Seasons of Change

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playing golf in North Dakota earlier this month

Its hard to believe, but the snow is actually almost all gone.

There is still a few feet remaining up high in the mountains surrounding us in Montana but the incredible piles that were stacked around our home to make their own makeshift mountain range have melted.

 

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stacked snow in March

We left Montana with 3 feet of snow for a reprieve and time together in Bismarck. Alistair and the 3 cats took off early one morning and I followed with Cleo that afternoon after giving a fun interview with Indie Review (search Tanya Fyfe on YouTube) to promote my book, Secrets Abound in Missing Lake.

I chose to promote last year’s publication instead of writing this past winter because I wanted to learn the process and see what some marketing could do. I’m glad I didn’t try writing because the amount of plowing and snow removal didn’t allow for much creativity and I think my writing would have been frustrating.

 

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This wouldn’t have made for a very relaxing writer’s corner.

With huge fans and dehumidifiers whizzing 24/7 and strangers and their machines traipsing through the house and us living in the guest room since February, I haven’t felt much like creating this spring. So it was a good call to choose to market.

And through the marketing I have learned a lot and I got my book out to a lot of different people and I’m getting close to wrapping up my first Book Blog tour! Blog sites like Rockin’ Book Reviews, Community bookstop, Ashley’s Bookshelf, My Reading Journeys and Bound 2 Escape signed on to “host” a stop on the tour.

Its a lot like a band going on tour, making stops in a variety of cities and performing. Only on this tour the cities are virtual and the bloggers review my book. Some also provided excerpts and its been great fun seeing what people think about my book and my writing style!

 

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Wendy & I in Watford City

While in North Dakota, I spent a day with my good friend, Wendy Ruud and we had a book event in Watford City, where we had first met in 1994. Book sales were decent, especially since I sold to some people who had no idea who either of us were.

And then I got notice that my book actually won an award! My first book award! Secrets Abound won Distinguished Favorite for teen fiction in the Independent Press Awards! It didn’t come with prize money but it did come with stickers for my books, which is the next-best thing.

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North Dakota didn’t have any snow at all when I arrived towards the end of April. Our horses got to enjoy the first bits of grass peeking through and they had mostly shed their winter coats.

As always, they remembered their ‘Mum’ and came right up to greet me whenever I would be out with them. Especially the few who have spent most of the past 10 years in Montana full time with me, like Zeus and Frankie.

 

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Zeus & Frankie! My boys!

The herd dynamics had changed, though, which Alistair had warned me about over the winter. Our oldest Arabian broodmare, Susie (RJA Misty Bey), who had been Boss Mare for over a decade had begun to lose weight along with her position at the top.

Horses are herd animals and they have unique dynamics within each herd. Our group has been together for all of their lives, save for Katie and Jake, and their established rankings never changed.

Until Susie started to lag behind and be “told off” by the younger horses who are allowed to the  best grass or the best hay whenever they choose.

 

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More of the herd: Penner, Fumie and Cassie up front.

I watched Shilo and Zeus both toss their heads at thin Susie and knew she had become the lowest horse on the Fyfe totem pole. When older horses begin to lose weight it can pick up speed like a freight train and that was also happening with our 28 year-old matriarch.

It was, sadly, Time.

And just like that, we are down to 10 horses.

Along with 3 cats.

And 1 dog.

 

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Back in the day. (Susie’s daughter, Cocoa & her foal, Spyder are on the far left!)

Its a far cry from our heyday as Pair O’Docs Paints when this time of year had us up through the night waiting for foals to be born.

Its a far cry from hikes in the forest with 4 rambunctious canine companions and one hilarious blind little train wreck with a hare lip and a heart murmur waiting for us at home.

 

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Our own little dog pack.

And its an unrecognizably far cry from having a pride of cats line up for soft food in the kitchen every night.

 

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Back in Bismarck a long, long time ago. Sport and Cooper aren’t even shown here!

We’ve been so lucky to have met and shared the journey with so many interesting spirits of so many species and its helped shape us even if the changes that occur when these spirits leave us are sad.

But that’s life, right?

While the seasons are changing before our eyes right now it makes me think about the seasons within our own lives. And how they change, whether we’re in charge of it or not.

 

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Hoo boy.

After 3 weeks in North Dakota we returned to a snow-less yard around our Montana home. We could finally see the extent of the damage to the deck out back. Our insurance adjuster and the head guy from the restoration company joined us on a walk-about as we chatted about the roof, the lawn, the deck and the interior walls that need to get rebuilt.

More changes ahead, apparently.

Thankfully our creek behaved itself during the incredible melt but the community of Seeley Lake had some flooding thanks to high, fast-moving waters.

 

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Our creek next to our house a couple of weeks ago.

My home town of Grand Forks, BC, where I’ve taken you through this blog in the past, has not fared so well with the melt this year.

Sadly, heart-wrenchingly, the town has flooded like never before and dozens of homes will have to be destroyed. I’ve watched posts and news clips over the past couple of weeks as people wade, thigh-deep, in brown, murky waters to recover items from their homes.

People float along the streets in kayaks and row boats.

People have spent hours filling and distributing sandbags in a very Canadian effort to try to protect homes and businesses from the force of the swollen rivers that converge there.

The Canadian military got there yesterday to help with the disaster.

 

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My old high school in Grand Forks… closed last week because of the community’s disaster.

Things are going to change in Grand Forks, and it will take a long time for things to be considered normal again. My family is high and dry where they live but I have friends who are living in makeshift accommodations and my heart goes out to them.

I’ll share only a couple of photos that aren’t mine… I find they tell the story just as well without words.

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Spring is here, complete with her massive snow melt, her green grass, her hundreds of calves along lonely highway 200, her golf courses opening up and her friend, Winter’s insurance claim on our house.

I’m approaching a new season in my own life as well and, just like every change, it can be frightening. Change does build character (I must have it in droves!) and as nervous as I am I’m also excited. I’m not sure if this will be a full seasonal change for me or not. I’m really not sure how we’ll make this particular change work but I’m eager to try.

I didn’t just plow and shovel snow and market my book this winter. I made a point to do some personal growth and I took a course and learned a lot. I have a job to begin but the details are fuzzy so I’ll leave them blank.

For now.

 

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Along highway 200 2 weeks ago.

I’m not quite like the seasons, though. Winter shed its snowy coat and becomes something new altogether.

I’m not changing that much. I’m still me.

The Alistair-loving, figure skating, veterinarian, author (award winning!), golf-loving, bling-slinging, blogging, wine-drinking, crazy cat lady who is as Canadian as she is American.

Stay tuned, though, to find out just what else I can be!

 

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hubby-loving golfer

 

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I doubt this will change much

 

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Play it as it lies! (ND earlier this month)

 

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Someone got rid of her own winter coat this week and wanted me to share!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Different World

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Pretty skies over central and western Montana last week

I had an extended drive home to Montana from Bismarck, North Dakota last week which provided an opportunity to reflect on these past ten years since we moved to Seeley Lake.

There isn’t much about our worlds that has stayed the same. Other than the fact Alistair spends half his time in Bismarck and I primarily live in Seeley Lake, most aspects of our worlds are completely different now.

While Alistair still runs an urgent care, Walk In clinic in downtown Bismarck, he now works for Sanford Health, not MedCenter One and he’s in a different building than he was in 10 years ago.

As far as careers go, I was working 3 days a week in Missoula and 2 days here in Seeley Lake and I hadn’t leapt into opening my own clinic yet.

 

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Cute little clinic I eventually opened.

Alistair and I spent Christmas apart that very first winter and we hadn’t even taken possession of our beautiful mountain home yet.

I was still skating well and able to land double jumps because I had been coaching regularly while working part time at a veterinary clinic before we came to Montana. I managed to skate in Missoula a few days a week the first year and even guest skated in the club’s year-end ice show.

 

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Missoula skating club program. I loved that dress!

 

While I had a blast returning to the ice in Canada to coach this past summer, there’s no way I’d be able to curve around the ice in a pretty spread eagle and then 3-turn into a double loop like I could in Bismarck 10 years ago.

In fact, I could barely get up after kneeling to line up a putt after the first week of high level choreography, power skating, stroking and general coaching.

Speaking of lining up putts, I would have laughed hysterically if you had told me, 10 years ago, that Alistair and I would be addicted to golf now.

 

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Seeley Swan Veterinary golf team members…. the first round of golf for us together!

 

What began as a whimsical day of laughter and drinks as we swung and missed and broke golf clubs at the local pond hockey fundraiser has turned into an obsession. One that we’re both jonesen’ for now that both of our courses have closed for the season.

We have a course in Washburn, North Dakota we enjoy playing on and one here in Seeley Lake. Both are often pretty quiet so we can play “Fyfe Golf” and shamelessly hunt for balls to keep the cheap Doukhobor and the even cheaper Scotsman happy. And both courses are beautiful, as well, each with its own unique quirks and challenges.

 

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Playing at Painted Woods in ND this summer.

We take our clubs with us everywhere, even on flights and we’ve been able to enjoy rounds in Vancouver, Saskatoon, Regina, a teensy town outside of Regina, Kenmare, Medora, Fernie, Whitefish, Missoula, Helena, and all over Kauai, the Big Island and Maui. We’ve both improved immensely and we can’t wait to get back out there!

We even made time to hit the indoor driving range when I was back in Bismarck last week. We both got the Big Bucket and hit balls until our shoulders sagged and our thighs were sore. And we loved it!

 

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At the indoor driving range last week!

And I’m reminded of another change right now as the house is full of the unmistakable smell of yummy food that’s been simmering away for hours. While I was a good cook 10 years ago its as though my culinary skills are now on steroids since I won a Rouxbe online cooking course earlier this year.

Its a win-win for everyone who visits because of the cool things I’ve learned and the things I’ve tried. Steamed chicken? Who knew? The ridiculously challenging Pasta Boscaiola full of creamy mushrooms and diced prosciutto- Wow!

 

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Steamed lemon-garlic chicken I tried for the first time a few nights ago.

I’m learning the how’s and why’s of things and creating flavors and flavor profiles that I never understood before. I could follow a recipe just fine but now I actually get the order of things and how to maybe make something better. I usually only do the online lessons when Alistair isn’t here and it has been a fun addition to my life. Right now I’m simmering my own chicken stock (I just added the Bouqet Garni) that I’m making using chicken bones & bits I normally would have thrown out from roasted chickens that I never used to make but we just love to eat now!

 

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Simmer away, my pretty! (pre bouquet garni.)

I’ve also re-invented myself in that I took the time when I closed my clinic to live the childhood dream and write a book. Then I learned all about self publishing and since I began I have created a series of 3 upbeat, light-hearted, won’t-make-you-question-life-God-or-the-world, teen fiction books that are loved by people of all ages.

Lost and Found in Missing Lake, the first book, was a dream come true, even if it was pretty frightening putting myself and my imagination out there. The covers for the 2nd and 3rd books are fabulous works of art done by our friend, Ben Brick who is a graphics artist and this winter I’m focusing on trying to get the books some more attention.

 

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My 3rd book, published this spring! 

I just love writing and creating characters and worlds and I’ve been able to combine my passion for veterinary medicine in this series and its been so well-received that this winter instead of getting going on book 4, I’ve decided to work with a media marketing group and try to grow my distribution.

I want to share more of Luke and Tabitha’s story with my fans but it would be even better if I could have way more fans to share it with.

I do get to write all year with this little blog thing I now do that I certainly didn’t do 10 years ago. Heck, I had no clue about social media 10 years ago and thought blogging was for people with nothing better to do.

 

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Me, writing last week’s blog.

No offense, Bloggers. I didn’t think much of golfers 10 years ago, either!

The blog has been great for my writing and for promoting my book and for connecting with individuals around the world. It has, most importantly for me, though, been an unexpected outlet for me to share my thoughts, fears and worries when I have to face choices and loss with our animal companions.

Sadly, 10 years ago we had 4 dogs and 11 cats (3 of them were barn kitties.) In the 10 years we grew to a family that included another dog, 2 guinea pigs and up to 3 ferrets at our peak.

 

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Cleo, Casey, UB and Harry… not all that long ago, really.

A blessing to closing my clinic was being able to spend such amazing quality time with all of these cool spirits and I’ve been sharing their stories with the blogosphere. It has been wonderful having you all get to know “the kids”

Phillipa, Calypso and Luigi were outstanding ferret ambassadors and I wish I could be singing Christmas carols on the Sing-Song Saddle with them to share with you all right now but, sadly, that’s not the case.

But I was able to write through my feelings and sort of sort them out through my fingers on this screen. 10 years ago I had my journal (which I still maintain) and now I have this platform as well.

 

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Do you know how hard it used to be to get them all facing the camera?

Our horse collection was a lot larger 10 years ago and included our gorgeous stallion, Dash, who we had to say goodbye to a couple of summers ago. The broodmares, Raven and Cocoa are now buried alongside my riding horse, Spyder, along with Flash and Brutus as these 10 years has taken its toll on the herd.

The remaining bunch are wintering again in North Dakota and their fuzzy hair coats are a sign that the cold weather is coming.

 

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Siblings, Fumie & Frankie just last week!

Its pretty mild in North Dakota so far this winter, though. I just got off the phone with Alistair and he was outside on the tractor moving hay from here to there for a large part of the day and never had to come inside or shove his toes into a heater to get warm.

I’ve strained my broth and have it cooling and its almost time to put the noodles into the crock pot. I had a brisk walk up the driveway with our one remaining pup, Cleo, who is 14 and also isn’t the same as she was 10 years ago.

She has a wicked heart murmur (not as loud as Loki’s was, mind you), she’s completely deaf and her back legs don’t do what they’re supposed to all of the time. We keep her on meds for arthritis and she’s inside most of the time and she seems content to just be with us.

 

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Miss Cleopatra last week in Bismarck

And we never used to go to Hawaii but that is a part of our world now and the Grand Prix final of figure skating happened this weekend and a good friend is there with his Canadian champ and I wear glasses to read and Alistair now makes me Caesars and he’s a martini-man instead of a scotch man and our Relaxation Grotto out back is finally coming together where 10 years ago it was a deck and I sleep better and more than I used to, give or take a random insomnia spell, and my hair is shorter than its been in years and I sling bling and I’m working on something else that is all a part of improving my marketability and I really, really want people to read my books!

A lot has happened in 10 years for the Fyfes and some of its been a wild ride and other times we’ve just coasted through the changes like pros, often not even aware changes were occurring.

Thankfully our love of big breakfasts and yummy meals with good coffee or a fine wine together hasn’t changed.

Neither has the ongoing crib match.

 

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Who ARE these people?

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My first book event in Bismarck!

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We love Aloha!

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2005 with a very young Cleopatra in Bismarck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Picture This

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I chuckled quite a bit this past week as a few orange boxes arrived with the daily mail.

And I’ll chuckle some more this coming week because a couple more are due to show up.

 

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Orange box #1.

If you’ve ever created something with your photographs with Shutterfly then you know they do a great job and they have all sorts of neat things to make. I’ve made personalized, unique calendars, playing cards, canvas collages, tote bags, stationary and more through the company over the years which has been fun for gift-giving at Christmas time.

Its especially fun to create useful items that share our memories when I want to give something to Alistair. And its even better when its something we’ll see or use on a regular basis!

 

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Fun ways to feed our cribbage habit.

But this recent round of orange box deliveries has me giggling because its an order that should have cost me about $300 but instead I only paid the shipping.

This is all because of Alistair’s former diet Coke habit, which has since become a diet Ginger Ale habit. It is also because I’m a relentless point-scorer if there are points to be tallied up on the off-chance I could win or earn something for cheap.

For years (I mean it, years), we’ve entered codes from every 12-pack of pop that Alistair brought home and apparently those points added up. You could go in and redeem points for gift cards or more pop or a mouse pad that said Coke on it but I just let our points add up.

And up.

And up some more.

 

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The 2017 wall calendar that went out to my family for Christmas last year.

Until Coca-Cola decided they were ending the program and we had to use up our points by Sept.30th. It turned out there were a lot of Shutterfly things we could get!

Like 3 14 x 10 canvas prints! (due to arrive this coming week…)

And 4 8 x 10 photo enlargements (coyote pups shown below…)

A cute tote bag and a deck of playing cards featuring the beautiful misty grey morning Alistair captured in 2011 at Holland Lake Lodge (playing cards shown above…)

A 12-month wall calendar (which won’t have actual photos from Oct, Nov or December in them from this year thanks to the deadline…) (also due to arrive this week…)

 

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Free 8 x 10 of the pups from this spring next to our beloved husky, Harry.

 

And we were also able to snag 800 4 x 6 photo prints.

Yes. That’s right. 800.

800 photos I got from memory cards, my phone, old computers, old cameras, Facebook and Instagram. Photos that took me hours to find and then download to the main PC and sort through and choose and then eventually load onto my Shutterfly account.

It was as tedious as it sounds but I’m a cheap Doukhobor who wasn’t going to let those points and something free slip away from me!

 

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Me. Cheap Doukhobor.

Most of the photos have arrived, which is what led to my chuckling last week.

You see, there’s tremendous irony in all of this in that we will now have to buy a bunch of photo albums. Albums that we’ll spend a couple of days packing into boxes and loading into the horse trailer when we get evacuated again thanks to the forest fire in our back yard 10 years from now.

 

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Where every photo album we own currently resides only the truck & trailer are now in North Dakota after our evacuation party in August. 

Which brings me to our unevacuation a couple of weeks ago.

We drove the 2 trucks with 2 dogs and 3 cats and some of our belongings back to smoky Montana after being gone for a month. The pets came through with cuddles and purrs and no tires blew!

The resident deer and bears had happily moved onto our property, which prompted a bit of a startle from Alistair as he and Yogi were just about face to face when he was checking our back yard after the long drive back.

 

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By the time I got my camera Yogi was trundling off, just outside our bedroom. 

The fires took a hit from some much-needed rain and cool weather and we finally don’t see any plumes of smoke behind us.

Seeley Lake’s homes and buildings all survived but its a huge question as to how the actual businesses are going to hang in there.

Tourism is our community’s big thing, particularly in the summer. Not only were many folks forced to evacuate, some weren’t able to work to earn the paycheck that they rely on to pay rent and put food on the table because the tourists weren’t here.

Most resort or lodge rooms were empty.

Gift shops sold coffee to fire fighters and the few locals who weren’t evacuated but locally-made jewelry, carvings, wall hangings, pottery and more didn’t move from the shelves and walls that display them.

Servers had nobody to serve so nobody made tips and the few restaurants that we have in town were down to skeleton crews who all breathed in the thick, dry, smoky air that surrounded our little world for so long.

 

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Some of our hiking areas behind our house when trails to access them still weren’t open after the burn. 

A rainy weekend and snow on the ground this morning have finally made for fresh air. Cold, crisp air, but nobody is complaining.

And you know, not many folks are complaining about the loss of revenue just yet. There will be a time for that and a time for businesses to apply for grants to help them survive the long winter ahead. There will be a time when folks will vent about the anxiety and frustrations we all shared this summer when the fire kept growing as it wrapped itself around all areas of our little town and it hurt to breathe.

And there will absolutely be more photos to take of the snow that will accumulate as Big Red and I begin the winter ritual of keeping our driveways open. More pictures for more photo albums if I can rack up more points for some other thing we discover.

Right now, though, our schools are open and the local Blackhawks are back at it on the football field. We, and others, are trying to eat out when we can to support our local cafes and the Chamber is trying to boost things with a Friday night program that brings a band to town for locals and maybe even some out-of-towners. Each time a local business will be featured during that Friday and I heard my friend’s resort on the lake, Tamarack’s, held the first Friday’s open house.

 

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Enjoying the backyard view a few days ago with blue skies above. 

Its Fall in the most beautiful part of an incredibly scenic state where the Rocky Mountains frame our world to the north and dark blue rivers swirl through the grounds in all directions around us. The season of change is upon us and we’re all ready to move forward, even as bright orange boxes keep arriving on our doorstep containing 800 photographs of our past.

I think most of us here are just so happy we made it through the smoke and fire to this most gorgeous of seasons. We made it with our families, our land, our pets, our laughter, our senses of humor, our dignity, our bling, our photo albums, our golf course, our golf cart, and our pride in this stunning piece of the world we call Home.

 

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Front yard. Happening now, with rain, hail & sunshine.

 

I hope that even if you haven’t visited western Montana that you can try to picture our beautiful world or that you look through the photos I share with you all. And I hope if you do, it makes you smile and inspires in you a dream to some day come and check it out.

Seeley Lake is once again open for business!

 

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Saying goodbye to Shilo and the gang before we unevacuated back to Montana!

 

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Just about home after a month in North Dakota. Snow was a welcome sight!

 

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Back on the 10th tee box in Seeley Lake with no smoke or raging fire to watch.

 

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Back to Fall golf in Norman. In Montana. 

 

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‘Cause we just didn’t get enough fire in our backyards this summer….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Country Kids Back in the City

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Lions Gate bridge & downtown Vancouver

It had been 7 years since we had been in Vancouver and, thanks to an appropriate conference, good timing, and easier mobility with fewer pets, Alistair and I flew back to the sprawling city we have both called Home.

Alistair was born there and grew up in West Vancouver. He attended UBC for both his undergrad and medical school training. I was born there and lived in the suburb of Port Coquitlam until my family moved to Grand Forks, a much smaller town. I returned for 6 months of every year after I turned 12, though, for my skating and I spent a lot of time in the city during my Chilliwack-college years in the early 90s.

And while we know our way around and we have many, many friends and family members still there, Vancouver definitely isn’t our Home now.

For one thing, there’s the traffic.

 

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Downtown Georgia street. Cars perpendicular to one another.

It wasn’t surprising because Vancouver has had 3 million people and 3 bridges to the downtown core for many years but it still takes some adjustment to get used to after a long time away. We drive lonely gravel roads to get to our ranch in Montana and Alistair spends hours on highway 200 that darts across this enormous state where he won’t see another vehicle for 2 or more hours.

We both remembered the frustration of real traffic when it took 30 minutes to travel 5 plugged city blocks. On a Sunday!

 

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Rear view mirror of the line-up behind us

While the streets are all where we left them 7 years ago, they have been re-routed to allow for an incredible network of bike lanes. And these cyclists are hard core! They share the streets with cars, trucks, buses and taxis with a confidence that would seem to better fit a suit of armor versus just their little helmets. Which is another reason we could never come Home to Vancouver to stay.

 

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This was after the taxi cab decided he was going to cut through everyone.

I took advantage of a sunny morning while Alistair was learning all about Pediatric emergency updates and opted for a trip down Robson street… on foot. Vancouver is easily explored that way and there is no road rage.

Robson street is a classic for Vancouverites. Its where we used to drive up and down the road, bumper to bumper on Friday and Saturday nights, looking at everyone who was looking back at us. Cruising Robson street.

This time around, though, I was cruising somewhat as a tourist. Or, better yet, a spectator. The street and the city didn’t disappoint.

 

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Robson st.

I got to share in the festivities associated with Falun Dafa Day! (I had no clue at the time but its a traditional form of Chinese meditation that is persecuted in its homeland). There were drums, a band and dancing, all performed in brilliant colors with smiles on the performers’ faces. This all happened on the front steps of City Hall. How Canadian.

 

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BC weed on display… with cops right there.

Then there were the open displays of the various types of weed you can buy and what different things they were good for. Right in front of the street police. I overheard the big guy telling British tourists that marijuana wasn’t going to be a criminal prospect in the near future so they weren’t busting anybody anymore. Not for sharing information or selling T-shirts with the beloved plant leaf boldly celebrated.

How even more Canadian.

 

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Loved this!

I loved seeing the bikes you can rent around town. I mean, why not use those bike lanes, right? Its a Green concept and a healthy concept and its SO Canadian and it made me smile as I continued down Robson street on one of the first sunny days the city had seen in weeks.

 

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Oh, Robson st., you haven’t changed a bit.

I chuckled to myself when I saw the stores that had been there when we cruised the street close to 30 years ago.

And I smiled when I craned my neck upwards to gawk at skyscrapers on other streets during my little jaunt down memory lane.

 

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A little higher than the capitol building in Bismarck (tallest building in ND).

The city is full of construction and concrete and the skyline has grown. There appears to be no end to the impressive towers and while it was kind of neat to see it was just as nice to see the older, historic buildings of downtown Vancouver.

 

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Our hotel

Like the ancient Hotel Georgia, where we stayed up on the 11th floor. The bar there used to be known as somewhat of a dive but the entire place has been revamped and it was as beautiful as it was luxurious. (And pricey but we have that handy exchange rate on our side right now.)

Our hotel was across the street from the famed Hotel Vancouver, which is now a Fairmont. Everyone knew it from its copper peaks and it probably still is a feature to the skyline even if it sits in the shadow of an array of skyscrapers.

 

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Hotel Vancouver on the left.

With conferences and concrete and sirens and throngs of people downtown at all hours, it was a welcome relief to eventually cross the Lions Gate Bridge and head to West Vancouver. We couldn’t find parking at Lighthouse Park (Alistair’s neighborhood stomping grounds back in the day, where he would hike, swim and fish for hours without seeing a single soul) so we made our way to nearby Eagle Harbor for a walk along the ocean.

 

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Hello, Ocean!

It was a gorgeous day with hardly any wind and I remembered how it was so easy to fall in love with Vancouver during good weather. You can find peace and serenity if you look hard enough or you know the secret places.

 

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Eagle Harbor yacht club in the background

The briny smell of the ocean was a wonderful sensory memory. It took me back to my parents taking our boat under the old Port Mann bridge in the 70s when we lived there. It transported me to walking in the sand at White Rock and eating the most incredible fish & chips wrapped in newspaper. And it delivered me to Kits Beach where we would meet with other skating friends for pic-nics in the early evenings after a full summer day at the ice rink.

 

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Eagle Harbor yacht club

It took Alistair on his own journey as we revisited the house he grew up in. Its re-painted and has had a change or two done to it and there are roads and subdivisions with many houses behind it where there used to be train tracks and a forest but its still the house his dad designed many years ago.

 

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Alistair’s childhood home

And what’s a trip for us without the golf clubs?

We were excited enough just to see my dear friend, Liz and meet her hubby and even more pumped when they invited us to a round at their private golf club out towards UBC, Shaunessy.

 

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Alistair getting ready to play along the Fraser River

Some of the holes had temporary greens but most did not and our merry foursome shared old stories, updates on mutual friends and our families, a drink or two and much laughter.

 

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Tan and Liz, together again… with bottled Caesars! So Canadian!

The course has a lot of history, which Danny was able to share having grown up playing golf there. He is the best golfer we have had the opportunity to play with in our short golf lives and it was an idyllic, flower-adorned little place to lose yourself within the big city.

 

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On the 2nd tee along the river at Shaunessy

It was a great way to end a trip that brought our little family back together again. Yes, we finally got to enjoy time with both Gareth and Whitney this trip and it was as laughter-filled as ever.

Whitney’s bestie, Jaclyn joined us, too, which was also fitting as she has been an honorary Fyfe for as long as I’ve known the kids.

 

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Jaclyn, Alistair, Gareth & Whitney, downtown Vancouver

The 5 of us had a wonderful meal of incredible seafood at Yew restaurant in the Four Seasons right across from our Hotel Georgia.

And we picked up right where we had left off, which filled both Alistair and I with warm fuzzies.

 

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Blurry. Back at our hotel.

The kids joined us back at our hotel for more stories and for me to get my 3rd book into Whitney’s and Gareth’s hands. Jaclyn has to start from scratch so I gave her the 1st book, Lost and Found in Missing Lake.

Our trip back to our home land was an exciting journey and although we didn’t get across to Vancouver Island where more friends & family live, and we didn’t eat at a White Spot or Keg (so Canadian) and we had to pay a toll to cross the new Port Mann Bridge and it was a few days until I knew who was eliminated on Dancing With the Stars, there was so much that we did do and see.

More friends.

 

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Lori and I enjoying lunch downtown

More familiar roads.

 

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Getting ready to cross Lions Gate Bridge

More favorites.

 

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Alistair hand selected a tray of Purdy’s chocolates (Canadian classic!) for his staff in ND

And more familiar stomping grounds.

 

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Jellyfish of the Vancouver Aquarium.

And now we’re back home, together in Montana for a few more days before Alistair heads back to our ranch in North Dakota. Rainy cool weather has prevented many people from enjoying our Montana golf course but we’ve tried to get out there every day since we’ve been back.

It was fun visiting the big city again. Even if every Vancouverite wears black. How “city chic.” I guess. Like I would know.

I’m happy to have already lived such a diverse life in diverse places and I’m happy with where we are now. Sure, I’d like it better if Alistair and I were together full time but that’s not how it is at the moment.

 

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Alistair and I hiking in West Vancouver

Its good to be Home with the pets and my upcoming book events. Its good to be together. And while the politics of Canada are a little less frightening and volatile at the moment I’m okay to be where we are. We are both dual citizens, proud of certain aspects of each country that we call Home.

Because Home is where you feel connected, even if its not where you started out. As Toad the Wet Sprocket says, and as I’ve quoted before, Home is “not the place where you live, but the place where you belong.”

Here’s to you, Vancouver!

 

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Fun Shaunessy foursome with Liz and Danny G!

 

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More ocean time at Eagle Harbor

 

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Oh, Ocean, it was lovely to see you again!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where Have I Been?

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Oh my goodness, I haven’t updated the blogosphere about Fyfe Life in weeks!

 

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OMG!

In my defense, I’ve been kind of busy.

The dogs and I loaded up and headed east to Bismarck where we spent almost a full week while Alistair had to work some extra days for a colleague.

It was our second trip back without little Loki riding shotgun and I missed her at the rest stops. I didn’t miss the mayhem that ensued with all 3 dogs, none of whom are very well leash trained anymore but I missed looking over at her little sleeping body curled up on its blankie on the front seat next to me.

 

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My travel companions en route to ND!

UB and Cleo adapted to their other home just fine, as always, and I got to reconnect with the horses and various friends. The downtown scene was maybe even more vibrant than our last trips there during the winter. When prairie folk get the feeling that their long, hard, frigid winter is coming to a close the energy is palpable.

We enjoyed a few fun suppers out at great new restaurants like J60 and dined with friends to celebrate their retirement at our old classic, 40 Chophouse.

And we cuddled on the recliners at night watching Netflix and begging Daddy for potato chips (I wasn’t a part of that but I did enjoy the cuddles and Netflix.)

 

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Recliner time with the Bismarck version of our “magic blanket”

And, wonder of wonders (not that it was planned or anything, no sirree), our golf course in ND, Painted Woods opened our last day and we were able to play a breezy, fun round!

 

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Painted Woods golf course in Washburn. Quite a different view from our Montana course!

The course opened on a Sunday and we were happy to see a few carts and golfers losing balls out there with us. (The wind, water hazzards, buttes and valleys here necessitate that you carry at least 30 balls in your bag, at minimum, even if you’re a stellar golfer.)

And ever since Alistair had his final surgery in February he hasn’t felt an ounce of pain when we play, which only adds to the fun and enjoyment when we get out there.

 

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Our back yard in ND

Alistair had also just opened up Fyfe’s Backyard Pitch & Putt before I got back so we made sure to use our membership regularly.

As you can see by his attire, the weather had warmed considerably and even now, back in Montana, the weather hasn’t been as nice as it was that week.

The equine Fyfes all look pretty good except for 26 year-old Susie, one of the grand dams of the herd. She’s looking a lot more weedy and hasn’t shed out her hair coat as much as the others have. Susie was a great broodmare for many years and she’s earned her keep at our ranch. She is still able to boss everyone else around with kicks and tosses of her head so we aren’t going to rush to any sad actions until she needs us to.

 

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Our older Arabian mare, Susie

The adventure to Bismarck was one of the reasons I haven’t had or made the time to blog. The other, main reason is that I’ve finished book 3 in my Missing Lake teen fiction series!

No joke!

Its done!

And then I had to wait for my team of editors to get through their edits and get them back to me.

 

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UB deciding he should “help” Daddy with the editing.

Then I go through each person’s stack of papers with red felt pen, pencil, blue and black ink markings and circles and then I’m ready for my final edit.

Which I’ve been doing today. With my own bright yellow highlighter and pen.

UB and Cleo have been very helpful with this round, as well.

 

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Ben Brick, illustrator (not my photo)

Our friend, Ben Brick, once again eagerly leapt at the chance to do my cover art for this book. His artwork was part of the success of my 2nd book in the series, The Dragons of Missing Lake and it was loads of fun working with him and his concepts.

Ben and I were able to meet over lunch when I was back in Bismarck this most recent trip and the final product is outstanding.

So now its just a matter of time before I share Luke Houser’s tale, from the middle of nowhere in Montana, with everyone once again.

 

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Social media banner by Ben Brick

This story picks up as Luke’s sophomore school year is winding down in the mountainous town of Missing Lake. I explore more of the relationships he has with his friends and develop some of the other characters more. The sled dogs take a bit of a back seat just because of the timing of the book but there are plenty of animal stories and events that shape this third book. Zagros and Tabitha have 2 eggs to hatch as well so there is no end to the fun!

I’m hoping to hit “enter” and then order copies within the next few days, after my final round of editing is done.

Which is great timing because our local golf course has also opened and it has been calling to me.

 

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A sunny round of golf this past week at the Double Arrow golf course in Montana!

I managed a sunny 9 holes on the back yesterday because the weather report predicted rain and cold today. I knew I would dedicate the day to the final editing process.

So I’ll leave it at that and get back to the final few chapters and maybe some supper. Hopefully next time you hear from me it will be with Secrets  Abound in Missing Lake officially published!

 

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Norman came out of storage and he’s already back at the course! (Jockey is telling Dad he’s an “excellent driver”…)

 

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Pretty Fumie and Jessi in ND at the beginning of the month

 

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Some of the herd watching me as I watch them from our back deck in ND

 

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Shed-hunting in Montana… the first shed we’ve found in a couple of years!