critters, Idaho, Idaho-Wyoming trip, Montana, National Parks and Monuments, Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park

Wednesday: North to Yellowstone


We eased out of Driggs after breakfast and a handmade doughnut at Yeti’s Post and a quick visit to the kind folks at Teton Arts Council. (HEY). Instead of going back through the parks, we chose highways 33 and 32 to enjoy the flowing hay and wheat fields and small towns in the Teton Valley on Idaho’s side of the range. Once we got to Ashton, the well traveled Hwy 20 took us into West Yellowstone, Montana, the home of the western entrance to Yellowstone National Park and the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, a non-profit rescue and education center for grizzlies, wolves, and birds of prey at the edge of town.

Our timing was lucky, because the grizzlies in the area that the public can view included Grant and Roosevelt, two brothers who wrestled in the pool. We learned a lot about wolves, although the wolves in the exhibit area were only interested in sleeping. I did catch one doing downward dog between changing nap spots, but not on camera. They are about to open a river otter section. All the animals and birds in this center cannot live in the wild on their own. Most were brought to the center as orphaned cubs or injured birds. Some had become habituated to eating human food and would have been destroyed if they had not been rescued.




Well, hey there, Miss Ground Squirrel.

Rolling into Yellowstone National Park, we saw anglers, elk, and bison in the Madison River. We turned toward our destination and stopped at the Norris Geyser Basin, hiking down to see Steamboat Geyser, which had become active early that morning. This is the world’s tallest active geyser, going up to 300 feet in a major eruption! There was a long boardwalk trail that led to many other geysers and hot springs in the basin. We did not go farther, but I did check out the Porcelain Basin before we left. Parking was a bit scarce, so I can’t imagine what it must be like in July or August on a weekend.


^^^Click the photo to see the video of Steamboat Geyser erupt on Flickr.

Can you imagine building the boardwalks that cross these thermal areas?

There was major road construction between Norris and Mammoth Hot Springs, where we were renting a cabin, so there were times that we sat in stopped traffic. We had our first up-close and personal view of a bison. One casually walked down the yellow line between the two lines of vehicles. The other munched at the side of our lane.


^^^Click the photo to see the video of the bison on Flickr.

Once we got to Mammoth Hot Springs Terrace, there was a large herd of elk in the meadow between the parking lot and the terraces. We would learn that this herd hangs out around the hotel and headquarters complexes there, including in front of our cabin.



We checked in to our cabin, which was comfortable but had no bathroom, TV or wifi. I was becoming increasingly worried about the forecast for Hurricane Florence, and I did not have phone service. The front desk told us that one of the bartenders at the dining room bar was from North Carolina and to ask him to turn the TV to the Weather Channel. We did this, had a couple of drinks and ate huge appetizer plates at the bar for dinner. In the middle of the night we regretted the drinks, since we had to dress and go to a separate building outside to go to the restroom! It wasn’t that bad, though, I just haven’t had to do that in a long time. I’d stay there again. It was much more comfortable than camping, and not terribly expensive. I found out later that I could get on wifi at the Visitor’s Center for free, but the wifi in the whole park was unreliable and generally reserved for park operations. Understandable.

Next: More geysers, steam, bubbles and bloops.

Back Forty, butterbeans, coffee pot posts, critters, Greensboro North Carolina, Lake Waccamaw

Saturday Morning Coffee Pot post

Before I start the series of posts about our trip to Idaho and Wyoming, I need to sweep out my brain of the things unrelated to that first. So I made a second pot of coffee.


Looking at the remnants of Florence from the air.

First off, we were not affected here at my house in Greensboro by Hurricane Florence. There is some flooding in the Greensboro area, but our housesitter kindly put a tarp on our outside basement door and sandbagged it for us, as well as securing the stuff on the front porch and the yard. We have a damp basement but it did not flood, and not even many limbs down since we had the large maple tree taken down a few weeks ago. Good timing that, and one reason I wanted it done before hurricane season began.

Lake Waccamaw is a whole different story. It took a direct hit. We won’t know the full extent of the damage for a while yet because the houses that belong to our family are on Canal Cove Road where the lake has merged with the canal and swamp behind it. Not only does that mean that there is 2-4 feet of water inside those houses, but that there are trees down under the water and alligators and cottonmouths and mats of fire ants enjoying a new range. My sister and brother-in-law prepped as best they could for several days and evacuated to Chapel Hill, where fortunately they had not sold their house yet. They know that the pier may be wiped out and the pontoon boat came loose and has been floating around bashing into stuff. Her furniture including antiques from my mother’s house are almost certainly ruined. The pier is not insured. The house and boat are, although the boat is really old and not worth that much. Fred and Weezer’s house, where we love to stay and I have written about many, many times, is underwater, as it was during Hurricane Floyd.

I have not heard from my brother in Lumberton, but he is not on the side of town that floods. My cousins are. I talked to him on Friday and they were hunkered down. I think that the main concern for him will be the farm. It backs up to Ashpole Swamp which backs up to the Lumber River near Fair Bluff. He leases most of the acreage but raises a few cows. It is beloved place for him, as the lake is for me.

So. I will update when I know more. Waters were still rising down east the last time I checked, and hopefully they will crest and go down soon. After Floyd it took two weeks before the roads were passable and Florence was worse.

The tomatoes and basil were looking rough, and what figs ripened seem to have been eaten by birds and ants. I cut the basil back hard and will make pesto and freeze it in an ice tray for cubes of flavor during this winter. I harvested two huge trombincino squash and one is actually a little past its prime. We’ll see whether it is just as good with a good peeling. The cheese pumpkin doesn’t seem to have been attacked by critters (fingers crossed). The vines have taken over our small back yard and would be producing like crazy but the fruit is rotting on the vine at a very young stage. I suppose this is blossom rot and will amend the soil if I plant these again. I have a new small crop of butterbeans and some banana peppers. A monarch butterfly laid eggs on a variety of milkweed I planted and the caterpillars have eaten up the plants. I don’t know what they will do now. I hope that they eat other plants. I collected seeds and will replant more next year. (I didn’t even know that these flowers were a variety of milkweed!)

Our application to install solar panels on the roof has been approved. We are waiting to make an appointment for a site visit. I know that some extra rewiring will need to be done in the attic first, and I’m hoping the same company can do it.

We came back from our wonderful vacation and went straight to work the next day, so it took a while for me to catch up on work, laundry, groceries, garden, and personal emails. Sandy is working again today and so I will have uninterrupted time to blog about our trip, if you are fond of my travelogues.

Also, as usual, I hope to get back to weaving this weekend. I have a frame loom waiting to be warped for a fringeless tapestry, and loads of inspiration.

critters, Grand Teton National Park, Idaho, Idaho-Wyoming trip, National Parks and Monuments, Wyoming

Grand Teton National Park and the Teton Valley


^^^Overlooking Jackson Hole from the Teton Pass


^^^The view of the Tetons from the “other” side in Driggs, Idaho, near our AirBNB.

We didn’t really have an agenda on Monday so we went looking for a late breakfast and ended up eating at Barrels and Bins, a natural foods grocery in Driggs, which reminded me of the old Deep Roots Market that I miss so much. It was privately owned but it had that co-op vibe. Then we looked at the museum at the geotourism center and crossed the street to The Local Galleria, where Sandy bought me a sweater that I wore a lot on the rest of the trip. We wished that we could go to their painting class that night because it sounded like fun, but we couldn’t make it. I always meant to stop in Victor, a smaller little funky town on the way to Jackson, but we never made the time for it. Either the stores were closed or we were tired.

Other good spots to eat breakfast in Driggs: Rise, and Yeti’s Post.

(It seems to me that Driggs, Idaho could benefit from the presence of a weaver from North Carolina each summer, ya think? Yeah.)




Another reason why I’ll never be a cowgirl – the seats at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar in Jackson are real saddles. Fun, but not good on elderly hips. Also, my horseback riding abilities were proved to be lacking in Girl Scouts.

Sandy loves to shop so we spent a good part of the day going in and out of shops and galleries in Jackson. I bought him a hat but he later decided he didn’t want to wear it so I happily snatched it away for my own use, since my hair was driving me nuts.

Then we drove up through Grand Teton National Park. We did not hike any but we made lots of stops. It was hazy throughout our trip in this park so for the most part I couldn’t get the quality photos I’d have liked, but on the other hand, that finally made me put the camera down for much of it. A good thing. The Tetons are impressive because they stick up suddenly from the valley like a row of jagged teeth, with rivers and lakes at their feet. The grand scale of it means it is best experienced in person. We didn’t see any wildlife in this park other than a mother mule doe and her two fawns. I guess somebody forgot to tell the elk about the National Elk Wildlife Refuge!








^^^Click to view the video and turn up the audio.

The next day we went whitewater rafting with Barker-Ewing Whitewater on the Snake River. I didn’t use a camera all day, a refreshing change in perspective. The rapids were class 2-3 so it was a fun ride without being scary, and the weather could not have been more perfect. I was accommodated in not being able to paddle, but we were put in the smaller raft anyway – yay! An osprey circled above our heads and we saw an otter very briefly.

After rafting, we ate stew and I drank the local brew at Snake River Brewery in Jackson. Many of the meat dishes out there contained bison or elk, which worked great for me. I don’t get a chance to eat venison much any more.

Something seems to compel me to caress every moose statue I see. Maybe I had a crush on Bullwinkle as a kid, or maybe I’m just weird. We did not see any live moose on our trip. I hear that these sightings are increasingly scarce.



On Wednesday morning, we said goodbye to the good people of Driggs, Idaho and headed north to Yellowstone National Park via West Yellowstone, Montana.

coffee pot posts, critters, depression/anxiety, Studio talk

Saturday morning coffee pot post

It is technically still morning. I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do this morning. The cool breeze on the front porch is delightful and it is so nice to share that space with my cats. Pablocito has taken to sleeping on the swing since Diego has won the battle of territory over the cat tower. I set up a table with a cushion next to the cat tower and Diego has claimed that too. It is odd that Pablocito rules the cat food bowls but Diego is Top Cat in all other things. Anyway, I’ve been re-reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and I made another pot of coffee.


Mr. Wiggleworm wouldn’t hold still.

I managed to make even more room in the studio this week, and several of my plastic containers are heading to Reconsidered Goods or Goodwill, thanks to a gift from ZhaK of several cigar boxes and tins and candy boxes and a basket. I tackled the dreaded top drawer of my mother’s dresser which I have been filling with whatnot on top of her stuff, and as most objects of dread are, it was not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. After four years I think I am coming to some peace about my mother’s passing.

Fringeless, the online class by Rebecca Mezoff and Sarah Swett, begins on July 9. I took apart my copper pipe loom with the idea that I’d use the pipes for dyeing, and then realized that I would need it for this class. This is the pipe loom that I had the problem of it torqueing under tension. I glued the joints back together with super glue, except for the connection with the feet, which I want to be able to remove or adjust, and I hope this will help the torqueing problem, otherwise I will be be looking for someone who will solder it for me.


My mind is calming down. I’ve been able to sleep better. Thinking about aging in place more as I’ve realized how difficult it would be to emigrate somewhere that is not hot and humid. We still plan to visit Portugal and Spain next year. I will try to talk Sandy into limiting it to Portugal. I’ve learned that the temptation to do more often leads to me feeling frustrated and exhausted. Sandy has always “had eyes bigger than his stomach” in most things, and while it is easy for him to convince me to go wider (who doesn’t want more of a good thing?), I am more of the opinion that it is better to go deeper.

The silver maple tree was supposed to be in the process of coming down today, but we had a miscommunication with the arborist, so it has been rescheduled to August 2. That was probably a good thing since a big storm came through yesterday and blew a lot of my tomato cages over. I will need to go out and stake them today. The high is only supposed to get up to 77 degrees today! So nice after days of 90 plus and humid, and we get to give our AC and fan motors a break.

I can’t decide what to do next in the studio. My hands are hurting from too much mouse use at work and game playing and book holding so I think that I might get the sewing machine out, see if it forgives me after the accordion book project. If not, maybe it’s time to open up my mother’s Singer cabinet. I will head down to Lake Waccamaw for a spell later and that will be a great place to hand stitch and dye, if I am good to my hands now.

Okay, that’s enough. The church bells are playing hymns (ARGHHHHHHHHHH) and so I know that it is noon. I also know that the name of the song is “The Church’s One Foundation” and I see and hear the inside of Bear Swamp Baptist Church, my mother and father next to me in the pew. This might seem comforting to others. I hope that one day it might be that way for me, because I do not foresee us moving from here nor do I foresee the church stopping its twice daily hymn playing.

But the day is beautiful, the flowers in the hugelkultur bed are beginning to bloom, and the garden is calling. This is a good place. I am lucky to live here.

Back Forty, coffee pot posts, critters

Sunday Morning Coffee Pot Post


Ugh, what an awful week the past week was. Back to work, bored out of my mind, no mental energy to do anything much when I got home at night other than numb my anxious mind with playing solitaire and watching TV. I spent time researching emigration to various countries, and reading advice from ex-pats online. At least I cooked two nights and got laundry done. Friday night and Saturday was fun, though.

So, my staycation. Yes. I got so revved up about purging the studio that I plunged into it and didn’t do much of anything else for the rest of the week! It was great, though. I doubled my goal of getting rid of five large boxes of stuff. Much of it went to Reconsidered Goods, some went to a teacher at Hirsch Wellness Network, and I’m still putting stuff to the side for Goodwill or wherever. I got all the cardboard boxes off the floor, condensed most of them into one or two boxes, and cleaned the floor and the rugs. It took so much more time that I thought it would, but it was totally worth taking the week off to do it. On the weekend, Sandy and I moved everything off the front porch and mopped and cleaned and repainted a chair and got rid of a lot of stuff that was cluttering it up. Bought new cushions for the swing and the wicker chairs. We found a wicker table at Reconsidered Goods that matches my mother’s wicker rocker perfectly! Pablocito had a couple of tough days because we consigned his wobbly cat perch to the garbage bin, but he seems to have adjusted now.

Because the state of North Carolina often gives its employees extra time off and small bonuses in lieu of adequate pay raises, I am rich in vacation time. For the most part, I love this. I spent years working at places that didn’t give sick time at all, maybe one week of vacation, or they required you to work so much that you couldn’t take it anyway. As I am looking retirement in the face, I can see that as far as my Social Security goes it would have been better to have the salary increases. Sandy and I are making a will, finally, in case that we both go at the same time, and considering our retirement options. Sandy is now on Medicare, and is going to try to wait until age 70 for his Social Security. I am considering taking my Social Security and 85% of my state pension at age 62, which is about five years from now. I can’t leave this job until I get to age 62, at least. Then I’ll look at my options. Sandy deserves to retire and perhaps we will emigrate. It would be best if we did it together. Maybe we will check out Portugal next year. Costa Rica? Sadly, I don’t think that we could afford Ireland. I’d prefer an English-speaking country, since I can barely make myself understood in English, much less other languages. I’ve taken French, Spanish, and Italian, and now I get them all mixed up and can’t even get my numbers right. I realize that we will probably end up here, but I’d like to have the option of leaving. I worry that by the time I am 62, no other countries will let us in, and who could blame them?

I think that the greatest and the worst thing about the staycation is that it showed me a little of what life might be like after retirement on a daily living scale. The difference being that Sandy would be at home all day, and we would probably eventually get on each other’s nerves. It would be nice to have the time and energy to keep this house clean and cook healthy meals, not to mention the studio time I’d have.

Physically, I am better. I saw a new chiropractor for twelve adjustments and there is a big difference in my neck and shoulders. My hips are still a problem, but much better. There really isn’t much more that can be done since arthritis is the ultimate cause and it can’t be reversed. But it can be managed a lot better than I’ve been doing, and I’m not taking nearly as much ibuprofen. There are exercises that I need to remember to do! I have switched over to taking turmeric and I’ll still see both my chiropractor and massage therapist once a month to keep me on track with my progress. My elbow and hands, well, I just have to take a lot of breaks.

Friday night we went to the Solstice celebration at Weatherspoon Art Museum, which is just a block from our house, and saw the exhibits and took a photo in the “photo booth.” There is a film showing there in one of the small galleries on the first floor, migration (empire) that is stunningly beautiful and I recommend it highly. I might go back and watch it again.

Summer Solstice photo booth

We went to the Greensboro Summer Solstice Festival on Saturday afternoon, which gets bigger and more spectacular every year. I didn’t have a good charge on my camera so I only took one photo – I think that this guy had the most impressive costume, although he had a lot of competition.


And the Back Forty is in transition. I’ve transferred what lettuce seedlings I could find to the container on the front steps wall, and moved a few tomato seedlings back to where the Jacob’s Cattle beans were. Ground cherry plants have popped up randomly here and there and I’m happy to see them! The groundhog family (yes, I’m pretty sure I saw a baby) are in control. They finally pushed over the wire cage I had staked down over my broccoli in one of the planters and ate the rest of it. Also, carrot tops are gone. So I’m concentrating on tomatoes and herbs that they don’t like back there, like basil and mint. Nothing worked to deter them. The water jet spray, the repellent spray, the flashy hologram tapes hanging from the wire cages and fig tree and blueberry bush, all useless. I hope that I might at least get to eat some of my blueberries this year, but if I don’t, a friend is bringing me plenty from her yard. I don’t have the mental energy to trap them.




Curiously, the tromboncino squashes are doing quite well in the shade. I suppose that their flowers will be eaten by Woody and company, so I’m not expecting any harvest.

The hugelkultur bed is full of flowers, most not in bloom yet. There are a few hollyhocks that I’ll likely need to move next year. We’ll see. I’ve been moving some plants from the south side of the front yard over to this area since they will probably get trampled when the arborist takes out the silver maple tree in a couple of weeks.


I have a tiny Sugar Baby watermelon and a few ripe cherry tomatoes. It will have to do for now. There will be plenty of Roma and Principe Borghese tomatoes for sauce and drying later this year, and it’s almost time to dig up my red potatoes.



Okay, enough blogging. Studio time.