Quarantine beard

For the past two weeks, as we’ve more or less stayed home in self-quarantine, I’ve been lazy and not shaving. I figured I’d see how my facial hair looks.

Not so good. The beard on the sides of my face is pretty patchy.

So today I shaved it off. Better to look five years younger than a victim of a hair implant disaster.

Photo bombers

We have a few outdoor cameras at the house; they’re useful for alerting us if someone is coming up the driveway, and for keeping an eye on things when we’re away. Any time motion is detected, we receive an alert and a brief video clip of whatever triggered it. Most of the time it’s just something mundane like a UPS truck, but sometimes we get interesting things.

For example, here’s a buck walking along the driveway. We see deer pretty frequently, but for some reason they’re mostly does and adolescents. A buck is more rare. (Click the picture to watch the video clip.)

Then there’s a woodpecker who decided to attack the camera. Pretty funny.

A couple nights ago, we were watching a movie and heard an alarm. The video showed a bobcat striding toward the house. We looked out the window but it was too dark to see anything. This big cat was probably fifty feet from us.

It’s a house– err, a castle

Speaking of amazing homes, yesterday we received a book from some local real-estate firm. They’re advertising a bunch of super duper fancy homes for sale. The book is full of words like “distinguished” and “unique” and “opportunity of a lifetime” and of course “bespoke”.

The house that caught our eye is actually styled like a castle. It’s hard to believe anyone would live in a place like this, but here are some of the photos.

Yes, it has turrets, just like any respectable castle:

The listing even mentions the moat and drawbridge. It has a moat and drawbridge!

Let’s not forget the indoor shooting range, three pools, and an indoor bowling alley.

The laundry room is larger than my first apartment.

Oh, and it’s 30,000 square feet of living space, including ten ensuite bedrooms and bathrooms. Holy smokes.

It’s fun to see houses like this, but I can’t imagine living in one…

New neighbors

Yesterday a woman was tromping around the forest lot to the north of us. I chatted with her, and she explained she was performing a plot survey for the people who had just moved into the house down on the water. The lot is beside ours, and extends down to Flathead Lake (a total of roughly 27 acres). There’s nothing but trees on the hillside by us– the house is on the lower portion of the lot.

So Pepper and I decided we should go and meet our new neighbors. We walked down our driveway (a third of a mile) and then walked down theirs (another half-mile) and introduced ourselves. They were very friendly and down-to-earth, and grateful that we’d come “all that way” to say hi.

Their house is amazing. I found the real estate listing; here are some of the photos.

Yeah, an indoor pool. With a fantastic view of the lake. And around 15,000 square feet of living space. Wow. I thought our house was big for two people…

They’re really nice folks and we’re looking forward to getting to know them. All of our other neighbors are gone for the winter, so we still haven’t actually met any of them.

New view

With the fresh devastation in the forest, we have a new view to the north. Here’s what the forest looked like at the end of September (after the first windstorm):

And here’s what it looks like today:

Far in the distance, 5.5 miles north to be exact, you can see Woods Bay, the nearest town. And a lot more of Flathead Lake is visible. It’s crazy how much it’s changed. As Katie pointed out, we still have a lot of trees. But a lot fewer trees…

Back to bucking

It’s a gorgeous day outside, so I fired up the chainsaw and started working on the enormous tree lying in our yard. This is what half a tree looks like after it’s been limbed and bucked:

Whenever Thom does a project like this, he seems to enjoy posting artistic photos of his tools. So this is for Thom:

And a few other bits of kameraspielen:

Now I need to find someone who has a wood-burning fireplace… have I got a deal for them!

Roller coaster

They say the worst possible time to retire is just before a huge stock market crash.

Looking at a CNN graph of the market’s performance so far in 2020, my timing is pretty bad.

Then again, last night I read a thoughtful article that sums up investing in stocks:

“The only times that matter are the moment you buy and the moment you sell. Everything in between is just noise.”

I guess I’ll ride this roller coaster along with everyone else…

Three times?!

In September there was a “freak” windstorm that destroyed trees throughout the forest, including several in our yard. “Wow, that never happens!” people told us. Then in November it happened again. “Seriously,” people said, “I’ve lived here thirty years and I’ve never seen wind like this.”

Last Friday, it happened again. Winds gusted above 60mph for nearly a full day. The trees were shaking, and we were hoping they’d be okay. Alas, no. Pepper was looking out the window at one point and saw one topple in the forest to the north of us. Around 1pm the power blacked out– trees had fallen on power lines down by the highway. We made the most of our last day with Kyra and Hannah, enjoying a nice candlelight dinner…

… and playing our newest board game, Splendor, with candles and lanterns:

As the hours passed, it became clear the power wasn’t coming back that night. The wind was unbelievable, and the electric company’s crews couldn’t safely work on the lines. So we finally went to bed around midnight. By then the house had dropped to 45 degrees (our heating system is electric, not gas). All of us slept under piles of blankets and managed to stay comfortably warm.

But throughout the night, as the wind howled and literally shook the house, we could hear distant whumps outside. I knew those were trees falling. We just prayed they wouldn’t hit the house as we passed a fitful night.

In the morning, the full extent of the devastation could be seen. We lost another enormous tree in our back yard:

A towering larch dropped right alongside the driveway:

In the front yard, one remains leaning precariously, supported by a helpful neighboring tree:

But the brunt of the damage was in the forest just to the north. It literally looked like it had been clear-cut in places.

Dozens upon dozens of majestic trees lay uprooted, and the forest that used to stand there had been reduced to a few lone trees.

The view from the house is noticeably different now– we can see the lake, and over to our neighbor’s property, whereas before all of it was hidden by trees. These pictures don’t really convey the full extent of the damage; it’s astounding.

That said, we’re very grateful no trees hit our house, and Katie reminded us that we still have hundreds of trees surrounding us. The forest is thinner, to be sure, but it’s still a forest.

Now, if I had a nickel for every person who told me, “No, really. This seriously never happens…”

Glacier III

One of the items on Hannah’s bucket list was to visit Glacier National Park, so we trucked up there today. We’re definitely getting our money’s worth from our National Parks pass! This marked the third time we’ve been to Glacier in two months. What’s interesting is the park seems different each time, even though we’re going to the same places. (Only a tiny fraction of the park is open in the winter months.)

Of course I had to take a photo of my two favorite girls.

Kyra took one of me and my favorite wife.

We stopped along the shore of Lake McDonald, as usual. The weather was bright, sunny, and (naturally) cold. I could take pictures of the amazing rocks at the lake all day.

In the crystal-clear glacier water, the colors are even more brilliant:

Hannah took some pretty great shots as well. If you look closely, you can see big snowflakes falling. It was very strange, because the sky above us was crystal blue without a single cloud.

Later in the day, the clouds rolled in and the temperature dropped, giving a more “moody” look to the mountains to the north.

It was great to be back, and I’m really excited for warmer months when we can see even more of this magnificent place.

Astro

Tonight was a pretty clear night, so all of us went out to the courtyard for some stargazing. I thought I’d try my hand at astrophotography again. Last time didn’t work so well; my focus was off. Tonight was a little better.

Here’s Orion over the house. There were some wispy clouds, illuminated by the lights of Polson (16 miles to the south).

And a shot of Cassiopeia rising over the trees. Bonus: a shooting star!