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Friday, June 30, 2017

Slope County memory lane

Junette Silbernagel Henke and Marian Silbernagel Crook

We had the most delightful guests this week for supper.  My mother, Marian Crook and her sister, my godmother, Junette Henke came for the afternoon.  Fresh walleye was on the menu.  While Jim pounded away on his keyboard in his office, we three women sat at my dining room table with stacks of papers and maps and books and went down Slope County memory lane.

My aunt is one of the authors of The Slope Saga.  In the photo above, they are looking at my copy of the book, which I treasure, and refer to frequently, to which my mother also contributed  What a great thing those folks did when they published this book.  I remember as a youngster, spending the night at my aunt's Slope County ranch, sleeping on the sofa bed, and waking up to see my aunt "burning the midnight oil", reading and working on the book, and wondering "does this woman ever sleep?" When I told her this she chuckled.  She and my Uncle Alan brought home boxes filled with The Marmarth Mail and sifted through it for material, along with stacks of the submissions of everyone from the county.  I guess they had a system.  It still boggles my mind.

Now, when I look at the stacks of articles and books in my "office", I laugh and think of them.  One thing really does lead to another, it turns out.  Junette encourages me to write my own stories and so I do.

They both are still as sharp-witted as ever, playing a fierce game of pinochle at their respective assisted living centers, and I mine their memories for interesting tidbits and answers to puzzles I have, things that I had little interest in as a teenager, but want to understand better now.  Junette says she now sees no reason to take some of this to the grave and is very eager and open with the details of heretofore untold stories.  They both also have a terrific sense of humor, and I think they are pleased that I am so interested in North Dakota's rich history, and in Slope County's (although I live now in Burleigh County). Certainly, they are interested in the little nuggets I dig up with resources beyond their wildest imagination.

While driving along in the car, my mother and I talked about the news reports (and my husband's blog account) of the State Water Commission granting more rights for industrial use of the Little Missouri River water.  My mother said, in her octogenarian wisdom, "people need to understand that water is gold!"  She is dismayed by what she reads is happening.  She lived through the Dirty Thirties and the Depression.

As for me, I have vivid memories of the crisis created at our ranch when we would have difficulties with the well.  We had lovely, clean water from that well, and we hung a metal cup on the windmill so that anyone going by could pull on the hand pump and take a quick drink.  I remember that the Getz's, our nearest neighbors, had soft water, but ours was HARD and filled with iron.  When I left for college, I struggled somewhat to adjust to the Dickinson water.  I was, no doubt, used to the taste of our Slope County well water.

But, I digress.

By the time supper was served, Aunt Junette had gone back in her memory and drawn an old trail on my map, a trail I will write about in a future blog.  The day ended with much laughter, and many fond memories were shared.  And I knew more about my ancestors than ever.

For dessert, we ate the last of the weekend's juneberries, with a little ice cream, and we all agreed that these were "drought juneberries", a little small and hard and not as tasty or juicy as they should be.  We all enjoyed the treat nonetheless. I told them a funny story about the recent harvest.  When Jim and I were in the patch and my bowl was almost full, I got tangled in the brush.  I knew I was going down, but I managed to keep the bowl upright!  Now, that is getting my priorities right.  The berries survived and I was unhurt.

Thank you so very much, Mom and Junette.  I do love you both so!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Taking the Bad Lands for granted

October Theodore Roosevelt National Park North Unit
Many people take the breathtaking beauty of the Bad Lands for granted, going on with their lives and assuming it will always be as it has been for thousands of years.  Well, gentle reader, it ain't so!  Stalwarts have been diligently working for decades to protect the remaining wild landscapes so future generations can enjoy the grandeur.

The effort culminating in the document Badlands on the Brink is a good illustration of this.  This document is hard to get your hands on, but a few ND libraries have copies.  Hopefully, someday, someone will get it digitized and thus make it more widely available.

Badlands Conservation Alliance's Prairie Legacy Wilderness proposal is another great example of the work that has been done and you can read that here.

The threats are many and my husband Jim Fuglie frequently writes about these on his Prairie Blog.

This week we got the great news that we had finally won a court case!  Jim writes about it A Victory for the Good Guys, and the Bad Lands.

If you love the Bad Lands, please consider joining in the conservation efforts by becoming a member of Badlands Conservation Alliance.  It's easy.  Just click here.   You'll be joining a grassroots group that truly is making a difference and are working to protect a treasured landscape for future generations.

"When the heart weeps for what it has lost, the spirit laughs for what it has found." Sufi Proverb

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Juniper Spur AKA Lillian's Pinnacle

For the record, gentle reader, "Lillian's Pinnacle" is, according to the US Geological Survey, Juniper Spur. Inquiring minds look into these things.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Red Oak House garden notes no. 19

Spring flowers have given way to the summer blossoms in our garden.  We eat fresh greens every day, and give away radishes.  The garlic crop is pathetic and it makes me sad to look at it as the new bed Jim prepared last fall was too rich.  Our purple-hulled pea crop is also a disappointment as I fear we were too frugal is using last year's remainder seeds.  I cannot buy purple-hulled peas here and, in my estimation, the black-eyed peas I can buy in Bismarck are like cheap whiskey is to Jack Daniels,  much less savoury, no matter how they are prepared. My Aunt Frances from Alabama agrees with me on this point, so you don't get much more of an authority than her.

Oddly enough, the only true lily in my garden, as the rabbits munch on these. Anything that the rabbits eat I do not even try to grow anymore.

First Bird Daylily

Red Thrift

Red-heart Sedum

Lady's Mantle in full bloom, with lavender in the background

It is time now to spend huge swaths of time sitting under the patio umbrella and reading.  The house wrens have raised their first clutch and may be started on the second.

When this rock was delivered, this little patch of native grass was growing on it.  I like how it has persisted. 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Burning Coal Vein and other Little Missouri National Grasslands environs

We spent the weekend in the Little Missouri National Grasslands (LMNG), camping in Slope County, at the Burning Coal Vein US Forest Service campground, attending the Badlands Conservation Alliance outing, gathering with old friends and making new friends.  While Saturday was cool and windy, Sunday was a perfect 75 degrees and sunny.  We also got a brief, but enjoyable, visit with our old friends, John and Jennifer Hanson, of the Logging Camp Ranch, just before we departed for Medora. (Note: It appears that the USFS is now officially calling the LMNG the Dakota Prairie Grasslands.  I think I'm too old to make an adjustment to this nomenclature.)  They gave us the excellent news that John has been appointed to the Little Missouri Scenic River Commission!  He'll be a jolt the commission needs.

My pictures tell the story better than my words possibly could.  I hope you like these.  If you go be sure to do your research in advance and buy yourself a map.  And take water.

I wonder how many times I've driven by this sign?

The LMNG is managed for multiple uses. Horseback riding is popular. We saw many mountain bikers and hikers and other campers.

Kim Shade's Ranch entrance sculpture

Don't go if you don't like getting your car dusty.

BCA group gathers to discuss a long ago mineral transfer that protected some of this landscape

Purple coneflowers are in bloom

One of the many Maah Daah Hey trail markers

This is the symbol for the Maah Daah Hey trail

Juniper Spur Overlook at the Burning Coal Vein.  The Rocky Mountain junipers once grew in a columnar shape because of the sulfurous fumes, however, the coals no longer burn, hence the junipers have reverted to their natural shape. We've decided to call this sandstone spire Lillian's Pinnacle.  However, the USGS map says it is "Juniper Spur".  So it goes.

Sandstone shaped by wind and water

Photo by Jim Fuglie
Lizzie was Dee-lighted that she got to come on this outing with us.

One of the most robust yuccas I've ever seen!

Fleabane.  Pesky Lizzie keeps getting in my shot.

One can see the ribbon of a segment of the Maah Daah Hey trail in the distance

A side trip to the Little Missouri River, which is woefully low in this drought. Here we partook of crackers and cheese and cocktails.

Sandbar willows on the banks of the Little Missouri River

We managed to snag campsite numero uno

And I spotted juneberries at our campsite. Which we picked. (Photo by Jim Fuglie)

Manna from heaven - juneberries

The temperatures dipped into the 40s in the night so we snuggled Lizzie in our extra blankets inside the tent

Wild plums

This tablecloth and cooler have been used at hundreds of campsites in the US and Canada

The hike for day 2 was to the Ponderosa Pines Research Natural Area

A ball cactus found tucked within a rock

Blooming ball cactus. Photo by Connie Triplett

I spotted this chartreuse caterpillar


Jan Swenson surveys the view

Time for lunch and learning

Laura Anhalt and Tracy Potter 

Meadow wanderings

When one walks across it, the air is pungent with the fragrance of the creeping juniper.

Deer bones

Western Salsify (Goatsbeard)

Last view of the Teepee Buttes

Bullion Butte
 Back in Medora, the annual Car Show had just wrapped up, so we only got to see this sweetie when we stopped for ice cream.

Then, hoping for more juneberries, we headed down Scairt Woman Road to the Ice Caves in McKenzie County.  No luck there, but another pleasant hike before turning our car toward Bismarck and home.

This "toadstool" is our clue that we are on the right road to the Ice Caves

Jim emerging from one of the ice caves
My knowledge of geology is minimal but I do know this:

I am in love with sandstone.  With what water and wind does to sandstone.

Happy trails to you, gentle reader.  Pray for rain.