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Blogging about gardening in zone 4, marriage, our golden retriever and life in general.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Hunkering down

We had an absolutely glorious fall here. mid-70's, sunny, bright blue skies, very little wind; perfect bike riding weather. My tomatoes were prolific in September and early October. I pulled my sweet peas out of the ground while they were still growing, only because I wanted to plant garlic before November. My spring bulbs even started to pop up.

Any idea what I do with those daffodils now?

Anyway, I use past tense because winter started yesterday. Low cloud cover blanketing the surrounding moutain ranges. The full expectation that we'll wake up to snow in the morning. The dread of driving on snowy roads. The turning on of the furnace for the first time (we made it to October 25!).

In many ways I've been waiting for the crummy days of fall/ winter to start. I have all of these little projects around the house to finish up. Some small, some major. Nothing pressing. I'm looking forward to reading a lot this winter, in preparation for a trip to Europe we have sketched out for September 2011.

But.... but. That means it's going to be cold weather for the next six months. Maybe seven.

I've said efore that fall and early winter in Montana can be a haunting time. And I don't just mean that because of the whole Halloween thing. I'm haunted by the hikes we didn't get in. Haunted by the way the light is lower. The way the sun comes up late, and goes down early. Mourning the tub of summer clothes and flip flops in my closet.

So what do I/ we do in the winter? Ski, occassionally. We're going to try out cross-country skiing this winter as a new thing to do. Read. Sew. Plan my 2011 garden. Write wedding thank yous. Plan travel. Bake (and then give it away so I don't gain weight). Finish decorating/ organizing/ setting up the house. I look around and see all of these things we "need": a new bed. Bedroom furniature. the last of the insulated blings for the guest bedroom and office. To insulate, sheetrock and organize the garage. Maybe new living room furniature. A beaurau to put linnens in.

So much to do, yet with so many nights of crummy weather ahead of me, I'm in no hurry.

Monday, October 25, 2010

My own weirdness at night

I've mentioned before that DJ does weird shit at night. Peering out the window, jumping out of bed, walking around the room, etc. It's usually totally unprovoked, sudden, and very intense for him. He's strange like that.

And last night I did something strange too, but only as a reaction to something he did.*

We're in bed, nice and cozy and asleep. And I'm dreaming about driving down the road in a very specific location about five miles from our house. When out of nowhere comes this

I hear the noise and bolt awake, thinking in my dream state that we've blown a tire or something.

Me: "Dusty, Dusty what was that!!??"

DJ: "mohphf mmmhopmf."


DJ: "My ass!"

My beloved husband had screeched out a fart so loud, high-pitched and abrupt that I jumped.

Me: "I'm going to punch you in the face."

*You'll note that my weird shit at night is a reaction to something he did... not something I dreampt on my own. Dusty, your farting, night-terrors ass is way weirder than mine.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Mixing it up

I'm annoyed with myself for not doing a very good job documenting my gardening for the past 6 months; I think looking back at the "archives" would have taught me a lot. I fell off of that wagon for a couple of reasons, first and foremost being that my veggie garden sucked, big time, this year.

You might remember that last year my container gardening feel off because of when we moved and a pooly timed vacation. This year I had a 16 x 20' gardening plot with irrigation to utilize... and I still have only eaten one pepper off of the three plants I put into the ground.

I believe part of the reasons my plants failed in the ground this year was because of the ground I had to work with. Our lot is mostly very dense clay. Seriously; I could throw some wicked pots. Unfortunately, this clay seems to be best suited to Canadian thistles, sunflowers and not much else. My veggie plot couldn't retain enough moisture, didn't have the light fluffy dirt needed to allow carrots or onions to grow, and generally was lacking in neutrients.

I also believe that our drip line system didn't deliver the 1"/ week of water the veggies need in July, August and September to thrive. Next year I'll supplement the watering.

We spent about three hours yesterday preparing for more success next summer. On Friday a local nursery delivered two yards of compost and three cubic yards of peat moss. The compost adds neutrients and organic material, while the peat moss amends the clay soil to hold more water. We rented a roto-tiller and went to work.

After a pass or two with the tiller, it became obvious that I needed to shovel up the clay first so that Dusty could get into the rock-like surface effectively. So I went to work shoveling over chunks of clay, and Dusty followed up by trying to till it into smaller pieces. We kicked out some pretty large rocks!

We spread about half of the compost onto the clay, then added a layer of peat moss, and tilled it all together.

Rinse, and repeat, for about an hour. By the time we quit it was raining, and we'd gone through all the peat moss and about 2/3 of the compost. The other 1/3 we used to start a compost pile that we can add to all winter, then throw onto the garden in the spring and till in again.

I'm hopeful that this effort will increase create a yeild next summer while reducing the amount of water that runs off of the garden area.

*You'll note we pulled all the rocks out that terraced the garden plot. Clearly we couldn't till around them. But we're also contemplating how to put in permanent/ annual terracing next spring. We've got to think about frost heaves...

Thursday, October 14, 2010


So I've fallen off of the blogging wagon, haven't I?

Rather than apologize and blather on about how busy I've been, the craziness at work, the craziness of travel, the craziness of people visiting, and basically everything I didn't document, I'm going to just move on and tell you what's going on with us.

Is first and foremost on my mind today. I just ordered 2 yards of compost (she wanted to sell me 3) and 3 yards of peat moss (she wanted to sell me 5) to till into our veggie garden this weekend. Doesn't that seem like an incredible amount of dirt for a 20 X 16' garden plot?! The nursery reccomended a layer 3" deep of compost and 2" deep of peat moss. So we're adding 5" of stuff to our garden bed!

Since it slopes away from the house, should I be worried about all of this amendment to my clay soil running off under the barbed wire fence?

Why am I adding so much "stuff" to my garden? Well... because it was a spectacular failure this year. I even failed at growing zucchinni. I didn't know that was possible! About the only thing that thrived were the tomatoes I planted in cointainers in the front yard. And even those weren't exactly a wild success.

I'm blaming this on a number of things:
  • Clay soil with few nutrients. I applied Miracle Grow occassionally, but not with many real results.
  • Poor watering/ moisture retention. This is primarily caused by me planting in north-south rows when my drip lines run east west. I also need to do a better job of mulching the garden with grass clippings to prevent moisture loss.
  • Crappy-ass weather in June and early July. We live in a cold climate, I know that. But I don't know that we hit 80 degrees until after July 15th this year. Bad weather for peppers, tomatoes and other such items.
  • I did a crappy-ass job of weeding the garden. See also: clay soil is really hard to weed in.
So yeah, now you know what we'll be doing this weekend. I need to start by pulling everything that died from our first freeze on Monday October 11th. It's funny, we didn't really have a frost, but raher a 22 degree freeze.

... I'm thinking about starting a specific gardening blog. Are y'all bored to tears about this stuff?


It's amazing to me that nearly a year later we're still getting settled into the hosue. I bought fabric to recover the chair in our bedroom to match the comforter.
 I did hang curtains in the guest room and office before the DD girls visited over Labor Day. We moved my loveseat up there a few weekends ago too. Funny that the Office and Guest Room/ Guest Bath are the most "complete" rooms in our house, isn't it!? ! I also sewed a new dog bed since Harlow was destroying the other one.

We still need a linen closet, and haven't cashed in our wedding gift cards for new towels because we'll have no where to put them. I may have found a viable linen closet, but need to drag Dusty out to see it. I'd really rather have a wardrobe with a mirror on the front door, since we don't have a full length mirror in the house.

We still need to insulate and reoganize the garage. This might require the assistance of a professional organizer like my dad.

A new bed/ maste bedroom set is also needed, although I'm not sure i'm ready to spend the $2,000+ that'll require. I'd prefer to collect interesting items, you know?

Friends/ Family:
We've had a solid 8 week stretch now of taking trips and having people come see us! It's been a lot of fun to catch up with everyone. Alli was here this weekend, and Harlow helped her bake Bobcat cookies for Homecoming. My sister also turns 21 next week!

Subtle changes are happening, and it seems I have the opportunity to shape the job I want within the position I already have. I'm grateful for the opportunity for growth and change. More on that later.

Continues to brew beer like we're never going to have the opportunity to purchase it this winter :) He's got quite the system down now! It's a good hobby for him, and he's enjoying thinking about what beers we'll want to drink as the weather gets worse.

Oh, and Harlow is going to be a ballerina for Halloween. I have tulle left over from El Weddingo to get rid of. I'll sew more on this weekend!