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!
If your weekend was anything like mine, then your body, especially your back, may be feeling a little sore. I spent Saturday prepping garden beds, shoveling compost, pulling weeds, pushing a wheelbarrow, digging out grass, and watering plants. In other words, a lot of repetitive bending, pulling, stretching, and twisting. As I get back into gardening shape after a long winter, I'm reminded of how important it is for me to pay attention to my body, especially if I still want to be able to move at the end of the day!
That's why I'm excited to share my video with you today. In it, massage therapist and yoga instructor Rachel Esbjornson from REintegrative Massage takes us through several simple yoga poses that are intended to keep our backs healthy and strong during the growing season.
Rachel is a skilled massage therapist and her gentle way of teaching makes these poses accessible to anyone, even if you don't have any experience with yoga. As we discuss in the video, the consistency of your practice is way more important than its duration. So choose a few of these poses to do every day and I promise that your back will thank you!
As you can see, we filmed this video back when social distancing wasn't an issue. Because of COVID-19, Rachel is unable to work with clients at the moment. As Montana continues to open up, she is currently putting strategies in place so she can see clients in the near future. Like any small business owner during this time, I'm sure she'd welcome new clients once she does. So check out her practice and if you're inspired, send a little love her way when she opens up!
If you have any questions for Rachel, please share them in the comments below!
If you've been following me for awhile, you know that I didn't get into gardening and permaculture just for the delicious and nutritious food, though that's certainly a big bonus. My passion for growing food and living sustainably comes from a place of deep concern and love for our planet, for the wildness and beauty of our only home, and a belief that we can all contribute in a meaningful way to positive social change.
That's why I'm excited to share this video with you today. In it, I talk with our very own local 'zero waste expert', Julie Fathy, about her ten tips to go zero waste in your home. Julie has been on a zero waste and sustainability journey for over a decade and I love her approach.
With a garden, compost pile, and little focus on buying 'stuff', I would consider that our household does pretty well in terms of generating minimal waste, but Julie takes it to a whole new level. She has inspired me to go that extra step in considering all aspects of my home.
If you've been feeling either overwhelmed or paralyzed by what actions you can specifically take to make a difference, you'll want to watch this video. The tips that Julie shares are concrete ways in which you can be part of the solution. For every plastic bag that you don't use, for every piece of junk mail that doesn't arrive in your mailbox, for every item you can buy in bulk rather than with packaging, you feel lighter, more empowered and hopeful about the future. And then, you find yourself sharing these ideas with one friend, who shares it with another, and so the process of change expands and multiplies.
As Julie would say, it's not important that we are perfect at a zero waste life, it's important that all of us do this imperfectly in some way. So whether you adopt one or all ten of the tips that she shares, I hope this galvanizes you into action.
So check out the video below to learn ten tips to go zero waste in your home. Then, if you have any questions for Julie, feel free to drop them in the comments below! Also check out Julie's recipes below this video!
We know that food, especially grown in our backyard gardens, is medicine. Eating fresh vegetables and fruit every day is fundamental to a healthy body and mind.
Yet there are, of course, additional plants that have medicinal values beyond just being super nutritious. They help boost our immunity, soothe our throats, calm a fever, heal our skin, aid with insomnia and much more. Just as growing our own food allows us to become more self-reliant, growing our own medicine gives us that same sense of agency.
If you’ve ever wanted to grow and make your own medicine, then my video today is for you. I’m very excited because this is the first video that I’ve made where I bring on a special guest! This past June, I had the pleasure of teaching a permaculture workshop at the Green Path Herb School in Missoula, Montana. While I was there, the co-director of the school, Elaine Sheff, kindly agreed to be interviewed.
As I explain in the video, Elaine is an herbalist extraordinaire, with thirty years of experience in the field. Needless to say, I knew she was the one to ask about the top five medicinal plants to grow in cold climates. Not only does Elaine share and explain the uses of these plants, if you stick around for the entire video, you’ll also learn about 4 additional ‘weeds’ that have so many beneficial properties. These are weeds that are most likely already growing in your yard.
I do have to apologize in advance for the audio in this video. Unfortunately, it’s not the greatest quality as we were having some issues. It was also related to the fact that Elaine’s beehives were buzzing like crazy! But I promise that if you stick with it, you'll learn a ton!
Then, I’d love to hear from you. What medicinal plants are you growing in your garden and which ones will you plant next growing season? Please share those in the comments below!
This past fall, I was honored to be part of Samantha Bates student film thesis project on composting. In addition to a quick tour of my backyard composting operation, Samantha gives you a look into several fantastic initiatives that are happening in Bozeman. From the folks at YES Compost to Happy Trash Can to the Spring Creek Communal Garden, I'm honored to be included in this informative and inspiring short film.
As a gardener, you may already compost, but I would encourage you to spread the word to those within your community who may not already. With curbside composting available in Bozeman, it's such a great way to cut down on waste, while contributing to soil health.
Check out the video below!
Needless to say, these cold temperatures haven't exactly been the most inspiring in terms of getting out in the garden this spring!
It's at times like these, when I'm still slipping on long underwear in the morning and donning my down jacket for the 8th month in a row that I so very much appreciate having a greenhouse. Even if just a little bit of light penetrates through the clouds, the temperatures in the greenhouse are going to be at least 10 to 20 degrees warmer than outside.
Especially in our cold climate, the ability to extend our season and enjoy early and late season greens while giving our warm season crops a little more protection is really needed. Right now, I have an abundance of lettuce, arugula, spinach, kale, pea shoots, cilantro and dill in the greenhouse. Meanwhile, my cool season crops outside are fighting against the wind and the rain and planting tomatoes in my outdoor garden still seems like a pipe dream.
So check out my video below to learn some of the tips and tricks that I use in my greenhouse to maximize the space, minimize energy use, and mitigate pests and disease.
Then, I would love to hear from you. What season extension techniques and/or greenhouse tips and tricks do you use? Please share them in the comments below!
The promise of spring is in the air! I have tiny arugula, spinach, and lettuce seedlings coming up in the greenhouse and the snow is slowly melting off my annual garden beds. We've been pruning our trees in the food forest and I'll be tackling the berry bushes by the end of the week. I love this renewed sense of hope and possibility as we emerge from a long and cold winter.
If you watched my Planting Calendar video a few weeks ago then you'll know that now is the time to start planting seeds indoors. In cold climates, we need to get a jumpstart on the season. We do this by starting some of our crops indoors so that they get to be big enough before moving them to our gardens outside.
Starting seeds indoors can save you a lot of money in the long run as one packet of seeds can yield dozens of seedlings. Plus, you get to grow the varieties that you would like, rather than choosing from what the nursery has to offer. It's also rather nourishing to nurture and care for these beautiful green seedlings while it's still brown and snowy outside.
If you're excited about the prospect of a little indoor gardening then you'll want to check out my video today. In it, I go through the materials you'll need to start seeds indoors as well as the process that I use. So click on the video below to learn more!
As I write this, there's about 4 feet of snow piled against the south side of the greenhouse, the pond is almost completely obscured and the chickens are getting a little stir-crazy having been cooped up in their house. The thermometer reads 10 degrees F, which seems balmy compared to the subzero temperatures that we've been experiencing over the past couple of weeks.
But, believe it or not, it really is time to start planning for the growing season ahead.
In my video today, I wanted to share one of the most useful resources I have in my vegetable gardening toolkit - the Planting Calendar. In gardening, especially in cold climates, timing is everything. This Planting Calendar will give you a good guideline for what to plant when as we move into spring. It will also give you an idea of when to start your seeds indoors. Click on the video to learn more and then download my calendar below!
Click here to download my Planting Calendar. Remember, use this as a guide but be sure to check with your gardening neighbors and friends about dates that may be more specific to your site.
Have questions? Please ask them in the comments below!
There’s a philosophical and a practical side to gardening, “the why” we do it and then “the how.”
In most of my videos, I cover “the how” of gardening, giving you advice and recommendations on everything from ripening tomatoes, to composting, to establishing a food forest. And in the case of my video today, the Top 5 Seed Companies that I would recommend.
However, before you dive into watching, I wanted to spend a little bit of time talking about seeds, delving more into the philosophical, before you get to the practical.
In the chaos of early spring, I often take seeds for granted. I’m so focused on the “doing” aspect of gardening i.e. prep the soil, plant the seed, water, repeat, that I don’t spend too much time in contemplation mode.
When I allow myself to get quiet, to really consider the meaning and potential of seeds, it sort of blows me away. Every season, each tiny seed that I have in my hand holds the potential for generations of food. GENERATIONS.
Because if I 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 my 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.
Of course, that’s how it used to be. In an age where we can walk into a grocery store and get whatever we crave on demand, we often forget how our ancestors were inextricably tied to their food and to their land. Only since the advent of industrial agriculture has this connection been severed, taken from the realm of the commons and put under the control of the corporations.
Fundamentally, this is why I have a garden. Yes, the fresh tomatoes are delicious but for me, it’s about reclaiming our food from the monocultures, the pesticides, and the chemical fertilizers that impoverish our soil, our health, and our communities.
Our food system has a long way to go in terms of seed banks in local communities across the country, each adapted to that particular region. In the meantime, My Top 5 Seed Company Recommendations are good go-to places to get your seed. The first two companies are regional sources for seeds and the next two are companies who are at the forefront of seed diversity, seed saving, and reintroducing heirloom varieties.
As we retrain ourselves as agricultural workers, as we rediscover truths that used to be so much a part of the fabric of what it was to be a human being, we start to appreciate the ‘little things’, like seeds, that are actually quite significant. They are what connect us to the earth, to our food, to our bodies, and to our spirit.
So though I may talk about the practical in this video, I encourage you to come back to the philosophical, to the heart of gardening, and to the potential of the seed this gardening season.
Though I do not believe that a plant will spring up where no seed has been, I have great faith in a seed... Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders. – Henry David Thoreau
I'm not sure about you but for me, composting in the winter time is a bit of a challenge. Though it's possible to insulate an outdoor pile and add high nitrogen materials to keep the pile cooking, in my opinion, it's not really worth the time and energy.
After I've thrown the kitchen scraps that I can to my chickens, I do two things with the remaining material:
This video is actually from the Building Healthy Soil Module of my Online Edible Backyards Series (which is available at a 25% discount here).
In having a few options for composting, I am following the permaculture principle of 'each function is supported by multiple elements'. In other words, I want to compost and cut down on my waste. How do I do that? I have three different ways: feeding scraps to my chickens, an outdoor compost pile, and an indoor worm bin. Make sense? So when one option, like the outdoor pile, is unavailable, then I have a few other options to fulfill this function of zero waste. Building redundancy in your system increases your resilience.
If worms kind of make you squirm and/or you don't want to don your parka and trudge through the snow to your compost pile, then I also want to let you know about the business, Happy Trash Can. Happy Trash Can offers a residential curbside composting service. Even if you don't need this service yourself, I'd love it if you passed along this information to your neighbors and friends. Learn more about them here.
Whether you have an outdoor compost pile, an indoor worm bin, or have someone picking up your kitchen scraps, let's all work together to divert as much food waste from our landfill as possible!
Enjoy the video,