February 2010


When I was a kid, mail time was a big deal.  My brothers and I would go walking down our driveway with Mom, out towards the main road.  We weren’t allowed to cross the road by ourselves for a long time, as the mailbox was located in a curve on a road where folks liked to test the speed limit.  Mom usually made us, and whatever dog(s) accompanying us, wait for her while she crossed the road to retrieve the mail.  When she returned with her arms full of bills, circulars, magazines, and letters, it was as if she brought missives from another world.  I always liked to go through the mail on the kitchen counter, sorting it into piles for mom, for dad, for firestarter.  Sometimes there would be a letter for me, from my best friend – we’ve been writing letters to each other since we were old enough to sign our names.  Sometimes there would be a Sears catalog, and I would spend hours flipping through the shiny pages, making Santa’s Wish List.

Going to get the mail in Babb is not nearly as much fun.  There’s no rural delivery here, the post office’s hours are not extensive, and the drive into Babb and back generally eats up about 1/2 hour out of the day, as there is always someone to visit with at the post office.  On days when I go to work in Cut Bank, I often leave before the post office opens and return after it closes, so I don’t get the mail every day.  There’s generally a huge pile of bills, insurance information, and credit card solicitations awaiting me at the post office.  But occasionally, there is a letter from my best friend, a postcard from my grandma, or even better, a package with contents unordered by and unknown to me.  That happened last week, when I went to the post office to get the mail that had accumulated while I’d been in California.  I opened up an oversized mailer to find this:

Isn’t this darling?  I searched for a note revealing the kind sender’s identity, but to no avail.  I knew the gifter knew me well, what with the t-shirt being in my favored shade of chocolate brown.  So I took to Twitter to ask the internets who had gifted me.  And it didn’t take long until I found out that my dear friend Layla Jane was the thoughtful sender.  I like this t-shirt almost as much as I love LJ.  Give bees, and peace, a chance, y’all.  And send more personal mail.

2010.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

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The best thing about flying?  Clearly, the peanuts.  Oh, wait … not anymore.  I can’t ever remember if it was 9/11 or that widespread allergy kids seems to have to peanuts nowadays, or maybe just the economy, but it’s been a while since I got a pack of honey roasted peanuts en route from Salt Lake to Atlanta.  Or maybe I just grew up and realized that the peanuts are okay, but that the uninterrupted time to read is the best part of flying.  Sure, I get frustrated and wish I could get on my Blackberry to answer emails, work on my “to do” list in Google docs, and update my Facebook status.  But really, not having internet access is a blessing on a flight, for me.  I love to read but sometimes need a forced disconnection to dive into a new book.

On the way home from California, I started (and finished, of course, as y’all know from my ramblings on Girls in Trucks) Half Broke Horses, by Jeannette Walls.  I’d read her memoir, The Glass Castle, a while back, and knew the author’s voice to be clear and true.  No disappointments – I would say that I enjoyed Half Broke Horses a good bit more than The Glass Castle, actually.  Where The Glass Castle tells of Walls’ bruised childhood, Half Broke Horses is Walls’ maternal grandmother’s story.  Those readers who’ve read The Glass Castle get the chance to be armchair psychologists with this inner glance into Walls’ mother’s mother’s world, and why she happened to raise her daughter in such a fashion that her daughter would go on to raise Walls in a manner that would spawn best selling books.

However, Half Broke Horses is by no means a prequel to The Glass House.  It stands straight and true on its own two feet.  I loved the story of Lilly Casey Smith, a gal raised to do for herself.  Over her lifetime, she breaks mustangs, teaches Mormon children about suffrage, learns to pilot airplanes, drives hearses with no brakes, lives on farms and ranches, in towns and cities, marries men, has children, buries those she loves.  She takes more than one hoof to the face, always rising again to meet life’s next challenge.  She is an indomitable woman, with the spirit of a half broke horse, though she is more likely to characterize the other characters in this story as half broke horses.  She seems to see herself as an ordinary, grounded woman doing the very best she can during the Great Depression, though hers is no ordinary life.  I was reminded of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books – there are parts of Half Broke Horses that bring those stories to mind, but with a much darker, and more realistic, back story.

Walls’s author’s notes indicates that this story of her grandmother is more an oral history than a researched history, and that she cannot be certain of all the names and dates, and has changed some facts to protect privacy – I feel certain some lawyer made her add this note.  What matters about this story, as with all stories, is not whether it is true, but whether you can see pieces of yourself, the bad and the good, in its telling.  I recommend Half Broke Horses.

2010.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

Flathead Lake, which takes up a good bit of Montana’s gorgeous Flathead Valley, just over the Continental Divide from Babb, is the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi.  I think it is also up there on “most beautiful” lake lists, too.  I spent last night there, at a dear friend’s house out on Rocky Point.  Flathead Lake bade us a very peaceful morning:

Looking east across Flathead Lake.

Close up of those pretty mountains in the distance.

I could spend every weekend of my life exploring my adopted state, and still never see enough.  As Steinbeck famously wrote, in Travels with Charlie:

“I am in love with Montana. For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection, but with Montana it is love, and it’s difficult to analyze love when you’re in it.”

Well said, Mr. Steinbeck, well said.

2010.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

Every time I drive through Atlanta, I swear that I’ll never do it again, and that if I do I’ll never live to see 30, much less 90.  The multiple lanes where I-75 and I-85 collide, the swerving, speeding, tricked out Hondas, the enraged drivers hopped up on sweet tea and cocaine … it gives me nightmares.  When I long for the South, I don’t long for the insane amount of people trying to live there, trying to drive on its streets.

Montana suits me better.  My commute to work is seventy miles, one way, but just one traffic light.  In good weather, it takes exactly an hour, which is about how long I figure a lot of my Atlanta friends sit over the course of their ten milecommutes.  But just because I’m going to work doesn’t mean I’m going “to town.”

Town generally means one of two things to near-Babbylonians: Great Falls (167 miles east and south) or Kalispell (140 miles west and south).  “In town,” one is able to visit Costco or Sam’s, Target or Wal-mart, Super 1 Foods or the organic grocery store, depending on the choice of town.  On Wednesday afternoon, I chose Kalispell, eager to escape the winds that had been howling since I’d gotten home from California.  The winds are not all bad – they bring warmth in their power.  Wednesday morning, the radio announcer was calling the Babb-St. Mary area “the Banana Belt,” as the temperatures were hovering around 40 degrees, as opposed to the rest of the area’s teens.  Those toasty Chinook winds can cause the temperature to soar or plummet forty degrees or more in twelve hours or less.

Anyway.  I was sick of hearing the wind unscrew the screws in my roof bit by bit, sick of feeling the wind tie knots in my hair, sick of the wind-created-drift preventing me from driving into the garage.  So, off to Kalispell-town I went.

About 30 miles from town, I hit traffic.  Had to stop dead in the middle of Hwy 2 for a good five minutes.  Just like Atlanta at 5pm on a Friday:

Elk!

Aren’t these pretty gals?

They think they want to cross the road.  They’re ready.  Two-thirds of them are almost across.  We’re all wondering, why did the elk cross the road?

And then, just like that, they change their minds.  Today will not be the day we find out why the elk crossed the road.

Till next time, my lovelies.  I’ll be out on the open road.

2010.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

Everyone I’ve met in the beekeeping industry, at least the commercial/pollination end of it, is tough.  Men, women — all hard workin’, practical folks with finely tuned bullshit detectors.  I appreciate this about commercial beekeepers, although Honeydew’s BS detector occasionally gets me into trouble when I try to spin a tall tale.  Accordingly, for my trip down to California, I packed jeans and boots, tough practical gear.  So y’all might imagine that I was surprised, to put it mildly, to drive into the world headquarters of Steve Park Apiaries and discover this shockingly un-tough looking forklift:

Now, you just don’t see a hot pink forklift every day of the week.  And I especially didn’t expect to see one in a company owned by a man who is a Big, Manly Guy, and employs other Big, Manly Guys.  Guys who wear Wranglers, hunt critters, drink their whiskey neat and keep their hair short.  Well, Dean doesn’t keep his hair short.  But he’s a lovable, and manly, aberration.  He’s also the one who ordered the hot pink forklifts.  Excellent work, Dean.  Never a dull moment at Steve’s place.

Just so you know, these forklifts are specially designed for the beekeeping industry – they’re called Hummerbees.  And they make our lives so much better.  When it gets to be birthday time, y’all tell Honeydew that I want a chocolate brown forklift with turquoise and coral accents.  He can have the pink one.

2010.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

I just spent a whirlwind long weekend in California with Honeydew – we moved bees, got trucks stuck and unstuck, showed our almond grower the inside of a hive or two, got stung, ate out, watched the Olympics, took in a movie, hung out with “the California family,” chased peacocks, and went up to Lake Shasta.  Big post coming this week on almond pollination, but for now, here are some shots of little Roy Rogers.  He’s a puppy all right – he’s either sleeping or playing.  Honeydew is still working with him on not biting – those puppy teeth are like razors.  But it was clearly love at first bite for me.  I adore this dawg:

I think he likes me, too.

Roy likes to sit on the console in the 1 ton, supervising Honeydew’s driving.  He’s a truck ridin’ dawg – Pa Pa would be proud.

What a face!  Maybe NOT the face of Glacier County Honey …

Inspecting a bee yard for pigs, voles, and other varmints.

Napping on the floorboard.

Roy with his Alpha, Honeydew.

I miss them both terribly, already.

2010.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

In these short near-Babb days, I’ve found plenty of time to play on the internets – a month or so ago, I stumbled across a blog kept by a lovely lady named Sarah Schlothan Christensen and made her virtual acquaintance.  She’s many things, as we all are – a young mom in love with her beautiful daughter and darling husband; a gifted, witty writer; and an advocate for literacy, especially in the vein of reading to your children.   Sarah’s featuring me/Glacier County Honey Co. on her blog this morning – check it out!  Glacier County Honey on Behind the Blog @ becomingsarah.com

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