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October through December, 2009

Snowflakes Are Dancing



01 October 2009
The View from Gary's Office

The first day of our Fall reporting period began with over 4" of new snow. The good news is it put out the fires in Bridger Canyon, western Montana and Yellowstone Park. It was a very light and short fire season for the region, but a couple of friends suffered damage from the Bridger Canyon fire. While the damage to the homes can be quickly repaired, the scars around the homes will be evident for a long time to come and will be a concern if and when we have heavy Spring run-off.

Jan (Pauline's sister) and husband Mike had arrived from England two days before and enjoyed one fine day of September weather before the snow. October 2nd provided a short respite from the storm, so we spent a pleasant day in Yellowstone Park



05 October 2009
Still Snowing & More to Come

Son Marcus, daughter-in-law Samantha and grand-daughter Lauren arrived on the 3rd of October. Another low pressure system followed them and stalled over us, bringing more than 4" of snow again. We finally got out the snow shovels to clear the walk and began to wonder if it was time to put the snow plow on. Landscaping was put on hold (notice the equipment at left above). We cancelled a planned trip to Glacier National Park and 8 of us car-pooled in friend Colleen's Suburban for a visit to Cody and the museums there.

Son Paul arrived with girl-friend Jill, bringing our guest total to 7. Son Arthur came from town and we had many friends over to celebrate Pauline's birthday, when we managed to seat 19 people in the Dining Room.

The weather did warm up a bit by the time we dropped Jan and Mike at the airport for their return to England on the 14th of October. During their stay, we had several days with highs in the 20's and one night the temperature was 7°F (−14°C).

The snow wetted things down, so we did a burn once our guests were gone. We collected slash at our storage area; the loosely stacked, dry wood burned hot and fast with no accelerants. The cold weather had turned the green leaves of the surrounding trees brown and dry, so we stood by with backpack sprayers. Oops, looks like a spark ignited grass behind Dan! A quick squirt put it out.

A movie (2.2MB) 20 minutes into the fire shows how fast things moved. As the fire burned down, we took the opportunity to burn scrap wood left over from construction, prepare stakes for Winter plowing and do general clean-up of the storage area. By 5PM (after an 8-hour day) we had raked out the ashes, wet them down and returned home for a rest.

After the cold spell, we harvested the last of the carrots and left the electric fence off. The deer soon discovered the unprotected swiss chard and compost. We had two fences 3' high and 3' apart with wires placed to prevent deer climbing through. As predicted, they did not jump the fences; they carefully climbed through, rubbing against the 'dead' wires.

Do not get the idea from the previous two pictures the weather had returned to “normal.” We had many cold, drizzly days and the end of October brought more below-freezing highs. On the 28th we woke to 9" of new snow, rekindling the debate over putting the plow and chains on the big truck, a prospect that involves a lot of crawling about under the truck. We usually do this the week before Thanksgiving and don't remove them until April or May. As a concession, Gary put Blizzaks on the Highlander.

The spate of bad weather meant no progress on landscaping for the month of October. Quite a contrast from last year, when we purposely delayed landscaping tasks to the end of November.

We don't look out toward the sunset, but we still get spectacular sunset views due to the long shadows cast by the trees and rolling hills. This is especially beautiful when the sun peeks below the clouds for just a few minutes before setting.

November lulled us into a false sense of normalcy then turned on us, depositing over 2 feet of snow (a new record) on the 12th. The weather man had predicted “a few inches” and we neglected to put the plow on. Gary was driving 1,200 miles from Yuma with our new RV and had to be towed up the driveway when he arrived on the 13th. Now we are wondering how to get it back down. Lows of 12°F were a good test of how well he winterized the systems during a stopover to visit a friend in Utah.

Cold snowy weather forced the elk to our side of the canyon. We allow one of the carpenters (pictured) who worked on the house to hunt here. He bagged a 5x5 elk within shouting distance of the Main House. He field-dressed the elk and dumped the entrails where he had spotted a mountain lion (away from the houses and the dogs). Near there we found a fresh kill the lion had dragged into the bushes; we did not hang around in case the lion thought we were competition. There was a golden eagle soaring above, waiting to dine on what was left of the two kills.

Shortly after taking the previous two pictures, we chained up the RV, went down the drive, removed the chains and began a 3,750 mile road trip to visit family and friends. During our two-week trip, weather at home remained cold and cloudy. Our southern exposure was little advantage; on return, we chained up to negotiate the still snow-covered drive. A day later, the weather turned really cold: below −20°F at the Main House (colder at the Carriage House), followed by three weeks of clouds and snow. A white Christmas was a safe bet this year. Weather was so bad the elk herd avoided our side of the canyon; they retreated to lower elevations until the weather moderates.

We went on our annual “shopping trip” in the front yard for a Christmas tree. Unlike previous years, we managed to cut a Christmas tree only 7' tall. Putting it up was a problem because our base is meant for larger trees.


We finished the year by celebrating the New Year at a local country club. The party culminated in watching the ball in Times Square (10PM local time), followed by a quick trip home to be in bed by 11.


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