I found my first rock in July/August of 2020. It was simple, gold and had a sweet saying on it. On the back it said keep or rehide, post pic on Facebook – Great Falls Rocks. SO a week went by and I finally went on the site it talked about and then I got hooked.
Such a simple thing made me smile, I thought – I could do the same thing and that one rock could possibly create thousands of smiles. Because that one rock has lead to me (and my kiddos) creating over 100 rocks, and those hopefully have lead to more people creating these rocks to make even more smiles.
Painting rocks has created more adventures! We have seriously gone to more places just because of painting rocks – so we can hide them. Or we see that rocks have been hidden in certain places, so we go to that park to see if we can find them, and if we do, we will hide ours.
Some of the posts that have been done when people find the rocks, “My baby found this rock today, he loved it so he took it home” “So excited to find our first rock at Gibson Park” “Just found this Gem – THANK YOU!” This rock community is so full of fun, inspiration, and kind words!
We aren’t artists, we found some paint pens and some acrylic spray and now the kids and I have fun snowy day art projects when we are bored! They are also a fun cheap gift for kids to be able to give artwork to their teachers/grandparents/friends that they are proud of! And they are so excited when they find them!
So I wanted to thank everyone who painted rocks that we have gotten to find! I hope one day we can all get together and paint!
I work for a historic house museum…it is as cool as it sounds. The basic information of The Moss Mansion can be found with a general google search. It is a single family home built in the early 1900s by P.B Moss. This man helped build Billings, MT into what it is today. You could even go on a tour of the home and learn so much more. However, there are a couple things you would never know unless you spent some quality time within the home.
We do not have secret passageways…but I guarantee there is plenty of other details you have never noticed.
When you walk into the Moss Mansion it can be overwhelming. The intricate details on the walls, ceilings, floors, furniture can be a lot to take in. There is just so much to look at that people often miss the small details throughout the house. Things such as lizards carved into the doorknobs. A bathroom sink painted with gold on the bottom of it. Old man wind’s face carved into wood, tucked into the side of a china hutch. My suggestion? Keep coming back. You will always find something new!
We are completely self-funded.
People see big, huge fancy mansion, and assume a lot about money. They think the family must have left money to upkeep the estate, that we receive money from the state or city, or that we have secret stash of gold. The truth of the matter is that we are 100% self-funded. What does that mean? It means every cent of our budget comes from hard work from staff, board members and volunteers. We generate our revenue through tours, rentals, amazing events, and a handful of grants. It is never easy, but it is always fun.
A lot of our collection is never put-on display, and it is the most interesting items.
We have a whole collection of objects located on the third floor in a climate-controlled room we have named the vault. Most of these objects are original to the Moss family. Items such as clothing, photographs, schoolwork, even journals and business logs. These items are some of the most precious in our collection, because they give us a peak at the Moss family and their personalities. The Moss women were quite witty and funny, and very smart. The Moss men were trouble makers, but very kind. Everyone who knew them loved them.
The third floor is not as cool as it sounds…mostly
The third floor of the Moss Mansion has always been off limits to the public, for a multitude of reasons. People often try to bribe us to see it. When people are not allowed to see something, they always want to. The third floor is actually a little…underwhelming…it is just work and office space, where we keep all our collection items, and where we store a lot of seasonal event items. While that sounds very mundane there is a cool aspect of this floor. There is a ladder that goes into an attic space above. For a long while they were pulling stuff out of there. They found little toy boats, tiles from the roof, old screen doors. All of that has been taken out and replaced with insulation. However, what does remain is all the signatures from the Moss children. They wrote their name in chalk all over the beams of the attic. Within this attic is another ladder that leads you to the roof. Fun fact about the roof…it’s flat!
Yup…There are Ghosties, but they are friendly
The Moss has a lot of wild ghost stories associated with it. Talks of a little girl giggling on the staircase, hearing doors open and close, footsteps when no one is there. The list could go on. We have been investigated by the Montana Paranormal Society on more than one occasion, and they caught quite a few cool EVPs. They saw figures pass in the night, and more than one investigator had some great personal experiences. However, no one has ever had a bad supernatural experience in the Mansion. All have been harmless and in passing. More than once students have sworn someone got into their selfie with them. Ghosts are just like us, they are just still trying to enjoy the house. Though I would not complain if they scared people occasionally.
Bonus Secret: History is cool, and so is the staff.
When people think Historic House Museum staff their minds immediately go to older grey haired cranky cat ladies telling you to not breath on anything. Now I am not going to say we aren’t cat ladies (seriously…we have wanted a Moss cat for years) but we aren’t old, and we aren’t cranky. We are just a group of people who love our job and love the Mansion we work in. It is like our second home, and we make ourselves at home. We often prank each other, some of us lay on the floor when we need a brain break, and we have piles of snacks and drinks to get us through our workday. We dress up for every occasion, often wear slippers when in our offices, and have to walk down four flights of stairs just to use the restroom. Think all this sounds awesome? You should probably volunteer. Trust us…we are fun to hang out with.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone in different ways; caregivers, patients and families alike are all experiencing new types of stress, grief and loss. This complicated grief has inspired many members of the community to develop new programs that are designed to meet this need. Here is a sampling of some of the free virtual support groups available in your area.
Did you spend as much time as you could outside last year to avoid dealing with indoor COVID-19 protocols? I know I did. I’m not just talking about parking lot fitness classes and eating takeout on your patio—if you spent extra time hiking, camping, and exploring local parks in 2020, you’re not alone. According to Yellowstone Public Radio, last year was a record-breaking year for Montana State Parks, with over a 30% increase in visitation.
One of best things about living in Montana is that the many types of ecosystems here are home to an incredible amount of wildflowers. Over 2500 species of flowering plants can be found in the state! That’s an overwhelming number, and the purpose of this article is not to help you decide which variety of lupine you encountered on your hike. For that, I’m going to direct you to a botanist. But I think that being able to identify a dozen types of wildflowers is manageable, don’t you? Each flower listed has a short description and a link to its page in the free, state-run Montana Field Guide database if you want more detailed information.
But first, real quick: Please remember to practice leave-no-trace hiking, don’t pick flowers without permission from the landowner, and definitely DO NOT eat things you find in the woods, as many plants have poisonous lookalikes.
Bitterroot, Lewisisa rediviva
This list would be incomplete without including Montana’s state flower. These unusual-looking wildflowers can be found in either a pale, whitish color (pictured) or a bright pink. Look for these around Western Montana in late spring—they don’t bloom for very long!
Keep an eye out for these small, two-toned anemones. They have pale centers with striking pinks or reds with on the edges. True to their name, these Cliff Anemones can sometimes can be found on rocky ledges. They are members of the Buttercup family and a relative to the Pasqueflower listed below.
If you already have some background in plant identification, your first reaction might be to call this an “Indian Paintbrush,” but did you know that Montana is home to twenty-two different species of paintbrush? The Wyoming state flower, castilleja linariaefolia (common name: Wyoming Indian Paintbrush), is one of the best known types. That said, recognizing a plant as a “paintbrush” will probably be all you need.
Remember the beginning of the article when I mentioned different types of Lupine? There are over 200 species of Lupine worldwide, and seventeen species have entries in the Montana Field Guide. The page for Silvery Lupine, which is found all over the state, is linked below.
You might hear this plant referred to as a “Prairie Crocus.” A close relative to this gorgeous purple blossom, the American Pasqueflower (Pulsatilla hirsutissima) is the state flower of South Dakota. The “pasque” in the name may be a reference to their early spring appearance.
Aren’t these squat purple flowers cute? Depending on what you use to identify this plant, you may be scared away from getting too close! Another common name for this plant is “skunk leaf.” These plants are common throughout the western United States and grow at higher elevations.
Montana has both Plains and Brittle Pricklypear. These short cactuses can be painful to accidentally step on, but aren’t the yellow flowers beautiful?
Note: While the image above is an example of a Pricklypear blossom, the I am unable to determine if it is from from a species of Pricklypear that grows in Montana. There are around a hundred species within the genus Opuntia.
Montana is home to a couple types of wild rose, but the Wood’s Rose is a common one found all over the state. If you’ve been out hiking in the fall, you might recognize the red fruit produced by a rose plant, which are called “rosehips”.
Would you believe that the beautiful flower pictured in the header is actually a noxious weed? Carduus nutans, or Musk Thistle, was introduced to North America in the 1800s. It is now commonly found on roadsides throughout the United States. Musk Thistles can grow up to six feet tall!
If you just can’t get enough of Montana’s wildflowers, below are some of my favorite resources. Remember that while these can be fun to use, always check with a professional if you need to identify a specific plant for a special use. Additionally, while I’ve tried to make all this information as accurate as possible, please let me know if you notice an error.
Are you bored at home? Having a tough time finding activities for your kids? Or, do you need internet access to WFH or take online classes?
Here are the top 5 ways the Great Falls Public Library can help!
Watch these interactive Kids’ Place videos with your own kids, your grandkids, nieces or nephews, or even your best friends’ kids. This is a fun activity that you can do in person, or even on Zoom. There are several links to other fun online activities available on the Library’s website at greatfallslibrary.org/kids-place.
2. Sign up for a Library card if you haven’t already done so. It’s quick and easy!
3. Subscribe to the Wowbrary newsletter. This newsletter gives you the first pick at new books arriving at the Library each week. Watch your TBR pile grow without spending a dime! The Library also has a great selection of audiobooks and DVDs. After placing your holds, pick them up through the new drive-up window. You don’t even have to leave the comfort of your own car to visit the Library now!
4. Of course, you can still visit the Library IRL, just remember to wear a mask, and give other patrons some space. This is not too much of an issue for us bibliophiles. In fact, we are naturals at it. You can find the current Library hours here.
5. The Library also offers free access to the Internet. You can now check out a free hot spot from the Library and take it home with you. Or, if you prefer you may also visit the Library to use the Wi-Fi for free in a quiet space during business hours. Some folks have even parked outside the building to use the Wi-Fi from the safety of their cars, or when the Library is closed to patrons.
One more thing…
Maybe you are happy as can be tucked in at home in your comfy chair. You might have a cup of tea and your Corona puppy at your feet, or your Covid cat on your lap. New books are arriving every few days from your favorite online bookstore. Okay, maybe that’s just me. If you can relate, consider sending a donation to the Library Foundation. And, you don’t even need to leave your warm, comfy home to do so. Your gift will help support the children, elderly, and other vulnerable folks in the community by providing free books, free internet access, and many other resources.
This year the Library Foundation is fundraising to buy a new Bookmobile to deliver books around Great Falls and the surrounding communities, once it is safe to do so again. Students at Great Falls High created this great PSA to support the Bookmobile Campaign. They are so creative! Enjoy!
What are other ways that you have used the Library to help cope during the pandemic? Please feel free to share in the comments section below.