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

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?