Updated: Nov 29, 2019
On a road trip through Wise River, Montana I saw a man out working in his garden. I asked him "How many frost-free days do you get in a year?" I was, as I had been since age 25, dreaming of buying land and had pegged down a couple areas of interest.
I'm a gardener at heart, something instilled in me from a very young age by my father, and recently had donned a new hat, that of lavender farmer. The dream land I was looking for had to accommodate those important items on my check list.
The other important item on the list, and the reason I was striking up conversation with this elderly stranger is the striking beauty of the Millcreek drainage just north of Wise River. Every time I drive through that canyon I picture my future self in that serene, stark landscape.
As I approached from the road side so we could converse, he answered my question with two fingers. "Two days," he said. Two frost free days in that little mountain town! I imagine he was not exaggerating either. The tiny town sits at 5653' elevation, with the large and rugged Pintlar mountains north and Pioneers to the south.
Most gardeners love to talk about how they meet challenges in the environment in which they garden and as I looked closer at this man's garden I could see that he'd found ways to deal with his high elevation garden. He had a lovely collection of hardy plants that require cold: peonies, rhubarb, and lilacs and I noted his vegetable garden consisted of peas, lettuce, and fast maturing beets.
I really enjoyed talking with him, and I told him I wouldn't keep him too long since he'd be expecting frost any day now even though it was the middle of July. He simply nodded and got right back to work.
As for myself, as much as it hurt me to remove this area from my list of potential dream land, it was a no brainer. I like pumpkin, and beans, and carrots in my garden and lavender, well it, like me is a sun worshipper.