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.

Make Do Cooking

Today was a holiday for my husband and me.   We spent the day putsing around the house.   Smoke blew in from a forest fire from who knows where and we knocked off early, both feeling a little under the weather.   There has been lots of crud going around my husband’s office and the kind of smoke we had today can make anyone feel poorly.   We had planned on having a nice dinner, but it quickly seemed to both of us that comfort food was more in order.

I pulled things out of my refrigerator to make beef vegetable noodle soup.    I was making it home-made, using the make-do philosophy.   I think sometimes that kind of cooking is a lost art.   The art of cooking from scratch, making do with what you have on hand.   I had some left over short ribs, I had made in the slow cooker yesterday.   I threw the meat from the ribs in a pan along with some water, a diced potato  half a carrot sliced, and a small  handful of bow tie pasta.    While boiling away I sauteed a little onion and celery until they were clear and added that to the boiling veggies.   Next I found a couple of tomatoes that were ready to be used and chopped them and poured them on top of the boiling mixture.   It was now evident that my water was boiling away, so I pulled out the last of some V8 and found some gravy that we had made from the drippings last night.   Both went in the soup.   I found one collard green left in the refrig and pulled it out and chopped a little into the soup.  Everything fresh I had on hand was in the soup, but it still did not say vegetable to me.   Off to the freezer; there I found corn, peas and beans.   I took a small handful of each and add the three to my soup and cooked until they were done.   Ta’Da.   Soup was on.

Before we could sit down and eat soup, my husband got a call  to report to work.   It seems there is another forest fire tonight.  I quickly heated up a wide mouth thermos and filled it with my soup.   I am not sure when he will get to it, but I hope it is still warm.   No matter what I am sure that my make-do soup will hit the spot.  He will miss out on dessert though as it was still in the oven…creamy pear pie.  He was bemoaning the fact that he was going to get none of that.  This is a late season fire, let’s hope in spite of the dry weather it doesn’t go crazy and he can be home soon and enjoy his pie.


I feel like all my life I have been fascinated by sunsets. I love the colors. I love how they change from minute to minute. I love that no matter what you can’t tell anyone how beautiful it is. I accept that no photograph I snap will ever capture the beauty of that moment.

I grew up on the prairies of Illinois where you could watch the sunrise and sunset by only turning your head from one direction to the other. The sunsets of the prairies captured the images in dark outlines of trees, homes and barns on the far horizon.

Summer vacations were spent at the cabin. The cabin was on the east side of the lake and so every evening we would watch the sun go down across the lake. I am sure that not ever sunset was spectacular, but in my adult memory it seems they all were. The colors, and the reflections on the crystal smooth lake.

Now living in Montana, the sun sets behind the mountains. There are some just so-so sunsets and then some spectacular sunsets. Tonight was one of those beyond words kind of sunsets.  All day today I could not see the mountains because a forest fire was putting down smoke so thick you smell it. I debated if it was clouds or smoke all day long as the day was overcast and there was no sunshine or shadows cast.

In spite of the fire and the havoc it plays it gave me the sunset tonight that for just a few minutes was beyond words. I hope that you take time and get a chance to see and enjoy a sunset where you are.