Friday, March 25, 2011


Chuck, the Jersey bull, whom I have petted and loved since he was a pimply teenager, has grown to magnificent proportions.  He has a perfect diet of hay, free range grass, spring water, and his own herd of girls to hang out with.  He's getting so big that if a young heiffer becomes fertile, he can't be allowed near her, his weight would break her pelvis.  He finds this grossly unfair and frustrating. 

A couple of days ago around tea time, the Boss put a young heiffer into a corral to protect her.  Chuck found his way out of his pasture and went searching for the love of his life, this week.  The Boss has a very long stick in his hand and was out front talking with a neighbor.  I was looking out the picture window, wondering what the stick was for, when Chuck appeared, prowling the parking area and bellowing. 

Chuck has the memory of an elephant.  When I scratched the curls on his forehead when he was young, he thought he had found heaven.  He turns his head and watches me if I walk by his pasture.  Now he was seeing his friend through a plate glass window, and he wanted to play.  He trotted over and pressed his nose to the glass, leaving a muddy nose smear on it.  The window bowed a bit, threatening to let Chuck in for tea.  I ducked behind a chair, and he moved on.  The heiffer search was more important than his friendship with me.  I am crushed!

The Boss decided it was time to round up the friendly bull and stash him in his own corral, which he did with very little effort and a long stick.  As I said after another encounter with Chuck last summer, even if we forget that we have dominion over the beasts of the field, the beasts themselves do not forget.  One lonely man with a long stick can pursuade this huge bull to go where he is told.  So Chuck went in, bellowing and complaining, within scent distance of his lady love, the little heiffer.

I thought that was the end of it. 

This morning the Boss and his lady got in the big truck and went off somewhere, leaving Buster, the border collie on the back porch napping.  I thought I heard a familiar bellow, looked out the nose-printed front window to see Buster waking up, yawning, as Chuck, the super Jersey Bull, wandered by, bellowing and searching.  He was headed my way again. 

I sat down out of sight and watched House reruns.   I hoped he had forgotten that his playmate was  inside the cabin.  At the commercial, I looked carefully over my shoulder and, sure enough, Chuck was at the window watching House with me.  He wandered away finally, and I pulled the curtains.  When he went around the main house, I called Buster inside.  Buster can outrun the bull, but I think I really wanted the moral support.  Buster is annoyed.  He does not want to babysit the woman in the cabin.
I fed him a scrambled egg, which improved his mood for about 30 seconds. 

It has begun raining.  I'm beginning to feel like Faye Wray with her friend King Kong.  Only Kong had more finesse.  Chuck doesn't understand that he can kill a toy by playing with it.  Me.  So I'm in the cabin until the Boss comes home.  If I had more practice herding cattle, I would put Chuck back where he belongs, but I don't.  And the chances are there is a section of fence out from where the love-sick bull pushed it down. 

It's a huge giggle to have such a gigantic creature just wanting to play with me.  When he leaps into the air with pure joy, it's hard to remember that he's dangerous.  But I'm trying. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Years ago I read a book called Smilla's Sense of Snow.  One thing stuck in my mind:  The Danish author said there are over thirty words in that language for snow.  As I have watched the different sizes, weights, behaviour in the wind, I think it's sad that those of us who speak English do not have the ability to describe the different kinds of snow.  It's a huge empty place in our language because snow comes in so many forms. 

It's snowing now, but the thaw has begun at last.  I can't haul firewood in a snow sled any more; it drags on the dormant grass.  So the tire on the wheelbarrow has to be pumped up.  It's time for it to back to work after sleeping in the woodshed all winter.

As I walked by yesterday with arms laden in firewood, there was the first of many spring garden discoveries.  Tiny purple violets around silver driftwood were alive, preserved under the snow in perfect color.  It seems impossible that they could still be thriving and perky after months of ice and snow.  Why do violets do this?  Because garden fairies live under them.  That's why.

The winter brought several Jersey calves. They all love having their heads scratched. They have soft fuzzy winter fur, in a range of colors from honey to tan to taupe, with huge gentle eyes and eyelashes any woman would kill for.    It bears repeating that Cattle must be Gods favorite creatures. 

The Boss also sold some cows, acquired some others.  Violet, of the shortened tail, went to a good family of nine children.  She has huge liquid eyes.  The children are sure to fall in love with  her.  One of the new ones is huge, and like all of the Boss's cows very peaceful for a Jersey.  They have a bad reputation for being fractious, but not on this ranch.  Perhaps they know how superior they are in the dairy cow world and expect royal treatment.  They get that here.  This new lady loves her new diet, and gives more and more milk.  I think she holds some kind of record.  As Jersey's do, she gets thinner, ribs showing, making the casual observer think she is being starved.  Not so.  That's just the way the breed is.  You only have to look into her eyes to see she is a very happy lady.

Last evening, I saw Buster the border collie running madly toward the south pasture.  I walked out to see what huge beast he was chasing.  He only barks at critters, never people.  His target this time was only a pair of Canada Geese, one of them probably tired or wounded so they drifted down to rest.  Buster stood at a polite distance and invited them to leave.  They couldn't, so I called him to come and have a bone.  The Boss told me that Buster is trained to scare them away, as when the new grass sprouts in the pastures, the geese pull it up by the roots.  Not helpful.  It will start with a visitation of two or three married-for-life couples, then before you can turn around there are hundreds of them diligently yanking up the cattle's new grass.  Buster will have a marvelous time racing around in circles persuading them to depart for greener pastures.

I have been in this paradise for a year now, and survived a Montana winter.  When I tried to run away to sunshine there was more snow there to greet me and let me know I might as well have stayed home.  Yes, Montana is home. 

Changes are coming in a month or so.  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


The snow has hit hard, ten days and counting.  Piles left by ploughs and dumped off roofs are 10-20 feet.  In some ways it's a blessing, as it's crunchy and easy to walk on.  I've landed on my butt too many times slipping on ice.  The ice will return, but the respite is very nice.  Natives in the area say this is late for such an endless storm. 

I have learned that the winter depression from lack of sun and vitamin D is very real.  It has always seemed to me utter nonsense when I've read about it in the past.  The answer is obvious.  Get off your ass and do something useful and quit whining!  Well, from the middle of last month the ice was everywhere and a menace.  Even if the sun peeked out, one could not go for a walk.  I woke up two mornings in a row crying for no reason.

Clearly, it was time to get outta here and go south to inflict myself on friends and relatives.  The night before I left, I went a quarter mile down the highway, downed a double scotch and soda, came home and slept a rare uninterrupted eight hours.  At my age, uninterrupted sleep is a wish, a fairy tale.  Not reality.  So the next morning, the eight hour drive to Vancouver, Washington was a piece of cake, not having to fight sleepiness on the road.  I can't afford, financially or physically to take the double scotch cure every night, but the feeling of finally getting enough sleep was wonderful.

As I reached the Columbia gorge, I saw too much snow.  This stuff was supposed to stay in Montana!  There was more around Vancouver than I had ever seen.  And more was coming down, lightly.  We turned on the evening weather.  CBS in Portland, Channel 6 down there, was on half an hour early.  They stood around for half an hour telling their viewers that nothing was happening yet.  Even on Sylvan Hill in Beaverton, the roads were clear.  But the Portland reporters made up for the lack of snow by wearing tons of clothes and being really excited about the snow that wasn't there.  Oregonians are strange.  If they were in Montana, the level of hysteria would be monumental!

Each day of the week I was there, I looked out the window to see more and more snow.  I came to escape this and find some sun.  THIS ISN'T FAIR!  I finally had to find a day when the snow was resting and run for home.  It got dicey below Spokane, up into Idaho, and into NW Montana.  Home at last, for more snow.

If you read the early chapters of this blog, you will recall that I said to be prepared for whining when winter comes.  Well the whining is exponential now.  I'm taking a lot of vitamin D and calcium.  I guess it's working.  I'm not crying any more, and I have KILLER fingernails.  Love it!

Just before I left to go south, I found a tiny ad that someone way out in the hills of an area called Belknap does sewing machine repair.  I called him, described my 50-year old machine.  He knew it!  He had worked on them!  When I got back, he had completely rebuilt it.  I didn't have to pay a fortune for a new piece of crap.  I am thrilled beyond description, and working on a new wall hanging, of Arctic ice and polar bears.  Once again, I have learned that there is amazing talent and skill in these mountains.  You can find anything if you look hard enough.  Northwest Montana is an incredible world, even when the sun is hiding.  I'm so happy to be home.

Spring will come before long.  Y'all hang in there now.