Dear Lord, Thank You.

As I look out over snow covered meadows, sparkling mountain tops, and my pony, frost-barren, I reflect on the past year and where the trail of life has taken me.  As the holiday season approaches, it seems only fitting.  I am thankful for where I am.  Truly thankful.  There have been big milestones, small stumbles, and some smooth sailing, but all of it worthwhile.  Just for this moment, I want to take the time to dig a little deeper and appreciate the small things that God puts before me; the things, that if I just take a little time to notice, enhance the big.  Here is just a small bit of what I am grateful for…
*The laughter of my children.  Where would I be without that sound?  Lonely, maybe even empty.  It warms me on a cold day. It lets me know that for that moment, the world is right.  Thank you God for my children’s laughter.
*A sense of humor.  I may not always be disciplined or tactful, but He made me.  Thank you for the ability to laugh at myself; to find the humor in the darkness; Oh… and to laugh at others.  If you can’t laugh at yourself, I am pretty sure I can do the job! Thank you for helping me find life’s humor.
*Alpine wildflowers.  I don’t have much of a domestic side, but I can name wildflowers.  I love their colors that add to the wild beauty of my home, sprinkled from mountain meadows to mountain passes high.  Thank you to His hands for putting them here.
*A young colt.  I was able to find a piece of me that I had somehow lost to fear and lack of self-confidence.  It has been so long since I have been able to find confidence in my horsemanship skills.  A bit of that was returned with the purchase of a young & willful but kind, colt. Unbroke, he made me earn his trust, and search within myself to come to terms with fear.  In doing so, I found the source of that fear; the affects it has had in other areas of my life.  Thank you to my horse for teaching me.

*The mountains.  I could not live where I can’t see a mountain standing on the horizon.  God forbid I ever have to. They are my home; the place I feel closest to my maker.  Their beauty instills tranquility and strength in my soul.  I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From whence shall my help come? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. ~Psalm 121 vs. 1,2

*The loving memories of those past.  To borrow a line from a song sung by The Judd’s, “When I feel troubled, and I don’t know what to do, I can hear my grandparents’ whispers saying, “Just do your best.  We are proud of you.”  They are my guardian angels.  The knowledge they shared lives within me and those around me.  Thank you Noni and Grandpa.
*My sister.  There is nobody on earth like your sister.  I love and admire her strength, beauty, and perseverance.  She inspires me, swaps recipes with me, laughs and cries with me, and has my back.  Thank you God for my sister’s unconditional love.
*My husband.  Man, the journey of marriage can be tough and beautiful all in one dose.  I am thankful for his patience with me, the reality check I often need, the courage to go on, the forgiveness, and the love.  Thank you for a best friend.
*Music.  The out-of-key trail tunes, campfire sing-a-longs, my daughter’s pure voice, Miranda Lambert’s rocking, the strum of the guitar strings.  I love music. Loud and proud. Soft and soulful.  Thank you for music.
*Miracles, big and small.  Little miracles happen everyday that give me the strength to carry on.  Whether it be simple, like enough money at the end of the month, getting back on after getting bucked off, or big, my parents reconnecting, and my brother’s cancer being cured, these miracles are the thread of life.  Thank God for all of them.
*My parents.  They have seen it all.  Sickness, love, hurt.  God’s grace has given my parents’ love the strength and ability to persevere.  I am thankful for their health, love, and happiness.  
*My brothers.  The strength and individuality of them inspire me to be a stronger, better self.  Ralph, headstrong and stubborn, but unselfish and loving.  He teaches me strength daily.  Cory, self sufficient and tender-hearted.  He teaches me to see the beauty in all situations.  I am thankful for a life close-knit with my brothers. 
So, I don’t have to look far to find much to be grateful for.  It is present in everyday life and season. I tip my hat to another year of this great life!  Thank you God for letting me live it! 

Spastic Dog Makes for Spastic Owner

I bet all of us at one point or another in our lives have owned a dog that you would rather shoot than look at. I have… More than one, in fact. Currently, I own some inbred species of Blue Heeler whom desperately needs a job.  If you know stock dogs at all, you know that Blue Heelers are amongst the most hard headed breeds.  I don’t take him to work with me at the ranch, generally.  Mostly, because he doesn’t listen worth a crap.  I chalk this up to several kicks to the head from a well-aimed horse or three.  He only barks at night, chases deer, jumps up on you, grabs your coat sleeves or pant legs wanting to play, frequently drags dead carcasses in the yard to roll in and chew on, and fights with other dogs.  Other than that, he is great! I’ve often heard that in order to be a horse lover, you must also love dogs. Apparently them whisperin’ trainers find training techniques for the two species parallel each other. Who knew? Well, my horse whispering nor dog whispering skills parallel. At all… My horse will usually come around at some point, but it’s been 5 years with my dog.  A long, long 5 years.  I have yet to whisper a nicety into his ear, and have him reward me with good behavior.  I think I could get farther with an ornery, barn sour mule.  Somedays, I love my dog, but most days, I want to throw him in a corral full of mules and test his survival skills.  Still, he remains loyal to me, the one who loves him least. My kids hug him, my husband plays with and pets him.  Me? I scold, chase, and yell at the animal.  As a puppy, I thought I could give him a name that would perhaps fit his nature as he grew. Spud.  It has had the opposite effect.  Spud is spastic, uncontrollable, idiotic, neurotic, and lovable all in one dose.  If he could talk, I am sure he would have a strong lisp. His greeting would be something like, “Hey guyths! You’re home! Ssshooo what are we’sthh gonna do? Do youth thee what I drug in the yard today?”  Spud, has more than once helped my horse find some interesting dance moves by heeling him, and leaving me grabbing leather.  He makes sure there isn’t a bird within a 5 mile radius of the house.  He chases tires on bicycles, but won’t ride quietly in a vehicle. There is a short circuit somewhere in that brain of his, but when he is good, I love him. Really love him.  Spastic or not, he is my dog.  Besides, they say your children and pets reflect the person you are… Well… hells bells…

Montana Fem-i-nine

This is for ALL hard-working women that have to endure calving season, haying season, long winters, hauling wood, feeding hay, hunting seasons, raising children, and all the while finding a pretty dress to wear!

Growing up in rural Montana on a guest ranch does not make for raising dainty, soft-spoken, feminine women.  Especially when the girls are the oldest siblings in the bunch, with no boys around to help shoulder the load, literally.  I have been told more than once by the less intelligent species, men, that “Boy, you have big shoulders for a girl!”  Somebody get this Sherlock Holmes a prize!  More often than not, at full maturity, you look like you belong on the football team, not the cheerleading squad. I got these shoulders by carrying hay bales, hauling firewood, and other feminine chores.  Now, I don’t have a problem with such things.  It truly is a necessity to have these skills for the western lifestyle.  But just once, I wonder what a day at the spa might feel like?  Nothing screams femininity like your father or husband saying, “Here Honey. Time you learned to run a chainsaw! You never know when you might have to use it!”  Frequently, as moms, we are seen at the bus stop on snowy mornings with a Carhartt jacket nicely matched with our flannel pajama bottoms, and Muck boots. The vehicles, no, make that trucks we drive, are equipped with snow shovels, tire chains, snow plows, and a .22 caliber rifle. Just in case you get stuck, need to shovel or plow your way out, can’t, and have to walk 10 miles back to the ranch. On your way, keep your eyes out for that pesky coyote that’s been harassing the chickens! Here is a glimpse at the everyday norm for women that grow up cowboy…

*Changing irrigation pipes…How else are you going to work on your tan?
*Driving tractors…Men at least are outside directing you on how they would like the job done. Sweet things.
*Bucking hay bales…Everything always needs fed. Kids, chickens, horses, mules, cows, dogs, men…
*Hauling firewood…Wood heat is cheapest! Get to stacking lady!
*Changing flat tires on the horse trailer…Two of them at a time. We could rival a Nascar pit crew!
*Shoveling crap…This is done inside your house, the barn, and at the post office! Becomes second nature…
*Fixing fencelines…Don’t forget your leather gloves. Those cuts sting in the dishwater later.
*Doctoring stock…Have needle & penicillin, will travel. Don’t forget the Furacin, iodine, charcoal dust, &  rope.
*Driving trucks & trailers…70% of the vehicles you pass here are just that and driven by a fem-i-nine!
*Big game hunting…Women hunt too! Usually we are better shots!

But don’t be fooled by my words. I like to look like a lady, soft and sweet. But my lifestyle doesn’t always allow such niceties.  At the end of the day, I am always proud of a job well done, the hard work it took, and I don’t plan on changing! I’ll take playing cowboy any day over the fancy spas and shopping malls!

Montana Cowgirls by Heather

All the pretty Hollywood ladies
With lacy dresses, high heels, and such
To painted toes and manicured nails
Fancy sunglasses and matching leather clutch.

Beauty salons and shopping malls
Can’t hold a candle to this
Because a true Montana cowgirl
Has no use for such bliss.

Have you ever seen a high maintenance cowgirl?
No, and you probably never will.
She has stalls to muck and hay to haul
And cows to bring down from the hill.

She won’t ever grace the cover of Vogue
She’s best dressed in her boots and jeans
Long-sleeved, cowboy hat and tuff ragged
Is how she will usually be seen.

Guaranteed she can outshoot ya
She can cuss, pray, and love
She knows what’s most important
That’s grace from the good Lord above.

So don’t mess with this Montana feminine
Cause she is always tough to catch
Don’t tell her she won’t or can’t
You might just meet your match!

What? I’m Sharing a Recipe???

Okay, I know am always professing my lack of domestic skills, but I came across this recipe today and felt the need to share it. Of course it has a cowboy flare to it and it’s made with whiskey, that is what makes it even better! Hey, I didn’t plan on being brilliant today, but shit happens! Hope you enjoy…

Stuffed Roast Beef

5 to 6 lb. boneless beef roast (tenderloin, ribeye, or eye of round)
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 to 2 ounces dried mushrooms
2 cups warm water
1/2 lb. fresh mushrooms, chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
Dash ground nutmeg
1 tsp. Tobasco sauce
1/4 cup finely chopped toasted pecans or pine nuts
1/4 cup finely chopped green onions
AND…. The best part….
1/2 cup or so of whiskey

*In a covered skillet over medium-low heat, cook onion until brown. Soften  dried mushrooms in warm water; drain, reserving water, and chop. Add dried and fresh mushrooms and butter to onions. Cook and stir until mixture is dry. Stir in parsley, salt, lemon juice, nutmeg, Tobasco sauce, and nuts. Cool.
*Make a slit in the underside of the roast. Fill with mushroom mixture. Close and tie securely. Place seam side down in roasting pan. Roast tenderloin 45-60 minutes in a 425 degree oven; ribeye or round 60-90 minutes in a 375 degree oven or until meat thermometer reaches 135-140 degrees. (medium rare)
*Remove from pan; keep warm. Pour off fat. Add green onions, whiskey, 1 1/2 cups mushroom water and any extra mushroom stuffing to pan drippings. Boil rapidly to reduce. Check seasonings. Serve sauce with beef. Serves 10-12 people.

Now if I only had a picture….
Happy Sunday all!

Hunting and Marital Bonding

I always figured if I can’t beat ’em, join ’em.  This was my approach with my husband when he asked me to go hunting with him for the hundredth time.  Instead of bitching and whining about his absence, I decided I would spend some quality one on one time with him in the great outdoors.  Besides, wasn’t the first thing that attracted me to this brawny man his sense of adventure and rugged handsomeness? Outfitted in my husband’s wool pants, 14 layers of polypropylene, wool, cotton, polyester, more wool, big winter barn boots with little traction left, hat, mittens, and don’t forget the blaze orange and rifle, I was ready for my plus size Cabela’s photo shoot.  Out the door we went for our day of marital bonding in search of the elusive wapiti.

We met up with our friend, Jon, at the barn, loaded our horses and were on our way. (So much for the marital bonding. Adding another male to the picture assured me of a long, long, long, long, long day in the woods.) There was a fresh layer of wet snow on the ground that morning, so we headed for the high country. We unloaded the horses in the dark, tightened cinches, and mounted up. Well, the boys mounted up. Somehow, I ended up with the tallest horse, the most clothing, and the shortest legs which inhibited my swinging up into the saddle.  Four tries later of stabbing the stirrup, grunting like a pig and now sweating like whore in church, I scoped the area in the dark for a stump, or something to assist me in the mounting process.  Finally in the saddle feeling like a weeble wobble on top of my horse, we set out.  The day was already starting out well.

As morning dawned, it appeared it was going to be a beautiful, crisp mountain day. Riding along, I took in the scenery, keeping my eye out for elk or deer. I loved riding, and reminded myself this was the reason I was here. It was cold, I couldn’t feel my toes or fingers, and I had frozen snot trails hanging from my nose, but dang, wasn’t it pretty! We rode most of the morning, not seeing much, and decided it was time for a lunch fire. Not just any lunch fire, but a “white man” lunch fire. The kind you build so big, you have to stand 100 ft. away just to enjoy.  After the boys snoozed a bit, it was time to head out again.

The weather had turned and it was piling up heavy, wet flakes as we rode along steep sidehills and ridges. I was feeling soggy, cold, and ready to head toward the truck when the guys cut fresh elk tracks. Shit. Off we went chasing elk in the snow on horseback. If you have ever done this, you know this pursuit can last FOREVER.  After two hours of circling and chasing, we decided to split up. Little did I know splitting up meant, “Here Heather. Hold our horses. We’ll be back in 4 hours.” Waiting, waiting… The guys reappear elkless after their foot pursuit.  It was still snowing, and late afternoon was approaching.  No more elk sign was to be seen, so we decided it was time to start back.  All the previous chasing had left us on top of a steep, rocky beargrass laden ridge. My husband, Mr. Hunting Guide, says he knows a shortcut, and those words uttered from any man are enough to make all women cringe.  I look at him eyeballing his shortcut, which was straight down the mountain.  I felt the urge to deliver a swift kick to his groin. Now, if you have ever tried to walk across wet, snowy beargrass hills, you know what I am up against.  We dismount, figuring it’s too steep to ride.  Now I get to try to walk and lead my horse at the same time. All my hunting clothes are still on, only they are 50 pounds heavier with water, and my boots have no traction. Jon and my husband start down the hill, leaving me to slide and waller my way. And slide and waller I did.  Every two steps, I ended up on my ass as my horse is trying to walk over the top of me.  By now, the guys are out of sight with their horses, and mine  begins to nicker and tries to run down the hill, pulling me off my feet yet again. Finally reaching the bottom, the men are no where to be seen. I have cussed my way down the mountain, called my husband every dirty name in the book, and am so mad I can’t see straight.  To top it off, I have to pee like a racehorse.  Now I get to hold my idiot horse, pull down fourteen layers of clothes, and avoid pissing on myself.  Damn, this was fun!  Job somewhat finished, I try to get back on my horse, whom by now is a nervous wreck at being left behind, and is trying to run away as I get on.  At this point in time, words can not even describe my lack of good mood, so I punch my horse in the face, jerk him down into a ditch to mount up, and catch up with the guys.  Upon my arrival, Jon looks around at me, and knows just by one glance, that I detest both of them.  My husband however, rides along nonchalantly, not looking back.  Jon pipes up and says, “I asked Justin if we were going to stop and wait for you at the bottom, and he said, ‘Hell no! Can’t you see how pissed she is? I am not waiting around for that!'”

I think two weeks later I finally spoke to my husband in a civil tone…. Who needs marital bonding when you own a rifle?

Baby, this song is for you…

The Old Mare Heads to the Gym

Dieting and Exercising…ugh… All of us would like to actually weigh what our driver’s license says. 130 lbs. Yeah. That may currently be in the lower portion of my posterior. Spring always brings on the self loathing and the “why didn’t I just stick to my New Year’s resolution thoughts? I could have been Ashley Judd by now!”  Well, no time like the present to get going…Perhaps my horse won’t actually run away at the mere sight of me this summer, and when I finally throw a leg over him (without splitting the seams of my jeans), he won’t groan and look at me like,  “What in THE heck have you done to yourself all winter, lady? YOU actually want a lift up the mountain?” 

So, the first step is buying workout clothes; preferably something that will not catch fire as my thighs rub together. Let’s not forget the super duper sports bra, tank top, and cross trainer, ultra-sculpting shoes to give me a lifted appearance. I probably should buy a gym bag, because my duffel bag from last summer still has a campfire stench. Workout attire…$350 Looking like I ALWAYS go to the gym…priceless.

Next, I purchase a membership. Upon entering the gym, my envy kicks in as I see some blonde pounding it out on the treadmill, and I instantly think, “Crap… You really think you can keep up with barbie running mach 1 on the treadmill at a 42 incline?” Maybe I should start with a one month beginner membership and a yoga class or two. Lord knows, I could learn to be more flexible. Membership purchased, I head to the changing room. Putting on the clothes itself is a workout! All that bending over, holding your breath, and rearranging is exhausting! Out the door I go, sweat already running down unmentionable areas.

Hmmm… where to start? Maybe I should quietly observe how some of this stuff works before I make a fool of myself. (Oh, too late! I’m already AT the gym in exercise attire!) Instantly, I feel inferior as I watch a lady resembling Demi Moore in G.I. Jane, doing one armed push ups. Swell, I can’t do two armed without cheating.  Scanning the room, I see someone pedaling away on stationary bike. Maybe, I could handle that. Heading over, I adjust the seat level and start pedaling. However, two minutes into pedaling at a low speed, I feel like I’ve popped a lung, and my underwear are so far up my rear, I am not sure I will ever be able to retrieve them! Moving on… Maybe some stomach crunches on the pilates ball… Picking out a medium sized ball, I find a dark corner to hide in. I already know how this is going to look. Laying over the ball, trying to balance, I lose it completely, wobble off, and smack the floor. I was always taught to get back on if I get bucked off, so here we go again. Laying over the stability ball, I realize that sports bras may somewhat work for vertical movement restriction, but horizontally is a different story. Suddenly, my bosom is at my chin. Trying to balance them and me, I attempt a few crunches. I am pretty sure I look like somebody off of an old Richard Simmon’s “Sweating to the Oldies” tape. No more Pilates ball… What next? How about the Stairclimber? I could handle a few flights, and just to show that I am serious, I will turn up the resistance. The first few flights down! This isn’t so bad… But suddenly, my butt cheeks are burning, and my calves cramp so bad, that when I climb off the machine, it looks like I have a stick permanently shoved up my posterior. I can’t imagine how it’s going to feel tomorrow. Day one and done. Wondering about my sanity, I head home. Ashley Judd may have to wait, because I am starving for a juicy burger, loaded, and I am pretty sure an adult beverage is calling my name…