Travel Recommendations from a Road Warrior

This summer job has made me a road warrior.   I spend four days each week on the road.   Every Thursday night I appear at home with dirty laundry and Monday by 6, I am heading out for another week of work.   Organization is everything in this kind of lifestyle to make sure you take everything you need  when you leave home for work.  Many of the places I visit don’t have much more than a couple of restaurants/bars, a gas station and a grocery store.   No place to buy socks if you forget to pack them.

The surprising but indispensable travel item for me this summer has been my collection of eBags packing cubes.  As a sewer I seriously thought about trying to personally engineer a collection, but in the end I bought mine.    I love them.   My bag has a certain number and size of cubes.   On Sunday, I pull them out and pack each of them and when they are all back in my luggage it means I am ready to go.   Some of my cubes have a spare pair of socks or underwear in them to remind me of what goes in each.  For this job each cube holds one of the five pieces of clothing I put on each day, but I used to be a business suit traveler and think that each cube could just as easily carry your daily outfit.   There is nothing worse than the last day of a professional business trip and realizing you wore the wrong blouse with the wrong suit and the one left does not match the suit you intend to wear tomorrow.   Ranger Sir and I will sometimes travel with just one bag if we go for a night or two.   It is not usually a pleasant experience.   I am thinking a second set of cubes in his own color may solve that problem.   Shop around for your set because the amount the retailers are asking you to pay varies widely.

Everyone has their favorite bag for toiletries based on what they want and need.  Most of us take some supplies from home.   My favorite choice for this is the GoToob products.   First reason for recommending this product is that it is easy to fill.   It actually has an opening you can put shampoo in without it traveling all down the sides.   Second is they stand behind the product no questions.   I broke a top, emailed them and I got a new top.   It is a one time purchase.   Lastly if you travel via airlines it was designed with that in mind.   The only negative is it is designed with words like soap, shampoo, lotion, conditioner on the neck.   Without my glasses in the shower I can read that stuff, so I had to shop around to get assorted colors to work for me.    In spite of that I really do like these the best of all the travel containers I have ever owned.

The fabric I used in this pillowcase always makes me smile because it is so crazy unexpected.

The fabric I used in this pillowcase always makes me smile because it is so crazy unexpected.

My last recommendation is a pillow case from home.   I have made a collection of bright don’t forget me pillow cases, but anything will do.    Pillow cases from home can be used to cover and double up hotel pillows to simulate your personal pillow.   Pillowcases from home can also be used to keep your face and skin away from the harsh hotel laundry soaps.   It also puts another barrier between you and the pillow that hundreds of others have slept on.   Lastly this is what I put all my dirty clothes in to take them home.   It is like having a personal laundry bag to keep your dirty clothes from soiling your luggage and anything you may have clean left in your bag for your next stop in your travels.

Another of the Unusual Things You Might See in Montana

Last week I was traveling down the road I happened upon Medusa, or at least a rendition of her.  It was so amazing I had to turn around and take a picture.   This was huge as you can see by the fence in the background for scale.    People are amazingly creative and this is another example of that.

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You will find this head of Medusa near Hobson, Montana.

Fall Housecleaning

This weekend while I was home we started fall housecleaning.  Each fall we clean our chicken coop thoroughly before winter sets in southwest Montana and they are confined to quarters. Fall coop cleaning is not only a neat and tidy exercise, but is also step in promoting a healthy coop.  It gets rid of all the nasty old bedding and dust  that can be a hot bed of problems.   Our chickens have a coop sectioned off of the shed with their own door, but they also have run of the shed (we have given up on keeping them out.)  So fall housecleaning is really a two part cleaning experience.

It varies each year what we do to some degree.   Some years we scrub down the walls but occasionally we give the interior a new coat of paint.    This year it was paint.   We rented a sprayer and it made getting in to all the crooks, crannies and working with the uneven wall boards and nails much easier.   We consider yellow the color of sun the right color for our coop, so as before it is still yellow.  This year we picked something a little brighter at the paint store and once it was up in the coop it looks like we probably have to plug that color in, it is so bright.  This time we ended up not only painting the coop area, but the whole shed that was a mixture of paints, woods and just looked pretty cobbled up like it was from the inside. With that coat of paint it not only sealed everything back up, but made the shed look much better.

Our coop has a raised hardwood floor, but the chickens have taken over most of the shed, or at least they wander around in it all so we treat it all when we clean it.   This means that we put down some fresh stall dry on the dirt floor in the shed, along with some fresh straw.

It looks pretty great now that we are done.

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It is yellow everywhere in the coop….nest boxes…ceiling….everywhere.

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We painted more than the just the coop. This time it was the whole shed.

Bees Are Important for the Open Range Too!

Most folks have heard about colony collapse and bees.  I had read about how this was going to impact our crops.   Everything popped into my mind from berries to nuts and everything in between.   Never though did I think about grass, pastures and rangeland needing bees until I took this job.   I have seen hundreds, maybe even a few thousand bee hives out on on the open range.  Bees impact more than I had imagined in agriculture and our lives.

One of the many bee hives out there on the open range.

One of the many bee hives out there on the open range.

We Farm More Than Cattle, Hay and Wheat

Last week I spend a fair amount of time in Judith Basin County Montana.   It is an area where there are lots of wind farms. Some had just a few windmills and others had more than I could count.   Montana exports more than cattle, hay and wheat.     We export energy.

Just a few of the hundreds of windmills I saw this week.

Just a few of the hundreds of windmills I saw this week.

Never Overplay Your Hand

When I go places in my personal rig I keep two things in mind “is this within your skill level?” and “can your truck handle this?”   In my personal rig, I always keep a shovel, sand, a tow strap  and even cable chains no matter the season.   I have ended up places in snow that I did not imagine it would be there.  I always try to be prepared for the worst case scenario when I drive out in the more remote areas I visit.

Last week we had lots of unseasonable rain and it caused lots of problems for the staff not only trying to do our job of doing surveys, but getting places that we needed to complete the surveys.

The sun came out after a day of unseasonable rain, but I was still driving  in roads with water and mud.

The sun came out after a day of unseasonable rain, but I was still driving in roads with water and mud.

There was occasion where I was doing a survey and watched a guy drive up the road pass where I was working.   His truck threw up a big splash telling me that the water flowing over the road was more serious than I had thought.    He backed up and took a second run at it before he came out the other side.    I technically need to drive up the road another six miles and do a second survey  but the water wasn’t just sitting on the road as a puddle, but a ditch, gully, stream or small creek was flowing over the road.    There may have been enough ground for the man to get through, but there was no telling what was flowing away under that water and how fast the erosion was happening.  There was no guarantee if I got to the site the conditions of the road when I returned would be suitable for getting out.  I passed on the second survey site up that road.

Later that day I found myself making my way slowly down a road in four-wheel drive with the road getting progressively worse.   In the end I made the decision that if I was going to get to the survey site, I was going to need to be in four-wheel drive low rather than four-wheel high.    I had always been taught 4WD low was for a dire situation, a “rescue me” if you will.    I knew at that moment that using 4WD low to get into a place left me with no options if I needed them to get back out.   It was time to turn around and mark this as a site not safe under the day’s current conditions.

In both cases for me it was a case no sense in over playing your hand.   Sometimes you have to gamble, and other times it makes no sense.   Life is about more than the ability to do something but also about the ability to continue on afterwards.

Rocky Mountains Rising Out of the Prairie

This last week I was in Pondera and Teton Counties.   I snapped lots of pictures, though most of them were less than stellar due to the smoke from the fires in Glacier National Park.   I come home each week and down load them and use them to help remember the week, where I have been and what I saw.  This was one of the best from last week.

It is the Rocky Mountains rising out of the prairies of of Teton County you can see in the distance.

It is the Rocky Mountains rising out of the prairies of of Teton County you can see in the distance.