Thursday, December 12, 2013

Cowgirl Up

It's possible that I need to cowgirl up a bit since I live in the wilds of Montana now.

Fine, it's not technically the wilds, but it's quite a bit more wild than anywhere I've ever dwelt.  And I love it.  Really, there's something freeing about living here.  I'm not sure what it is, but I keep coming back to the fact that I can breath here.  That sounds odd, I know, but it's true.  I find myself breathing deeply and satisfyingly.  Perhaps I have an inner cowgirl that I never knew about and she's happy to be living on the frontier.

Yes, I can hear you.  It's not REALLY the frontier.  There's a town 10 miles away with a grocery store, coffee shops and gas stations.  I have neighbors and (what sounds really un-frontier-y) a Home Owners Association.  But it's a frontier-ish sort of HOA.  It coordinates use of the wells that bring water to our houses and has rules like, "Don't shoot guns on your propery.  We all live too close to each other."  And "Don't keep your yard trashy with run down trailers and cars on cinder blocks."

Ok, those may be my paraphrase of their rules, but really it just keeps the couple dozen houses in our little community being nice-country instead of trashy-country.  So I'm good with it.

Back to the point.  Cowgirling up.

First I'd like to point out:

The ways I've already cowgirled up.  

1. I've become like Paul Bunyan.  You can call me Paulina.

We have a wood burning stove in our home - just like every other house on the frontier.  We also have baseboard heating, but it was pretty obvious from the smoke above all the other homes that we were the only ones not using our stove to heat our house.  Since we had a woodshed with a bunch of chopped wood in it, we got a chimney inspector to come out and check out the stove and chimney that hadn't been used in several years, got the 'all clear' and started burning wood.

Can I tell you how cozy it is to have a little toasty stove in the computer room?  Right now it's behind me burning cheerily.
This is not the corner of my room.
Mine's has a carpet of wood splinters that I need to vacuum.
And I don't have a TINY dog the size of my shoes.

And how does this make me lumber jack-ish? Because most of the wood outside is too big for the stove, so each day I head outside... through the snow...with my the woodshed and chop them down to size.

Aren't you impressed?

You wouldn't be if you could see me do it.  Jason can do it with style.  He chops with authority.  Like a flying scissor kick to the wood.

Mine's more like a slap.  A hard slap.  Maybe a backhanded slap.

But still. I chop wood, people!  And even if I don't look quite as cool as Jason, I get it done.

2.  I make bread.

I know, this isn't very unusual and the reason I make bread is because my hubby gave me a Kitchenaid mixer that does all the kneading for me.  But I have made dozens of loaves from scratch since we moved.

This is sort of a lame point, but I couldn't just have ONE reason why I have already cowgirled up.

Why I still may need to cowgirl up a little bit more:

1. What to do with the trash?

We're too rural for trash pickup, but there are places around where there's a dozen dumpsters and you can dump your trash there whenever you want to.   Before it got cold I was wondering how best to deal with stinky trash.  My ideal answer is to put it in cans outside, but I can't because there's too much wildlife (see next point) and sticking it straight in my car would make the car stink, so it was stinking up the garage while I continually forgot to take it to the dumpsters when I went into town.

Anyway, I was at a little gathering of homeschool families and I asked someone what they did.  They just sort of looked uncomfortable and then mentioned the dumpsters that I already knew about.

Finally one mom said, "I dunno, we just burn ours."  Everyone looked relieved and nodded.

Apparently they just have some sort of trash container thingy and they just throw it all in and burn it.  Just whenever they want.   Willy nilly.  I'm still nervous because in Oregon we tried to do a little campfire (in our portable grill!)  and the neighbors called the fire department to report it.  Guess cowgirls don't worry about that sort of thing because no one else around here cares.

We don't have any trash burning container thingy though, so I'm just becoming better at using the dumpsters.  Maybe next summer when it's nice out in the evenings we'll all head out nonchalantly and burn the day's trash.

2. Hide the evidence

There is a good deal of wildlife around here.  Lots of low-on-the-food-chain animals like deer, so there are also some of the I'm-above-deer-on-the-food-chain animals.

In particular we've had some sightings of mountain lions nearby.

A few weeks ago one ate a dog a couple properties away.

Oooh! That's another thing our HOA does.  The secretary calls to warn us when there's a mountain lion in the area.  In fact that's really the only reason we've talked to her  She always begins with, "Well, you shouldn't let your kids out to play unsupervised, we've spotted another cat in the area..."  (I would like to note that I feel as though "cat" is a bit of an understatement, even if technically correct.)

Can we take a moment to discuss the mountain lion?  The first time we heard there was one in the area I kept careful watch on my kiddos and kept an eye back under the trees in the forested part of the property.
Because, yikes. Even surrounded with cheery yellow flowers.
Then, we googled mountain lions, and do you know what???  They're in the TREES, people.

Yes, they climb trees and lurk there.  Seeing as I'd been walking around under a LOT of trees, keeping my eyes peeled on the ground for mountain lions, that made me feel a little creeped out.  
Especially because that whole camouflage thing that animals have going?  It really works
One day I was out chopping wood and admiring the world around me.  I was almost done when something moved right next to the woodshed.  It was a buck. Antlers and everything.  
Seriously?  How long had that big animal been right there? They're practically invisible when they stand still.  
Does anyone think I'm actually going to spot the mountain lion before he pounces on me from a tree?  
My only hope is to try to slap him with my ax before he kills me.  

At the same homeschool gathering I was mentioning to one of the moms that I wasn't sure what to do if I saw the mountain lion.  Is this something for the police?  It seems a little heavy for an animal control officer to deal with.  Do I call the forest service?  After all they are the ones in the paper that are always trapping and releasing troublesome bears.

This woman looked at me with a little "Oh, poor city girl" look and said, "I'm more of the shoot it, bury it and shut-your-mouth kind of girl."

All the other moms nodded.


They did offer to come over and shoot it for me, but I'd have to help them bury it and be part of the keep-your-mouth-shut group.

So I guess if there ever is a mountain lion on our property (and if I'm cowgirl enough) I'll have to shut my mouth about it and you won't hear about it here... Sorry!


  1. Okay, so seeing how I am, myself, a city girl, you may need to take this with a grain of salt, but I think you've cowgirled up a lot. Chopping wood? Imagining how you would deal with a mountain lion encounter? The fact that you might very well be already holding an ax when you encounter a mountain lion, and for some other purpose than a mountain lion encounter? The fact that your house smells like genuine fresh bread? The fact that you have had a conversation in which the words "shoot it and hide the evidence" came up?

    Cowgirl. There has to be more than one way to be a cowgirl. And I'm thinking about the frontier, and how back in the day a lot of those early frontier people came from someplace else (like a city, sometimes, or at least a more populated area) and had to learn how to survive in the wild

    I love your writing, Janice! And I'm so glad to hear you're in a place where you really feel like you can breathe. I've started to believe that is a really important key to good living.

  2. Hi Janice - not sure how I missed this post (oh yes, Christmas and all that!)... anyway, I decided to seek out some of my favourite blogs and catch up.

    I am assuming that your lack of recent entries does not mean you have become 'wild lion dinner'! We get the occasional little red fox in our back garden but I can't really relate to the feeling that a lion might be lurking by! Scary!

    I'm very jealous of your wood burning stove and I would definitely have a go at chopping would if I could. We have a blocked up chimney but due to room extensions (by a previous owner), the fireplace is no longer in the centre of the living area so we would completely have to change the way we live to make the most of it.

    Love reading your blog (I know I've said this before but it's true!).

    All the best to you and yours
    Kristin :)


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