A Cook’s Winter

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My first-ever attempt at Risotto the other night!

It has already been one of “those” winters and its not even February yet.

I’m certainly not complaining, though. Alistair was here for his 2 weeks and he widened our long driveway and opened up the back so we can easily bring wood to the back deck for the wood stove. And he cleared the top of the driveway so Cleo, Jockey and I don’t have to walk in carved-out paths to get anywhere.

 

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Opening up the path to the garage!

The chain on the big snowblower broke so his efforts to move snow from here to there slowed for a couple of days but he was back in business once it was repaired.

We got the vent for the dryer dug out from under a small iceberg and I don’t have to air-dry everything anymore! Within the iceberg was the shovel he forgot he’d placed there to remind us exactly where the vent was in case we got “a bit of snow.”

 

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He found the vent! And the shovel we forgot about!

And even though I’ve had to plow with Big Red twice since he left just days ago (including this morning, thank you, Mother Nature), I really don’t mind because its not coming down like it did a month ago and I have my Hawaiian tunes to enjoy while I shove snow off to the side of the road.

I’m not minding being somewhat home-bound this winter because I have an online course I’m playing with, there has been a lot of figure skating and PGA golf on TV, I’m pretending to hit the treadmill again and there is that awesome cooking course that has lessons and classes available at all times!

 

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Right outside our front door…

Just last night I did a short lesson on how to store and cook with herbs. I’ve used herbs all my cooking life and we have had great success in our ND garden with them but I still learned a few things last night and I’m inspired to try a few recipes.

Just like I was inspired to finally try my hand at risotto a few nights ago. I had done 2 lessons on risotto but I wasn’t able to get the right rice in our little, local grocery store. After our monthly trek to Missoula, however, I came home with Arborio rice and was ready to go for it.

I never like to make brand-new dishes when Alistair is here, though, because our time together is limited and we make so many great dishes that we love- no point trying something on the off chance it doesn’t turn out.

 

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My first risotto!

And you know, it was good but it wasn’t great. I was patient and got the creamy texture that is desired but there were still a few grains that had too much bite to them. And the dried mushrooms were shiitake, not cremini like the recipe called for and I think they were a bit overpowering. It wasn’t bad, though, and it made for an alright meal.

Its not just me getting on the Rouxbe bandwagon. When Alistair was delayed in getting here thanks to the weather, he watched the lesson on making your own Hollandaise. With nice-looking salmon brought home from Missoula last week he turned on his cooking skills (with the lesson pulled up on the laptop, of course.)

He clarified his butter, I made a shallot-white-wine-vinegar-white-wine-tarragon reduction and he created the creamiest, most yummy Béarnaise I’ve ever had!

 

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Alistair… clarifying the butter. Reduction in the bottom right dish.

Sure, it takes a lot longer than opening up a packet of Béarnaise mix and adding milk and butter and you’re glued to the stove while making it but, wow, what a difference!

And we “had” to buy the double boiler in the photo in order to clarify the butter. I’ve upgraded both of our kitchens with stainless steel pans, a new steamer, soup pots, and gobs of utensils. Not unlike when we took up golf and I  need a new wardrobe only in the case of cooking, our kitchens got the new duds. It has been worth it.

My cream of mushroom soup made from scratch was delightful and maybe even better than the cream of asparagus soup I’ve made a couple of times. The stir fry sauce with velvetted chicken had just the perfect salty kick and crunch to the veggies (oyster sauce- who knew?) The steamed salmon with lemon & dill was simple and yet something I had never tried. And the Mexican Red Rice, which I made using a real rice pilaf method (rice is cooked in a blended mixture of tomatoes, garlic, onion and broth) has been a repeat a few times already!

 

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Mexican Red Rice

Not everything has been a success. The short ribs were just ‘meh’. I’ve smoked myself out with olive oil when I ran out of grapeseed. I’ve had a couple of pan sauces that went down the drain vs down the hatch. And there was one seriously undercooked chicken breast that just didn’t pan out.

But more than not, things work out and I’ve gained confidence to actually create things myself.

Like the amazing “Chicken Tanya” I created just before Alistair got back.

 

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Chicken Tanya on its maiden voyage to my tummy!

I pan seared the chicken breasts and created lovely sucs. I sautéed shallots and then deglazed with white wine. I added a bit of garlic with sun-dried tomatoes & fresh thyme and reduced it all (patience is key with reductions, I have learned.) Then I added chicken broth and reduced it all before adding a touch of cream. Served over a good quality pasta, this dish was incredible. And it was all from my own head which is probably why it tasted as good as it did.

 

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Driveway work a couple of weeks ago.

So while our house is buried in snow I’m not wallowing in lonliness out here in the middle of nowhere. I’m keeping my brain busy as well as my body even though my heart aches because we’re closing in on the one-year anniversary of losing Loki and I still can’t believe that UB is gone and 14-year old Cleo has been stumbling a bit lately and I’ve noticed more grey hairs beneath her eyes and 17 year-old Sport is thin but ever the lover.

And the Olympics are on the horizon but I’ll save my pre-Olympic skating buzz for next time.

I have chicken out for supper tonight that I’ll steam with lemon and thyme. I’ve made that one before and its quite tasty.

I’m not giving up on the risotto, either. I think I need to go to a more basic one, though, and skip the mushrooms & onions. Just work on the rice to create the creaminess all the great risottos have. Maybe with shrimp and peas.

 

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A fun scallop & tomato concoction I created before Christmas. 

There is much to look forward to in the world of Rouxbe. Home made pasta is up there. I’m holding out but almost ready for the long course on living a plant-based lifestyle. I think I need the Olympics out of the way before I begin that because it, like the course I won last year that got this whole thing going, will take me a few months to get through.

I’m keen and interested, though, so it will be great. Here’s to old dogs learning new tricks and being open to a lifetime of learning! And a never ending winter that is tailor made to cooks and chefs!

 

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When life hands you lemons….

 

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A neighborhood and historical tragedy. An old school house buckled under the weight of the snow this winter and finally gave way.

 

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Plowing in a blizzardy white out a couple of days ago. Huzzah!

 

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The risotto might not have been perfect but my mise en place was top notch!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See Ya, 2017

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Outside our front door today. More on Snowmageddon later…

There were times this past year when it seemed that 2018 would never arrive. Moments or days or situations that will forever be associated with 2017 could have weighed so heavily at times but, thankfully, Alistair likes to laugh at life as much as I do.

Not that we laughed all of the time.

The spirit world grew rich this year in January and November when Loki and then UB crossed the Rainbow Bridge. I have cried rivers of tears over both of those losses and our entire way of living changed each time.

 

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UB and Loki a few years ago

March had a lot of snow and I developed a pesky little pneumonia but it forced me to stay home, plow snow and finish my third novel. A silver lining to everything, right?

Of course 2017 will always be the summer of the Rice Ridge Fire that threatened our entire community on both sides of the mountains. It was a day-to-day experience for so many people and families and the business district took a huge hit from the loss of tourism, which is what Seeley Lake relies on to stay alive during our long winters.

 

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The pilots were our tourists this summer!

Bitterness and anger remain for a lot of folks for a fire that just wasn’t managed correctly from the beginning.

We were lucky in that we have a farm and acreage and big trucks and great friends and we were able to take our pets with us to Bismarck for a full month during the fire.

While a lot of things were bad about the fire, I think, perhaps, the worst part was the fact we all put our trust in our hired forest officials to do their job and save our town. Why did such a little fire have to turn into a public health and economic behemoth of a monster that raged over 160,000 acres and lasted over 3 months?

 

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the night we decided to get out… MMK’s photo

Thankfully no homes or businesses burned but that doesn’t mean businesses weren’t lost. I hope beyond hope that each restaurant, salon, and service can stay open this winter and thrive into 2018’s tourist season. Our little Chamber is re-focusing with new members and if everyone sticks together and supports one another we will see hundreds of out-of-state license plates clogging up our highway by Rovero’s and the Ice Cream Place yet again!

 

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Normal summer shenanigans in western Montana

My bling thing continued to provide a sparkly distraction to my world. I actually hit $60,000 in personal sales and I’m just 2 months shy of my 3-year anniversary with the company.

The company is going through some growing pains and major changes right now, though, and I’m not sure where I will fit in the new plan. I still love the jewelry but the company is focused on growing the number of merchandisers and recruiting and that’s just not my thing.

 

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Some of the bling (not my photo)

Doing direct sales for the first time ever has taught me some business skills and things I never learned on the ice or in the vet clinic and I have had the opportunity to meet some wonderful people and make women feel absolutely beautiful when they wear the jewelry. (There are one or two men out there rocking our men’s leather wraps, too… I’m just saying…)

 

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I earned these this month! Super cute, not even on sale yet!

 

2018 will begin the blogger and media outreach we are planning with the Jenkins group we have hired for my 3rd book, Secrets Abound in Missing Lake.

If you’ve read any of my Missing Lake series, you know that the teens are tasked with making sense out of songs that their hippie English teacher assigns them. Its a sub-plot in the book but its a fun one as I explore songs and artists that I like and try to think how my various characters would analyze things.

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My books (Photo from Dr.Alison, who got the books for her daughter!)

For the 3rd book I went out on a limb and chose a lesser-known artist with an even lesser-known song to challenge both myself and my characters. The artist is Matisyahu and the song is Hard Way.

The really cool thing about this is that Matisyahu and his peeps are coming to a small theatre in Missoula, which is an hour from here, at the end of February.

He’s coming to Missoula!!!!!!

Tickets are already purchased for the small show (the only one in the state) and I’ve reached out hoping to meet him. Maybe he can sign my book!

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Just about into 2018….

And just when I thought we would skip through the last few days of 2017 without any drama, Mother Nature happened. And she happened, like she often does in the middle of nowhere, Big Time.

We have learned living in both Montana and North Dakota to take warnings about thunder storms and snowfall very, very seriously. The people in charge of those things usually are on top of it, knowing that either situation could mean life or death out here. (Tornado warnings are pretty spot-on in North Dakota, too.)

So when we looked ahead at weather reports, Alistair decided to head back to North Dakota a day early, leaving me to fend for myself during what was supposed to be quite the epic storm.

And it was.

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this was after the 1st day. My walk path the UPS guy must have used the night before!

I’ve never minded being up here alone because Alistair has me well set up with machinery to move snow from here to there, particularly Big Red, our ’96 one ton Dodge Ram. And we stocked up on wine and food in Missoula a day before he left and pet food supplies are full and we had brought 2 tractor buckets full of wood over to the house as well.

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Yesterday  morning… after I had “cleaned off” Big Red…

As predicted, the snow started to fall.

And it kept falling.

And sometimes it picked up in intensity and other times it just fell.

Most of our community has been without power for some length of time. There is a young couple in Seeley Lake who have been without for 3 days now and a friend north of town with an electrical line down on her driveway so not only can she not plow, she can’t leave her house.

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The snow piled up along our kitchen windows. This isn’t the ground floor.

Our power has been on and off but, for the most part, I have been extremely lucky.

There has been 1 avalanche already along the highway that Alistair travels through Lincoln, MT on his way back to ND. Nobody was injured but it closed the highway for half of a day as crews worked in the falling snow to clear it up.

And while this is life in the mountains of Montana, I have never seen such a snow event in my life. I’ve seen it accumulate but not in one 3-day event.

I plowed twice daily with my newest Hawaiian singer, Keali’i Reichel singing and chanting about sunshine, love, and Aloha in the warmth of Big Red’s rumbling cab. I got good and stuck at one point and contemplated melting down but I managed to channel that energy into getting myself unstuck.

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My first run up the driveway yesterday morning

I was able to create a path out to the main road yesterday, at least, which was my main goal despite all the plowing I had done the days prior. We are the last house on a long driveway and if I want to connect with the outside world I have to be on top of things. I don’t like the idea that I can’t get out if there’s an emergency or an ambulance can’t get in.

So I pushed the road open and then it snowed through the night and this morning I cleaned it up as best I could.

Its not my finest plow work but there is a road.

The problem is that I’ve run out of room to put the snow so it feels a bit like a narrow tunnel in places but, hey, its a road.

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Tidying it up as much as I could today.

I’ve also been shoveling to get the other trucks out and that has re-awoken some muscles in my arms and back that I had forgotten about. Either that or I had just kept them in check by playing golf all summer & fall. Regardless, they are talking to me and I’m glad to have Ibuprofen around.

But I’m done shoveling for 2017.

I think I’m done with 2017 in general.

As much laughter and silliness and as many wonderful friends & family we got to see this year, I’m totally cool with moving forward and letting any issues with 2017 disappear along with the calendars.

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Today’s handiwork. Not going to be using “Big Silver” anytime soon….

For now I’m going to bundle up in my warm, purple ski suit and take Cleopatra down the flat driveway for a walk and later I’ll make a yummy shrimp pasta and curl up on the couch with my ancient bestie, Sport purring away in my lap and maybe we’ll make it to see the ball drop and maybe I’ll even try making myself a Caesar before I switch to wine and maybe my family will call or I’ll call them. Alistair will call but he has to work all day tomorrow after working a very long day today, so we won’t talk late.

I shall sip wine and whole-heartedly welcome a new year with new dreams, new goals, new friends, new challenges, and a surprise or two up my sleeve.

Its Fyfe Life.

May you close 2017 with joy and embrace the New Year with a welcoming heart.

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Cleo helping me shovel today

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Sport, 17 1/2 years young… my new Couch Time partner at nights.

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I was fine with the amount of snow we had before this storm!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lilacs, Learnings, the Ladies League and Loki

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Odd title, I know. It doesn’t really make sense unless you are inside my house or on the front lawn right now. My entire world is coated in the sweet, delicate, feminine scent of lilacs.

 

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Our front yard

I love these pretty plants and how their scent completely fills up our house from the east side kitchen to our west side bedroom. The driveway smells lovely. The barn cat, Jockey, who lies in these bushes during the afternoon, smells fantastic. And good old Sport, our Siamese, brings in a bit of the pretty smell when he goes on his early evening survey of the grounds (when Jockey is in the barn, of course.)

What’s interesting this year is that the backyard lilacs bloomed a month ago. Normally they burst onto the scene first but not usually a full month ahead of the front yard.

We had a fairly wet and cool spring, though, so perhaps that’s the reason. Whatever it is, I just breathed in the amazing scent through the open window to my right.

 

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One of the cool, damp days this spring leading to a very green yard

The “learnings” the title of this blog are referring to are the cooking class I’m enrolled in, a bit of golf and Bebe’s health.

I finished my final exam last night (49/50) (araaaagh! I got one wrong!!!) and am tasking myself with a challenging but amazing-sounding pasta dish this evening. I’ve made many different pasta recipes over the years but none have required as much planning as this Pasta Boscaiola does. But I’m pumped!

The pasta sauce has prosciutto, sun-dried tomatoes and fresh thyme so its going to be an interesting, flavorful cream sauce if I don’t screw it up. If I can figure out how to go “live” on some social media platform maybe I will. I’ll probably get my ‘mise on place’ in place and go from there.

 

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My first go at Spaghetti Aglio e Olio (garlic and oil)

I was tasked with making Spaghetti Aglio e Olio the other night and I rocked it. It helped learning how to choose better quality store-bought dry pasta (go for pale, rough-textured pasta) which holds onto sauces better. This particular sauce was basically garlic, red chili flakes, olive oil and fresh basil. And it was yummy!

It boosted my confidence and I feel ready to try this Boscaiolo recipe tonight. I’ll let you know how it goes.

As for me learning about my own golf game, I’ve learned that I can achieve goals I’ve set with a bit of hard work.

 

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Me and SpongeBob-ball on the par 5 9th hole!

I had the goal last summer of making par on the four par 5’s on our local course. I made the 13th hole but that was it.

But this summer something has clicked for both Alistair and me. In his case, probably having that final, annoying, restrictive pin removed from deep within his pelvis likely helped but we both are actually playing golf like, well, golfers.

And with some cool length to my drives (when they work) thanks to my Hideki Matsuyama-inspired swing, I conquered the par 5 18th a couple of weeks ago and the 9th just last week! (Ball-for-the-wall video at the end of this blog for your enjoyment… make sure your volume is on!)

 

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Hiding from the impending storm in the cart barn after making par on the par 5 18th a couple of weeks ago! Pardon the freaky eyes, it was dark in there and I was pumped.

I’m learning each time I’m out there and even though I still make a lot of crappy shots I know I’m capable of big, fun things.

And what about Bebe’s health? I guess I don’t know. Which is what I’m learning, or trying to learn.

Bebe, herself is a bit of a conundrum in that she lived in the shadows of 7 other cats for most of her life until we lost sweet old Boomer over a year ago. Babs got along with everyone and shared the cat beds with Oscar, Boomer, and Cooper but once it became  just her and Sport in the house, she became a brand new cat.

A Domesticated Indoor Cat, as she says.

 

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Fabulous Babulous during Couch Time last night

Bebe now vocalizes regularly, joins me on the Magic Blanket for Couch Time at night, cuddles up with UB from time to time and has a real, present personality within the house.

So it was noticeable 2 days ago when she didn’t demand her 3 or 4 Greenies pieces first thing in the morning. And I could tell she hadn’t eaten any kibble through the night and she didn’t eat her canned food that evening. Yesterday wasn’t much different although I always saw her drinking water and she continued to join me on the couch at night.

 

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On the couch with Mummy last night

She definitely seemed a bit weak these past couple of days and Doctor Mummy wasn’t liking this very much.

I couldn’t find anything on physical exam, which is a challenge with this particular Domesticated Indoor Cat. Despite being a real presence in our world, Bebe has never liked being held. All 4 limbs stiffly jut out the instant you pick her up so handling her for palpation is tricky.

But there she was this morning asking for and then gobbling up 6 Greenies pieces and she ran towards me when I put fresh kibble into their food dish. She’s using the litter box and appears a bit brighter today so hopefully the antibiotics I started her on 2 days ago are working on whatever needed working on.

 

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Resting in one of her usual afternoon spots just now

Regarding the Ladies League, I’m learning that I actually fit in. The local women, many of whom have been my veterinary clients since 2007, have asked me to come out and play with them since we took golf up a couple of years ago. I’ve always resisted, fearing I would embarrass my competitive self or that I would slow them all down.

Finally, with Alistair in Bismarck last week, I joined the group on Wednesday. I liked it so much I joined again on Friday.

And I am happy to report that I do fit in. To quote one of the women as she introduced me to a lady I hadn’t met, “Tanya can drive the shit out of a golf ball.”

So this has opened up an entirely new chapter to our golf experience and maybe Alistair and I will try Couples League down the road, too.

 

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Random golf photo from last month

Things are a bit different when you’re playing exclusively with women. For starters, we talk about our golf outfits a lot. Generally, the men don’t ask what brand my duds are and I haven’t shared how comfy a certain outfit is or how much give a particular skort has when swinging before.

And Girlfriend Golf is very cheerful and congratulatory, particularly when I manage to hit the shit out of the ball on a drive.

And then we all gather in the clubhouse and visit and talk about upcoming visits to the doc for someone’s hip and how one gal would rather be euthanized than go through rotator-cuff surgery again and how I can actually help with that (not the surgery, the other thing) and that maybe this is why the gals invited me to join them in the first place because I’m 10 to 20 years younger than most of them and I have the tools and the skill set and almost everyone has grandchildren and its so hot where most of these women live during the winter that the planes can’t lift off from the airports and gosh, they all miss me and my clinic but they totally understand the situation and one lady was worried because she hadn’t done her hair that morning and so-and-so has dinner guests and she was making “better than sex” cake and I’m taking a cool online cooking course!

 

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From this a couple of years ago to the Ladies League!

And finally, in reference to Loki in the title of this blog, our little friend is home again only, sadly, its a boxed version of our adorable companion.

I made it to Missoula last week and managed to hold my shit together when Alex handed me the two little boxes that contain her ashes. Whitney wants some of her very special friend so someday when we get back to Kauai or she gets back to the mainland we will share Loki with her once again.

And the other box will remain with us, firmly ensconced in Fyfe Life once more.

It seemed fitting that she go back to the living room to enjoy Couch Time again.

 

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Loki Fyfe

So this is how the summer of 2017 is beginning around the farm and on the golf courses. I’ll keep you posted on how I do during the league and what new recipes I’m trying and how they turn out.

I’m still slinging the bling and if you’re interested I’m doing my annual fundraiser this month for our local pet shelter, Paws Up Safe Home. I’ve done this for 3 years now and I give all of my 40% commissions earned this month to the shelter so every dollar really helps. And every necklace and bracelet is 25% off so its a win-win for everyone (head over to http://www.chloeandisabel.com/boutique/tanyafyfe if you’d like to treat yourself and feel great about it.)

 

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Awesome arm-party one of the guests did at a fun pop-up yesterday!

And of course I’ll share Bebe’s tale because the blog is an outlet for me to share my thoughts, fears, hopes and feelings and most of you are pet lovers and I know you’ll be thinking about her.

So thanks for letting me share and for coming along on my journey. Now get out there and enjoy some summertime and don’t forget to check out the video below…

 

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My favorite golf partner needs to get home soon!

 

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Cleopatra doing some learning and exploring herself the other day

 

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Baby Bebe!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And Then There’s That

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Loki Fyfe, a few weeks ago

 

Three years ago when I started writing this blog I was worried back then about little Loki, our blind grand-dog. At that point she had advanced cataracts and a left eye that had been nailed by cat claws a few too many times. She had her pronounced heart murmur, reverse sneezing, her knobby dew-claw, advancing arthritis, a thinning hair coat and a general dislike for winter.

It was only my fifth blog (As Good As We Can, by Step Gammy) and it was April of 2014 and it was about our deal with the animals who join our family and how I always promise to provide a life as good as we can for as long as we can.

I had to make good on that promise on January 30th.

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Earlier in January, with Cleo snoozing on Loki and Gampy snoozing nearby.

In my blog three years ago I wrote that I couldn’t imagine life without Loki and in other blogs I’ve shared how important she was in our lives. I’ve included multiple pictures of her exploring her worlds in Montana and North Dakota where she navigated around both homes in her pin-ball fashion, always knowing where she needed to go and somehow always able to find me.

Her need to be with Step-Gammy increased dramatically over the past year & a half and the two of us have been pretty inseparable. To the point where I felt guilty playing more than 9 holes of golf by myself or lingering longer at a lunch date.

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Earlier this year… snoring….

We couldn’t go on overnight trips without months of planning ahead of time unless the dogs came with us.

Which made for several fun drives across the state with my three companions and several funny glances from other rest-stop-users as I handled a blind dog and two rambunctious dogs who have no clue how to behave on a leash.

 

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“Let’s get the show on the road, Gammy!”

 

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Thankfully we had Gampy along on this trip!

Evening time with Loki, whether her Gampy was home or not was a pretty special thing for her, particularly once supper was cleaned up and it became Couch Time.

Couch Time involved snuggling and snoring into some area of my feet or legs. We’d watch golf or CNN or whatever Netflix series her Gampy and I were hooked on and she’d snore and fart and those snuggly evenings leading up to another favorite, Bed Time are a magical rear-view memory.

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Couch Time with Step-Gammy watching PGA golf from Kapalua, Maui

While UB was always pretty tight with Loki, Cleo had begun making it a very tight threesome over the past year. I’d get them to bed and go off to feed the cats and stoke the woodstove only to return to a snuggle fest when I got back. They would eventually move through the night (UB and Loki under the covers, tight against us) but I loved seeing the three of them as their own little canine gang.

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Earlier in January

I joked that “we four move as one” for the past year or two because that has truly been the case. UB is fit as a fiddle but Cleo had her own Vestibular Disease and balance issue last April and she is almost completely deaf (more fun at rest stops….) UB liked having both of his sisters close by, as though he felt responsible for them. I love his caring nature and the way he can be so serious about some things.

And I loved seeing him and Loki cuddled up in cat beds or on the carpet together by the woodstove. I didn’t know how I would be able to walk through the house without knowing he would be doing his best to take care of little Loki.

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A couple of years ago… Loki and UB.

Alistair and I hadn’t planned on putting our little train wreck through another winter but she was doing so well and the weather was so mild that neither of us could fathom ending things.

She met a new friend and enjoyed our house sitters in November when we went to Maui (a trip that was planned a year in advance, of course.) The snow didn’t fall in November so she enjoyed walks & talks with me several times a day around the farm outside. She played in the leaves, listened to the burbling creek and sniffed the air as the season changed.

 

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Getting in some good sniffing in November

 

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more sniffing

Her squished-in nose was, by far, her most important navigational tool outdoors and indoors. She was a whiz at figuring her way to the back of the house in Bismarck and a whiz at finding me in the kitchen cooking up the ground beef we added to her diet last September.

 

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Loki and her navigational tools last fall

The snow came down hard and fast in December, though, and things began to change. She was far more sensitive to the cold temps. She started “chibbering” as we put her jackets on her before we even went outside. She always did go out (unlike UB who usually requires assistance out the door on cold, snowy mornings) and did her business but often she would be three-legged and seemingly frozen in place immediately afterwards.

Even if she did let us get the jackets on she was never a fan of them. We had a variety of sweaters or cover-ups and each one induced a Pavlovian type of trembling response from within the warm house.

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A couple of  years ago… this one didn’t work despite the fashion-forward scarf.

So a few days, unless it was so cold it hurt to breathe, we just skipped the jackets and stood over her so we would be right there when she was finished because it was minus whatever and it was frigging cold even for us in our coats and toques.

 

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Another fail.

But things started to change and we started to talk about them. Normally Alistair and Tanya try to avoid talking about our ailing pets but the Doctors Fyfe intervened.

Despite the ground beef and high-calorie prescription canned food, Loki lost weight. She lost hair and the margins of her ears became tattered. Her GI tract was making unusual sounds and despite the meds I provided her stools got more & more loose. Her appetite, particularly for chicken mozzarella with Gampy, generally stayed strong, though, so we kept on keeping on.

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Couch Time earlier this year

And every night we would cuddle and I would hold her tight and we’d be up in the morning and out into the cold and she’d get her Rimadyl and ground beef and follow me into the computer room or the bedroom where she would wait for me outside the shower on the bath mat and she would snuggle into clothes left on the floor and follow me to the computer where she would sit on my feet or behind the chair as I told stories of teenagers and dragons and a Boston Terrier named Baxter.

She helped me finish chapter fifteen and even though I told her how the story would end, she won’t be here when this book gets published.

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Helping me edit book 2 in 2015

Loki won’t be here to enjoy one more springtime and she won’t feel another hot sunbeam on her adorable face.

She wasn’t there to join UB, Cleo and I as we drove across the state to help Gampy with one more surgery earlier this month.

She won’t cuddle on the couch to watch another PGA event and she won’t be spooned into my chest or neck ever again.

She won’t do “Geronimo”, “Boba-Fett” or her impersonation of a T-Rex off the bed in Gampy’s arms one more time.

 

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One of her last T-Rex impersonations on one of her last mornings with Gampy.

And I won’t cook up her ground beef or give her a post-seizure bath and I won’t have her riding shot-gun in the front seat of the truck and I don’t hear her snore at night in the too-quiet bedroom and I don’t feel her thrust her face into my chest when I pick her up and I don’t have her at my feet, on my lap or by my side anywhere in the house. I don’t see ferrets toying with the blind dog, I’m not carrying anyone outside, I’m not standing her on the freezer to trim her toe nails and I’m not smiling as I watch her lay with UB and Cleo.

Because Loki had two pretty tough nights after Gampy went back to Bismarck in January. The first day after the first night was a day for me to come to grips with what had to be done and for her and I to spend time together. Walks and talks in some winter sunshine. Chapter fifteen. Couch Time and all.

 

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Immediately behind my chair on the final morning, helping me edit some more

Our last night wasn’t much fun for Loki and she didn’t eat her breakfast. Alistair and I had decided what needed to be done and we talked beforehand. Well, he talked. I sobbed.

And I cried to the blue skies outside, “How can I DO this?” through my tears.

Loki was especially clingy that final morning and I didn’t leave her side. I laid with her in front of the woodstove and said goodbye from the hundreds of people who were lucky enough to meet and love her, like Theresa, Brian & Roxy, like Jessi & Carson, like Melody, Carolyn & Wanita, like Uncle Pete and Auntie Wendy and their resort and home, like all my clinic staff and friends at the Dog Days of summer, like the Bossorts, like all of Whitney’s friends & roomies over the years and like our neighbors in Bismarck and Montana.

I asked her to say hi to our band of merry misfits who would all be waiting for her and somehow I was able to sedate her without her really knowing.

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Just before it all went down…

She felt the tiny needle, though, and she sat up. She didn’t bark or pull away. She just sat and leaned into me. As the cocktail of meds kicked in and as more tears fell from my burning eyes, little Loki slid down my side next to my leg and hit one of her classic Cute Positions.

And she snored.

With trembling hands I managed to hit a vein. I smiled, somehow, at the fact her hair never re-grew after an IV injection site was shaved in one of our attempts to save the bad eye a few years ago.

And I told her one last time, as I listened to her murmury, washing-machine of a heartbeat slow and eventually stop, how lucky I am to be her Step-Gammy.

 

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In December, waiting for me on the bath mat

Loki lived an incredible life (sixteen years of it!) with incredible spirts of all species and she probably wouldn’t have been around for the last three if it weren’t for the fact she was firmly wrapped up in Fyfe Life.

Where everyone lives as good as they can. For as long as they can.

And we’re all slowly adapting and its weird and I miss her every single day and night and UB and Cleo are even closer than before and I had a moment opening up a package of ground beef the other night for the first time since January 30th and I’m okay with that. Her spirit lives on and will likely have as much to say as ever during our golf games.

 

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This was unexpected… but I guess when you’re running out of friends…

RIP little Loki Fyfe. You will never be forgotten. xo

 

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Another favorite snooze spot for Loki.

 

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Clothes on the ground made for excellent bedding.

 

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“Step-Gammy… the girl ferret is in my bed again!”

 

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Mornings with Loki in January. xo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!