Our friend Susie invited us over to her house to pick some raspberries. When we arrived, she and her husband Gary took us on a tour of their garden, which is easily the largest and most thorough garden I’ve seen. It seems like they’re growing one of everything.

In addition to a bucket of raspberries (half of which Ollie ate), we came home with all sorts of herbs and vegetables. It was an impressive spread; the picture below doesn’t include everything.

In gratitude for their generosity in giving us vegetables and herbs, we’re going to let them pick cherries from our orchard. Seems fair…

Another fire?!

Two years ago, Bird Island caught fire due to some negligent campers. The entire island is only a few acres in size, and pretty much the entire thing burned to a crisp. Even now, it’s still off-limits to boaters and people who would picnic there.

Last year, the so-called Boulder 2600 Fire burned thousands of acres a few miles south of our house. Chalk that one up to arson; they’ve since caught the guy who started it.

And this year, a fire has erupted across the lake, near the tiny town of Elmo. We can easily see the plume of smoke from our house.

Within a couple of days, it’s exploded into a 20,000-acre blaze with little containment. Firefighters have determined it was “human-caused”; whether that means arson or just carelessness remains to be seen.

It seems like the West gets its share of fires, but it’s disconcerting to have them so near our house every year…

Just 10 minutes

“I’ll put this shelving together,” I thought. “It’ll just take 10 minutes.”

Two hours later, our entire garage has been reorganized. (Notice the new shelving on the far wall, though.)

I feel like this is how my days sort of slip away…

Second summit

Just under two years ago we climbed to the top of Mount Aeneas, a well-known local hike. Today’s weather looked great: a little cool (50’s at the trailhead) and a cloudless sky. We donned our trail runners and headed up the path.

The trail basically goes up non-stop for three miles. It’s not terribly steep until the top, and with the effort it’s nice to see progress as you’re ticking off the steps. There are great views of the Flathead Valley:

That’s Echo Lake on the right, Mud Lake (unfortunate name) on the left, and of course the massive Flathead Lake in the distance.

As Pepper and Kyra were complaining about how tired their legs were, we crested the ridge that provides a view of the peak in the distance. It’s always more motivating when you can see your goal on a hike, so we continued upward with renewed vigor.

The view from the top is spectacular. Here’s a shot looking southwest at the lake (that’s not my pack– it just seemed to go well with the picture).

And here are the ladies looking east toward (barely visible) Hungry Horse Reservoir.

From the peak you can see much of the Jewel Basin area, Glacier National Park in the distance, the Swan Valley, and tons of lakes all around. It was cool but comfortable at the top, so we had a nice lunch and just enjoyed the view and the sun for a while.

This was our second summit here, and I feel like it’s going to become an annual tradition. It’s a great hike and a great experience.

Ye Olde Mission

Since moving here, we’ve heard about the old Spanish mission in St. Ignatius. It’s basically an impressive brick church, built in the 1890’s, with a few outbuildings. Anyone is welcome to wander the grounds, so today we did.

As with many churches of that era, the inside is covered in murals.

Here’s an artistic shot of a set of stained-glass windows:

It was interesting to tour it, and now we can check it off our List of Montana Places to See. (And frankly, we don’t feel a strong need to return…)

Swan at sunset

This evening we were driving past Swan Lake after the sun had set, and I couldn’t pass this up:

This was taken with my phone, so it’s not great. Trust me, the colors were even better than this!

Fields of yellow

This is the time of year when many of the local farms are raising rapeseed. The flowers are a brilliant yellow, and look amazing as they stretch for acres. As we were driving home today, I saw not only the yellow fields but a towering thunderhead building in the distance.

Although the name sounds unfortunate, rapa is Latin for “turnip” and is the base for rapeseed.

3,000 ladybugs

Our cherry orchard has aphids.

I didn’t think they were a huge deal, but looking at the trees “infected” with aphids, it turns out they are. They cover the leaves in some cases, and their sheer numbers can cause serious damage to the trees. On the advice of a few people, I bought some ladybugs.

Three thousand of them.

They come in bags of (apparently) 750 ladybugs each. I didn’t count them. It was kind of fun to watch these little bugs scurry around inside their bags, just waiting for some juicy aphids to munch on.

I spread some around the bases of the trees…

… And sprinkled others on the leaves directly.

I have no idea what to expect from these little guys; will they take care of the aphids within days? Are 3,000 of them enough?

These two need to stop chattering and get to work:

I feel like every few months, we have some crazy new adventure at our house. From chainsaws to raking gravel to v-bar chains, it’s anyone’s guess what disaster will befall us next and require us to learn some new Montana skill.