Seven Quick Takes #1

Here’s my first seven quick takes from my trip to the Bitterroot Valley! Check out Jen’s 7QT here.



So, these are my seven quick takes about my week at my sister-in-law’s! (My husband’s sister & her husband and their four adorable kids.) I went to their house in western Montana to help watch the kids for a week while she had a researcher from Duke come to see her work – she’s a crazy awesome botanist. She studies bees, and wildflowers, and butterflies and is incredibly smart – a gift she has definitely passed on to her kids. The week was chock full of lessons for me. For sure. They live in a beautiful log cabin built by her husband and live off-the-grid. Yep, no power. Yep, a well. They do have running water. My mother-in-law also came out for the week so I wasn’t totally on my own, but in all actuality I was really excited about it. It was going to be like luxurious camping. And, it was. But way better.

So, quick take #1 — tree houses provide an inordinate amount of opportunity for the imagination to grow. There were about twenty different identities that the treehouse took on while I was there and it was awesome to see what those kids could come up with. Spaceship, real ship, cave, monkey’s house, tree house, osprey’s nest, butterfly study station. It was beautiful.

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Coolest tree house ever.


Numero Dos — When there’s not a grocery store nearby (like within 30 miles with part of that being a dirt road) you really can’t follow a recipe very well.  (That being said – my sister-in-law has a VERY well stocked pantry and cool cellar.) BUT – you can cook some pretty amazing things by figuring out what needs to be eaten and what you have readily available. We had pancakes every other morning that I was there, mainly because the kids just loved them and who’s going to say no when you have four adorable children saying that they love your cooking?? (Being the good aunt that I am we put blueberries AND chocolate chips in them.) But what do you do when you run out of those little goodies? Their genious and so-awesome-it-made-me-want-to-cry idea was to go pick huckleberries to put in the next days pancakes. So, what does the oldest one (10 yrs I think) promptly do while I wash the dishes? He went out to his dad’s shop with 5 washed small yogurt containers, finds wire, punches holes in the sides of the cups with a nail punch, and then makes handles for 5 perfect-sized huckleberry patch picking buckets!!

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Not that great a picture, but you get the point. Yummy, yummy pancakes are the point. 🙂


My third quick take is very much related to the last one. If you have four kids and there’s no grocery store nearby, they get really good at eating WHATEVER is placed in front of them and smile all the way through it. I know as a kid I wouldn’t have been too interested in eating a vegetable lasagna. I had to make dinner one night and we had everything for lasagna the way that I normally make it, but no meat. But we had LOTS of vegetables – carrots, onions, spinach, peppers, broccoli. And I put every last bit of them in that lasagna. (Did I mention that there actually were six kids and five adults? Mark’s other incredible sister came out from Colorado halfway through the week with her two awesome kids – so we had a full house!!)

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And bless their hearts, those kids loved every last bit of that lasagna. (It was pretty tasty though.)


Number four is that sleeping in the fresh air is amazing.  I slept in the loft while I was there and, during the summer at least, this was the most enjoyable experience.  They have a routine (just like everybody had before A/C ruined modern building construction techniques – don’t get me started) to open and close the windows at certain times of the day.  The kids of course knew exactly what to do —  I was clueless at first.  The windows all stay open in the evenings, night, and mornings to let cool air into the house.  There’s two windows in each of the bedrooms to allow for through ventilation and larger windows in the living areas.  Then around ten-thirty or eleven in the morning before it gets too hot, all of the windows are closed to keep the cool air inside.  It worked like a charm and kept the house so comfortable!  (I know, I know, it’s Montana but it actually got into the nineties that week!)  Anyway, I slept like a baby.  Cool air breezing through my loft window.  No mosquitos.  No noise.  (Having no mosquitos was amazing – Charleston, SC – you need to get on the bandwagon with this one!)

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View out of my diamond shaped loft window – yes, there’s chicken wire (helps to deter bats) yep, bats – but I never saw any – so I guess it works!


The fifth thing that I learned is that when a kid yells – you really don’t ALWAYS need to come running.  Most of the time they can work their squabbles out on their own — if they don’t think that getting a parent to come and help them is the only way to solve things.  This is going to be a serious struggle for me one day, I know.  But, I’m inspired.  I will not be a helicopter mom. I will not be a helicopter mom. I will not be…..


Kids are just pure pure love.  I’m the new aunt.  All six of these adorable kids have only really met me once before, which was at Mark and I’s wedding.  And that was a pretty hectic affair.  But when I got there, it was just hugs and smiles and joy all around because their new Aunt Amelia was coming to stay with them.  It was so humbling and wonderful.  I can’t wait to have some of my own.


There’s a true strength and beauty to the way of life that my sister-in-law and her husband and their family are living.  They have to filter all their water, and they wear headlamps around the house in the evenings (they do have two solar panels to power two small lights and their computer chargers – they aren’t completely out of contact with the rest of the world!), and I really don’t have any idea what their lives are like during the winter.  But, they are giving their family a gift that not many children know today.  Their kids play with no fence around their yard to keep them from wandering off – their backyard is the woods around them.  They have to learn to keep themselves nearby the house.  They have immense imaginations, they are appreciative of everything that they have, they are SO well-behaved, and they just love nature and the world around them is experienced.  It was just a true joy to spend that time with them and I’m so thankful for it.   I think that while their way of life might not be for everybody, I had a lot to learn and I hope it sticks!

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11 thoughts on “Seven Quick Takes #1

  1. Wow…living off the grid?!!? Your sister sounds amazing! What an awesome way to spend a week and what a great experience for children to grow up like that. . And, you are a cool aunt for coming over and helping out for a week….huckleberry pancakes sound amazing.

    • I know! I think so too! We’re going to go visit for Christmas, so I’m looking forward to going back with Mark this time. Their kids are 10, 8, 5 and 3, I think, and she homeschooled all of them until last year. Last year, the two older ones started at a local school there and I think they’re enjoying it. It’s amazing how smart they are. The oldest was explaining to me the differences in the length of time that different birds spend in eggs and in their nests until they fledge when compared to others. And ALL of the kids, even the youngest, know all sorts of different butterflies. They’re just so interested in learning. (The oldest is also very into “engineering” — he definitely hijacked a pulley and rope from his dad’s shop and after attaching it to a tree started hoisting the rest of the kids on to the top of their pump house. That was out of my comfort zone. It took me too long to wash the dishes that day, obviously. (That being said, there were no bruises and it was exceptionally built – strong tree branch and all.)

  2. I lived in Montana for 4.5 years in a town 25 miles in the middle of flipping nowhere. I loved every minute of it… though we did have electricity. 🙂 It’s amazing how resourceful the kids are but my church kids were that way because they all grew up on farms where you had to pretty much improvise a solution if you didn’t have one on hand.

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