Our hostess from Wednesday night, Gretchen, offered us a tour of her place during the day of Thursday. The private party we were asked to stay in town for was starting at 6:00, and we had to get to the local library for some WiFi to get our blogs up, so we had some morning time to kill.
We woke up around 8:00 to homemade coffee cake, fresh, local sausages and Italian coffee. Farm living ain’t half bad so far.
Gretchen lives in her grandmother’s old house on Big Creek Ranch, where her sister, brother in law, and parents also have homes. The house is warm and full of love and life! Along with the animals for mentioned in yesterday’s blog (2 cats, Smokey and Mr K., a goat named Karma, 1 extremely large dog, Nina Simone, and several chickens-including “Diablo”, the VERY vocal rooster), Gretchen’s daughter, Lily, lives with her. A Sr. in high school, Lily is wise beyond her years, a Jill of all trades, well-versed in literature, and quite the artist. Rudy connected with her immediately!
Lush, green plants are everywhere and signs of the love of music, from an old jukebox to an older piano (purchased in the 20’s from the money made during a summer of raspberry picking to earn it). Fresh veggies and fruits cover the counters, baking utensils and coffee implements vie for space between recipe books, old newspaper clippings, wine bottles and paper towels (always at the ready for baby Karma’s oopsies). The countless hours spent in this kitchen can be felt deeply and so appreciated here.
You see, Gretchen is continuing a family tradition. Gretchen’s grandmother LOVED music. She wrote about local music for the paper and had a never-ending revolving door of musicians camped out in her living room between gigs while passing through Stevensville, Montana. She would listen to their stories, make them coffee and breakfast, offer a safe bed and a shower space and a piece of home to whomever was in need. When she got too old to get herself to see music (92), Gretchen would pick her up, wait for her to apply her red lipstick, and take her out. At 93, Grandma stood in the middle of a dance floor with her right hand up in the air, channeling John Travolta and grinning ear to ear from the music. At 83, the spirited woman stood in a kiddie-pool in the middle of a bar, got a bucket of water dumped on her silver hair and body, and walked out with a 6-pack of beer and a sly smile because she had taken 3rd place in a wet t-shirt contest. When this kind of woman is your matriarch, your only option is to end up like Gretchen.
Gretchen is a mountain woman through in through. Spending some time in Eugene, OR years ago, she knew she needed to be back on the Montana ranch that had her heart. So, when Lily was 2, they moved back to Big Creek and began ranch life. Gretchen is a healer, working as a massage therapist, and a yoga instructor. She is an environmentalist, doing everything she can to lessen, if not remove completely, her carbon footprint on our planet. She has spent the past 14 summers, bit by bit, building her forever home largely out of recycled materials (bottles, cans, tires, etc.). It’s 2 stories high. The top story is pretty well finished and definitely sleepable. On the king sized bed, there’s a huge Bison skin that Gretchen shares that she and Lily slept under it for 3 winters while they lived in a yurt on the ranch. There’s a toilet system like they have in Vietnam where there’s no water and the pee drains away, leaving the poop to dry up and compost itself, which can be used to fertilize the soil and grow more food. The water used to do dishes and shower and do laundry is from the well. It is then drained into an indoor garden system helping grow fresh produce all winter long. The whole concept is a beautiful, symbiotic relationship between earth and shelter and comfort and sustainability.
It is absolutely more information than I can possibly put in this blog, but the whole thing is self sufficient and off grid. There’s no way to describe the work that has gone into the “Mother Ship”, or the way it looks now, compared with her vision of the end, but Rudy summed it up pretty well: “Gretchen, it really looks like you’re preparing for the apocalypse.”
Big Creek Ranch is a big enough property that you actually have to drive to get to any of the other homes, as well as the animal part of the ranch. (Well, you could walk, but who has time for that?) Goats, horses and chickens make up the livestock. And there is a LOT of hay. Part of the weekly chores includes bailing the hay, which is a long, laborious job, even with machines to help. Gretchen’s family has had this ranch since the 1850’s. Her aunt was born in the barn they keep hay in now! She never closed a door in her life . . .
Then, we piled in the truck, with the goat, Karma, to go do the morning chores.
We started out by letting the momma goats and babies out of their little houses and feeding them. Karma tried to join in, but they’re all still fairly uncertain about her. When she was found flat and near dead at barely 11oz, Gretchen thought there was no way she’d make it. But, that little baby was tucked in a pouch and carried to a yoga class and, by the end, along with new knowledge of child’s pose, (or “kid’s” pose in her case), Karma wanted milk! She wasn’t ready to die yet. Now, a regular member of the family, Karma is trying to navigate home life and the desire for farm companionship. But, either way, she is well-loved!
After the goats, we fed the chickens. So. Many. Chickens. We got eggs too!
The hens live in an old RV. It’s nicer than ours was. 😂 Smells better too. Ok . . . I kid. But, we did think it was an amazing idea of recycling an old travel trailer into a chicken home. They love it in there!
After this, Gretchen took us back to her place and showed us the Hippie Bus she has that people can stay in, too. She had a bunch of friends come over and put out a bunch of paint and they went crazy!
The couple who lived in it left all their stuff in it too, so there’s a lot of . . . well, STUFF, (and mice) all inside it. My favorite was this little sticker on the outside door.
Total hippie bus, to the max!
It was an unbelievable morning. MORNING??? All this in one morning?! Oh my god…I’m going to need to nap.
Then, off to the library. And Rudy and I went on a little mommy-son date for lunch at a restaurant/casino (high class), called CJ’s.
Lunch acquired. Blog uploaded. Appetizers made. Gear set up. Ready for gig.