Billings Arbor Day Activity

by Elaine Allard

Again this year, Master Gardeners took an active part in the City of Billings Arbor Day activities. This year’s event was held on May 2nd at Central Park.

Sharon Wetsch, Fay Danielson, Sue Weinreis, and Linda Brewer helped the City Arbor Day Committee with registration and a variety of other tasks. Charlie and Ron Hendricks helped all of us who arrived early and were scurrying to get canopies, tables, posters, and props for our educational booth set up before the fourth graders’ 9 a.m. arrival.

JAS 17Sheri Kisch and Sherry Doty presentations on pollinators and their importance to the environment captivated the students. With some help from the students, Merita Murdock and Elaine Allard mixed clay soil, potting mix, water, and native flowering plant seeds to form a ‘cookie dough’ consistency mixture. Mary Davis, Vonnie Bell, Rosemary Power, Debbi Werholz, and Bess Lovec helped the 175 students that rotated through our booth use the mixture to make their own ‘seed bombs’ and pack them into egg cartoons. At noon, after having a very fast moving and enjoyable morning, it was time to pack up, have lunch and start thinking about next year’s Arbor Day.

Seed Bombs to Create Habitat for Pollinators

Presented by Yellowstone County Master Gardeners

The seed bombs contain a mix of clay soil, potting mix, water, and flower seeds which bloom at different times. The flowers will attract pollinators (bees, bats, butterflies, moths, beetles, etc.) by providing them food (nectar) and a place to live. This will help to make a better environment for humans and many animals that depend on pollination for much of their food.

Directions

  1. Leave the seed bombs in the egg carton in a cool dry place for a couple of days.
  2. Throw or place the seed bombs in an area where the ground has been disturbed or in a flowerbed. The seed bombs do not need to be buried.
  3. Hope for good rains or help them along with a little water.
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25-Year Celebration of Master Gardeners in Yellowstone County

Billings Montana; MetraPark, 4-H Building; May 18, 2019
by Amy Grandpre
photos by Sherry Doty

[Editor’s Note: in previous posts and the printed newsletter credit for photos in this article was given to Amy Grandpre and Merita Murdock. Our apologies to Sherry for the mixup!]

Twenty-five years is quite the marker for an organization, and the best thing to celebrate when it involves dedicated volunteer service to our community.

JAS 02

The celebration was presented as a birthday party, with birthday party decorations, a HUGE card for all to sign, and a table filled with some 50 wrapped gifts, distributed during the event. And since it was a rainy, dreary day, a great day for gardeners to gather and enjoy an indoor BBQ potluck.

In 1994 it was a gathering of nine Billings citizens, simply interested in learning more about how to grow their yard and garden plants more successfully in our challenging Montana environment. JAS 03Those students present:

  • Annette Bayley
  • Johanna Freivalds
  • Bobbi Hylton
  • Diane Kostelecky
  • Joe LaRue
  • Berta Morrison
  • Merita Murdock
  • Evelyn Popelka
  • Edith Yapuncich

It was a very exciting time, as we were witnessing the beginnings of BIG technology. We gathered at Eastern Montana College (now MSU Billings) to experience something called MetNet Video Teleconferencing. This was one of several sites across the state, set up to host the first Master Gardener classes. Participants watched live classes, being taught by specialists in Bozeman… and the sites also had the ability to ask live questions to the instructors. This was a big deal.

We had a total of six classes:

  • Composting by Mike Vogel
  • Urban IPM by Sherry Lajeunesse
  • Insect ID by Will Lanier
  • Soils & Fertility by Jeff Jacobsen
  • Plant Disease by Jack Riesselman (still seen on Ag Live)
  • Horticulture Wrap-up by George Evans

We had three project/activities that year:

  • Master Gardener hotline
  • Plant exchange/potluck
  • Garden tour featuring our own Master Gardener gardens

Total 1994 Volunteer hours = 43

In 1998, Bob Gough picked up the program and under his watch and care it exploded. This man was passionate, witty, charming and just made learning fun. There was no snoozing in his classes, as he was a master at engaging his students.

 

Today, our program is an active 130-participants strong with hundreds passing through our program through the years. We have 25 active projects, and in 2018, Yellowstone County Master Gardeners logged 3,000+ hours. Total hours recorded since 1994 is 50,000, which is lean, as not all our Master Gardeners log their hours.

What made this event extra special were the guests who came from our past to celebrate with us. Among the most honored and recognized were three from our original class:

  • Annette Bayley
  • Diane Kostelecky
  • Merita Murdock (of course Merita is most active currently)

These three were gifted with Extension sun hats in appreciation.

Then several of our past Program Coordinators came to celebrate and were recognized as well. These included:

  • Ann Finley, 2002 Program Coordinator
  • John Levar, 2008 Program Coordinator, and wife Nan
  • Karen Lindeke & Ruth Sheller (now in her late 90s), 2004 Program Co- Coordinators
  • Ann Hillman, 2005–2014 Program Event Notification Coordinator

Other honored guests:

  • Dwayne Bondy, Class of 2000, was ZooMontana grounds keeper
  • Rosemary Power, Class of 2006

 

Master Gardeners present who have been with the program 8+ years were recognized:

  • Merita Murdock, Class of 1994
  • Mary Davis, Class of 2002
  • Tom Kress, Class of 2003
  • Vonnie Bell, Class of 2003
  • Ann Guthals, Class of 2007
  • Bob Wicks, Class of 2007
  • Sharon Wetsch, Class of 2007
  • Joann Glasser, Class of 2008
  • Sheri Kisch, Class of 2008
  • Dave Kimball, Class of 2009
  • Joyce Hendricks, Class of 2010

2019 Level 1 and Level 2 graduates present were recognized, and volunteer accomplishment awards were given to:

  • Sherry Doty: 400 Volunteer Hour Award
  • Fay Danielson: Level 3 Certified

A moment of silence was given to honor our Master Gardeners who have passed:

  • Roger Pitet (2003)
  • Jackie Bradshaw (2005)
  • Joe LaRue (2006)
  • Berta Morrison (2007)
  • Bob Gough (2011)
  • Vicki Thomas (2011)
  • Jane Howell (2012)
  • Shirley Spildie (2013)
  • Edith Yapuncich (2013)
  • Julie Halverson (2019)

 

A chalk art contest was part of our celebration activities. Bob Wicks was able to score some fabulous trophies for the event!

  • First place went to Annette Bayley
  • Second place to Linda Williams

Our celebration finished up with a long-awaited dedication of a Mock Orange tree to honor Dr. Bob Gough. The linden tree previously dedicated June 25, 2012, had perished due to a poor growing environment. Two plaques (made by Master Gardener Roy Wahl) were placed to mark the event:

Always In Our Hearts
– Yellowstone County Master Gardeners
Bob Gough “Dr. Bob”
“A Most Excellent Teacher”
Philadelphus coronarius (Mock Orange)
Dedicated May 18, 2019

Special thanks to Bob Wicks and Brian Godfrey for helping DJ the event, and to Merita Murdock and Debbie Wicks for making the delicious cupcakes that made the event extra special.

Tribute: Julie Halverson

She left us Feb. 9, 2019. Her family plans Julie’s Memorial Service for July 11—date TBA.

image001

Announcement posted 7/10/19

Julie joined the Yellowstone County Master Gardener program in 2000, and was a true force to be reckoned with, especially when it came to getting volunteers for her pet project ZooMontana and the Geranium festival. She called herself the “pushy old broad” as she “eagle eye” challenged Master Gardeners to sign up to help at the various stations of the Geranium Festival…and she did get the volunteers! It was a rare week through these years that she didn’t show up to the Zoo and work on flower garden care…and this she did all the way up through last fall.

School stories were a big part of her story telling history as her students and friends knew. In 1987 she was honored with a Golden Apple Award in School District 2 (Billings). Even after a full career teaching kindergarten, Julie shared her teaching skills through the Care After School programs and also worked to maintain the MetraPark Gardens. Julie holds the record for MG volunteer hours, an unbelievable 2500 Volunteer hours in her 18 years. And this was through just one of her many club affiliations such as Delta Kappa Gamma, Early Literacy, Global Grannies, and the Garden Club.

“She was one of the most energetic, ambitious and positive folks I’ve ever known. She always had a smile and a very special way of getting you to volunteer for a project. I will remember her for not letting anything stop her, breast cancer or strokes and her deep sparkling eyes. She inspired many a gardener both aspiring young ones and us “more mature” ones”

Master Gardener Merita Murdock

“Most days Julie and her husband had lunch at the Muzzle Loader Cafe and when several old Master Gardeners habitually showed up on Friday for lunch there was always a chat or wave. She never forgot us. She would drive her car to lunch and her husband always sat in the backseat. He might have been thinking of his safety.

“Julie was an expert on herbs. One year MSU did not provide an instructor for the M/G class. The Billings MGs had to teach the class themselves. Julie brought her years of teaching skills to help save the day. She was an expert on herbs. She taught a class on herbs which the students really liked. She was always available to provide advice to learning MGs. In a similar manner, she often gave away plants she had grown in her garden and her emphasis seemed to be angled toward English Garden style.”

Master Gardener Corry Mordeaux

“What a blessing it was to know Julie. Julie’s enthusiasm and wealth of gardening information made being around her such a pleasure. She enriched the lives of many of us Master Gardeners in countless ways.”

Master Gardener Elaine Allard

“I knew Julie through the geranium fest and I worked with the group at the Zoo a couple years. I especially liked her nickname that she seemed to actually enjoy having ‘the pushy old broad’. But she always got things done- with a bright smile.”

Master Gardener Sheri Kisch

Julie will be missed by so many.

Submitted by Amy Grandpre

UPDATE

 

Awards, Hard Work and Rewards!

When an opportunity came up to elect someone to receive the Outstanding Urban Forestry Volunteer Award, Master Gardener Merita Murdock popped into my head. Her booklet “A Short Tree Tour of Selected Trees of Downtown Billings” was such a wonderful labor of love, that I wanted to at least brag about her a bit. So I did, and she received the award.
For those of you who don’t know Merita, she actually joined the Yellowstone
County Master Gardener program during 1994…year 1 of our program here. She is a Lev. 3 Master Gardener and has received one of the state’s Outstanding Master Gardener awards, plugging in over 1100 volunteer hours of service to our county. She is instrumental in helping me with the record keeping of our most active Master Gardener program….couldn’t do it easily without her. She’s been most active in so many areas: Women’s Prison, Square Foot Demonstration Garden, 4-H and fair judge, Master Gardener information booths, Billings Annual Flower Show, hoop house construction at MetraPark Education Center, Arbor Day, designing fliers and advertisements, helped create and was treasurer of Master Gardener Association, on nomination committees….and I’m sure I’ve missed so much more.

I am so excited that Merita was chosen as a winner of this most prestigious award from the Montana Urban and Community Forestry Association, and so grateful for all you have done and do for our Master Gardener program.

HARD WORK AND REWARDS ~ CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL

Here are the folks who have gotten some certificate action:

Level 1 Shirt & Certificate:

Kristine Brenden

Level 2 Shirt & Certificate:

Ann McKean

 
Submitted by Amy Grandpre

Julie’s Tree

In honor of Julie Halverson, Master Gardeners would like to plant a memorial tree in a Billings city park. If you wish to donate to this cause, please make your check payable to City of Billings. Once all funds are collected for the tree and plaque, we will submit the checks to the city to make the purchase. Checks can be mailed to Merita Murdock, 649 Brookwood Dr., Billings, MT 59101-7050. Please mark on the memo area “Julie’s Tree”.

If you have additional questions, feel free to call Merita at 690-3754 or Corry Mordeaux at 545-7166.

Update:

I just wanted to let everyone know that I have secured enough funds to purchase a memorial tree and plaque for Julie Halverson.

The family has decided the tree will be placed in Lillis Park and we plan to have a dedication sometime during early July when the family will be gathered in the Billings area.

I will pass along the final plans when they are arranged.

Thank you,

Merita Murdock

For The Planet

Plastic recycling has always been a challenge in Montana. China’s rules for accepting mixed bales of plastics from the U.S. changed on January 1st ,2019 so we now need to think more of reusing or reducing than recycling. Purchase plants in peat or compostable pots when possible.

Your plastic plant containers and flats are gladly accepted back by many local nurseries. Ask when you purchase plants if you can return the containers. Clean all soil from the 007inside and exterior surfaces so that they are debris free when you drop them off. If your plant purchasing location does not want the containers returned, they can be dropped off at Canyon Creek Nursery at 1730 S 48th St W.

If you’d like to take matters into your own hand and make your own seedling pots out of newspaper, you can find instructions online:

https://www.hgtv.com/design/makeand- celebrate/handmade/create-newspaper-pots-for-seed-starting-pictures