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!
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!