Spring planting is underway and I am so ready for warmer weather and spring blooms! The Nanking cherries, dwarf Russian almonds and pear trees in the food forest are starting to bloom, the daffodils have arrived and tulips are coming up under our mature apple tree.
Over the years of observing our site, I have finally accepted that we live in a much colder microclimate than much of Bozeman. Being near the base of the Bridger Mountains means we sit in a little cold sink. While crocus and daffodils have long ago bloomed within downtown Bozeman, mine are still deciding whether it's actually warm enough to emerge.
That's why season extension strategies are so important, not only on our site, but living in a cold climate in general. The ability to extend our season, both in the early spring and late fall, is really important. That's why I wanted to share this quick video with you. In it, I give you a little tour of my greenhouse at the end of April.
It's amazing how much you can jumpstart your season by having a greenhouse and/or cold frames. I have barely heated this greenhouse over the past 6 weeks. I've mostly just used additional frost cloth to get through the frigid nights. We've been eating salads over the past month and the peas are now coming on! So check out my video below and let me know what sort of season extension strategies you employ on your site!
Don't miss out on the opportunity to join my Resilient Homestead Program!
To learn more about the program, click here. And if you're feeling tight on finances, I have some partial scholarships available so definitely get in touch!
To book a call with me to discuss the program further, click here.
After consulting with clients for almost a decade, here’s what I’ve also discovered: it’s invaluable to have a guide that helps you design your homestead, someone who can mentor you through a proven process to go from overwhelm to implementation. No matter how many videos or books you read, nothing beats having someone who can hold your hand and give you a step-by-step plan.
Let me save you the hassle and the headaches, not to mention wasted money and energy. Let’s spend March and April getting your site design right from the beginning, so that you can start building and planting come spring! To learn more about the program, click here.
It is imperative that we, as stewards of Earth, ensure a safe and varied seed supply to pass along to future generations."
This recent cold snap has meant a lot of time spent indoors organizing my seeds and planning the garden season ahead. That’s why I’m excited to share my video with you today. In it, I interview author, former Master Gardener instructor and state of Montana Horticulture Extension Specialist Cheryl Moore-Gough, about Early Season Seed-Saving Tips. If you’re new to seed saving and have been intimidated by the prospect of saving seeds, then this video is for you.
Needless to say, one of the catalysts for doing this video is the response I've seen to the pandemic. With an increased interest in growing food, seed companies have been overwhelmed. The demand for seeds has gotten so significant that some national seed companies have had to limit their orders or have stopped selling to home gardeners altogether. While the enthusiasm for gardening is good news, it’s yet another indication of how fragile our food system truly is.
That’s why learning how to save seeds yourself is yet another step towards self-reliance and resilience.
Every season, each tiny seed that you hold in your hand represents the potential for generations of food. GENERATIONS.
Because if you continued to save the seed from those plants year after year, to cultivate varieties that do well in our cold climate, to share those seeds with your friends and neighbors and to have them do the same with different plants, then we start to move towards a truly local and resilient food system.
But seed saving can be a vast and often overwhelming topic. That's why Cheryl and I break it down for you in this video. We talk about some of the easiest and best bets when it comes to seed saving, common mistakes that first-time seed savers make, a simple test you can do to check your seed viability as well as other tips and tricks. Cheryl is a wealth of information and her book, The Complete Guide to Saving Seeds, is one of the leading books on seed saving.
So check out the video below and if you have any questions, be sure to put them in the comments below!
Cheryl Moore-Gough has a B.S. in Horticulture and M.S. in Plant Science. She has taught many classes at Montana State University including Vegetable Production, and has retired as the state of Montana Extension Horticulture Specialist and Montana Master Gardener instructor and coordinator.
Cheryl has authored or co-authored 7 gardening books including The Complete Guide to Saving Seeds and Rocky Mountain Vegetable Gardening Guide, numerous MSU Extension yard and garden informational publications and many magazine articles.
As always, the end of the year is a time of reflection. This year is no different. It’s one of the few times of the year where I feel some space to reflect not only on the growing season, but on the bigger picture vision of what I am trying to do in my life. This was a year that tested us; it gave us a pandemic, wildfires in the west, an extremely divided country, and calls for racial and social justice.
I can’t begin to describe the loss, grief, sadness and frustration that has hit us all in 2020. For some, it has been almost unbearable. For others, it's been an opportunity to take stock of what’s important and to evaluate how we want to contribute to a better world.
Regardless of where you’ve fallen on the spectrum, as we near the end of a very challenging and unprecedented year, I wanted to share a few things with you:
First, I wanted to thank you for your support of my business over the past year. Whether it’s been watching my videos, reading my blog posts, participating in work parties, doing 1:1 consultations with me, or joining my new Resilient Homestead Program, I have been heartened by the increasing interest in growing food and becoming more self-reliant. As you’ve heard me say before, I think it’s one of the most important acts we can be taking during these times.
Second, I wanted to share my video with you today. In it, I reflect on the Top 5 Takeaways from this Growing Season. Like I mention in the video, it’s always good to take stock of your previous growing season as a way of planning for the year ahead. Some of my takeaways are things you’ll want to keep in mind as you plan your spring 2021 garden. Click below to watch it. Then, I’d love it if you shared lessons from your gardening season by sharing them in the comments below.
Lastly, the new year is a time for renewal.
I’ve been hearing the expression, “when things get back to normal” a lot. But in our rush to get back to “normal”, let’s remember that normal wasn’t that great. “Normal” gave us soil degradation, water pollution, ecosystem collapse, species extinction, and a nation where 42% of the population is obese but over 11 million children live in food insecure homes.
Instead, what if we didn’t go back to normal? What if 2021 were truly a renewal, the beginning of a better way to live in this world?
Even before 2020, I’ve asked myself this question, “how do we change from a culture of consumption and scarcity to a culture of reciprocity, abundance, food-growing, and community-building?”
I don’t think there are any easy answers and there’s definitely no quick fix.
But I keep coming back to a quote by Terry Tempest Williams that has inspired me for years,
“Finding beauty in a broken world is creating beauty in the world that we find.”
As we move into 2021, I invite you to unapologetically create beauty in this broken world.
May we plant gardens and food forests, create pollinator habitat, build birdhouses, bake bread, paint pictures, write poetry, and build community. May we find ways in which to consume less and share more; compare less and collaborate more; argue less and connect more; talk less and listen more.
Let’s take this opportunity to reinvent a better way to exist on this planet and forge a different path forward.
My very best to you and your family in 2021.
Permaculture's 2nd ethic and why I'll be shopping as local as possible this holiday season (and why you should too!)
I’ve been spending way more time indoors the past few weeks (and it’s not just because we’re in a pandemic :-). Even though my kale, chard and lettuce have made it through these frigid temperatures and are still growing outside (check out my short video here), I’ve definitely felt the urge to snuggle up on the couch, sip tea, and read a good book or watch a good movie.
I’ve also spent quite a bit of time in the kitchen, not only preserving the harvest but making delicious soups, roasted veggies, fresh salsa, and baked goods.
November also means that we’ve moved into hunting season. In our household, this usually involves 4am wake-ups with my husband going off to wander the woods, looking to restock our freezer. Our garage turns into a temporary butcher shop and time is spent processing and wrapping the meat we eat for the entire year.
Admittedly, I’m not the biggest fan of this season, preferring instead to commune with plants, but it’s a pattern on our homestead that I respect, honor and participate in with intention. It’s another thread of connection to our food and an acknowledgement of the time, energy and commitment it takes to put it on the table.
I’m writing today because as we move into winter and COVID cases in our community increase, I’ve been thinking a lot about Permaculture’s 2nd ethic of People Care.
If you know a little about permaculture, you know that it is a philosophy and design framework that is guided by three ethics, Earth Care, People Care and Fair Share.
With the People Care ethic, permaculture designs are meant to care for us, our families and our wider communities. If we aren't caring for people, then there is a flaw in our design. We recognize that wisdom lies within the group, and that companionship and collaboration are fundamental to the human condition and essential to bring about lasting change.
If we use that People Care ethic as a guiding principle, than we understand that our collective health and well-being is important. Since the beginning of the pandemic, I've been fascinated, frustrated and angry that COVID has become a political issue. To me, it has and always will be a public health issue. A community health issue, a people care issue.
It’s a recognition that we are all in this together and that our actions, big and small, have an impact on the whole system. The health of our community is inextricably wrapped up in ours. Just like the health of the planet is undeniably tied to our well-being. It's not about rights being violated but rather the responsibility that we assume when we live by an ethic of People Care.
As we move into the holiday season and we see many of our local businesses struggling because of lockdowns and social distancing measures, please consider supporting them if you can. This is a time of struggle for many people. People are losing their ability to meet their basic needs. The people care ethic is more important than it's ever been. This ethic will not only save lives but livelihoods.
Whether it’s buying more local food for your holiday meals or supporting local businesses in your gift giving, the more we can keep our spending dollars in our communities rather than lining the pockets of large corporations, the healthier and more resilient we will be on the other side of this.
To that end, I have a few resources for you if you live in the Gallatin Valley area. And even if you don’t, I encourage you to seek out local businesses in your community and to support them.
If you missed the online presentation last week, How (and why) to Put Local Foods at the Center of your Thanksgiving, you can catch the replay here. The Gallatin Valley Earth Day Committee also put together this excellent resource of how to support local this holiday season.
To buy local food for your holiday meals (or any of your meals!):
Visit the Bozeman Winter Farmers' Market. Upcoming markets: 9am-12pm on Saturday 11/21, and 12/19 and through May 2021.
Order directly from a local online market or farm:
Here are some ideas for local gifts that support individuals and small businesses:
If you know me, you know I'm not a purist. We don’t need to do this 'buying local' thing perfectly; it’s just important that all of us do it imperfectly.
Care for yourself, your friends and family, and your community this holiday season.
My very best,
Fall has arrived in Montana and even though we’re still enjoying warm days, the evenings are getting cooler, the leaves are changing color and harvest season is upon us. We’ve already had our first hard frost but luckily, with frost cloth and blankets, most of my garden survived!
This past weekend, I processed all of our grapes into juice and jam. I’ve picked the apples from one of our trees but am still waiting on the pears and the rest of our apples to mature. The pumpkins are starting to turn orange and I’m crossing my fingers that the rest of my winter squash will mature before our next hard frost. Homemade salsa, apple and beet salad, basil pesto, zucchini muffins, garden stir-fries, roasted beets, and veggie soup have all been on the menu lately. This is a time of abundance in the garden and I’m so grateful.
Though I’m enjoying the garden bounty, the backdrop of these times has left my heart heavy. I feel like every time I’ve sat down to write a newsletter over the past few months, we’re marking an unprecedented moment in history. And this time, it’s the wildfires raging in the west.
For those of us in the Bozeman area, we had our own experience with wildfire just a couple of weeks ago. During the weekend of September 4th, the Bridger Foothills Fire burned 8,200 acres and 28 homes were lost. As I watched the fire from our backyard on Friday and Saturday, my heart sank. Though I understand that fire is an integral part of a forest ecosystem, it doesn’t make it any easier to experience the loss that comes with it. And, of course, the scale of the fires along the west coast is not normal. A warming climate and years of drought have led to an unprecedented fire season.
My heart and thoughts are with the families, the firefighters, and the forest ecosystem of plants and animals that are suffering through this crisis. To say that we are living through uncertain times is an understatement.
If there was ever a time to plant more trees, grow more food, and become more self-reliant, it is now. I am feeling this urgency more and more every day.
It’s time for action. Taking what small steps you can to build your resilience, to increase your skills, to connect with your community, and to grow our local food system is what is needed at this moment in history.
And don’t get me wrong, this call to action doesn’t come from a place of fear, it comes from one of hope, renewal, and a belief in a regenerative future.
That’s why I’m excited to share my video with you today. In it, I not only give you a tour of our 7 year-old food forest, but I offer some design advice if you want to plant one of your own.
If you have the land and the space, planting a food forest is an act of resilience. As I describe in the video, food forests have several yields: food and medicine for your family, pollinator habitat, soil-building, and the opportunity for connection and community. And as the forest matures, the yields only increase, creating a web of relationships that is strengthened year after year.
As always, if you have any questions or comments about planting a food forest, please share them in the comments below.
“I do not allow myself to be overcome by hopelessness, no matter how tough the situation. I believe that if you just do your little bit without thinking of the bigness of what you stand against, if you turn to the enlargement of your own capacities, just that itself creates new potential. I think what we owe each other is a celebration of life and to replace fear and hopelessness with fearlessness and joy.” - Vandana Shiva
I can't believe it's already mid-August! Summers in Montana are always short but this one seems to have flown by. I hope you're having a good growing season and are enjoying delicious meals outside during these warm summer evenings.
I wanted to share a short video I made giving you a tour of my greenhouse in July.
I meant to get this out sooner but if there is one thing I know about the growing season, it's that your best laid plans are consistently derailed. Weeding, watering, harvesting and preservation always take precedence during these few short months.
Last Saturday, my friend Mary and I spent about 9 hours harvesting, pitting and dehydrating sour cherries, and that was just from one tree! This morning, I made zucchini muffins and bread, am now deliberating about how I want to preserve beets, and wonder why I let so much volunteer kale take over my kitchen garden! Harvesting gooseberries and currants is on the list for this weekend. Despite the frenzy of this time of year and the tiredness of my body, I continue to be so grateful for the bounty.
So check out my video below and let me know if you have any questions by placing them in the comments below!
Resilience is designing for wellness through time.
Resilience. If I were to choose a word for 2020, that would be it. In these challenging times, we are constantly being reminded about the need for resilience, on a personal, community-wide, and global scale. Our current reality has exposed the fragility of our systems. Whether it’s our food system, our economic system, or our healthcare or justice system, cracks are appearing.
Now is the time to reimagine another world. Now is the time to cultivate the practices that will get us through this transition.
That’s why I’m so thankful to Lorca Smetana for agreeing to do this interview with me a couple of months ago. In the midst of our stay at home order, Lorca and I discussed the intersection of permaculture with her experience in teaching resilient life practices. As always, natural systems become our teacher, time and time again.
If you don’t know Lorca, I highly recommend checking out her work here. Lorca is an innovative resilience and leadership educator, consultant and speaker. At the age of sixteen she was a survivor of the Mt. Hood climbing tragedy that took the lives of nine students and teachers. Needless to say, Lorca knows a lot about coming back stronger after living through crisis and tragedy. She is one of the many voices that we need to hear during these unprecedented times. On the faculty of the Human Leadership Development Program at Montana State University, Lorca is also a regenerative farmer in Montana.
We cover a lot of ground in this interview and Lorca shares so many nuggets of wisdom with me.
So give our discussion a listen and let me know what you think. What practices have you adopted in your life that cultivate resilience? Please share them in the comments below!
Here's a link to the podcast episode that Lorca mentions in our interview.
I hope your gardens are growing well. It’s the height of the season and that sweet time of year. I thought I'd take this opportunity to give you a little glimpse of my kitchen garden. As you’ll see from the video below, my kitchen garden is chugging along. I’m harvesting kale, lettuce, chard, peas, kohlrabi, garlic scapes and broccoli right now and my first ripe tomatoes and beets will be coming out of the greenhouse very soon!
I absolutely love this part of the growing season. The frenzy of the planting season is over and the garden starts to grow itself. My mornings are usually spent wandering the garden, doing a little weeding, a little foraging, sometimes watering, and obviously harvesting. It has become a refuge for me during these uncertain and tumultuous times. The constant birdsong, the bees buzzing, and the butterflies and dragonflies flitting about the garden bring me back to the present moment and remind me that natural systems are always here to support us.
Before diving into the video, check out this overhead shot of the kitchen garden. What a difference two months can make!
As always, let me know if you have any questions in the comments below!
I’ve been thinking a lot about composting over the past couple of weeks. Probably because turning my compost pile is on my list of tasks but also because planting season is winding down and I’m beginning to turn my attention to other aspects of the garden. Hands-down, how to compost is one of the questions I get most often in my consultations with clients.
Getting good at composting is all about taking the time to understand the science of decomposition, mixing the right ingredients together, letting natural systems do the work and, ultimately, ushering in a pretty incredible transformation. This transformation helps build your soil, which is a key aspect of your garden, the foundation upon which healthy food and a resilient life are built.
And as with so many processes in the garden, composting becomes a teacher for other aspects of our lives.
Despite the long list of garden tasks over the past few weeks, I’ve naturally been preoccupied, saddened, and angered with what is happening in our country and in the world. I’ve been reflecting on how we can take this moment in time – with the pandemic, the civil unrest, the injustice against communities of color, the divisiveness in our national politics, and transform it into something regenerative, something that helps build a more just and equitable future for all.
And that’s why I’ve been thinking a lot about composting. In composting, we understand and appreciate that decomposition does not happen right away. Transformation is a process and a balancing act. If we don’t have enough moisture in a compost pile, it’s static; if we add too many kitchen scraps, it will putrefy; if we don’t aerate the pile, it will start to smell.
We can’t transform kitchen scraps into nutrient-rich soil overnight, just like we can’t transform our society overnight. Both processes need our participation and take time, observation, attention, and understanding.
Like everything that I’ve attached myself to, whether it’s gardening or social justice, this is a marathon, not a sprint. We are playing a long game, one that demands patience, care, and community building. From observing patterns in natural systems, we also know that disruption can lead to regeneration.
So though my video is about composting, I hope that it also gets you to think about the promise and possibility of transformation. In it, I take you through the ins and outs of building a hot compost pile. This video is taken from the Building Healthy Soil Module of my Online Edible Backyards Series.
On a practical level, my intent is to clear up any questions you may have with regards to composting. In a broader sense, my hope is that as you build your compost pile, you are reminded of that process of transformation and the part you need to play in it, both in your garden and in your community.
I’ve accepted that I may never see the change I want to see in the world, but I take solace in the fact that I’ll play a small part in its transformation to a more resilient future.
Enjoy the video and let me know if you have any additional questions in the comments below!