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Rhythms of Life

Crown Imperial Fritillaries and tulips
Crown Imperial Fritillaries and tulips
June 5th, 2010

My life in Montana is in synch with nature and follows her daily and yearly rhythms. I rise with the breaking light of dawn and plan my day around the current season and daily weather. In June the days are long and bright. After breakfast I take a walk in the gardens and admire the tulips, daffodils and hyacinths. Every weekend I try to spend all of Saturday and Sunday tending to the flowers; mulching, weeding and watering.

Most of the bulbs I planted last fall grew through the winter and burst forth with brilliant colors and sweet scents in May and June. The Crown Imperial Fritillaries that Van Gogh immortalized grew quickly and were two feet tall by early June. Deep snow still clung to the mountain peaks just 5 miles across the valley but here spring was in all her glory.

Spring flowers
Spring flower beds await mulching.
Emigrant Peak and spring flowers
Still winter in the mountains but flowers are blooming here.
Mother Mary
Rich and his crew commence work.
June 10th, 2010

In April and May I start to collect shrubs and flowers from the Home Depot and Lowes. I patiently wait until they go on sale and carefully pick just what I will need for summer planting. I bring them home and nurture them in the greenhouse until June. Then the shrubs and trees move outside to the side of the greenhouse and the flowers find a home in the gardens. Every year I have new gardens to plant and existing ones to tend to. At some point I may get overwhelmed with work but that has not happened yet. I enjoy challenges.

By late June or early July the ground has dried enough to support heavy equipment and that is when Rich and his crew commence work. This year they are finishing the greenhouse gardens, completing the Picnic Pavilion and creating new formal gardens in the front yard. The meadow will be relegated to the perimeter and dramatic, symmetrical beds will be built inside the walkway triangles. Those gardens alone should keep me pleasantly occupied for three to five years.

Christmas Play
Shane and Keith clear the inner triangles.
Standing Room Crowd
The greenhouse garden beds are
mulched and ready for planting.
Santa Sleigh Light Display
The first garden bed takes shape.
Presents for all
The picnic pavilion is completed!
Tiered Gardens
Driveway Tiered Gardens.
Early June 2010

Tulips and other early spring flowers warm my heart like the first rays of early morning sunshine breaking over the eastern peaks. Perhaps I appreciate spring flowers because Montana winters are long and cold. Temperatures of 20 below zero Fahrenheit are common and sometimes the mercury plummets to 30 below zero. That is when icicles form inside my nose and feel like tiny needles piercing my flesh. At 30 below ice crystals hang in the air like fog and exposed skin goes numb in just a few minutes. Gloved fingers turn numb in 5 to 10 minutes and breathing is painful.

Fire killed trees are starting to fall across our private road network. I always carry a tow chain in my Jeep to move trees that block access. This one I cut into several pieces and then pushed them to the side of the road. Every landowner takes responsibility for the part of the road that they own. Half of that road in the picture belongs to me.

In July I shot some more photos for my good friend Rich Spallone. Rich builds beautiful homes and I help him to showcase his fine work by maintaining his web site and adding photos of newly completed projects to it. Last Christmas I took photos of a guest house Rich was remodeling in Tom Minor Basin. Below are completed photos of the same house in July of 2010. The work is spectacular and the house is very beautiful.

Fire Burned Tree Falls
Fire killed tree falls across Sagittarius Skyway.
Remodeled Guest House
Remodeled Guest House.
New Kitchen
Montana Guest House Kitchen.
New Living Room
Remodeled Living Room.
Early Mountain Snow
It can snow anytime of the year in Montana.
September 6th, 2010

Ihave seen snow fall from the heavens every month of the year in Montana. Each snow fall is different; they vary with the month. A September snow is wet and only sticks to surfaces that cool quickly like blades of grass or the tops of garden timbers. Note the deeper snow on the hills in the background. Just 500 feet higher but the thinner and cooler air dropped more snow which readily stuck to the tall mountain grass. In a few days all the snow will melt but it is a warning of what is to come.

One Saturday I filled my Jeep Rubicon with 63 Western Cedar trees and assorted shrubs. The folks at Lowes were delighted! I loved the 75% off sale too. During late September and early October I and two High School helpers planted over 150 trees and shrubs around the yard. Blue Spruce, Medora Juniper, Old Gold Juniper, Green Mountain Boxwood, Blue Star Juniper and Western Cedar were just a few of the many trees and shrubs we carefully provided a new home for. Most did well but some could not survive the bitter cold winters. A few, like the Medora Junipers, died back after the first winter but then grew vigorously. We also added another 150 perennials to the greenhouse tiered gardens and carefully mulched every bed.

Jeep and Cedar Trees
How many trees can you fit in a two door Jeep Rubicon?
Western Cedars fence row
Western Cedar Fence Row.
Medora Juniper
Medora Juniper from South Dakota
Old Gold Juniper
Brilliant yellow and green - Old Gold Juniper.
Phoenix Villa
Phoenix Villa - a house on an island surrounded by wilderness
November 5th, 2010

The house named Phoenix Villa by my good fried Rita Hilficker, sits like an island surrounded by a gravel driveway which gives way to partially cleared wilderness. This summer Shane and Keith brought order and beauty to the front yard by building a formal garden which included a strongly symmetrical set of walkways. Symmetry transforms chaos to order and thus is inherently pleasing to most eyes. Four new triangular raised beds are surrounded by pathways which lead to an outer perimeter of walkways that crisscross the front yard. At both ends of the long main axis are Greek Temples. In the center of the yard is a large circle with a statue of The Discus Thrower.
Both the diamonds and walkways are lined with weed cloth. The diamonds are mulched with washed stone while the walkways are covered with a mixture of fine sand, clay and smaller gravel to facilitate easy walking. Various types of Juniper and Boxwood will be planted along the walkways and in the triangles. The entire formal garden project may take a decade or longer to complete.

Lower front yard diamonds
The lower front yard triangles.
Phoenix Villa Formal Gardens
A formal garden is being built in the front yard.
Window well cover
Window well cover and garden
November 7th, 2010

The days are warm, bright and sunny. Typical November before the first lasting winter snows arrive. The day lilies are turning yellow and brown. Following seasonal rhythms I place covers over the basement window wells least I end up with a small glacier in each by next spring.

Next I plant a few more trees like the Colorado Blue Spruce pictured below. My yard has several different climate zones ranging from near desert, where I planted the Blue Spruce, to naturally moist Aspen groves with black, rich soil. A few more Spruce and Juniper trees were added to the hillside in back of the house. The remaining trees and shrubs were placed in the greenhouse where they will rest until spring.

On November 9th the first lasting snow blew in from the north and west. Unlike early season snow it was dry, powdery and deep. The mercury plunged to near zero after the storm left and brilliant sunshine flooded the valley. I knew then that I would not see bare earth again until May. On Thanksgiving Day a strong storm blew in and dumped almost 2 feet of snow in my mountain yard. Then for the next three months every new storm or wind event kicked up the deep powder and clogged the roads with drifts up to 6 feet high. Every drive down the mountain was a challenge and sometimes I did not make it. At the end of the winter I bought a used snowmobile that was on sale. It was just another reminder that nature sets some of the rules and those are ones I must follow. Nature is humbling.

Colorado Blue Spruce
Colorado Blue Spruce - 1 year old.
Spruce Tree
The tag says "50 feet wide and 75 feet tall at maturity".
Hard to visualize but I spaced them 100 feet apart.
Greenhouse storage
These trees will winter in the greenhouse.
Lasting snow
A lasting snow - it will not fully melt until May.

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