Dunrovin Lifestyle Magazine

Photo of an Osprey Chick Against a Smoke-Filled Evening Sky. Photo by Jocelyn Armstrong

August 2017: In the Face of Fire

Greetings from Lady Dunrovin

What a month August 2017 has been! A monstrous forest fire rolled through the Bitterroot Valley and wrought devastation and human tragedy in its wake. It tested everyone's strength, endurance, and resilience. Yet in the face of the chaos and anxiety, we pulled together to host our inaugural Horse of a Different Color artistic celebration. It was a great success. I am humbled by all who created a brief moment of joy amidst the turbulence of the fire.

The Lolo Peak Fire

This incredible photo taken by John Ashley says it all. Our horse Rocket peacefully grazes on the night of August 18, 2017 as the Lolo Peak fire explodes with high winds. Embers the size of our hands began to fall on Dunrovin, keeping us up all night to ensure that our irrigation system was working to prevent any embers from taking hold and causing a fire.

Welcoming Equine Refugees

New York Times bestselling author James Lee Burke's Heartwood Ranch is located in a narrow, dead-end valley near the Lolo Peak fire. He wisely sought to evacuate his horses to Dunrovin Ranch as soon as the fire moved in his direction. Luckily his small drainage was spared. He is back in his home, and his horses will return as soon as the dense smoke clears.

Fire Medicine Retreat

Dunrovin, in collaboration with Spirit Dance Equine Guided Coaching, was to present a Living with Passions Women's Retreat on September 8 through 10. However, the spirits have spoken, and they urge us to refocus our energies on healing from the Bitterroot Valley fires. Hence, we are inviting the community to come together for fire stories and to open our hearts and minds to accepting the fire and the new landscapes that it has shaped.  

Summer Brains

One of the many rewards of creating Dunrovin Ranch and DaysAtDunrovin is that it has brought some very interesting characters into my life. One such person is the humorist Washingtonian author and editor, Sheryl Madden, who helps me put out this magazine. Early this summer we got to laughing about "summer brains," when life finds us totally checked out. I love swapping stories with Sheryl.

Lessons from an Urban Squirrel

Hobie Hare is a thinker, an observer, and a thoughtful man who draws on many aspects of the wider world to inform his life. During a recent episode of chaos visited upon him due to no fault of his own, Hobie at first explodes in frustration only to be brought back to ground by an urban squirrel stealing his cherries. It's a story that rings true,  and one that holds a lesson for all of us.

The Osprey Breeding Season

What a dramatic summer for ospreys!

The Dunrovin ospreys were not the only ones to experience numerous challenges and losses during 2017. This summer, it seemed that the world of osprey web cameras was replete with sad stories of great horned owl attacks and taking chicks, of tiny chicks scooting too far to the edge of nests and falling out, of chick starvation because of heavy rains and turbid, swollen rivers, and of both male and female adults losing their mates and attempting to raise chicks on their own.

Dunrovin osprey season began with several unusual events involving Canada geese, snow, a raven, and the great horned owl, causing us to wonder whether the drama would ever end.

Harriet and Hal successfully laid and hatched three eggs, which we named Honk, Hero, and Hoot in honor of the three birds that brought so much drama to the season's beginning. At first things seemed to be going well for all three chicks.

Sibling rivalry soon reared its ugly head with the youngest chick, Hoot, barely getting enough after enduring relentless bonking from its older siblings. All three chicks were banded by the University of Montana scientists in late June, and hopes were high that Hoot would survive the next couple of critical weeks.

It was, however, not to be. A severe rain storm hit the area and churned the flooding waters of nearly all of the rivers. Instead of the usual six to eight fish daily, Hal was able to bring only a couple small fish to the nest for a few days. That was all it took to make the difference between life and death; and Hoot died.

The situation was even worse at the other osprey nest in our area, the Hellgate nest, where all four of the chicks that had hatched died. Since the killing storm, both Hal and Harriet have been relentlessly fishing and feeding their remaining two.

In a macabre and ironic repeat performance, the great horned owl returned to the nest in late August, knocked both Honk and Hero off of their perch in the middle of the night, landed on the nest and began to peck at the flattened and dried body of the last chick, Hoot - who had been named for the great horned owl's initial appearance during the spring. Such is the circle of life.

One thing the webcam has taught all of us is that no two osprey breeding seasons are alike and that ospreys live very challenging lives.


Out and About Western Montana

Hiking Again

What they say is true. You don't miss it until it is gone. For several years my left knee kept getting worse and worse, keeping me more and more confined as the pain of walking, let alone hiking, curtailed my activities. Last November I bit the bullet and went under the knife for new bionic knee. How grateful I am to be hiking again. I feel like a kid in the candy store, just marveling at pain-free movements!   

Horse of a Different Color - A Success In Spite of the Fire


The Lolo Peak fire raged within a mile of the ranch. One of our artists, Jeannette Wandler,  was unable to attend, dropping off her lovely handmade table centerpieces at Dunrovin before rushing off to help her family evacuate their home and herd of sheep. The dedicated owners of Caffé Firenze, John and Patty Stevens, evacuated their home and yet insisted that they would come to cater our dinner - and what a delicious, beautifully prepared and served meal it was. Our musician, Charla Bauman, and her husband were helping friends throughout the valley deal with the fire, then came out and put on an outstanding performance that had us all singing western songs. Photographer John Ashley stayed up late the night before to capture the drama and energy of the fire, yet was on top of his game throughout the day capturing incredible videos and photos of the event. Volunteer photographer, Carolyn Maier, came directly from assisting emergency services to the ranch to assist John and add her talents to capturing the colorful and intricate results of the artists' efforts. Dunrovin was in constant contact with emergency services to ensure that our event would in no way cause conflicts with traffic in and out of the area. In spite of the anxiety and long hours of dealing with fire-related issues, the Horse of a Different Color could not have been better. It was a most welcome relief from the tension of the fire and proved how hardy, resilient, and determined Montanans are in the face of fire. Friends of Dunrovin thank all involved with this inaugural Horse of a Different Color event to raise money for equine assisted therapy.  


Photographer John Ashley's video of the event tells the whole story!


Dunrovin Ranch owner, SuzAnne Miller, interviewed each artist while they were painting.


We also recorded the Painted Pony Parade that evening!

During the week before the Horse of a Different Color, our children's summer camp  participated
by painting horses and putting on a presentation for friends and family.

Meet the Artists

Congratulations and thank you to all of the artists for their participation. The first place winner of the People's Choice Contest was Cindy Laundrie Marshall and the second place winner was Lisa Gibson.


Julie T. Chapman painted Butte



Laura Christie painted Mystery



Lisa Gibson painted Chinook



Cindy Laundrie Marshall painted Smokey



Haddie Rumpel painted Razz



Jeannette Wandler made our colorful
table centerpieces with flying horses.
She was unable to paint a horse because of the fire.


Beautiful Horses Along the Bitterroot River!

Colorful Painted Ponies on Parade!


Meet Singer/Songwriter Charla Bauman


Many thanks for our caterer,  Caffé Firenze.

Dunrovin Dogs Continue to Hog the Spotlight

Red Heeler Puppy - Part 2

Mackenzie Cole continues the story of his friend Sam and the one-eyed female red heeler she adopted and named Puppy. Puppy had been rescued form a dismal situation. It would take patience, skill, and love to lure her out of her defensive shell and bring out the gentle soul waiting and wanting to bond. Luckily, Puppy fell into exactly the right home.  

A Pug by Any Other Name

There is one thing that our Ranch Manager, Kelli Kozak, makes very clear to everyone: her animals come first and foremost. She is devoted to a truly motley crew of three dogs and an off track thoroughbred horse. Her pug, Max, is perhaps the most motley of the crew and totally charms everyone he meets.

"Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our life whole." - Roger Caras

Gone, but NOT forgotten.

Dogs don't live long enough, for sure. Dunrovin has been the home of many other dogs before the ones you see running around under the web cameras. Two dogs that were Dunrovin in every way, in that they ran with the horses, chased the mice, and swam the rivers, were Jake and Keeto. They are buried down by the river with an engraved bronze plate on a tree. We miss them still!

Jake, AKA Mr. Wiggly Bottoms

Keeto, AKA Mr Mutant

Visit us onsite in Montana at Dunrovin Ranch.      Visit us online at DaysAtDunrovin.