I’m Back


Hey guys, sorry it’s been so long since I’ve done anything here. But that will be changing, this blog actually worked as part of my platform to get me a writing contract. …I guess I should take back those things I said about BWH too. Don’t hold your breath on much agitating, but I will be posting about the homestead progress as time allows. This summer I NEED to get the attached greenhouse done, in addition to the third and fourth floor (~300 ft2) and relocate the solar panels. If I can manage it I’d also like to get the fifth floor catwalk and eighth floor crows nest done also. right now I’m still trying to get the garden in, but it’s so damn wet and cold it’s a constant fight.

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Published in: on June 17, 2011 at 3:05 am  Comments (8)  

Winter


Winter has finally arrived in The Gulch. I have no complaints, in fact it was such a nice fall it almost made up for the long horrible spring we had. We finished processing the onions and mustard we grew in the garden this summer, and I’m already feeling a longing for the seed catalogs.

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Published in: on November 19, 2010 at 12:59 am  Comments (6)  
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Fall Nears


Berry week didn’t work as well as I had hoped. We ended up getting about a half gallon more of raspberries and these five quarts of Elderberries for wine I’ll make this winter.

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The low temperatures have been in the thirties for almost a week now. Luckily we haven’t had any hard freezes yet, and have lost only the squash, corn, and peppers.

The Boy and I have been taking advantage of the cooler temps to put up firewood. We have about half what we need so far:

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I discovered our hot water system was thermosiphoning BTUs into our floor anytime a flow check valve I installed was open. I also discovered check valves (at least the brass ones I’ve been using) don’t really work reliably. Thermosiphoning is a truly amazing and much more efficient process than I previously believed. Three hundred more dollars to Granger, two solenoid valve bodies, two 110V 60Hz actuator coils and I fixed the problem :

Photobucket The tank temps shown are about 10 degrees below normal since I had taken a shower right before taking the pic.

Some of the girls are taking getting ready for winter more seriously than me:

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Published in: on September 1, 2010 at 11:43 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Berry Week


Today we as a family went to a new raspberry patch I found this year and each filled a quart jar in about half an hour.

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Tomorrow we pick elderberries, I expect at least a couple of gallons. Thursday we pick Huckleberries/whortleberries, and Friday we go back to raspberries.

We got down into the thirties last night and lost all our squash/peppers and a few potato plants. We harvested our first turnip of the year yesterday. The fava plants are doing great:

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I finished the last “must do” infrastructure project of the year today, our spring house entryway:

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Published in: on August 25, 2010 at 1:34 am  Comments (6)  
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Extreme Gardening


This time of year I’m usually busy getting the garden in. The following picture I took this morning will explain why I’m writing about gardening instead of actually doing it:
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Growing your own food above 6000 feet in the Northern Rockies is a challenge. I figured I’d be alright. Hell, I direct sowed tomatoes and hot peppers at almost 8000 feet where we use to live, even though everyone said it wouldn’t work.

Here is the history of gardening in Goat’s Gulch. Our first spring I ordered several hundred dollars worth of plants from Gurney’s, I broke sod on two 4X10 beds and planted two types of asparagus in them. I also planted over a dozen blueberry bushes, several currants, raspberries, and rhubarb plants and four apple trees. None of these plants are still alive. Even though I planted the domestic raspberries within feet of some of their wild cousins on our property they didn’t reappear the next spring. The Blueberries all died even though 70% of our 30 acres are covered with wild Huckleberries and Alpine Whortleberries both relatives of domesticated Blueberries.

The second year I dug a third bed and planted a bunch of Jerusalem Artichokes which a friend had traded me for some Whortleberries plants. Now these relatives of the Sunflower are always described as having a weed like ability to take over a garden. They all died the following year.

I dug another garden bed the second year to start running vegetables trials in. I planted all the types of root crop seeds I had. We had our first success with the Turnips, Rutabagas, Radishes and Beets. Our first (and only to date) root crop failure was with the Parsnips.

The next year I dug a fifth bed specifically for garlic that year I fall planted it; the following year I spring planted it. The Garlic hasn’t been a complete failure however it hasn’t been a complete success yet either. I will continue experimenting with it.

That third year I planted five different types of Radishes, Turnips, Rutabagas, and around six different types of Beets. Because the garden beds were so small I really pushed the limits of intensive gardening that year. My rows were spaced six inches apart and everything was planted one inch apart. I would pick “baby” beets, etc. every couple of days so there would be enough room for the others to grow. This spacing would end up screwing me with no mature roots the following year when I didn’t harvest nearly so often, but worked great this year. The third year we also had our first success with a non-root crop; lettuce. However, the cabbage we tried that year failed.

The following year (last year) we planted everything we had had success with so far; Turnips, Rutabagas, Beets, Radishes and lettuce. We also added spinach, mustard greens, several oriental greens, peas, carrots, onions and potatoes. All of these did well except the potatoes needed more time (we planted two weeks earlier this year) the peas failed to climb the lodge-pole saplings we provided for them (they are now planted along the interior fence,) and the Bok Choy bolted almost immediately. The onions did better than any other crop we have tried so far. We had a failed experimental run of green beans last year as well.

Last year I also built a separate hot bed (in a different location) for growing corn, sunflowers, and members the Cucurbitaceae Family (melons, squash, cukes.) I had huge hopes for all of these, everything had emerged in about a week and the corn was already 4 inches high when the local chipmunk population found the beds. The death toll of my baby plants in two days was only beaten by the death toll of the local chipmunk population the following week. For most of my life I’ve killed animals to eat, or to end their misery. However, never before this time had I really enjoyed the actual kill. It was like Lord of the Flies, with a lawn chair, a .22 rifle and beer.

This year we combined five of the six lower beds, and expanded them towards the south by about 12 feet. The goal is to eventually (this spring) run this area all the way to the south to the unused Jerusalem artichoke bed. I had hoped to try the upper hot bed again, but since the chickens have been scratching in there every day (the goat hay was stored in that area over the winter) I will need much more chicken wire than I current have to keep them out. We have already planted 7 rows of colored potatoes (seed we saved from last year,) five rows of onion sets (including a trial run of eight shallots,) and two rows of peas (snap, garden, and snow.)

In a few days (after this damn snow stops) we will be planting an experimental row of Fava beans (I have high hopes for this cool weather bean,) two rows of beets (mostly canners,) three rows of carrots, one row of turnips and rutabagas, and three rows of spinach.

In about a week we will be inter-planting (with the spuds and onions) experimental runs of Cabbage, Kale, Kohlrabi, and Brussels Sprouts.

On or around June 7th we will be planting our last experimental runs for the year. These include several rows of green beans inter-planted with the potatoes, two hills each of five different types of early C. pepo squash, several different types of cucumbers and four different types of corn.

A lot of people say a person can’t grow a garden up here. In a sense they are right; if a person thought they’d just throw some seeds in the ground after some sort of SHTF scenario, those people would starve. However, we have proven that if a person spends the time necessary to find out what works and what doesn’t, growing a garden here is possible.

Garden Work


Every year I’ve tried to triple the size of our garden. Here is this years work:
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Last Years:
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The garden is actually large enough for us to use row planting now and I sowed the potatoes, peas, and Onions yesterday.

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Published in: on May 19, 2010 at 4:41 pm  Comments (1)  
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More F-ing Snow


It’s been snowing for almost a week now. Not much is sticking, just a constant couple of inches on the ground. All the work in the garden has stopped, my hope to get the peas in the ground yesterday failed. We had planned a Mayday Party, I canceled that yesterday also. Frustration is my word of the week. There is a little bit of Sheetrock left I could do (the six inch strips on the crowns between the log rafters,) but I’m not motivated enough to do it. All I want to do is play Hobbit and get my hands in our good tilled earth and celebrate the work with an ale and some good pipe weed. Oh, well. I know spring will eventually come, it always has in the past.

On another completely different topic; I heard a great quote on a Sam Elliot movie called Gone to Texas:

A corrupt and distant government, holding power over a vast territory with a population that loves freedom and independence. That sounds to me like the very prescription for revolution.

This quote was spoken about the Mexican government when it ruled the territory of Texas. However, it reminds me of several of our States today also.

Published in: on May 2, 2010 at 9:13 pm  Comments (3)  
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‘Shrooms!


Last summer we ended up with a windfall of lots of extra room that is dark, wet, and cold. So I’m going to add mushrooms to the milk, cheese, lettuce, radishes, potatoes, and onions I plan on marketing this summer/fall. I’m really enjoying the research, and think I’ll be growing Shiitake, Blue Oyster, Enokitakes, Chicken of the Woods and Phoenix Oysters.

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Published in: on February 3, 2010 at 10:12 pm  Comments (4)  
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Things I’ve Missed Sharing Lately


We got our first snow this year.

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I’ve been keeping the pressure caner busy. (pickled beets/onions/turnips, apples, and chicken noodle soup less the noodles)

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I’ve been baking once a week and I’m probably going to need to make it twice. Four loaves just aren’t lasting.

We’ve been putting up next years wood.

I got 15 laying hens, a waterer, a feeder and 75# of feed for free yesterday. The gal offered me a big roll of chicken wire on the phone and I forgot to get it, I guess I’m going back.

The boy and I harvested the carrots today, and turned the peas and carrots bed. The god damned gopher (GDG) managed to get about 7/8 of what had left. Today I also decided all gophers within 1 mile of the gardens will die come spring.

Published in: on October 4, 2009 at 1:22 am  Comments (3)  
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