Monday, June 27, 2011

The Dew Point: Hooligan among the Meadow Muffins

Most of our lives we create an internal drama and transpose it onto our external existence.  Life is rarely as exciting or dramatic as we tend to make it. If we would just stop and analyze what we’re doing, we can see that if we allow our minds to do what they were truly designed to do, we can figure out a way to make our lives a whole lot easier. Far too often, however, we see giving up misery as too much of a sacrifice to bear.


It was about this time of year that our old Holstein cow, Izzy, calved for the second time. It wasn’t as much of a surprise that time as it had been the first, because the neighbor’s bull had plowed his way through the fence to get to her. Apparently he thought Izzy was rather foxy, though I couldn’t see that in her myself. She was ornery and obstinate in ways that used to infuriate me endlessly, and that day was no different. With the fence down, Izzy followed him back into his own pasture.

At that time we had a young Holstein bull – I’ve forgotten his name – who was still too short to breed Izzy; though he tried repeatedly, much to our amusement. He got pretty jealous when Izzy took off, so he followed her, and was followed by his little buddy, Boots, the crippled calf we got from another neighbor. So our whole little menagerie was milling around the neighbor’s pasture when we found them. Ben always tames our cows when he has the time, so it wasn’t as difficult as it could have been to get them home, but Izzy wanted some more of what she had gotten and so our little bull calf kept running back to her after we got him into our pasture. The neighbor’s bull obviously figured he was just a little snot-nosed brat and kept trying to chase him off to no avail, then he charged into our little bull and bowled him over. The snot-nosed brat was shocked at the big bull’s rough manner and finally came home and stayed with Boots. Then it was somewhat easier to get Izzy home – at least after she had one more go-round with the big bull.

During all that excitement, Hooli followed us around the neighbor’s pasture, enjoying the show. She winced a couple of times when the bulls were rough-housing, but most of the time she was grinning as wide as all Montana while she played among such a big cow herd.

The following summer, when Izzy calved, Hooli was right there to help Izzy clean the calf up. The calf was so beautiful that Hooli got the bright idea to take over cleaning the calf herself and then decided she wanted that beautiful baby for her own. By then we had our horse, Jaquara, and Hooli got so possessive that if either Izzy or Jaquara got close enough to sniff the calf, she nipped them on the nose. Ben and I had a good laugh for awhile, but finally had to intervene so Izzy could nurse her baby.

Hooli was terribly disappointed, but the new calf, Roz, was forever afterward Hooli’s favorite. I’ll have to admit that Roz was pretty special, she was my favorite, too. That beautiful baby calf grew up to be one of the most beautiful cows I’ve ever seen. Her father was a red bull, but Roz was solid black, with big bright eyes and long lashes. She was tall and built like a brick house. But the best part of all was that she was the only cow we ever had that wouldn’t back down when Jaquara got huffy over the water tank or a special patch of grass. (Jaquara loved Izzy most, but she was even more ornery and obstinate than Izzy was, so she had an edge over Izzy, too.) And Roz was never as ornery as her mama.

Hooli never again took to another calf the way she had taken to Roz and unless Roz was too much on the move or got ornery, Hooli was usually beside her when she went out to pasture with the cows. She was, I believe, even sadder and more distraught then Ben and I were when we had to sell our little herd during the drought.


This is our little aspen patch shortly after we planted it, a few years ago. (Yes, I know you can’t see anything but the buck brush.)



Here is our aspen patch this spring.



This is our garden before we put in the new fence. We had unheated hot wire tape strung around it seven feet high to keep the deer out, but one doe kept jumping even that and eating the cabbages, so the next year we replaced it with an eight foot fence. So far the deer have stayed out – at least when we have the hops vines blocking the space above the gate.

Notice the little crab apple tree beside the back corner of the garden on the right side of the picture. We grew this from a tiny seedling we dug up in my parents’ yard.


Here’s that same crab apple tree this spring. The parent tree had tiny red apples, about the size of your thumb nail, but his one has much bigger apples that ripen to a deep purple. They’re very tart, but with a bit of sugar they make great apple sauce.



Here’s our rhubarb patch. This last weekend, we picked it and cooked up thirty-four pints of rhubarb sauce to put in the freezer. Two weeks ago, Sue canned twenty-seven pints from this patch. (Does it sound like I’m bragging? Actually, I’m just happy that we can put anything besides broccoli in the freezer for the winter.)



For those of you who remember the earlier pictures of the vegetable garden from the past, here’s a peek at how it looks right after planting.



I’ll show an update in a few weeks. Winking smile

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Progression–Post 2

An analysis of our lives will generally render one of two things: insight or confusion. The outcome will depend on various factors, but will mainly rest on whether or not we have prepared and are ready to know our selves on a deeper level. In order to do that, we have to accept the fact that we are not perfect beings and that we, too, carry blame and responsibility for the way our lives have turned out and that each of us as an individual has the power to create change in our own life, but that we must take the initiative.

We went on an eight mile hike with Ursula and Dee Dee on Saturday. It was partly cloudy and we had a couple of minor rain showers, but it was a spectacular day. I carried the camera to be sure to have photos to post, but forgot to take the camera out until the last half mile or so. I was so caught up in the splendor of the day that pictures didn’t cross my mind. Since this was the first hike of the year, both Ben and I are stiff and sore, but it’s the type of soreness – sometimes physical, sometimes mental – that makes us feel the accomplishment we gain every time we start something new or refresh ourselves with getting back into a seasonal routine.
Spring and summer always start later for us here on Muddy Creek than for our neighboring communities (and, yes, fall and winter start earlier) so we’ve enjoyed watching the trees burst into bloom in Livingston for the last two to three weeks and as soon as we get a sunny day, we’ll watch them bloom here; they’ve started with a few hesitant blossoms already and they’re ready to burst, they’re just waiting for some assurance there will be bees out and about that they can lure in to do their work.
In spite of our cold, rainy weather (and perhaps because of it) Ben and I grew impatient waiting for summer, so our garden is fully planted. We usually plant after the first of July because we came to expect frosts all through June, but most of the last few years we haven’t had a hard frost during the month of June, sometimes even in May. The tender plants have started acclimating to their home in the garden and, so, should be able to take a light frost if we get one. Those we know cannot take any frost are in the greenhouse. So now we’re waiting again, for sunshine and warm growing weather, with hope for the future: we sow and nurture, weed and thin the excess, mulch and water all through the growing season, anticipating a rich return, which is purely dependent on external forces, like so much of what goes on in our lives.
Life is a gamble, it always has been. We do all we know to do and then lean on ‘hope,’ despite knowing how devastating ‘hope’ can be, and depend on what we’ve experienced in the past. And if that fails, then we have to force ourselves to focus on new ways to get through. We  humans are a resilient species; so, we gird ourselves up tighter to keep ourselves standing; we engage our brains; then we move on. It’s the way we are, the way we’ve always been. When times are tough, we toughen up. Some of us take a little longer to make changes, but we all have the innate fortitude to succeed. It’s written in our genes.

This is a picture of our mountains this past week. The level of snow here is equivalent to what the mountains around here usually look like in March or April.

The following are pictures of our hike.
How does one capture the beauty of the world in a photograph? It is impossible. When we take a picture, we settle on a capturing a tiny piece of it, but always hope, vainly, that something more will show.



Ben, Solano, Ursula, and Dee Dee



Friday, June 17, 2011

Out from the In: Post 2

We all live part of our lives within our minds and to make external changes, we must also make internal changes. But if we pay too much attention to either our internal or our external lives, we’re neglecting the other, causing damage and building up hardened scar tissue that becomes increasingly difficult to soften and break through. Balance is essential for true, fulfilling success.

In looking back through our albums and experiences, Ben and I have been reminded how much we’ve accomplished over the seventeen years we’ve lived here on Muddy Creek. Often it seems we never make progress, but having our photos and stories has shown us what we have been able to do, mostly with the help of nature. We have a little more freedom than the average American because we’re debt free and we’re debt free because we built our own place here with our own sweat and labor. When we built, we sort of accepted our flaws, because we had built the place ourselves, but now that we’ve really seen how so many “professionals” around the area have built with greater flaws than we could have possibly accepted without ripping it back out, we’re pretty happy with what we’ve got.
It’s not perfect, but neither are we. And what is perfect? It’s nothing attainable in this world. It’s an unrealistically imagined standard always  higher than what is truly possible, designed by people who have more time than they should have and more to complain about than could ever be cured.
Our garden has weeds, we get winter damage on our trees and bushes every year, the studio needs painted more often than we can get to it, and the daily chores around here are endless.
But the cows are happy and getting fat, the chickens are producing eggs every day, and the crops in the garden are in and growing. And all this dreary rain we’ve had has turned the landscape so green we can’t stop staring out at it.

I’m posting some more of the free photos from flickr, since I’m a little short. I love pictures of nature. Unlike so many people I’ve known, I favor the natural world above cities and roads, manicured yards and manipulated environments. I’m partial to the “imperfections” of the world and I love when nature creeps into our artificial landscapes.
All of these pictures are from a photographer self-identified as Stefan74:

Stefg74 1

Stefg74 2

Stefg74 3

Stefg74 4

Stefg74 5

Stefg74 6

Stefg74 7

Stefg74 8

Stefg74 9


Monday, June 13, 2011

Out from the In–Post 1

We humans are paradoxical beings. We tend to stew our lives in hope, spiced with either pessimism or optimism, depending on how we view our current circumstances. When times are rough, we tend to sprinkle our outlooks with pessimism; when life is good, we’re liberal with optimism.

The term ‘karma’ is largely misunderstood by most of the western world. It is not a predetermined destiny as we’re all trained to believe, but a predetermined outcome based on our habitual reaction to given circumstances.


We tend to view our past as the better times of our lives, no matter what the past held. In reality, it is through eyes filled with youthful exuberance, nostalgia and wonder that we remember the old days.

I do recall the economic hard times our country went through when I was young, but they didn’t really affect me. I still had the entire wide and wonderful world before me. The current crisis is worse than any I knew before, because of that marshmallow-in-the-microwave effect, but for those who didn’t lose their jobs or take a pay cut, nothing is really different, other than personal unwillingness to keep spending money they don’t have yet or money they now need to save because their investments collapsed or are still threatened.

And is not spending money we should be saving a bad thing?

It depends of course, on your perspective. If your paycheck depends on people spending beyond necessities, then, yes, indeed it is. And I happen to be one of those people.  On the other hand, if we’ve learned from all this to live within our budgets and to depend upon more reliable and realistic investments, then perhaps no one will again put a marshmallow in the microwave and expect us to believe it’s viable to build our lives on top of it.

I don’t believe the economy will ever ‘recover’ to what it was. How can it? It was built on fluff. But I do believe that we will rebuild it. It will take a new way of thinking and a bit of creativity, but we’re resilient, we humans, and we have an amazing willingness to pull ourselves back up when we fall. One day we’ll get tired of waiting for someone to rescue us. We may not like to work hard when we don’t have to, but if that’s what it takes, we roll up our sleeves, grab the tools we need and get to it. That’s the way we were programmed.

And I believe we’ll do just that.

Some day in the not-too-distant future, we’ll look back and remember the days of rebuilding our lives as the good times: viewing the past through rose-colored glasses just as we always have, and just as we always will.



(Since I haven’t been out taking pictures often enough, I went to flickr and downloaded some free pics that I felt matched my mood for this post. Enjoy, I found them beautiful.)

gigi 62 1

by gigi 62



by Hans Griep


Zoomion 1

by zoomion


Michael Ragazzon 1

by Michael Ragazzon


Stefan AC 1

by Stefan AC


Luis Argerich 1

by Luis Argerich


Kamil Porembinski 1

by Kamil Porembinski


Janek Kloss 1

by Janek Kloss


Inottawa 1

by inottawa


Ruby Blossom 1

by Ruby Blossom

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Dew Point: Muffins in the Meadow–Post 3

Our lives are lived in response to our experiences and cannot possibly change until we learn to react to our experiences in a manner different than we are doing now.

Ben and I got our first calves the first spring we lived here. It was the same year we got our dog, Hooli. The calves were two Holstein bull calves we got from a dairy near Lori and Micky’s place in the Gallatin Gateway area. We named the calves Riff and Raff.  We kept them and Hooli together in the barn and Hooli stayed with them entirely until she got brave enough to follow us up to the studio, but she always loved the cows and whenever we left, she stayed with them. Riff got pneumonia that first winter and died, so the next spring we got a Holstein heifer calf at the livestock auction, which was held in Bozeman back in those days (ooh, did that make me sound like an old man?) and named her Izzy.
Izzy had been a roping calf, so she was tame in a wild sort of way and she had this incredibly irritating way of being endearing. Or maybe it was this endearing way of being incredibly irritating. Anyway we decided to keep her to start a little cow herd.
She instantly grew attached to Raff and one day he got into the neighbor’s herd across the east fence (Yes, the same fence the cows jumped over this spring, but in a different spot) before we realized he was gone. Ben and I both went to our clay preparation table in front of the east window to get some more clay ready for throwing on the wheel and we happened to look up in time to see Izzy bellow, walk back from the fence a few paces, turn back around, trot to the fence and jump over it. She was as graceful as a deer.
Raff was having a great time over there, since there were no other bulls in the bunch, so it took awhile to get the two back through the fence. We wondered how many surprises the rancher was going to have the following spring.
Izzy was still very young that fall when it was time for Raff to go to cow heaven, so we didn’t worry about him fathering our first home-bred calf. Izzy seemed at a loss with him gone, but our dog, Hooli worked hard to fill her loneliness.
The next spring Izzy started acting strange, avoiding us, chasing Hooli away and wandering off when we tried to get near her to see what her problem might be. Then Ben spotted a tiny Holstein calf hunkered down in the sagebrush. The next-pasture-over rancher wasn’t the only one to get a spring surprise. The calf was a heifer we named Lizzy. With Raff gone, Izzy and Lizzy were inseparable, but then Lizzy died suddenly late that summer. So Izzy learned to appreciate our dog Hooli, who was once again her only companion. Whenever we were in the studio working, Hooli was with Izzy. Sometimes that winter on a not-so-cold night we would see Hooli curled up, pressed against Izzy’s back.
Well, we don’t have any pictures of Izzy, unfortunately, so I’ll just post a few pictures of some other things.

This is a calf we got a couple of years ago, one of our favorite chores is bottle-feeding baby calves.

We got these goats from Joyce Ostrom, who sells our Dano Pottery for Dano Youth Camp. The goat in the foreground is tethered, the other three are in a portable pen which we had to move every day, since we don’t have proper fencing for goats. It was fun having them, but was a pain in the – well, you know – so we haven’t gotten any more.

This is Ben on the day we (he) started tearing down the old shack. No, he didn’t actually tear the whole thing down with a rock. He also used a sledge hammer.
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Our Beloved Mountains

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Whew! Are we spoiled or what?

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The mountains to the west


Monday, June 6, 2011

The Progression–Post 1

We must match our minds to the future we desire. Then we must begin the work of matching our lives to our minds.

Ben and I started our landscaping jobs working for Ursula several weeks ago. Throughout most of this spring the weather has been a tad uncooperative, so we haven’t worked a full schedule in any given week. But that has been good even though the weather hasn’t been the greatest, because despite our winter exercise program, we really haven’t been in top landscaping shape. The past couple weeks were a bit grueling. I was so exhausted by the end of the day that I couldn’t write for this blog or work on my latest story or even critique someone else’s story on my online critique group. We just came home, fixed and ate dinner, showered and went to bed.
And on the weekends, Ben has kept us busy with prepping and planting the garden.
But I’m not complaining. Both Ben and I enjoy having outdoor work during the summer. Our summers are short, so when we were in the studio all year – during the good economy years – summer passed before we got much of a chance to notice it was here.
My last post was about the first backpack trip Ben and I took into the Crazy Mountains with our good friend, Sue, and her daughter, Sonja. Since I don’t have any pictures of our landscaping, I’ll post a few more pictures of that trek as I reminisce the good days of that warm, sunny summer.


I was so overwhelmed by the magnificence of the landscape that I wandered around in a transfixed daze



Notice that Ben was wearing a watch. Nowadays you might occasionally see him wearing the watch that Ursula gave him when we’re on our landscaping job, but for the most part, I’m afraid I’ve been a “da-loop-de-doop” influence on him: “’Time’ is an unrealistic, inhuman concept.”