Chris Sargent

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since Oct 13, 2014
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Recent posts by Chris Sargent

The biggest problem is likely going to be to keep it critter proof.  Most suburbs have raccoons, possums, rats, etc. all who would be attracted to fruit and veggie scraps.  Or even just dogs interested in the smells.  So you'll likely need something with a locking lid and heavy enough not to be knocked over.  Or possibly something mounted or securely attached to a pole or fence post.  Shouldn't be to hard to sink a mailbox post or short fence post in one of the spots you mentioned so you have something to attach the container to.  

You might go with a two part system.  Something larger, heavier, able to be attached to a post or pole, and with a latch to keep critters out.  Then inside some simple plastic buckets or a couple of small trash cans.  Something that you can easily pick up out of the more permanent structure, carry to the chickens, rinse out and return.

A small deck storage box could work as your outer box.  Wood ones could be painted something with something fun or chicken related.  Resin orplasticones might be easier to clean from the food spills, messes that will happen.

Look for outdoor storage bins.  They come on all shapes and sizes.  Some are more decorative others more basic. Some are pretty fancy and expensive others less so.  
storage column

Try searching for sand and salt storage bins.
sand and salt storage bin

Or these food waste bin might be just the thing.  They already come with a mounting system so you could attach them to a fence post. And come in attractive colors.  Not sure how critter proof they are but if they were attached to a post and up off the ground enough to be out of easy reach it might help.  There are lots of other food scrap bins out there and some larger sized ones have mounting brackets so you can attach them to a cabinet door (or outdoor post in your case).  I could see a fence post (maybe painted a fun color) with your sign mounted on the front explaining what it is.  Then one or two of these larger sized bins mounted on either side or under the sign.  It might come of more as quirky yard art than eyesore.  
4 years ago
I use this style bed in a couple of different ways.

I have some that are made from 4 ft welded wire fencing cut in half to be about 24" tall.  The fencing is just wired together to make a circle about 3 ft in diameter (but you can do any size you like).  Mine are temporary in that I move them around each season and use them for a bunch of different tasks.  When not in use they are easy to take apart and flatten or roll up tight for storage.   I've been using them for 4-5 years now and they are still going strong.  A bit of rust and a few bent wires but then they started that way as I made them from some salvaged fencing that had been on my property and half knocked down, trees landed on, and left in a heap by previous owners...

I set them up in a different area each year, partially because my yard and garden have been in a state of flux since we bought the place.  Everything is overrun and sun is at a premium so each year a clear a bit more, take down a few more of the large spruce that shade everything, make a new bed or two, plant a few more berries and trees, build a new chicken run, and so on.  My gardening space for annuals changes.  I'm slowly building out my plan but for now having temporary/movable beds works really well for me and I'll probably keep some aspect of this going even as I build out more permanent beds because I like the versatility and freedom.  I use these wire rings to make temp compost piles and build soil in areas I want to plant the next year or to hold piles of leaves, garden refuse, woodchips, etc as staging area when I'm accumulating materials for lasanga beds, etc.  They protect vulnerable young plants from chickens and ducks.  Throw them over plantings with a sheet cover to protect against those early/late frosts.  

Drying out could be a problem but is actual a benefit for me.  I live in a coastal rainforest in SE Alaska so my climate is cold and wet, wet, wet. The ground is constantly saturated and much of my property is a type of peat bog with the water table just a few inches below the ground surface.   So pretty much everything is in raised beds and we want them to dry out and warm up as much as possible.  If you live in a dry area I'm thinking you'll do better with something with a solid side to retain moisture and cut down on wind related evaporation.  

Potatoes do really well in them. I do mine in a new spot each year.  I lay down a few large piece of cardboard and place the ring on it.  Fill the bottom with a few inches of compost and seaweed mixed together (potatoes do really well in seaweed) then a few inches of garden soil.  Potatoes go down on that and get covered with a bit more lighter soil (usually some mix of compost and purchased soil mix).  The inner sides get covered with straw and/or leaves To hold the soil.  As the potatoes grow I mound up with a bit of soil/compost right next to the stems and all the space between plants filled with more straw or leaves.  It does settle some as the leaves/straw breaks down so I usually end up with about half to 2/3 full of soil.  The rest of the height of the wire actually works nicely to help train the stems upright and keep them from flopping over as much.  In areas where I want them even more contained (not falling across pathways) I'll add a second ring on top the first.  A couple of garden stakes and a few wire ties is all it takes to keep them reasonable stable.  When it comes time to harvest the potatoes I just remove the ties and pull the fencing circles away.  I'm left with a mound of dirt and partially decomposed straw I can just sift through to harvest the digging required.  This also doubles as soil building as the remaining partly composted straw, seaweed, soil mixture is a great fill for the next raised bed I'm building or to top off and existing one.

I've done other veggies in this type of setup.  I've had ok luck with broccoli and cabbages.  Some hardier greens like kale and swiss chard.  

I've also have experience with wire beds in a more permanent setup.  The pic below shows a new bed created by stacking two commercial crab pots on top of each other.  Pots are rebar rings with wire mesh sides.  They are lined with felt-type landscape fabric that allows water and air to penetrate.  We have a bunch of them in our school garden going on 8 yrs now.  They are filled completely with soil which the landscape fabric holds in (not with straw or wood chips like the ones I use seasonally at home or in the OP video).  we have them both one pot or two pots deep.  The deeper ones have dwarfing fruit trees and shrubs.  Shorter ones have grown all types of veggies.  After a few years however they look like the second picture.  They are really hard to keep weeded.  Weed seeds lodge in crevices and grow up around the wires grasses send shoots both into and out of the beds.  I'm forever pulling them and it's impossible to get them all from behind the wire.  I would assume the first year or two the woodchips might not support much for weeds but I expect after a few years as they start to break down they would become a nice grow medium for every weed seed that gets blown on there.  I actually completely emptied and dismantled a number of the short ones last season because I lost the battle with encroaching grasses and all the root/runner systems had taken over.  I have thought about ways to turn the problem into a solution and plan to try to use the taller ones as vertical planters for strawberries.  I'm going to cut some small slits in the fabric and insert strawberry starts. Once they become established I'm hoping the strawberries will shade out some of the other weeds.  
4 years ago
My back yard is a salmon berry thicket.  It's more of a weed than anything else here in SE Alaska.   I'm constantly cutting back shoots and right now I'm in the middle of trying to clear out a bit more area to use as garden space so I'm chopping down whole shrubs (they grow into 8ft tall shrubs here).  Most of what is in my yard are yellow and orange. But their are a few red around.  I've never been able to tell any difference is sweetness based on color.  They do very a bit in taste but I think it has more to do with the growing conditions and ripeness rather than color. The best spots get lots of sunlight but have cool, damp soil underneath.  To little sun and they don't get sweet.  

I could send you as many as you would like.  These guys readily sprout from root cuttings.  In fact I've taken to burning them because unless I have a really hot pile going they survive even in the compost only to re-sprout and take over that area.  So I'm sure they'd be just fine going via regular shipping.  I can fill a flat rate box from the USPS for you with small cuttings.  I have a bunch of roots with small sprouts I can easily dig for you.  They'd have to be smaller (less than 12") to fit in the flat rate boxes but they'll grow.  

It would be two years before you can expect berries though as these guys fruit on canes that are at least two years old and become more productive as the bush matures.  I could try and send you some larger plants but it's likely be in the same situation of shipping costing quit a bit.  I think you would want to wait until they went dormant though if you were going to try and ship entire plants.  
4 years ago
Dogs shouldn't be chewing and destroying things. If they do it's the owners fault not the dogs.

I have 2 labs. They don't destroy things.  One I raised from a puppy and he did go through a chewing/teething phase but I watched him, took things away when he started chewing them, kept things out of his reach, and taught him not to chew.  We made it through the puppy phase with only a couch cushion lost.  He did get some chew toys and things he was allowed to chew on and play with.  Mostly wood, bone, and rope but a few plastic items too I will admit.  Actually he still has the kong and tough rubber treat toys that I bought him as a puppy 10 yrs ago.  The other dog we got as an adult and he also does not chew on our things.  He loves to chew wood and sticks so he gets lots of those when we're outside.  But he knows the stick in the kindling basket are not his so he'll leave those alone. He will occasionally steal a wood spoon, especially if was used to stir some sort of meat and left out with the grease on it.  But when he gets a hold of one its as much my fault as his for leaving a dirty spoon out.   They get maybe two or three purchased toys in a year, mostly fabric and rope throw toys.  And tennis balls maybe half a dozen or so in a year as they do eventually wear out and break or once in awhile get lost.  That's not really all that much in terms of impact on the environment.   Owning a pet is not going to make a person wasteful and there is nothing about a pet that requires a ton of consumerism, plastic throw away items, or replacing household goods.  The people who buy all those gadgets, toys, outfits and such would most likely be buying the same type or things for themselves and their families even if they didn't have pets.  The problem is the people and the culture of consumerism, not the pets.  

I have friends with kids who destroy more and go through more toys, clothes, etc. in a month than my dogs have in their entire lives.  Heck, last time I went out of town the girl I hired to dog sit destroyed more in my house than my dogs (she broke an expensive wine glass and spilled food and didn't clean it up so it stained the rug).  
4 years ago
Can you do raised beds with covers.  Lots of ways you can do covers from simple hoops to building frames.  Most of these show plastic to warm and protect the beds but you could just as easily cover with some type of wire.  Monkeys may figure out how to lift them but it shouldn't be too hard to add a latch or lock.  

Something like one of these

4 years ago
Our school lunch program is great and the staff are very supportive of using food from our school garden.  So we're very lucky in that regard.  

Does you school offer a salad bar.  We have one every day and much of our fresh produce goes on this. Its a nice way to use garden produce that doesn't require a lot of planning ahead of time.  When we have fresh lettuce and greens it supplements the purchased stuff (our garden isn't large enough to supply the entire need).  Same with other veggies.  There is standard store bought stuff on the bar but also garden produce as it is available.

Have a special event for garden produce.

We always have a garden stew day in the fall.  We harvest our potatoes, onions, carrots,etc,  We spend a week or two harvesting everything with the students and then it all goes to the kitchen.  The staff puts a garden stew lunch on the menu way in advance.  They then have time to look over what the garden produced and purchase whatever additional supplies are needed to round out the stew.  Then one the scheduled day we have a small harvest celebration, do a bit of stone soup type lessons and storytelling with the students, and they have garden stew for lunch.   This works nicely because the kitchen can plan and put a stew on the menu well in advance.  The produce is mainly storage type items so they can be harvest and kept for a few weeks, which gives the kitchen staff time to look over what is available and plan whatever else they need.  Plus its a fun event day for the students and the teachers can choose to participate with harvest type activities and lessons but they are not required too if their schedules don't allow for it.  The flexibility and choice to participate to varying degrees is really key to getting everyone on board.

One of the main hurtles to using garden produce in the lunchroom is, as you mentioned, the need to have menus and food orders prepared well in advance.  We've fond the best way to deal with this is to use the garden produce as a supplement so that if it is available it adds to the dish but the days menu can still be prepared with purchased ingredients if the garden harvest fails, is smaller than expected, or ripens later than expected, etc.

The other option is to have the students eat the produce right out of the garden.  My students are always begging to eat the produce when we're out there.  I try to plant plenty of items the kids can just harvest and pop into their mouths.  For us that is snap peas and snow peas, carrots, radishes, cherry tomatoes, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries.  A hungry classroom an strip a row of peas in record time.  When we do root veggies I sit out several bowls of water and veggie brushes and the students wash their harvest before they eat it.  Another easy and popular garden snack is lettuce wraps.  Each student gets a large lettuce leaf and then get to pick a few other veggies (peas, carrots, tomatoes, broccoli, or whatever is ripe).  They use the lettuce like a burrito wrap to wrap up their veggies and eat as roll.  Usually I give them some dressing to dip it in but not always.  

So my advice is basically to plan your garden around things that can be eaten raw as finger foods with little to no prep needed and/or storage type produce that can be harvested and kept long enough for kitchen staff to make a plan to utilize it.

4 years ago
I've build several fodder boxes to place around the chicken yard.  2x4 frame covered in hardware cloth.  I've planted a mix of wheat, clover, various greens (lettuce, kale, chards, etc.  usually whatever mix I have left over from the garden planting).  Just spread the seed and lay the box over them.  Chickens can't get to the seeds or scratch up the roots but will happily eat almost any green that grows up through the hardware cloth.  

I have lots of berries.  My backyard is covered in native salmonberries and the chickens love them!  Also have raspberries and blackberries planted along the fence row,  The chickens get whatever grows into and falls on their side.  They also really like the currents (I have black, red and josta).  The black and red are really heavy produces in our climate (I'm in SE AK and isn't that different than you in western OR) and provide a lot of berries from July to Sept (mix of varieties that fruit at different times).  There are more than enough for me and the chickens.  They also propagate really easily so I'm adding more cuttings around the chicken areas.  I also have native blueberries scattered around the chicken yard.  Bushes in the yard are protected by slabs of wood placed around the base so chickens can't scratch up the roots.  I'm experimenting with a mulberry tree (still to young to have fruit) but if I can keep it going I think it'll be a good food source for the chicks.'s like chicken crack and grows really quickly.  Chickweed and peppercrest (Cardamine sp.)...well grows like weeds around here and the chickens love them both.   I've seeded various clovers for them.  And field peas.  Wheat and barley I've done on the small scale.  It doesn't tend to mature or dry out well here because our fall is so wet and cold so I've never tried to store it.  But it does make a nice meal for them for a few weeks in the fall.  

Compost pile/box in the chicken yard.  They pick over any table scraps I add and bugs.  I open the box and let the chickens turn it a few times over the summer.  There is always a buffet of worms when I do this.  

I can pretty much feed my chicken spring through fall but still need feed over winter.  I haven't really gotten into trying to grow/store winter feed.  However, I do supplement.  My chickens do really love squash and they gets some throughout the winter as a supplement.  Ive thought that these would be a good crop to grow and store for winter chickens.   Also potatoes.  They grow really well for me and store easily.  They do need a bit of processing (cooking before they can be feed out) but I can just chop up a bunch into big chunks and through them into a pot on the woodstove where they simmer until soft.  So I'm not spending too much time or wasted energy on this.  Again I just supplement their diet with these.  Not sure how they do as a regular feed.  
6 years ago
Sounds like an adventure.

Living on an island in Alaska I have lots of friends who live some variation of the off-road off-grid life style or have cabins they've built in a similar manner where everything has to be sourced on sight or hauled in on your back (sometime if you've chosen your sight well by boat).  So while I live on a road in a small town I do have plenty of this type of experience from helping out with friends places or just my own weekend/vacation time.  Just to let you know where my advice is coming from.  

The very 1st thing I think you need to figure out is how are you going to get to the site.  Have you had the chance to fully scout your property?  Do you know what the best access route is?  Does the site have any streams, gullies, steep hillsides that might have to be crossed?  Are there any really dense areas with lots of brush/vines etc. or areas with large blow downs.  Is it better to skirt around these areas or spend some time clearing them?  A good cleared access trail is going to be well worth the time you spend developing it.  Remember you're going to be traveling across the route in all weather (that little trickle you can step over now might become a knee deep torrent that is going to be dangerous to cross with a fully loaded pack after a spring rain).  That low area might turn into a boot stealing mess after a few weeks of hoofing across it in a damp spring.  Figuring out the access and spend you're first days on site creating a nice trail is going to save you so much physical strain and injury risk over the next weeks as you're carrying in heavy loads.  It doesn't need to be a highway but a nice footpath...cleared of ankle killing roots, pack snatching brambles, and boot sucking muck holes.  Something you can push a wheelbarrow or pull a small cart or sled along could be a big help.  Sometimes carts are more hassle than help when moving loads, all depends on the terrain.  

Once you know where you trail is going to start you need to consider a staging area.  I would suggest a short access drive and a clearing where you can leave a vehicle.  Something just in a bit from the main road and not visible from the road would be my 1st choice.  A short drive that you can gate or just hang a chain across might give you a bit more security.  Again it doesn't have to be fancy but a cleared area with space enough to turn a vehicle around.  I'd actually make this my 1st camp site.  Spend the 1st week or two right here.  Build a small shed here.  You're going to have times when you want to store loads near the road while you're waiting for muscle/time/weather conditions to get them to the main site.  Sometimes you'll leave these in your car but there are going to be times when the supplies need be on site and the vehicle may not always be there.  You're going to be spending a lot of time packing loads, taking everything out redistributing weight, figuring out how to fit that last thing or two into this load, realizing you can't even lift the pack off the ground, and leaving 1/3 of what you bought behind for the next trip in.  You don't really want to be doing this on the side of the road.  You also mentioned an atv and or cart.  Having a shed to leave these in near the road is a good idea.  Or just a covered carport type pole barn where you can organize your loads when it's wet/raining, snowing, etc. and store supplies out of the weather.  A simple timber structure should go up pretty fast.  You could just roof it with a tarp for now and take the whole thing down later if you don't need it long term.  Or finish it off with a real roof and maybe a storage loft for a permanent structure later.    Most people want to jump right into building at their more remote site but a good parking, staging, and storage area with road access is really something you're going to always need and want.  It'll make your life so much easier if you just spend some time on this first thing.  

So after I wrote this I reread your description and the fact you mention your site is 17 acres and has at road access on one side. So now I'm confused.  That's really a pretty small area.  I was thinking hike in as it would take you hours/miles to get into your site.  But then a realized on 17 acres you're never going to be more than a 15 min walk from the road.  Kinda changes the whole perspective.  You'll easily be able to hike back and forth to the car and/or staging area multiple times a day if you need too.  So not such a big deal to stress about what you bring in first.  Also much easier to just set up a nice base camp in the staging area near your vehicles.  No need to carry in your tents, sleeping bag, cookware, food, cloths, and all your tools on the 1st day.  Leave all that a base camp.  Set up a nice kitchen and a few creature comforts, like a good table/cook surface/worktop, if you're with your vehicles you can arrange for a few bigger heavier items (like a table, heavy dutch oven to cook in, etc.)  Maybe a few camping chairs, thicker foam pads or a few extra blankets to sleep better.  String up some large tarps and create some wind and rain protection.  

Slow down, spend some time making base camp comfortable and just exploring the site.  Don't try to start cutting down trees and building a structure on day one.  Get to know your site.  Really spend some time evaluating the trees.  Which ones do you really want to fell and which ones do you want to keep. Work on your trail and access.  Go back to base camp every night and cook a nice dinner and get a good nights sleep. You're going to be working really hard, going to want a lot of calories, and a way to ease sore muscles.  Allow yourself a bit of luxury while you're in base camp.  

Plan to hike into your main site every morning with just what you need for that day's project.  Plan what you're doing and just take the tools/supplies for that project.  Have a few projects lined up and an list of what you'll need for that project.  If you have extra room in your pack take a few supplies for the next project on the list.  Come out each evening with an empty pack and the next day take in a bit more.  You'll quickly have all your tools and big supplies at the site, especially if you're not trying carry in food and personal goods all the time.  

Start with felling some trees, take your chainsaw, axes, hand saws, etc.  Everyone has different preferences for what type of axes they like.  Some of it is just personal, how the ax is balanced, how heavy it is, the strength of the person swinging it etc.  Do you and your family know how you prefer to fell trees?  My husband and I each have different ways we like to fell trees and different tools we use.  The big chainsaw is nice for large trees and bucking up firewood.  But it does wear on the arms and shoulders.  Our lighter smaller saw takes longer to cut each tree but I can use it all day without the muscle strain the larger saw gives me.  A good sharp ax can actually be quicker when felling small trees.  Axes for felling are different than those for splitting firewood, and those are different than ones for timber framing, etc.  Also each person is going to have a weight and balance they like best.  I'd say don't try to buy and carry in all your tools at once. Get one or two basic items and start using them.  See what really works best for you and for your children (they are not likely to be the same for all of you). You're not going to be off in the remote wilderness.  You can easily take a weekly (or even daily if you need too) trip into town and buy, trade, or borrow tools and supplies.  Or really take your time and make your own as you need them.  Then you won't have wasted time, money, and effort on bringing in things other people told you you need but that don't fit your building style, or the local conditions, or whatever.  

While you're living in base camp you can also get your daily routines down.  Which pots and pans really work for how you're cooking.  What is the best way for store and filter water for your group.  Do you really use those buckets or prefer these totes?  Same thing with clothes, and sleeping gear, etc.  You're likely going to find some things you think are essential you never use, or you like one stye of tool better than a different one.  Maybe you much prefer a fixed blade in a sheath over the leatherman you thought you'd always use.  Leave these things at base camp and then plan some trips into town to trade, sell, barter things you're not using and pick up the things you really need.  

1st task, Clear and level a nice area where you can work.  You're going to be dragging around logs, debarking, trimming, measuring cutting, stacking, sorting, etc.  Having a cleared space to work is important.  Build some simple devices to help you. Some sawhorses, log holders, some block and braces to move and hold your logs. Maybe a shave bench.  Pick a site between a couple of good trees and sting up some rope.  Hang a tarp to shed all that spring rain.  You'll be able to keep mostly dry and work in difficult weather.  

First thing you build on your site is good weatherproof and rodent proof storage.  You need a good safe location to leave tools.  Tools left in the elements rust like crazy.  Small rodents love to chew tool handles and leather work gloves.  Moths and other bugs will happily destroy clothing.  Everything will want your food supplies.  If a mouse or squirrel can chew into it they will.  If you make it safe from rodents a raccoon will figure out how to open the latch or lift off a lid, plenty of critters will dig into sheds, or climb walls, etc.  So before you leave anything on site make sure you have a way to secure it from rain and wind as well as whatever might want to eat it, chew it up, or nest in it.  Once you have a secure shed you can start bringing in tools and supplies.   IF you're staying at base camp at 1st you don't need to worry as much about food storage right off.  Just eat most your meals at base camp and just bring in lunches and maybe a handful of backup/emergency items in case you need an afternoon snack or end up staying out through dinner.  

I wouldn't bother with a temp sleeping structure.  Anything you can throw up in a day or two is not likely to be small and cramped.  Plus not too likely to be very weatherproof nor keep out the bugs.  And bug are going to be your biggest enemy during spring and summer.  The tent will likely serve you better.  A second tent would be a good idea.  You and your adult children might each like their own living space.  Plus it gives you a safety backup option when one tent collapses under high winds in the middle of the worst thunderstorm of the century.  A hammock with a bug net over it is a really comfortable way to sleep in the summer.  Plus you can easily move it around if you want to spread out, have some personal space, or just take advantage of a different view now and again.  A thermarest type mattress in a hammock is really nice.  Adds just a bit more support and some warmth from cool breezes.  

Spend your time and effort on structures you are going to want to keep around longer term.  A good workshop/large shed would be high on my list.  You can always string some hammocks up inside it if the weather is really bad to sleep and take them down to work during the day.  Do you have any timber framing experience?  A simple timber framed structure would be a great 1st building.  Get up the frame and the roof.  Now you have a nice dry area to work and/or sleep. Then spend some time to finish out the walls.  Cordwood walls might be a good option since you have timber.  Or wattle and daub.  Do walls with some insulation value and this building will be a snug place to spend your 1st winter.  Later you'll have a really nice year round shop or maybe one of the adult kids would prefer to continue using this as a living space.  

An outdoor kitchen with a covered eating area and secure food storage would be next up for me.  Will make life around camp much better and still be nice to have and use even when the house is built.  I'd build a clay dome oven if it was me.  Really nice to bake in and if you have clay soils on site everything could be sourced right there.  Its an easy way to slow cook/simmer things for hours since they hold their heat so well.   bit of time to stoke up the fire and get it nice and hot in the morning and then fill it with pots of beans and rice, a roast or a good stew in a dutch oven, etc.  Close it up and walk away.  Come back a dinnertime and everything will have slow cooked/simmer all day.  When you're working all day it's nice to have a meal that you can prep and then doesn't need any tending until it's ready to eat that night.  Or fire it up, bake your pizza for dinner, load up some loaves of bread, they'll bake while you eat, take out the bread, and load up your pots of rice, or some grains or porridge and go to sleep.  They'll cook overnight and you'll have a warm breakfast the next day.  

Do you have any tree felling experience?  That's where you're going to need to start.  You can build some simple structures out of raw wood but most types of building you're going to need properly prepared and aged logs.  Most people spend a summer felling logs (or sometimes a winter as some trees and building types benefit from cutting the trees when there is no sap running during the winter).  Then dragging them to a storage area, debarking and prepping them, and letting them dry for a season or two before using.  If you want to be in a structure this winter you're going to be building with green wood.  This is ok for some building types but you need to understand how the wood is going to dry, and in the process shrink, warp, and crack. This might differ depending upon what tree species you'll be using.   A big concern if you're going to mill any and use boards.  Less of a concern for timbers, might be a concern for poles.   Maybe your husband knows this already from his carpentry experience but building things with milled 2x4 is a different ballgame than starting by cutting down the tree.  If you do build with green wood you're going to need to leave the timbers exposed for at least a season or two so they can properly dry out.  That means you're not going to want to finish a house, plaster, insulate or seal it up right away.  

Actually felling trees in the spring might be the worst time to do it.  Sap is running quite strong and the cambiun layer is going to be swollen with sap.  These means the trees will be really wet and heavy.  It also means if they dry too quickly they'll be more likely to warp or crack.  Cutting and prepping a bunch of spring trees then exposing them to a really hot summer conditions is likely going to be a problem.  Drying logs in shady area where they are not exposed to direct sun is often recommended to avoid temperature swings and rapid drying.  If you're using those logs in a structure when they're green they are going to be immediately exposed to sun and little protection from summer heat/rapid drying.  The plus side to felling in the spring is that the bark slips/peels off really easy because it is so wet and swollen. If you can then let the logs age in the round you'll have less work.  Sometimes it's better not to debark the logs as this will slow down the drying of the outer layer and keep it more compatible with drying on the heartwood.  Again this can depend upon species and time of year the tree is cut.  High sap content wood is also more prone to rot and more attractive to insects because of the higher sugar content in the wood.  I'd at least wait until summer when the trees are fully leafed out to cut any.  Growth is much slower then so the water/nutrient needs of the tree are reduced and thus sap content compared to the spring.  Plus cutting trees in the spring is just no fun.  Everything is full of sap and sticky, sticky, sticky.  You'll be covered in sap and pitch...which is almost impossible to wash off.  Even worse so will all your tools.  If you're using a chainsaw you're going to have to replace the chain often and soak and clean them so you'll have to have more spare chains in the rotation and spend a lot more elbow grease freeing the chains and bars.  Axes and saws are a little less trouble to clean but they will get coated with sap and bits of dirt and grit will stick to them or between the teeth and they will dull faster.  You'll still need to clean and sharpen them more often.  I cut sown some pine this last spring and bucked it up for firewood.  That stuff bleed everywhere and made huge mess of my tools and me.  Even after 10 months of drying there are still streaks of sticky sap on all the cut ends.  I've gotten to the point in the woodpile where I've starting using this pine and it's still a pain to handle.  I keep forgetting that it's mixed onto the wood pile and get my hands sticky whenever I go to pick up a piece without my gloves on.  I also got a nice glob of pitch and a stain on one of my better coats because I grabbed an armload of wood and carried it in on my way past the woodshed not thinking about the fact I was wearing my better coat and there was that sticky pine in the pile.  I can't even imagine trying to build with this stuff or using the sticky poles in a structure.  

Almost everyone I know that builds up here starts by just spending the 1st summer on site, doing prep work, and felling trees, maybe building a few simple storage sheds and a tent platform, possibly doing some foundation work and/or rockwork.  Then they come out for the winter, let everything age, dry, and settle.  Then the real building happens the second season when everything is prepped and ready.  Now Kentucky winters are not the same but it is going to get cold and wet and probably some snow and freezing temps.  Building a structure that is good for the winter starting from the trees is no easy task in one summer.  If you're also trying to improve the land, build some garden beds, forage, hunt, and preserve food, put up a winters supply of firewood, and so on.  Its a huge task! And possibly not the right way to do it from a timber strength and longevity point of view.  Just something to think about and consider when you're planning where to spend your first winter.    

Ok I feel like I've written a novel and barely even gotten started on all the things I could tell you.  But don't want to preach at you if you already know a lot of this.  I haven't even started on started on foraging and wild edibles which is actually a passion of mine.....
6 years ago
There are a couple of seed companies that specialize in Alaska varieties.  The biggest is Denali Seed and you'll find their seeds at  They have a mix of heirloom, hybrid, organic, and conventional seeds.  They do bred for Alaska conditions and only sell varieties that have been proven to grow here (although you do still need to be careful as some of their varieties can only be greenhouse grown).  I find thier descriptions and info about growing conditions to be really useful.  I've used them for years and had good results.

Then there is Foundroot. They specialize in open-pollinated varieties that are developed for Alaska conditions.  I just recently discovered them so haven't used them yet.  I plant to try them out this spring.

Jonny's Select seeds is a Maine company but specializes in cold weather, short season crops and I know many Alaskans use them.  

I also like West Coast Seeds out of British Columbia and Territorial Seeds from the Pacific Northwest but I'm in SE Alaska where the growing conditions are a bit more like that of BC.  Both have lots of cold hardy varieties that would likely do well for you as well.

Of course other local gardeners are your best resource.  Check out the Central Peninsula Gardening Club  I would assume Homer and Seward probably have gardening clubs and would likely be worth your while to find out about some of their events.   This time of year many garden groups are doing workshops, group seed orders, seed exchanges, and the like.  

For general information on varieties and growing in Alaska the Cooperative Extension Service  They have variety lists for the different Alaska regions. Lots of articles some with really good info about growing in our conditions.  

If you get up to Anchorage check out the botanical gardens there.  I know they sell some seeds in the gift shop.  Look for their spring plant sales.  Also a great resource for info especially for herbs and perienials.  

Read some of Jeff Lowenfels  Alaska gardening articles.  I know he just did an article about seeds.  I think he does one every year about this time so looking through the archives might get you some good info.  

Master Gardener Ed Buyarski does a couple of radio shows, Gardentalk and In the Garden and is a font of information on growing here in Alaska conditions.  

6 years ago
I second feeding it to the chickens.  I often give my used cooking oil and accumulated grease/fat to the chickens.  Usually mix it in with some grains, old bread, or whatever other scraps I might have around to soak up the oil.  The birds love it.  l sometimes mix a batch of grease with grains to make suet cakes.  You can throw them in the freezer and then feed out as treats though out the winter.  

If the oil is really old or gone rancid then I'm not sure if it would be ok for chickens or birds.  In that case I like the idea of soaking wood or cardboard in it to make fire starters.  
6 years ago