Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Billings, Days four, three, two and one

I have wanted to visit my sister Mary for a while now, but kept finding excuses to put it off.  Then a friend wanted a "Pony Express" delivery for three sewing machines from Missoula to Wisconsin.   So Christy, Mary's daughter, brought the machines to Billings and I came to Billings to visit Mary and pick up the sewing machines for delivery to the River Rat Toga in September.
Mary knows I collect old sewing machines and she wanted a machine to sew with.  Since she hasn't moved much of her furniture to the little house in Billings I used that as an excuse.  This little Singer Model 66, previously electric but now a hand crank in a cute little desk, was delivered to Mary.  
Before delivery I cleaned and oiled and greased the machine.  It is not perfectly clean because I am nervous about taking apart things like the Bobbin Winder,  but much of it is shiny and good looking and all the insides are clean and in good order.

Mary took me to a beautiful quilt store in Billings called Fiberworks, her excuse being that she needed some fabric to play on her machine with.  (I needed no excuse) Oh such fun fabrics. I managed to find a few things to bring home.  Mary bought two fat 1/8ths and made this little bag in just a few minutes.  She is all ready to put a ribbon through the top to close it with, once she finds a ribbon, and she still has another 1/8th to play with.

Monday evening we went to the opening game of the 2010 season of the Billings Mustangs.  They have a new ballpark called Dehler Park which is very nice.  They won 11 to 4 over the Great Falls team and we had lots of fun and two lemonades each.  We didn't have any caramel apples.    Such restraint!

This is the fancy new scoreboard showing a picture of the Western Heritage Center which is the original library here in Billings.

After breakfast at Stella's on Monday we went for a walk in a Riverside Park which is affiliated with the Audubon Society here in Billings.  This park has a nice walk along a small river that flows into the Yellowstone River.  This is the Yellowstone River at that point.  Here is proof that we were there.  Jim is standing quite close to the edge isn't he?    The river was running quite fast, probably because of the rain and hail (and tornado) that we had yesterday.

After the storm on Sunday, the clouds cleared away and Mary took me up on the 'Rims' to get a look at the wild flowers and to see this view of mountains hovering over the city.  Cool eh?

Here is the new moon over the city, and then a picture of Mary taking a picture of a Yucca plant.  Evidently this was a highlight of the walk for her.  She has wanted to see a blooming Yucca for some time.   There were some blooms that had been hailed off the plants and we touched them.  They are very strange and waxy feeling.  You could say they feel Yucky.

This last picture was taken on the way into Billings on Saturday.  These horses were up on the range overlooking the freeway.  I was way far away and had to zoom this as far as I could so you could get a glimpse of the horses.  They looked so neat and western up there.

This last morning our plans are to go to the Dude Rancher for Breakfast and then visit Mary at her Library before leaving for home.

It has been a very nice visit and next time I am staying longer.

Thanks Mary for a great time!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Billings Diary, Day 62

Hi All,
  I'm supposed to write my obituary for a memoir writing class, but I want to post more wildflower pictures. 

The ol' bear and I visited the Little Big Horn Battlefield. 

Although I've had many chances to do this before on trips from Montana to Minnesota or North Dakota, I've never stopped.  We agreed that it was much more engaging than we thought it would be.  The history is fascinating for one.  First we attended a recitation of the battle which confused me as three different armies converged on the largest group of Indians ever gathered (the historians believe) and then Custer broke off from one army and ended up dividing his group into three and blah blah blah until I didn't know who was where and what was up.  To make things worse, the "professor" (apparently he is a professor in his winter job) confused shouting with emotion and kept making me flinch when he would yell out a paragraph or two.

We then went on the two walks that meander to places where things happened in the battle, and stopped at every roadside point with a tablet until now I actually do have an idea of what happened.  

This marker had braided grass left in front of it.
 Of course, there are still things being argued about, which makes it even more interesting.

There were plenty of meadowlarks along the way.  A meadowlark song makes anything the best, and along with that, the wildflowers were stunning.  So stunning that I went right into the museum store and bought a book in which I could find only two of the specimens we saw.  I think the book is more for the Dakotas and if so, you can have it when you come here. 
So - on to the wildflowers (and the grasses - they were also fascinating):  I am sure most of these are fairly common, and I am going to get a book out of the library (and buy one too) but I haven't yet so I don't know what they are.  Sorry they are so big, but I wanted to keep the detail so I didn't resize or crop too much.

I know what these last two are: the top one is Yucca (I've posted some pictures of it before I knew it grew this impressive spike which I'm dying  to see when it's in full bloom) and next is prickly pear with some buds on it - also can't wait to see in bloom.
Yucca - with flower stalk.  Also know as soapweed because the roots were used for soap according to this book.

Prickly Pear with buds on it.
 Did I say I've never lived anywhere before where cacti grew?  I am fascinated by it.

I've posted this by uploading the pictures, and while waiting, ironing clothes for work.  I have a penchant for linen, which is eternally wrinkly, but also have a penchant for ironing, thank goodness.  This all goes quite well with my penchant for drying clothes on the line.  If I didn't hang clothes out to dry, I would have missed the pair of goldfinches playing tag amongst the trees this afternoon.  They were making clicking-type noises that I have heard before.  Now I know that those are goldfinch noises and will look for them next time I hear it.
Adios, all.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Billings Diary Day 58: Two Moon Park

Howdy Jeni, Nancy, et. al.,

Me and the Ol' Bear went on a walk in Two Moon Park. It's supposed to be for bicycles but we saw more walkers than bikers.

The impetus for this was that I've been living here for two months and I haven't seen the "storied" Yellowstone River. I've tried to find it a couple of times but only caught glimpses and kept getting lost (although I did find where the Subaru fix-it guy was so it wasn't a complete trail fail). When we saw the Yellowstone from Two Moon Park it was not what impressed me, although when I think of the Yellowstone River I think of history: Lewis and Clark, mountain men, and Yellowstone Park.

What impressed me about Two Moon Park was the birds. It might be nice to bike through, but you won't get as much chance to appreciate the birds that way. I wish I could take pictures as you do, Nancy, but birds in a park don't come to where you're waiting for them. I did get some of this killdeer:

She met us on the trail, chirping piteously, and zig-zagged up the path in front of us for quite a ways, even performing the "broken wing" trick, until finally we were clear of her nest and off she flew.

We saw white-tails in ones, twos, and threes - the park is a safe place for them.

And we even saw some monster fish, which when they got close enough we realized were giant carp. They were opening and closing their pink mouths as they swam along, like monster goldfish.

Despite it being a gloomy day, and raining on us a bit as well, we were happy with our outing. I might go there on my bike too, because the trails are easy enough for me. But walking lets you see so much more - I might keep the bike for commuting.

Love, Mary

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Nesting time for Orioles.

Hi there Mary and Jeni,
I have been putting out nesting materials for the Orioles that visit  my garden.
It has been quite successful.

I use two types of string and some fur donated by Alice and Abbie who love to be brushed.
I twist open the ply's of the string and cut them into less than 6 inch lengths.  I read that somewhere.  More than 6 inches is a problem for the birds somehow.
Then I add some milkweed silk that I save every fall.
Then I wait for a mother Oriole to arrive.
She picks up a little, then forages and picks up more, then forages and picks up more!
Then when her beak is just as full as can be she flies off into the woods.  It takes her about 15 minutes before she comes back and starts all over again.  
As you can see, if they have a choice they choose the milkweed silk.  However they will take the string if nothing else is offered.  I can always tell when they want the nesting material because they keep trying to pick up the string Jim puts out to mark our garden rows.
Quite a mustache there Mrs. Oriole!