27 December 2010

Cabin Fever aka Winter Blues: How I Deal With It.

Cabin fever has been a part of the American lexicon for as long as I can remember. Even if you don’t live in a cabin you can get it. Since everything today has to be a serious medical condition with a fancy name it’s called seasonal affective disorder or SAD. And, because it has this fancy name it must be frightful serious so you’d best be hotfooting it into the doctors office for some prescription medication. You wouldn’t want those pharmaceutical companies getting sad would you?

Winter is the most likely time to be SAD. Me I love winter but I too can fall victim to cabin fever if I’m not careful. I don’t live in a cabin exactly but I am certainly isolated. (SEE: Montana Winter at the Sanctuary).  I have isolation to the max, days that are shorter than a Twitter Tweet, a sun that is loathe to make an appearance more than a few days each month and cold that will frost your fanny before you can sit on it. Gads, I’m SAD just writing this.

A classic case of cabin fever would be Jack Nicholson in the Shining. When I start prowling around the house with an axe over my shoulder and baring my teeth at Koty I know I’m in trouble. Other sure signs; I start photographing insanely stupid things like my TV screen .....

My TV Screen

myself in winter hiking gear ....

Myself looking like the Uni-Bomber

 or icicles hanging from my house. Icicles.

I’m pretty sure loss of light notwithstanding the biggest contributor to the fever is diet and nutrition. The warmer six-months of the year Koty and I are out hiking like souls obsessed. As a result I am able to eat like a truck driver with reckless abandon. But, during the winter outside activities are limited by the climate. If it’s less than twenty degrees I don’t venture far from the “cabin”. Between twenty and thirty I go a little further. Those temps are pretty much what I have to work with in winter so walking doesn’t give me anywhere near what my body needs in order to pursue my gluttonous ways without becoming and a Texaco Tanker.

I purchased exercise videos but have the darndest time following them. I’m forever exhaling when I should be inhaling, using my right leg instead of my left, going up when I should be going down. And, heaven help me when I’m supposed to be doing one thing with my arms and another with my legs and feet, it's a fiasco. I must look like a spastic octopus. Out of sync would be the kindest thing you could say. Still, I religiously flounder through at least thirty minutes a day. I need a little structure in my life.

By far my favorite exercise is dancing. I’ve never been much good at dancing with partners because it’s like those exercise videos you have to concentrate on what you are doing and follow someone else’s lead, not my forte. Loss of concentration is another sign of the blues and I already have the attention span of a gnat. No, I’m more the Isadora Duncan kind of dancer. I just dance what I feel and never give it a thought. I’m actually quite good at it. More than one time in my life I was actually asked if I had considered dancing professionally. Not that being good has anything to do with it. It’s the doing that matters.

My current dance inspiration is a CD by Brule  that’s pronounced like crème brulee. See there, I’m always thinking good food. Anyway, the CD is called Star People. It’s contemporary Native American music and it is awesome. When I crank up the stereo and dance to it I truly enter another galaxy far, far away. Thank heavens it’s highly unlikely that anyone would ever be looking in my window but if they could they would surely think a crazy woman was inside as they watched me fly around my living room. Koty just lies down out of range and covers his eyes with his paws. Huh, just shows what he knows! But, what fabulous aerobic exercise. For me dancing to this music is a total workout for the body and soul.

If I had to say what the single best thing you can do to ward off winter blues it would be exercise. Diet is important also but I find my carb and sweets cravings naturally diminish in direct proportion to the amount of exercise I get. I often tell people I am a drug addict. I love to do it because I get this instant raised eyebrow and slight drawing away effect. But, in a way I am quite serious. The fact is the more exercise you get the more endorphins you produce and endorphins react with the brain’s opiate receptors which gives a general sense of well being. Get that “opiate” receptors? Half the time I’m so happy I annoy myself.

Conventional wisdom says isolation is a killer-diller. I say baloney. I’m by myself most of the time. Not really, Koty is always with me and is a much more pleasant companion than a lot of people I have met. Convention is why I became unconventional. I think everyone could really benefit from experiencing a lot more alone time but “convention” and Madison Avenue are not keen on that happening. If you just go to the park and savor the moment (you don’t have to move to the middle of nowhere like I did) that is away time from all the junk they want to sell you to keep you distracted, addicted and brain dead.

I am told people don’t like to be alone because they don’t want to risk the chance of running into themselves. I guess the assumption is most people don’t actually like themselves. Well, I’ve got a news flash people. You are the best friend you are ever going to have. My advice is; get to know yourself. If there is something you don’t like work on it. We are all works in progress and nobody is perfect. Time by yourself will make your time in the company of others better spent.

Reality check: We are all living alone in our own little cabins in the wilderness of our minds. So I say get up, get out and get those endorphins pumping. Get addicted to loving life regardless of the season. If you’re happy you’ll have no time to be SAD. Like the pistachio people say Get Crackin’.

Hmmm, this piece has given me an idea for next week’s article. I think I'll expound on my take as to why the healthcare system is in terminal shape. I guarantee you it will be a different take than "conventional" pap you read. Won’t you be glad when winter is over and I can get back out on the trail with my camera?

If you’d like to look at some photography you can pop over to either one of my websites “Kinsey Barnard’s Fine Art of Photography" or "Kinsey Barnard’s Outdoor Photography" and poke around.

©Kinsey Barnard

You can also follow my photography FACEBOOK

20 December 2010


OK, so perhaps “I Survived” is a little melodramatic. All I did was make it in to town and back. But, please hear me out. There is more to it than you might imagine.

You see, when you live in the middle of nowhere Montana life is very different from your typical urban lifestyle. In fact it may even be hard for you to imagine anyone in the U.S. still lives the way I do. Here is the low down or high up whichever you prefer.

I literally live in a National Forest. The way to my place is via an un-maintained Forest Service road. It is also a single track. That means someone has to pull over if you meet him or her coming in the opposite direction. My elevation is close to 4,000 ft. so there is a nasty downhill section in the form of a very tight S curve, a.k.a. “the Luge”. None of this is any big deal except during winter which, of course, lasts nearly half the year.

Initially things are pretty OK as fresh snow has a tendency to be a little sticky and you can get some traction. But, holy mother of Methuselah! Once the traffic, it doesn’t take much, packs down the snow and we get a thaw and freeze those “curves” turn into a luge. You know luge? Those ice tracks that one man sleds rocket ninety miles an hour down. People are always asking if I’m afraid of the grizzlies, mountain lions and such. I can honestly say no. But ice? The stuff terrifies me. I’m pretty sure this is partly due to my being a control freak. One can lose control on the ice so very easily and once it happens all you can do is hold on and hope for the best.

This winter, and it’s not even officially winter yet, has turned out to be no exception. Well, except for the fact that we have had more snow earlier than in any of the past nine winters that I have spent here. (See:" Montana Winter at the Sanctuary") We have been in the midst of a huge thaw and everything has turned to ice.

There are people who live south of me; some must traverse “the Luge” everyday. I have tried to get some support for a sanding fund but to no avail. For some reason people around here think it makes economic sense to risk crashing your car as opposed to pitching in $50 a year to sand. Let me assure you at least half a dozen cars have some mishap every winter. I can’t think of any kind of damage you could do to your car that would be less than $50. Oh, well….

My solution? Stay home. I could easily stay here all winter but there are a couple of problems. First, I have no mail delivery. UPS and FedEx stop coming as soon as the snow flies. The gals down at the post office get a little testy when the box doesn’t get cleaned out after what seems to them a reasonable time. If I haven’t cleaned it out they just keep mashing mail into the box until I need blasting caps to get anything out. I have done everything I know to reduce the amount of mail I receive but the junk just keeps on coming. If you don’t already know about it here’s a great place to get unwanted catalogs to stop coming “Catalog Choice”

Second, there is no trash service up here. One must haul garbage down to the valley dump. I don’t make a lot of trash but I still need to make a dump run about once a month. Some people might find this a pain but I actually like this system because I’m in “control” and can also haul ranch refuse to the dump and it doesn’t cost a farthing extra.

So, whether I like it or not sooner or later I must screw up my courage and address “the Luge”. Today was the day. I loaded up the trash and Koty Bear in his crate. I drive a heavy SUV with four-wheel drive and studded tires. So, I’ve got the proper equipment. I keep my driveway properly plowed. Because I do plow with great regularity, any kind of thaw, I’m right back to the road surface. I love my driveway. It’s a winter driving dream. The problem is, it’s only about an eighth of a mile worth of happy motoring!

Once outside the gate it’s a virtual ice rink. I can’t even walk on the road. When Koty and I go out for a hike I wear these Katoola Crampons. They are absolutely the best for walking on ice. I wish I could put them on the truck! I’d never worry about “the Luge” again.

So, away we went, at the speed of a turtle. Even on the flat I slide around in the ruts and I’m OK with that. But then I come to the lip of “the Luge” and peer over the edge into ice hell. It’s at this point that I put the truck in first, engaged the 4x4 and put my foot on the brake. The foot on the brake defies conventional wisdom but I’ve made a wonderful life for myself by defying convention. I’ve found that if you start out with your foot already on the brake thereby reducing your speed to nearly nil it works very well. I end up going so slowly that when I do start to slide I only go a few terrifying feet. If you stomp on the brake after the fact well, I’m afraid, you’re screwed. Over the edge we went. We slid a little in the turns and each time I prayed we would stop. The really annoying thing: once you’ve traversed “the Luge” you are practically at the county road which is maintained like my driveway.

Once in town I ran my errands. All the while Koty is in his crate in the back whining for a walk. If you’ve ever seen the ad for Beggin Strips where the dog goes racing around the house saying “Beggin” Beggin” “Beggin” that’s the way Koty feels about hiking. He wouldn’t eat a Beggin Strip on a bet. Hike is his favorite four-letter word. So instead he runs around screaming “Hiking” “Hiking” “Hiking”. His enthusiasm for exercise may be why people guess his age at around three when he’s actually eleven. No one ever thinks I’m younger than I am. I hardly think that’s fair. I get as much exercise as he does. I suppose his secret is having all that fur to cover up the wrinkles.

I started out thinking to take the walk to Rexford but a check of the trail revealed it was too icy and I did not have my Katoolas. So we settled for the Riverwalk. It’s short but sweet walk. (See: "Eureka Riverwalk". It was pretty dreary on the river walk so we also wondered around the historical village. Some of the old buildings are decked out with Christmas wreaths and look very inviting.

I don’t like to hang around town for too long because “the Luge” doesn’t get any better later in the day. I truly dread ever meeting anyone coming down. I never have but the odds are getting dicey. At the bottom of the hill I switch on the four-wheel drive, shift into first and put my foot on the accelerator. The trick for getting up “the Luge” is to go just fast enough that you don’t spin out in the curves but fast enough that you don’t start sliding back down the hill. You can see why meeting someone coming down would be a bit of a problem? I must have been a little off my game because I did do some slipping and sliding in the curves but we made it to the top and home again.

Once home, I open the back of the truck to let Koty Bear dismount and there right where I put it is the trash which I apparently have hauled to town and home again. Everyone needs well-traveled trash. I look at Koty at and wonder why, with the trash right there beside him, he didn’t bother to mention it. Koty looks back at me with an expression that says “Not my problem. Now let me out of here”.

So, now perhaps you can see why I say “I Survived”. Life in the wild is a constant struggle for survival in one way or another and I wouldn’t want to live any other way!

Below are a couple of photos I took at the historical village. I especially found the “Safety First” sign appropriate for this article. And, last but not least a photo of the road leading to "the Luge". I hope you will excuse me if I didn’t stop on “the Luge” to photograph it? ;)





Follow my art and adventures on FACEBOOK

©Kinsey Barnard

14 December 2010

OK, So I'm the Ditziest Person I Know! Probably you too!

Earlier today I posted to my Facebook thingy that if I couldn't laugh at myself I wouldn't laugh so much.

Well, here's a classic.If you need to make your day by thinking someone is a real moron. This one's for you! :)

A while back I bought some Foster Farms frozen grilled chicken at Costco. So you know I go a lot. Well, the stuff was just awful. I love to make a salad with chicken breast but I can no longer find the Jenny-O that I liked so much. Costco used to carry it but they don't anymore and what they replaced it with is simply drek.

I soon discovered the Foster Farms stuff was not fit for consumption. I tried to figure out how I could use it. Being of Scottish descent, giving it the toss was out of the question.

I like to think of myself as the creative sort so I purchased a box of Chicken Helper Mexican Cheesy Chicken Enchilada. I figured it might just do the trick to cover up the really horrid chicken.

So, I'm reading the box and it says "High altitude (3,500 to 6,500ft)" and increase water and cooking time by fifteen minutes. I look at this and say "Oh, my gawd! I live at nearly 4,000 ft! I'm high altitude!".

OK, so now here's the great part. I have lived here for 8 years! And, just figured it out! I nearly laughed until I cried!

In my defense. I don't eat a lot of prepared foods and I don't bake. But, I do eat a lot of pasta. I just thought the yoyos didn't know what they were talking about when they called for ten minutes cooking time when it really took 13 minutes to get a very nice al dente.

So, any of you out there that are feeling bad about yourself just remember I'm here and slower than molasses! :)

PS: If you are looking for a quick way to disguise awful (but edible) meat these Helper things are very effective! Koty was kind of disappointed.

You can also follow my photography and adventures on FACEBOOK

©Kinsey Barnard

11 December 2010

Mule Deer, Koty Bear & Doe Eyes

Well, goody goody gum drops! We are finally starting to have a respite from the snow and a bit of a thaw. This will be my ninth winter up on this mountain and this is the harshest fall since I moved here. My father used to say that when winter started early the overall winter kinda petered out. We'll see how well that works.

Koty Bear loves winter the more snow and cold the better. He literally whines to be let out when we go subzero. Below is a photo of him dashing through the snow.

Koty Bear Loping Through The Snow

For winter sports Koty and the mule deer like to play a bluff-charge game. Koty, being true to his nature is unreliable off lead so he must always be either on a leash or in an enclosure. He has a tether that allows him to go in and out of the house, go out on the lawn to take care of business and lounge on the deck. When the mule deer return for the winter they soon take up where they left off. The deer know just how close they can get to Koty without him being able to reach them. The deer will approach to just within Koty's reach and dare him to come after them. Koty will try and fake them out by hanging back hoping to draw them into his range. It's really quite the cat and mouse game and a lot of fun to watch.

Koty Bear And Mule Deer Playmates

I have been spending a lot of time with my deer. They are a wonderful diversion. I can sit out in the snow and watch them by the hour. And, of course, I cannot resist taking a few photos. I just love the mule deer. They are so gentle and serene, not at all like the whitetail. They are a life lesson for me. They also have very cute butts.

Mule Deer Behind

You will notice the black tip on her tail. Although, everyone around here calls them mule deer or mulies they are also referred to as blacktail deer.

There is one old doe that has been coming to keep me company for several years now. I call her "Doe Eyes". This doe has the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen on a mulie or any dear. For the most part mulie eyes are solid brown and although big and beautiful there is not a lot of texture to them. But, Doe Eyes is in a league of her own.

Doe Eyes

Her eyes are very large and instead of being a solid brown they are more like a horse's eyes that have variation and texture. They are just stunning.

Doe Eyes

There is something elses very unusual about her eyes. They are set quite a bit more forward than is common. I don't know if you know or not but you can tell if an animal is a predator or a prey animal by the set of the eyes. Predators like mountain lions, and wolves have eyes set up front whilst prey animals like deer and elk have eyes set on the sides given them greater peripheral vision. Also note where your own eyes are located.

I'm hoping before this winter is done that I can get a closeup up just of her eye so that you can see how truly beautiful they are.

©Kinsey Barnard Photography

06 December 2010

Buy the F'ing Dip!

This is one of the funniest and truthful videos I have seen about the markets. Please be advised that there is liberal use of the F-word so please do not watch if that offends you.

05 December 2010


Not a lot new to report. Still shoveling and plowing altough the forecast is currently showing a little respite from the snow and some sunny days ahead. Sun is at a premium in this part of the country in winter. It's funny when I lived in Druango I got bored with all the sunny cloudless days. Here I really look forward to them in the winter.

It has been warmer, in the high twenties and thirties. High enough to start the snow to melting. My fascination this week was as a result of that melting. Icicles have formed along the roof line creating, at least for me, the most extraordinaly nature sculptures. Below are some of my favorites.

©Kinsey Barnard Photography