Fall colors on 35

We roll along highway 35 a lot, and now that we’re well into October, it’s becoming quite a pretty drive.

It’s not a great picture… I shot it by holding my phone out the window as Pepper sped along. Believe me when I say the fall colors are much more spectacular than what you see here.


It’s been a year and a half coming, but the Forest Service is finally out in the Flathead National Forest behind our house. After the windstorms a year and a half ago, there was a lot of timber down in the forest. Apparently it can be a serious fire hazard, so for almost a year we’ve heard of plans for the USFS to come in and remove the fallen trees. As of about a week ago, they’ve been running trucks and heavy equipment off in the distance. This evening we decided to see their progress.

Well, they’ve removed far more than just the fallen trees. Pepper and I hiked up into the hills and were shocked at how much they’ve removed. It’s almost like they’re clear-cutting the forest!

In their defense, it’s probably much easier to just clear an area than work around standing trees to remove those that are down. And when the forest is pretty thin (as it was after the storms), the remaining trees are much more vulnerable to future wind events. More to the point, I’m not a forest expert, so I’ll trust they know what they’re doing and in the long run this will be better for the forest.

After trudging across this barren, dusty landscape, it was nice to get a beautiful view of the lake in the evening sun.

End of the season

Well, it’s mid-October, and that means it’s getting a bit too chilly to be out on the lake. Sure, in our first few months in Montana we were more brave and went on the water around this time, but after a long summer with many opportunities to enjoy the lake, we decided it’s time to put our toys to bed. As it happens, today is a gorgeous day– with the sun shining and temperatures in the mid-60’s, we were tempted to take the jet skis out one last time. But instead we washed and winterized them. They’re looking pretty sharp:

We’ll cover them with a tarp and let them sit through the winter months. I’m looking forward to a warm spring day when we can take them out of hibernation…

Bits ‘n pieces

As I continue working on my latest board game, I’m glad I have a few boxes full of little game bits and pieces. Most of the games I really enjoy tend to have a gazillion pieces, so I figure it’s natural that the ones I design do too. Today I was testing the latest iteration of Terra Hexia, and it seemed to work pretty well. I snapped a few photos, so I can look back later (when the game is in a finished state?) and see the “rough draft”, so to speak…

Well, that stinks

About two weeks ago, I heard a bunch of ruckus somewhere in the rafters of our house. Somehow, a squirrel had managed to gnaw a hole into the eaves, which he used to get into the space between the ceiling and the roof. I’m pretty sure he was stockpiling pinecones and other goodies for the winter. Obviously that had to stop, so one day I went out and covered the hole with some chicken wire.

We continued to hear the ruckus for a few days, and wondered if there was another hole he’d found (or made). I circled the house, looking for anything big enough for a squirrel, but didn’t see any obvious holes. It was kind of annoying.

The ruckus died down, and we haven’t heard it for a week or so. Good news! He’d given up and was storing his stash somewhere in the forest, as all good squirrels should.

Fast forward to a couple of days ago, when we came home from a trip to town and both said “Hoo boy, the house stinks!” When we walked in the door, there was a noticeable smell. I’m sure you know where this is going. It was the smell of a dead animal. Apparently I’d sealed off the hole with the squirrel still in the house, and he couldn’t get out! Hence the few days of ruckus, and its eventual cessation. The smell has become gradually stronger yesterday and now today.

And we were kind of at a loss about how to solve the actual problem. It was pretty clear he’d died somewhere in the rafters, but there’s no attic or other access to that part of the house. Maybe he was in the ductwork, although that would be tricky unless it was open somewhere. In any case, with the entire house smelling bad, it was impossible to narrow it down to a certain spot (“Aha, he’s behind that wall!”). It got to the point where we were seriously considering moving to the party house for a while.

Unsure what to do, we opened up the furnace to see if we could figure out whether the smell was indeed in the ducts, or if it was in the walls. And much to our joy (well, relatively speaking), we found the little guy inside the furnace. He didn’t look well.

I flung him out into the forest for some lucky bear to find, Pepper sprayed some peppermint oil into the furnace, and now we’re airing out the rest of the house. That’s great news, because if we hadn’t found him so easily, I shudder to think how long the house would’ve smelled as he slowly decomposed…

Master of Mahjongg

About a year ago, I first met the Mahjongg Ladies at my favorite local pizza joint. They play every Monday, and since I frequent that place– sometimes eating lunch there three or more times in a week– I see them often. I chat with them briefly and then get on with whatever I’m doing, which is typically playing board games with a friend or two, or hanging out with Pepper.

Well, I didn’t have any board-gaming friends to join me today, so I sat down with the ladies and learned to play Mahjongg. The mechanics of the game are really quite simple, but they play “American” Mahjongg, which has about fifty different hands you need to know (some of which have multiple ways to make them). I’m pretty sure I spent most of the time staring at my cheat sheet, which is a list of all the hands, as I picked up and discarded tiles in a vain attempt to make a winning hand.

After getting walloped in three or four games, I finished with a glorious victory. The ladies were very gracious, and asked if I’d be back. Apparently this time it was free, but next time it’s for money. Yep, they play for quarters. I suppose if I get good enough, I can win pizza money off them and pay for my lunch every week…

Terra Hexia

As I wait for some design files and final playtesting on my Hexteria game, I had an idea for another board game. This one’s intended to be simpler than Hexteria, but maybe more complicated than Chronium. I’m not actually sure where it’ll eventually land on the spectrum.

Since I’ve been working on Hexteria for just over a year, I’ve accumulated a lot of little bits and pieces through aborted attempts to come up with the right game parts. As the game evolved, so did the parts list, and I figured I should keep the unused and leftover parts in a box or something. Now, when I want to prototype a new game, I can just pull from the box. So this new game is definitely cannibalizing stuff from Hexteria:

This photo is the end result of my first play-through. There are mechanics about laying the hexes to form the “board”, placing meeples (explorers) on them, and scoring points via cards. It took around 20 minutes to play and it… wasn’t awful. But it wasn’t super fun, either. If I had to describe it in a word, I’d probably say it was “interesting”. And that’s a good start, I suppose. I’ll keep playing against myself– and maybe Pepper, if she’s willing– to see what sorts of tweaks would turn “interesting” into “fun”.

Oh, and the working title is Terra Hexia, although I have it on good authority that’s a terrible title and I need to rename it…

The Target Chronicles

When Zaque was serving his mission, he shared some photos of a time he and his companion were shopping in Target. He titled them The Target Chronicles and I thought they were brilliant:

Today we were literally wasting time in Kalispell between dentist and car appointments, so we went to Target and Pepper shopped for purses. Without anything in particular to shop for or buy, I posed for a few pictures.

Clearly I need some practice to get my poses a little closer to the posters. I’ll need Zaque to teach me.

Oh, and we also went to Ross– still in search of purses– and I found some obnoxious sunglasses.

Next step: Instagram influencer!

Three 35

One drawback of rural life is having to drive along the same stretch of highway to get… well, anywhere. We know Highway 35 very, very well by now. In the two years we’ve lived here, I’m pretty confident we average one trip along the road per day, meaning hundreds of trips in total.

Today was what I call a “Three 35 Day”, meaning I drove the road three separate times. Seminary in the morning, lunch and a school meeting at noon, and dinner with friends in the evening.

At least it’s a pretty drive…