Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Treasures in the Snow

Caretaker’s Log, Sunday, March 29, 2015

It's my youngest brother's 30th birthday. All six of us siblings are now in our 30s.

I'm awake at seven o'clock and up at 7:30. I can't fall back to sleep.

It's Sunday so I water the plants.

I make a green smoothie for breakfast using up the last of the greens that Porgy brought me weeks ago.

I post a blog. Fill up the diesel dust bucket. Put toilet paper in the bathrooms. Collect the trash.

Loring and Dave are planning on coming tomorrow if the snow lets them in.

I call Phinehas and sing happy birthday.

I give the cat fresh water and check things in the generator shed. Then I go out to chop wood. I chop for two and a half hours. Now I have between three and five weeks’ worth of wood, depending on how much I burn or don’t burn with the weather getting so much warmer. I put things away and go inside. I sweep and mop. Wipe down the table. I take a bath. Wash my hair.

I make tuna for lunch. I eat an apple too.

I read for a while.

I gather all the trash, bag up the worst of the cat poop that the melting snow has uncovered and take it out to the incinerator shed.

I call my grandmother.

The cat and I walk around. The two moose are out. I watch them cross the field and vanish into the red willows. A beaver is also out. It swims off when I make too much noise. The cat is on the fence beside me. A splash—something unseen, but the cat growls at it. The owl is hooting. It's dusk in the wilderness.

I record the weather.

I write.

Caretaker’s Log, Monday, March 30, 2015

13 weeks today.

I'm awake before 7:00 AM. Can't fall back to sleep. But it's good. I need to be up. I've got things to do before Loring and Dave arrive.

Melody, Loring's wife calls at 7:30 to tell me that they are in fact coming in today. They may stay the night if the snow is too soft to leave by snowmobile in the afternoon.

I get my coffee. Work a crossword. Start the fire.

Jesse calls to say that Karen offered her the summer job at the same ranch where I'll be working. We’ll be ranch hand coworkers. She starts May 1st. I'll start sometime in June.

I write. I have to work early today or I might not get a chance. I put down about 700 words.

Then I give fresh water to the cat. Bring in some wood.

I get the generator going. The two moose are up and eating red willows. A bald eagle flies over them. The cat wants to play. The geese are making a ruckus.

I write a little bit more.

Checking the clock (my guests should arrive between 10:30 and 11:00), I close my computer up and go to the kitchen. I eat some granola while I start up a batch of banana bread. I'm about to throw it in the oven when I hear a strange noise. I go stand on the porch to listen just in time to see the snowmobiles come into view. They've made it! And about an hour earlier than I had expected. It’s ten o'clock.

Dave hands over a bag of groceries he's brought me. They unload their stuff. I get the banana bread in the oven.

I follow them around and listen in. They talk about replacing parts and previous fixes and then quiz me about the break down of the system. They restart the Wild Hydro. It works just fine. But then again, it had worked just fine for three days after Porgy and I messed with it. They talk theories. I run in and slip the pan around so the banana bread cooks evenly on both sides. One side of the oven cooks hotter than the other.

When I get back, they’ve decided not to replace anything now. They'll do repairs and a system rehaul at the beginning of the summer. The current theory is that the extended cold of January and February caused the battery temperature to fall to a point that made the voltage go up to a level higher than the settings safely allowed. When the voltage surged, the failsafe system activated. Which was fine except that the secondary problem was a faulty failsafe switch which made it impossible to reconnect the hydropower. Theoretically, the system will now run fine because the temperatures will not get low enough to cause the first problem. And without the first problem, the second problem won’t be an issue either.

I take the banana bread out of the oven. I can't give it my full attention. I stick a toothpick in and it comes out clean. Seems good enough.

I feel a little silly that we didn't have me try to start the Hydro system up again before they came out. But then again, no one else thought of it either. And, the problem could have been something else. No one feels it was a wasted trip for them.

They've done what they came to do. More or less. I invite them in for some banana bread. I cut into it and it's soft and gooey. My first batch of banana bread was overcooked. This one is undercooked. I throw it back in the oven for ten more minutes. The guys hope to leave before the snow gets too soft. They can stay for a short time, but they’re not going to settle down for a long visit. I end up serving it out as banana bread pudding. They say it's good. Loring even has a second helping. Dave says it would be fantastic with a rum sauce. I agree with that. I tell him that rum is my hard liquor of choice. "Have you ever had Kraken?" he asks. I tell him no. "It's got a great flavor," he says.

I'm not a fan of this banana bread. I was not going for pudding. I guess if I'm going to fail at something in life it might as well be banana bread. I'm so over it.

Loring and Dave load up and are gone by 1:45. Dave has places to go and people to see.

When they're gone, I go out and call the cat but she must not feel it’s safe enough yet to come down out of the roof.

It's a really nice day. I've gotten a lot done early so I put my boots on and ski up the road to the main gate. It's decent conditions. Today, I remembered to put on sunscreen.

The landscape changes character as each warm day passes. A tree has fallen over the road. Bare patches of earth spread out under the trees, pushing the snow further and further back. It takes me forty minutes to get to the top and only fifteen minutes to get back down.

Suddenly, it's late afternoon.

I set out some things for dinner. All I've had today was a small cup of granola and some failed banana bread pudding.

I get the dishes washed up. I call my grandmother. I take a quick bath.

I make salmon, rice, and asparagus that Loring brought me, with mushrooms that Dave brought me for dinner. It's a delicious feast.

This is such a nice place to be.

This early rising stuff makes me sleepy. I’m ready to call it a night. But there’s still more to do.

Weather time. The Hydro looks good so far. I call the cat down. She must have been deep asleep up in the roof with all her mice friends. Her eyes look tired.

Back inside, I glance over what I wrote this morning. I'll know where to go on from there tomorrow.

I read a few chapters.

I set up my show, drink a couple glasses of wine, eat some salt and vinegar potato chips.

I'm in bed. It's 11:30. The phone rings. I jump up. Make it downstairs and through the hall in the dark. When I pick up the phone it's just the dial tone. One ring too late. Who in the world was calling me at that hour?

I go back up to bed and fall asleep.

Caretaker’s Log, Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The geese are out.

Sage brush rises up out of the diminishing snow. For some reason that sounds like a sentence from a badly written novel.

I've got my boots on and am reaching for my coat when a plane buzzes the house. I'm a minute late. I’d hoped to already be outside when Dave flew over. He had promised to airdrop me the box of wine I had requested with my food supplies and a new pen, my favorite writing pen has run out of ink and completely out of character for myself I hadn't brought a good supply of pens with me to the middle of nowhere. I don't know what I was thinking. He was happy to have the chance to fly. He was also excited about the idea of dropping things out the airplane’s window.

I get out in time to see him drop a black trash bag far out in the east field. I start to head out that way. The snow is easy to walk over, crisp and hard. The plane disappears over the mountains and then after a while reappears.
I stand still and reach a hand up to wave as he flies over, dropping a small package nearly at my feet.

He had emailed and said there would be two trash bags and one small container. I've got one trash bag and the small container so far. They contain a bottle of Kraken rum and a small container of Teton Valley vodka. Dave is a good liquor buddy. I go back out across the field and walk and walk until I see a trail of red. It looks like a crime scene. There is still some wine in the bag, but a good bit of it is on the ground. I carry it back to the lodge. I salvage about one and a half liters out of the three liter box. A much better salvaging than last year when I only got two ounces out of a five liter box.

It's always exciting to have treasures dropped out of the sky. Treasures I find in the snow.

Loring calls to see how the system is running. It's running the way it should. I check it again at noon. It's still good. I call and report that to him.

I call my mom.

Then not able to stand wasting such a beautiful day, I suit up and go out to ski. Once again, the snow is perfect. I cross the east field, skirt the river, go up the backside of the dam road hill. The snow is so perfect I'm able to go places I've never gone on skis before. It's like the world has opened up all ways to me. I can make my path any direction I choose.

At one point, I have to take off the skis in order to get down a steep slope that ends with a barbed wire fence. I start down, digging my boots into the snow rather than going through the mud. And then I decide there's a better way. I sit down and slide across the snow all the way down, using my right foot to push off the approaching slope each time my trajectory takes me back toward the mud. It's fun, fast, and a little bit slushy and muddy in the end.

Then I'm up another hill and there I am suddenly at my old and familiar dam road. I'm at the first fence and I keep going. And then on to the snowmobile road. And then further on the snowmobile road than I’d gone the time before.

The clouds have been phenomenal all day. Shifting, changing, highlighting the mountains and the sky. Contrasting against the darkening ground and the still covering snow.

The mountain views are breathtaking. I can't help myself from saying, "Wow, oh wow."

I top a rise and sit on a rock and drink water and eat a power bar. It's so beautiful I can hardly stand it. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.

After my break, I head back down. Oh man, I fly. Only once do I wipe out spectacularly. Face first and sliding to stop. Getting my feet back around and lifting my face out of the snow, I check to make sure I'm all intact, and I am so I stand up and finish my downhill run.

At the lodge, I sit a moment with the cat. Inside, I drink a lot of water. Then I go up and take a bath.

I call my grandmother while I make a kale salad for dinner.

I don't start a fire until 6:15 when a chill settles in the room. The fire quickly sends it away.

I eat my dinner and have an apple as a side.

I see a moose cross a distant slope. It stands out stark and black against the snow bereft incline.

I sit at my computer and happen to glance out the window as a bird goes past. I immediately think, as the crow flies. For it was a crow.

I write. My character survives a car accident and gets away from the bad guys by running down the highway. Don’t try this at home.

I sample the Kraken rum. It really is good.

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