30 April 2012

How to Deal

My baby is starting kindergarten in September.

And it is destroying me.  

She is so excited.  I am pretending that I am excited, but what I really want is for us to hang out together all day long.  She's really good company.  We sleep late.  She cheers me on when I try to shoot the squirrels with a BB gun.   She helps me in the garden.  She says to me a dozen times a day, "Mom, you know what's better? Being with you." 

When she goes to school, I'm afraid she will get in trouble.  I'm afraid that the teacher will be mean to her.  I'm afraid that other kids will be mean to her.  Or worse, that she'll be mean to other kids.   When I was in kindergarten, I was wrongly accused of stealing someone else's oreos at "milk break," and I was sent to the coatroom.  When the teacher realized that I hadn't stolen them, but someone else had, I was given *their* oreos to eat....still in the coatroom.  If a teacher did that to my baby, I don't know how I'd stop myself from going down to the school and yelling at her. 

Bullies are different today.  When I was young, a bully was the kid that would follow you home from school and maybe punch you in the stomach.  These days, there is  the terrifying phenomenom of cyber-bullying.  20 years ago, it was really just "picking on" someone, maybe writing a mean note, or passing a message through someone that you wanted to fight.,,which rarely ever happened. I was picked on.  A lot.  I picked on other kids.  It was nothing compared to what happens today.  Damn Facebook. I hope it's not around in 10 years.  Maybe it will stop being cool and turn into a place where old ladies share recipes. 

Until a year ago, my husband was the stay at home parent, and I left for work everyday, sometimes for weeks at a time.  I hated sneaking out of the house at 4am for a taxi that would take me to the airport.  You just can't explain it to a 1 or a 2 year old, or even a 3 year old that you're not going to be there when they wake up.  I realized that it was a problem when all of us started getting used to me leaving.  So when I pictured Mimi starting kindergarten, I used to think that it would only be Austin that freaked out.  That man loves his kids intensely.  Because he's been at home with Mimi since she was born, they are especially close and have a tight bond.  

I just want to add that nobody, absolutely nobody in the world loves babies as much as my husband does.  He is always the first to volunteer to hold a baby at dinnertime so its parents can eat, he points out babies while we're shopping, and he has a wonderful patience with them.  Plus, he has a nice face that makes babies smile.  

I've spent the past 10 months spending my days with Mimi (and working at night), and I feel like I'm making up for lost time.  She's my best friend, although she will deny it. In fact, when I tell her she's my bestie, she says, "No.  We are not best friends.  We are mother and daughter."  The other day, while on my way out the door to work, I actually offered her a dollar to be my best friend.  She agreed, but only for the day, which was totally unfair because I wasn't going to be home to reap the benefits.  And now we're especially close.  We have a tight bond.  How can I let her go off to school and leave me at home every day?

To all the parents:  How do you do it?  Does it get easier?  Will I eventually look forward to Mondays and the end of summer? 

28 April 2012

Wild Strawberries and the stories your mother tells you to instill a fear of the flower police

Just a few minutes ago, I was sitting outside on the slope behind the cabin, stalking the nuthatch that has been terrorizing us by hammering on the metal bits of our walls.  I'm trying to scare him away by "throwing" BB pellets at him, or something like that.  I was trying to convince myself that I could wait out there all day if I needed to when I saw this:

And this:

Do you know what they are? They're wild strawberries.  When I was a kid, we'd sometimes find them on the banks by the river, and last August, while picking huckleberries in Idaho with my inlaws, we stumbled on a huge patch of wild strawberries. Have you ever eaten one? They are intensely sweet, with an almost artificial, strawberry syrup flavor. My inlaws and I planted ourselves in the middle of the patch and ate them right off the ground. 

I gave up on braining the nuthatch and went into the garden to get a trowel.  Mimi hid my grown-up trowel somewhere, so I had to use her Go Diego Go trowel, but it did the job.  I dug up seven plants and replanted them in the pot I had meant to use for radishes.

They are clearly doing fine outside in the cold, damp weather (we are having a cold snap....also known as a typical late April in western Montana) but I'm bringing them inside to live in the kitchen sink for a few days.

We've also seen a bunch of these in the yard.  This is a trillium, and they grew wild in wooded areas in my hometown in Wisconsin.  My mother told me they were protected and we would get in big big trouble if we picked them.  We also had some growing in my mom's flower garden. When I asked about the legalities of this, because I was concerned about the fuzz coming to arrest my mother, she said she was exempt because she didn't technically pick them...she replanted them.  We used to go to a park a couple of blocks away from our house, and these flowers grew there.  I would have that almost uncontrollable urge to pick one in defiance, but I never did because  I actually believed a cop would zoom in and arrest me. 

But here's the thing: They are not protected, and it's not illegal to pick them.  I'm not sure why my mother told me that.  I have come up with 3 possible reasons:

1.  She honestly thought they were protected.
2.  She loves all flowers so much that it broke her heart to see one picked
3.  She perpetrated a 30 year practical joke.

Knowing my mother, it's #3.

24 April 2012


I want this: 

Mimi wants this:

Instead, Mimi got this:

She thought it was great.  It took about 10 trips inside by her
maid/mom  to bring out buckets of hot water, and after a
half hour she demanded more hot water.    

And I am going to get my wish this summer. 
Austin's going to build me an outdoor solar shower.

He just doesn't know it yet.

It's Hot Like Your Mom!

I tried to write this post last night, but after the first cookout of the year, I was in a ribeye-grilled corn-asparagus-bread and butter-induced coma. 

Yesterday, it was over 80'F in western Montana.  Mimi, Blue and I spent the day outside in the garden.  I continued on my neverending quest of weeding, and Mimi kept busy.

After she ran through the sprinkler, she came to advise me in the garden.  She always says that she is the Mayor and I am her advisor.  Over everything.....gardening, chopping wood, shoveling, etc. She was flinging soil around, so to distract her, I told her to use a big bowl and make mud pies.  She took a mud bath instead.

And then danced in the garden.  I told her run through the sprinkler to get washed off, but considering that our water comes from a well and is blisteringly cold year round, it didn't last long.  So she sat in the sun and dried herself and brushed the mud off. 

This is Mimi's new cowgirl hat.  We do have another hat, from Austin's beloved Grandpa Jack, who we lost last summer, just days before we moved up here.  Sweet Grandma Glenda gave Austin a bunch of his wool shirts and a fancy cowboy hat.  The hat stays up on our wall on a giant nail.  It makes me happy, like he's always around us...it's where he hangs his hat.  Mimi always wants to wear it, but I keep it up on the wall except for when I wear it because I think it makes our Reservation Divide news segments look legit.  So I got her a hat of her own. 

She thinks I take too many pictures, but I just wanted to get a nice shot of the sun coming throught the hat, kind of like reverse freckles.  I take too many pictures?  I gave her my old digital camera last week, and already she's taken over 700 pictures with it.  

Right now, at almost 2pm it's over 70'F and my schedule calls for planting carrots and fennel this afternoon, at least until the thunderstorms roll in.

What's your weather like? 

22 April 2012

Half Moon Farm

It sounds way more grand than it really is.

Half-Moon Farm is what I've decided to call my garden. 

I recently went from working 5 nights a week as a night manager at *********, to giving a 3 1/2 week notice.  I tend to give 3 1/2 week notices instead of 2 week notices.  I'm back in school now and I just wanted more time to spend with my family.  A week later, I freaked out, and changed my mind.  I went in to work prepared to grovel to my boss, hoping she wouldn't be all like, "Nope, you already gave your notice.  No takie-backsies!"  Instead, she asked me if I would be willing to work only 3 nights a week.  "Yes! I screamed, and then hugged her so there wouldn't be any hard feelings.  And I got to pick the nights I worked.  I'm now working 3 days, or about 22 hours a week. 

But I realized that when the weather's good, I spend 4 or more hours a day in the garden, more than I actually work at my real job.  I decided that the garden would be my real job.  So I named it.  It makes me sound important.  I like sounding important.  On a semi-related note, I recently took the Narcissistic Personality Inventory.  I scored a 19 out of 40. That is higher than most celebrities. 

So here's what's happening at Half-Moon Farm:

Four of fourteen plots have been weeded, turned, and planted.  And by "plots," I mean a 3'x10' garden bed.  This photo shows 3 of them.  From left to right:  Onions (the tall ones survived through the winter) and garlic and shallots, mesclun and arugula, lettuce and spinach.  I also planted strawberries, but the starts that I bought in a (sealed) bag looked dead to me.  I didn't have much hope for them, so I bought a set of 25 live plants from Burpee.  I'll plant those once they arrive in about 2 weeks.  I just realized that I don't have room for 25 plants.  Does anyone around me want some?

Shallots.  I love shallots.  I planted these 11 days ago, and they've already sprouted.  This is the first plant that was planted in the garden this year to grow.  I bought 3 sets of starts from Walmart.  Each contained 5 cloves.  10 of the cloves were molded and rotten, so I only planted 5. 

Mood lighting was installed recently.  Four solar lights where poked into the ground.  I thought this would be romantic, but so far all it has done is given me an OCD-like compulsion to constantly check the lights to see if they are all on at night. 

So tell me what's going on with your garden...have you started planting yet?

I Got a Sunburn Today (And a Story that will Scare my Mother)

A few weeks ago, my hometown was blessed with some disgustingly beautiful weather.  And it pissed me off. 

I cursed those who lived there.  The message below was to my aunt.

For some odd reason, my hometown in Wisconsin will have beautiful March days every few years.  I remember my mom telling me that when I was an infant, it was warm enough in March to lay out on the grass on a blanket.  Then, when I was about 9, my sister and our neighbor, Jenny, were off school, probably for spring break, and we went to the boat landing at the river about a half mile from our house.  I just realized that my mother has probably never heard this story and will either have a heart attack or will comment on this post screaming (or both).  Anyway, it was one of those unseasonably warm March days, and the three of us girls walked out on the ice.  There was a small hole in the ice, and I remember, very clearly, saying, "This ice is only an inch thick!" 


My sister fell through the ice. 

Mom, calm down.  She's still alive.  (And a TV star!)

Actually, only one leg fell through the ice, up to the hip.  We got her out, and as she was drying out with us on a park bench, a police officer showed up.   Somebody had seen three little girls playing out on this ice.  Of course, we denied it, although Dana's soaking wet leg probably told him otherwise.  He scared the crap out of us by telling us how we could all fall through the ice and drown, or freeze to death or something.  And then he left.  I don't remember ever talking about that again.  Sorry, Mom. 

So, about my sunburn.  It was about 65'F today.  In Texas or South Carolina, where we last lived, that is cause for jeans and a fleece jacket.  But here in Montana, now that we're hardened mountain people, it's my gardening jeans and a tank top.  I weeded one of my garden beds, planted arugula and mesclun, and got a violent sunburn.  I've learned my lesson.

It only gets better from here:

Come on up and visit.  I'll put you to work in the garden.  

13 April 2012

Mimi's Sleepover + Homemade Vanilla Wafers

Mimi has a sleepover tonight at her grandparents' house.  It's her second time.  The first time, she shooed us out of the house and cried when we went to pick her up the next morning because she wanted to stay there.  This time, she's waffling a little.  Last night, she woke up at 2am to tell me that she didn't want to sleep over there, and to please call Grandma and tell her.  I didn't make the call, not just because it was 2am, but because I knew she'd change her mind by today.  I told her we could make cookies to take over there to share with her cousins.  Kinley, who is an old pro at sleepovers, will be there, along with Porter, who is only staying for a few hours because he's only 1. 

I used this recipe: the best cookies in the world.  It's actually a recipe for homemade vanilla wafers.  I found the recipe and made them for the first time last summer, right before Austin's brother and his family came over for dinner.  TJ ate them by the handful.

I decided to double the recipe, so I can save some of the dough for later and to make sure there is enough for the kids to have a bunch, even if TJ grabs a bunch too.  I did make a few changes to the recipe, like not using a vanilla bean because I didn't have one, and I used salted butter instead of unsalted butter. 

Mix the dough

Put the dough in a pastry bag.  Don't have a pastry bag?  I have no idea where mine are.  Probably the same place that all of my decorating tips are.  I don't know where those are either.  So this is what I do:  Take a ziploc bag, and put a couple of layers of tape over the corner.  This strengthens the bag a little and gives you more control when piping.  Then snip off the corner. 

Start piping.  The dough starts out kind of firm, but the heat of your hand will warm it up and by the time you are on the last few cookies, the dough will soften up a lot.

Fill up your cookie sheets and bake.  These cookies spread out a little bit, but not too much, so you can also pipe them into shapes or letters.  I did a couple M's and I's for Mimi. 

Mimi commands you to try them.

Blue's message to the squirrels

Let's just say that you're lucky this fence is here.  Cause if it wasn't...

Well, I'll have to think about that for a while.

Breaking News: Mountain Lion Cub Rescue!

Mimi's Plants: First Signs of Life

Mimi and I planted a bunch of seeds last week.  For the past few days, we've had warm enough weather that I've left the seed pots outside.  And by "warm enough" I mean "above freezing."  Once I'm confident that we won't have another freeze (we are having one tonight!) I will replant the seedlings in the garden.  At least, once they start growing.

It's been about 10 days since we planted the first seeds, and we were starting to worry that they wouldn't grow.  Until now...

Mimi calls them "spinach-lings."  These actually won't be replanted.  Replanting things like spinach and lettuce and carrots are a pain in the ass, and usually wind up with dead seedlings.  So these will probably just stay in the pots and when they're big enough, Mimi will just pluck the leaves and eat them.

And check this out.  Last fall, the three of us were early for dinner with Austin's parents, so we killed about a half hour at what I thought was a gardening supply store downtown, and as we were leaving, the clerk asked if we wanted a pepper seedling.  So we took it home, and I stuck it behind the curtain in the living room window, and promptly forgot it.  Occasionally, I would open the curtain for sunlight and remember the plant and water it.  Last month, I was watering it, and I saw that it had somehow grown peppers.  Are pepper plants self-pollinating?  I guess we must have bumped it enough that the pollen from one flower landed on another. 

Mimi's job is to water the plants.  When it's cold out, these raspberry plants live in the kitchen sink.

Of course, if Mimi wasn't willing to do mind control on them, they'd never grow. 

11 April 2012

Breaking ground

We've been treated to freakishly warm weather the past two days, so Mimi and I took advantage of it by getting the garden ready for planting.

The garden is looking rough.  When we moved in last year, the garden hadn't been used in years, and was covered in black plastic.  This was great because there were absolutely no weeds when I uncovered it, but weeds like to lay low and torment you, and they sprang up quickly.  And yes, it was warm enough today to unpack some of Mimi's summer clothes....at least for today.  Tomorrow is supposed to be rainy and 50's.

Since it could still (and likely will) freeze at least a couple more times, I have to be careful about what I plant.  I do have a bunch of stuff planted in tiny pots that stay outside and come inside when it's cold, but I am itching to get something into the ground.

We are going to pretend that the photo above is the before picture.  I actually forgot to take one.  But it was the garden bed right next to the one we worked on, and they look exactly the same.  So Mimi and I weeded it, which means that I weeded it and Mimi talked incessantly and occasionally squealed when I threw worms at her.

This is the actual garden bed after I spent about 30 minutes weeding it.  The next step was to plant  strawberries.  The packages said to plant as early in spring in possible because these aren't affected by frost.  I don't believe it, but whatever.  Have you ever planted strawberries from starts?  I have bought them before as live plants, but not starts.  I opened the package, and in a bunch of sawdusty stuff, there was a little bundle of roots wrapped in a rubber band.  There were no instructions on the package, so I just guessed.  Hopefully they'll grow.

In case you are interested, here is the master garden plan.  You can click on it to expand. 

09 April 2012

The Best Easter Ever!!!!

We spent our very first Easter holiday with family yesterday.  Prior to this, we lived in New Mexico, Texas, and South Carolina, zillions of miles away from either of our families.  But this year, we're in Montana, and it really means a lot to us to have family around for the holidays.  This year, Easter was at Great-Grandma Glenda's house.  Mimi was super excited, mostly because she got to see her cousins:

The gorgeous and bewitching Kinley

Mimi and Kinley are best friends.

The squish-tastic and delectable Porter, with his dad, TJ. 
No, it's not warm enough for shorts and tshirts.
 TJ wears shorts and tshirts YEAR ROUND. 
Even in winter.  If there is a blizzard, he might put on a hoodie. 

Kyla was there, trying to make super bubbles. 
I was right in front of her, blowing smaller bubbles at her bubbles to break them.

There was also an Easter egg hunt...

And cupcakes...

And more cupcakes.  Porter had two (thanks to Austin).

Happy Easter!

Guess what we saw in our neck of the woods?

We were driving home on the dirt road that leads up our mountain on Saturday when we passed a car stopped on the side of the road.  The people inside were looking out into the field with binoculars.  We immediately slowed down, and since Austin has built-in scopes in his eyes, he was the first to spot them. 

Can you see anything yet?  Austin and Mimi went back to the road with a pair of binoculars, and when I left for work an hour later, I brought my camera and took these pictures.  Here's the clearest one I got on the zoomiest I could do. 

Elk!  A huge herd of elk.  Probably a hundred or so, a couple hundred feet off the road. 

This is a wonderful place.

08 April 2012

That is one sexy carrot

I mentioned a few days ago that last summer, I grew carrots, and while thinning them, decided to try to replant some of them.  The result was some very shapely carrots, with narrow waist, curvy hips, and full thighs.  I thought you might want to see:

Sexy, right? 

In case you are wondering about the odd color, we grew multi-colored carrots last year:  red, orange, purple, yellow, and white. I think this is one of the yellow carrots.  I'm having a hard time finding those seeds this year.  I went to Walmart last month, and saw about 5 packs of them.  I almost bought them all, wanting to corner the roadside vegetable market on multi-colored carrots, but I'm a procrastinator by nature, so I didn't.  This week, I went to two stores and couldn't find them. 

Have you ever grown anything weird in your garden?

We are snowed in

We had 3-5 inches of snow forecasted for yesterday.  Up here on the mountain, we typically get a bit more than what is projected.  So I was very surprised to open the door yesterday and find this:

A whopping 0.4" of snow. 

I'm not sure how long we can make it stuck up here.  Please send supplies!

05 April 2012

I thought we were done for the year!

I was planting on turning over my garden beds tomorrow and doing some weeding.  I have an ambitious garden plan....30 different types of herbs, fruits, and vegetables, so I don't want to waste any time. 

Esxcept there is a change in plans:

04 April 2012

Mimi makes seed tapes!

I thought that the seed planting Mimi and I did the other day would get the spring fever out of me and turn me back into the true procrastinator that I really am, but faced with seventeen more seed packets and an excited 5 year old, I was forced to do something.  So we made seed tapes.  This is what we used:

A couple tablespoons of flour
A couple tablespoons of water
Seed packets
Toilet paper
A Sharpie
A bowl
A plastic knife (since I don't have a squeeze bottle)

Mix the flour and the water into a paste.  Cut lengths of TP.  I used 5 square strips.  Write the name of the seed in the top corner of one of the strips.  Flip over.  Dot the flour paste in intervals according to the planting instructions on the seed packet.  I pretty much did 1" intervals for al of them.  This is where having a 5 year old comes in really handy.  Besides being excellent company, she loves to do the tedious little things that would bore most grownups.  Mimi's job was to put one seed in each dot of paste. 

Once you have all of the seeds placed on the strip, fold it over and let it dry.  I think you can use a cookie cooling rack, or probably the racks in a cold oven, but I just hung them over a broomstick.

Once they're dry, I'll stick them in a big ziplock bag and keep them in the fridge.  Then I'll plant them next month.  The paper decomposes, leaving the seeds to sprout perfectly spaced. 

As you can see from the picture of Mimi above....yes, we're still in our pajamas.  It's 3pm.  We're lazy. 

Breaking News----Bear Infestation

03 April 2012

Person of the Week is.....Shelly!

This is an early Person of the Week post, and it's special because this is the first Person of the Week that is not a Montana resident. 

This is Shelly, one of the greatest loves of my life (in a totally non-weird way.  Really, not weird or creepy at all.)  Shelly is my brother's wife, which practically makes her my sister.  

Isn't she pretty?

Shelly is mom to FIVE kids.  My 4 nephews, Zachary, Randy, Austin, Ian, and my niece Sophie.  Here's the thing about Sophie.  It's actually really cool.  A little over 6 years ago, Shelly called me at work to confess she might be pregnant.  I think I was the first person she told.  And I had a secret of my own....I thought I was pregnant too.  And we both were!  I was hoping that our girls would be born on the same day, but Sophie nudged out Mimi by either 13 or 14 days...I can't remember which. 

Back to Shelly.....she is one of my bestest friends.   My poor brother Jim...when I call their house, he just passes the phone on to Shelly as soon as he answers.  She and I have an inside joke that involves a windbreaker and some seashells that is really just too vulgar to share, but it still cracks me up to think about it.

Shelly is 34, a Scorpio, likes the color green, and her only flaw that I have seen so far is she's a fan of 80's hair bands.  I know we all liked it back in the day, but the rest of us consider than genre silly now. 

Here's a cool thing about Shelly:  She's lost over a hundred pounds in less than a year.  But that's not even the best thing about her.  She's an amazing parent.  She is a caring, fair, perceptive, and sassy mom.  I can't imagine having 5 kids in the house, but she makes it work. 

So, say hi to Shelly.  She is amazing!

Readers:  Do YOU want to be person of the week?  Let me know!