Friday, August 30, 2013

Eight Days Growing

So, I mentioned not long ago how easy it is to notice how rapidly the garden changes when I am away from it for a while.  That was all the more evident when Matt and returned from eight full days away from it.  It looked so lush and wonderful and was positively bursting with bounty that needed harvested--summer squash and strawberries most notably.  There was so much summer squash--almost 20 pounds to harvest upon our return!  We're gobbling it up as fast as we can and it is so good.  We are grateful to Matt's brother, Ryan, for watering it for us while we were away (and pulling the downed limb off our carrot patch after that windstorm).  Matt told me he didn't even think of the garden once until the day we were driving back home.  I was surprised to hear that, really, since the garden is Matt's pride and joy and he works in it and talks about it daily.  But, we knew it was in good hands.  And boy, did it grow.
Butternut squash, chard, and the summer squash patch in the back.
Our first tomatoes starting to turn.
The herb patch--mint, (lots of) basil, sage, chives, oregano, thyme.
Big zucchini, little zucchini side by side.  This variety is called Raven.
Finally...a couple sunflowers opened!  I feel like I've been waiting forever.  
The birds planted some for me, too, and they also were in bloom when we returned.  I think they're cute.
Beans for drying.  The rows are sort of muddled and its hard to tell at this point but we planted Red Mexican Beans, Yellow Indian Beans, and Hutterite Soup Beans.  And then we joked that apparently we only grow ethnically themed dry beans.  It was not consciously planned that way, but none the less.
Tomatillo blossoms are quite striking.  The bees love them.  
The little paper lanterns of the tomatillos are pretty awesome looking, too.  What a neat plant to grow!  I hope the lanterns fill out well, too, because I sure do enjoy a nice green salsa.
We've got three kinds of summer squash growing.  The previously mentioned dark green Raven variety.  A light green, sort of striped variety called Clairmore.  And these bright yellow beauties, Golden Dawn.
The ever-bearing strawberries continue to fruit.  I am so impressed and pleased.  Ryan even ate some as garden-tending fee and there was still lots for picking upon our return.
Chard, butternuts, kale, chard with corn and pole beans in the background.
The pole beans have exceeded the height of their supporting tepees.   In fact, they are making bridges between them of their intertwining vines.  They are Rattlesnake and Purple Pole beans.
Their blossoms are lovely.
The corn is starting to make ears!!  We've never grown corn before.
To my great surprise and delight it looks like some of our pathetic little pepper plants (we had a rough year with our pepper and tomato seedlingsmight actually do okay.  One cayenne and a couple Nardello are at least fruiting well.  There is still hope for them yet.
Peppers with tomatoes and tomatillos in the background.  This is a sort of experimental bed.  All the tomato plants were regrettably small and so Matt just planted them a little closer together.   Its like a tomato hedge.  We'll see how well it fruits.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Inspiration Thursday - Happy With More

"If we do not feel grateful for what we already have what makes us think we'd be happy with more?"
Glacier National Park
I stumbled  upon this little nugget of wisdom on Facebook of all places--not my usual go-to for inspirational quotes I must say.  It immediately resonated with my soul though the moment I saw it.  I tried to figure out who to attribute it to as that was completely lacking on Facebook, but it is unclear despite my search efforts.  Most places just attribute it to that ever wise person simply called "Unknown."  Two places I found list is as by someone named Ritu Ghatourey.  However, other than some other inspirational type quotes on quote compilation websites I cannot locate any information on who this person is/was.  Nothing.  But, it doesn't matter that much who said it in the end, only that I know it to be true.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Exceedingly Awesome GNP

Ptarmigan Lake and a section of the trail to Ptarmigan Tunnel
Matt and I were away from home for a shade over a week on a vacation to Glacier National Park that exceeded our expectations in its awesomeness.  So much beauty and wonder and pleasure to be had in such a magical place.   I didn't have a whole lot of things that I specifically wanted to do or see while I was there.  In fact it ended up being only three things.  I managed to do/see all of them with ease (and with great joy).
A wildflower bonanza along the trail to Hidden Lake.
#1  I hiked to a glacier, twice actually--enjoying the sight from both below it at its melt lake and above it from the insanely steep mountaintop overlook.  I didn't really enjoy the latter.  It made my head swim...which is not what I want when I am on a mountain top.  We saw many other glaciers from a distance.  Since the glaciers are predicted to be gone in my lifetime this was my biggest goal for our trip.
Grinnell Glacier on the lower left.  Salamander Glacier on the top right.  With the stunningly opaque, jewel toned Grinnell Lake below them.
#2  I saw many mountain goats--from fairly up close as well as from a great distance as they so easily climbed the highest and rockiest of mountains.   It was pretty much mind-blowing the way they climb.  I was giddy.  Oh, so giddy.
A mountain goat grazing not far off the trail to Hidden Lake.  She was so close and it was so still you could hear her tearing up mouthfuls of vegetation and chewing.
#3  I picked wild huckleberries and ate them right off the the bush until my hands were stained with purple juice.  This was of course after eating a berry Matt thought was a huckleberry and which turned out to be decidedly NOT a huckleberry.  It tastes like poison.  I spit it out and rinsed that horrible taste out of my mouth immediately--and then re-checked the guidebooks at the park store to confirm what exactly we were looking for with greater certainty on the remaining hikes.
I am sure there will be many, many more accounts of our hikes and adventures with the accompanying photos to soon as I sort through the 1,513 photos I took on vacation and have a moment to reflect and organize my thoughts on all the nearly indescribable delights.  Yup.  1,513.  That's right.  With so much astounding beauty in every direction I guess I got a little snap-happy with the ol' camera!
A gloriously pink sunset reflecting upon Lake MacDonald.
Boy, oh boy, did we have the best time ever.
Matt on the trail to Scenic Point on our first day in the park.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Nest Parasites and New Birds at Pompey's Pillar

My friend and fellow "bird nerd" (his term), Carlin, is working out at Pompey's Pillar National Monument this summer.  He posted a photo online of a nest with a parasitic egg in it--wait, let me explain a minute:  Some birds do not make nests of their own.  Instead they sneak into the nests of other birds and lay their eggs there, sloughing off the work of incubating, feeding, and otherwise bringing up a baby bird.  The nesting bird typically raises the parasitic egg as it it were her own though sometimes she catches on and kick the parasitic egg out.  Quite often though its comical because the parasite (Brown-headed Cowbirds in this case) are so big and the host (Lazulli Bunting in this case) is so small.  The baby will quickly outgrow the "mother."  The cowbird also tends to out-compete nestmates because of the size advantage which can cause the host nestlings to perish from lack of food.
Its always seemed pretty fascinating to me.  Brutal and remarkable as the workings of nature so often are.  But I'd never seen it with my own two eyes.  And then Carlin posted a photo from Pompey's Pillar of a small nest with two eggs in it--one blue and one brown.  I was immediately excited and he agreed to show me the nest if I came out to the pillar.
By the time I got there the Lazulii Bunting had laid two more eggs, snug in the nest alongside the speckled brown cowbird egg.  The female was sitting on the nest which was along what seemed to be a main foot trail in a shrub that was hardly more than waist high.  It seemed such an unlikely spot to choose, but I am not a bunting...what do I know?   We never did see the more stunning blue colored male, but oh well, we'd never seen one at all before--male or female.
After showing us the nest and watching birds and chatting for a while Carlin had to get back to work and Matt and I took a stroll around the pillar.  We watched White Throated Swifts circling about overhead along the cliff's edge for a long while.  We'd never seen them before either.
It was wonderful except for the swarms of mosquitoes which were ruthless and relentless in their blood-sucking.  There were birds everywhere to watch, but it was hard to get them into frame in the binoculars when you had to slap away a mosquito every five seconds.  We forgot our repellent and were very unprepared and defenseless against their onslaught.  I am sure the booming insect population was great for critters like the toad we crossed paths with and all those insect-loving birds though.  I came home with easily more than a dozen mosquito bites.
We saw a large flock of American White Pelicans.   They look all white when on the river scooping fish up as they glide along the surface, but they have conspicuous black wing tips when soaring overhead.  It makes them easy to spot.  They also have the longest wingspan of any bird in Montana which makes them pretty easy to ID as well--some wingspans are nine feet across.
A House Wren gave us quite a concert from a small tree.  It was quite dazzling.  And if I can capture a bird with its mouth open, singing its heart out, I am always so very pleased.  It always amazes me how such a small little thing as this bird--which weighs only about as much as two U.S. quarters--can sing like that.  They produce so much sound and it carries so well.  Its pretty much miraculous.
Matt and I agreed we'd have to visit the pillar more often.  It is quite the hotspot for birds and not too far from town.  We will have to be sure and pack the insect repellent next time though.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

How Far - Inspiration Thursday

"Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go." 
-- T.S. Eliot

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Chocolate Cone

In St. Regis, MT there is a little hamburger stand called Frosty's.  My mom and I popped in there on our way back from a family wedding in Idaho last month.  It was really small and quaint.  It reminded me of a 50's diner.  On the menu board my eye was caught be a little note in parentheses after the listing for ice cream cones.  It said "(non-dairy)."  So, I inquired about it.  Turns out they have a non-dairy chocolate ice cream.  So I ordered a small cone with great excitement.  I couldn't even begin to tell you the last time I had an ice cream cone!!  Many a bowl of ice cream for sure, but its been years since I've had a cone.  What a fun little treat!
And I am sure glad I ordered a small one...when she handed it to me with six beautiful swirls I had to wonder just how big a large would have been!

At one point in my life, back when I worked at McDonald's, I would eat an ice cream cone several times a week.  Now they are a treat, and a darn tasty one at that.  I ate it with mindful enjoyment of every lick, experiencing the novelty of it with my whole self.  And it was good.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Eating Out(side)

Matt and I rarely "eat out" in the usual understanding of that phrase.  But we do eat outside a lot which I refer to in my head with the same terminology.  "Eating out."  Taken in this sense we really enjoy eating out quite a bit.
And now we even have a real picnic table to eat at--no more lugging the folding table from the tie-dye workshop upstairs and outside.    Matt's parents gave it to us.  Its awesome.
There is just something incredible about enjoying a meal with the big blue sky overhead, birds singing in the trees, maybe a gentle breeze or the warmth of sunshine on my skin, looking over the garden where our happy plants grow and provide us with wonderful things for our table.  It make the already pleasurable experience of a home-cooked meal even more pleasurable.
Hooray for having a patio AND a picnic table.  I am so pleased already with both.  Eating out just got even better than it already was.