Monday, October 28, 2013

Last Week Around Here

Autumn here in our part of Montana is a wonderful time of year. I've always loved autumn, but here it's actually a strikingly different season from both summer and winter.  It's mostly sunny and dry; it's distinctly cooler, but still feels so much warmer than the thermometer reads.  I wanted to share just a few photos I took last week while taking care of the mundane tasks of daily life.

(in the order they were taken)

This business is between us and town; the beetles eat the flesh of bones, I assume mostly for skulls mounted for trophies.  Also, they sell fresh eggs*.  For reals.

I saw this as I drove into Missoula and was able to pull into the credit union parking lot to get a quick picture. Look how blue the sky is!

Ideal Delia napping conditions: the back cushion on the sofa had fallen onto the seat and that spot was full of sunbeam.

Betty always likes playing pine cone, but this day she got three (3) pine cones in her mouth at once!  AND she still managed to chase down or otherwise block the others.

*Eric suggested that I should write "chicken eggs" because it sounds like they are beetle eggs. I was going to do that, but then drove by today and the sign does not specify that the fresh eggs are indeed chicken eggs.  So, who knows?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

It's Getting All Autumnal Up In Here

We're about a month into our second autumn in the Bitterroot and it has been fun to discover (and rediscover) some of the beauty of this time of year.  Down on the valley floor there are a lot more deciduous trees than I remember seeing around in Washington County and in Portland or maybe here their colors are different or the angle of the sun (or the fact that the sun is out a lot) make them seem brighter.  Also, the whitetail deer and the wild turkeys are hanging around the yard and road more these days which is fun to see so long as you see them at the right time when you're driving.

(apologies for the orientation issue which is partly responsible for the size, but at least I got it rotated)

The type of trees along our road up from the valley floor undergo quite a bit of change in the 5 or 6 minutes it takes to get to our house.  This photo is taken at the bottom of the mountain, just as the road turns from pavement to dirt.

From our house your can see the swaths of gold as the tamaracks change color in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness.  You can also see just a bit of snow up there above the timberline.

Last year we had snowfall before Halloween. It didn't stay for long.  I hope we get some this year before
I take down the Bone Yard so I can get a photo of snow on the head stones.  Snow in October sounds so cold, but I still can't get over how much warmer 50 degrees is here. Last week, I sat with Delia in the 'chicken yard" as she fetched, sniffed, and chewed on grass and pine cones; it was not even 50 degrees and I had to take off my coat because it was so warm in the sun. I sat there for at least 15 minutes in yoga pants and a long-sleeve tee shirt and I was warm. I even got a little too warm on the sun side.  I took this phone photo of the southwest sky.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Whose Poop Is This, Anyway?

My guess is that this is more bear scat.  We've looked it up and bear scat varies quite a bit in appearance based on what they're eating.

Betty found (and sampled) this in the lower "pasture" the first week of October.

When are we going to find fox poop?

Monday, October 14, 2013


Just because we don't know enough people to have a Halloween party doesn't mean we* aren't dressing up these dogs!

I modified Betty's Thanksgiving Pilgrim costume to a more literary character.  Like Hester Prynne in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, Bester Prynne has been ordered to wear her shame on her chest.  Unlike Hester, Bester is not that kind of bad girl.  Bester's letter is "B" for the Sin of Barking. Also considered were J for Jumping and W for Whining.

Those little "shoe" buckles just kill me!

Delia's jester collar is something I picked up a few years ago from a thrift store.  She's not nearly such a good sport about costumes as her sister, and all the pictures show it.

"Phooey on your dumb costume!"  In the rest of the photos she's making her when-did-you-start-hating-me-mama-because-I-still-love-you-so-much face.  Ouch. She wore it all of 3 minutes.  Sigh.

*And by "we" I mean, "I".  I do believe that Eric does approve of the dog costumes or has accepted the inevitable.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Costumes All Around!

Just because the human life forms around this joint don't have a costume event to attend for Halloween, doesn't mean the rest of these yahoos aren't going to don their fancy dress.

Oh, Ramon! You're such a fun guy to have around.

Too bad Cub Scouts don't sell delicious cookies. Ramon likes cookies and is an excellent Salesdino.

When I tossed Eric's old Ziggy Stardust wig on Mavis, I knew she'd have to follow in his footsteps.

If Mavis has a "God-given ass" it's on the other side of that wall, in the pantry. Yuck.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Bitterroot Bone Yard

I admit it, after Eric showed me on his iPhone I went through the whole multi-hour iOS7 upgrade with my iPhone so I could use the "noir" setting on the camera for taking pics of our bone yard.

I made these tombstones in 1999 or 2000 or so.  That was before the internet was so vast and deep and wonderful and before I had very much experience with making.  So they're just painted and I was no longer satisfied with them.

Five 20+ year old headstones and one 2-year old dog.

Of course, I wouldn't just waste them, so I decided to recon them using the techniques I'd read about online and seen on TV back when I had TV.

The millipede impression on the upper left is from a plastic millipede that was pinned to the original; these were stored in the attic at one point and got warm enough in summer for the hard plastic millipede to impress the foam.

They're made of rigid foam insulation from a home center and just painted with craft paint.  To take them to the next level, I used Photoshop to make various epitaphs, then transferred those to the foam by pressing firmly with a ballpoint pen to make an impression.

The stencil cutter with a wooden handle and the wood burner with the plastic handle.

Then I traced the indentations so I could better see them for the next step, which was "carving with fire."  That's the dramatic way of saying that I used a wood burning tool and a stencil cutter to "carve" the foam. All the tutorials I read used the wood burning tool, but it was too wide for me to control for the text, so I dug up my stencil cutter which is essentially the same thing only lower watts (so presumably colder) and with a much finer point.  Like every tutorial I read, I did this with excellent ventilation, because burning foam is bad.  I did it outside with a fan.  I truly feel a little guilty for doing this project which contributed to nasty airborne pollutants.

The burned epitaph over the original painted one.  The faux cracks cover the millipede impression.

I also used the wood burner to rough up the edges.  After the burning, I used stuff from my stash and a few dollar store finds to add dimensional details. They're attached with a foam-safe construction adhesive.

After that it was a good coat of primer and then a few layers of glazes (Van Dyke Hue, a light grey comprised of titanium white and carbon black, and carbon black for the drips).

I had a high-hide primer that I colored with universal tint, lamp black.

I asked around for suggestions about securing them to the ground. I got several good ideas, but considering that these were already cut and no-two-alike and that they were only 1.5" thick, I decided to go with the easiest method.

The stack as viewed from the bottom.

I used a foam-safe construction adhesive to attach some PVC conduit that we had left over from when we had wifi internet installed.  I cut it into 1' lengths, made troughs in the back of the "stones" at uniform distances, and then attached them.

With every headstone's PVC spaced the same distance, this jig made it easy to install them all pretty quickly. No need to make the rebar fit a specific 'stone.

This technique was supposed to withstand 50 mph winds.  From our one year of experience here, I didn't think we'd even come close when I was planning and executing this. Then there was that Japanese hurricane that had remants hit the Pacific NW and several hours later us. We had two windy nights that were supposed to have gusts up to 40 mph. I don't know how hard the wind actually blew, but all but one of these headstones tore free of the PVC. The didn't get far and were found within a few to several yards from our bone yard.  They've been reattached with 2-3 times as much adhesive and I am planning on paying better attention to wind advisories.  

Then I made a jig using scrap PVC and two T-couplers from the hardware store.  That jig made it a one-person job to pound scrap rebar (ten 2' lengths) from the hardware store into the ground.  WOO!

My plans include varying the sizes of the new head stones to make it look more realistic-ish. 

I have plans for expanding and improving our Bone Yard in the next few years including more headstones, a temporary fence, etc.  WOO!


Friday, October 4, 2013

Snow In The Bitterroots!

October 2, 2013 and there was (and still is) a bit of snow in the Bitterroot Range.  You can't see it from our house, but it's there!