The Road to Spring Coulee

“It was so risky and so scary, and yet at the same time, so beautiful. Maybe the truth was, it shouldn’t be easy to be amazing. Then everything would be. It’s the things you fight for and struggle with before earning that have the greatest worth. When something’s difficult to come by, you’ll do that much more to make sure it’s even harder -if not impossible- to lose.” 

Sarah Dessen, Along for the Ride

Writing has been really difficult lately

I took a little time off to deal with some sudden life changes, and now I feel like I’m stuck. There was a period of time where I couldn’t bring myself to open my computer. I’d write little snippets in Notes on my phone, but nothing sounded right. I had trouble forming coherent sentences. Too much shit has gone on this year… I’m backlogged. My mind can’t handle it. I have so much to process and so many unresolved feelings that my brain is in a constant state of bufferingI am happier than I’ve ever been before, but positive change still requires processing. And now, even though I’m writing again, I feel like I’ve lost my voice. I never intended on taking a break for this long, but… this fucking year, amiright? 

Write –> delete. Write –> delete. Write –> save for possible future use, but we all know I’ll never look at it again. Just like the 15,000+ photos I have on my phone.  That’s too many photos, Megan. Get your shit together. 

Some days I will compose perfectly “written” blog posts in my mind. Usually, it’s when I’m standing at the sink doing dishes or exploring the property, searching for treasures. If I immediately try to make the words permanent and transfer from brain to computer, phone, or paper… they’re gone, poof, like they never existed in the first place. Frustrating. 

Treasures

Nothing sounds right. Nothing looks right. I’ll spend days working on a piece, re-read, immediately hate it, delete. How did I do this before?

Just… bear with me. 

If you’ve read all 12 of my blog posts, you know that a) I lost my job in April and b) there were a few uncertainties and unknowns regarding my future. Also, c) hey… thanks for following along! The biggest source of my unknowns was this giant blaring mystery of not knowing when I was moving. At the beginning of the year, Markie Mark had decided to finally take the leap he’s been dreaming about for years and pursue agriculture. He grew up farming and raising animals, and in the 8 years we’ve been together, his desire to return to the land hasn’t faded one bit. I fully supported his dream, although location was my only argument. I really wanted to stay in Montana. He did his homework and spent most of his free time researching possibilities. In March, he discovered a 9600-acre organic grain farm roughly five hours north of us. He called, he visited, and it quickly became clear that these were our people

Toward the end of March, the flooring jobs he had lined up came to an immediate halt because of that whole pandemic/quarantine thing. You know the oneThe one that hasn’t just magically disappearedSince farming is an essential business, he ditched me and went north to help with Seeding Season. We were already discussing our transition before he left, and a few weeks later, I drove up to meet the owners and look at potential housing. At this point, it was just a matter of getting us a place to live. The farm owners were in negotiations to secure us the property we looked at, but because everyone was busy with seeding, everything was left up in the air. 

During this time, I’d also been dealing with Mika and Daisy’s refusal to eat dog food. Daisy had been diagnosed with kidney disease in January, and in March, she stopped eating not only her prescription dog food but all dog food in general. A week later, Mika stopped eating her dog food. Ugh. What they chose to eat one week or one day, would frequently and quickly change the next. I found myself constantly cooking and trying different foods, desperately attempting to get them to eat something. For the most part, it worked. I was always able to find at least one thing they’d eat. For a day. And then they’d refuse it the next. They became known as “the picky bitches.”

Daisy and Mika. The happiest, pickiest bitches.

When I returned home from my farm trip in April, I started overthinking and overanalyzing their quality of life. We made an appointment to check in with the vet… not only did I want to get a professional opinion of their status, but also make sure it was acceptable to feed them whatever. Even though both girls still had life, spunk, and enjoyment, I was so concerned about their new-found aversion to food, I started to convince myself that “this was it.” My heart was broken. I only wanted what was best for them. 

“The shadows of life add depth and dimension to our journey, like route markers along our path. They are never intended to dominate our life with darkness, neither do they determine our ultimate destiny.”

Anthon St. Maarten

The day before the appointment, I lost my job. Terrible timing. I felt like I was about to lose one, if not both, dogs the following day, so this was just a giant kick in the teeth. I already knew my time there was ending, obviously… I was moving. But with everything going on, that was my one support system. A shitty support system, yes. At work, I felt like I had friends and people who actually cared about my life. Ha. You think you know someone… the fakeness ran deep within that company. I learned the hard way, again. The number of times I’ve been through this, you’d think I would have known better. But no. It was pretty stupid of me to believe my boss and coworkers were actually being genuine. But instead of properly communicating with me, as I had done with him since the beginning of my employment, my boss chose the route of cowering and hiding. What are we in elementary school? Seriously, the level of bullshit was incredible. Don’t get me wrong… I’m not mad I lost my job. It was an easy way out and the company was a shit show. I knew I was leaving eventually, plus, it’s just a job. What really wrenched my heart was the way it was handled by people I thought actually gave a shit. It was the fact that I was already emotional with the potential loss of two of my dogs. The fact that my boss ignored my questions, hid from me, and didn’t respect me enough to explain the situation. He didn’t respect me enough to say goodbye, give thanks, or show any amount of support. He had lied directly to my face and told me I was safe, weeks before. I should have known better. Honestly, he did me a favor in getting me out of that place. I just wanted the mutual respect of honest communication that I always gave him. So, instead of feeling free and recognizing the gift I was being given, it felt like a betrayal. Good riddance.

Luckily, the following day at the vet went much better than expected. She recognized the amount of life still present in Daisy and Mika. She instructed me to “feed them whatever,” emphasizing that she didn’t care what they ate, as long as they were eating. Okay. I can do that. And now, I had unlimited time to be able to find something to their liking. And it required unlimited time because it was hard. But, they ate. And they maintained their happiness, energy, and enjoyment. 

For two months, the status of our move stayed unknown. I tried to focus all my energy on the girls, giving all my love and commitment to their end-of-life care. It was not easy. I was massively sleep-deprived, but I’d do anything to make them more comfortable. I knew they were on the last few pages of their life story. Death was closing in. 

In June, we finally got an answer regarding housing. The place we had looked at in April was a go, move-in set for July 1st. Everything felt like it was in limbo two months, then BAM… go go go! Mark returned home for a few weeks to finish up his last few flooring jobs and I began packing up the entire house, while still trying to keep the girls fed and content. Some days were harder than others. At this point, my only goal was to get the girls to the farm. I knew they’d love it, bringing peace and happiness to their broken and deteriorating bodies. I really wanted them to be able to reach “farm dog status” before they died. Amazingly, they seemed to be doing a bit better in the months I was home. Daisy had her occasional bad days, but the good ones far outnumbered the bad. 

As I worked on packing up the house, Mark took loads of crap to our new home. How and when did I accumulate all this stuff? Why is it in my home? Stop hoarding, Megan! When he was finished with his flooring work and said goodbye to the industry he’d been in for 6 years, he ditched me again to go do his final flooring job: refinishing the floors in the new house. I finalized the packing and in mid-July, we said goodbye to our house in Three Forks, moving on toward our future. The drive was a little over five hours, and by the time we made it to our new home, I was exhausted. We had some friendly neighborly help unloading, as well as a very quick introduction to the number of bugs we’d be dealing with. Living in the middle of nowhere farmland has so many perks, but also 500 trillion bugs. It’s a good thing I transported three batches of Baby Quinoa (aka baby orb weavers), along with 12 adult orb weavers. What? If you thought for one second that a semi-normal thing like moving would actually stay semi-normalish, you’ve got another thing coming. I’m insane, to the core. I didn’t leave that shit behind in Three Forks. So, yeah. I packed up a bunch of spiders, put them in coffee cans, and drove them up with me. I would have packed up the bluebirds, too, if I could have. God, I miss those Bluebies. I also demanded Mark pack up the compost I had spent years working on. I’m not about to give up that shit. That’s black gold! Shout out to Markie Mark, who transported the babies, 6 adult orbs, and scooped all my compost into five 5-gallon buckets. I’m so thankful to have someone who fully accepts all the obsessions and insanity that radiates from my being. Love you, Poo. 

Baby Quinoa adjusting to their new home.

From the very first day of residency in our new home, I could tell this was it. This place is magical.  Even though I still struggle with anxiety and depression (because it never goes away… MeSsEd Up FoR LyFe!), I’ve never been happier. I’ve never felt more drawn to a place before, like the Universe aligned perfectly with my life and made. this. shit. happen. It’s like a never-ending playground of exploration, collecting, and observing. And as the life slowly creeps out of the girls, I know this is the right place for them to live out the rest of their days, as short as it may be. They get to run and explore with me, chase bunnies and deer, roll in the grass, sunbathe, smell all the smells, pee on all the things, and when we are outside, excitement oozes from their weakening bodies. I knew they’d love it. I knew it would give them a brief glimmer of happiness before the inevitability of death, as all three of them will die of failing kidneys, most likely before the year has ended. 

I have a lot more to say about the dogs, but for now, I’m going to leave it at that. It’s deserving of its own post. 

The move, in general, went a lot smoother than our last, but it wasn’t without its difficulties. However, considering it only took roughly four months from finalizing the decision to completing the transition, I’d say it was a win. We ended up getting three offers on our house in Three Forks within a relatively short period, and most everything regarding the sale has worked out to our benefit. We are getting the exact amount we wanted for it in order to pay off Mark’s business debt, and our agent has been A M A Z I N G in helping us with everything since we now live five hours away. Mark goes back on Monday to sign the final papers and then we’ll wash our hands of that craphole. I don’t really think it’s a craphole. I loved that property. The house definitely had its issues, but I really did love living there. It was a great transition home and I’ll miss aspects of it, for sure. Honestly, I thought it would be more difficult to leave that place. I’d only been to the new property once prior to us moving, and even though I was excited about new experiences, I was still unsure. I didn’t realize I’d fall so deeply in love with it. 

Our new house rests on 40 acres and it’s owned by the Hutterites, aka the Hoots. They call it Spring Coulee, because of its location, so that’s what I like to call it. Yeah, our home has a name. No big deal. The Hoots still use the bins and one of the shops, but for the most part, they could give two shits about it. It’s not part of the colony and it’s too far away for them to care about keeping the land. Hopefully, we can use this to our advantage when it comes time to negotiate a trade or purchase. We really want this place. No one has lived here for 10 years. It’s a lathe and plaster house, which I think is super cool, but Markie Mark wants to tear it down and build a new house if we ever get the opportunity. It’s got issues, too, but it’s an old fucking house. I find myself less upset when shit leaks or squeaks than I was at the other house because this house has character. It feels more like a home… our home. It’s the perfect place for an isolated introverted hermit creep like me. It’s roughly 40 miles from town and 10 miles from the Canadian border (miiiiight just come in handy in the relatively near future). I’m not sure the exact distance we are from each neighbor, but they are far enough away that I could walk around outside, naked, all day, and no one would see me. Unless the Hoots or FedEx/UPS drop by. Which might be weird.  And awkward. However, our house is 3 miles down a dirt road from the main road, so luckily I’d have enough time to see them coming, run back inside, and hide. Which is exactly what I do. Not the naked part, though, just the run and hiding part. And then I peep through the windows and spy on whoever stopped by. But, for the most part, no one stops by. I’m left to my own devices. Just pure isolated bliss. 

New house… who dis?

Leaving the Bluebies and Neighborhood Murder Cat behind was difficult. I felt genuine sadness I’d never seen them again… these creatures that had brought me so much joy the past two years. But I’d be damned if I left my spiders behind! I wasn’t sure what the spider situation was like at Spring Coulee, so I had to guarantee I’d have my cat-faced orb weavers widely available to satisfy my weird obsession. I’ve lived in a house with no orb weavers before. It sucks. What am I supposed to stare at all day?!? I did discover the property already had cat-faced orb weavers, along with some bridge orb weavers, but most of them hung out around the outbuildings and barns. Only bridge orb weavers were present around the house. So, hopefully, that will change next year with the addition of 1500 cat-faced beauties. They have a harsh winter to get through, so I know many won’t survive. Godspeed little spiders.

As far as cats and birds… there’s no Murder Cat prowling around outside, which is probably a good thing considering the Hoots put a bunch of mouse poison in the buildings. I have yet to see a dead mouse just laying around, so I suppose that’s a good thing. I do not like poison. I mean, who does, really? MuRDERS, that’s who! We still get mice inside, but I found these really awesome wooden traps (Tomcat brand) and they work SO GOOD. We throw the dead mice in the tall grass behind the house and I check on them frequently, observing the decomposition process. Nature is truly awesome. We’ve got carrion beetles and those things are the fucking coolest. Sometimes when I check on the dead mice (and that one random dove that looked like it died in flight), the bodies have mysteriously disappeared. Hmm. Such mystery. There’s a ton of birds, deer, bunnies, coyotes, porcupines, badgers (although I have yet to see one), rattlesnakes, and my favorite… GREAT HORNED OWLS! I do miss my bluebirds, but if I had to give them up for anything, owls are a worthy trade. I have so much to write about regarding the owls, so that will be another post. There was also an incident with a rattlesnek… another story worthy of its own post.

The point of all my ranting is this: I was nervous and slightly terrified to leave our old house. I had created a space of comfort and obsessions and I wasn’t sure what was going to be waiting for me up north. As I’ve said before, I’m terrified of change. But, change can also be a good thing, and in this case, a very good thing. We faced our fair share of obstacles this year, but we endured and persevered. Both Mark and I are happier than we’ve been in quite some time. This place just feels right. Sometimes you gotta suck up your fears, accept that you can’t control the outcome (whatever it may be), and jump into the unknown. We don’t know what awaits us… and it very well could change our lives forever. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side, but sometimes… it IS.

“The laws of nature remind us that no matter how long, seeds do grow. Push through long enough to see your seeds grow.”

Andrena Sawyer

Speedy’s 4-Day Camping Adventure

“Hope can be a powerful force. Maybe there’s no actual magic in it, but when you know what you hope for most and hold it like a light within you, you can make things happen, almost like magic.” 

Laini Taylor, Daughter of Smoke & Bone

I’ve been working on this shitty post for a week now. And you’ll know why I say it’s shitty as soon as I post it. It’s been shitty for me to write and it’ll be shitty for you to read. Ha! You’re welcome, Blog World.

While I get my life together with this other post, I figured I’d take a break and write something else. Give myself a little mind break. So, for your reading pleasure…the second installment of The Speedster.

This week, we are diving into a short little story about the time I lost him because waffles. Yep, that’s right, waffles. It’s not some pet name or anything… it’s legitimately waffles. Like, the food you put in your mouth at breakfast time. Or whenever. Because honestly you can eat those delicious checkered pastry things any time of the day. I don’t judge.

Onward!

This story takes place after we moved out of the duplex, so Speedster did not have his fenced yard. We actually did have a fenced backyard, but it was a giant and terrifying thing I did not want to release a tortoise into. We owned a .55 acre lot and the house sat about midway in between. That gave it a pretty sizable front and backyard. The backyard was fenced, the front was not. We had a small fenced side yard that we let the dogs do their business in because I did not want to pick up poop in the huge backyard. I’m lazy. Also, if you recall from a previous post, the dogs eat dirt and do other naughty things when unsupervised in the yard, so the less space, the better. Obvi, we would let them in the back for supervised playtime, but. . . o k a y. This post is about Speedy. Turnin’ back around.

I let Speedy into the backyard on one occasion and lost him almost immediately. We had about 80 ponderosa pine trees and we weren’t very good about upkeep. He likes to burrow. Pine needles. You see where this is going. So I did not release him back there again. Plus, the fence we had was wire and I knew he could easily escape if he wanted. The neighbors had similarly huge yards. What a disaster. In my very intelligent mind, I figured it would be better if I let him roam around in our unfenced front yard that had ample grass, dandelions, clover, and sunlight. Such good roaming grounds. But no fence. He could just… waltz the fuck off. Or pimp walk the fuck off? Whatever a crippled tortoise does.

So I tagged the bitch. In duplex days, I put blue painters tape on his shell so I could find him more easily. In this house, I figured I would need something extra with all the grass, so I stuck a bright post-it note up like a flag and secured it with blue tape. I still lost him. But he was more easy to find. Sometimes.

I don’t have a picture of the post-it note cause I suck. But I swear it was a thing.

Most of the time I would only lose him temporarily. Like, for a few minutes. Or twenty. There was that one time we had a liquor store party and I forgot I put him outside. Then I was drunk and it was dusk. Like, pretty dark. Luckily, I had a bunch of other drunk people with me and we conducted a drunk search party for Speedy. We found him after about twenty minutes. He was in the neighbor’s rhubarb. Silly Speedy.

On Monday July 4th, 2016 (yeah, I know the exact date because it was a tragic day I will never forget), I was home alone, it was a beautiful day, and I decided to let the Speedster out to get some sun. Then, I decided it would be a great day to make waffles! Who doesn’t love homemade waffles? Yeah, I have a waffle maker. And that shit takes time. And I get really into cooking. So, I made waffles. And I was SO distracted by the waffles, I completely forgot I put Speedy outside or that I was even a tortoise mother. At some point, I went to the window and stared at the neighbors who were leaving in their RV. This had to have been at least an hour, if not more, after I put Speedy outside. I don’t know though. I got really into those waffles and I don’t honestly think time existed that day. So, these neighbors caught my eye because they were leaving their house in their RV and they just stopped in the middle of the road. No one got out. They just pulled out of their driveway and then stopped. And waited. For a good minute or two? And then they left. It was weird. I remember seeing them stop and I was like, what are they doing? Remember, I’m a hermit creep so I hermit and then just spy on everyone like a creep and avoid social interactions like a total freaking creep. Creep. But, I have social anxiety and I refuse to socialize with my neighbors so if I don’t spy on them how will I know the happenings of the neighborhood, huh? Tell me, how?!!

The RV left and I shrugged it off like they forgot something or they were just being weird. And I went back to my life of whatever else I was doing that day. Because honestly, I don’t remember anything else other than waffles. At some point into the afternoon, I remembered I had a tortoise named Speedy and that I’m the most irresponsible tortoise owner known to man and I put him outside that morning OMG SPEEDY! Obviously, I ran outside and searched for him EVERYWHERE. All of his spots where I previously found him. Nope. High, low, front yard, backyard, neighbor’s yard, rhubarb, under rocks, under the porch, car port, fence line, garden, under the car, EVERYWHERE. I walked along the street and checked out the neighbor’s yards. There was a trailer across the street I looked under. I asked my next door neighbor to look in his yard and he helped me. Nothing. I could not find that little fucker. I was devastated.

So, I drafted up a sign and posted it on the street posts and Craigslist. I felt so defeated.

The next day I had to go back to work. My heart was still broken. I told my coworkers and they were all very sad for me and hoped I would find him. I went home that night and continued my search for him, hoping maybe he moved or came home or something. I dunno… I don’t know tortoises. This continued for three more days. I looked for Speedy in the morning, went to work, came home, and searched for Speedy until dark. I looked on Craigslist Lost and Found ads. Someone had emailed me about a lost tortoise but it wasn’t Speedy. Kind of crazy how many lost tortoises are out there, huh? Yeah, I’m not the only irresponsible one out there. Ha! On Wednesday, I met the owner of the shop and trailer across the street and asked him if I could look behind his shop. He was very kind and gave me permission to do what I needed to find my little tortoise dude. Unfortunately, the guy didn’t upkeep his property very well because he just used it for work. And behind the shop was a literal fucking jungle. If Speedy was back there, I had doubts I would find him. I looked around for a bit and went home defeated.

“What you perceive as a failure today may actually be a crucial step towards the success you seek. Never give up.”

Richelle E. Goodrich, Smile Anyway

Friday July 8, 2016: After work, I asked my neighbor if I could look in his yard again. There’s a lot of hiding spots so we looked thoroughly. He gave me a yard stick to help with tall grass and noted I could tell if Speedy had been through an area because the grass would be disturbed and flattened. With no luck at his house, I went back through the front yard with my new yard stick. Then I got an idea. I had suspicions that Speedy walked across the street because of that whole weird RV thing. Did the RV see him walking across the street and stop there for a minute to let him cross? It’s a good thing he had his post-it note flag on, huh?! The timing would have been about right. It makes sense. And if he did, he would have gone for the most lush area available to him… THE JUNGLE. Where I could never find him. Bastard. I grabbed my yard stick and headed across the street to the shop. At the top of the hill, the grass was above my waist. There was a clearing and path leading down the hill so I started walking down. I saw some deer laying at the bottom of the property. Then, I noticed a disturbance in the grass and I remembered what my neighbor told me. I stopped walking and turned left to follow the disturbance. I wondered if this flattened path was from the deer. But I continued to follow it anyway. I walked several feet before I started noticing some familiar looking dandelion patches. I inspected them. Huh. These dandelion patches have bites taken out of them. Speedy looking bites. I continued my gaze further up the path from the dandelions and what do you think I saw? A happy-go-lucky Speedy tushy. Just merry along his way, pimp walking through the jungle, wet-ass post-it note still taped to his shell. Happier than a merry-fuckin’ clam. Like nothing was wrong in the world and he didn’t just abandon his mother for four fucking days! Yeah. He just took a little camping trip across the street. NO. BIG. DEAL.

I took this picture as soon as we got back to the house so I could let everyone know I found him. Doesn’t he look so happy to see me? Hahahahaha.

Needless to say, I don’t think he was happy to see me. I’m pretty sure he would have been content living out the rest of his days in that terrifying jungle until he’d get run over with a lawnmower, or made it far enough down the property line to make it back onto the street and get run over by a car. Honestly, I don’t know what would have happened to him or where he would have gone had I not found him that day. I don’t want to think about it. The only thing that matters is I found him. I never gave up on him and I never lost hope because that’s what you do for the things you love. I felt defeated and discouraged on many days but it never stopped me from continuing my search. I maintained my determination and never let go of that goddamn desperate hope I could find the little bastard. I was over-the-moon relieved I found the little tortoise dude… and he was okay! It was a traumatic enough experience for me that I upped my responsibility game after that. I made him a little wired flag with a return address, in case he ever left the property again, and it was way more visible than a post-it note. I also left myself several post-it notes throughout the house that said “SPEEDY” so I would never again forget I was was tortoise mother when I was too distracted by food. Most of the time after that, his visits outside were supervised, but when I did leave him unsupervised, it was only for very short periods of time and I would always makes sure to check on him repeatedly. See? I can learn valuable lessons sometimes. I still allowed him to roam, but I learned to be a little bit more responsible of a tortoise owner so we didn’t go through this again. I mean, I get it. Fourth of July Weekend is for camping and shit… but the least he could do is ask permission next time. Kids, you know?

The Pinkies

 “There is magic in this sad, hard world. A magic stronger than fate, stronger than chance. And it is seen in the unlikeliest of places….It lives inside every human being ready to redeem us. To transform us. To save us. If we can only find the courage to listen to it. 

It is the magic of the human heart.”

Jennifer Donnelly, Stepsister

I may have mentioned in the past that I like animals. I’m actually unsure if there exists an animal I do not like. I mean, probably, but off the top of my head, I can’t honestly think of one. I try to live my life without disrupting too much of the natural balance or local wildlife around me. Obviously, sometimes that can be hard. Neighborhood Murder Cat disrupts the local wildlife by murdering my birds, but she also helps keep the rodent population down, which I am thankful for. We live on a nice little piece of property in a lesser populated area. There are several empty lots surrounding us, and therefore, we get quite a few mice in our shop and basement. We have three cats that are indoor only, because, well… the birds. For about a year, we had the cats living in the shop to help control the mouse population out there. They had their own little Kitty Condo with a fenced-in outdoor enclosure. And they did a really good job with the mice.

Neighborhood Murder Cat

In February 2019, my eldest cat, Zeke, passed away. I had him living inside the house, and after he died, extreme guilt poured over me for the other three cats living in the shop 100 feet away (or whatever it is… I’m a bad judge of distance). At this same time, we noticed we were having an increase in mouse activity in the basement and they were being super sneaky about getting around our traps. I don’t generally like traps and I don’t generally like killing mice, but I also don’t like it when I find mouse poop or bird seed in my clothes. So, we moved the cats into the basement.

I assumed the cats were doing their job. We would still find mice in the traps, but we would also find random spots of blood, an occasional organ or foot, or the rare whole corpse. I always feel like a Cat Crime Scene Investigator when I find blood. Where did this come from? Is this from a mouse or did one of you get into a fight? Is there any evidence of a struggle? Organs? Feet? Is there a mouse in the Murder Box? Oh yeah, the Murder Box. One of my cats has a Murder Box. It’s a cardboard box that he puts his murderings in, or does his murderings in? I don’t honestly know what occurs in the Murder Box. I do know that when I throw the Murder Box away, he just makes a new one.

Murder Box.
Yes, I do photograph everything in case I need future evidence.
Case in point.

I don’t know where this post has gone but this is not where I intended. Alright. So. The cats were killing mice. All was good. Everyday, twice a day, I would check three locations: under the water softener, under the bathroom sink, and the machine room (which is a little Harry Potter-type room, but it’s not underneath stairs and all that’s in it is our furnace and some space for storage). In these locations, we have several traps. Occasionally, mice will not die when they get stuck in a trap and then Markie Mark will have to come in and assist because I cannot handle that kind of stress in my life. On three occasions I have been alone when this has happened. I don’t want to discuss what happened with the one. I will tell you, Lady Luck was with the other two and we’ll leave it at that. End of story.

I guess maybe there was four occasions. But there was a special occasion, and this one was very different, for several reasons. And I mean… several. Like, specifically… five.

In June of 2019, I came home from work one evening and did my normal check of all the locations. When I walked into the machine room, I immediately saw her. She looked terrified. Only her foot had gotten stuck in the trap. Okay, how do I deal with this? Then, I saw the other thing. It was just a small blob… this little pile of pink sitting next to her. Oh no. I moved closer to get a better look. Oh no. Five pinkies. All alive, all moving. OH NO. That was literally all I could think to say. Seriously, how do I deal with this? I can’t even deal with one mouse, one adult mouse, and Mark isn’t home. What the fuck am I going to do with a mother who stress birthed and the resulting babies? Well, what do you think I did?

Stress birthing is dirty business. The black specks are trap plastic she chewed off in her attempt to get free.

I made them a Tupperware nesting home. I drilled holes into the lid. I added paper towel, wood chips, straw, and dryer lint so mama could make a nest. I added bird seed so she could eat and a shallow lid of water (I read that I wasn’t suppose to do this because mice drown themselves but these are wild mice… how do they drink in the wild? Clearly not from bottles, right?) Yeah, yeah. Again, I am the crazy woman with the baby mice and the spiders in my room. Whatever. Stop judging.

Mama did good and took to nursing her babies right away. She made a little nest and nursed the shit out of those pinkies for two weeks… the exact time she needed to. She didn’t leave them at all for the first week, and then after about 12 days, she started getting antsy. I don’t think she ever stop being terrified of me. Every time I opened that lid, she was so scared. All she wanted was to get out. Looking back, I feel bad. I didn’t know. There was no way she would ever get comfortable with me. So as soon as she could, she started sneaking away from her babies, jumping up on the handle indent, and little by little, started chewing a hole in the plastic. She did it on the underside so I didn’t see what she was doing until it was too late.

Obviously, I checked on them morning and night. But a lot of times I just assumed everything was good and I tried not to disturb them too much. I peeked in, saw a pile of fur, and closed the lid. So, I’m not entirely sure when she escaped. In the evening, I would change out the water, inspecting more thoroughly. That’s when I noticed the hole. Oh no. I gently lifted up the top of the nest to look for a mama. Just five little babies wiggling around. OH NO. Fuck. Like, literal fuck. She abandoned her babies?!? It’s okay. Calm down. Maybe she’ll come back. Leave her like, a ramp or something. I did. I totally made her a ramp. She did not come back. Do you know why? Wanna take a guess? Yeah, you do.

She didn’t come back because she fucking died. My cats murdered her. And they were kind enough to leave the evidence behind so that I knew. I found her, two days later, behind the broom. She was completely intact, which is why I knew it was her. That little trap foot. Poor girl. She went the wrong way. Should have gone out the wall hole. Well, I guess now I’m a mouse mother.

I did some googling and… lucky for me! Mice only need to be nursed for two weeks. Mama did her job before she bailed and died. Unfortunately, she didn’t get to train them on how to actually be mice and survive the world. So that kind of left me in a predicament. What the hell am I supposed to do with five baby mice?

I continued to feed them bird seed. I added some cheese and dried/fresh fruit on occasion. I added some more dryer lint and paper towel. As they got older, they started building tunnels in the wood chips and straw. They mostly always slept together. They weren’t afraid of me and I was quickly becoming very attached to them. But I was also quickly coming to the realization that I needed to make a decision about what to do with them before it was too late. There were five of them and at some point, in the very near future, they were going to start “doing it” and making more babies and then I would really have a problem.

I had them for five weeks before I decided they were old enough to potentially survive on their own. I took them out to the back part of our property where there’s a bunch of trees and places to hide. I made them this super useless area of hay and bird seed and dried fruit that they very quickly moved on from and never touched and I cried when I released them. They sort of stuck together for a minute before going their separate ways. And probably lasted a whole 45 minutes before getting killed by Neighborhood Murder Cat or a hawk or something, I dunno, because they didn’t have any survival skills and they grew up in a Tupperware. Ugh. I’m the worst.

Be free, my children!

“As long as there’s light, we’ve got a chance.”

Poe Dameron, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I have absolutely no idea what happened to my five little mice children after I released them into the world. I would like to think they lived out their short little mice lives in the empty lots around our property, or maybe somehow made it into the shop where there’s no longer the threat of cats. Of course, if they did survive, that means they probably bred and created more mice, which becomes more of a problem for me, and yes… I understand the contradiction. But you see, I truly believe that everything in the world, no matter how big or small, deserves a chance. And even though I had set up those traps to kill the mice coming into our basement, I still believed that the situation was not only unfortunate, but could be slightly remedied. Those pinkies didn’t understand the world they were coming into, and they didn’t deserve for me to take their lives as soon as they were stress birthed. They may have died as soon as I set them free that day, but at least I gave them a chance. And that counts for something, doesn’t it?

The Speedster

“Tortoises are not very fast, as everyone knows, but they make up for their slow speed by being very determined. And if you turn your back on a tortoise, thinking they will just hang around like a lazy cat, you are in for a surprise.” 

William Herring

I have a tortoise. He’s a Russian box tortoise and his name is Speedy.

I came to acquire Speedy many years ago when I was dating his owner at the time, J. We’re still good friends and I keep him updated on Speedy’s life. He had gotten Speedy from his uncle some years before, where Speedy had lived inside a garage in LA for ten years. J and I started dating in 2006. He was originally from Hawaii, and in 2008, he decided to move back to Hawaii. Obviously, he couldn’t take Speedy with him. I mean, he probably could have, but why, when there was a perfectly good caretaker right here who loved animals and already knew how to take care of him. Right?

I don’t really know how old Speedy is, but from the information I have, I guesstimate he’s in the range of 30 years old. He looks it, too. Old fart. He’s doing good, though. But, let’s be honest… the dude’s been through some stuff. From 2008-2014, Speedy was allowed to free roam in the backyard of the duplex I lived in (during warmer months… tortoise dude hibernates in the winter). He would spend most of his days roaming in peace, doing happy tortoise stuff, eating weeds and sunbathing. It was fully fenced, and I had bricked off any low spots to prevent escaping. This didn’t work all the time, and there were times I had to do the tortoise walk of shame to the neighbor’s house to do Operation Speedy Rescue. Or just hop the fence and quickly retrieve him without getting caught. Occasionally, there would be a dog on the other side that thought he was some type of rock that needed to be heavily scratched and bounced upon. But, those times were rare, and my dogs never touched him. They were so used to him always walking around that they fully ignored him. But then, a thing happened.

Dude loves dandelions.

In the summer of 2009, one of my best friends came over to visit one afternoon with his dogs. These dogs were not used to tortoises. Perhaps had never seen a tortoise, and definitely not used to free roaming tortoises in the backyard. I was not used to having to “watch” dogs in the backyard and didn’t even think about the fact that Speedy was out there. We were inside for a good amount of time, distracted by the amazement of technology, while the dogs were outside playing. At some point, one of us thought to check on the dogs. When we looked out the window, we saw one of his dogs with something in his mouth. Oh no. I forgot about Speedy. My heart sank.

We ran outside and quickly got Speedy out of the murder grip. Luckily, so lucky, so freaking lucky… he was still alive, and with very little damage. His shell was still intact and had no damage other than a few minor scratches. His body was fine, no bleeding or cuts, except… one foot had been chewed off. Super sad face. He wasn’t bleeding at all from his newly created stump, which was good. It was just… fleshy. The whole experience was very traumatic, I’m sure more so for the Speedster, obviously, but for me as well. Holy crap.

We found his foot. It was really sad. So, we did what any logical person would do in a situation like this… we had a funeral for his foot and we buried it. Then we took Speedy inside, washed him up, and we superglued the fuck out of his stump. And you know what? Superglue is the shit. His little leg healed up great. The superglue fell off after awhile, and he had a perfectly healed little stump underneath. And the whole experience seemed to do nothing to the lil’ guy… he went about his day and life like nothing happened, except now he has a super awesome pimp walk. He also had to adjust the way he eats because now he can’t tear food with that leg; it took him a lot longer to figure that out than you would expect. And honestly, with all feet intact, tortoises are a lot faster than you would think; his newly acquired disability did nothing to stop his speed nor his determination to escape. He was still able to dig and burrow himself completely underground so I wasn’t able to find him, freak out, and think he had escaped somehow into the neighbor’s yard. We have fun.

Old man and his stump.

I moved out of that duplex in 2014 and haven’t had a fully fenced yard that Speedy can’t easily escape since. I miss that yard… for Speedy. I’m sure he misses it, too. I’ve lost him a BUNCH of times, but I’ve luckily (so lucky) always found him. I’m an irresponsible tortoise owner. But, I know he likes to roam, and I like to give him that. Sometimes I just start making waffles and I forget I put him outside. You know how it is. Our house in Montana has a very escapable fence, so we built him a Speedy-proof tortoise corral: completely wired in so he can’t dig out and predators can’t get in. Unfortunately, that means he doesn’t get the brightest sunlight, or the best roaming grounds. So, I’ll occasionally let him out on a chaperoned “tortoise-walk” all over our property. When he’s not outside in his corral, he stays in Casa Kiddie Pool; it sits on a coffee table so it gets some natural sunlight through the window and also a nice view of the bird feeder (that he probably can’t see, but I give it to him anyway). Casa Kiddie Pool was born after we moved out of the duplex and we didn’t have a fenced yard for him to roam around in. For about two years, I let him free roam around the house because he seemed pretty happy doing that, not realizing I was preventing him from getting the precious UV light he needs to survive. Yeah, I’m an irresponsible tortoise owner.

I started this post wanting to talk about Speedy’s 13,000 mile road trip across America. Or the time I lost him for four days because waffles. But then I realized before I write about any of that, I had to obviously do an introduction post about the time he lost his foot and became Speedy, the 3-legged tortoise. He’s not really 3-legged, though. It’s more like 3-footed, I guess. Specifics, jeez. It doesn’t matter. What really matters is that he went through this traumatic experience and overcame it like a badass. Overall, he’s had a pretty interesting life for a tortoise. Also, did I mention he has a super awesome pimp walk?

Fred and the Baby Spiders

I have a thing for spiders. Yeah, I said it. I’m one of those people. But I have my reasons.

Disclaimer: This post contains images and descriptions of spiders.

My infatuation with spiders developed some years ago when I lived in Oregon. Over time, I have become more open to different kinds of spiders, realizing that most of them are harmless and more terrified of us than we are of them. But my love for them started with one specific spider: The Orb Weaver. Specifically, the Cat-faced Orb Weaver (Araneus gemmoides). And there was one particular spider that started it all, and her name was Fred.

I lived in a duplex in Oregon for 9 years. It had a very small laundry room with a door leading out to the garage. There was a window in this laundry room. Fred found her way into the laundry room at some point and started to build a web. I did not think this was a very good move for Fred. She was still smallish at this point in her life, so I moved her gently, and placed her directly outside the laundry room on the window. She apparently liked this location very much, because she set up shop and lived out the rest of her days there.

Fred as a beautiful young woman, showing off her mad web skills.

Now, I named Fred before I knew Fred was a female. But then obviously I couldn’t change her name, so Fred it stayed. When I met Fred, I was going through a bout of terrible insomnia. I was also a smoker. So I would spend a lot of my nights and early mornings smoking cigarettes, watching Fred tear down her web and build a new one. It was fascinating. If you have never taken the time to watch an orb weaver work… I highly recommend you do. It’s delicate, rhythmic, therapeutic, and the result is really beautiful. It’s weird, I know. I was going through this really shitty time in my life, and I bonded with a spider. Thinking about Fred still makes me want to cry. Obviously, this spider never talked to me, never gave me advice, and probably never knew I even existed. But she gave me something. A connection? The ability to disconnect temporarily from my surroundings? Maybe. I don’t know what it was… but she gave me something I needed to survive that summer and move on with my life. She was my friend.

I watched Fred’s life cycle that summer. I met her as a young women, I saw her mate (and eat her partner!), I watched her get all fat and pregnant, and then when it came time and got cold in the fall, she disappeared to lay her eggs and die. I searched for her body for days, hoping to find my friend, wishing I could bring her inside and revive her. But that’s not how it works. The next year, we had some Fred babies pop up here and there, but no one really stuck around. And a few years later, I moved to a different house.

Old and pregnant Fred. The day after this photo, she disappeared.

The story of Fred happened in the summer of 2011. Every Spring, in every house I’ve been in since, I start the search for orb weavers, looking for my new Fred. In 2017, we moved to Montana. Apparently, orb weavers LOVE Montana. The first summer we were here, I was blessed with my first orb weaver above the back door. I watched her lay her babies and the egg sac is still there (sometimes, the babies never hatch sad face). Last year, it was an orb weaver Mecca. I had coffee can babies, 11 mature pregnant females, and an unknown amount of adolescent/teenage Orbies hanging around the perimeter of our house. I was only able to observe one female lay her egg sac (another round of coffee can babies!) and because she stayed with the babies, I thought I could get her body for preservation sake. Generally, they die within a few days after laying their eggs. She had been completely covered in snow. I brought her inside, and she was still alive! Barely, but alive. She didn’t do much, so I put her back out with her babies and continued to check on her. After weeks, she was still alive. It was insane. Like, the sheer determination in this woman. Or her energy reserve just hadn’t run out yet… I don’t know. I don’t know spiders. But then, probably the most traumatic and tragic thing to ever occur in my spider loving life, occurred: My dog ate her. So, that’s the end of that story.

Pregnant Orbie trying to find a place to lay her eggs.
Orbie with her babies, before my dog ate her. What a good mama, leaving bugs and shit for her little babes.

Winter happened. And all my precious Orbies either died or hibernated or whatever they do when winter comes. After the first snow, I found 8 bodies of adolescents that didn’t make it, so I know a lot of them died. That’s why spiders have so many babies… because most of them won’t survive. It’s a hard life out there, ya know? But now it’s almost May, and that’s the time when everything starts coming out again, because, you know, it’s getting warmer.

A few weeks ago, I noticed a spot hanging from the ceiling by the bathroom door in our bedroom. Upon closer inspection, I recognized the shape immediately. Oh blessed day! An adolescent Orbie had survived winter and decided to set up shop in my room. Obvi, I have good spider juju. They know. She apparently did not like that location and bailed, moving to the corner of the room by the window. Obviously a smart move because: 1) that’s very close to where I sleep and 2) the window, duh. She hung out by the closet for a couple of days and I waited for her to make a web. They are more active at night, so one night, during one of Daisy’s middle-of-the-night-pee-excursions, I used my phone’s flashlight to check out the area. You wanna know what I found? Yeah, you do. Another Orbie! This one was much smaller, more babyish. It was chilling on the blinds. Blessed with two! Two orb weavers in my room? By my window? In my corner? Oh my lord… they know.

The next morning, the bigger Orbie had disappeared. I was devastated. I searched for her everywhere. Web trails, evidence, something… anything. I thought perhaps she had gone down the vent and went into the basement. Nope. For days, I searched. Every morning and every night. No sign of her. She left me. Which is understandable… a bedroom probably isn’t a great All-You-Can-Eat-Buffet for bugs. I didn’t blame her. The baby was still too young to understand, but she’d eventually get smart and leave me, too. It was inevitable.

Coffee Can Babies. I was out-of-my-mind delighted when I found these guys.

For the next few days, I watched the baby move from the blinds, to the corner, to the wall. I would check on her at night when I let Daisy out, and she would be busy walking little baby butt strings along the top of the wall. You do you, baby spider. She seemed to have found her spot, and the fact that she was making a web confirmed that she was here to stay. Haha, you dumb bitch.

Wednesday April 22, 2020:
I awoke to the most marvelous thing! The bigger Orbie that had vanished from existence last week has reappeared. She is back in her corner by the window and she even grew a little. Getting thick. I don’t know where she went in her little hiatus or what she was doing, but she’s back and everything is right in the world…

Wait…

WTF…

Now the baby is gone?!? Okay. I cannot be a spider mother. I cannot handle this kind of stress. I’m officially throwing in the towel. I quit.

Thursday April 23, 2020:
Baby has returned! My life is complete! I have two Orbies in my room, safe and sound. Both have made webs, both are eating (I’m a crazy person and I may be literally finding bugs outside to throw in their webs), and all is right in the world.

I realize how crazy this post sounds to a lot of people. I have two spiders living in my bedroom, literal feet away from my face when I sleep, and I’m finding bugs outside to throw in their webs inside instead of just relocating them OUTSIDE where they probably should be in the first place. Yes, you’re right. And at some point, I will relocate them outside. Because I know they won’t be able to survive in here for an extended period of time. Plus, they’ll need to find a mate and make more babies, and that obviously can’t happen in here. So for now, just let me have my moment and be a spider mother. I already know I’m crazy. But honestly, I don’t care. Because I’m sitting here right now, thinking about my life in this moment, wondering why, again, I have attached myself to some random spiders. I am one of those people… but I really only love orb weavers. I don’t kill spiders, but I won’t just let any spider build its web and exist in my bedroom, 5 feet from my sleeping face.

It’s Fred. It’s always been Fred. She gave me a gift… that unknown gift of survival. During the darkest points of my life, when I need a connection, a focal point, that familiar rhythmic and therapeutic dance… there she is. It’s why I continuously search for replacements, hoping for the day when my therapy will resume. My future is unknown. I don’t know what I’m doing with my life. I lost my job. My dogs are dying. Things are grey. But here and now, I have two tiny friends. And for the time, I can occasionally disconnect from all the daily unknowns and bullshit, check in with my Orbies, and life seems a little less grey.

I rarely name Orbie’s anymore since Fred. Usually when I do, they leave me almost immediately. This was Montana Orbie #1 after laying her eggs, one day before she died.

Bluebirds

Today, I feel accomplished.

It was a frustrating day of trial and error with this website, but I got a few things figured out on my own, and therefore, I feel like the smartest! person! alive! I have now connected all my social media accounts to the social media menu at the bottom of the home page, so it’s super cool, but also a tad creepy now that I’ve easily connected anyone in Internet Land to my social life. Oh well. It’s not like this blog is going to be much different. Honestly, this blog will probably be much more revealing than anything else currently on the internet. Shrugs.

I’m also quickly realizing how much work goes into website creating and blogs. I recognize that once I have the site looking the way I want, I won’t have to spend so much time on it, but DAMN… getting it to that initial point is work! However, considering my current state of unemployment due to the current state of the world (I lost my job because of COVID-19, like many people), I figure now is the best time to work out the kinks. It’s also the best time to establish a routine of writing, so that when I do get another job and start working again, I will hopefully be set up enough in a state of normalcy that I will continue doing this. Hopefully.

Today’s topic: Bluebirds. Specifically, Mountain Bluebirds. More specifically, MY Mountain Bluebirds.

My Bluebirds. I know this is a terrible photo. Don’t @ me.

Now, I say “my” bluebirds because I consider them to be mine. I consider myself to be an extremely amateur bird hobbyist. I don’t know very many birds, but I have a cool bird app on my phone. I look up unfamiliar birds on that or google and then I use the app’s journal to make journal entries about what I see. It’s very amateur. We only have a specific variety of birds that come to our house, so once I figured out what those were, every year it’s about the same. On rare occasions we’ll get a new one, but it’s pretty much just the same players all the time. They are still cool, I spend a shit ton of money on Costco bird seed, and I love them.

The Bluebirds, aka Bluebies, nest in our pump house every year. I know very little about bluebirds, but from what I have read, you are supposed to clean out their nesting boxes otherwise they won’t use them again. This ain’t so with this couple. They nest in our pump house roof. It’s the perfect spot for them; it provides great protection from predators and all the elements. Every Spring, the two Bluebies show up. During the day, they prepare the nest. I assume they clean out the old stuff first, and then start building a new one. They work together, and during this time they are most always seen together. When going into the pump house, they both perch, wait, and then one goes up first before the other follows. It’s fascinating to watch. At night, they both sleep under our covered porch (as seen in the photo above).

At some point, there will be eggs. Thus, only one Bluebie will sleep under the covered porch at night. And a little further on, the babies will hatch, and they will fledge. This is a very stressful time for me. One year, I found two that didn’t make it. Sad face. We also have a Neighborhood Murder Cat, but I have seen the male bluebird protect the nest from this cat and let me tell you… Mr. Blue has got his shit together (I have video evidence of this). Still stressful.

Once the little babies have fledged and start learning how to fly, I believe they go back to the nest until they are fully capable of flying and functioning on their own. Once that occurs, they leave the pump house and EVERYONE starts sleeping under the covered porch and it’s the most wondrous time of the year! Last year, we had SEVEN bluebirds sleeping under our porch at night. I was in birdie heaven. They only stick around for maybe a couple weeks, and then the babies find their own spots or fly off to start their own lives, and then it’s back to just the original two.

Sometimes I think they start prepping for another batch. Last year it seemed like they were getting ready to start over again, and then it never happened. They just hung around, would go in and out of the pump house, sleep under the porch, and then when it started getting colder… they went to wherever their winter home is. When the Bluebirds leave, the Huns arrive, and then I switch my fascination/obsession to the little groups of partridges that run around in the winter months.

For a lot of people, the “first signs of Spring” include butterflies, trees budding, bulbs blooming, allergies, and Robins. But for me, I know Spring has officially begun when the Bluebirds come home.