Almost Ready


The Boy and I finished cutting our 10+ cords of firewood yesterday:

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I rebuilt our large plow’s hydraulic unit.

I harvested the potatoes a few days ago after a frost got them. The rest of the crops are all doing fine though.

This was a horrible year for potatoes (wet cold spring) and we barely doubled our seed.

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Published in: on September 13, 2010 at 1:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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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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New Toy for the Backyard


I’m not sure if I have shared any pictures of our backyard yet. I know a lot of the land in front of the house has been shown in the home pics, but here are some of the other direction.

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A friend of mine was hurting for money the other day and made me a deal on a new (for us) 4-wheeler that was too good to not grab. So we now have three, next year hopefully we can find another good deal so we will have one for everyone. The new one is pictured on the far right in the following pic.

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I wrote about our early harvest of potatoes in the last post, here is what they look like closer up, and the fixings for that nights dinner. I need to thank bff for the seed for these wonderful spuds too.

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The only thing we bought for that dinner was the beef, and come hunting season we won’t even need to buy that. Every year we provide more and more for ourselves. What a great feeling. Oh, the sherry was donated to us after J. left it at a friends house where it wasn’t loved.

Published in: on September 18, 2009 at 12:40 am  Comments (2)  
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Harvest time.


We had an early VERY light frost about four days ago. Everything made it through except for the potatoes, so we harvested them today. Next year we will be planting our spuds on May 1 instead of June 1 we ended up with only 6X our seed because most hadn’t gotten bigger than 1.5″.

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We have been trying to run a full load through the pressure canner every week. Last week we did 31 pints of BBQ pork, pork broth, and hot dogs.

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We have a raincheck for 60# of chicken that was on sale for .80/# this week that we are picking up tomorrow. This I will be canning as chicken and noodle and chicken and rice soup. I expect to get 74 pints of soup.

The Boy and I have been working on our root-cellar for over a month now. We have hand dug at least 30 YD3, but it’s almost done and right in time to start taking in our root crops.

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This is what it looked like before we drained it.
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Here are some pics from our summer party we had a few weeks ago.

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This is why it is so unwise to fall asleep before 9PM at a party:

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One last thing. We have lots of wonderful Morel mushrooms up here, but the Giant Puffballs that were fairly common where we use to live are much more rare. Lucky we have friends who know we like them and share.

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Published in: on September 14, 2009 at 9:56 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Slacking


I’ve been busy lately, hence the lack of posts for awhile. Since we will have a bumper crop of root crops; carrots, beets, potatoes, turnips, onions, garlic and swedes. The boy and I have been digging our root cellar with shovels the last couple of weeks. Thirty (15 each) wheelbarrows at 7 ft2 a day is really sapping my extra energy, but on the plus side (besides not having our crops rot this winter) hunting season will be a breeze and I can show off upper body this summer. On that topic the Lil’ lady told me I need to start digging with my shirt off so I don’t blind everybody when I show off my most impressive pecks since military school.

Dang, I didn’t include any political perspective.

Here’s a thought for today. A prefect example of government “charity”, this on edates all the way back to ‘nam.

“Come on out, everybody. We got rice and candy and toothbrushes to give you.”

Silence. Not a shadow moved.

“Now listen, either you gooks come on out from wherever you are, or we’re going to come right in there and get you!”

Published in: on July 26, 2009 at 2:56 am  Comments (1)  
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ARRRGH!


Here is one of the fun things about gardening here. I took these pics this morning.

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Published in: on June 8, 2009 at 7:54 pm  Comments (1)  
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Gooseberries!


One of the local ladies I see at the saloon occasionally told me she was taking out her 24 year old gooseberry bushes. Last year I thinned her raspberries and she asked if I wanted them. Well I finished digging the last one out yesterday, I had to dig a hole 20″ in diameter, they were that big. Now, our raspberries won’t be lonely. Oh, and we had snow flurries this morning. 😦 we ran down and covered the baby plants in the lower beds with packing blankets.

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Published in: on June 6, 2009 at 9:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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