Thursday, March 31, 2011

Harvest Potluck - September 10th!

Yes, it 'tis the plain 'ol "Harvest Potluck."

Because it's simple, and I like simple.

I wanted a name that would cross cultural boundaries, something fun and snappy, then realized that it didn't have to be.  People were excited enough with the word "potluck" - it'd be pure madness if I had a stellar name.  Crowd control would put this free event over budget!

This isn't a completely thought-out event yet, but here are the basics:

  • It's open to the public - as feeders or eaters or both!
  • The main ingredient of each dish must be produced in southwest Montana but not necessarily by you.
  • There will be music:  The Dillon Fiddlers have agreed to play country and bluegrass.
  • I'm hoping to get local grain, potato, beef and lamb producers involved also.  BBQ would be awesome.
  • Horseshoes for the adults and "wa-shoes" for the kids.
  • An information booth will be available, and all dishes will be tagged with the "production" information.  People can network and eat, no shopping.
  • It is not a fair, festival, or anything else super-duper entertaining.
  • It's good food and community.
  • I have very little idea what I'm doing, but it's working so far! 

I reserved the park (September 10th)- while also paying my water bill, love a small town - and got the run-down from the Mayor on the fact that I don't need a single permission, permit or inspection.  "We love people to do stuff like that. It sounds great" was all he had to say about it.  Oh, and he was glad I was going for participation from farmers and ranchers too.

Talking to the Farmers Market group on Monday, so should have a bit more to say about this then!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Seed-planting Has Begun!

Yesterday, we received our order of seeds from the Seed Savers Exchange and we are thrilled!  They are all heirloom varieties and are much more colorful than the hybrids I've seen.  I can hardly wait until they come up and produce. 

We have a ton of seeds already, from seed-saving last year and varieties we didn't get planted (herbs and flowers mostly).

So today, the kids and I planted another batch (10 holes with 2 seeds each) of Swiss Chard after lunch, and then once they'd ditched me for snack, I planted the first of a "gourmet lettuce blend," as well as Simpson lettuce and spinach.  I'll plant the same again next week, and continue each week until mid-May.  In early June the "greens beds" will become the "tomato beds."  I just figured they should go to work until then too.  I'll be covering these beds with bed-size hoop houses to help protect the greens from death by snow-flattening.

If all goes well, we'll be able to eat and sell greens in a month or so;  a very exciting prospect in the land of long winters. 

Next week, I'll be starting several seeds in the cold frame and can hardly express how exciting it is to have so many interesting new varieties this year!  Better get my tail in gear and organize all my pots etc! 

UP NEXT:  The Harvest Potluck

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Gearing Up Again

This odd thing happens at the end of every growing season:  we furiously gather the bounty, then sprint inside and peel, slice, freeze, boil, and can until we pass out in our food-stained aprons all over the living room.  Really.  This is what canning days look like.  They always end with two or more of us lounging/napping/staring-stunned-into-the-distance. 

And then this happens...nothing.

Clean-up?  Like, clean off all the beds and prepare for spring? 

I am worked.  No way.  Or in the case of last fall, "there's a crazy man living with us and we all are therefore running around all crazy."

Not this year. 

Not going to happen.  We have decided to get serious - not only about producing - but about making this space produce enough for us all within the next year or two. 

That and crazy people aren't welcome here any more. 

Well, the good crazy ones are fine, it's those bad crazy that you have to watch for.  Good crazy would mean we couldn't live here either!

New things happening this year:

1.  A ton of ground will be rototilled and then planted in green manure (legumes this year - calorie crop next year).  The largest space will be the "alley easement" that is basically a long driveway along one side of our lot.
2.  Another large-ish piece will be tilled and planted with potatoes.  I am really interested in what the soil here looks like - it's been our compost heap (not a well-managed region) for two years.  It is now moving up in the world, it's going to be soil.
3.  There is a strip of ground between our sidewalk and the street.  Not much going on there, so we're going to till it up too and plant stuff.  It's 4' x 120' I'm pretty sure.  Hopefully it'll be a lot of stuff, but it's going to have to be some kind of "stuff" that likes crummy soil and that's a long list.  It will get better with use though, and may very well just be planted in green manure also.  Clover's nice...hmm.
4.  We will have both children running around wild and helping us this year.  I am really excited about this!  They both are very good about plants, barring a few incidents, and really love to see things grow.  Between the two of them though, we may not have many tomatoes actually making it in the house.  There are much worse things to worry about though : )  Besides, they're much, much cuter than tomato worms.

We cleaned up around the cold frame yesterday, and Rick and Thomas built all the panels for it (we are getting good too - these are much better than last years).  I will post photos once the snow we got today melts a bit. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Until Today - It Wasn't a Concern

Just yesterday my mom and I were discussing "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" (I've just started it).  I made the statement that while I understood why people were concerned with oil consumption, and were therefore changing their lifestyles to a more sustainable one; our main reasons for producing more of our own food were the quality of food and personal fufillment that came along with it.

Today, I was listening to the radio while making dinner, there was an interview with some scientists involved in an independent study of the affects of the tar sand mining in Canada (National Geographic photo gallery and article).  This little bit of trivia just shot me into the group concerned with oil consumption:  "About half the oil produced heads south: The U.S. is Canada's biggest oil customer, importing more from its northern neighbor than from any other nation." 

I'm not from any kind of background that stands up and shakes their fist at the industrial machine.  I understand the need for fuel.  My husband is a diesel mechanic (semi-trucks and heavy equipment), and I was one for a few years.  Our very livelihood is dependent upon the industry.  I get all these things.  What I can't wrap my head around is the incredible way this process affects everything around it.  Thousands of acres of woodlands are just...gone.  Not just picked up and carted out either, the soil is washed with water.  Shale mining also falls into the shameless-use-of-water category.

It's the water thing that mostly gets me.

And the fact that I grew up in wide, beautiful spaces...and seeing those pictures of thousands of acres of land just gone just baffles me.  When you grow up outside, you constantly think of where animals travel on land, what they eat, where they drink/sleep, and what the predator/prey balance is.   It gives me a big, empty feeling inside seeing this resource harvest...where's the consideration of life in all this?

I can do without a car.
Without a lot of things.

Water is second on the need list only to oxygen.

Therefore, all things have clicked and I'm now concerned.

It's been a long time coming.

I think about what we can do, really simply and cost-effectively.  There is not a chance that we can buy a new, high MPG car.  We drive older vehicles because we own them outright and they're easy and inexpensive to fix.  We spend less in fuel than we would on a payment plus fuel.  Plus, I drive a total of 50 miles a month probably.  Not a big need there.

This isn't where I hop on the activist wagon, just where I add another reason to the list of why we spend our growing season months with our hands in soil.

There will always be a need for equipment and vehicles, but how much it is used depends much on how we choose to live our lives collectively. 


What can we do?

Get serious about producing most of the food we consume.  I will continue to buy big, fat watermelon until we find a way to grow them here.

1.  Convert more of the lot to food production this spring (in reality, we could grow enough food for all of us on half the lot).
2.  Grow our own grains.
3.  Buy some sort of bike (suggestions appreciated here) that has 3 wheels and a basket for 2 small children.  They wiggle and I'm certain we'd get tipped over on 2 wheels.  I am not an exceptional bike operator.
4.  Find a property/barn near town to keep whatever milk cow is fresh in, and ride my bike to milk her.  This would cut down our dairy-based food costs quite a bit...since we drive old, low MPG vehicles!
5.  Raise a beef and/or a few lambs on free pasture (hauling them would be our only costs beyond purchase), and fill the freezer in the fall.

These are just the things that we have been nonchalantly thinking about for the last couple years, and are now more convicted, so may actually get serious about implementing a few of them.

I would love to hear some input on these ideas, the issue (especially if I have misunderstood at some point), things that you may be doing to lessen your impact etc.  Suggestions are always appreciated!

P.S.  The prospect of paying over $4/gallon for gas this summer is seriously influencing the thinking about a bike.