I know that this looks pretty industrial but I battle ground squirrels and pack rats (that have stolen entire tomato plant branches). My hoop house is three cattle panels bent over a 12 by 5 foot frame. It's covered with garden cloth that lets in about 90 percent of the sunlight. The tomatoes are planted in stacks of four or five tires that I wrap with metal sheeting, lots of room for deep roots.
Cloth strings tied to the cattle panels help keep the plants upright so that I can keep the bottoms trimmed and fruit accessible. And I picked up some sturdy cages at a yard sale, will see how those work this year. No critter has yet scaled my tomato tires. Some panels were old and bent and we cut them to fit over my bathtubs planted with beans and peas. I like the strings handing down thing.
Materials can be expensive but tires were free and a neighbor gave me the cattle panels as he was disposing of them. The fabric is supposed to last seven years, I will roll it up for winter, and the metal is a one time expense. The cover extends our short growing season. And last year something, maybe some sort of insecticide drift, caused major leaf wilt. Neighbors are three to five acres away so I am not sure how that could have happened. In any case the cover may help protect the tomatoes from this, also from some flying pests.
This has been a chilly wet spring in northwest Montana. Everything feels a few weeks late. I am anxious to see how things progress.
I am planting juniper in areas where we have disturbed the dirt for construction. Of course the berries are probably only good for making gin, not necessarily a bad thing. But I agree, there are times when deer will eat anything. One fall they even chewed down my Bittersweet. And a very pregnant doe once knocked over the fencing around a little plum tree. They don't seem to bother the Solomon's Seal, which has a very edible root. And having foiled the ground squirrels with lavender I am going to give that a try outside the fence.
We have planted a traffic island with things that aren't supposed to tempt deer. Don't want them getting hit by the cars whizzing by. Not much of what we planted there is edible however. Who wants to eat barberry? Some Oriental lillies survive.
If you have altitude you could try huckleberry, which seem to survive the deer. And morels where there is shade and rotted wood. They are really prolific following a heavy fire season. You might have to fight the bears for the Huck's however. Good luck with that.
I have just signed up for the chip and drop program. It was a bit of a challenge because my address doesn't show up on goggle maps. Now I will wait, hopefully, for a "drop". Wind storms here brought down lots of trees and branches so there may be arborists working in the area. We flagged our smaller fruit trees so no big truck will run over them by mistake.
I have been laying cardboard on my garden paths, weight them with rocks because of the wind, and would love to be able to cover them with mulch. Because I garden on the roof everything has to be hauled uphill. I can do that a load at a time. Persistence wins! PQ is more important than IQ. Lots of pine needles here, never enough, good for things like asparagus and berries as our soil is alkaline. (Ground squirrels got the asparagus, so never mind that. Does anyone have a good rat terrier to spare?)
Thanks for the information about butternut trees. Planting trees here is a challenge because of all the rock. (Time to borrow a backhoe). Still, apple, cherry, and plum, walnut, and Bur Oak are doing well. At 78 I probably won't live to see acorns on the oaks, but as had been said, someone will.
Rain rain here. At least I don't have to water the garden.
I know that this thread is no longer contemporary but I wonder if anyone out there has successfully grown butternut. I have Carpathian walnut trees but grew up loving butternut. I understand that they are vulnerable to assorted diseases but I think that they would be fine in our northwest Montana climate.
Yes, wall oven (s), and turntables in corner cabinets, preferably ones that turn out so things are easy to reach. And drawers instead of shelves under cabinets, soft close so I can close them with my hip when hands are full. I put wire baskets in them to hold pot kids, etc. Sauce pans I use frequently go on a shelf over the stove, canning pots on higher shelves as they are for seasonal use. My mother was the first home agen for Green County, Wisconsin in 1930s. She always said that you work in the kitchen from refrigerator to sink to stove so configure things in this manner.
My underground garage stays between forty and fifty degrees so lots of shelves for canned goods, garden produce out there. But my favorite kitchen thing is my raised dishwasher, only eight inches higher than standard but makes things so much easier.
A sink attached to a hose in the garden makes harvesting easier. I just toss carrot tops and vegetable skins over my shoulder into the compost pile. A peg board over the sink holds baskets towels and knives... ) I found a little RV stove at a garage sale, now need to attach a propane tank so that I can do some canning in my garden kitchen. (I guess that this last is a little off topic.)
Can you connect with other local gardeners? Everyone I know has seeds left over from last year and are probably willing to share, along with lots of advice.
Your own compost takes a long time to develop, and it's never enough no matter when you start. I have finally given up and I just toss it all into the beds, ready or not. We have chicken straw mixed with kitchen scraps that are both old and new. It all gets buried anyway. I call it guerrilla composting.
Depending on what your neighbors will tolerate you can easily plant in such things as bathtubs from recycle yards, like ReStore. I plant tomatoes in stacks of tires I removed from the landfill before the powers that be put a stop to it. I painted them green, which turned out to be wasted effort because we then had to circle them with metal sheeting to keep the ground squirrels out. All of this saves my aging back as well as money.
You do have to find reasonably good dirt to fill your tubs but I am also doing a little heugaculture by piling wood scraps (untreated) and broken limbs in the bottoms along with not so good dirt and then straw, chicken straw if you can find someone cleaning out a coop. So, less added dirt in the long run.
Starting a few tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, etc. indoors saves having to buy sets. Our challenge here is protecting them from the cats. Some years are better than others. And my last piece of money saving advice is to stay out of commercial green houses for as long as you can stand it.
I love the idea of gardening as social action. Gardening takes me a step closer to being able to consume locally. Until I can grow coffee in our cold climate however I will never be able to get this entirely right.
We live on gravel. Every shovelful brings up fist sized, and larger, round rocks. I am told that when the glacier dams near Missoula broke, as they did frequently, huge walls of water would roll rocks up over and between our mountains. Anyway, like I said, they are round and look like river rock. And as someone pointed out above, we get a fresh crop every spring.
Initially, as we were building, we piled them up between pine trees next to the driveway. Later we put them in cylindar shaped wire cages, ran two by fours between them for fencing along the upper edge of the roof garden. (My girlfriend was sure that I would fall off the edge.) Lots of people here build these fences. And then we built a rock cylinder to mount the mailbox. I used several to line a rain ditch from the garage gutter down to where I had planted a maple tree.
My great granddaughters like to make Cairns in Libby Creek and we find great numbers of them there and further up in mountain streams.
Chicken, or turkey carcass soup. I cut the "good" slices off a roast chicken and save for casseroles, enchiladas, etc. Boil the bones with celery tops I have collected in the freezer, parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme (like the song) and pull off whatever meat is left on the bones. Strain the broth and add whatever veggies are lingering in the fridge or garden, pasta of choice, S and P, probably tumeric, maybe siracha. I freeze lightly steamed kale and spinach flat in sandwich bags so I can toss some in soups, casseroles, etc. So, not six meals but one roast chicken meal, one casserole, maybe some chicken salad, at least two soup days.
I remember eating squirrel and rabbit with dumplings. My father hunted so we ate duck, pheasant, geese. (Watch for the pieces of shot.) And Mother canned, as do I. Easier these days, no dealing with rubber rings and parafin. I make end of summer pickles with whatever I can glean from the dying garden. You can pickle anything.
I used to keep a bread starter going. The kids got peanut butter bread for jam sandwiches, oatmeal bread for breakfast, cheese bread for sandwiches, etc. I had a bunch of "how to feed a family with a pound of hamburger" recipes. The kids happily ate most of them except for "Zanzibar Casserole" (peanut butter and catsup?) that I have yet to live down.
I have a thing about food security, probably overdo the beans and pasta on sale thing. But I am having a hard time understanding why people don't have at least a couple of weeks worth of food on hand. Is it all about pay check to pay check? Now we have astonishingly long lines at food pantries. When did we become addicted to the grocery store?
I want a tractor! But what I really need is a good old beater truck. Local Amish builders sell big bundles of slab cut from logs for $35. And the place that makes fence posts let's you come and pick up scraps for free.
I get the vegetables thing. I like veggies, I garden and can and I freeze kale and spinach to throw into soups etc. later. But don't any of you people eat bread? Cake? Chocolate covered cherries? I congratulate those who indulge in the occasional muffin or shortbread cookie but everybody else here must as skinny as strong beans.
Thanks to all of you who admit failures and difficulties. I tend to think that I am the only person who can't make things do well.
A note about planting corn. Our ninety day growing period presents real challenges. A friend has a large "community" garden where people can come and pick whatever is in season and put a little money in a jar. She starts corn in vermiculite. The seedlings slip right out undamaged. Even she, however, admits that corn is more work, and heartache, to plant every year.
A couple of things, simple stuff first. I have set up my small green house in large south facing windows and planted lettuce, arugula, and spinach in shallow pans, not for transplant but because I'm hoping for a few edible greens. I would also like radishes. Will they grow in deeper small pots?
Later I will try to start tomatoes, Mortgage Lifter, Stupice, and some other interesting cold weather varieties. I will put them in large pots and add dirt as they get bigger hoping to keep them from getting too leggy before I can transplant them. We can have a hard frost in June. Or is it better to just keep transplanting them into larger pots as they grow?
Secondly, I have been planting a few fruit trees, apple, plum, and cherry, and a couple of Carpathian walnuts. Because it is predicted that our climate will become drier I have also planted Bur Oak. All are still small, apple are the biggest, and all have made it through the winter here in northwestern Montana. You suggest planting perennial vegetables around them. All are protected from the deer by fencing but there are hoards of ground squirrels that eat anything that they can reach. (Hence all of my gardens, except potatoes, are raised.) I will peruse your articles about perennial vegetables but I wonder if there are any that you think are unappetizing to deer and rodents? I have piles of rock in my garden to encourage snakes and have rock to spare everywhere but have not seen any reptiles in permanent residency. My property boarders Forest Service land and there are many tall trees, Larch and pine. Birds of prey ride the wind currents up our creek's draw but they don't seem to be interested in the ground squirrels.
Do you have a link to the video about feeding plants a molasses solution? I fed such a thing, mixed according to online guidelines, and soon by tomatoes began to suffer leaf will ( could have been a number of reasons) and my radishes flat out died. The beans hung in there and the carrots thrived. So maybe molasses is better for some plants than others?
I love the idea of putting out strips of sock fabric for the birds. The Ravens are nesting here and any piece of string or fabric you put out will quickly disappear.
We had a missing sock epidemic when we had ferrets. They will even pull them off your feet and run off to stash them in some dark secret place, inside the couch lining, under the washing machine or dresser, in the attic,... . A successful sock treasure hunt could yield dozens. By the time you find them however their mismatched partners may have been put to other uses.
Thanks. We have ribbon tied along the top of the fences. Will just have to raise them a bit, as you suggest. My friend who is a bear manager can probably help me electrify them, grant money available. (We don't see the bears but she sometimes lets me know when a collared bear comes through my property.)
I learned that I need to keep the tomato hoop house covered all summer, secure indoor seedlings from the cats (!), Do not feed the beets a molasses solution (they just quit growing), and there's really no way to grow corn successfully in our ninety day growing period. And a new generation of deer are able to jump over our six foot fence, saw one do it today.
One use I haven't seen mentioned is in fire starters. I heat exclusively with my wood stove and quickly restarting the fire first thing in the morning is really important. All of my dryer lint gets stuffed into egg cartons to be saturated with wax. Certainly rabbit fur would work as well. A lot of my dryer lint comes from the dogs anyway. I pick up candles cheaply at yard sales, melt in an old double boiler, and pour over clumps of lint in the egg cartons. I cut them apart and toss one or two into the stove where they burn hot for several minutes. Always works. I have found nothing better.
A local volunteer knits socks that benefit our animal shelter when sold at fundraising events. I think that she works with cotton yarn but we also have people locally who raise Alpaca. They spin and sell yarn, mittens, socks, etc. So there are assorted types of wool, some certainly more expensive than others. A pair of buffalo wool socks can set you back more than someone living on social security can afford. I suppose that any wool socks can be repaired by darning, a skill that I can remember my Grandmother practicing. In any case, good luck with your search for good ragwool socks.
Catherine Carney wrote:I think the biggest barrier to creating sustainable approaches is people's suspicion about anything different. Around here if it doesn't fit in with the mainstream paradigm (monoculture agriculture, commercialism, consumerism) it's automatically viewed with suspicion, and dismissed as being something only "those crazy hippies" would do.
That mindset, thankfully, is changing as the old guard dies off. And it gets easier to make changes as things like craft beer proves small/local industry is viable. Hmmm, now I wonder if community level manufacturing might be especially useful in small rural areas like mine.
What about other plant fibers, like bamboo? Not growing much bamboo in Montana but family members who live on "flyover country" often have it near streams. It seems to be prolific.
And then there's my crazy vegan sister who, at 75, spends her weekends protesting the Canada Goose store on downtown Chicago, regardless of the weather. She will not wear animal products at all and if she wants to keep warm out there her fabric choices are limited and may include manufactured products.
I have not yet seen mention here of buffalo wool clothing. I broke the bank purchasing a pair of mittens for my girlfriend but she loves them and expects them to last forever.
A few years ago a climate ecologist pointed out that predictive models for our northwest corner of Montana all anticipate a drier climate with far fewer pine forests. I asked what I should be planting to replace the disappearing shade and wildlife habitat. He said, "Burr Oak". So I have planted four. They are drought resistant, slow growing to fifty feet or more, and can live to 100 years. I will not live to see the acorns it takes 30 years to produce but I know that my children, and their children's children, will enjoy their shade.
Lif Strand wrote:I like this idea very much! I'm wondering what you and others do to prevent gophers and other underground critters from coming in from the bottom and rabbits and other above-ground critters from coming in from the top?
Ground squirrels have been my gardening nightmare. Waist high raised beds surrounded with metal sheeting have helped. I grow my tomatoes in stacks of tires, also surrounded with metal sheeting which does run into some money. Even at that I once discovered pack rats had stolen entire branches of my tomato plants and carried them quite a ways to their nests.
My best, and cheapest, raised beds are salvaged bath tubs set up on cement blocks. Even the rabbits don't seem to get over the tub lip. Cement blocks are chesp, and tubs are sometimes free.
David Baillie, thanks for your response. I will find the well log. Initially we got 5 to 6 gallons/min. That dwindled to a pretty consistent 2 to 3/min. There is no aquifer here so we depend on seepage from rock. We put in the reservoir because we sometimes ran out of water in the middle of a shower, etc. So I don't think that there is a lot of water standing in the bottom of the well. In the meantime I love my reservoir.
Last week we replaced a broken pot filler and had problems getting the water turned back on. Had to replace a switch and will need to change out one of the pressure tanks (after I get property taxes paid). In the meantime water security is not the only issue. I also have "sewer security" concerns. Electricity runs the lift pump that brings waste from the septic tank to the drain field. Long and short, living remote is not for the faint of heart or for the technically challenged.
Because my home is earth sheltered I don't worry much about staying warm, or cool in summer. I am practically surrounded by Forest Service land where trees fall down a lot. I will need younger muscle to cut them up for my stove but two cords usually gets me through our Montana winter.
My major concern is water security. I currently need electricity to run the pump in my 352 feet deep well. Although I typically use less than 300 kwh/month (at a great rate of $0.065/kwh) a good share of that is probably related to the pump. Of course that cost is irrelevant if the grid is down. Note: I have an underground reservoir that holds 16,000 gallons.
So who among you has experience with, or knowledge about, good old mechanical windmills? Wind here is not consistent but it's probably enough to keep water in my reservoir given an efficient windmill. Who still manufactures such things? Who knows how to install them? Are they practical for my deep well? Don't some farmers and ranchers still use them along with a stock tank or some such? I really would like to be energy independent but access to water remains my biggest issue.
I don't see a lot of input here from actual "elders". At 77 I may or may not be old. I may or may not become burden but I am doing my level best not to become one. I am fortunate not to have diabetes, cancer, or serious heart disease, some hypertension not withstanding. On the other hand I work hard at staying healthy, go to the gym for Zumba and other exercise at least two or three days a week, volunteer at the local animal shelter on alternate days. I mostly eat what I should, floss my teeth, and walk the dog a couple of times a day.
I intend to age in place and to that end my home has no stairs, halls and doorways are at least 36 inches wide, doors have handles rather than knobs, toilets are raised, I had wall sockets placed 18 inches above the floor, and my dishwasher is also elevated about 11 inches.
My point is that I take seriously my responsibility to remain as healthy aand independent as possible. I also take seriously my responsibility to provide my far flung family with a place where they can live sustainably as our climate warms. My home is earth sheltered, I heat easily with wood stay cool in summer, and I garden on the roof. I am planting fruit trees and sturdy But Oak.
My original plan was to enslave a grandchild who would learn to love the woods and wildlife that surround me. So far no go. On the other hand my adult children are beginning to lean toward being here as they themselves grow older. They are drawn to the natural beauty here, we have mountains and water. A daughter and husband plan on building in a year or so. A son-in-law will build a few year after. An additional well or two will make me feel better about water security.
The kids put in two cords of wood for me. That should get me through most of the winter. I suspect that they decided that they'd better keep the old lady warm "or she'll end up in Florida with us". Ha. I guess that I can handle spending some time in a warmer place part of the year, especially during March and spring breakup. But the dogs are coming along.
We used to think that people over 80 were the oldest old. This is no longer the case. Although it's been awhile since I was middle aged I sort of wonder what happened to my sixties. So all in all I have decided that old is as old does. Certainly we can't control everything that happens to us as we age but we had darn well better take as much responsibility as we can for the rest of it.
F Agricola wrote:Seems like many of the current members are not very nice people, and a few are bullies. So, perhaps you need to decide whether it’s worth the anguish to continue with them, but, there are alternatives:
1. Easier said than done, but simply ignore them – turn around and walk away shuts them down.
2. When they approach you in the garden, simply put the hose on them – they will certainly keep a distance from then on. (Positive/negative reinforcement like training a pet)
3. Let your garden plots turn to self-seeding ‘weeds’ so they infest others gardens – if questioned, you’re legitimately growing dandelions, etc
4. Use the ‘Rules’ against them, and keep pushing for the ‘Rules’ to be enforced. I bet if you w noere to threaten Lawyer action, they would back off. (If you have a friend who is legal-savvy, take them to the meeting, sit back and enjoy).
5. If they ‘steal’ your crops, then ‘borrow’ some of theirs too. The ‘tit-for-tat’ is childish, but can be very enjoyable to watch as they implode from exasperation.
6. Extreme: do a Roman Army on their arses – pull out all your plants, spread a lot of salt on the soil and water it in, then resign membership – they will think they won and now have your garden plots, but nothing will grow.
I've been through similar experiences in Clubs. I found it good practice to remove emotion from the equation and think through the process logically - it's not a matter of life & death, it's just personal attachment to a 'thing'. Eliminating the emotional aspects certainly allowed me to think clearly and strategise ways forward that suited my needs and wants.
What REALLY makes me sad is the obnoxious couple travels HERE in your winter. PLEASE, we have enough of our own dicks to deal with, don’t need to import them too!
I like all of these options. Passive agression sort of feels good. I would add that agreeing with someone like these self important jerks, and then doing what I please, usually shuts people up for a while. Example: "Your dog isn't allowed in the park.' My answer is, "Yes. I'm sure you're right. Have a nice day." and I walk on.
I used to tell my nursing students, "When you see anger, look for fear." (Lots of anger gets directed at nurses.) Try asking what they are afraid of.
And they remind me of the clerk at the Department of Motor Vehicles who makes your life as difficult as she can because she has no power over anything else in her life. Tell them that you are sorry that they have such sad little lives. And then go steal their vegetables.
We have a large, high, metal roof that provides shelter for cars and fire wood, chicken coop, etc. in front of our earth sheltered garage. There are two ridges of metal "snow stop" that run across the roof horizontally. They are quite effective and even in heavy snow we have never had snow fall into the driveway below. They are only about 4 inches high and I am surprised that they work so well.