Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Run For The Roses 5K Race Review

This past weekend was another Bozeman weekend for me and Jeff as the MSU Bobcats took on the Weber State Wildcats. The Cats scored another win, and we saw lots of family and friends as it was Family Weekend at MSU. It felt a little like the whole HiLine had migrated south for the game! So great to see so many familiar faces from the North Country!

Also, before proceeding, I want to thank everyone who checked out my previous post about my StitchFix haul for October. That post got 260 pageviews in 24 hours! That is definitely an all-time high for me. I hope some of you who tuned in for that will stick around for some more blog posts and learn what PrairiePonderingsMT is all about!

A highlight of the weekend for me was participation in the Alpha Omicron Pi Sorority's annual Run For The Roses 5K. They abbreviate it as R4R, so that's what I'll do here. This was apparently the 18th year for R4R, but only the second time I have participated in the race. I think since the dissemination of info about the race is up to a crew of sorority girls that probably turns over in leadership every year, it's been difficult to find details about the race in the past sometimes. The last time I did this was I think about 4 years ago, but I can't remember for sure. This year, I was able to track down the pertinent details, and again some of my family and friends participated in the event as well! Our crew participating in R4R this year included me, Jeff, Jeff's sister Katie (who's nearly 8 months pregnant!), Katie's husband Josh, my Mother-in-Law Carol, and our friend Amanda.
Our group posing before the race in front of Montana Hall on the MSU campus, which is where the race began.
Josh and Carol are in the back row. Front row, left to right: Amanda, Katie, Me, Jeff.
We did not sign up for the race until race day, but found sign-up to be pretty quick and easy. The registration fee was only $10 to just run and $20 if you also wanted a t-shirt. I'm a fan of race shirts, and this one was a keeper, so Jeff and I both sprung for the tee. It's a nice, soft, basic red cotton tee with, I think, an understated but nice graphic on the front.
Showing off the race tee, post race. 
It seemed like they had at least 100 people participating in the race, either as 1 mile or 5K runners or walkers. A nice crowd, but not overwhelming.  At race time, it was in the upper 30s and sunny, with no wind--beautiful conditions for a fall race in a mountain town.

As we got ready to begin the race, the girl in charge spoke a bit about the AOII philanthropy cause of the race- Arthritis Research. A little boy with Arthritis was there and his mom got a little teary as she spoke about what life was like for the kid. It always inspires me to think about others who are dealing with hardships in their lives, so I had the kid on my mind as I prepared for the race.  Josh and I neared the front of the pack. Jeff started off farther back with Amanda, both as runners, near Carol and Katie, who walked the course. Soon, we were off and running (or walking, as it were)!
I spotted this rose on the sidewalk outside the AOII house after the race.
Hard to tell, but it was actually sparkly! 
The course was gradual downhill for the first two full miles. I kept a pretty quick pace, hoping I'd be able to hold on for what I knew would be some uphill in the last mile. I had my first two miles complete in about 18 minutes. I tried to save splits on my Timex watch, but must have pushed the wrong button at some point, so now I'm just going on what I think I remember for times at mile one and two.

Josh was just a little ahead of me for most of the race, but expanded his lead when we got to the long, deathy uphill in the last mile. Usually, I can mentally power through hills without slowing down too much, but once again, I started to get a bad sideache and ultimately slowed way down. I don't get why that happens, and it's frustrating. Clearly I need to do more research. On the plus side, some of the breathing pattern techniques I've been practicing kept me from having to stop completely to a walk. I completed my last 1.14 miles in ten minutes (frown face!) and finished the race with a time of 28:11.
The race ended outside the AOII house. If you really look hard, you can spot Carol and Katie in this photo.
I was a little disappointed because I felt like without the sideache, I was on pace to shatter my PR of 26:32, but still really happy with the salvaged time being ahead of my average 5K time. That's just how it goes sometimes. Overall, I was really happy that I did the race, and that so many of my family members were there, too, especially Jeff. Jeff, after taking quite a bit of time off of running over the summer, had a pretty good time, and was happy. So, I'm happy and encouraged for him.

The only true disappointment about the race was that the Dry Tailgate advertised for post-race snacks turned out to be an extra fee. It wasn't a big fee, but I had written a check for our race entry and t-shirts and didn't have any cash. So, all we could do was look at the delicious food items on the grill and try not to notice how good they smelled. Oh well! If they're going to do it that way in the future, I wish they would let people buy a ticket or sign up on a list or something during registration so we could pay for it all at once. Oh well!

Overall, it was a good community race, with a nice route and plenty of signage/Sorority Girls cheering and marking the way, and it was a nice way to spend a morning doing something active outdoors with family.
Carol and Katie completing the walk with smiles on their beautiful faces! 
Next up on our race calendar? Probably the Huffing For Stuffing Run in Bozeman, or the Burn The Bird in Great Falls. Both are on Thanksgiving Day, and both events offer a 10K, which I am strongly considering. Which race Jeff and I do will just depend on where we are for Thanksgiving. Until next time, runners and readers!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

StitchFix October 2014 Review

It's here! It came today! My second Stitchfix box!

I'm joining the blogging masses in doing an actual StitchFix review this time. Last time, my box arrived the night before we were headed out to Washington D.C. and I just didn't have time. I wasn't sure in the long run whether or not I wanted to do a review on the blog anyway, but in the end decided that I find it very helpful to see what other people are getting in their boxes, so I can do the same.

Here's where the obligatory informational paragraph about Stitchfix comes in. Only I'm not going to do it. There are a million blog posts out there with descriptions about how it works. I'm just going to jump right in to photos and info about what I got in my box this time and whether or not I kept anything.

So, here goes!

Kut From The Kloth Sonja Straight Leg Jean:
Ok, so let's start by just putting it out there that my photos leave much to be desired. This is supremely unflattering of me, and doesn't really show the product that well either.

Now that that's out of the way.

I wanted to like these jeans. But. Actually, I should say... BUTT! haha. I have a curvy, athletic, rounded ghetto-booty. I have always had trouble finding jeans that fit over the badonkadonk and fit close in the waist. I could have taken inches out of the waist, even though these fit well through the booty and thunder-thighs, #athleteprobs Jeans are something I don't spend money on unless they fit perfect because I know I ultimately won't wear them if they aren't just right. Sidenote: I kept the jeans on while trying the remaining items in my box, in case you want to try to sneak another peak at them.
Verdict: Sent Back. 

Market and Spruce Genesis Ruffle Hem Top:
Wow. Again, with the terrible photography. Patches of light right on the product.

I really, really liked this top. Jeff complimented me right away when I put it on. Everyone knows compliments from the hubs usually seal the deal. I had cheated and looked up my order before it arrived and was really hoping this top would turn out to be as awesome as it looked like it would be. It was. It actually surpassed expectations with the cute bow detail at the back neck. Love it! Already planning outfits in my mind around this one.
Verdict: Kept! 

Market and Spruce Bernadette Lace Overlay Raglan Top:
Hey! At least I thought of a different spot for the photo without so much weird lighting!

This top was cute and I did like it, but it didn't WOW me enough to keep it for the price.  Overall, though the fit is good, the colors are good colors for me, and the material was soft. With an unlimited budget, probably would have kept it. Just not this time.
Verdict: Sent Back. 

Market and Spruce Alan Cowl Neck Asymmetrical Cardigan:
I had seen this cardigan on many other StitchFix review blog posts, and when I saw that I was getting it, I felt like... "oh great... you're sending me the same thing you send everyone else! What fun is that!?" But then I tried it on, and I really liked it! Even Jeff was underwhelmed when I unpacked it from the box, but once I put it on, he put in his positive vote, too. The color is not something I would normally pick, but I think it looks nice on me, and is a good neutral that I can wear with a lot. Super soft, too. Pleasantly surprised with this top. 
Verdict: Kept!

41Hawthorn Aspen Boat Neck Striped Cotton Tee:
 I knew right away that I would not be keeping this top. I bought something almost identical to this recently from Banana Republic. If it had come down to keeping everything but this in my box, I would have kept it and sent it to my Mom (we have really similar taste, and I think she would like this), but alas. With two other no's, there was no pressure to keep this one. It's pretty basic, but it does fit me great and the fabric was super soft and flattering. My stylist nailed my taste-- just don't need two of the same thing! 
Verdict: Sent Back.

So, there you have it. I kept two out of five items. The ones I sent back were pretty much my taste, but didn't fit right (jeans), were too expensive (lace-front top), or were nearly identical to something I already own (stripe top). My stylist, who was actually different this time than in my first fix, did a great job!

What do you think? What did you like or dislike? What would you have kept or sent back?

If you're interested in trying out Stitchfix, I get a bonus when you sign up through my referral link and when your first box ships. If you feel so inspired, help a girl out! Here's my referral link: Click here to sign up for your first StitchFix Box!

Until next time, readers!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Hunting on the HiLine, Volume 3: River Morning

This time of year, our house becomes a hunting lodge. On weekends we are not in Bozeman, Jeff's buddies or family members are at our house, hoping to find an antelope, deer, elk, or birds. Usually, the company is pretty easygoing and fun to have around. I join them on their hunting excursions whenever I can.

Last weekend was opening weekend for two new animals. Antelope Rifle season and Pheasant season both opened. Jeff and his friend Jeremy went out early Saturday morning and both got their antelope right away. Jeremy had a buck tag and shot a nice animal. Jeff only had a doe tag, but got his right away, too. 

That left the rest of the weekend to go after some pheasants. With the opening of the Lost River Wildlife Management Area last fall, we have found an excellent new pheasant habitat, very close to our house. We also have a great dog to show us the way to the birds! 

The Lost River WMA is about 10 miles from our house, but if you were to simply look at comparison photos of our farm next to some of the WMA, you'd think you were in different worlds. The landscape is completely different, with the Milk River carving out steep cliffs, breaks, and coulees. It makes for some pretty wonderful scenery. Knowing the setting and lighting would be perfect, I brought my real camera and snapped some photos of this highly photogenic place in the morning glow. 

It was a beautiful, crisp fall morning with no breeze to speak of. We spent about two hours hunting and Harvey lead us to several rooster pheasants. As always, what I enjoyed the most was watching Harvey work, and simply being outside in a beautiful place, with people I love, and with nice weather to boot. It was truly an ideal morning! 

Starting off on our hike.

Harvey is surveying the scene.

Jeff and Jeremy.

Milk River, near Canada.

I really wish this photo hadn't turned out a bit blurry. Need to work on improving my camera skills.
Guess I'll have to go back up some morning and try again! 

Milk River.
I do need to continue to refine my camera skills. I have also thought about using Lightroom or some other basic photo editing program to sharpen my images for the blog. But... sometimes I feel like I spend enough time on the computer as it is.

Also, for those few of you who may have already read this posts, sans photos, here it is again! I have been traveling a lot lately and trying to edit and upload posts using the app on my phone. I haven't mastered that yet, either. This is how I had always intended this post to be, with photos. :)

I've got lots of great blog post ideas coming up for the next few weeks, so stay tuned! 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

How To Break Up With Running Shoes

Breaking up is hard to do!

Many of my blog readers have hobbies and interests they become passionate about. Running has been one of those hobbies for me. As my blog audience has grown, I've gained some fellow runners as readers, too. Sometimes the tools we need to engage in our hobbies and passions become just as essential as the hobby itself. For a runner, the shoes we wear are everything. The right or wrong shoes can make or break a run.  I know I’m not the only runner who has strong preferences toward running shoes. For me, not just any shoe will do.

We become attached to our shoes.  They cover many miles together with us, hopefully as dependable protection and guidance for our feet over all kinds of terrain, through all kinds of weather. The right pair of shoes feels like a natural extension of our feet, part of our own bodies. Our shoes even come to be regarded as one would think of an old friend. It’s an intimate relationship we keep with our running shoes. Especially the pair we wear most often, on long runs and challenging workouts, and through the toughest races. They are with us in victory and defeat, on every pass, and across every finish line. 

So, when my most recently purchased pair of running shoes finally bit the dust, I had a hard time with it. I had worn Asics Gel Kayanos since High School. I still remember when I was first introduced to Kayano. I was in High School, preparing for another track season. I was probably a Junior or Senior, but can’t remember. My mom had taken me to Fitness Sports in Des Moines, the first endurance-sport specific store I had ever been to. I felt a mix of intimidation, awe, and camaraderie among the staff of dedicated runners. For the first time, I was being helped and guided into shoes by a female runner who understood how to fit another female runner into the right shoe.

I had picked out some flashy Nikes and a few other shoes I thought looked cool from their impressive selection of women’s running shoes. The clerk patiently let me try them each on. Then she brought me the Kayano. Oh the Kayano. When I put that shoe on, it felt like running, like shoes, like life suddenly made sense! She had found the perfect pair for me, explaining that as an overpronator, I would benefit from the stability of the shoe, and since I’d put a lot of wear on them over the course of a track season, the light weight would be great on my feet as well. Then she showed me some great ways to tie my shoes to further aid with ankle stability, and keep my laces from coming untied.

I walked out of the store with my Mom and my new Kayanos and began a relationship that would last many years began. I loved my Kayanos from the first day on. I wore them to track practice, to school, whenever I got a chance. I went through pair after pair of Kayanos over the years, from High School through all of College, and into my adult life living in Jackson Hole.

Then I had a little tryst.

Living in Jackson was awesome in many ways, but not on my wallet. Even though I had a good job, I did not have much money to spare. When the time came to update to a newer model of Kayano, I found myself in the local sporting goods store, walking the ladies’ running shoe aisle, searching for Kayano. The store had them in stock in my size, but suddenly the very high price tag had become too much. Reluctantly, I tried on a few other pair of shoes, sticking with my trusty Asics brand, and eventually settled on the Gel Nimbus. I remember being immediately impressed by the cushiness of the shoe, and had also noticed it had just as much stability control as the Kayano I had built my running life with over the years. And, at $40 less in price, the Nimbus fit the bill, even though I felt a bit like I was cheating on my Kayanos.

My fling with Nimbus lasted much longer than I had anticipated. I used those shoes as my primary pair for several years, through a knee surgery and ensuing rehab, and two more moves. Then, at a more financially stable point in my life, and back at a point when I felt like I could really get back into running, I went back to my old beau and purchased another pair of Kayanos.

In my post-surgery running world, I have now found it more important than ever to stick with trusted shoes and truly see it as an investment in my health to purchase good, reliable footwear that will not only keep my safe from injury but will last a long time. I’ve also learned to be in tune with my body, and upgrade shoes when my body tells me to. I noticed I could start to feel it in my knee when I had accumulated too many miles on a pair of shoes.

So it was I went through two more pairs of Kayanos, jogging on the dusty dirt roads of our farm, and working out with high-schoolers as an Assistant Track Coach. The thing of it was, however, it felt like I was going through each pair faster and faster than I had ever gone through them before, even though my mileage really wasn’t increasing.

I convinced myself that somehow I must have been harder on these shoes. Surely my faithful Kayanos wouldn’t let me down. Would they? With my most recent pair, I continued to wear them much longer than I should have. My knee barked every time I wore them. Eventually, I noticed the balls of my big toes feeling very painful after runs, too. After researching the symptoms, it now appeared I was beginning to form bunions! How could Kayano do this to me?!

It finally got to the point where I couldn’t stand painfully slogging through another run or workout. I dug around until I found the old pair of Nimbus I had kept as kickaround shoes, and in a fit of anger toward my Kayanos, gave them another spin. “I’ll show you, Kayano,” I thought, “I’ll go back to my old Nimbuses just to spite you!” The first run I went on with the Nimbuses on my feet, the knee pain and foot pain went away immediately. It was like an epiphany. My feet and knee felt so, so much better. It was truly like running on the puffy clouds the shoes are named after.

Still not wanting to doubt my Kayanos, however, I continued to think of the old, worn out Nimbuses as just a temporary fix and thought I must have been fooling myself somehow that they were better than Kayano. As the months of this summer and early fall went by, I continued to feel great in my knee and feet, however, and finally felt confirmed that the next pair of shoes I buy should be a Nimbus. Like that college boyfriend you stay with way longer than you should have, it was time to say goodbye to Kayano.

Finally clicking SUBMIT on the online order form for my Nimbuses, I felt relief. I had committed to this new, better relationship with a shoe that again felt like it was made just for me. Nimbus still had the support of Kayano but was cushier, and had a wider toe box—both great for my aged body. See Kayano, it’s not you—it’s me! My body and needs in a running shoe had changed, so I had to finally admit that an actual change in gear was necessary, too. Breaking up with Kayano and moving on to Nimbus has been just the right change I needed.

When the new shoes came last week, I felt refreshed in putting them on. I once again feel like I’m running on Cloud Nine with my sole mate! (Puns intended- You’re welcome!)

Breaking up is hard to do. Sometimes we can’t see through our own emotional attachment to the old on to what is really a better fit in life- with lovers or with shoes. 
The new Nimbuses! My feet feel so happy! 
Recent progression of running shoes, from Left to Right: Kayano, old Nimbus, new Nimbus!

I wore these shoes into the ground!
They're dirty, dusty, and flat, but still didn't feel too bad on my feet. 

Bottom tread VERY worn down!

The Kayanos even developed holes! 
All my shoes seem to develop wear at the back of the heel, although I honestly think that's from sliding my custom inserts in and out, and not from running use.
How many miles will we cover together, Nimbus?
Disclaimer: I am not receiving any endorsements for writing about product in this post. All opinions are my own and are genuine. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

How Do You Like Them Apples?

After ordering a case of Honeycrisp apples with my Bountiful Basket, I spent significant time on Sunday processing the apples. The case was 40 pounds of apples for $32, which makes them about eighty cents a pound. Pretty good deal, if you ask me!
Opening up the case of apples. Product of Washington!
I have never been disappointed with the quality of Bountiful Baskets fruit.
See, I had ordered a case of apples in the past and never went through them all. This year, I am determined to make sure no apple goes to waste! To that end, Sunday was Apple Day in my house, as I spent time in the kitchen putting up apples. So far, I have dehydrated a few batches of apple rings, baked an apple pie, and also canned some apple butter. I also made pumpkin soup over the weekend that used apples in it! Not to mention, Honeycrisps are DELICIOUS as snacking apples!
BIG, shiny, and delicious!
Right away upon opening the box, it was hard to miss how HUGE the apples are! They are bigger than grapefruit, and range in weight from .75-1.1 pounds! Holy cow! For me, to eat one whole apple was a bit much as a snack. In terms of canning and processing, however, the large size is welcome because it means less effort in peeling. Peeling, slicing, and coring is what takes the most time when working with apples. Furthermore, often with small apples, by the time you get them peeled and cored, there's not much left to work with and, well, it's more challenging to peel a small apple.

Not so with these behemoths.
The apples were actually too big to fit through my slicer. 
Apples washed and ready for use!
Let's take dehydrating as an example. With small or average sized apples, I'd fit 5 or 6 apples in the dehydrator, once they've been cored and sliced. With these, I fit exactly two apples, and spent MUCH less time washing, coring, and slicing the apples. Perfect!

I started a batch of apples in the dehydrator right away, since that was pretty hands-off after the initial prep. If anyone is looking for a gift idea for me, a food mandolin would be GREAT during apple season. I'm often *this close* to chopping off finger tips with my knife when I make apple rings!

Do you prefer skin-on or skin-off for your apple rings? I like to leave the skin on because I like the texture and color the skin adds in the finished product. Plus, it saves the step of peeling the apples. Not to mention, the skin adds extra good-for-you fiber, which I love! Then, it's just a dusting of cinnamon and into the dehydrator for about 5 hours.
Before entering the dehydrator.
Next, I started on the canning process for the apple butter. The recipe I was using called for four pounds of apples. I ended up using almost 5 pounds because of the weights of the apples, and not wanting to use partial apples. Four apples was like 3.75 pounds and 5 ended up at 4.6. (Sidenote: I LOVE my food scale and use it all the time!) Plus, I figured a little extra apple butter wouldn't hurt anyone, would it? If I'm going to go through the effort of canning, might as well make a little more!

Apple butter is so easy to make. It's a great beginner canning recipe to try because it calls for only a few ingredients, and usually they're readily available or things you have on hand already. Basically, you just peel and core the apples, then give them a rough chop and toss into a large pot. I love my dutch ovens for preparing canning recipes because they cook so evenly. Then, most recipes call for use of apple cider or apple juice to simmer the apples in for a while. This was the one ingredient I did not have on hand and had neglected to pick up on a recent trip to the store. Instead, I just used plain old water and threw in a few cinnamon sticks. I decided the only thing I'd really be missing was extra sugar from the cider.
This is the apple butter--after blending but before it had cooked down much.
As it cooked down, it became thicker and more brown in color. 
After simmering the apple chunks for about 40 minutes, I removed the cinnamon sticks and processed the apples and water in batches through the blender. If you had an immersion blender, this is where you would use it. (Again, another great gift idea!!!) You could also use a food mill.

After blending the apples, it's just a matter of returning the puree to the pot, adding some lemon juice, sugar and spices (I like cinnamon and nutmeg) and letting it cook down for a long time. The recipe called for about an hour and a half, but I think I let mine simmer for at least 2 hours. You'll know it's ready when it doesn't leach liquid out when you dab a bit on a plate or spoon. Then, you just hot water bath can. I processed mine in the canner for 10 minutes, due to being at a slightly higher altitude than sea level-- at about 3500 feet.

Now let's talk about pie. Who doesn't want to talk about pie!? Who doesn't LOVE pie?! And what could be more classic in the fall than a delicious apple pie!

Thanks to some efficient baking and fun time spent together in the kitchen when Stennie was here, I actually had two pie crust discs waiting and ready in the freezer. Since I knew I had apples coming, I pulled them down into the fridge to thaw on Friday morning. By Sunday, they were ready to roll. (har har har! Pun intended!)

While the apple butter was in it's long stages of waiting and simmering, I rolled out the pie crusts and prepped the filling. For the filling, I used a mixture of apples. I had one Granny Smith left in the fridge, three Galas that also came in this week's Bountiful Basket, and to round it out, I used one Honeycrisp.
From left to right: Granny Smith, Gala, Honeycrisp, Gala, Gala
For the filling recipe, I consulted my favorite all-knowing book for cooking and baking, The Best New Recipe, from the makers of Cooks Illustrated Magazine, or as I like to call it, The Cooking Bible. It's thick, filled with all the classic recipes, and some good twists. It also explains in great detail why each cooking decision was made and makes good, thoroughly researched suggestions as to what ingredients to use and which to skip.

Stennie and I also got a big kick out of some of the creative writing that went into the Cooking Bible as well. The apple pie recipe included this gem, referring to the recipe author's preferred thickness of apple pie filling:

"A bit of tart, thin juice gives the pie a breath of the orchard, whereas a thick, syrupy texture is dull." - The New Best Recipe cookbook, from the makers of Cooks Illustrated.  A breath of the orchard? Seriously!?
Don't those apples look like they have "a breath of the orchard?!" haha
Awaiting the top crust.
Anyway, just for fun, with the top crust, I decided to emulate a pie I had seen recently in a magazine that used cookie cutters to cut out shapes of leaves and layer them over the top, rather than a standard, vented pie crust or lattice-top. I don't have much selection for cookie cutters, but decided, in honor of our cows shipping in a few weeks, to use a cow-shaped cookie cutter. And because I thought as a non sequitur, it would be kind of funny. I did get a mild chuckle out of my husband, so it was worth it.
Top crust all rolled out...
The pie baked away and the canning process complete, I still had time to watch most of the Bears game on TV, and start a second round of dehydrated apples during half-time. Jeff and I sampled each of the creations as the day went on. Overall, I was really satisfied with each project and felt good about the work I'd put in.

Can't really tell their cows unless you look closely.
The only problem now is... I still have about 30 pounds of apples to go through!

So what's next? Probably more apple rings, since they're so easy and delicious. I'm thinking about another batch of apple butter, and maybe just some plain old applesauce, since that's even easier than apple butter. Maybe some apple muffins or apple cake... Sauteed apples and brats? Caramel apples? DEFINITELY some Apple Brandy!
All in a day's work! 
Do you have a favorite apple recipe? If so, I'd love to hear all about it!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Pre-Order Your Montana Women In Agriculture Calendar Today!

Hey, Ya'll!

Remember that super awesome Women in Agriculture Calendar I've written about a few times?

Well, the final proof is in and it's time to begin pre-ordering!!!

Here's a sneak peak at the cover of the calendar....

Beautiful photo of lambs and Montana rangeland!

I have no idea what month I'm in, or what any of the images look like, so it'll be a surprise to me, too, at the unveiling of the calendars coming up in about two weeks at the Montana Farmers Union Annual Convention.

But YOU don't have to wait for the convention. You don't even have to attend the convention (but I hope you consider it! You can register for the conference on the MFU website, right after you order your calendar!). You can Pre-Order your calendar RIGHT NOW on the MFU website by clicking on the words Montana Farmers Union in the above paragraph. Yep. Right up there. Right above this paragraph. Just look for the Women in Agriculture Calendar image as the banner scrolls through. (Hint: It's the second image!) Click on that and it'll take you to the pre-order page! Then, you'll go on to check out via PayPal.

For only $20.00, this beautifully photographed calendar, featuring some of Montana's most beautiful women, can be yours! And, proceeds help fund women's leadership and women's education programs within Montana Farmers Union.

If you don't want to pre-order yourself, you can wait a few weeks and maybe I'll do another post on the calendars once I've seen the final product myself. Or, just let me know if you want one and I'll be sure to include one for you in my order. I'd do that for you.

So, what do you say? Aren't you as curious as I am to see who is featured in each month? To learn about what female farmers in Montana are up to? To see all the many varied types of agriculture Montana possesses?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, you need to get one of these calendars.

C'mon-- Help a gal out!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Hunting on the HiLine 2014, Volume 2: Without Firing A Shot

On a warm and sunny, if mildly breezy Sunday afternoon, Jeff and I loaded into the pickup with Harvey. Jeff, donning his tan bird vest over a yellow MSU tshirt, and Harvey in his orange collar, were ready for a hunting excursion. The shotgun rested safely (unloaded) in the backseat, the three of us drove a few miles away to an abandoned farmyard to hunt some game birds.
Old vehicle, left in the grass for quite a while, at our hunting site.
We built the anticipation with Harvey on the drive over, asking him, "Are you gonna get the bird?" With each demand, he grew increasingly excited. He began to wag his tail vigorously, jump up and down in his seat, and whine, all while looking with dedication out the front window, scanning for visual evidence of birds. You can't tell me he doesn't understand what we're saying. He sees the shotgun and Dad (Jeff) in his hunting vest and he knows it's time to work. Really, as our family pet 90% of the time, hunting birds is more like play, but don't tell Harvey that!  He loves to hunt. 
Tree-rows are typically a great spot to find some birds.
When we arrived at the yard, Harvey barreled out of the car, ready to get down to business. We had to call him back, to stay still, while Jeff got his supplies ready. As always, I was just along for the ride. I was there to experience nature, spend time with my husband, and watch my dog do his thing. We were finally able to begin our hike through the grassy fields around the house, right on Harvey's tail. As the sun lowered into that magical, warm, golden-hour light, the breeze lessened, and our hike through knee-high Montana prairie grasses took shape, our evening mission was fulfilled.

Harvey's nose leading the way. 
Harvey is making a "soft point," indicating the start of a scent trail.
We traipsed around for about an hour and half, Harvey's nose leading the way through the brushy grass. Several times, he locked up on a scent and followed the trail for quite a while, his humans behind him in close and watchful pursuit. Each time, however, the birds were flighty and flew off early before Harvey could get in a good point and Jeff could prepare to take a shot.
Acting "birdy," or on-scent.
Though we saw probably between 25 and 30 grouse in the waning afternoon light, we never took a single shot. Nevertheless, it was evident that Harvey had a great time putting his instinct and training to work. There's nothing he loves more than to "get the bird," as we say to him while he's hunting. Jeff and I had a nice time, too, watching our dog gracefully run, romp, trot, and stalk birds through the fields. We headed home empty-handed, without firing a shot, but nevertheless fulfilled from a fun evening on a beautiful fall day being outdoors in a place that we love.

That's what hunting is about to me. 
Right before a flock of grouse flew up waaaaay ahead of the dog.

***If you liked this post, check out this very similar story written by Erin Madison, an Outdoors writer for the Great Falls Tribune, which was in the paper recently.