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
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!
Community. Connection. Meaningful Work.
We all want these things, but every day is filled with challenges and compromises, not to mention bad news. Sometimes, it can be hard to envision a hopeful and sustainable future for ourselves and the planet.
But there is a growing movement that focuses on positive concrete solutions, one that helps us become more self-reliant, grow food we can trust, improve our quality of life, and build better relationships. That movement is called permaculture and if you haven't jumped on board, now is the time.
In my video today, I explain five reasons why you should consider taking the Women's Online Permaculture Design Course.
If you've been following me for awhile, you know that I am one of 40 permaculture teachers who comprise the first-ever online permaculture design course taught by all women. For more information about the course, go here.
This is a self-paced online course that is available right now. You could be learning about how best to design your property, grow food, capture water, and build soil within minutes of enrolling!
PLUS, there is currently a Winter Solstice Sale on the course at the lowest price ever! If you sign-up now, you'll get a 20% discount. However, you need to act soon as the discount spots are running out! So click on the video below to learn more about why you should take this ground-breaking course.
Again, if you want more information about the course, click here.
Or, if you have any questions, feel free to contact me via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone (406.600.7881). I am happy to answer any questions or concerns you might have.
Make the decision to transform you land and your life. Join me for the course!
I distinctly remember planting my bare root grape vines in late April, 4 years ago, with a couple volunteers, Tim and Carli. It was their first day helping out and I felt kind of bad about the task I had chosen. Rather than giving them an uplifting experience of planting seeds in a backyard garden, we were working next to my driveway, along a busy noisy road.
I had my reasons for the placement of the grapes (which I cover in the video) and of course, Tim and Carli were excellent sports. We busted up the sod along the fence, planted the vines, and mulched them well with wood chip. That same season, I planted some hyssop and oregano in that area too. And in the first year, the vines produced a couple select bunches. Every since then, they have been consistent and abundant.
Like I mention in the video, I'm no expert grape grower and I'm certainly still figuring out the art of pruning. However, we've had quite a bit of success and gotten great yields. I share some of my tips with you in the video below.
After watching the video, I'd love to hear from you. Have you had any grape growing successes and challenges? Please share in the comments below!
Since I've now moved from planting to maintenance mode in my garden, it's now time to think about fertilizing my crops. Remember that the reason our garden grown veggies are so delicious is because they are drawing nutrients out of the soil. While compost is a good spring amendment and encouraging microbial life in your soil is key to a healthy garden, sometimes our heavy feeder crops like tomatoes, squash, and corn need that extra boost.
So how do you do this without having to buy natural fertilizers every year? In my video today, I show you the basics steps of making comfrey tea, a liquid fertilizer that you can add to your crops throughout the growing season. With about 5 minutes of work and a little bit of wait time, you can make a nutrient rich cocktail for your plants. The cool bonus? You plant comfrey once and it provides fertility for your garden for the rest of your life! Not to mention the other benefits comfrey provides, which I mention in the video.
So click below and find out how you can grow fertility and make your own fertilizer!
Like I mention in the video, making comfrey tea is easy, but stinky! While the method I describe in the video is the most effective, here are a couple other options for making a liquid fertilizer:
1) Cut the fresh comfrey leaves into smaller pieces and add one gallon of water for every quart of comfrey. Leave it to sit for three days and stir daily. Since this is a much weaker tea, use it at full strength.
2) Air dry or dehydrate your comfrey leaves. Add an ounce of powdered leaves to a quart of boiling water. Once cool, cover and steep for 4 hours. Dilute with one gallon of water.
Remember that we are always trying to create closed loop cycles in our gardens and food forests. The fewer resources that you have to import onto your property year after year, the more regenerative and self-sustaining your garden, not to mention the money you save in the process.
What other ways do you boost fertility in your garden? Please share in the comments below!
The veggie garden is planted, my food forest is chugging away and now it's time to sit back, relax (kind of!) and let my garden ecosystem do the work. Of course, one of the most important elements to our success as gardeners are pollinators. Without them, a vegetable garden and a perennial food forest are not possible. In fact, nearly 75% of the flowering plants on Earth rely on pollinators to set seed or fruit. It’s no wonder that attracting them to your garden is such an important task.
Not only that, but attracting pollinators can be a fun and creative process, bringing beauty, art and productivity to your garden. So click on the video below to learn more.
Want even more information and detailed species lists of what to plant in our climate? Click here to download my 3 Steps to Attracting Pollinators Guide!
If you're craving green and a little inspiration for the growing season ahead, then my video today is for you. In it, I give you a tour of our food forest. Even though we live in a cold climate, it doesn't mean that we can't grow a lot of edible perennials in our yards. With 9 fruit trees, multiple berry bushes and a variety of other edible perennials and herbs, our food forest has turned into a very productive space in just 5 growing seasons.
What I love about permaculture and gardening is the opportunity to turn degraded landscapes into edible paradises of food, fertility, medicine, and wildlife habitat. When we bought our 3/4 acre property back in December of 2012, the back of the lot was just grass, with a Siberian Pea Shrub hedge defining the north property line and a large pile of garbage and organic matter piled up in one area. Having been a rental for several years before our purchase, not much attention had been paid to the outdoor landscape.
Through the method of sheet mulching, we added yards and yards of straw, woodchip, leaves, compost, and manure. Along with planting bare root fruit trees and shrubs and seeding annual crops, we eliminated roughly 8000 square feet of lawn and turned the area into a lush, edible landscape that has become the home for birds, bees, butterflies, dragonflies, earthworms and other microscopic life that dwells in the soil.
So check out the video below to get a tour of the forest! Then, I would love to hear from you. Are you growing fruit trees and berry bushes in your yard? If not, would you like to? Share your successes and challenges in the comments below!