December 26, 2008

Winter Montana Ranch Puzzles!

I haven't posted much about our 'ranch work'... The first thing that comes to mind whenever I describe our daily 'activities' is 'we do the same thing year after year'! Whatever we do in a certain season of one year is what we did the same season of last year, and we will more than likely be doing the same thing next year!
To me, that means it is hard for me to find something 'interesting' to write about! I do know that any of it would be of interest to those of you who are not ranchers in Montana.

Here are several photo jigsaw puzzles of 'Winter Life' in Montana:

Most puzzle files are quite small, and usaully take less than a minute to download. If you don't wish to play online, right click on each thumbnail, and "Save Target as...." to your computer.
Barn Pets

Geese and Snow
These are not wintertime scenes, but I thought you might find them fun to complete:


Moving Cows
~~ With A Twist! ~~
& a smaller, easier puzzle of the same photo
NOTE: The ~~with a twist!~~ puzzles are 'rotated' as they are scattered; the pieces may be turned by left-clicking to 'lift' the piece, as we do while moving the pieces around... and then right-click to rotate the piece.THESE ARE FUN!

2008 Is Ending On A Cold Note!

After the warm fall, it was a bit of a shock when December began with a sudden drop in temperatures. In Montana, we expect cold, freezing temps to begin in October; but this year, we were 'lulled' into an attitude of 'look at how long our fall is'. So, when the weatherman said we were to receive a blast from the north, I took a second look at how well my yard was tucked in for the winter.
The nighttime temps were to reach -30's and we had very little snow, so I worried about my roses. Many of them were Canadian bred roses, but they still suffer top winterkill if there is not enough snowcover. We had about 2 inches of snow, and the wind was fast blowing it away from my flowerbeds!
So, I began to haul snow, by the tubfull, into and onto the flowerbeds and roses. I had dropped several shovelfuls of dirt around each rose's crown, and had also covered the most tender varieties with a rose cone. Now, I began to bury everything under piles of snow.
Even the newly planted iris row needed help; the ground was completely bare around them!
Several hours later, everything looked much better! I set a few buckets and other 'junk' around in the beds and on the 'upwind' side of several roses, just to add a bit of snow-holding bulk.
For nearly a week, nighttime temps reached -25 or colder. A weak winter sun couldn't compete against the never-ending wind, and daytime temps did not climb above -5.
We were busy keeping the animals warm and breaking water in tanks and buckets, so I didn't have a chance to worry about the roses.
One day, the sun came out and the cold intensified as the wind dropped... then suddenly, it began to warm up! I took the above photo out of the dining room window and again began to dream of watching my roses bloom next year.
What a perfect time for four or five rose catalogs to come in the mail! :)
On the one hand, it will be easier for me to resist the temptation of ordering a plant that is not hardy to zone 3 or 2... and on the other, I am thinking I may be able to order several replacement roses, 'for those that will surely die back to the ground' this winter!!! :)
The final effect of the cold temps with little snow won't be known until spring... but this is typical Montana winter conditions: cold and little snowcover. We will get cold temps again for most of January and February, but hopefully more snow will come also.

November 30, 2008

We are Modern Cowboys!

We moved the last bunch of cattle in from summer pasture. As the time for winter storms approachs, the cows must be closer to the haystacks and water we can keep 'open' (unfrozen). This year's mild weather let them stay on the pasture a week or so longer than normal, but it was time to 'trail' them in to the fields closer to home.
You can see we are Modern Cowboys! This was the first year everyone rode 'wheelers' (ATVs). No horses!

Above, John on the right, seems to be having an interesting conversation with our neighbor. We make these days of 'work' into days of 'fun' when our friends and neighbors come help.

Banana Chocolate Cake


  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. soda
  • 1 tsp. salt

Cream until fluffy:

  • 2/3 cup shortening
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar

Add, one at a time, beating after each:

  • 2 eggs


  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted

Stir in:

  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Add dry ingredients alternately with:

  • 1 cup mashed bananas (2 to 3)


  • 1/2 cup buttermilk or sour milk

Beat well after each addition.
Turn into greased 9-inch layers or large cake pan.
Bake at 350 F. for 30-35 minutes.
This is from an old cookbook, and it did not mention frosting. We found we like it equally as well frosted or unfrosted.

November 8, 2008

November... and still warm!

It is November... and I am still working in my yard!

However, I have put the roses 'to bed'.

I have three plants of the rose Mary Rose (David Austin) and am experimenting with several different ways to give them a bit of protection over Montana's winters. Most sources list this variety as hardy to zone 5. Montana is listed as 4 to 3. In my past experiences with this rose, I know it 'may' live over without protection, if surrounded by the dead tops of other plants grown around it, and with some leaves and other protective mulch. However, this new yard isn't as 'grown together' and included many annuals, AND is in an exposed site, so I am trying two different methods of winter cover for this rose.

We use the Styrofoam cones, mainly because we have problems with mice when using mounds of organic mulch such as leaves or hay. So, the two shortest Mary Rose plants received a little mound of dirt over their crowns, and a Styrofoam rose cone. The third Mary Rose plant had a HUGE mound of dirt piled over it's crown and canes, and I am filling the top of the tall wire surround with leaves and hay, along with a sprinkling of mouse poison baits.

The yard doesn't look as nice now! (photo taken on 11/7)

October 28, 2008

Still hauling in dirt and manure!

Will I ever be done hauling in dirt and manure????
The final count is now 81 tractor bucket loads... and I am not finished yet!
I just had to post this count, to help myself keep track! :)

October 22, 2008

Montana had an extra month of summer!

This 'fall' has been a very unusual one for Montana! Usually, we have a killing frost near the 1st of September, even though the remainder of the month may be warm and settled. So, we usually figure September 1st as the end of the growing season for our garden veggies and yard flowers. If we cover selected plants well, we may often have a few more days of warm days, but the nights are usually cool enough, actual productive growth stops.
THIS YEAR, our first frost came on Spetember 24th.... and it was only hard enough to get the tenderest veggies... it didn't even blacken the marigolds! The first really hard frost came on October 10th! I picked several bouquets of flowers, roses, etc. the evening before! WOW!
Our growing season is usally short enough that various long season flowers such as dahlias, glads, etc. are just hitting their peak when the frost cuts them down. This year, I had the opportunity to really enjoy my 'first-year' flower beds! :)
When I received a Fall Sale catalog from Orion Farm, I was brave enough to order several new roses! :) They are planted and have had several weeks to settle in .... and still more nice weather is predicted... although we are now seeing night time lows in the low 20's.
One of the wonderful advantages of this fall has been that I am getting a head start on next year's 'prep work'... such as hauling in more manure, reshaping contours of the slopes and working on a terrace area.
One of the disadvantages is that while I gained a month or six weeks of summer and still have nice fall days ahead, I have LOST that time from my usual winter 'work' of painting and decorating inside, playing with my African violets, and decorating cakes!
Here are several of the final photos of my patio in 2008:
The patio on October 2nd:

and again on October 11th:

September 22, 2008

September has been GREAT

September is usually a month of frosts, and dying flowers! But this year, we have had rain, cooler nights, yet good days for continued growing and blooming... great for my yard! The flowers continue to bloom! :)

Click the photo below for a larger view:

I have begun work on the other sides of the house... where I have had potatoes, veggies, etc. growing, but also some very persistent weeds! But I am working on them! :)

I have also hauled in more loads of manure, and dirt! Plus adding more plants like iris, plants scavenged from abandoned yards, etc! :)

More photos to come later.

September 5, 2008

More flowers... and Mary Rose again!

Still admiring Mary Rose:

(Please excuse the gray smudging on the leaves: I pump from a river (appropriately named the Milk River by the Lewis and Clark's expedition) and whenever I sprinkle my plants, they receive a misting of sand/mud as well as water!)
I am enjoying the flowers .... the past several nights we have had near-freezing temps and it is a warning that our first frost is near!
Gem Signet marigolds:

A bee visiting a Celebration gladiolus blossom... I think he spent the night there!

Blue lobelia in a strawberry jar:

Love Lies Bleeding, an ornamental amaranthus:

Oranges and Lemons gaillardia:

White Maverick geranium:

Still rambling on about roses....

One more rose: This is Quadra... spending this first year building a root system, but I have pretty high expectations for this plant next year!

Finally!!! My only tea rose, Love, finally produced a typical bud/blossom! I couldn't fault this plant's blooming ability... it produced blossoms all summer... but I think the heat was to blame for the 'non-typical' coloring and shape! With the cooler weather we are having, this blossom performed more favorably.

And one more photo of Hope for Humanity! This rose has out performed nearly every other plant in my yard!!! I have fallen in love! :)

The above photo was taken 8/29.
I want to put my photos of this rose together, so you can see how wonderful it was!
Here it is on 7/20:

When these first blossoms faded, the plant seemed to grow literally overnight!
Here is a photo on 8/3:

And again this photo, taken 8/29:

I am a HUGE FAN of Canadian roses.... for a brief history of their breeding programs, read this interesting article on the Canadian Rose Society web site.

August 20, 2008

It's been two years!

I just noticed that it has been two years since this blog began!
It has been two years since that first little bit of scratching around began work on the new house!

If you want to see the Yard and Garden work around the new house, start on the post linked here.

More Roses...

I've been busy.... it has been hot here in Montana... and everything needs watering every other day. I have only so much water/water pressure... since we pump from the Milk River... and it is some distance from the pump. So, it takes some 'creative' planning to get the one sprinkler back to whatever plants need it.. when they need it! :)
I've decided mowing grass is fun... especially when you've been without! :)
Here is a recent photo, from August 7th:

And another view... looking back toward the house:
(yes, I need to finish the sidwalk!)

More roses:
Morden Sunrise

This next rose is one of my all time favorites:
Mary Rose ... it blooms well, is very fragrant... tolerates many different situations... and will usually survive our winters with minimal protection (grandly comes through with proper protection)

This is Petal Pushers:

Oh, and I have hauled in more manure and goat pen bedding!!!!!

My mom is coming in a day or two to look at my yard.... and I have been frantically pulling/mowing weeds, and trimming, digging... and rushing around. Other things have been happening... like a fox and an owl stealing my chickens (LOTS!!), and the usual rush of summer work! I haven't done any housework for nearly a month, so if Mom will be coming in the house when she visits, I had best do some major cleaning too! :)

July 31, 2008

Hot Summer... but some plants are blooming!

The good news: I have been MOWING LAWN!
The bad news: until this past week, I wasn't cutting grass, only weeds.
But this last time I mowed, the grass was tall enough that I actually cut the grass itself... and when I was done, you could see big patches of grass!
It actually looks like a lawn now! :)
And there may be a lot of weeds, but no perennial weeds, and even in the thinnest patches, there are grass plants every 6 inches or less! So, I feel that next spring will see enough grass to compete with any annual weeds that may sprout! YIPPEE!!!
The patio area on July 18, looking from the front door at the same angle as the 'raining photo':

and a few days later on July 24, looking in the opposite direction, back toward the front door:

Here is a Hope For Humanity rose... which came so very small and weak looking, starting off so very slowly.... and I haven't mulched it yet...... AND it still is blooming it's head off. The color in this photo is a bit 'neon' looking, but the red color is very eye catching, and nearly this color.

Another Canadian bred rose: Morden Snow Beauty. This one is a low growing, groundcover type of rose, but it is so very fragrant, and this first-year plant was just covered with blossoms!

We have had excellent luck with Canadian bred roses wintering over here in Montana... even though we still cover/protect them each fall.
Just had to post a few photos.... I have flowers and grass! :)

June 3, 2008

We Finally Had Rain!

Here in Montana, we have been VERY DRY... a month ago, we were seriously concerned about summer pasture for the cattle. I mean: there just wasn't any grass even beginning to green up! It was severe enough, the cattle were turned into the hay/forage fields. That is a 'last resort' type of thing, as grazing hay fields could cut production by half -- or even more.
A week ago, it did rain... boy, did it rain! We got 2.3 inches! It came slowly, raining off and on for four days. Overnight, the hills began to show green! Things began to look up!
OH, I WAS GLAD I HAD PLANTED MY GRASS the morning it began to rain. I played in the mud, planting a few things as it rained.
It cleared off, and I began to move things from the greenhouse to the flower beds. The patio and front of the house began to take shape.
Yesterday afternoon, I got a phone call from my mother, saying a hail/rain storm was heading our way. It had been very severe in her area, with drifts of hail stones still laying in her yard.
The sky to the west of us was dark and blue... and I could hear thunder in the distance.
I frantically put up 'shingles' around some of the newly set plants, while I covered most of the roses with pots and garbage cans. Of course, I hauled in rocks and cement blocks to weigh them down. I carried the pots and misc. plants that I could lift back into the greenhouse.
Then I went into the house and waited. The thunder got closer.
It began to rain slowly and softly. Then a few tiny hail stones fell.
Suddenly the sky opened and it just dumped! We got 8 tenths in about 20 minutes.
I took a few photos from the front door.

At least it was a test of my grading away from the house! It all seemed to work! Everything ran away and didn't puddle up, considering we still don't have eaves on the house.
I was going to post a nice, pretty photo of the newly planted patio bed, but I guess this 'muddy' photo will do for now! :)

April 20, 2008

Patio is taking shape!

The total number of tractor-bucket loads of dirt and manure is now to 78! but I think I am nearly completed with three sides of the house. I actually 'heeled in' some perennials that my mother in law sent home with me.... and 99% of the patio and step is done.

I still have work on the sidewalk, edging between the gravel driveway and the lawn area, the beds around the patio and the foundation planting areas, etc.

Here is a photo of the 'patio'.... it is not completed yet, but I had to put out my table and chairs! :)

I have laid and then redone half of the walk to the driveway! I can't seem to keep it straight, and I am using lines, and squares!
I finally realized that the 'square' pavers I had bought at 'the cheapest place' were not exactly square! So now if one doesn't butt exactly up against the first, I just rotate it until it fits better.
Not exactly correct, but it will have to do, for this 'do it yourself' project!

April 7, 2008

Serious Landscaping Has Begun!!!

Spring is 'not yet arrived' here in Montana. Nights are still in the low teens (F) and the daytimes are lucky to get into the fifties. Just in the past several days, have the south-slopes of small hills begun to show a tint of green. Even the weeds are not yet sprouting along the south edge of the roadways.
However, I am hard at work around the new house. It is really in a stage of discouragement, rather than excitement.... but I am hoping any day will bring a turning point!
The official total of tractor bucket-loads of dirt, manure, etc. hauled in around the house is now at 63! That does include last year's efforts, but the 14 this year have been the ones that need to be spread around by hand shoveling!!!!!
I think that is what is so discouraging: For every load I haul in, I see where I need two more! And each pile of manure or dirt simply seems to disappear when I start throwing it around!

BUT, in reality, things are getting better, and I must keep reminding myself that all the time I put into the soil now will mean so much in the future success of any planting I will do for years to come!

In the past, I have tried to use 'shortcuts' in preparing a new planting area... and it doesn't work well!
Well, have to run now... lots of baby animals here on the ranch.... and that means hours of chores! And then back to more shoveling!
I'll be back soon with some 'before' photos and some graphics of my design plans!
Mrs. John