Friday, October 18, 2013

Winter is Coming

Fall and the onset of winter sure is different in Montana from North Carolina.  Back in NC, I would be basking in 70-80 degree weather during the day, dropping to 50-60 at night.  Here in Helena, we are 'basking' in 50 degree weather with nighttime temps dropping below freezing.  There have already been a couple of 'snow' threats and there is snow on the higher elevations (like right behind the house), but nothing on my lawn yet except a normal freeze.

Yesterday, Texter, Lady K and I had to drive from Helena to Great Falls for Lady K to get her flu shot.  The day was gray and drizzly here in Helena and on most of the drive to Great Falls.  Texter took the camera or we would have been stopping every few minutes for me to take pictures.  So here are a few of Texter's pictures she took on the drive.

This picture (which she did a really good job of, by the way) shows snow on the higher mountain tops already.  But it also catches the low clouds we were seeing and how the grasses have already turned brown in the fall weather.

This is one of the views along the way.  There is no way to really capture how lovely the winding Missouri is on our way to/from Great Falls.  If you haven't ever watched "A River Flows Through It", watch if for the scenery alone and you might get an idea of what it is like.  Again, Texter did a good job of taking a picture.

On the way back, I did make her let me stop at a scenic overlook for a couple of pictures.  I need to get out in the car and drive around and take nothing but foliage pictures one day when the sun is shining.

I like this picture because the bridge over the road in the distance gives you a sense of just how big these 'hills' really are.      

Once you leave town and planned planting of trees, the color is many bright yellow of the aspen and birch.  It is beautiful against the white of the bark.

When I saw this picture from the overlook that I took, I had to laugh.  If you cut out the large pine trees on the right hand side of the picture, you would almost think this was a rock with lichen on it.  However, the brown, red and yellow are small trees and shrubs on the rock.  The green is a large expanse of lichen, however.

Hopefully, I will have a chance to get out and take more pictures before the snows start in earnest.  

Friday, August 23, 2013

There Be Dragons!

Or rather salamanders.  Walking the mall on Last Chance Gulch yesterday with Texter and Lady K, I happened to look up rather than into the storefronts and discovered this.

Looked like cavorting dragons to me.  But as it turns out, these are actually fire salamanders and were an advertisement for the insurance company which was originally housed in the building at the turn of the century.

We were there to actually let me take some videos of the mall for a class project (which will be posted later, once finished).  I decided to do it on the pedestrian mall I am loving so much.  It also just happens to end at the library, which means I can make a quick trip to any store while on break.  That could be good or bad for my paycheck.

Anyway, I have to say that Helena has done a great job of keeping the old with the new.  The "Atlas" building still houses businesses, but also has apartments in it.  Who wouldn't want to live where they are protected by these wonderful guys?

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Hiking Grizzly Gulch

I am coming to the conclusion that Montana was designed by Escher, because everything is UP.  I think sometimes downhill is actually up.  However, I am still determined to hike the trails around here.  Eventually, my body will catch up with my desire.

So this morning, I and one of the other Helena Hikers, took on Grizzly Gulch.  The trailhead is just outside of downtown Helena and very easy to get to.  

The names of the trails alone are reason to hike them.  Don had mapped out our route as there were several different ways you can hike this area.  How can you not want to hike on "Show Me The Horse" trail?

We started the hike at about 8 a.m. so lighting was great.  The day was just right for the hike, not too cold, not to hot.  And after the rain yesterday evening, the trails were not dusty to walk on. Starting out fairly steep at the beginning, we were hiking along the side of the hill, through trees.  Unfortunately, this early part of the hike also seems to be a favorite for late night partying as there was a lot of broken glass along the trail.

My problem with hiking is this (besides the whole uphill thing) I want to look at stuff around me.  I want to try and identify the flora.  And after the weekend at BOW, I want to bird watch too.  Neither of those are conducive to hiking with any speed.

For about the first third of the hike the trail wanders in and out of the trees, giving you glimpses of the views yet to come. 

Besides several pines that were downed along the trail, but cleared out of the way so we didn't have to climb over them, there are outcroppings of stone.  The stone is great, covered with lichen of all shades of green and orange.

For about the first hour of the hike we didn't see anyone else on the trail.  However, when we got to one of our first splits in the trail, we met a gentleman making a branch in the trail.  It seems on Sunday there will be a race along the trails.  More UMP than I've got.

And there was a part or two of 'downhill' before more UP.

Once we got up on the Mt. Helena Ridge it was fantastic views all around.  

After the ridge, the trail lead into a wooded area again.  It was at that point I discovered the battery I packed for my camera was the dead one, not the charged one, so I didn't get pictures of the last part of the trail, from "Show Me The Horse" back to the parking lot.

Also, it was along this point that we started encountering the mountain bikers and trail runners.  Trail runners have my admiration.  I'm having trouble just walking the trail, much less running on it.

Three hours later we arrived back at the cars and about 10 minutes later I was back in my driveway.  Can't beat that.  Of course, Lady K and Texter laughed as I shuffled my aching body into the shower.  They have no compassion.  

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Backyard Flora and Fauna

Sitting on the patio or sitting in the living room and observing through the big glass doors has become one of the favorite things to do here.  Filling the feeders has meant a steady supply of activity.  The flowers in the yard are a constant delight and the ones I have added are growing well.  I was worried a bit about growing things in Montana, but my fears have been groundless.

The flowers are a delight this year, especially the sweet peas.  I just wish they were a more fragrant variety.  

Mandavilla blooms 

Spruce cones at the top of the tree

Sweet Peas

"Yellow" flowers and seed heads (not sure what it is)

We have had a few butterflies coming through.  I haven't been able to find out what the name of this little fellow is yet.

But our favorites are the birds.

Sometimes we have a crowd at the feeders.  I have missed the hummingbirds at the feeder.  Maybe better luck next year now that they know we have a feeder. 

Of course, some still have their own feeders, even if they are big enough to be feeding themselves. 

House finches are plentiful, as are magpies. 

It seems we are down a couple of squirrels.  They weren't quite as fast as the dogs it seems.

Black-capped chickadees are starting to appear at the feeder. 

Not a Mourning Dove (as I first thought), but the Eurasian Collared Dove.  Yesterday, as I took out the trash, I startled a flock of about 20 in the alley behind the house.

Another favorite of mine are the crows.  They are so stately and I do love the fact that a flock is called a 'murder'. 

Then the blackbird is plentiful at the feeder too.

This is what I think is a Brewer's Blackbird female with a Grackle scarfing up bread crumbs.

But the most unique feeder we have in the backyard is the Lady K bird.  She is seated on her favorite outdoor perch.

A messy feeder, she has a distinctive call and is very social.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Montana State Fair in Great Falls

Being a Marine recruiter, Gibbs was required to assist in manning the booth at the State Fair this past weekend.  And wanting to see more of what goes on in Montana, Texter, Lady K and I attended the fair twice.  The first was opening night (Friday) and the camera ate my pictures.  Then we went again on Sunday, both to get more pictures and to see Gibbs.

Normally I am a 'no crowds' sort of person.  I have experience with the North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh and it is shoulder to shoulder most of the time.  Unless you go early on a Sunday morning and then you can beat the crowd.  But opening night! Forget it.

Crowds, or lack thereof, didn't bother Lady K

While small and definitely no crowds, the Montana State Fair is fun.  Without all the crowds we were able to stroll around and look at exhibits and really enjoy ourselves.  I will have to admit we did indulge in a lot of "if this was in North Carolina" during our two visits.

The noticeable difference to me was the small showing at the exhibits for cooking and needlework items.  What was there was good, but I really expected a lot more.

Jams and Jellies (the whole exhibit)

Needlework and Sewing

One good thing about the size and the lack of crowds was that I was able to meet the head of the "Household" department and I just might be doing more than entering jams, jellies and needlework next year.  But we will see.

One of the more interesting exhibits was the Montana Wildlife Department and their display.  Lots of taxidermy (and they love their taxidermy here) and tons of posters and pamphlets (and you know I love my freebies!)

Nice kitty, kitty.

I was a little upset we didn't see the quilting on Friday night.  However, when we went back on Sunday we did find the building with the quilting in it.  I am use to see quilts out the door and in piles because they had too many.  Here, there were probably a couple dozen.  But those that were there were really nice.

Mariner's Compass

This is the Mariner's Compass pattern I am currently working on.  Of course, my colors are completely different.  We will see if it looks this nice when finished.

And on Sunday we did we our livestock to a certain degree.

There was this horse team and then a wagon drawn by a pair of mules which circled the main area of the fair.  Made me so want a horse again.

Lady K was whispered the secrets of good showmanship by this little goat.  I can't wait until next year when she is a little more aware of what is going on. 

Baby goat meets Lady K.  They are both about the same age.

All in all, the Montana State Fair is fun and worth a stroll through.  Since the crowds were virtually nonexistent, I will definitely be looking forward to going again next year.  

Saturday, July 27, 2013

"Fairly" Crying

Right now I am nursing a sore head and a desk with dents where I am banging my head against it.  Texter, Lady K and I went to the Montana State Fair last night.  I think my card was set on write protect and didn't register one single picture I had taken.  (At least Texter has some pictures on her camera, but it's not the same!)

So I will share what the patio looks like now instead.  

This is the whiskey barrel with mandavilla and petunias in it.  I am so please with how the petunias have grown and spread out.  Of course, if this was North Carolina the vine would me twice as tall by now.  But after only a couple of months in the barrel, I think it has made a respectable growth effort.

Then my tomatoes.

This is my vegetable garden.  My little pot of peppers on the ground has yielded a baggy full of peppers so far.  I plan on pickling them for Mexican food later on.  The tomatoes are doing pretty well.  I have lost the names of most of them since I had transplanted them from Great Falls house.  I know I have a Cherokee Purple and a Sungold (and know which ones those are), but other than that, no clue.

I have eaten one grape tomato and one green zebra off the vine, but this is my big one so far.  In fact, I picked it today and it is sitting on my kitchen counter waiting for me to go get some bologna for a sandwich today.

This is my only 'problem'.  One of the bird feeders is located at the end of the patio, right over the planter.  I have some 'volunteers', such as this sunflower, coming up.  And I think some birds and squirrels eyeing my tomatoes.

In one of the flower beds I stuck this zucchini.  I really don't expect much out of it because it has to contend with the dogs and I did plant it late, but there are a couple of blooms on it. 

So far I am pleased with what I have been able to grow so far.  Now let's get onto the harvesting!