Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas Happenings

We had a fabulous Christmas! This is what we were up to...

Watching for the train that brought Grammy and Pa.
The Fam
Showing off her adorable new outfit from her Godparents John and Beth.
Christmas morning gift frenzy...

Gorgeous, warm Christmas afternoon (in the 40's), so we went sledding.

Walking along the Missouri River.
Ice jam on the river - it caused flooding along the River Road.
Christmas Dinner: Prime Rib, au gratin potatoes, and beanie bundles with fresh apple and chocolate cream pies for dessert! YUMMY!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Another Milestone

Gracie has had her first "wiggly" tooth for at least 6 weeks and for the last two weeks has had a very wiggly tooth. I have been trying to pull on it (when she would let me) and get that sucker out! Jason couldn't stand the sight or to even talk about it without getting queasy. (He can have his arms up to his elbows in deer guts and not be bothered at all, but a little tooth gets loose and he's jell-o!) To his defense, it was pretty gross the last couple days!

The Tooth Fairy Comes Tonight!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Heavenly Echoes

Gracie had her school program on Friday - it was FABULOUS! The kindergartners stole the show and Gracie did a great job singing and doing all the hand motions.
Before it was their turn to go on, they had a party in the classroom with red and green pancakes, ornament making, and pin-the-nose-on-Frosty. It was a lot of fun!
Now, we are ALL at home ALL day - quite an adjustment (for me, at least!). Just a preview to next summer, I suppose!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Mr. Claus

Emmett had his first Christmas program on Friday. He was a fabulous Santa Claus in the Magical Christmas Village performance!! Great job Buddy!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

What a GREAT big sister!

Gracie is such a fabulous big sister! She loves helping Jessie, reading to her, and playing with her. This is her showing Jessie the ornaments on the tree...

Monday, December 6, 2010

Lots 'O Turkey!

We spent Thanksgiving at my parents house in western Washington - it is becoming a tradition that we would all like to continue. It's usually the last good time to travel over four mountain passes, I get to go shopping with my Mom and engorge myself in the abundance of clothing choices, and Jason gets to process all the fruits of his hunting labor (with Dad's help) by making summer sausage and pepperoni in my Dad's smoke house.
However, this year, while avoiding sub-zero temps back in Great Falls, we had snow and sub-freezing temps in Washington. Which led to a very long, stressful 17-hour trip home with snow almost the entire way!
It was worth the stressful driving to spend time with Grammy and Pa on the farm and my brother and his family for a few days.

Dad carving the 24-pounder that came with the "Turkey Dinner for 20" my parents bought at an auction. We all love the home-cooked Thanksgiving, but it was a treat not to have to spend two days cooking (we still had a lot of clean-up)!
The Fam:
Jessie in the front, Grammy, Amy, Jason, Julie, Ian, Gracie, Cal, Emmett, & Pa (on the Kiddie side of the table :-). My other nephew, Bennett, slept through dinner, so he's not pictured.

Visiting my Grandpa Joe Thanksgiving morning. We took him homemade pie - his favorite.
Other fun stuff we did this week:

Our Little Cowgirl

He wasn't totally convinced that this is a fun activity, but at least he tried it! :0)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Winter Has Arrived!!

Winter made itself known today. We started with rain through the night followed by lots of wind (not the lovely Chinook winds that warm everything up - the other kind!). It was 39 degrees when I woke up and dropped to 23 degrees by noon (it's 18 degrees right now). Leading to lots of ice topped with powdery snow and lots of fender-benders on Jason's way home from work.
There was enough snow on the ground to dig out all the pants, gloves, and boots this evening. Jessie took one look outside after her nap and said, "Whooaaaa...". She loved every minute of the white stuff, until Jason dumped the crew off the sled and she got a face full of it! :-)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Jessie is 19 Months!

(Okay, she was 19 months old on October 31st and I started this post last week, but I was waiting to upload a few photos....)

We are having so much fun with Jessie at this age! She is very busy and always moving, but she makes us laugh all the time. She is talking much more than the other two did at this age and she has a lot of wavy brown hair - also unlike the first two kiddos. I can't bring myself to cut her hair, so we have to clip it or band it everyday - sometimes that's a fight! She is learning lots from Gracie and Emmett - good and bad. She understands competition and is often fighting with Emmett over my lap space - this is where she learned hitting....unfortunate, but inevitable! Some of her new words include pumpkin and spider.
Here is the busy little bee!
(When she sees a camera, she smiles big and says cheese :-)

Mommy's Helper
Playing Outside
Our Little "Linus"

Monday, November 1, 2010


Jessie with our scarecrow "Butch"

Show me the CANDY!

Jessie didn't quite know what she was in for, but she did know she wasn't going to be left out! Here she is trying to get herself up some steps. She insisted on carrying all her goodies in her bag, so it was getting a little heavy. She didn't say trick-or-treat, but she did always say 'thank-you'!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Square-Foot Gardening

Now that we finally live in a climate that is suitable for vegetable gardening, I was VERY anxious to get one planted this year. However, living in an area where the growing season is less than 100 days, produces many challenges that I still have to figure out!
Last spring I read an article in our paper about a local woman who was using the square-foot gardening method by Mel Bartholomew as written in his book "All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space". I immediately got his book and started reading. I liked most of his ideas and tried to follow his suggestions fairly closely - at least for our first year. I also attending many free classes sponsored by the Master Gardeners at Ace Hardware in town - a wealth of knowledge for the local growing conditions!
Overall, the garden looked great and did produce some very yummy veggies, but the season was very late and cool this year so my sweet pepper, jalapenos, and corn just never had a chance to get anywhere.

We planted a total of 80 square feet with the following veggies (some crops I planted multiple times throughout the summer):
lettuce, spinach, radishes, broccoli, cucumber, cabbage, cauliflower, kholrabi, tomatoes, zucchini, potatoes, carrots, corn, winter squash, pumpkin, sweet peppers, jalapenos, onions, green onions, peas, green beans, marigolds, and small dahlias

We also have two whiskey barrel planters with herbs and 15 strawberry plants next to the garage (not remotely comparable to western WA strawberry production, but the kids liked them!)

We started by using Mel's recipe for a good soil mix and built raised beds - he insists that you only need 6 inches of soil to grow all vegetables (except potatoes and carrots). His mix includes equal parts of compost, vermiculite, and peat moss.

We made a grid system over the soil to maximize growing space and built trellises for the vines (I trained the cucumbers, tomatoes, beans, and peas to climb the trellis - was unsuccessful getting the squashes to climb because their leaves are so big).

Due to the location of our garden and the fact that we have three curious kiddos and a curious dog, we built chicken wire cages to protect the soil from digging and from our neighborhood birds and squirrels from stealing the seeds. We also used the cages as a frame for clipping the plastic frost-barrier (we needed that until July!). Once the seedlings were big enough, the cages came off and a mini-fence/electric fence (for the dog) went up. Jason also installed a drip irrigation system on a timer so I wouldn't have to remember to water twice a day.

Removable cages - worked great to keep soccer balls and ornery one-year-olds out! We had three trellises in our garden. This one is for the zucchini (never got it to climb), the tomato (only one plant, but it took over the whole trellis), and the cucumber.

Plastic frost barrier clipped to cages with clothespins.

Jason installing twine in a lattice pattern to stabilize the corn in wind (which we get here!). It worked great! The corn finally produced ears in late September, but we had our first hard freeze about a week before they would have been edible - bummer!

The zucchini taking over the sidewalk and the tomato taking over the trellis. Cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower plants in the background.

The far bed had potatoes and carrots with marigolds planted in the center - they help deter the worms that like to munch on the underground veggies. The potatoes did great, but most of the carrots never got big enough to eat.
The fore-bed has lettuce, spinach and cabbage-family plants (in addition to the climbers). We had quite a bit of lettuce, but it didn't get very big and no spinach - it never got above 2 inches tall. The cabbage/broccoli/cauliflower plants produced a ton of leaves, but not very much vegetable.

New red potatoes.

And the Yukon golds...

Our tomato went crazy and produced great until the first hard frost. Our family doesn't like fresh tomatoes, except in salsa, so that's what I used them for. The neighbors liked them on the grill and my friend really liked to eat them like candy! I chose this variety because the nursery grower suggested it for sweetness and climbing ability. It was a little tricky to use in salsa because these are a cherry-size variety (they are tangerine color when ripe).

I didn't get many late-season pictures, but this one of the kids shows that the corn did actually get tall and the pole beans on the trellis next to it. We also got one pumpkin, two acorn squash, and a steady supply of zucchini.

Okay, lessons learned...

I love the square foot gardening concept and will definitely continue to use it here. It is applicable in any setting or environment. I tend to be on the obsessively organized side so the square foot grid system was perfect for me and very easy to organize the large number of veggies I wanted to plant.

However, after a disappointing production of several of the crops (including carrots and spinach - my favorites) I decided I needed to test the soil nutrients to see if that was a contributing factor in poor production. Mel insists that his soil mix - if done correctly - will have everything the veggies need to produce abundantly - I no longer believe that! Nitrogen was non-existent, phosphorous was very low and potassium was also low. We also discovered that our soil is very alkaline. I realize that soil composition changes depending on which crops are planted in it, but I didn't think everything would be depleted! It is hard for me to believe that there were loads of nutrients before I planted, but I didn't test for them so I don't know for sure. Before the spring we will be adding some soil amendments and raising the beds up to 10 inches deep using soil from our yard to fill-in.

I will be planting cool-weather crops much earlier than Memorial Day (this year I planted after Mem. Day) and just keep the frost cover on at night as long as I have to - hopefully I'll get some spinach next year!

We will also be eliminating the removable cages - too big of a pain. And instead just "wrapping" the garden with two feet of chicken wire fencing along with the electric fence - that worked great! We won't be able to keep basketballs and squirrels out, but we're going to take our chances and see how it goes.

I think I will forgo the idea of trellising the squashes and just let them run free through my flower-beds, but not on the sidewalk! That will give me more trellis space for cucumbers, peas, and beans.

Like this year, I will buy and plant as many seedling starts as possible. I had starts for cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, cucumber, tomato, winter squash, and all of my herbs. Our growing season is so short that I will try anything to get them a head start. I don't have the space or equipment to try it myself...maybe I'll get a greenhouse, someday...

I will continue to compost all organic waste - I just have to be diligent about turning the pile and keeping it moist.
This was our third attempt to build a compost bin that could keep the kids and dog out - it works great!