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Easing into Winter

Discus Thrower
Ancient Greece Rises Again
September 28th, 2009

Around 450 BC the sculptor Myron produced the statue called The Discus Thrower. He captured a dramatic moment, mere seconds before the discus is released by the athlete. 1,000 years later Michelangelo with his statue of David also succeeded in freezing a tension filled moment in time. Myron's statue embodies the classical Greek concepts of rhythmos, harmony and balance. The balance is easy to see in the athletes pose. Harmony is revealed upon closer examination; all parts of the discus thrower's body are clearly working together.Rhythmos, is a more difficult concept to grasp. It unites the idea of movement with harmony or form. Rhythmos, harmony and balance helped the Greeks to define themselves, their character and the world around them. I borrowed their concepts and employed them in the design and construction of the Greek Temples, the house and outbuildings in my yard. For me the world and my life is structured and follows certain immutable laws. My art reflects my life; if one has beauty than so must the other.

The Romans are best known for their use of the arch but it was the Greeks who borrowed the structure from the Babylonians and perfected its design. The Greeks, turned the classical arch into a 3-dimensional object and created a dome. The Greek Temple that Kim and Shane are constructing uses Classical Greek fluted columns and Ionic capitols topped by a copper hemispherical dome. The balustrades and railings are an invention of the Renaissance in the 15th century AD.

Greek Temple Construction
Kim and Shane position a circular box beam section
Early fall snow
Snow arrives early and is a precursor of October weather
Finishing touches
Egg and dart trim is applied to the Greek Temple
October 6th, 2009

October started out wet and never got any better. Every few days snow blanketed the yard and then melted when the sun appeared. Gradually the earth turned to thick, gooey mud; the kind that clings to your shoes in five pound clumps. Shane and Kim toiled on despite the miserable weather. They poured foundations for the picnic pavilion and cleared the ground for another set of tiered gardens just below the conservatory.

The picnic pavilion is ten feet wide and twenty feet long. It has five fluted Ionic columns which are topped by massive box beams. The roof will consist of open rafters topped by 2 by 2's; like an arbor. The newest tiered garden will flank the picnic pavilion and separate it from the conservatory. A wide staircase will lead from the conservatory to the pavilion area. An open fire place will allow for grilling and night time companionship. The pavilion area will be connected to the gravel garden walkways so one may take a leisurely stroll around the yard after dinner. The energetic or vista seeking visitor may wish to hike to the summit lookout via the scenic pathway that goes from the picnic pavilion, behind the conservatory and hugs the hillside to the peak and Renaissance viewing platform. Spectacular views of lower Paradise valley and Yellowstone National Park are assured for the small price of simply stopping to catch your breath.

Autumn snow in Montana
Shane and Kim endure a cold, wet snow
Montana Fog
A damp fog engulfs the house and back yard
Greek Picnic Pavilion Construction
It does not snow like this in Athens, Greece
October 28th, 2009

My life in Montana is filled with opportunities. For twenty years I lived in a small apartment in Branford, Connecticut after vandals torched my cherished log cabin. I could not garden for the landlord already used all of the meager, postage stamp yard. So I tucked that dream away until I moved to Montana. It may be argued that I over compensated by building 100 gardens and planning for another 100 but then, how many beds did the Garden of Eden have for just Adam and Eve?

In July and August a huge, almost biblical it seemed, plague of grasshoppers descended upon Paradise Valley. They munched on my flowers, devoured tender young shoots and developed a love for potato plants. By mid-August the potatoes were limp, brown and dead stalks. I feared the worst and left them buried until late October. Much to my surprise I harvested a dish strainer full of red and Yukon Gold potatoes for winter meals. I saved the smaller ones for seeding a new crop next spring.

I filled 91 of the 100 gardens with thousands of tulip, daffodil, allium and hyacinth bulbs. The remaining beds froze before I reached them. They will have to wait until next spring for new plants. I resolved that next year I will start planting bulbs in mid-August.

Retaining wall repair
A new flagpole garden, copper capped snow
posts and reinforcements for the retaining wall.
Montana Potatos
Fresh, homegrown Yukon Gold and red potatoes
raised in the tiered gardens.
Greek Picnic Pavilion
Rich assesses progress on the picnic pavilion
and adjoining tiered gardens
November 5th, 2009

The birds flew south a few weeks ago. Most of the tourists are gone for the season and Yellowstone Park will close many of it's roads when the next snow flies thick and settles deep. Our construction and landscaping work draws to a close. The tools are picked up, materials stored and the crew moves on to other jobs in the snow free valley and indoors. A calm stillness settles over my home and yard.

The arrival of Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the winter social season. Close friends hold dinners in their warm homes providing a pleasant respite from the shorter and colder days of winter. Hunting season brings forth an abundance of wild game and delicious dishes. Snowmobiles are cleaned and tuned in anticipation of December and January storms. It is a time to reflect, count our blessings and share with others.

Rigler Trucking
Josh Rigler delivers a load of Yellowstone River
cobbles for the garden walkway borders
Full winter moon
A full winter moon rises over the Absaroka mountains
and signals the close of outdoor yard work for this year
Mammoth Yellowstone Post Office
Mammoth Hot Springs Post Office in Yellowstone National Park
November 21st, 2009

Early winter is a great time for exploring. The tourists are gone, snow blankets the higher peaks but the lowlands are still bare and easy to hike or drive through. I get restless this time of year. It seems too soon to retreat inside the warm and cozy confines of my home. Today I headed off to Yellowstone only to find myself caught in a small blizzard as I ascended to Mammoth Hot Springs at 6,300 feet. The snow was beautiful but I wished to hike and explore. To stretch my limbs and breath deeply of the fresh mountain air. So I turned back into Paradise Valley via the old road called Yellowstone Trail. As soon as I descended to the valley floor at 4,400 feet elevation, the snow cleared and I could see for miles.

North Entrance to Yellowstone
North entrance to Yellowstone National Park
Gardiner River Valley
Gardner River Valley in Yellowstone
Yellowstone Trail Road
Yellowstone Trail meanders amongst the Gallitan foothills
November 14th, 2009

I sojourned along Yellowstone Trail as it meandered over the rolling foothills of the Gallitan mountains while roughly following the Yellowstone river and the old railroad right of way. I passed the ghost towns of Electric and Aldridge that once had a lively business of mining coal and producing coke for the smelters in Butte. The Devil's Slide, a magnificent red rock formation rose into view as I crested a small series of hills and descended into a flat, grassy river bench. Occasionally I would pass a hunter. Some were lucky and had an elk or deer in the back of their trucks. Others were still searching for that perfect, massive bull elk before the season ended.

The road grew more perilous as I approached Yankee Jim canyon. I followed the old railroad bed which was wet, narrow and deeply rutted. Steep, bare canyon walls towered over my Jeep while slippery talus slopes descended to the cold, blue green Yellowstone River 300 feet below. Blasted from solid rock over a century ago and designed for a single train track, the road was barely one lane wide in spots. The views were spectacular and I stopped often to enjoy them.
Fresh wolf tracks dotted the roadside. Vicious killers, wolves often decimate livestock herds and mercilessly hunt down elk and deer. Sometimes they kill for food and sometimes they murder for fun. Although no human attacks have occurred in the valley, wolves in other parts of our country have gone after people. Their tracks were fresh and I kept a wary eye open for the predators.

Yellowstone Trail and River
Yankee Jim Canyon and Yellowstone River - to the right,
the old railroad bed and Yellowstone Trail road
Yellowstone River
The cold and beautiful turquoise waters of the Yellowstone River

A Visit To Cooke City

Lamar Valley Landscape
Light snow on the Lamar Valley floor in November
November 21st, 2009

Still not content to busy myself with indoor activities I ventured forth to explore Cooke City which sits just outside the northeast gates of Yellowstone National Park. Sitting high(8,200 feet) in the Absaroka/Beartooth mountains and connected to the rest of Montana in the winter by a single strip of plowed asphalt it possessed the feeling of isolation that I felt more often as the days grew shorter. The drive up the Lamar Valley in northern Yellowstone National Park was gorgeous. A light snow covered the valley floor and gradually deepened to 24 inches as I climbed towards Cooke City. In the small town snowmobiles were more plentiful than cars as people got an early start to winter outdoor recreation. The road was well plowed and snow packed but it was only maintained for about a mile east of the city limits. If you wanted to continue on the Beartooth highway you could ski, snowshoe or ride a snowmobile.

Unfortunately environmentalists have greatly restricted the use of snowmobiles inside Yellowstone National Park. Years ago I rented a snowmobile in Gardiner and toured the park by myself. It was a wonderful experience and I enjoyed it immensely. In Cooke City I saw many people enjoying the blessings of nature without harming the environment. The air was clean and crisp and wildlife was abundant. You were allowed to drive a car or truck into the park but not a snowmobile.

Cooke City
Cooke City - 142 residents and 8,200 feet above sea level
6 x 6 Bull Elk
Six points on each antler; what a trophy!
Church Work
Kerwin Klumpers volunteers as a carpenter at church
December 2nd, 2009

Indoor work beckoned and I finally yielded in early December. My friend Kerwin and I volunteered our carpentry skills for a few hours every week at church. We both served as trustees at the Livingston Congregational Church and oversaw projects like the installation of a new roof during the summer of 2009. We enjoyed working together and accomplished much. I also worked with the Pastor and his family to build a web site for the church; Livchurch.com. By March of 2010 we had the site up and running.

Every Christmas many members of our congregation purchased small gifts for boys and girls around the world. We carefully packed small books, toiletries, school supplies and other gifts into a shoe box and brought them to church. In turn they were given to Samaritan's Purse which donated them to children around the world.

Originally our church was a Catholic place of worship. Over the entry doors stood a beautiful, century old, stained glass window of Mother Mary and the infant Jesus. The window needed work. A few panes were broken and the leading was sagging. The clear plastic storm window over it had weathered brown so the brilliantly colored glass could barely be seen. Some members wanted to destroy this artistic treasure. I did my best to save it but unfortunately one of the church members took the dismantled panes of glass without permission from the church garage and burned them in a bonfire. I was so dismayed by the destruction of a religious icon and community artistic treasure that I resigned from the church.

Mother Mary
A century old artistic treasure is hidden behind a stained
and weathered plastic storm window on our church.
Samaritan's Purse
Packages for Samaritans's Purse sit on my dining
room table. Two boys will be happy this Christmas!
Stain Glass Windows
Beautiful stain glass windows adorn the
Livingston Congregational Church
Snow on the foothills
Light snow coats the garage roof and
blankets the higher foothills above

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