Tell Me Something Good

“Don’t quit, and don’t give up. The reward is just around the corner. And in times of doubt or times of joy, listen for that still, small voice. Know that God has been there from the beginning—and he will be there until…The End.”
― Joanna Gaines

Two years ago, on Thanksgiving, it dipped deep into the negatives. Chris and I had just moved into our home a few months prior and we were still getting to know all the gadgets within our space, including the stove. I love the photo we have of that holiday―me holding our uncooked, dressed turkey (my first!) wearing ear warmers and a vest inside. I couldn’t shake the cold that year.

This season has seemed to creep in on us, nearly over and my festive attitude is a little late to the party. I’ve found it through decorating our home for Christmas. Lights, greenery, ornaments, ribbon, wishing and waiting. And through our first snow. It happened on a Sunday, slow and beautiful like living inside a painting, and best of all―having to go nowhere.

As I write this, I’m sit in the dim glow of our Christmassy kitchen―lights strung across our windows, spray from our tree on the table, a poinsettia tucked away in some gold foil―and I know Chris will laugh when he comes home to find me with no added lights. Even though daylight savings time has stolen away our sun, I’m loving the coziness of dark and forcing myself into a little more downtime.

As for big, good news, I received my grandest promotion at my magazine job―editor! I have so much love for that little magazine. I was so fortunate enough to know it and be part of it only a few months into its beginning and in a way it feels like we’ve grown together, both of us having started our Montana journey in 2015. While living in New York, the epicenter for publishing and all things journalistic, I did very little writing. I like to think of those years as my reading years, which are consequential to good writing, but I couldn’t be more grateful to this magazine for housing some of my favorite stories and being an outlet for so many folks to learn, share stories, and grow closer. I’m so honored to be its guide for the people of our valleys.

I’m also celebrating twelve months of blogging! What fun this has been. While it’s been a great outlet to catalogue our happenings throughout the year, it’s also been forcing me to photograph our life. I still look at the photos we took earlier this year with Murphy, our late Miniature Pinscher, and think I wouldn’t have this if it weren’t for my blog. So it’s moments like that―it’s my why. I’m so glad to share it with you. I hope y’all are having a phenomenal holiday season. Much love from the Agros.

P.S. I do love this little tea cup, pictured below. We found it when an excavator dug the ditch for sewer and electric leading to my mom’s tiny home last year. It must’ve survived a few decades or more beneath the rocky soil and look, here she is today, sitting pretty and clean in the window, holding a pinecone like she’s been waiting a lifetime for this.

IMG_7049.jpg

IMG_6967.jpg

My morning elk herd on the last day of hunting season. 

IMG_7054.jpg

The hands-in-the-pockets sigh of lights not lighting.

IMG_7030.jpg

My mini-me helping me pull the tree!

IMG_7111.jpg

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays to you from us!

Advertisements

Blue Light, Blue Mountain, Black Horse

“You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestation of your own blessings.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert

The mornings since we’ve returned from Texas are a cold blue, the symbol of winter closing in, slowly. By mid-morning the sun breaks through the frozen fog and relieves us with its warmth and we all, animals too, close our eyes and soak it in while it lasts.

Of course, I’ve been able to closely monitor the passing of the day because I’ve been suffering through a common cold for the last several days. Well, not exactly suffering. It’s the best it can be, surrounded by our dogs―happy to have me home―and enjoying hundreds of cups of tea. Also, my mom and stepdad have made it to Montana for the winter!

Already, a year has passed since their tiny home was parked on our property. It’s a whole new adventure having them to talk to, in person, day to day―something I starve for each week. We have friends, yes, but it still feels like we haven’t completely made our place here yet, in the social realm. I’ve spent the past two years burrowing deep into home life with Chris―improving our property, our home, tending to our animals―that I suppose I’ve neglected this part of our lives. But then, you never know what new relationship is around the corner. I shall be patient!

In the same tune, being in the arms of friends and family in Texas was just what we needed. These people are entwined in our growing up, and it felt good just to be near them.

This week has been filled with tissues galore, lots of couch sitting, and tending to Raven, who never fails to get into some trouble before a trip away from home. She spent our vacation at the vet’s office due to a swollen hock and while there, decided to get an abscess in her hoof. To cut costs, we took her home and made an outdoor stall for her in the goat enclosure. If you’ve ever had Nubian goats, in rut, in with horses, you know this is enough to drive a person mad!

Raven has been a trooper though, always knowing that she needs to be patient and let us poke and prod her with all sorts of vet magic. Hopefully today will be the end of a very long, very expensive three week endeavor. No matter what the setback, I’m always thankful to have found such an amazing veterinary team so close to home and so genuinely devoted to the best course of action.

Hopefully it’s back to my cattle ranch job tomorrow and closer to normalcy! Dear readers, I hope you all are well and gearing up for the holidays with great cheer.

IMG_6864.jpg

Home sweetest home.

IMG_6901.jpg

Sweet Raven, telling me what she thinks of this outdoor stall situation.

IMG_6854.jpg

How many of us can fit on grandma’s tiny home porch?

IMG_6822.jpg

Piper, always posing!

IMG_6903.jpg

The best of buds, gosh these two crack me up!

IMG_6868.jpg

Can you let me out of here now? Please?

IMG_6786.jpg

Ah, a view I’ll never tire of. 

Moonlit Pony

“What makes me so unhappy? People walking away, dressed in winter clothes, the sky the same gray as their coats, the branches of the trees around them, black-gray and skinned. And in my heart of hearts, I know that the tree Minn loves best will be bare by morning. Already, a gown of gold gathers at its feet.” —Dean Bakopoulos

I’ve learned—especially looking back on past blog posts—that my emotions fluctuate like the weather. It’s evident in my favorite line from my favorite author’s book, My American Unhappiness. Ironically, it’s a rather hopeful book despite its title. Zeke, the main character, is a hopeless romantic and soaks everything in, so much so that he’s constantly bubbling over. I feel like that, more so around this time of year. Beauty is fleeting.

Our line of poplars has been completely exposed by the harsh winds. Slowly, our world is getting a little grayer. Luckily, it’s been a golden fall, spoiling us with long-lasting color, most of which still stands by the river edge. It’s easy to see people retreating back to where they came from—the locals settling in, fluffing their nests. At my cattle ranch job, the fields have gone tan and I already miss the blasts of sage from brushing a boot by their branches. I already miss the Bitterroot flowers and their little pops of pink along the dirt, the rush of the drainage ditch where I swam when the heat beaded up on my face.

Most days it is me, alone with the voice of Chris Stapleton singing in my ear. It’s me with the constant shuffle of dogs at foot, horses stretching out across an eaten down field. It’s me lunging Lucy, our mustang, against the fading light of day until I can barely make out her silhouette in the moonlight, me enjoying the song of the coyotes like clockwork each night.

Chris has been readying us for winter—finished the new chicken coop, chopped wood for our stove, cleaned the garage to make room for our vehicles, bought another stock tank for the horses. It feels like closing time for our little home in the valley. But next week, I’m taking Chris’s hand and a little black dress and boarding a plane to Austin to witness our friend marry his counterpart. That’s where we’ll be, warm in love. Texans, for a few days at least.

IMG_6665 (1).jpg

IMG_6646.jpg

IMG_6703.jpg

IMG_6766.jpg

 

Faces Of Fall

“I had closed my eyes and seen a place I hadn’t known existed. There was no anger, no loneliness, no jagged icy fear gnawing at the wires of my body. For that one moment, the noise inside my head had turned still and silent. If hell was real and true and all around us, then heaven was too.”
― Aryn Kyle

Thankfulness isn’t a season. I usually have to remind myself of this but the weight of the world has grown in size, getting harder to manage, like a full bucket of water that bumps against your leg and soaks your pant. Only worse.

I’ve stopped loading the dishwasher, cooking dinner, and now, stopped blogging several times to play with Piper. She is utterly in love with me like no animal has ever been. She lives just to have fun, has no fear in her heart. She makes me full-belly laugh multiple times a day. I, too, am in love with everything that she is. I, too, am so grateful just to be here, alive, to be able to care for her and all of our animals. It’s too real of a thought to think you could go to a concert and never return home.

So I interrupt everything, and play. Happiness like this is right here, pawing at my jeans and nipping at my sleeve. I am so grateful.

We had a party on Sunday and it was so nice to visit with friends, eat, and just be merry. I wish I’d snapped a photo of all four chickens lined up on Willoughby’s back when I was showing him off to our realtor. There’s always some sort of shenanigan going on it seems, and I love it. I’ve always thought our little place to be a magical hiding spot from the world, more true now than ever. This place saves me every day when I drive past our entrance gate. I see our two horses with their ears perked, our goats call to me as if to say hello, our dogs show their teeth and yelp and bounce in excitement. It is home, happiness.

This is us, another turn of the season, brightly lit with fleeting color. Soon all will be gray and white and hushed but for now, this is us, still showing some skin, still soaking in the fading warmth with our faces to the sun.

 

IMG_6508.jpg

Lucy & Raven against the prettiest backdrop of autumn

IMG_6570.jpg

I swear he was snacking on a branch and not hissing at me. Steve!

IMG_6577.jpg

Our favorite chicken, shhh don’t tell the others

IMG_6472.jpg

Little Whitefish snagged on the Bitterroot River

IMG_6483.jpg

Our girls! Timber, Derby, Piper

IMG_6602.jpg

Miss Shadoe, such a love

IMG_6610.jpg

Piper, same size as the hens!

IMG_6530.jpg

Willoughby kisses!

IMG_6458.jpg

Hubs casting away with our adventure girl, Timber

Last Best Farm

“They love to live in the presence of animals. They love to work outdoors. They love the weather, maybe even when it is making them miserable. They love to live where they work and to work where they live.” ―Wendell Berry

A friend recently made a comment about Piper winding up at “the farm”―you know, the place where ma’s and pa’s used to send the family critter when an accident came up, or the reason why the good dog never came home. But of course she meant it in the idyllic way, the way of it being heaven on earth, a dream, an endless blue sky. She meant our farm.

My favorite thing about bringing a new pet home is realizing how much more love you can give when you thought you couldn’t possibly love any tighter, bigger, wilder. On Tuesday, I attended an effective livestock handling clinic for work and later that evening Chris and I went to the volunteer & foster family appreciation party at our local humane society. The day was filled with continuous realizations that we are an animal loving community, we make a difference.

I also watched a mini documentary on people finding purpose this week, part of the Humans of New York series, and it felt like a dream I had once―living with Chris in NYC, on the hamster wheel of success, dealing with the way my life got turned upside down after my father died. Maybe he, too, went to “the farm.” Ours. Spiritually, emotionally, physically, I needed to be here in this place. There’s a little space in me that smiles at the notion of some acquaintance asking where we’d gone―to live on a farm of course.

In the last two weeks we’ve received our first mountain snowfall. It’s thankfully snuffed out the majority of our mountain flames and rid our skies of smoke. And all at once it feels like winter―warm hats, brisk winds, icy hands, frisky and furry horses and goats.

We are readying the chimney for our months of use that will begin any day now, our night lows dipping into the twenties and the snow gradually making its way down the mountainside to our valley. It always feels like a race to get things ready, to take mental shots of all the fleeting color. It feels like we’re embarking on another journey, locking the windows for rougher waters that may lie ahead. Ahoy!

IMG_6292.jpg

See those snowy mountains? Happy Fall!

IMG_6351.jpg

Mustang Lucy and Willoughby, our Nubian buck, hanging out together, per usual

IMG_6299.jpg

Steve, finding safe higher ground in our chicken coop, away from Piper

IMG_6225.jpg

Timber, sneaking in a nap

IMG_6311.jpg

My Raven, soaking in her grand view

IMG_6373.jpg

Living room love

IMG_6408.jpg

Mighty Piper, amongst all the soft things. Those ears!

IMG_6382 (1).jpg

Beautiful Derby, always regal, always wanting to play ball in the house

IMG_6209.jpg

The last of my summer blooms. Isn’t she pretty?

IMG_6340.jpg

Our favorite driveway, welcome home

 

 

Respite

“The universe, I’d learned, was never, ever kidding. It would take whatever it wanted and it would never give it back.”
― Cheryl Strayed

It’s been 49 days since our governor declared a fire emergency for the State of Montana. At this present moment we are about ten thousand acres short of matching the total acreage burned to our state’s population―yea, just over a million. Since September fourth, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality has rated our air quality from hazardous to moderate. It’s also been ten days that Facebook has asked me to donate to the hurricane relief fund.

This will probably be the only political note I’ll make so stick with me for a moment, will you? I think it’s a tremendous trait to want to help everybody, maintain equal rights for all, clean the earth, you know, do the do-gooder right thing. But we’ve failed at this somewhere along the line and we’re divided as a nation. Someone is always “hurt” by someone else, turning around and taking their emotions straight to the bank. I’m guilty. I had someone write to me last week to say that I should accept that wildfires are a natural reoccurring act of nature in Montana, and that the hurricane in Texas should be of higher priority. When hurricanes, too, are an act of nature. This woman said this during a week that I had to get driven home due to signs of smoke inhalation, during a week that I could barely get through farm chores without getting out of breath. There were a lot of things I thought of saying to her, but I didn’t. It’s a new thing I’m trying out.

All this is to say I’m going where I always go when things get bad. Home. Am I being kind to my husband? Kind to my animals? Am I doing everything I can to care for them? Is my husband caring for me? Being kind to me? Are we eating well and protecting ourselves? Yes, these things are a blessing, I am home, I am safe, I am loved. I am forgetting the world for a bit, let them turn their trust to themselves and their neighbors. Let them survive the way we are, here in Montana. Because after all, you put your own breathing mask on before you assist others. Take care, world. Work from the inside out.

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for letting me vent. And now you get the pleasure of meeting our newish addition, Piper! Ever since our beloved Murphy passed on, we’d been keeping our eyes out for another miniature pinscher, or miniature dachshund. His little body housed a giant personality, one that all little dogs wear. Our hoping and wishing came to life earlier this week when I saw a photo that our humane society posted online of our little Piper. She was just what we were looking for. Within five minutes adoption papers were filed and we brought her home to our loving farm. It wasn’t until last night, when the winds kicked up and cool air rushed in and our skies birthed a beautiful blue sky that we ventured outdoors to play ball until we all were blue in the face. This place is magic, and sometimes when nature is doing her thing, you’ve got to step up and create your own.

IMG_6026.jpg

Piper on left, Derby on right. Derby, our 6 year old black lab, adopted 5/2017

IMG_6097.jpg

Timber, approx. 7 year old chocolate lab mix, adopted 10/2015

IMG_6008.jpg

Chris, against “moderate air quality” backdrop

IMG_6117.jpg

Piper, eyeing up Steve, our grey tabby in the distance

IMG_5979.jpg

Piper, 11 months old miniature pinscher, adopted 9/2017

Home fires Burning

“A real diamond is never perfect.”
― Anthony Doerr

The last three weeks: corndogs and rodeo at the Western Montana Fair, shiver when we see the fleet of National Guard vehicles heading to help people evacuate their homes, write and edit and stress over the October issue of the magazine I work for (because this was my first issue in my shiny new position as managing editor!), trim trees and get our grass growing, watch horses look longingly over the fence at grass growing, make appointment for Shadoe to see if she’s pregnant, see 95% solar eclipse, pick up eight tons of baled hay, start and finish more home projects.

Staying busy in this heat and smoke has been difficult. We’re almost right back to where we started in January― going outside only when necessary, or only for a few hours at a time. Our summers usually look like riding and trailering the horses on a weekly basis, taking the dogs on a long Sunday hike after breakfast. It’s been weeks since we’ve gone anywhere and the world beyond the windows is a gray one. We’ve been lucky to enjoy a clear day here and there, where the winds blows a different direction, but each night we stand out on the front porch and watch our mountains burn.

Just yesterday, Chris and I were cruising around the mall in Missoula (something we never do) and we spent about fifteen minutes popping the lids off several White Barn candles, one of which being―hilariously― “fresh air.”

I’ve taken to crafting and baking, shutters and lime torts, and I’ve taken refuge in our home, decorating and rearranging. I never thought I’d say it but I’m so looking forward to the rain of fall, assuming that it’s coming. This weekend we might make a grand escape for bluer skies, somewhere about two hours from us where the air is clean and we can forget about the devastation of our state for a couple of days.

Until then we’ll be here, home fires burning.

IMG_5874 (1).jpg

IMG_5878.jpg

IMG_5913.jpg

IMG_5833.jpg

IMG_5843.jpg

IMG_5945.jpg

IMG_5966.jpg

IMG_5959.jpg