Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch….July 13, 2018

Well, Mr. Bear did not hijack this week’s blog post (he’s lying low), so our big news this week is that on July 5, God turned the seasons switch from “spring” to “summer” in Montana. On the fourth the high was seventy-one, and on the fifth it popped into the eighties, and has been there ever since.

The daytime temperatures are about the same as Atlanta.


Kalispell forecast


Atlanta forecast

The real differences are this: humidity and air conditioning, or rather, lack of both in Montana.

Eighty-eight degrees is hot, no matter how you look at it, but humidity makes a HUGE difference, especially when it comes to being cool indoors and needing air conditioning.

Here’s a fact that may surprise my Southern friends: most Montanans don’t have air conditioning in their homes. What’s more, we don’t want it.

A friend told me the other day, “I am fundamentally allergic to air conditioning.”

My friend Cindy built a house a few years ago, and she included an air conditioner, but the only time she has ever used it was last summer when the smoke from the wildfires was so bad, she could not open her windows.

Karla said, “I don’t really like air-conditioning. Maybe it’s because I spend so much of the year trying to stay warm.”

Definitely not statements you’d hear from my native South.

For all of my Southern friends and family, you know how you walk into most any business in the summer and you are smacked in the face with a blast of frigid air?  Well, most Montana businesses have air conditioning, but they use it sparingly, because we don’t need it much.

Which is one of the aspects of life that I love most about Montana.

Here’s a recap of summers since we moved here:

2013: Quite pleasant.  We opened our windows only occasionally, and I did not wear shorts until the fourth of July.  Fire season was so mild, I don’t remember being aware of it.

2014: Cool.  It snowed an inch and a half on June 17.  It was so cool all summer that we never even opened our windows. Wildfire season?  What’s that?

2015: HOT.  We had a string of 90+ degree days the last two weeks of June.  By July 4, it was so hot and dry that fireworks were banned, even over the lake.  The whole summer was so hot that John and I broke out the window air conditioning unit that we brought with us from Atlanta.

We ran it every afternoon and evening until it died in Mid-August.  Guess what?  Local stores do NOT have an indefinite supply of window air conditioning units, and by the time we tried to replace ours, there was nary a unit to be found.

And smoky!  We learned what a problem wildfires can be, both in terms of what gets burned and the resulting air quality. The year overall was the hottest in Montana history.

Of course, THIS was the summer I worked part-time in a green house.  I won’t even try to explain how miserable that was.  Never again!

2016: As soon as A/C units appeared in the big box stores, we snatched one up. It turned out to be great insurance.  We never needed it; the summer was pleasant.

2017: Unbelievable.  The worst wildfire season in Montana history, surpassing other record breaking years such as 2015, 2012, 1988, and 1912.  Over 1.4 million acres burned.  At one point, there were over 100 wildfires burning. It felt like the entire state was on fire, and it looked like it, too.

Kalispell, Montana September 7, 2017, parched and smoky. The mountains in the background on the North end of town are obscured by the smoke. (For locals, this is Reserve near Whitefish Stage Road.)

2018: June was, as it usually is, cool and rainy.  For this reason, June is becoming one of my favorite months in Montana.  Warm enough to be outside all day, but not hot.

July so far is warm, ok, hot, but not unbearable.  We have talked about breaking out the A/C unit, but it is a pain to install, and so far, we have been uncomfortably warm only twice.

So this seems like a good time to tell you how we stay cool in the summer in Montana.  I actually polled twenty of my friends, and we pretty much take the same steps to stay cool.

Mornings: When I get up, I open windows.  The temps are in the fifties at night, so we sleep with the windows closed. We keep the ceiling fans in the bedroom and living room running 24/7. We have box fans, and every morning I put one in the TV room window, which is on the west side of the house.  It pulls the indoor temperature down to the high sixties.  As the day warms up, I close the windows to keep the cool air in.

We open/close curtains strategically to keep the direct sun out.  Montanans even build houses according to the sun.  Our friends Mark and Amy situated their house so that the large windows in the kitchen, dining room and living room face North and East.  My friend Marty and her husband built their house, too, and she says, “BEST thing we did was draw out our front porch to provide shade on our living room/kitchen windows in the afternoon.  Otherwise we’d bake in the afternoon and not be able to enjoy the view during those hours.”

In the evenings, as outside temperatures drop below inside temps, we again open windows and employ fans to pull cool air into the house.  Some folks sleep with windows open all night; we usually close ours.

We also use the stove and oven sparingly.  I am adapting some of our favorite recipes to our pressure cooker/instant pot, so as not to heat up the kitchen.

Our stove and oven receive very little love in July and August.

Although late afternoons can get warm, I really like living with fresh air instead of artificially cooled air, and this seems to be the consensus amongst Montanans.

The garden, however, is loving the hotter days!  Here are some of my gardening successes and fails so far:

Corn has been my biggest surprise–it grows by the day!  Have we finally found the right strain of corn for our climate?

Not exactly “as high as an elephant’s eye,” but it’s growing!

Kale has been my second biggest surprise, and for the opposite reason- it is not even germinating!  I suspect that the soil temperature has not been warm enough.  I am adding a soil thermometer to my shopping list. I did not use black plastic in this bed because I thought I would not need it.  *Sigh.*

This is a sorry excuse for a bed of kale.

Other successes: the turnips are growing as fast as the corn!  The leaves literally get bigger every day.

The turnips are so happy!

The tomatoes have totally surprised me.  The plants are healthy and strong, and they have plenty of blooms.

So excited to see tomato blossoms!

The carrots are growing, but lesson learned: I planted them too close to the turnips, and the turnip greens are growing over the rows of carrots.  I am going to try cutting off those leaves; hopefully doing so won’t hinder turnip root growth.

There are carrots hiding beneath the turnips!

Fails, along with the kale: the sweet peppers and basil have germination issues.  Why did I expect peppers to germinate in our cool Montana temperatures?  I did successfully grow basil from seed a couple of years ago.  A few seeds are germinating now, but I may buy some basil plants the next time we are in town.

Zucchini and cucumbers: I have grown both from seed in the past, but this year, out of sixteen seeds planted, three germinated.

The jury is still out on broccoli and cabbage.  Decent germination, we will see how the plants grow.

One of my Tennessee friends messaged me this week, telling me how much she enjoys seeing pictures of the goats. So, we will close with “hellos” from Esther and Sara, our two young goats, as they peek out of their stall window in the goat barn.

Beverly, these pictures are for you!

Esther, having some fun with a photo filter.


Hello from Sarah!


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