It’s About Time!

It’s About Time!

Yowza, December 2018 was a blur! After beating a fast retreat from the wintery Norther Rockies with my Southern sandals-in-December tail between my legs, I made it to the one and only big city with the best food and winter and proceeded to try and squeeze an entire year of living into just a few weeks. Needless to say, by Christmas I was whuupped from the over-indulgence in visiting, eating, drinking, and all the other carryings-on.

Monty at the Montrose Paint Wall (formerly known as the Biscuit Wall)
Visiting the moody winter beaches of Galveston
Every party ends up in the kitchen
Snuggle Buddies!
A favorite place is the area around the Menil museum
The Water Wall with my favorite fellas.
Can anything be prettier than River Oaks at Christmas?
the don enjoying the outrageous display of lighting in River Oaks
Skyspace, the James Turrell thingy at Rice University with the almost-full moon above.
Dancing through the winter’s eve keeps the soul warm and snuggly
Happy that I got to see this kid for much of my time in town! Alex has always been my best date!
Enjoying the intersection of woods and urban at Memorial Park with the don
Maybe THIS is why some of the visit seemed a blur! Great hosts offering an out-of-this-world rum flight for enjoyment and testing liver function
Central Market- best grocery store ever. Even the don agrees!
Such a phenomenal view
Art. Life.
Now I want a bison on my truck!
My favorite, the Beer Can House
My other favorite!
I like big girls and I cannot lie
Moose and Monty creating mayhem. Okay, not really. These guys would probably run from the ducks
Monty had friends to visit, too
For real

the don came down to see the town I had been bragging on so much and that, too, was virtually non-stop action of sights, friends, family, and food. Fortunately we did not encounter mosquitos but any Gulf Coaster knows the perils of the December mosquito, so much so that Medicaid rightly provides spray.

It’s all about prevention, y’all.

Since Monty is not allowed to fly commercially, I drove down to Houston in my beloved Pearl, a 2007 Toyota Sequoia. It was the last year of this model and I still believe it to be the prettiest of all SUVs. Pearl was equally at home in the city or on country roads camping and acting as an RV. Her only challenge was the 2 wheel drive thing which wasn’t a challenge for most of her city-dwelling, summer-camping life. And even the one time she went to the snow it was in a relatively populated area with treated roads (and filled with people and stuff so she weighed quite a bit, too). Yes, until this rural living thing happened, Pearl was my jam. But then I did make a change and decide to try northwest country living and 2WD was not working out for me (as mentioned in a previous post). The hunt for a 4 wheel drive was on, and while I’m at it, maybe a truck, too. Most everyone out here drives a truck. They are good for hauling wood that you just cut in the forest to heat your home which is the only heat-source, btw, a not-uncommon thing out here. Trucks are also good for pulling trailers, whether it is a cargo trailer, horse trailer, or boat trailer. Oh, and did I mention I was also shopping for a cargo trailer? So yes, a truck it is. My oldest child was quite vocal about the idea of me driving a truck, “I just never saw you as a truck person.” Turns out I am not really a truck person. It was hard to get excited about truck shopping. My decision coming down to what would have the best resale value in a couple of years if/when I got tired of truck life and wanted a different vehicle.

Leah, about 15 minutes after she became mine but before I realized she wasn’t what I thought I was buying.

And so I present to you Leah.

Her name comes from the Judeo-Christian Bible story in which Jacob makes a deal to marry Laban’s daughter, Rachel, only to find after the wedding that he has been fooled into marrying Leah. In the purchase of my truck, Toyota’s brochures made it appear that the Ensuite system would have a navigation by map. When I test-drove the truck and mentioned the navigation, my salesman said that it would connect to my phone and I would download a specific app and then navigation would show on the screen. Fine. I LOVED the nav system in Pearl and it was quite my habit to glance at the map frequently.

I took possession of the truck and traded in my Pearl on Christmas Eve. On the morning of the 26th I was back at the dealer because I could not get a map to show on my screen. A couple of hours later I was sick to my stomach and asking to have Pearl back because it turns out that particular feature is not even available on this truck. And they wouldn’t give me Pearl back. I could probably have tried a law suit but in the end it just wasn’t worth it to me. Pearl had over 200,000 miles and a recurring emissions issue which cost over $900 to fix the first time.

Pearl turing 200,000 miles somewhere in the snowy mountains of Nevada. Notice all the warning lights are on

And so this truck’s name is Leah.

I am reminded that Dante wrote of Leah and Rachel in his poem about Pergatory. In his dream just before he reaches the paradise on Earth he sees Leah and Rachel, who in this poem are symbols of the active and thoughtful aspects of living, respectively. One translation has it as, “in my dream, I seemed to see a woman both young and fair; along a plain she gathered flowers, and even as she sang, she said: Whoever asks my name, know that I’m Leah and I apply my lovely hands to fashion a garland of the flowers I have gathered. To find delight within this mirror I adorn myself; whereas my sister Rachel never deserts her mirror; there she sits all day; she longs to see her fair eyes gazing, as I, to see my hands adorning, long: She is content with seeing, I with labor.” (Purgatorio, Canto XXVII, lines 97-108, Mandelbaum translation)

So in Dante’s poem, Leah represents the worker, the active part of the full life and was envisioned just before he entered the Garden of Eden or Paradise on Earth. That’s not a bad namesake.

Leah did a darn good job of getting me to my own little paradise. With the help/guidance/bad-ass-ness of my sister, Leah pulled the new cargo trailer filled with heavy outdoor furniture and other outdoor living items. And some clothes, and some kitchen items, and a bicycle… On the way I learned to tow a trailer at 70+ miles an hour on freeways. We were blessed with good weather for the first day but then rain and then freezing rain and then icy snow on curving mountain roads in the dark. Yeah. I didn’t drive that last part. I managed light snow on curving mountain roads up to about twilight and my sis was talking me through it, what to do if I hit a patch of ice (scream? No, fight your instinct and turn into the slide. Ummm, it takes training to fight your instincts and I have definitely NOT been trained unless there is some Jason Bourne shit going on here. Nope, upon reflection definitely no memory loss that could be tied to some secret mountain-ice-towing-assassin stuff. My only memory loss was that weekend in Mexico and some homemade mescal, back when you could safely get drunk in Mexico and not fear for your well-being.) Thankfully I only hit one or two tiny patches of ice and it felt a lot like hitting that gumbo clay back home after a gully-washer, just a little wiggle and the wheels were back to being best friends with the pavement. Of course, I was driving about 35-40 miles per hour on a 70 mph road so cars would occasionally pass me. Fine, let ‘em. But come dark, I was not going to drive. I am a person with extraordinary good luck but even I know when to fold. So the BadAssSis took over for the night. Or at least the hell-storm part of it and I drove again somewhere in the middle of the night with only rain. We did 2400+ miles in a weekend with only a 6 hour layover to sleep. Like I said, she’s rock hard bad ass. I’m more on the squishy side but can tag along sometimes.

Here’s a couple of photos. This is Leah and the trailer safely parked in Texas before the big road test.

Play it safe, y’all

Here is Monty all buckled up for safety. Dogs can be seriously hurt in car accidents if they aren’t secured. Also, you do not want 60 pounds of muscle hurtling around your head.

Again, this is for real
I wanted to find out if there should be a comma in this but decided that sometimes not knowing is funner.

Yes, there really is a Weed Police. It was here that the weather intimidated me. To my credit, just before reaching Weed, California I saw not one, not two, but THREE cars that had slid off the road, one a roll-over. And these cars were visible because they slid into the center median. The poor bastards who weren’t so lucky to slide towards the center of the highway slid right off the mountain. I was not in the right frame of mind to enjoy Weed. Maybe next time.

The sign might have read, “Sharp Curves Ahead, I hope you have your will updated.”

And here is a photo oh, maybe an hour later.  Yep, had it been me driving in this bit of road hell, Leah the Toyota would have been FORD (found on the road dead). That sign reads, “Sharp Curves Ahead.”

And finally, here is Leah enjoying the brand new driveway, if a 900+ foot stretch still counts as driveway, of the parcel of land that the don and I are developing on the western edge of Washington.

And one last photo, here is Brighty. If you will remember, her job is to be a winter home while the development occurs. She sat for a couple of months alone and, unfortunately had to bear some pretty harsh storms by herself and did not get out unscathed. But that is a story for another time.

Brighty and Leah

Wish you were here!

Oh, and here are some photos of the drive down from Idaho to Texas in early December 2018. For your viewing pleasure.

I purchased some turkey from Subway for the little Monty-ster. Turns out he actually enjoys eating meat
Hoover Dam
Hmmph, Monty was not so impressed by the Pony Express

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.

Brighty Part 2 of ???

Brighty’s rehab continues… after a brief interruption called work (and a prayer that my cellular internet access doesn’t drop me this time)

With Brighty’s demo mostly completed and a relatively time-sensitive bit of work to complete out in Forks where Brighty’s new home will be, I had to put on hold any more rehab work. I made the most of the trek to the Olympic Peninsula by stopping at stores in the Seattle area that are not available in my current location. One of these stores was IKEA. After having done some research into RV cabinets it appeared my options were IKEA or DIY. Not feeling too up on my carpentry skills, I opted for Ikea (okay, I’m tired of hitting the caps button) since they promise my dream room for cheap (well, about $700).

IKEA-so many options

After availing myself of the online planner and a less-than-inspiring call to customer service, I took myself to the physical store and met a young lady whose creative thinking and extraordinary patience and product knowledge almost reduced me to tears of gratitude. Planning a kitchen that has curves and wheel-wells was stretching my skill set but Savannah saved the day. May blessings be heaped upon her! When we realized that I was outside the delivery zone and the cost of freighting the cabinets to me was utterly exorbitant, Savannah even figured out how to adjust so that every necessary thing would fit in my vehicle. Did I mention what a God-send she was?

I like the gray cabinets but what flooring should I choose? What says “I love pale colors but live with dogs”

I also made stops to look at flooring and fabric.

Hmmm, I love the embroidered fabric. I wonder if it is too late to train Monty not to get on furniture?

The design scheme is coming together with a base of gray and off-white and accents that can change with mood and season (read purple). There were lots of choices but I am still looking for that balance in fabric options that says both “day at the spa” and “day at doggy daycare” and doesn’t involve covering the couch with towels.

Alas, the foundational work must be completed before the fun designing can commence. And so we find the author precariously perched on 12 foot boards spanning the top of the camper scraping off old caulk to prepare the roof for a desperately needed waterproofing. There are no pictures of this in part because taking a selfie while balancing on a rocking trailer seemed somewhat difficult and in part because I didn’t want any evidence of my foolishness were I to get hurt. I’m pretty sure my insurance policy has a clause about jumping out of airplanes and tightrope walking on decrepit trailers. But I did take some video of the “BEFORE” roof while installing the fans that replaced the old vents.

Since Brighty has seen some rough days, it will take a few liberal coats of special elastomeric paint, butyl tape, and caulk to help weatherproof her roof. Fortunately, a timely rainstorm showed me the places that needed extra attention and so it goes.

the don had experience installing the faux wood flooring so he devoted some time to that. I did a little bit, just enough to learn how to do it but in such a small area it really was not a two person job. Plus, you can only have one boss on any project and, well, he is the don and I have never been employee material.

More foundational work to be done before the “fun” decorating was the running of new electric lines. Luckily I found the electronic schematic for the trailer so all the dangling wires should make sense.

This should make things easier!

I have a passing understanding of house electricity but have never done anything with DC nor have I done anything with connecting the AC and DC so that either or both lines can be run depending on what power is available. In her previous life Brighty was either DC or AC with no connection between the two but, as mentioned above, I am going to wire her differently. My time at the Flying S Farm, while disappointing in the lack of education provided and the quality of work that existed (pretty sure the place would have burned down from the frequent electrical shorts were it not for the 300+ inches of rain each year), did excite in me a quest to know how DC power to an AC house (as with solar energy) could and should be done. In Houston the solar energy collected by those few who brave the cost is wired directly into the existing grid. I knew of no one who was actually off-grid there. I had a lot of studying to do and am so grateful to live in the time of the internet. I learned much about size of wire for particular applications, how much loss of power is acceptable for certain types of “circuits” (only 3% for critical like the propane and CO detector, up to 9% for non-critical like the fridge or water heater), pure sine and modified sine wave inverters (the thingy that switches DC power to AC- you have a tiny one on the cord for your laptop), convertors, battery chargers, generators, and on and on. Suffice to say things got real mathy real fast.

First things first- put in some new fans to help rid the stinky “funk” in Brighty

Okay, time to get back to work. I’m going to be better about updating the blog on Brighty’s makeover. I am joining a local writer’s club to make sure I am not getting caught up in the doing and forgetting to write and record everything!

Wish you were here!

Pondering Pines

A brief interruption in the rehab of Brighty occurred in early August. I am quite behind in my posting, I know. I will get better about that, promise. I was lucky enough to get a gig helping the don with some pine cone picking. Unlike the other pines worked on in the spring, these pines have no special genetic traits offering resistance to anything. They were just selected for their looks and value as lumber specimens. The person who had done the selecting would frequently point to a tree and say to me, “See that tree? Would you want a forest full of those?” I realized he wanted a forest of trees that all looked the same, very straight and tall and just a few limbs whereas I think I prefer a forest of trees like in the Dr. Seuss books with bends and forks in the trunk and limbs sticking out all which-a-way.

Would you want a forest of these trees? the don in this pine- see his blue hat?

Also, in case you are wondering, pine cone is one of those words that can be written as two words or as one, called an open or closed compound word. Probably it is best to pick your favorite and stick to that style throughout your writing. I do not promise to do that because I prefer to live the “and” life rather than the “either-or” life. If it is okay to use pine cone AND pinecone then I will probably do that. 🙂

Ponderosa pines are probably my favorite tree because of the smell of the bark. It is either vanilla or butterscotch, depending on the tree, and it is heavenly to smell as you climb. The cones are quite large, about the size of an avocado and about as heavy as a large grapefruit. Now, these cones are just ripening and are still full of moisture making them MUCH heavier than their dried and opened counterparts on the ground and in many fall centerpiece arrangements. I learned this from experience and, as I tend to do, I gained that experience the hard way.

Ponderosa Pine in early morning light

Tip: if you find yourself in a situation where someone 30 feet above you wants to toss a cone down for you to slice open and check for ripeness, let the cone hit the dirt and then go pick it up. Do NOT reach out your hand and catch the falling cone like some baseball outfielder in a World Series game. I have NO IDEA what I was thinking and, really, I’m not a sporty-gal who played softball or anything. I mean, I can barely catch a cold much less anything thrown in my general direction. And yet when the don hollered, “Hey, Susan, can you check this cone,” and lobbed the pine grenade towards the ground, I was walking to the truck and just reached my left hand out and caught the thing. IN MY BARE HAND. To be honest, I was quite shocked that I had so nonchalantly caught it while I was sauntering to the truck, I didn’t even really try to catch it. Probably because, as mentioned, I’m not good at catching things. And even when I do catch something it usually bounces out of my hand and I go running pell-mell after it like a dog with a Kong toy. However, if the caught object has spines like a puffer fish that will stick into your palm and fingers it is much less likely to bounce out.

Spines on this prickly booger make it pretty easy to catch, if one were so inclined

It can also cause a little nerve damage. Even 6 weeks later the tip of my middle finger has that weird tingling numbness to it. I do not mind too much because it still works well enough when that finger needs to point out some minor infraction or irritation that crosses my path.

Ouch. Lots of little stab holes in my hand. On the plus side, I could hardly feel them due to the temporary nerve damage from catching the cone. 

Aren’t these pinecones beautiful? Naturally the purple is my favorite.

Green, brown, and purple cones all from Ponderosa.

I mostly worked on the ground the first two days but then we got to an area where the trees to climb were close enough together that I could climb one and have the don within shouting distance in case anything went wrong. I wasn’t worried about falling out of a tree but there are other things that can go wrong and, even if I am late telling you the story, I always want to get back in one piece and tell it. I am kind of cautious that way. So finally the day comes that I get to climb a tree by myself! I get my gear together, check the ropes and knots, get the little “Bo-Peep” tool the don created to pull the branches in. See, the cones are on the outer branches and I am attached to the trunk so this tool lets me grab the outer branch and bend it toward me to pick the cones. It is actually quite peaceful up there. Very few bugs, lots of birds and the views are amazing! It took me probably three times as long to get the same quantity of cones but that is okay, I was having a pretty good time even if I was slow.

Getting started as the sun just starts coming over the hill
All the gear to climb fits into these two bags
Ropes, clips, and powder
Powdering the ropes keeps them from getting sticky with tree pitch
Me in a not-too-tall tree

Unfortunately the tree climbing was slowed down for me due to getting “glutened.” I have to eat gluten-free or else I get very sick. I had been living in a house with bread and trying to be careful but some crumb of bread must have gotten into my breakfast one morning because on the way to the climbing site I became very ill. I tried climbing a tree but keeping my nausea at bay took most of my attention and I wasn’t able to pick very well. I ended up on the ground for a number of days which is the best place to be if you are vomiting and having diarrhea. When I get glutened I tend to run a fever for a few days, too, and that makes tree climbing not such a good idea, either. At least getting out into the forest was keeping my mind off of how yucky I felt, even if I was on the ground the entire time. I did get to see some pretty sights.

Bee my friend
What do you think the caption for this should be?

I will say it was hard work but it was also really fun work. Watching the sun rise as I headed to the forest site, then going to swim in the river after working, heading home to appreciate a soft bed and shower. It really simplified life to the sweet things. I don’t think I could do it every day for a year but for a couple of weeks it was really good. It is also really nice to have a job that you can bring your dog along with you.

Oh, and one thing, wear gloves when you work with pine cones. Trust me on this.

Identity Crisis

“Leaves of three, let them be”

For many of us, this is pretty much the total of our woodsman training in avoiding poison ivy. However, if you have an outdoorsy nature and have traveled to other wooded areas then you know that poison ivy can look very different from one place to another. If you have read my earlier post then you also know that plant can take several morphological aspects in the same geographical locale. If you don’t have experience in that location then you are back to your own little ditty to hopefully protect you from itchy skin and oozing blisters.

It’s quite mind-boggling to try and figure out who is who in the plant world on the hill above me. I have been promised that there is no poison ivy anywhere on this hill. Oh yeah? Well, what about this?

Oh, wild strawberry? Really? Not poisonous then? Oh, okay. (Does it really make strawberries?)

Lalala… whoa, what’s that? Three leaves climbing up a stick- kinda like that one down by the Snake River in Hell’s Canyon. Surely that is some version of poison ivy? Nope, just a plant, and don’t call me Shirley.

Monty and I decide to meander down a creek. We love these fresh walks in the woods. The crisp air, the sunlight streaming through the trees and making little patches of light in the green shadows. And here is more three-leafed wonder

Three leaves, viney… watch out!!! Oh wait, thorns? Blackberry?

Sheesh, I’m beginning to question the validity of that saying now because everywhere I look there are three-leafed plants and some even have the mitten-leaf appearance of the poison ivy I am familiar with.

Oh lordy, look at all that, the mushroom is probably poisonous, too. I used to feel so safe in the woods. I guess those were “my” woods, with animal sounds and plants and topography that I have known for many years. There is PLENTY of poison ivy in Texas, believe you me, but after so many years of exploring I just instinctively knew where it was and how to avoid it and if it did get me a little, well, it was only a little. Maybe a couple days of itchy and a wee bit of blistering. Not a full-body event that is utter misery like I had a couple of months ago. Swear to God I’d rather birth a child than go through that again.

Oh, here is a three-leafer but I do know this one. It’s trillium and is quite lovely.

And look at all the other kinds of three-leaf around it. It begins to get overwhelming, just trying to figure out what is what in a new place.

Pretty lighting but who are you?

Pretty sure this is okay

Monty doesn’t concern himself in the least with plant identification. He does worry about staying close to me and will check on me frequently if I am loitering or moving to slowly. He is so funny that way! I do like hiking with him because he does always check and if he hears me exclaim over something he comes running to make sure I am okay and give me a bop with his nose.

Ummmm, I’m not seeing this in the plant identification booklet

I keep trying to figure out who is who in this three-leafed plant world. My guidebook is not really all that helpful at times. I think it assumes I already kinda know what I’m doing here. I’m beginning to realize I do not know jack. It’s rather humbling because I used to know A LOT and feel totally at home in the woods. Here I don’t know anything. It is both interesting and uncomfortable at the same time. The discomfort makes me think more about what is what. No comfy ruts for me. Every step is examined. Sometimes I can only hang on to the few truths I know still exist, but what are those again? Oh bother, here we go getting existential again…

There are so many encouragers saying, speak your truth. Walk your path and find what serves you. Follow your bliss…

Well, what if you don’t know what your truth is or where your path is or goes? What if you spent your whole life doing what you were supposed to do, what others wanted you to do, what you thought would be “the right thing” to live happily ever after and you played nice in order to make things better for everyone? (but were you included in the everyone count because how did suppressing your own outrageous being make things better?)

How then can you speak your truth and walk your path to the glory of God or whatever if you don’t even know what your own voice sounds like?

A story of a little girl I know has cracked the door open for me. I spent many years playing a role to make life better for everyone else. Like many women, I focused on taking care of others and, in the process, hid who I am and what I want. Maybe it was easier to keep the spotlight off of me rather than risk everyone finding out I am so small and imperfect. Whatever the cause doesn’t matter anymore, it is done. Now I am trying to figure out who I am without the layer of b.s. I caked on to play a role that was not really me.

“I am done obeying for today.”

Rip off the costume you thought you wanted to wear but that does not fit quite right, grab the ice cream cone that you desire and give not a care how it will affect your appetite for dinner. Get in touch with who YOU are, the base instincts and desires, the stories you tell yourself about life, about today. Begin to feel what is real in you. If you are feeling grumpy and bitchy open up and accept the grumpiness, accept the bitchiness fully. You may find that when you open up, and make a place for this so-called ugliness that it no longer needs to grump and harrumph and take up so much of your precious time on this earth.

And this acceptance of the wholeness of who you are just might be the way to start hearing the sound of your voice and recognizing it as you.

My goodness, if you are still reading then you are probably related to me. Thank you, Mom!

So all this came about as I was partaking in an activity that I adore and the circumstance were less than adorable. I had been feeling a bit untethered for a few days and decided to head out for a few days of solo backpacking. Would the place of respite that I had always enjoyed continue to bring solace when things get difficult for me? Who am I now anyway without the jobs, the friends, the home that defined me for so long? That was a question to which the answer still eludes me. I was hiking along a trail and was getting so aggravated, I will blame it on the incessant biting bugs that were thicker than a wool blanket so that I could not stop to take in the views . Even taking a photo was a challenge for in the half second it took to get my camera  from my pocket, 3 to 5 mosquitoes would land on my hand, swarming my face so that I had to hold my breath and keep my ears covered and eyes squinted to take a photo. All the tricks I knew of going to a ridgetop for wind, staying away from water, even bug repellent did not deter this irritation. And I was getting grumpier by the step, being driven on by these bugs. Finally I let myself just be grumpy. “Fine, here is some direct attention, bitch all you want about anything, not just the bugs, anything whether it seems to have merit or relevance or not.”

Shockingly, once I had permission to be fussy, there was not really anything to be fussy about. Yes, the bugs were still bad, no miracle came and erased them for me, but my horrid mood was diminished and my emotional load was certainly lightened. I wish I could say this lasted forever, or even the rest of the day but alas, I am not that enlightened. It did last a few moments though, enough to give me a break and some space to see how I was letting circumstance outside determine what was going on inside.

And so I asked, why am I here?

Not the philosophical question but for real. Why, if this is sucky, am I still here? Go somewhere else. And I had no good answer except “well, this is what I planned on doing.”

Well, if you aren’t having fun then go do something else. What would you like to do instead?

…(crickets chirping)….

Searching…

Well,… I don’t know. This is what i have always done for fun, to get centered, to get my head together, to find peace and respite and answers to questions. It is who I am. What would I do, who would I be without it?

Who would I be?

Monty doesn’t worry on such matters. He is a good teacher that way. Just chill out and be here now.

OMG, girl. Quit thinking so much and just enjoy the ride!

Okay, okay. I know Monty is right. All this wondering is not much different from worrying. “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength.” Corrie Ten Boom

I probably ought to go get on my yoga mat but first, Monty says to take a nap. And Monty knows best.

Me and my boy chillaxin


Hello, Brighty!

Homeless no more! Well, I guess technically if the whole world is your home, then you can never be homeless. But philosophical musings aside, I bought this vintage trailer and am jumping on the vintage trailer rehab bandwagon. Unlike some trailers I have admired online, this one needs some major rehab due to water damage and, also unlike those parked “glamping” trailers, it must be actually roadworthy. Some of those photos on Pinterest with the regular fridge, barstools, granite counters, and other apartment furniture just do not make sense if the trailer is actually moving. I learned that a trailer moving down the road is equivalent to a house withstanding a 3.4 Richter scale earthquake. That is a lot of wiggling!

Her name is Brightwater Dive, a play on the name of the private road on which she will be parked this winter. She was born in 1971 and is a Kit Companion model RV trailer. I call her Brighty and am excited to share the journey of her remodel with you. If you have any suggestions, please do let me know! I tend toward a romantic sense of style and am stretching those boundaries for this project with at least a passing nod toward crisp spa-like minimalism and dirty-dog-proof sleekness. We will see how it goes…

Can you believe all this for only $600.00?

So here she is just 10 minutes after I bought her. My vehicle can pull her with no problem. Towing weight is certainly a factor, which is why there will not be granite counters or tile floors, but as long as I make good choices on materials, Brighty will stay well under the recommended weight for towing that my vehicle can safely manage. I have never trailered anything but it doesn’t seem that hard. I mean, I have pulled little kids in wagon a lot and how different could this be

Famous last words… I am pretty sure I heard the demi-god of RV trailers say, “Hold my beer.”

So about 30 minutes into owning Brighty I discovered at least one big difference between kid wagons and RV trailers. No photos of the next part because it was a little traumatic for me. While driving along the 2-lane highway in the middle of Nowhere Eastern Washington there was a terrible explosion and the right tire literally exploded. It must have been something to see because the people in the vehicle behind us stopped to offer help. The tire blast bent a part of the trailer frame next to the wheel and blew off/up the fender cover. I cannot imagine the force it takes to bend this metal. I looked for the fender cover and it could not be seen anywhere along the road, nor was there any appreciable pieces of tire. Then getting the lug nuts off to change the tire was a chore. the don brilliantly came up with the idea to use the hydraulic jack he brought to apply steady pressure to loosen the damn things. He put on the spare (thank God there was a spare!) and then he checked the tire pressure; sheez they were terribly over inflated! No wonder it blew up. The previous owner had let us use his air compressor and tire pressure gauge to inflate the tires and the measuring device must have been horribly off. An interesting side note, out of all the people who passed us on that Washington highway where Brighty sat keeling over due to the embankment (there was no hazard lane), the only two people who stopped to either render aid or see if they could help in any other way both looked, how to say…, a bit rough around the edges. All those people in nice cars and apparent access to dental care just stared as they zoomed by, not even bothering to scoot over in the lane to give Brighty some space. One chick, absorbed in her phone, had less than 6 inches between her car and Brighty as she hurtled by.  A pox and infestation of fruit flies on the lot of them! “Well Toto, I guess we are  not in Texas anymore” In Texas a woman standing on the edge of a highway with an apparent vehicle issue would have several people stopping to render aid and probably, once the flat was changed, enjoy a beer and discuss bar-b-que recipes too. Oh well, that is that.

As soon as Brighty got to the RV makeover spa, aka the back yard, her tires were removed and I bought new ones. When I took the old tires to the local tire store, the young fella working there exclaimed with delight when he saw the rims. Apparently these are not the original rims but are off of a vintage Camaro so Brighty will have a bit of sporty to her! Hmmmm, maybe I need to look into more chrome-plated accessories. I know they say beauty is only skin deep but Brighty’s gonna need a bit more than a cute personality. Here she looks pretty much worth the $600.00 I paid for her.

Beauty is skin deep, they say. Here Brighty waits for new tires.
I think a bit of scrubbing will get these rims to shine. Also showing is the sole remaining fender cover- like how am I going to get a match to this?

So here is her interior. Classic 1971 color scheme, just missing the shag carpet.

Classic 1970s Harvest Gold. Yeah, that’s gonna change.

We knew there was some water-caused damage as the floor was soft in one spot. Anyone care to hazard a guess as to the next thing coming?

When some of the siding was removed, the water damage became obviously rather extensive. The final decision was to rip out the whole kitchen and bathroom as those two walls were completely rotted. How Brighty made it down the road without collapsing on herself is beyond me! I learned a lot from the demolition about how these RV trailers are built. Just leave everything you know about building construction at the door; all you need is a mondo staple-gun and an inside-out attitude. These guys are built by putting furniture and then walls together to form what I would think of as supporting walls, the so-called framing and skin come last. Hunh.

Here she is demo complete, with some repaired flooring and walls.

All the while, I’m envisioning how I want Brighty to look. I decided it would need to happen in stages; it could be totally overwhelming to go from party dump to chandeliers in one step. And she needs to be livable by October. Sadly, the closest big hardware/homeware store is an hour drive away and is not a very good representation of Home Depot. I have to go to the west coast anyway so am going to go by the Ikea in Seattle. Wish me luck!

“OMG, what have I gotten myself into?”

Independence Day

Independence Day

Happy July 4th!

In America we celebrate this day as a reminder of our birth as a new self-governing country. It is classically celebrated with time spent outdoors, picnics, family and friends gathering, and, my favorite, firework shows. The history behind it all is not something I will discuss except to add this is not a unique situation in human experience, some group gets together to manage the society and then a smaller group splits off because they want to do thing differently or are being mistreated by the bigger group. I appreciate that my grandmother made the arduous journey to America, that she was welcomed into this amazing country even though she did not speak English or have any job skills. She got work as a housekeeper and taught herself English, then she built a life for herself and paved the way for her progeny.

One of the things i like to think about while making Oma’s perfect potato salad is independence of thought. I believe my greatest contribution to society has been raising three people to be independent thinkers. I tried hard, failed occasionally, to see the strengths and weaknesses in each of these magnificent beings blessed to my care and stewardship for a brief time. Like any parent, I wanted to instill my values in them. However, the double-edged sword of holding in highest esteem the ability to suss out what is right for you regardless of what anyone else thinks, whether that anyone is the kids at school or your own mom, means that I got to be both pleased and worried when they would do things in a way different from how I wanted them to do it.

Critical thinkers, awareness of personal strengths and marching to your own drum, seeing clearly and acceptance of the weaknesses which lets you also strengthen your march, willingness to try something new and to listen and pay attention to those who went on before you, allowing yourself to fail and then get up, reevaluate, and get going again without fear of failure dogging your every step, all of this is what I think about on Independence Day. I believe that to be truly independent you must be willing to listen to the truth that whispers in your heart and soul. We need to recognize when fear is driving our steps and be courageous enough to turn and face it openly or else we are not truly independent. Could there be anything sadder or Machiavellian than to be enslaved while pretending we are free?

My children are each unique in the paths they each have chosen and the way in which they choose to walk it. That I was entrusted with this little part of God wrapped in flesh boggles the mind, yet I was. And without a doubt they are each so very much greater than the sum of their parts.

Here is to Independence Day and independent thinkers! Thank you God, amen, please pass the potato salad.

Oh, and the secret to the potato salad is to boil the potatoes, slice them and lay them in a dish while still very warm and then sprinkle a mixture of vinegar, olive brine, and water over the potatoes and let them sit until cool. And don’t you DARE use anything but real mayonnaise; the use of so-called “salad dressing” may cause my poor grandmother to roll in her grave or even come to your house and haunt your kitchen.

Prepping Oma’s perfect potato salad

I had the weirdest dream last night. In it I was pregnant and in labor and all these people kept coming up and interrupting me and the calm and peaceful labor I had planned. It was very frustrating to keep fighting with them all. Then I was at the doctor at some kind of in-labor check-up and he told me I had cancer and only 10 months to live. So here I was about to give birth and prepare to die at the same time.  And I got to where I could find acceptance with the duality and had to begin to accept how others were going to handle it all. Isn’t that weird? Lot’s there to analyze, for sure.

I went for a mule ride on this Fourth of July weekend in the hills just above the house I am staying. The good news is that Monty has gotten more accepting of me being on top of a mule, he no longer panics at not being able to touch me with his nose to make sure I am okay and that he is okay. The bad news is he is way too lackadaisical around these powerful animals who only just tolerate him. He gets too close to their feet, doesn’t take it seriously when they charge at him to run him off. Fortunately these are nice mules who don’t really mean to hurt him, they are just giving him a hard time but if a mule or Monty accidentally stepped the wrong way, well… it would be a very sad situation.

Here Monty is too damn close to the mule. Thank God Ginger is so calm!

So unfortunately some electronic collar training is going to be necessary. You might recall that is what I had to do to get Monty to leave the elk alone. I send many prayers of thanks and gratitude to the God that cares about little white city dogs and protects him.

the don with Stella and Henry. Henry’s wearing a pack saddle to which large boxes of stuff can be strapped.

Enjoying the view!

My number one fella keeping some distance from Ginger

Mule ears. Notice Ginger’s summer hair cut. No, I did not do it. I kind of prefer a longer main for her to toss around but apparently mules wear a version of a crew cut.

And, for your listening pleasure. hooves on a wooden bridge spanning a lovely mountain creek. No coconut shells were harmed in the making of this sound video. Isn’t it adorable how her ears flip around?

Training Day 2 (and then some)

Training Day 2 (and then some)

All a girl really needs…

A brief rundown of the situation so far: in 2017 (and honestly, way before that) I was ready for something different and a chain of life-changing events had conspired to let me, if I was willing to risk it all, have a whole new life experience. I quit my work and tearfully and fearfully left my family and friends to take a job that was interesting to me in a location that I have long loved. The job was great but the hours long, no days off, and the owner of the place is a bit whacky. After a few months I finally took my earned time off and traveled to other parts of the beautiful northwest U.S.  Upon my return I found the owner had emptied the bank account and had not paid me as contractually agreed to. After some discussion, I took a hiatus from the work while awaiting payment and chose to follow my heart even further afield. The cool thing about no longer having anything is that there is nothing to lose and no excuses to not try something new. Since I have already left everything I loved, I am sure as hell not going to settle for a situation that is undesirable. My motto: If it isn’t fabulous why bother?

I did get to meet some really cool people in the tiny town of Forks, Washington. While the town has a population that is smaller than the high school my kid went to, it only takes one person to make a good life even more bright and interesting and it is there that I met the don.

the don has led a pretty exciting-sounding life so far and enjoys the outdoors as much as I. However, it was his cooking that got my attention and, I suppose, broke the ice. He told me of his multi-week-long packing trips to go bow hunting in the fall and to collect antlers in the spring, of his winter months in the Olympics Steelhead fishing, time spent surfing on the lower Pacific coast and his recent retirement from regular work as a smokejumper. I was intrigued by the idea of hiking with mules and having a giant tent that is heated and especially having really good food; that is so very different from my experience as a backpacker. I love backpacking. I love getting away from civilization and walking the contours of the land and feeling the wildlife all around me. The thing about backpacking that is kind of hard is carrying all your own stuff and especially carrying food. For one or two days it isn’t that big of a deal but for a couple of weeks it can be very, very heavy. Having a dog along means carrying dog food, too. I was intrigued by the idea of seeing the wild landscape of Hell’s Canyon and having a mule carry all my stuff including some real creature comforts. When the don invited me to join one of his trips I jumped at the chance to enjoy some needed time away from working and that first experience in Hell’s Canyon has already been shared.

After the trip and returning to the undesirable BnB situation, there was suddenly an opening in my work schedule. the don offered me a position in his company doing some contract work this summer, work that even a beginner like me can do. And so now you are up to date on how it is that I find myself literally fit to be tied and learning the ropes.

Fit to be tied

So many pretty colors!

This project has to do with collecting pollen from specific trees that have been identified as able to fight off a disease called blister rust.

Blister Rust Resistant White Pine

This pollen is collected and used to propagate new trees with this desirable quality. the don has been climbing trees and rock faces for decades so he can shimmy up as fast as a lemur. I am a bit more… sloth-like. I haven’t quite gotten to the stage where I stop clutching but I am practicing every day so that I can get up and down a tree and not have my hands cramp into a claw-like thing. Plus, it is probably better not to leave dents in the tree from that death-grip I have been using.

Learning the ropes
Practice makes perfect and one cannot settle for anything less than perfect when 90 feet up a tree.

Here I am, all roped and tied up, practicing and testing my knots before heading out to do a real climb. While I did get almost as high up as the don, I did not do any collection because I wasn’t quite ready to relinquish the aforementioned squeeze and three-points-of-contact attitude.

 

 

 

 

 

Up!

 And here I am up in the tree with a view down at the ropes and the ground. I am only about 10 feet or so up here. I neglected to take a camera with a wrist strap and so this photo is taken with my phone. I wanted to take some photos when I was about 60 feet up but there was no way I was going to risk pulling my phone out when that high up. If I dropped the phone, even if it survived the fall, I’d never find it in the thick forest and there is no cell service available to try and locate the phone by calling it. I only take certain kinds of risks and that isn’t one of them.

Waiting for the tree climbers to return to the ground

So we will have to make do with photos of the don in the tree. This is one of my favorites.

the don

Okay. That is enough chatting for now. I need to get strapped up and get my practice climbing.

Big hug to you and please do tell me what risk you are going to take this week to brighten your life?

Oh, and here are some other photos from the past week and the White Pine Pollen collecting job.

Sadly, this tree was burned in a fire so it won’t be contributing its genes to the pool

Checking pollen ripeness

We missed you!

Orange diamond is along forest road and marks the location of the desired tree in “chains” and cardinal degrees. If you look right of the tree marker at about 1:30 you can see the don in that White Pine.

Getting ready to do my work of cleaning and processing the pollen that was collected. This rock was the perfect desk for my office in the woods.

Pollen processing

My number one fella

Burned out cedar. This giant cedar is over 5 feet in diameter. It was one of the many acres of trees lost in the great 1910 fire that devastated this part of Idaho. It was so large that the U.S. Army was called in to help, including the Buffalo Soldiers.

the orange marker is a newer type of marker, the silver tag is very old and is starting to be engulfed by the tree

The hooligans, mine, the don’s, and a friend’s puppy. A few days before this shot I taught the griffons how to pose for a photo like Monty does- they hit the mark every time now!

Still snow on the ground! After the tree climb I scooped some snow into my cup and poured a syrup of lemonade and rum. Best snow-cone ever!

Nez Perce trail- some pretty sad history here for the Nimi’ipuu

X marks the spot. Think there is any buried treasure here?

White Bark Pine pollen has a raspberry color when ripe whereas the White Pine pollen is yellow.

Two *chains* away is the tree. How archaic to measure in chains?
oh, it’s 66 feet if you were wondering.

Some trees need fire to reproduce. It kind of allows a nice view of the distance, too

Some of these trees have been in the program a long time!

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.