IdahoPilgrim The Homesteader – August 1999

Dear Friends:

It’s about time we shared with you our adventures in Idaho, land of the free, home of the brave. As we approach the second half of 1999,  we continue to gorge ourselves on the beauty of our surroundings and our new experiences. Each day there are so many things to do, places to see, new lessons to learn, skills to master, tasks to achieve, and of course, naps to take.

Pilgrim, a Red Heeler pup, has been a wonderful addition to our family. Heelers were originally used to round up the cow herds by nipping at their heels to keep them moving. Instead of cows though, Pilgrim likes to nip and tug at the garden hose, and any tool like a shovel or hoe, he tends to want to bite and bark at. We decided it best to keep him inside when Bob uses the weed wacker. Pilgrim isn’t a garage dog. He shares all of the luxuries of home . He’s almost 5 months old now, and we just adore him. Where ever we go, Pilgrim is right there with us. You’ll hear more about Pilgrim, thats a fact.

Going back a month or so, we thought it was quite a suprise when, on June 4th, we heard rumor of snow in our area. It was a rainy day at Bent Pines, but we jumped in the Ford and drove up the road a mile and then into the mountains about a mile and ran into falling snow. By the time we reached Snow Haven (a small ski resort a few miles further up) there was 2-3 feet of snow on the ground.  We got out of the truck and played in the snow for a bit, we took some pictures of us in the snow, and will post them on our website as soon as we get them back from the photo lab. (As a rule, it takes about 3 weeks for photos to be developed in Grangeville.) We had such fun.    Imagine that, snow on June 4th.    Another phenomenon that occurred on June 24th was a fierce hail storm. We were sitting at the dinner table, Tom was with us too, having our meal and watching the deer have theirs. The sky to the west was getting a bit dark and looked stormy, and the one deer that was still standing there eating became extremely skittish. All of a sudden, big white balls of hail were hurled down from the sky. They were golf ball size and made such a racket. The tragic thing was, Bob had decided to leave his truck in the driveway that afternoon, instead of putting it in the garage. You shouldve seen him run to that truck! It suffered some hail damage for sure, which we ended up getting fixed by one of those ding removing companies. Apart from the damage, that hail storm was one of the most remarkable sights I’ve seen. It took about four hours for the hail to melt. There was A LOT of damage to homes, crops, and vehicles in the surrounding area.

We haven’t put in a garden yet, but have plans for next year. I’ve been caring for about four tomato plants that Sue gave me, and had started from seed. I’ve probably got 50 or more fruits on those plants, and the first one is ripe today. Thank you Suzie! Sue and Tom have such a beautiful garden and they share so generously. Delicious lettuces, onions, green beans, cucumbers, peppers, corn! Its like a picture out of a magazine! I’ll be sure to learn all kinds of great tips from Suzie, when it comes time to sowing my own garden. First though, the ground needs to be tilled and composted with cow patties, newspaper, and other assorted fillers to enrich the soil for our planting next spring. Even though a garden is a lot of work, the rewards far surpass any negatives I can think of. The aromas, the flavors, and the sheer sense of achievement is enough for me. Not to mention the good eats! Yesterday, Sue and I canned 6 jars of dill pickles from her first harvest of cukes in the garden. She’s got gorgeous dill plants growing as well, which will certainly spike the flavor of our pickles nicely!

I joined a womens hiking club and each month about 6-10 women of all ages go on a day hike to some featured location. I have truly enjoyed the spectacular sights of the Idaho outback, from waterfalls that step down 300 feet from one canyon pool to another, to sighting a huge bull moose on my most recent hike. Plus, hiking keeps me in shape and works off some of the icecream and pie we’ve been snacking on frequently in the evenings.

The wildlife is what probably enchants us the most out here. Bob has become so obsessed with the 20 or 30 deer that come to our feeder on a daily basis, that we’ve even named a couple of ’em. I think they tell all their friends in the surrounding area “hey, that guy up there is putting out some really good grub, come on, let’s go eat!” Bob says he’s gonna have to get a part time job to keep up with his deer feeding expenses. After bonding with the deer like he has, how in the world will he go hunting with brother Tom this fall? He’s fallen in love with those soft brown eyed mammals. Having acquired more camoflauge gear than a Cabela’s catalog, I guess Bob will just take one step at a time when it comes to peering at Bucky through the scope of his Remington.

Speaking of wildlife though, Bobby and I were lounging in bed on the morning of July 4th. It was about 38 degrees outside, and we were enjoying the rare scene of about nine does and a couple of their fawn playing and romping about in the back yard. Suddenly, they scattered. At that moment Bob started shouting “Oh shit, its a bear!” A huge black bear rambled up from the west side of the canyon, not 50 yards from our bedroom, across the backyard, and then disappeared down the other side back into the canyon. We couldn’t believe it. What an awesome sight. Adrenaline still flowing, I suddenly spied another bear following the exact same path and screamed to Bobby, “there’s another one, there’s another bear!!” What a charge to see the two bears that morning.

We saw a couple of coyotes run across the front yard one morning a few weeks earlier, and then one in the back yard as well. By the time Bobby ran downstairs to get his gun, loaded it, and aim, the coyote in the back yard had headed back down the canyon. Needless to say, we’ve now got loaded guns all over the house. Bobby has no problem at all with the idea of shooting at a coyote. They terrorize the deer and kill all the little fawns, and turkeys and grouse, when they are too young and weak to run for their lives. We found scraps of fur and small jaw bones from a fawn kill all over the meadow to the East of us one evening when we took a short hike. You hear the coyotes at night yipping and yapping to each other in the canyon down below.

I’ve got to tell you about one other animal we do not care for, although certainly not wild. These are the lamas. We were planning to buy a few lamas to maybe breed and keep the grass mowed down, but learned since, that they are the stupidest, ugliest animals, and have absolutely no fear at all. They’re such eight balls that the bears, cougar and coyotes don’t even mess with them. Bob threw a baseball sized rock at one that came to eat our deer food. The rock hit him square in the throat, and the damn thing didn’t even flinch. Now we’re keeping the gate to our entrance closed, otherwise those jerks come down from the neighbors place, in a herd of 20 or 30, to roam around our place and eat the deer food. They’re bad news for dogs too, and we’re afraid Pilgrim might get hurt. One kick from the hoof of a lama would probably kill our little pup. Anyway, we’ve decided, the lama’s are not going to be a part of Bent Pines Ranch.

Camping was a blast! Around the end of June, we went to a place called Crooked River, which is the entrance to an historic mining area called Ore Grande. There are still old mining camps, and various delapidated shacks along the trail that the local moose and elk meander around. Ore Grande really takes you back to the Old West when the gold rush spawned all of these tiny communities out here. Riding the 6 wheeler, we were headed for Wild Horse Lake, a spot nestled on the edge of the Gospel Humps, which is a protected wilderness area in the Clearwater National Forest. We wanted to check it out as a potential camping site. We saw moose tracks along the way, lots of moose and deer turds, and the most beautiful rivers and streams along our ascent. At about 6000 feet though, we ran into 3 foot of snow pack. We tried to plow our way through it, but alas, we had to turn back. The icey snow was solid for as far as our eyes could see up the road. Anyway, we’ve got that place pegged for another visit real soon.

In the evenings, Bob, Pilgrim and I sometimes ride down into the canyon, on our 6 wheeler. Lots of beautiful foliage, wild berries and wild fruit trees make it feel like we’re roaming through the jungle. And when it wasn’t so dry, we picked wild flowers in every color of the rainbow. They were hardy plants, and would stay fresh in a vase for almost a full week. While down in the canyon, we generally check the bear feeders that brother Tom has stationed on each side of the canyon. We save all of our food scraps, grease, and whatever chunks of leftovers would go in the trash, and put it in these 50 gallon drums that originally contained old rancid oil. Its fun to see the results of these huge creatures getting into the barrels, knocking over the huge limbs that we’ve placed on top, or big giant rocks that had covered the food holes. The bears still manage to get at those juicy niblets no matter how difficult. Some evenings, we’ll just sit on the deck, listening to the sounds around us. The yip yips of the coyotes, the stomping of deer, and just the peace and tranquility of the breeze blowing across the mountain tops.

We went to the Salmon River a few weeks ago and picked a little over two quarts of blackberries. They’re just now starting to ripen, in certain spots, so the season is a little late due to the cool spring we had. I made us a huge blackberry pie, with homemade crust. Mmmmmmmm its sooooo good, especially with vanilla ice cream on top. To get to the Salmon River by car, its about 20 miles or so. Yesterday, we drove down the opposite direction, down the Mount Idaho grade, just 5-6 miles from our homestead, toward the Clearwater River, and found a blackberry patch that was loaded. While we picked, we saw wild cherry trees, apples, and assorted other berries, as well as rosehips, all of which will ripen later in the fall. The raspberries aren’t ripe yet, but there will be an endless supply once they do come into season. We came home with about a gallon and a half of blackberries, shared half with Tom and Suzie, who brought their 8 week old pup, Tico, to play with Pilgrim, and we still we have plenty for another big pie for Sunday dinner, as well as spare berries to freeze for later. That’s Idaho for ya!

Besides all the fun stuff we’ve been up to, there has been plenty of work to keep us very busy. Getting our place in optimum shape is Bobby’s expertise. One such task was that we decided to paint the house. We just dove in head first. It was really kind of a miserable job. We would start at 7:30am and really not quit working until 8pm at night. Exhausted, we’d drop into bed and then start it over again the next morning. What made it so difficult was the type of wood paneling the house has, called “board and batton”. All the edges, and corners, and curves, and lines basically had to be hand painted because the roller didn’t cover all the grooves. In addition, the german man we bought the place from must have spent a lifetime routing out all the trim with fancy scalloped edges and curled gables under the eaves. All of that had to be hand trimmed. It took us five days, and about 13 gallons of paint, but we did it, and the house looks great. What a milestone that was.

We haven’t gotten much rain at all this summer, practically zilch. We’ve mowed the front and back yard and the pastures probably three times so far and may give them one more trim before fall. In total, we can get it all mowed, with me on the riding lawn mower, and Bobby doing the weedwacking and trim with the push mower, in one full day. In addition to painting and mowing, Bob’s been re-fencing about 1/4 mile of 3 rail posts. That means digging out the old posts and clearing the debris, and rocks and stuff for setting in a new one. I have memories of the nice soft hands Bobby use to have, which are now calloused and pretty rough. He says “Mary, these are the hands of a real man”. He’s also pruned every pine and fir tree on the top 15, pressure cleaned and restained the deck and steps to the front, ground and cubed 100 pounds of deer meat for our freezers, brought in 31 tons of gravel and had it dropped along our driveway from the entrance at our gate, and also filled in about 20 potholes along the easement to help out our neighbor down the way. There have been countless other little projects along the way, all a part of keeping the place tip top shape. One other fun task for Bob was in learning from his brother how to properly “cure the barrel” of his Remington rifle, the one that his co-workers gave him at retirement. He sure loves that gun. Curing the barrel will give the gun a more accurate shot and is somewhat of a painstaking process. First, it required putting in a little rifle range in the back yard. After each shot, Bobby cleaned the barrel with a clean white cloth swab dabbed with solvent. When you could draw the cloth through the barrel and pull it out totally white, then you were ready for the next shot. This was the process for 50 total shots. We’ll let ya know ‘round hunting season if this helped.

Last week we went on a trip to Missoula, MT for kicks. The drive up Lolo Pass (which is the historical trail that Lewis and Clark took when they led the Corp of Discovery out west) is one of the most spectacular scenic byways anywhere in the United States. You just feel as though you’ve come alive in a postcard or a picture book. Its down right stunning, and for that alone, we enjoyed the trip. While in Missoula, we visited the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation where they’ve got many of the Boone and Crockett mounts on display. There are big horned sheep, elk, antelope, and lots of beautiful trinkets and goodies to buy. We also shopped at Costco (we don’t have Sam’s Club out here) and Wal-Mart and toured the town of Missoula which is probably has a population of 70,000. Another bonus about Missoula is that Montana has no sales tax. So everything we buy there, is tax free: groceries, household item, whatever. We bought our 6 wheeler ATV in Montana and saved a bunch right there.

Going on three months in Idaho, so far, we’ve learned quite a bit:

  • Yes, we can sleep until 8 o’clock in the morning.
  • Wildlife is everywhere.
  • No, you cannot have a clean truck in Idaho
  • Don’t pull the electric blanket off the bed in July.
  • There’s a lot less hanky panky, when your dog sleeps in the same bed
  • Sticks look an awful lot like rattlesnakes. (People acquainted with the area who’ve come out to Bent Pines tell us its known as Rattlesnake Point.)
  • There’s plenty of water sports here, with 3500 miles of whitewater rivers.
  • 70% of Idaho land is publicly owned, which slows growth – Great!
  • Idaho holds the largest wilderness area of any state in the Lower 48. It’s the 11th largest state, and ranked 40th in population.

Things we don’t miss are:

  • Phone solicitations
  • Hords of people (there are 272 people per square mile in Florida compared with 14 people per square mile in Idaho)
  • Stop lights and major intersections
  • Sirens
  • Rap Music blaring from stereos and boom boxes
  • Airplane traffic overhead
  • Traffic, in general.
  • Crime
  • Stress

Things we do miss are:

  • Our friends and family
  • ATM’s
  • Publix Super Markets
  • Cuban Sandwiches at the deli

Life is just wonderful though, and we thank God everyday. We’d like to thank all of you who continue to stay in touch with us through email. Your emails are truly appreciated. We’ll continue to share our experiences with you out here in the west.

With fondest memories,

Mary and Bobby

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