Columbia Falls is Getting a New Brewery!

My good friends and neighbors, Darin and Carla, are finally realizing their dream of opening a brewery–and we are so lucky, because it is going to be right here in Columbia Falls, Montana. I’ve been drinking Darin’s beer for years (especially fond of the Ginger)–and it is amazing.  Everyone thinks so.  Take a peek at the video on their Kickstarter page–and then consider helping them reach their goal.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/881314505/backslope-brewing

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The Great Tomato Dilemma

I love growing tomatoes.  Hands down, they are my favorite yield from the garden.  We eat them fresh, and can the rest.  Such satisfaction!  Last year, I started 12 Roma  plants from seed during the first week of April.  They were amazing, if a bit behind their local nursery counterparts.  In fact, because I never trust my own seedlings to thrive, I bought 20+ “back up” tomato plants of different varieties–and then planted my dozen starts because they were doing so well.  I put up 74 jars of tomato products. It was a banner tomato year.

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Last year’s crop

Emboldened by my success, I started 36 tomatoes from seed this year during the first week of March.  Now, understand–I have shelf with two grow lights as my set up, which works fine for a seed starting tray with 72 holes.

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But guess what?  Plants grow.  And they need to be re-potted into six packs.

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And then into 4 inch containers.  It is rather a pain.  Hoping I could get the plants into the raised bed, I held off on the last re-potting.  But they were a tangled mess, falling over and breaking their stems.  Still, I really thought I could hold out.  Maybe I could make it to mid-May, as long as I covered them against the still cold nights.  So silly–I live in NW Montana!  You just don’t put tomatoes (or peppers or basil) into the ground until at least Memorial Day.  Or, as the old-timers say, “until the snow is off Big Mountain” which some summers might mean mid-July.  I vacillated about this for 2 weeks.  My poor husband and my friends had to listen to me debate myself:  re-pot one more time, or wait it out?

I decided to wait.

But then, as I was watering my beloved tomato plants, I noticed these:

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The dreaded root nodules

Horrid little nodules on the stems.  I used this picture, threw it into Google images and voilà!  They aren’t good.  The stress of the too-small containers were likely forcing the plants to create these root nodules.  The nodules develop because the first line of saving itself is trying to throw out more roots to gather more nutrients.  But this just wouldn’t do.  I decided that I would just plant them out–after all, I could protect them with Remay and soil warming plastic, right?  Well…even though we had just experienced 3 70 degree days, it was still too early.  I knew it.  But I rationalized that I couldn’t possibly re-pot all the tomatoes, and the seven of them that looked especially peakish would die anyway if I didn’t plant them.  So I took the four of the least sickly of the sickly plants, and, without hardening them off (because who really needs to do that?  Well, me.  I need to do that) planted them in my raised bed.  I covered the soil with red plastic, which I used successfully last year.  I placed crunched up egg shells in the trench I dug, and placed the plants in sideways as is recommended for root growth.  I put the tomato cage around the plant, watered it, and then wrapped the cage in Remay.

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My little tomato soldiers.

But you know what?  It’s way too early to plant tomatoes.  And they definitely need to be hardened off.  And I should have just gone and found bigger pots.  Because these are sad, sad little tomato plants.

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The one on the left has a chance, maybe.  Not really.  I’ll keep you posted.

On the bright side, I went ahead and re-potted the rest of my tomato seedlings in anything I could find.  Some of  the less hearty ones needed to be sacrificed for the good of the whole, which was very hard for me to do.  I feel guilty thinning carrots.

I found supports and tied my stems to them and look great.  I moved some to a sunny window.  Now my peppers have a little room, and I imagine I will be re-potting them next weekend.

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What is the moral of this story?  Wait two more weeks to start seedlings.  Maybe three.  And unless you have lovely hoop houses, don’t put tomatoes out when it is 50 degrees with wind and rain.

Trying to Find a Balance

I decided this past fall that I simply couldn’t keep up with posting daily–real life had to come first.  Yet, as I was looking through my blog today, I realized I really missed it.  So I guess the answer is balance.  I am going to try to post at least once a week.  This may be crazy, as garden season is right around the corner, but I’ll figure it out.  It might just mean one less thing gets knitted each week.

Speaking of knitting, I just opened an Etsy shop called Sixth Street Knits–just for the extra stuff I make.  I feel a little silly because I’m not sure my knitting is good enough for someone to actually give me money for it, but people seem to like what I’ve been making.  We’ll see what happens.  One thing that I listed is the finally finished “Fiona’s Top” pattern.  (See the post:  The Saga of Fiona’s Top).  It took me two years to get that sucker done–I frogged and reknit that thing so many times I should have at least half a dozen of them now.  It may be a while before I attempt another–small needles + light yarn do not satisfy my instant gratification needs.  Right now, I am making another little sundress for my cousin’s baby–bigger needles and less lace make for a quicker knit.

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 This year I want to find some balance between knitting and gardening.  Last summer I hardly picked up any knitting because I was so into working on my garden plot and yard.

So there it is…a short post to get back into the swing of things on From Michigan to Montana. Feels good to be back!

Would You Like to Join the Columbia Falls Community Garden?

Hi!

There will be at least 4 plots available for the 2014 season.  These organic plots are approximately 12′ x 12′, and are available for just a $20 cleaning deposit.  If you are interested in putting your name in for the lottery, please click on the link below and fill out the form.  The drawing will take place toward the end of March.  Hope to see you in the garden!

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?usp=drive_web&formkey=dGhDeWNEZ1FqVXRHdnVjdVBrMlJ4b3c6MA#gid=0

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A Very Crafty Christmas

Pinterest makes you feel like you can craft anything, doesn’t it?  Its “DIY” category was the basis for most of my Christmas presents and decorations this year.

My first project was a yarn ball wreath.  My husband fashioned a ring for me from coaxial cable, which I wrapped with yarn.  I used foam balls from JoAnn’s as the center for each “yarn” ball and Red Heart Super Saver yarn, which is pretty inexpensive. It took me a while to determine the best way to secure the balls to the ring.  After experimenting, I used floral U shaped pins, and then my handy glue gun.  I added some inexpensive silver gaudy balls (as my husband calls them).

The final result:

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Next year I may add more of the smaller balls to the outside ring.

For my front door, I made a quick, inexpensive wreath with gaudy balls, a wire hanger and ribbon.  The picture is a bit blurry, but you get the idea.

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Of course I knitted a few things to gift, including ear warmers, boot cuffs and a beer cozy (didn’t want my brother-in-law to feel left out).  I also made some fingerless gloves, but I didn’t get a picture of them.

bootcuffs:

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I made body spray from distilled water, witch hazel, vegetable glycerin and essential oils:

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I crafted ornaments:

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But what I was most excited about making was the lip balm.  For the majority of my life, if I discovered I didn’t have a ChapStik in my pocket, I swear I could feel my lips immediately drying and cracking.  Now I can’t imagine ever purchasing it again.  I bought the tubes through Amazon, but the first batch I received was awful–not a single cap stayed on.  So as not to waste them, I put a small dot of hot glue on the tube to make them fit.  Subsequent orders from different vendors produced appropriately sized lids.

There are many recipes for lip balm on the Internet, and I settled on one that combined beeswax, shea butter, sunflower oil and essential oils.  I made peppermint, citrus (orange and grapfruit) and lemon batches.

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In addition to these items, my husband made strawberry bread, pumpkin bread, and zucchini bread.  It was a very crafty Christmas indeed, and even though my family in Florida pokes fun at me, wondering if my children are being used as sweat shop labor, I had fun and I’m even a little bit proud of myself.  🙂

Currently on the agenda:  I am knitting a wall hanging thingy–the idea came from Pinterest, of course.  I am also making t-shirt yarn out of tank tops that I dont wear anymore–I eventually want to crochet it into a rug or a basket.

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Are you making anything right now?

A Few Pinterest Projects

I have been pretty busy this summer.  I’ve accomplished a lot, but I have certainly been neglecting my blog.  Sorry!

Those of us who are Pinterest users know that the site is a mixed blessing.  On one hand, it provided thousands of amazing projects and recipes and excellent tips.  On the other, browsing Pinterest can also make a person feel insecure and totally unaccomplished.  Who really has time to do all of that exercise, cook all of those amazing meals, entertain your kids every moment with clever and funtastic projects, and decorate your entire house in perfect nature hues and with pallets?

I certainly don’t.   I often turn to those “Pinterest fails” websites–they make me feel so much better.  But I have come to terms with Pinterest, to some degree.  I pin projects and recipes that are achievable in my world–and have attempted a few of them with differing levels of success.  For instance, I love the zucchini enchiladas.  They are amazing every time I make them.    The white chicken enchilada is also wonderful.  I have made the Panera knock-off broccoli cheddar soup.  I have been regularly making the Skinnytaste pesto and freezing it into cubes.  Other things I’ve tried, such as the breaded string cheese  didn’t turn out quite as well.

The kool-aid dyed Easter eggs were awesome, if a bit messy.  The knitting patterns were great (though they usually led me back to Ravelry…where I had already been).  For Christmas, I transferred pictures to wood blocks for my sister.  Recently, I tried my hand at a few more:  the penny covered bowling ball yard art, the pallet garden bed, and a reconfiguring of a t-shirt.

The bowling ball project was fun, and allegedly, and especially if you use enough pre-1982 pennies, it will help deter slugs and snails from your garden.  Good enough reason to try it for me!

Here is the “pin” I was working from:

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I went to the thrift shop (with $20 in my pocket…no…just kidding) and purchased a $2 pink bowling ball.  I collected all the pennies in the house, and gave them a bath in vinegar.  I wouldn’t recommend this course of action for cleaning the pennies.  It took a really long time, and didn’t seem terribly effective.  I used a DAP silicone rubber sealant and attached the pennies face-up to the bowling ball.  In order to prove to myself that I have some control over my OCPD, I glued just one face down.   Ha!  In your face, perfectionism!  The original pinner said to fill the finger holes with caulk, but I didn’t.  After the adhesive dried, and the pennies were securely fastened, I took a few erasers and systematically cleaned up the pennies.  That worked better for me than the vinegar–although it took me the length of a movie to do it.

Voila!  Yard art and hopeful slug deterrent:

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I’m happy with that!

I used another pin in my garden–pallets for easy, nearly ready-made raised beds.  I write “nearly” because my husband had to nail boards to the sides to keep the soil in.

Here is the original pin:

Here is my attempt:

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I’m pleased with the results, but I think next year I will limit what I grow in the pallet, and I will only use one (I had two this year).  The kale, romaine, spinach and radishes did really well.  You just have to be careful when planting because the seeds wash under the boards.  Also–I will loop my drip line over the pallets instead of hand-watering.

And finally, I attempted to redesign a t-shirt that I’ve had forever by never wear because I don’t like its fit.

Here is the original pin:

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I didn’t take a picture of my original shirt, but, it was just a basic t-shirt.  I fought with my sewing machine for a while, and had to redo the straps to make them a little longer, but this is what I came up with:

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Again…not too shabby.  It is not meant to be a “finished” shirt, although it certainly could be with some hemming of edges.  I just cut the pieces and left it at that.  If they fray, they fray.  But I will actually wear this now…even if it is just for working in the garden.

Thank you for coming along on my Pinterest adventures tonight!