Sunday, January 31, 2016

January - planning the garden

This years garden seed project
photo by Fern Louise

It is now the end of January.
This month has been one of setting plans in motion and getting at least a few ducks in a row!

Our winter here in Montana, has been quite unusual. While the rest of the state has been enjoying regular snowfalls, our little town seems to have been left out. It's been warmer than normal, and most of our snow from December, as steadily melted into slush, only to freeze at night, leaving a treacherous ice in its wake. This makes walking a challenge.

While the days have been grey, we have been busy planning away. January is the month of planning out the garden, pouring through seed catalogues and deciding what we would like to grow.  this year, we did all of our ordering through Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. They have a huge catalogue filled with vegetables, flowers, fruit and herb varieties. I have used their seeds many times in the past and have found the seeds to be of good quality, high germination rates and good producers. The owners of this company have their hearts in the right place, sourcing heirloom seeds that are sustainable and non-GMO. On their website, one thing that I really like, is that customers are able to write a review about the seeds they used, giving future customers further insights on what to expect. There are many different organizations out there that also come highly recommended for their seeds.  I found this helpful website Weed 'em & Reap who has done an excellent job sourcing a handful of the larger seed companies offering non-GMO, heirloom, organic (etc) seeds. Do you have a particular seed company that you prefer to use?

Now that our seeds have arrived, we are faced with the big hurdle in our garden. WATER. We are going to have to drill a well, but what is the most efficient pumping situation?  This has been the topic of conversation for weeks now, and while there is an array of possibilities to choose one, it is challenging to narrow down what would be the most efficient and cost effective for our needs.
The things to consider are:
- Can the system sustain itself if we go away for a weekend?
- Can the system be user friendly if someone else were to help out?
- Is there a way of creating a system that will not break the bank?
-Is there a solid alternative that would not require electricity?

Because we both work full-time, an ideal situation would be a system that does not require us to be at the land everyday (the land is 4 miles out of town, which is not far, but is a time commitment). An electric pump seems to be the best way to go, though that will also be an expensive route as well, between the initial set-up and then the monthly charges.

We've got plenty of time, as the well can't be drilled until late-spring so stay tuned to that development as it unfolds.

A Year In Months

This is not an original idea. 

Very far from it in fact.

However, I think there is much to be said for documenting a life over the span of a year. Last year I read Barbara Kingsolvers book "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" and was completely inspired by it.  I have often found myself thinking about living a more simple life. What would it be like to rely entirely on the natural life cycle? Eat when everything is in season, grow my own food, make do/ use what I have first. And in the present today, is it really possible?  Can I do it? 

My partner (George) and I purchased a plot of land last summer. It is completely bear, no well, no septic, nothing. It is both an exciting and daunting adventure that we are about to embark upon. As this year (year one) unfolds we will be focusing primarily on developing a garden. This includes, drilling a well for water and figuring out the best pumping situation, putting in garden beds (along with a big french to keep the deer out),  planting and establishing fruit trees/shrubs, growing food, and of course figuring out all the different kinds of canning, preserving and drying methods in which to store food for the winter. 

First: to set up the scene of where we live, our challenge will be working with the weather. George and I live in a small mountain town in Montana, where the temperature can be all over the map. We live in a zone 3 growing area, which means a very short summer season between last and first frost. This provides a big challenge with growing crops that require heat, such as tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers etc.  Should our budget allow, we hope to install a greenhouse (or rather cold house...unheated) to help extend the season. We have a very sunny area, however, at night the temperature drops significantly. The last frost of the season can be as late as mid-June, while the first frost can be as early as September. There is a significant risk of losing crops, so paying attention to detail, weather and being prepared are all things that we are going to have to plan for. 

Second: to set up the scene of who we are, our biggest hurdle will be finances. Neither George or I have very much money. While we work hard, and do our best to save, yet at the end of the day, most of our pay cheques go to paying for rent, bills and food. George, last year got a job in building construction and has been slowly learning the ropes of building.  I am an artist and a gardener spending the last few years, learning and working on different farms to take in as much information and experience possible. 

I hope this writing becomes a place to reflect upon and be a resource for the future whether it be just myself or for others. There is a lot of great information out there, tons of people who have come before. As I embark on this new adventure, I would like to be able to document my own learnings, and create a library of resources to share. Each month I will write and share of our experiences, what worked, what didn't work and how it is all going. If you are reading this, please feel free to share any learnings, discoveries, experiences or resources that you have found helpful.