Tag Archives: spring

May Projects

 

After three years of promising this last weekend the fire ring Shane has wanted finally was built. He wanted it cut back a little into the slope of the yard and big enough to have a few friends stand around. I had James help and work the level to get it set in. 20180513_180430

Shane didn’t waste time at all but as it was evening and time for dinner he pulled out the hotdogs sticks and a broke it in.

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James found a few old grates from long dead bbq’s and brought them down so Shane could experiment and see if he wanted one of them built into the ring for future use.

We picked up almost twenty trees from the Nursery to start the orchard as well. I tried t take a few pictures of them but they are pretty leafless at the moment and not much to show all leaned up against a ceder. The time line to pick them up has moved forward so the site is far from ready. Piled in wet sawdust I have a few days to get them in the ground but the tree that have been blocking sun from the solar panels and the future orchard site have started to be cleaned up and thinned out.

Shane came up with his chainsaw as mine is just too small for trees this size and helped bring down the leaning pines and managed to drop them in just the right places to not crush the camper or the green house. There are still more to come down to open up the sky but already the difference is rather astounding. I can see the southern sky!

I picked up raspberry starts from a friend who has both white and reds creeping into her yard despite her husband’s best efforts. They came from one yard; chives and and rhubarb from another, and last years missed garlic from a third.

With the transplants in and the orchard site getting rapidly readied I had just long enough to walk around the yard and snap a few pictures of the June-Berries and wild strawberries in bloom, as well a the herb garden waking up.

Spring in this part of the world is short, and nights still dip down into the mid 30’s at times but it is stunning how rapidly winter melts and turns into green and flowers burst open in carpets and towers of white, yellow, and lavender blooms.

 

The greenhouse in April

This time of year in MT the weather is on the swing. When you’re high up the temps remain chilly even if the valley warms up. Sunny afternoon turn into fresh new snow in the morning. You have to be very careful with any seedlings you have, and be patient about planting them. 20180219_120018

With the unpredictability of the weather in the mountains lasting well into June having a greenhouse or planning to purchase seedlings is about the only way to make sure you can get a garden to grow.  Where were are up here we have had years where the snow lasted until mid June with frost well into July, returning in is September. With days short and the sun not breaking through the clouds for months, the itch to work in the greenhouse got James and I out there stocking up the fire and working on projects in early March.

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It took a couple days to warm up the back wall and get the space warm but once it was going we kept it going around the clock until just last week. Night fires are still lit but our days are warm enough now to let it go out. This weekend is rumored to be 60 degrees and at that temperature I will have the doors open and likely be working on the fan system. But in March it was dancing around 0 with four feet of packed snow and more on the way. We couldn’t help ourselves but to get our fingers in the soil and plant some seeds.

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Thor on guard duty.

Last year the back roof was not up, with only tarp to hold out the weather but this fall we got the roof on and the space closed off. There is always more work to do but at least we got it warm enough for t-shirts in there. This summer the sod roof will go on and the back wall will be made as rodent proof as possible. Anyone who has read any of the earlier blogs know of the war I have had with the pack rats, and while Thor and I have gotten them out of the greenhouse the voles and mice have moved it. 20180403_155139

As soon as the space warmed and the plants began to wake up the mice began to chew them off to drag them back into the rock wall. As much as I had wanted to leave the rocks exposed I might have to cob the entire stone wall just to seal them out. The Voles on the other hand went after the newly planted seeds. They did not limit themselves to the squash and larger seeds James and had I planted, but even cleaned out seeds as small as the basil. Up until this spring I had not had voles as an issue. My mountain is more rock and shale than soil so not a very welcome space for them. After a few rounds of standard traps and a five gallon bucket trap we cleaned out more than two dozen so we planted again, but to no greater gain.

Vole’s and Moles though are not as difficult to deal with as mice. Fuming, I left the mountain to get a bottle of castor oil at the local good food store and put it in a sprayer. I sprayed down everything! The ground beds, the seed pots, the back wall. Castor oil is a safe and easy way to drive them out. The soil and whatever is in it starts to taste like castor oil to them, as well, as the oil makes them sick and they vacate.

I also purchased an electric mouse trap. It takes two AA batteries and is said to work for 100 zaps. I am up to about twenty in the last three weeks with it and while it has been licked clean a couple times with escapees, when mice are caught it is clean and no nasty resetting, just dump the mouse, click it back on, and set it back in place.

Our third round of seeds have done much better.

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One of the the plants in the greenhouse to wake up as soon as we started the fire was the avocado tree that we had put in last fall. It was started with a pit from an organic avocado that was just tossed in a pot of soil with another one that had been sprouted in a cup water water in the kitchen window. The buds were exciting to see after so much white for so long, but the first leaves were even better. 20180314_015805

In the pots on the raised back wall the sage and rosemary were also was quick to follow. Pansys  woke up and the avocado tree kept growing.

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I am going to have to start working on pruning the tree to keep her from getting too big for the space. Being in MT the largest avocado I have dealt with is definitely this one, so anyone who has any tips on them, let me know!

Today the sun came out and we hit 53. It was the first day that felt like spring so I am hopeful for the whispers of 60 or more coming soon. The sun was warm enough the cooler weather babies got to go outside for the first time and they loved it.

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This year with health issues on an upswing things are getting done and plans are being put back into motion with achievable deadlines. On top of my own projects I will be working with the design and implementation of a Farm to School program. Down in the valley I will be able to play with fruits trees that have no hope of producing up here so the summer should fun and full of classes both here and down the hill.

 

Flowers in th Rain

This morning I woke up to the patter or rain on the roof.  It was just cool enough to need a fire in the house.  I made coffee and waited for James to wake up.  We read out of Watership Down then went for a walk.

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The rain was little more than mist by then but as both of us enjoy the rain it made the walk ever more enjoyable.

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More and more little flowers are popping up and starting to open.  The weather has been cooler than last few days but they seem to like the cool spring weather as much as I do.

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The mountain side are now full of little birds as well as little flowers.

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The bird song echo off the mountain as they endlessly call back and forth to each other.  One has made it his endless task to try and get in through the window, tapping and tapping at the glass to find passage.

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He is a fast little thing and made taking the picture difficult but I snapped few.

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Budding Tamaracks

You know spring has truly arrived when the Tamaracks bud out.  yesterday green appeared.   april 18 002Along this draw we get to enjoy a far wider variety of trees than much of this part of Montana. We have everything from the very common Ponderosa Pine to Cedar, Cottonwoods to Tamaracks.  The shades of green are every shifting through out the year with splashes of orange and yellow flashing out in the fall.  I love to watch the changes but spring with the soft tips on the Blue Spruce, the glossy shine on the cedar and the budding Tamaracks are is my favorite time of year.

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One day to the next

Montana weather is known to change suddenly and extremely.  That is very true in the spring when you live up in the mountains.  You can go from t-shirt weather back to coat and gloves in a matter of moments and back again just as fast.  This April has not disappointed on that level.
april 2015 003The snow was surprisingly deep when we got up  in the morning but by the time I had coffee and headed out with the camera most of it had melted off. It was still definitely cool enough to need a fire in the house.

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To days later the sky has cleared and the sun came out. Not only was it t-shirt weather it was tank top weather!

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too good to be true

Every year in this area, it seems like we have a short few days of spring-like weather.  This year however it has been nearly a month and looks to be so for another two weeks. The 6 inches of solid ice have turned into  mere patches with slush, mud, and running water.

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I can get down the mountain with the car !  Later today I will try to get up the driveway with a half load of wood and a fridge.  I think I can do it!

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The mountains are nearly snowless and springs that normally start to run in may are already running.  Little waterfalls are alive and rushing.

The weather has been so nice that today I went down and worked in the community garden that this year will be turned into a flower garden for the town park. As an experiment and just because I couldn’t help myself I cleared one bed, put in some Chard, Spinach and Pea’s.  The bed I covered with the plastic beg insulation came in last fall.   Hopefully the weather will stay about how it is, long enough to get a few little leaves.  If winter returns and all is lost, no harm done.

feb 13 2015 019feb 13 2015 020I must admit I am fully enjoying the weather, and trying to not get ahead of myself as I know it is too good to be true, but sometimes life must be approached with the delight of a child.  I know the cold and snow will be back and the seeds planted today will never produce a full crop but playing in the dirt was fun none the less.

Raised and Layered Gardens

Several years ago I took over the Community Garden in my little town. The park it was to be moved to had been an old railroad yard and while nice and level the soil was beyond a quick fix. The garden site itself was where some 30 years before they had tried to build a skate rink but it never held water, so not only was there the coal, creosote, and diesel fuel in the soil there was a layer of hard packed clay. Raised beds were the best option.
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After consideration the decision was made to make them taller than average so we could put n straw bales with soil on top. The idea was to make it easier for those who could not easily bend down or kneel on the ground to be a part of the garden.
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Ten yards of top soil was brought in to top off the straw bales and to make larger lower bed we fondly named the squash bed as that was what we put in it that year.
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The beds below and those above both exploded with growth and over flowed. The weeding was easily taken care of and the garden days were mostly afternoons gathered around a BBQ and soaking up the sun. The sun flowers that year towered up over 12 feet.
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Year two the straw bales held out and we just added thick course mulch between bale ends and the bed walls, with compost on top and planted and again the growth was stunning. The heritage tomatoes took over the garden early on and kept producing well into September. With the beds sunk down by fall the base of the plants were well into the box and protected from fall frost so that I was picking fresh tomatoes into mid October. (quite impressive for this climate)
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Year three we dug out the ends of each bed in a double dig style to put in new bales and moved the rich new soil back on top.
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We had enough extra to pass it on to local elderly, family’s in need and sell some in the local Feed Supply Store.
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It is year four now and the beds are holding up. We added the rough compost to one bed and the rich loam to the tops.
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in the empty bed we began a layered compost. Leaves, well wet down, cardboard, (worms LOVE cardboard) move leaves and on upward.
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All of it needs to be wet down and kept damp for a good fast composting action.
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The year is looking up as seeds are in the ground, and the sun is out. We hope this year to repeat the bounty of the garden.
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Bottle Lanterns – project 1- 2014

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Alost as soon as the snow melts in Montana the bugs begin to appear. Mosquitoes come out with sharp and hungry bites that are known to ruin the enjoyment of many stunning evenings. Beyond planting bug repelling herbs or spraying for them citronella candles help to hold them at bay, as well as offering a touch of light to any twilight conversation.
Using old bottles, (beer in this case) you can easily make as many as you like at very low cost, with some rather stunning results.
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you need the bottles of your choice, a small copper fitting (1/2″) plumbers tape and the wicks. You can add decorative details to them if you like, but really that’s up to your time and desire. Most bottles are just a little too big for the fitting to stay in place snuggly. To fix that you just wrap the copper in the plumbers tape.
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In this case the Lucky Buddha bottles fit the piece well enough that I did not need the wrapping on it. Just be aware that if the copper is in direct contact with the glass the heat will transfer. The wicks fit in like they were made for it. Just give it a bit to let the oil soak up the wick to get a good flame.
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Keep in mind the more of the wick that is out the bigger the flame and the more smoke it will make. I have made these for years and often give them as gifts to friends with summer birthdays.
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These too are for my sister.
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