A local artist came up with the cute idea of painting a bunch of quilt patterns on the sides of barns in our little neighbourhood in the country. I guess it’s a bit of a “performance piece.”
Seriously, where most people live, they have a thing called “suburbs.” In Montana, they don’t have suburbs. They have “rural-urban interface.” Which means, suburbs with wolves.
I absolutely adore our neighbourhood. It’s out in the country, but a couple of miles from a highway and about three or four miles from a city. What’s weird is that you don’t feel like you are a three or four miles from a city, you feel like you are really out in the wop wops. We have deer, raccoons and an amazing variety of birds.
Our lot is on an old several-hundred-acre farm that the owner, a very nice elderly man whose family has been farming in this valley since the 1800s (no exaggeration), broke up into a bunch of 10-acre lots (our farm is about 8 acres). It’s just perfect. We have horses across the street and llamas next door. We are surrounded by gentleman farmers and unfortunately a few McMansion developments. Fortunately, our county is fairly progressive and has taken measures to prevent the McMansion developments from taking over, because, frankly, they bloody well would without these regulations. There is one down at the end of our road. It was a huge pasture when we moved here. Now it is about 30 homes.
I started to put on my good Corso Comos, but my boyfriend said that was a bad idea. It was pretty yucky out. I started putting on my good Sorels, but then he said, no it’s pretty yucky out. So, I put on my cruddy Sorels, which are actually boys’ boots.
We started our tour at a very bad time — right after school got out. The roads were very busy with parents picking up kids along the three schools along our route. It was me and a bunch of little smart-alecks and a malamute. It was a fun little scavenger hunt, seeing if we could find the quilt patterns on the barns and outbuildings. We had a map with little X’s for the barns, but you still had to keep a sharp eye. Sure enough, we had a heck of time finding two or three of them. I promised the smart-alecks that if we found all the quilt paintings hidden in the neighbourhood, there would be a treat at a country dairy where we get our milk and bread. The truth is even if we didn’t find them all, there would be a treat.
It also didn’t help that it was snowing pretty hard. I soon discovered one problem with the treasure hunt. There were no shoulders on the roads. The shoulders were berms of snow four or five feet deep. This is our heaviest snowfall since 1983 and the further you got from town, the more you appreciated how deep the snow really was. I had never seen so much snow in my life!
We found the first barn no problem, right down the road from us. The second one was a tiny outbuilding hidden in the trees. These were on a very busy road and it was probably slightly dangerous to “pull over” when in fact, the shoulders barely existed. One drongo splashed nasty slush all over our car. Slow down!
Anyway, the third barn was very small and well away from the road.
The fourth one we couldn’t find. The fifth one was my favourite. It was actually on a side road, so we didn’t have to worry about the afterschool traffic. It was on a big barn and it was feeding time for the horses. The horse owner said you want to take a photo of my barn, you have to help feed the horses. I realized we had lived here for 18 months and this was the first time I had ever gone down this beautiful road. How could we live in this neighbourhood for a year and a half and not have traveled all the roads? Too busy. Too many things to take care of. Not enough time to simply wander. This road eventually winds up into the mountains and becomes a Forest Service road.
So we pitched in, crossing waist-deep snow, and helped feed the owners’ three horses. The horse owner told us she was getting pretty used to people driving by and checking out her barn, but we were the first people to help feed her horses. After we were released from our term of indentured servitude, it was off to see if we could find the other barns.
The sixth one we could not find. The damned snow was not helping us! And it seemed like no matter what road we turned down, there was a schoolbus following us!
No. 7 was across an ancient one-lane bridge over a huge river. Beyond the river, the farms get a lot bigger. Instead of gentleman farmers, you have real ranchers with cattle and sheep instead of horses and exotic goats. Crossing back over the century-old bridge, we found No. 6! It was actually in a McMansion development near the river. How strange, several miles away from the city, and someone had built a big development way out here.
We returned past the dairy and I got the girls milkshakes and the malamute an ice cream drumstick which he ate in about two seconds (do dogs not get brain freeze?). Every one of the girls wanted strawberry. It’s winter, so there are no huckleberry shakes, which is everyone’s favourite flavour in the summer. This dairy has the biggest cow statue I’ve ever seen!
Right at the intersection with the cow statue, I looked to the left, and there was No. 4 hiding about 200 yards down a side road! Our map was slightly wrong, that was why we couldn’t find it. We had found all seven.
And I came to appreciate how beautiful our neighbourhood really is. That was the first time I had really “wandered it.” Gosh, we are simply too busy for our own good, I kept thinking. And I came to appreciate those “Fascist” progressive development laws that were keeping our rural neighbourhood rural for perpetuity.
We went out to eat that night. And I wore my nice spotless Corso Comos to dinner and felt quite chuffed!