Barbed Wire – Ouch

This was not the fence I got hung up or tried to hop.   This is a favorite fence picture taken earlier in the year.  Notice how green it is!

This was not the fence I got hung up or tried to hop. This is a favorite fence picture taken earlier in the year. Notice how green it is!

I spend a time each weekend mending clothes that get caught up on barbed wire.   The young tall fellas that do this job almost literally “hop” the fence.   I on the other hand go through the fence most of the time.   I am pretty quick at if I pick the spot right.   I generally try to pick a fence with only three wires and there are obviously places where the wire is not real tight.   If I can find this I slip between the top and second wire and am quickly on the other side at work doing my grasshopper survey.   Occasionally fences are five wires and have stabilizers that are between poles to keep the wire tight and the standard equal distant apart.   When that happens, I may look for a gate, cattle guard opening, or the possibility of going over the fence.

I had this happen recently.   I was running out of places to do a grasshopper survey in that township/range and the fence for the survey had seven strands with a stabilizer wire.   It looked like I could slip under the gate closure and get into the pasture as the easiest point of entry.   It really looked like no big deal.   Silly me.   I held some barbed wire that had been wound back onto itself while I moved under it at the gate closure.   As I released it the tension of the wire snapped back and some rusty old barbed wire caught my thumb.   I was bleeding like a stuck pig.   I looked at the barbed wire, and it was definitely rusty old barbed wire.   I headed back to my truck and took out my first aid kit and cleaned it up and bandaged it.   It kept on bleeding relentlessly.   I knew that this was more than a scratch and I needed to file a first report of injury and get a tetanus shot.

I was lucky in that the little town I was in had a medical provider.   That cannot be said of many places in Montana, many places have limited access to medical are.    I got in and back out on the road in an hour. Thumb cleaned up and taken care and a new tetanus shot.  I was anticipating a sore arm from the tetanus I had heard so much about.   No such problem.

I now find myself taking a few extra minutes to use leather gloves when handling barbed wire.   No matter how easy or simple it looks to get to the other side of the fence things can easily go wrong.   I was lucky it was only what it was but I don’t want to test luck too many times.

Early Egg Celebration

Chickens start laying eggs when they become adults.   Backyard production egg breeds like the red star and the black star  can lay as early as 15 weeks, though most lay a little later than that.   Heritage breeds, which are the type I raise, can take up to 26 weeks to start laying.   I have had some in the past that have taken all of 26 weeks and even a couple more weeks than that.    This year I got lucky and one of my gold laced Wyandotte’s started laying this weekend.   She is 17 weeks old.  It is cause for celebration.   Of the original ten I got this spring, I have four left.   The buff Orpington is starting  to look like she is maturing and could be laying in a couple of weeks.    The other two, a silver laced and a gold laced Wyandotte, are still a ways off before I will be looking for eggs.   It was nice that it happened while I was home, though I must say RangerSir has certainly stepped in a fill the role of lead chicken wrangler quite well this summer.  I missed seeing the stages as they grew, but they likely did not know I was gone.

We call these two the sisters.   The one on the left is the one who has started laying eggs already.

We call these two the sisters. The one on the left is the one who has started laying eggs already.

What To Do With Hotel Shampoo-Soap-Conditioner-Lotion

What do you do with hotel toiletries?

What do you do with hotel toiletries?

What do you do with those little mini one use size bottles and bars of soap you get in hotel rooms? Most folks who travel regularly already have a bag with their personal toiletries.   We bring from home our preferred personal care products for an assortment of reasons.   You like to use the same face cleanser you use at home.   You are trying to get the most mileage from your last salon visit and use a special shampoo and conditioner.   You may have sensitivities to ingredients or scents.   No matter what the reason those little bottles either go unused or worse yet brought home and still never used.   There is an alternative.   Bring them home and turn them in to a local shelter.   You can collect all those little odds and ends in a box in your home and turn them in a couple times a year to a shelter.   That is what I used to do when I lived in Minneapolis years ago and traveled lots.

This job has put me back on the road tons and once again. I found myself collecting hotel toiletries. I got to thinking about the local woman’s shelter, and how I imagined many of them left with little and what extra they did take was likely for someone else, their kids. I know that organizations that help folks in these circumstances are prepared to help and work with people who leave with just the clothes on their back.   They have donations and supplies that they give out to the folks they help, and the folks they are helping are probably keeping things in garbage and zip lock bags. It inspired me to take a different approach to my travel goodies this year.   Rather than just turn them in,   I wanted to put together not only a travel kit, but a bag that might be used to keep things together for them.   I know how much I appreciated my travel bag that keeps all my personal care products together.

First I had to make or buy the bags for this use.   I had some odds and ends of fabric from quilts I had made, zippers from projects planned never finished and some quality vinyl that I had no idea how it ended in my stash.   I worked up a design and made personal toiletry bags.   Each was unique, some bright and some with more subdued natural colors.   All of them were designed to zip tight for storage.   One side had the vinyl so that you could see all that was in the bags.   It was a little bit of a trial, but I loved making them and seeing all the wonderful fabrics that were sitting around collecting dust take on a new life.

Once I had finished the bags, RangerSir and I loaded them up with the hotel goodies I had brought home this summer. It was then we then we realized that we had several collections of dental visit “prizes.”   There were not enough dental kits to do all the bags, but we added them to as many bags as possible.   This was the moment we realized it was in our power to make these more than a bag with hotel freebies in them. We headed to the local K-Mart to shop.   We got darn lucky in that they had some full-sized toothpaste for $1 each.   It was more than the travel size and less expensive. We had gotten nice things for less than we had planned to spend.   We were now inspired and on a roll.   We stocked up on single package toothbrushes. We found a dental floss on sale.   We found multi-pack combs and bought a couple sets so we could tuck combs in each of the bags.  RangerSir found travel pack Kleenex that I had not thought to include.   Finally we added razors to each one.

My decked out travel bags for the women's shelter

My decked out travel bags for the women’s shelter

These bags will be going to a woman’s shelter here in the local county.   I was thinking of lots of other things that could be added to my bags, but we know not if the recipient will be young or old, alone or in the company of family members.   So I stopped and hope that this is enough to get a person started and know somewhere out there someone is thinking of them and wishing them the best in what is likely a very bad situation.

Oh the Stories They Could Tell

This last week I saw this dead tree along side the road while driving in Ravalli county Montana.   As you can see this must have been a huge tree and it is now full of holes where animals and birds have made their home.    I had to stop and wonder about the stories this tree could tell about the world.


Summer Relevation #2 – Model your behavior

My second summer revelation came to me that I should model the behavior I wish others would demonstrate rather than bemoan, get angry, or start judging them because I feel they are judging me, my lifestyle or my “neighbors.”

Recently I was in  a motel that was full of people who had come to fish in the the local world class rivers for fly fishing.   Each morning I was listening in the breakfast room about how the hotel did not have all the premium channels  they had a home, lack of cell phone coverage, that the only Starbucks in the county was a kiosk in the grocery and other perceived lack of amenities in their vacation destination.    I listened as they describe the community of the folks who were their hosts while they were on vacation.  I found myself thinking lots of unkind thoughts about them.    It was then that I realized that I was just like all the people who were frustrating me.  I was judging them.

We don’t have a million people yet in Montana, though we are getting close.    When you don’t have critical mass most national companies require, they don’t give a rip about providing services to you. A business in in the business of making money.    If you live an area that is so sparsely populated that you don’t get mail deliver it is, highly unlikely a cell company can justify the cost of a cell tower, or their will be national retailers available. There are many trade offs we make to live in a place like Montana.   Some are obvious and others not so much.   Most Montanans have been to your cities and some of us have even lived there for a period in our lives.   We  appreciated some of what you had to offer in arts, food, and other services.  Some of what you live with as normal we can not imagine living with such as traffic, density, noise and other things. All of this just amounts a different  point of view.  We have prioritized things differently in our lives and are willing to make different sacrifices to have some of those top priorities.    Neither is more right or more wrong than the other.  No amount of put down or arguing is going to change either person’s  point of view.    Change never comes in the midst of confrontation.

When I feel folks are passing judgment, I want to remember to not pass judgment on others because I am not them.   I do not know what road they have traveled in life to be at the spot they are currently stand at.   The best way to do that behavior myself.   Let them remember their encounter with me as some one who did not pass judgment  and maybe, just maybe it will make a difference on their lives as well.

Note:   This was a piece I wrote several weeks ago and had to let perk while and tweak it a lot to hopefully get right.    I hope you found it insightful and gave you some food for thought.

Shade – Sweet Shade

There is lots of open range in Montana and most of that can be pretty treeless.   I have ate many lunches sitting in the shade cast by my truck.   On those days I am thankful for it.    I got lucky last week  that about lunch time I was traveling down a road that crossed a small creek and it had a few cottonwoods.  I backed into a two track lane and ate my lunch in the shade of the cottonwood tree.   It was  cool with a gentle breeze.   Sweet shade for sure.

One of the sweetest lunch spots of the year.

One of the sweetest lunch spots of the year.

Wildland Fire Danger

The rains have stopped and we are in wildland fire season in Montana.   Many of the places I traveled last week it was either very high or extreme fire danger.    In my job traveling around doing work on range and grasslands I am acutely aware of how dry the grasses all are.   I am seeing the Smokey Bear signs all over with the warning of the local fire danger.   I am seeing scorched earth from grass fires along roadways.    So far we have been lucky with fire season in Montana, but that can change in a second.

In Lincoln county the pine trees may look green but they are under stress from the lack of moisture.

In Lincoln county the pine trees may look green but they are under stress from the lack of moisture.

When stopping at a survey site I look to see if their is a sufficient shoulder or a  paved pull out I can park on.  Just this week my boss advised if we are on gravel roads with low traffic and good sight lines to consider just pulling to the far right side of the road and turning on your flashers when you jump out to do your survey.   I know for myself each time I get out of the truck before I leave to do the survey, I take a peek under my truck to see just what might be touching the before I leave.   With dry grasses and the ever blowing winds I don’t want to be part of wildland fire, especially the source.

Always checking to make sure my truck isn't touching dry grasses.

Always checking to make sure my truck isn’t touching dry grasses.

An Update: I was traveling through several counties and they all were mowing right of ways to get rid of fuel that might catch easily.   All the mowers were being followed by water tankers in case they started a fire.   Counties here are going to great extremes to reduce the fire danger.   Most of our fire departments are made up of local citizens who volunteer to be part of the local fire protection district.