Evacuate This

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Bebe’s thoughts on this whole situation

As I watch images of flying palm fronds and streets filling with water on TV while Florida braces for the full brunt of Hurricane Irma and while I read post after post from our friends who are finally allowed back into their mandatorily evacuated homes after almost 2 weeks away from them while a wild fire continues to rage outside our town, I’m actually feeling pretty lucky.

I’m lucky that Alistair made it back to Montana on August 25th.

I’m lucky that Deb answered her texts while having her hair done at a salon in Bismarck.

I’m lucky that Merielle, Brad, Gerry and Jessi all have a great sense of humor and that we were prepared for the worst and that we had a lot of boxes and a big old horse trailer with living quarters and 2 newer reliable, comfortable trucks and that Toni and  Jeff didn’t mind us moving our big equipment to their land on the flats.

I’m lucky we had somewhere to evacuate to.

 

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View of our house & the raging fire behind it a couple of weeks ago.

The Rice Ridge fire that was sparked by lightning July 24th crested that darned hill behind us and kept wanting to make runs down towards our house.

I watched it grow and change and creep as I would walk the dogs down our driveway. I would see how it tried to envelope our town on the other side of the hill from the excellent vantage point of our lovely golf course.

I talked with Alistair every night and we checked reports on Inciweb and I made a point to move our ski and snowmobile gear and a box or two of photo albums into the trailer.

 

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Smoke-filled skies at our home in Montana. This was when it was actually pretty good still.

I breathed the smoky air along with the 1 or 2 other golfers on the golf course and as I watched the helicopters fly into and out of our meadow, taking water or flame retardant to the hills right behind me.

During Alistair’s long trek from Bismarck to Seeley Lake we talked on the phone and we both realized it was ridiculous to stay in such a perilous predicament when we had a perfectly good home and ranch in a non-burning state.

So we mobilized the troops and we held our first Evacuation Party.

 

The party began with a parade. My good friend I’ve known since high school just happened to be spending a couple of nights with us and she and I got to be the parade marshalls!

 

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Merielle… very capable Parade Marshall!

We led Gerry & our boat, Alistair and the flatbed followed by Brad and Big Red in a tidy formation to the Hatten’s land where they can watch the plumes of smoke as they billow above the mountains and be safe from any flames. They are also well out of the way if any fire or structure crews need to use our driveways.

 

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Getting ready for the parade!

 

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Parade trucks devoid of streamers and candies but full of Ram Toughness!

 

We all saw trees torching behind our house that day as we drove back and talked about how smart it was to leave. Brad and Gerry, who had driven 11 hours through the night settled down for a nap, Merielle and I packed up my bling and Alistair went to the dump after spending an hour and a half reminding Zeus how to load into a trailer (it had been 10 years.)

At the dump Alistair learned that the fire was making a run for Cottonwood Lakes road behind our place and mandatory evacuation was likely.

“Okay, Everyone. Change of plans,” he announced as soon as he got home and the party picked up its pace.

 

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Evacuation party viewing that day.

Sandwiches were made, leftovers were re-heated in 2 shifts, Zeus broke the back door of our horse trailer, Brad and Alistair rigged up a solution, Zeus stopped bleeding and thankfully re-loaded, Maggie and Jake loaded into Deb’s borrowed trailer from ND, hugs were given and our horses and friends drove through falling ash to whisk our horses off to our safe farm 11 hours away.

Merielle, Alistair and I had one more night to spend before we planned to leave. As I cooked supper, we watched from our kitchen sunroom as the fire changed drastically and really seem to make a move towards the house.

The 3 of us ate our supper through a chorus of “oh my God”, “Crap, that’s getting lower,” “Did you see that one?”, “whoa!” and “holy shit.”

 

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Rice Ridge Fire a couple of days before the Evacuation Party.

We were able to keep our senses of humor intact while packing a few more things that night and while we watched my summer friend, Pepe come out at twilight like he’d been doing (sometimes with a friend) all month.

 

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Pepe, sometime mid-August.

And then, as we had planned to do when it got dark enough, us 3 happy souls who had a plan took our walk down the driveway to have one more good look at the fire to get an idea of what was happening.

We chuckled and made jokes about the situation because that’s how we roll.

“Oh, yeah, they’ve got a handle on that,” said Alistair after a preliminary turn-around halfway down the driveway. Each of us took peeks as we walked but we knew the full effect couldn’t be appreciated until we reached the turn. We all discussed how relieved we were that Zeus did load up and how I hadn’t had to make a choice to leave them if I had needed to evacuate before we had the party. It was a great feeling knowing our horses were headed to safety ahead of time.

And then we turned around.

 

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View of our house in front of the Rice Ridge Fire. This is Merielle’s photo.

Our mood became somber as we stood there, motionless, wordless.

Our beautiful dream home stood in front of an ever-growing line of fire that changed with every second. We saw an outstanding but frightening intense red glow on both sides of the hills behind our home and we actually felt some heat on the gentle breeze that fanned the fire towards us.

After half an hour we made our way back to the house. We did end up with laughter again when we met up with Pepe in the dark. Well, we laughed when we eventually made it inside, un-skunked.

I called our friend who works with Forestry in town and he assured me we would be alright through the night.

But we all left the next morning. Merielle back to Canada and us to North Dakota in our 2 trucks, the dogs with me and the 3 crated cats in the horse trailer with Alistair.

 

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Evacuation party. Do we know how to party or what?

Which wasn’t without more drama. Through our walkie-talkies I was able to let Alistair know he’d blown the first trailer tire on the Interstate by Butte. The dogs and I sat in our truck with vehicles and rigs hurtling by at 70 mph, shaking our own one-ton ride as Alistair saved the day.

The walkie-talkies were helpful when the second trailer tire blew, necessitating us to limp off the Interstate by Bozeman and onto an off ramp. Never have I been so happy to see a Wal Mart in my entire life!

 

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Evacuation party temporary HQ at Bozeman’s Wal Mart

 

Despite having a full schedule and it being only a couple of hours before closing, ‘Dave’ took pity on my frazzled-sounding evacuee voice and got us hooked up with 2 new tires. The dogs had a nice walk and the cats were all talked to and the Evacuation Party Caravan pulled up our driveway in Bismarck at 2am.

 

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Our backyard in Bismarck

Where we have woken to mostly clean air and clear skies ever since.

Where the cats are all making an effort to get along because the barn cat, Jockey, has mostly been inside.

Where the horses are all together after Brad and Gerry brought the Montana trio back.

 

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Our happy herd today.

Where I’ve washed load after load of smoky laundry and where we’ve washed the smoke off ourselves and where the dogs and cats don’t smell like bon fires anymore.

Its also where we have watched much of our community get put on mandatory evacuation as the fire made run after run towards Seeley Lake. We’ve watched our little meadow be on high alert as plumes of smoke rose high into the sky and the big converted DC-10 flew overhead yet again as fire crews struggle to take control of this beast.

We watch post after post about the horrible air quality and how people are struggling to breathe while struggling to stay positive after close to 50 days of this damned fire.

And we continue to watch as the Liberty fire that threatened other friends once again makes noise and structure protection is in full effect for both fires .

 

 

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Today’s Inciweb map. Our ranch is in Kozy Korner Zone 8.

I just read that a newer, smaller fire burning to the east has actually joined into the Rice Ridge fire and we are now over 130,000 of burned acres.

Acres where we hike, snowmobile and peace out. Acres we love to look at as our little slice of the “Last, Best Place” in our peaceful, almost hidden world. Acres that tourists and summer people usually flock to but were empty as they burned this year while our local businesses tried to stay open if their employees weren’t all evacuated. Acres our neighboring guest ranch would run a successful outfitting business in but will be devoid of strings of pack horses and guests this year.

At times tears of frustration burn the back of my eyes and threaten to leak out when I think about all the people affected by this terrible, epic fire. I know many people who feel as if the country neglected them or just hasn’t cared or maybe doesn’t care. I want to do more than watch from my air-conditioned house in the smoke-less state of North Dakota but its all I can do because we had to leave on our terms.

We had to take care of the spirits we love and who we’re responsible for. We chose to leave the stuff that’s just stuff and trust that they’ll find some money for the state to keep fighting Rice Ridge and Liberty and that our home will be standing when we choose to go back.

 

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Cleo & UB relaxing in Bismarck.

Thanks to everyone who was a part of our Evacuation Party and to Jessi for keeping our fish fed. Thanks to our friends in Montana for keeping us up to speed on everything that’s happening, particularly in our little meadow. And thanks to friends & family & bling sisters for checking in to make sure we’re okay.

Heck, we’re better than okay. And I’m so lucky to be able to say that.

 

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Lutefisk Babs, able to Sunbeam here in ND!

 

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Jockey… seeming to transition just fine.

 

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Happening now at our ranch in North Dakota.

 

 

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Us, better than okay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seasons of Change

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Today at the Fyfe Farm- can’t wait for the lilacs!

While the seasons change throughout the year I am always most amazed at the transformations that occur when winter turns to spring.

It is probably more profound for those of us who live where there are four dramatically different seasons. That’s not to say I wouldn’t relish life if someone offered me a home on Kauai but I do think I would miss the changes.

The transition of spring to summer feels sleepy and easy. And the change from summer to fall sometimes sort-of sneaks up on you but it usually has no drama. And then fall turns to winter but by then we’ve probably had a bit of snow and cold and the wood stove has already been running for weeks.

Its not the case this time of year.

 

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Spring in western Montana

After a long winter that had more than 3 feet of snow on the ground with days and days of plowing the roads and splitting wood and realizing I had to plow snow again, the changing season is a welcome relief.

Its beautiful, really.

There is actual warmth radiating from the giant, glowing yellow orb in the sky which has brought all of the snow off our heavily-burdened roof tops and is taking its toll with the subsequent melt. The creeks are high.

 

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The creek that runs past our house.

 

Dark, murky water bubbles and churns next to our house, breaching the creek walls and spilling out onto our still-snowy pasture at the far end of the field. I can hear it churning along even when I’m walking the dogs down our gravel driveway that is finally drying up.

The driveway that I plowed endlessly this winter.

 

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The back driveway this winter. We try to keep this one open, too.

We are the last home on the road so if I want to have access to the world its up to me to keep things open. I don’t mind the plowing at all. I have my trusty old friend, Big Red and his kick-ass blade to shove snow from here to there. The Dodge Ram we designed as our wedding gift to each other in 1996 has served us well over the years and even if he had to be plugged in every night during the winter it was worth it to feel him shimmy and rumble and hear him fire up in the frigid mornings after another 7 or 8 inches of snow had fallen.

 

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I love you, Big Red!

It isn’t just a visual awakening that occurs when winter takes off her snowy coat and welcomes the spring. The smell of the pine trees when we snowshoe and now hike out back is magnificent! Its profound how sudden the scent seems to appear although the trees have obviously been there all winter.

The dogs seemed fascinated by the scents they were detecting on one of our first treks after a lot of snow had rapidly disappeared. UB, in particular, was almost clingy with us. Had the melt uncovered mountain lion and bear scents? Had the neighborhood wolves left markings that had been hidden all winter only to be revealed on one sunny afternoon?

 

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Snowshoe trek with UB… (not the day he was so worried)

Not all of the scents are lovely, however. Like the overpowering smell that takes over when we drive up to our mailbox, which is located next to the neighbor who is calving in a small, wet, condensed area.

Or the unmistakable smell of skunk that wafted through the truck as I passed yet another neighbor’s often-targeted house. These are definite scents of spring.

A smell I miss is that of our woodstove. We’ve let the stove go out for the season.

 

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All done for the winter.

The reliable and steady source of incredible, comforting warmth is cool and quiet now and there are no animals congregating at its hearth. When we first moved here 10 years ago, Oscar, Chorney, Boomer, Sport, Cooper and Mulder could be found alongside Cleo throughout the winter on the carpeted stairs next to the stove.

I’ve laid there myself on cold evenings when I was chilled to the bone and Alistair was in Bismarck, wrapped up in any combination of cats and dogs.

Its the stove Loki laid in front of when I joined her and we spooned one last time before she eventually took her final breaths there.

It will sit silently, unobtrusively for the next several months until it is called to duty once more and I won’t smell the smoke from the burning wood which provides a heat like no other.

 

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Just last week.

With the changing seasons comes a change in our activities. The snow shoes and snowmobiles both got some love last week when Alistair was here. If you are an outdoors enthusiast, this is the perfect place to live (once you’ve got the wood split and the driveway plowed). We try to make the most of our incredible landscape.

 

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Our “back yard” forest a couple of weeks ago.

We didn’t make it to the ski hills around us, though, because the transformation into spring was happening even more rapidly in Helena, where the golf courses began to open. Our season has begun!

 

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Also last week!

With the change in our activities we noticed more changes in our own lives. This was the first spring we could drive the hour and half there and play a full, guilt-free 18 holes and then enjoy a lovely supper out before heading home. The previous 2 years, when Helena’s courses opened before any others nearby, we could only do the driving range. Or a rapid 9 holes with a cart.

Loki’s needs, which were never, ever resented, precluded us from being gone from home for so long. I initially felt sad that I didn’t feel any guilt but then I chose to enjoy both our memories and our new ability to spend the full afternoon there.

And I even made par on the par 3 16th hole. Another ball for the wall!

 

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New pink ball-for-the-wall!

Another aspect that makes the turning of winter into spring profound for us is how we manage the farm and day-to-day chores or activities. Something so simple as footwear or outer wear becomes completely different and takes up significantly less time.

There’s the long pants and possibly long johns. The turtleneck. The vest. Maybe the CarHartts. The big heavy coat or the double-layered jacket (depends on whether or not I’m splitting wood). The scarf. The toque. The gloves (the choice again depends on the wood thing… or maybe the hay thing).

Then there’s time you need to start the trucks (if they start) and let them run so that they will be warm and the engine will run smoothly. And don’t forget to unplug them before driving off!

 

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Big Red needed plenty of time to rumble in the driveway before we would get going.

Now, though, as spring has made her entrance into our world, none of the rigs are plugged in and going outside is a matter of slipping some shoes on and maybe a light jacket. If the wind is blowing I’ll grab the toque but only so my hair doesn’t fly around.

Our lives are dramatically different when spring comes around.

And this year, some of the changes are of our own design but they’ve added to the profound feeling that things are really, really different now.

Klaus is gone.

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Klaus… our Jetta… enjoying his final winter on the Fyfe Farm.

 

Our 2009 VW Jetta was part of the emissions lawsuit that was settled late last year. After Klaus made the annual Christmas letter 2 years in a row we were more than happy to send our little car back to VW.

It took a bit of time to organize it all but early last week Alistair fired his old friend up one more time and off we went to Missoula.

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He didn’t seem overly upset about it, either.

And for the last time I followed the little grey hatchback in a different vehicle and although I didn’t feel melancholy I definitely flashed back to several of our treks between Montana and North Dakota over the years. Some changes can definitely make me smile.

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Following Klaus through the middle of Montana in 2015.

One more change putting a smile on my face most of the time is Jockey’s transition to being an indoors kitty. It wasn’t right keeping him by himself in the barn after we had lost Georgia before Christmas so the slow process of making sure everyone got along began and he’s camped out at my feet right now as I type.

 

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He found the bed pretty quickly!

 

 

He’s an enormous cat with big sharp claws but he had kept them sheathed until Sport must have pissed him off. I haven’t witnessed any altercations but Sport showed up with what looked like a bad attempt at a pierced ear the other morning.

Oh, Jockey.

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Sport, today, after several days of antibiotics, doing quite well.

Jockey is making the most out of being a “domesticated indoor cat” and everyone is adapting to the changes.

The changes in the season and the changes in Fyfe Life.

The sun and the ground are warm, the horses are shedding their long winter coats, the color green is peeking out from where the snow has melted and spring is upon us. I’m wearing less layers, the heavy boots aren’t being worn as much, the trucks aren’t plugged in and the wood stove is silent.

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Outdoor reminders of other seasons.

While its still cool enough to have a chicken noodle soup cooking in my crock pot right now I can finally see the bon fire pit and imagine sitting around a smoky, starry night with a wine glass in my hand and UB and Cleo playing in the creek.

And I think of when we had 4 dogs by the bonfire and 3 barn kitties to lock in at night and 5 dogs at the Dog Days of Summer and so many cats to line up every day for soft food and the ferret cage sits there, empty, and the freezer is ridiculously full and I miss couch time with Loki and I feel bad about not feeling guilty when I visit a good friend in the hospital and another good friend for lunch before finalizing the VW buy-back yesterday.

As much as my life has always changed, this current changing season has brought me to a totally new phase in my life. Where many things are the same but I feel quite different. I don’t know why. More mature? Perhaps. Wiser, in some ways, less knowledgeable in others. More prone to tearing up at a commercial that features animals, that’s for sure.

I welcome spring and all the rebirth and growth and challenges in front of me.

Now, lets get those golf courses open!

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Clearly not struggling with the transition.

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Yesterday, finalizing the buy-back of Klaus.

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I’m envisioning it but its still going to take a few days…

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Bye-bye, winter! We’re ready for spring!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of “Those” Winters

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How to survive winter in western Montana.

I’ve certainly posted pictures of enormous snow drifts and buried hot tubs over the years. And I’ve shared many before & after pictures of our deck in Montana that would be buried overnight and require my little body to shovel as if there were no tomorrow.

I’ve also told winter tales of woe from our ranch in North Dakota, where the winds blow in unimaginably cold temperatures for days and you pray that you don’t get stuck and that your diesel doesn’t gel.

But this winter… this is one for the ages.

 

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Our barn in ND before Alistair could really do some work.

Its been particularly harsh in Bismarck because they have had two extended periods of extreme cold weather and a tremendous amount of snowfall. Usually the snow comes down and blows around. The drifts make travel and movement a challenge but the volume doesn’t often stack up.

Its stacking up this year.

Like it did in 1996/97 where everyone in North Dakota remembers trying to beat the swollen Red River with sandbags. They were unsuccessful and downtown Grand Forks, ND flooded.

 

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Image from 1997 Red River flood (not my picture)

 

Everyone in the state watched the largest city get buried in raging, muddy waters that were formed when the snow never seemed to stop that winter. Snow that was shoved to the sides of the road higher than our one-ton pickup, Big Red when we were at a hockey game in Grand Forks months before the flood.

 

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All that snow melted and it had to go somewhere (not my picture).

And as if that wasn’t bad enough, fire broke out downtown but nobody could get to it because of the floodwaters. North Dakotans are remembering this springtime disaster because the snow this year is much like the snow that winter.

 

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haunting aftermath of the flood and fire (not my photo)

Because nobody wants to see this again.

But we know that many precautions have been made and banks were reinforced so we are all hopeful to avoid that kind of nightmare.

Or the nightmare of 2011 when Bismarck flooded after heavy snowfall in Montana had to go somewhere.

It chose the mighty Missouri.

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Flooded roads and residential areas in Bismarck, 2011 (not my picture).

Families were evacuated, homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed and an army of people and pets moved into our home with Alistair for most of the summer.

The Army Corps of Engineers will hopefully be more on top of things this spring so we won’t see a repeat this year.

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snow load and drifts on our ranch in Bismarck right now.

Because there’s a boat-load of snow and its only the middle of January.

Many Montanans say that the snow used to come down like it has all of the time in the “old days”. That people were shoveling and roof-raking all winter long. It was the price you paid to live in one of the most beautiful places on Earth and I guess we’re paying for it now ourselves.

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My view for much of this winter already.

I have it a lot easier than poor Alistair, though.

For starters, I can plow in the warm comfort of Big Red with Jack Johnson, Iz or Coldplay blaring out of the speakers.

I have the big tractor with the covered cab and more heaters and a radio for company.

I also only have one horse to care for here versus the dozen he must feed and protect in Bismarck.

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from our snow-blown deck in North Dakota last week

Which is a challenge when he’s not there for 2 weeks. Its a challenge when New Neighbor is clueless about our tractor (which does not have a cab, heat or music) and damn near destroys a rim as he tries to clean up the snow. And its a challenge when it feels like 60 degrees below zero and the wind has blown for 3 days while snow kept coming down but he still needs a road to get to the horses and to get to work.

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a challenge to get into the barn where the tractor is kept!

I got to post cute videos of me listening to a warming Hawaiian ukulele with the incredibly beautiful Horseshoe Hills just beyond our Montana dream home while poor Alistair froze himself for hours trying to make sense out of the mess in front of him.

A mess New Neighbor truly hadn’t helped with. A mess our postman refused to enter so we didn’t receive mail for a few days. A mess that was very, very cold.

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You have to have a path, right?

He had to stop 5 times during the massive snow upheaval to shiver and shudder in our heated tack room. He traded socks, toques and gloves and stuck his bare toes directly into the slots on the baseboard heater and hoped beyond hope that when the tractor sounded like it wanted to seize up thanks to gelled diesel that it was just messing with him.

Its not as if he has the splendor of the Rockies to look at while he’s trying to move snow from here to there.

He has the flat, white horizon. Its a treeless, dreary, almost depressing landscape when its like this and you recognize how Seasonal Affected Disorder can creep in.

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My stunning backdrop in Montana.

But this is why we do what we do.

Because he gets to call this place home as well and we can enjoy our time together with our pets, heated tractor and vehicles that hopefully all start.

Today Alistair has been back in the big, warm tractor snowblowing out our driveways that are now too tall for Big Red’s blade to push aside. He has the roads wide enough to land a plane on so I’m ready for the next dump of snow.

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Taking a break on the hay bales yesterday with UB, Cleo & Jockey

And we laughed a lot yesterday splitting wood with our electric wood splitter, playing with our remaining band of merry misfits, hot tubbing with toques on our heads and fires lit in the tiki torches he had to dig out.

We watched PGA golf on Oahu and smiled at the vast difference in landscapes while sipping martinis and wine, and we talked about the antibiotics Cleo is on for a dental infection and the meds I started for Sport for a likely overactive thyroid and we shared a sad glance or two at the empty, cleaned-out ferret cage, Quebec and we make each other smile when spirt of Luigi or spirit of Calypso has something to say and we take Loki outside and beg her to do her business out there and we wonder how long we have with her but we can’t get enough of her snuggling into us and onto us during couch time or through the night and the cribbage game continues and we are hopeful that surgery might be soon to remove a pesky pelvic pin for hubby and that eventually, some day, maybe when the snow melts and hopefully doesn’t flood riverbanks onto the prairies, the sun will shine and we will be able to get back to our golf game.

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Another break in the wood splitting yesterday.

We plug the rigs and the tractors in. We only use diesel 1 which southerners don’t know even exists. We keep a steady supply of wine and vodka and frozen food and pet food on hand. We split more wood. And we move more snow.

And Alistair took the keys away from New Neighbor, saying it was time for them to get their own tractor.

Its just one of those winters and we’re doing everything we can to get through it.

Smiling.

With our version of winter Aloha, booze and hot tubs.

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Bismarck hot tub buried after the 2nd blizzard before Alistair dug a path.

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Our Jetta, Klaus in Montana… probably not going anywhere soon.

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Blasting out a “piddle path” for the dogs last month.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Beginnings

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A long December and there’s reason to believe

maybe this year will be better than the last.

 

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Dec.31st, 2016.

It was a long December.

It was also filled with great memories, smiles and laughter but there were times when reality overwhelmed me.

Like when Alistair was gone and the snow kept coming down and it was so cold Loki chose to piddle inside and Steve, the Ranger wouldn’t start so I was hauling wood to the house through the snow in a wheelbarrow and I was down an extension cord so the 3/4 ton wouldn’t start and I couldn’t get a round bale in for Zeus so I was carting square bales in that damned wheelbarrow to the 6 foot fence and heaving flakes of hay over at him sending shards of spiky hay all over me and into my hay boots which have holes in them so they’re cold and then UB took off to the forest for a few hours and I knew we would be losing sweet Luigi.

Hell, I didn’t even know about Georgia at that point.

 

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Georgia Woo Fang Fyfe

She had been helping me split wood and would leap into my arms daily when I would lock her and Jockey into the barn every night, sweetening the deal with a can of soft food. She ate ravenously every time but we had been noticing her head tilt was more pronounced and she was more off-balance this fall.

Georgia had a chronic sinus infection that used to clear up with antibiotics over the years but this past year it became resistant to everything we tried.

 

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A few years ago, cuddling on the front porch.

Alistair got home on a Friday, and he commented that she had raspy breathing and wasn’t in her usual place in the barn. I had split wood the day before and she had been cuddly, purring and seemingly normal.

She passed away in her sleep on Saturday, curled up on some blankets in a box.

 

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Georgia loved her brother, Mouse so much and truly mourned his loss a year ago. They are together again.

And poor Alistair had to tell me, his wife who normally kept her shit together but had admitted to being overwhelmed on the phone to him a few days prior.

Doctor Tanya suspects pneumonia but I really don’t know. How brilliant is that, that I didn’t even know she was ill? She looked peaceful and comfy, thankfully, when I went to the barn that morning, where Mummy Tanya had a good cry.

I’m glad I told her and Jockey that I loved them every night when I would close the barn door behind me.

 

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Georgia, Mae Mae and Mouse a few years ago.

And I’m glad Mamma Cat had her furry babies in our barn in Bismarck the summer of 2005 and that we got to love this special litter and their funny ways for so long.

 

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The first sign of spring… Georgia in her tree.

I can’t remember the last thing that you said as you were leaving

Oh how the days go by so fast.

So my heart was a little frayed 2 days later when Alistair and I knew it was time for little Luigi to cross the Rainbow Bridge, too. I had carried the weight of knowing he had GI lymphoma for a couple of months and had only shared it with a few friends. Telling people about it only made it more real, which I was trying to avoid. I also don’t like messing with people’s Thanksgiving and Christmas happiness- the ferrets have quite the fan following!

 

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Luigi earlier this year making a move on my merlot!

I wasn’t even sure Luigi was going to be around to see his Papa again but he kept eating and wanting to come out and play and sneak into the sub-woofer and nibble cat kibble in the garage. And Alistair got to play a little more with the silver boy he raised in Bismarck for 2 weeks before bringing him to Montana as a Christmas present 3 years ago.

 

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The best Christmas present, Luigi Fyfe, the Italian Stallion!

Oh, man, he was a cute little thing but he was so tiny back then! Alistair’s brother, Ian visited in Bismarck and got to play with Luigi, who seemed entranced by his uncle.

 

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Our silver kit loving his uncle’s big arms in ND.

Phillipa and Calypso loved their new little brother and we got to enjoy watching them romp and play and snuggle and hide and play the “Chase” game for hours every night.

Their multi-tiered cage, “Quebec” is in the laundry room which is a central part of the house. I walk past it countless times every day, starting with letting the dogs out first thing in the morning and getting cat food to the indoor kitties once the dogs are in bed, the last thing every night.

One or more ferrets would watch me in the kitchen or visit with me as I did laundry for the past 7 or 8 years.

 

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Good times in Quebec in the Pirate Ship!

We went through 3 Pirate Ships because they loved the thing so much and come on, what’s cuter than seeing 3 feisty little pirates peeking through peep holes?

Do I even have to mention the Sing-Song Saddle and the Luigi Song?

Doctor Tanya and Doctor Alistair noticed Luigi losing a bit of weight this fall and then his stools got softer and softer. I whipped out every trick I had and even some new ones I learned from text books and an online Veterinarian network I am a member of.

 

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My boys… Luigi, Alistair & Calypso last year

The smell of hospitals in winter

and the feeling that its all a lot of oysters, but no pearls.

Some meds seemed to help and others were just annoying. Like the pink KaoPectate droplets scattered throughout the tiled floors where Luigi would try to spit it out. I have always tried to keep the memories happy during our companions’ final months, weeks or days so seeing him resist the syringe like that didn’t seem worth it. Luigi lived life as the happiest guy on Earth so why change that? Especially since it didn’t seem to help.

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Phillipa & Luigi in the ball bin this year

But then he stopped eating his kibble, which is usually a sign that Doctor Tanya watches for during palliative care. He still came out daily and played, though, eating lots of chewy treats and cat food.

And he came out one final night but moved much slower than normal. We both watched him in the living room and even the subwoofer didn’t seem to hold its usual appeal.

 

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“I’m a-just playing in the sub-woofer, Mama!”

He did lay on my chest and let me hold him for a long time, at least, and only a couple of tears fell onto him as I kissed his forehead and rubbed his little body that night next to Alistair.

I guess the winter makes you laugh a little slower,

makes you talk a little lower about the things you could not show her.

And the next morning there wasn’t any sparkle in his eyes so together we sedated Luigi, the Italian Stallion and I sang him the Luigi song and he fell asleep in my lap. Doctor Tanya and Mummy Tanya became one and tears fell onto him when I administered the final injection and just like that, Luigi was gone.

 

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enjoying some water with Mama just a couple of weeks ago.

And just like that, December was a bit more difficult this time around.

But there were good times, too, many of them shared with the pets and also friends so I was able to sort of coast along busying myself with wood splitting or plowing snow. Having Alistair here during the 2 sad goodbyes helped tremendously. I really felt his absence when he left a few days ago.

When, for the first time in 7 years I didn’t have a ferret or 2 to play with or care for in the evenings. The house is pretty quiet.

 

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Taking pics of these 4 was always hilarious!

Amazing how much of this enormous house those little spirits filled.

Through all of this is Loki’s struggle to handle the cold temps and snow this winter. In all honesty, we didn’t expect her to be enduring another winter but November had incredibly mild weather and she really had the best Autumn of her senior years.

 

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Couch Time with Step-Gammy every night.

She enjoys her food and Couch Time every single night with us and she gets around the house just the same as always but going outside is a nightmare for her. She even began “chibbering” when I would put her little jacket on inside, seemingly in anticipation of the horrible cold snowy weather.

I’ve pleaded with her to keep doing her business outside because Step Gammy might lose her shit if she doesn’t.

Nobody wants to see that.

Because that isn’t me.

I’m always able to find something to laugh or smile about and I always will, even when my heart is sad. Loki is snoozing under my desk as I type and occasionally she toots and that just makes me chuckle.

 

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UB and Cleo helping me split wood yesterday.

I have plenty of things to be happy about and look forward to.

We are a family with 3 cats and 3 dogs. Why, that’s almost normal, right?

And the PGA kicks off 2017 in Kapalua, where Alistair & I spent a week playing golf in November. We totally enjoy watching the pros play the exact same course we were on, remembering how things looked from the tee and how we chose to approach the green (as if my ball ever goes where I’ve chosen it to go!)

And the skating world is in its 2nd half, meaning US Nationals and Canadians and then Worlds are on the horizon.

Will my friend’s 3 students skate well at Canadians? Will Gracie Gold hold her own shit together for the first time this season? Will Tessa & Scott re-claim top spot on the World podium after not competing for 2 years?

 

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Zeus. Yesterday. Handsome fella!

And Zeus has a round bale and Jockey is ever-so loving as my companion when I split wood or work outside and Steve has been firing up and we have a new battery charger and Big Red got new battery connectors and the bling company is launching a capsule this month and I found my pink Carhartts and  we have African cichlids in our kitschy tank and book 3 is coming together and the days are longer and my heart is full from having a house full of spirits and I’m going to be okay.

And its been a long December and there’s reason to believe

maybe this year will be better than the last.

I can’t remember all the times I tried to tell myself

to hold on to these moments as they pass.

(Thanks to the Counting Crows for the assistance on this one.)

Here’s to a New Year.

 

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Luigi & Phillipa this year.

 

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Georgia out front a few summers ago.

 

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Loki, snoozing on the bath mat last month.

 

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Pink Carhartts make me happy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fyfe Characters

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Trying to take pictures with good old Casey a few years ago

I got to thinking about our crazy animal companions the other day and I didn’t get melancholy over the losses that have seemed never ending the past year & a half.

I could have easily slipped into a dark sadness but I started remembering how absolutely goofy some of them were, and some of the silly situations they got themselves into and I started smiling. And laughing. And I thought it would be fun to share some of the stories about pets who are still here and pets who are gone and hopefully you will get a chuckle out of them, too.

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Bonjour. Did you call for me?

Like Jacques. Our black-eyed white ferret.

Ferrets like to hide and they can disappear into tiny spaces and crevices just about anywhere. If they can fit their head into or under something then they can generally get their bodies in. And they can climb, too, the little acrobats.

We would lose Jacques for hours, calling & calling for him. He often would appear from our bedroom but we couldn’t find out where he was hiding.

Until, for some reason, I pulled out a drawer beneath shelves in my closet.

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How Jacques slept amongst the sequins, spandex and fish nets!

He had to climb straight up to get himself into a large bin where the duds of my day as a figure skater/show girl now reside. Fishnet stockings, sequins, bangles, beads, wrap-around skirts and show costumes and there’s little Jacques curled up within it all. Sometimes he was buried and other times he was just chillaxin’. In the spandex.

After that we affectionately called him Jacques Brian Boitano Fyfe.

And where does one begin with Casey’s stories?

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Casey always was up for a snuggle, preferably on your lap.

My vet school friend drove him from Saskatoon down to Bismarck when he had finished his PT after his year of being rebuilt at our vet school. Theresa had kindly fostered him for us and happily came for a visit. Minutes before they reached the US border Casey puked all over her. That was too bad given the fact the border guard apparently was pretty hot and Theresa was single back then.

Good old Casey.

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One of many, many body parts Casey dragged home over the years.

Casey loved Montana. (Who am I kidding? Casey loved EVERYthing!)

Our back yard borders USFS so there are miles and miles of forest. The dogs all treated it as their own little kingdom.

One time, early on, Casey & Harry didn’t come back from a hike they had joined me on. We called and called into the trees and Harry eventually did return. We called all of our new neighbors, the restaurant that used to be here, the pet shelter in town… nothing.

Until a few hours later when a Subaru (go figure) pulls up the driveway with Casey sitting in the back seat.

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Do you want to share, Mummy?????

There is a back road into town that runs through the forest behind our house and this lady and her son were out for a drive when they saw the boys. They said they really had to coax Casey into the car, that he looked kind of scared and that he kept looking back towards the trees… right, that’s because he probably heard us calling him and he’d never been in a car before. Trucks only.

Casey’s big adventures.

(Along those lines, when you see dogs in the middle of nowhere, they are probably closer to their home/farm than you think.)

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Oh, Muldy!

Our ginger ragamuffin Special Agent Fox Mulder Fyfe sometimes would disappear in Bismarck. We figured he had a poker game and dancing girls going on down the then-dirt road leading to the farm.

One time he came back I let him inside and was instantly overpowered by the smell…

“Hon, I think he’s been right by some fireworks! He’s all smoky!” I thought…

“That’s not smoke, Tan. He’s been skunked!” (Alistair and I have very different senses of smell but he was right and Muldy spent a few days in the garage.) Bathing cats isn’t a lot of fun, either.

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HRH Sport Fyfe

Then there is our stuck-up Siamese, Sport. He’s declawed and hoity toity, therefore he’s never been a hunter. He has tried to learn the ropes, though, often following Mulder around inside and out.

One day Whitney was looking out our kitchen window and asked me what the heck Sport was doing… running around the entire (big) house at least three times with something in his mouth.

He’d caught a mouse!

Only… it was a dead mouse… Mulder had caught it that morning. I watched him toy with it and then leave it beneath the camper where Sport had been investigating. Atta boy, Sporto.

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Harry in his element.

Then there was Harry who may have had some wolf in him. Our loyal, handsome, somewhat-quirky boy used to come to elementary school or daycare talks I would do because he was so unique looking and just plain cool!

But he never really learned normal dog behaviors (which is fine on the Fyfe Farm. Just donate your reproductive organs and get along).

So when the daycare kids left the door open to their soccer fields in downtown Bismarck one summer, Harry decided show and tell was over. Outside is better than inside when you’re a wolf-dog, right?

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Harry and Alistair had a very special bond.

I probably would have been fine on my own but when the kids realized the situation they all decided to “help”.

Imagine about 40 little kids chasing behind me waving their chubby little arms in the air squealing, “HARRRRRRRRRYYYYYY”. Harry glanced back and picked up the pace. Again. And again until finally one of the teachers got the kids to hold back.

2 hours.

I spent 2 hours sitting in a nearby neighborhood waiting for Harry to cross the street from underneath the tree he’d found to hide under.

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Quite the creature.

What brought a lot of this up in my mind was Loki’s latest adventure a couple of mornings ago.

In the space of 3 minutes she disappeared on me. I let the 3 dogs out every morning and then go let the barn kitties out and quickly feed UB and Cleo. 3 minutes. I swear.

No Loki.

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Here I am, Step Gammy!

I looked everywhere. Our front yard is a big, wide open area. I can see all over the place. I started calling and calling… that awful feeling in the pit of your stomach where something is very wrong….

Then  I heard her little bark (it was actually her pissy bark, to be honest so I knew Little Miss Independence needed some help).

There she was standing in the middle of the creek. The snow banks are still 2 feet high, which is why I couldn’t see her. Thank goodness the water level and flow aren’t too high right now!

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Loki needs her beauty sleep… especially after such a harrowing morning!

She was “chibbering” away but we warmed up by the woodstove and all is back to normal.

Which isn’t very normal at all around this place.

I could go on about Cleo and the UPS man or Casey knocking Dad over after knee surgery or Oscar bringing home bats, bunnies, & endangered birds or the ferrets vs the guinea pigs or UB vs the elk, UB vs the grizzly bear, UB vs the mama bear with 3 cubs, UB vs the bobcat and UB vs Georgia Woo Fang (who, thanks to that altercation is now just Georgia Woo) or discovering, as a veterinarian, that Phillipe was Phillipa or Dash not knowing how to pasture breed the 8 mares with their 8 foals or Casey splitting his head open on the snow plow blade or Gampy forgetting Loki when he was getting hay or Boomer getting locked in our closet when we went to Disneyland or Oscar & Cooper trying to have sex or UB piddling all over my clinic or a piddled-upon stove burner (aka Why Cartman Became a Barn Cat) or Jinxie going for a ride with the Schwan’s man, Whitney & Daddy when she accidentally moved to Montana ahead of schedule…. its endless mayhem and silliness.

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“You can’t leave me, Matt! I love you!”

Well, future tales for many have, indeed ended.

I could choose to let that wash over me but I’m choosing instead to have a bit of a laugh yet again. As zany as many of our animal companions have been I would do it all again in a heartbeat. Without question or hesitation I would bring each and every one of them into the house and share our worlds on the prairies or in the mountains.

And we will love on those who remain with the biggest of hearts and all of the great food and meds-when-needed that we can provide.

And we will provide the kindest, most humane goodbyes when its time for that, too.

Thanks for coming along, Friends. This has been fun!

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Alistair and his favorite redhead, Marmalade.

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UB, always with the worried expression, looking slick in his new rain slicker a few years ago!

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Our Trio of Trouble, Phillipa, Calypso & Luigi a couple of months ago

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Alistair with Mouse & Jockey last winter

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Oscar and Mummy many moons ago. He’s the reason I started this blog! xo

No Slowing Down

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The first real snow of the season

You would think that several inches of good snow would cause me to pause and reflect a little bit.

Particularly after the year we’ve had.

We are all getting used to a world without Mouse but it hasn’t been easy.

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Mouse… just a couple of weeks before he became ill

If there is a light out of the dark, however, it is that his barn-mates, Jockey and Georgia have begun to have an actual relationship.

Where she head-butts him (with her head tilt… another story for some other time…) and he leans in and licks her forehead while they both purr.

This is unprecedented behavior between enormous, part-Siamese Jockey and petite, squeaky-sounding Georgia. They each loved Mouse beyond belief and I’m pretty sure they were jealous of each other. Like a room-mate or bestie of some poor, unsuspecting guy whose girlfriend moves in.

But now all they have is each other.

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Little Georgia, before the head tilt

And they have their Mummy, of course! And Daddy part-time, too.

The day the snow came down I was busy.

Splitting and stacking wood is just part of life in western Montana unless you don’t use wood to heat your home.

Before you start picturing all 5’3″ of me heaving an axe behind my head like Paul Bunyun its not that bad. Alistair bought me an electric woodsplitter our first Christmas here.

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The woodpile a few years ago.

I always have a good, long laugh at myself when I remember a big load of wood that arrived when Alistair was in Bismarck a few years ago.

I was working full time but I had to stack it all that weekend because another load would be coming.

It was a hot weekend, too. I remember the dogs laying in the grass watching me move each piece. One by one. From the pile to the side of the house and back to the pile.

The logs weren’t stacking as easily as I would have liked, with some of them rolling around but with a touch of OCD and a need for an aesthetically pleasing wood pile I got most of the job done.

And I posted pictures on Facebook.

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Anyone see the problem?

And I felt pretty pleased with myself.

Until Alistair saw the picture the next morning and called me from work. There was something in his voice. Trepidation, perhaps?

“Hon…. you’ve got the wood facing the wrong way.”

I looked out the kitchen window. He was right.

My day of finishing off the rest of the stacking turned into unstacking and then re-stacking and the dogs just laid there on the even hotter day watching me take improperly-stacked wood off the pile over to the pile on the driveway just to take it all back and stack it properly.

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Finally I got it right!

My knuckles were dragging on the ground and my pride was bruised but it wasn’t the first time and it surely wasn’t the last time I had to eat some humble pie.

It wasn’t funny coming home to this the next night, though.

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The second load! Oh, boy!

You know what? It actually was pretty funny and I’m chuckling right now remembering all of that.

That’s just how life is on a farm at the end of a long road in the middle of nowhere.

You have to keep up on things when winter hits because there are so many other things you have to do.

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This is Bull-Chit, Step Gammy. I’m not enjoying this!

Like shovel walk- and piddle-paths for our 14-pound grand-dog, Loki, who is not a fan of winter.

I watched her almost high-center herself as she squatted which led to some giggling on my part but she didn’t hear me.

We’re pretty sure Loki and Cleo are both going deaf.

Granted, Cleo has always had selective Springer Spaniel hearing but its definitely worse this year.

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What?

On top of shoveling there is also plowing to be done. It takes two hours to do the two driveways. I like keeping both of them open in case wind blows snow across the one up to the mailboxes.

We’re the last house on the road so if I want a road out its up to me when Alistair isn’t here.

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the main driveway after plowing a couple of years ago (note Casey & Harry running to me)

We like it nice and wide so its 3 runs up and 3 runs down in Big Red.

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Big Red. Last winter.

Big Red is a 1996 model and he has fired up for me every single year. He’s probably one of the most significant relationships I have had in my life. I love that truck!

On top of moving snow from here to there I am also trying to promote my 2nd book, The Dragons of Missing Lake. I have had 2 book events that have gone very well and I’ve got one up in Condon tomorrow!

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First book event in Ovando, signing for my friend, Eloise!

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Marilyn getting her book signed at our second book event!

People are enjoying getting back in touch with my characters and seeing what Luke is getting into. I miss my characters and can’t wait to start the next book but I really need to promote right now.

And I’m still slinging bling because I’m just not busy enough.

Men… did you know that 30% of women practice saying, “Thank-you” in a mirror so that if they open a gift they don’t really like they will still look convincing?

Reason enough right there to head over to http://www.chloeandisabel.com/boutique/tanyafyfe

So the snow falls and I’m a happy little wood-splitting, snow-plowing, shovel-wielding, Mouse-missing, book promoting, Boom-grooming, gift-wrapping bling-slinger.

It keeps me busy.

It keeps me from thinking about things.

Like how this is the first part of the first winter without 5 dogs and Jockey and Georgia are starting to bond but neither of them sleeps in their beds together and Loki’s eye looks gross and I really want her to enjoy another springtime and Calypso lost a bit of weight thanks to dietary indiscretion but he’s still having a ball and I can always do more Boomer-grooming and, Jeez, she’s 20 years old which makes me miss Oscar this time of year, camped out by the woodstove and there’s no deer legs to complain about because there is no Casey.

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Casey a year ago

Well, wait…

I guess I did make the time to sit down and reflect, didn’t I?

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UB and Cleo goofing around in the snow a couple of days ago

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Our winter wonderland when it snowed this week

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Gary & Dona, my mushing experts at the 2nd book event at the Double Arrow Lodge!

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Mummy & Mouse a couple of winters ago. xo

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.