7 Lessons the Mullen Fire Taught Me
What a crazy month it has been...Whew! I usually get excited to see the first decent snow of fall, but wow what a FEELING!
The idea of getting to return home and having a home to return to was indescribable hope, quite a privilege! It didn't snow too terribly much, but it was enough to slow the fire down and allow us to return home (as I write this though, there is about a foot of snow outside from our most recent storm). What's more, the weekend after we returned home, with the help of our neighbors and some binoculars, we found all three animals we had to leave behind in the frenzy of evacuation. All three of them are no worse for the wear.
Our Big, Fat, Mangalitsa Boar, whom Chris has named "Chuck" and whom I fondly refer to as "The BFB" made himself a nice bed by the creek and didn't even seem to have lost any weight! (I didn't tell him this tough...) His tusks were white and shiny on the tips from rooting and digging around and he seemed rather irritated that I came to end his walkabout adventure.
Waffles the Donkey greeted us as we pulled into the driveway. He winked at me like he usually does as if to say, "I knew you would be back."
Our cat instantly went to purring and weaving in and out of our legs so much so that we couldn't even walk up to the house! I guess there were plenty of mice around to keep a good mouser-cat fed and busy for three and a half weeks. Lesson #1: Our animals don't seem to need us around as much as we think they do. It seemed a raccoon had moved into our house. There was a pile of shiny things in our hallway, all our cupboards were open and food bags were pulled out and eaten out of and scattered about the kitchen. At least someone got to enjoy our home while we were gone...
Lesson #2: It's good to have a Fall Cleaning Splurge! Once we got all our animals and our mobile palace home the giant cleaning purge began. We sorted through our belongings that we left behind- half of which we had forgotten we even had, and donated a lot of them to Nu2U and Goodwill. We obviously did not need these things that would have gotten burnt if the fire had gotten all the way down to our house! We emptied our fridges and freezers and composted/fed everything that was beyond saving. I was pretty sad when I saw I had to toss our elk back strap roasts and steaks from last year... our dogs were more than happy to oblige in this part of the cleaning adventure though!
Lesson #3: Eat your best cuts of meat First! Our house is still a wreck and our firewood situation is a bit haywire. We have been chipping away at it day by day- trying to get things organized before the snow really buries everything for the winter. To be honest, coming home has been a bit overwhelming- there is just so much to do and I feel so very behind. But I am constantly reminded of the need to focus on the positive and what I am grateful for. A couple of friends have stopped by to catch up and check in. They don't care what our house looks like- they have just been happy to see us and to know that our animals and us are back home and doing well.
Lesson #4: Radical Gratitude is the glue that holds our lives together at the seams. Circumstances like the Mullen Fire are rampant in our lives. Everyone I know has seemed to have quite the challenging year in 2020. But, you know what? Lesson #5: Challenging times provide the ideal opportunity to realize how fortunate we are. I am grateful for this experience. and I am grateful for our community. The Big Hollow Coop in Laramie is a major source of our egg sales usually, but they do not allow us to re-use cartons. The brand new cartons we had did not make it out when we evacuated so we had a dilemma. I talked to 307 Meat Company about this dilemma and they immediately created an Instagram post requesting cartons from the community and offering a discount on retail store purchases to everyone who brought them. We got close to 200 egg cartons by the next day! I felt tears welling in my eyes when I walked into work at 307 Meat Company the next day and Kelcey (my boss) brought me into the retail store to show me just how many cartons were brought in.
When the Soup Kitchen heard we were evacuated, they had their staff spend hours opening up cans of food that had been dented and frozen (therefore they did not feel comfortable serving them to patrons) for us to feed to our pigs and chickens while we had to abandon our feed stash back at home. Bond's Brewing. had a series of thousands of pounds of spent grains from beer batches that they held for us for a couple days. This allowed us to get the animals all settled in their temporary homes before we were able to come pick up this valuable feed. Lesson #6: Our Community is the Best one I have ever had the privilege to be a part of. The Mullen Fire wasn't just a blaze in the Medicine Bow National forest, it was a blaze in our community. Did you see all the signs around town thanking firefighters? The posts on Facebook of people offering what they had to evacuated families? The collaborative concern of Laramie and the surrounding communities for air quality and smoke pollution?
It was a unifying event, and I felt more faith in human kind than I have in a while. I have come to see it as a blaze of hope. Lesson #7: Hope can get us through some crazy things. What an experience! We are thoroughly exhausted, but we are grateful for the things we learned, the people in our lives, and just how fortunate we are that the fire did not injure any people, it did not take our house, and it did not even adversely affect any of our animals.
Truly incredible! What has 2020 taught you so far? I really want to know! Feel free to reply to this email and let me know what you have experienced in 2020 that has stood out to you and filled you with gratitude- sounds like a good way to head into 2021 to me. We'll talk soon! -BJ and the Taste of the Wind Crew