• The towers of the Judith Gap Wind Farm, six miles south of Judith Gap, stand motionless during a windless sunrise. Photo by Kurt Wilson

    J is for: The Gap, which is a lot more than wind turbines

    J – as names-of-Montana-cities goes – is for “The Gap.” Or, should we say, Judith Gap.

    Many know the small town for its huge wind turbine farm that captures the prairie winds that blow often. But as Missoulian reporter Vince Devlin and photographer Kurt Wilson found, there’s a lot more to The Gap (as local call it) then first meets the eye.

    Including the fact that it’s school has the smallest enrollment in Montana:

    judtih gap 3

    Taekwondo instructor Gary Hart walks from his home across the street to the school’s gymnasium where he holds free classes during the summer. The school is open several evenings a week for community activities. Photo by Kurt Wilson

    When the Class of 2015 at Judith Gap High School selected its commencement speaker, the vote was unanimous.

    Which is to say, Dakota Jolliff asked an uncle to deliver her graduation address.

    She was the only senior. Some years, there haven’t been any.

    The tiniest high school in all Montana is here in Judith Gap, a town located midway between the Little Belt and Big Snowy mountain ranges. The enrollment in grades 9-12 hovers around six, and as you’ll see, they go out of their way – way out of their way – to keep it that high.

    Those two mountain ranges funnel some of the state’s harshest winter weather out of the north and down upon Judith Gap’s citizenry. Six miles south of town, huge windmill blades stretch 40 stories into the sky above the Montana prairie to catch the wind and put it to good use.

    • See a gallery of images from Judith gap here
    A visiting tourist looks over the windmill blade attraction at "Blade Park" in Judith Gap. Photo by Kurt Wilson

    A visiting tourist looks over the windmill blade attraction at “Blade Park” in Judith Gap. Photo by Kurt Wilson

    Judith Gap Wind Farm, the largest wind farm in the state, converts the air currents into electricity capable of powering all 80-some homes in Judith Gap – and approximately 359,920 more – through 90 wind towers.

    “We’re almost a mile high, and the winters are pretty rough,” Mayor Dave Foster says. “It gets to be brutal when you get a storm.”

    And did you know, that the jail is unlocked in Judith Gap? 

    The story is part of an on-going series about Montana towns by the Missoulian. Here’s a link to the rest of the stories.

    Enjoy!

    Jenna 

  • Organic grain grown in Montana featured in new Kellogg’s cereal

    Cool news for a cool Montana company: Kamut brand wheat is featured as a main star in Kellogg’s new cereal, Origins Ancient Grains Blend Cereal.

    Kamut is an organic grain grown mainly in Montana. It’s company headquarters is in Missoula.

    Here’s more about the cereal:

    origins

    Kellogg’s Origins Ancient Grains Blend cereal was developed in response to the growing consumer demand for simple foods prepared with recognizable ingredients, and is an ideal breakfast option for adults and children, as it combines nutritional value with delicious taste. The cereal is made with crunchy flakes of wheat, brown rice and barley, KAMUT® khorasan wheat puffs, spelt and quinoa. Lightly sweetened with a touch of honey, Kellogg’s Origins™ contains no artificial sweeteners, artificial flavors or hydrogenated oils.

    We featured an article about Kamut founder Bob Quinn’s commitment to organic farming and Kamut’s growing popularity in 2009. Take a look below (click the images for a larger verision): 

    kamut

     

    kamut-2

  • A rider takes on a bull at the Drummond PRCA Rodeo. Photo by Loren Benoit

    What’s it takes to ride a bull? Rodeo season ramps up across Montana

    It’s rodeo time in Montana.

    If you haven’t had a chance to get out and catch some of the action, we’ve got a few links that’ll make you feel like you didn’t miss a thing.

    The Drummond PRCA Rodeo was last weekend. And Missoula native Dustin Jenkins told the Missoulian’s Andy Bixler what it takes to successfully ride a bull. 

    “It’s 90 percent mental,” he said. “When you’re on the bull, you can’t think about anything else, you just have to react to what’s happening.”

    . . .

    The Missoula native won the bull riding competition at the 73rd annual Drummond PRCA rodeo, staying on the full eight seconds and scoring 76 points. 

    • See a photo gallery of the Drummond rodeo here

    “I was happy to get that win, because he was a really hard bull to ride,” Jenkins said. “Just being able to stay on was a victory in itself.”

    David Graham of Great Falls starts to lean off of Secret Agent during the bull riding competition at the 73rd annual Drummond rodeo on Sunday. Graham finished second. Photo by Loren Benoit

    David Graham of Great Falls starts to lean off of Secret Agent during the bull riding competition at the 73rd annual Drummond rodeo on Sunday. Graham finished second. Photo by Loren Benoit

    That held true for nearly all the bulls on Sunday. Jenkins was one of only two riders to complete a ride; the other was David Graham of Great Falls, who took second with a 64.

    And we can’t forget Buck Wild Wednesdays in Billings.

    Leighton Potter of Billings competes in the Buck Wild Wednesdays bull riding at the Rock Pile on North 27th Street on Wednesday. The weekly event will be held through September 2. Photo by Casey Page

    Leighton Potter of Billings competes in the Buck Wild Wednesdays bull riding at the Rock Pile on North 27th Street on Wednesday. The weekly event will be held through September 2. Photo by Casey Page

    Area bull riders compete in the Buck Wild Wednesdays bull riding event at the Rock Pile on North 27th Street. The weekly event will be held through September 2.

     

    If you want to catch from bull riding, head down to Darby this today for the Elite Bull Connection and Darby Bullarama. There are more than 40 bulls and lots of prize money.

     

  • Albert Silva, and Lise Rousseau Silva, right, own Fat Robin Orchard and Farm near Polson. Photo by Jessica Lowry

    Savoring summer: Where to pick-your-own bounty around Montana

    As writer and photographer Jessica Lowry points out in her recent feature on the best places around Western Montana to pick-your-own fruit and veggies, there’s a very sweet satisfaction that can be found in picking, then creating with bounty straight from the farm.

    For example:

    At Red Hen Farm there are 18 different kinds of strawberries to keep you hunting for just the right one.

    Greg Peters, 42, and his wife Julie Engh Peters, 37, have run the pick-your-own portion of their farm for the past four years.

    “Our typical year produces 8,000 pounds of strawberries,” Greg said.

    With Lolo Peak as a backdrop, it doesn’t get much more picturesque.

    Along with the feature, she found a set of farms perfect for finding the best fruit and vegetables. Here’s an interactive Google map of the farms, with links to each. Featured farms include:

    • Fat Robin Orchard and Farm 

    Pick-your-own cherries and apples (organic)

    34126 Finley Point Road, Polson

    406-887-2869

    *Call to confirm before traveling.  Hours may vary depending on season

    • Red Hen Farm

    Pick-your-own strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and pumpkins (natural growing practices)

    3803 Spurgin Road, Missoula

    406-728-8313

    • Dude’s Organic U-Pick Farm

    Pick-your-own blueberries, strawberries, tomatoes and other vegetables

    28 Seed Orchard Lane, Plains

    406-826-0067

    • Rocky Creek Farms

    Pick-your-own raspberries, veggies and pumpkins

    34297 Frontage Road, Bozeman

    406-585-0225

    • Hockaday Orchards

    Pick-your-own cherries

    45 Hockaday Lane, Lakeside

    406-844-3547

    What are you waiting for? Get picking! 

    To read the full story on Montana pick-your-own farms, subscribe today

    Jenna

  • A common loon takes flight over Rainy Lake in the Seeley-Swan Valley last week. There are 200 to 250 loons in Montana, including 75 nesting pairs. Photo by Michael Gallacher

    Coalition works to protect Montana loons

    Loons have become a rare sight in Montana recently. The unfortunate truth was noticed by a broad group of Montanans, which is now working to protect and preserve the birds.

    Missoulian reporter David Erickson explains:

    RAINY LAKE – Most birds’ songs are pleasing to human ears, but the haunting call of the loon – the way it pierces the air as it resonates off a quiet mountain lake’s placid surface – evokes a feeling of wildness like perhaps no other sound on Earth.

    Innumerable writers have spilled considerable ink trying to describe it, but there’s no substitute for the real thing.

    Unfortunately, people have to get pretty lucky to hear or see the creatures these days in the western U.S.

    Loons are fickle, territorial birds, and lakeshore development, motor boats, pollution, lead fishing weights and human disturbance threaten the species’ reproductive rate and habitat.

    Kristi DuBois, left, a wildlife biologist with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, and Ashley Huinker, an Montana State University biology student, monitor loons on Rainy Lake in the Seeley-Swan Valley last week. Photo by Michael Gallacher

    Kristi DuBois, left, a wildlife biologist with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, and Ashley Huinker, an Montana State University biology student, monitor loons on Rainy Lake in the Seeley-Swan Valley last week. Photo by Michael Gallacher

    There are only between 200 and 250 common loons in Montana, including 75 nesting pairs, making them a species of concern.

    And even though small, that’s still the largest population of loons in the lower 48 west of Minnesota. There are only one or two known nesting pairs in Idaho, for example.

    The birds don’t produce many offspring and they aren’t good at pioneering new territory.

    In the Clearwater-Blackfoot watershed of western Montana, there were only four loon chicks hatched this year, although the numbers vary every spring.

    That’s why, since 1999, a small army of state wildlife officials, agencies, tribes, businesses, volunteers and interns – collectively known as the Common Loon Working Group – has been working to observe, collect data and protect the species while educating the public about the threats to its long-term survival.

    “It’s a massive, statewide, collaborative effort,” said Kristi DuBois, a non-game wildlife biologist with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, as she glassed a pair of newly hatched loon chicks with a spotting scope recently at Rainy Lake in the Seeley-Swan Valley. “It takes a village to monitor loons.”

    Read the rest of the story and see more photos here

  • The Red Ants Pants Music Festival will run July 23-26 in White Sulphur Springs. Photo by Erik Petersen

    Show and tell: Our July/Aug. events calendar

    It’s prime festival time all across the U.S. In Montana, that means there are more than a few awesome weekends of fun coming up.

    We compiled a set of great Montana festival in our Show and Tell Events Calendar for July and August. We even previewed a couple in our stories (here and here).

    Photo by Tom Bauer

    Photo by Tom Bauer

    Check it out – and if you make it to one or more, send us your photos so we can put them in our Reader Submitted Photo galleries (email jpgs to editor@montanamagazine.com).

    Your Big Sky Country events calendar for July and Aug 2015

    Have something else to add? Send us an email at editor@montanamagazine.com.

    Jenna

     

  • Photo by Tom Bauer

    Top reader photos: A salute to Montana

    They’ve done it once again. Our readers are experts at capturing Montana at its best.

    And in this edition of our top reader photos, we’ve got some wonderfully beautiful Montana summertime scenes.

    There’s a few sunsets, of course. And some beautiful bloom, too.

    Scroll down to enjoy. 

    Blooms and bees in Helena. Photo by Terri Garrison-Kinsman

    Blooms and bees in Helena. Photo by Terri Garrison-Kinsman

     

    The Northern Lights near Broadview. Photo by Gary Luce

    The Northern Lights near Broadview. Photo by Gary Luce

     

    Sawtooth Ridge in the Sun River Wildlife Management Area. Photo by Mark Curtis

    Sawtooth Ridge in the Sun River Wildlife Management Area. Photo by Mark Curtis

     

    A storm south of Billings. Photo by Dave Berry

    A storm south of Billings. Photo by Dave Berry

     

    A Bozeman sunset. Photo by Terri Garrison-Kinsman

    A Bozeman sunset. Photo by Terri Garrison-Kinsman

     

    Jenna

  • 1959904_4497017758939_7095650888033459302_n

    Goodnight, Montana

    Submitted by Amy Engbretson

    May and it’s a full moon night.

    We pull 9in with the trailer loaded, all the way from Ohio. We’ve been married for a week. Under the great blue sky, the love of my life has spent four months building a house.

    The first dirt has moved while we were both there, dreaming as new lovers do about our life together. Before that, before we disturbed it, the dirt had lain silent for centuries. The creek that diverts into the canal had now gone through our place, beside the willow trees.

    Maybe tepees had once stood there as well.

    Maybe a war party had moved through the in the early morning, the sun looking out over the mountains just like it does now. But the grass grew serene, unt the day we, a little sadly, watch the excavator gash a large hole, dirt bleeding out the sides.

    Where there was nothing, but wounded dirt, now stands our house. The House That Josh Built.

    The love and hopes built in with the beams, the screws, the tile, the wood for the floors. And we marry and make our nest, finding strings and fluff weaving only with care.

    For three years, we live there, the two of us alone in Montana. We watch the sun come up over the mountains every  morning, know every morning our stunning luck to be here, to be given this to see.

    We sit on our swing and feel thermals off the mountains in the evening. In the winter the mountains glow pink.

    The grass is yellow and the larches are too, in the fall.

    We climb mountains in the summer, stumbling over stones and sweating to the top, where we lay in the sun and eat sandwiches. Camp and sleep easy under a billion stars. Picnic at the edge of the timber by the canal. Float and swim the Flathead, the Jocko, the Blackfoot. Swim the lakes, Mission, McDonald, Flathead, high alpine lakes whose names I don’t remember now. Clear as ice. …

    There were grizzlies in the neighborhood and one night we see and hear them, eating a deer a couple hundred yards away.

    Once in the Flathead, I’m in the water, a warm, clean bathtub. The river is her beautiful self. Montana’s not names Big Sky Coutnry wrongly; the sky stretches into eternity at all edges of the earth….

    Once, we ran out of water before we ran out of trail, coming down from Flattop Peak. We walk dry and hot, hot and dry. The sun swims in our eyese and shoes are string-tied ovens. If there’s a part of us not covered in sweat and dust, we have no idea where. My legs burn and wobble. At the base of the mountains, Ashley Creek comes on us suddenly. We sit in it, drink it and throw handfuls at each other.

    Once we laid in the canal bank in the cold dark, not three miles from our house, and listen to a herd of elk on the other side of the canal. Cows grunting and moving and squealing, bulls fighting and bugling and thrashing wild. When they are tired, they move off, jumping a sagging wire. The bulls go last.

    And then we have to leave. Not say goodbye, because the song says truth that you can never say goodbye to Montana, only goodnight. Goodnight to rivers, houses, lakes, mountains, sky. The larches will shine in the little jam spot of color that I can see out my window. The rivers will run clear and warm as they always have. The snow will melt off the peaks. We will not be here to see it.

    December, it’s a full moon night. We empty the last of our things out of our first home. The sun will shine in the double glass doors, gilding the larch floors. The bedroom where our son was born will fill with moonlight. the breezes will come in the windows. We will not be there.

    We will not be here, but some of here will always stay with us, memories of this wild and beautiful land. We have not parted until we have forgotten, and we will never forget.

    We walk across the field to the loaded trailer, stopping to watch a round moon rise from behind the mountains. It would be black dark, but the moon is a great white light.

    Goodnight, Montana.

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