Friday, June 29, 2012


For a few days of the year, I work for Catherine Tarasoff, a professor from Michigan Tech University who’s conducting sagebrush research on the bentonite mine reclamation areas east of Greybull. That’s us in the photo below, exclaiming over a celebrity specimen named Charlie. (I’m on the left; Catherine’s on the right.)

To some, sagebrush is just a scruffy shrub that grows where trees won’t.  But to those who value the near-threatened sage grouse, whose livelihood depends entirely upon the stability of sagebrush habitat, and to the mining companies who don’t get permits and bond releases until sagebrush is reestablished, and to those who work for mining companies or benefit from the minerals they provide, and to the children whose education is largely funded from mineral revenues—to all of those folks and to many species of animals, sagebrush is a precious resource.

Charlie and hundreds of other sagelings were hatched in a Michigan Tech greenhouse before being flown to Cody, driven to the foothills, planted the spring before last, then left to fend for themselves in a windy high-country desert about to go into drought. There have been many casualties, but the majority of the seedlings have not only survived but thrived, surprising even those who knew that sagebrush is very resilient.

I told Catherine and Dan, the geologist who oversees the reclamation for that area and the guy who snapped this photo, that if they really wanted a picture that proclaims successful sagebrush rehabilitation, they could import a sage grouse and tether him to Charlie!

“Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.” 3 JOHN 1:2

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Carrot Surgery

I finally finished weeding the carrots. If you’ve never had the opportunity to weed tiny carrotlings, you don’t know what you’re missing. It’s akin to intricate brain surgery: the delicate little carrot plants are shaped exactly like dendrites, the dirt is the grey matter, and the dratted, abundant pigweed and lamb’s quarter are the tumors that must be extracted without destroying the little green (in this case) brain cells. Your fingers serve as precise surgical instruments that can discern the difference between weed stems and carrot stems even when they’re tangled together.

Of course, the carrots wouldn’t be so spindly nor the weeds so heavily populated had I got to that row sooner. All told, it took me almost three hours, and that was with Hubby digging out weeds on the row’s perimeter.

Non-gardeners are thinking, Are you kidding? A bag of baby carrots is really cheap at the grocery store, and you don’t even have to peel them! Well, I admit that the exact same thought crossed my mind, until I remembered that homegrown Danvers carrots taste at least 20 times sweeter than store-bought ones and are probably infinitely more nutritious. Besides that, the horses and goats absolutely adore the carrot tops and trimmings. (Meels, one of my goaties, who’s not known for having a discriminating palate, won’t even touch a store-bought carrot.)

I just have one question: How do organic carrot farmers, who raise acres of the popular orange veggies, manage their weeds?

“You’re here to bear fruit, reproduce, lavish life on the earth, live bountifully.”   –GENESIS 9:7

Monday, June 25, 2012

Red-Flag Warning

I think I know what it feels like to send one’s son off to war--proud but a bit anxious! Zach’s not in the military, but he’s fighting wildfires this summer. Much of the western United States is either burning or under a red-flag warning, due to way-above-average heat and way-below-average moisture. Many of us who have family or friends on wildfire crews are praying for divine protection, strength, and hydration (yesterday’s mercury hovered around 100°) for our loved ones. At the same time, agencies like the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are issuing warnings and restrictions in the hopes of preventing any more dangerous and costly wildfires.

Most of us would never dream of throwing a cigarette out of a car window, setting off a firecracker over a dry pasture, or leaving a campfire that hasn’t been thoroughly extinguished. But according to the Bible, there’s more than one way to start a wildfire:

“It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell.” JAMES 3:5

Hmm. That verse kind of makes me want to issue myself a gag order!

Fire flare up in lodgepole on Div D

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Bugfully Yours

“Look at this cute little bee on my leg,” I said to Hubby yesterday. “Pull over so l can let him out of the truck. Poor thing, he doesn’t have much pollen to eat up here.” (We were in the drought-stricken hills west of Greybull, monitoring mining reclamation sites. In years with normal moisture, wildflowers like creeping aster, lupine, sunflower, and Rocky Mountain beeplant decorate those hills in June.)

Hubby muttered something sarcastic about me and my relationship with bees, spiders, and millers. I can’t blame him. My bug politics make no sense whatsoever.

I like spiders, and if one shows up in our house, I usually escort him safely outdoors. I wouldn’t think of smashing a spider. I love bees, and they and I work side by side in the flower beds, garden and hayfields in perfect accord. Even though spiders and bees have the potential to bite or sting, respectively, I have neither fear nor distaste of either. (I’m not even rattled by snakes.)

On the other hand, I despise millers, probably because I have an unreasonable fear of those dirty, disgusting, ugly, insidious villains. Moths can’t inflict pain or poison, so there’s no logical reason to jump and scream when one of them touches me. (Note to teachers who are miller-phobes: Don’t ever let on to your students that you have a fear of moths, or some mischief-makers will have a heyday with that information!)

My mom suffers from the same condition, but I don’t know whether miller-phobia is inherited or learned. Apparently there aren’t many like me and Mom because there hasn’t been much research on the topic. Even though my son Zach was raised in a miller-phobic home, neither nature nor nurture prevailed.  Mercifully, he has no particular aversion to moths.

Zach’s thinking about majoring in psychology when he goes to college this fall. Hopefully he doesn’t decide to cure his mother’s phobia with exposure therapy!

Friday, June 15, 2012


Tomorrow evening, my friend Martha will marry the love of her life, Santiago. I love weddings—they’re holy and beautiful affairs—but I’m stressed out about what to wear to this one.

I know little about style, but I have it on good authority (my mom) that one doesn’t wear denim to weddings. We live in a shopping vacuum, so I haven’t been able to go dress searching until today. Hubby and I drove 180 miles to Billings to pick up various and sundry items for our cows, horses, home, and pantry.  I weaseled out of ranch errands long enough to peruse the mall for something more chic than jeans.

Alas, I didn’t see a single item I could or would wear. Many outfits reminded me too much of the 70’s.  Most revealed more skin than small-town propriety allows; besides, my farmer's tan--dark brown neck and arms, white everywhere else--would look ridiculous. Other garments may have looked good on me a dozen or so years (and pounds!) ago, but I didn’t dare try them on for fear of a mid-life crisis. And the shoes! I doubt I could even stand on those things without falling off of them, let alone teeter across my gravel driveway without injury.

Hubby graciously took me to some non-mall stores, but my search was unsuccessful. “The problem,” I explained to Hubby on the way home, “is that no one designs clothing for hayseed princesses like me.”

But what will I wear? Fairy godmother: if you’re reading this, please drop whatever you're doing and come to my fashion rescue!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Spark

“Is today Wednesday?” Hubby asked me earlier this evening.

I had to think a bit before I answered in the affirmative. We’ve been working long days with little in the way of rest, and my wits “miss” sometimes, like my lawn mower does when it needs a new spark plug.

If, like me, you could use a pick-me-up, follow the link below to watch Gordon Mote’s Don’t Miss the Glory. Turn up the sound—this is really something!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

"Just Run"

As I write this, little Penelope, a 3-week old Angus heifer, is racing around the back pasture. Calves usually do most of their playing near dusk, but today is a cool 71°, compared to several days of high 90’s. Perhaps Penelope had so many naps in the shade of the cottonwoods that she got over-rested and needs to vent some excess energy! Of course, few things are more gratifying to cowfolks than seeing fat, shiny calves frisking about a green pasture.

I’ve been doing a bit of frisking myself . A year and a half ago, I hurt my knee twice within a week doing ranch jobs, and I ended up on crutches for a while, hurting the other knee in the process. They gradually healed enough for me to go for walks, for which I was very grateful, but I still had lots of soreness sometimes. I doubted that I’d ever being able to run again.

It bothered me that, although I’d stood on the promises of healing in the Bible, and others had prayed for my knees, I’d only been partially healed. One morning on my walk, I said this prayer: “Jesus, I believe the scripture that says, ‘By His stripes you are healed.’ I thank You that I can walk again, but why can’t I run? Is it that I don’t have enough faith?”

No answer. But every now and then when on my morning walk, I’d have this thought: Just run. I ignored it; my knees were too stiff and sore to run, and besides, I didn’t dare make them worse. Weeks, maybe a month, went by with no change.

One evening, I found myself waiting on Hubby in town with nothing to do, so I went for a walk. It was drizzling on and off, but I had a raincoat, and the air was refreshing after our long dry spell. I headed down a road out of town. Before long, the drizzle turned to serious rain; my jeans got so wet that I began to get chilled. A smarter person would have turned back, but I didn’t. A big hill lay a mile ahead, and I decided to throw caution to the wind and run up it to get warm. I did exactly that and have been running every other day since!

Every time I run, my knees feel stronger and move more freely. I’m shy and quiet by nature, but I feel like jumping, shouting, and telling the whole world that the Word of God is true and wondrously powerful!  

“But for you who fear My name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.”                    --MALACHI 4:2

Monday, June 4, 2012

What the Hay?

All over the countryside, folks are studying their hay, checking the weather report several times a day, cutting their hay, checking the weather report several times a day, waiting for the windrows to dry (but not too much), checking the weather report several times a day, baling or chopping their hay, checking the weather report several times a day, and stacking their hay on trucks or in stackyards. Those who pray, pray for perfect haying weather (lots of sunshine, no rain, a light, dry breeze) and for zero equipment breakdowns (which mean lost time, hay quality, and money). As soon as the waiting, sky-watching, praying, and rushing about is finished, they race to get irrigation water back on their hayfields (if it’s grass hay, they need regrowth for pasturing stock; if it’s alfalfa, there’s still time to get two more cuttings—three more if they live in milder climes). Whew!

That’s what the farmers and ranchers are doing, but what about the soon-to-be recipients of this hard-fought but delicious, nutrient-rich hay? What are the cows doing to help? Nothing. They just rest in the shade, calmly chewing their cuds, ignoring all the hustle and bustle of haying crews and large machinery, acting as if work, worry, and commotion are beneath them.

I used to think that people are smarter than cows, but now I’m not so sure.

“In quietness and confidence is your strength.” ISAIAH 30:15

Friday, June 1, 2012

High Style

We discovered this charming Indian paintbrush the other day in the hills. This particular version is pink, but others are tinted red, orange, or peach. Even though the Indian paintbrush is Wyoming’s state flower, it’s not all that common and therefore always a delight to find. This flower looks particularly state-appropriate nestled against its host (Indian paintbrush are parasitic), a Wyoming big sagebrush.
“Walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them….If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don't you think He'll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you?” –Words of Jesus, MATTHEW 6: 28-30