The Distance to Montana is shrinking…


We took a new scenic route heading to the West Gate of Yellowstone from Idaho Falls, then on Hwy 191 along the Gallatin River. The river was swollen and roaring with the winter’s 200% of normal snowpack. The river leads us down to Bozeman. We had two mountain passes to choose from at Bozeman, and the heavy traffic and intersecting roads turned us about and we wound up heading for the more remote pass. The tarmac turned to gravel, and the gravel turned to dirt, and the dirt ended. We were a long way out in the hinterlands, just us and this brewing storm. We turned back and asked directions from a teacher closing up her one-room schoolhouse. She gamely explained that the pass we were looking for is only possible in late July, a real 4×4 exploration. We had lost a lot of daylight by the time we made Bozeman again, so we jumped back on the interstate and linked to our little blue highway- figuring we would find where the scenic mountain passes emptied onto their far end, rather than their starting point in Bozeman, and take the open pass on our return trip (which we did, and it was worth the persistence). 


Day one at the ranch is spent the usual way; opening the house and mowing the vast yard. Day two began with this was-an-Iris garden. Last fall moles ate 250 Iris. The moles were so thorough that it seemed someone had dug all the Iris up and stolen them. We brought a plot of rangy and tough sunflowers from our Utah garden and planted them along the steep L side to help block the wild carrot and rangy weeds. Then we weeded the entire plot, revealing the few Iris remaining, and put down a barrier of newspaper covered with pine needles/cones. The flat end across from the bridge got a thick ground cover of an old pond liner from Utah.


The lilac bushes throughout the yard were still ramping in to high gear.


Pine Beetles killed our smallest pine tree last summer and I cut it down in a comedy of errors. Our three remaining pines received med kits to help them fight off the grubs. I drill into the living cambium at 4 inch intervals, insert a plastic needle in the little hole, then tap the plastic jar of insecticide onto the but-end of the plastic needle, then give it a few more taps to secure it within the tree. The rising sap of spring draws out the meds and disperses it through the tree. When all the meds are drawn into the tree I pull out the needles.


A job in the shade after a long morning on the hillside Iris bed. 


These two pines (with three heads) are next, if we can get past the massive Iris bush…


The perfume reaches far beyond the yard. 


This Sapsucker woodpecker watches me drill into the trees.


Nora has counted the med kits, and thinks I should put a few remainders on the little yard tree, just to give it a boost.


She offers her suggestions and mathematic reasoning, knowing I need her help more often than not.


The string wraps the circumference of the tree, with 4 inch increments marked out so worker-Dan knows where to run his drill. The bit is marked with tape at the plunge depth so the holes don’t punch too deep. All Nora’s suggestions.


I fixed a little wooden mallet a few years back, and now it comes in handy.


In real life the lilac’s color seems like a gateway from another dimension- a dimension not visible to the camera.


The other dimension smells pretty spectacular as well.


Finishing up. It will take a day or so for the trees to empty the med kits.


The old Iris garden at the front porch needs a wider plot, and a liner to keep the sod from taking over. I use an old spool of rubber banding discarded from a long-ago bailing rig as the liner wall.


Most of the time Nora just lets me work along, offering no comment. “Supervising from a mental distance”, or some such is how she explains it.


Nora checks in with Elizabeth to confirm that I can be left to figure this part out on my own.


In expanding  the bed on the other side of the footpath, I come across a lot of tree roots from the big pines. The runoff from two pitches of the roof combine at this corner. The tree roots scramble out from under the old slab foundation. The corner of the house needs triage because of all the water- but that will be a different project. Right now I’ll focus on draining the water away from the house. 


I dig below the slab foundation of the house and shear away all the tree roots. I’ll use the bailer banding to seal the ground line, then go the brick hump with the pickaxe and tease out some bricks to make a low lateral wall to hold the banding tight up against the foundation. 


The bricks are squeezed into place, with banding against the flower bed as well. More steps to go, but this part is done and it is 7pm- I’ll pick it up again in the morning.


A tree root, cut at the foundation line, pulling up through the length of the garden. All those Iris need split and replanted, but that will happen in late July after they have bloomed.


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