Girlfriend Time

Last Monday morning I was out the door bright and early heading for Billings. I wanted to buy groceries and run a couple more errands before retrieving Kelly from the airport. She landed right on time and oh, my, was it ever good to see that girl!

Kelly and I had worked together as nurses for the Kimberly-Clark Corporation for years. After retirement we along with two of the other nurses would gather every year somewhere across the country and spend a few days together. Life circumstances changed and our last gathering was in Florida in October, 2018. Kelly and I did manage to meet up in Tucson in March, 2019 but that’s the last time we’ve seen each other. We intend to change this–we are all ready planning our next gathering with the four of us!

The last 18 months have been tough for Kelly and would have been tough even without covid. In times past I would have been on a plane to wrap my arms around her but the stupid pandemic made that near impossible. We spent these few days in Billings reminiscing about Kelly’s husband, laughing, crying and just generally catching up.

I borrowed this photo of the house we rented from the AirBnB website–

The house was located in what is labeled “the medical district” of Billings and was absolutely perfect! The home was convenient to everything–shopping, restaurants, Dairy Queen😍, and a marvelous coffee shop–Rock Creek Coffee Roasters.

The fabulous yarn store in Billings just opened in a new space in the downtown area. Kelly decided we should purchase yarn and at least start a knitting project together–so we did. We had so much fun choosing the project and yarn with the help of the amazing women at the Yarn Bar. Kelly started knitting her “market bag” while I continued to work on the never ending shawl I started at the first of the year!!! This photo was borrowed from the Market Square pattern available for purchase on Ravelry.

We had a really bad meal, a really outstanding meal and a mediocre meal. We chose to have late lunches and then dined on cheese/crackers/fruit/bread for dinners at home–and of course nightly Dairy Queen blizzards! The outstanding meal was at a restaurant that opened on Black Friday in 2019 before the pandemic started the following March. The restaurant, The Marble Table, so named because the owner’s last name is Marble hit the ground running and has not stopped. It’s a restaurant that is so busy reservations are recommended even for lunch. They started out in a very small space and have expanded with the help of a local contractor who donated his time–the new space opens soon. The corn/cheese fritters appetizer was divine–I could have eaten twice as many! The chicken piccata was perfect and the peach/shortcake dessert was to die for!!

The peach dessert

I like food that’s presented in a pleasing manner but some restaurants carry it to the extreme! At the mediocre restaurant, The Fieldhouse, the roasted brussel sprouts with tapenade aioli appetizer was amazing. Kelly and I both ordered the fried chicken sandwich. It was an entire, fat chicken breast on a bun–about 10 inches tall!! How the heck are you supposed to eat something like that?? My chicken was not cooked all the way through and that’s an instant turn off for me. So, this place wasn’t a hit for us and we will just try to forget about the really bad meal at the really bad restaurant.

We were both sorry to see our time end on Thursday and plans are in the works for the next gathering. The Cowboy and Emmi were very glad to see me. The Cowboy worked so hard while I was gone building fence in that heat.

We’ve had about three days of less smoke but today–oh, my goodness–it’s awful!! The wind is howling and new fires are starting. A cold front is blowing through and is forecasted to bring rain–we are praying this happens.

Driving up the Boulder with no mountains in sight!
Looking up the Boulder–this is usually a beautiful view but not today!
Looking toward the East Boulder–what happened to Boone Mountain??

Friday was just a day of chores. Saturday afternoon we attended a neighborhood picnic sponsored by the Boulder River Watershed Group. It’s always fun to see neighbors and friends plus eat some great food!

Sunday morning we drove over to see friends Sarge and Sarah. We enjoyed a fabulous lunch from Follow Your Nose Barbecue and Sarah who provided salads and delicious potatoes roasted in her air fryer. That’s one appliance I don’t own–maybe I should?? The barbecue place and bakery is located in Emmigrant, Montana–a tiny little spot on the road between Livingston, Montana and Yellowstone. Emmigrant is also where the Emmi girl was born on a ranch in 2009.

So, that’s what we’ve been doing the past week–thanks for reading along with us!

Mamma grouse–about six babies survived and have been hanging around tormenting Emmi.
Mom’s little quilt

A Little Break

From the smoke and hot temperatures that it. It rained Wednesday night after I posted the blog, only two tenths but it lowered the temps and the wind blew away some of the smoke. It’s still hazy but we can at least see the mountains. We are under no illusions this will last. Our hearts go out to all the people in the path of these fires–The Cowboy read an article this week that said there are (and my numbers may be off a bit) 25 major fires in the western United States and 16 of those fires are in Montana!

I wrote the above paragraph Sunday morning, by Sunday evening the smoke came back–not as bad but it’s back.

Friday I had a massage appointment in town and the Cowboy went along to run some errands. He must be feeling energetic, he purchased barbed wire for fencing! It’s county 4H fair time and we drove down to the fairgrounds to see what was happening. My friend Jeane’s quilt won best of show and deservedly so–it’s a stunning piece of art! Her stitching is so perfect!

There were lots of gorgeous quilts and other items on display and we always enjoy looking at the auction items made by the 4H kids.

A cute pooch and her duck

On Saturday, the Cowboy used some of that wire he purchased, replacing a brace post that had rotted. Thank goodness once again for machinery–an auger on the skidsteer made short work of digging the new hole!

The grass still needs mowing–it’s under a sprinkler system so is still one of the green areas on our little ranch. The aspen grove which surrounds our house is still green because much of it is irrigated by our neighboring rancher’s center pivot. Get away from the house and it’s mighty brown. Milton, our Arizona caretaker sent this photo as he was mowing the grass/weeds in our yard–rain makes the brown come to life again.

We are absolutely loving our air conditioning! It’s so pleasant to be outside working in the heat and then step back into the cool house.

I am off to Billings on Monday morning, a friend is flying in and we’ve rented an AirBnB for a few nights. We’ve not seen each other in a while due to covid and life circumstances so we are both beyond excited!

Aren’t they gorgeous!
My Arizona sunflowers in the backyard flower bed
Smokey sunset

And speaking of being creative, my Mom knitted this blanket–I taught her to knit in November/December of 2020 while she was visiting us in Arizona. She has made some simple things and while she was visiting in Montana back in June, we saw this blanket pattern and I helped her with the stitch pattern using some practice yarn. We ordered the yarn and by the time she returned to Arkansas the yarn was at her house and she started to work. It’s just beautiful!!! I am so proud of her that at 84 years of age she has picked up this new skill and so enjoys doing it! Mom has always been creative, sewing everything we wore, making wedding, bridesmaid and prom dresses for other people, doing machine embroidery for herself, as gifts and for pay for other people. She isn’t as physically active any longer and knitting is something she can do sitting in her chair. ❤️❤️Good job Mom!!

The Cowboy built fence again today and it was hot out there! At least the wind was blowing but wind doesn’t help our dryness or the fire crews!

Smoke and More Smoke

Not much going on in our neck of the woods it seems. We are just trying to stay inside as much as possible out of the smoke. It really affects the Cowboy, making him mighty miserable. He finished a metal working project for our friends/neighbors up the road–he is not only handy, he’s talented! Here are my two favorites from the panels he just created–

I quilted! Can you believe it!! A while ago Mom used some of her Christmas fabrics to create a simple block Christmas quilt. She mailed the quilt to me and I’ve loaded it on the longarm. It was fun to drive that big ole sewing machine again–I didn’t forget how!

And as we are staying inside, I’ve been knitting and knitting. This shawl I started sometime around Christmas, 2020 is never ending. I have 59 more rows to go and every row is so long it takes me about 30 minutes to knit each row. And I’m probably going to need yet more yarn!

The sourdough experiment is going well so far–my starter now has bubbles on top and that’s a good thing. I’ve joined a sourdough Facebook group thanks to my friend Judy and have been gathering recipes and a wealth of other information. One of our readers, Jeanne, also shared her recipe and it’s in the comment section of the last blog post. Can’t wait to make the first loaf!!

The day lilies finally bloomed and Emmi girl did a good job of dispatching any deer who might have been thinking about snacking on the flower buds.

The smoke is horrific today–no mountains are visible and the air is thick with the smell of smoke. A new fire started east of Billings, Montana yesterday and grew to 75,000 acres overnight, burning in brush and pine trees. It just never ends this summer. 😟😟

They Work

 

Today we have air conditioning and not a moment too soon! We ordered these mini split heating/air conditioning units on June 13. The units were delivered on about June 30 in some disarray having left the vendor shrink wrapped on a pallet but arriving at our house not shrink wrapped and not on a pallet. Boxes were missing, the main compressor box was damaged and as the Cowboy worked, he found more missing parts.

The company was very good about answering emails, sending the missing parts, etc., but my goodness, this has gone on long enough. The Cowboy worked so hard installing the main compressor unit outside, fabricating a bracket that would elevate the unit off the ground and eliminating the need for extra length on the line sets. Once the line set boxes arrived he mounted the two indoor units, wired the entire thing and attached all the lines–then we were at another week long whoa waiting for missing parts. 

Saturday he attached the lines to the compressor, tested them for leaks and flipped the switch. At first we thought it was working but then decided–nope, not working. By then it was time for us to head to Lonn’s. 

We were the backup babysitters Saturday night. It was Katie and Michael’s wedding anniversary and they had dinner reservations. Lonn was to have kept the kiddos but his job took an unexpected turn–so we were the backup. I took some of those delicious Costco prepared chicken street tacos–if you haven’t tried them, they are so good! Watermelon and strawberry ice cream completed our simple, quick meal with Lonn. It was fun to watch the kids play and giggle–no photos–trust me it was fun! Lonn spent the evening with us–no calls. 

A smokey sunset

Sunday we enjoyed a long coffee time and I made breakfast–pancakes and bacon. Then the Cowboy started working on the air conditioner again. Still no luck. Right after lunch he had an epiphany! Seems he had reversed some wiring and when he shut the unit down, rewired and restarted the unit–we had air conditioning! And it was 94 degrees outside! I have one talented husband!!

Sunday while the Cowboy was working I baked bread–Amish White Bread–my friend Judy suggested this recipe. Very, very good! And I mixed up a sourdough bread starter this morning–another rabbit hole Judy is leading me down! At least this rabbit hole won’t be as expense as the last one we traveled together–knitting!

Nothing has changed in our weather pattern–it’s hot and incredibly smokey. There are fires everywhere in Montana, one of the fires, Alder Gulch, is the highest priority fire for resources in the nation at this time due to the number of homes/structures in its path. Six firefighters have been injured all ready this fire season. And no end in sight–makes us sad. 

Taken Saturday, July 24, what happened to our mountains??
Same direction but in this photo you can see the mountains
No Crazy Mountains visible for several days, there is a huge fire in the Crazies
The Crazies in May, 2021
Even “our mountains” are hazy with smoke to the east
Our mountains on a better day in May, 2021
And a photo of my bread loaves that WordPress would not let me insert above after the fact

Life is good–our house is nice and cool thanks to my smart husband! 😍

A Storm

Coming home from physical therapy today as I neared the turnoff for our road I noticed puddles in the rumble strips on the highway. The gravel road was wet but not muddy. Our driveway was a different story–you could see where water had rushed down the driveway and there were muddy spots. The Cowboy was quite excited when I arrived–we received about a half inch of rain and the temperature dropped about 15 degrees!!! A gift during this time of unbearable heat, dryness and fires. 

I graduated from physical therapy today. And I was sad. The physical therapist I had was an amazing young woman. When after five visits and my hip felt absolutely no better she said, “OK, let’s scrap everything we are doing and start over.” She listened to me and we went a different path which turned out to be the right path. Unlike the physical therapy clinic I visited late in 2020, I loved this clinic from the person who answered the phone and scheduled right down to the physical therapist. Alison has a doctorate of physical therapy and she also had a bubbly, outgoing personality. We discovered that our granddaughter taught Alison’s son in fourth grade this past year. So, I am so glad to be feeling better but I’m also sad. For once in my life I looked forward to physical therapy!

The Cowboy has been doing some metal work for our friends/neighbors. He’s been working in the mornings, retreating to the cooler house in the afternoons. His talent amazes me! 

Tuesday I drove to Livingston to have lunch with Sarah. It’s so hard to pick a restaurant these days. So many of the eateries are short of help and are reducing hours to cope. Montana seems to have an over abundance of tourists this summer and the small town of Livingston and its businesses are stressed. Can’t find a parking place, can’t make a left turn into the constant stream of traffic and the interstate is almost as bad as I-10 in Arizona between our home and Tucson–where we are the tourists!😎 Our first restaurant choice (the one with the lemon ricotta gelato) was closed so we went to the Thai restaurant and had a fabulous meal–outstanding meal! But no lemon gelato!☹️

The hummingbirds are eating us out of house and home. I filled the feeder twice today! I don’t know whether they are hungry or thirsty! 

We are grateful for the weather break today, so grateful! 

Photos from our Dubois, Wyoming trip

Still No Air Conditioning

I was going to write a long, whiny post about having no air conditioning and decided it would serve no purpose. Suffice it to say, parts are still missing in action and it’s dang hot in Montana. 

Saturday we attended a funeral for the mother of a dear friend. Kathryn was 94 years old and had lived a very good life. Is it wrong to say we “enjoyed” seeing people at a funeral?? We enjoyed seeing all the friends and family–many, many people we have known for years. 

In the afternoon the Cowboy worked on the air conditioner install again. I’ve been mowing grass, watering, playing with Emmi, cleaning house, etc. 

Sunday we had friends over for lunch but in the morning the Cowboy worked with the air conditioners again and I helped a bit. 

Working hard in the heat!
The install is happening too close to the hummingbird feeder and the little guys are not happy!

And speaking of fall–it can’t come soon enough! Our forecast is awful–hot, hot and no moisture. Each evening we have thunder and lightning–no moisture and the next day we read that yet another fire has started somewhere. For the last few days the wind has picked up in the afternoon and a huge cloud of smoke rolls into our valley obscuring the mountains and making it hard to breathe. Fall can’t come soon enough!

The map below shows all the fires in Montana. A little green flame signifies fires 0-100 acres. An orange square with flame signifies fires of 100-1000 acres. A red square with flame signifies 1000+ acre fires. Green flames are new fires, green squares with flames are new, fast growing fires. Here is a link to the interactive map on the actual website.

There are no fires near us at present. There is a new, small lightning caused fire up the Boulder, let’s hope it stays small. Our hearts, thoughts and prayers go out to the fire fighters. The fire up the Boulder was first accessed by three wildfire fire fighters who hiked for six hours with a 2500′ elevation gain. Can you imagine and with those heavy packs??? A fire fighter was severely burned in a fast moving fire near Red Lodge a couple days ago. It’s not a good year.

Covid is still here. Folks near and dear to me are ill with covid, an Arizona friend, fully vaccinated since March/April had covid recently and was really ill for about three days. It’s discouraging for us to hear of fully vaccinated folks contracting covid. But, I was talking to a friend who lives in Spokane and she said, “no vaccine is 100%, I had all the shingles vaccines and I got shingles–a very mild case but I had shingles!” And she is right plus the percentage of those getting covid after being fully vaccinated is about .01% of the vaccinated US population. I’m so over covid!

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Dubois Wyoming

Last Thursday morning we were up and out very early in the morning heading to Big Timber to meet friends Ken and Lesley plus Charlie and Peggy. It was the maiden voyage for our little new to us travel trailer and the Polaris RZR we purchased this year when returning from Arizona. We were heading to the small high mountain (7000′ elevation) community of Dubois, Wyoming. 

I simply can’t say enough about how easy it was to travel with these two couples. Charlie lead the way at an easy pace and we brought up the rear. We stopped for gas/fuel in Thermopolis, WY and lunch beside the Wind River. Dubois was a busy little tourist town–we found our required Wyoming ATV permits on our third try and headed northwest out of town about 25 miles to the Brooks Lake area. 

The USFS campground on the shores of Brooks lake was small, tight and very crowded. Each couple was traveling with a dog and we chose the dispersed camping having the area mostly to ourselves for the four nights we were there. The three dogs are well behaved, come when called and in dispersed camping they didn’t have to be tethered all the time. 

Ken and Lesley’s rig–can’t beat that view can you!
Brooks Lake from our campsites

Again, I can’t say enough about how easy it was to travel with these guys. The people got along and so did the dogs! Appetizers and adult beverages each evening with lots of stories. Charlie was the grill king and each couple provided our own meat–Charlie grilled it to perfection each night. The ladies would decide each morning who would bring the appetizers and who would provide the sides for the evening meals. Easy, easy!

The ATV riding was spectacular! These guys like to ride–the first day we rode 50 miles, second day 70 miles and third day 80 miles. Our temperatures were amazing at 9200 to almost 10,000 feet elevation. On two mornings there was frost on the windshields of the trucks.

Ken was our leader and showed us some amazing country. We saw very little wildlife–the Cowboy and I did catch a grazing moose one morning and we spotted this guy sunning himself–

Most of our rides ended at beautiful mountain lakes–

We saw very few people while out and about on the ATVs–not what we expected after seeing the busy little town of Dubois. The three dogs got along very well, Emmi even tried to play a bit with Lacy who belongs to Peggy and Charlie.

I wish I had taken more photos on the first day as on the second day of riding, the smoke from a forest fires rolled in obscuring most of our mountain views. We had no cellular service and no idea where the forest fire might be. At home Monday night we discovered it appears the entire western United States is on fire–UGH!

Back from scouting out our boondocking spot.
Brooks Lake from our campsite

The only not so great thing about this trip was the dang mosquitoes–incessant, relentless, millions of mosquitoes! We even put bug spray on the dogs–that’s how bad it was!!

Our little travel trailer performed well–for the first time in many RVs, I have an oven again and I used it making jalapeno poppers for appetizers the first evening. We slept well snuggled down into lots of blankets–it was cold at night! It’s so dry in Wyoming and our boondocking spot was very dusty–and much of that dust made its way inside of our trailer! The pooch needs a bath now that we are home.

Monday morning the Cowboy and I headed home with Lesley and Ken making tracks later in the morning. Peggy and Charlie stayed another day. At home we’ve been on the go non-stop–laundry, cleaning the house, changing the oil in the RZR, washing the RZR, etc. Emmi has been sleeping, recovering from all that ATV riding!

On Tuesday we greeted Emmi’s new sitter, a young woman who grew up in our neighborhood and who loves animals. We had a very long day in Billings and just didn’t feel right about leaving Emmi alone for nine hours. It was a joy to have Brooklyn here and Emmi even warmed up to her, allowing Brooklyn to hold her.

In Billings our first stop was the dermatologist for the Cowboy where he had two spots biopsied–UGH–poor guy, he just can’t catch a break with this skin cancer thing. Next stop was lunch followed by a routine dentist appointment for me and then Costco. A haircut and a Walmart grocery pickup were the last two appointments before we pointed our tired selves toward home.

The smokey skies made for beautiful sunsets
On a tree at one of our lunch spots

We had such a good time and are so glad these guys included us in their trip! Life is good!

Bit Of A Break

In the evening on July 4th after I had posted the blog, we had a thunderstorm which delivered about a half inch of rain. Monday was so nice–cloudy, misty and cool all day long! Tuesday it was once again 90 degrees but today wasn’t bad–probably about 85 degrees.

Monday evening we cruised over to Lonn’s taking dinner–beef barbacoa tacos (recipe by the RV Goddess) and homemade coffee almond ice cream–quite the combination! Our granddaughter Laci and great granddaughter Lora are visiting for a bit–they have recently moved to Nebraska and husband/dad is stationed with the USAF there. It was a great evening! 

The missing in action air conditioner parts were shipped and should be delivered by Friday. The sticky flies are still here–today I went outside to water plants dressed in long jeans and one of the Cowboy’s long sleeve shirts. I was not taking any chances on getting bites again!! 

Emmi was looking a little shaggy so she has had a bath and a mini haircut–she can now see better–those eyebrows were out of control!

And that is what is happening in our household. 

The Technomadia folks had a blog post about how to keep your photos organized. When I started using Lightroom to process photos the organization became a little easier to handle but I still have to stay on top of it. I am ruthless when it comes to deleting photos I consider to be poor–when I transfer photos from camera card to Lightroom, poor photos are deleted then and there. Photos which go into the blog or Facebook need to be resized but once they are published in either of those two places the resized photos can be deleted from your Lightroom catalog. I need to be more diligent about going back and deleting those type photos. Last night after reading Technomadia’s post I went into my Lightroom catalog and started deleting photos. In the process I came across some awesome photos and as I haven’t taken any photos this week–here are some from our trip to Twin Lakes in the Big Hole, Montana, in July, 2017.

Boring

At the risk of being totally boring, let’s talk about the weather again. Saturday it was 96 degrees outside and 80 degrees inside our house. Friday was almost as bad. We open the doors and windows at night but when the night time low temperature is 60 degrees, the house doesn’t cool down enough to cope with the high temps the next day. Our mini split air conditioning/heating units finally arrived late Friday afternoon. But unfortunately they arrived with missing parts. 

So, we do what needs to be done outside early in the morning. I walk Emmi before 7am and after the sun has set. Mowing and weed whacking take place early in the morning. The Cowboy works in his shop in the morning and spends the rest of the day inside under the ceiling fan. It’s so dry that even with irrigating our hay did not grow enough to make it worth cutting. 

We watch and listen for rattlesnakes, the Cowboy found one across the creek from our house when walking Emmi while I was gone. A rattlesnake bit Nola, a St. Bernard belonging to our friends Joe and Tammy who own our former ranch. Nola spent the night at the vet clinic but seems to be doing OK–this heat isn’t helping her be comfortable. 

There is no change coming in this weather pattern–hot, hot and more hot. And no rain. It’s a weird, upsetting summer in Montana. For the first time in a long, long time we did nothing today on July 4th. I considered having a party but just couldn’t summon the energy in this heat. I did cook a July 4th type lunch for us–hamburgers, potato salad, corn on the cob and green salads–it was delicious!

Friday we made a flying trip to Billings to purchase a generator–seems generators are in short supply like so many other things. Harbor Freight had received a shipment of 10 Predator generators and when I called on Wednesday evening they still had all ten units. On Friday morning when we got to the store there were four generators remaining. When I stepped up to the counter and told the clerk what I wanted, another man behind me said, “make that two.” There were then only two of the ten generators left–short supply! We were on the road at 7am and home just after noon–a flying trip!

And if the heat wasn’t enough to aggravate us we now have what we call “sticky flies.” They are slow moving, small flies that buzz in and out of your ears, your eyes and they bite leaving large, swollen red spots. Outside trying to play with Emmi the dang things will drive you crazy–I become very gleeful when I manage to slap and kill one of the pesky things! The flies usually only visit us for about two weeks–thank goodness!!

 

Our peonies are beautiful and plentiful

A Major First For Me

For a while we’ve had camping reservations near Red Lodge. We were joining Katie and her two munchkins. We ordered mini split heating/air conditioning units from Amazon on June 13 with delivery by June 30th. On Monday I called the freight company–“oh yes, we outsource to a Montana/Wyoming freight company, someone from that company will call you today.” Should have known better. The Cowboy stayed home in order to receive that call and the mini splits. When my cell phone once again had service today I called him–nope, he had not received a call nor the mini splits.

So, it was a first for me–I’ve pulled and backed trailers, mostly gooseneck trailers and have no trouble pulling–it’s the backing that’s a problem! I received backing lessons in our driveway Monday morning and just after lunch I was off with our new to us travel trailer. And I was semi successful–the backing took me several tries but I finally got the hang of it and put that trailer right where it was supposed to go. And–I leveled the trailer on the first try!!!!  

Here comes Brooks and Oreo
And Millie

It was nice and cool and it was dang cold in the mornings! I was having battery problems and couldn’t run the heat in the early morning but survived. While not out chasing munchkins I knitted and read. It was a gloriously restful, fun time with family and I enjoyed every minute!

 

Happy hour snacks, kid style
Greenough Lake

Katie and her husband had purchased an inflatable paddle board–this was it’s maiden voyage. Katie is one strong young woman–the paddle board weighs about 25 pounds and she packed that thing uphill from our campsite and down to the lake. I declined a ride on the board!

Oreo is very attached to Katie and was quite concerned about her being out on the lake!
Brave enough to stand!

So–it was a successful camping trip for me alone. There were some stressful times–on the way to Red Lodge on Monday I had two suicidal motorcycle riders pass me (I was doing the speed limit)–the first one on a double yellow line and when he cut back into my lane he almost clipped my front bumper. The second almost caused a major pile up when he pulled out to pass me with a car coming at us in the other lane–he pulled back behind me just in time with the car honking angrily at the motorcycle rider. YIKES!!! The battery problem was a touch stressful but Katie had brought a generator and I just ran it a couple times a day. The campground was pleasant and not crowded. The weather was perfect–yes, a successful maiden voyage.

 

How would you like to climb down that ladder in the dark to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night??