Friday, August 17, 2018

This and That in Smoky Times

Bill headed out early this morning to help feed some bikers.

It's the annual Bike and Build Time in Sandpoint where a group of generally college-age bikers roll into town and spend some time assisting with building-related projects designed for low-income residents.  

The Presbyterian Church always hosts the group (this year 26) with places to stay, with meals and aiding them with other logistics.  

So, this morning, Bill is helping with breakfast for the troops before they head on out of town on a Western route.

The cyclists cross the nation during summer months, stopping off in communities for a couple of days to offer their help with construction projects. This year's group did some painting at a site out in Trestle Creek. 

Before he left for town, Bill told me of his black bear encounter while fishing up Pack River last night.  

Twas a big bear, and it came mighty close to where Bill was fishing, eventually looking right at him but moseying on to its next destination. Bill continued fishing.

My husband has much more nerve than I have in the midst of bears.  

While he was fishing, I was once again hanging around home, marveling at the beauty in the smoky sky as the sun began to dip behind the mountains.  

It was spectacular.

This week, for me, has involved  putting together the pieces for a Sandpoint Magazine story.  

Once again, my assignment involves little features about the "Natives and Newcomers," names of which, for the upcoming winter edition, will remain undisclosed. 

All I can say is they're good folks and that, as usual, this is a fun assignment.  

I not only get to spend time picking the brains and gleaning for nuggets of local nostalgia from folks I know, but the assignment also allows me a chance to get acquainted with some of the new folks now contributing to our community.

Yesterday, while taking some photos for this story in town, I stopped by the construction site of a new water hole/gathering place due to open sometime this fall.   

It's owned by a wonderful couple who appeared in "Natives and Newcomers" for the summer edition of Sandpoint Magazine, and it's fun to see the progress that Kennden Culp and Andrea Morcoccio are making as they near completion of their Matchwood Brewing Co.

Earlier this week Kennden told me to stop by and check out the interior of the brewery which will not only feature a variety of unique microbrews but also a place for folks to meet and mull over local issues.

The place is lookin' good, and it should be a fun addition to the area where, for several decades, farm folks used to roll up to the Co-Op grain elevator loading deck for their sacks of feed and other farm items. 

Wishing Kennden and Andrea the best of luck. 

And, so the beat goes on with this smoky August, where, at least for me, there seems to be a welcome lull in the "busYness."  

I'm not complaining because quiet time seldom lasts long.

News flash!  I hear soft but definite raindrops outside my window.  Hope it lasts long enough to do some cleaning.

Happy Friday.  

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Around the 'Hood

Lindsay Wilhite pointed to an area just down Center Valley Road where she was standing with her family. 

"Dragonflies," she said, "go to this spot and you'll probably see hundreds of them." 

That was after I had told the family about the two sets of fawns I had seen earlier in the day, across the road from each other at the corner where South Center Valley intersects with Center Valley Road. 

That was also after Todd Russell had told me about seeing a few bucks, some does and fawns all together in the open field across from the Russell home on Center Valley.

I told Lindsay that it's a rare trip when I don't see something of natural interest on the route from my home to my sisters or on the way back. 

Heck, sometimes I even see my son out jogging with the grandpups! 

Last night, while the Wilhite's were out enjoying family time on an evening walk, the Russells were keeping their eyes open for coyotes while dropping some hay in the field for their cows.

Seems they've lost a calf to a coyote and had another mauled. 

It's just nature at work (predators and their prey), Todd said.  Still, these cattle owners want to prevent losing any more calves. 

Life can be a bit on the wild and gruesome side out in this area, and that's part of the price paid for sharing space with all the critters. 

Then, there ARE the rewards which far outnumber the harsh reality of nature's ways.  That's why pretty much everyone out here is GLAD TO BE HERE.  

It's a simple and beautiful life like no other, and we don't take that for granted, 'cept maybe a few times in the winter. 

Granted, it's ugly out there on these hot August days with the bad air, but we know that, eventually, the haze will fade away and we'll be back to fully enjoying our daily crystal clear sights of awesome rural beauty.

In the meantime, there is still beauty to be found amidst the smoky air.  We just have to search a little harder to experience it. 

Searching for and capturing beauty is definitely a nice and fulfilling pastime. 

I enjoyed an ample supply in my wanderings around the 'hood yesterday afternoon and this morning. 

Life is good.  Happy Thursday.   

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Bulls, Birds, Bees and a Summer's Eve

Bill sez it's good we have a demilitarized zone aka a dirt road and its right-of-way.  

Otherwise, we may have witnessed all-out war this morning. 

Fortunate for that zone separating them, the warring factions finally shut down their verbal dispute and went home to their mamas (cows, that is).  

I can see it now in the sheriff's report for the Daily Bee:  Aug. 15, 6 a.m. 214 South Center Valley Road, caller reports major brawl between two bulls:  Black Angus and bigger Hereford, causing traffic jam. 

Yup, we had a lotta bull roaring out there in the air waves this morning.  In fact, they've been hurling insults at each other for the past two days. 

The noise eventually ended when I walked out to take pictures.  Taylor's big Hereford herd sire had headed home, while Bert Wood's Angus was still bellering to no one in particular. 

Seems like critters and nasty bugs are unsettled or mad here in the neighborhood.  For two days we've had birds of every regular species known to the Lovestead flying and landing en masse all over the farm.  

I've witnessed two major robin conventions, have heard and seen two birds smash head-on into the living room windows and even saw a couple of birds checking out the shop where Bill is working on the dog shelter.

While Bill was working on the dog shelter yesterday, I encountered other evidence that there must be something in this smoky air stirrin' things up. 

I decided it was time to start on my project of painting the interior of the barnyard fence.  Well, that lasted about five minutes.  

The bees showed up, and a couple of them just wouldn't leave me alone.  I managed to get half a section of fence partially painted, in between dodging the nasty and probably hungry critters dive bombing me from head to toe. 

I walked away a few times, but the second I'd get back to painting, the assault would start all over again.  

Where's the demilitarized zone when ya want to paint a fence???

Well, the monsters kept getting the upper wing, so I kept stepping away.  On my final retreat, one came with me and then landed on my finger.  

Of course, I reacted hysterically as one often does with bees.  

Of course, when that finger and the rest of the hand, holding a bucket almost full of white barn paint, loses its grip both literally and figuratively, the paint bucket lands on the ground.  

Within miliseconds, two thirds of the paint flows out onto  horse apples and other dried-up barnyard residue. 

There was no way to find the silver lining in this mishap, mostly cuz the paint was white and instantly infiltrated with all sorts of barnyard dirt.  

So, I had to go find a rake and work the white pool into the barnyard muck, lest a horse withOUT a white nose would find the paint and go through a sudden color transformation. 

With about 25 percent of my paint left in that bucket and the barnyard mess worked into the ground, I returned to the fence.  

Didn't matter where I stood, even 30 feet away, an entire army of nasty bees lay in wait, each quite anxious to complete its assigned task of turning that woman totally buggy.  Within seconds, the dive bombing would resume.  

I finally moved to the opposite side of the barnyard, using the rest of my paint to coat a section of fence which had not been in the original plan. 

So, on a scale of 1-10, I'd say the bees went off the charts on intimidating their foe, bulls certainly would rank second, and since the birds were all pretty harmonious, they don't count.  

It definitely seems, however, like something is motivating the animal and bug life to act out their frustrations more than usual, at least around here. 

I suggested to Bill this morning that maybe all this behavior portends an earthquake or something really dire. 

Guess we'll just have to wait and see.

In the meantime, we experienced a lovely evening last night.  Though the temps have warmed up in the day time, we're back to the evening cool down.

That led to perfect conditions for my neighbor Terra to bring her grandparents from Arizona over to meet Lefty.  It also meant a good hour's worth of saddling up and riding Lefty pretty much anywhere Terra wanted to go.

The adults just kept moving their chairs so we could talk and watch. 

Seemed like a wonderful ending to a day which had also been frustrated by an automatic waterer exploding with waterfalls, thanks to curious equine noses fiddling with the tanks inner sanctum. 

After Bill and I fixed that problem, my next challenge came with my camera which has developed a problem with its flash.  

My friend Mike at Image Maker showed me how to manually open the built-in flash so I can take some photos today. Once I brought the camera home, however, the flash did not want to open for me, except for rare instances.

So, I took the band aide approach, literally.  The flash is taped open.  I can take my pictures and use the flash if needed.  

In the meantime, it's looking like new camera time.  The Canon I have has been used pretty much every day since Annie gave it to me several years ago.  

So, it's earned a rest. 

In short, life in this mid-August hot and dry time seems to be a mixed bag, but, as usual, the good times outweigh the bad, even if you're a mad bull out next to the pasture fence. 

That's cuz you know that de-militarized zone is gonna allow you to beller all you want, knowing you can live on and fight another day.  

Happy Wednesday. 


Tuesday, August 14, 2018


Yesterday was inspiring.

I spent some quality time with two former students, both University of Oregon grads and both dynamic leaders with beautiful and productive minds.

I also enjoyed another glimpse of the phenomenal team effort on the local level to expand Medicaid in Idaho. 

Such activity is happening all over the state, thanks to organizational efforts over the past year to get the Medicaid Initiative aka Prop 2 on this fall's general election ballot. 

My first interaction with a former student took place over a cup of coffee and a couple of hours.  

I hadn't seen Liz McNeil for at least 20 years, long enough anyway for her to discover that there IS more than one Starbucks in our community. 

Former student Liz McNeil (left) took the selfie! 

Our visit was a bit delayed because Liz was still operating somewhat in old Sandpoint mode and learning that the town where she graduated from high school in 1994 has changed.  

Eventually, she found her way to the Ponderay Starbucks, where the second person she met, after we had reconnected, served her a coffee drink.  

This young Starbucks staff member also heard how her mom was one of the nicest people Liz had ever known.

Yup, Grace Meyer waited on us, and it was a beautiful spontaneous moment as Liz poured out her heart about memories of Grace's mom, the late Jenny Jacobson Meyer. The two attended Sandpoint High School at the same time.  

Jenny both envisioned and continually inspired the annual Celebrate Life Fun Run/Walk, which completed its 15th and final year this past weekend. 

Grace is now a senior at Sandpoint High School.  

Once we left the counter, Liz and I never stopped talking  until we climbed in our respective vehicles and went our separate ways. 

During the time she was a student in my honors English class, Liz shined as a student with a pure and passionate love for learning, which, happily, continues through every day of her life. 

Over the years she has amassed a host of personal and practical skills through work experience to go along with her formal education.  

Nowadays, she supervises a staff of 70 at her office in Eugene where, on a daily basis, she focuses on issues of poverty and its consequences.  

A firm and disciplined believer in helping people who demonstrate the desire to help themselves, Liz's passion is evident in virtually every sentence she utters.  

That beautiful mind of hers is at work, making a difference. 

The other beautiful mind was at work yesterday afternoon pumping up the Sandpoint team of door-to-door proponents spreading the word about how the Medicaid Initiative will bring Federal dollars coming from Idaho taxpayers back to Idaho to help 60,000-plus Idahoans. 

"If Idaho expands Medicaid, the federal government would cover 90 percent of the cost, tapping federal tax funds that Idahoans already pay," a Spokesman-Review story featuring the Medicaid Initiative efforts reported earlier this year.  "And current state programs to cover catastrophic medical bills for Idahoans who can’t pay wouldn’t need the millions in state and local taxes they now consume."

"'Medicaid expansion would immediately start saving taxpayer money, and then in the medium term it would generate all kinds of economic benefits by bringing so many of our federal dollars back into Idaho,” [Luke] Mayville said.

Luke and his classmate Garrett Strizich founded Reclaim Idaho.  From that evolved the massive and ambitious effort to put a Medicaid Initiative before Idaho voters.  

Over the past year, Reclaim Idaho and its ever-increasing team of volunteers across the state have succeeded in securing more than enough signatures for the Initiative to appear on the general election ballot this November.

As a natural follow-up, the teams are now knocking on doors and talking to voters about the Initiative.  

An intensive effort of door knocking in 20 communities over 20 days throughout Idaho began at Evans Bros. Coffee House yesterday afternoon. 

Luke, a Sandpoint High, University of Oregon and Yale grad who teaches at Columbia University, came home from New York to help steer the newest Medicaid Mobile to each community. 

After yesterday's local team spent a few hours talking to community members---with mostly positive results, Luke asked me if I'd like to join him in the Medicaid Mobile on a quick trip to Sen. Shawn Keough's home.

Twas my first time riding in the big green and old motor home, and I must say that Luke knows how to maneuver the rig through the tight spots in downtown Sandpoint, waving all along the way. 

We enjoyed a nice visit with Mike and Shawn, and then had fun taking a few photos. 

In addition to seeing the dedicated team members preparing for their mission, I was delighted to enjoy a short but businesslike visit with Luke. 

His beautiful mind has certainly been at work benefitting and inspiring others throughout our state.  

It's truly a joy, as a former teacher, to see these young people using their minds and their education and devoting their lives for the good of others. 

When I see younger people like Luke Mayville and Liz McNeil Runte, I see two of the many wonderful examples of hope IN ACTION for this country. 

Yes, it was an inspiring day.  

Oops!  Didn't have my glasses on when I signed and transposed that "h" in Idaho.  Oh well, like Navajo blankets, the "flaw" makes it unique!