Monday, November 25, 2013

Guest Artist: JohnHunterDesigns

This is a pastel rendition ,by JohnHunterDesigns, of a photo ( below ) that I took in Glacier last summer looking north from Logan Pass  at the Continental Divide and the Garden Wall . The short flat mountain is Haystack Butte. My son John , who earned a Bachelors in Fine Art  , is a multitalented artist in many mediums. He is skilled at painting , pastels, print making, ceramics, pottery, framing and matting, and furniture making.
Pastel Glacier National Park Continental Divide by JohnHunterDesigns (with permission)

This was my original photo of the "Going to the Sun Road" . It is truly so beautiful that it almost does not look real.  It is snow time now but you can bet we look forward to the road opening next June. For more information on John's art please click this link to JohnHunterDesigns

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Happy in Montana: Flotsam and Jetsam

A Flotsam and Jetsam Sunday walk on the North Shore of the Flathead. Officially a waterfowl production area that has wetlands surrounding the shoreline. This area is closed during the spring when the waterfowl are nesting . But at other times of the year a nice walk that my daughter introduced me to.
There is a whole assortment of driftwood from twigs to entire trees. Particularly there is a nice collection of multicolored rocks along the border of the wetlands and the sandy beach. Where the water has retreated , there are multiple water foot prints etched in the sand. We have had some nights in the teens so there is ice for about 50 feet into the lake . It is a windless afternoon but  31 degrees. One would think it would be  quiet but there is the call of the geese over head. More intriguing is the sound of the water moving under the ice , the gurgling , the creaking like a million whispers of something very important. Only Nature knows what was transpiring in those whispers. Between the sandy beach and the singing rocks is a layer of puffy material like peat moss that surrounds and cradles the dried timbers that have washed  ashore. Old bones of once stately trees cushioned in their final resting place.

As I started out that afternoon it was quite blue and sunny but the clouds moved in quickly to turn the colours to a muted palette. It was a great day for a walk . A day to pick through the debris of Summer and Fall .
A Maggie guarding his dinner

Beach reflections

Water foot prints

singing rocks full of color

Walking to the wetlands

Geese over head

Sand sculpture 


the last of the ancient forest

Sunset from the Eastern Shore

Wetlands  and Foothills

Ice fancy

Timber bodies washed to the north shore

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Happy in Montana: Sunny Days Saturday

Whitefish Lake
 Sunny days at Whitefish Lake . Winter often brings an abundance of clouds. We are having a stretch of sun drenched days. Of course that comes with a bit of a dip in the temperatures. Generally 10 in the morning and above freezing in the day.
Back at the house the neighbor horses are enjoying the sun . They almost look glowing in the gentle winter sun. We are enjoying the break from the clouds. There will be plenty later in the season.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

After the Storm: Happy in Montana

striking out
 The day after the snow storm. There is something hypnotizing watching the flakes swirl from the blackness of the sky and collect on the deck. A foot of snow in the yard and a lot still on the county road. The plows do not run on the weekend. Or at least not yet in our neck of the woods. 3 distinct tracks which works well until you have oncoming traffic then someone has to go into the snow . As it turns out the majority of the snow fell in and next to the Foothills. Once I drove out of the Foothills, the snow was extremely light and the roads were dry. Onward with the day's errands.
North Shore of the Flathead
 The wind was blowing at a pretty good clip on the north shore. The Lake is always a welcome sight. It is like a mirage. As you travel south it rises out of the blur of the horizon and then makes itself known. At first you can't believe it is there in all of it's bigness , then you realize it is indeed real. It catches the sun and makes a grey day shimmery.
Wind picking up and making some white caps
 The water towards the north west area of the lake was a beautiful glacial green with white caps from the gusty bursts of wind.
The land on the north shore of Flathead lake is flat and full of wetlands and waterfowl nesting areas. Of course this shoreline is low and subject to flooding as well especially for high snow pack years. All of the snow melt from the western slopes of Glacier Park eventually finds it's way here to this lake via the Flathead River.
Echo Lake and the wintering waterfowl
On the way home I dipped down to see what was going on at Echo. Dozens of ducks and geese were swimming in the unfrozen part of the lake. Their squawking fills the air. I am not sure why I am drawn to ducks and geese. They seem to be so happy and they love their flocks. Their togetherness. Sometimes in this connected world I wonder if we have more togetherness or less?
 A cute solo duck paddling in the still waters of Echo Lake.
Snow transforms life to Still in Black and White
 Jewel Basin in still life and black and white. The snow has transformed the surrounding area into an Ansel Adam's like print. The north end of  Echo Lake is shallow and has started to freeze over. Echo is a gift of quiet whereas the Flathead Lake is a dynamic windy movement filled place.
Jewel Basin 
 The drive home is punctuated with dramatic skies and quiet snow covered meadows. As I drove past this coyote meadow a bald eagle flew over head. Greetings to the Eagle spirit. It is good to get back to the cozy house in the woods.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

the last hooray for the Western Larch 
 Our second snow coincided with the last golden colors of the Western larch , perhaps 4 inches that melted over this last week. The last rays of the day heightened the golds of the Larches. I will miss them until they return in the spring with their faerie green needles.
Magic sky
 The sky is ever changing. Much of winter is cloud cover in this North West corner. Unlike the startling blue skies of eastern Montana, we have the Pacific flow and moderate temperatures that comes with the clouds. The patterns and colors change by the minute and although you can count on grey skies occasionally the blue will break through.
The yard transforms into Narnia
Today's snow is piling up quickly . It started snowing mid day on Friday and has been steady. Tempertures in the mid 30s kept the snow from sticking until 2 AM this morning . Since then we have about 12 inches. Decks shoveled , paths cleared, young trees cleaned of their snowy burdens.  The bird feeder is tentatively filled. I say tentative as the bears are not hibernating just yet. But I feel badly for the  birds looking for a meal .  Everything is hidden under at least 12 inches of snow now.
Time to shovel the deck and clear off the wood pile 
 The smaller wood pile has been cleared off . The wood stove is working well  heating the house. I took off a few years from burning when I moved . It is nice to get back to the rhythm of the cozy wood stove . It isn't necessarily cheaper to heat with wood but certainly it is warmer as you can cozy up to the stove and read.
Steps leading from the deck , a good 8 inches of new snow
 A chore to be dealt with . Snow is easier to remove before it freezes over night and is more stubborn to shovel.
Doggy break in the Doggy Corral , Marley and Gus are considering the snow
The dogs are watching my activities in the yard from the Doggy Corral. A place not so much to keep them in but to keep the cats and bears out. Yes the Mountain lion can easily leap the 5 foot fence but at least he would have to make an effort to get the dogs.
Time to shovel a path to the garage. 
Snow is pouring and I have finished the path to the "Man shop". Very important as it really is not much fun to slog to the garage in the dark before work . And yes it is now dark morning and night. This is the time for the stout of heart . The Dark Season. I spend a lot of time with my lantern to and from the house after work . I keep in mind that about mid January the sun starts to reappear and there are a limited number of weeks that the winter steals the light.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Silent Sunday: A deer friend

Careful driving in November, the highest accident month for deer collisions

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Winter Breaks Fall

Winter catches the Western Larch
 Winter weather has caught the Larch with it's Fall finery. In fact we have many days before official winter is here. The first winter I lived in Montana the snow started November 17th . We had a very snow blessed year with snow packs well above 100% . This of course translated into a bountiful spring run off ( some call flooding ) . This year we had our first snow end of October I think the 27th and about 4 inches. We were blessed with another 6 inches last night. Is this a fluke ? or are we setting up for another snowy winter?

Evergreen reaching 
In the mountains of North West Montana we have an abundance of evergreens. They differ quite a bit and some have long branches, some short, some reach up or lean down, there are varying shades of green . Most are adapted to these snowy climes.  I have fired up the stove to heat. It has been three years and part of my reluctance was burning  lodge pole pine. Coming from the south east there is something just wrong with chucking a piece of resin filled wood into the stove. My next trip out will be for a chimney brush to fit my flue.
Ice sculpture
 The heavy snow transforms the woods with ice sculptures. It warmed to 40 today so there is a quiet dripping in the woods mixed with turkey sounds. One of the things I remember that is so fun is checking for animal prints each morning to see if any one interesting has been by.
stump in the woods with frosting
The new colorado spruce sits frosted in the front yard. There was a Grand fir there that died from the dry weather last August. Someone forgot to water it.  That same someone had to saw it down by hand then dig up the roots. Well . Note to self "water everything in August and September".  More chores to finish before the Long Winter descends. It is nice to have the "Have to's " done so you can play in the snow . Life is good. Happy in Montana.
McArthur's Park Sweet Cream Icing

Friday, November 1, 2013

Do you have a voice?

Sunset over the Flathead
The question that comes to me today is do you have a Voice? And more important is it heard ? One of the greatest gifts you can give to your children , friends and peers is the unconditional permission to speak their minds and hearts. That seems like a simple idea but there are many people who prefer to be the only one with a voice. Instead of giving all a chance to speak equally there are those who manipulate and bully until most around them are concerned about even uttering a whisper . When you are in a crowd of friends or family watch the dynamics. In a healthy group all members are encouraged to share their stories and experiences. All members are celebrated in their achievements. There is not greater gift than to live within a group of individuals that value all parties . No favorites, no secrets, no power alliances. All equal because really we are all valued spiritual beings. Those who fancy themselves other wise are having delusional thinking. When was the last time you truly felt others heard your voice?
Elk Herd moving into the valley

Snow Kissed Foothills

Larch lighting up the Mountainsides