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In the thrushes of intense August heat, the garden is producing at a rapid pace, in fact it it hard to not miss things coming into ripe perfection. The cucumbers are calling to be pickled yet the very thought of firing up the burners right now is insane!… this will call for some midnight canning I suspect, but at least I have a stove this year, and don’t have to fire up the wood stove and do another round of “panty canning”! Read the rest of this entry »


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Something happened this week, about mid week… we noticed the saskatoon berries were ripe and the tree that formerly lived with the chooks was FLUSH with purple juicy berries… ever since then it has been a rolling stone of harvesting food… mosquito mint bog abundance led way to cat tail collection, cherry tree pillaging and strawberry swaps with neighbors. But let me step back just a little…

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We are pumping out the compost these days! BUILDING SOIL ūüôā

Jordan and I have made 2 huge hot “berkley method” piles since May and just started a 3rd with Christina and Sinisha the other day. We have brewed 3 batches of vermi-compost and comfry tea and yesterday we did a extract brew, which was a quick and easy option. The extract yesterday was made using worm casings / compost from the first pile / and some comfry leaves. The whole garden got a good dose of nutrients last night!

I always assumed that compost extracts were not as good as compost teas and so I hadn’t given them much thought, that is until I read Verge Permaculture’s recent article on tea and extract brewing, which inspired me to make an extract. In essence both methods use a constant supply of rapidly moving oxygenated water over a period of time to extract and or grow microbes. The problem that came up with the tea we produce is that you had to use it very quickly… like within hours, or the microbes start to eat away all the oxygen and then rapidly die off. With the extract you have a few days (up to 2 weeks) to get it all on the plants… which is helpful then you are supplying the nutrients by way of a watering can over an 12 000 sq/ft area of food production! The other benefit to producing extract over tea is that the aeration machine only needs to run for 2-3 hours rather than 24 hours… which makes for more quiet time in the mountains, and less energy of course. ¬†This is the way have been brewing tea¬†which is a really super boosted and viable method, and if I had a smaller yard or an easier application method I would use regularly. As it stand I think we will keep on the extract train for a while, and take our time to deliver the nutrients to the crops.

We finally got the worms moved outdoors and into a make shift home inside a tub. The plan is to still utilize a worm condo system and have two double stacks functioning inside a single tub. Right now we are repurposing some plastic food crates which are stackable and ideal. The new vermi-home shares a fence with the rabbit / chicken run and soon will house the rabbits on top. The worms are getting all the rabbit manure + straw bedding, plus all the tea and coffee grounds from the house, along with some misc kitchen scraps that the chooks don’t eat. The rest ends up in the big compost piles.

As for our berkley piles… we have been struggling a little with the nitrogen content of the old winter coop chicken manure muck, as it was intensely caked and somewhat aged yet totally anaerobic, YUCK it is nasty stuff. The first pile we did was way way way to hot, the second pile was made almost entirely of wood chips and manure trying to keep it from over heating, and I think we have finally found the right balance with the newest pile: ¬†Incorporating wood ash, lots of diverse greens / weeds, the nasty old chook shit cakes, along with new poo and straw from the rabbits and the birds, some winter coat fur from Odin, wood chips, grass clippings, mushrooms, and bits from both the old piles and the creek bed for some added microbial excitement!

We have been using a number of different compost calculators online, and I found one that I really liked using here, These calculators are the perfect tool for building the right kind of compost, as the correct carbon to nitrogen ration is key to successful composting!  The calculator the results from our last pile are in the slideshow above, what I like most about this specific calculator tool, is you can use volumes of measure like : a wheelbarrow load (which is the easiest way for us to tally up our inputs) . We ended up with a 34 C:N (carbon to nitrogen) ratio which is ideal. We made the pile Thursday morning, and turned it Sunday morning for the first time, the temperature was sitting at 60 degrees. This soil building stuff is pretty amazing!

May the sun gently warm the seeds you sow in the fertile and living soil, may the rains delicatly sprinkle and feed the plants in your field, may the winds strengthen their stocks and entice our flying friends to do a pollination dance upon their petals. May your harvests be abundant and your table full of people to share it with.

And may the sunshine of the summer season invigorate and refresh your spirits.

From our little homestead family to yours,

happy solstice

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It’s a whole new view from the living room window these days. The shower house is near complete, with the cedar strip floor boards down and the structure oiled it is a FABULOUS space to wash the grit of a hard days work away in, and the view is unbelievable!!! I don’t think we have used the shower in our house once since we got this outdoor getaway functioning.

We were really happy to welcome our new interns Christina & Sinisha from Croatia who have been a lovely addition to our growing team. It’s funny how a couple half a world away can share so many of the same world views as we do! They are fresh from the big city life, and we are hardening them up one day at a time; digging holes, stacking wood, weeding kouch grass, hauling shit, feeding the animals, planting food, and living without heat or running water or flushing toilets… all the great things that make this life so challenging yet so rewarding.They studied Permaculture back home in Croatia and have been really eager to get there hands dirty implementing the theories they have spent so long learning about.

We have been working really hard in the garden to get the last of the food in the ground, which has been no small task. Just a few loose ends to tie up, until all our initial plantings are all complete. I have never had so much food in the ground in my life, and yet I seem to be managing pretty well  so far, thanks to all the extra help!

We are eating all of our salad greens from the garden these days, along with many herbs, chives, rhubarb, spicy mustard greens and bok choy too! Everywhere I look the garden is bursting, and new life is erupting from the mulch. There is so much green stuff to eat that salad is essentially mandatory for all meals!

At this late hour the last garden gate is being assembled, and now the massive garden expansion is now entirely fenced off, with big ass cedar peeled posts and stucco wire fenceing. The new garden is so big it has 2 quad / truck gates and 2 human sized gates and even a secret chicken gate (for spring and winter garden foraging). I keep thinking.. “oh that will be the last time we need to dig fence holes” and they just keep coming. We added 15 new fence poles (each about 12 feet apart) to give you an idea of the scale of the new garden space. We have encompassed the yarn yurt and the shower house within the garden zone. And slowly but very sureily it is coming together as all of our little piles of construction chaos are cleaning up really nicely into promising albeit unfinished beautiful projects! yeah!

Even the last 3/10ths of the woodhenge roof is underway and set for immediate completion. Perma-camp is looking more tidy by the day and Jordan and Dylan are on the hunt for the perfect space for a micro dwelling which Jordan is inspired to build and dwell in!

The garden is a real treat to wonder through at this point in it’s life! Our creative problem solving has lead to some really cute and clever (if I do say) solutions for food production. The black bags, the olive oil cans, the mill scraps, the abundant rocks from the water line project have all lead to a fun and artsy space, with better thought out, water, access, structures and food systems!

It has been a little dreary round here since may long, but no worries the plants are loving it and the sun is beating down on us today!

We starting working on a rather large sheet mulch a few weeks back that has since been planted out with a hull-less purple barley, and in just a few short days the barley has started popping from it’s wood mulch. The hugelkulture bed is dreamy! Squash all over and the delicate starts of dozens of chick pea plants are popping up from the middle it stays so nice and moist it is unbelievable! I want my entire garden to be a hugel garden! Tomorrow we will bump a little mini hugelkulture bed off the front of the big one, and plant it out with some odds and ends.

This week we finally got the corn in the ground, and the 3 sisters guild done, we planted about 50 feet of climbing pole beans which will take advantage of the new fence, we strung back the 30 feet of climbing sweet peas which are starting to grow up the front garden fence, All the cuc’s got transplanted (AGAIN) this is round two, and we have about 24 plants on the go… dill pickles here we come! We added to some continueous crop plantings, and have started to propagate strawberries down the rock wall. In the end we have yet another potato sack bed, which is made up of a total volunteer force of spuds growing in a giant black bag (which we will roll up as we mulch).

The upper tier of garden space will all be perennial crops, and key hole guilds, this year much of the work we make on this front will be building soil and planning access. Yet asparagus, blueberries, raspberries and lovage will all start to settle in up there this year, along with a new gala apple tree our friends propagated for us!

The next big task at hand is workshop / studio space construction, so the old tippy plywood shed that Dyl is calling his studio will come a tumbling down, and be replaced by a timber-foam structure… Oh and breading these damn rabbits, seems our little Romeo lacks interest in his Juliette still, we may need to take her on a date with an old buck stud, more on that later!

Now that I have written this all, I must run around and capture some images to share. Eventually I plan to create a before and after slide show, maybe I will work on that in July, over the dusk hours while I hide from the blood suckers! TTFN.

Indicators are a great permaculture designer tool, observing nature and following her lead.

Nature has a way of communicating and relying on different species to benefit and signal one another. If there is one thing I have learned about gardening, it’s timing is everything! And I already blew it big time this month, with the loss of dozens and dozen of healthy hearty tomato and cucumber starts, some of which I had nurtured right from the seed saving point years ago. I had the BEST starts I have ever had, big huge healthy plants, and then I joined the rest of the valley weeping at the late and hard frost that devastated even the most hardened veteran gardens around here! Not so many days after that big event my girlfriend dug this little tid bit of¬†phenology up specific to the Kootenays (excerpt from Gardening in the Kootenays:)

“When Forsythia or Daffodils bloom, plant peas
Plant beets, lettuce, spinach, cole crops and carrots when Dandelions start to bloom or when Lilac leaves first begin to unfurl
When Lily of the Valley blooms it’s safe to put tomatoes out
When Irises bloom you can transplant eggplant, melon and peppers
When Daylillies bloom plant out tomatoes and peppers
When Aspens have leafed out there will be no more hard frosts
When Apple blossoms fall plant corn
When Maples unfurl their leaves plant out decorative perennials
When Lilac blooms fade plant cukes and late squash
When Lilacs are in full bloom plant beans and squash
When Mock Orange blooms you can direct-seed cabbage and broccoli in the garden”

Gee I wish that: A) I knew what the lily of the valley was, and B) noted that it had not yet bloomed on the night of the deadly frost!

I have been following a number of tools to get my timing right; my garden journal from last year, as well as the growing in the kootenays guide. So I am happy to add a more natural indicator guide to my planting arsenal.

On the topic of gardening tools (and I don’t mean shovels) I have some tried and true resources at hand:

love love love companion planting guides here are some of my online favorites:

Golden Harvest  PRI  and  Garden Toad

As for my go to books to guide me through my food systems I rely heavily on:

Gaias Garden (MY BIBLE OF GROWING FOOD), Gardening When it Counts and The Resilient Gardener

I am also really enjoying Homegrown Whole Grains and The Permaculture Garden (great book, horrible cover page)

So.. My apple blossoms are falling and the lilacs are in full bloom… Hello 3 sisters (ancient guild of corn, beans and squash) Tomorrow is the day for getting into my super nitrogen rich corn field (former chicken run) and planting more food!

Big back road thanks to my darling “city girl takes on the country companion” I will follow the flowers lead from now on. And you can follow her farmyard follies and garden frolics at theredsnowshoe.

Oh and I just found this GREAT companion planting image:

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I realized we have a few new faces (both fuzzy and feathered) around these parts and thought it was about time to introduce you to the new animals so here they are starting from newest to oldest:

5 tiny chicks, by way of a fram yard in Grand Forks come sweet little silkie chicks less than a week old. We think they look like Fraggles when they are mature with feather feet and huge flamboyant head plumes so we have been calling them: Red, Gobo, Boober, Wembley and Mokey, and a tribute to everyone’s favorite puppet master Jim Henson.

2 new zelend / rex rabbits; Romeo and Juliet, soon to be Ma & Pa… but it seems little Romeo (small white little guy) isn’t up for the challenge yet. All is not lost their poo is great and we are feeding it to the worms who can’t get enough, and they cause a great stir in the chicken yard when the start hopping around at top speed!

1 tiny home birth (or hatch as it may be) Feist sweet little black baby bird that looks mostly Americana, she is the second “child” of Madonna our gold breasted Brodie patriarch bird.

10000+ red wiggler worms! lovely happy poo eating machines! You may recall our excellent vermicompost tea brewing systems from last week! Today we are bubbling up another batch of vermi-comphry-tea for the garden, starts and guilds.

All the other lovely hens we have keep us in farm fresh rainbow eggs each day. I think with the new chicks we are up at about 26 stunning heritage birds.

And the keepers of us all, the night watchmen, dedicated loyal and diligent in their service to the fokes and the flock are MacKenzie and Odin. The best bear busting cougar chasing, deer stalking duo around!

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I keep taking pictures and want to share all of the exciting accomplishments we have made around here, but everytime I pull out my camera to compose a picture I think… ‘ew look at thay ugly pile of poo, or those tarps look so messy, or why are all of those materials piled up like that in the way? Maybe it’s the artist designer in my who is always put off by the chaos in a image composition… yet I have no trouble living with the straw piled high in front of my waddle and daub shed and strewn with an ugly blue tarp! I have to admit I don’t share as many images as I would like to because I think the farm looks messy when captured in a single frame… but when your here, living and moving, growing and building the mess is all relevant to the successes we are having!

So messy piles and half finished undertakings aside we have so much to share, where to begin?

The entire “old” garden space got planted, new rock stairways improved access to the Yarn yurt and the new expansion of the garden (to the hugel and giant sheet mulch, and future key holes), we started a swift execution of an outdoor shower that was quickly quelled, and promptly replaced by a stunning pole framed shed roof shower house structure, which decks off from the yarn yurt and houses a new cedar board and baton shower and composting toilet house with stunning open views of the moutains across the valley and the top of Perrys Ridge. The new structure also boasts a lower level garden sink and outdoor kitchen area. OMG it is looking fabulous! with huge overhangs, and beautiful joinery. I was happy with the make shaft early version.. but this my friends is unreal. There is talk of milling a giant cedar slab countertop for the garden sink with part of a massive cedar trunk gifted to us.

We have had some big days in the last week planing cedar boards, pulling new dead standing poles from the back 40 for garden fencing, hauling shit, and building sheet mulch beds, and another HUGE compost pile (decked out in a fancy compostex cover rather than the trouble some tipi’d tarps). The other day I spent most of the day sitting in aged horse shit weeding it for the base of the barley bed. Poor Phil had the unfortunate task of hauling nasty chicken shit straw up to the new compost pile site.While Jordan got his chainsaw skills tuned back in, as he hauled the newly required 14 fence posts for the big expansion. Dyl and his dad plained miles of boards and the reward was warm shower for all Friday morning! What a delight! The space is totally functional yet not at all finished. It’s time for some designer attention. I have some idea to adorn the space with rusty bits and bobs repurposed. YEAH FOR HOT SHOWERS!

But I digress, I skipped the long weekend… Both of Dylan’s folks ended up joining us for what was a drizzly and cold weekend, but we still manged to get many tasks done and feed an army of 8 for days (whew that was a little tiresome but my culinary skills are honing in). It was as always so wonderful to have family out here! It was a real shock for Helen to see what we have done since her visit last summer (new road, 2 yurts, waterlines, and expanded gardens to name a few!) ¬†Jordan slipped back to Alberta for a few days but brought his friend Isis back with him, and I was thrilled to have some amazing estrogen in the dirt with me. Isis and I managed to plant out all the rest of the beds and she did a number on the weeds, cleaning pathways and flower beds, she even improved the esthetics of the man-yurt and painted a lovely mural on the door!

Dyl and I were getting a little burned out and called for an all out NO WORK weekend! For maybe the first time ever! We spent Saturday with Dave driving to Kaslo and touring through Sandon, ¬†it was wonderful to take a much needed day off… as we haven’t done that in months.

Today we heading up valley to help our friend raise the roof of their Conics shelter for their outdoor kitchen. What a wild structure! low cost, no waste, strong and resistant to all sorts of extreme weather. It was so cool seeing it go from a pancake of plywood tiles to a curved self supporting structure of beauty! With very few hitches!

Ah living the good life.

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I know I have mentioned a few times already that we are hugel-ing a part of the new garden expansion… well the other day we finally got the bed underway!

The hugelkultur bed (mound culture as it translates from German) was pretty simple to assemble:

We started by staking out a contour line, and as we are building it on a hill side, we pounded some pole steaks into the ground to catch the load of the first and largest punky tree trunks, then we neatly stacked more and more woody materials (which we have been hoarding in hugel stacks for months) generally building the stack from biggest pieces to smallest as we went up. The overall shape is a long pie wedge that acts as the boarder from the road way to the new terraces.

The following day we utilized our new gravity spring fed water line and really saturated the mound, which made for a nice refreshing sprinkler cool down as we worked on a small excavation about 12 feet away in the beating heat. Having a hugel dump site directly behind a earthen excavation was peachy! All of the roots and twigs and duff we pulled out easily made there way to the mound.

What a lovely way to use us massive amounts of wood bits and bobs; branches punky stumps, rotten birch branches, roots, twigs, leaves, pine needles, old straw well packed in chicken manure, the contents of many pee buckets, leafy duff, pine shavings, and sandy soil from an excavation… what does this all amount to? A self watering nutrient rich raised bed, that may even ward off the kouch grass for a time!

Check out Paul Wheatons Great hugelkultur Page full of diagrams and pictures of more examples of hugels in action!

Our hugelbed will will planted out with squash and chickpeas, all of which will be heavily mulched of course. As we work on building good soil it will be exciting to watch it grow!

On the topic of mulch; For the last couple years I have used a great amount of straw to mulch all of my beds, but struggle with the fact that it is not even close to local out here, it’s expensive and has been pretty seedy in the past. So what is our local counterpart to straw? Well it’s wood chips my friends! Lucky for us we have a friend who owns a small (this is a relative term) mill just down the road and he is swimming in wood chips and shavings, he gives us the word once he has run pine or fir and we head down the road 5 minutes for truckloads. I like the look of the wood chips in the garden, and on the occasion of a chicken assault on the garden the birds seem less drawn to the wood chips than they are to straw! Best of all it’s free!

We will add more pictures as we get the bed planted and it starts to grow and we get underway the next garden bed projects: sheet mulch key hole beds!

On the topic of sheet mulch: Way way back 3 spring times agao, when all we had here was a waving hillside of kouch grass I eked out one 80 foot long bed using a lasagne or sheet multch technique. I built that bed right ontop of thriving fresh kouch grass, and still to this day it is one of my favorite and most nutrient rich beds in the garden. The grass is managable and not so vigorous and I feel like this is a really viable option for working with weedy long routed grass challenges! There are some things I have learned about that bed and my material selections I am set to improve this go round.

*** I am so stoked to have so much great news to report, having all the extra muscle and brain power around here is fabulous, we are making HUGE steps forward in all manor of food and human systems. Jordan erected a great shower house next to the yarn yurt and we finally got to use the bamboo walls Dayna gifted us last year for the task, The shower has a sturdy peeled pole bench and a pallet deck floor. We will have a double sink next to it for all manor of garden / toiletry / and kitchen camp uses both will be heated¬†with a hot water on demand unit designed for outdoor camps. The open air view from the shower is wonderful and I can’t wait to jump in an enjoy a sunny outdoor¬†shower!

Phil and Jordan hauled no end of big @ss boulders around today, improving access after days of bobcat disruption! We now have a raging water line across the garden and to the yarn yurt, and that was no small feat. Dyl had to learn how to drive a bobcat backhoe to get 140 feet of new water line in place, and that task was an all hands on deck pick axe-shovelling-racking fiasco! I kept singing “laying pipe all day long” and acknowledged that never before have I had 3 men “…working so hard to satisfy this woman”!

Yeah for water, and bobcats, and bamboo showers, and perky plants who loved the vermi-compost tea treatments!!!


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