Sunday, May 22, 2016

Weather. Be. Damned.

Every garden needs a few Allium (ornamental onion) bulbs. 
In addition to being drop dead gorgeous, their oniony aroma keeps the critters at bay.

Have barely had time to breathe, much less blog, this being the most wonderful time of year.

Mud month, weeding month, a reunion of sorts. The meet and greet of stalwart perennials ~ back again for another season, weather be damned.

Let me repeat that: 



Woke to an unusually bright, golden-yellow Eastern sky.

It was really pretty. And, suspicious.

We Midwesterners are often suspicious about the weather. Because wide open spaces encourage tornadoes and violent storms. And, we've all suffered mightily from what Mother Nature sends our way.

Lilac: Burgundy Queen
But, I don't live in the Midwest, any more. 
So, perhaps I should stop being such a Nervous Nelly?  

Lewisia: Best grown from seed.
Walked into the kitchen, for that highly anticipated first cup o’ Joe.

Out the Western windows, the sky was eerily deep, dark grey. The air still. The garden quiet.

Something is coming, I thought to myself.

Here cometh the Ice Storm.
So, I began to gather up the little seedlings, ‘hardening off’ on the deck.

That’s when I heard horse hooves.

Who is GALLOPING a horse, on pavement, in town??? 

Peered over the deck and saw a moose. (Yeah! A very large moose.)

Racing down the middle of my paved street, away from the mountains, heading East as quick as her gangly legs could take her.

So, now I’m scared. 

We humans have evolved to the point where we 'sense' pretty much nothing. Relying on the weather channel for advice that is bleeding obvious to the moose.

Poured the blessed coffee, dolled it up with cream.

And, then I thought to myself: Geez, Kate, are you really so caffeine dependent that it didn’t occur to you to document all of this weirdness?

I mean, seriously, a galloping moose! A picture of that is totally blog worthy. Much more so than this sad aftermath...

Started digging for the camera, in case Mrs. Moose planned a return trip.

And, that’s when it hit. Like a solid wall of ice, slamming into the house.

Blowing the doors open, battering the garden, the car, breaking tree branches (ah ha maybe that’s why Mrs. Moose ran from the woods...)

Drifts of hailstones. Hellish winds. Destroying an entire month of hard work.

And, no sign of the moose. Though, I imagine she faired significantly better than those poor little flowers, unable to run.

* TIP: Harden off your seedlings. 
Tiny, fragile seedlings are rarely capable of handling the shock of being shoved into the soil, the second it feels like planting time. Let them hang out on your porch, or your deck, for a couple of weeks. Let them deal with real sunshine, not window sunshine, winds, rain, cooler nights. A week, or two, of hardening off means many more of them might survive.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Sunny Yellows

"Flowers are beacons of sunshine, when somber skies blanket our world." - Dodinsky

Oh, where for art thou, happy sun? And, willst thou ever return?

At first, I was excited to hear no rain in the forecast. 
Until they mentioned snow.

I peer out the window, a bit dejected. It's a dark and soggy, Irish gloom, kind of Sunday morning.

During my dating years ~ college years ~ my optimistic ~ who care if it's raining? ~ boyfriend used to always say:

There is no bad weather! 
Just bad gear! 

And, while I can't remember, for sure, what happened... That's probably why I broke up with him. :)

There was a brief moment of sunshine, between the drizzle. 
I hopped off the horse and snapped pictures like crazy.

We don't need no freakin' optimists. Not during this everlasting monsoon.

In spite of the weather, we kept to our promise of a wildflower excursion every Thursday.

Tossed two unwilling horses into the brand, spanking, new horse trailer and drove off to our designated trail.

Which was closed.

Due to snow.

And, that right there, is a fine example of how hard it is to maintain a sunny disposition during so many rainy, messy days.

Not to worry, at a lower elevation, we did find a suitable trail.

After a heated debate with horse, Sable...

"Hell, no, I'm not walking over that bridge! I weigh more than you! I don't think it can hold me!" 

...We embarked on our first wildflower jaunt of the season.

It was cold, and wet, though easy to ignore.. because I was photographing Wild Snapdragons!

Which later turned out to be Golden Banner.

That's another reason why I'm so very excited about this summer of wildflower trips. I know nothing about wildflowers! (Thanks Google, for correcting me.) And, I'm very anxious to learn.

But, I do know... that if you're hiking, you rarely see the extent of the glorious blooms Mother Nature has to offer.

I suppose that's because of foot traffic and how irresistible these wildflowers can be. Many picked by hikers ~ which limits their ability to reseed. (And, it's also illegal, so don't do that.)

On our horses, we pick our way through the woods, creating our own path. A path dotted with plentiful yellow flowers on this grey and rainy day.

I also found some False Sunflowers. Which turned out to be Mule's Ears. (Again, thanks Google.)

Farther up the mountain, the babbling brook, which had turned into a rushing river, overflowed it's banks, completely. Horse, Sable, finally got her wish ~ to turn around and head for home.

It got me thinking about wildflowers. 
How hard they are to grow in our gardens. Perhaps it's because we're too kind to them? 

First, they freeze. 
Then, they drown. 
Then they're parched. 
And, often, trampled. 

But, they just say: 
Oh, that's okay. I'll see ya next year.

Here's hoping the sun is shining, wherever you may be.
~ kate


Sunday, May 01, 2016

Mobile Tomatoes and the Wildflower Express

I was delighted to see the tiny Violas I planted last year (sold as annuals) 
are back, and blooming, for a second summer.

Got the text from the girls ~ aka the Saddle Sore-ority ~ let's go horseback riding at 1:00! And, while I'm pretty much always game... this day I said no. Which made Casey super happy. That's Beth's little cowboy ~ who gets to ride my horse, since I'm being a party pooper.

Utah is blessed with some remarkable wildflower meadows.

A glance at the calendar confirms it is May Day but it still feels like winter to me.

Orange and yellow Violas are already blooming, making a wonderful ground cover for the ever plentiful Montana.

Such a baby I am!

Brrr... it's chilly.

Waaa... It's cloudy.

I have no good excuse.

Though, I suppose, my lame excuse is somewhat valid. Utah is typically a very sunny state. Gloomy weather messes with my mood. Always has. Always will.

Even on a grey day, these Daffodils scream happiness.

All I need is some sunshine! Not getting a whole lotta that this year.

If only we could love yellow Dandies as much as we love yellow Daffodils. 
Then, my gardening chores would be a breeze! 

So, I bailed on the horseback riding. Poured a cup of coffee. Checked my email. Met a gardener from Austin, Texas who's planning to grow tomatoes in the mountains of Park City, Utah, this summer. And, could I give him some advice?

Amy's Sugar Gem Heirloom Tomatoes reach harvest in 65 days.
Fast-growing tomatoes are fantastic for mountain gardens.

Breaking it to him gently:  June 1st ~ which coincides with first harvest for some lucky gardeners in kinder climates ~ is actually too soon to be planting tomatoes in the mountains.

Unless....... you put them on wheels!

Mountain days are just as ideal as 
anywhere else you might like to garden. 
It's the nights that cause us trouble. 

When temperatures can drop to a chilly 40 degrees.

Though, that is the precise reason why I love living this high in the mountains.

Windows open, cool breeze, no air conditioner blasting away. "Good sleeping weather" as we used to say in the hot as blazes Midwest, where I grew up.

You can get all creative with raised beds, clear plastic sheeting, walls of water, and those methods work pretty well. Or... you can take the easy, and considerably more fun route, and buy yourself a Radio Flyer. 

Paul Robeson: my go-to heirloom, every summer.
These days, I grow most of my tomatoes in containers, on wheels, on the deck.

Why? Because it's the simplest way to do battle with Mother Nature.

* The deck is the ideal hot house for heirloom tomatoes during the day.

Bonus: I can wheel my wagon of tomato plants indoors on a night when cold temperatures threaten.* 

If you're looking for a fast-growing, truly fabulous tasting Heirloom Tomato, try growing the Paul Robeson. It's fast, fast, fast.. reaching harvest in 70 days. With a flavor 2 die 4.

The Wildflower Express
Friday was the most exciting day of what will forever be known as the horse chapters of my life.

Pay no attention to those grey skies. This dismal weather can't last forever.

The culmination of 3 years of discipline! 
A brand new 3-horse trailer that fits my fat Appaloosa 
(she takes up 2 spaces) and tows like a dream.

Three years, glaring at my savings account, wishing it would grow faster. Wishing I was a more normal person who simply finances things vs. saving for them. It always felt like such an extravagance and it took forever for me to justify the purchase of such freedom...

I'm so very excited! To plot out a brand new wildflower trail each and every weekend. And, to actually get there because I'm no longer depending upon undependable horse people to drive me to exotic flowering meadows.

Giddy. I'm just absolutely giddy.

To do the weekly giddyup with Sable.

* About those Tomatoes: If temps drop below 50 degrees, tomatoes shift sugar production from fruit to stem - those lovely heirlooms won't be nearly as tasty. It's generally quite cool in the evenings, this high up in the mountains. (We're talking jackets in August.) And, that's why it's hard to grow a great tomato at 7,000 feet altitude.

** It's not a wise idea to actually plant veggies in your painted wagon. Set deeper containers in the wagon, so plants don't become root bound.