Friday, May 30, 2014

"Currant" Events

Its official.  The currants are doing something!  Yippeee!
I mean, its not looking like we'll get enough to, say, make jam or anything, but they are definitely fruiting.  We're pretty excited about it since its the first time they've done so.  The strawberry fruits are also forming up.  My taste buds are busting with excitement at the fruity prospects.  Its about to get really, really good.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Making a Life - Inspiration Thursday

"I've learned that making a living is not the same thing as making a life." - Maya Angelou
Yesterday was Maya Angelou's last day on this planet.  I would not say I am a mega-fan or anything, but I was sad to hear the news--though she certainly lived a long and varied life.  I've always enjoyed her works, especially the poetry.  She was a woman of powerful words.  She was a woman who promoted justice and beauty.  She always makes me think of my friend Morgan, whom gifted me my first book of Maya's poetry.
All things must come to an end, but I always find the passing of such influential, artistic brilliance to be an especially bittersweet one.  The world needs all the artists we can muster, I think, to remind us what a beautiful, special, mystical place it is so that we remember to cherish it--and each moment we have here.
This quote has always resonated with me.  I think this is a very fundamental part of our vision for voluntary simplicity.   Matt and I do not strive to make a living.  We're heading the call to make a life.  It become clearer and clearer to me with each passing season that these things are most certainly different aims.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Good Vibrations - Inspiration Thursday

"Let's not worry my brother.
In this world we're all the same.
We must find peace.
We must find it together.
Its not far away from your heart.
You've got the good vibration."
This is certainly not the first time I've linked up a video from Playing For Change and it won't be the last either, I am sure.  This project is so uplifting and the power of music to unite us, to move us, to inspire us is unfathomable.  It makes my little heart happy.

Bluebirds, Bison, and Even a Snake

Yellowstone is an absolute paradise for wildlife watching.  It is amazing.  Without even trying there are critters to enjoy all over the place.  Our recent trip for my birthday was certainly no exception.
Over the weekend we were able to positively ID 35 species of birds (counting the subspecies of Junco), ten species of mammals, and even one reptile.  We hardly EVER see reptiles or amphibians on our outings--to Yellowstone or elsewhere, really.  But, Yellowstone is so arid and prone to cold temperatures that there are only six reptiles that inhabit the park at all so its no wonder we never see them there.  As such, it was quite a treat!
We saw one wolf trotting directly down the southbound lane of the road...with a traffic jam trailing along behind.  The wolf passed right by the window so we had the chance for a very close, but brief, look.
We added two more birds to our life list--the Cassin's Finch and Rufus Hummingbird.  Matt missed the hummingbird, but it gave me a quick little thrill.  It buzzed right past me while I was waiting for Matt to fill water jugs.  We hardly ever seen hummingbirds either.
A couple of male Brown Headed Cowbirds were trying to show off to a single female, who by all appearances paid them no mind as they tried to out-do each other.  She just kept foraging in the opposite direction with a male she seemed to have already chosen.  The other males were persistent though tailing along behind them.  It was quite amusing to watch.
On our hike to Hellroaring Creek we got to watch a couple male antelope sparring with each other.  It was quiet enough to hear their antlers clacking together.
Birds:
Bald Eagle
Great Blue Heron
Black-billed Magpie
Red-winged Black Bird
American Crow
Common Raven
American Robin
American White Pelican
Mallard Duck
Townsend's Solitaire
Barrow's Golden Eye
American Wigeon
American Coot
Yellow-headed Blackbird
European Starling
Northern Flicker (red-shafted)
Dark-eyed Junco (regular and pink-sided)
Red-tailed Hawk
Canada Goose
Ruddy Duck
Cassin's Finch
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Common Merganser
Sandhill Crane
Osprey
Killdeer
Cinnamon Teal
Lesser Scaup
Rufus Hummingbird
Violet-green Swallow
Tree Swallow
Mountain Bluebird
Brown-headed Cowbirds
Mammals:
Elk
Mule Deer
American Bison
Pronghorn Antelope
Yellow-bellied Marmot
Big Horn Sheep
Black Bear
Coyote
Muskrat
Wolf
Reptiles:
Wandering Garter Snake

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

My Birthday in the Woods

We camped in a tumble of boulders just outside of Yellowstone on Thursday night at a sweet little forest service campground called Canyon.  We've used this place as our starting point for YNP trips many times.  Its only a dozen miles or so from the park and, until this year, offered free camping.  Now it cost $7 per night.  Its still a bargain.  It is primitive, as in no drinking water, electricity, or flush toilets provided, but that is just fine by us.  We usually have the place nearly to ourselves.  I woke up on Friday, my birthday, to a bright, but cloudy day.  Matt had a fire and hot cup of tea ready for me the moment I peeked out of the tent.  I played guitar and climbed around on the boulders while he cooked breakfast.  One of my birthday plans was to eat a cupcake with every meal--starting with breakfast--one for each decade of my life.
We packed up camp and moseyed into the park.  First up was a hike to Hellroaring Creek.  The clouds started to break up allowing for some nice sunshine on our hike.  The spring flowers were lovely, especially the pasque flowers which I find so delicate and beautiful looking.  Along the way we crossed a suspension bridge over the Yellowstone River.  This suspension bridge was significantly more sturdy that the one we hiked across near the Kootenai Falls.  The one in Yellowstone is wider and shorter which adds to the greater stability, but we could still make it sway and bounce quite a bit.  We saw all sort of wildlife.  There were a good showing of birds, a small herd of bison, a pair of sparring pronghorn antelope, and hardly any other people.  I think we met only three other hikers--a group of young men from Chicago on a graduation trip.
We had a late lunch at the Yellowstone River Picnic Area as that was also the location of the trailhead for our next hike.  Matt surprised me with a four-pack of the new hard cider I'd been eyeing-but-not-buying for several weeks at the store.  I enjoyed one with my hummus, crackers, and pizza.  Oh, and the second cupcake of the day, of course!  There was a herd of female big horn sheep hanging out on a nearby hillside which was fun to watch.  There were ravens that clearly are habituated to human food that were nearly menacing us while we ate.  That seems to be the case every time week eat at this picnic area.  One got so close while Matt was preparing food that when Matt looked up it made him jump with a start!
It started to rain over lunch and so we waited around a bit at the picnic area before heading off for our second hike of the day-- the Yellowstone River Picnic Area Trail.  In the end we started and ended the hike in a light sprinkle.  Frankly it felt pretty nice, like air conditioning for hiking.  There were so many swallows on this hike it was kind of unreal and we saw two more herds of big horn sheep.  It was such a nice, easy, relaxing stroll, too, culminating in an expansive view from a high promontory overlooking the river.  We laid up there basking in the glory of it all for quite a while before turning around and retracing our steps to the trailhead.
After the second hike we headed on down the road for the Madison Campground where we had a spot reserved for two nights.  I set up camp while Matt fried up some falafel, served with homegrown spinach, chips, and my favorite, locally-made salsa.  And the third cupcake, of course.
We were both delightfully worn out from our incredible day and so when the rain picked up in the growing twilight as we were wrapping up dinner we decided to skip the campfire and just retire to our snugly, warm sleeping bags with our books.  It was a GREAT day.  That is was my birthday is even better.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Coming Home to Hail

As we were loading the last bits of gear into the car before embarking on our trip to Yellowstone last Thursday I stopped to snap a few photos of our tulips which Matt and I agreed were looking exceptionally lovely this year.
We camped Thursday night through Saturday night.  We'd intended to camp Sunday as well, but it was pouring buckets and windy as all get out so we called it a weekend and returned to Billings through a steady downpour.  There was a beautiful rainbow leading us home for the last 45 minutes of the drive or so.
And as soon as we hit town we could tell that there has been quite a storm at home, too.  The streets were littered with debris from the landscaped medians and surrounding trees.  Eager to see how we fared we immediately set to making a round of our place--outside and in--once we got back to the house.

The house itself suffered one broken window, but nothing major.  Thank heavens.  We lost some paint on our fence and picnic table, but, frankly, it wouldn't hurt to give both of those a new coat of paint anyways.  It also pretty much shredded the cover we had over our cooling unit, but that is highly replaceable (and not even that expensive either).
The garden on the other hand had clearly taken a good beating.  Matt started raking and cleaning up and it looks much better now, but man, at first pass it looked just terrible!  Our poor plants had been looking SO good, too.  I was a little crestfallen looking at it--though as I said it looks much better now that the hail has melted and Matt cleared away the torn and damaged leaves.  Matt was glad he hadn't been home watching it happen and knowing there was nothing to be done about it.
But, those pretty tulips?  It was a like a tulip bomb had gone off--petals scattered all over the ground around the now-bare stems.  The purple and white one, which Matt had fancied in particular, was snapped off at the stem and plastered into the mud.
There were branches and leaves and blossoms strewn about every where.  Piles of hail had accumulated along the hedge and edges of the house and garden beds.  Some of those hail stones were pretty darn big!  Most were closer to pea size, but some were golf ball sized.  The grass was full of them.  It almost looked like it had snowed.  Its amazing the damage hail stones can do in such a short time.
The row covers over the greens had taken on so many holes as to have the look of Swiss cheese, but they must have deflected some of the blows because the plants beneath don't look so bad.  The rhubarb, cabbage, and well, pretty much anything broad leaved also were punctured and ripped.  The wee little peas plants were battered into the ground just as they were reaching their tendrils to the supporting lines strung above.  Everything had a water-logged, smashed sort of look to it.
We have high hopes that most everything will spring back.  The garlic may not as many of the stems were snapped off outright, but the rest of the plants should eventually grow more leaves and get back on with things.  It will just take a little longer before we're eating off them.
It was a bummer, but nothing insurmountable.  Freaky weather hazards come with the territory of agriculture whether we're talking a full-fledged farm or single raised bed.  The scale doesn't change the devastation.  I told Matt that when I worked for USDA I once saw a whole wheat field reduced to stubble.  I'd seen it three days before and it was ripening nicely and then...it was just gone.  That is one of the things I quite like about agriculture.  Its impossible to be disconnected from Mother Nature in all her wonderful and terrible power when you're working with the land.  We, as humans, may like to think we're in control of things, but in so many critical ways they are absolutely out of our hands.  I find that both comforting and distressing, but it is what it is.  We just have to roll with it.  So often blessings come in disguise.  I've never had one come in the disguise of hailstorm before, but....its possible.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Happy Birthday to Me!

I cannot think of a better way to celebrate my 30th year of life than waking up beside Matt in a tent and spending the day exploring the majesty and wonders of Yellowstone National Park.  Life is good.  Oh, happy birthday to me!
The Lower Falls from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.  5/25/2013
A eruption in the Back Basin at Norris.  5/11/2014
Different water temperatures lead to a wide variety of colors in the Norris Front Basin.  5/12/2014 
Standing in the steam cloud of Grotto Geyser.  It was a nice and warm place to be on a brisk spring day.  5/4/2013
Frozen Lake Yellowstone with a backdrop of snow-capped mountains.  5/11/2013
When the bison are on the road the rest of the traffic has no choice but to come to a stop.  Its pretty remarkable to have these massive creatures only a window pane away.  They are so big.  They're like dinosaurs, only mammal.  5/11/2013
Our silhouettes from the boardwalk on one of the pools of boiling mud at the Artist's Paintpots.  5/12/2013
The Lower Falls from a distance from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.  5/25/2013
A hairy woodpecker on dead wood near the Artist's Paintpots.  5/12/2013
The strange landscape of the Front Basin at Norris.  5/12/2014
Pretty, pink-striped Springbeauties blooming along the South Rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.  5/25/2013
Matt and I could both watch the bubbles at the Artist's Painpots for hours on end.  It never ceases to be amazing.  I mean, its boiling mud?!   5/12/2013
Matt is an all around fab-tab-ulous cook, even when he is cooking out of a cooler.  5/25/2013
An eruption of Grotto Geyser.  5/4/2013
The highway clings to the cliff in the Golden Gate Canyon near the park entrance.  5/5/2013
A golden-mantled ground squirrel digging around near the Artist's Paintpots.  5/12/2013
The Lower Falls from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.  5/25/2013