Saturday, September 27, 2008

How About a Pumpkin Split?

Yesterday was dooms day for Polly's pumpkin. About 3 weeks ago her pumpkin had stopped putting on any size to it and we all figured that it was because it was just too cold at night for it to be growing anymore. So yesterday Polly decided it was time to cut it off the vine and get the official weigh in. Frank made a handy dandy platform sling that he hooked up to the bucket of his tractor so that after we cut the pumpkin off, we could easily get it out of the corral it had been growing in. Much to our disappointment when we lifted the thing onto the platform we found it was no 260 lbs like we'd been figuring. Something was very wrong. After hooking the platform to one of the sping scales Polly had for weighing beef, we found that her pumpkin only weighed 180 lbs after subtracting the weight of the platform from the total.

After taking a few pictures of it with the kids and consoling each other over the bumminess of not at least having a 200 lber we started rolling the pumpkin around to check it out in its entireity. In doing so we found the problem. In one of the creases on the back side of the pumpkin there was a split that ran almost from the stem to the butt of the pumpkin. Not only that but right where it had been setting on the ground there was a hole big enough to slide most of my hand through. I could reach in and start pulling out seeds that were rotten. That was the reason it was so light... it had lost all its solidness and bugs were eating it from the inside out. We're not exactly sure why it split but our currenty theory is that the pumpkin tried growing around the board we had it set on and the strain on the wall was too much so it just split at the edge of the board. Mace and I are going to get onto Pumpkin Chat and ask around to see what may have caused it to happen or if our theory is valid.

The good news is that even for the problem of it splitting, Polly's pumpkin is still gorgeous. And for our first try at this its still a big pumpkin. The bad news is that with the split, we doing think its going to make it to Halloween. Its already trying to rot and other soft spots are forming on the back wall. But for now it looks awfully cool sitting on the lawn in front of Polly's house and the kids think its pretty darn amazing. My pumpkin is still growing strong so I don't think there is any worry of it being split. Mace and I plan on cutting it off the vine a couple days before I head down to Denver so I can see how much it weighs. Then when I get back I'll carve it with Lane and Gracie and we'll set it up for Halloween.

I have to get my camera back from Polly... we took a bunch of pictures and she's downloading them to her computer. Once I do though I'll post some of the pictures on here and you can see how hers did. Have a great weekend all.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Talk About Amazing

My parents just celebrated their 43th wedding anniversary on Thursday and I can't help but think I hope and pray that I will be as lucky some day. Its becoming such a rarity that people actually stay together at all, let alone 40 some years. I think I'm truly blessed to have come from two such strong and caring individuals. And the best thing is, I know they are still madly in love with each other. I'm not saying its the same giddy kind of love that they probably had when they met as teenagers, that's right they'd been dating from the time they were 15-16 years old to the time they got married, but a mature and deep love that you only get from knowing and being with someone that long. When I first think about my parents individual characteristics I think of two very different people, so maybe opposites really do attract. But when I continue to dwell on it I see more and more similarities between the two of them. Their deep rooted Catholic faith, their love of science, nature, and history, their sharp as a tact intellects, their ties to family values both from past generations to their own children and grandchildren, their desire to be the best people they can be in this short life, and the fact that they grew together toward common goals. That's the stuff of love for a lifetime. Yep I really am lucky to have grown up as theirs. And as you can see by the picture, the grandkids are lucky to have them too!

Since my dad has been sick I have been thinking more and more on these kind of things. I guess that's only natural, though I wonder if the rest of my siblings have done the same. It definitely has been a year of reflection on my part and maybe that's why a lot of emotions have been closer to the surface for the past few months. And as most of you know I tend to keep a lot of things bottled up pretty tight so its been weird not having that same control over it as usual. Frustrating actually. Good thing Mace is a patient listener.. well patient in that he'll calmly wait till I'm ready to say anything about what I may be feeling. Hard to let go of old habits. But in some ways its harder anyway because I miss all my girlfriends from Missoula. I'd never been one to hang out with any number of girls until college and found it great when just chit chatting over random stuff. The serious stuff would come up and it was easier to talk about it with them. But I really don't have that here. Trout Creek is by far a male dominated community, and not meaning to sound horrible here but there just aren't many women my age with a "non-party" and halfway intellectual attitude or lifestyle that I might feel comfortable having as a friend. Heck... there just aren't that many women even close to my age! So it gets a little frustrating at times. And even when I do get a chance to talk to my college gal pals on the phone I don't feel like getting into the sad parts of my life (that just gets depressing), I want to enjoy hearing from them and joking with them instead. Messed up I know... lol. Gah even on this I don't like getting into it.

Sooooo we're going to leave that all by the way side. I started this post on a positive, MY PARENTS, and by God I'm going to leave it on a positive as well. What could be more positive than the awesome apple pie I mad this morning and letting cool right now. That's right... nothing. I must say this one is gorgeous don't you think? Apple pie is the shizzle. Polly has a great apple tree in her garden that had a boom crop last year. We spent hours picking, pealing, slicing, and freezing most of them for apple pie and apple crisp fillings during the year. I tend to like to put the apples in oatmeal in the morning before heading off to work. Its filling and delicious. But I looked in my freezer this morning and saw one lonely ziplock bag stuffed with apples from last year and realized that a new crop is going to be ready for picking any day now so I might as well used these babies up. So I am. I should be a baker... I swear! Set up a bakery for other people to enjoy my goodies. Most of the time I'd rather bake it than eat it and cooking has always been a stress reliever for me. Good thing I have a bunch of people that love what I make so that I'm not really hogging out on it myself. My rear end thanks them as well... lol. The staff in the office love me. I'll drop off some goodies in the morning in the conference room next to the coffee maker and by the time I come back from the field every crumb is gone. I think the guys in my office are glad to have me around. I keep watching food network and finding more and more recipes that I'd love to try. Glad the holidays are fast approaching so I can try out a few of them for Turkey day or Christmas.

I suppose I ought to go check the pie and make sure Flash hasn't gotten to it while its cooling, and then go down and check out Mace and my pumpkin. 270 LBS PEOPLE!!!! If it grows just another 7 inches it will make 300 lbs. I'll be happy with that though if the weather holds out we might be able to reach 350 lbs. Really makes me wish we had started the plant earlier and had a little bit longer of a season. I can't imagine how huge it really could have been. Signing out for now... have a great weekend everyone. Oh and of course ... GO GRIZ! (its homecoming today).

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Pumpkin update

Just had to post this before I went to bed. I measured our pumpkin this evening and by our calculations it should weigh over 250 lbs now!!!! Its also started to turn to a nice deep yellow-orange and shines when the sun hits it just right. Talk about gorgeous. I'll be sure to take some pictures after work tomorrow and post them on here. Its even filling in some so its much more round rather than like a big flat wagon wheel. Okay... thats the excitement for me today. Well that and I avoided getting sprayed by a skunk that wandered by while I was eating lunch on Gem Peak. Woo hoo!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Colorado Rocky Mountain High

My tickets are booked, my itinerary sent to those who might need it, and the appropriate people are excited about me coming to see them. Yep that’s right; I’m going down to Denver again. Initially I’d hoped (many months ago) that this visit would take me to Cheyenne but with Dad still going through medical problems and still living with Brenda, Mark and their two girls in Westminster my travels will take me to Colorado. Not that I mind. Over the past 7-8 years I’ve probably spent more time in Denver with my sister and her family than anywhere. Whether I’m sleeping on the hida-bed in her living room or down in what I call “my room” in the basement, going to Brenda’s is always a good time. Even when I was there for a month in Feb/March under pretty horrible circumstances I still had the comfort of being with close family and being in a familiar setting after spending hours in the hospital during the day.

I’m a little nervous about this trip. Not the traveling or anything like that, but not being sure how Dad is going to be feeling. The last time I was down there I knew he was going to be pretty miserable after surgery and I was better prepared for some long emotionally challenging days, though there were some things that I’m not sure I could ever have been prepared for if they had happened, but we won’t dwell on that today. With Dad starting radiation on Monday, and continuing that 5 days a week for the next 6 weeks, and still being on oral chemo treatments during that whole ordeal I’m not sure what kind of condition he’s going to be in. And that alone worries me. I just know that I wanted to make sure I got down to see him and my Mom before the snow starts flying up here and I’m not able to get out. Even flying in October may be a little tricky since its predicted that we are going to have an early and very hard winter here in Northwest Montana. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll be able to fly out of Missoula on the 7th.

But for good reason I’m also excited about the trip. I love spending time with my family. Anytime we get together great memories are both shared and created. Brenda told me she is running out of meal time ideas so in my spare time I’ll try and find some cheap, easy ideas that I can take down there and help out in the kitchen. Dinner usually revolves around some sort of chicken or ground beef as the main protein so I can understand how that can get repetitive after a while. I have the same problem here at home. If nothing else I can make pancakes from scratch on Saturday mornings and through so chocolate chips in there for Mark and the girls. The last time I was down there I made a few loaves of lowfat banana bread that got scarffed down pretty fast. I’m sure I can make some more or some coffee cake that Rachel and Becca love.

Marks football team is doing great so far this season and I’m hoping to be able to go up to Bailey at least once and see the boys play. I lived down there for 4 summers and while Mark always told me how his two a day practices were doing I only was able to stay long enough in the season to see a scrimmage. So it would be a real treat to see an actual game. Mom and Dad have been going up and rooting with the family since its kind of reminiscent of the small high school football scene at Seton Catholic where my brother and sister went to high school. There is a special feeling when it comes to rooting for the underdog because they always seem to come out on top even though they don’t have the numbers in their population that the big time high schools do. I can scream my lungs out with the best of them. Heck I haven’t been to a football game since my last year at U OF M… I need a little sport in my life!

Anyway… I’m rambling now so I’ll stop for now. Hope everyone is having a great weekend. God Bless and GO GRIZ!!!!!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Care Bear Stare

Well it is that time of year again when the bears are out and about getting fat for the upcoming months of torpor (fancy word for hibernation... aka bear lethargy). Bears don't technically hibernate. My mammalogy professor took 3 days in college explaining why it wasn't actually hibernation but a food induced comatose like situation called bear lethargy or torpor which is why their body can still have productive contractions during cub births in their dens. I wont bore you with the details but it was interesting stuff at the time and you'll just have to accept it.

I was out running another stand exam yesterday morning and within a two hour period I came across two sets of black bear. The first was a sow with two cubs from this season that were absolutely adorable. I wish they hadn't been so spooky or I could have gotten a couple more great pictures of the cubs. I was lucky even to get this one. There is absolutely nothing as cute as a bear cub. Note of caution though... try to stay out of mama bears way. Black bears may be skiddish but they aren't stupid. If they think you are going to try and harm their cubs they wont wait a second to come after you. Most of the time though they either tree up or go running off through the forest. This mama bear and one of her cubs ran for the nearest dark patch of woods while the last of the cubs was confused and started to climb up the nearest aspen tree. He got about halfway up before he realized the rest of the family wasn't doing the same and came crashing down the tree and rumbled after his mom and sister. I basically just leaned against a tree and watched with a smile on my face. They were a good 50 yards away from me before they realized I could be something dangerous walking through the woods with tree borer and tape measure in hand. I think it was the orange vest and hard hat that gave me away... *laughs*.

The next bear I came across was a young female that was pretty curious about what I was doing in the woods and just climbed up a nearby tree and watched me while I worked. She didn't seem fazed in the least that I was intruding on her grazing. I made my measurements pretty quickly however and continued on my merry way in order not to spook or anger her to much. She posted herself in a tree down hill from me so with the zoom on my camera I got a really great shot. Luckily enough I have not run across any grizzlies in my adventures out in the woods though there are plenty of them out there. Several area's in which I work are grizzly relocation points of bears that have tried pestering camp sites in Yellowstone and other prominent tourist areas. I've seen sign of them but thankfully they are smarter than their black bear cousins and boogie out of an area long before I even know they were there. Last summer I made some great castings of grizzly bear prints with a grad student and bear researcher from MSU. I know I know... booo to MSU but he's a great guy and is do ecological studies that will be really interesting if they get published. Environmentalists keep saying the griz population around here isn't healthy and vibrant... this kid has other news for them. David has seen enough proof to know that our population is actually one of the healthiest in the griz recovery areas... plenty of cubs... plenty of habitat to grow in... not as many people for them to come in contact with. Take that you GREENIES!!! Not that I'm bitter or anything. It just gets frustrating when you're told over and over there isn't a sustainable griz population in the area and you know otherwise. I know I'm preaching to the choir here so I'll stop. Hope everyone is having a great day. I'm loving my super short Labor Day Holiday Week! I'm already in my weekend here. Woo wooo!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Boo yah!

My pumpkin reached the 100 lb mark today. I might get 200 out of it yet. Pray that it doesn't freeze. I've begun to make gord sacrifices to the pumpkin gods... dancing around a fire and lighting pumpkin spice candles for effect. *just kidding mom, you know I'm not into false god worship* But it is a joke between Mace, Polly and myself. I still say if our pumpkin had gotten as good a start as Polly's had we would be kicking her little hiney. Her pumpkin has a good 20 days on our and is only 40 lbs heavier now. I'm gonna catch up ... I just know it.