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In the first three installments, I was preparing for the big move from San Diego to Montana. Part IV found my husband and I and two young daughters at one of our country’s most breathtaking national parks. Now in Part V, we go to the twenty acres of forested property on which we’d hoped to have a move-in-ready house by the time the girls and I came to Montana. Little did I know that our construction journey would have more bumps than a dirt road in springtime. (Read Part I here, Part II here, and Part III here, and Part IV here.)
September 10, 2006
For now, my time is split between a motel apartment with a kitchenette and, twenty or thirty minutes away, depending on how fast you choose to drive on a dirt road populated by random deer, The Property west of town. (I get there in thirty to thirty-five minutes, in case you were wondering.)
It’s typical Property weather today. The pines and firs stand against a background of a sharp blue sky. The wind starts up now and then–today there’s a hint of winter in it. Someone told me yesterday that the first snow comes in mid-October. We still have lots of days, though, when direct sunlight is almost unbearable.
It’s quiet often, unless you count flies buzzing, squirrels chattering, birds trilling, and new neighbors running heavy machinery to start construction on their homes.
I heard a woodpecker this afternoon, and I saw a bluejay land next to the camper. My favorite spot is a stand of white birch trees next to a curve of The Property’s road. Wouldn’t it be nice to sling a hammock there, near where Hershey wades in the creek after a hard “dog run”?
My husband, J., has been living on The Property since May, and right now he bunks and does his work in a camper oh, about fifty to a hundred yards away from where the foundation and basement walls of our new house are standing. Our house was scheduled to be finished at the end of July, but we still need to wait a while. It’s supposed to arrive maybe Wednesday now, after being built in Denver. Relatives in Denver have already viewed the house and highly approve.
But I don’t think about the house much. Time goes by faster if you just busy yourself with the matters at hand. So I do the daily schedule. For the last seven weekdays, I’ve dropped the girls off at their elementary school about five miles away from The Property. Then I get there and check my e-mails and other fun stuff on the computer and then rip myself away within a reasonable chunk of time to take my walk.
I feel safe if I can persuade our large black lab, Laz, to stay with me for most of the walk–on a dusty road that switches back a couple of times and leads up the hill to a steel gate that marks a border of The Property. I’m not horribly afraid of black bears, but I would not want to meet one by myself. I’m even less eager to come across the mountain lion that Jeff and others have sighted around here. And the woods are so thick and so silent when you’re by yourself. . . even when Laz hasn’t ditched me to run home about three-quarters of the way down from the steel gate, I’m always checking the empty road behind me. (Laz needs a little obedience training, by the way.)
Ideally, J. rides his ATV next to me while I trot beside him. It keeps me at a brisk pace and I’m not jumpy about wild animals when he’s there. The dogs, who’ve come to believe that it’s a treat to run with the ATV (they’ve been clocked at more than twenty MPH), wouldn’t miss this “dog run” for anything.
I come back huffing and puffing, for my marathon five to seven hours at the computer–with interruptions, though, so I can’t count everything as actual work time.
One interruption is having to heave myself out of the narrow booth in the camper to go to the primitive restroom. Thick foliage provides walls on three sides–not foolproof, but certainly better than nothing. There is no wall at the front, and I live in dread of the day when someone will come motoring down that road (our private road) about twenty feet away and down from the potty. Sometimes I get in a hurry when I hear cars or tractors coming down the switchbacks, because it always sounds as if they’ll be right in front of me in twenty seconds, though they really don’t ever turn my way. The toilet itself is well-constructed by J. and his dad, on a sturdy platform painted green and a nice wooden seat.
I’ll have to admit that there are some advantages to having the bathroom right in nature. For one thing, the sun warms the seat, and that can be quite pleasant. No need for magazines–you can sit there and contemplate the wind in the trees and the sound of the creek running in the woods below and whether the red berries next to you are edible (they are). Getting absorbed in reading material might not be wise anyway, as you have to be on your toes in case someone might be coming. Another advantage is that I can multi-task because Hershey keeps bringing me his deflated basketball so I can throw it for him.
I have to stop my work again when the girls are done with school (A. at 11:30 and D. at 3:05) because although J. picks them up, I have to see that they change into old clothes promptly. The Property’s roads and cleared-out spots for such things as unfinished basements and campers are covered with fine, pale dust about an inch thick, and getting thicker in this dry time of year. When they play on The Property, the girls get covered with dust, D. so much so that she reminds me of a Thai child after a bath (after a child in Thailand bathes, he or she gets white powder liberally applied, even to the face.) It doesn’t help that they go barefoot, that they slide down the dirt slopes next to the basement, and they play in the creek. I have to rinse out every article of clothing they wear at The Property before I wash it, so the dust doesn’t color all the clothes.
I’m glad the girls spend a chunk of their day at school so that they enjoy their leisure time here even more, rather than having to stay here all day. I like the school schedule.
We all start getting hungry late in the afternoon, so we take separate vehicles and trickle back to the apartment when it’s practical. But I’ll tell you more about The Apartment later.
Soon I’ll tell you about The Neighbors, too. I’m sure you’ll be on tenterhooks until then.