Friday, August 31, 2012

Fire Season



On Tuesday a fire broke out across the valley, about seven or eight miles east of us. We happened to be outside when it started, so we watched it for a few minutes. It spread so quickly we were worried, but after two hours it had burned itself out. That fire started on a ranch when the rancher drove across his grass pasture in his pickup. We were very lucky, as was he. The fire burned all around his house, but because he had cement siding and a metal roof, the house didn’t burn down, though it did sustain some smoke damage.

Down in Paradise Valley, south of Livingston, our good friend and hiking partner, Nancy, was lucky as well when a fire broke out in the rocky gulch below her house where a construction crew was working. The crew was clearing a pad to build a house on, but officially no one yet knows what started the fire. It burned right up to Nancy’s house, and even singed a few of her fence posts and the bushes just below her upper deck, but didn’t catch her house. Ben and I drove to Paradise Valley to meet Ursula and Dee Dee so we could help, but the sheriff had the road closed and wouldn’t let us drive through. Nancy was trying to douse the hotspots around her house by herself; we were so worried about her that when a neighbor suggested we drive down the ranch driveway next to the roadblock and hike across the pastures to Nancy’s house, we immediately took off with hoses and shovels. I don’t really know how long we were there mopping up, but just about the time we felt her house was safe and all the nearby smoldering fires were doused, the electrical lines died so we had no more access to water.

Everything for Nancy is fine for now and the evening after the fire started it seemed that Pine Creek, which was one of my two favorite places to hike, was safe from the fire, which was roaring up the drainage to the north. Today, however, we heard from Nancy that Pine Creek and Pine Creek Lake burned up. That makes me terribly sad – it was one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen on this spectacular earth – but even harsher than that, Nancy’s neighbor, Mary, who lived just across the gulch from Nancy, lost her house the day the fire started. Mary had the most beautiful, well-tended garden I have ever seen in this area, with a collection of irises that the everyone who knows her envied. She loved her house, which she and her late husband planned and had built; and she spent time every day during spring, summer and fall she could out working in her garden. I barely know Mary, but I know her story (she is 74 years old and was recently widowed from a fairytale romance with a man she loved very deeply and cared for at home while he died of cancer) so I ache for her. It sounds horrible when we hear of homes lost in a fire, but when we actually know someone who lost their home and all their beloved possessions, our minds cannot reconcile the loss. Yet Mary has stayed strong and buoyant through the ordeal.

I don’t have much that I actually treasure, possessions are just that to me for the most part, but to lose what Ben and I have worked so hard to create for the last eighteen years: our home and studio; the garden and greenhouse; the barn, chicken coop and sheds; the rows of trees and bushes we have watered, nursed, tended and protected . . . well, I cannot even imagine how I would react. The loss of Pine Creek is harsh, but there is still my other favorite hike and I can find solace there (Sunlight Lake in the northern Crazy Mountains) but to lose everything else . . .


From our hike with Nancy up Pine Creek last week:


The creek along the trail


The falls below the secondary lake


The secondary lake, just below Pine Creek Lake


The spillway from the lower, secondary lake

How peculiar it seems to me now that I didn’t even take a picture of the lake itself, just above this spot. Had I only known . . .

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Chicken Marbella


We had this at the Bozeman Co-op Downtown when our good friend, Lori, was in the hospital and had to try to make it for ourselves, so Ben researched recipes on the net. The recipes all called for red wine vinegar, but we didn’t have that, so we just used apple cider vinegar. Here’s how Ben made ours:




Ingredients (These amounts, of course, are approximations)

1 four and a half pound chicken cut into serving-sized pieces

For marinade:

1/2 head of garlic, diced fine

1/8 cup of dried oregano

1/8 cup dried parsley

3 bay leaves

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup canola oil

1/2 cup chopped dried plums

1/4 green olives

1/4 cup capers with a little juice

salt and black pepper to taste

To add just before baking:

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup white wine

Mix the marinade. Place chicken pieces in a flat plastic container or a large zip-lock bag and pour the marinade on top. Let marinate for about 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lay marinated chicken pieces in a shallow baking pan and pour the marinade over them. Pour  the white wine into the marinade around the chicken pieces. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the chicken pieces. Bake for about an hour until the chicken pieces are nicely browned on top.

Chicken Marbella is excellent served either hot or at room temperature. We ate this hot out of the oven, but the Co-op served it at room temperature; both were delicious. And this is relatively low in fat, especially if you peel the skin off the chicken when you cut it up (which we did not, except on the breasts Smile with tongue out).

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Summer is Almost Over!

Okay, so I’m getting ahead of myself, there’s still a lot of it left. It’s a nice fantasy, though. It has been too hot and too dry to be enjoyable. Ben and I hiked up a trail on the south end of the Crazy Mountains and even on top of the mountain it was too hot. It wasn’t that great of a trail, either, though it had a few nice highlights.



We also hiked on a very hot day over by Big Timber with Jackie and Don, up to Indian Cave, which has some nice pictographs. It wasn’t pleasant weather, but the company was good.



We’ve done a couple other hikes with Ursula, Dee Dee and Nancy, too. Those were much better, though still too hot for me, and we had a very good time.


We’re done with our landscape job for the year, so Ben has kept us busy building a shed.



And we’ve harvested broccoli, cauliflower and green beans for the freezer. We’ve been eating a lot of tomatoes, salad and green beans, a little broccoli and cauliflower, some peas, and we just harvested our first beets and carrots.



So, despite the hot, dry and very smoky summer, our harvest is really good.


Notice the conspicuously missing mountains in this picture, from a very smoky day.


We take the good with the bad, of course, and soon (though not soon enough for me) it will be autumn turning into winter and the snow will fly again. Autumn is my favorite time of year: I love the bright colors, the cooler temperatures and finally getting back into the studio. I’ll look back and remember the hikes and the garden and think that summer wasn’t so bad, after all. Because that’s what we do to survive; we remember the good parts of our past, water down the bad parts and know that life is worth living.