Is it spring yet?

I am growing onions for the first time this year. We are still having crazy Montana-like weather here (another asshole snow storm yesterday) but I managed to get the perky dudes in the ground after work a few days ago.

Although it is chilly and feels more like February than April, my gardens are exhibiting a zest for life and hope for warm weather. Below photos: spicy mesclun mix, spurge (not the horrid spurge), purple leaf winter creeper, oregano, strawberry, tulip.

Today I build the chicken coop. Yes, my birds are still in my bathroom. They are giant and cute. Their little chicken personalities are emerging. They play and hop. They often sound like giggling sophomore girls getting ready for homecoming dance. I imagine them saying things like how do my tail feathers look? And, my comb? Am I calling too much attention to my husky thighs if I walk like this? I hope my man will help with the coop or it could end in tears and an early cocktail hour.

Bossy likes to run and cause trouble. She would be the bitchy girl at the dance who would convince unassuming Ida and Clementine that the rooster didn't like them so she could cluck over and steal a dance. In most photos I take, she is racing by declaring you're not the boss of me!

As for an update on my panicky pooch, we have been giving her Bach's Rescue Remedy twice a day and some extra treats and attention and it is totally working.

click to enlarge my plot:


driving in a blizzard, canine anxiety and Mediterranean walls

Yesterday involved a should-have-been-six-hour 30 mph drive through a blizzard after a heavy few days with Andy's grandma at St. V's hospital in Billings. Dolly Mae is doing a bit better. We got home late and bug was restless after days of missing naps and staying up late and Alice had an all-night anxiety attack that started in the car when she nervously climbed up on bug in her car seat (75-pound dog on 11-pound kid = ear-piercing shriek and subsequent mom dive into back seat). Please tell me Mercury is in retrograde or something.

At one point, Andy said, We have a four-month old baby and we are up all night with our dog. This is ridiculous. There were a few colorful adjectives before the nouns, but, seriously. I don't know what is wrong with my canine pal, but we tried everything from pulling her in bed to one side, under the covers, on top, sandwiched between us, on the floor, on her many pet beds...she got in the bathtub at one point. She wedged herself between the dresser and the wall. She was shaking and panting. It was sad and, by 4am, annoying. This morning, she is fine. Right now she is hiking snowbowl with Andy.

Now, with a cup of thick coffee in palm, I will write about my new, cheery robin's egg blue living room.

When we moved into our house, we had nary a penny to spend and I charmed the Home Depot paint lady into tweaking the color of a five-gallon bucket of mistake paint to something we could use. And, so, our butter yellow brightened the sickly gray walls and ceilings of our first home.

I have grown tired of the color, and am beginning a total paint overhaul of my house. People think this is a crazy idea especially since some of the walls I plan to paint have received three colors since I laid eyes on them. But, to that I say, Nonsense, silly fools! For $30, you can have a total room makeover.

My ma-in-law, the most enthusiastic painter this side of the divide, helped me cover the walls after our morning with Hillary Clinton. I hated it at first. It was horribly glaring against the yellow. But, I stuck with it, and love it now. Plus, it showcases our art, dog and kid so well.


bare feet and sore biceps

It snowed last Thursday and by Saturday, the mercury was pushing its way up into the 70s. This year is nothing like last year at this time. This post one year ago was my covert way of announcing my surprise pregnancy. Last year it was all blooms and fertility in mid April.

This weekend was such a welcome change in weather--Missoula was bursting with pale-skinned folk itching to catch some vitamin d.

I rented a rototiller and tilled my garden for the first time ever. Holy hell, it was such hard work. However, much quicker than my hand digging that usually takes me a few days. With my tiny plot and limited crop rotation options, it was necessary in my fifth gardening season with the same soil. I add my compost every year but this year I needed a boost of oxygen and stirring. I must nurture and coax my soil so it will nurture and coax the seeds that will be our dinner.

So, anyway, I can barely type because I am so sore. I tilled my plot, dug out my rows and paths, turned my gorgeous (more on that later) compost, tore down part of a fence, built it back up and planted some more peas. I love peas. I never did get to that chicken coop. The fence thing was spontaneous but I am very pleased with it. Less privacy, yes. More sunshine, yes. I hope I can handle the less privacy thing. It has already affected me as this morning I walked outside in my undies and then realized I can't do that anymore. Maybe I'll just keep some sweats by the back door.

Photos above: left, gorgeous prepared beds; right, after privacy fence removal and hanging of wire fence. The dotted line is where the fence left its afrternoon shadow before my stroke of brilliance. The window frames on the garage are my cheap and cheerful pea trellises.

All the animals were out enjoying the sunshine with me. Including bug. She even had bare feet.

Hopeful arugula and peas.

So, my plot (click to enlarge):

Look at all that brown begging to be covered with green and red and purple and yellow. It makes my mouth water. Because I removed the fence on the west side, the soil gets two additional hours of light in the evening. That is just enough to merit planting stuff over there. It is worth wearing pants for.


no longer chicks

Above Photos: March 20, April 9

I have birds in my bathroom. The girls are growing by the nanosecond. Bossy intimidates me even though I pretend like I am brave when I am around her but the other two are sweet and curious. Would I be able to tell if I had a rooster by now? If Bossy isn't a rooster, she is one helluvan assertive bitch. Cripe, I hope I don't have a rooster.

I opened up the brooder to make more space for my little flock. I am starting to panic a bit that they will need their coop before it is ready, but I suppose they could just crash in our bed with me, my husband, our kid, 75-pound dog , 17-pound cat and 10-pound cat. There's always room. Besides, they would just perch up on our curtain rods anyway.

My system with the old oilcloth and pine chips is working magically. Every few days, I sweep up the shavings and chicken poo and throw it on my compost pile. I will, however, have to be sure to add nitrogen to the heap to offset the large amount of carbon currently being added with the wood chips.

Two of my chickens, Bossy and Ida, have a stump for a toe or talon or whatever you might call it. They are missing a toenail and the tip of the piggy is rounded and discolored. It doesn't seem to affect their peeping and pooping so I am not too worried about it. Someone tell me if I should be.

Here are Ida, Bossy P (she's scary, huh?) and Clementine:


tired taters

I have limited garden space and a desire to plant potatoes for the first time. Potatoes take up room and have very specific nutrient requirements. They require deep, loamy soil with lots of nitrogen. So, what's an urban gardener to do? My gardener and rock star friend, Arann, casually mentioned the potato tire method to me some time back and I must admit I haven't stopped dreaming about it. Now, it is a reality.

The method:

1. Place your old tires strategically about your yard. Crack open an IPA because you just worked eight hours with a three and a half month-old bug. I don't think you must look all white t when using old tires. I refused to have a row of tires in my yard. Instead, I found cozy little nooks for the potato nests. I did not have old tires all about my house so I made one phone call to a local tire shop who was more than eager to give me the old rubber.

2. Fill the tire with soil and lots of compost. Like almost half and half.

3. Plant your chitted potatoes in the tires. Potatoes should be planted about four inches deep and around a month before your last frost. You should absolutely only use seed potatoes or else your cats will develop a fifth limb or something like that. I didn't know what chit meant and I mean, holy chit, the spuds kinda just did it on their own. As with most things garden, I wasn't too careful about it and it worked out swell.

4. When the plant part of the potato is above the rim of the tire, add more dirt and compost and the plant will continue to grow and the old stem will become root and, therefore, more potato. I have three tires for each stack but can always get more if I need them.

Think of it like whoring out a seed. Instead of getting like eight pounds for a plant, you get up to 30! AND, the best part? When spud harvest rolls around, you get to knock over the tire stack and see your bounty instead of digging digging digging.


I want Barack's autograph. I want to have lunch with Hillary.

Ever notice people use Clinton's first name and Barack's last name? Is that a gender thing?

This weekend was full of messing with bug's nap time to see the country's next leader. It was worth it. Major politicians were in my town in Montana. Democrats are actually spending time in the state that elected Judy Martz and Conrad Burns. yes. hope.

On Saturday morning we were one of 7000 people to see Obama speak at The University of Montana. Bug had her first bike ride. I was all amped up in my Obama t shirt that I printed upstairs at the Union Hall in downtown Missoula during a spontaneous and grassroots Obama fundraiser organized by my energetic college professor. Bug even had an Obama onesie.*

The energy in that room gave me chills more than once. I haven't ever been a part of something like that. It was big. Bigger than I imagined. I was inspired by Obama's ability to inspire. I was energized by his eloquent, original and accessible message. In my 12 years of voting ability, I haven't ever felt this hopeful about a candidate.

So, to be fair and balanced (ha!), we also attended Clinton's rally on Sunday. I hate to say this but it was depressing at first. The crowd just sat there waiting like lichen on a branch. When we entered the Adams Center for Obama, the room was pulsing with stomps and cheers and The Wave. With Clinton, it felt more like church; the excitement was sober and reserved. It was Sunday. But she came and talked and I liked her a lot.

I want Barack's autograph. I want to have lunch with Hillary. In Baracks' presence I feel inspired, in Hillary's I feel comforted.

I want to pick the person who can beat McCain. I want to pick the person who will restore my faith in federal government giving a shit or two about me and my family and art and Montana and gardening and raising a kid while working and dogs and health and the earth and eating good food and ending blood spilled over oil.

I am idealistic. But I feel like I have to be. Really, after nearly a decade of W, my will to have hope in my country's foreign relations and domestic pride was nearly gone. By the way, when are liberals going to take back patriotism? And the flag? When did those things become unique to Republicans? blech.

So. I find both candidates to be sincere and I think they both have good ideas. I feel like I need and my country needs a person who can affect profound change with this next presidency. It feels very important to do it now or our young nation could become extinct. I think I will vote for Barack Obama. I have thought a lot about it. I would love to hear what others think. My mind could still change.

*If you want a Montana Obama onesie, I'll make you one and donate the proceeds to Obama. Cost is $20 and $15 will go to Obama. E mail me at nicirae (at) gmail (dot) com.


Obama in Missoula

This just (as in like 12 minutes ago) in: Obama will be in Missoula this Saturday at the Adams Center in Missoula! Tickets are free but you must click here to sign up. Hurry. I will be there.
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