April, 2004

Gary flew to Bozeman April 9-12 to review the Main House design and budget.

Reading for the trip was Touching the Void, a true story of survival in the mountains against all odds.

No pictures for this trip — I was travelling very light and left the camera at home. I did take my ski gloves (everything else being already in Bozeman), but I arrived to discover that Bridger Bowl had closed one week early due to a shortage of snow. I did not feel like driving to Big Sky, so no skiing this time! Next year we'll do lots of skiing.

Changes to the Main House plans have reduced the costs to a point where we are only 20% over budget, and we actually like the changes. The size is now down to about 5,500 square feet. After some discussion, we managed to squeeze out a bit more, but it remains to be seen how much; we hope to have a good guess by April 22. Many of the changes involve things like simplifying the roof and foundation, so we are not sacrificing much in the way of finish quality. My strategy is to stress the importance of meeting the budget to the architect and contractor, while keeping some "reserve" that Pauline and I can use for upgrades as the construction unfolds. Our contractor was very good at sticking to the agreed budget on the Carriage House, so I am confident that once we get a budget he is comfortable with, we'll be in good shape.

We reviewed some of the drainage issues around the Carriage House and finally decided that some minor changes would be sufficient for now. We will see how things change as we finish up the road and Main House. We'll be able to see first hand how the drainage works next winter, then make further changes if necessary.

While staying in the Carriage House, I was frightened one afternoon by what sounded like someone hammering furiously on the side of the building. I snuck downstairs and peeked around the corner to find a woodpecker madly at work on the siding. He kept returning and was starting to do some damage, so I bought a dummy owl and created a perch for it at that corner. After that, the woodpecker stayed away. There was also evidence of mice in the house, so I set some traps and immediately caught three. After that, I did not catch any more; I suspect the lack of food in the house keeps most of them outside for now.

I chased deer up and down the drive almost every time I came or went. On Sunday, I took a long hike around the property and surprised a herd of about 20 elk. I was very watchful, since I had seen tracks and scat that suggested a moose might be in the area. While returning down the west side of the creek, trying to find the trail, I heard a noise like a combined hiss and growl coming from ahead and above; I soon spotted our black bear friend up a tree looking at me and obviously not happy. I suspect that I had inadvertently chased him up the tree while making my way through the forest. I was very concerned that he might fall out of the tree and decide the best defense is a good offense. Before going on the hike, I had gone through my pack and noticed bear spray from our summer camp-out; I thought "I won't need this." Fortunately, I put it in my pocket anyway, because it sure made me feel better to have it in my hand as I doubled back and headed downhill to find the trail.