January, 2005

Happy Holidays

This was our month for guests. First, Akemi and Akiko (friends of Pauline's from Japan) visited, then Gary's daughter Kendal came with boyfriend Kris, and Pauline's sister Jan came with husband Mike. We had 7 people living in the Carriage House for a few days! The last guests left January 2; the next day Arthur returned to school and Gary and Pauline celebrated their wedding anniversary by staying home and enjoying the peace and quiet.

There has not been a lot of snow this year. In fact, things were pretty bare when our first visitors arrived, and the temperatures hovered around freezing. Both sets of visitors were treated to lower temperatures and snow at some point during their stay, but there was no need for show shoes when we went for hikes on the property. The ski area gets more snow than we do here, so the skiing has been acceptable.

Of course, once all our visitors were gone, we started seeing elk on the property again. Gary and Pauline went up to the Main House January 15 and saw almost 100 elk (Pauline counted 75 within 100 yards of the Main House and others were watching us from the West Ridge). Neko started to give chase but came back to stand near us when the elk refused to run away.

At left, Pauline guides our Japanese visitors Akemi and Akiko down the West Ridge on a tour of the property. We were all treated to some great wildlife views: we saw Whitetail Deer near where this picture was taken; their tails were quite beautiful as they ran to escape Neko. We came within about 15 feet of a Golden Eagle on a drive up to Helena. It was perched on the carcass of a small wolf (road kill) at the side of the road. Akemi and Akiko took a tour of Yellowstone and got to see bison, elk and other wildlife in addition to the thermal features.

Arthur spent most of the winter break skiing, but Pauline, Gary, Jan, Mike, Kendal and Kris took advantage of some of the local sights. Here, Jan scoots down the "Beaver Slide" in the Lewis and Clark Caverns. The caverns are normally closed in winter, but special tours were conducted during the holidays. Part of the tour was by candelight, so we could experience it as the original tourists had.

On our winter tour to Yellowstone Park we saw mountain sheep, eagles, bison, elk, and coyotes in addition to the thermal features. There has been so little snow that the guide took us in a 4WD van to the geysers — a trip that normally requires a tracked snow coach. However, it snowed about 12" the night we arrived and continued to snow all day, so the driving was interesting. We thought we might have to get out and push a few times. After that day, the snow coaches were back in business!

We got a friend for Neko! Pauline surfed the web and found a Border Collie / Labrador mix puppy at an animal shelter in Cut Bank (often in the news for being the coldest spot in the contiguous US). Ten hours of driving later, we had picked up our new puppy and returned home.

At left, Neko and "Pumpkin Chips" survey their realm. Neko has been very patient with the new pup; they play a lot and wear each other out. Pumpkin follows Neko everywhere; here is a movie of them in the snow.

We are going through the steps necessary to get home construction back on track. We met with the Bridger Canyon Property Owner's (BCPOA) Land Use Committee to review the the design and intended use of the Carriage House and Main House. We met the Fire Chief to discuss fire fighting and fire mitigation issues. And we met the board of directors of the BCPOA to discuss the findings. After that, we met the County Zoning Commission to request a zoning hearing at their February 10 meeting; we anticipate no problems at that meeting. Once that is past, we can apply for a construction permit and resume construction.

At right is an old wagon sitting next to our driveway — a gift from a friend.