29 December 2011

Skywatch Friday: Montana Holiday Skies

The holidays (and low southern sun angles with the solstice) have brought us some outstanding views here in the Big Sky State, especially as seen from my home in Walkerville (on the hill above Butte America). Whether looking east:

Or southwest into the fading light, it's been a real show:

Add to that the great feasts, like the Vigil (Christmas Eve) fest when Mrs Rover served her own version of Grandma Jean Vigliotti's "Feast of the Seven Fishes":

'Tis the season for entertainment, too--like taking in local favorite Mountain Moongrass folk group at the Silver Dollar Saloon:

And (to work off all this feasting), some epic cross country ski treks around the trails at The Moulton and Mill Creek Pass (aka "Mt Haggin") areas. Here's daughter Emily (accompanied by Bernardo, a local stray; sadly, MollyTheDog ripped her belly open on a barb wire fence and is recuperating) slipping out of her sweater for the long climb up the Little California Creek trail:

Near the top, we pause at the old Anaconda Copper Mining Company logging cabins for a few bites of mule deer jerky:

And to take in the nice views to Mt Haggin and other peaks of the Pintler Mountain range across the Deep Creek valley:

Soon, it's time to start the run down. Hmmm.... wonder why they call this part of the trail "Death Dip"?:

Oh, that's why! (nice snowplow technique):

OK, time to straighten those skis out and ZOOM:

One last stop to take in the view up to Spire Rock before we make for the truck:

Happy New Year, everyone!

23 December 2011

Skywatch Friday: Happy Christmas from Montana

Happy Solstice, Christmas, and Holidays to everyone!

Last night's sunset, looking southeast over Butte, Montana:

Christmas Tree 2011

As is tradition, we waited until daughter Emily was home to go out into the hills and cut our Christmas tree. This year, we decided to cut a tree from the National Forest lands (don't forget your tree permit!) along the ski trails at The Moulton just north of town. Pulk (sled with tow bars)? Check. Cross country skis? Check. Saw? Check. MollyTheTreeTrackingDog? Check.  OK, which way did it go? American Gothic, the tree cutting version:

Ah, here's a good one--an Engelmann Spruce, and not too far off the ski trail:

Jeez, I didn't think the hill was this steep up to the trail:

Load it on the pulk:

Now pull:

And pull some more. How far IS the truck? Hmm, it's really getting warm today. Jeez, this should be an Olympic event:

Truck at last:

Into the house and up. Ceiling? 9 feet. Tree? 9 feet. Perfect:

Decorated, all in the same day--a new family record!

Merry Christmas everyone!

"Bernard Dutka's Venison Roast"

Bernie Dutka was a friend of Gramp's and he mentored me through my formative years as an angler and hunter. He also passed along an excellent Polish heritage recipe for roast venison--shown here for elk. I suppose you could use it for pork or beef too ;-)

1. Shoot one deer or elk.
2. In butchering, cut out one large rump roast.
3. Crush garlic cloves, mix with an equal amount of fresh, coarsely ground black pepper, and add enough olive oil to make a thick paste.  It will take about 6 large garlic cloves for a 6 pound elk roast.
4. Use the end of a wooden spoon or a chopstick to stuff the mixture into each slot:

5. Use a syringe to inject red wine into each slot:

6. Rub any remaining mixture and wine over the surface of the roast. Cover and allow to marinade in a cool location for a day or two.
7. Heat oven to 450 deg F, roast uncovered for 15 minutes. Reduce oven to 250 deg F, cover (I like to use a roasting bag for larger roasts, and a Dutch Oven for smaller ones), and cook until done.
 8. If desired, add parsnips, rutabagas, turnips, potatoes and other root crops when there is about 1.5-2 hours of cooking time remaining.
9. I like to stop when internal temperature reaches 130-135 def F ("rare"), which takes about 3.5 hours. Remove promptly from oven as meat will continue cooking for some time. Save the juices for au jus or gravy.
10. Slice:

11. Serve au jus (or use it to make gravy) with horseradish and enjoy! Leftovers make great sandwiches.

15 December 2011

Skywatch Friday: Lunar Eclipse, X Ski, Hike

It was a busy week in Butte America (southwest Montana), what with final exam week at my little college, a lunar eclipse, holiday parties, and a bit of skiing & hiking.

Lunar Eclipse
Last Friday evening a full moon rose over Rampart Mountain east of town:

I awoke early Saturday morning and climbed nearby Big Butte to meet some friends. While waiting, I caught this fuzzy picture (oh, the limitations of my Canon Elph point & shoot camera) of "Butte by night" showing several mining headframes (aka "gallows frames") lit up in red and a thick fog from the Berkeley Pit:

From about 6 to 7:30 a.m., the moon was gradually eclipsed by earth's shadow:

Here's a better photo by Karanel Dimmit (published on our local TV website):

After waking up early and standing around two hours in the cold, predawn darkness to watch the eclipse, a nap never felt so good!

Cross-country Skiing

The snow at The Moulton just north of my home in Walkerville is a little thin, so I made the long drive (30 miles!) over to the Mill Creek Pass (aka "Mt Haggin") trails. It's a scenic area, with great views of the ridges of the Pintler Wilderness Area:

Historic old cabins from when the Anaconda Copper Mining Company clearcut the area a century or so ago (shown with MollyTheDog):

And wildlife. Surprisingly, the elk are still hanging around, having not yet migrated to their winter range on Mount Fleecer. There are also year 'round residents like this pine marten, shown by its tracks crossing a ski trail:

They are the characteristic 2 front + 2 rear sideways loping tracks. In deeper snow, each pair (front & rear) of feet make a single track:

It's always nice to time a ski for a perfect sunset just as you reach the parking lot:

The hills along the Jefferson River on the other side ("East Slope") of the Continental Divide just east of Butte are very dry and receive very little snow, so even in winter it's a good place to hike. Dave & I (with MollyTheDog and his dog Jack) found this new windmill installed by some rancher to pump water for cattle when they're on this summer range:

It's dry, open grassland/prairie country:

With some nice "badland" type erosion features:

Here's an interesting man-made feature, probably the pit or crater (lower right) was made by hydraulic mining (using water to blast away a hillside and wash out the placer gold):

Glad the semester is over--well, it will be once my grades are turned in next week. Then I can start packing for my spring semester teaching in China...

09 December 2011

Skywatch Friday: Winter Weather

We now have enough snow for cross country skiing on the trails at The Moulton just a few miles north of Butte (Montana) America. Here's MollyTheDog near the old horse barn at The Moulton parking lot, with a waxing moon rising in the eastern sky:

Earlier in the week, the cold -17 deg F morning air was evident by the extreme air inversion that lay over the Butte "flats" (i.e. the town below the Butte Hill):

The cold air brought a large flock (about 200 birds!) of Cedar Waxwings to our backyard, where they cleaned off the berries from our Mountain Ash trees in just minutes:

A view of the Pintler Range (taken from the "Mt Haggin" cross country ski area) shows snow blowing off the high peaks:

We don't spend all of our time outside here in southwest Montana. At my little college, PhD candidate Stacie Barry (I guess that's Doctor Barry now!) successfully defended her doctoral thesis, "COMING TO THE SURFACE: Environment, Health, and Culture in Butte, Montana:

One evening, we attended the American Civil Liberties Union gathering at Hotel Finlen, an opulent place recently renovated as a reminder of Butte's origins as America's "Copperopolis":

Hope my Northern Hemisphere friends enjoy these short days and the upcoming lunar eclipse!

01 December 2011

Skywatch Friday: winter skies over Montana

Though we're not quite at the Winter Solstice, the low sun angle, short days, and first sub-zero weather mark our transition from fall to winter here in Butte America. The season also brings spectacular skies, sometimes in the form of colorful sunrises with weird cloud formations:

Or sunrises with bizarre colors and cool clouds:

After a snowstorm passes through, it is usually followed by cold, clear skies--blue so bright it brings tears:

Sometimes, at sunset, the Butte valley is filled with a rosy light and super sharp views in the crisp air:

Like the light, our local ravens also take on a new nature for the season. A local mated pair commonly croaks outside my office window (and I croak back--they seem to like that), but on this day as I walked outside for a break one of them came down for a personal "Howdy":

Maybe it was the raven's way of thanking me for the pile of bones and other butchering "recycle material" in the back of my pickup?