Handed over my keys and credentials

My 1st EPA ID photo
My 1st EPA ID photo

I’m officially out.  No longer a public servant.  I’m taking care of boring but important things to make life on the road easier: setting up full electronic banking, mail forwarding, financial management ideas, TRAINING the cat Mimi to wear her harness…

It looks like our first destination is Ione, Oregon.  Lucky for us a Helena client has family in Ione that own a large patch of ground they’ve offered to let us bird hunt.  It looks as though we might even get to play a community gig.  No details are available (even to us) but we hear the people of Ione are eagerly anticipating our arrival.  Based on our experience in rural communities in Montana, it could be the biggest crowd we’ve ever played. 

After Ione we’ll hear west to the Portland area.  Burt’s guitar got us an invitation to a party the first Saturday in Oregon.  Coincidentally the guitar’s maker, Dan Roberts, will also be at the party.  Plans are shaping up and about as specific as we want them.


Yes, I’ll Cry at my Party…

I made it to my Halloween Farewell party.  I was almost late from a poorly planed hike up the mountain.  Thanks to my great co-workers for so many years of companionship.  I got to do a lot of different things for the Montana Office and I know I made a difference.  I couldn’t have done it without all my friends.

Julie’s good-bye comments were very touching and made me cry.  Lest you think I had second thoughts, I don’t.  I am ready to see what the next road has in store for us.  With Burt by my side I know we can do anything we set our sights on. 

Here are some funny photos from the party.  Thanks for the yummy cake, Shawna.  Gladys, I love, love, love the money tree.


What to do now…

scn605 more days of “work.”  Today is the staff retreat.  I’ve been excused since I’m not going to play a role in the future of the organization.  I’m physically and mentally in limbo.  The photo of me on my little Grandma’s stoop accurately captures my mood.  Can’t finish packing the house or get any real work done.  We had a dinner party last night.  It was especially fun. 

Next week I start my intensive fiddle lessons with Will Harmon.  I’m hoping if I knuckle down for a few weeks of practice I can perform a tune or two on the road.  I can play now but its not something you’d want to subject an audience to.  Intonation usually fine, but the rhythmic drive is wobbly.  Will’s a great player and I’m looking forward to the experiment.  Now Elvis and me are going to get up Mount Ascension.


A Sparrow Nearly Burned Our House Down

DSC01115I rarely start the fires around here.  I think being the only girl I knew in NJ that had to help collect firewood and start the wood stove everyday after school left me with hard feelings.  Today it was rainy and gray.  I couldn’t get warm so I thought, “Hey, I can start a fire.  Burt will like that when he gets home.”  We were down to the last 2 sheets of newspaper because I packed all our crystal and china today, so I had to take care in getting the fire built right so it would start.  No second chance to add more paper and try again.  As I meticulously crumped paper and piled kindling you would have thought the bird in the chimney might have made a noise or fluttered its wings.  No.  As my fire picked up I heard a rustling so bright I thought (I kid you not), “Wow I got it going good listen to it go and oh shit that’s a bird not my fire roaring to life.”  Elvis our birdy lab was lunging at the stove.  That might be what clued me in.  Then I thought,”Oh God…it’s stuck in the chimney.”  I swung open the door just as the bird fell into the fire and, of course, caught fire. I closed the door.  I opened the door.  My God it was still alive.  My fire was very small and the bird was doing a tremendous amount of flailing, burning more feathers with each beat of the wing.  I reached in and snatched the bird from a death by inferno to realize it was now my responsiblility to take care of the bird.  The 30 seconds I darted around with the bird in my hand seemed like an eternity.  My brain was frozen and Elvis was at my heels.  I dropped the bird twice and snatched it from the labrador jaws of death.   The bird looked healthy but no feathers on the right side.  I headed outside, saw a rock and did what needed to be done before I found myself on the road in a trailer with a dog, a cat and a sparrow.  I was upset but only for a moment.  I know I did the right thing.  I don’t plan on starting anymore fires.


Solar Panels installed on the Trailer

Over the weekend we also installed the solar panels on top of our trailer.   I was pleased I could dismount from the ladder and walk on the roof like a carpenter in training.  Those exit moves when I was a rock climber were always tricky for me.  There is some weird weight shift when you are moving from a vertical world back to the horizontal that always gave me trouble.  Maybe its due to my low “center of gravity.” I thought I didn’t have to worry about that when I retired from climbing but now its ladders and roofs.

You might think that I would be geek enough to share some specifics on our solar system, but the details continue to fly around my head never taking a seat.  I can say we have two 3×5 foot panels and 4 heavy duty deep cycle batteries.  We opted not to do an inverter for the entire system to save money.   So we have direct current from the batteries that runs our lights, fans and water pumps.  We’ll use a small plug in inverter to charge our tooth brushes and laptop.   Russ Forba, a recent EPA retiree, designed the system for us.  He just started Elkhorn Solar.  If you want to contact him let us know and we’ll get you the information.  Maybe he’ll read this and provide some sexy details and contact information in a comment.


WOW! Lots to say about getting ready to go…

DSC01116The logistics of packing the house seem to be under control.  It’s just fitting everything in the 22′ trailer I can’t figure out.  We sold the piano yesterday.  Thanks to Cody for valiantly volunteering his very stout skateboard to use as a dolly.  Trying to get the board under the piano required as much effort as lifting it into the back of our pick-up.  So after we realized we (inexplicably) have the nicest sidewalk in a two mile radius, walking the piano on a skateboard was not the best option, despite Cody’s board handling skills.  We were glad to see the destination had a porch we could back right up to.  Word to the wise: if you promise to deliver a piano, its best to see where you are delivering it prior to agreeing to a price.

While Burt closed the deal on the piano I hiked to the top of Mount Ascension and ran into Todd and Gretchen at the tippy top.  Always fun to find friends out in the woods.  I also worked on the traveling library…in this Internet age it’s still hard for me to decide what I need in a physical form.  I think the travel guides are going into storage and we’ll rely on the Internet.  Music is, so far, coming with us.  Its boggling to see the volume of lyrics and chord charts we think we need.  I decided to ditch the mini-disks and recorder.  If I do a lot of field recording I’ll update to an MP3 player.

Here’s a pic with Burt and the Mistrel guitar.

Next post…the new guitar…As soon as I figure out the video size limitation issues.


Hello World!


The Gypsy Carpenters launch their new web page…Thanks to Cody Ekmeyer for setting this up for us.  The Gypsy Carpenters are Burt Mittelstadt on guitar and vocals and Susan Mittelstadt on mandolin and vocals.  They are vagabonds traveling the U.S. hoping to make friends, eat good food, play music and maybe remodel a kitchen or two.