Summer Crew Winds Up and Packs Up

The summer is winding to a close, and, although September is still before us (and still fairly busy), our summer help has headed home to prepare for school. After a busy summer, which included lots of work but a nice sprinkling of fun, our good-byes came hard. These girls had worked very hard, and without them the summer would have been a disaster. And, not only had they added support, they brought sunshine and laughter into every part of our day.

Joy, the 'blond' lived up to her hair color, but only on occassion. It didn't take her long to figure out when we were pulling her leg. In fact, I think in self-defense (although she denied it), she dyed her hair Strawberry Blond. I guess the red tint was to convince us (and herself) she really wasn't a blond - although I don't know why she felt the need.

However, she lived up to her name every moment of every day. She brought joy and laughter to our work. To watch her do a jig chanting 'more dishes, more dishes' when we brought her another armload brought a smile to our faces - even when we thought we were too tired to smile.

She turned out to be the BEST kitchen help. She willingly filled the role of chef's helper, waitress, dishwasher, or cook. She could switch from waiting tables to prepping dinner dishes to washing dirty dishes in the blink of an eye. And, when she spotted a job that needed doing - she jumped right in and went to work.

In fact, she got a bit too serious about her job. I think she thought we couldn't run the kitchen without her. Take the night (the one and only night) she got sick. We sent her to bed. She looked appalled! "I can't go to bed. There are dinners to be served." We assured her we could make it without her help. Whereupon she went to bed and beat herself up for not staying and helping out! "Relax, Joy!"

Our brunette, Shannon, has been the "Who Me?" child for as long as I've known her. However, this summer, she proved she's growing out of that stage. In fact, I only think she said, "Who, Me?" two or three times the whole summer.

Shannon could be counted on to keep Joy on the straight and narrow (as if Joy had any intention of straying). She was the quiet one - the one who liked to keep to the background. She didn't say much, but you could catch her eyes twinkling every once in a while if you watched close enough. She learned how to clean cabins with the best of them. She turned out to be a top-notch dishwasher, and, if you have some serious shopping to do (I mean 4 flatbeds full at Costco), be sure to take Shannon along.

Although neither of the girls really got into kayaking or canoeing this summer, they both came to the conclusion their legs were broken - thus they really NEEDED to ride the four-wheelers (even if it was only 100' across the yard to the next cabin). Shannon came a bit more prepared for this ardorous task. She understood how to apply the brakes and the gas. Joy, on the other hand, needed some practice (okay, a LOT Of practice). With her jackrabbit starts and abrupt stops, I'm really quite amazed the vacume (and cleaning supplies) survived the summer.

Well girls, my hat is off to you both. You were great help and even more fun. You will not be soon forgotten - either by us or this summer guests at Elk Lake Resort. You will be missed GREATLY! We all wish you great times for the remaining weeks of your summer - and the upcoming school year. Take care and don't let anyone tell you you aren't the BEST!

Lady of the Lake


Fall 'hints' at its Upcoming Arrival at Our Western Montana Lodge

It's that time of year again. Here in the mountains the summers are short - at least when compared to many of the lower regions around us. And, fall is foretelling its soon arrival in the cool nights and cooler days. Of course, summer isn't willing to give up without a fight.

Today the temperature rests in the low 80's, but a few days ago our highes were in the high 60's. The nights, too, are beginning to show signs of the weakning hold of the sun. With average lows in the upper 30's - and a few nights already dipping into the low 30's, we're getting a taste of what is coming.

The animals are more abundant, too, as the days cool down. Several moose have been sighted. The deer are quite abundant - and getting more daring. In fact, I fear for my flowers. The fawns are getting big, and although they've not lost their spots, they are looking more like adolescents than babies. The fox kits are nearly full grown. The Sandhill Crane babies are approaching their parents' size. Some of the birds are gone - the tree swallows for one - and others are flocking - a sure sign of their impending departure. Even a few of the aspens are starting to show yellow and orange mixing with their green.

Yes, fall is approaching, but with stubborn tenacity we hang on to the departing vestages of summer. Although I love fall - the colors, the crisp nights, the clear air - the short summer season (and the busyness of it) make me savor each passing moment (and strive to extend them for as long as possible). However, with the upcoming fall we will have a bit more free time. And, with the beauty of the season, we will seek to enjoy it to its fullest.

For now, at Elk Lake Resort, however, we swim if its warm enough - we sit out on the porch whenever we can - we soak up the sun's warmth - and we enjoy the last fleeting days of a season too quickly behind us.

Lady of the Lake


Wildlife Sightings Increase at our Western Montana Lodge

As the heat decreases and the people return to their 'normal' lives, the wildlife seems to breathe a collective sigh of releif - and return to the lower ground. With the summer heat, wildlife sightings (and particularly moose sightings in the valley) had dropped to an all time low. However, we are pleased to hear the moose have returned to the valley floor and are delighting guests who take the time - at the right time - to look for them.

In the last couple of weeks we've had several dozen moose sightings, numerous Bald Eagle and owl sightings (along with a large variety of other smaller birds), Sandhill Cranes seen regularly, and, of course, regular deer sightings and occasional elk seen. The most interesting wildlife encounter I've heard about, however, was between one guest and four fox.

While walking along the lake, enjoying the quiet and looking for 'treasure', one recent guest had the privilege of getting up-close-and-personal with four red fox. Apparently he first noticed them as they scrambled around on the hill behind him. When he turned to watch them, one - the largest it seemed - drove the other two from view. However, not 15 minutes later as he crouched beside the lake shore, four fox came down to the lake near his resting place. After taking time to get a drink, two fox came within a few feet of him - checked him out - then returned to the group. Amazingly enough, they didn't seem to concerned about him, although they appeared to be keeping a sharp lookout for the local dogs.

I even got in an early evening hike last night. I had the dogs along, which limited my wildlife contacts, but I still saw 1 doe, 2 Sandhill Cranes, and 3 ducks (which I could not identify). I also heard what I thought might be an Elk bugling. In fact, the wolf riders are saying the Elk have been bugling regularly for about 3 weeks now. Does this imply an early winter or at least a colder than normal fall? Only time will tell. However, around here - with more wildlife to observe and wonder at - I don't really mind having to wait and find out.

Lady of the Lake


The "World" Comes to Visit Our Western Montana Lodge

Just when I get to feeling things are bordering on the 'everyday', a visitor (or two or half a dozen) comes to visit and reminds me not only how lucky I am to live here, but how 'big' the world is. This week has brought visitors from Italy and the Neatherlands. These two special families have given as much to us as they say they have received from us.

The first family - a mother, father, and son - found us by 'accident' this past weekend. A one night adventure turned into two days of exploration as the checked out our area and visited with our family. By the time they left, Susanne was inviting us to come to Italy for a visit (and not just 'us' but the girls working for us, and our extended family who were visiting at the same time). In addition, their obvious pleasure at being part of our family for a couple days warmed our hearts and endeared them even more to us.

The second family - a mother, father, and two sons - have taken the Internet to the maximum, planning and booking their entire US vacation online. When asked how they found us? They typed in "unique lodging" and "unique vacation". That was a good heads-up for me as I revamp our web page - I definitely want to leave that keyword.

Although our time to visit with our new friends from Italy was a bit limited, we were able to spend several hours learning more about our Dutch friends and their homeland. In addition, because the 'mother' in this case is a lovely lady who grew up in the US, we have been able to get an even broader picture of how the Neatherlands and US are similar - and how they are different. So, to add to my knowledge that some of the world's most beautiful flowers come from this little country, what have we learned?

Their countryside: The Neatherlands, as most people know, is land reclaimed from the sea by a series of dikes and an intricate "Delta Works" (pumping system) which keeps the sea from flooding the land. What I didn't know was this land used to be a marsh - a river delta area. In addition, I learned the process of reclaiming the land started a LONG time ago.

Their heritage: Apparently the early ancestors of the Dutch were people who came down the Rhine River long before the Angles and Saxons were fighting over Britainia. In fact, there are huge stones (how did their early ancestors move these monoliths?) which the Dutch have identified as grave markers from the Stone Age.

Their homes: To build in the Neatherlands - because the land is a combination of clay and sand - one must first drive pilings deep into the ground. In fact, in some places these pilings are as long as 30 meters. In modern times the pilings are made from concrete. However, years ago wood was used. As a result, some of the old buildings in Amsterdam lean drunkenly. According to Pat (the US raised part of the family), the leaning buildings only add to the charm of the old city.

As one might expect, however, there are times when an old piling must be replaced. Now, consider this. Once the pilings are seated on a firm foundation, a building is built on top of them. So, when the piling rots, it is no simple job to replace it. In fact, according to Marcel (the father), to replace an old piling they actually go into the 'basement' of the existing building with a portable drill (I'd say small but it must be fairly large to do the job) and commence drilling. Once the old piling is drilled out, they pour concrete into the hole to create a new piling.

And, these basements led to another revelation. The word 'subterrainian' comes from the Dutch, via a combination of the French words 'sub' (under) and 'terrain' (ground). It seems the Dutch are hard up for living space (at least in the cities). Therefore many apartments are in basements (these subterrainian rooms) which boast windows high on the wall which look out onto - well - a nice large patch of "pavement".

Houses, Dutch style, are small - very small - by most US standards. While I live in an area where the square footage of many second homes is 2000 - 3000 square feet, the apartment which my new friends live in - in the city - is less than 700 square feet (and this is for a family of four). If my memory serves, they said to buy this apartment would border on 1 million dollars. Yes, you read that right! In addition, they are blessed with a country home. Two and one half hours by train from the city they have a small home (less than 1000 square feet) with a small patch of lawn. This 'country estate' cost them over $500,000. And, when I looked surprised at the price for such a small place, they told me they are considered lucky. To have a home in the country with a small 'garden' is considered a real luxury in the Neatherlands.

Their schools: A delightful conversation with Tim and Bob (the two sons) revealed quite a bit about their school system. Dutch children start school at the age of two. From two to four they attend a 'play school' which sounded much like pre-school in America. However, I got the impression play school in the Neatherlands is required. At the mature age of five the children start their primary education. With school starting in September and ending in June, the students attend until they are sixteen. During this time a typical Dutch student learns two or more languages (apparently up to four is common - German, French, English, and of course Dutch).

At some point, near the end of the this segment of their education, they take a test to determine whether they are at the high, medium, or low level. This testing then determines the number of years they will spend in college (or university - I'm not sure what they call this upper level of education). The low level students spend 4 years, medium 5, and high 6. However, apparently just because a student tests at the low or medium level when they leave what I'd call high school doesn't mean they are 'locked in' at that level. Apparently their marks over the next few years can raise their level. So, if I understood right, a low level (high school) graduate could end up performing (and being educated) at the high level.

Their work system: Every country (mine included) has its issues and problems. I'd say the work system in the Neatherlands is one of their country's biggest problems. Not only do the rules regulating businesses favor the larger corporations while greatly restricting smaller 'mom and pop' type organizations, but the system also 'rewards' the lackluster, lazy worker instead of encouraging entrepreneurs and hard-working employees.

For example, lets say I am a small business owner in the Neatherlands (instead of here at Elk Lake Resort.) I work hard; my business grows; I hire an employee to help me. Everything seems normal up to this point. Then, my employee gets 'sick'. Now, this can be really sick or just sick of work. As I understand it, I now have two options. I can try to convince my employee to come back to work, and then get them another job (thus releiving me of the responsibility for them), or I can continue to keep them as my employee - thus making me responsible for them for at least 2 years.

Now, to make it worse, the employee can call in sick (and get paid) whenever the urge strikes. Therefore, I am penalized for having an employee - and my employee has no incintive to do a good job because I'm 'stuck' with them - regardless of how they work. In addition, it seems the bigger companies are so used to this type of employee, they think nothing of this type of behavior - and, as amazing as it seems to me, may actually tend to reward it. It doesn't make good business sense to me!

Their government: The Neatherlands has a royal family, and like England, the royal family is mostly a figure head. They also have a prime minister and parliament. However, there are some differences. There are a LOT of parties (unlike the US which has 3 'major' parties) and it sounded like the most 'popular' person in the party which is elected (elections occur every 4 years) becomes the new prime minister. And, although the people vote for leaders and parties, my impression was their vote didn't play as important of a role as our (US) votes do (or at least are supposed to).

Their taxes: Like Germany, the Dutch function under a 'huge' tax burden. In fact, over 50% of their income (off the top) is gobbled up by taxes. And, yet, if I understood correctly, it is possible for a big corporation to send their earnings out of the Neatherlands and thus protect it from this exorbitant taxation. And, while this may make the country more interesting to big corporations, it has to put an even greater strain on the smaller business owner and the individual too.

Their religion: The Neatherlands offers religious freedom. In other words, they have no state church and the government does not regulate religion. However, I found it interesting that all businesses closed on Sunday (or at least all 'Dutch' businesses). Apparently it is not illegal for a Jewish grocer or a Turkish baker to stay open on Sunday - and to close another day of the week as regulated by their religion.

Another interesting point which relates more to their work ethic than religion is - almost all of the stores close at 6 p.m. Now we're talking about in the middle of a big city - in fact a whole big city. Although those of us who have lived in a small town can relate to this, those living in large cities in the US are used to businesses being open 24 / 7. This is not the practice in Holland. In fact, it is not uncommon for a store which opens at 10 a.m. to actually open 10 - 15 minutes later. And, the same store may close 10 - 15 minutes before 6 p.m. Obviously this reflects some of their work ethich (or lack of).

One last piece of 'trivia'. In the Neatherlands it is legal to drink at 16, but you can't get your drivers license until you turn 18. Now, how's that for a bit different?

I could go on about their money, their ideas on the European Union, their recreational activities, their emigration policies, and so on. Obviously I thoroughly enjoyed our visit - and I learned a LOT about another country - one I would love to visit, but one where I don't think I'd want to live. In fact, the more I learn about this great big world, the more I treasure the opportunity to live in my sheltered little world!

Lady of the Lake


We Live in the "Daily" at our Western Montana Lodge

Although life at Elk Lake Resort is never dull, sometimes it gets quite 'daily'. We cook meals, clean cabins, and visit with guests. Nothing overly exciting happens - or so it seems.

Then I think back to the pair of Sandhill Cranes which stopped me in my tracks as I searched the sky to locate the source of their haunting calls. Or, the big bull Elk which we startled from his grazing near the banks of Red Rock Creek. According to the wolf riders, the Elk are already bugling - and have been for several weeks. Maybe this is the reason he stopped when I sent him a whistle which faintly (very faintly) resembled the sound of their bugling.

And there's the kayak ride Craig, Nathaniel, and I took the other day. We didn't see a lot, but the Mama duck with her ducklings and the various other birds which let us get quite close (as we were low in the water and relatively quiet) added to the scenic beauty to make for a perfect morning. Or, I remember the Mother and Father Wrens who chewed me out royally as I was hanging my laundry a couple days ago. They nest each year in an old stovepipe near my clothesline. And, each year it is the same. A glimpse of one of their young - a brave little fellow who looked like a smaller version of his parents and who ventured out to the edge of the pipe to see what all the fuss was about - added to my delight.

I could add the yipping coyotes the other night, announcing their return to the area (which also announces the movement of the wolves away from the area - at least for the time being). Or, I could talk about the thunderstorm which blew through the other night making quite a fanfare on its way by. Or, the hummingbirds which are regularly visiting my potted flowers. Or, the sparrows which have been chirping loudly on the front patio. Really, 'daily' life around here is jam packed with so much of the extra-ordinary, I can't begin to imagine how dull it would otherwise.

And so, even the little things, the things I can easily take for granted, give me reason for pause when I sit down and think about all I see and experience - just in the course of 'daily' life.

Lady of the Lake


Things get a little "DRY" here at our Western Montana Lodge

Life got a little more 'interesting' than normal here this week as we faced a technical challenge which threatened to wreck havoc. However, living in the middle of nowhere is teaching is to roll with the punches. As a result, tragedy (or at least a lot of hair pulling) was averted.

It all really started over a year ago when we experienced a decent-sized earthquake (epi-center Dillon, MT). Although it did no 'noticeable' damage, it did shake things up enough to bother our well pump. Craig, who was in the shower at the time of the quake, (all lathered up!) lost all water instantly. His first assumption was a broken line so he shut off the power to the pump, closed the water mains to the cabins, and restarted the pump.

It started normally, he checked for leaks and found none, then he finished his shower and planned for an early start to check out the rest of the water lines. The next morning he could find nothing out of the norm. Everything seemed to be working fine. However, we didn't know the 'whole' picture.

About a month later the pump quit again - this time for no obvious reason. When all his attempts to repair the problem failed, Craig and Ed (our friend and helper for the summer) pulled the pump from the well. After working it over (there appeared to be some grit or other small obstruction causing some problems), they were able to reinstall it, and it worked. Problem solved? No!

Another earthquake last January (with a much closer epi-center and thus a stronger effect although again no 'obvious' damage) shook things up a bit more. However, the pump continued to work fine. Or so we thought. But, it was really just waiting its time. A week or so ago, it quit again. Craig was able to get it working without pulling it, but we were about convinced a new pump was in our near future.

It was. A couple days ago the pump quit again. Craig was in Yellowstone with his family. I was here preparing for incoming dinners! Talk about stress! I about cried. However, I was able to get ahold of him and found he was only about 1 1/2 hours away. So, I filled water jugs from the RV (fortunately it had water) and prepared for 'dinner as usual' (at least on the dining room side of the kitchen's swinging doors).

Side note: Although we all held it together admirably, I think we were all a bit more stressed than we realized. Take this little incident: I had three tables of two diners each, all in various stages of eating or waiting for their dinners. Tony, a gentleman at one of the tables, asked for a clean rag to wipe his glasses. Since I was waiting tables and cooking (so Craig could work on the pump), I asked Hannah to take out a clean rag. Well, one of the other tables of two - Jeff and a lady friend who were waiting for their dinners to be served - decided to step out onto the porch for a smoke. Hannah, misunderstanding my directions, takes a clean rag and busses Jeff's table. So, I walk back out with something for my third table of guests - Paul and MaryJane - and find Jeff and his friend standing beside their empty table.

"Someone took all of our stuff!" Jeff commented with a puzzled look.

In total confusion I return to the kitchen to find them dumping the precious water from Jeff and his friend's glasses into our 'wash tub' (the dirty water we were saving to rinse the dishes which we obviously could not wash). Completely puzzled but too busy to give it any more thought I reset their table and went on with preparing their dinners.

About ten minutes later I take out the dinners for the third table (Tony's table) and they thank me. Then Tony says, "Could I get that rag for my glasses?"

It wasn't until that moment I realized what had actually happened to the 'rag'. We all had a good laugh - after we got Tony his rag. I guess a little humor is the best thing in the middle of a stressful situation - but I wasn't really sure whether I was going to laugh or cry at the moment.

Anyway, back to the pump. This time the pump had to be pulled. With a bit of effort Craig and Brian (his brother has been visiting so we've put him to work) were able to get it going again. However, we knew we were at that point - we had to get a new pump. The next morning Craig wakes me to, "There's no water!"

It wouldn't be fixed. This time it was gone for good. Now, water is one of those things we often take for granted. After all, I have a creek running on each side of the lodge and a lake full of water in the front yard. I'm 'surrounded' by water. But, there was no water in the lodge (or the cabins which were nearly all rented!) However, our guests were VERY kind and understanding.

To make a long story short, many hours later I returned from a rushed trip to Bozeman with a new pump and new - well - new everything from the pump up. A couple hours later the guys got it installed and 'viola' WATER! What a blessing! And, so things are 'running' again normally here at Elk Lake Resort. I think it will be at least a few more days before I take this 'liquid gold' for granted again.

Lady of the Lake


Family Visits Our Western Montana Lodge

In addition to a large variety of guests from many states and even many countries, we've recently had the additional privilege of visits from family. As most of our family is in Oregon (and many of our friends), we see them rarely - even more rarely this time of year. However, both Craig and I have family members here at the moment.

Although our 'real' life has been too busy to do much exploring of late, Craig is spending the day in Yellowstone with his family. The girls and his brother are scheduled to visit some of the high country on horseback toward the week end. And, I have hopes of taking my family into the back country of the Gravellies while they are here.

The weather continues to be hot - in the mid to upper 80's - but we've had a brief respite lately with temperatures dropping into the 70's for the highs. The nights continue to be comfortable with temperatures dropping into the mid 40's to low 50's. However, the continued warm has dried out the grass and increased the fire danger. So, we keep our fingers crossed and whisper an occasional prayer for fire prevention!

The hot weather has driven the wildlife into temporary hiding as well. Our latest excursions have only revealed a few deer - bucks, does, and fawns; a few antelope; and an occasional bull moose. However, the bird life continues to be impressive. In fact, our French visitors saw a Great Grey Owl in the aspens by the ranch house at dusk last night. So, if one keeps their eyes open, there are still wildlife and bird sightings to delight the viewer here at Elk Lake Resort.
Lady of the Lake