Vacation Housesitters

RangerSir and I have returned from vacation and now I feel like I can blog here out in the world of everyone knowing because it is all in the past.  I think the hardest part of planning a vacation was making arrangements for our livestock.  It was much harder than I had imagined, as I had remembered as a young adult, I loved getting away from roommates.  Getting paid was a bonus because it was like having a part-time job that didn’t cramp my lifestyle. We finally make a connection for a house/pet sitter before we left.   It worked out well but oh the journey was an adventure.

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Cora is an easy pet to care for.  She sleeps and wants just a little bit of attention. 

We started by putting out the word to friends and family that we were looking for a house/pet sitter.   We have a small college in town and I was sure that someone would know of a person who was interested in the job.  We got no bites.   We were unsure if it was because we lived out-of-town or it was our menagerie but no one wanted the job.   We were offering to pay the sitter what kenneling would cost.

After a couple of weeks, we got worried and started to make kennel arrangements for the cat and dog.   We watched our neighbor’s horses and barn cats, so we knew that they would open the door for the chickens in the morning and close them up at night.   It was a workable solution, but it wasn’t the best solution because we did not want our house empty for ten days.

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Zip is a people dog and after a day alone needs some serious play time.   He also is a true terrier and can’t be trusted off leash, so walks require a human.   All that said he is still a loveable character. 

We started to tap into websites offering house/pet sitters, talking to folks, trying to figure out our liabilities, and what could go wrong if we were two days away from rescue.  There were so many pros, cons, and unknowns.  You asked everyone you knew if they knew this person on the net wanting to sit for you.

Finally, we made a connection with a young woman who would be in her last two weeks of high school the time we needed her.    Lots of people vouched for her maturity and reliability.   It was unnerving after all she was in high school.  I met her mother and knew her step-father and grandmother.   They were all comfortable with this and supportive of her doing this.  She had an afterschool job but would be home the same hours as we were when working.    We met with her and talked with her and in the end, she would be our house sitter.   RangerSir reminded me in a couple of weeks she could call herself a college freshman, so if she had such good references we should go with it.

In the midst of all of this one late afternoon, three of our chickens flew over the fence in their run attached to their coop.   They came to their favorite dust bath location by the back door at the edge of the foundation of the house and they were prone to do.  Unfortunately, Mr. Fox came right up to our back door and got our girls.    It was unnerving and devastating because this happened just a few feet from our back door that we use as our main entry.  RangerSir and I had decided just this year that we were not going to do baby chicks and the hens we had were likely our last hens.  In retirement we would be in town and chickens would not be part of our lives.  When we were gone so were these hens.    It seemed that fate was telling us that our train was moving much faster than we had thought it was.   We had one chicken left after this unfortunate incident and we called a girlfriend with a flock to see if she would take our last hen.  She took the hen with all the food and supplies we had for our backyard flock. Housesitting at our place just got easier for our young housesitter.

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All that was left of our chickens was a pile of feathers outside the back door.

The first night we were gone and out of cell phone connection most of the day and early evening.   We got back into service at 8pm Montana time to have a message from our housesitter who came home to find that we had no electricity (no water/well either).  When we finally connected up that night she just wanted to know if there was something special she needed to do as she had tried the breakers and no luck; the power company in town couldn’t help her.  I placed calls to her and made sure she knew where the oil lamps and flashlights were (things we had not covered in the walk through before we had left).  We are the next to last house on an electric run connected to a local electric co-op.  We placed calls to the co-op linemen in charge of our area and electricity came back on at 9pm her time.    She was so calm and collected and told us no worries, she was ok and it would be ok.  It was an immediate demonstration to us that we had left our house and critters in good hands and that this young woman may be in high school, but she was ready for heading out into the next step of life and working her way through the what life was going to throw at her.

When we got home our dogs and cats were happy to see us, but a little put out with us as well.  Life had been good for them while we were gone.  The house was clean, the sheets and towels were pulled and washed, though we had not asked her to do so.  We could not tell that she had been there.  The neighbors were impressed with what they had observed she was home with our pets as we had wanted and no crazy visitors.  I’d love to have her again, but she is ready for the world.  She and friend will be visiting NYC before she heads off to Seattle for school.   So as great as this was, if we go on holiday we will once again be looking for a house sitter.

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Water – Not as simple as it seems

As RangerSir and I interview places we are considering for our retirement move, one of the things is on our list is water.  I remember the day our dry creek bed first ran with water.   Even if it is only a short spell each year I was thrilled to see water run in the small drawl that ran across our property for the first time.   I called RangerSir at work with my news.    I told him to guess what I had discovered that day on our property.   Of course, he asked for a hint.   My hint was people fight and get shot over this.   His first guess was water.  Not sure how that happened but it was one of those moments when we both knew we were on the same page about that resource.

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It may seem kind of an odd thought in a country where we seem to have plenty of water that it is a blog-worthy topic.  Yet it is not that simple, no matter if you have your own well or are on a “public” system.   Here are some things to think about when you talk water.

There are many cities where your water does not come from a city-owned municipal utility.   There are cities where you get your water from a publicly-owned for-profit company.   Think about that for a minute.   You are getting an essential commodity from a company who is charged with making money for the stockholders.   The people who own your water don’t live in your community or have any care about your water system other than what economic return there is.   There are two communities in Montana that are poster children for the disaster that this can be.    Butte’s mining companies owned the water system from the beginning of the town’s history (prior to 1900) and for years they put no money into the system infrastructure. It was in such bad shape that the water was still in most cases flowing through the original redwood pipes.   The city had over 800 bursts pipes annually.   Splinters, rust and more came through the city water system into homes.  Finally,  in the 1990’s there was a transfer of ownership of the water company from the mining company to the city.  The system was in a bad state.   Bonds and mill levies were passed and millions were spent to bring the system back up to snuff.   It wasn’t cheap, but the community can once again use the water that comes out of their tap. Another Montana city, Missoula, recently purchased its water system back after being sold and resold by public companies because its aged system was starting to need capital investments.    The public companies liked the income but weren’t so crazy about investing in infrastructure.  It cost the city a lot of money to buy their system, but they did it  saying they wanted to ensure the people of the city had “access to clean, affordable and reliable water.” Similar things have happened elsewhere.   It isn’t cheap for a municipality to own and maintain a water system but from what I have seen, the other option isn’t so great either.  So as I look at cities one of the questions I ask about is their utilities.   I assume nothing.

 

Here in the country, we have a well.  We are lucky in that our well is exceptional.  What I mean by that is, water is clean, plentiful, not full of minerals, and it doesn’t  have a nasty odor or taste.   We have it tested regularly and say a prayer of thanks for our results each time.   That said, I think about what will happen if our well runs dry?   Just a couple of miles away as the crow flies the houses are on a different aquifer.  Those wells don’t supply enough water out of the ground on demand for basic household needs.   In order to support their water needs, those folks have large holding tanks in their basement to ensure they have the pressure and quantity of water for a normal household.  Pretty strong wake-up call when you know it is just geography and luck that I can turn on my spigot without a worry.

There are other stories around the word about water shortages for people and agriculture.   It is something that we don’t often think about until it doesn’t work.

Icon of Agriculture Past

When I grew up there was a prosperous agriculture society out there in rural America.   There were lots of small and medium-sized towns full of businesses that supported farm families.  You could find  schools scattered across the countryside to educate the farmer’s  children.  Each community would have an elevator for the local farmer’s co-op.   The farmers used this to store and transport their corn, grain and other commodities.

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Abandoned grain elevator in Winnett, Montana

In the years since I was a child we have continued to become more efficient in agriculture as a results there are fewer  farms and ranches, and the ones that are out there are larger.

Today producers, ranchers and farmers, are growing more food than their grandfather’s could have imagined.  In spite of the changes of time one thing has not changed, the  life of a producer is at the mercy of the winds of nature.    A farmer works from sun up to sun down and livestock never takes a vacation.   Today the economics of being in agriculture are hard and many people not only run their farm operation, they also hold a second job to make ends meet and even up the ups and downs of crop and animal prices, hail, drought, lost livestock and so much more we can’t imagine.   Given a choice more and more folks are choosing to move to the city rather take on the challenges of being a producer.

Today with  fewer folks choosing the rural life small towns are dying.   When a small town dies not only are businesses loss, but many of the local elevators are being abandoned in favor of larger more centralized elevators.   Small elevators  are  an icon of the past; an icon of agriculture.  Just like barns, you see fewer of them across the countryside.   They are being abandoned and falling into disrepair.  Someday like old farm houses and old barns they will fall down and will no longer be there to remind of the all the people who came before and work out there today to feed the world.

 

 

 

Where Do Books Fit In Today?

I can never remember a time I did not read nor a time I did not have a book.   Before I could read, I was read to.   Books were part of my life then and they continue to be. I wonder today in the age of electronics, are we growing a new generation of readers or is the next generation self-entertaining only with games?

I remember my grandparents reading to me from the same books they had read to my uncle and my father. When I started school  the book fair came to our town once a year.   It was then that my mom would take me to the school gym set up with books galore and I got to pick out and purchase one new book.  Many of those books I had for years.   They were a prized possession when I was young and a collection of memories when I grew up.   I had those books  until I finally gave them to my nieces and nephews many years later.

I have embraced the e-reader.   It isn’t the same a print book.   Just like a quality hard cover is not like a poorly mass-produced  hard cover, nor are either like a paperback book.   I have read several books that after reading on the reader, that I have purchased a second tie in print to add to my permanent collection of print books, but for the most part electronic works for me.  I have a small collection of print books in my permanent collection. If you are some one who has moved numerous times, you know that the cost of moving is determined by two things cube (how much space you take) and weight.   Having moved back and forth across the country three times in seven years my permanent collection was pared down to those books that had a special place in my heart.

If you read in the bathtub, you know the value of a paperback that if dropped is not a catastrophe. Many a book has a bit of a warped page and the smell of bubble bath in my past.

I support authors and the literary arts by reading the same way I have always done it.  I check books out of the library .  I buy books.   I continue to  borrow and lend books.  The difference is today I do most of it electronically.

To me the e-reader has opened up the possibilities for new writers to get published without being policed by the major publishing houses.   It is not to say that they don’t have a place, because I believe they do.   I also would say that the large publishing houses  have in some cases have prevented things being published as well,  so they have been a double edged sword.  Today  the author who is turned down by one of the big publishing houses   had limited to no options in the past, can now self-publish and see what happens.   Kind of an wild west, throw your hat into the wind and see what happens kind of environment out there right now.

The thing I wonder most about is do the e-readers help to cultivate and grow a new generation of book readers?  Is a new generation of readers being developed or being hindered with the electronic format?   I can’t imagine a picture book being the same electronically.  Maybe it is and I just don’t get it.  I love the places that books take me…the past…the future…places I will never get to travel to…people I will never get to talk to.  It was the written word and my imagination making it all happen for me.   Books have been a constant companion of mine.  Books have taught me much, expanded my horizons and shaped my view of the world.   I am thankful to everyone who encouraged my love of books.

Are you a reader?   Have your reading habits been impacted by the electronic format? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

 

Mystical & Yet Melancholy

imag3268One night coming home from work last week I was taken aback by the beauty of the moon rise.   It was so amazing to see the clouds that were sneaking in to cover parts of it.   I so wanted to capture it and share it.   The way the clouds moved back and forth covering the moon and then not was  like a magical show of nature. The colors of the night were like a blanket covering night sky and snow-cover lands alike.  it was almost indecipherable where the sky ended and the horizon started.   The color was a blue of melancholy, sadness, loneliness and yet so peaceful.

I talked myself out of stopping my truck and taking a picture until I was nearly home.   The reasons were many for not taking the picture.  It was approaching night so the light wasn’t good, but that is what made the sight so special.  I  didn’t have the right set up to take the photo, I had just a phone.  The picture  wasn’t framed right and there were things in the picture I really didn’t want. It was bitter cold and I was dressed to commute, not stand outside for an extended period of time.  Dinner was waiting.   The list in my mind was a mile long as I continued to look at that moon and watching the changing images as the clouds moved in and out.

I recently started a new creative set of classes for 2017 and my statement his year is: Change the Pattern of Your Life.  It hit me.  I was letting the same pattern of excuses make me not take a chance and see what would happen.  When I was just a 1/4-mile from home I finally I just got out and took a half dozen shots.   None of them will make National Geographic, but I did it. It doesn’t capture the sight as I saw it, but it still serves as a medium to share something of that night with others.  I did not let the pattern of letting the same reasons for not doing something continue to drive me and prevent me from trying.

Do you let a very  repeatable list of reasons prevent you from trying something?   Does your selftalk sound like a parrot repeating the words over and over?  When was the reason you tell yourself for not trying something a new reason, not the same reason you told yourself 100 times over?   Challenge yourself to explore, do something that those comfortable reasons say not to.   Don’t let the pattern of your life prevent you from living it.

If you are interested in the class I am taking samples of my creative work and information on the class can be found about it on my other blog Playing Without Limits.

 

Joy of Holiday Cards

Today I spent the day making holiday cards to mail.    I stamped and painted all my holiday cards and then stamped my envelopes as well.   I thoroughly enjoyed the process though most would say I was nuts to make something handmade that will likely end up in the trash after the holiday season.   But it okay for me.  I enjoyed thinking about the people I knew we were sending them to.

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I love to get holiday cards and yes the infamous Christmas letters.   I love to hear from friends and families we have known for years and life has altered our course such that we are no longer living close by.   I  read them when they arrive and again once the holiday is over.   I think about the people who sent them and how our paths crossed.  I love to catch up if only once a year.   I love to see the pictures that folks share and how they have changed. .   I love it all because they took time to “say hi.”

It used to be that many more folks sent holiday cards. Folks drop you an email and that seems to be where we are going.   I know it is expensive to purchase cards and the cost of postage is nothing to sneeze at.   I know people’s time is often more precious than the  money, so spending an evening or Sunday  doing cards is hard for some folks to justify.     All of these are some of the many  reasons why the tradition is fading away.

In this hurry up, always on, electronic age it is fun to get a piece of happy mail on a cold snowy night and remember the people in your life.   Thanks to everyone who send me a card, photo or letter this year.   To everyone that I sent to I hope you enjoy.

Returning After Much Reflection

I have taken a break now and then from my blog but never like this one. Never before for months, but I felt that this one was essential.   I have always been politically active.  I have always enjoyed discussion with others who do not share my point of view,  trying to see how they get to the place they arrive.    I have always believed  that respectful discussion makes both myself and the other person more pragmatic,  more empathetic, more compassionate and not so narrow minded.   Unfortunately this time around it did not seem possible.

I lost social friends this election cycle because I did not support their candidate.   When they asked and I felt comfortable sharing, because we had in the past, I was chastised for my choice.  Screw my reasoning for my point of view. Who cared if I did research based on what the candidates said, and drew my own conclusions instead of repeating things just because I read or heard them.    Promises were made by candidates  and many others rang empty and false to me.  People said  we read it on the internet or hear it on the news it must be true.  I was of the era of “question authority” and would go back and try to figure out fact a fiction, even when it seemed near impossible to do so.    People were called names and things were said about them, but we were not willing to really go ferret out the truth that is at our fingertips now with the internet  to get to real information, not what he said or she said, but real truths. It was disheartening to me to loose friends and feel like there was almost no truth this time in what was being said. I was saddened by the lack of civility not just by candidates but so much of our citizenry.

I also felt strongly that each of us are given a very special personal right to vote, based on our beliefs, our life experiences, where we are in the continuum of life, economics and family situation.    It is yours right to vote as you see fit, not be be persuaded by me to vote the way I am, because how you got to your candidate was a different path than I had taken.   It was not my right to try and attempt to influence you no matter how much I wanted to.   That is why each of us have a vote, to voice our beliefs. It is the way our democracy works.

Once the election was over, and the system had worked as it was designed we had a new president.  I had a lot to think about, I even thought about stating a new blog to chronicle the next four years.   In the end I decided against it, because if I did so, I wanted it to be fact based and I learned preparing for this election fact checking takes lots and lots of time.   In the end I would either be preaching to the choir or getting hate mail.   It just did not seem like I how I wanted to spend my  free time.

Now we all watch the next four years to see what happens, and then we deal with what does because that is what we do.   I go back to blogging about everyday things.   I share  the thoughts of someone who lives in Montana as she looks out the window.  I am glad to be back.   I missed you all.

By Diana who is Looking Out The Window Posted in Odds & Ends