Gardening

Juice feast, day 6 (part deux)

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I thought I’d add a shot o’ wheat grass to my evening meal. I love the smell of wheat grass, and the wellness benefits are out of this world!  Plus its nice to have a mini lawn growing on my window sill in the middle of winter.

Bottoms up!

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Shuttin’ her down

Somehow I managed to post this post as a page. ???  Ahhhh, technology.  My friend.  LOL

A full month after I first saw the colors of autumn beginning to peek through the Alaskan tundra, I’m looking out my own kitchen window at some patches of color here and there on the ranch.  It’s just a matter of time.

The garden is about 75% wrapped up for the year.  I’m impressed with the quantity and quality of produce my little rock patch put out this summer.  Next year’s will be even better!  I’ll be busy the next couple of weekends, hard at work getting things finished up before that first blanket of white gently greets me one morning soon.

To do list for fall:

  • Separate potatoes & put them in burlap sacks – DONE this morning
  • Pull tomatoes & put them in paper sacks to ripen
  • Fix carrot crates & check on moisture level – DONE this morning
  • Pull the rest of the produce in the garden – peppers, squash, one more salad…
  • Make room in barn for the chest freezer/impromptu root cellar
  • Till garden
    • till in garden dregs, sans potato waste
    • empty compost bin & all plant pots and till in
    • put Stabile in the gas tank prior to tilling so it gets through the system.  Run tiller out of gas.
  • Take down electric fence
  • Move gate to the side of the barn
  • Put garden tools back in the barn
  • Pull out snow shovel and ice melt

In addition, I still need to get some pears put up in pear jam and canned pears.  I’d like to find some apples from a local orchard.  Soon I will have a giant pile of tomatoes to process into salsa and tomato sauce.  And if possible, I need to see if I can find myself some last-minute huckleberries at a local farmers market.  It stresses me out to know I only have about 10 jars of huckleberry jam to last me the next nine months.  You just don’t understand!  😉

So autumn is pretty much in full motion now.  LLM is spending every waking moment either working on his new sanctuary, or tromping over hill and over dale on the hunt for the elusive Wapiti. Next weekend is the antelope opener in the Big Hole.  Garden production is wrapping up.  The place is getting cleaned up to sleep for the winter.

Much more to do, so I suppose I ought to get at it.

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It’s a jungle out there!

I’m about 36 seconds away from sacrilege.  Garden sacrilege.

You see, something happened while I was out-of-town in Utah a few weeks ago.  My garden exploded.  Like gardens do…

This year’s garden was substantially smaller than the 2,400 square feet that I had been sharing with LLM over the past couple of summers.  When he sold the sanctuary, I had to spring into action and dig a garden at my place.  It’s definitely no 80 x 30 Garden of Eden.  More like a 20 x 15 jungle of no return.  What it comes down to is that I think I put in too many plants.

Actually – there are just two problem children that are causing the chaos:  tomatoes, and the always-profuse squash.  Between the two, the plot has gotten to the point where I can’t even wade through parts of it.

I wasn’t even going to plant squash this year simply because any time they find their way into the garden, the gardener winds up lousy with squash.  They’re prolific producers.  I was adamant about not planting squash.  Well then, as they do – things happen.  I let LLM talk me into planting squash.  Okay.  So maybe I’ll pop in one or two plants.  But that’s it!  So we started a couple of seeds in peat pots along with some other seeds.  Transplanted them, and all was well.  Well, then, they started not looking too good. So what did I do?  I let LLM dig three more seeds into each mound “just in case”  AND, I let him dig a couple of seeds in with my potatoes in a couple holes where the seed potatoes didn’t take…  Basically – where I wanted no squash plants, I now have about 10.  Some of which are taller than my waist!  And now my garden resembles the little shop of horrors!

Feed Me Seymour!

So far I have eight zucchini still on my counter (I don’t wish to share how many have been eaten over the past two weeks), and I counted about twenty more flowers on the plants out there.  More importantly than just knowing that I’ll be lousy in zucchini, is the fact that they’re crowding out other plants.  I can’t even get at my basil, which I can see has gone to flower.  😦  And I think they’re robbing nutrients, space and sun from my tomatoes.

Ahhh, the tomatoes.  I put in a lot of tomato plants this year.  A lot of em.  Thirteen if I remember correctly.  All different varieties.  My Golden Nugget tomatoes (yellow cherry tomatoes) are fruiting like gangbusters, and I can’t even tell you how many more tomato-lets are sprouting on most of the plants.  But they’re a bit too close together.  I had to pull a plant the other day – my Brandywines.  The plant was sickly looking and not putting on any flowers.  The leaves were tightly curling.  Just not looking good.  So I yanked it out for the benefit of the rest.  But the rest of the plants have morphed into a giant tangle of vines, flowers and tomatoes.  I don’t know where one plant ends and another starts.

So the sacrilege I’m thinking of performing is heading out there, donning leather gloves, to yank a couple (at least!) of the zucchini plants.  I’m sure I won’t suffer a shortage of squash this year.  I can probably do with a couple-a-few less plants out there.  Plus it will give me a little bit of much-needed space to be able to get at some of the other plants.

I’ve already started putting a lot of thought into next year’s garden.  I vow not to have this jungle of no return in my yard again.  First, I simply need a bigger plot.  So this fall, after all is said and done and I’m tilling the dregs into the soil to compost over the winter, I think I’ll expand the plot a little bit.  Then maybe expand it a little more in spring when I’m getting the plot ready to plant.  Secondly, I need to plan my layout a little better.  And third.  I need to NOT let LLM talk me into squash plants again.  He’s in the process of building a new sanctuary.  We’ll plant all the squash he wants in HIS garden.  🙂

So with that, it’s time to fill the water bottle, pull on the leather gloves, and head out into the jungle to perform sacrilege.  Garden sacrilege.  Pictures to come…

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Struggling

We all go through it from time to time.  The all encompassing struggle.

We struggle with relationships.  We struggle with money.  We struggle with weight.  We struggle with purpose.  We struggle with ourselves.

I’m struggling right now.

I think…  No, I know…  The root of my struggle is professional.  My job is zapping my creativity and causing that quality of life that I quest for to shrink to nothing more than a diminishing light at the end of an ever-lengthening tunnel.  It’s breaking my heart.

I’m supposed to be working at home today.  But instead I’m loafing, droning, thinking, lamenting, wishing and wondering.

When Montana called out to me, more loudly than the call of life in Chicago, I answered by coming back to the inter-mountain west and resumed a role at the organization I worked at years before.  Life was pretty much okay until I took over as Executive Director a little more than a year ago.  Now I know why the previous Director left.  Burn-out.  This is definitely a burn-out job.  And that burn-out is searing so hot that I’m finding myself frozen in place.  Kind of like the shell of a burnt log in the remnants of a camp fire.  It appears to be solid, in place, until you touch it and it falls to ash in the bottom of the fire ring.

I’m struggling to see past the ring of fire.  Squinting my eyes to see the possibility instead of the tragedy.  Doing my best to “think outside the box.”  I could use this as a spring-board to dive into a more radical plan of simplicity.  Or I could remain stuck in the maze.  On the treadmill.

I have next week off.  A much-needed vacation.  Perhaps instead of simply playing and ignoring, I need to do some serious thinking, plotting, planning and visualizing what I NEED my future to be.  To orchestrate an escape from the sinking ship.  To stop thinking like a middle-aged professional woman and get back to living like the free spirit.  What on earth happened to that sprite?

Look around.  Notice.  Realize.  Grow.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Speaking of growing…

My garden is going bonkers.  In the week and a half I was down in Utah, the plants went insane.  I have tons of tomatoes just begging to turn red.  Zucchini on several plants.  Flowers on my potato plants.  A patch of the best tasting lettuce on the planet.

Maybe I’ll go out to the garden right now, and use those plants as a looking-glass.  All they have to worry about in life is growing.

There’s something to learn from that…

Categories: Gardening, Misc Musings, The Journey | Leave a comment

Happy End of the World Day

Anyone still out there?

Yeah, me too.

Although, for a minute there around 6 o’clock I thought I had been raptured.  75 degrees, light winds, perfectly sunny sky, garden darn near fully planted, micro brew in my hand, song birds a-singing…  It had to be paradise!  Then I got bit by a mosquito and I realized, yep – I’m still in Montana.  Sometimes it’s hard to differentiate between Paradise and Montana.  I s’pose that’s a good thing.  Just for good measure maybe I’ll read some Proverbs or something tonight.  Next weekend I have a friend who’s getting baptized into the Mormon church. Not that that has anything to do with anything.  But I guess I’m happy the rapture didn’t happen today so he can go through with his plans.

As for my day?  Totally productive.

I started the morning off with some locally roasted coffee.  Then took off for the ‘Root.

Went down to LLM’s sister’s place this morning.  She runs a farmers market out of their pasture on Saturday mornings – so I drove down and picked up some tomato plants, hot pepper plants, basil, cilantro and chives.  Oh and a dozen eggs that she threw in for good measure.  Got everything planted…

… and the seed starts that I had in peat pots re-planted.  Also planted some marigolds and moon flowers (or something like that) by the back door.  And after I was done planting and re-potting, I managed to get most of the doggy spots in the yard raked up and sprinkled with fertilizer and grass seed, then got to weeding a couple areas around the bushes.  I was outside for about 7 hours straight today.  And boy howdy did it feel good!

I picked up seven different types of tomatoes at Tracey’s, plus five hot pepper plants, and four different basil plants…  At this point in the day I don’t remember much.  Except the purple basil (because it’s purple), and some golden nugget tomatoes.  Tomorrow my brain will function better.  Good thing I stuck the name sticks in by each plant… That way I’ll remember what I planted!  🙂

I wish I could say LLM’s day was as good.  But over in White Sulphur Springs, Montana, it rained and was windy and cold all day.  I hated to tell him that I was sunburned and hanging in the back yard with a beer when he called.  But hey – it’s not like the weather is my fault.  😉  But they got the roof done on his shack, and some other miscellaneous stuff taken care of.  So even though the day wasn’t quite as beautiful over there, at least it was just as productive.

So with that, I think it’s time to hit the couch with the doggers and do some reading.  They’ve been calling for rain everyday this week, but it’s ended up sunny each day.  Tomorrow they’re calling for thunderstorms, so we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

I’m glad the world didn’t end today.  It was a perfectly beautiful day – so in reality it would have been a fabulous “last day on earth”…  but I’m just not ready to end it all.

If it rains tomorrow, I think that will make a good day to do some bread baking and soup making! And maybe some embroidery.  I have a couple projects in mind…

See y’all tomorrow.  🙂

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Mary, Mary, quite Contrary, how does your garden grow?

With silver bells, and cockle shells,
And pretty maids all in a row…

Things are really starting to pop over the past few days.  It seems like just days ago it was still snowing. (well, actually, in the mountains it still IS snowing!)  But the leaves are unfurling on the trees, the arrow balsams, glacier lilies and dandelions are blooming like crazy, and my little garden is starting to come together.

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I’ve transplanted eight squash plants into bigger pots – their next stop is the garden.  My marigolds and green tomato plants are popping in their peat pots and will need to be transplanted soon as well.  Last weekend LLM and I planted the potatoes and onions.  The onions are starting to push through the soil, but no sign of the potatoes yet.  And yesterday I planted two and a half rows of carrots and a little patch of radishes.

We realized that we didn’t leave any room to plant lettuce or spinach.  Next time LLM rolls through town we may try to till up a little more of the grass to add a couple rows of each.  But this afternoon I’m going to plant some lettuce seeds in a couple pots that I have on the back walk.  Might as well give the contain gardening another try.  My tomato and pepper plants didn’t do anything in containers last year – but I think lettuce is a bit more forgiving.  Besides, it comes up so quickly and has a rather short grow-life, so I should know pretty soon if it’s going to work or not.  Methinks it will.

This past weekend we got the fence put in place, too.  But with the location of the garden, I don’t think we’re going to have much trouble with the deer.  They don’t like getting in confined spaces, so the positioning of the garden should make it pretty safe.  But just to be sure, we put up a fence gate across the back and put a little electric fence across the front.  You would have laughed watching LLM and me testing that darn electric fence.  It took us a little bit to realize that our rubber soled shoes were saving us from being shocked, but then LLM kneeled down on the ground and touched it and ~*~ZAP~*~  He got a good one!  🙂  He was trying to convince me that I should be the one to test it because he has a bad heart.  I had to remind him that his cardiologist told him the injury damage had pretty much repaired itself over the past 10 years.  HA!  So he was the one to get the shock.  Sometimes it pays to be the woman with the good memory.  🙂

I have to say I’m really pleased with the transformation of the garden over the past few weeks.  It went from a patch of grass, to a rock filled dirt field, to a plot that’s starting to produce some plants.  Although it’s not nearly as big and beautiful as the garden at the sanctuary, it’ll do just fine for this year.  I’m just happy to have plants growing just steps from my back door.  How’s that for being a “locavore”?  🙂

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Long Term Grain Storage

I want to thank 4Nana for commenting on my General Store post, and asking specifically for more information on long term grain storage.  I branched out a little on Ditch the Grid this morning, and prepared a how-to video on grain storage.

Although I briefly mention it in the video, one of the questions 4Nana asked was if I wash my grains prior to storage.  I do not wash my grains. And honestly, I don’t think I would recommend doing that.  There’s too much that can go wrong – like not having all the moisture out of the grain before repackaging it, and ending up with bags of moldy grain.  If you don’t trust the quality or cleanliness of your grains, I would suggest finding another source.  With that said, I present you with the following tutorial on long term grain storage.   Enjoy!

This process will work for most any dry products: grains, legumes, seeds, dry milk, dehydrated fruits and veggies, nuts, etc.  The only item I wouldn’t really suggest doing this with is ground flour.  The reason being that flour doesn’t retain it’s nutrition all that long anyway.  So it’s not a good item for long term storage.  You’re better off storing your whole grains and grinding your flour as needed.  I’ve included some links at the end of the post for where to buy grains and supplies for your long term food storage.

On another note:  I just ran out to give my landlord this month’s rent check, and he mentioned that he’s going to drop a load of aged horse manure in the garden for me today (aka: compost).  Yay!  Of course, it was supposed to be nice today, but it’s raining and snowing again.  *sigh*  I hope Spring shows up one of these days! But I’ll get that spread out, and run to town to get some black dirt to add to the mix.  It’ll need another tilling or two (whenever it stops being awful outside!) before planting.  But at this rate, I’m clearly NOT going to be planting a single thing until June 1st, which is the traditional planting date.  So I’ve got a couple weeks to keep working on the plot to get it in the best condition possible before sewing seed and transplanting starts.

The landlord also mentioned that the neighbor at the end of the road saw two mountain lions in the pasture the other day.  Apparently one killed a deer out there.  So I’ll have to keep a close watch on Bella.  I’ve seen bears out here, but never mountain lions.  Those are not my favorite mountain critters.  They’re scary, and just so unpredictable.  *shudder* 

Here are some links for places to purchase good, clean whole grains and food storage supplies:

Wheat Montana – They carry gamma lids for your buckets, as well as whole grains, beans, specialty grains and cereals.  I can personally vouch for the quality of their grains.  They sell both organic and conventional grains in a variety of quantities.  If you live in Montana, you can order at your local Wheat Montana deli and save the shipping charges.

GrainMaker – This is my manual grain mill.  I love it!  Although, I understand they’ve raised the price of their mills.  But still, I think it’s worth the expense.  There are other companies out there that make both manual and electric grain mills.  I recommend finding one that you like – fresh ground flour is light years ahead of mass produced store-bought flour in terms of nutrition, taste and quality!

USA Emergency Supply – providers of mylar bags, oxygen absorbers, buckets and gamma lids, as well as other supplies for your long term food storage.  They offer bags and oxygen absorbers in a variety of sizes, and also have mylar bags with zip lock tops to help keep your grains fresh after you’ve opened the bag for use.

Categories: Food Storage, Gardening, Preparedness | 9 Comments

Rockin’ and Rollin’

That would be picking rocks and rolling them down to the creek!

 

Twenty-six loads of rock came out of my little plot over the past week.  Now if only it would warm up enough to feel like spring!

Last weekend LLM accompanied me to go looking for a tiller.  I had contemplated renting one, but by the time I rented the thing for a couple days to get this plot ready, I could easily buy one.  So I figured for the price of one year’s garden, I’d just purchase a tiller that will last me for many more years to come.  I had found a Troy-Bilt rear tine tiller on Craigslist for $400, but upon inspection found that it wasn’t worth near half that amount.  So we moved on.  There are times it really pays to have a man around – I don’t know the first thing about machines, so it was nice to have him by my side to poke and prod and look at things I wouldn’t have thought about.  It’s probably a good thing that one didn’t work out, because I know for a fact after trying to use LLM’s tiller last spring (which is also a rear-tine model) that I probably don’t have the strength to power through a garden with that style.  The other option, for those not familiar with rototillers, is a front tine. It’s a little easier to use because the tines rotate forward (as opposed to backward like a rear-tine) so they act sort of like “front wheel drive.”  It helps propel the machine forward through the dirt.

Earlier in the morning I had taken a run to Home Depot to replace my dilapidated rake, and noticed a couple smaller tillers in the garden section.  This is how I figured it would cost me less to buy one than to rent one to get this plot ready.  So after the run to look at the Troy, we took a spin by Home Depot and bought a little one for $319.  There’s a whole long story that goes with the experience at Home Depot – but for the short version, it included a fork lift (driven by a “licensed” fork lift driver), orange flags, closing off three aisles of the store, and a kid who didn’t know his arse from a hole in the ground.  If I wasn’t so excited about the garden, this might have irked me a bit.  But looking back it was pretty funny.  Also a significant testimony to the decline of our society…  *sigh*  😉

In the end, the tiller found its way into the back of LLM’s truck, and we made it home where he promptly put the thing together for me and (without my even asking!) proceeded to till the plot three times and help me pull six wheelbarrows of rock.  This is saying a lot because earlier in the day he was saying how he really needed to get home to try to finish moving.

Tomorrow’s the last day for LLM at the Sanctuary.  He’s a little stressed out and unhappy this week. Understandably. I’m going to miss weekends up there – walking out to the point above the Clark Fork River, driving up to the Sex Peak Lookout (yes, that’s the real name), picking huckleberries up Beaver Creek, cutting firewood in the mountains, Brokey-Buck (our resident deer with the broken leg), working the giant garden…  It’s a sad weekend knowing that the Sanctuary is coming to an end.  😦

So long, homestead…  may we re-create you again elsewhere.

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I love dirt

Yep…  That’s my landlord.  And he was skimming the grass from my garden plot.  JOY!!!!!  I can not even begin to tell you how happy I am right now.  I have dirt to play in!!!!

In fact, so much do I want to play in the dirt, that I immediately ran to the hardware store to buy myself a wheelbarrow.  🙂  And with that.  I shall go out and take advantage of the rest of this evening’s sunshine. There’s lots of rocks in this Rocky Mountain soil – need to start picking those buggers out before I can till this weekend.  (ew – not picking boogers out – just rocks!)

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Random Musings on gardens, groceries & the grid

I knew it was too good to be true…  I stopped at a different market today, and winced at nearly every item I put in my cart.  Luckily I didn’t have to get much.  I picked up another 10 pounds of sugar for the pantry – yikes!  I think those price increases are starting to take effect.  I don’t often go to Albertson’s.  Personally, I hate the store.  But I was nowhere near Safeway, so I had no choice.  I won’t be making that mistake again. So I guess the aggregate of my shopping this week puts me back at the average per bag.  Oh well.

Took a little nap on the couch this afternoon – woke up about an hour ago to the sound of a tractor.  The guy across the road was using a giant tractor to till his garden plot.  A tiny little garden plot – maybe 15 x 20 (?).  Using what equated to a full on plow.  Nice.  The landlord hasn’t been up to skim my plot yet.  Which is fine by me.  It’s not really gardening weather out there this weekend.  Brrrrr.   Father Winter’s still trying to keep his grasp on western Montana.  There was fresh snow up in the hills behind the house this morning.  Looks like there’s another squall blowing in from the drainage.  I keep tellin’ folks – just wait…  in another month or so we’ll be praying for these cold and cloudy days!  So enjoy ’em while you can.  Speaking of a squall – the rain just started pouring down out there.  At least it’s not snow.

Pretty soon these will be a common occurrence once again:

When I was in town this morning, after the sticker shock at Albertson’s, I decided to drowned my sorrows at Barnes & Noble.  Much to my dismay, nothing new or interesting in the Home & Garden section of the books.  So I wandered over to the magazine rack to pick up two of my favorite magazines: Mary Janes Farm and Back Home, when a magazine I hadn’t seen before caught my eye.  The issue number on the masthead tells me it’s not a new publication – but apparently not one my local bookstore thought to carry in the past (I pretty much know exactly what farm and rural life titles they carry).  The magazine is called The New Pioneer: The Complete Guide to Self-Reliant Living.  Apparently it’s a quarterly, because this is the “Summer” edition.  Not feeling terribly summery outside…  Looks like some really good articles in there – on solar ovens, the modern back to the land movement, garden critter control.  Heck, if I can’t be gardening, I might as well read about it!  Although, I should probably get some seeds started.  I’m only about 5 weeks out til planting.  Many things will need to be sewed directly into the earth at planting time, but a couple things will need a head start…  tomatoes, hot peppers, etc.

I also received my latest Lehman’s catalog in the mail when I stopped at the post office the other day.  That delivery always gets my mind rolling. In my terribly humble opinion, electricity is a necessary evil.  But one I hope to make unnecessary as soon as humanly possible.  The other night I watched a video clip that was up over at Joel the K’s site The Patriot Cave.  Although, he seems to have replaced it with a different video by Michio Kaku.  ???  But the gist of the video was a brief history of Chernobyl.  I was relatively young when that went down, and really never made it my business to find out exactly what went wrong.  I didn’t realize it was a controlled experiment that went terribly wrong, causing what, up until this Japanese crisis, had been the worst nuclear accident in the world’s short atomic history.  I was outraged.  Furious!  Which, then, led me to wonder why on earth we find the most dangerous, dirty and destructive ways to provide power to our world.  The sun, daily, provides more power than our earth could use in a year.  Cleanly, free of charge, with no danger, and with no potential environmental side effects.  I went further to look at how many nuclear plants were in this area of the country.  There are three in Washington state – two of which are in various states of being decommissioned.  I feel confident, because of the not-so-close proximity of the plants that none of my power is generated by nuclear means.  I took a look at my local electric cooperative – apparently their energy is produced by a combination of wind, solar, hydro and coal.  Meaning 75% (in theory) of their energy is clean.  Now, I’m not sure what percentage of the actual grid is made up by each of those means.  I will have to find out.

But this doesn’t make me any less weary of electric.  Power in general.  Last month’s power bill came in the other day (on the same day as the Lehman’s catalog) and my usage last month was 154 kwh.  I’ve been looking at my own usage, and there are few ways to cut down even more on what I use.  Unfortunately my stove is electric, but soon it will be summer, and I’m looking forward to trying the solar oven experiment.  Have yet to figure out what to do about the refrigerator/freezer.  (although, LLM uses a typical picnic cooler and a propane freezer – that’s it.) I’ve cut down my light usage to one lamp each evening, only turning on other lights in the house on an as-needed basis.  I may take a look at oil lamps.  We’re getting to that point in the year where the sun is up later and later.  As it is, my lights don’t come on until around 8 o’clock.

But I think I’ll start taking a very critical look at each power-generated device in my life, and see if there’s a way to do without it.  Let’s see just now un-necessary I can make this electric power grid in my life.  I’ve decided I don’t need to live 100 miles out in the bush to ditch the grid.  Twenty miles is good enough to start with!

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