Thursday, June 25, 2009

Off I go, on another roadtrip!

As of 6pm, MDT tonight, I will be on the highway heading north, then west... only to return to my home in Helena sometime late Saturday or possibly as late as Sunday early evening.

"Where are you going?" I hear the peanut gallery ask.

I am going to Newport, WA. If you don't know where that is (and you have a map of the North Western U.S) look along the eastern-most edge of Washington.... or, if you prefer, the western-most edge of northern Idaho. Up there near the top.... no, that is Canada, a little lower.... Yeah, you found it! And, yes! The state line DOES go right through the center of town. OK, actually, the state line separates Newport, WA from Old Town, ID. Basically, one town, but I guess the different states wanted their own sides of the town distinguished or something.
I have not been to Newport, WA for something like 15 years. A great family lives there, but they were my ex-husbands surrogate family during most of his teen years, so when we divorced I did not feel comfortable visiting. If you have ever gone through a divorce or major split of one type or another, then you know all about the "my friends" and "His/her friends" thing.

Well..... many years have passed, and the ex has remarried and divorced, but all the while, whenever the ex would visit Newport, these friends (aka Don and Murial) would ask about lil'ol me. It just so happens that Don is turning 60 years young tomorrow and his family is throwing a surprise party for him. My ex was asked if he would see if I would attend.
Sure, I'd love to see Don and Murial, as well as their kids who are all grown by now.

So, this is where I am going, and why. I am looking forward to the road trip, heading north to Kalispell to meet up with Heather and her family (where I am spending the night tonight), then meeting up with the ex-husband to caravan to the shindig. Yes, I did say caravan. Yes, it would be much more economical to all ride together, but unless someone has the cash to bail me out of a jail in MT, ID, or WA.................. (I think you get the jist of my thoughts here!).

Am I looking forward to the party? Not so much. I really do not like being in a large group of people, especially people I don't know. I'm what used to be known as 'A Wallflower'. A 'people- watcher'. A loner. The 'quiet one'. I will be uncomfortable, to say the least, but I would like to see these fine folks from my past. I am looking forward to doing a little catch-up with Don and his family on Saturday, though.
AND... could I really turn down the chance to take a road trip? A trip that I will be in my own vehicle, alone? My own music choices, potty stops when I want to stop, stopping at sights I want to savor. Sounds heavenly, doesn't it?
I will post some random photos from my phone along the way, with a full write-up and more photos when I return.
In the meantime- Ya'all have a good weekend!

Friday, June 19, 2009

31 and holding!

Yesterday was my birthday... I turned 31, again, for the 10th time! LOL
It was a good day. Nothing extra special happened, but many little things made me smile and those added up.
Now, I am not the type who likes anyone to make a huge fuss over me... and I have never had a party for my birthday since I was out of school. That is fine with me. Here is how my day full of tiny blessings progressed:
I woke up for work in Helena. It was a bright sunny morning. It usually rains on my birthday. My mood was great right from the start.
Krystle woke up late, as usual, and ran around the house like the proverbial chicken so she could make it to her job on time. Her mind wasn't on what day it was, so I didn't feel slighted when she ran out the door with a hurried "Bye, Mom!" yelled across the house.
Just as I finished getting myself ready for work, and about to give Brookie-Dog her kibble and water, my cell phone rang. It was Heather calling, answering my "Hello, Heather!" with "Happy Birthday, Mommy!" The little girl usage was cute and made me laugh. I stayed on the phone with her for about 30 minutes... yes, I would be late to work, but not by much. Joe is SO understanding and I knew he wouldn't be upset.
While on the phone, I watered the flowers, strawberries, and herbs on my front porch, which are doing great! I noticed the first berry was turning pink, with many new flower buds starting to form. I have about 15 green berries on the two plants. I can't wait to eat them! Just seeing all these plants doing so well boosted my mood even more.
Brooke was being extra lovey, which is strange for her. She usually only allows humans into her personal space for about 5 minutes. Yesterday she followed me all over, and insisted-- yes, the dog who hates attention-- insisted that I scratch her head and shoulders! I think she was just itchy, but I'm telling myself she was saying "Happy Birthday, I'll let you touch me today!"
Just as I was driving down the driveway, I got a text message. From Krystle. In all caps, it read "HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM!!!!!!" I grinned. I knew she would remember.
The ride to work was beautiful. June is a lovely month to see Montana. Everything is green and the birds and animals are out with their young. The Prickly Pear creek was running clear and the Missouri River was reflecting the sun on it's ripples creating the effect of diamonds on the water. Hawks, Osprey, and even a few Eagles were hunting for their breakfasts over the fields and rivers. The few antelope herds that live near I-90 came out of hiding. They were running full tilt playing a game of chase, and it looks like they had a good batch of babies this year. Speaking of babies, the two Osprey nests I can see from the highway had a couple of tiny heads bobbing around in them. I think the animal kingdom was happy the rain and clouds had gone away for a day!
When I arrived at work, I had to suppress a giggle (there were customers in the showroom, I was just out of sight in the back room looking at my work station). Joe had decorated my area. Balloons, a Happy Birthday banner, cards, a gift box, and a bouquet of flowers!
When all the customers had left, I opened the cards (funny ones, one from him and one from Brooke! LOL) and my gift. It was a new watch. My last one had just stopped last month, and I hadn't gone watch shopping yet. Nothing fancy, with a canvas and leather band. He knows my tastes and my skin sensitivities. It was probably the one and only thing I would have wanted... had I even thought about what I would have liked for a birthday gift. Sometimes your best friend knows you better than you know yourself!
Around lunchtime, Joe went into the office and came back into the shop with two pieces of cake! At least he didn't put a candle on it! I'm not much of a cake eater, so he only bought one of those 4x4 one layer jobbies. It was perfect!
About three o'clock the biggest surprise of the day happened. My sister in law called me! I haven't spoken to her since Christmas. We've gone years without speaking, not out of hatred, but just because we are busy. We love each other dearly. We talked for an hour, ending with promises to talk more often. I then asked her if she was on Facebook. Yes, she is! Now we will be connected! Facebook can come in handy! hahaha
My mom called to wish me a good day, and we made plans to have dinner in Helena on Saturday evening at Chili's, combining my birthday and Father's Day.
My good friend, Deanna, who lives in another town, called me, too! We chatted for quite a long time before I had to get off the phone to finish up some last minute things at work.
After work, Joe and I headed to our usual Geocaching meeting (every third Thursday of each month). I walk in to Ryan's Station... as soon as our friend Greg sees me he very loudly wishes me a Happy Birthday... only to apologize larer for embarrassing me. I had to laugh... I wasn't embarrassed. It was great to be in the company of some great friends for dinner.
After dinner, laughs, tall stories, margaritas, and some semblance of a meeting thrown in the mix, we all headed home. Joe and I stopped at Dairy Queen for a Blizzard. I had cake earlier, so here was the ice cream! We sat on Joe's porch enjoying the mild evening, watching the sun set.
I got onto the computer before heading to bed, and many of my far away friends... and cyber friends, too, wished me well.
I feel truly gifted to have so many friends who did their small part to make my day great.
AND, that, folks... was what I called an amazing Birthday! I fell asleep contented, happy, and all warm and fuzzy inside.
Isn't that what it's really supposed to be about? A celebration of life?
Thank you, everyone! I am blessed!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Summer Storms and More Garden Sprouts

My drive from Great Falls to Helena last night was awesome! Many might not have thought so, but I LOVED it!
Right after leaving Great Falls, heading south on I-90 (Big oops! I mean I-15! Thanks for the catch Mountain Man!) to Helena, I could see a major storm only a few miles ahead of me. By the time I got to Ulm (a tiny community 10 miles from Great Falls), I was picking up a few raindrops on my windshield, and the ionized smell that is associated with thunderstorms was coming in my open window. I breathed deep... that smell is one of my favorites. It has a way of calming AND energizing me at the same time. I know that sounds weird, but my troubles and thoughts all leave my head, and feelings of... how do I describe it... I guess of Life, unlimited energy, natures power... all that and more... energize my very soul.
A few moments later, the first bright flash of lightning.... then another, and another... all around me. The rain increased from a few sprinkles to a torrent in a matter of seconds, creating a loud pounding sound inside my vehicle overpowering the thunderclaps outside. I know they were loud, because I could actually feel the rumbles. By this time, I had closed my window most of the way. I was still getting some rain in the car, but I didn't want to close out the smells of the storm. I was driving along, big grin on my face, passing other drivers who looked like they were annoyed by the storm. They must have thought "Look at the Crazy Lady!" Hahaha!
The rain began to let up, then the storm was off to my left... then the sun came out. I looked in my rear view and I knew I had to stop and get a photo of the storm (please be kind enough to ignore the dust or hair that seems to have been over the lens.):
Looking North:

Looking North West:
And, finally, I turned around and THIS is where I am headed! Blue skies and sunshine!


Once I got home, I checked on the garden. The ground was still damp, but no longer soaked. The evening was beautiful, and the sun was still pretty high so I dropped my keys in the house and went back out to finally thin the row of radishes. I have to say, I did this with mixed blessings. I was so happy to see all these little plants popping out of the ground, and now I was about to yank about half of them out before they really had a chance to grow. I know that if I didn't, the final product wouldn't be as good, so it had to be done. I couldn't help but laugh to myself about the irony. Me, who can't keep anything alive, is pulling green shoots.
After I finished that chore... Ok, not much of a chore as the row is only 7 feet long... I took a good look at the rest of the garden. Oh Joy! The lettuce is dong great and will need it's own thinning in a few days. The majority of the lettuce plants are about an inch tall already. There are tiny green feathery sprouts where I planted carrots, and half inch tall green onions! Now, I am only waiting on the peppers and the parsley to show.
I am a little worried about my pansies, though. I think the deluge of water and the soaking of the soil has taken it's toll. Many are limp, and some of the leaves are turning yellow. I am going to keep them away from the next few waterings to get all the extra water out. The drain holes in the bottom must have plugged up and the pots were unable to drain properly. Pansies seem to be pretty forgiving, so they may make a comeback.
After playing in the dirt, I fed Brookie-Dog and noticed she was nearly out of kibble. I washed up and headed into Helena (10 miles from home) to Wal-Mart. I couldn't help but notice the cool cloud formations over the eastern mountains. It was getting dark, but there was enough evening light to get a photo:
All in all, a pretty good Monday evening, wouldn't you say?

Monday, June 15, 2009

It Could Be A Fruitful Summer!

I may be succeeding at this gardening thing. Yes, I AM amazed that I have all these tiny little plants poking out of the ground!
Last week, the first of the sprouts came up... the radishes, which ironically I don't eat. I planted them because 1) I was told they were easy, and 2) My dad, Joe and Krystle's boyfriend like them. I figured if I totally failed, especially with radishes, then I would have to be satisfied with the Farmers Markets and produce sections of the grocery.
On Saturday I noticed another row of very tiny green sprouts! This is my row of lettuce! (See, OHN-- patience-- the lettuce is coming! LOL)
I am thinking the other rows, consisting of Bell Peppers, carrots, parsley, and onions will be peeking up out of the dirt this week.
I do have tiny sprouts of mint in a pot on my porch, right alongside the two strawberry plants that are loaded with green berries!
Even the flowers are doing well, and that is a major accomplishment for me as I tend to kill anything that is green and requires regular care. Good thing my kids were normal pink and not green! hahahaha!

Now, all of this nearly came to an abrupt ending on Friday...into Saturday morning. Krystle, who is as excited about this garden as I am, decided to "help" but nearly washed the entire shebang into the next county! Yes, Krystle wanted to help with something.... so, no, I couldn't have been mad even if it had led to a farm disaster on a miniature scale.
Here is how it went down:
Joe's mother has been visiting him for the past few weeks, so I have been spending a few more nights a week in Great Falls than I normally do, and Friday was one of those nights. I usually go home to Helena on Friday, but Gretchen was leaving soon and we all wanted to have a nice dinner out (Borrie's, for all you local readers). Krystle noticed I had not come home, called me to make sure, then asked me if I needed her to water the garden that evening. I was planning on thinning the row of radishes on Saturday, so I told her it was not necessary but if she really wanted to, to only leave the water on for 15 minutes. I was hoping I wouldn't be kneeling in mud, so planned to thin and weed before giving the garden a good drink.
I didn't think she would turn on the water. Hell, she doesn't even pick up her dishes from the living room!
I pull into the driveway about 10am Saturday morning (dirt, since I live in the country) and although the entire drive home was dry and sunny, there are three large puddles between me and the garage! I'm not talking one or two foot puddles... I am talking LARGE... one all the way across the driveway, and two others claiming most of the land I usually drive on!
I park in my usual spot, step out of the Rav-4, and my shoe sinks half an inch into the mud! Krystle's car is gone, but where she parked was a rectangle shaped dry spot. (Now is the time to tell you what the ground is like on my land... clay and rock. In order for it to get truly muddy, there needs to be ALOT of water.) My potted pansies had four inches of water above the dirt, and the soil was nearly liquid in form! My two poor tomato plants were sitting in a bog.
I stood there, outside my gate next to the garden space and actually laughed out loud. Brooke, my adorable 10 year old Malamute/Rottie cross, looked at me as if I had gone completely bonkers! I said to her "Well, if Mother Nature isn't in the mood to try and kill my garden this weekend, it looks like Krystle IS!"
I called the daughter.... voice mail. She must be at work. I TXT her: "Soooo... just how long WAS the water going?"
Her reply was " Um HaHa! So, its a funny story...!"
I never did get to hear it.
Most of the mud dried up by Sunday morning (yes, 24 hours!), but when I left Helena to return to Great Falls on Sunday evening the areas where the puddles had been was still very muddy. No, I didn't get the radishes thinned. Yes, the garden got watered!
Teenagers.... Gotta love 'em!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Saturday, June 6, 2009

A quiet night


A Lemon drop martini and a romantic movie. This is how I am spending my Friday night. Just me, my dog, and a storm blowing against the windows.

Friday, June 5, 2009

WTF?!?

It IS June, isn't it? Wait a sec while I check the calendar on my cell phone.....
Yep..
June 5th!
As I am sitting here at work, I hear the Weather man come on the radio and he says we have a SNOW ADVISORY for this weekend! What??!! SNOW?? Jeeze! It's JUNE! You know...flowers, trips to the lake, BBQ's, motorcycle rides, and sunburns! NOT temps in the 30's and 40's, with the possibility of that wintry white s**t.... um, I mean, stuff! (I don't want to hear it, Joe! He's all excited about it.)
I am hoping that the snow stays in the mountains and it only rains in the lower elevations (Albert, let me know how much you get way up where you are!). I guess I'll have to find something to cover my tomato plants this time. I don't think the one I refer to as "Plant #1" can take another freeze, and "Plant #2" is only about 6 inches tall and not very sturdy yet.
The ground won't freeze, so I don't have to worry about all the seeds I just planted.

Boy! Did I pick a doozy of a year to decide to learn how to garden? :-) I guess if I can get anything out of the ground and to the freezer this year, then next year should be a cake walk.

I'll let ya'all know how it all pans out on Monday.....

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Just when I thought it was a goner....!

Do you remember me telling you about the tomato plant I purchased? Remember I mentioned it was a risk to have plants outside before Memorial Day? Well, turns out I was right. The Wednesday before the long weekend, the night time temps dipped into the low 30's and my beautiful tomato plant with all of it's flowers froze. I thought it was done for, but I took a good look at it last weekend and noticed it was producing new leaves from the base AND from a few of the branches of the main stalk! I didn't kill it after all.

I finished putting in a small raised garden this past weekend, after thinking I wasn't going to be able to manage one this year. On Saturday, I had pretty much given up on the idea, but late Sunday afternoon I changed my mind and decided to give it a go. I was able to construct, fill, level, and plant one tomato plant (a new one after thinking the first had given up the ghost). After work on Tuesday I planted the seeds. The garden is only 8 foot square, so not much room, but I planted one row each of carrots, parsley, lettuce, radishes, onions, and bell peppers. At one end of the pepper row I planted the new tomato plant. The old tomato plant is in a container at one corner of the garden, with containers of flowers at the other three corners. Now I just have to wait and see if anything actually grows!
The radishes and lettuce each say I should have sprouts in about a week and a half, everything else says 14 to 21 days. I guess I'll know just how green my thumb is right around the summer solstice. I know that sounds late to many of you out there, but the growing season here in Montana is short... only about four good months on average (June-Sept). October and May are iffy months. Sometimes they are beautiful, other times they are cold and snowy. A gardener just can't rely on good weather then, but it doesn't hurt to take the chance! SOooo, I am thinking of making another small raised bed and putting in pumpkins, zucchini, cucumbers, watermelon hybrid (small and fast growing), and cantaloupe hybrid. Why not? It doesn't hurt to try and if they don't succeed, I am really only out the $1.00 I paid for each pack of seeds. I am going to start on that tonight after work, and finish on Saturday morning.

Apart from being a beginner, and having either luck or failure on that front, I am worried that my little plants will be eaten by the droves of grasshoppers we seem to get each summer. If any of you readers have any ideas on how to protect my garden from these little buggers, Please, PLEASE share them!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Memorial Day Weekend, Part 2 (finally!)

Ok, Ok, OK.... Yeah, I know Memorial Day weekend was almost two weeks ago, but I have been pretty busy and my laptop has been possessed by a demon! It only works good when it wants to, then on other days it takes me forever to just log onto the net. I shouldn't be surprised... it is almost in it's Teen Years! LOL
For a re-cap... Joe and I picked up Joe's mother from Pocatello, Idaho; driving from Great Falls, MT to Dillion, MT on Friday night then on Saturday we drove from Dillion to Pocatello, ID; visited with Joe's aunts for about an hour, back on the road heading for home with a stop in Idaho Falls for lunch and a side trip to Bannack State Park.
Sunday morning dawn arrived early, but greeted us with a spectacular sunrise over the Helena valley. Joe's mom, Gretchen, was surprised that Montana has casinos so we had to show her one of the local Helena favorites. Last Chance Casino is a great place for a hearty breakfast for only a few dollars. The restaurant was lively with the chatter of the locals and a few travellers. Our food was served fast and hot, as is the norm there. Once breakfast was finished, we hit the road heading North once again.
Since Joe had the long weekend off from work, we wanted to try and show Gretchen as many of our favorite places that we could before returning to Great Falls. We drove from Helena to Kalispell (200 miles) via the Seeley-Swan highway (MT HWY 83). I think this is one of the most beautiful drives the state of Montana has to offer. The 90 mile stretch between the mountain towns of Seeley Lake and Swan Lake passes through a valley with the spectacular Swan Mountains to the right and the majestic Mission Mountains to the left and a chain of 6 lakes (Seeley, Inez, Alva, Rainey, Summit, and Swan) along the highway. All this, and pine forests with the occasional high mountain meadows full of wildflowers, too!
Once in Kalispell, we claimed a couple of motel rooms for the night, then after a small rest and a quick lunch at the local KFC, we drove the 31 miles to the town of West Glacier (formerly known as Belton in it's early years) and the west entrance into Glacier National Park.
The Glacier Park Logo as seen on the door of a Red Bus, or Jammer. The Jammers are open topped buses that the park uses for informative excursions through Glacier.

The main road through Glacier is known as The Going to the Sun Highway. This narrow mountain road is never fully opened until mid-June, and when we arrived the road was opened 18 miles. We drove past Lake McDonald after stopping in the Tourist Trap town of Apgar. This is the only "town" within the borders of Glacier Park. It consists of cafes, restaurants, hotels, and gift shops. There is no gas station. Fuel is only available outside of Glacier Park.
McDonald Creek flows through the narrow valley, eventually emptying into Lake McDonald. There are many pull-outs along the road to stop and see it's many cascades between the lake and Avalanche Creek, where the road begins gaining altitude to cross over Logan Pass.
Sacred Dancing Cascades, McDonald Creek, running fast and milky with spring run off. In the fall, the river is clear and contains only half this much water.
On this trip, the road was closed right at Avalanche Creek. There is a nice picnic area, campground, nature trail, and day hike trails all at this spot.
The confluence of Avalanche Creek and McDonald Creek as seen from the Avalanche Picnic Area.
We chose to take the nature trail, known as The Trail Of The Cedars. It is a short (.25 of a mile) walk that winds it's way through 500 year old cedar trees. The damp environment at this location has kept it safe from the wildfires that have burned many acres of Glacier over the past few decades. The path is peppered with information signs that teach the readers everything from what the local birds are named to what type of trees, insects, animals, and prehistoric peoples have lived in the area over the eons. The highlight of the trail is Avalanche Gorge:
This is one of the most photographed places in Glacier. I have never seen a book or set of post cards on Glacier Park without a picture of Avalanche Gorge. I have taken many photos of this area, and no two are the same. The water and lighting are always different. It is a beautiful place.

Lake McDonald and the Livingston Mountain Range, Glacier National Park. As seen from the boat dock at McDonald Lodge.

After spending the afternoon soaking up the mountain air, we headed back out of Glacier, passing Lake McDonald once again. We stopped at the Lake McDonald Lodge to take a last walk along the lake shore.

We returned to Kalispell about 7pm, but we were so tired from driving over the past few days we just sat in our hotel rooms watching TV until heading to bed fairly early.

On Monday, we woke early, breakfasted from the motel's Continental Breakfast Bar, and headed out of Kalispell towards Great Falls. We had one stop to make before leaving the area... Glacier Park, once again, but the East side this time. We wanted to show Gretchen the Two Medicine area, and Running Eagle Falls before leaving the mountains for the Great Plains of central Montana. (The photos of this part of our trip are on my digital camera, which I don't have with me at work today!... so shoot me! LOL) After spending a few hours driving around the southern tip of Glacier, and about an hour in the Two Medicine area, we stopped in the town of East Glacier (constant readers will remember our alternator went out here a few months ago!). We chose a cute cafe to eat our lunch at, and it was really good!

We arrived back in Great Falls about 4pm on Memorial Day Monday. It was good to be able to just sit on the couch in familiar surroundings and just visit with Joe's mother. We went to a local restaurant (4 B's for all you Montana Folk-- yes, there still IS one Great Falls!!) for a light supper of soup and salads.

We drove many, many miles, but it was tons of fun and Gretchen was able to see SO much of our beautiful state in those few days.