Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Summer of Mum

Now that I have been back at school for two weeks, I'm looking back at the summer and it seems like such an expanse of time, this luxurious three month vacation.  I went to Florida for an inspiring teaching conference at the start of the vacation.  It was Darwin-hot there.  From the air conditioned coach on the way to conference centre, I looked out over the swamps and wondered about alligators.  Some other time, when Kelly and I go on our "World Tour of 'Merica", we'll check them out.  Sinead gave me a wonderful book, "Their Eyes Were Watching God" set in the Everglades around 1900 and it got me dreaming of Florida - not Disneyland and touristy beaches, but warm wilderness and southern food Florida. 

At the end of the holidays I went to another conference to upgrade my tech skills, so now I'm creating my first website (gotta love google for dummies) and loving google docs.  As a delightful contrast, when I was leaving Skyview High School, the location, three proghorn antelope were lazing on the lawn.  Nice!

Anyhow!  It's been delightful to have Mum living with us.  She's made herself a routine consisting of, amongst other things, aquarobics, walking the dog, unloading the dishwasher and familiarizing herself with the plethora of pharmaceutical advertisements on cable tv :)  We've taken a couple of trips, but it's been pretty laid back, which is how we like it.

Walking Cinnamon in Pioneer Park
We took a day trip up to the Pryor Mountains to see the wild horse herd amongst the awesome beauty of Montana.
Looking for directions
Mum, Cinnamon and I

The wild horse herd was broken into small family groups, with little foals in most groups.  Kelly noticed that the stallions were pretty bruised and beat up, each one having fought for his 'ladies'.

Bighorn Canyon from the Pryors
Kelly and I have both had projects around the house and yard.  I painted a couple of rooms in the house and was pretty happy with the development of my faux painting technique.  Kelly planted a vegetable garden, and I jumped in his slipstream with watering and weeding ... but the abundant rain and our reluctance to spray anything on the garden made it so that the weeds got the better of me.  Once I could confidently find the food, I made a truce with the weeds.  We've had a bumper crop of tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, squash, pumpkin, beans, snow peas, peppers and jalapenos.  The problem with growing a lot of food is that then you have to eat it, can (preserve) it or give it away.  Our oversupply issue has been compounded by Kelly's 'buy in bulk' compulsion because when we went to Glacier National Park and Flathead Lake, he couldn't resist buying two big boxes of the cherries in season. There's a Montanan joke with a lot of truth to it that you should never leave your car doors unlocked at this time of the year.  If you do, you'll come back to find zucchini on the back seat.  Seriously, I'm loving this agrarian life in spite of my always dirty fingernails.  We also get corn from Kelly's Mom and Dad.  Although I'm making my share of mistakes, Kelly and I have been canning a range of things: tomatoes, pickled cucumbers, cherry pie filling, jam, bbq sauce, baked beans.

As a result of my infatuation with the "Mamma Mia" movie, I decreed last year that our back yard would turn into a paved courtyard festooned with coloured lanterns, ready for dancing parties and ABBA lip-syncing.  See how that works?  I have a vision.  Kelly gets a plan ... and several weekends of strenuous labour.  Montana's weather condition and quarry supplies differ slightly from those of the Greek Islands, so there have been some compromises.  So far Kelly, his brother, Dad, and friend Kenny have achieved a pergola (to be draped with grape vines next year), two garden boxes made of wood rather than stone (to be filled with herbs, aforementioned grape vines and anything else that catches our fancy) and the removal of all the weed ridden lawn/soil in an area of 800 square feet.  I have undertaken the arduous task of shopping for coloured paper lanterns.  You're welcome.

Stay tuned for completed photos of the Mamma Mia courtyard.

Back to that trip to Flathead Lake and Glacier where we bought an annual supply of cherries ... We really wanted to take Mum to Glacier National Park since she loved Yellowstone so much when she came over during the fall in our first year living here.  Sinead and her boyfriend Jacob were able to come with us, which added to the fun.  Kelly got us a cabin on Flathead Lake for a couple of nights, which is a marvel in itself.  It is home country to the Salish and Kootenai tribes who have the Flathead Reservation.  Also it's famous cherry growing country.  In the afternoons when we were down at the Lake for a swim, we saw Mexican farm workers there having a swim, and the next morning they were all at work selling us cherries.  Grandma on the cash register, mums sorting the cherries, dads and uncles picking and carting.

While staying at the cabin, we drank a special toast to our dear departed friend, Ronny Reinhardt.  On the same weekend in Melbourne, Australia, a gig was happening to launch a final cd of music Ronny worked on in the last year of his life.  Cheers, Ronny.

I love the exponential spelling of the Salish and Kootenai
Mum at McDonald Creek in Glacier National Park.

Sinead and I 

Old Jackson, one of the last remaining glaciers

A big horned sheep confronts a mountain goat

The last hoorah for Mum and I before school was going out to Crow Fair at Crow Agency on the reservation.  It's only an hour away, and we made two trips out there, one for the parade on Friday  and one for the powwow dancing on Saturday.  Crow Fair goes for most of a week and is promoted as the biggest gathering of Northern Plains Indians.  I can believe it.  It's also known at the teepee capital of the world.  

There are hundreds of teepees set up along the river and winding streets/paths of the camp.

In the backgound is the honor guard including all the military and veterans in uniform.  They carry the US flag and their tribal flags as proud warriors. 
I have a lot to learn about the different types of dancers.  Some of them wear fluffy, round hats made of feathers. 

The dancing and gift giving goes for hours.  Dancers are numbered, as winners are judged in each category.  The last dance Mum and I saw was a father - daughter dance.  Old chiefs danced with their grown daughters, young men with their tiny princesses.  It was so beautiful.  Mum confessed on the way home that the whole thing made her a bit teary.  I wasn't surprised at all; it does that to me too. 

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Hey, check out the Yellowstone River in Yellowstone Avenue.  On Sunday afternoon a big storm hit with hail, thunder, lightning and even a tornado in Billings.  It took the roof off our stadium, the Metra.

We're all ok.  Just thought you might want some visuals. 

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Back In The Saddle

I’m not sure where to start in recapping the last six months.  Is spite of the house burning and our relocation to a temporary apartment, and in spite of the extra workload coaching the Speech team while taking an online university class, it hasn’t been too bad. 

In August when the weather was still warm and the Yellowstone River was wide and slow, Kelly and I took our dinky little inflatable raft and floated the river one afternoon.  It was a lovely, slow time and Kelly was able to do a spot of fishing. We only took an easy section to start with, but now we have a decent inflatable kayak and an idea that we might camp overnight on one of the islands in the river or one of the campgrounds alongside. 

Kelly on his river.

Mum definitely got her wish for a White Christmas.  She joined the gym for the month she was here, and  braved the elements to walk up to aquarobics three times a week, looking like a little Michelin-man granny with her many layers of clothing.  After her first excursion she told me with great surprise that her fingers froze right through her gloves!  I felt guilty that I hadn’t thought to buy her real winter gloves – she was only sporting decorative Aussie ones.  On Boxing Day (which for Americans is just the day after Christmas), we went out sledding again at Blue Creek.  Happily, Sinead was home for Christmas and we all had a jolly old time.  Hot chocolate tastes so good after rolling around in the snow.

Mum with her real gloves on.  


I really enjoyed coaching the Speech Team this year, with such great fellow coaches.  Aubree treated me to a big chocolate cake, decorated with the Australian flag on my birthday (we were at the State Tournament).  I was serenaded by a school cafeteria full of kids in suits :) The speech and debate students are so talented and lovable.  Next year I am hoping to get more involved with mentoring the American Indian students, similar to the work I did at ASHS and Centralian College.  I greatly enjoyed the college course I took on Social Issues for Native Americans.  On American Indian Heritage Day I went up to the college to meet my professor and watch our students perform at the pow wow.  The sound of the drumming circle stirs the soul. I learned that the girls outfits are decorated with precious elk's teeth made of ivory.  I'm hoping to go to Crow Fair this year which is the real deal for pow wows around Billings.  
Aren't they beautiful?

If you want to hear the drumming circle for yourself and see more of the pow wow, click the link 

I am in the process of the organizing the talent show again this year, which I initiated last year at our Freshman academy.  It was a great success, and fairly simply put together.  The music program in schools here is very strong, but the kids don't have many opportunities to play their own choice of music.    Here is a short selection of highlights from last year's show which I edited as advertising for this year's crew.  Check it out if you are curious about the kids I teach. 

The improvements to the house are such a delight to us.  It's still just a cute little house but we love it more than ever after being away for 6 months.  The kitchen and bathrooms have had quite an upgrade with tiling etc.  We also put in a bay window.  Have a look at the icicles clinging outside it a week ago. 

It seems like spring is in the air now.  Over the last week most of the accumulated snow has melted, creating vast puddles in car parks and soggy alleys.  Kelly says the apple tree is already budding, and my blood is definitely stirring in anticipation of warmer days.