Beth Anne Austein

Host and Producer

Beth Anne Austein has been spinning tunes on the air (The Folk Show, Dancing With Tradition, Freeforms), as well as recording, editing and mixing audio for Montana Public Radio and Montana PBS, since the Clinton Administration. She’s jockeyed faders or "fixed it in post” for The Plant Detective; Listeners Bookstall; Fieldnotes; Musicians Spotlight; The Write Question; Storycorps; Selected Shorts; Bill Raoul’s music series; orchestral and chamber concerts; lecture series; news interviews; and outside producers’ programs about topics ranging from philosophy to ticks.

Ways To Connect

Roger Wollstadt

"By the 1880s, bison numbers had dropped from millions to scant hundreds. Few people in the densely populated East viewed the coming extinction of the bison as an ecological and cultural loss. Naturalist William Temple Horaday was one of the first people to call for the conservation of bison, along with his friend, Theodore Roosevelt. Hornaday, chief taxidermist at the Smithsonian Institute, was outraged that the slaughter of bison was allowed to occur.

Flickr user, Nuuuuuuuuuuul

Modern interest in mistletoe as a possible treatment for cancer began in the 1920s. For centuries, it had been used as something of a cure-all, but when mistletoe's immunostimulant properties were confirmed, the Druids' reverence for the healing power of this parasite got some scientific validation. Since then, lots of studies have been done in Germany, where many cancer patients augment conventional treatment with mistletoe extracts. In the lab, it kills certain cancer cells, while boosting the number and activity of white blood cells.

Annick Smith's dog Bruno "rode shotgun" as Smith drove from Montana to the Midwest, visiting her ninety-seven-year-old mother in Chicago. That trip inspired a memoir featuring Bruno as a central character. Smith cites poet Mark Doty's thoughts on writing about animals: doing so is an attempt to "bring something of the inchoate into the world of the represented." The Pima chant, "Dog Song," begins at nightfall with a dog watching butterfly wings fall from the sky:

"Our songs begin at nightfall

Clay Scott

Susan Sanford's father pushed her to leave the family's isolated farm in north-central Montana so she could experience the world. After her father's death, Susan and her husband Brian return to the farm, and, in a place so remote that the nearest store is a five hour round trip, discover beauty in small things.

(Broadcast: "Mountain West Voices," 12/22/14. Listen weekly on the radio on Mondays, 3:00 p.m., or via podcast.)

Michael Marsolek talks with Tom Bensen and Matt Anglen of the Missoula Cultural Council about First Night Missoula 2014, the largest annual performing arts festival in Missoula. For the 21st year in a row, on December 31, venues downtown and at the University of Montana and Southgate Mall will hum from noon till midnight with activities for all ages.

Bill Gallagher, former Montana Public Service Commission Chairman
Montana Public Service Commission

Bill Gallagher had a key vote in the MT Public Service Commission's decision to approve NorthWestern Energy's proposal to buy 11 of Montana's hydroelectric dams from PPL Montana. How did he make his decision?

(Broadcast: "Home Ground Radio," 12/21/14. Listen weekly on the radio, Sundays at  11:10 a.m., or via podcast.)

Greg rolls out a list of his favorite half-dozen new and classic baking books:

1. Rose Levy Beranbaum: "The Baking Bible"

2. "Maida Heatter's Book of Great Desserts"

3. Dominique Ansel: "The Secret Recipes"

Flickr user, free photos

Mistletoe, a parasitic plant that grows on a wide range of host trees, shows up on every continent but Antarctica - and on each continent, it's been used in folk medicine. From ancient Greece into twentieth-century America, it was prescribed for epilepsy. Over the centuries, healers have used mistletoe to treat arthritis, menstrual problems, miscarriage (through controlling bleeding), hypertension, and pain - and that's just the short list. It's prescribed frequently in Europe. But don't try any of these uses without a trained health practitioner, because mistletoe can be toxic.

Flickr user, Seabamirum

Their cryptic brown and white coloration makes ruffed grouse hard to see - often, the first sign you'll have of one is the deep sound of wings flapping, followed by an eruption of feathers nearby. A classic sound of spring in areas where ruffed grouse live is the booming sound of the male grouse, drumming atop a rock or log or mound, simultaneously announcing and defending its 6-10 acre territory. The sound has been described as "an engine trying to start."

"My grandmother has no fingerprints. Her hands are lean, soft on the back, and wrinkled.

Clay Scott

Saint Marie, in a remote part of northeastern Montana, is the site of an Air Force base that was shut down in 1968. Now 500 people live in a town that was designed to house 12,000. Nine out of ten houses are boarded up and choked with weeds. But in this setting - winter temperatures drop to minus 40, the nearest store is 20 miles away, and one resident admits it looks like a war zone - there is a thriving community of hardy souls intent on being left alone.

Clay Scott

A visit to the Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana, where students immerse themselves in Salish language and culture at the ground-breaking Nkwusm School.

(Broadcast: "Mountain West Voices," 12/15/14. Listen weekly on the radio on Mondays, 3:00 p.m., or via podcast.)

Flickr user, Kim

Greg and Jon discuss Greg's recipe for crisp, gluten-free chocolate chip cookies, inspired by Ruth Wakefield's original Toll House "chocolate crunch" cookie recipe. Brown rice flour, tapioca starch and potato starch substitute for wheat flour. "For any chocolate chip cookie, you must refrigerate the dough at least overnight," Greg commands. "It's the magic of chemistry at work in your refrigerator."

Flickr user, Audrey

Passionflower is a beautiful climbing vine native to the Americas whose corona reminded people of the crown of thorns worn by Jesus during his crucifixion. It's a sedative, milder than valerian or kava - often, you'll find it used in combination with other calming herbs like lemon balm. Passionflower calms the nervous system, reduces anxiety, and soothes insomnia and muscle spasms. Scientists think it increases levels of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. Don't use passionflower if you're pregnant or breastfeeding; it's a uterine stimulant that can over-sedate your baby.

For a state in the richest nation in the world, it's an awkward truth that many Montanans go hungry. In Helena, approximately fourteen percent of residents face hunger. Host Brian Kahn talks about it with Ann Waickman, Executive Director of Helena Food Share.

Who comes to Helena Food Share?   

"We really try to never have to come in here, but we usually end up here a few times a year.  I haven't been paid in three weeks and my wife's job just won't cover all our bills."  -HFS Client

Flickr user, Ian Jacobs

"It was fall, and my favorite heirloom house plant had outgrown its container, so I replanted it in a larger pot. To do this, I used some potting soil that had been sitting in sacks in the backyard. Soon after, the house was teeming with little flies. I knew they came from the potted plant, but I had no idea what they were. It turns out they were dark-winged fungus gnats, which feed off fungus in potting soil. These persistent little insects have followed me from one rental house to another over the past two years.

Mark Gorseth

Mark Gibbons began his "relationship with booze" at "watering holes, western bars, those dens of iniquity, as integral a part of the western landscape as horses or teepees...Fueled by alcohol late into the night, bars surely held unpredictable wildness, danger and vice; but in small western towns, the bar was the social center of the community." Poet Ed Lahey recalls a working-class Butte bar in "The Ballad of the Board of Trade Bar:"

Clay Scott

80-year-old leather worker Pauline Olson of Augusta, Montana, talks about God, deer hunting, and a life of struggling to keep afloat along the Rocky Mountain Front.

(Broadcast: "Mountain West Voices," 12/8/14. Listen weekly on the radio, Mondays at 3:00 p.m., or via podcast.)

Clay Scott

Mountain West Voices producer Clay Scott gets a trim in the Columbus, Montana shop of Bob Harsha, a 93-year-old barber who has been cutting hair in the same location since he was 18.

(Broadcast: "Mountain West Voices," 12/1/14. Listen weekly on the radio, Mondays at 3:00 p.m., or via podcast.)

It's hard to miss the "Got Milk?" ad campaign encouraging us to drink more milk, but this week, "The Food Guys" make a case for moderation in milk consumption.

Considering the high rate of lactose intolerance, milk allergies, and alternative sources for calcium and vitamin D, Greg and John recommend going easy on cow's milk. 

They discuss a July 2012 New York Times opinion piece, "Got Milk? Don't Need It," by Mark Bittman.

Franz Eugen Köhler

The Efik people of the region that is now Nigeria used to force people accused of crimes to suffer a trial by ordeal: they'd be fed calabar beans, a known poison. If the accused died, they were judged guilty. If they lived, they were "proven" innocent. There's some pharmaceutical basis to this. It turns out that the poison of the calabar bean is absorbed in the mouth, where a guilty person might try to hold the beans, to avoid swallowing. For the guileless who swallowed them whole, the emetic properties of the beans might cause them to throw up the beans and escape poisoning.

Flickr user, Tim Evanson

"In the late Cretaceous period, from 90 to 65 million years ago, Montana had a lusher climate than today. The Rocky Mountains formed one edge of a vast inland sea - Fort Peck was beachfront property on the edge of that sea. There are three distinct sedimentary rock formations from that era running through the area. The T. rex, "Peck's Rex," was found in the Hell Creek formation in 1997, just inland from the ancient coast. The sparsely-fossilized Fox Hill sandstone is a remnant of the beach itself.

Larry Miller

Lynda Sexson shares a Zen parable of the West, involving a baby and a pack of compassionate coyotes. Her tale mirrors Gary Snyder's "Smokey the Bear Sutra:"

"And he showed himself in his true form of

SMOKEY THE BEAR

  • A handsome smokey-colored brown bear standing on his hind legs, showing that he is aroused and
    watchful.

Flickr user, Chandrika Nair

Greg and Jon are coconut appreciators. They discuss shredded coconut in candy, cookies, cakes and pies; coconut milk, which in baking can substitute for cow's milk; coconut water (in young coconuts); and coconut oil, with its high smoke point.  Coconut oil, once thought a culprit in heart disease, has recently undergone a rehabilitation. How do you open a mature coconut?

Flickr user, Holly Wilson

Born in Missoula, living in Brooklyn, NY, Amanda Browder's colorful and collaborative fabric art designs come to the Montana Museum of Art and Culture at the University of Montana-Missoula this fall.

Flickr user, BigRedSky

It's 1848 and you're heading 2,200 miles up the Missouri River, spending two months literally pulling the keel boat upstream. When you arrive at the American Fur Company trading post of Fort Benton, you're in for a surprise. It's a barter post rather than a military fort, where Blackfeet and white traders exchange goods, not hostilities. In fact, many of these traders are related through marriage.

Flickr user, Kirill Ignatyev

You might have brushed by it in the forest, where this hairy-looking symbiosis between algea and fungi perches on tree limbs. The look of the lichen usnea explains its nicknames: "old man's beard," "tree's dandruff," "women's long hair," and "beard lichen." For centuries, it's been considered a handy medicinal. People grab some to dress wounds, or take it internally for infections or oral inflammation. But in the 1990s, when manufacturers of weight-loss drugs started adding sodium usniate (usnic acid) to their formulas, several cases of liver damage emerged.

Flickr user, Bev Sykes

"Bat Hearing," written by Erick Greene, read by Caroline Kurtz.

"Most people know that bats are able to perceive their surroundings using ultra high frequency sonar. But how exactly do they do it?

Stephanie Land grew up in Alaska and thought she was ready for anything the extreme climate could throw her way. She recalls the night in Gold Stream Valley when winter proved her wrong. Judy Blunt's memoir, "Breaking Clean," tells the story of "practical rather than humane" decisions that ranchers along Montana's Hi-Line had to make after the devastating 1964 blizzard.

Flickr user, Thomas Kriese

Jon and Greg discuss a 2013 New York Times opinion piece by Jo Robinson called "Breeding the Nutrition Out of Our Food," which compares the phytonutrient content of wild plants with that of supermarket produce.

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