Happy campers

A couple of weeks ago when my husband’s folks came for a visit we took Jonathan on his first camping trip ever. It was great fun sitting around the camp fire enjoying each other’s company and eating some delicious steak and foil vegetables (basically any veggies you want chopped and tossed together in tin foil with whatever seasonings/marinades you want cooked for about half an hour in really hot campfire coals). My husband and I have always enjoyed camping and we chose to camp at Bowman Lake, which I’ve mentioned before as being a pretty special place to us. So we packed up enough stuff to go on a trip for a month (at least it felt that way) and moseyed up the North Fork.

Of course the menfolk began the camping trip with the necessary task of building the fire (and also spent the rest of the evening doing the unnecessary task of tinkering with the fire constantly… if I’ve learned anything in my life, it’s that Nebraska men are stubborn and ornery and you can’t tell ’em a thing, so tinker on, boys!)

My mother-in-law, my son, and I had the important task of managing the fire building.

This photo was clearly taken BEFORE trying to sleep in a tent with a baby. We were happier campers in the evening than in the morning (though it was still fun, regardless).

Dinner was delicious. Can’t beat a Nebraska steak.

Here’s my husband in his natural habitat: Enjoying whiskey by the fire while camping.

After dinner we put Jonathan down to sleep in the tent. We put our sleeping bags on either side of the little nest we made for Jonathan out of blankets and quilts. I wasn’t comfortable putting him in a sleeping bag because I didn’t want him to scoot down inside it and have trouble breathing. Shawn and I knew it would be an interesting night, though, because the three of us don’t sleep well in the same room, er, tent. Jonathan has never shared a room with us, so we tend to wake each other up when we share a room.

As I always do when camping, I purposefully didn’t drink much water so I wouldn’t have to get up and go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. I always get creeped out at night when camping, though it’s a bit silly to think I’m safer in the tent than outside of it. If the bear wants to eat me, he’ll just come in the tent to get me. Alas, that little avoid going to the bathroom plan failed. Jonathan woke up about 3 a.m. and had to be nursed back to sleep. And then of course I had to go to the bathroom. But my thoughtful husband kindly set off the car alarm on accident and scared all of the critters in a 10-mile radius away so it was safe to stumble down to the vault toilet. He also woke the entire campground, I think. Though come morning we overheard the camp host berating some Australians (yes, they had the flag) for leaving their food outside all night (that’s pretty idiotic in bear/cougar/wolf country), and decided we saved the Australians from being some bear’s midnight snack.

Jonathan woke back up about 6 a.m. screaming and again we awoke the entire campground (I’m sorry!). As you can see from the picture below I’m not quite as happy a camper as I was the night before. Jonathan, however, is his smiley self.

So that was our camping trip. We are looking forward to camping with our son in the future, but I think we’re going to wait another year or two for the next trip.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Green Thumbs: The trouble with cabbage loopers (or, a not-so green thumb moment)

Well, I know I said I would do a post about composting next in this series, but I decided a post about the dastardly cabbage looper was more appropriate. This is also a post in which I admit my failures as a gardener. Can’t win ’em all!

The cabbage looper is a caterpillar that becomes a moth after metamorphosis and has a been a royal pain in the butt for me this summer. Cabbage loopers love plants in the cabbage (brassica) family, including cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, and collard greens. They will also go after tomatoes, potatoes, and cucumbers. The little green caterpillars eat holes in the leaves and keep the cabbages (in my case) from heading well. The moths lay nasty little eggs in slimy clutches in the cabbage, which of course spawn more cabbage loopers and drive me batty (not too mention the disappointment I feel at having my future sauerkraut literally nipped in the bud!).

We first noticed the problem about a month ago. The cabbage leaves were looking pretty chewed like this:

I picked around near the head and pulled green caterpillar after green caterpillar out of the cabbages. Despite my best efforts to nab the caterpillars and squish them, we still have had lots of the moths, which can be brown or white. The moths lay the nasty eggs I mentioned before. Here’s a couple of caterpillars AND eggs in my cabbages (and here’s my sigh of defeat):

Disgusting, no?

So what do you do about cabbage loopers? I’m running an organic operation in my garden so insecticides are out of the question (and who wants all those chemicals on their food, anyway?). My mother said to try putting chili powder on the cabbages. My mother-in-law recommended pouring milk on them. A farmer friend said they catch the moths in butterfly nets and squish the offending bugs. Another farmer friend said to use Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), which is a bacterium that targets insects (it doesn’t affect people), though using anything like that is a bit sketchy she said, and I agree. She also swats the moths with ping pong rackets. This sounds the most fun, bounding about the garden with a ping pong racket of mothy death, plus the fringe benefit of actually feeling like you made a difference in the moth population’s demise.

Here’s hoping your cabbages are looper-free!

High summer garden

Sorry for the complete lack of posts the past few weeks, people. It’s summertime in Montana which means we’ve had some visitors! And I think those visitors would rather I hang out with them than update my blog. Apologies, blog friends. So, to make up for my neglect, I’m going to post quite a few times this week! I’ll update you from the backlog of the past few weeks.

First up: a little garden update. While I write this, the sky is darkening and there’s a dislocated thump of thunder in the distance. We are so excited for rain, and we hope it does actually rain instead of passing tantalizingly overhead. It’s been very warm here, in the 90s, which is not normal, folks. Aaaah, global weirding. Anyway, it’s finally cooling down, back into the 70s. And I think my poor plants will appreciate the reprieve from the heat. They’ve been rather limp the past week, despite their daily dousing.

These photos are from three days ago, but things haven’t changed much in the garden since then. Things are continuing to ripen well. We’ve pulled three nicely sized zucchinis out and we’re having a bumper crop of green beans. Here’s our Thai peppers reddening into ripeness.

I am excited for the heat they will add to our cooking this fall and winter. A good way to remember the warmth of summer.

My pumpkins are oranging nicely on the vine. Yes, oranging. I did just make that word up, but I think it works well.

Remember the pumpkin photo from July 31?

Here’s the same pumpkin three weeks later:

 

These aren’t the only pumpkins I’ve got growing. I’ve got another that’s still quite green that’s double the size of the other two.

We’re looking forward to pumpkin pies, cookies, and muffins. And pumpkin mush for our son!

The sunflowers are much taller these days. The tallest is about seven feet tall. Here’s yours truly again for scale. Seems like every few days we have a couple more lovely sunflower blooms out there. I planted two varieties of sunflowers: the standard yellow sort and one called Mexican Torch. I adore the Mexican Torch variety. Here’s a bloom:

Definitely saving the seeds from this flower. Isn’t the color just amazing?

The bees like the sunflowers too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wild Geese

Last night as my husband and I stood in the garden, admiring the growing things and enjoying the reddish hues the sky had thrown on as the sun sank behind the hill, two flocks of Canada geese flew over our heads in typical “V” formation. As they passed overhead, honking away in what I assume is conversation, I heard the sound of their wings as the feathers and sinew and bone cut through the air. The collective flapping of synchronized wing beats. The whish whish of flight.

I’ve never heard that in my life. As a child of the big city, anything other than the honking as the geese flew by was drowned out by the city sounds of traffic and construction. Not so, here. My husband seemed amused at my wonderment. I asked him if he’d heard that sound before, to which he replied, of course, while hunting. Not the first, nor the last time I’ll envy his country upbringing.

But that point is moot. I hope that today, wherever you find yourself, you find wonder in your life. We all could use a little more wonder.

A wedding present

One of my oldest and dearest friends got married this past weekend and I was a bridesmaid in her wedding (she was a bridesmaid in mine). Elise and I have known each other since eighth grade. The first time we met was on the bus ride home from middle school. I didn’t enjoy sitting in the back of the bus with the other eighth graders because they were loud, obnoxious, and derived far too much enjoyment from shouting “PENIS” at the top of their lungs during the bus ride (most of those people are now lovely adults who I enjoy far much more than I did then). So I sat in the very front seat with the lowly sixth graders. But hey, I was always the first person off the bus. Anyway, here is the first conversation Elise and I had (keep in mind that until the very end of high school Elise weighed about 80 pounds soaking wet):

Elise: Can I sit with you?
Me: Sure, but just so you know, I’m an eighth grader. (She was so tiny I figured she was a sixth grader. Man, I was pompous back then!)
Elise (all about 4 feet 9 inches of her at that point): Me too! I’m reading “Les Miserables”!

And thus, a wonderful friendship was born. Elise and I spent many pleasant passing periods together in high school because we had many of the same classes (she always did a shuffle-dance impatiently while I took my sweet time at my locker… we were still on time to class, though!). We also got together after school and on weekends for tea and chats and filming the occasional ridiculous home movie complete with costumes (usually involving the three musketeers along with our friend Melissa). “Vive le signe de trois! Un pour tout! Tout pour un!”

Here’s a photo of said ridiculous costumes. I’m on the left, little Elise in the middle, Melissa on the right. This was taken in high school French class our senior year (those are soda bottles!). We all dressed up for, I think Mardi Gras, and throughout the day people in the halls during passing period would say: “So you’re the third musketeer!” or “Where’s the other one?”

Yes, we were THOSE people in high school. But hey, it was fun. We were well-adjusted, not-very-angsty teenagers, which apparently these days is saying a lot.

After graduation, Elise went to Minnesota for school and I to Nebraska. We started writing each other letters regularly (snail-mail letters with stamps even! 😉 ), and to this day, we continue the tradition. The contents of our letters has changed, but our friendship has only deepened over the years. It is a relationship I profoundly thankful for. It always makes my day when I find one of Elise’s letters in my mailbox.

So for Elise’s wedding, because she is the sort of person to appreciate something handmade, I embroidered a camping scene. She and her husband love to camp and hike and climb. The words on the embroidery are from the Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros song “Home.”

It took about a month of steadily working on it a little bit before bed every night, but I’m pretty proud of how it turned out. It was a lot of fun to make a wedding present for my dear friend.

To you, Elise! Congratulations! Lutefisk!