There is no denying that we live in one of the most beautiful, incredibly scenic parts of the world.
Crystal blue rushing waters that beckon to fly-fishermen and women everywhere with their plump, shiny trout.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Until the next storm and the next lightning strike.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There are often little reminders to be aware because it isn’t always lightning that creates the problem.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you have never been to Montana you should come visit.
Maybe call ahead first, though.
We might be out tracking Grizzly Bears.