roberta mccanse

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since Apr 19, 2015
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Near Libby, MT
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Recent posts by roberta mccanse

My daughter is hosting a family gathering this year and since we are a bi-costal family, and from points in between, she expects as many as 50 people. She has ordered dinners from the honey baked ham people and Cracker Barrel, adding extra roasted turkey legs (with a bacon blanket) and homemade pies. Since I won't arrive in time to help I mailed her some of my canned pickles, Chow chow, pepper jam, and cranberry conserve and cranapple sauce.

It's good to be able to get the family together for something better than a funeral.
2 months ago
My mother used to say that it takes seven years to get a garden right. This is year eight and I am still adjusting, still wondering how our pioneer ancestors survived on what they could produce.

Preservation has lent me a measure of security. As noted, some years we get a lot of a couple of things and not so much of something else. Next year we get great something else. So canning helps me save whatever we get when the getting's good. And now I have enough canned food to survive for many months, maybe years unless the kids show up.

Because I live in an earth sheltered house with an accidentally large garage (another story for another time) I have great cool storage for my many jars, squash, etc. I like cabinets with drawers that I can pull out and see what's there. I raw pack chicken when it's on sale and it makes it's own broth. And you can pickle about anything. Whatever I am gleaning from the garden at the end of summer gets pickled together (onion, zucks and cucks, carrots, cabbage, ...) . You just need lots of vinegar and a water bath.

It's hard to grow a significant amount of beans in my raised beds in our 90 day growing season so I buy canned beans whenever they get really cheap at the grocery. Who can resist a $.49, or less, can of black or chilli beans? Problem being that I tend to forget how much I have already and now I have canned beans to last through 2050. Note: big jars of honey from our local hives are reasonably priced and will keep forever.

Although my fruit trees aren't producing much yet we sometimes pick a lot of plums, apples, or cherries for people who don't want them to attract the bears. When I get tired of pitting plums for jam  I just can them whole in light syrup. The darn cherries do have to be pitted but they are worth the work. They are so pretty. I have a real appreciation for pretty things in jars and am adding marmalades and conserves to my collection. A lot of that gets given away at Christmas.

Dehydration is on the list to do more of. Neighbors are freeze drying things, mostly fruit, also some cute little marshmallows. That requires expensive equipment, more than I am willing to spend at the moment so nevermind that.

Enough said. I seem to have what I need and most of what I want, except for a way to grow coffee.
3 months ago
Involving the kids is one of the best things we can do. It's the grandchildren and great grands that are going to have to live with what we are doing to the environment. Almost everything I do here I do with an eye to their future. I am planting drought resistant Bur Oak, sturdy varieties of apple, plum, walnut, and cherry, and I garden on the roof. Hoping for a green house next year.

When I can afford it I will convert to solar. We are south facing and get good secondary solar in winter, stay cool in summer. I would like a second, deeper, well at some point, no aquifer here. The kids may have to do that. Water will certainly be their chief concern as we continue to get drier.

Most of my grands and great grands don't yet understand what their environmental future looks like. I continue to try to engage them, all live distantly as is the case for most families these days. Most will have to be directly impacted before they realize what is happening. By the time they do this place should be ready for them to live sustainably.
3 months ago
Be careful what you wish for. Last winter's snow in northwestern Montana was huge. I live in an earth sheltered home so did not freeze to death (just barely). Getting out and about was  a challenge. Thank goodness for good neighbors with big machines. Then a dry spring and summer set us up for fire season, not as bad as 2017 but bad enough. Climate change has us in it's grip. Looking forward to a new wood stove this year and happily eating the last of the frost sweetened spinach and kale.
3 months ago
I often have more produce than I can eat fresh. This is particularly true at the end of summer so preservation becomes important. My favorite way to preserve is to can pickles and relishes. End of summer pickles can include carrots, zucchini, onions, green beans, peppers, etc. as well as cucumbers and cabbage. Whatever I am gleaning as I clean up the beds goes into jars that are easily processed in a water bath. The Ball's Blue Book has lots of good relish and pickle recipes. Piccalilli and chow chow are favorites and they brighten up winter menus. My vet eats them with a spoon.
3 months ago
Thanks for the idea. We end up poking the staples in by hand, looking for a spot that is relatively rock free and then pounding them in with a rubber mallet.

I realized that I mistakenly said that our cages are 50 inches high. They are actually 5 feet tall. I have to stand on a stool to dump mulch in around the trees. Easier than trying to undo the staples and then pounding them in again.
8 months ago
We use 50 inch high circle cages, about 50 inch diameter. A very pregnant doe knocked over two cages last week so we anchored all in the dirt with 6 inch Staples. Not easy as we live in rocky  soil. So far so good. Clever doe. This hadn't happened before in the five years we have been planting trees.
8 months ago
The robot idea is interesting. I will take it to Zero Uno Zero, the robot guys here in Libby MT. They construct robots out of junk and are very creative. Meantime we are using, with limited success, the solar powered preditor eyes that flash red next to my bittersweet. Solar powered owls intended to scare pack rats away from my tomatoes are sort of helpful. I sometimes find large branches of tomato plants in and next to pack rat nests in the wood pile. My only real answer, so far, is severe fencing.
9 months ago
We have deer issues, elk have not bothered my trees but could be a problem. We use welded wire circles, 5 foot tall, 13 foot diameter, and get about 4 from a $50 fifty foot roll. Our ground has lots of rock so sinking posts is not easy nor is planting trees so every one is precious. No posts required for our circles, we just lift them over. And this is affordable for us as I only plant 3 or 4 trees a year, walnut and Bur oak as well as apple, cherry, and plum. The deer love them all.

If the bears become a problem I will have to electrify the fencing but so far so good. The bear manager here has grants to help with the cost.
9 months ago
Wow. Huge. I understand the need for water security. I would like to have a windmill for my well so that I can be more off line, and perhaps a second cistern in tandem with the first. I like the thoughts about gravel for underneath. At some point I may want a small house here constructed with grain silos and the rust issue is important. Thanks for all the input here.
1 year ago