Holiday Greetings to All

We once again greet you for the Christmas season after skipping 2004.  For those of you who were not aware of it, we spent the end of 2004 and beginning of 2005 in New Zealand and Australia. Molly carried out her student teaching in New Zealand in the fall of 2004, and our family left on December 11th to meet up with her when she finished there. The whole family then toured New Zealand for four weeks before flying to Sydney, Australia for five days and returning home on January 13th.  We went from 90 degree weather in Sydney to -30 degrees on our arrival in Billings.

Having sold a large portion of the cow herd before leaving for New Zealand, calving season was relatively easy this year especially with  Damian and Troy both home for the winter.  Troy did all the night time calving and also made supper every night.  Darlene worked again through the tax season until May 1st, and no one is sure what Mike and Damian did.

The rain of May and June, which started with 14" of snow, was a welcome change from the drought of the past years, but it was a struggle getting any farming or haying completed.  It did bring lots of grass and the few remaining cows lived in hog heaven.  The winter wheat crop however was only marginally better than the drought years for as Mike says, "Wheat doesn't like wet feet" and the snow in May apparently caused more damage than realized. The rain spicket turned off at the beginning of July, and by the end of August it was dry again.  The moisture didn't return until October 3rd again bringing snow, so winter wheat seeding was exceptionally late continuing into the beginning of hunting season which was pretty devastating.

Mike, Darlene, Molly and Damian all managed to meet up with Jason and his caving partners again in the Bob Marshall Wilderness for a six-day horse pack trip. We again packed in rope and extra food for the cavers.  After we left they discovered a new cave that they are all excited about, so another trip is already in the works for next year.

The big event in our family was the arrival of a grand daughter on November 11th for Darlene's birthday.  Athena Ballensky arrived by c-section so Darlene was able to be at the birth and see her birthday present.  Mike and Damian left for elk hunting in western Montana the day following her return.  Troy met them there for four days of hunting but no success.  Then everyone returned home for Thanksgiving week with Molly and one of her roommates arriving from Colorado.  The family will all be spending Christmas week in California.

Jason's single life is over.  He got married in April, bought a townhouse in June, and he and his wife just had a baby daughter in November.  He is still working for Qualcomm in San Diego, California but has moved into research and development.  He and his wife Claudia whose parents live in Germany are planning an official wedding in Greece this coming summer, so another trip is in the works for us.

Troy is still in wildland fire fighting. He accepted a permanent BLM position in  Pocatello, Idaho beginning April 1st where he was the assistant engine boss.  He traveled to Arizona and southern Utah to fight fires in addition to his own region.  He now is qualified as an engine boss and will be applying for that position.

Molly came home from New Zealand and was home only two weeks before leaving to be a nanny for one of our Minnesota hunter's familys staying at Big Sky for a month.  It was pretty rough on her babysitting in the morning, snow boarding in the afternoon, and then choosing between the hot tub, swimming pool, exercise room or just lying in front of the fireplace for the evening! After returning home she started substitute teaching in Miles City and waitressing, and in the summer became a life guard again.  She left at the beginning of August for her current home in Rifle, Colorado.  She has accepted a junior high math teaching position in New Castle, Colorado and enjoys the area.

Damian moved back home in September of 2004.  He had graduated from Western Dakota Tech in the spring of 2004 with a carpentry degree and spent the summer laying cement in Gillette, Wyoming.  He currently works with Mike on the ranch (and hunting) while relieving Darlene of most outside work.

We wish all of you a prosperous new year with a continued appreciation for all our blessings.


Have a Happy Holiday Season and a Great New Year!

Darlene and Mike

2001 Christmas Letter
2002 Christmas Letter
2003 Christmas Letter