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Pix from Montana

I have about two more days of deadlining before I can get back to serious posting. In the meantime, here are some pix from the Montana ranch where L. and I stayed over the weekend.

Here’s our cabin:

Cabin where we stayed in Montana

The cabin featured solar power, a composting toilet, a claw-foot bathtub, on-demand hot water, and despite the satellite dishes, a blessed absence of all electronic media.

It was a short walk from our hosts’ house, but our nearest neighbors weren’t human. This is Ben, a rescued Belgian draft horse, and one of his buddies.

Belgian draft horse "Ben" and friend

In the same pasture were Highland cattle. They’re a hardy breed that can endure a brutal climate. Because they keep warm with their heavy, almost bison-like coats, they produce lean meat, closer to game than to grocery-store beef.

Here’s the father of the late (but absolutely not lamented) steer who now occupies several freezers, including L’s and mine.

Highland bull

Despite their fierce looks and long horns, Highlands are known for being gentle. One morning the family’s two teenage girls (who are responsible for the livestock) took us into the pasture. We were surrounded by horses, cows, calves, steers, and Papa Bull, many of the animals crowding in for attention, others just watching while hanging back cautiously, but nobody (including Papa there) minding the intruders. I was more concerned about where Ben might accidentally put his dinner-plate hooves than what Papa Bull might do.

The ranch was beautiful and serene. In the mornings we went outside with cups of tea or chocolate and watched deer watch us then calmly return to their browsing.

Our hosts were great people — and what amazingly nice, mature children. It was good to be back in rural Montana, even though it was even better to arrive back home Monday night.


Thanks, L, for the use of your photographs.


  1. Matt, another
    Matt, another August 31, 2011 7:33 am

    They appear to be some mighty happy, content critters on that ranch. Guess the rancher knows a thing or tow. Bet he doesn’t take a lot of advice from the government or greenies.

  2. Ellendra
    Ellendra August 31, 2011 8:50 am

    I love highland cattle! They were one of the breeds I researched when planning my own farm. My land is a bit too uneven for them, but I still keep them in mind in case I get a leveler place.

  3. Samuel Adams
    Samuel Adams August 31, 2011 5:23 pm

    So, do you now know by name the animal in your freezer?

  4. Claire
    Claire August 31, 2011 5:46 pm

    Samuel Adams — Yes, unfortunately I do. I even asked. His name was Mysteerious.

    I will eat him anyway.

  5. Claire
    Claire August 31, 2011 7:24 pm

    Ellendra — I’m curious. What kind of cattle did you decide on and why?

  6. Ellendra
    Ellendra September 1, 2011 8:28 am

    Actually, I decided my land is uneven enough that I’m looking at multipurpose dairy/meat hair sheep instead of cattle. Although that’s still just an idea, as I need to get my house built first. I looked into goats and llamas, too, but some of the naturally polled breeds of sheep seem to suit my needs better, and hair sheep are often mistaken for goats but with a milder-tasting meat.

    When I say my land is uneven, what I mean is, it averages a 45-degree slop from on end to the other, with many, many near-vertical dropoffs in between. Part of the reason I was able to afford it on minimum wage was because the lay of the land made it too much of a challenge for most people. I grew up watching my grandfather’s farm get flooded out every 3rd year, so I’ll take steep over flat any day.

    The lay of the land has an advantage that I didn’t realize at first. It creates an optical illusion. Standing on the road, you’d swear you can see every detail in the whole place, when in reality there could be someone standing 10 feet away and you’ll never see them. Now that I’m back on my feet, I keep finding more of these little hiding spots, including one big enough to fit a small house in!

  7. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty September 2, 2011 8:28 am

    I’ve always loved Belgians and wished I could have one or twenty. (sigh) My uncle farmed 400 acres in Michigan more than 50 years ago and the people on the next farm did all of their plowing and so forth with several teams of Belgians. The summer I spent on that farm is among my favorite memories, and that includes a lot of time spent watching and even petting those horses.

  8. G.C.
    G.C. September 4, 2011 7:00 am

    Hay Claire, As a long time follower of your books I would like to say “thank you”. I fell in love with that log cabin photo. Would you happen to have inside pictures? I would like to see the layout of it.

  9. Claire
    Claire September 4, 2011 9:33 am

    G.C. — Thanks for the kind comments!

    The cabin was very cool, but unfortunately we didn’t get inside photos. As to layout, though … very simple. In the front, a living-room/kitchen/dining combo; in the back half, a bedroom and bathroom. Over that back half was a sleeping loft, currently used for storage. And lots and lots of windows everywhere!

    The interior was just what you’d expect from the exterior: log walls and log beams. The couple of non-log interior walls were painted in bright, dramatic colors. Heat (which we didn’t need) was via a soapstone stove in a front corner and a ventless propane stove between the two big rooms.

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