We got snowed in our first day in Montana. The snow is so thick around my mom's cabin that we had to strap gators on our boots. We hiked up seven miles into a steep, dramatic mountain canyon to a frozen blue waterfall and East Rosebud lake through shin-deep snow. It was 10 degrees, so we really had to bundle. We did some pistol shooting practice up in the forest service range– I've never shot a gun before and I quite like it. Then we all drank coffee John loaned me some oil paints– I finished a painting!
Just before dinnertime, a big doe came right up to my parent's deck and stared at us through the window. One by one, we all fed her some apples, pears, and sweet potato peels. She came so close we could see up her nostrils. Other than that, we've just been eating borsht and gingerbread cookies, drawing, writing poems, and listening to the first draft of mom's new novel.
I'm going to be making a pear-almond-caramel tart for thanksgiving, and probably some pumpkin pies and other sweet things. John showed me a few new constellations tonight. I might go hunting with him tomorrow morning, it would thrill me to be able to butcher an animal for a family feast. One of mom's neighbors has a pottery studio and kiln in her attic. We walked up the canyon today and made some things: liza made a few mugs, and I sculpted a fox wearing a bird hat and a dead rabbit scarf.
John went hunting while we were in the pottery studio. He is a very spiritual man, so he told the story to us with reverence, and I felt ashamed for being so enthusiastic. In the Ojibwe tribe, the men hunt and the women carve up the meat, so after we let the carcass rest for 24 hours (that helps tenderize the meat and allows for most of the blood to drip away), Liza and I are going to butcher it. We're having venison liver and onions today.
We went to visit a lovely German couple, Frank and Annette, who built their cabin from scratch (along with two other cabins in the valley). They are impressively industrious and crafty. Not only did they build their house (LOVELY log cabin with an impeccable kitchen, wood stove enclosed in a little rock cave, all the right kind of knives, etc.,) but they also hunt and gather most of their food. They bottle their own chokecherry wine and elderberry syrup. They hunt deer and elk, then they smoke, cure or freeze the meat. They described some of their delicious aged saucisson to us, I drooled with envy. She cooks, knits and felts, he rock-climbs and creates wrought-iron sculptures. He made all of the beautiful iron structures in the house: railings, chandeliers, pot hooks, etc.
We hiked into the woods above a small town called Red Lodge. Along the trail we encountered a family of moose who stared dumbly at us as we passed. We also spooked two ptarmigans, or montana partridges, into the branches of a tree. We came upon an abandoned mine shaft and waddled in a little ways, but stopped for fear of bears.