Wednesday, October 24, 2007


When I trekked to the post office this morning, I took along a small pot of blood red geraniums for the windowsill of the newest people to move to Valier, “Mike” or “Michel” with his lovely lady. They are French but Mike has been living between Florida and California -- he’s a real estate person. I gather he “flips” houses, buying the small and inexpensive, renovating them, and then re-selling. His first rental, across the the street from the bright-red shingled house with the ham radio operator’s antenna tower and the greenhouse where they are moving in, was to Joe, a Mexican. Now you can say, “Oh, the globalization of everywhere!” Joe moved out after the sewer, long unused, failed. At least one person who moved here to the east side of the Rockies to escape the wild inflation of everything on the west side has decided he cannot tolerate our heat, our cold, our wind, and is selling his Valier house in order to go somewhere milder.

Valierians look at each other and smile. Though, in my opinion, the chief fault of the town council is being far too “other-directed” and worrying more about what people in other places (esp. the rich and important) think of us when they drive through than they worry about the basic issues a government ought to address: infrastructure, law and order, simple safety like fire issues. The thorniest issue they deal with -- and it will continue to be -- is water, because it is linked to “nice lawns and gardens” but it is a life-sustaining commodity. It is also the keystone of the economy in this irrigation-based farm center. Personally, one of the nice things about finally getting snow on the mountains is that the well water begins to be a little softer, so a person can work up a lather in the shower.

As I’ve been moving around the state for the last week or so, I’ve been meeting the convoys of cattle trucks going up to the mountains to move the herds down -- some of them moving clear to the southwest, but maybe not this year since it is so dry and on fire. Maybe more will simply go to mid-west feed yards, though corn is far more expensive that it was. I consider this a good thing, since reading has convinced me that corn is a bad food for cattle. Grass-fed cattle do not carry e-coli. And my dark suspicion is that the hormones and antibiotics fed to cows in feedlots so that they can stand in shit and eat corn but still get fat, may be a basic cause of the storm of diabetes across the country. It can’t be healthy.

I’m not seeing the usual flatbeds loaded with bees that ought to be moving. Maybe that’s because there aren’t so many now that the latest plague has hit them. I did see a strange semi-load of dumpsters, brand-new and brightly painted, headed down from Canada. The logo on each, including the semi, was 1-800-got junk? For miles I puzzled about what “junk” they meant. Copper scrap? Old furniture? Collectibles? All big business and should be. Re-cycling of everything! An economic bulge composting our discards.

I’m hardly seeing the military vehicles which normally used to convoy out of Great Falls’ Malmstrom Air Force Base to do maintenance on the nuclear missile siloes. I suspect that part of the reason for closing them down was simply that the hummers and small pickups they used by the hundreds were needed in Iraq, the same as the men, and the toll on them all is high. Also, I see fewer of the giant $500,000 RV’s towing $40,000 cars are on the road, though it’s still a little early for them. Canadians are diehards and won’t migrate until the snow flies. But they say that the Mexican border communities where they used to go are getting too tough and lawless to be safe now, esp. by Canadian standards.

Our weather stats today are a high of 77 and a low dropping quickly to freezing. (Compare to the records of 79 in 1915 and record low of 10 in 1957. The “normal” readings on this date are 55 and 31.) The hose must come in, but I’ll spend most of the day using up as much of the latex paint leftovers as I can because it’s ruined by freezing and this house is too small to bring a stack of paint cans inside, though I’ve done it. There are always things that need to be painted. I missed some spots on the stepladder I painted green, so I’ll catch those and then paint grass leaves on the side of my raised planter. A bit more raking to do. Flower beds to clean out, though I never do that very well. When I have money (!) I’ll make a proper plan and dig everything up to sieve, sort and replant. For now I’ll go on a while longer with the crowd of volunteers, mostly cranesbill and bluebells, but enough wild rose to make weeding painful and a lot of iris that never blooms.

Mike has (alas) removed his greenhouse addition to the back shed, though he claims he’ll reattach it to the back of the house as a woodshed over the winter. He’s trying to convert that shed to some kind of shelter for his down-south fancy vehicle. At this point I would advise him to trade it in for a pickup! It’s not quite time for me to throw some old tires into the back of the pickiup for traction in snow, but I’ve moved them closer to the door of my back garage which I’d love to convert to a greenhouse. I get this great catalog about an outfit called “Farmtek” that sells stuff that’s like corrugated cardboard, except that it’s plastic and bendable. It’s meant for livestock sheds and greenhouses, much easier to handle than glass. While I type this, my eye keeps being pulled to the lone fly which is living between the inside and storm layers of my alongside window, a kind of terrarium the fly constantly buzzes up and down, back and forth.

One of my most seminal books is Tim Flannery’s “The Eternal Frontier,” in which he points out that weather and other planetary forces are like a great scythe that moves through the centuries and millenia in a long pendulum from one extreme to the other. Global warming in one direction, glaciers in the other. We spread ourselves out, taking risks and pioneering, and then comes the scythe which cuts down all those at the unprepared extreme of that movement. This is what powers evolution, a clear force on the glaciated high plains where this little village clings. One fails to adapt at one’s peril.

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