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

Bring on 2014!

It has been ages since I’ve written on this blog, but it has truly been a very busy fall and early winter.  In addition trying to keep up with my kids, husband and the Giant Newfoundland, I took on some new projects.

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Such a pretty girl.

In October, we put the Columbia Falls Community Garden to bed for the winter.  We planted flower bulbs and garlic. It was definitely a successful season.  Our growing season was amazingly long, and we were able to donate nearly 260 pounds of fresh produce to the Columbia Falls Food Bank.  I feel like I spent the better part of September and October in the kitchen, processing tomatoes.  I was able to put up 74 jars of tomato products though–should last until next year.

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74 jars of tomatoes on the wall…

I started teaching a new course at the high school called History through Literature, which fulfills the required credits for both US History and English 11.  Those of you who are teachers know how time-consuming it is to craft a new course.  For this one, I have the same set of students twice a day, and I am trying to implement student-centered and inquiry-based learning.  There have been some successes and some things that definitely needs reworking for next year.

In addition to my full schedule at the high school, I also began teaching World History for the Montana Digital Academy. MTDA is a fantastic program that offers (free) courses for high school age kids throughout the state of Montana.  Montana high schools are often very small and far away from one another (the state is just barely under 150,000 square miles with just barely over a million people) and they can’t always offer the same buffet of courses for their students; this helps to fill that need. I have students from Columbia Falls to Wibaux, and from Shelby to Red Lodge and everywhere in between.  Some are home-schooled, while others are trying to get caught back up so they can graduate.  Many of my students this past semester are taking World History in addition to a full class load at school.  So far it has been very rewarding.

Finally, I was elected to the Columbia Falls City Council this past November.  I have my first meeting on my birthday, January 6th.  I’m excited–I have an orientation with the city manager on Thursday morning so I I’ll know what to expect.

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Other than these exciting additions to my life/schedule, I taught myself, with the help of my mother-in-law, the basics of crochet.  This will accompany my knitting–there are just certain things that are better crocheted than knitted.  Like baskets.  I still find crocheting awkward and much more difficult that knitting–but I assume it will get easier.

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My first attempt. It has issues.

So, that’s what I’ve been up to.  It’s a full plate, but someone told me that I must like it that way, or it wouldn’t be.  Very wise, very wise.    My next post will be about my “Very Crafty Christmas”.  Stay tuned!

Columbia Falls Community Garden Photo Essay – End of May, 2013

It has been forever and a year since I last posted.  Turns out, May is a ridiculously busy month at work, at home and at the garden.  Who knew?

I don’t have too much time to write…I have to finish knitting an end of the year teacher gift, but I wanted to show you what has been going on in the garden.  If you are not a fan of pictures of garden plots, emerging vegetables, and the like, this post may not be for you.

Remember when I mentioned that River’s Edge Park, where the garden is located, was closed for two weeks?  This is what they were working on:

The new entrance to River’s Edge Park

There are cool trails that the little kids just love…and there are big rocks to climb on…

So, ultimately, it was worth having to adjust our gardening hours.

Here is a nice shot of the Garden sign with some of the new landscaping:

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And another shot:

ImageThe rocks are so much better than the ugly barbed-wire fence that used to be there!

Now for a garden tour.  Everyone has been doing such a fabulous job prepping their plots.  For those of you in other parts of the country who are worried that we are getting a late start, rest assured that gardening in NW Montana is a late May, early June kinda thing.  We had about 2 inches of heavy wet snow late last week…lots of branches down, but luckily no garden damage.

First, the community beds:

Our herb garden against the backdrop of the new landscaping

Chives in the herb garden

Gorgeous oregano

Majoram. I’ve never used this herb before…what do you use it with?

Raspberries

Community potatoes–looks like they need a little weeding!

Onion and garlic beds. The onions look great–but I think we put too much straw on the garlic over the winter. Always a lesson to be learned.

Kyle planted corn–another plot holder asked if the corn knows to come up through the little holes in the plastic. I think it does!

Strawberries

On to our plot holders’ gardens:

Tasha’s plot

Ken and Leslie’s plot is looking good!

Ken and Leslie Plot #2

Janina and Brian have some onions and potatoes going

A long shot of Marlene and David’s 2 plots. They have been working hard!

I think Kyle and Erin have a thing for onions. Look at those beautiful rows!

…and their sweet hoop house

Another shot of Erin and Kyle’s plots–I have a tinge of gardener’s jealousy going on!

Master gardener Robbie’s plot. She is growing it entirely for the food bank.

The dedicated CFCG Food Bank plot is coming along

Adam and Kristen’s plot

Natalie is getting her plants started in Wall O’Waters. Great idea!

Naomi and Arnold are experimenting with potato “structures” and they have some things flourishing in their hoop house

Lucy and Andrew’s hard work is paying off

Staci and Craig have been attacking that pasture grass every weekend. It will pay off, I promise!

Ric and Jenna’s plot is cleared and ready to go

…as is Karissa’s

Long shot of Erma and Gary’s plots. I am jealous all summer long about how meticulous their plots always are!

Rhubarb in Daniel’s plot

I always watch what Kyle does in his plot very closely…his peppers were amazing last year. Without them, I wouldn’t have been able to make salsa–my peppers just never produced.

And finally, if you have made it this far, this is what is growing in my personal plots.

Pallet radishes

The beginnings of lettuce and spinach…not entirely sure the pallet was the best way to go with these, but it is always an experiment!

Kale

Tomatoes and peppers. I went with the “red mulch” this year, and wow…the soil really is so much warmer underneath. Even more so, I think, than under black plastic. I may put it under my peppers too, since they are so sensitive to cold. A little research, first, though.

Squash of all flavors

Long shot of my plots…note the wheat growing in my straw.  Weed free doesn’t mean seed free.

Baby sugar snap and snow peas

French marigolds

Broccoli Lane, with a few cauliflower at the end. My youngest insisted on cauliflower. Seriously.

Pretty potatoes in a pretty crooked row.

Newly emerged bush bean

Cabbage and garlic

I just realized I forgot to take pictures of the hops being grown by Desert Mountain Brewing…I will edit the post to include them tomorrow.  This is our wonderful community garden.  We still have some work to do, but I am so very happy with what we have accomplished.

Happy gardening!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Color

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Color

…standing on the shore in Apgar Village, Lake MacDonald in Glacier National Park…

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…view from our hotel in Vancouver, BC…

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…as seen through Montana’s crystal clear water…

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…driving near Helena, MT…

Write text here…

A Busy Spring Break

Tonight is the last night of spring break.  I feel so very lucky to have this week off–and after volunteering to direct the community garden, I needed the time.  I had raised beds to set and fill and landscaping fabric to lay.  We were absolutely blessed with gorgeous weather.  My freckles emerged from hibernation.  It was in the sixties, with blue skies and a warm sun.  That is, until yesterday.

My awesome helpers

My awesome helpers

The very first plot holders meeting of the season was yesterday morning at 11 am.  When I went down to the garden at 9:30, it was breezy with some spitting rain.  Not too bad.  By the end of the meeting, it was full-on raining horizontally.  We were all shivering, and I just kept talking faster and faster so everyone could go home and get warm.

Still, it was a great turn out.  Nearly every plot holder made it to the meeting which I (silly me) scheduled on the same weekend that the ski mountain closed.  I have never seen so many people in our garden at one time.  It really rather warmed my heart (if not my freezing cold and wet hands).  I could already feel the beginnings of a “community”.   I provided some history to the garden, handed out keys, gave an orientation to the garden and the shed, answered questions, and had plot holders sign up for maintenance duties.    It was raining hard enough that the ink was running as they filled in their names.  They were troopers!

Something safe to plant...under Reemay

Something safe to plant…under Reemay

They need to be, to some extent.  Gardening in Montana, especially in the springtime, isn’t easy.  It is a constant battle with schizophrenic weather and cold nights.  Still, it is a rewarding “fight” and we have been gathering the necessary weapons to be victorious (hello, extended metaphor!)  We use Reemay fabric and Wall O’Waters to keep our young plants warm.  We watch the weather forecasts religiously.  Finally, around the fourth of July, after babying our plants, we can relax our guard and watch as delicious and healthy food grows in abundance.

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Our raised herb garden

It is possible to garden in the northern climes–it just takes some trial and error, and much vigilance.  And it is worth it.  Trust me.

 

 

Sun’s Gettin’ Shinery to Spotlight the Finery…Spring, Spring Spring…

907392_10151373119960886_2119007421_nWhen Montana chooses to show off, nothing can compare.  Beautiful sunny weather with temperatures in the upper fifties and low sixties have made it impossible to stay inside to write blog posts.  (Mantra…must remember…live life first, write about it if I have time)  And the fact is, we have just been plain busy.  Our friends opened a brewery, which we like to frequent.  We went to the high school academic endowment ball.  We threw a birthday party for my husband’s 40th birthday.  Time just gets away from you, you know?

Love the brewery!

Love the brewery!

Back to the weather.  We all understand, in this part of the country, that the price for this delightful weather is a rainy, cold June.  Or a late season snow storm.  Or an intense fire season.  But you know what?  We pretty much don’t care.  The sun is so wonderfully warm this time of year–the wind can be chilly, as can shady spots, but standing in the sun is simply blissful.  We look for reasons to be outside, which isn’t hard–but I’m running into that situation where I want to do all is yard work, but I can’t.  The fact is, it is still only the beginning of April.  Winter is not likely done with us yet, so you don’t want to invest too much energy into planting.

That didn’t stop me from staking out my new flower bed, or raking my yard.

My flower bed-to-be

My flower bed-to-be

I did some early season weeding.  I regularly walk around the side of our new garage, where I will eventually make raised beds and grow my tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, herbs and raspberries.  I visualize the shade garden that will edges the not-yet-existent sidewalk next to the garage.  I fret about whether my current raspberry canes will get enough light now that the garage has been built (they won’t…they have to move).

Visions of tomato and pepper plants danced in my head...

Visions of tomato and pepper plants danced in my head…

I have also been spending time in the community garden, getting ready for our first plot holders meeting.  I am thrilled to announce that we are FULL for the the first time since we were established in 2010.  It feels good, because the vision those of us in the planning committee had is finally coming to fruition (no pun intended).

There is still a lot to do–on Wednesday, kids from the Center for Restorative Youth Justice are coming out to help me even out the land for garden plots, raised beds, and the green house.  They will also help me organize the tool shed.  My partner-in-crime, and true heart of the community garden is Naomi.  She and her husband staked out plots this morning, and the two of us geeked out for a bit about all the exciting things we want to see in the garden.

My husband constructed the raised beds for onions and leeks, and we put some black plastic down on my own plots to warm the soil and discourage weed/grass growth.  I stared at the empty plots for a long time today, mentally arranging my plants for the season.  After planting the community garlic bed last fall, I had a few bulbs left over.  I couldn’t bear to waste them so I stuck them in my bed–and they are starting to grow (so cool to see the frist green growth of spring). It is way too early to put much of anything in the ground right now, even if the weather is trying to trick us into believing otherwise.

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Community Garden Garlic Bed

My cheeks are a little bit sunburned.  I have dirt under my fingernails.  And I couldn’t be happier!