June 2011

I smelled July when I woke yesterday.  The windows were all open and in my sleep I breathed in the blooming juneberries and blushing wild roses and wasted dandelions and mama’s poppies, poised on the cusp of revealing their orange depths.

Like the call of the loons, which I heard as the sun began to rise, there is something silver in the scent of July … something stolen and secret, not known by all.  It is something like this:

When the breeze blows gently at dawn through the Warehome, it will bring the scent of the high country, the subalpine firs and lichens and molting Bighorn sheep, down from Swiftcurrent Pass.  The wind will sweep through Bullhead Lake and Red Rock Falls and add a note of glacial milk, turquoise and icy, and then rush through the quaking Aspen, taking on a hint of mint and mirth.  By the time it wafts over my pillow, it has taken on the tang of the lower valley’s ponds and moose and willows, and it will gently take my subconscious by the hand, inviting me to come out and play.

Ah, July.  We’re ready for you.

2011.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.


(Guest blog from Brother Dear.)

It is summertime.  I know that statement is true because in the afternoons I can hear my attic fan cut on, pushing hot air out towards West Shore Road, where it dries out the dirt tracks to ageless dust; the dust is picked up and blown into my neighbors open windows and against their homes by every passing car, truck, fourwheeler, boat trailer, propane-laden semi, backhoe, tricycle, and cattle carrier and is thence carried out over Duck Lake, past Browning, and is propelled at incredible speeds through the streets of Cut Bank, where it is either swallowed by Floridian tourists fueling up their RVs or finds a thermal and hits the atmosphere, eventually cascading back to earth to be deposited in the wastelands of North Dakota.  I love the dust.  I’ve missed it.  The folks living on the east side of the road generally offer a contradicting opinion, but that is their business.

Of course, there are other ways to determine the arrival of true-summer around Babb besides attic fans and dry, dusty, gritty, wonderful breezes.  Some people go by dandelions, or the arrival of the valley’s dry herd, or when Hook’s Hideways has its first ropin’, or the opening of the Sun Road.  This year, I know it is summer because I’ve gone hiking without my -40 degree boots.

The first real hike of the season, with Natalee to Iceberg Lake, saw me not only leaving my winter boots at home, but also my hiking boots!  Trudging through miles of snow in sandals is really not that great, but you’ve got to make the most of warm sunny days!

We saw a little moose pretending to be an anteater.

And baby fox kits gnawing on each others necks.

And cloudy, stormy, sunny skies.

Later, I went hiking with Dad up toward Grinnel Glacier.

We saw SEVEN loons at one time.  Wild stuff.  Interweb Loon Experts (ILEs):  Please explain this behavior to us.

Wondered, with the sheep, why these stupid tourists refused to get out of the way.

Hung out with this fella for a little while, before booting him off the trail.  I will not suffer a surly or insouciant ungulate.

Then the next day, I traveled up to Gunsight Lake.

Ran across (and nearly int0) this carefree fellow jay-walking around the Sun Point area.  More on his day later.

Saw this little clown hanging around near Reynolds Creek, begging for scraps.

I followed the trail up to Gunsight Lake, and got within a few hundred yards when I blundered into this avalanche chute.  I came around a corner to discover a 15 ft tall wall of snow and rocks and pulverized trees blocking the path.  The trail crew gang has their work cut out for them.

There’s a trail under here somewhere…

There were bear and moose tracks everywhere.  Never did see the bear, but I did eventually find the moose.

I saw a single person on my hike out, and it just happened to be my friend Eddie, the fella in charge of trails on the east side of the park.  He’d suffered through meetings with “suits” the previous day and was taking the opportunity on his day off to hike out and check out the avalanche that everybody was talking about.  On his day off!  How great is that.

As I headed back down the sun road, windows down and Guy Clark blaring on the radio, my left arm getting a good sunsoaking and my mind in exactly the right place for such a perfect summer day, I noticed that the pullout for Lost Lake was empty of tourist vehicles.  Lost Lake is a lost love for many longtime park employees and locals.  It is one of the few bodies of water in the park that isn’t fed by a glacial stream.  It is more of a pothole, albeit a lovely one, that I assume has a spring and is also fed by early season snow melt.  When I was younger, everybody on the east side “in the know” would spend lazy afternoons fishing and swimming and gallivanting about the pebbled shore and in the (relatively, this is still NW Montana) warm waters of Lost Lake.

Then, tragedy struck the little pond like a sudden swift gust to an old windmill (hate it when that happens).  The news came crashing down in a hail of bitter confusion that some jerk scientist discovered some stupid rare jerk snail.  Swimming was prohibited.  Touching the water, actually, was now against the rules.

I bet that stupid snail is probably dead by now.  I sort of hope it is.  Lacking human contact with hippies, fishermen, drunks, and other assorted local types, I doubt the environment still enjoys suitable conditions for the survival of that miserable, lazy-day wrecking shell-covered grub.  Anyways, as you may have figured out from my general and specific vitriol in the matter of said stupid snail, I haven’t gotten over being denied my god-given right to swim in a pristine pond in a national park populated by an endangered, oft-threatened, and defenseless animal.

Luckily, bears don’t play by the rules.  Good for you, bear.  You made my day.

(No jerk snails were harmed in the making of this long and drawn out blog post.)

Sometimes I tell people that my husband is “in commodities.”  Such wordplay only occurs when I am out of time, or out of patience, but it always works – their eyes glaze over and the conversation is finished before it ever gets started.

Admitting that Honeydew is a commercial beekeeper invariably draws lengthy questioning and usually, excitement.  And that is generally fantastic – I love that people are becoming more aware of the importance of the honeybee to worldwide agriculture, and therefore, to the food cooling in your fridge, stacked in your pantry, beckoning you to your plate.

If I have lots of time and am in a good mood, we’ll talk about beekeeping, and I’ll tell them about my favorite time of the year: brandin’ time.  I’ll describe our roundup, and how difficult it can be to get all the bees together in the same pole barn.  I’ll talk about our teeny tiny branding iron, and how hard it is to place the brand squarely on the bee’s hip.  And then I’ll collapse in laughter when it suddenly dawns on whomever I’m talking to that I am definitely making all this up.  The only kind of branding that beekeepers fool with is the branding of our bee hives.  We don’t brand no bees.

But we do help our kind neighbors, who allow us to place all those bees in their yummy alfalfa pastures, brand their cattle.  And that’s what we were up to last weekend: Maggie Rose’s very first brandin’.

This particular branding was held at the old 3C Bar Ranch, a gorgeously remote spot out on the prairie that makes our “neighborhood” at Duck Lake look like Brooklyn.  The 3C Bar is about a half hour from Glacier County Honey Company World Headquarters, down a bouncing dirt road that offers fabulous views of Glacier National Park.

This picture could be a Chevy ad, no?

On the way to the 3C Bar.

I wasn’t much help at this particular brandin’, being in charge of Maggie Rose and all, but Honeydew jumped in the pens and helped get the calves going in the right direction.

This little guy charmed me.  I grew up with cows, and generally find them to be The Most Boring Creatures On the Face of the Earth and, alternately, Money Pits or Gold Mines, depending on the current state of the cattle market.  But calves are not cows, and like all young things, they are charming and do not suffer from their parents’ massive shortcomings.

The calves are pushed through the pens to the branding table, which is something I’d never seen till last weekend.  We have no big need to brand cattle in the South, but when we inoculate and ear tag cattle, we use a squeeze chute.  Our lovely neighbors explained to me that the branding table is much easier to use, much lighter and more portable, and that as a result they’ve quit using the squeeze chute to work calves with.

Once on the table, the calf gets his brand …

And gets a little medicine, too.  That’s Ralph, above.  This is his operation.

While the brandin’ is ongoing, the barn is not a quiet place to be.  Calves bleat for their mamas, and mamas bellow for their babies.  They wait to be reunited just outside the barn.

The cacophony of the cattle is even better white noise than Maggie Rose’s Sleep Sheep, and she slept through the entire event.

In addition to brandin’ tables, I also learned about containing small ranch children at this brandin’.

Just put ’em in the cab of whatever 4WD vehicle happens to be parked in the barn, and they’re happy as clams.  And totally adorable.

Now, back to rounding up our bees for our own brandin’ …

2011.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.  Big thanks to the family of Ralph Johnson for letting us blog about the brandin’!

Thirty-one years ago today I became a mother for the first time.

Late on June 23 I thought I had indigestion from the BBQ ribs I had eaten for dinner.  But at midnight Charlie drove me to the hospital and barely two hours later, at 1:50 a.m., Ivey Courtney Stone was born.  When my doctor said, “It’s a girl!” I said, “are you sure?”  Then he said, “she’s beautiful but she doesn’t have her mother’s tan.”  Funny, the things you remember.

Overnight I was transformed from a 26 year old woman used to breaking down barriers as a female reporter in the male dominated newspaper business to fulltime, stay at home mom.  I never regretted my decision.
Courtney didn’t come with instructions so we learned together.  I never took a Lamazze class or bought Dr. Spock’s baby book (I was a little headstrong and stubborn … maybe a trait we share?).  I relied on instinct and advice from my Mom, sister-in-law, and best friend.  There were no internet baby forums or Mommy blogs or WebMD back then … just my precious baby daughter and I at home all day figuring it out together.
I didn’t know she was supposed to be swaddled or shushed or have tummy time.  So Courtney and I did all the things I liked to do: worked in the garden, played with our dogs, sat out on the porch to wait for Daddy to come home from work, read books, and played in the plastic baby pool.  I used cloth diapers and pureed her food and she wore the little smocked dressed that her grandmother sewed by hand.  We lived a simple life in the country.  She made my life complete in a way I never dreamed possible.

Now she is a mother.  And her love for her Maggie Rose is well documented on this blog.

Happy birthday darling daughter. Welcome to motherhood.

I love you,


2011.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

One year ago, my precious friend LA married the darling Bo.  And each chose very wisely.

LA is in the upper echelon of Thoughtful People in my life – she always does the right thing, says the right thing, sends the right thing.  Her gifts often bring tears to my eyes.  I can hardly stand to let Maggie wear the dresses LA sent in honor of her arrival – I’d rather shadowbox them and remember when Maggie was small enough to wear them.

At any rate.  On their first wedding anniversary, the thoughtful LA gave her sweet Bo a watercolor painting of their first home.

Did you know that the traditional first anniversary gift is paper?  LA did, and just knew that a watercolor-on-paper would be the perfect present for her husband.

I picture them at advanced ages, in a larger home, looking at this watercolor, and remembering the first years of their marriage, and their first anniversary, marked by paper.  And in so picturing, I decided I liked this idea so much I had to share it with y’all.

Laura Trevy is the artist behind this beautiful watercolor of LA and Bo’s first home.  To see more of her work, click here.

Cheers to LA and Bo on their first anniversary!

2011.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

I hope when hard times hit Honeydew and I, that I will remember the night Maggie Rose was born, when my wonderful doctor, who for three days had tried everything in her power to help me deliver Maggie Rose as I’d wanted to, announced that the time for a c-section had arrived.  I hope I remember the way Honeydew held my hand as she explained the surgery to me.

And I hope that I will remember the day after Maggie Rose was born, when we learned that she had practically no platelets and would be taking a trip in a space-ship looking ambulance to the Kalispell NICU — the way the combination of exhaustion and painkillers and hormones and fever and fear caused me to crumble, and Honeydew to take charge.

The way he sat with her in the NICU for six days, leaving her side only to check on me.  The way she curled up on his chest for hours at a time, when we were finally allowed to hold her again.

The way I fought with him after we were released from the hospital the first time, begging him not to take me back there, that I would be fine despite my raging fever and inability to reason.  The way he wouldn’t listen, how he insisted we had to take good care of me, even when I didn’t want to.  Maggie needs you to get well, he said.  I need you to get well.

Yes, when we fight, I hope I remember.

Happy 1st Father’s Day to a man just meant to be a Daddy.

2011.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

We’ve lived at Hillhouse long enough now to know who can we can expect to visit us each year.

In the fall, we welcome hundreds of trumpeter swans and Canadian geese.  They pause in their southernly flights for a respite on Gretchen’s Mirror, bobbing on the patches of open water and walking drunkenly about the iced over portions of the lake.

In the winter, we look up from the soup we’re stirring on the stove to watch the coyotes bound across the frozen surface of the Mirror.

In the spring, we observe mama Moose return year after year to deliver her calves, and teach them to unfurl their long, velvety legs in order to walk through the Mirror’s shallow depths.

And in the summer, we keep a sharp eye out for the pair of loons that likes to keep its nest on the Mirror.

I’ve written about the loons before, about their silvery, mournful call, unlike any other sound I’ve heard reverberate off the Rockies.  My heart always lifts when the first one of us announces that the loons have returned, that they are building a new nest, that the chick has hatched.  And of course, I’ve written about the chick that didn’t hatch until Honeydew and I accidentally cooked it, too.  Sorry about that, loons.

Last weekend, Honeydew, Darling Summer Help II (DSH2), Brother Dear and Pseudo Sista brought back photographic evidence that not only are our loons back, but Mama is sitting on the nest.

And so we’ll tiptoe around the Mirror for the next few weeks, hoping that the first part of July will bring us a new head to count, Baby Loon, and that we’ll get to watch Mama and Daddy Loon teach their fuzzy young one all sorts of Loony things.  Like all parents, we especially like watching the Baby Loon learn to take off, to fly.

2011.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

Next Page »