Pivotal Moments

In everyone’s life there are days that become pivotal moments. Pivotal moments are those things that change your perspective on life.

I am sure that many of  life’s pivotal moments happen and you don’t even know that they happened. They are subtle and they change your destiny without you even knowing it. Others are “Ah-ha” and you know that something just smacked you in the face, and life is never going to look the same.

I had one when my lifetime friend’s pacemaker replacement went from the routine to the life and death.   Another pivotal moment happened when a dear friend found she had ovarian cancer.  My most recent pivotal moment happened my younger brother had surgery and they were unable to complete it due to unplanned health complications.

Each of these made me reflect on my life and theirs.  Each of these events altered my life course. I hope that each pivotal moment made me a better person, not to just myself but also to others. I hope I will not waste the moment of clarity they provided.

Indian Summer

This week it appears that Montana will have Indian summer.  Next week temps will be in the high 60’s and maybe a day or two  in the 70’s.  A wonderful few days of unseasonably warm weather.  It seems early as the Indian Summers of my youth occurred in October and even as late as November.    As I thought about one of my favorite times of the year lots of thoughts came to mind.   What exactly is Indian Summer?

I spent lots of time looking online and found this Wiki definition that I found to be perfect. It allows for Indian summer to come in September in Montana and not until October in Illinois.

“An Indian summer is a meteorological phenomenon that occurs in autumn, in the Northern Hemisphere. It is characterised by a period of sunny, warm weather, after the leaves have turned following an onset of frost, but before the first snowfall.”

We have had several hard frosts already, the aspen are starting to turn and it is going to be warm, Indian summer has arrived in Montana.  Enjoy Indian summer when ever it arrives in your neck of the woods.

What is a Cairn?

Cairn Trail Markers in Acadia National Park along the coastline.


Now that we have a Cairn Terrier, I think the question what is a cairn is begged to be asked? A cairn is a mound of stones piled up as a memorial or to mark a boundary or path.   

There is a series of cairns in Acadia National park where it is too rocky to post any trail signs.   There they are not the usual pile of rocks, a sort of bench shape with a single rock sitting on the bench.    The unique shape and style of the cairns of Acadia will keep you on track as you travel this wonderful island’s trails.    No wondering if this pile of rocks is telling you something or not.  Keep on following those benches.  

A Cairn In the Mountains.


They are often found in mountainous areas or in the deserts as well.   These amazing piles of stone have marked places for 100’s of years. They were left by pioneer travelers who thought that point that a little more direction was needed.   Did the pioneer who started each cairn  travel for a day in the wrong direction and when they backtracked they started a new cairn to tell the next traveler not to make the same mistake?  

A memorial cairn

Historic Memorial Cairn

If you go to Britain or Scotland you will find many cairns erected in memorial.  Though many of them are very old, they are sill be erected.   One of recent history’s events the Lockerbie crash site is honored with a cairn.  Some are quite simple and others, very structured and including plaques telling you who they are honoring.  

Our Cairn Terrier Harley

Cairn terriers are vermin dogs who would love to find a cairn with a few mice or rats and make a big fuss until he had rid the cairn of all invaders.  Ours loves to climb and sit on rocks and no rocky terrain is too much for him.  So far no vermin, but I expect a flurry of baking and digging when he encounters that first field mice trying to scurry away from him.   I will keep you posted. 


At Last!

At last all my hens are laying.  I have been waiting for this day since March when I bought new chicks to add to my flock this year.   Today at 21 weeks my Jane, my Australorp, laid her first egg.  Beatrice who is three weeks older than her laid her first egg last week.  Now everyone is on the production line.  When hens first lay their eggs they are a funny sort, and it takes a little bit of time to get it right.  These last two are no exception.

Last week I caught Bea in nest box, turning her head upside down to look between her legs at the egg in the box.   Now mind you this was not her egg as it was an olive one, and she lays brown eggs.   But I stood and watch this comical routine go on for a few minutes and then suddenly I heard the egg drop onto the floor of the nest box. She did not sit down and make a nice little round nest, nope she stood there and let it drop.  Kerplunk!  Fortunately neither of the eggs got broke.

Today I went out to the coop this afternoon and found two hens in one nest box, with both their behinds hanging out of the box, so if either laid an egg it would fall on the floor.  One of them was Jane who had yet to  lay an egg, and until today had shown no hint she was getting ready to lay.  I was sure that these two girls fighting to be in the same box and surely broke any egg that might be in the box.  I reached under both ladies and found an egg that could not belong to either of them.  I turned around to leave and they decided that I had interrupted their party and came out with me.   I watched as Jane dipped her beak into the water bowl.  Getting water and raising her head to swallow it.   Reminding me of those toys of childhood where the hens head bobbed up and down “eating food.”  I was getting ready to go back inside and get back to work when she tilted her head down for one last sip and out came an egg.  Jane had no idea what happened.

I am still fighting with a couple of hens about laying in the nest boxes, some days they do and others they don’t and I have to go looking for their gifts.  Chickens are not like kittens that are born knowing what a litter box is for.   Nope chickens take some time to get the hang of how to use the box.

Charity Begins at Home

Last night I volunteered some time to help at a local fundraiser and it reminded me of  how much charitable organizations depend on all of us for their support. Most nonprofit organizations have no fundraising staff.  They are never going to send you a solicitation via the mail or call you.  We often think we have to give big , and a gift of five or ten dollars isn’t significant.   Working for a nonprofit I can tell you nothing is further from the truth, every gift is important.

If these nonprofits that are doing important work aren’t going to contact me, how am I going to find them and more importantly what is going to inspire me to give?  This is what works in our family,  I hope this it will give you food for thought about how you give or don’t give.   Maybe it  will inspire you to give in a very connected way.

In our family we give in the name of someone.  Most of our gifts are connected to birthdays.  It helps spread our giving out over the year.   We do not see our little donations as significant when we are making them.  They don’t  result in us not having enough money for groceries or pay the bills.   We are always surprised at the end of the year the total amount that we gave.  Those little checks do add up and it is not likely we would have written one or two big checks that would have totaled what our little gifts did.

How does it work? A birthday or holiday rolls around and we reminisce about that person and special memories.   Sometimes we know exactly who or what charity we want to pick.  Other times we get on the internet and find a new charity that we think represents that person or feel they would give to themselves.

My grandparents didn’t have two dimes to rub together.  Yet they had a Thanksgiving feast second to none, and they served not only the family but also the extend family and friends.  If you did not have family or a place to go, you must go to Don and Mae Virtue’s place.   Thanksgiving is part of my best family memories and my favorite holiday.  Years after my grandma retired in her late 60’s and 70’s, she would make wonderful meals and serve them at local soup kitchens.   On her birthday, I write a check to the local food bank.   When my grandpa died, my grandparents only had $300 in the bank.  If not for the support  and contributions from their five kids I am not sure how they would have buried him.  Each year on his birthday I send a check to funeral parlor when his service were held to be used for a family who needs it.

My family has a history of military service from the revolutionary  War to the present.  Who has not attended a military funeral and been moved to tears by the 21 gun salute and the playing of taps?  Yet the honor guard  are not provided by the US government at many of the national cemeteries.  There are 131 national cemeteries.   The Fort Snelling Memorial Rife Squad,  provides the honor guard at the Fort Snelling National Cemetery, where I am from.    This amazing all volunteer group in 31 years has provided the rifle squad and bugle player for over 56,000 funerals, never missing a one in spite of some of the worst weather you can find.  This group is supported wholly by the generosity of the volunteers and donors, buying their own uniforms, guns and their transportation around Ft. Snelling to attend the funerals (They have logged over 3.8 millon miles).  Each Veteran’s Day we write them a check to help support them in honor of our military family and in hopes of comforting other military families.

My nephew was born with a heart defect.   He would eventually have surgery at a university hospital, and my brother and his family would discover the Ronald McDonald house charities.  They are a gift to a family in their time of greatest need.  My local hospital has a equivalent facility, the Paul Clark Home .   It provides a low-cost place for families and  folks coming the local community hospital for services, be it surgery, cancer treatments or during rehabilitation.   It isn’t just for families  of children, but any who is seeking medical treatment in southwest Montana.   The Paul Clark Home  doesn’t have a built in budget based on  the help of a large organization like McDonald’s, instead it depends on the donations from folks like you and me.  Each year on my nephew’s birthday I make a donation.

Our family pets have all come from rescue organizations.  Once a year we make a donation to a shelter for spay and neuter services in honor of the joy our pets have brought to our lives.

These are just some of the things on our radar, and I share them with you to get you thinking about your family and how you might give locally and to something out of the box for you.  Using birthdays, special holidays, pets, friends and family as inspiration  gives you a built in giving schedule that allows it to happen throughout the year, and be significant to you.      In September and October I have many birthdays and reasons to give and my donations are likely smaller, and yet in April when their are fewer my gift may be larger.   Some year’s finances are a little tighter and the donation may only be $5 other years we feel more flush and are more generous.   No gift is too small.

I don’t share this with you to toot my horn, but to hopefully remind you that there are many organizations out there on the ground who are making a difference in your community.   They don’t have the staff, money or time to seek you out, they are busy doing what you want and expect them to do.  I hope you will consider writing a check, or donating some time to one of these organizations.  They are part of what makes your community, and country great.   You are and can be part of that greatness. Charity does begin at home, mine and yours.

Weather of Autumn

A Front Caught on Mt. Fleecer

Autumn is a season of changes.  Weather is moving from sunny, warm days to cool, damp ones.  Garden plants are finishing up the season and giving us the last of their tomatoes.  Trees and shrubs leaves are turning and getting ready to fall to the ground.   Night time temperatures are dipping below freezing and I cover my flower beds trying to hold on to summer one more day. 

One of my favorite things to watch is how the mountains catch weather and split it.   This happens much more in autumn because we have many more fronts that come in with moisture.  These moisture laiden clouds are gray and easy to see  the  edges of the weather system.  There is a strong line of gray vs. light, cold vs. warm.

Today there is not only the front line that I can see in the sky, but also the snow line.  Unlike prior dustings this is a definative snow line, and it is creeping down in elevation.   It foretells more  changes yet to come.  Autumn is well underway and is already hinting of winter.

By Diana @ Looking Out the Window Posted in Seasons Tagged

Gizmos and Gotta’ Haves

My father-in-law was the king of gizmos and gotta’ haves.     As you can imagine many of these things worked a little less than wonderful. The concepts were great, but something was lost in the execution.  On vacation we bought a gizmo to hard-boiled eggs in the microwave. It was in a egg shape and was sort of cutsie.

This is a gizmo that really does work!

Farm fresh eggs have one drawback.  They peel terrible.   Hard-boiled fresh eggs are nothing but a nightmare and if you end up with more than a yolk you are darn lucky. If I plan to make potato salad, I often leave eggs out on the counter for a week to get them to peel more easily.  Even doing that they are still a tough job.  If you buy your eggs at the grocery store, the fact of they peel easily tells  you something about the freshness of your eggs.

I must tell you that this microwave hardboiled egg gizmo works great.   You first pierce the egg to prevent the yolk from exploding (They give you a special piercer with chicken feet to do that).   You add a little water and then twist the two egg halves of the  gizmo to lock them.   Last, you put it into the microwave.   In minutes you have a hard or soft-boiled egg depending your cooking time.   The amazing thing about all of this when the egg is done,  it peels  like it came from the grocery store.   Some how the act of piercing the yolk, and the steam allows the membrane that clings to the eggshell to separate during cooking. I recommend this gizmo to anyone farm fresh eggs or not.