Harvesting Parsnips

I planted the parsnip seed you may remember in January of this year and I have watered and thinned the plants throughout the summer.

I harvested a dozen for dinner tonight. Several weeks of sub zero temperatures killed the romaine winter lettuce as well as the winter beets but, parsnips are getting fat now. I left most of them out there and just took enough for a couple meals.

The cold weather will make them fatter and sweeter. All this and I discovered one vegetable that really is a winter vegetable. I’ll learn though. Cold frames are a game changer and you just have to learn how to use them.

November Storm

The arctic vortex stayed for over a week with subzero temperatures. The cold frame stayed above zero but in the single digits, killing the young winter vegetables. They could have lived if I could have kept the air temperature at 15 degrees.

It was at 5 above every night during the extreme cold. I strongly recommend keeping a temperature journal. I started that last winter, it is helpful. The beets and winter lettuce’s greens are rated ok at 15 degrees at night, how much it heats during the day is my learning challenge.

I need thermal mass to keep the temperature near the ground warmer. I am going to convert stock tanks with my make a pond kit and try and get that installed this summer I hope. That is something I can’t physically do myself. I am hoping maybe someday people will volunteer and get together and help. It’s not likely. I hope for miracles but I plant potatoes in the meantime.

Joy of Wood

I put up a little wood today. Not much. A garden wagon. With every piece, the sharp smell rises as the splitter bites into the wood. That is one of the best tools I have. It makes a tremendous difference for people with physical limitations. Definitely increased my quality of life. Good lifetime purchase. Good value even though It’s a pretty old machine.

It doesn’t have to be brand new to be perfect. Just remember to change the oil and spark plug and keep the hydraulic fluid up. Maintenance is the key to success. Plan out your purchases and don’t sweat it if you don’t do everything perfectly every time. It helps to write it out so you can study your needs better.

Today I was cutting the rounds into a cut similar to shingles. Only of varying widths. I have been watching documentaries about life in remote northern areas. One thing I noticed was how they cut their wood into much slimmer pieces than I always have and I wondered if it causes a better surface area or something, but I wanted to try it and see if it is noticeably warmer.

I have been too sick the last 3 years to even try. It was wonderful today, the crack of the wood splitting and the waft of that smell and the sunshine in my face.

I pictured an evening of warmth in my house every few pieces and it left me with a wonderful feeling of accomplishment and a feeling of security toward surviving a while longer. I only worked for about an hour but I will go back outside and do a little more before it gets dark. I don’t have very much wood anyway, I am going to just make a fire during the day. That should cut my furnace use down considerably.

I try to think of this as “what can I do?”  Instead of “I can’t do much.” But I try and remember that every little thing I do adds up to the whole. Persistence is key. Do a little, sit down and rest a minute and then do a little more.

Fall Gardening

It is November 6, 2014. My Rouge D’Hiver (Red Winter) romaine lettuce is coming up well in the cold frame, a little messy, the seeds shifted when I watered it the first time. The beets are also coming up well. I planted the parsnips in January and even though it was the wrong time of year, they are about ready to harvest.

I have had computer failures and camera failures this year, set backs seem constant but I try to persevere. Take my failures in stride and learn from them. This summer after careful micro-climate mapping my yard, I decided to plant my tomatoes in the back gardens and I thought I did really well. They were huge plants with a lot of tomatoes. They got over 15 hours of sun a day in June and July. But in August the sun dipped a little below the level of the neighbors trees and put my tomatoes in the shade!

I had moved that tomato garden 15 feet to the north of where I planted it in 2011. That was the year I was diagnosed with the breast cancer. I had beautiful gardens that year but the sunshine was blocked by the trees in that original bed. Turns out though,that 15 feet wasn’t far enough because even though I had great sunshine through July, it got shady within days of the beginning of August and they were still green in the beginning of September and had to be ripened in a cardboard box.

So I looked at a different part of my yard to plant next year with tomatoes. The kale and the beets did fine in the same line, so I will probably plant there again.

I don’t know how well the vegetables I have in the cold frame are going to grow, but, I am ready to watch and try new things. I have a fig tree overwintering in there, I am hopeful that will survive and thrive next summer. Hopefully I will have the technical issues ironed out soon and I’ll be able to get photos up soon.

This is the first year I will have the cold frame working all year. I moved the grapes that didn’t do well in the yard in there and they grew more in that frame than they did the six years they were in the yard. But the kiwi and other things I planted in there didn’t take. I don’t know if the roots made it or not, I hope so, because I would like to replant them instead of reordering them.

This is my first summer as a cancer SURVIVOR. I was a patient before. It was hard to quit thinking that way and it was a conscious decision to be a survivor. Let’s get out there and get gardening!

My Caucasian Ovcharka

I got  my puppy from a breeder in eastern Montana that was born in June of 2012. I did not make a secret of my physical limitations or the fact I was a cancer patient to the breeder. I am an experienced dog handler. I raised and trained Rottweilers for over 15 years.

The very first night with Misha, she tried to bite me. She was only 11 weeks old.We had stopped on my way home. I woke her up to leave and she jumped up, teeth fully bared, snapping and snarling ferociously. I pulled her leash and grabbed her by the scruff of her neck. I put it down to the stress of traveling across the state in the back of a pickup truck, uncrated and covered with feces and vomit.

I called the breeder several times with my concerns about her behavior. She told me she carried a metal bucket with her to defend herself from her dogs and used it to beat them with it.

She was the most food aggressive animal I had ever seen and we had a pet bobcat when my kids were teenagers that we had to throw the food into the bathtub and shut the door till she was finished eating. I was told that is just how Caucasians act.

When she was a puppy she didn’t do the eyes glazed, staring, feet planted, teeth bared every time she woke up. But by the time she was 6 months old I was a hostage in my own home. She got so bad I had to get a large cage for her to sleep in because if she fell asleep under my desk I wouldn’t be able to move until she woke up. When I moved she would lunge to knock me down and stand over me snarling and snapping her jaws. That was before she started biting.

Over Thanksgiving I couldn’t let her in the house because she was growling at my guests. My son. His Dad. I thought it was my fault because my house went from being quiet to being busy, cleaning birds and running around busy making Thanksgiving dinner.

By Christmas she was  biting me. The first bite broke skin on my leg. The then 15 year old dog never wanted anything to do with her. He’d hide or have to fight her off. He had to eat in another room because she word attack if he or I were in the room her bowl was in. The second bite was trying to put her food dish on the floor.

The day after Christmas was the day I knew I had to put her down. One of the cats brought in a dead mouse and left it on the floor. I was drinking my coffee and saw she had something and I bent down to look with the intention of taking it. She got stiff and growled at me. I told her to drop it and she did but was hunched over it. When I picked it up she attacked me. She grabbed my arm and bit me several times up and down my arm before she got a better grip and really tore into my arm shaking her head pulling me around.

I talked to my friend, she lives up the road from me, she is an Airedale breeder. I talked to several other breeders and a couple rescue groups. I didn’t call the breeder because all she told me to do was beat her with a bucket and blamed me for ruining her. And I knew Misha was not fit to be bred and in my opinion if she went back there she would be a puppy machine pumping out puppies so returning her was never an option I’d consider.

I put in the way she acted into Google and an article of Sudden Onset Aggression came up. Rage. It was exactly the way she acted. I did more research and every article described her behavior. Most of the articles said it was a hereditary form of epilepsy. That the symptoms begin at 6 weeks.

The day I put her down I was talking on the phone to a local mobile veterinarian. I accidentally touched the cage and she woke up as she always did raging biting the wire of the cage. The veterinarian refused to come out she was not going to risk her life to put this dog down.She referred me to a ranch vet who has a tranquilizer gun.

He couldn’t come out until that evening but he told me he would be in the town one town over from me and he gave me 5 pills to give her about half an hour before he got over to my town. We had discussed several ways to restrain her and I didn’t want to do any of the ways we talked about because in spite of everything I loved her and I didn’t want her last moments on earth to be held down by two strange men. So we settled on tranquilizing her first.

She was happily drunk when he got here. I was scared but she was friendly to them and he gave her a shot that knocked her out and for the first time I could sit down next to her while she slept. So I stretched out next to her in the snow. He had to give her 5 shots to finish her, the last one directly into her heart.

The one and only time I got to lay down next to my dog was as she died.

He had a lot of patience with me letting me lay there with my dog as her body cooled. Then when I was ready he bagged her body to take to the crematorium.

A dog is not a child. No dogs life is worth a human life. Nobody should be a hostage to their dog. Not all dogs are healthy. Not all puppies can be saved. She was probably the smartest dog I ever had, ironically. She was the master of the long down/stay within 3 months. She quickly learned everything I knew to teach a dog. The worst she got the more I worked her.

I looked up military canine training techniques to teach her. She revolved only 3 times with me guiding her teaching her the hand signal for sweep the perimeter for her to get it. She was exceptionally smart. I worked her and worked her day after day. She worked off voice and hand command. She learned good recall considering the breeder told me she would never be able to master it.

She was the best trained dog I ever had. But her holding me hostage in the house and being attacked if I woke her up or passed her in the hallway overruled her good behavior. I did everything I could do to run her until she was exhausted trying to keep her exercised to try to curb the aggressive behavior.

Nothing worked. She was a very large very muscular dog. She was an athlete. But that just made her even more dangerous. When she was there was all there but when her eyes blanked out she was gone. She wanted to hurt me when her eyes went blank.And she did. I put her down for my own safety and the safety of everyone else.

She did have typical puppy behavior but in my extensive experience handling dogs I have never seen this kind of aggression. She was an exceptional dog and I loved her.  But she was not healthy.

I am a strong minded person. I drove myself to and from every chemo treatment. Even the day I had an allergic reaction that I had to be revived from. I did the best I could for her and for me.

Seed Order Time

I am ready with my yearly seed list. I can tell the sun is coming back already, higher in the sky, morning comes a little earlier, afternoons last a little longer. It’s time to start getting ready to get a good start. My plan this year is better organized, I’ve learned preparation is important, especially for self taught gardeners. I failed way more than I succeeded and still haven’t got it right. But even little successes are like miracles. To be hungry go outside in my yard and just wander around picking up my supper for the night.

I think the cold frame is going to really make a huge difference getting a better variety of food started earlier, more efficiently, and in volume. Last spring a June snow just wiped out 74 of the 80 kale I raised. There was high winds that took the frost blanket off the plants but luckily it got stuck and wrapped around 6 of the plants and saved them.

I started another flat but they never reached the size or flavor of the earlier kale. This year I sketched out the entire property. I decided to open up a couple new beds and grow 3 sister gardens, I cut down a large birch tree and that will let in a lot of light in that entire section of yard. I will use the north side of the property line to expand the 4 stage botany project that was started 5 or 6 years ago. I put the canopy trees closest to the north property line and planted the shorter understory trees toward the south, dwarf trees all the way to the front.

Several years ago I bought some botany text books from the university. Since then every year I try to find and add plants that will go with the botanist theory of food forests. There are 4 levels of a food forest. There are the tall canopy trees, the smaller understory tress, the brush (or bush) level and ground covers. I want to get at least 2 brush level plants this year to add to the forest. I can’t afford to do it all at once so I buy one or two trees and a couple bushes a year.

Now here’s where the permaculture theory comes in with the botany science. With permaculture, it says to plant each and every planting with at least an accompanying of three. For instance under a fruit tree you should plant a berry bush, wild strawberries beneath the bush and maybe grape and kiwi vines planted along the southern/western side. The trees would have to be strong enough to support a vine that can produce 100 pounds of fruit in a season.

As time goes on, the plants will produce more and more fruit, all bearing at different times so every time you go outside from June to December you can harvest something different as well as put food up for winter during the summer months.

Finding the most beneficial plantings is an ongoing challenge. But more and more information is being shared all the time. I just want more food and less work every year so I can enjoy my golden years and leave my work as a gift to the future.

I am looking forward to spring again as usual. With a better plan in place I hope to have not just functioning gardens, but good looking, super functional ones too. I can do it. I am not going to let the cancer or the CMT or my leg braces not working again this year stop me. I want to keep going. I need to learn how to ask for help everybody says. But, I don’t want to take advantage of their generosity,

I got ripped off pretty bad the last two years from the guy who was supposed to be helping me. My chemo-brain was so bad, I let him talk me into giving him 3 50ft steel saw blades from the giant saw lumber yard. That was like a $1,000.00 tip he wanted (and got) for a $50. day.

I guess it was my own fault. I told him the first day I was brain compromised and I spent days just wandering around talking to myself. I was so sick. I am disappointed to have lost all my best stuff. He even took my stereo.What does that say about the guys character?

I wanted him to be the straw boss for my next building project. But, that’s not going to happen. I am coming back mentally. I have to really try and find somebody who is honest and wouldn’t even think of taking advantage of a person who has been in Cancer treatment and now recovery for over 3 YEARS.

Plus since he took my best stuff I don’t have as much to lose. The problem with thieves, they don’t understand that some people, especially a nerve disease patient with the added burden of breast cancer, there is no way I will ever be able to replace any of my stuff. I saved it for years to use and now, I’m at the point  I am actually ready to install it and start of the long term project and some jerk decided he deserved my stuff more than I do. I’m the one who worked for it, saved for it and planned it, I just don’t understand people. But no matter down and out I am, I am glad not to be like that guy.

 

 

Winter Harvest Days

I saw a community calendar commercial that was advertising the Winter Farmer’s Market this weekend. This can be done!

So, my earlier guesses are right. Plant mid-November harvest in February! That is a mind bender that some vegetables HAVE to be grown in the winter cold frames or greenhouses, but a harvest in February seems like a miracle to me. No more hungry winter days waiting for the lettuce seeds to sprout.

One tip I forgot to tell you I think or maybe I haven’t covered yet. But before the chemo I’d tried for years to grow lettuce. For some reason, lettuce is a hard vegetable for me to grow. I’ve never had any kind of real summer success with any of the lettuce types.

I have discovered though that when lettuce gets too much sun it bolts, which is what you call it when they go to seed. And if you don’t time it right, you can’t collect any seed because they’re so tiny you can barely even see them. The best way is to tie a baggie over the stalk after it is pollinated but before the seeds drop.

If you don’t collect the seed and want early spring lettuce, keep the weeds out of the bed and the seeds will overwinter there and sprout in March/April. They don’t get very big but you go out there and pick up perfect little heads of lettuce. It’s pretty cool. Then of course, I’d leave some to go to seed again.

That may be a good permaculture project on a back burner. An outdoor lettuce bed for early lettuces. For a permaculture bed to be successful you need to plant 3 plants that do well together. Each contributing to the other.

Now that I know the correct seasons and which vegetables to grow in the winter I am switching my plan. I’ll leave the parsnip row there but I am going to start a row of cabbage and a row of broccoli in the cold frame beds now. I will plant 5 seeds a week in each until I see something happening. it’s Groundhog’s Day today and the sky is dark and stormy. I hope it stays that way all day for an early spring!

 

Cold Frame in January

I have been going out to water the parsnip seed. I don’t know how anything can possibly grow out of that.

Sept 11, 2013

The inside of the cold frame right after I finished the roof framing but before the support beams were added.

It doesn’t look that much different, fuller. I have more things in there and shelves and barrels. I was trying to heat it with the two 50 lb water barrels but it’s not working as well as I’d hoped. But a cold frame by definition is not a greenhouse.

I will plant my grapes along the posts there  on the tall side and put kiwi plants on the short wall so they can grow up a couple of the beams.

 

This morning brought more snow. It snowed pretty persistently for a day or two and then dumped 8″ more overnight.

January 31, 2014

Maintaining the roof of the cold frame is important. I don’t have to shovel my house roof that often but it’s not made out of fiberglass either. Keeping the snow off lets in light and lightens the roof burden.

After I shore up the supports this summer I’ll feel better about leaving the snow on as insulation against extreme cold. In a year or two after the cold frame is actually finished. The cold frame is functioning but far from done.

Not every body can physically do things like shoveling a cold frame roof. But I like to think that everybody can do a little something, even if it’s just a few minutes.

I can’t do a lot of work very quickly, I am smart enough to google how-to articles and then I try to do them. Sometimes I have to redesign an idea to fit my circumstances. Here is how I shoveled that roof.

January 31, 2014

I shoveled for a little while until I got cold and had to come in. I am prone to hypothermia so I have to be careful. I put water repellent on my work pants and that made a world of difference.

I bought a 15ft roof shovel on sale several years ago and it sat in the box for years. This year it paid for itself. With so much snow that I have already pulled off of it this winter being almost as tall as the roof there, I have had to pull the snow out wider so it won’t be long before I have to use the 3rd handle just to reach it.

 

By removing the snow I lose some of the heat that can build up in there but until I actually finish the cold frame I don’t want to push my luck. If I screw up and this falls I doubt I could ever rebuild it. Getting contractors or handymen are expensive and you have to be careful.

January 31, 2014

I would like to stress again the importance of how doing a little at a time you can actually get quite a bit done. If I could afford to get more and better help, this cold frame would have been completed in less than a week. But when a good day means you may get one or two posts in you have to expect it to take much longer.In my case at least a year.

But the important thing is it’s functioning right now, bare bones and I am going to keep working for a little while and then having to rest.

 

But this website obviously isn’t for people who are able bodied or people who can afford to get a contractor to build their homes and landscape their yards, but, this is for people who have limitations and want to do something but don’t know how to start. Or what to do once they do get going.

 

January 31, 2014

This is my learning experience too. I have always tried to raise some things, tomato gardens, rose gardens, herbs. But now I am trying learn what to and how to grow nutritious food and have real food security.

And that means making sure it doesn’t fall down. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure they say. I don’t know if I could start all over. This cold frame will be expanded 8 ft or so deep and another 6 or 8 ft taller to catch sunlight from higher up to reflect down.

I want to put a water feature inside to regulate the temperature of the cold frame. Also the Tillapia fish I’ll be raising will be a major part of the fertilization of the plants as well.

But in order for that to happen next summer I have to do the shoveling and do what I can to keep the integrity of the building intact.

January 31, 2014

This is the key to people with disabilities gardening. Do a little, rest, do a little more,

It took me all morning to shovel this cold frame. Sad but true, but I fell get a real feeling of accomplishment every time I do every little thing.

Makes it all worth it.

Summer Pictures 2013

My computer was broken over the summer and I was building that cold frame but I did take pictures of my gardens

August 9, 2013

This is some kale and potatoes. This year I also let the lambs quarter grow in with the other plants. I am trying to do this in the 3 plant cycle of permaculture design. I am still experimenting with the 3 plant combo beds, but, it makes sense too, it’s not a new idea.

These plants were from the first planting. Only 6 out of the 80 plants I planted made it through the spring snow storm to grow into these mature plants

If you look at the 3 sister garden in my earlier posts, you’ll see the corn grows tall and supports the beans which put nitrogen in the soil that feeds the corn and the zucchini and squash plants around the bottom edges of the bed that shade the bases of the corn and beans and keeps the weeds out.

June 30, 2013

My main idea is to make it perennial plants. Permanent plantings that come back bigger and better every year. Rhubarb is a good plant that always comes back and comes back bigger every year too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

July2, 2013

My tomatoes this year were too dry. I tried an experiment from something I saw online on how to stimulate water in a passive convection

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is what it looks like when your snow peas get planted late.

July 2, 2013

Last year I was still in IV chemo and I was tired so even the fact that I got this much done is sort of a miracle. And that is not even counting the fact I was also building a giant cold frame a little bit every day for over 3 months.

Somebody able bodied could do this in a matter of days, a weekend project takes me at least 2 weeks. A job that would take a contractor a week, I get done in 3 or 4 months. But I don’t give up. I may only be able to get out in the gardens 15 minutes a day, so I try and make those 15 minutes count.

 

Permaculture is important because my body will only continue to fail as time goes along because of the CMT. I will always need to wear leg braces. So I need to make my food available every year and have less and less labor as it matures.  All little projects add up. Soft fruit, like berries, fruit trees.

July 2, 2013

The little kale in the middle there were the second planting. I made baby kale salads and dehydrated them for chips so they never got lush like the ones I planted near the potatoes.

So while every garden you plant may not look like the magazines the important thing is to learn what you did wrong or didn’t do. Trial and error. That is everything in life and gardening. Keep trying and learning and never give up.

Winter Gardening

I should have started this earlier, like in mid-November but I was tired from the summer. I’m getting old. When I am not being a kickass cancer recovery person I have to rest up for each of my projects.  I think I may be able to get some roots in 90 days. The worse that can happen is nothing.

But until next November when I do it at the correct time, I am going to see what happens and keep a journal of  what I plant what if anything happens and a daily of of temperature inside the cold frame. I do it sometimes more but never less than 3 times a day with a dollar store digital indoor/outdoor thermometer..

Jan 22,2014

I spread the straw bale that got squashed onto the floor of the cold frame. Now, you have to remember this space was a poultry cage for young chicks and young turkeys so even though the soil is pretty much pure sand there, by injecting the sand with regular additions of organic matter I ended up with soft fluffy soil.

I wanted to see if I could affect the temperature of the cold frame by the warmth of the soil there.I don’t think it did anything although it is not frozen. Maybe in a more urban setting a person could make a cold frame out of old windows, I like to hear about people’s gardens and ideas.

There hasn’t been actual birds in there for a couple summers so the manure was already composted in when I worked the old straw into it, the spot I cleared looks like this. Notice I am just doing a small patch at the end of all that straw that is still shook out all over. It is OK to just grow a garden that is a few feet wide. That spot is maybe a foot and a half by three feet. If you only have a little spot, experiment and see what kinds of plants can grow there.

I’ve never tried growing something actually growing something above or below ground starting in January. I have no idea what is going to happen to it, but the cold weather plant guide said the colder it is, the sweeter and although I knew it needed cooler temperatures to grow thick roots, I don’t know what I I thought, I guess. But growing them throughout the winter months for spring and early summer eating never occurred to me.

I’m really surprised and I will post updates as they come along. The raspberries I transplanted into the cold frame look dead. The winter kale has died. It looks more like dried out. It happened at both plants at the same time. Both the one in the house and the one in the cold frame. I harvested the kale frozen in December and I thought well this is going to be mushy, but it was crisp and wonderful.

So, That was a good thing to remember as I learn. Now, greens are planted for winter gardens in mid-July. But, my straw bales got crunched and I lost all the seedlings that were growing there, not just the greens.The onions probably wouldn’t have grown correctly anyway. providing of course the way I am currently trying to force the seed.

But, the bales that are still good are still there ready to plant again. I look forward to spring. I save what money I have all winter and invest in seeds and fruit trees and soft fruits. I stay home all the time I want to be able to walk outside and get my food. I think food is a basic human right for everybody.

I’m slowly, one plant at a time, watching, studying, learning how to grow enough food to live on. I couldn’t afford to go to horticulture classes but when I heard there were textbooks about how to make food forests, so I bought the 2nd one. I had to skip the theory, because I already get that part.

Next time I go out there I will put my leg braces on tight and break up another couple feet of dirt. Between my feet and my chemo recovery I am only getting little dents done. But every little project adds up in permaculture. Eventually it will be larger, more reliable harvests with less and less labor.