21 January 2017 – Sunny and highs in the upper 40’s

This was probably one of the best South Dakota days ever.  Dave and I were so happy to wake up in the house and not have to hurry around and get breakfast, shower up, and clean up before the construction guys arrived.  We took it real slow this morning. Dave made sausage and eggs and we lounged around in our pajamas next to the wood stove until we got too hot and had to open the windows.  The sunrise was spectacular and we watched a coyote running across the draw just south of the house. As soon as the sun came up the solar panels were charging up to 100% and we enjoyed the peace and quiet of no generator or any other noise.  It was beautiful.

The wood stove was a really good investment.  We load it up at night and it still has hot coals in the morning, easily heating the main floor and keeping the basement pretty warm.  The really neat part, however, is that it has burners for cooking.  This morning I cooked bacon on the stove to add to a corn/potato chowder.  While the bacon was cooking, I played sous-chef and cut up potatoes, jalapeo, onion, roasted red pepper and corn to put in the chowder.  Then I added the bacon, some garlic, and chicken stock and put it on the wood stove. 

I thought it would cook all day, like a crockpot.  Instead, the potatoes and everything were completely cooked through by noon!  It was really neat to cook a whole meal without using any electricity or propane; just the excess heat from the wood used to heat the house.  Cool! 

Also, as I was cooking, the strangest fog rolled in over the southern hill.  It was beautiful!

Dave and I had a date night last night.  It was not your traditional dinner and a movie date.  Instead, we went to Custer to participate in the Beetle Burn festival. 

For those of you unfamiliar, the pine beetle has been a scourge to the Black Hills for the last several years.pinebeetle

The apex of the damage was in 2013, when these destructive little pests were eating and destroying a large percentage of the beautiful forest here.  People were very frustrated as there was no apparent way to get rid of these bugs.  Since then, a drought and controlled burning has helped to bring the destruction under control.

https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/blackhills/landmanagement/?cid=stelprdb5113978

At the time, however, the locals in Custer needed to at least feel they were taking action against the bugs and they came up with the Beetle Burn Festival.  The local fire department built a gigantic model of a pine-beetle and they put it on a huge bonfire.  The locals met at the high school, lit torches, and marched through the streets behind a drum corps chanting “Burn the Beetle!”  and “Burn Beetle Burn!” When they arrived at the big beetle, they torched the sucker and lit off fireworks. It was apparently pretty cathartic because they have continued the tradition of burning the beetle each year.

Last night, Dave and I participated.  We marched down the street with the crowd chanting to burn the bugs!  It felt like we were the mob in a Frankenstein movie, minus the pitch forks.

Once we arrived at the beetle, we stepped to the side to watch the big thing burn.  It was spectacular.  They had it loaded with pyrotechnics and it was shooting fire out of its eyes and antennae.

Then the fire department put on a really nice firework display.  The backdrop for the fireworks were the snow-covered cliffs of the Black Hills, and the sound echoed down through the valleys.  It was great fun and everyone there was in such a happy mood. They all proceeded to the bug-pub crawl after the festivities. beetle6

Dave and I headed home, however.  We do not like driving after dark (especially after a pub crawl) because we have to run the deer gauntlet between Custer and Stagecoach Springs.  Instead, we came home and had the potato-corn chowder and a glass of wine.  Although the stove was not burning the whole time we were gone, it was still 72 degrees in the house. It was warm.  And quiet.  And it feels like home.