We bought our house in Utah one year ago today, and we moved in about 10 months ago. Our home is in the mountains. It is beautiful – there is no doubt about that. And it can be eerily quiet. The houses are spread out and there aren’t nearly as many families in our neighborhood here as there were in Wisconsin, so it has been a slower process to get to know the neighbors. It would be difficult for any new neighborhood to live up to Kavanaugh – midwesterners seem naturally friendly, and Kavanaugh was extreme in this regard. Nonetheless we have slowly but surely been able to get to know neighbors and make new friends. And everyday we feel privileged to live in this environment.

There aren’t many houses in the neighborhood that have yards because they are on hillsides, but ours is an exception. And to our knowledge our yard has been abandoned since the day the house was built. This is good and bad. It’s good because expectations are low and it can only improve (along those lines, Chris decided to mow the grass in the front yard today for the first time since we bought the house). It’s bad because the yard isn’t really usable for anything. With all of the rain we’ve had recently it was about 3 feet tall.

One family we got to know soon after we moved is the Johnstones. We met them because their garage door was open during a family hike, so we walked up the driveway to see if anyone was home and to say hi. They live a short walk away and we have gotten together with them many times. Recently they invited us over along with several other families for dinner. There were several older kids (Everett’s age and up) and this was one of the first times that all of our children were off playing in the yard together. The older kids played a game where Teddy and Gwen were zombies who had to be avoided at all costs, even as they magnetically drew the older children closer. The twins have both become fearless on slides and they didn’t really understand this game – they were just going down the slide on the swing set and then walking around to climb the ladder again. They love slides. This includes the one on the playset in our backyard that was installed with the same degree of care and diligence as so many other parts of our house. It isn’t anchored to the ground, it doesn’t contain a single 90 degree angle, and the slide is at about a 45 degree angle. For a while now Gwen has expressed a desire to go down slides (including the one in our yard) but at the last moment she would say “No!” and back away. This no longer happens. The slide at the Johnstone’s house looked so mild by comparison to ours that Chris didn’t try to catch Gwen as she went down. She flew off the end of the slide, landed on her back and immediately started crying because she had bitten her tongue. Teddy went off next and fell off sideways – fortunately Chris caught him in midair. So it turns out that it was necessary for a parent keep an eye on things. These are the kinds of discoveries that are made when Dads are left in charge.

This was also the first evening since we moved here that we went on a family bike ride. The babies sat on the bench in the Bakfiets, Everett was on the tagalong and Melissa was on her Giant. The distance from our house to theirs is a third of a mile and yet still involves a considerable elevation change. The babies were cackling with laughter as we zoomed down the hill.

Other neighbors:
Melissa recently was a moose in our yard. She send Chris an excited message that she had seen one but had no photographic evidence. This sounds remarkably similar to the jackalopes that Chris has seen – they have the body of a rabbit and deer antlers. They are numerous but, as Chris explained to Everett, it is impossible to photograph them because they are blindingly fast – far too quick for any camera to capture. However, we later found out that Melissa did get two short videos which are of similar quality to those that caught Big Foot on film. You be the judge.
There are also many other animals: mice, voles, deer, porcupines, owls, rabbits, chipmunks, snakes (we have only seen non-venomous snakes, though we know that rattlesnakes are common), elk, cougars (mountain lions), bobcats and a few species of poisonous spiders.
There are also several varieties of birds including Robins and Northern Flickers. Among the former, there is one who has been hurling his body at our kitchen window every┬ámorning for a couple months. Melissa figured out that he was trying to get a wasp’s nest that was nestled into the top of the window frame. And the latter have a habit of pecking on the metal fireplace flue on our house and our neighbor’s house to the north. This creates an amazing racket both inside and outside the house. When it first started happening we were inside and had no idea what it was. Interestingly, this behavior has been well documented.

With regard to our non-human neighbors, our philosophy is that we were here last and therefore nature should bend to meet our preferences. Specifically, any wildlife that lives nearby should meet three criteria:
1. They are cute and non-poisonous.
2. They don’t try to move into our house.
3. They don’t eat our vegetables.

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