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April through June, 2010

Rain, Rain ...

March was relatively warm and sunny. Then, April opened with snow. Bridger Bowl got 40 inches of snow in its last week of operation and closed with the highest base snow pack of the year at 89 inches. True to the predictions, The El Niño pattern that brought a warmer than normal Winter has now switched to a cooler, wetter Spring, further slowing our landscaping efforts.

The motion-sensitive cameras left by the wildlife students were collected on April 2. The second round of photos was more interesting than the first.

March was so dry and sunny we thought we had missed our chance to burn the last slash pile. However, April brought more snow and we took the opportunity to burn early the morning of the 4th. It was the biggest of the piles we have burned, but winds were light, there was plenty of snow cover and there were no nearby trees, so we started it in several places at once. We put it out 3 days later. More pictures are here. The DNRC came to inspect and agreed to pay us the $125 withheld from the logger pending completion of the burns; we used the money to take Dan and Jennie out for a well-deserved dinner.

Spring snows melted quickly and, with grass exposed on the south and west facing slopes, the elk returned in greater numbers. Often they file past the Main House in the evening, into the trees at right and down to lower part of the property to graze before retiring for the night.

With Bridger Bowl closed and taxes filed, we took off for a 5 week, 6,000 mile trip in our Road Trek. We hoped to miss at least part of Mud Season, and while we were gone Dan and Jennie reported a lot of wet snow. When we returned, the green fields and forests looked like a Swiss farm scene. This made us feel Winter was enough of a memory to remove the chains and plow from the truck (6½ months after putting them on).

May and June are the wettest months and our attempts to continue landscaping were interrupted by frequent rain storms. We did take a break during one dry spell to see the Memorial Day parade. General "Stormin" Norman Schwarzkopf was supposed to be the Grand Marshal, but he got stranded in Denver. The Army sent a band with no drums ☹. But the main reason to go was to wave to passing friends and neighbors who have served in the military.

For those who think Montana is too dry, cold, or otherwise unsuitable for mushrooms, here is one we discovered in late June on a tree-less west facing slope. It appears to be a variety of giant puffball, but may be a false puffball. There were several others not quite as large nearby. Yes, it has been a wet Spring!

We thought this was going to be the most boring report ever, then a flash of light and loud bang created excitement. Lightning struck a tree and started a fire. We could not see it from the house, but Jennie was returning from town, saw it, came to the house and called 911 as Gary went down to see what could be done. The fire department arrived and decided their Hummer might get stuck on the primitive access road, so we hiked to the fire. What was most impressive was the bark and shards of wood that exploded from the tree (see a few here). Some shards embedded into the ground several inches. It was raining hard, but the fire was inside the hollow created by the missing shards. Finally, a firefighter climbed up the tree to extinguish the flames. This was one of the lowest trees on our property and one we would least expect to be hit by lightning.

Three days later a hail storm hit Bozeman; Pauline was in town and the car received 35 dents and a broken windshield. Thousands of homes and cars had broken windows (see articles here and here.) Our home was not damaged even though homes around us had windows broken out.

Later, we were driving to the home of a friend across the canyon and lightning hit a tree 15 seconds after we passed it. The strike took out their power so we packed up the dinner under preparation and completed it at our home. On the way, we waved to the same firemen who had been at our place just days before.


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