Summer’s last sigh

We went on a little walk this morning after breakfast on the edge of the Flathead River. It’s a place we walk every now and then. Not really a hike, though we do pick our way over rocks and across sand. It’s more of a place for a stroll, then for standing beside the river to reflect. To think about whatever issues are consuming one’s life right now, or to shove those issues into a compartment in the mind and simply be instead. I always try to think only the big thoughts beside that big river. To listen to the water tumbling over rocks and refuse to allow the petty thoughts do their own tumbling about.

River bendDidn’t succeed in thinking big thoughts today, though. Instead Big Country and I talked over what we are always talking over, our business. Turning over what we’re doing in our heads, trying to do better. Sometimes it all feels like we’re trying to squeeze water out of a stone, blood from a turnip. But we talk about it still, because it’s our livelihood and we’ve got to keep striving, trying, working and working and working to make our business succeed.

But walking by the river helps. It’s where I can let the stress that seems all-consuming lately fall off my shoulder for a few minutes. Where I can listen to the sound of the water on the rocks, watch the play of the sun on the ripples, notice that the tired green leaves on the aspens are fading golden. Autumn. It’s almost here. It’s the last day of August, hurray!

River skyTomorrow we’re headed up the North Fork for huckleberry turnovers and a hike by our most favorite lake, Bowman. I’m going to try again with thinking those big thoughts, which to me really just means opening my brain to all that is happening around me, mapping it with the flashing of my neurons. Listen to the water. Feel the wind. Watch my son marvel at all these new sights and experiences. Forget about the stress and longing and fear waiting for me at home.

BridgeI’m ready for August to be over. I’m ready for summer to end. It’s been a long summer, full of telling other people where the best hikes are instead of hiking them myself. It’s been a summer of hard, hard work. I am not writing this for sympathy. I am merely observing that I feel like those aspen leaves look: tired, faded. But on the other hand, perhaps I’m turning golden too. My favorite season of the year is just around the corner. I’ve got to believe that good things and easier times are coming with it.

Happenings

As I write this I’m sitting at the desk we set up in our bedroom recently. My mom brought me all of my childhood furniture (which was her childhood furniture), and since it is much better quality than what Big Country and I had, we’ve switched out all of our clothes and we’re using the dresser (yes, we’re sharing a dresser… is that weird?) instead of the two smaller dressers we had before. We went through our clothes again last week and yet again we’ve got four trash bags full of clothes to donate. We’re really on a live simply and with less stuff kick. We’ve gone through our bedroom and the guest bedroom closet (which was full to bursting with stuff), and I am greatly enjoying being this pared down in those spaces.

We would have gotten further with the paring down except we’ve all three been absolutely slain by a stomach virus this past week. Peanut picked it up at daycare (his first time throwing up ever, which apparently is a very traumatizing experience, poor kid), I followed suit, and now poor husband has it. I haven’t felt that sick in years and I’m glad it’s over. I was completely useless yesterday, sleeping for most of it and barely moving from the bed/couch. We’ve all been so sick we didn’t even open the brewery today because it just wasn’t worth it. But enough about being horribly ill.

It’s a little strange being surrounded by my childhood furniture again, like going back in time in a way, but comforting too. I’m planning to sand it down and re-stain it at some point in the future because I don’t like the color of the stain and never really have, and I’ll update the pulls. They’re very old-fashioned and show their age. But I’ll probably hang on to them because who knows, they might come back in vogue before we know it. I’ll take pictures of the furniture soon and post the “before” photos. I am going to stain the furniture, not paint it, because I think some furniture just shouldn’t be painted, and because this furniture will in a few years become Peanut’s, once he’s big enough to need a dresser, desk, and twin bed. I suppose Big Country and I will need to get an actual nice dresser for ourselves at that point.

It’s nice to have the desk because it’s going to be my special writing space. If I’m going to be a writer, I need to actually write every now and then, wouldn’t you say? The only way those novels in progress are going to get finished is if I set aside time nearly every day to just write! How did Ernest Hemingway put it? Writing isn’t very hard, one just has to sit down at the typewriter and bleed… or something like that.

Here’s a picture of the view from my writing desk (houses below the trees edited out):

TeakettleNot a bad view at all! It’s especially beautiful with the sunset light like in this photo.

CottonwoodsThe past week we’ve been having a cotton snow storm every day, with little cotton snowdrifts gathering on the edges of the lawn, caused by the large old cottonwoods surrounding our house. It’s actually been a comfort, staring out the window at the trees and watching the cotton drift lazily by, as I’ve drifted in and out of sickness stupor.

HoneysuckleI’ll leave you with a picture of a honeysuckle bloom that’s coming along quite nicely in the front yard. Look for a couple more posts this week about garden progress and hops!

 

 

 

Garden 2013

It’s amazing how productive you can be when your son wakes you up at 6:30 a.m. We’d planned to spend the morning getting raised beds built for our backyard, and because we were up so early, they were done by 10 a.m. (and we even had pancakes for breakfast for getting our DIY on, too)! We planned to have two plots in the community garden this summer, but realized that even though the community garden is only four blocks away, we just weren’t making the effort to get over there every day and BAM the weeds have taken over our two plots. So instead of stressing about it all summer, I’ve given my plots up so someone on the waiting list who really wants them can have them, and we put in some raised beds in the backyard instead. Much easier to just dash out the door and tend to the plants in the backyard than have to pack up the Peanut, get toys for him, a blanket, etc. to go to the community garden (any other moms notice how getting ready to go anywhere with kids takes about four times as long?).

We decided to put the raised beds around the shed because the shed walls will continue to give off heat from the day even after the sun goes down, and in a place like Montana, we’ll take that season-extending radiant heat for sure.

Shed beforeI bought eight 2×8-foot untreated cedar boards to build the beds (cedar is somewhat rot resistant). We used frame anchors and galvanized nails to put the boards together; the boards we cut in 4-foot and 2-foot lengths to make 2×4-foot beds.

When you lack a sawhorse, improvise.

When you lack a sawhorse, improvise.

Peanut sat on a blanket in the grass playing with toys, newspaper, and tools (got to start those little DIYers young, you know).

Peanut in grass

He also reminded us to do things properly and use the level!

Peanut with level

So by 10 a.m. we had five raised beds (though a friend just surprised us with a bunch more plants — one of the tomatoes he gave us is already 4 feet tall! — so we may need to built another one or two). We put layers of wet newspaper down on top of the grass to kill it (and because newspaper is biodegradable while a lot of weed fabric is not). We filled them with locally made potting soil (organic mix of compost, vermaculite, and perlite) and got to planting seeds!

Raised beds 2I planted two kinds of basil, spinach, red chard, carrots, bush beans, peas, onion sets, and zucchini. We’ll plant tomatoes and garlic tomorrow, and noodle on building a couple more beds or just buying some planters for the other plants.

Raised beds 1After the raised beds were finished, my husband planted to raspberry canes another friend gave us along the fence, where they can keep our neighbor’s lovely lilac bushes company. We still need to mulch them and put some river rocks around the raspberry cane bed, but we’re looking forward to enjoying ripe red berries soon!

Raspberry canesAll in all, a very productive day. I don’t have anywhere near the space I had to garden last year when we lived out in the country (heavy sigh), but on the other hand, I am much more busy this summer with Peanut and the brewery, so I think in the end it’s actually a blessing. We are going to put river rocks around the raised beds as well for decoration (and for when we move… we’re definitely taking our raised beds with us, and since the grass will be dead beneath them, we want to ring the area in stones so it looks like a nice garden bed for whoever lives in this house next).

I am looking forward to enjoying the garden this summer, and am especially excited to involve the Peanut this year. What are you growing your garden? Is it a raised bed garden like mine, or do you have acres at your fingertips?

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!