Monday, December 14, 2015

A Few Adventures and the Chores

     We have now been here a little over a week. There have been a few adventures. For instance, I learned that a clay hill where the goat and donkey play makes a wonderful slippy slide... and found myself incredibly grateful for a hot shower and the ability to wash my clothes and jacket as goats and donkeys are fairly unconcerned about where they relieve themselves. Adventurer learned that when Sandman says, "don't walk on the ice," he is trying to help her on a 40 degree day (where the ice is surely not solid especially over moving water) not to go for a swim... and again I am grateful for a washing machine but even more so that my son got my daughter safely out of the creek and up the hill to warm up by the fire.

     We have settled into a routine with the animals and home. I get up with the Mountain Man every morning to start the fire while he prepares for work. I am enjoying the simple task of feeding the fire throughout the day and so far it has been our sole source of heat with the exception of the day that he saw flames through the wall. For that 24 hour period we turned on the HVAC and relied on propane as the property manager made some repairs where the piping leading from the stove attached to the wall. Log cabins shift and settle more than most homes and apparently that was the cause but I am very thankful my Mountain Man saw the flames where they shouldn't be and that Joe, the property manager has now fixed it securely!

     Adventurer joins me most mornings to feed everyone and make sure the water is unfrozen and full. We call out good morning to the horses (Jon Bon Jovi, called Boy, and Mama) and they meet us by the fence to receive their hay. Then it's over to Odie and Lovey (the donkey and goat) to feed them theirs. Check in on the chickens to see that their water is not frozen and that they have not dumped it during the night. We leave the top half of their door open throughout the day so that they can be free range but with the wolf pack in the valley and the coyotes we count every night to see if there are still seven. Larry, the rooster, says hello when we arrive and if daylight beats us he hurries us on our way. After everyone has food we check the mail, grab the paper, and close the front gate. Then we swing all the other gates wide so that all the animals can visit and range around the property together. Some days their antics are very distracting as they are in the front of the house and others they go down to the creek or in a side pasture and we don't see them unless we go looking.

     Next, it is inside to feed the Bear and pick up the cat food. Bear thinks it is quite yummy so I put it high during the day and back down for the kitty crew as they wander in every evening. The Bear still heads straight for his bed every evening as my children say their prayers so the kitties get many hours of free time to wander the home and eat indoors before they scatter in the morning as I walk out. One has decided that Bear is tolerable as a pal and will come in in the day to play with him and be loved on by the children but the rest are still fairly shy of us.

     Around lunchtime, Adventurer and I check the chicken coop for eggs. She gets very tickled by every one we collect and we tell the ladies, "thank you." The evening chores are handled by the animal property manager, Suzanne. She corrals everyone back in their home pastures and feeds them. Sometimes she can stop in for a visit which we all enjoy. Other than that it is basically bringing fire wood into the house, feeding the fire, and back to household chores you'd have anywhere and school as usual. Somehow, the new chores all make the days fresh and new with the animal friends we have here and it is easier for me, a night owl usually, to hop out of bed every morning early. In all honesty, I am sore every evening so it must be more than it seems, for me at least, but it is a good sore and a good night's sleep every night.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Pictures will have to wait till another time

     We had another wonderful day but definitely a full and busy one. Out of bed and off the ranch before day light, I met the movers at 8:30 and checked off boxes as they off-loaded into our storage rooms. Moving into a fully furnished house means that we only need our personal effects at the house for the next few months. Of course, those personal  effects were set to the side to be brought to the cabin. Four hours of standing in the drizzly cold left me ready to warm back up. Another reason to love heated seats in the car! We had time to run a few errands and then back to the ranch to meet the movers. 

     They beat me to the cabin by half an hour which gave them time to off-load the rest of our things onto the front porch. Then I got to stand at the door and direct boxes to either the basement or the attic. I have to hand it to the men, they were incredible professionals and good sports about all the stairs. Mountain Man's decoy collection was left in the front room for him to see as soon as he walked in from work.

     The movers left just in time for me to get a ham in the oven and visit with the property manager who takes care of the animals. Suzanne had been off the property for a few days as she drove the owner to Salt Lake City to catch her flight. It was nice to see her again and chat for a minute. Mountain Man literally walked through the door as the ham came out of the oven and the dining room table was covered with decoys in the few minutes it took to prepare the sides. Fortunately there is a bar and barstools for the family to eat together while the decoys took up our usual space. Mountain Man is happy, all the ducks are accounted for. 

     After dinner we finished unpacking a few more boxes and the little touches around the house are exciting to see. It's amazing to me how well everything seems to fit. I did a little bit of work on Sandman's space in the loft with him while Adventurer and Cat designed and began work on two costumes they are creating. Being in a house again is heavenly in that the girls had room to spend the afternoon having a tea party, playing dress up, and then creating in spite of the damp weather! I loved listening to them collaborate and am looking forward to seeing their final outcome. 

     With the children tucked into bed Mountain Man and I were able to catch up on our day. The job is everything and more than he was hoping but that is his story to tell if I can ever talk him into a guest post. As it is approaching midnight and I have morning chores I decided to share a little about our day and save the pictures for the future. I hope each of you is reading this from a happy, safe place that you are glad to call home. For tonight, I am full of happy feelings and toasty warm by the fire. 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

We Have Arrived!!!

     We feel like we are living a dream! We drove into Montana on Thursday night. As we drove through Missoula, the girls and I stopped to pick up a few groceries and then Adventurer said, "Let's go home and make dinner." Just that simple. Of course, we are not there yet (our forever home) but each day feels a little bit closer. We are feeling incredibly blessed that while we look for property we are able to stay at the Lazy Susan. I don't know where we will be in four months but I am loving where we are today!

     The owner of the house had all the lights on and made sure it was toasty warm inside so our first hours spent in her cabin were very comfortable. Driving up through the front gate and down the drive looked like the perfect scene out of a Christmas movie. I can absolutely see the kids one day driving home with their children to spend Christmas in the mountains at the grandparents' place. The property managers had posted a sign that said, "Welcome to Montana!!", on the front door and they stopped in with a housewarming gift after giving us time to settle. It was a lovely candle that smells yummy and believe it or not is from the Chesapeake Bay Candle Company, which is truly lovely considering we spent the last almost fifteen years calling the Chesapeake Bay area home. 

     Our first few days here the owner was still doing last minute things tying up loose ends before her trip but tonight we are settled in, we have been to our first church service here, and we have even had a friend to dinner. We took a walk down the road from our place and were counting llamas, deer, and wild turkey. Yes, this move feels like coming home.

     Mountain Man starts work in the morning. I expect him to love his new job. We already like our neighbors and thoroughly enjoyed our new church and the people we met there. I will post pictures tomorrow after the last of our household goods are delivered. I just want to say again, how grateful I am. This last year made no sense at so many different points. We appreciate those who made the last year easier and we are so grateful. All we could do was trust in the Lord and try to follow His will. Whatever comes down the line, I am so very thankful for these moments of rest and ease!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Turning the page

     This weekend has left me feeling refreshed, hopeful, joyful, and most of all, grateful! We came to Montana for a few days to look for a home base for the winter as we learn this new area. Our goal was to find something that would fit us all somewhere hopefully in the country. As we journey back to Cheyenne to wrap up the final details of our life there we are looking forward truly to a new adventure with lovely new faces who already seem to hold the promise of becoming quite dear.
Through these gates...
      The need for a peaceful landing spot after this last few months seems to have been met by someone who is by far a better planner than I. In July I was hospitalized briefly and ended up on oxygen. It turns out that my general lack of energy and pep has probably been an inability to breath throughout our entire time in Cheyenne. Six thousand feet in elevation is a dramatic change from the forty feet above sea level from our home in Maryland. After three months on oxygen the pulmonary specialist and Mountain Man and I had reached the conclusion that my lungs simply were not adapting to the change. Trips to locations a mere 1,000 feet lower relieved my need for supplemental oxygen entirely and my breathing became regular. Fortunately the Mountain Man had continued to look for a way back to Idaho and was already receiving requests for interviews on various job possibilities. This is where another's plans enter the picture. We received two offers for what seems to be an ideal job, one in Boise, ID and the other in Missoula, MT.

Nice view on the commute for Mountain Man?

     In all our travels since moving west we have spent time in Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, and South Dakota... We had not yet ventured into Montana at all. Comparing the size of the two towns alone kind of indicated a better fit for us in the more sparsely populated Western Montana. We really are small town folks at heart. So with a surprising twist after a year of looking to return to Idaho we find ourselves moving to Montana. Driving into Missoula on Thursday we found ourselves in awe of the beauty all around us. Mountains and forests, rivers and creeks, this definitely seems the place for us. Which brings us to the need to find a temporary home while we look for property for our forever home.

     We started with a list of addresses for rentals that would allow our Bear. Many of the contacts provided never returned our call. There were also several who asked that we schedule appointments online rather than simply speak to us in person. Two had full voicemails and no other way to contact them. The very first person to return my call introduced herself as the lady with the log cabin in the mountains in Montana. I spoke to her for fifteen minutes learning in that time that she was a retired wildlife Biologist, a spinner, a weaver, a wilderness activist; a lovely lady who upon retirement began living out her dream in the Montana mountains. At this point in her life she finds she needs to go somewhere warmer for the winter and so she looks for people to share her home over the half of the year while she is away. A wonderful woman who is happy to share her Montana dream with us while we find our final home here in the mountains means we will spend our first several months here helping to care for a lovely log cabin with a creek running behind it at the bottom of a gentle slope... there are two horses, a Sicilian donkey named Odie, a lovely goat, and several fun little chickens. We haven't met them all but there are also between 7 and 9 cats. Best of all the neighbors who are also the property managers seem to be wonderful people with whom we share a great deal in common including the fact that we are all just starting into our Montana adventure. They moved sight unseen three months ago to their new Montana life... Sound like anyone else you might know?

Part of the new back yard just after the deer left.

    Gratitude and amazement at our good fortune just fill me. I cannot adequately express how wonderful the last two days have been and how much I am looking forward to the future. After meeting everyone and seeing the property on Friday it was decided that we would come back on Saturday and help set up a tipi. Painted by our new neighbor, based on artwork from a book called "Gifthorse", based on a Lakota legend, raising the tipi together as a group seemed like a lovely start to this new joint chapter in all our lives. I will share more in the months to come.

The owner of the Lazy Susan and her tipi. 

Friday, June 12, 2015

Not Planting a Garden in this Dirt...

     A lot of time has passed since last November and my last post. I apologize for not getting back with a post about scheduling a school year in a trailer and now our school year is almost at an end. Cat, Sandman, and Adventurer have grown both in stature and maturity and for myself and them this has mostly been a lovely year, definitely so as far as our educational pursuits. I have realized though, that I have a tendency to write when all is well and honestly this leg of our journey has left us wondering if we took a wrong turn and made a serious mistake in coming to Cheyenne.

     Everyone I know who has been to Cheyenne loves it here. They consider it a wonderful place to raise a family and have had only good stories of the people they met here. For us, we have not had that same experience. It is not at all what we were looking for with an hours drive to be in the mountains or fishing a mountain river and for some reason we have just not found a sense of community and fellowship. I promised in my first post to share the good and the bad and the squiggly parts of our adventure and yet when things became less optimistic I quit sharing. For instance, twice in our time here I have had a strange male grab ahold of me in public and make me feel threatened which is something I had never experienced before in any location...

     We have still had family adventures with trips to Sheridan, Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, Laramie, Boulder, and many more lovely places. We simply lost that sense of peace, belonging, and coming home that we had found in Idaho. Mountain Man is still seeking employment there to take our family home and we have made a few trips back to the 7N Ranch to recharge and see the loved ones we left behind. On one of our recent trips back we learned of the passing of one of our loved neighbors. He had worked forty years in the town of Idaho Falls and two months after his retirement he passed away from this life. His guitar playing in the summer nights will be forever missed along with his dear, friendly face. Rest in Peace, Fred Rowe.

     When we first arrived in Cheyenne we had high hopes that a very much loved family we were moving near might be the reason we were coming here. We spent many weekend trips to build those relationships and hoped that that might continue but for reasons that aren't mine to share those visits have come nearly to a complete end and we now know that for whatever reason our family is here in Cheyenne that is clearly not the purpose. I wonder now if this isn't a valley of darkness to bring us closer to our Lord and help us learn to trust in Him even more than ever before.

     Mountain Man has a 'good' job that is giving him valuable experience in his field but it is the first experience he has had working in a State job and honestly it has not been a good fit in this particular office. He misses the camaraderie of his years in both the military and construction. He also misses the great outdoors as all of his previous employment has included large stretches outside and nine hour days in a silent cubicle simply cannot compare to his previous experiences. The lack of fellowship is quite likely the largest surprise, I have never seen an office building so completely lacking in this.

     Cat has enjoyed a year preparing for her Confirmation at a wonderful Parish that we are blessed to have found. She and Sandman thoroughly enjoyed the youth program and it has been fun watching their comedic team in action with the other youth. Adventurer was able to experience her first year in a religious education program outside of our home and her comments and insights after every class have also been quite entertaining. She is openly longing for the day she can participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Eucharist which is lovely to see. There is even an adult education program that I have quite enjoyed led by a wonderful Deacon who spent most of his adult life as a Biologist working at National Parks and his friendship has been extended to every member of the family which we appreciate more than I can express in words.

     Somehow as lovely as the Church family here has been and as contented as the children seem Mountain Man and I simply feel more and more lost and long for what we left behind; the peace, the joy, the sense of belonging. I do not know when and where we will go from here but I do not believe that we have found our home. As our 40's rapidly approach it is easy to feel overwhelmed to be so adrift but I continue to trust that the Lord has a plan for our family and a place where we are needed. I will try to share more often even if the twists and turns continue to be not quite what we expected. In recognition of the extreme desire to move forward from here we are once again not planting a garden in the dirt but relying on a small container garden to carry us through. I hope all of you are well. Be kind to one another.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

While in Idaho...

Having shared some snap shots of our life before the move you might find yourself wondering why we ever moved. We were, after all, choosing to take our children from the home and church they had known for almost a decade and take off to the unknown. Prior to arriving in Idaho this last June, neither the Mountain Man or I had ever set foot there.

Here we are on our first week in ID. Just playing around.

The Mountain Man’s family had left farming only a generation before his birth. His father vividly remembers growing up on a farm. Mountain Man spent his teenage years working on another family’s farm. As much as Mountain Man might call me a hippie, my family had been on ranch land in Wyoming until my grandfather and grandmother moved away with their children. Land is part of our heritage, living close to it and getting our food from it, not at a store but at the end of a day’s hard work. Even living in town my fondest childhood memories are of summer days with dinner straight out of my mother’s garden. Ultimately, we both wanted our family to be more self sufficient. We wanted our children to grow up with the obvious proof of the rewards of hard work that working land will provide. You plant, you nurture, and eventually, God willing, you eat the fruits of your labor. 

Obviously we could have bought land on the East Coast near our parents. His are both living on the Delmarva Peninsula and mine live in Florida. Why didn’t we just move outside of town with a bit of land? In our previous location visiting with grandparents was easy. Why would we set out across the country? We had both been drawn to the wide open spaces. Our visit to Crook County, Wyoming two years before had shown us both a place where there were more animals than people. The worst traffic jamb we experienced there had been four horses in the road. The scenery was breathtaking and awe inspiring.

We enjoy a sense of community and friends and family around but as the years have gone by we are seeing people who are increasingly busy. Busy and the years passing us by was a real fear as these kids grow… We moved looking for more connection, for life to follow the natural patterns set by season and weather, hoping for a closeness that comes with fewer people to know and more time in which to know them more deeply. In other words, we would like to be more intentional with our time. We would like to live more deeply.

My mom had this hanging when I was a child.

What did we do with our time once we arrived in Idaho? 

We had some family time.

Mountain Man's brother helped get the generator running.
Aunt's are fun to have around with Playdoh...
And the family enjoyed a meal.

Cat enjoyed time to work on her art, music, and writing.

One of her many drawings.

One of five instruments that lived with us in the trailer.

Looks like a serious writer to me!

I did  a little more of a few things I enjoy.

We went to farmer's markets, days in the park, and one awesome Fourth of July celebration at the 7N Ranch.

Timber Wolf we met at the ID Falls Market.

Some of the many musicians we met at different parks in the area.
The Newby's amazing fireworks display!

 Adventurer said this was our best fourth of July ever!!!

 We went fishing, played in creeks, climbed trees, and took hikes.


So nice to have all this time together!

Come back for our next post so you can hear about scheduling a school year in a 26 foot trailer and what we did with our free time as it started to get cold. :-)

Dress up!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Pictures from before and now... Choices

      Our family has spent the last eight years in our own home. We loved our neighbors and our privacy and our autonomy. This decision to sell what we own and change our lives so completely was not easily made. However, when we researched this part of the country, Cheyenne was not on our radar. So, we chose to rent at first and will wait to consider buying a new home until we are more familiar with the area.

We grew by one person in this home.

My lovely husband built this fire pit.

Sometimes we laughed our heads off

and hugged up on each other.

We played in the snow

and the leaves

planted gardens

and had family visits

as often as we could

and we laughed some more

In case you weren't sure, we had a good life.

      Apparently the rental market is booming in Cheyenne. Plenty of properties available at a wide variety of prices had us feeling optimistic. As the answer to whether or not pets were allowed kept coming back no over and over, we started remembering some of the very best things about owning our own home as we had for the better part of the last decade. As we drove through several shady neighborhoods our sliding scale of suitability was based on two questions, “Does this property fit the budget we are trying to maintain?” and “Do we think we will die in this neighborhood?” After several owners told us they had just listed and rented their properties within a week and that they had waiting lists of up to two pages if the lease they had fell through, it was obvious this was a quickly moving market. One woman called us as we waited outside a home for our appointment to see her listing to tell us it had just been rented to the people who were scheduled to see it before us. Finally, it became apparent that we might have to adjust our budget to get into a home we were comfortable with where we could keep our family dog in our home.  Our plan of living debt free and saving for property of our own again remains important but we may have to figure out a way to bring more in rather than living so inexpensively. Cheyenne is shaping up to be more expensive than our time in Idaho was. 

Some more memories from MD.

Camping on the beach

Fishing at the beach

Monkeying around with friends

and having back yard battles with cousins

Hiking barefoot, of course

One of the Sandman's friends...

A random visit from a neighbor a few doors down. 
Cat's friend clearly making an important point.
A few friends from our time in Idaho...

     While we were in Idaho we were reminded of just how important friends and a sense of community are to our family. It is not places we will miss but the faces of the people we leave behind.

     So we move on from our temporary place of refuge and all the beloved people we came to know there.

     And we move forward to a new place. On our drive in to Wyoming I happened to glance at the map and see Daniel, Wyoming with the location of the first Mass in Wyoming just as we approached the exit to that very spot. Believing in His ability to lead us we made that our first stop on this leg of the journey. 

Our home for this year

Day 1 in Wyoming

     We are settling in at the new home and the kids are looking forward to a very white winter with our first morning in the house finding the back  yard covered in snow.