I read an article the other day that says folks who do evening gratitude journals tend to be happier.  The format did not matter, it was just that at the end of the day a person  picked a fixed number of things to be grateful for and wrote them down.

Interesting…very interesting.   I have been keeping a gratitude journal for years, and never much thought about it.   This article made me get out out copies and look through them.   At the end of each day I write down three things I am thankful for and my personal rule is that I can’t repeat what I wrote the last night.   It was in some ways mundane, but on closer review it shows so many of the ebbs and flows of our lives.   It made me think of where we were at the time in our lives.

I recently wrote that I was grateful that food (the lack of) was not an issue in our home.   In looking back at in my journal I once was grateful to not have to use a calculator at the grocery store.   We were young and living pretty close to the edge at that time.   We had a fixed amount of cash to spend.   If we did not calculate right we had to return things at the check out.    It wasn’t so easy in the days before scanners. Getting rid of the calculator meant we had arrived.

I often  complain about the cost of my insurance premiums but have more than once expressed my thanks for not only having insurance available to me, but also being able to afford the premiums.   I was doing a happy dance when I paid off the last of my medical bills for all my care in the 70’s.   I paid the hospital $10 every two weeks, my surgeon $5.   It took me over two years to pay them off.  I was gushing it with gratitude when those bills were finally gone.

Though I seldom see my brothers, since geography and economics get in the way, it was interesting that I was always grateful for them  on their birthdays.   There really is nothing like a sibling in the whole wide world.

We have made lots of moves; some across town and some across the country.  Each location having its rewards and challenges.   I was glad to see I allowed myself to be thankful for the good things  that happened each time rather than focus on what I had loss or what uphill struggle I faced.

I have a couple of lifetime friends, and  they make appearances often.   They are those friends who know you and still love you.   They are those friends who are always there for you.  They are those friends that time and distance don’t matter, but as soon as you see each other you pick up where you left off.  As often as I talk about them in my journals, I hope I am being that same kind of friend for them.

My most often mentioned person though is my husband.   He has grown and evolved with me.   I am lucky because I am married to my best friend for almost 32 years now.  You change during that time and to last this long and still want to be with each other, well that is certainly worth some gratitude.

Like everyone I get blue, complain, look at something with envy, but I like to think of myself as a half-full girl.   I hope I spend more time and energy on worthwhile things.   I try to not  let the negative thing and people sap my energy.   Maybe there is something to that study after all.


Flock Dynamics

I have written before about pecking order and how it impacts the interactions of the hens in a flock.   Tonight I am writing about how removing birds also impact flock dynamics.  Chickens are animals for  whom change is unwanted and upsets life dramatically.   My flocks are always a little in flux as each year there is a period of time while there are two flocks;  the flock who stayed over the winter and the chicks born the spring of this year to replace them.  Butchering is another  thing that upsets a flock because we remove elements of an established  flock.

Though we butchered hens that had been broody and out of the flock for over a month this year the members of their  flock noticed immediately they were missing today.  The reminder of the old flock was looking to make peace with the littles.   They were often found today wandering together.   The old girls were hanging out in where I would expect to find the littles and visa versa.  The other thing I noticed today is that the hens are unsure they are allowed in the nest boxes.   After weeks of fighting to get into the boxes and the broody hens hogging the space to lay eggs, the remaining birds seem to be unsure that it is ok to approach the nest boxes now that they are all empty.

We still have five more hens who need to go and so I am guessing that this flock will be in lots of upheaval for weeks to come.   We are currently at 11 and need to be down to six by the time the snow flies.

Time Ran Out

Yesterday the first of this year’s chicks, the littles, laid her first egg.  What a great moment of celebration.  My 19-week old birds have started to lay.     I have 3 more on the cusp of laying and the rest of the littles are not far behind.  I love this time when they are  finding their big girl instincts.  This has been made complicated by the fact that my broody hens  of a few weeks ago are back at it.

For those unfamiliar a hen who is broody, spends all her time on the nest box hatching eggs.   If they don’t have eggs, they pretend they do.   They will fight with other hens who want to use the nest box to protect.   It is a further complicated by the fact that every hen does not have their own nest box, but three or four hens will share a single box.     Suddenly you don’t have enough boxes and hens start to think about laying on the coop floor.

I have two hens who sit in the nest boxes for days refusing to let other birds in.   Today I went out to check and found four birds standing waiting to get on the nest box.   Four birds who want to lay, being prevented by two birds, who are not laying.   This frustrated me to the point I put each hen under my arm and carried them about 200 feet away and put them down to make their way back.  I repeated this exercise twice more today.   By the end of the day I was just frustrated and angry with these two birds.

These two birds were schedule to go to the freezer before winter set in and tonight their time ran out.   I was tired of the uphill battle I was waging.  So we butchered the two broody birds tonight.   It was the complete circle of life for these two birds tonight.

Not What I Expected

Last Sunday in a rare day off  for my husband we decided that we were going cross something off our list.   We visited Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge.   The big attraction for me was a chance to see Trumpeter Swans, a beautiful bird, I had only see once before.

We packed up our car with the essentials, camera equipment, field glasses and more and drove down to the Idaho border.   There we took a road for 28 miles that was much better than it was advertised to be to make our first visit to a National Wildlife Refuge.

I was expecting a fairly undeveloped place with a few places marked for bird watching based on the website.   What I got was a lot different.    First I will preface this with the statement I did not get or understand from the website it is a designated wilderness.   Even with that said, the  wildernesses I am familiar with have some trails in them.   This place has two!  Neither one of those was going to put you any where near good bird watching, the main feature touted at this place.

The brochure we picked up once we arrived encouraged us to cross country and use game trails.   Not having a topo map, my bad, we surely were not going to travel cross country in wetlands on trails that moose use.   I wasn’t going to hike not knowing if I was going hit a bog, or marsh area in the hopes that I might get some good birding in.  I had no idea if the shoreline would support sitting for hours to watch for birds that only appear if you are willing to sit and wait for them.

I think the killer most of all for me was that this was bear country.   Signs were posted at the entrance and throughout reminding you of that along with signs telling you bear were particularly active in a couple areas.  Once I go there it made sense, this was the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and bears are very active there.    Silly me I did not make that connection earlier and I did not bring bear spray.   Now I have been around bear country long enough to know that there was no way I was going cross country hiking down game trails without bear spray.

I am not complaining about the beauty of the Centennial Valley and the Wildlife refuge.  There were a part of Montana I had never seen and the vistas were great.   What I am disappointed in that I really didn’t know what I was getting into, from how it was managed to the fact that it was bear country.   I am not sure how soon I will going back, but I am sure that I will do lots more research before I go back and be more prepared.

By Diana who is Playing Without Limits. Posted in Odds & Ends

Ice Cream Memories.

Growing up I have lots of ice cream memories.   I had two  different grandparents who liked to make home-made ice cream.   Their recipes and methods were dramatically different.  Unfortunately neither recipe has survived another generation and are lost forever.

My Grandma T lived in the same town as I grew up in.  Each Saturday she would make ice cream and bring us a container full of her ice cream along with biscuits. Grandma had this amazing contraption shown at the top of this blog.  It was an electric ice cream maker that you put in your refrigerator freezer.   I remember years of visiting on Saturdays and see the cord coming out of the refrigerator freezer and plugged in to the light socket.      I have yet to find a recipe that makes up like hers.   It had lots of sugar, I am sure because my favorite part was a thick almost syrupy concoction that formed at the bottom of the container.

My other ice-cream-making grandparent was my Gomper.  He lived across the state and we only visited for major holidays and an extended stay in the summer.   It was during the summer vacations that Gomper would make ice cream.  He cooked his ice cream fix’ins on the stove.  I am almost guessing it was more like a frozen custard.  His ice cream would go into the bucket with ice and rock salt.   It would sit out on the patio churning away.   It had a power turner, so the most involvement was poking in the drain hole so water would rush out.  As a small child it was something I could stand by and do the whole time it turned.   It was always vanilla like Grandma T’s, but his was so smooth; no sugar settled on the bottom of his.

My brother received her freezer when my Grandma passed on and he in turn gave it to me. I got it out and made up some ice cream for the hot summer weather we have been having. I pulled out the cookbook that came with Grandma’s freezer, looking for possibly her recipe.   The one I picked definitely turned out not to be it.   It was richer than the recipe that either of my grandparents made.    I put it all together and put it in my freezer.   Just like Grandma T,  I slipped the cord out of my freezer and plugged the big black cord into the wall.   It took much longer than the instructions said to freeze up.    I am not sure if that is because my modern freezer isn’t as cold as they used to be or it was something else.  I plan to make some more and try some frozen yogurt, sherbet and sorbet.   I looked online, where we all look for our answers today, hoping to find some insights on how to best use my simple but effective machine.   I found nothing like my trusty freezer.   I best take good care of it because it is one of  limited few that have survived.

Lucky X 3

I count myself lucky three times.  In each of the last three days we have had fires in our little named area with no services.     Fortunately none of them have amounted to much.

On July 2nd, my guess is someone threw out a cigarette along the interstate.   It quickly caught the grasses and burned up a stretch about 250 feet long between the interstate and the frontage road.   Fortunately that day winds were calm, and it was caught before it rolled over the frontage road.

On July 3rd, on the other side of the interstate from where we live a grass fire spread and ended up in the surrounding timber.   We were lucky on so many fronts.  First the fire was in a sheltered area and the winds did not whip it into an immediate frenzy.   Second the timber that it was trying to burn  to was not affected by pine bark beetle, meaning it was not dead and dry.   The last lucky break  was that a nearby wildland fire could spare a couple of helicopters to come help.   The first responders were volunteer firefighters from the city of Butte who came with their tanker trucks.   Several other tanker trucks, other fire departments and agencies responded.  Soon they they had a system where they were advising folks who needed to be evacuated, protecting homes, shuttling water and fighting the fire. Fire resources are thin, and on the ground firefighters are some of the most precious right now.   I remember hearing chatter listening to the radio making sure that all the volunteers had an emergency fire shelter, standard protocol on a wildland firefighter uniform, but not likely for folks like the volunteers from town.    Helicopters from the Pony fire in Montana, were really the saving grace allowing them to contain it to a small area.  These helicopters for the next four hours would spend the time dipping and dropping water on the edges of the fire, then the hotspots, and trees that were unaccessable.  Without the the helicopters  this fire would have turned in to a full fledged “forest fire.”  Folks in the foothills were for a time evacuated.  Other locals were bringing horses into corrals close to the house and hooking up trailers to be on stand by to leave if need be.   Though about 5 miles from the house, my single exit point was only about 3 miles from the fire.    I did start the plan for what an exit would require; I got the cat kennel down, and ID’ed critical items on a list.  I started watering and laying hose.  I filled horse trough and rain barrels.   You can never be prepared, but I was at least not going to be caught unaware.   By 9 that night with the great work of the helicopter and the on the ground firefighters the fire was contained at something near 30 acres.  We had dodged a serious threat.

Today 4th of July, the fire fighters had to bring their water tankers for a 3rd time!  Another grass fire.   This time set by one of the neighbors who was working on a fence project on my road.   He was up doing some kind of metal grinding  and a spark lit grasses and he could not get it out himself. 911 was on their way.   Fortunately the winds that are now blowing out there now had not yet come up.   It was more of a fire than one man could put out, but not travelling so fast that it was going to make my house.   But once again the neighbors were out their laying hose and wetting things down.

All three of these fires were caused by carelessness and stupidity.   People need to think.  I watch fires in Eastern Montana that have burned over 380 square miles driven often by wind.   Colorado fires small by comparison, but with so many people living in that urban interface, the impact has been devastating to hundreds of people as well.    I listen to folks on the East coast talk about no power and think of the folks in Eastern Montana that have been without electricity for over a week now plugging away in the same situation.  If we were to lose power it would not only would it impact our appliances, but it would also eliminate water for us, as we have wells out here.   Without water the fire danger becomes even worse. We can not prevent nature caused fires, but we can all be much more careful out there.  I am thankful for all our good luck and pray that this is the end of our close calls.

Fire Season Has Started with a Bang

Looking over the Madison River at the Bear Trap 2 fire.

There are lots of wildfires aka forest fires across the US right now.   Historically Montana should not get be in fire season yet.   Our normal fire season starts in late July  after the grasses have cured and the spring rains have stopped.   This year spring rains never developed, we had early hot spells and everything dried out way too soon.  Just last week we were slammed into fire season.  We had been hot,dry and windy,  and in just a few days we had six fires break out.   These fires broke out during a weather system where the winds were blowing sustained speeds of  30-40 mph, with gusts as high as 75 mph.   These fires went from zero to thousands of acres in hours.   I can’t imagine a a fire that moves that fast.    My heart breaks for all those folks who lived in those areas, who had to leave their homes; many not yet knowing if there is anything to go back to.  Thanks  to firefighters, first-responders, and others  who are doing the best they can to fight these fires with resources that are spread thin by the number of fires we have right now and shrinking budgets on county, state and federal levels.  A heaping sense of gratitude to those families who support all those out there on the front lines and the support positions; we appreciate you sharing your special person with us and missing birthdays, games and other family functions to help strangers they may never know.

I hope this early summer is followed by an early fall.  If it wants to start tomorrow that is ok with me. Unfortunately tonight we had storms with very little moisture, lots of lightning, and they are calling for hot weather again.