My life has a superb cast but I can't figure out the plot.
~ Ashleigh Brilliant


Friday, September 12, 2014

SkyWatch Friday: "Harvest Moonday" Hike, Early Snow

It's been a week of many seasons - Monday and Tuesday were definitely summer, with highs of 90ºF. Most nights and early mornings recently have had the chill of Autumn to them, and Wednesday was a chilly, rainy, Fallish day. Wednesday night and Thursday we were under a Winter Storm Warning and it snowed several inches (14" in our neighboring, higher elevation town of Story and up to 18" in parts of the Big Horns). Though we didn't get nearly that much (about 4" at our house), by early this morning our temp had dropped to 19ºF.

But let's begin with the summery weather and Harvest Moon of Monday, before the flowers, trees and shrubs were dealt such a cruel blow that also likely annihilated our chances for fall foliage.

Monday morning, before it got too hot, we loaded up the dogs and took them walking on a new extension of the wonderful Sheridan Pathways system (on the attached map, it's the red and black path near the bottom right, running between the yellow and purple signal light symbols). This part of the path leaves very busy Brundage Avenue and as it heads toward Sheridan College it takes you into a different world… one of trees and marshes and birdsong and tranquility. And shade - which was our chief objective on such a warm, sunny morning!

Here are BW, Willow and Josie crossing one of two handsome footbridges that cross the marshy stream meandering through this area...


Once over the footbridge (you can just see it in the bottom right of this next photo) and out of the trees and into the meadows, you get to enjoy this beautiful view of the soon-to-be-snowcapped Big Horn Mountains (if you know where to look, you can even see the road that led to our old house on its way over the mountains!)…

Look at that clear blue cloudless sky!

Oops, I spoke too soon. Startin' to cloud up. :-)

And you thought I was joking about it clouding up, didn't you? ;-)

Here's Willow enjoying a rest in the shade back at the trailhead after our walk. Notice her leg draped elegantly over my foot, her way of keeping me from wandering off! :-) …


She was intently watching BW deploy our wonderful PetLoader, which Tess demonstrates...


That night, of course, unveiled the full Harvest Moon, seen here rising over the dry hills to our east...


Rarely satisfied with how my moon closeups turn out, I decided to have some fun and make this one a little funkadelic….


And now for a too-soon taste of things to come, the wintery scene from our patio yesterday…


We covered our front flowerbed Wednesday night, but could do nothing for our large rose bush except pluck this last beautiful, fragrant bloom and bring it inside to enjoy for a while. The bergamot on the right had already broken off when I went out at 5:30am to knock the snow off the trees and shrubs, so I brought it in, too. I think the rose looks sad, and doubt the reassurance that our temps will return to the 80's early next week offers much consolation…


Wishing you a week of lovely skies! 
We'll be spending it in Big Sky Country (Montana) with our dogs and camper! 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

2014 Sheridan Annual Garden Tour, Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of my 4-part series about this year's Garden Tour!


We toured seven of Sheridan's eight competing gardens on July 19. The finalists, chosen by the local greenhouse that sponsors the tour, competed this year for the most votes from the touring public in two categories: "Amazing" Estate Garden and "Amazing" Backyard Garden. 

Part 1 featured one of the backyard garden finalists, so here are the remaining three we toured (the one we missed was also in this category), starting with the "Amazing" Backyard Garden winner and their friendly, colorful welcome by the front door


This home and garden, belonging to Debra and Rob, is just a block away from the house we rented while our current home was being built, so we remember it but had never seen the private back yard before. The most impressive thing about this place (and the last one on this post) is something I didn't think I'd be able to show you: their "before" photos! But happily, I just discovered that Debra, a working artist, has a web site! So you can see the before photos, as well as more of their yard and her art, made from recycled/repurposed materials.

Both the house and yard were in horrible condition when they'd bought the place. In just five years, doing it all themselves, Rob and Debra turned a yard of bare dirt and weeds and a rundown house into this lovely prize-winning sanctuary...

I love the airplane whirligig in the foreground and the shady bench in the back corner. 
Oh, and the guy in the blue shirt, too! :-)

Apparently Rob and Deb also managed to squeeze in some traveling! (Or maybe they just steal license plates off vehicles at the visitor's center. LOL)...


This next contender was a very large property out in the country (we were surprised it was in the Backyard rather than the Estate garden category). Its best feature was the two adjoining ponds that the owners, Robert and Carla, built themselves. The ponds (one large, one small) had a little footbridge spanning them, with koi and lily pads and antiques and whimsical decorations scattered around their edges, and so many different kinds of solar lights that I'm sure this garden is best enjoyed at night! But in the daylight, the highlight was this lovely waterfall, positioned right in front of their large covered patio for maximum soothing effect…


I found this unobtrusive little sign pointing to the ponds quite amusing (and relatable!)...


This final Backyard Garden is the one that got our votes. Before we even saw the garden, their adorable cottage had won our hearts...


This time I have no web site to share and couldn't photograph the photo album they had on display that showed what this place looked like when they bought it. Trust me, it wasn't pretty - but in three years, the owners, Gene and Lillian (former stage and screen actors and musicians) had transformed a derelict hovel into this enchanting home...


As if the charm of the front yard weren't enough, when we walked through the gate to the back yard we were greeted by bubbles!! 

And aren't those hollyhocks wonderful?\

In addition to a lot of old-fashioned plants like the hollyhocks (many grown from seed) that went well with their early 1900's home, they had a vegetable garden I wanted to raid right then and there - filled to capacity with heirloom tomatoes and gorgeous kale! Besides the adorable cottage and fun bubbles, another reason we liked this garden so much was that it inspired us with a few ideas for our own back yard and patio, from their pagoda (not pictured) to their solar Japanese lanterns to this very tall lattice privacy screen. BW had me take several photos of its details and Gene generously answered BW's questions about its construction. Since our HOA only allows "privacy" fences to be 5' tall (which only really affords you privacy if you're a toddler!), a couple of these set 2-3 feet inside the fence, with trumpet vines or morning glories climbing them, would do the trick (and give the dogs some shady hidey-spots to nap!)...

We've been enjoying some really lovely weather (though yesterday's high of about 90º was a tad toasty for this time of year!), and everyone's flowers are looking beautiful, veggie gardens are spewing forth an abundance of tomatoes, zucchini, winter squash, herbs, etc, while just a few trees are beginning to turn. Late summer/early Autumn can be so delightful.

Except when it isn't! Here's our forecast as of this moment... 

A WINTER STORM WATCH REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM WEDNESDAY EVENING THROUGH THURSDAY MORNING. 

PERIODS OF HEAVY WET SNOWFALL MAY IMPACT THE BEARTOOTH, ABSAROKA AND BIG HORN MOUNTAINS AND THEIR FOOTHILLS WEDNESDAY NIGHT THROUGH THURSDAY MORNING. 

* ACCUMULATING WET SNOW MAY CAUSE DAMAGE TO TREES AND POWER LINES. 

* HEAVIEST SNOW WILL FALL ALONG THE NORTHEAST SLOPES OF THE BEARTOOTH, ABSAROKA AND BIG HORN MOUNTAINS.  SEVERAL INCHES OF SNOW ARE ALSO POSSIBLE ALONG THE NEAR NYE, RED LODGE, DAYTON, SHERIDAN AND STORY. 

 * WINDS NORTHEAST 15 TO 25 MPH WITH HIGHER GUSTS OVER THE MOUNTAINS. 
 
Oh, UGH! Remember what happened to us last year? (At least it had the good graces to wait till October!) I sure hope this forecast is being overly dramatic, but the predicted low of 23º Thursday night is going to wreak havoc even if snow doesn't. We'd planned to leave today with the girls and Girasole for Havre, but since this storm is barreling down from northern Montana their forecast isn't any better than ours. So we're staying put until Saturday. (And so will do my best to publish a SkyWatch Friday post this week).

Anyway, Parts 3 and 4 of the Garden Tour (which may not materialize till October!) will feature two of the three gardens from the Estate Gardens category (the owners of the third one were rude and pissed us off, so their garden doesn't get to be on my blog. That'll show 'em!) 

2014 Sheridan Annual Garden Tour, Part 1

Friday, September 5, 2014

SkyWatch Friday: Glad to be a morning person!

September already? Busy days lately, many that began with equally busy skies enlivened by charismatic clouds. I hope you enjoy these early morning overhead offerings!

A couple of sunrises from last week...

(I call this one "Battlestar Gallactica Cloud!")


The still unsettled (but still lovely) early morning skies over our campsite following a night of wild thunderstorms and rain...

Just when I thought it was turning into a sunny day, the clouds said, "Not so fast, sister!"...

And finally these photos, taken about 2½ minutes apart, of the breathtaking sunrise that greeted us on Labor Day and got September off to a beautiful start…



I definitely live in a place where it's great to be a morning person. :-)

Happy weekend and happy SkyWatching!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Happy Campers!

I am pleased to report that as both a learning experience and a fun outing, our inaugural camping adventure on Thursday with Girasole, our new little T@B trailer, was a success (though not without a bit of unanticipated excitement!) Naturally I had to record it for posterity. :-)

Here's BW putting the finishing touches on setting up our campsite under the watchful - if somewhat baffled - gaze of the girls...


And here BW conducts a final inspection of our portable dog kennel set-up, which met with everyone's enthusiastic approval...


We bought two of these for the kennel, used a few of the interlocking foam mats we'd purchased to go under their beds, and used an old tarp for a shady shelter. And we hauled all of it (plus more of the mats and our folding camp chairs) on top of the Jeep in our new soft cargo bag. BW's package-car loading days at UPS (memorialized on his water bottle, lol) sure came in handy...


The kennel was very handy for keeping the girls both safe and legal (the park has a leash law) while we were busy and overnight, though they were so very well-behaved (as we knew they would be) that they were quite content to just hang out with us, never wandering off or making a sound, even when other people walked by with their dogs. We camped along the Tongue River (I think; I'll explain later!) at Connor Battlefield State Park in Ranchester, about 20 miles north of Sheridan. It's a small campground, and when we arrived at around 2 that afternoon there were only two other campers there. A few more arrived during the night, but it stayed very quiet. Except for the trains! We didn't realize the tracks were just three blocks away, and trains went by all night long, blowing their whistles with gusto. The only thing that drowned them out was the thunder - I know, look at that cloudless blue sky, right? More on the unpredicted midnight storm coming up. Meanwhile, enjoy our peaceful campsite by day, like we did...


We also all enjoyed our walks around the park. Let me take you on a little tour…

This place wasn't always peaceful. This monument marks the site where an Arapaho village of about 500 inhabitants once stood...


At around 8 in the morning of August 29, 1865, in what is now known as the Battle of the Tongue River (or Connor Battle), the non-belligerent village was attacked by Gen. Patrick Connor, commander of the Powder River Expedition, and about 300 of his soldiers. Most of the young Arapaho men were gone, raiding ponies from the Crow along the Big Horn River. The women, children, and mostly elderly men who were left in the village were caught completely off guard by the attack and the indiscriminate firing by the soldiers, and many were killed, wounded, and captured. After the initial attack, the few able warriors in the village managed to put up an effective defense, retreating 12 miles up Wolf Creek while covering the escape of the surviving women and children. Most of the soldiers remained in the village, looting and burning about 250 lodges, while Connor and 30 or so of his soldiers and Pawnee scouts pursued the retreating Arapaho, who counter-attacked. When all was said and done, Connor claimed to have killed 63 Arapaho, including 35 warriors (the latter number one that historians believe was probably exaggerated), with a loss to himself of five dead and two seriously wounded.


The highly observant among you may have noticed that we happened to be camping there on the 149th anniversary of this tragedy, and its victims were very much on my mind. I agree with what this brief article about "The Connor Battle," states in its final sentence: "The tragic events of the past can be felt in this quiet and contemplative setting." And I take issue with calling an unprovoked attack on non-combatants a "battle." It's worth noting that as the Powder River Expedition began, Connor's orders to his officers were, "You will not receive overtures of peace or submission from Indians, but will attack and kill every male Indian over 12 years of age." (Connor's superiors countermanded this order). It's also worth noting that after this, the Arapaho did become enemies of the US Army (understandably!), attacking a wagon train three days later on Sept 1 and joining forces with the Cheyenne and Lakota (Sioux) in their successful attack on Fort Fetterman the following December.

I think the Arapaho may be continuing to exact a small measure of revenge, in that both times we've visited this park we've been attacked by a cloud of mosquitos whenever we stood before this monument. Didn't matter what time of day it was, and we didn't experience it anywhere else in the park!

All that history of violence and tragedy here stands in stark contrast to the playground that now also marks the spot. It was deserted the entire time we were there and so never disrupted the "quiet and contemplative setting"...

The bison appeared to be made for climbing with all its toeholds and handholds,
while the stagecoach was a unique alternative to typical playground equipment.

On the opposite side of the park is this nifty suspension footbridge that crosses the river (or creek?) to a residential area. The dogs were very brave about crossing it a few times, given that it sways and bounces noticeably!  


Despite the bouncing, the bridge provided a great vantage point for taking the next two photos. I have tried to do my homework on this, I really have - but I still don't know if this waterway, which wends its way around three sides of the park, is the Tongue River or Wolf Creek. Wolf Creek is a tributary of the Tongue River and the road that runs along this portion of the river/creek is "Wolf Creek Road." The river/creek is identified on various maps of the town and park as the Tongue River, Wolf Creek, and Five-Mile Creek (where'd that one come from?!) I'm guessing the portion beside our campsite where the water flows more rapidly is the Tongue River, and this more sedate portion opposite is Wolf Creek, but that's the best I can do. It's pretty, whatever it's called, especially with the evening sun shining on it and the Big Horn Mountains in the distance...


The arrow is pointing to our campsite and "outfit," as they call a truck or a tow vehicle + trailer-of-any-kind combination in these parts...


While we relaxed at our campsite that evening, I noticed a white church steeple, nicely illuminated by the evening sun in the distance on the other side of the river, and took this photo of it with my telephoto lens...


Not long after, when we took the girls for another stroll across the suspension bridge to explore the surrounding neighborhoods, we came upon the church, which turned out to have a Mini-Me! lol...


As dusk fell, we went inside and prepared our first meal in Girasole - a complex affair that we slaved over for hours! ;-)~ We've enjoyed various Dr. McDougall soups at home for years and are happy that they, along with his delicious oatmeal, are also perfect for camping (just add hot water)! BW had snagged the chocolate goodies at the health food store the day before, but the beer was a spontaneous purchase. We've been told by several veteran RV campers that some people engage in this activity in order to socialize (so our main goal being to get away from people might prove tricky!), and we'd also heard that the colorful T@Bs are people magnets. Sure enough, we'd barely arrived and were setting up the dog kennel when a man from one of the two other campers in the park strolled over to visit and ask about our T@B, Scotch on the rocks in hand. He was joined later by his wife, who we'd hoped was coming to fetch his talkative ass but no such luck, she was there to join him (with a stinky lit cigarette in her hand, yuck). They were nice people, but a half hour of their uninvited, chatty company right after we'd arrived was a bit much! Anyway, a while after they left I said to BW, "I don't even like Scotch, but damn his drink looked good to me!" And BW said, "I thought so too!" And then together we said, "Let's get beer!!!" :-) Our site had no shade, Mr. and Mrs. Chatty Britches and the other camper having snagged the only two shady spots, and running our A/C really sucked the generator juice, so needing to get more fuel gave BW a great excuse to pick up some Fat Tire ale while he was at it. We enjoyed our simple meal on our new table (having ditched the heavy convertible table/bed platform that came with Girasole, installing bed rails and slats instead along with getting this lightweight folding table), by the light of our sweet new little 3-way LED lantern...


While we were noshing, BW remembered Girasole's stereo and jumped up to turn it on. It happened to be tuned to Sheridan's oldies station and he'd turned it on just as the chorus to Still the One was beginning! "We're still having fun after all these years…" :-) So of course we clinked our beer bottles and sang along! (And you can too, as I've put the video with lyrics at the bottom of this post!) :-)

It's all fun and games till a wicked thunderstorm that no one predicted appears overhead at 1am (a ghostly, meteorological anniversary reenactment of Connor's attack on the Arapaho, perhaps?) BW got up when he heard one of the dogs pawing at the fence (most likely Tess, who is terrified of thunderstorms), and that's when he saw all the lightning in our vicinity. A loud crack of thunder woke ME up, and the race was on. Willow and Josie can't safely or easily jump in or out of our Jeep anymore, so we bought this PetLoader a few weeks ago - best purchase we've made. But we had to get it untethered from the back of the Jeep and deploy it, put a harness on Willow (she still has bouts of vertigo and holding the top of the harness helps steady her as she uses the PetLoader steps), put collars and leashes on Tess and Josie, gather and shake off their beds and put them in the Jeep, and then load the girls - in the dark and the wind (luckily the rain held off), with lightning striking all around us and thunder crashing and banging overhead. Though our girls haven't used the PetLoader very often - and never under such challenging circumstances - they were real champs! Loaded right up and spent the rest of the night sleeping contentedly in the back of the Jeep. We rolled the windows down so they could catch the nice breeze, and although it rained most of the rest of the night we were all lucky that the inside of the Jeep stayed dry. I checked on them at 4 in the morning and wish I had a photo of our little angels snoring peacefully away, all lying with their butts touching in the middle of the Jeep with their bodies fanned out like flower petals. :-)

The next morning we had a muddy mess to contend with, but that's all part of the camping experience. It was chilly and overcast but the rain didn't resume, and as you can see in the reflection of Girasole's front window we even had a few tatters of blue sky flirt with us before it finally cleared up late that morning. I took photos of the pretty, chameleon-like sky and will share them as part of this week's SkyWatch post. Meanwhile, here is BW sipping his hot tea and being entertained by Willow's vain attempts to convince Tess it would be fun to mud-wrestle...


I'm pretty sure that packing up, getting there, unpacking and setting up camp, then tearing it down, repacking, driving home and cleaning everything up took longer than our actual camping did! :-) But it was a great experience and we are really looking forward to our next one, a much longer trek to northern Montana, a little later this month. We'll see if Girasole is "Still the One" and if "we're still having fun" after that adventure! :-)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

2014 Sheridan Annual Garden Tour, Part 1

As I've mentioned in a couple of previous posts, we went on Sheridan's 2nd Annual Garden Tour on July 19th. (We went to last year's also, in which our friends Al and Jackie's garden participated, but I didn't take my camera. This time I didn't make that blunder!

This year there were eight gardens (we made it to seven) competing in two categories: "Amazing" Estate Garden and "Amazing" Backyard Garden. It was a very bright sunny day, which made it difficult to get good photos, so I mostly concentrated on capturing the whimsy and beauty in the details, rather than taking sweeping panoramics of the properties ~ some of which were too huge to capture in a single photo anyway! I'll share them in four posts as time allows… so let's get started!


This garden, in the Backyard Garden category, belongs to a woman named Lauri, and is a certified Backyard Wildlife Habitat. It was an instant favorite and so gets this post all to itself because I took a lot of photos of it! :-) Lauri's backyard is fairly narrow but deep, and filled with treasures both hidden and not. She has a veggie garden and most of her plantings are from seed. She did all ofd the design and installation herself, and we loved its feeling of barely-controlled wildness and its mix of shady woods and open spaces. But mostly I loved all the whimsical touches! 


You know I had to get a closeup of that adorable birdie-hippie VW bus...


And this fun tent birdhouse! Look at all the great details. The birds in Lauri's back yard must be happy campers indeed!...


Lauri and I share (almost) the same first name and a love of birdhouses…


Anyone know what flower this is? (Thanks to Jackie for informing me it's a fancy clematis!) I thought they were really pretty…


She had a couple of gorgeous clematis plants (one a bit smaller than this gorgeous specimen was taking over part of the garage building)...


I loved the backdrop the neighbor's trees provided at the rear of Lauri's property, especially for this fun sunflower, which made me think of a sailor on watch in a ship's crow's nest...


2014 Sheridan Annual Garden Tour, Part 2


Thought while I'm at it, I'd share a few recent photos from our modest little front flower bed. It may be small, but it's been blooming like a big boy! 


The zinnias came from my friend Rose, who sent us a seed packet of them and one of snapdragons when we first moved to town. I didn't plant them at rental #1 because it was fall/winter, nor at rental #2 because we were building this place by then and I wanted to save them for our house. But in all the hubbub, I forgot about them till this summer! We planted them without high hopes, and though the snapdragon seeds didn't do anything, the zinnias have been amazing! I kept having to thin and transplant them, it seemed that every seed germinated. They just started to bloom this month…


I love the little yellow "stars" around the center of the pink one, which had vanished just a few days later when I took this closeup...


Good thing I got these photos when I did, because we had horrid winds over the weekend that frequently gusted to 50mph over the course of 24 hours, and by the time they moved on to ruin someone else's day they'd bent, broken, desiccated and denuded most of our zinnias. :-( Fortunately, quite a few were still safely tucked away in their buds, biding their time, and should be showing up any day now!


After my dental and haircut appointments tomorrow morning, we're off on our maiden voyage camping trip with the dogs and Girasole, spending the night at a state park campground about 20 miles away. It's been a really crazy week, but we purchased some more camper/camping gear and made some modifications to Girasole (like adding bed rails and slats; the "sleeping on a table top" concept just wasn't going to work for us) that should make things easier/safer/nicer, yet we still don't feel prepared. But the weather's supposed to be ideal, it's just one night, and not that far from home - what could possibly go wrong? ;-) We're not sure if we'll get another chance to "rehearse" before we all head up to Havre in mid-September for a much longer outing, but hope that tomorrow's experience will provide a good shakedown. Just not one that's too shaky!

Anyway, if I owe you an email (and it's probable that I do!), please bear with me - we didn't know BW's retirement would be so hectic! Our own fault for buying the camper. We thought you just buy one, toss in some food, clothes, and toiletries, hook it to your vehicle and you're off on adventures! We were SO naïve. Here's Girasole in her new home, undergoing a storage modification… can you spy BW? :-)

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SOME CURRENT & RECENT READING...

SOME CURRENT & RECENT READING...

  • INFERNO ~ Dan Brown
  • LIFE AFTER LIFE ~ Jill McCorkle
  • MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN ~ Ransom Riggs
  • ONE SUMMER: AMERICA, 1927 ~ Bill Bryson
  • THE BURGESS BOYS ~ Elizabeth Strout
  • THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY ~ Erik Larson
  • THE GEOGRAPHY OF BLISS ~ Eric Weiner
  • THE MUSEUM OF DR. MOSES ~ Joyce Carol Oats
  • THE OBITUARY WRITER ~ Ann Hood
  • THE SHADOWS, KITH AND KIN ~ Joe R. Lansdale
  • THE TIPPING POINT ~ Malcolm Gladwell
There is still strong in our society the belief
that animals and the natural world have value
only insofar as they can be converted into revenue.
That nature is a commodity.
And that the American dream is one of unlimited consumption.
There are many of us, on the other hand,
who believe that animals and the natural world
have value by virtue of being alive.
That Nature is a community to which we belong
and to which we owe our lives.
And that the deeper American dream is one of unlimited compassion.

~John Robbins, "The Food Revolution"