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Seed mix for Montana (directed at Paul + others in MT)

 
Mitch Blume
Posts: 11
Location: Deerlodge National Forest, Butte, MT
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Hello Missoula!

I plan on moving this spring to 20+ acres located within Deerlodge National Forest, the portion South of Butte.

As most of the area, the majority of the vegetation on this property consists of rocks and pine trees.  OK, rocks don't count.  Most of the trees have been removed by a logger who owned the property before us, so I am left with stumps (good for mushrooms/fungus), whatever type grass we have, some young pines the logger planted after he raped the land, and some sort of evergreen ground cover in the nicer areas (South facing slope with retained moisture).  I have lived in the Mid-Atlantic US most of my life, so I am not familiar with the names of the plants in MT yet.

I am looking to cheat a little, and use some experience of this group.

Paul (and anyone near Butte), do you have a seed mix you have put together that will work well for my area (our area) that I could purchase some from you?  I am just looking to get some different plants growing ASAP.  My primary task will be building an earth-integrated house, but I want to take advantage of the spring and get some seeds down.  Experiment a little and see what grows best and where.  You said to post on here rather than e-mail you directly, so you have to give me credit for listening, right? 

I saw another post that is similar to this request- but not asking to buy a ready-made mix suited for MT

http://www.permies.com/permaculture-forums/1998_0/permaculture/sepp-holzer-seed-mix-

The land has several areas, including a ridge, wet-lands (seasonal), a gentle sloping meadow, etc.  I plan on getting a pond established to help keep water on the property, as I am concerned about dryness in the summer.

I have to believe that more plants can grow here besides evergreens!  Also, the monoculture is prime for horrible problems like the Montana Pine Beetle, I need to help introduce polyculture to my mountain!!!

If there isn't anyone in the area with a ready-made seed mix for sale, I'd appreciate any lists of plants that you may have put together.

Also, anyone in MT growing bamboo?  I have read there are some types that survive in our climate.

Thanks in advance!
Dustin
 
Chris MacCarlson
Posts: 64
Location: Missoula
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fungi trees
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Dustin - welcome to Montana!  We're glad to have sustainable minded folks join us here in this little slice of heaven.  As a plant lover, I'm particularly exited that one of your first priorities with your land is the restoration of its' vegetative community.  Kudos - many people don't even give a second thought to what plants are on their land, much less have a vision for restoring native communities.

That said, I have a couple thoughts as you 'move in' to your land.

This spring, you will probably notice a lot of ephemeral annuals on your land, that only exist for a couple months of the year.  Taking a look at these plants will give you a good idea of what native flowers might be well suited for your area.  Take pictures, make notes, maybe even measure a few of your trees.   This will give you an appreciation of the 'base case' of your land, and knowledge of what native (and likely some invasive) plants are out there.

The Montana Native Plant Society has a lot of good resources about native plants.  They have articles about native landscaping, site suitability, a list of sources of native plant material, and good links. 

There are various good identification books for Montana, and our state also has a good online database of native plants, and invasives:  http://nhp.nris.mt.gov/

From your description of your area, you are probably classified as Rocky Mtn Woodland-Steppe transition or maybe lodgepole pine, to give you a starting point.

The groundcover evergreen on the south slope is probably a type of Juniper.

And although certain parts of your property may be able to support deciduous trees, you are in a drought stricken spot (probably <15" precip a year).  Extensive establishment of deciduous may be more hastle than it's worth, although folks on here would probably have a lot to say about getting important deciduous trees established, using biochar / organics, and starting from seed to encourage strong taproots.

Please be careful when introducing new species of plants into your landscape.  Bamboo may be attractive, but it doesn't fit in with the range around you.  Consider the purpose of such things as building dams (ponds) and planting non-native (non-horticultural) plants on your property.  Is the benefit greater than the potential impacts? 

I don't know what your food production goals are on your property - if you want to establish perennial food sources, there are fairly limited native plants that provide that.  However, there are plenty of native shrubs and forbs that are medicinal, and / or provide many ecosystem services such as discouraging erosion, encouraging native pollinators, and enhancing soil quality. 

Good luck in your endeavors!  Sorry for any criticism, but I can't help but have opinions.
 
Chris MacCarlson
Posts: 64
Location: Missoula
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Actually, reading your post more thoroughly, it sounds like you're higher up in elevation that I originally thought. 

Maybe you're in a montane Douglas fir or lodgepole pine area? With seasonal wetlands! 

If I had a seasonal wetland, and wanted food from it, I would definately try to plant some Camas bulbs, or cattails.

There are a ton of medicinal plants that grow in that altitude, where it's a bit wetter. 
 
Mitch Blume
Posts: 11
Location: Deerlodge National Forest, Butte, MT
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My mention of bamboo was to try to gauge the climate.  I have heard of it surviving in extreme climates - I figure if bamboo can do it, I can do it.  I've never planted the stuff because I don't like the way it behaves!  I would use it, however, as a protective fence if the werewolves got too bad in the area, that would be cool.

Yes, you are certainly right about the water, but I have a few ideas to help keep it around!!!  The area does seem to have a good bit of seasonal wetland.  The soil in these areas was very dark, and had similarities in my mind to the wetlands I have seen in swamps and Chesapeake Bay watershed wetlands.  Yet nothing but grass and rocks.  The heavy parts, thick and muddy, had these tight bunches of broken brown stalks.  Some were very large, and I used these root balls to stay out of the mud.

Unlike you, I read the $50 and Up Underground House back in the late 90's, I wasn't freaky about the word "underground" like you were    

I don't mind your opinion - I will be counting on it.  Permaculture and earth-integrated structures have been in my mindset since I could pick up a shovel.  When I was young I buried a painted 2x4 into the ground.  I wanted to see how long it would last if I built a cheap underground fort to play in.  I've been soaking the ideas of those that have attempted this before I have for years.  If all goes my way, I am going to make the Satellite Photo of my Woodland much more healthy looking!

When are you going to build a wofati?  I had seen this forum before, and read many posts at the time I was looking into Sepp.  However, when a friend sent me a link to your recent podcast at http://www.thesurvivalpodcast.com/episode-612-paul-wheaton-on-hugelkultur-and-wofati-eco-buildings , I decided to make contact with you because your location and methods seem almost identical to mine.

Thanks for trying to help people live better!
 
Mitch Blume
Posts: 11
Location: Deerlodge National Forest, Butte, MT
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chcarlson wrote:
Actually, reading your post more thoroughly, it sounds like you're higher up in elevation that I originally thought. 

Maybe you're in a montane Douglas fir or lodgepole pine area? With seasonal wetlands! 

If I had a seasonal wetland, and wanted food from it, I would definately try to plant some Camas bulbs, or cattails.

There are a ton of medicinal plants that grow in that altitude, where it's a bit wetter. 


Elevation is about 6500', and parts of the water origin looks like wetlands, has some natural pools, and feeds into a creek that originates at about 7200'.  I was surprised there were no cattails!  I could have been standing on their carcasses and not realized it though.

Mostly Lodge Pole Pine in the area, some Douglas Fir.  I believe it was the Lodge Pole Pine that was raped from the land.  The logger really did a number on the system.  I think this bit of land produced some really nice trees too, probably because of the water on both sides.  Oh well, that means whatever I do will only make it better.

How far do you think can I dig before I reach huge boulders?
 
Chris MacCarlson
Posts: 64
Location: Missoula
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Dustin - I hope you aren't confusing me with Paul....I don't own even ONE pair of overalls

I cringe at you using the word 'rape' to describe tree cutting, and I may have some feminist allies.  My guess is that your landsite will be JUST as productive, when growing its next crop of trees.  Lodgepole pine forests are well adapted to 'stand replacing' disturbances (check out Yellowstone park).  In fact, the logger may have done you a favor, looking at the state of the other lodgepole forests in your area (the pine beetle kill).  Now, you have a chance to establish a polyculture of trees that will provide you with continual sources of timber as well as other benefits.  And YOU get to decide what your forest will look like.

Lodgepole pine will probably still be one of the faster growing species on your land after this current beetle epidemic passes in a few years.  Your young trees will probably not get attacked, and this epidemic is of bi-millenial proportion.  It may be another 80-100 years before we get another serious beetle epidemic in lodgepole, due to the lack of mature trees, or climate change may make those buggers more pestilent than in the past.

Douglas fir is also susceptible to a number of pests.  I've heard folks that recommend Doug-fir not make up more than 25-30% of the forest, to keep Spruce Budworm moths from reaching critical population levels.  In droughty years, all types of trees are susceptible to a variety of pathogens, so thinning to keep the density down will be important as your forest grows up.

That said, native (or regionally native) species are probably your best bet for ease of care up that high.  But I'd love to be proven otherwise

-chris
 
Mitch Blume
Posts: 11
Location: Deerlodge National Forest, Butte, MT
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chcarlson wrote:
Dustin - I hope you aren't confusing me with Paul....I don't own even ONE pair of overalls

I cringe at you using the word 'rape' to describe tree cutting, and I may have some feminist allies. 


Hi Chris, no I am not confusing you with Paul, I figure he will read all of this though.  I don't have any overalls either, but seeing Paul in his videos sure does make me think about getting some!

I suppose term I chose for the clearcutting was a bit extreme to some, though I didn't have any gender in mind.  Since I was talking about the Earth, that does usually have a feminine label, so I can see if women might be offended.  That happens to males too you know!  Regardless, I treat everyone the same at first, it is only after I get to know someone that I start to lose affection.  I had to use a strong word because I am really worried about the deforestation of the land, as it is causing all the planets in our solar system to heat up!  Global warming!  No - Universe warming!  AHHHHH!!!  I really feel bad for the guilt some people carry, having to believe that it is solely their actions for the change in our climate.  TPTB will do anything to make the masses sad.  Oh that reminds me I left my Suburban running in the driveway, I was warming it up before I was going to drive the .1 miles to 7-11 (it is windy out so I don't feel like walking).  That was a few hours ago, I got sidetracked by typing this reply.  Oh the horror, I bet I caused Mars to melt its polar ice caps just now.

We should be changing the way we live because there is a better way - not because we feel guilty.  If anyone reading this feels guilty, just go buy something - it will make you feel better, perhaps a Prius or a reusable shopping bag.  You want to build a wofati?  NO!  We don't have permits for those!  This paper right here says you have to use the Acme H-type bolt to secure your sill plate to your poured concrete foundation or your house will blow away.  wofati's don't use concrete?  WHAT!?!?!  Absolutely not!  Like mike oehler says, building codes were created to protect poor people from bad landlords not keeping the buildings from falling apart - now they are used to make sure you use the construction materials they want you to buy and to keep poor people from building their own house using mostly materials found on their land.

The removal of all the trees does do me several favors, it clears the way for getting a new system established, and it lowered the land value before it was purchased.  I just wish I had some nice trees to use in a building - so I can knock them down myself grrrrr.

Thanks for your input on the trees and plants.  Paul provided me some info on the native species, so I can get those established first.  I do plan on trying to keep more water and more warmth in my little area for as long as possible for the outdoor plants.  I also plan on having a greenhouse, perhaps several, earth-sheltered, and heated beds (most likely rocket mass) for year-round edibles.  I won't attempt any sort of deciduous trees for at least a year, perhaps never.

There will be more than just pine trees, I promise!

Do you have any greenhouses Chris?

Am I the only person that has a problem with the reply window on this forum jumping all around when typing a reply that exceeds the default window size?  The scrollbar jumps to the top every time a letter is input - really annoying.   
 
Chris MacCarlson
Posts: 64
Location: Missoula
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I don't have any greenhouses - I'm still a renter. 

However, I did build a seed starting setup in my basement, using only $20 of materials from our local building materials re-use center. 

I bought a 4-light fluorescent ceiling fixture with standard cool-white bulbs,  rewired it with a plug, and put it on adjustable chains. 

I already have some Stevia, Celery, and chili peppers that have sprouted, and are getting a head start.  I've been looking around for an electric blanket at thrift stores to help my soil temperatures for germination, but I might have to just buy some higher wattage bulbs....

Good luck with everything - I'm looking forward to hearing about your trials, and successes with your new spot in the Deerlodge. 

-chris



 
paul wheaton
master steward
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Posts: 19829
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
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Dustin,

This is one of those things where you sit down and have a two to four hour chat about the land, ideas for the future and what we have to work with. 

Animals?  Nuts?  Fruit

Can you post some pics? 

Slope?

Permaculture folks are famous for dodging this question.  It just changes so much depending on so many things. 

After reading some books and seed catalogs, you find yourself saying "I want some of that, and some of that, and .... oooo!  that sounds awesome ..."

I buy fiberglass fence posts by the hundred and do test plots.  I'll make a row somewhere and put fence posts on either end of the row and put a label on one end.  So I can see how that does on my land in that spot.  (and sometimes I just wanna see what this weird plant looks like).  Sometimes nothing comes up.


 
Lisa Allen
Posts: 223
Location: San Diego, CA USA
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Funny that I see this thread - Skeeter Pilarski was talking about such a thing at the 2008 Montana Herb Gathering that was near Bozeman.  I remember some of the seeds we thought should be included, including the native Flax we have here, and thought if there were problems with birds eating the seeds that they could be partially buried, or coated with a clay coating first.  It makes me also want to find the group of folks who volunteer to pull invasives while they plant the more rare plants like Biscuitroot and Bitterroot that were an important part of the indigenous diet and are quite endangered now.  While I am down in the Bitterroot, which will be quite different from Butte (just the elevation difference alone is substantial), I think this could be a worthy project!  If I find the link of the other folks, I will share it!
 
                            
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Hi Dustin,

It seems we have similar plans! I am moving to Anaconda this month to buy a bit of land in Deer lodge National Forest at about the same elevation.

I’m planning an Earthbag, Earth sheltered home with integrated greenhouse, rocket mass heater, and a hybrid annual solar heating plan. Restorative agriculture for the land and what food plans I can grow by creating more favorable microclimates.

I would like to keep in touch as we can likely share ideas and save money also by sharing seeds, tools etc.

To answer your seed mix question; If you plan on maintaining some pasture, the natural, highly productive prairies of North America are a mixture warm season grasses, cool season grasses, legumes and sunflower species. We don’t know all the reasons this works so well but it’s best to imitate nature.

Don
 
Mitch Blume
Posts: 11
Location: Deerlodge National Forest, Butte, MT
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Khakiman wrote:
Hi Dustin,

It seems we have similar plans! I am moving to Anaconda this month to buy a bit of land in Deer lodge National Forest at about the same elevation.



Hi Don!

Sorry I think I missed your reply, busy getting ready to get the flock out of here.

I will send you a private message to ensure we have a low-tech means of communication, once I get to MT I probably will not have full-time internet.  My schedule has been pushed back by about 3 weeks, due to circumstances beyond my control.

I just read that Sepp will be coming to MT in less than a year.  I am too excited, I must refresh my German language skills from High School in honor of his visit.

Thanks for the reply!!!
Dustin
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://stoves2.com
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