Pocivaj U Miru

Ljubivoje Kljajić was born on July 16, 1935 in Belgrade, Serbia. He lived through the Nazi occupation of “Yugoslavia” during WWII as a little boy where he regularly encountered the bodies of dead soldiers strewn about their farm. He witnessed atrocities in the town of Kljajić during that time as the German soldiers tortured and killed villagers to make examples out of them. From the frying pan into the fire, he then grew into manhood under the despotic regime of Tito’s communist totalitarianism, and was imprisoned for his wrong think several times. He then escaped that country and came to America, sponsored by the Serbian Orthodox Church. They taught him English and helped him find work. He owned a business, and raised three sons, and adopted two little girls later.

My life has been a cakewalk compared to what he saw and lived through. He is the singular inspiration behind the existence of Ljubomir Farms.

Pocivaj U Miru


Visit from friends and more work done

My high school friend Rebekah came to Ljubomir to check out the facility. I took her and her husband to dinner at a super cool steak house on top of our mountain called Marysville House.

She’s a dentist, and having a friend who is a dentist always reminds me of this, because, well I am a guy and everything is movie related somehow.

Get it? Wyatt Earp meeting his friend, Doc Holiday, the dentist, for the first time.

Anyway, it was the Independence Day weekend, so we did the usual fireworks thing or whatever. But we also went on a trolley ride through Downtown Helena “Last Chance Tours” where it hailed so bad on the tour we all had to huddle in the middle. That was weird. But I got a pretty nice natural photo of my wife while waiting for the hail to stop.

I also finally got around to finishing a couple of ranch related projects because the weather eventually let up for a half second. The same Orthodox kid who helped me put up a huge chunk of my fencing came over and helped me build this hay loft -slash – dog house – slash kid fort inside the goat barn.

And then he helped me finish the roof for the chicken/duck run.

I also got a pretty good photo of the sunset after a hard rain.

And this guy was about 45 meters from my back porch.

Maybe he had to go to the bathroom. The construction on the main house slowed way down because of weather, but its supposed to be pretty nice for a few days. Take care.

Birthday and Fathers Day

Our tiny little mission parish in Helena got a visiting priest, Fr Michael Shepherd, on loan to us for the summer. He is on break from the seminary.

He encouraged me to try my hand as a reader, so I read the hours a few weeks ago. Now, this may seem mundane or easy, but you actually have to SING the hours in what is basically a dialogue between you, the kantors, and the priest. Someone snapped a photo. That’s me, way in the back off the photo standing at the lectern.

I read the 6th, 7th and 9th hours, which are rote prayers before vespers. It took about 35 minutes to get through them and my throat was pretty sore.

Then it was Father’s Day, and I did get some love and well wishes from my wife and children. For some reason, I look shell shocked surrounded by all of them and their gifts.

I also BBQd a tri-tip and had a drink for fathers sake. I stood out there over the fire and thought about my own dad, (Pocivaj u miru-that’s “rest in peace” in Serbian). I think he would have liked it here.

My 48th birthday comes fast on the heels of Father’s Day, and for that, I got to see the foundation footings on the house finally get poured.

Plus I got a pretty cool set of tool cabinets and work bench.

We went to Missoula to pick up a used fireplace insert that will be in the great room in the log home. Hows that for an exciting birthday!

And tonight, the day after my birthday, the house was a mess upstairs, and usually we would try to get it all straightened. But we decided to hang out with the kids outside wile I fired up the grill again and roasted Irish bangers. Mychael looked pretty cute in her t-shirt and jeans, so I told her to smile and I snapped a shot.

Here’s to another a year, having spent this one–my first in Montana–has been great.

94 7.3L IDI F250 is the new “Ljubomir One”

This post will mostly make sense for die hard Ford truck fans.

I traded in the 2004 King Ranch F350 DRW for a much older, ninth generation F250. It has the legendary 7.3L “pre-powerstroke” IDI motor. This motor was discontinued at the 1994 1/2 mark. This one is an early 1994.

I did this for several reasons. In no particular order:

  1. I always loved the ninth generation body style, and this one–4WD, 7.3L extra cab, long bed has been my “dream truck” since they came out.
  2. The dually, although incredible for its room, its stable towing platform and its creature comforts was proving to be a bit too much truck out here. Our little dirt road, with its hairpin turns is impassable at some points when the outer wheel gets hung up on a snow drift. The thing weighs almost 9000 lbs empty and once it stops in the snow, its done.
  3. Also, the ’04 was powered by the ever-finicky 6.0L, with its looming EGR fail. The truck had never been modified (EGR Delete) to prevent this problem, so it was only a matter of time before it failed under the extreme and brutal conditions that I was asking it to do ranch work.
  4. The King Ranch was worth more in trade than the retail asking price for the 94, so I actually got some cash back.
  5. In a few years, when the oldest boy is ready, we will tear it down and rebuild it as a father-son restoration project from the ground up, and then he can have it.
  6. Mychael likes the sound of a loud diesel engine. She says it sounds like “her big hunky husband.”

I have not seen a 25 year old truck this clean in a while, so I took the opportunity. It is not without its problems, and little things I didn’t like. Here is what it looked like the day I bought it.

No tool box, pizza cutter 235s, and a few other things. The dashboard looked like the San Andreas fault line. The stereo display was dead. Those super heavy duty bumpers are awesome, but they have severe rust.

First thing I did was get some 33s and a tool box.

The truck has a 2″ lift kit that someone clearly installed in the past, so these fit no problem. That, of course made the truck too high for my slight little wife to climb into comfortably, so I got these:

The busing that holds the drivers side mirror stable wore out to the point where it could not be tightened. This meant you had to adjust it EVERY TIME you got in the truck because it would move. Annoying, so I replaced it. Couldn’t find the exact one, so I just replaced both.

Old one:

New one:

New stereo, demonstrating the “show the song you are currently listening to from your iPhone” feature (“Southern Voice” Tim McGraw).

I decided to practice restoring the Ranch Hand accessories it came with by doing a rattle can job on the under body skid plate. Here’s how that went.

The truck was obviously in an accident at some point, and the only damage it sustained was in the section below the extra cab window, on the drivers side. The repair did not hold, and it shows.

Rust, pitting, and no pinstripe. It really sucks because the rest of the body is nearly perfect, for a 25 year old truck. I will take it in to see if its worth it to fix.

I need to order a new rear center cap for the passenger side. Its missing.

Next, I am either going to have the bumpers sandblasted and powder coated, or buy new ones, THEN do that, and sell them to recover some of the cost.

I’m also going to do a roll on bed liner. The transmission linkage needs to be adjusted because sometimes when you go to start it, the starter grinds at you until you put the shifter in exactly the right place. I also have a trouble code from the transmission. I think its the speed sensor. The battery cables are discolored right at the terminal. One thing I learned from last year’s winter fun (at -40 degrees) is that the electrical system is the Achilles heel of a diesel in the cold. So those cables will be totally replaced.

But here’s what she looks like this afternoon.

Both Kathryn and David approve.

Later dudes.

Basic specs and history of the 7.3L IDI

Groundbreaking has begun

The final phase of a dream that was hatched in the mind of my father, probably seventy years ago, is finally underway. The excavator broke ground on what will be the walkout basement and foundation for the main house.

And, coincidentally, the entire log kit for the home was delivered on the same day.

Its kind of weird to see your house delivered and placed in a pile on your property. I tried to peek into the crates and imagine where the various pieces go.

In the middle of all the digging and log piling, I managed to get some more work done, like finishing up the entrance gate to the round pen and placing decorative wagon wheels on the entrance(s) to the main pasture.

Speaking of the round pen, I even carved out some time to exercise the horses and take Bo (my son David’s horse) for a ride around the ranch.

Also, as if my life isn’t crazy enough while managing this project, I have started my private practice and I have slowly been picking up contract work. This means, occasionally I get to be a travelling psychologist around western Montana. Mychael is travelling as a PRN nurse as well, so we get to go to Great Falls when her work and my satellite clinic days match up. I took her to a place called the Celtic Cowboy while we were there last. The pub food is great and the people were cool too.

Once all the logs were unloaded, and the digging done, I sat with my boys and dreamed of what the house is going to look like. They plotted and schemed the next thing they are going to make me mad about.

The forms will be poured Monday, then the trenches for the plumbing and sewage lines to the well and septic. Then the slab and the backfill. AFTER THAT, the log stacking guy will start building. Stay tuned…

Its been a while! Here’s an update.

We. noticed the last post we did was for the Saint Patrick’s Day parade, so we figured it was time to get caught up. We spent Pashca (Easter) at the Serbian Orthodox Church in Butte, and as always, the food and the company was spectacular. Butte is pretty far away, but its always worth it.

AS ALWAYS, the youngest boy looks like he would rather be chewing on rusty razor blades than pose for a picture. There is no way to get that one to smile for the camera.

The super coolest part of that day was that Mychael was present at church when a visitor fell ill and needed medical attention. Mychael, being an emergency room nurse was able to be with the woman to make sure she was OK.

I finally took the biggest plunge of my life and started my private practice. I quickly learned that if I want to see patients who have insurance, I would be filling out paperwork until I wanted to set myself on fire. Here I am demonstrating the thickness of ONE SUCH PACKET, and I have started four others.

The best part is, I now can make my own hours, see the kinds of patients I want to see, and I am thinking about dressing in the standard issue “tacticool” attire that all retirees are required to wear for work.

I might skip the M-4 though. But Montana is an open carry state.

Mother’s Day was a double header because it was our oldest daughters big debut as a butterfly in the Queen City Ballet rendition of “Alice in Wonderland:”

I put an ad in the program, which came out pretty nice.

We also filled up Mychael’s charm necklace, which now has five names on it, one for each kid. That was the Mother’s Day part.

Around the farm, spring is trying really hard to get started. We have a ton of projects that need to get done, including the main house build. The excavation and foundation pouring has been delayed several times because of weather. But, I have managed to get a couple things completed.

I built a round pen for training my horses.

My favorite part of that job was pounding the pointed posts into the ground with my tractor bucket.

I got a new puppy, Lovac (LOW-vatz). It’s Serbian for “Hunter.”

And ten-year-old girl is learning how to drive the four wheeler to help out around here.

I also fenced in about 7 1/2 acres of land, and had some help from a son of one of the Orthodox families we have met here in town. That project took about a week to complete. Over three thousand feet of wire stretched (four times, because its a four strand fence). We had to stretch it over some pretty rough terrain, through some thick woods, and rocky stuff as well. The auger had a lot of trouble with decomposing granite (most of my property). I used my tractor by putting a piece of electrical conduit through the three point hitch on the back to unspool wire, which sort of worked.

That last one is the farthest corner post from the house. Its about 2/3 of a mile away.

I also fenced in another 1 1/2 acres with woven wire for the goats. If you have never worked with that stuff (and tried to stretch it tight–even with a come along) I do not recommend trying to do it by yourself. One roll weighs about two hundred pounds.

Got it done, though.

Last year, the really crappy roof I basically screwed together on the chicken run flew to pieces the minute the wind started. So I tore it off, and started building a roofing system to hold pretty much whatever I put on it. Those main beams are twenty foot long 2x6s, and I had no help for that one either. Should be done tomorrow.


Finally, I do farm SOME of the work out. This new horse shelter was built this week by  Pole Barns -R- Us, right here in Helena. Just finished today. The paint is a perfect color match to the main barn. It was a reasonable price, and it is built like a tank. It will be here for my grandkids.

Here is the link to my private practice.

Treasure State Psychological Services

Pole Barns -R- Us is a pretty small operation. His number is (406) 439-4800.

Hope everyone is well. We will have pictures up of the digging and house building as soon as they start!


Renaissance Man

When I was growing up, the gold standard, at least in the circles my family associated with was to at least try to be “Rennaisance” man. In practice, this is why I was enrolled in accordion, auto shop, baseball, Boy Scouts, Air Force ROTC, etc. I took classes in theater as well playing sports. I learned about classical music, literature, and they even had a class at my Christian school called “outdoorsmanship.” I have filed patents for a couple of gadgets. I wrote an interactive CD-ROM software to teach kids about orchestral music in college.

My dad firmly believed that a man should be able to change the oil, make a blackbery cobbler in a dutch oven on an open fire, pitch a perfect game, shim a door and then jump right into the tenor part of Handels “Messiah.” All of which I have done.

The idea was that if I showed even the slightest interest in something, my parents would at least try to let me explore it. (Although the accordion is an instrument popular in the old country, and my dad kind of insisted on that one). They didn’t always force me to finish what I started, but they made it clear that rounding out my interests would make me a more interesting person, with a deeply fulfilling inner life. I gravitate toward some, and others I thought they were interesting, but never pursued them past a novice level. I would let reader (or people who know me) decide if it worked.

There were a few of these things that I could just never get into. Namely. ballet and poetry. Both make me want to fall out of my chair and drop dead. However, my oldest daughter is shaping up to have to have a talent for the former, and is actually pretty spindly and petite, like a ballerina. Plus, she’s a girl and everything.

RIght now, she is slated to be a butterfly in the Queens City Ballet Company’s performance of “Alice in Wonderland” here in Helena, and if you have never had a child in a high-end ballet troup, its a pretty greulling schedule. They also have at least one “observation” night where you can watch a rehersal. (Usually, you don’t get to watch, because it is distracting). So, I went, to be the supportive dad. Me and Kahtryn, the one year old sat together.

As you can see, I am still having trouble containing my enthusiasm for the craft. But, I have to admit, there is some raw talent there, even if I try to be totally objective.

Mychael has a physician friend who, when you ask him “what made you want to become a doctor?” he replies “my mom made me.”

Columnist and talk show host Dennis Prager is also an amateur symphony conductor. He gets the opportunity to go all over the world and conduct orchestras as a guest, and there is one question he always asks the group as they begin rehersals. Kind of an ice breaker. He is standing in front of the most accomplished musicians in the world and asks “how many of you are here because your parents made you take [trumpet/violin/cello/whatever] lesssons and forced you to practice for hours?”

Almost all of them raise their hands. And I think about this in a world where these art forms, and these disciplines are fading from view and not appreciated. How do you handle this?

By the way, I thought this was a funny out take from our family photo session.

Not really sure what’s going on there.

The trenches of insanity!

Sun came out today and I was able to dig my way to the back gate of the horse pasture.

Now I can get to them to feed without feeling like I ran a marathon walking across a quarter mile of waist deep packed powder.

Has it finally broke?

Not sure if this is the breaking of winter into spring, but we have some really nice weather over the last few days.

The snow is starting to melt really fast and i’ve been able to start digging the escape trenches of sanity. Like this one to the external laundry room door:

Or this one to the barbeque, which is finally starting to make its location known:

We also had a chance to go to our new favorit barper shop, Dundees at Reeders Alley.

Mychael tells David, who is only there on Saturdays what she wants for our David’s hair:

Afterwards, we got a quick snapshot our front. Reeders Alley has a long and interesting history.

This is the beard product he recommended and Mychael picked the scnet she likes. She’t grown quite fond of burying her nose in my neck and smelling it.

Here’s a picture of Readers Alley in the summer. And a link to their site, with history.

CW11B3 Reeder’s Alley Helena Montana MT US. Image shot 1000. Exact date unknown.

History of Reeders Alley

A little military humor

This one is for my readers and friends who can relate. Six months since I retried, I’ve come up with a list of things I like about not being in the army anymore:

I can go on vacation without having to prove to my boss that I have reliable transportation, insurance and enough money in case of emergencies.

I can go outside with no hat on

I can go outside and carry things in my right hand

I don’t HAVE to get a haircut

No one calls me at 0400 to come pee in a cup

No one approaches me to “thank me for my service”

I don’t have to stand up when my boss enters the building for the first time that day

I am never “red” on my dental readiness category

If my shoulder hurts, I just skip push ups that day, and I don’t need a doctors note (profile)

I never sit in profile scrub meetings where privacy act and HIPAA protected information is discussed so the whole unit can hear

I don’t have to defend my parking space like it’s the most valuable strategic piece of real estate on the planet

If I am sick, I just call work and tell them so

My employer does not issue me a bunch of equipment, which I store in my garage for two years and then tell me its “dirty” when I try to turn it back in

My next promotion is not dependent upon how fast I can run or how well I can put a 5.56mm hole in a piece of paper 300 meters away

The speed limits in the civilian world are reasonable

I don’t spend half my life trying to mitigate risk

I never find myself in a room full of other field grade officers being yelled at by a corporal on a power trip because he is “in charge”

When I document a clinical decision I made, I do not get an email from some non-medical provider in the basement telling me I did it wrong.

People who sit behind windows are friendly and eager to help me with my problem

There are no “off limits establishments”

My commander is not hitting on my wife while I am deployed

I don’t have to tell every other person I meet my social security number

I never go amber on “suicide prevention,” “SHARP,” or “EO.”

I never go into a big room full of people and we all get six shots in the arm on the way out

(That’s my rack)