Friday, February 27, 2015

Summer Plans in Winter

Caretaker’s Log, Tuesday, February 24, 2015

After the morning chores, I put away the puzzles that have been on the table for so long now. I've got a short list of little tasks I want to do before I have guests next week. Things like taking out the trash, straightening up, cleaning out the fridge. Putting the puzzles away was on that list.

I post a blog.

After breakfast, I call my mom.

Then I gear up—though not as bundled as yesterday. It's 24 degrees when I head out. I ski across the pasture, up the dam road hill, past the gate, up to the broken tree, and up the hill that overlooks the area where the dam is. I catch my breath, admire the really awesome clouds, grasp the ski poles, and go. Down.

I blaze down the hill. Faster than fast. I wipe out spectacularly a few times. Twice my momentum carries me along in the down position until friction takes over and stops me. It’s thrilling. I am much more skilled at getting up after watching those videos the other night. I'm a tiny bit better at handling speed. I'm learning how to correct direction and keep my body forward.

I go all the way down. Across the pasture and up my bunny slope on the main road. Up and down twice and then I call it a day.

I sit with the cat.

I get cleaned up.

It's 36 degrees. Such a warm difference.

I call Grandmama.

I send out some emails.

It's not until I go out to do the walk around with the cat that I see a lone moose over on the far side of the Kinky Creek road bridge.

I write.

I finish reading The Princess Bride.

I make salmon, rice, and green beans for dinner. I do much better with the salmon this time.

I write about my character’s childhood.

I watch a show.

It's a warm night. The temperature has only dropped to 24 degrees. Practically summer.

Caretaker’s Log, Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Each morning (if I'm lucky) begins with waking up. I'm lucky this morning and get up a little before eight o'clock.

It's a day to cross things off my To Do list. I bag up last month's folded laundry. It's been sitting on the kitchen counter for all of February. I collect the trash and take it to the incinerator shed. I burn the burnable trash. I take the laundry to the laundry room in Willow cabin. The linens will be washed at the beginning of the summer when all the water is turned back on. I don't have to do it by hand.

I clean out the refrigerator. I wipe the puzzle dust and fire ash and regular dust off the table. I fill up the diesel dust bucket. I bring in some wood.

I eat the last of the granola for breakfast.

The wind blows giant snow devils from field to field. Some snow sifts down from clouds that promise more than they give.

I make a double batch of granola.

The sky clears up. Another storm rolls by.

I clean up the granola dishes.

I make sauerkraut. I've been meaning to do this since I got here. There’s still more cabbage in the root cellar. I'll make more after I test this first batch.

I clean up the cabbage dishes.

I refill the jars in the kitchen; pecans, cashews, walnuts, raisins.

The cat has killed a bird. She's playing with it on her porch. Such joy for one, such sorrow for the other.

The sky clears. Another storm filters by. The sky clears again.

I try my hand at making spicy seasoned pecans. They're okay. Not as killer as the ones my dad's coworker makes.

Michaela calls. She says it's hot where she is—so hot. I can't even imagine that as I look out the window at the falling snow, look into the living room at the blazing fire.

It has snowed on and off all day long, but there is only a trace amount of accumulation on the snowboard and in the precipitation bucket.

I eat tuna for dinner. There is now really only one can left. A big can. But only one.

I download a couple of books from the library onto my reader.

I write.

I get an email from Porgy. Change of plans. The trip is canceled due to not having working snowmachines for the government men. Fortunately, I wasn't desperate for anything on my wish list so I don't think I'm disappointed.

Caretaker’s Log, Thursday, February 26, 2015

I'm boiling water for coffee and running the kitchen water to make sure the pipes are clear when the phone rings. It's Jesse. We talk about summer plans and a possible fall trip.

My sauerkraut is looking very nice.

Karen has offered me a summer job working at the ranch near Cody. After reading what's involved, I accept.

I spend the morning and early afternoon sending queries to agents for my two books. Three queries for one. Two for the other. It's a surprisingly time-consuming thing to do.

There is one moose in the east reeds. There is at least one moose, possibly two (if those are ears I see), in the west reeds.

To clear my head, I put on my gear and go out for a ski. I’d just planned to go to the first gate, but it only takes me eleven minutes to get there. That's no time at all. I go all the way to the top property gate in a record time of thirty-three minutes. I'm back at the lodge in another twenty-two. It was a nice run all in all.

I take the dead bird and put it out in the snow behind the wood pile. It’s the best I can do for a burial. RIP, little bird. The cat comes along with me. I think she's really trying to tell me her food bowl is practically empty. Apparently she doesn't eat the little birds she kills. It’s not very circle of life, cat. I fill her dish when we get back.

Karen says I'm in for the summer job.

My grandmother calls. She's excited that I'll be a ranch hand. Jesse had told her about the job possibility.

I take a bath.

There’s one moose resting in the snow up on the southwest hill.

There's another moose munching reeds in the east.

Porgy emails to say the trip is (tentatively) back on for March 4th. I'm not holding my breath.

When I go get the precipitation bucket at the weather time I see a beaver in the river. I take the bucket inside, grab my camera, and go back out to get a picture. This is the closest a beaver has been this season. I want to see what my zoom will do. I can get it close enough to see icicles on the beaver's whiskers.

It's snowing.

For dinner I make a rice stir fry adding artichoke hearts and heart of palm.

I get a late start writing. In the midst of it all, I research how to detect bug listening devices. How to check for taps on phones and how to know if your car is being tracked. I finish up sometime after 9:00.

I watch a show.

I go up to bed.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Magic Fairy Dust and Wyoming Rangers

Caretaker’s Log, Saturday, February 21, 2015

I can feel the snow coming in.

After the chores, I make granola. I add almond and vanilla extract to the mix which makes the lodge smell like cookies.

I post a blog.

It begins to snow. Lightly at first, and then with a gathering insistence. Just what was needed.

I write.

I go outside to frolic a little in the shaken snow globe world and hear snowmobiles up on the snowmobile road in the east. I'm reminded that I'm not as isolated as it looks out the window.

I write.

I take a break to clean the breakfast dishes, add wood to the fire, and call my grandmother.

I write more.

The snow continues until 5:00 PM. The cat thinks it's too cold to do our walk around. She waits for me on the porch. The wind is brisk. The temperature 7.7 degrees.

I make rice, broccoli, and salmon for dinner. I overcook the salmon just a tad. I’ll know better for next time.

Darkness falls. The fingernail moon is edged by clouds. I stand at the window in the piano room and stare at it for a while. Venus has already set. Mars is nowhere in sight.

I watch some videos and read some tips for downhill skiing. I feel better after reading, learning the difference between cross-country skis and downhill skis. More than one site says, "Falling while cross-country skiing is very common." This reassures me. Another site says that many cross-country skiers fear downhill slopes. I don't fear them, I just want to master them. I watch some videos and read some tips for getting up out of deep snow. I watch some videos and read some tips for backcountry cross-country skiing and also for track cross-country skiing. What in the world did I ever do before YouTube videos and the Internet?

I watch a show. Have a glass of wine.

Sleepiness edges in. I go upstairs. I'm reading The Princess Bride. I’ve seen the movie a million times. Saw it in the theater in 1987 when it first came out. Our friend, Kate, read the book to her twin, my older sister, and me in one long-lasting, memorable slumber party night when they were visiting from out of town. I haven't tried to read it since then. I think this is one case where the movie is better than the book. Though the same elements are in residence since William Goldman wrote both the book and the movie’s screenplay. So there you go.

Caretaker’s Log, Sunday, February 22, 2015

The sun shines through the spare loft room’s window inching into the room where I am, shines down through the thin layer of snow covering the skylights. I stretch. Stretch again. Get up.

The world outside the windows is snow-blanketed and quiet. No moose. No fox. No coyotes. No wolves. Not in sight anyway. Even the wind is absent this morning.

I drink the leftover cup of coffee I made yesterday as I start the fire. Crossword. Granola for breakfast.

I look for cheap international flights online. I don't find anything good.

I read about Inigo’s childhood in The Princess Bride.

After the 11:00 generator shed reset, I put my ski boots on, add a fleece over my long underwear, put on my coat, and go ski up the road in the snowmobile tracks Todd made last Tuesday when he visited.

It's a cold day. The temperature never makes it over 14 degrees. But it's peaceful. The wind stirs snow out of the trees and puffs it into the air like magic fairy dust. The sky is blue. No clouds. Just magic snow dusting the air.

I use some of the techniques I'd learned watching ski videos last night and I zip along. It could be the new techniques or the snowmachine packed road that makes my going easier—or both. It's a little over a mile to the top property gate. Then I go about a mile more. I'm venturing out farther each time. My endurance is getting better. My pace quicker.

I eat a snack at the point I've chosen to turn around. Then I began the two mile return trip. I see a small flock of little birds. They chirp at me, they flit around trying to stay warm on this winter day. It's cold.

Twice, once for the right, once for the left, I stop to take off my gloves and put my fingers under my hair at the nape of my neck to cut the chill and warm them back up. The east wind is bitter. I love every minute of this excursion. When the Darwin ridge comes into sight I rejoice. A homecoming. A return. A successful run.

I sit with the cat while I still have all my warm gear on.

Then I go inside. I'm sitting at the computer when I happen to look out the window and see two snowmobilers in the east pasture. I still have my coat on. I grab my camera and sunglasses and go out on the porch to wave at them. They wave back, circle around, and come into the yard.

They are Mike and Matt from the forest service doing an eighty mile loop routine check of the area. They don't have time to come in for coffee. They still have about forty miles to go. We talk about what they do, what I do. They know people I've met here. "You know the Linns?" Mike asks.

"Peter Linn?" I ask. It turns out that Mike and Peter served together for years on the search and rescue team. Peter is the one who drove me from Jackson to the trailhead last winter where Greg and Dustin were waiting to snowmobile me in.

"Tell Pete hi if you talk to him," Mike says.

They say they will be back probably next weekend to do a moose count. "Do you have all your creature comforts?" they ask. They ask what I would need or really want if they came back. "No guarantees," they say. They say they would probably have time to stop in for coffee then. And then they're off, up the main road the way that I had skied only a short time before.

The cat stays in the roof until they're gone.

I get cleaned up. I eat a three egg omelet.

My grandmother calls.

I wash up the dishes. I write. I go do the walk around. The cat comes along, but it's too cold for her feet. I almost pick her up and carry her back. But she makes it on her own in the end. I sit out with her for a while. My ears are cold. It’s only two degrees and that east wind is brutal. I bring in a bunch of wood. Record the weather. Time to cozy in for the night.

I haven't seen any animals except human ones today. And the cat, of course. Well, and the birds I saw earlier on the trail… Okay, then, never mind.

I write a little bit.

Phinehas calls.

I eat broccoli and mandarin oranges for dinner. I write a little bit more.

I pour my glass of wine. Venus and Mars are stealing the sky show. The other stars are radiant nonetheless. If it weren't -19.5 degrees out I might go stargaze. Nothing like a cold night to bring out stellar brilliance. I, sadly, choose warmth instead.

Caretaker’s Log, Monday, February 23, 2015

Eight weeks today.

Another cold spell has moved in. It's still -17degrees when I come downstairs. The low last night crept to a chilling -31.

A helicopter flies over the fields. Low. Searching. Maybe it's the forest service getting a head start on the moose count. The mama and baby are out in the northwest reeds, moved into sight by the low-flying chopper.

I had planned to ski up the dam road since the rangers snowmachined it down for me yesterday, but it may be too cold to get out.

Granola for breakfast. Two cups of coffee. The crossword.

It gets up to 17 degrees by noon which is warmer than yesterday so I gear up and ski across the field and over to the dam road in the tracks the forest rangers’ snowmobiles made. I go up to the first fence, catch my breath, pray I don't kill myself, and push off for a downhill adventure. I make it down in three separate runs. The first, I snowplow to a halt, reposition, gather my nerve, and go again. The second, I intentionally fall. This keeps me from going the last stretch at breakneck speed and also lets me practice my new tricks on getting up after falling. The third is a good run. I make it all the way down. I considered going up again and doing it over. But I don't have the stamina today. Instead, I retrace my path across the field, go up the main road to that first fence, catch my breath, pray I don't kill myself, and come quickly down. This is something like skiing.

I stop off at the root cellar on the way back in. I grab some apples, two cabbage heads, two cans of tuna, and a jar of Bubbies Dill Pickle Relish.

The cat and I sit in our chair when I get back to the lodge.

I get cleaned up. Wash my hair. Wash some clothes.

I read a little. Westley and Buttercup make it through the Fire Swamp. Buttercup goes off with Humperdinck. Westley is taken, tortured, and killed. Whoops, that's a spoiler alert.

I eat an apple. I read some more. Inigo and Fezzik survive the Zoo of Death.

I record the weather. The cat does not come with me tonight. Low of -31. High of 24. 11° at the time of observation. No precipitation.

I eat tuna for dinner. Tuna is turning into the widow’s oil jar—never empty—from the Bible story miracle of Elijah, or was it Elisha?

I read a bit longer.

Now it's time to write.

I hear scritch-scratching in the ceiling. Maybe the cat has made friends with those mice.

Another day gone by, another day to look forward to tomorrow.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

A Many-Splendored Thing

Caretaker’s Log, Wednesday, February 18, 2015

I'm up at twenty minutes to 9:00. All the usual morning things. The wind is brisk, making it feel colder today at 30° than it felt yesterday at 22.

I'm checking emails when I hear the yipping of coyotes. Two barking bouts and then silence. I put on my coat and grab my camera, but it was only a sound show and not a visual—for today. I hope I see them.

About twice a year or so I have to handle business regarding my home in Colorado. This year it's about providing insurance coverage information to the mortgage company. Four phone calls later and it's all done. Only a minimal amount of hassle, mostly with my HOA who seem put out when they're asked to do anything that resembles work.

After passing through the automated system of the mortgage company, I realize how ridiculous we’ve made our world. The yipping of coyotes, 28 inches of snow, and time with the cat in the sun make more sense to me now than the idea of call representatives at desk jobs or me pressing numbers an infinite amount of times to try and get through to a human. No wonder the girl at the HOA was so grudging, she's missing out on what I have.

I eat Scottish oatmeal for breakfast.

I talk to my mom.

I post a blog.

I send a food wish list to Porgy. It includes: roasted and salted mixed nuts, salad greens, romaine lettuce, kale, avocado, bananas, apples, mushrooms, zucchini, and cauliflower. I add an extravagant wish list. It includes: PopChips BBQ chips, another box of red wine or a bottle of rum, canned coconut milk, and eggs. I don't know what they'll be able to bring. Anything fresh will be welcomed and appreciated.

The day is getting away from me.

I put my ski boots in my backpack and tighten the laces to my snow boots. I snowshoe across the field. The cat meows after me. I think she wants to come along. "This will be too far for you, Cat," I call back to her.

I cross the treacherous bridge and skirt the river. It's deep snow in places and I trudge through, powering along. My goal is a distant hill. My dream is a fun, fast downhill adventure. I want to practice with speed.

It's slow going getting there. Which reminds me of Westley in The Princess Bride when he says, "Look, I don't mean to be rude, but this isn't as easy as it looks." After an hour and eleven minutes, I finally make it to the tree I've made my destination. I take some pictures. Switch boots. Attach the snowshoes to my backpack. I clip into the skis. And start downward motion. The snow is ice-crusty. I promptly fall. It takes me twenty-two minutes to get down the slope. Most of this time is spent trying to get up out of the snow and back on my feet. Isn't there a saying? A joke? Something about falling and not being able to get up? Yeah, well, it's not funny.

Eventually, more than once, I get up. Make it a down a slick section and fall again.

I don't like feeling inept. I want to be good at this. And I'm not. I need to learn how to ski. My lessons to myself are leaving much to be desired. I'm frustrated, disappointed, and tired.

Once I'm finally down that hill, I make the forty minute trek back toward the lodge. I see two moose crossing the field from southwest going northwest. They are making better progress than I am. They make it look easy.

At the short bridge crossing that goes over Kinky Creek, just shy of the lodge, I unclip the skis. I don't want to end a torturous trek with me in the water. My legs are so spent I almost can't make it up that last little hill—sinking into the snow up to my knees, up to my hips.

Then I'm back.

The cat is glad. She's out of food.

As I put the skis and snowshoes away, I hear the coyotes yipping and barking in the distance. The sound redeems some of the aggravation of my excursion.

I get a bath. Wash my hair.

Record the weather.

I eat the leftover pizza.

I call my grandmother.

Then I make a salad with avocado and have an apple and a lot of tahini. It's high in protein. I need it. Something's got to repair my thigh muscles.

I write.

I'm exhausted. That's all I've got.

Caretaker’s Log, Thursday, February 19, 2015

I get up before eight o'clock, by three minutes, but still.

Morning chores. I wash some clothes. I write for forty-five minutes. I reset the ah removed to zero at eleven o'clock.

As I pass through the back room, I see a dark dot against the snow in the east field. I grab my camera and zoom in. It's a fox. A beautiful red fox. It's so far away I can barely get a good picture. Retracing my path of yesterday, I cross the Kinky Creek bridge and go stand by the fence to see if I can get a better capturing. I watch it dig in the snow. Through the screen of my camera I see that it finds something to eat. I can see it chewing. Then it disappears behind a snow mound.

Breakfast is eggs and potatoes. It's a three cup of coffee kind of day.

The fox has reappeared and this time it's closer. I watch it cross the field and head over to the brush near the new road. I get some better pictures now.

I work a few pieces of the puzzle. Do some stuff online. Then I get dressed to work.

As I pass the shelf across from the refrigerator in the entry room I see three cans of tuna. Guess what I'm having for dinner?

I go outside to chop wood.


I chop seven sledfuls of wood. I had made myself a goal of six, but the aesthetic balance was off with the porch stacking so I had to do one more. This should last me between three to five weeks. The afternoon is gone by the time I’ve finished.

I sit for a minute with the cat and then we do our evening walk around.

I go in and eat some tahini and finish off a jar of mandarin oranges.

I take a bath. Wash more clothes. Time for the weather.

Big surprise, I have tuna for dinner with the last of the salad that Todd brought me. Dinner is a many-splendored thing.

I write.

Caretaker’s Log, Friday, February 20, 2015

There's an extra 0.6 inches of snow this morning. A variety of snowstorms pass over and then are gone. I'm taking it easy today. I put on some music, work the puzzle, eat Scottish oatmeal for breakfast.

Other than bringing in wood, checking the generator shed, feeding and watering the cat, giving attention to the cat, and doing the weather later on, I have decided that today will be an inside day. It's nice that it's snowing out. Makes being in extra cozy.

I feed my almost obsessive need to finish the puzzle.

The two brother moose cross the west field, jump the fence, and come graze in the front yard. One, when he gets tired of grazing, plops down in the snow next to Willow cabin. The other is around the corner and out of my sight.

I call my grandmother.

The day is really spent with the puzzle.

I take some time out to go sit with the cat. She gets really comfortable in my lap and we sit there for a while. The wind makes music in the trees. Another snowstorm blows in.

I finish the puzzle. It's kind of a relief.

The cat and I check the weather things. The moose are on the east side of Willow cabin. As I come out, they give me the eye. The cat is in quite a mood, playful and crazy. She loves her evening walk. Back on the porch, she takes her place on the armrest of one of the chairs. From there she growls at the moose when they move. Apparently she doesn't want to share. "Really?" I ask her. Whether or not frightened off by a feline, the moose head out, going further east. They jump the fence, across the pasture, and disappear into the trees.

The fingernail new Moon is stunning next to Venus and Mars.

Dinner is the usual tuna melt on crackers, and mandarin oranges.

I write.