BRRRRRRR

Winter- it doesn’t happen just at ski resorts.

I am putting together a post on Brighty’s update but was rudely interrupted by… winter.

so much for the garden

So, when did snow become a threat? As a Gulf Coast person snow was a delightful novelty, hoped for each year but only because the below freezing temperatures that made you have to cover up all the citrus trees and hibiscus in the yard came rarely and didn’t stay long. I remember the year we had 3 nights in a row that dipped below freezing and my lemon tree really took a hit. I actually had to buy some lemons after that because so few made it through the freeze.

So imagine my delighted surprise the first time a few snow flurries drifted around the mountain house. Everything so fresh and clean and the world seemed like a little snowglobe. Ahh, winter. I LOVE having four seasons!

Dashing through the snow…

Ummm, wait. It has been cold for like a week already. I totally do NOT have the right clothes for this! Ohmigosh, the little creek by the house has ICE. Ice y’all. On the creek, where there is running water. And the dirt isn’t soft anymore and the wood bridges are very slippery in the morning. Holy moley, the pond up the hill is completely frozen over. And it isn’t even Thanksgiving yet!

Back when the sun used to shine these solar lights would glow all night long

Ummm, maybe I should think about leaving for Texas a little earlier than originally planned. Well, except the don invited me to his family Thanksgiving and I really want to meet this group of people. Well, it was said that last year this time had days in the 70’s so it should be fine. And that will give me more time to figure out my route back to Texas.

Well, rats. The jokes on me. Ice, snow, and I actually got stuck the day after Thanksgiving in the snow on a hill no steeper than an ADA ramp. Yep, couldn’t get anywhere. I’m probably going to die out here in the snow. I’ll probably hit a patch of black ice and go shooting off the highway down a mountain and get trapped in my car to die from exposure and in a puddle of urine.

Well, so that didn’t happen. YET. I didn’t exactly panic, though I’m sure I had every right to, when the car wouldn’t move forward and the back wheels just chittered around. Lucky for me, the don came to my rescue and moved my car to a safe place where I could safely drive it in the daylight.

Which is how Pearl got all CBGBs. For a sophisticated car, she sure looks tough with these bad boys on. After that near-death experience I went straight to the tire store and bought these chains. No more getting stuck on icy roads for me! I’m not going out without a fight, doggone it.

Well, truth be told, I’m a lover not a fighter and I heard it said you can’t beat a Russian winter and I figure an Idaho winter might put up a fight, too. So now I am on my way south to get to a climate which isn’t trying to kill me and for which I have the proper clothing. Flip-flops in December? Yes, Please! Update on Brighty will follow once my fingers thaw.

The Other Great Vegetarian Hunter

I am going to have to give the UPS man a Christmas present because I have ordered so much of the items needed to rehab Brighty via online shopping that he is at my  house at least every other day. And some of it has been rather heavy. Thank you, UPS! I do make every attempt to shop local, even asking if items can be special ordered which does take longer and costs more but I believe it is important to support local business. It’s just that many times the stores say they can’t get the particular item, and for the special needs of this rehab, RV stores with an online presence are the only option. So, thanks again to my friendly guy in the brown truck!

Finally, the propane lines are in and I can start installing the insulation and paneling and then install the kitchen cabinets! Woohoo!

Well, the lower cabinets anyway. I still have some AC wiring to install and check so the permanent install of the upper cabinet will have to wait. But it is still progress. and the sink I ordered has arrived as has the water heater and the water pump. I did a test fit for the upper cabinets because I wanted them to be flush with the ceiling and I could find no definitive info on how to achieve this. Surprise of surprises, it worked the first time! I also realized that absolutely nothing on Brighty is square or straight. She has curves even in her straight lines, like how is that possible?


Test fit of upper cabinets with the lower cabinets removed so I could get in close. That is the water heater you see below. It also required some fancy cutting of the lower cabinet.
IKEA cabinets are installed!

We also received the new fridge (that was delivered by freight which I am sure the UPS guy was very appreciative). It can run on AC power or propane. We had a bit of discussion, the don and I, on what size to get. I won’t say who wanted what but one person wanted the largest fridge possible and the other thought maybe a smaller fridge and a cooler would be the way to go. It was agreed to get the largest possible and with assurances that it would definitely fit through the door. Crap, the fridge is just 3/4 of an inch too wide to fit through the door. Maybe removing the door frame will help. Whose idea was it to get such a big fridge anyway?

I took a long weekend off to go bow hunting with the don. This is a real departure for me because I do not hunt and do not eat critters. Not on purpose, that is. Anyone who has gone for a jog on warm summer morning along a lovely wooded trail a few times has probably had the experience of jogging up a hill and fallen into the open-mouthed breathing bug-swallowing morass of ickiness. If you can except the accidental bug, I fall into the category defined by a non-hunting friend who said, “I could have taken the shot but I realized I just was not hungry enough to where killing the bird would make a difference for me but it would certainly make a difference for the bird.” And he stopped hunting. I make my own choices about eating animals but if I ever got hungry enough, I would eat one. So far I just have not gotten that hungry. Lucky me! Plus, I have tried a bite of an animal if it was offered and novel and, to be honest, no critter has ever tasted all that good to me. If eating a critter, whether cow or elk or snail or frog or turkey or duck…, if it had the same explosion of joy on my tongue like an amazing guacamole or piece of chocolate or superb cup of coffee, well, maybe I would not be vegetarian but no bite has ever done that. So why bother killing it if it is not fabulous? Elmer Fudd is the only vegetarian hunter that I know and we all know of his lack of prowess with a gun. I personally would not hunt with a gun, it would feel too much like being an assassin, but seeing how much Monty likes the elk meat and how well his allergy-ridden body does on this type of protein, maybe I will take up bow hunting. To feed my family.

My first day as a bow hunter and I totally look the part

I am a tremendously curious soul and, while very opinionated, I tend to not judge that which I do not have any experience. I have known a few bow hunters. Stories of spending days following a particular animal and strategizing to get close enough to shoot, well, they sounded perhaps more sporting than the hanging out and assassinating that rifle shooting seems to be. Again, I fully recognize that I have zero experience and am in good company with having an opinion on that which I know jack shit. When the chance to go bow hunting came along, I decided to “give it a shot” and get a little experience.

Here I am, all camo-ed up. My first day as a bow-hunter and I totally look the part.

This kind of hunting requires a bit of hiking around and watching to see where the elk are moving about. This apparently changes from year to year and getting into a position where a shot can be made during the early morning or twilight-ish times the big guys get going takes some intel and planning. Have you ever heard an elk  They make a weird sound for such big animals, kind of like a squeak.

Elk on one of the many ridges around
I really enjoyed the hiking around looking to see where the elk were congregating.

So a few days is spent walking and observing quietly and making sure not to scare any of these critters. Funny enough, there were quiet a few elk on other hillsides. Here is a herd with a pretty big bull and his cows and even a baby elk. They do not look that far away but it would be a good full-day hike to get over there so moving camp would be required.

Pretty good sized herd on the next ridge

And these guys must have had some intel of their own because that hillside they would traverse for the next few days was not near any access trail to be able to get the mules near to a kill and pack it out. Being able to get the “harvested” animal out is an important part of hunting and having to backpack a several hundred pounds of raw meat sounds nigh on impossible. No wonder this bull was so big, he is pretty smart!

Learning how to spot elk
Oh, hey there are tons of elk across the river!
Trying to keep a low profile so the elk on the next ridge don’t spook
Almost two minutes of what it is like to bow hunt.
Quill has hunting experience and is very excited when she sees elk.
Monty and Finn haven’t any hunting experience and were getting bored and sleepy
Elk spotting

Hanging out waiting for an elk to cruise by was one of my favorite parts. the don would get his different elk call whistles out and see if there were any elk nearby. It was really cool when one would answer and a bit of call and response would go on. I found the waiting a great opportunity to meditate and to practice being in the present moment.

In place and checking the bow and draw and probably some other sport-specific terms that I don’t recall
Waiting for the elk to come by. I got in some really good meditation. the don prefers to read
Dude, don’t turn the page yet, I’m not finished reading
Still waiting for the elk
I can nap sitting up
Special hunting makeup for those days you just feel extra pretty

See, hunting is kinda fun!

Bow hunting requires getting very close to the animal. If we had been using a rifle, there were quite a few opportunities to kill but with the bow you have to be more patient and get in very close. This trip resulted in no kills so that worked out fine by me. All the fun, none of the blood and guts. the don was not concerned since he had plenty of meat left over from last years kill, so much so that he passed on a couple of shots because the bull was so big the don wanted him to go on and make more baby elk. I am thinking that could be a nice set of antlers to find next spring!

Monty was interested in a critter down the ridge a ways. the don thought it might be a bear

A storm began to roll in after lunch. The winds picked up like the tornado in The Wizard of Oz. Monty and I were hiking around just enjoying the scenery and not worrying about being stealthy when this line of clouds came in so we began to head back to camp.

A windy afternoon
Would you quit with the pictures of that storm and let’s get back to camp?!?!
Watching the lightening across the way
Storm clouds make for a pretty sunset
Stella enjoying the grass and view after her walkabout.

No photos of the food on this trip. It was good but not as amazing as other trips because the don felt that campfires were not conducive to keeping elk nearby so cooking was done backpacking style in a single pot on a stove. It was still nice to have the mules to carry all of the gear and if you got tired of walking Stella would carry you for a stretch. She is becoming one of my favorite mules of the seven due to her relatively calm disposition. We also share a distaste for the antics of the two rambunctious boy mules I call Thing 1 and Thing 2. One afternoon I came back to camp and saw only one mule instead of three. Expletive. Stella and Thing 2 pulled their pickets and took off. It was just me and Monty and the choices were clear:

  1. Leave and pretend I didn’t see anything. Come back well after dark and after the don would have returned to camp.
  2. Go find the don and interrupt his hunt so he can help track down his got-derned mules
  3. Find those fu*#ers myself.

I was concerned the mules could get tangled in their pickets and get hurt. This explains why I, a person with no mule experience and who is rightfully afraid of these powerful and sometimes unpredictable creatures, chose number 3. A smarter person would have been more concerned that she would get hurt trying to deal with two runaway mules but my heart bleeds for all creatures, great and small. A bit of panic started to rise in my gut as I looked up and down three possible trails and searched the hillside for signs of mule tracks. I could see no obvious path they took.  With the last bit of sensibility in my head I asked Monty to find the mules. Monty is the best dog in the world because even though those mules are not friendly to him no matter how much he tries to be nice, he nosed around and then took off down one of the trails. I don’t even know how Monty knew what I was asking but he led me straight to those recalcitrant critters. Now I had to lead them back all by myself. Thing 2 is not usually very cooperative with me but he may have sensed that I meant it when I told him one misstep on his part and I’d tie him to the nearest tree for wolf food. We all got back to camp without further incident. Shortly after our return little Finn, the puppy, came running up. Her new trail name might be Ranger because she goes off on her own so much. About 45 minutes later the don showed up. Other than me drinking hard liquor at 4:00 in the afternoon, nothing seemed amiss.

Enjoying a well-deserved nap
and a beverage
Moonrise on the walk back to camp
The dogs lead the way on the narrow trail as we hike out

It’s good to have a sure-footed friend on these knife edges

The day came for us to head out of the wilderness. No elk were harmed on this hunting trip and the sun played peekaboo as we walked out. the don and I took turns riding Stella although he would lead her when I rode since I’m not skilled in mule management. I can ride horses but these mules aren’t trained like a horse. No bridle, no formal riding training, and they question authority with every step. Wrangling one of these guys on a steep hillside is not on my bucket list. I am learning to be around them but I’m still pretty scared of them in unfamiliar situations so the don led while I rode. On the really sharp drop-offs though, no one rode. The mules are very sure-footed and do well picking the way along the trail but I wouldn’t be on top of one!

And so ends the saga of the other great vegetarian hunter. I am happy to shoot elk with a camera and to walk around the lovely hills. If only tacos grew wild I would surely take up hunting with a habanero-tipped arrow.

Training Day 1

Training Day 1


While I am on hiatus from the BnB consulting job awaiting payment for services rendered, I have taken a temporary position located in the northern Rockies. I had some preliminary training on the basics of my new job requirements last week and today was to be the first real training day. Some of the new skills I must master involve knots with different rope sizes, harnesses, and very important is tree identification.

The project involves finding very specific trees using GPS and previous identification of these same trees and then climbing them (not a skill I have mastered but am learning) to harvest pollen right as it is ripe but before it has had a chance to be contaminated by the pollen from nearby trees. After the collection will come the cleaning and proper storage of the pollen using (relatively) clean methods to avoid cross-contamination by other trees or other pollen collected and then appropriate storage of the pollen until it can be turned in for use. I would like to think my many years of experience in the chemistry of haircolor as well as my time in university research labs will aid in the cleaning and packaging of the collected pollen since none of that aids me in climbing these 100 foot trees. I did once climb an 80 foot pole at Philmont using spikes and a rope and was tied in for protection using the classic belaying method of trusting your partner to hold the rope if you fell. That time i did not fall but it was slow going and i developed an appreciation for the trapezius muscle that had heretofor been absent in my experience. This time would be a little different, however. There would be no partner to belay me and catch me if I goof up and I will not be wearing spikes BUT I will have two ropes and only one will be moving at any given moment, with the other being my own personal belay. the don has done this type of work before and assures me that it is worthwhile having me as a part of the team. I am hopeful he is right and that it is not just that he wants me around because his dog has taken a shine to me.

here the don is about 95 feet up in the white pine. soon I will be doing this!

Obvious as it may be since you are reading this, I did not fall to my death from a tree on this first jaunt. Sadly, the intel received from the contracting body (which I will not name) was incomplete. While the contract has specific about what measures are to be taken to reach a designated tree, these parameters were not considered when the don was tasked with accessing this tree that was to be my first foray in the training of my new job. While I am quite disappointed in not getting to learn more about this new job and whether I will get any monetary compensation for my time spent sitting in a truck wrangling dogs and snacking for SIX hours, I have to say the perks are not bad. See my current “office” view along the North Fork of the Clearwater River and, bless his heart, the don already bought salsa and chips and beer as well as dinner and breakfast items since we are having to camp near the trees location. So while I may or may not come out ahead monetarily, I am certainly not out where food comes in. If you know me, you know just how much salsa I can eat so the don might want to be careful how he bids these trees when I am along.


This post will be brief as I am heading out again in an hour to find and, hopefully, climb more trees. I did want to show you the place I am currently staying in Idaho. If you are my friend on Facebook or follow me on Instagram you will have already seen some of these photos. I have to admit I had no idea Idaho could be this lovely. I am quite taken by the cool spring and mesmerized by all the flowers. I love having a forest for a backyard and a creek running beside the house. I cannot tell you how it feels to have wild turkeys calling you to wake up, the sun is rising, and how it feels to slowly watch the sky turn from black to morning light through the window above the bed that does not have or need curtains. I cannot tell you how this feels because there are not words that can express what it feels like when your soul, after a long and arduous journey, comes home. Even when it is a home you never stepped foot in before, your soul just knows when it is home.
Big kiss to you all and may your soul be at home today.

Hell’s Canyon

 

Monty gazing out over the mountains of Hell’s Canyon

“The grandeur and originality of the views presented on every side beggar both the pencil and the pen. Nothing we had ever gazed upon in any other region could for a moment compare in wild majesty and impressive sternness with the series of scenes which here at every turn astonished our senses and filled us with awe and delight.” Benjamin L. E. Bonneville, an early explorer of Hell’s Canyon, wrote about the place I was getting ready to spend two weeks camping and hiking.

Sunset from the Cougar Basin campsite with a view into Oregon.

The area has seen much since white men entered its waters, from its early days of exploitation for copper and gold ore to inciting national division in the 1950s and again in the 1970s on damming the river to present-time recreational pursuits. For many years Hell’s Canyon was hailed as the deepest canyon but that is now contested. Regardless of the numbers, I was about to walk into a place of no outside contact. Not that this is a new experience as I have been solo hiking sections of the Continental Divide Trail for a number of years, but this time was different. I was heading into the area with three mules, three dogs, my friend I call the don and his brother. Would Hell’s Canyon live up to its name and reputation? What hellish fate might await, i wondered?

Could it be anymore perfect for a Texas girl than to have PURPLE bluebonnets?
Okay, technically a cousin to bluebonnets but that can be overlooked.

Obviously I have lived to tell the tale. And share some photos…

the don and his mules

Monty had never been around mules so it was with some slight trepidation that he was introduced to them. He did live through the two weeks but only through the grace of God who looks out for little white dogs.He was disbelieving these creatures were not just big dogs thus he continued to try and befriend them by getting too close to their feet. He would also try to insert himself in the mule train between two mules if I was riding a mule so I ended up in the saddle about 100 yards and then walking the remaining 18 miles into camp the first day. Monty did finally learn, mostly anyway, not to get underneath the mules and would walk very close to the back of the last mule. Thankfully the mules were very patient with this city boy who was just learning the ropes when it came to mule packing. Monty and I had that in common on this trip. One mule was particularly patient with me as I learned to halter and saddle and lead the mules and even let me braid his tail.

Monty learned to stay out of the mule train and trailed along behind. Can you see his tiny white body there?

Otis sporting a fancy tail-do. Definitely a sassy ass!

Hells Canyon will extract its pound of flesh, no doubt ’bout that. Just so you know, there are TWO different manifestations of poison ivy in these parts. There is the normal, vine-trailing-on-the-ground type found in moist areas like near creeks and under trees. Then there is another type that does not resemble a vine or a bush. This nasty and tricksy mo-fo is a stick about three feet tall with lovely white to cream dried-looking berries on it. At least that is how it looks in early spring, maybe in June it gets leaves or hairyness or something but in April it is just a lovely berry-topped stick with delicate red undertones hanging out with all the other grasses that looks like it is begging to be in a floral arrangement.

DO NOT BE FOOLED BY IT

A tricksy mo-fo , this poison ivy, growing along the trail and hillsides in very dry areas and with no leaves.

Another tip, if you are traveling with animals or some companion that goes tromping pell-mell through the grasses, DO NOT LET THAT BEING INTO YOUR SLEEPING BAG, even if it is a skinny puppy shivering in the cold night. That shivering puppy will run through the tricksy poison ivy sticks ALL DAY LONG and then, in the wee hours of the darkness, will bring all that urushiol into your bag and onto your skin. Just imagine what the results of hours and hours of laying in the poison oil will do to your skin as she cuddles up so sweetly to you. All the weight you have lost from so much lovely exercise will not be evident due to the horrible sores and swelling from the blisters and your new trail name will be Scritchers.

 

Only 6 months old, Finn already loved to run the hills all day and snuggle all night.

Three dog night. I finally learned to keep the dogs out of my sleeping bag yet they still loved to snuggle up to me. Here you can see Q, Finn, and Monty’s yellow coat.

Poison ivy legs. The rash was everywhere on my body except my upper back due to a snuggling puppy in my sleeping bag. So much for wearing skirts anytime soon.

This concludes my public service announcement.

Now for the good part, and if you heed my advice above, you can skip the icky and go straight to the good part. People tried to settle the canyon years ago and planted gardens. Most of the people and settlements did not last but some of their food-stuff is still there. If you go in early spring (as for this area, not the early spring of Houston) you will be fed well from the coffers of the canyon. the don knew of several spots where yummies were growing and shared them with me. Sadly I did not get photos of the morel mushrooms the don gathered and then cooked in butter on the wood stove (yes, for real. this is my life now) but i promise they were exquisite. The same day as the mushroom gathering, he showed me where asparagus would grow. Only a few stalks were showing then but when I went back a week later, JACKPOT!

Asparagus growing in the wilds of Hell’s Canyon. Can you believe the luck!?!

I gathered a quart ziplock bag and nibbled on quite a few stalks as I gathered and only took about 20% of what was showing. There is also an area where watercress grows and we enjoyed fresh greens pretty much every day of the trip.

Watercress growing along a creek just waiting to be made into a delicious salad.

Can you imagine a two-week camping trip with fresh asparagus and watercress and mushrooms? and all cooked over campfire or woodstove. Hard to believe yet I offer photographic proof.

Watercress salad with beets, coconut, and mango. The latter two were rehydrated since I have yet to find a mango tree in Hell’s Canyon.

Cooking asparagus over a campfire. Also on the menu this evening was polenta with tomato sauce which you can see in the background.

Monty was his usual majestic self and struck a pose on every rock formation he saw. Truly, I do not pose him and rarely do I even try to arrange a photo. Mostly he gets his vogue on and waits until I finally realize I should take a picture. He even photo bombs and, as usual, his version is much more interesting than my own. Do you think Ansel Adams might come back as a photogenic master in a dog body?

Monty photobombing as I try to shoot landscapes. As usual his version is way more interesting than my boring ol’ flower picture.

I’ll put more photos at the end of this post. At the time every single view was breathtaking and so I have tons of pictures of Monty posing with some dramatic view.

As you may know, I am a former city girl who has decided to try a completely different lifestyle. I am learning so much every day! For example, do you know where the antlers for those awesome chandeliers in hunting-themed lodges come from? Out here it is a hobby to collect the ginormous antlers that are shed naturally every spring by the elk. the don and his brother engage in antler hunting and I began a little hunting myself.  I was better at finding asparagus.

“Glassing” the hillside looking for antlers.

I spy an antler!

Here is one of the smaller antlers. Some were almost as big as me!

Fresh mint- perfect for adding to salads and also to a bit of rum

Waiting for snow to melt and getting a suntan at the same time

Still waiting

Dinnertime in Hell’s Canyon

A fresh and cold spring at just the right height for bottle filling. Hell’s Canyon will extract its pound of flesh but will also provide

Another awesome view of Sheep Creek

Spider on flower. I was so intrigued by this little guy hanging out in the flowering bushes just waiting for bugs

I forgot my hat one day and ended up making one from my bandana and some of the branches from the bush behind me. The branches were to make the brim and I have to say this worked out very well for the entire day!

Rose hips. Reminded me of chinese lanterns

Pictographs!

Curious Otis

the don and mules near suicide point. Can you see them on the trail?

My boy

A view into Oregon

Bear claw marks on pine. I promise, Mom, I never saw any bears this trip!

Brain freeze

Monty near Old Timer

Monty on the mountain

I don’t need inspirational quotes
I need coffee

 

Perseverance

Perseverance.

I only just noticed the word “sever” is within the word “perseverance.” I think that, in light of what I share today, you will agree that it is good to have only noticed that academically now and be so grateful that all my fingers and toes are still where they are supposed to be.

Part of what I want to share is the complete infatuation I have with this dream-life of rural, off-grid living. I actually enjoy the physical work of feeding a wood stove for warmth. I like learning new skills, especially physical skills (I really don’t like learning new computer program skills) and so the chores around here are ways that I get physical motion as a part of my whole day, not just 30 minutes at the gym. The main house where I am staying is very nice and big with lovely skylights and Alexa to play any music I desire so I’m not roughing it that much. After a day of being outside, I feel so gratified. After a day of working a computer screen, I feel like a day in my life was stolen.

Chopping wood is something I have never done before. I never swung an axe before a few days ago. I have to say that for me it was not a terribly natural thing. An axe is heavy! Learning to lift it over my head and then swing it down in the same place over and over took quite a bit of practice. My very patient teacher would encourage me by saying, “Good swing! Now hit it again in exactly the same spot and that log will split wide open.” He would even show me, “See, hold it like this and then let your hand slide down as the axe comes down.” And he could actually hit the log in the EXACT SAME PLACE EVERY TIME. For me, hitting it in the same place meant just hitting the top as opposed to the side or missing the darn log altogether.

But, as with anything, practice makes… well not perfect but better. And of course, yoga finds its way into even the most mundane farm chore.

Wish you were here!

P.S. My teacher says this wood is from an alder tree. I say the darn thing is obviously a Kevlar tree. Notice how the axe just bounces off the log? C’mon, what kind of wood could do that?