know how, with ample food, special treatments, voices, accents, dances, cuddles and kisses.

As good as we can for as long as we can.

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Oh, Coopie!

And more things change around the farm on a daily basis and we know we have some more sadness to handle up ahead.

But not just yet.

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Boomer, Cooper and Oscar a couple of years ago

I have visited the Everything Changes theme before and I think more and more it is why we live our lives in Fyfe Style.

We make the most of every morning together and enjoy the heck out of our days, our animal companions, our golf game, our friendships, our garden and each other.

We work hard so that we can play hard.

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Little Chorney with big sister Cooper… together again.

Because you don’t always know what’s up ahead and we want to be able to look back and remember the wonderful times together- not the things we didn’t do, or the words that were never said.

We want to help our neighbors and love our homes and land and be good people who do good things.

Even if it isn’t pretty.

Or it isn’t sparkly.

Or maybe its challenging and difficult and sometimes it makes us cry.

RIP, Cooper. We’re glad you’re back with Oscar.

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Cleo & UB in Bismarck

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Fun indigo tomatoes in Bismarck!

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How I will remember Cooper-and-Mummy time… RIP, dear Coopie. We miss you.