Tag Archives: permaculture

April

The snow has finally melted! Yesterday the lupines popped out of the mountain side and today the humming birds have returned. We are still at three days of sunshine this year with cloud cover again. The solar panels are not really amused but the plants in the greenhouse have the grow lights on them to help them on these cloudy days.

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The days are warm enough now for t-shits and the work outside has picked back up again. Below the dam where the trees were dropped from making room for the greenhouse has become the target of focus. We will be putting in an orchard in the space as well as the chicken coop. (Zone 3 in permaculture) The ladies will be under and among the trees. The final plan for the coop is being worked out with several ideas in mind, including one with a rocket stove inside the wall to give them extra winter heat.

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Thor thought he would help with clean up and kept making a bed out of the piles of slash that we needed to burn and sort. A perfect place to chew on a freshly found deer shed I guess. Almost two weeks of picking up the dead fall, chain saw work and nonstop fire, we got through the fiddlestick game of trees and found the rock bank. To my delight gooseberries are coming up and hopefully I can encourage them to thrive there.  20180505_121019

Our top temp today is likely to be in the mid 50’s with chance of rain, but as soon as I step away from the computer I will be outside. Summers in Montana tend to go from cool and grey to too hot and so smokey work outside must stop. Last year we went from smoke to snow with no chance for much fall work, hopefully this year we have fewer fires and more work can get done. The coop, the orchard, and more gardens, as well as a cob oven. Not to mention all the other stuff.

chickens still in the greenhouse

This year spring has been in a long debate with winter whose turn it was. Just days ago we had six inches of snow. This high up however, while lilacs bloom down along the river we get frost every morning. It drives home, again, how difficult growing a garden in a zone 3 can be.

 

Inside the green house though it is warm enough the cool weather plants have been up for weeks. The unfortunate thing is that the chickens are still using a section as a coop and two in particular are very clever and naught. Julie Chicken and Katie Bird have escaped. Not once, not twice, but a dozen times and proceeded to tear u seeds, devour seedling and teach the others that out is better than in.

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Julie has even learned to escape the green house all together and look for better places to be. She is perhaps the most naughty bird I have ever met. At this point every three days or so I let them roam free. Sooner or later this will bring in wildlife from the mountain and Sterling, (lives down the hill) hates noise of all kinds and having Boots the rooster crowing in his driveway is not a good way to keep the peace.

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With them free to explore and a constant seeking of escape routes the seedlings have begun to grow with vigor.

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Flowers have come up now that the threat of chicken attacks have passed and the other plants have followed.

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There are places however that remain sprout-less as I have to plant and replant them. With bird netting and coop, hopefully repaired enough to hold until the long term coop is built, this time they might get to grow.

The gutter gardens are doing very well right now. As I have never used this style of alternative beds I am still experimenting with water and exactly what pants can and can not handle the heat to their roots.

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With room in the green house for plants to be kept over winter this year I am playing with warm zone plants. Various pond plants as well as lotus. I put the seeds in water three days ago and when they sprout I will be sure to keep you informed on their progress.  Some of those I ordered have fallen rather sadly into a state of abuse as they had no time to adjust and even int eh green house water barrels they got too cold but now with the weather finally starting to warm they are putting out new leaves and starting to recover. This year will be bursting with life and I will be sure to keep you posted.

0 degrees and falling

Outside winter has blown into and made its presence known. The forest is utterly still. The only sound now is the dry snow slipping off of high boughs to settle on the snow below. The forecast warns of -30 with the wind chill. It’s a ‘keep the fires burning’ sort of night.

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Being off grid having a heater for the chickens water is not really an option, nor are heat lamps. Chickens are far tougher than most people think with them being fine with the cold and dark make the egg laying come to a halt but not adversely affecting most breeds. Even with the laying stopped warm water and lots of deep warm straw are always in order, but -30 is just too cold. They can get cracked feet, freeze off their combs or suffer fromt he strain of being too cold.

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With space open in the greenhouse and the fire keeping it above freezing despite the back wall being unfinished I made the call to move them. James took the task in hand. Shane came up to help him catch The Ladies and Boots and move them across the yard to the Greenhouse.

I got home from helping at the neighbors safe guard his his water from freezing, just in time to see the birds go in.  The change in them was almost instant. It took only a few minutes for the first lady to look around and settle down. She happily set to exploring the new space.  I tossed out a little corn scratch for them on the soil, piled up straw for nesting and brought over food and water while the boys worked together to catch the rest and get them swift from one home to the next.

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Tomorrow I will build them in a coop. James has mentioned he might video it for YouTube, so if your interested I guess the we will be posting there soon. For now they are safely inside, they will be warm and have lots of space to move around as well as many options of places to roost safely for the night.

I have a sneaking suspicion with them in the greenhouse with me all day there will soon be many more pic of them.

Concept Plans

As some of you might know I have been rather under the weather the last week and a half.  Not feeling up to eating, let alone chopping wood, building cabinets or working on the water system I instead sat at the kitchen table with a glass of water and worked on the concept drawing for next year.  Having Landscape Design to my name and nearly a dozen years doing it, I have advise to anyone who plans to build anything,  DRAW it OUT!  Even if you aren’t any good at perceptive, or drawing at all, think about why you want something where you want it and how it will work for you in the long run and put it on paper.

Once you have it drawn out, hang it up, study it, walk around with it in your hands, look at the angel of the sun, drawing in hand of course, close your eyes and imagine it and feel the direction of the wind.  (a fun way to spend some time in the winter)  Then draw it out again, finesse it, play with it, try to think of other ways to get the goals you want doing it another way. Always keep an open mind and be ready to alter your plans as you go.

On that note, I thought I’d share the concepts I drew up this last week.  These are pretty basic, I couldn’t find either a ruler nor a decent pencil… not even graph paper, but at this point it is only concept, so no worries.

plansIn some of the pictures I am sure you can see the propane can sitting on a green chair outside the kitchen windows.  That is most certainly not the log term solution.

I plan to use the siding that was cut out for the windows for the front to make it blend in ad have a low cold frame top so I cant start cool weather plants early.

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This might need explaining if you have not seen the double-dome concrete roofs made, or rock and wire walls. ( I plan to make a youtube video of this project and am rather excited about it.)

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This one is a bit crude.  The measurements are off, angels not quite right and topography poorly done but that’s just me being professional about it.  (here’s where I make a face at myself for over analysing my work)

Start anywhere, crude is better than not doing it all.  Even if you have no concept of how to get anything built or why topography lines matter, just start!  This one might be the most fun to look at, to get a basic idea of the spring and summer ahead of me.  I better enjoy the slower pace of winter!

If you have any questions about any of the plans or concepts, or even why I am doing this part or another go ahead and comment.  Any ideas? Feel free to share.

Choosing a Site

So often people who dream of the “off grid” life are lured there but stunning images of a little cabin next to a creek or a lake. While beautiful such sites are normally a summer vacation home. You can get away with this in warmer climates but here in Montana this is a bad idea.
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One of the most important things you can do in a sustainable space is have a garden
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and while it might seem wise to put it near a water source this often leads to seasons too short.
While it feels wonderful in a hot dry summer to be near the water for the same reason it will frost late in the spring and frost early in the fall. This can lead to a great deal of disappointment and frustration.
A standard rule is that from any water you need to be at very least 50 feet away and elevation does count. Cool air will follow the shape of the land.
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It is always ALWAYS a good idea to take a full season to watch the land, to learn how it moves with sun, wind and water. Before you put in a long term garden (and that is very important) using pots for the first year is a good idea. It allows you to move your garden much easier than digging it up and remaking it.

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Gardens will be dealt with this spring as I put in new beds.
(the picture of the frozen creek is from early Nov. While frozen and frosted out about 100 feet from the creek itself just past that point it was my tomatoes were still producing with minimal protection.)