With yesterday’s warmth and first full day of digging dirt on my mind, I see sprightly snowflakes spinning outside right now.

There’s an urgency to get out and do stuff when it’s sunny this time of year. It’s such a gift; we know we can’t take it for granted and say oh I’ll plant that peach tree tomorrow. For tomorrow could be a windy, puffy coat sorta day.


I’ve been dreaming and planning our outdoor property since we first saw it last summer. There is a different set of rules and challenges for our new stead for we live with deer, coyote, fox and bear to name a few. Gardens need tall fences, chicken coops require intense predator proofing. This is to say a lot of planning and building needs to happen before we can really grow food. I haven’t planted a single seed in the ground yet and it aches a bit. Usually, by now, I at least have my lettuce, peas and arugula reaching out of the soil. Patience, I chant as I pace the back edge of our south-facing property.


Last week I grabbed a shovel and just started digging. I was wearing my street clothes: a skirt, tall boots and spring sweater. At our last home, I dug all of our gardens by hand. By hand! Hours and hours (hundreds?) of pushing a shovel into settled earth. I loved it. I know I could have rented equipment and saved so much time and energy but it was so satisfying to create space for growth, one square foot at a time.

Now I have kids, my days are fuller than ever and efficiency often takes precedence. I will use machines to help make our garden plot and I will still spend time digging one shovel-full at a time when the mood strikes. There’s a supreme connection to everything possible when I dig.

When my shovel sliced through grass, I thought about how this was the first dig of many, many years of digging. My own little groundbreaking ceremony. Ruby was there to cheer and inquire.


Doing, mama?
Getting the ground ready to receive seeds.
Oh. Why, mommy?
So we can grow food for our family. Carrots, beets, lettuce…
and azzberries?!
And raspberries.

The soil looks good. Really good. Missoula valley was full of water a long time ago and soil structure varies greatly from acre to acre. Sometimes it’s clay, sometimes thick with huge rocks. So far, our soil is loamy and dark and as Margot says, Check it out! SO many cute little worms!


We planted a peach tree yesterday, Flamin’ Fury promises loads of fruit. The dude is protected by a little fence until we can get out big fence up. Oh, peach butter, we can’t wait.


We also worked on the expanded coup enclosure for our wee chicks are growing and will join the flock soon. They’ve been rehearsing the Electric Slide hoping to make a good first impression.


Isn’t it amazing that hens lay an egg a day? Soon, we’ll have enough eggs to sell some as well which Margot and Ruby are really looking forward to. They get to keep half of the money to spend as they’d like and the other half goes into the bank. Wonder how many eggs it will take to send my two chickens to college? Maybe we should get a few more hens or hope that Gold lives up to her name.

I sincerely adore dying eggs. A few years back we started using natural dye and my heart just swells at this little science experiment. It takes a long time, might as well be FOREVER in my kids’ minds. The eggs sit as we go about our day, checked often by excited, chubby hands. This year, red wine was my favorite. 
this wine-dyed egg is an Americauna egg from our friends’ hen, a celadon green color in its natural state
Our hens lay all brown eggs, as seen above. We draw on the eggs with crayon and graphite after boiling and then let them marinate. To make the dye, I boil the material in water with a tablespoon or two of white vinegar. Strain, let cool and voila. I didn’t add vinegar to the wine and it fixed just fine. 

I am having so much fun planning Easter this year. We are having a neighborhood-wide egg hunt in the field behind our house and I *heard* the Easter bunny might race across the hill. (I am really hoping our friend comes through because I don’t know how convincing I can be at this feat). Hopefully it won’t be snowing on Sunday but our Montana kids aren’t afraid to rally in whatever weather flies this way.

The snow is really coming down right this minute. Now fat flakes like cotton candy pulls.

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend of fun and celebration.


25 Responses to groundbreaking

  1. You seem to live closer to the sky in those mountains! Beautiful pictures – Happy Easter!

  2. Jenn says:

    Love the photos! Happy Easter 😀

  3. Jen says:

    Ruby looks so big in that last picture. Love your blog…so inspiring! Happy Easter!

  4. Lots of worms – could it be any better? Here’s wishing you more wonderful discoveries of loamy, lively soil.

    Happy Easter!


  5. Hazel says:

    Nici, I know exactly the feeling of waiting, until your garden is protected, in fact I wrote a post about the development Iof our garden a week ago. That soil looks good enough to eat.
    But luckily we only have to deal with wallabies, possums and native hens! No bears or coyotes here. Planting trees is one of our favourite hobbies although I want to hurry time to see them get big, Rob is always reminding me not to wish our life away, poignant for us with our 18 year age difference!
    Happy Easter to you and yours. Xo

  6. Delhibound says:

    You’re going to grow raspberries? Hooray!

  7. Good stuff here. So many similarities in the language of two year old’s in our homes. “Doing, Mama?” made me smile real big, looking at that pic of Ruby in the light on the bed. Sweetheart.
    I can’t wait to see how your garden comes together, as your mind plans it all in random shovel-to-earth dances.
    And that pic of Margot running up to meet the horizon, wings like an airplane…..geeeez. Love. It.

  8. Staci says:

    that first photo of margot is incredible! it almost looks like a painting.

  9. We’re headed up to the mountain to ski tomorrow…you’ve inspired me to get the little guy up on skis again, and get baby girl up for the first time!
    And, I’m waiting for my tulips to bloom…we did new landscaping last fall…
    I will be taking part in Virgin Harvest as it will be out first garden in Oregon.
    Happy Easter!

  10. We are in *exactly* the same garden boat as you. Brand new stead, new earth, craving to dig every inch by hand, but knowing we have to rent equipment if we want to plant this season (two kids, you know). We’re not warm enough for peach trees, but we will try apples and perhaps plum. And the WAIT. We too have to build a big fence. We have elk, deer, coyote, fox, bear. Same same! Can’t wait to see how it plays out for you. I hope you photo and post each stage.

    And–love the flying photo of Margot.

  11. Oh my, the picture of Margot doing airplane arms is AWESOME!!!

  12. Kelly Cach says:

    Oh my goodness….that last picture just made me giggle a bit. So much joy on that sweet face :)

    Love the way you talk about your passion for planting. Almost makes me cry….is that weird?

    Mmmmm. Now I need peach butter. Bad.

  13. ctb says:


  14. We did some natural dye eggs last year, turmeric worked well as did a few frozen blueberries boiled up.

  15. BRH says:

    Reading your blog just warms my heart. Can I move in with you guys? :) Happy, Happy Easter!


  16. erin says:

    Loving the last picture :) Ruby’s diaper with those skinny little legs running around the trampoline! Too much. Happy Easter!

  17. Congratulations on the cute little wormy dirt. so satisfying…

  18. That first pic of Margot was taken with my iPhone, believe it or not!!!

    And, that last pic is actually a still of a video I took of the girls on the tramp. One of my favorite videos ever. :)

  19. TRB Holt says:

    Great post Burb!
    I can’t wait to see your new garden! I know it will be one to be reckoned with!

    Margot ~ You are quite simply stunning…in beauty, wit & character. You make me smile just looking at you, (especially in the Hawaiian dress that your mama wore)! I will keep track of your egg sales, via your mama, and match you dollar per dollar to put in your & Ruby’s college fund….or it can be spending $ when you are awarded your scholarship for academics or gymnastics OR BOTH! I Love You A Bushel & A Peck!

    Ruby ~ You too are quite simply stunning…in beauty, spirit & sweetness. I love your expressions and your smile & strawberry curls melt my heart! That San Francisco sweatshirt you have on has made the rounds, your mama, your big sister and now you! Good luck with the egg business…as I said to your sister I am in on the investment! You Are My Sunshine!

    Happy Easter ~ Happy Spring!
    Love to all…xoxo

  20. slingsomeink says:

    how do you keep your eggs from stinking? i made some homemade dye this year and we were all retching from the stench (vinegar and misc food dyes) by dinner and had to ditch them. it was a total bummer.

  21. Kelle says:

    xo always reading and loving your words and family and home.

  22. Melissa says:

    nici, i really loved this post! happy easter to you and your delicious family! xoxo

  23. Ellie says:

    That picture of Margot powering up the hill under the billowing clouds is a work of art.

  24. incredible photos… so glad to have found you through flowerpatch farmgirl… e.

  25. erin says:

    You probably have a good idea how to care for your peach tree, but I thought I’d pass this along. It’s an excellent article on how to prune your peach tree to be strong and fruitful.