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.  

Friday, March 15, 2013

They're growing!

Before the winter blues completely set in, I planted some herb seeds. What a great time to start such a fun project.  I mean, why not bring some life and colour to a dull time of year, where the cold sits in your bones, and the grey becomes an attitude. It has been so exciting to watch with wondering eyes as these seeds begin to  reach up out of the soil to greet the light. All three pots (rosemary, basil and chives) are full of baby sprouts well on their way to growing up into the delightful herbs they are.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Dreaming of building my house of dreams

  Recently, I have been dreaming of building my own home. A home with a garden. I think about the shape, how the garden would look, how the house would look, what materials I would use. It would be a small house, cosy and quaint, with a small greenhouse off to the side for plants to grow and light to stream in showering the rooms with sunlight.   A few months back while perusing a copy of Mother Earth News, I came across one of their articles highlighting unique garden sheds folks have built. I don't know if my jaw dropped first or the magazine, but there on one of the pages was my dream house starring back at me. In this case, it's a garden shed but the shape of it, the very idea, there it was, alive. This shed stands happily in Mansfield, Ohio. Though I will not be relocating any time soon to Ohio, my dreams linger onwards with the affirmation that I will soon find myself building the house of my dreams. And all around it, gardens will grow. Birds will sing. And I will be home.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Planting seeds, growing roots

Wintertime. When the world is blanketed in white. The sky, often overcast, waiting with trepidation for the snow to fall, those gentle flakes coming from the sky and laying claim to all trees, ground, and rocks. I love winter in that it is a time of slowing down. Solitude. Of endless challenge and adventure trying to figure out how my legs work with skis attached to them, wondering if I will make it down the hill, this time remaining upright. Though new to skis, most days I welcome the falls, it means that I am learning, it pushes me to get back up and to try again. It teaches me, that like all things, it takes practice.
Winter is also a hard time for me, in that I dream of days where the sun is warm, with bare skin and a gentle wind that makes the leaves in the trees dance with delight, and the whole world grows green with life.
Though it is mid February, and as I look out my window, I am met with a mild winters day, and a world still covered in snow, I can't help but to turn inwards and dream of tiny seeds in my hand, watching them drop into the soil, and then growing into first small indecipherable sprouts until they begin to show their first leaves becoming recognizable. I close my eyes and see green all around me, with small flowers in bloom, turning into fruit. Bees buzz around collecting pollen, birds chirp, swooping here and there as if dancing in the glow of the suns rays celebrating each moment. I feel my fingers twitch and realize they are looking for the earth. What I would give to be able to plunge my hands into the soil, preparing the bed for the all the different plants that are soon to begin growing.
It is February.
Though winter may still be here, and though I live in a climate where it would be unthinkable (and a rather silly notion) to go outside and try to grow something, there is the wonderful possibility of growing things indoors.
I feel lucky these days. I live in a house. Just writing these 5 little words fills my heart with joy. I live in a house! It's wonderful. This house is full of life, with sunshine and light that pours in from all directions, the houseplants are happy reaching their green leaves up as if always exclaiming "YES!" to no one in particular, while us three inhabitants gather around our kitchen counter musing about our days, making home cooked meals and letting our lives unfold before us.  It's been awhile since I have found myself in one place, with no immediate intention to move. And must say that I welcome this feeling of being rooted to one place. I thought I would be scared to be in one place, that I would somehow get stuck, and lose my independence to roam, but instead, in many ways, it has given me more freedom, it has given me a sense of place and belonging which also brings the security of knowing that if I were to go out into the world, I have a place to come home to.  And if that isn't enough what I have come to realize is that I can do things that have been but mere dreams of  a traveller.
So with fingers twitching, I begin my first project: an herb garden for the kitchen. I've thought often of what herbs I love to cook with: basil and chives, two relatively simple herbs to grow and enjoy. So to also add a challenge to the mix (as I believe that we should need a challenge to keep us on our toes!) I selected rosemary.
And now, without further ado, time to get growing!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Washington Expedition Postponed

Though disheartened that I cannot set out on trail this fall, I have decided to postpone my expedition through Washington to summer 2013. The decision was made last month after struggling with some health related problems. I am hoping that, body permitting, I will be able to get out on some smaller excursions before the season is through. It would be good to spend some quality time in the wilds.

Friday, May 11, 2012

They're just so Darn Tough!

I am so pleased to welcome Darn Tough socks to my backpacking adventure this fall.  I'll be walking in style and in full comfort using their Boot Sock Cushion 1403 and 1/4 Sock Cushion 1401.  It is such an honour to be working with them, and look forward to sharing many stories and photographs along the way!   Based in Vermont, Darn Tough socks are an American-made family owned and run company, who stand behind their product and are darn proud of it! Made with specially selected materials, utilizing a unique high density knitting technique and created with extreme conditions in mind, these socks can stand up to whatever challenge that may be flung into ones path.  Go check them out at, it'll be darn tough not to!
Many thanks to Mark Comcowich for all your kindness!