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!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Hanging Valley Trail

In my effort to get out and about, I joined up with a meetup group, the Helena Hikers, and today went for my first hike.  Hanging Valley Trail is listed in a couple of books and online as a "moderate" hike.  I talked to one of the hikers and she asked some very good questions about my abilities (none) and we agreed I would try it and stop when I reached my limit.  My goal is to get so that I can hike the majority of the trails in and around Montana.  The day was cool to start with and I had my pack all filled with water and snacks (and bandaids and ibuprofen) and met the group at the trailhead in Vigilante Campgrounds. 

Now to start off, the directions to get to the trailhead is to follow York Road out of Helena and the campgrounds are about 30 miles away.  York Road starts out as a nice, winding road.  The it gets 'windier'.  And then the pavement ends and you still have about 10 more miles left.  The road ends at the camp grounds.  Apparently York Road was once a valid road and a scenic route.  However, after it washed out a few times, the Parks Department said forget it.  

There are actually two trails at Vigilante Campgrounds.  One is Trout Canyon which is suppose to be easy (rated wheelchair accessible for the first mile).  The other is Hanging Valley, labeled moderate.  I have not had much experience with camping or campgrounds, but I was impressed with this campground.  Small, but neat.  A couple of bathrooms and each site had a picnic table and a fire pit.

Trout Canyon Trail is at the end of the road where you turn into the campgrounds, crossing over the creek.

After the walk, one of the hikers and I dipped our feet into the creek.  Unlike a creek in North Carolina, which in July would have been tepid, this definitely woke you up.

Since it was questionable if I would make even part of the hike, I met up with the group at the trailhead.  This little beauty was waiting here for me.

This I could identify, a thistle, complete with a little white spider.

There were six of us which showed up for the hike.  Two other women and 3 men and one of the best trained dogs I have been around, Marky.

So up the trail we go.  And my brain was going "are you really this stupid?"

Please note, I had been advised, both by one of the other hikers and by what I was reading there is about a 3000 foot change in elevation in about 4 miles.  Then you drop down a 1000 feet, back up a 1000 feet before you get to the end of the trail.  But the view is suppose to be fantastic and the drop down is suppose to be like something out of Bryce Canyon in Utah.  I wanted to go.

The trail goes up.  As in straight up.  As in I was huffing and puffing within a few feet of starting.  After a bit, we split up into two groups.  Marky's owner wasn't sure if he could make it and the two of us stayed together.  Actually, I think he and Marky could have done it fine, but he was a sweetheart and  we lagged behind (way behind) and only made it part of the way.  For 'moderate' hikers, the 12 miles round trip was a 6 hour hike, just about.  Up and back for me as far as I went was 3 hours.  I figure I walked up the mountain for 2 hours and 1 hour back down.

I think this was one of the only 'flat' parts of the trail.  I love flat now.  I adore downhill!

I did miss out of the more spectacular scenery at the end of the trail.  But what I did stumble through was breathtaking.

One thing that did give me pause was the "Spanish Moss" on the pine trees.  I know it is probably something else, but it really gave me pause.  

And I definitely need to get a field guide on the flora of Montana.  There were so many flowers and plants which I wanted to identify on the trail.

According to one of the hiking books, May is when I need to be there for the pink lady slippers and other 'spring' flowers.  

So what I learned today....

1.  I need more work to make the 'moderate' mark as far as hiking goes.  But at least I have a definite goal now.  I WILL BE BACK!

2.  What I had packed in my backpack was about right for the walk.  Not too much, not too little.

3.  My new hiking boots worked well.  My nice little bunion likes the men's wider toe box much better.

4.  I meet a really great group of people who I can hike with now.

5.  My dogs are wild and crazy and have no manners whatsoever compared to Marky.  I am such a bad doggy mother.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Tizer Gardens Are Fantastic

I have often gone to the arboretums in the Raleigh-Durham area over the years.  Walking through the wonderful flowering plants and trees was always so peaceful and yet, invigorating.  I had seen signs for Tizer Gardens and read about them in a guide book or two, but it wasn't until yesterday I decided to make the short trip and explore.  I do have to preface this with a note that they are not a 'public' garden, in that they are supported by funds from somewhere else.  They are a private garden and do charge a small entrance fee of $6.00 a person.  It is money well spent.  Because frankly, if these were my gardens, I would be extremely selfish and keep them all to myself.

I actually decided to go yesterday because I had a question about a plant, but that is another posting.  Since it was suppose to be reasonably cool, Texter, Lady K and I loaded up for the short trip about 20 miles south of Helena.  Very easy to get to, although I did have to giggle, when compared to other gardens I've visited, you end up going down a dirt road for a bit.  But once you get there.....

The gardens are located on the other side of the road from their nursery (which I HAVE to go back to). You know you are in for a treat when the profusion of hanging baskets and climbing roses and vines greet you at the entrance.  We were greeted by a lovely young lady who showed us the gift shop and gave us a map of their extensive walkways.

One of the things I particularly enjoyed about the gardens where their use of whimsy at every turn.  Old arbors, screen doors, old stumps turned into planters were everywhere.  You couldn't rush through the gardens or you might miss something.

Mini-bird house tree in the 'fairy garden' area.  There were mirrors strung which reflected sunlight like disco balls.

A bell sculpture along the pathway.

Texter and Lady K really like where the fairies live.  With the lights reflecting from the mirrors on the birdhouse tree, it looks like little fairies flitting here and there.

Right next to the fairies are the gnomes.  Dozens and dozens of gnomes.  We were giggling because Savvy hates gnomes and she wouldn't set foot there if we took her.

Prickly Pear Creek runs through the gardens and a nice spot is under the fuchsia plants.

How could you not want to sit there and watch the water go by?

And if you enjoy watching the creek flow by, how about this guy?  I think he has stood there a little too long.

Since I have moved to Montana I am having to relearn a bit about gardening with the different seasons. So the vegetable garden area was particularly interesting.  The fact that it was July and they had lettuce going strong, when in North Carolina it would have already bolted a couple of months earlier, was interesting.  Noted for my garden next year.

The whole place had such an English cottage garden feel to it I just wanted to tell Texter to find her own way home, I was staying.

Probably one of my favorite nooks was the 'meditation' area I called it.  Texter wants to bring Lady K back in her fairy outfit because she likes the ground cover there.  I want to sit with Buddha and meditate for awhile.

Needless to say, this will not be my last trip here.  Once the weather cools a bit, I can see spending several hours and lunch time here.  Who wouldn't want to stay as long as possible with views like this?