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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m Thankful For…

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Front door sunny day view

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

And then, it has everything to do with it.

That wasn’t my intent this afternoon.

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

Its because I’m thankful that Steve started.

There’s more to the story.

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HRH Sport Fyfe… “sorry about that!”

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

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

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

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

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

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Our creek is still open under the ice

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

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“I don’t want to get my hooves wet.”

If Steve starts.

Steve is our Ranger.

He is, at times, my savior.

If he starts.

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STEVE!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Casey usually wins the leg…

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

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

It seemed like none of his limbs would work.

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

Then he gets up and he’s good to go.

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Casey, 11 or 12 years ago

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

As a Mummy, I’m totally freaking out.

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

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

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Special Agent Fox Mulder Fyfe

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

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

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

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

And then Steve starts.

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clear crisp days to be thankful for

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

Which I was so thankful for.

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

And they fit!

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Freaking happy about these old jeans!

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

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

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Cleopatra “helping” with the hay bales this morning

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

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

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

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

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

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Just over a week ago… how fortunate we are!

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

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

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Doctor Mummy and Mulder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thankful for Alistair and Loki (a few years ago)

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

And fills me with love.

And happiness.

And gratitude.

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

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

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

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Aloha!

I’m alive and able to toss hay bales.

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

Alistair is only an email or a facetime away.

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

And Steve.

Steve started.

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Its all good, right, Casey?