Summer in Northwest Montana
When I posted about how much I loved the spring in NW Montana, I ended by saying “I don’t see how I could possibly enjoy Summer more than Spring, but stay tuned!” I am here to tell you that summer in NW Montana is superior to all other seasons.. I know, I know, that’s what I said about the spring but summer is truly even more amazing. And here is why.
Many people who have lived in this area for a long time say, “The summer here is very short!” Well, in reality, it’s not. It’s just as long as summer everywhere else. But I now understand WHY they say this. It’s because the summer weather is so perfect that we just don’t want it to end. From the middle or end of June until September, every day dawns with sunshine. Every single day is between 75-90, with dry air and clear skies. Day after day after day. And it’s light out before 5am, and it stays light past 10pm. The weather is simply perfect, without fail.
All good things do typically have a negative of some sort. In this case, the negative to all that beautiful dry weather is that NW Montana is also a fire-prone area. The summer started with lush green vegetation and ended with brown grasses. Restrictions are put in place as the summer progresses to make sure campfires and sparks from equipment are not allowed to float in the air. If you’re visiting the area in the summer, that’s important to know. Leaving a campfire with hot embers is dangerous. Driving a hot car over tall dry grass could create a fire hazard. For the record, this is the only negative aspect of the summer in Montana. There’s no humidity, no dreary drippy days, no need to reschedule events due to rain, no need to listen to the weather forecast. We just know that every day is going to be beautiful.
This year was my first attempt to grow vegetables. I mentioned in the Spring report that I had planted all sorts of veggies, but now that the summer is over, I can provide an update on my success (or lack of).
First, what grew well:
Cilantro/coriander – These plants grew early and flourished. I was surprised, though, at how much more coriander than cilantro I harvested, especially since it was the cilantro I wanted. Next year I have to start collecting cilantro earlier to encourage more growth. The coriander produces seeds which I collected and have used a few times.
Lettuce – I planted a bibb kind of lettuce, which grew great. Although I did get sick of salad.
Zucchini – The zucchini flourished although I did have one plant which had all male flowers and no female ones (which are the ones that produce the zucchini). And the plants did not produce a LOT of zucchini; maybe a few a week. But it was perfect for us.
Scallions – These grew well and came up quickly. I’ll definitely plant again.
Garlic – I only planted a few cloves, and most of them came up fine. They smell great, but are drying so I have yet to try them. I was surprised though that they don’t look anything like the heads of garlic in the store – maybe they needed more time.
Tomatoes – The jury is still out on the tomatoes. I have about 60 green tomatoes on my plants… just waiting for them to turn red and with chillier weather coming, they don’t have much time to cooperate!
Jalapeno Pepper – I picked up a plant on a lark, stuck in the ground, and it grew great. I don’t even use that many jalapeño peppers, but loved it.
Beets – I only planted one beet plant. It grew early and was great, but simply wasn’t enough. Next year I’ll plant more.
And now, for the crop failures:
Basil – I grew the basil from seed, and they did grow. But the plants in my garden were really sickly looking and never got very big. A few days ago, I replanted a few and brought them indoors. They’re finally growing. Maybe it was too chilly out there?
Butternut Squash – The plants grew great. I have about six beautifully lush plants with tons of flowers, but not one squash. I’m not sure what happened, but these did not produce. Too bad because I love butternut squash!
Carrots – I planted these next to the zucchini. The zucchini leaves (which can grow HUGE) got in the way and the carrots just didn’t get enough sunshine. I did pull them all, and we have enough orange stuff for a few side dishes, but look at those pathetic things (below).
Another fantastic thing about summer in northwest Montana are the plants, specifically the wild flowers. The negative is that there are noxious weeds as well which also grow like crazy. We must have removed about four or five truckloads of thistles. They were everywhere!
But back to the good stuff. Flowers are constantly growing. In fact, the landscape changes from week to week and month to month. At one point, there were beautiful white daisies everywhere. Then there were red and orange flowers. Trees blossomed. There were myriad types of grasses. Color is everywhere!
Here are just a few samples:
As for the animals, the summer is rife with wildlife. We saw a herd of elk, several times. There are tons of wild turkeys around. This morning alone (I know it’s Autumn, but they have been here all summer!) we had two mom turkeys with 11 babies wandering around, then later we saw six female turkeys. Deer are everywhere! It’s not uncommon to see ten or more at a time. In our area we also saw black bear, grouse, squirrels, chipmunks and more. The summer is full of movement in the woods.
Things to do
Needless to say, in the summer of 2020 all of the normal festivals, parades, outdoor concerts, dragon boat festivals, rodeos and the like, were canceled. In normal years, the NW Montana area typically has a lot of fun events to attend in the summer. But even without those, the beautiful weather meant there was always something to do!
Hiking was still doable! The Flathead National Forest was still available for hiking this summer, as was the Kootenai National Forest and Glacier National Park. In reality, every hiking area was still available except for certain areas of Glacier. But we didn’t get to go do it all. If you were here this summer, you could have taken a canoe or motor boat out on Flathead Lake or any of the many lakes and rivers in the area. You could have picnicked in a park, or BBQ’d. You could have sat in the sun and obtained a magnificent tan or relaxed in a hammock reading a book or two. The perfect days really do mean every day can be an adventure!
I will miss you, summer. As much as I loved autumn, winter and spring, summer is indeed my favorite. I look forward to seeing you again! And next year, perhaps I will do a more professional version of this silly impromptu stunt…
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