One Week


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!


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.


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.)


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.


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.


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.


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.


Totally NOT my job!


And he makes it! Go, Alistair!


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.


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.


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.)


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.


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.



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


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.


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.


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…)


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Cleo & UB in Bismarck


Fun indigo tomatoes in Bismarck!


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

I’m Thankful For…


Front door sunny day view

This post has absolutely nothing to do with the Thanksgiving holiday coming up.

And then, it has everything to do with it.

That wasn’t my intent this afternoon.

Its not really my style and we sometimes don’t even celebrate because Canadian Thanksgiving was last month and often we aren’t even together for the holiday.

Its because I’m thankful that Steve started.

There’s more to the story.


HRH Sport Fyfe… “sorry about that!”

You see, I woke up at 5:38am to the sound of Sport, our Siamese cat, puking on our bedroom carpet.

I have always said I’d make a million bucks if I knew how to design an alarm clock that sounded like a cat barfing. Nothing gets me out of bed faster than that.

So it was a bit of an early, bleary start but the sun was out.


Ahhhhh… its not Hawaii but it can be quite pretty here

My freshly tanned-in-Hawaii body got a shock last week when we suddenly got a frigid blast of winter. It was expected and all but, damn, it has been cold.


Our creek is still open under the ice

Continuing on with my stellar morning, the big tractor’s battery was completely dead (surprise!) and I had to feed horses who are in separate pastures because 2 of them won’t cross the creek and its not like I can force them because they are kind of big so its obviously going to require me to bond with those damned square bales again.


“I don’t want to get my hooves wet.”

If Steve starts.

Steve is our Ranger.

He is, at times, my savior.

If he starts.



You see, the shit usually hits the fan when Alistair is on his 2 weeks of working in North Dakota.

Its at those times I need something like Steve to rely on.

That’s when I get tractors or trucks stuck or the hot water tank dies or horses founder or animals get sick or guinea pigs lose eyeballs or ferrets break their pelvises or Loki’s cornea gets ulcerated or there’s angry wasps getting caught in my hair stinging the bejeezus out of me.


Me vs.. the wasps nest after the bastards got caught in my curly hair and stung me. A lot. Something had to be done and it had to be done with a big can of wasp spray.

Times like now when I know that disgusting deer leg is still on the driveway.

I’m not sure who dragged it home but every day its a battle to see which dog is going to get it.


Cleo, today’s victor with the limb, getting away from the other dogs

Its gross but I’ve thrown it out twice now and both times garbage cans have been knocked over to retrieve it so I’m just letting them go with it.


Casey usually wins the leg…

I’m especially allowing old Casey to have his fun.

He’s had a couple of weird episodes this past week where I’m not sure what was going on.

It seemed like none of his limbs would work.

He never lost consciousness but he did seem confused both times it happened and he either fell or slowly laid down for close to a minute.

Then he gets up and he’s good to go.


Casey, 11 or 12 years ago

As a veterinarian, I’m thinking it could be little strokes or little seizure events, neither of which are good when they come on in a 13 year old Labrador.

As a Mummy, I’m totally freaking out.

But he has been fine the past few days so I’m trying to be fine.

And then Mulder’s sometimes-wheeze has really picked up the past week.


Special Agent Fox Mulder Fyfe

To the point where it wakes me up and it sounds like he’s coughing up a wet lung.

The veterinarian in me thinks its a nasty return of his herpesvirus complicated by bacteria or it could really be something in his lungs because maybe he is sleeping a bit more lately.

The Mummy in me is panicking and feeling completely helpless that I can’t fix what is wrong.

But maybe the clindamycin I started is helping and maybe I can get to town where a friend can xray him for me.

And then Steve starts.


clear crisp days to be thankful for

On a clear crisp morning when I simply must get hay to the horses in their various fields Steve fired right up.

Which I was so thankful for.

And then I came inside to put jeans on (square bales require leg contact for little girls and yoga pants just don’t cut it) and I got rummaging around in my old “farm jeans” pile and found a pair from about 10 years ago.

And they fit!


Freaking happy about these old jeans!

The world can be falling apart around me but if an old pair of jeans fits and I didn’t have to lay on the bed to get them on and I can breathe comfortably wearing them, its a good day.

I’m not quite as vain as that but it did make me smile.


Cleopatra “helping” with the hay bales this morning

And I got thinking of all the things I am truly thankful for while driving Steve and the hay bales out to the horses.

I’m so thankful we have all these merry misfit animal companions and that we have shared many wonderful years together.

Thankful that they seem to love us and want to be with us whenever they can, even if that means getting a king sized bed for everyone.


Just a few years ago with Casey, Cleo and UB at the Dog Days of Summer (photo by Gary Kyrouac)

I’m thankful to even have sun-kissed skin from a wonderful recent vacation to the Hawaiian islands.


Just over a week ago… how fortunate we are!

I’m thankful to have my education and brain to fall back on and keep me grounded when Casey, Mulder, Boomer and Loki might need it.

They need my sensibility more than I need to freak out so I have to be calm for them and try to figure out what they need.


Doctor Mummy and Mulder

I’m very thankful that I had the patience and knowledge to work with little Loki’s seriously damaged cornea over the past few months.

Thankful for connections with talented veterinary friends who were able and willing to help when I wasn’t sure we would be keeping her eye.

Thankful that Loki lets me continue to put drops in and that finally, I do believe we are keeping the eye.


Hope this doesn’t gross anyone out. This was a couple of weeks ago and it looks even better now. Not great, not pretty, but better.

I’m thankful for the support and encouragement from friends and family for my fun book that has been such a unique journey! Thankful for small bookstores who support first-time novelists and those of us who self publish.


Dropping books off for consignment at Kona Stories on the Big Island of Hawai’i.

And I’m thankful for my amazing husband, Alistair, who somehow trusts me on this big farm with big machines and big responsibilities.


Thankful for Alistair and Loki (a few years ago)

The fact he somehow believes the house will still be standing and we will hopefully all be alive when he returns every 2 weeks amazes me.

And fills me with love.

And happiness.

And gratitude.


Just before our Blue Hawaiian experience on the Big Island, complete with extra frizzy hair thanks to the island air

So even if winter comes on suddenly or the tractor won’t start or the horses won’t cross the creek or that deer limb is still there or Sport barfs on the carpet or its so cold my face hurts or my boots leak or Alistair is in Bismarck, I’m still okay.

My jeans fit. I still have a bit of a tan.



I’m alive and able to toss hay bales.

Amazon shows one more book sale over the weekend and I’ve started the sequel.

Alistair is only an email or a facetime away.

Casey, Loki, Mulder and the gang are all pain free and pretty happy.

And Steve.

Steve started.


Its all good, right, Casey?





















A Neighborly View


Making hay

I had the opportunity to revisit what being neighborly is all about again on my most recent trip back to Bismarck.

I’ve had to go back twice within the space of 4 weeks to have 2 crowns created and then placed. One trip was by car. The other was by plane.


the Bismarck herd

My seat-mate on the United flight out of Missoula was an interesting guy. Initially, I didn’t talk with him, preferring to stick my nose in my Sudoku book and read all about Jane Goodall in the in-flight magazine. Also, his travelling companion had THAT child on her lap.

You know the one.

The 2 year old who screams in the gate area. Then screams as they board the plane. Don’t forget the wailing during takeoff and then the incessant screaming during most of the flight.

It seemed best to let ‘Keith’ help his sister with all of that.

But then the screaming turned into mild burbling and the plane began its initial descent.

I started laughing, which Keith noticed.

“I’m laughing because the last time I was on a United flight headed for Denver we hit some massive turbulence and the drunk lady next to me woke up screaming and grabbing at me,” I said.

And so began a very neighborly discussion.

Keith, it turned out, is an intelligent guy. He studies corn and ways to make stronger crops grow in different climates and soils. He lives in Iowa (go figure) and travels all over to study and share what he learns about corn.

Then we talked corn sex.

Which was interesting. Weird, but interesting.

I blushed when I saw our corn rows in Bismarck… knowing about male parts and all…


ND garden corn… the male parts aren’t showing

Part of my timing on that trip back was also to help Alistair with the hay.

We generally purchase large round bales to feed the horses but we also have a small 5 acre field that we put up ourselves.


some of the gang

Haymaking is both science and art.

I knew nothing of this having grown up in an ice rink, living in cities most of my life but I have come to respect the knowledge, patience, timing and work that goes into making good hay.


good hay on the ground, nice and dry

You watch the weather report for days, knowing you need 4 or 5 days in a row without rain.

You check moisture in the mornings and humidity in the afternoon because you only want dry hay heating up in your hay barn and you don’t want mold.

You cut the hay, letting it lay in parallel long rows of pale green with the occasional fleck of purple alfalfa peeking through.

You check for stems, you twist to see when it breaks and you curse at the rodent mounds that bung up your swather.

When the stars align, its time to bale.


Alistair. Baling.

Our new neighbor was eager to get on the baling bandwagon this year. They have just moved in this summer and he fully admits he knows nothing about farming but he’s super keen to learn. We told him how the neighbors on his other side all share the equipment and the labor with us- its what we have all done since 1998 and many hands make for light work.

And laughter.

And shared sweat and a common purpose to get the hay from our lands into our barns to feed our horses.


the ND herd going for a run

New Neighbor’s wife was away but he said he’d be there at 1:30 to help. He said he’s like a machine once he gets going on a task and that he wouldn’t eat or drink until the job was done.

So, 1:30 the next day we got our jeans and sunblock on and Alistair started turning the parallel rows into neat rectangular bundles of dried nutrition. It hadn’t seen a speck of rain. It is good hay.


One of many loads

I started loading up the trailer by myself because, as it turned out, New Neighbor locked himself out of his house and had to drive all the way back into town for his spare keys.

By the time he got back, the other neighbor had spotted us and joined the team.

Howard is a lifetime farmer who has helped us with our hay just about every year. Alistair helps him, too and we share equipment and labor and that’s just how it is done.

There is nothing like seeing a truck and trailer pull into your field when you are baling. Even if only one man jumps out, it creates within you the happiest of feelings, knowing one more set of hands is there.


being neighborly

We got into the peaceful routine of lifting, stacking, driving and unloading only to stack again in our hot, dusty barns.

New Neighbor was sort of getting the hang of it.

Sort of.

He whined a bit that Alistair had the easy job of driving the tractor, pulling the baler.

I didn’t tell him that Alistair would have a kink in his neck for 2 days from watching behind him and that he would cough up dust for about a week afterwards.

I didn’t tell him how much our Ford tractor cost, or how fiddly the baler is when he whined some more seeing Howard take a turn.


Random bale by the road

New Neighbor was no machine.

“I don’t know how old you guys are, but I’m really feeling being 30 years old,”  he announced during one of his many sit-down-on-the-bales-and-guzzle-water-that-I-brought-catching-his-breath-breaks.

“I’m 55 and I’m feeling it,” Alistair said.

“I’m 41 and I’m doing okay,” I offered.


waiting to be picked up

I mean, you are and you aren’t okay.

There are moments when you wonder what a heart attack really feels like.

Moments when you think you kind of might want to die, actually.

But you keep going and you hop out of the truck and you lift another bale while Howard takes a moment to organize and stack what is already on the trailer.

Howard didn’t bother telling New Neighbor that he was in his mid-60s.

Granted, the guys usually let me drive the air conditioned trucks because I am a bit of a little girl but I still got out and hauled bales and stacked and sometimes I just had the windows open because I felt bad the guys didn’t have AC.


Pretty girl…

Farming is tough work and its usually done on hot, dry days. But you just suck it up and do it.

Because its your land and they’re your horses and its free feed that you don’t have to buy and it hasn’t been rained on and, damnit, it needs to get done.


Pretty mouths to feed.

We did New Neighbor’s field first and then we started on our field.

Howard’s wife joined the team when she got home from work. She brought lemonade because she’s done this with all of us since 1998 and she is a good woman.

We reminisced about when their daughters and my stepkids and the original neighbors in New Neighbor’s house would all show up with water jugs and bale hooks and goggles and same-old-farm-shirts and gloves and work ethic and we would work each other’s fields for hours and days.

We talked about how the kids are all doing now and how Kathy is looking forward to retirement.


Happy to smile, even when we’re working our butts off

We stacked. Sweat beaded on our bodies. We unloaded.

We didn’t finish our own field that evening but got going on it in the cool of the morning the next day.


Early morning before it gets too hot.

New Neighbor had to go to Fargo so it was just Alistair and I.

Howard desperately wanted to help but it was his one day of the week he watches his 18-month old grand-daughter.

He still came over so we could meet the adorable little girl who looks so much like her mother it made my heart break.

Howard’s daughter died a few weeks after she gave birth to the little one, which was the one thing nobody talked about.

It didn’t seem neighborly.


watching our neighbor

Tears mixed with sweat as I watched this tough farmer and his grand-daughter walk back to his farm in the warm morning sunshine.

There were a lot of unspoken memories shared as we heaved hay bales onto trailers and stacked them high into the barns.

Because that’s how it is on the farm and every year its the same thing.

Even if everything is different.

And we are lucky to have good neighbors, even the keener who struggled to keep up.


the view down Friendship Trail

Our driveway is honestly called Friendship Trail.

We didn’t name it that.

We were the first New Neighbors on the block way back when.

And so, after two long hot days our barn is once again full of sweet smelling hay and we’ve reconnected with our neighbors and Alistair’s arms were dragging on the ground and we feel good but tired after such hard work.


My view of my husband for 2 days

Meaningful work.

To quote the Rankin Family, ‘the hay… the hay is finally in.’


a good exhaustion