Okay – so where to I start???

Where on earth did this summer go???  My brain seems to have gotten away from me since May 1 – I’m not sure where to begin with the various updates…

Well.  I suppose I’ll start with the story of a Hero.

Once upon a time, my Mom’s sister Mary gave birth to a bouncing baby boy that she named Christopher.  Christopher, or Chris as most people called him, grew up to be a dashing, brave and selfless man.  A modern day knight in shining armor.  Chris became a Chicago firefighter.

My cousin Chris was killed in a restaurant fire on Chicago’s west side in the early morning hours of August 9th.  He was 31 years old.  To say he was an inspirational person is a grave understatement.  Being that this particular side of my extended family is quite large….  (A-hem.  Extensive to say the least…)  I can’t say I was as close to Chris and Kim as we should or could have been growing up – but I wish I had been.  What I’ve learned about my cousin in the past couple of weeks is nothing short of astounding.  Eye opening.  Inspirational.  Amazing.  He was a paramedic, a fireman; he taught emergency medical response at the University of Chicago hospital; worked with neighborhood kids to get them off drugs; he traveled around the country to teach at other fire stations and hospitals.  He was light-hearted, but full-hearted; with a smile so many people commented on throughout the events of those long, hot and heart wrenching days.  Firemen – and in this case, Chris – put their lives on the line every single day.  They sacrifice their own lives for the lives of others.  Unfortunately, sometimes accidents happen – and unfortunately, this time the accident involved my cousin, Chris Wheatley.

Chris was the first fireman to die in the line of duty since 2007.  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with such a public funeral – but what took place was something I could have never envisioned.

They buried my cousin with full honors.  He was awarded the Medal of Honor by the International Association of Fire Fighters.  The mayor of Chicago spoke at his funeral, and the governor of Illinois came to his wake.  Chris’s casket was saluted by literally thousands of firefighters in a final farewell.  Military jets flew overhead at the cemetery, falling into the missing man formation. Bag pipes played solemnly at every stop in the funerary procession. Citizens of Chicago’s south side lined the streets from the funeral home to the church, then again from the church to the cemetery.  They held flags and signs.  Saluted or put their hands over their hearts.  Children wore their toy fire helmets and sat on the curb in toy fire engines.

You don’t know how hard it is to listen to bag pipes when you’re burying the family member they’re playing for.  Lord have mercy. I think this was the most difficult funeral I’ve ever been to.

For some amazing photos from Chris’s wake and funeral, see this link here *and* this link here.

I drove from western Montana to Chicago for Chris’s funeral.  I drove there to support my Aunt, my cousin Kim (his sister), and my uncle Danny.  I drove to Chicago to be with my (extremely large) extended family to lay to rest one of the most amazing souls to have graced this earth.

I drove because I had a brand new car that would make it the 3500 miles round trip.  I drove because I needed a break from reality.  I drove because airplane tickets were $1200!

I drove The Suby:


This is the replacement for my old squeaky, creeky Jeep Cherokee.  It’s a 2008 Subaru Outback PZEV (which stands for Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle).  I haven’t owned a nice, relatively new vehicle in many, many years.  The last new vehicle I had was a Dodge Dakota that I crashed into the front end of an oncoming 18-wheeler, while skidding on black ice with.  Needless to say the truck was totaled.

But the squeaky, creeky Jeep finally gave up the ghost after hauling a pile of people fly fishing about three weeks ago.  I got it for free about 5 years ago – so I can’t complain.  It was a good little Jeep.  And luckily my fly fishing visitors and I made it back to town without incident – but it was clear the Jeep’s days were numbered.  So on a bright and sunny Saturday morning, I walked into the local Subaru dealer and signed up for indentured servitude.

I am now, officially, in debt.

Not wild about the indentured servitude, but I am happy that I have a safe, reliable car that will hopefully be with me for many years.  The Jeep was 15 when it was put out to pasture.  So I should be able to keep Suby Snowflake for a good 13 years or more.

So let’s see…  what else?

Well, LLM sold the homestead.  It’s still “The Sanctuary” until May 1st when he turns over possession of the place to the new owners.  He somehow worked this deal where they closed on the place a few weeks ago – the new owners are paying the mortgage – but they don’t take official possession of the house and land until May 1, 2011.  So LLM gets about 8 months of free rent before he has to figure out what to do with himself.

But he’s been logging up in NW Montana – chopper logging and cutting some really big wood – so he’s been in a much better mood lately.  I’m very grateful for that.  His mind is free.

Since he’s been logging out of town (aka: timber tramping), the chickens were fostered out to a guy LLM knows.  So they’re living the high life, squirting out eggs, eating watermelon…  It’s like a “chicken bed and breakfast” over there.  We went to visit the chickens on Sunday.

Summer’s been awfully mild.  It’ll get hot for a couple of days, then cool off for a few.  We’ve received intermittent rain all summer long, which has helped tremendously with the fire season… or lack there of.

Looks like I’ll be doing quite a bit of traveling over the next few months.  I just got back from Chicago – and while I was there I visited friends and family, went to my favorite neighborhood in the City for dinner, toured a Hindu temple in the suburbs.

Next I’ll be heading off to Salt Lake City and Snowbird Ski Resort in about four weeks, then off to Maine and northern New York in October.  December will have me back in Chicago for a holiday visit (since I stayed home last year), and January I’ll be traveling to Tennessee for work.  In between those trips I’ll be continuing to can veggies and chicken, grinding flour for home baked bread, and following LLM over hill and over dale in search of the elusive Wapati later this Fall.  Then crossing my fingers for a good local ski season and copious piles of snow until Spring peaks out in early May.  Once January hits, my schedule seems to slow down tremendously.

Well…  This post is getting pretty long, so I’ll cover the summer gardening update and food preservation news in a separate post in the next day or two.

In the meantime, there’s a spectacular sunset that’s calling my name.  The evening sun is glowing orange on the trees.

Categories: Chickens, Debt, Food Storage, Misc Musings, Property Hunt | 3 Comments


Warning: it’s a lament of sorts – at least the first part…

Wow, I’ve got me an awful restless streak these days.  I dunno what’s up.




I’ll be damned if I know what’s up.  Am I too young for a mid-life crisis?

Maybe I’m picking it up from LLM.  He’s been in an awful mood that seems to get worse by the day.  Been goin’ on since Easter-time.  That man needs to head back to the north-land and find his soul in the wilderness again…  Set up a trappin’ line outside his cabin and snare himself some peace of mind.  In the meantime, he’s driving me insane.  How’s that Craig and Terry song go?

Changin’ roads, changin’ shows.  It don’t matter where ya go. There’s a new job just a-waitin’ down the road, across some bay.  Bigger wood and better ground.  If the pancakes ain’t too round: that’s the job I’m lookin’ for, and that’s where I’m gonna stay.

I’m gonna blame that dang brushin’ job he’s been on for the past year.  That man’s an elite chopper logger – one of the best sawyers that walks the Northwest…  The epitome of Paul Bunyan.  And he’s been relegated to thinning brush for slave-wages.  Day by day he’s resembling more of a caged animal.  Wild-eyed, clawing at the bars to get free again. The timber industry is dead in Montana.  Sad to say.

I just got off the phone with him, and he sounds better than he has in a couple weeks anyway.  I was listening to him and his dog get attacked by roosters.  That was funny – from my end anyway.  So I’ll keep my fingers crossed for a better weekend this week…  I’ll feed him bottles of Lindeman’s Lambic, foofy cheese and chocolate.  Hopefully that will sweeten his mood a bit.

I’m wondering if I made a mistake taking this Directorship.  (Ha!  Almost typed Dictatorship!)  That may be part of my own restlessness…  I suddenly feel like I have to be significantly more responsible and serious than I want to be.  And now I’m worrying about money and bills, when I’ve never had to do that.  Hell, it’s not even my checking account or bills!  Maybe it’s just growing pains.  Hopefully life will mellow out soon enough.  In the meantime I have this insane urge to don my baggy jeans, Birkenstocks and an apron top and hit the road again.

Okay – enough of the lament…

The chickens are enormous.  The garden is growing by leaps and bounds now that the sun decided to come out again.  And there appears to be a bumper crop of Huckleberries on the horizon.  Can you say jars and jars and jars of homemade Huckleberry jam?  I can say YUMMMMMM.  🙂

LLM, Bella and Speckle-Boy the Rooster

Did I mention the bear’s been back?  He tore the screen off the coop, left muddy paw prints on the door, but luckily didn’t get any chicken for dinner.  That bear’s days are numbered, I swear!

The peas are lookin’ all happy these days. 🙂

Some pretty flowers from LLM’s Dad, and one seriously healthy Raspberry patch!

It was awful hot last weekend, so we decided to get up high and take a hike up Mount Headly.  (Got stopped less than a mile from the summit because of too much snow.  Forgot to take a picture.)

Look over there!

The Vermillion Drainage.

Ghost Trees in the high alpine forest.

The dusty trail…

The Noxon Damn at full-flow.  After the hike we decided we needed a pizza and a beer, so we headed north to Noxon and the Herford – some of the best pizza in Western Montana.  Not to mention the funnest proprietor in the north woods, Jerry.  🙂

Also on the agenda this past week was settin’ up another 100 pounds of wheat for storage.  I now have hard red, hard white and soft white wheat stored up.  I’m loving my new GrainMaker mill – my bread rises higher and tastes better than I could have ever imagined.  There’s something special about bread made from fresh-ground wheat.  Tasty stuff.  Looking forward to a new batch of Huckleberry jam to add to the mix.  😉

So there ya have it.  A quick run down since I haven’t updated in a few days.  My soul got lost somewhere this past week, and just haven’t been up for posting.  I’m hopin’ the funk has passed.

Happy July 4th!

Categories: Chickens, Food Storage, Gardening, Misc Musings | 6 Comments

Pictoral Pastoral Update

Not much time or energy for too many words – but here are some pictures from this past weekend’s work:

Did a bunch of planting this weekend:  Potatoes (3 kinds); onions (4 kinds); radishes (2 kinds); lettuce (2 kinds); spinach; carrots (4 kinds); beets (2 kinds); peas and replanted the strawberry patch.  Did some weeding in the asparagus patch, too.  Re-planted some tomato and pepper starts into bigger planters, and started some basil, cumin and chive seeds.

The raspberry bushes are going crazy!  They’re so green, lush and beautiful!

The potato patch in all it’s humpy glory.  7 rows of yumminess!

LLM was getting pissy about me taking pictures of everything – so I told him I was going to post a picture of his arse…  I’m channeling George Washington: “I cannot tell a lie!” So here’s his camo’d butt for your viewing pleasure.  😉

The chicky babies are growing by leaps and bounds.  They’re venturing farther from the coop, into the orchard.  I think they got about 20 feet from the coop door, before peeping and running like wildfire back to their safe house.  LOL  Those chickens are insane.  🙂

So that’s about it for this weekend’s chores.  Have yourself a fabulous week!

Categories: Chickens, Gardening | 3 Comments

Busy Busy…

I’m head long into my new position, and trying hard to find a replacement for my old job…  So much to report on the homestead front, but not much time to do it.  So I’ll leave you with a few pictures to tide ya over until my head’s back above water.

First off – there’s CHICKENS at the sanctuary!  35 of the little buggers.  25 roosters and 10 hens – Sexlings.  They’re insane – that’s all I can say.  🙂  They’re about 5 weeks old, and doubling in size nearly every day.  Over the weekend they went from chicks to chickens.

What a handsome man, huh?

Some of the kids in the orchard… their back yard.

Hi Pretty Girl!

We spent some time up in the mountains too.  There are wild flowers blooming everywhere..

Like this little Bitterroot that we found up Chimney Creek.

Are you in the market for a used cow?  I’ve got just the place for ya!

It’s nice to see the elk have come back…  Haven’t seen much of these benevolent creatures lately.

And of course, there’s always time for some target practice up at the end of some random mountain road.

More to come soon.  The garden was re-tilled this weekend, and next weekend we’ll be putting the potatoes and onions in.  Seeds are germinating – but those won’t go in until June 1st (our frost-free date… supposedly).

Hope you’re enjoying your spring…  I know I am!

Categories: Chickens, Gardening, Misc Musings, The Journey | 1 Comment

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