Author Archive

We Dig Plants

I just got word about a new radio show on the incredible Heritage Radio Network out of NY. If you don’t know about HRN, the station’s got a station for every sort of local foodie–the cook, the grower, the local food system policymaker. And for the musically inclined there’s Snacky Tunes which had they listened to the crack of my leek whip would have been called Carrot Noise. But owell. The new show is called We Dig Plants and you can stream each program here.

I’m not sure whether it’s completely relevant to the whole vegetable/pseudo wiccan/community organizing principles of 1kng, but no one can argue against its value…With such a stunning description that makes me think of the Pollan’s Botany of Desire, I can only think of its importance as we proceed forward with this community redevelopment project.

“Garden designers, Carmen Devito & Alice Marcus Krieg of Groundworks Inc, will delve into our human relationship with plants: as food, medicine, fodder and as a source of beauty and inspiration. We’ll bring the “culture” to horticulture and discuss such topics as: botany how to, cultivation, horticultural history, garden design trends and all things generally budding.”

Plus…it’s winter. Is there a better time to listen casually about plants?


Filling a void (the sharecrop and fall planting)

Earlier this week a new friend, Marco, and I began a contemporary voyage into (the once abused term) ‘sharecropping.’  Pat Pulliam's 1 editPat Pulliam's 3 editAt two households that have, for all practical purposes, been in fallow for years (visual of one), the lords of the land are letting us fill the void by weeding or tilling, llama manuring or composting, and planting this week.

I’ll provide an updated photo showing the progression tomorrow.

Our goal is to return this ground to a more holy state–not that we’re improving on nature’s inclinations–what I mean is more directed at the ecstatic skin of the Earth, the soil. As Franco put it importantly, “we are growing the soil, not the plants.” Astrologically, Leo (July 23-August 23) is the best time to work the soil.

Our plan is to work a bit with the moon cycle, grow some species of the root (radish, beet, carrot) because today was the first day of the full moon. [To be full-fledged biodynamic guys, we would incorporate many other techniques, but I feel like especially at this late juncture, we are making an effort to become connected to the seasons & intuitively (suprisingly) timing our work together. We’ll expand our repertoire next year.] It’s really an experiment and even with the infinite powers of natural cycles, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we can pull of this late season dance. If you’d like to bow to yer neighbor and do see do, we’re willing to sell directly to you. Let me know if yer interested and I’ll get back to you in approximately 48-70 days letting you have a pick of the roots, basil and cucumber.

Has anyone tried garden cover crops before and have advice regarding winter wheat/rye or tritacale? Would anyone like to give it a go fer the first time and buy bulk with us? The plan is to plant whatever we order in September.

This crop serves such a dual purpose–one leg of which belongs to a hairy homebrewer. I’m pondering using a bit of the grain in an ale this spring with hops grown by Lifeline Farm. It could be a loco local beer. We’re also going to be gleaning the neighborhood of its apples, making cider (hard and soft), applesauce, jam and pie. Let me know if you’d like to be a part of any or all of this process. By the way, if you’re a member of MUD you can vie for access to two cider presses in these, the Apple Days.

Peas, BBH

Seed Saving–first item of business, the peas.

peas in buckIf your once green peas are looking bloated and showing signs of late season garden rust, they probably look like mine. Peas are definitely early risers and early sleepers. Is anyone else’s peas in the mood for castration yet?

peas in a buckHarvesting a bucket of woody, decaying pea pods made me question whether stir-frying the last crop was worth it…should I just collect the remaining pods and revive the innards next year?

Once I passed through the three stages of pea-related grief, I asked a fellow farmer about techniques for saving pea seeds for 2010 and did a search on google. Each query brought me one step forward and two steps back, because the appropriate pea seed saving method is to wait until the pods have become organisms akin to old men of the Florida coast. It’s best to wait for the pods to reach full maturity on the plant. Unfortunately I didn’t research this before the bucket harvest.

This site provides some information on the process including this–“Allow pods to dry brown before harvesting, about four weeks after eating stage. If frost threatens, pull entire plant, root first, and hang in cool, dry location until pods are brown.”

Lucky for Missoulians who have already picked the remaining pod-ies, there’s this advice from the Daughter of the Soil (a credible moniker, no?)–“If the peas are no longer receiving moisture from the plant then there’s no particular reason to leave them on the plant, as far as I can see.” My plan is to wait until the little peas are rattling around in their graves–then I’ll assume they’re ready for their next life in the garden!

Let’s swap stories (from the field and the kitchen)

Gardening for vegetables really seems like a spectrum of intemacy. And the farther along in the season, the less careful I am with the produce.

Thinking back to the beginning of the season when those first suckers (or seedlings if you’re not into the whole brevity thing) are ready to transplant, every motion is filled with too much movement. ‘No, arm–don’t figit’ and ‘shit’ were phrases that filled my thoughts and the sound waves.

After the shallets and lettuces and, now, basil survived transplants and seedings these things seem indestructible. The precense of funky bugs and maybe even a fungal disease in the tomatoes haven’t taken it out of them. Nor has MT.

The only non-resilient plant thus far has been the eggplant which is unfortunate because that’s my all-time fave vegetable. It’s been torn to shreds by the potato (read:eggplant) beetle.

Yesterday we ate a spinach salad with potatoes alongside an excellent taco filled with the following:







-1/4 tsp salt

I highly recommend it–because most everything can be harvested from yer Missoula patch, and that is honestly part of what makes it SO good. Love, BBF

Why I’d like to just play a tune of many lettuces next year

Earlier this spring, I was a carbon copy of Dr. Frankenstein as I helped Tanya Olsen plant the arugula and kale, the carrots and lettuce and hon tsai thai. I worked a bit diligently, hoping my creation would come alive (Note: this is my first year of gardening ever, although I’m quickly realizing that yes of course, my ancestors did it and, so, like the salmon that swim upstream to spawn, I do likewise cultivating life in the soil). Trusting that my chard seeds will germinate to the surface of the Earth, and waiting that extra couple of days before reseeding a fallow spot was just one of this year’s lessons.

Anyways, I discovered yesterday that nothing had changed. I was the same carbon copy DR. F — I was tearing down my creation (due to the boltingness of arugula) in the interest of life, different lives in the plant community. It was easy to salvage what leftover small leaves hung from the plants–I ate them as I ripped the plants out of the ground and stripped some leaves for pesto. I’ll let everyone know how well wilted arugula leaf pesto turns out soon enough.

There’s more bad news for another fruit bearing crop. Right now we think the tomatos are serving a terrible life sentence due to Verticillium Wilt (follow link for the cold, hard science). Come to the farm to put yourself in the tomato’s shoes (and stripes). Here’s a photo, although in the early stages of whatever we’re seeing (fungus, pest, …) the leaves are not brown, but curled. It’s interesting, when I visited the Fifth Street Estates last week we noticed the same sort of leaf curlage but there were bugs in those leaves. There was little to no evidence, however, that insects at the farm were the “evil doers.”

The website says, should you ever have the V-wilt, part of the solution to the soil fungus lies in the chosen seed variety..some seeds are evidently more resistant. I’m going to do some research about which tomato seeds and report back, and with photographs. Until then, keep them Early Girl tomatoes in your thoughts! Love Ya, the BBF

Garden From The North Country

Today I feel inspired to write… Inspired by the rain, really. While the view of the many-ridged Mission Mountain Range tempts my gaze, most of the seconds I spend North of Misoula in Moiese, Montana, are dedicated to the top 3 inches (0r less) of sandy loam at my giant feet.


Whoever tells you an organic farm or garden is the most pure, tranquil, utopian existence is wrong. It is and it isn’t. I’ve killed to protect plants under cultivation…

“See pests, pick them off or hose them off. That’s about it, but it works. Healthy plants don’t have too many insect problems, to tell the truth. Bugs and diseases move in on a plant when it is already going down, the same way you’ll catch a cold when you’re stressed” — from The Urban Homestead.

…mainly potato beetles, although we’re also attempting to rid the bok choi of its aphidsoi with an organicide. In these patches of murder by liquid and “the two rock crunch”, I’ve also found a kill-deer nest of 3 dotted egges. ‘Life and death’, I say, as I weed patches of their mallow, their pigweed, their chickweed, and toss the “weeds” into the compost and the pigweed into my evening salad. The killed in the garden contribute to the life of everything else in quick albeit meandering ways.


In any case…the chard, kale, hon tsai tai, three lettuces, radishes, tomatoes, eggplant, fava beans, and peas seem to be growing well. My cohorts and I forgot to put the starter solution on the favas before we planted them 2 inches down…and yet they came up. The watermelon and pumpkin are in the ground as of Sunday (perhaps not recommended for the colder Missoula climate just yet), and the bok choi, kale, cucumber, and potato plants are the only ruffians that seem to be strugglin’.


Feeling very disconnected from the outside world. Comforted by the fact that at a time when the commentators can’t be separated from the chicken littles, it’s nice to be able to put up a tippee and create a life where you can be made to feel like you’re in control (even though can’t shake the fact that you never really are in the garden).

Digging and the art of neo-garden generosity

Today Mason Giem will be leading a crew of volunteers down the winding road to berryville.

He plans to leave the UC/University library parking lot at 5:30 and the venture shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours. It’s a long bike ride to the house on the West side of town, so we recommend carpooling. We will have a car or two there to do such things. Call Mason at 406-596-6273 for more information.

I’ve convinced my mother, Shaun Gant –although it wasn’t very hard to do so–to participate in a three-way trade of gardening widgets.

1) Steve, a friend of one of the greatest new gardeners in the world, has offered up his berry patches for aspiring gardeners.

2) Out of this digathon will come a bounty of “Everbearing” strawberry plants, some of which will go to Shaun’s burgeoning jardin in the slant-streets neighborhood.

3) For these mid-summer delights, Shaun has agreed to give a bundle of the tomato seedlings (cherry, canning and eatable varieties) that she’s been rearing for weeks to Marci Watson, one of the top ten new gardeners in the world. Marci plans to transplant the little seedlings into larger containers on her summer deck (where they will, as so many have done in my mother’s care, likely shoot up real high-like).

This is the sort of resource sharing and trading that 1kng encourages. If you have extra plants or seeds and have a desire for something outlandish, post a comment here and we’ll see what finds you… This is the system we have in place now, but the plan is to set up a groovily formal Craiglist for vegetablers soon.

We haven’t quite figured out the name [“Eplantlist” (short for eggplant list), “The Ceres Series” (after the godess of agriculture), “VegList”, “ArugulaList” are being tossed about casually] or exactly how to create a local Craiglist, but we’re on the beet. Do you have any ideas?

For information about strawberries (including choosing varieties, planting and harvesting) check out this site.

Love ya,