Beginnings and endings

Joe and Ethan were heading back to Colorado for a couple months to spend the holidays with family and friends who are still there. There were so many things we had not yet seen or done around the area, so we crammed as much stuff as we could during these last few days.

Went on a little hike with a few HUGE leaves.

We played ping pong.

Visited the lake the movie Dirty Dancing was filmed at, Lake Lure.

We visited a pinball museum with some great retro pieces.

Ethan made the layers of the earth’s crust in science.

Joe had many man-to-man late night talks with Eric.

We visited an apple orchard. They had animals, an apple cannon, and yummy caramel chocolate covered apples.

Ethan got an early birthday gift from his grandmother; a hydroponic pepper growing kit.

Eric and I went on a beautiful sunset date hike.

And we found out we were about to adopt this little guy. Be still our enchanted, doting, little hearts…

Until we meet again

The bond we’ve created over these past couple of months with our children has been more momentous than I even hoped. The last day of our summer together, or as we’re calling it, Chapter 1, we sought out a nice little thrift store that had some of the most fun nostalgia I had seen.

I had a little puppy piggy bank, JUST LIKE this one, with one difference, mine had a little blue tear drop. I have no idea who this character is, but it whooshed me back to nostalgia before I even set foot in the store.

I suggested Ethan try on the bow tie, which always reminds me of his Grandpa Frank. I thought he looked so cute with his hat bow tie.

Joe and Ethan keep watching these Kermit the Frog singing videos (and Toad from Mario singing videos…so obnoxious) and this phone ALMOST found a place in our home because of that.

Then I ran into Care Bears and Polly Pockets merch. Care Bears was when I was little and Polly Pockets reminded me of all the little sets my sisters had. I had forgotten about them! We found a Star Wars set that reminded Eric of his big brother, who was always gentle and respectful of his toys. This set reminded Eric of a Star Wars toy Eric threw on the ground and shattered during a play session as a child, and how devastated his brother was that he was so destructive with that toy.

We were invited to dinner at Joe and Ethan’s Great Aunt and Uncle’s home, which turned out to only be about 8 minutes from where we were staying. I had not seen them in about 8 years, so I was looking forward to catching up.

They warmly opened up their home and gave us a tour of their property. Much of the art adorning their walls were created by their artistic family. Aunt Robyn makes award winning quilts, and she shared a current project she was working on for Joe and Ethan’s Aunt. She also shared images of a project she had created for a couple celebrating their 75th wedding anniversary. Loved ones received plain white tiles of cloth to write a note, then Robyn quilted them into one big love blanket. I think that is possibly one of the most beautiful gifts I have ever heard of.

In the back yard, they had croquet and horseshoes set up and the smell of fresh grilled food and a beautifully set table on the deck felt so cozy summer-y I wanted to squeal.

We met their young chickens, who have their very own chicken swing in their coop, which I loved, and their turkeys, who are only a few weeks away from being ready to process. We LOVED them.

Then we took a gander over to the garden, where they had beautiful organic produce. We were commenting on how much Ethan loves onions, and that he’d eat them like an apple when Uncle Lloyd casually strolled over with Ethan and told him to pull one out. Ethan was elated when he grabbed a perfect onion and Lloyd said it was all his. They did a little wash and cut and Ethan beamed and started his appetizer.

We then went over to the other garden, where there were fresh strawberries ready, Jill’s favorite. She picked a few and cuddled with them until they were washed and then saved them to eat with her dinner.

In the meantime, Joe grabbed a strawberry, did not care about washing it, and ate it before anyone noticed.

Aunt Robyn is a fabulous cook and she made one of the most delicious meals we had for a while. BBQ chickens, organically raised right over in the chicken coop, corn salad, pickled cucumbers and onions, French potatoes, watermelon, and, sticking to the tradition of the area, huckleberry ice cream for dessert. The conversation was delightful, and it was fantastic to catch up with them. Both Joe and Ethan decided they want a property like this when they are older, and want to be self-sustaining and have fresh foods at their fingertips.

Ethan and Joe played a few games of chess while the adults chatted and we played with the super sweet and adorable Golden Retriever, Maddie.

On the way to the airport the next morning, Joe and Ethan had a donut from a little shop hilariously named Gross Donuts. They said they were delicious, so the name is a lie.

We got to the airport and talked about how bittersweet it is for them to be leaving. They are excited to go see their dad, spend time with friends, have unlimited utilities and more space, but they are sad to be leaving our team and hoping not to miss out on too many experiences.

It’ll only be a few weeks, but my heart ached and I could not look away as the plane began its journey with cargo most precious to me.

But the real tear jerker was reading a heart-felt letter I requested Joe and Ethan type, a few weeks earlier, for me to read the day they left. Eric and I sat at a picnic table during sunset at the park we went that night while we talked about how much we miss them already and some of the hilarious memories we are cherishing from Chapter 1. We are so proud of the beautiful hearts of our children and feel blessed beyond words to be theirs.

Be my cherry pie

The next location was a Bowman Orchards on Flathead Lake. It was harvest season, so the trees were stunning with the bright green leaves and red cherries.

The location itself was a bit different than we had imagined, but the hosts were delightful, and the cherries were delicious.

Eric and I are attempting to make a regular occurrence of adult only date nights. Flathead Lake is HUGE, it’s over 27 miles long and 197 square miles of area. I was looking for the perfect pairing for one of my niece’s birthday gifts and was having a heck of a time finding what I wanted. There were some places we thought could work so we set out as our first part of the date to shop. The little shop we wanted to visit was closed, but it was right next to this really cool historic marker. The inscription reads that the parts seen are from one of the last steamboats in the harbor that transported goods using the river way. A cool gem we did not expect to see.

We saw an adorable spotted fawn and its mom enjoying their dinner.

On our way to one of the little dives on the lake, we passed through a golf course community and found one of my dream properties for sale on the water. Someday…

We wanted a view of the lake on our date, so we picked a little place with a private patio dock. It was a lively and chill place to go hang out, watch the sun set as the waves come in and eat some very tasty food. We had the cherry bourbon glazed ribs and a salad, and it was great!

My wonderful and handsome date and partner in memory making.

Ethan and Jill played chess. Ethan is so good, he’s been kicking my butt for years. He did the same to poor Jillian, and once to me yet again.

From Bowman Orchards, we bought some Rainier cherries, cherry tarts, cherry butter honey, cherry huckleberry jam, cherry wine, and a couple little gifts. Everything was delicious, except the wine, which had turned to vinegar. We paired the wine with spaghetti, and although it was horrible alone, it added some good flavor to the sauce itself.

After spaghetti, we ate the entire bag of cherries and played the board game, Beat the Parents, which took so long that we went to bed without ending the game. 

Brown chicken brown cow

On our way to our next back yard, we went through Little America in Wyoming. I’d always wondered what it was exactly, and I’m sure since Covid-19 has changed the face of pretty much everything that we missed a lot, but it was like a really nice truck stop. They had some tourist items and we found two that fit Jillian like a glove. Ethan makes chimpanzee sounds, Jill’s sense of urgency sometimes aligns with a sloth’s.

In our setup of all this adventure, some of our inspirational bloggers/YouTubers recommended a membership for a thing called Harvest Hosts. Harvest Hosts is a network of farms, wineries, breweries and golf courses that allow you to stay on their property free of charge as long as you support their business by being a patron of their wares.

The drive to Shumway Farms was so beautiful. The clouds blanketed the snow capped peaks of Bridger National Forest, the green grass and flowers wrapped the hills and the sunlight that occasionally peeked through the clouds played with its spotlight. Joe drove the entire way, earning several of his remaining drive time hours to get his license, so I was able to sit back and enjoy the scenery.

It was a rainy, cold, and muddy setup at the farm, but we did it to the chorus moos, neighs and oinks.

Playing with the baby cows was incredible, and I was giddy. Their ages were days to weeks old, and they stay in their little pens until their old enough to join the others, generally about a month. They were so sweet. The three most talkative babies kept saying “Moo”, “Meh”, and “Mow”.

We went to their little store, purchased some ice cream and enjoyed being on a farm. Their ice cream is outstanding which is bittersweet because we wish we had access to buy it often! The locals were in and out of the store all day, I wonder how many of those people moved near Shumway to have access to it all the time?

The next day, we saw the chickens skipping their bouncy tail feathers around the farm and a rooster escort parading next to them. I got my obligatory pictures of a brown chicken and a brown cow, Jillian made a bright yellow dandelion bracelet, Ethan sat frustrated on the steps simmering about having to spend time outside while I worked, and Eric explored the different buildings and equipment on the farm.

Gabe saw me doing dishes and sweetly offered to help by drying and putting the dishes away. My heart beamed. He could have spent time doing something else, but he chose to help and spend those moments making a household chore a bonding experience.

That night, we watched how the farmer cleans and milks the cows and bottle fed the calves. They drank their milk so quickly we had all the calves fed in minutes. Joe sported his sense of humor by wearing the shirt, custom made by my friend who owns Riley Black Designs, with the quote from the movie Anchorman, “Milk was a bad choice”, while feeding them.

Then we looked over to see a pig outside its pen. The three farm dogs took a break from their tireless game of fetching and dropping rocks for us to throw and attempted to herd the pigs back into their home. One of the pigs headed for the road, one went over to the full-bellied calves, the quick one ran to the freshly milked cows, and the last one just ran around in circles seemingly confused by the dogs. Mr. Shumway calmly commented that they’d never been out before and devised a plan to get them back into their pens. The farmers grabbed the pigs’ bucket of milk and dropped the handle a few times so it would get the pigs’ attention. It worked, and all escapee pigs followed eagerly to get their milk trough filled.

We had a great time on our first Harvest Hosts adventure and we definitely will do more of them. The family was hospitable and kind and their raw milk, raw chocolate milk, ice cream, eggs and skyr were incredible! Here is their website if you are ever in the area (near the Tetons) and want to stop in and support them!