May 2010


Sometimes, when I am homesick for the South, that canopy of green that my childhood was played under, I will set my I-Pod to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and let the mournful, sweet strains of Shenandoah fill the room.  It’s also been recorded by Bing Crosby, the Statler Brothers, Bob Dylan, Jerry Garcia & Dave Grisman, Arlo Guthrie, Glen Campbell, Judy Garland, Bruce Springsteen, Van Morrison, and Trampled By Turtles, to name just a few artists who must also find comfort in its quiet reflections.  Here are the lyrics, in case you’re not familiar with this old folk song:

Shenandoah

Oh, Shenandoah, I long to hear you,

Away, you rolling river

Oh, Shenandoah, I long to hear you

Away, I’m bound away, cross the wide Missouri.

Oh, Shenandoah, I love your daughter,

Away, you rolling river

Oh, Shenandoah, I love your daughter

Away, I’m bound away, cross the wide Missouri.

Oh, Shenandoah, I’m bound to leave you,

Away, you rolling river

Oh, Shenandoah, I’m bound to leave you

Away, I’m bound away, cross the wide Missouri.

Oh, Shenandoah, I long to see you,

Away, you rolling river

Oh, Shenandoah, I long to see you

Away, I’m bound away, cross the wide Missouri.

I grew up in Virginia, not terribly far from the Shenandoah Valley and River.  I’ve crossed the Missouri River many times, coming and going from Montana, and this song is always on my mind when I do so.

Last year, I joined Honeydew on his yearly Missouri River paddlefishin’ pilgrimage, in the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge.  And as I said in a blog post outlining the highlights of our weekend, going paddlefishin’ was a choice I would make again.  This year, we chose to camp at the Fred Robinson bridge, right where Highway 191 crosses the wide Missouri, about 75 miles south of Malta, Montana.  There is no cell service.  Heavenly.

We picked up our precious niece and nephew on our way to the wide Missouri.  Honeydew surprised Brother Dear and I with his skill in keeping them entertained during our endless ride east across Montana.  Let’s just say that we left Babb around 9:30am and didn’t cross the wide Missouri until nearly 5pm.  By contrast, Pseudo Sister left Denver at 5am and arrived around 3pm.  No, it doesn’t actually take a full day to drive from Babb to the James Kipp Recreation Area on the Missouri.  But it does when you stop twice at McDonald’s, once at the liquor store, and then take 7 year old and 27 year old males with you to the grocery store in Havre.  Just to name a few stops we made!

This is Honeydew’s best friend’s baby, Tucker.  He is just over a year old and just darling.  Smart, too.  Case in point: he helped us unpack the truck and grabbed the donut holes first.  And no, I don’t normally purchase donut holes.  Or Doritos, mint-fudge-covered-Oreos, blue frosted cookies, Munchies, real Coke, or York Peppermint Patties.  See above, taking 7 year old and 27 year old males with you to the grocery store.

This is Amy, Tucker’s mom/wife of Honeydew’s best friend, giving Tucker a ride through the campground.  Tucker is all boy.  He loves his Tonka truck.  He loves his mama, too.

Our home on the wide Missouri.  Tucker’s dad graciously put up the wall tent for Honeydew, Brother Dear, Pseudo Sister and myself to sleep in.  We felt fairly first class.

This area of the CMR reminds me just a little bit of Savannah, Georgia.  The tall, graceful cottonwoods sway with perfect rhythm and languor in the breeze.

This is Honeydew’s family’s campsite – along with his niece and nephew, his brother,  mom, stepdad, and stepsister joined us, and set up a fantastic campsite, complete with canopy dining area and American Flag.  We’re proud to know ’em.

And here’s Honeydew’s best friend giving Tucker the thrill of his life.  The expression on Tucker’s face matched all of ours when the sun came out on Saturday, and we packed up our gear and coolers and took to the wide Missouri to catch some paddlefish.  More about that later.  Happy Memorial Day!

2010.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

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It is raining near Babb.  The kind of rain that strips you of your mascara in an instant.  The kind of rain that keeps bees in their hives, playing keno and trading honey-glazed-doughnut recipes.  The kind of rain that provides a brief respite for beekeepers before the physical demands of the honey crop begin.  I woke up from a nap this evening and thought I was in the South, so loud was the water bouncing off the roof.

We’ll be back to blogging about beekeeping as soon as the sun comes out.  But for now, since the satellite internet is degraded and barely working under the deluge, and since we’re on a wildlife kick on the blog this week, I thought I’d post some pictures of Foxy Foxy, our mascot and most-frequently-spotted critter at Hillhouse.  Honeydew took these in early May.

Isn’t she lovely?  Each year we’ve had Hillhouse, she’s had a litter of kits under the old bunkhouse.  Fox kits are the reason for the word “mewling,” though they are quite adorable.

Quite a pose.

I would love it if she would bequeath me her tail in her will.  I would love to run my fingers through it, tickle a little girl’s face with it, maybe curl it up and put it in my jewelry box, to admire each time I hunt up my grandmother’s pretty pearls.  But only if it’s dry.

Stay dry, my pretty.

2010.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday.  Mama Moose came to see us this morning.  Do you see her baby, just to the left?  We’re a regular Moose Nursery at Hillhouse these days – our darling friend Max saw one Mama Moose give birth to a calf, right on the edge of Gretchen’s Mirror, last week while he was house/dog sitting for us.  Shortly after we arrived home, our second Mama welcomed twins.  Moose can be a bit ornery and cantankerous, but their babies, like all babies, are fuzzy and clumsy and precious.  And not nearly as scary as the grizzly bear cubs we saw yesterday.

The day wore on.  I was in Cut Bank lawyerin’, but Brother Dear and Honeydew were beekeepin’.  Sometimes, when the bees are low on honey and a bit hungry, we’ll give them a drink of sugar syrup to tide them over until the nectar flows again.  When we feed them, I like to imagine them in their hives, whiling away the rainy, cold hours, drinking pina coladas, talking about all the fun they’re going to have at the lake as soon as the sun comes out.  This is Honeydew spraying out the syrup tank with the pressure washer.

The dandelions are in bloom, and though dandelions are hard on lawns, they make bees happy.  And so I have learned to tolerate them, and even to get excited when I see them.Because once the dandelions are blooming, you know that there is pollen, and though it might make me sneeze, it is good for bees.  Do you see the bright yellow pockets on the legs of the honeybee, below?  Those are her chaps, and that yellow is the pollen that she has gathered.  She’ll turn it into feed for the larvae bees, incubating in their cells.  Did you know that the Queen will lay 1,ooo – 1,500 eggs per day?  She is a busy lady.

At the end of the day, everyone was tired, and took a nap.

Watching Roy sleep makes me laugh.

Everyone tells you to appreciate the little things.  I appreciated this very average, irreplaceable Tuesday. And I especially appreciate Brother Dear, who took all of these pictures, and made me part of the day, after the fact.

2010.  Glacier County Honey Company.  All Rights Reserved.

Honeydew is of the opinion that my beloved Bucky Dawg is utterly worthless, mostly because he is sweet and kind and self effacing.  So, when Buck sat out in the Little Field, where Honeydew and I were married, baying his fool head off for a good half hour this evening, Honeydew thought nothing of the same.

Honeydew is of the opinion that his beloved Roy Boy, the puppy, is the combined Einstein-Mother Teresa-Jack London of dogs.  So when Roy, after thirty minutes of Buck’s baying, suddenly leapt from his bed, howling at the door, Honeydew paid him some attention.  Looking out of our kitchen window, Honeydew’s sharp eyes immediately noted the cause of Buck and Roy’s consternation.

Mama Griz.  With two cubs.

Hillhouse sits on about an acre of fenced grass.  Two cattlegates provide east and south entrances.  The one pictured above, with the sow and her progeny, is the south cattlegate.  We’ve seen plenty of bears around here (last spring, we spent several evenings watching a griz drag a dead, frozen cow out of our pond and have a Mardi Gras sort of time consuming it; last summer, a black bear climbed up on the back of Honeydew’s flat bed and promptly popped my fancy new two seater inner tube, a birthday gift from Brother Dear), but today marked the first time we saw bears within the boundaries of our fences and yard.

Here’s mama and one of her cubs (you can see the legs of the second cub behind her), waltzing over the cattlegate like Angelina Jolie strutting down the red carpet with her brood.  No word on whether she’s made out with her brother, married Brad Pitt, or birthed/adopted cubs on multiple continents, too.

2010.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

I hardly know where to begin.  In the last week, I watched my brother be hooded as he accepted his juris doctorate; hugged my cousin, my uncles, my aunts, my grandmother, my very dearest friend, her father, her brother, her husband, her son; and drove from South Carolina to Virginia to Montana.  There is much to write about.  But tonight, as my brain slowly unfogs from forty two straight hours on the road, I am thinking of summer, the summer I just experienced in the green land of my childhood and the summer that is to come in my beloved Montana.

While in Charleston, helping Brother Dear celebrate his graduation, I journeyed to the Farmer’s Market.  If there was ever a definition of summer, it’s a farmer’s market:

Strawberries.  The very taste of summer.

Pecans.  The very taste of the South.

Chicory coffee.  I enjoyed mine au lait, with a beignet, fresh out of the grease, topped with succulent strawberries.

Grits, of course.  I stocked up.  Montana grocery stores, bless their hearts, don’t carry real grits.  Which is fine by Honeydew, but un-fine by me.

Flowers!  It will be quite a while before we see this profusion of color and scent in Montana.  Though I must say that when we do, it won’t cost $15 at the Missoula Farmer’s Markets.  My gracious!

Mmmm.  Pattypan squash.  Sautéed with Vidalia onions, you’re hard pressed to find a better side out of a cast iron skillet.

I don’t know whether this is true or not, but I found it pretty funny.  Your local grocery store just doesn’t have this level of personality in its aisles, no?

All three of these fish make me happy.  But I’m not surprised the grouper sold out before the flounder.

I just like their marketing.

Maters!  The essence of summer in the South.

Or is it peaches?  Isn’t it wonderful to have choices?  These peaches smelled prettier than the inside of your baby girl’s wrist, or your grandma’s perfume.

Now, who do y’all think taught me to love a farmer’s market?  My mama, the farmer’s daughter, of course.

A local beekeeper with his pollen. We had a lovely chat, about summer, and bees, and possibility.  I’m home tonight, back in Montana, where I belong, with my husband, my brother, and the dogs.  Everything seems poised on spring’s sharp edge, full of the possibility of big success, big failure, but big love, regardless of what happens.  Good to be under the Big Sky once more.

2010.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

Brother Dear graduated from the Charleston School of Law this past weekend.  He became the fifth descendant of William Francis Stone, JD, LLM, to graduate from law school, and brought our generation’s total to three of five.  And Howard, the fifth of those five, might well have gone on to law school had he lived past his nineteenth birthday.

These are our five:

William Francis Stone, Jr; Charles Sanford Stone, II; Courtney Stone Fullerton; Charles Marshall Stone; Randolph Tyler Stone.  I think my granddad, whom I did not have the pleasure of meeting before his death, would have been proud.

This is Brother Dear with our darling mother.  Mama Stone does not hold a formal JD, but after nearly thirty-five years of living amongst lawyers, I wouldn’t want to go up against her in court.  I think granddad would have been proud to know her, too.

2010.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

Last week, I stepped onto my patio to see this:

My parents’ beloved hot tub, surrounded by snow, framed by monster icicles.

Don’t you just feel cold and miserable looking at this?

Brrrrrrrr.

But this week.  This week, my family is gathered with the other family we are not actually related to, but think of as our family, at our ramshackle little cottage in South Carolina.  At the beach.

We say we have all taken a week off to celebrate my brother’s graduation from law school.  (Summa cum laude!)  But I think it’s really just an excuse to get together and eat.  So far, we’ve eaten nearly ten pounds of delectable shrimp; fifteen fabulous cupcakes from Cupcake in Charleston, South Carolina; hundreds of pecans my mama shelled and toasted with her pretty hands; several pints of local strawberries that taste like June and sunshine; and fresh, crusty bread from the farmer’s market.  We have also talked endlessly about topics as diverse as coal mining engineering research; Supreme Court decisions influencing the development of beach front property; forklifts specifically designed for apiaries; and whose turn it is to go to the store for more ice.  My godson is here, and we have whiled away many hours watching him do all the things that two-year-olds do: walk, run, eat, and fall.

I am more relaxed than I have been in over a year.  And possibly a little chubbier, too.

2010.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

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