I am freelance writer and photographer in Great Falls, Montana specializing in gardening, cooking, local foods, sustainable agriculture, outdoor recreation, Montana history and travel. I’ve been an avid gardener for 30 years, and love teaching readers about growing their own food, raising livestock and home-cooking, as well as sharing my suburban homesteading and outdoor adventures.
My articles appear in Grit, Farmers’ Almanac, Natural Home, Hobby Farms, Mother Earth News, Montana Magazine, Northwest Travel, Fine Gardening, Garden Design, Sunset, and many others. I regularly write gardening and food features for the Great Falls Tribune, and am the “Pest Patrol” expert at PlantersPlace.com where I help readers handle every pest from earwigs to elk.
Prior to my freelance career, I worked on natural history programs for National Geographic ‘Explorer’ and BBC from 1991-1999 as everything from associate producer to bait (whatever it takes to get the shot). My favorite project was ‘Urban Elk’ that told the story of the belligerent bulls in Banff, Alberta. We spent two intense weeks filming the general mayhem around town during the rut where the bulls took on anyone – or anything – that caught their eye. I also worked on ‘Bear Attacks’ with Stephen Herrero, two cougar programs for ‘Explorer’, ‘Yellowstone: Realm of the Coyote’ and several other segments for various shows. I have intimate experience and knowledge of our North American wildlife from ground squirrels to grizzlies. I’ve been chased by nearly every one of them (okay, not the ground squirrels) and have a first-hand appreciation of many conservation issues.
When I wasn’t chasing grizzlies, I built and operated Shady Side Herb Farm outside of West Glacier, Montana (lovingly referred to as the “land of perpetual winter”). When I tried to dig my first bed, I jumped on the shovel and teetered back and forth. It was nothing but glacial till. Instead of listening to my neighbors who said nothing grows there, I used the rocks to my advantage and built 220 raised beds out of the native stone. They worked fabulously for the thousands of herbs, flowers and vegetables I grew each season. Every summer I held a “Garden Celebration” where I, and any friends I could con into helping, created an array of herbal refreshments for up to 500 guests. It was my goal to have macho men eat pansy tea bread and like it! Shady Side Herb Farm was featured in Garden Design, Fine Gardening, Mary Englebreit’s Home Companion, Sinra (a Japanese publication) and Northwest Travel.
In 2007, my husband and I moved to Great Falls in Central Montana where there is plenty of sunshine, but also a brand new of challenges. This area has a reputation for hellaciously high winds, alkaline and heavy clay soil, 14-inches of annual precipitation and radical temperature fluctuations with little snow cover in the winter. When we have a chinook, the temperature can rise from below zero to over 50-degrees within hours, which is stressful to perennials, trees and shrubs. It can go the other way just as easily. I started with a blank slate (except for the knapweed and thistle “lawn”) three summers ago at our new home, but am having a lot of fun creating exceptionally productive gardens despite what my neighbors say… again.
Our first son, Samuel, was born in March of 2007, and our second surprise, John, came along in February of 2009. Being a work-at-home-mom is a challenge I never expected, but is an effort well worth the daily juggling act. It’s incredible to watch Samuel and John grow up playing in the dirt alongside of me, building home projects with their dad, and learning exponentially. They’re rather amazing.
Since I had five minutes on unfilled time at one point, I joined with several like-minded local individuals to start River City Harvest, community gardens for Great Falls. We enjoyed a successful first year in 2009, and are doubling the area of the first garden, as well as possibly expanding to other locations. It’s a delight to teach families how to garden together, and provide food for our cherished seniors through the Meals on Wheels program.
My writing is seasoned by these interests and years of experience, as well as my joy in delving into new projects. In my opinion, research is a relaxation technique. Feel free to contact me if you’d like to discuss story ideas.