Category Archives: Our Montana Dream

A Place to Live and Curious Coincidences

Winter still has its icy grip on northwestern Montana, though things have begun to slowly thaw.  Our little stream is now a proud creek, swollen with snow melt and hurriedly making its way downhill to Ninemile Creek. But, I still wonder if winter will ever go away.  It is the coldest and snowiest it has been in Missoula in nearly fifty years.

Cromwell Creek:  A generous name for a mere trickle in the summer, but buoyed by melting snow, it lives up to its name.  



I can’t wait for winter to pack its bags and leave.  I’m not really a big winter person, but that is not the reason I want it to make a quick exit.  We’ve got a deadline to meet or we’re homeless.  Not landless, but homeless.  At the present, we are in a temporary rental – a duplex in a small town outside of Missoula.  We had agreed to be out by June or July, but now they want to move into the duplex sooner.  So, we’ve got to be out by May.  We’ll see if Old Man Winter decides to move out by then, too.

When we moved to Montana in December of last year, we were still a bit unsettled as to what we were going to do for living quarters once our short lease ran out.  We had pretty much settled on the idea of buying a travel trailer, parking it in the shop and roughing it until we could get the house built.  But, we reconsidered that option once we finally closed on the land and had a chance to get into the existing 30′ x 60′ shop and check things out.  The shop had a about 1,100 square feet of space that had been used as a makeshift apartment and marijuana growing operation in the attic.  We can refurbish this space into a small apartment for not much more than buying a new travel trailer and then we could have a space to house guests or to even rent out if we wanted once the main house was built.  Also, having a more permanent structure will allow us to take our time on the house construction and not rush things financially.

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This will be our home sweet home for awhile as we build the house on top of the hill to the left.  We’ll see if we survive it!

It is peculiar that many of the people we have spoken to in Montana have done the same thing, that of building a shop/garage first or living in a shop until the house is done.  It is as if it is some sort of Montana rite of passage.  So, we’re going to get real cozy and live in a shop apartment.  Fortunately, the duplex we’re in now isn’t much bigger, so it has helped us get prepared for close quarter living.

An interesting coincidence has provided us with a top-notch contractor.  it is remarkable how this whole move has worked out, so many little things falling into place.  Some would call it a coincidence, but I know that they are God’s little mercies as he opens doors to help get things done and provide for our needs.  Turns out that my brother Robert married into the fine Stevenson family that produced Bryce and Brandon.  They moved their families to Montana a little over a year ago.  They own Stevenson Homes,  building houses in Utah and I would guess soon in Montana.  They happened to build my parent’s home and they do excellent work.  Nice to have them as we knew no one in Montana before moving up here.

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The main floor living area.  The bathroom is framed in as well as the closet for the washer and dryer and the furnace and water heater.  

The Stevenson boys have already finished the demolition and started to frame up our little apartment.  Though Old Man Winter still won’t let go, he can’t get inside the shop so we are thumbing our nose at him and getting started anyway.  Hopefully, with a productive month of March, we can get the apartment well on its way to completion.

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The attic space where we will lay our wee little heads at night.  Basically the attic consists of two, 30’x 12’spaces that will be the sleeping quarters.  There will be some windows on the wall on the left to bring the light in. No more marijuana growing happening here!

Lots of fun and excitement for our family these days.  The kids have adjusted well to the move and are enjoying Montana.  The school district we are in is very good and I’m so happy with this part of the move.  It is so nice to see the kids get such great individualized attention.  In another curious coincidence, our moving to Montana provided Quincy with a full-time aid, which has really helped him and provided a job for a wonderful person who needed it.  Coincidence?  I think not.

I have found living here to be a little more taxing from a travel point of view.  Missoula is in the middle of nowhere and requires an extra flight than I am used to.  This means a lot more early morning flights and late night arrivals.  But, so far I haven’t been too bothered by it.  I did get a bit homesick a couple of weeks ago.  It was so fun to live within a block of Ben and Scott, so I have missed that and the many times we got together with my folks, in-laws and extended family.  However, that will make the reunions that much sweeter and I’m looking forward to the fun times hosting family and friends at the farm in the months and years to come.

Moved in – Sort of

The last 3-4 weeks have been a little crazy in our family.  This is the first chance I have had to sit down and collect some thoughts.  We left Utah on December 3rd in a caravan consisting of a small U-haul, our minivan and my truck and headed north.  My brother Scott was good enough to come up with us and help us offload some things from the U-haul and then fly back the next day.  We are temporarily renting a duplex in Frenchtown, Montana while we figure out our more permanent living conditions.

The biggest thing so far about Montana has been the absolutely brutal cold and snow that has hit us over the past two weeks or so.  It started on the Sunday after we arrived and hasn’t really let up since.  We’ve had about 18″of snow and then just downright frigid temps with daytime highs well below zero with wind chill  All the locals keep telling us this is abnormal weather, but so far I just think everyone is lying.

Piles of snow on the road in Missoula.  We got slammed!


It didn’t take us long to get settled in the duplex.  We didn’t really bring a lot of stuff and the rest of our stuff is in a storage shed right now in Missoula.  It has been amazing how little we’ve missed all that stuff.  We’ve hardly thought about it.  It is a good lesson that sometimes we get attached to our “stuff”and we don’t really need it.

Madison and Q have settled in to school quite well.  Madison was particularly brave to face the big change head on.  I was really proud of her and has already found a few friends to hang with.  Her only complaints are that school starts too early (same time as in Utah) and that she actually has to do strenuous physical activity during P.E.  Apparently, they don’t mess around here in P.E. and its killing her because she is not used to that level of activity.  I find it kind of amusing, really.  Quincy is in a great little special needs program and has a full time aide with him, something he didn’t have in Utah.  I’m very impressed with the Frenchtown schools and the level of funding and resources generally in Montana schools.

Probably the best piece of news is that we closed our our property this last Friday.  It is now ours.  I had to borrow a portion from the bank to buy it and the process of borrowing money for a land purchase is a gigantic pain int he butt, compounded by the fact that we were out of state while getting the process going.  Finally, it is now complete.  Heidi was as giddy as a school girl the day we signed.  She is super happy to have the land.

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This is a shot of the lower portion of the “farm”.  We will build the house on top of the hill to the right of this picture.  Sure was pretty with a fresh blanket of snow.  

I’m happy to be here and excited about the change.  I’m seeing some huge blessings and benefits already from doing this move, namely the schools for our kids.  This alone may make the whole thing worth it.  I love the fact that they are getting more one-on-one attention.

We visited the property yesterday.  I am now calling it a “farm,” even though it is nothing more than a piece of land at the moment.  Perhaps it is the romantic in me that likes the idea of having a farm.  I sort of feel like I’ve reconnected to my family’s past to the days when my Grandfather was a cowpuncher and dairy farmer.  I feel a need to have that sort of thing in my life.  I feel really comfortable in the rural setting.  The quiet rural life really appeals to me.  So, maybe soon, I can acquire the necessary animals and implements to justify calling the property a farm.

The farm was beautiful yesterday.  All the pines covered in a nice blanket of snow.  The view as the sun finally peeked through the clouds and bathed the surrounding mountains in light was amazing.  The shop needs  a lot more work than I had initially thought to get it ready to live in.  The shop has an area that was made into a couple of rooms, but it is going to have to be gutted.  The plan is to get the shop ready to live in and that we will do until the house is built.  One idea we’ve had is to put a kitchenette and a bathroom in the shop then sleep in a travel trailer that we would pull into the shop.  We’ll see.  There are a lot of options.  There is enough room to maybe even live in there and avoid the travel trailer.

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The Clark Fork River at sunset as you leave Ninemile Canyon.  The bridge you see is Interstate 90.

I’m having  a hard time enjoying things too much right now. I feel stress over all the money its gonna take to get the shop ready and I do not like feeling of being unsettled.  I get cranky when I’m not settled, so this whole thing has me well out of my comfort zone.  But, I have found that being out of your comfort zone is a growth opportunity.  So, we’ll see what lessons there are to learn!  I’m really excited about the opportunity.

Now, if it will just warm up a bit!


A Huge Step Forward

It was empty.  A shell of what it was for the last little more than 11 years.  It was quiet and it felt weird to see it vacant.  Today, we finished the very last details of moving out of our house.  We accomplished this in just twelve days.  Not by ourselves, but with the help of some amazing people who love and care for us.

This evening, I placed the keys on the countertop in the kitchen and sat alone, crossed legged on the living room floor and thought about what had happened in this house over the last few years.  So many pivotal and important events happened to my family here.  Madison grew up here.  We brought Q home for the first time here.  Yes, it is just a house, mere wood and plaster, but to me that house represents so much.  It represents a portion of my life of which I will look back in great fondness.

It represents people we have come to know and love.  For me, this is the hardest part.  I’m excited for our Montana Dream, but I am not ready to let go of good people.  People who served us and loved us. There are far too many to name.  I had the opportunity to interact with so many of these wonderful people and families as I served in my church’s youth organizations and watched many young men grow up, mature and turn into husbands and fathers.  I served side by side in church and civic capacities with so many.  I had the great fortune to provide service to many who passed through hellish trials and watched with admiration as they bore such burdens with grace and strength.  Though distance will come between us, I have learned that in life true friendship endures – it is eternal –  and I am often surprised at how even after so many years apart, a reunion with a good friend seems so familiar and as if time has not even passed.

This house represents family.  One wonderful thing about living here has been that I’ve had two brothers who have lived just a block away, one of which is kind enough to house us for a while.  My Madison, basically an only child given the age difference between her and Q,  has had the amazing and irreplaceable experience to play with and get to know her cousins.  I’ve also had all of my other siblings and parents and in-laws within and hour or so of us.  How fun that has been to be able to spend time together, borrow tools, and help each other out.  I will miss that more than they know.

We are so exhausted.  We have worked non-stop for 12 straight days.  My emotions are on the surface as I think about all who have made an imprint on our lives.  I thank God for them.  We will never forget this chapter of our life and will forever remember our 11 plus years living in our little community on the Lake.  Thanks to so many who loved us and cared for us.  We look forward to the many reunions to come!





Our Montana Dream Begins…

Several years ago, I took Heidi on a fly fishing trip to Missoula, MT.  I’ve always loved fly fishing and ever since I read Norman Maclean’s classic novella, A River Runs Through It, I have wanted to go to Missoula and fish the great trout rivers there.  But, oddly enough, it was Heidi that fell head over heels in love with Montana.  Impressed by the beautiful pine forests, the confluence of three beautiful rivers and the small town feel, she fell hard for their charms.  We returned the following year only to confirm our initial perceptions.

We began dreaming about one day moving there.  But, I knew that without a job in Montana or financial freedom, you just don’t up and move there.  Three years ago, my job situation changed and we are now in a position to realize the dream.

It was Heidi that pushed for the change.  I was reluctant at first, preferring to take it slow to get finances more in order.  But, in March of this year we decided to take the kids and go to Montana over spring break to look at properties.  Once again, Montana impressed and I began to really consider it and to seriously start looking at properties.  I spent hours in the evenings after work looking at properties online.  Then, a couple of weeks ago, Heidi and I went back to seriously consider some properties.  The goal was to see what was there and if we found something to pull the trigger, and if not we would wait until next spring.  We had a carefully laid out plan to really consider a broad range of options.

We found our dream on the very first property we visited.  So much for carefully laid out plans.

So, just like that, in the space of two weeks, we have agreed to a price on the Montana land and have our house in Utah up for sale.  Funny what a difference a couple of weeks can make.

Now we are facing complete uncertainty about where we will live for the next however long it takes to build a house.  We’ve even considered buying a travel trailer and living on the property through the winter.  Who knows?  It is an adventure waiting to happen.

When we moved back to Utah 11 years ago, I swore that we would never move again.  We had moved eight times over the course of nine years.  But, over the past 6 months I have felt strongly that a change is needed.  I don’t know the reason, but I am confident it is the right thing for our family.

So, why Montana?  Everybody asks me that.  I have a few reasons and I’m sure Heidi has hers.  First of all, I’ve just had it with he unchecked growth in Utah County and Utah in general and the free-for-all building of the little city we’ve called home these past 11 years.  It is out of control.  Montana is one of the last frontiers of the west and I like the rural feel.  It has not yet succumbed to the building frenzy that has plagued other parts of the west like Las Vegas and Phoenix.  There is a wildness about the state.  It has a frontier feel to it and I like the good, decent, hard-working, down-to-earth people there.  My travels allow me to have a taste of the big city, but retreat to the calm of the country so Montana seems like a good fit.  It doesn’t hurt that western Montana is so beautiful and the outdoor possibilities are endless.  Being so close to nature is really appealing to me and to be able to commune with God through his creations on a daily basis calls to me!

I love my Mormon faith, but I’ve had enough of the bubble.   Utah is just a hard place to be Mormon and have some individuality.  I look forward to enjoying the tenets of my faith without the inevitable bubble mentality that exists when everyone on your street shares the same faith.  I’m looking forward to some diversity of thought and people.

I am excited for my children because they can actually attend a school where they will get some individualized attention.  Madison’s High School graduating class would have around 1,200 kids if she were to stay in Utah.  That’s insane!  I want her to have opportunities to play sports, to participate in drama and dance without having to compete with a thousand other kids.  Student to teacher ratios are 9:1 in Montana compared to the 30:1 in Utah.  Madison will probably have around 110 kids in her high school class.  That’s a better number!

The hard part will be leaving family and friends.  This is by far the biggest negative with moving.  When you have stayed in a place for 11 years, you forge some amazing friendships.  I love our little neighborhood and will greatly miss the fabulous people there.  For this reason, I am happy for the social networks of the modern age that allows us to stay close to people that have touched our lives. And our Montana door will always be open to our friends and family!  Just visit at your own risk – Montana has a way of stealing your heart.

Both my mother and mother-in-law are not happy with us.  My mom has all her kids in one general area and now I’m ruining that.  But, my circumstances will allow us to visit often, so I’m not too worried about this.  That’s the good thing about mothers – that they love you anyway.

So, keep checking back.  I’ll keep you posted on our progress.