Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Never-ending Chore Begins: Yard Work

Our project list for spring and summer is mostly yard work.  And not fun, creative, bang-for-your-buck projects, either.  The goal is to get it to a good starting point for the future, in which we'll mostly just let the forest be the forest, but where we have existing planting beds we want to keep we'll work on adding native, xeroscapic, deer-resistant plants.

It has started with about eight Tara-hours of raking pine needles off the driveway and out some of the planting beds and a tiny bit of the rest of the yard; I guess that's what you get when you skip a year.  I'll keep you posted on how that goes.

Plus one of the wild strawberries that grow in the yard.

Piles and piles of pine needles.

Next, trying to reclaim the vegetable garden after one-and-a-half years of neglect.  Eric is in charge of that project and he has mowed and tilled the space and started picking up starts from one of the local farmers markets.

Yup. A couple of little mountain fruit trees.

Tomatoes, peppers, other stuffs.

I took charge of removing the last owners' lath "trellis" on the south-west side of the house and replaced it with my own trellis-in-quotes: "re-mesh" wire grids.  They should continue rusting and be hardly noticeable.

BEFORE: Of course, once I decided to put down the rake and go at the lath "trellis" I didn't think to stop and get a photo. AND of course, I assumed that there would be one in all the photos of the snow or dogs or what have you.  This is the only one I found; it's from our first few weeks here. You can see them in the back ground, but you can't quite see how slipshod they looked.

Small, subtle, and sturdy-enough.  Also attached with cup hooks, so easy to remove when it comes time to re-stain the house - something they didn't do with all of the lath.  Sigh.  

Next up:
1. More raking
2. Tree guy taking down a couple of dead trees
3. Giant drop box delivered to get rid of trash left by last owners (pft!)
4. More vegetable starts
5. Taking metal and cardboard for recycling in Missoula or Hamilton

Friday, May 23, 2014

What Will We Find Next?

It seems like we just keep finding the neatest stuff in the yard and forest.  Of course we're awash in wildflowers these days and the birds have returned en masse already.  Yesterday I was wondering out by one of the fence lines (have I mentioned our new fence?) and spotted this nest that must've fallen out of one of the many pine trees around here.  That's pretty neat as is, but what's even neater is I think that some of my very own hairs are in it!

If you look into the bottom you can see the faux reddy-brown (and maybe the real grey) hairs swirled around!  The colors are at least close and the texture is just right.  I'm not going to do any DNA testing or anything, but I like to think they're mine.

But how? Well, I heard that birds use dog hair for nests, so I figured they'd use mine so I put it all out with drying lint last year.  Of course, my hair is definitely a component of our drying lint (as is the dogs') and, as Eric will confirm, that stuff gets everywhere.

The other day I was out chucking balls for dogs.  It seems like little bits of rubbish keep surfacing around the place, so I was picking up what I was finding: small metal hardware, bits of a broken plastic yard decoration, and that kind of thing.  Suddenly, this guy was staring at me in the face!

He looks like he was soooo happy to see me, too.  Anyone know who he was when he was whole?  The green skin and hair make me think Hulk, but he's so dang cheerful looking.  Anyone?

Monday, May 19, 2014

Odds & Ends: May 2014 Edition

We've been busy.  Now that we have our beloved and cherished fence, we're trying to get the yard and property up to a nice starting point.  So far I have 7 hours of racking pine needles under my belt and I bet I have about that many more to go, but that's a story for a different post.  We also had the 1-year anniversary of Eric's 40th birthday, some other friend and family birthdays, Mothers Day, and me traveling to Bend, Oregon to do some decorative painting.  When I returned home early last week, I found that the forest had really "greened up" and the Arrowleaf Balsamroot had started its big spring show!

I wish I had the skills to make any of my cameras do justice to how pretty the forest floor looks covered in wildflowers.  Not just the yellow Balsamroots, but probably about a dozen other kinds, too.  I was, however, able to get a pretty flattering shot of our fence bordering, and gate leading to, the forest.

What a treat to share with longtime friends from Portland, Jeff & Becky and their girls, Megan and Sydney who made a quick visit on their vacation road trip between Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks!

While I do wish I'd gotten more photos of the visit, I'm really just so happy that it was such fun that we didn't really didn't think to take them.  Also, Betty is not the first of my pets to fall hard for Jeff.  I should also note that Betty spent just as much time trying to make Becky and the girls feel welcome; she's just that good at her job.

And we finally got a chance to take a little local road trip ourselves... to Georgetown Lake with new friends to celebrate a 40th birthday!

If you squint and use the power of your imagination you can see the lake (still frozen over) in the bottom of that space between the trees.  Mostly use the power of your imagination for this.

Can you believe that the photo "of" Georgetown Lake was taken just a few hours before the photo of the Balsamroots?  Springtime in the Rockies!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Fence Me In!

This summer I'll stain it, but we still have a functioning fence on the top half of the property! WOO!

We have waited what seems like a long, long time and now we're finally fenced in!  Most importantly; the Beastie Grrrlz are fenced in and neighbor dogs and certain types of wildlife are fenced out or at least slightly detered if they're not super motivated.  We were able to get a few names of fence and other contractors in the area and did our due diligence of collecting a few bids. We selected AAA Fencing & Welding based on referral quality, competitive pricing and that mysterious "chemistry" thing. I wanted to link to their website, but I forgot that this is the Bitterroot where everyone has a smart phone and a GPS and no one has a website, at least not one you can find easily.

Luckily, we started making calls in March, so their schedule was not booked out for months AND they even got started a couple weeks earlier than estimated!  One day he's dropping off some materials and equipment, and started demo on the old fence, the next he's here pound posts in all around the top 2.5-3 acres of the property!

Do I sound old when I say, "It's nice to see young people out working hard and with their hands"?  Our contractor brought is young teen son and his future son-in-law out to work on our fence.

After about 4 hours of racket all the rotten wood posts and t-posts were out and the new lodge pole posts were pounded in.

We were a little concerned that adding a fence to the front, where our view is,  would make the "yard" seem smaller, but we both think that it actually makes it seem bigger to have a visual cue to the edge.

We understand that the deer have an easier time clearing a fence when there is a rail at the top rather than just wire.  We don't want to keep the deer out, except of the garden space which will have its own fence  when we get that going, and we plan on replacing much of the landscaping with native plants that are xeroscapic and deer-resistant.

The "walk gate" leading to the National Forest; the last owners had used it for a jury-rigged dog enclosure under the deck that we disassembled last summer.  Yey for free gates!

Of course, keeping the BGs in means we have to have a gate on the driveway.  This whole project was not pocket change so we went with a basic-plus farm gate.  The electric operator has been ordered and will be installed when our contractor gets back from vacation. Sometimes it feels extravagant to have an electric opener, but then I remember the slope of the driveway and what our winters are like and realize that if we didn't have an operator, we'd have to drive up to the driveway, get out to open it, then drive around the loop again in order to have enough speed to make it all the way up the hill when it's icy and snowy.

Finally the driveway gate!  Everything but the electric operator ready to come and go.

We decided to put the gate near the top of the hill so when we next have a winter like this last one we can still park at the bottom of the driveway if we need or want to.  And if for some reason the operator fails, this spot is relatively flat AND close to the house for convenient manual operation.  This required that we either fence a smaller area which would be like giving up an acre or so OR create an "alley" up the driveway.

We hope that the "alley" will also cue random summertime drivers on the road that our driveway is indeed a driveway and not the road. It's not an entirely unreasonable mistake since the road past our house is obviously less traveled than our driveway; you know plants growing between the wheel tracks and the like.

You know you're hopelessly grown up when you're giddy and elated about a fence.  A plain, farm/ranch fence at that.  Knowing that Betty and Delia are each safe to roam and explore a couple-few of our acres and that they can be off-leash to run and chase and fetch really means a lot to us.  We're embracing the Return of the Chuck-it!  Even though Delia will usually only fetch a few times before focusing on some chipmunk lair.

Run, Betty! Run like the wind!*

"Fences are awesome. I love my new fence!"*

What's planned:
The gate operator will be installed which requires running power from the house.
I'll stain the posts and rails to try to keep the grey away (much like my hairs).
You know holiday and other decorations are going up on that gate, too.

Two weeks later, we are still in love with having a fence.  We don't feel like it spoils our view at all.

* Sooooooo many Ponderosa Pine needles to rake.  So many.