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Had some waste cut-offs from the last job. Decided to repurpose them...

Last Friday we stayed home from work due to Dean being under the weather. So the kids and I used the opportunity to start on the garden plot, do a little barnyard clean up & to get some fresh air. The garden plot was quite the mess.

We enjoyed watching the goats and ducks being released from their winter quarters and go a little wacky on the barely there green grass blades

First thing we did was assess the old derelict greenhouse frame. It needs to be disassembled, repaired and re-sheeted with siding and greenhouse plastic. Lil Bit and I took stock of our materials so we could plan the new structure. As it is currently, about 15 feet long and 8 ish feet wide. We’d like to maintain that size, just move it over to the left about 2-3 feet.

Then we found a couple old pallets that we hauled up to the garden plot to add to our existing compost bin. The original bin was filled up over the winter with kitchen scraps and barn litter. We’ll let that side sit and work this summer to add to our beds next year.

Then we got started on the clean up part. Thing 2, AB and Lil Bit all pitched in. We cut down all the wild raspberry canes, some Willow shrubs and tall grasses down. We raked up dead grass and leaves to fill our new compost bin about half way. The kids hauled barn litter over and dumped into the old bin. I gave some of the raked up dried grass to the goats, they loved it.

I cleared out the strawberry patch of last year’s dead leaves & weeds, cut the runners loose and mulched with fresh straw. We topped off the two beds and all the tire stacks with more soil. And we stretched an old tarp (that we repurposed for ground cover & saved from going to the landfill) out over the area we just cleared to keep regrowth down to a minimum. We will eventually top this with sawdust and wood chips for pathway maintenance after we build the new beds.

This tarped area is where we plan to construct two more raised beds and put additional tire stacks around the fence perimeter.

Lil Bit’s 4H project is gardening so she has been busy tending her starts in the mini greenhouse in our bathroom. And getting more excited by the day to start her outdoors garden & greenhouse.

Lil Bit’s starter garden. She’s got bell peppers tomatoes, squash, cucumber and a big pumpkin on the right.

While raking and checking for signs of new growth we discovered the lilac Thing 1 planted last year has some buds on it!! It’s always a happy day to see your plants made it through the winter!!

Rhubarb patch coming to life!

Besides the greenhouse renewal & new raised beds to build, we have some fencing repairs to make. I’d also like to test our soil this year so we can make amendments based on need. We’ll see how that goes. 🤪So our work isn’t done but we feel good about getting it started.

How is it possible? It seems like just yesterday we were snow machining and hauling loads of it away!

Signs of spring are very welcome! I’ve spotted Canada Geese flying in and Dean saw some Sandhill Cranes the other day. You can start to hear a few songs birds now and then but I’ve yet to spot a Robin. I’m behind on getting all of my Birch trees tapped, maybe today I’ll get another one or two done?

May is always a busy month physically but also emotionally as well. Besides the happy celebratory days like Mert’s birthday, Mother’s Day, a sweet little red-headed girl’s birthday and my Seester & John’s anniversary, it brings somber reminders of those we’ve lost as well.

Today would have been my step-brother Michael’s 54th birthday. Blessed memory.

My Grandmother’s, also of blessed memory, 97th birthday would have been on the 27th. She’s been gone for 18 years now.

We’ll celebrate the official end of the school year, although does it ever really end?? Ours just morphs into summer school and next year.

Memorial Day of course, somber for those remembering a loved one who paid the ultimate price for being an American. Whilst the rest of us kick off the summer season with joy. Both extremes of celebration wrapped up into one day.

All of the flowers watered by last months’s showers should begin to pop their blossoms. It’s time for some color other than white everywhere.

I hope your May is full of beauty and goodness. Soon, before we know it, fish camp will be here and my mantra begins… “winter is coming”!!

Spring is on the way, remember to start your seedlings and file for your PFD today!

It never ends.

Until the snow flies that is.

Spent several hours today helping Thing 1 with her gardening goals. Assembled another raised bed that had been cut out a month ago. Filled it and several more tire towers with compost and dirt. Planted a few more things. I scored a few shorter season plants for half off, end of the season sale. So we planted those.

We also topped off the strawberry bed with another tier and planted some runners. Built a trellis and covered it with bird netting so we can harvest a few berries ourselves.

My flowers were blooming for me when we got home from fishcamp.

Food self sufficiency is something any good Alaskan Sourdough knows a good deal about. And you use what you have to make your garden work. We’re not buying a bunch of fancy stuff, just making do with what’s around the place.

My first summer in our home (2015) I had high hopes for a bountiful harvest from my new (to me) garden plot. We even constructed a small greenhouse to help extend our season a little bit. I planted all sorts of things like potatoes, tomatoes, okra, herbs and squash. I was so excited! I mean, what could go wrong, I’ve been gardening most of my life and usually pretty successfully at that. Well, Alaska throws a mean curve ball.

Besides planting most all the wrong things, I had no concept of Alaska’s surprise hard frosts nor her relentless sun beating down day in and night too. And exactly how much water one needs to apply to soil that really never gets enough of the stuff. Neither did I appreciate how fast grass and weeds grow here.

To say that my first Alaskan garden was an epic failure is an understatement. It was so devastating, all that work, time and $$ down the drain, that I haven’t really gardened since, with the exception of a container here and there and cold hardy flowers. (I mean petunias.)

This year we’re giving it a full-on go again. Mostly because my oldest daughter wants to do it. It’s her project and I’m offering a little support along the way. At least she’s starting off with a little more experience in Alaskan summer weather cycle and what’s really best to plant here. And no, there’s no plan to grow okra.

She’s started out with measuring the garden fence to get an idea of how much electric fence we need plus square footage to plan out her scheme. She’s plotted 5 raised beds, hugelkulture style, and a variety of tire towers and containers around the perimeter. Plus an update to the greenhouse which needs a new skin.

Her planned crops include potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, squash, broccoli, cauliflower, herbs, peas, radishes, blueberries, rhubarb, strawberries, raspberries and flowers, some edible.

Kids building raised bed #1. Cardboard over existing grass, sawmill slab raised beds, filled with topsoil mixed with manure & sawdust on top of a central pile of wood scrap, limbs and leaves. To be topped with compost.

There’s the existing compost pile (that Thing 2 made years prior for a science project) that she’s expanding to double the capacity. Plus she’s already made her strawberry bed with tires and shared plants from Nancy, our neighbor up the road. Nancy is the sweetest. She’s taken the girls under her gardener’s wing and been bringing them plants and sharing information (and ice cream too apparently) with them. This relationship I approve of, not sure about the ice cream tho. Lol

With each passing weekend we try and do a little more work on the garden prep. We are still frosting at night here in our little low spot at the bottom of the hill. So waiting to go to the greenhouse to buy plants, but soon we’ll take out a small loan to make the trip.

Potato tires next to the compost bin. These are golden fingerlings.
The first bed with soil added
Strawberry tires.

I’m very excited for Thing 1 and her goals of gardening and am trying to support her as much as possible but she really is doing most of the work so far. Plus she is carrying on the garden tradition of her Papa Alaska. Who certainly had it figured out with his two massive green thumbs.

We’re doing what we can to produce food for ourselves, in that old sourdough spirit.

The weather is holding out a bit longer but the gray sky above the house isn’t promising. We’ve got home improvements to do and gardening prep to absolutely get done today. Winter is coming!

There’s no time for research & writing today, I’ve got other work to do… For starters, replacing a defective upstairs window. We’ve put it off long enough. When you open the existing window the very heavy bottom half falls out. It’s not too user friendly on hot summer days.

That’s 16′ to the bottom of the window, 20′ to the top.

Dean’s on the crazy crew, three stacks of scaffolding…. I’m working from the inside.

New window, slightly smaller due to original being nonstandard size. Making do.

There, that’s better.

Now on to the garden bed building for Thing 1’s horticultural/botany project. She has her garden all planned out. From her 5 raised beds, to potato tire stacks, container blueberries, a new strawberry bed, a second compost bin and the green house space. Next project is to recover the greenhouse with plastic & fix the fence.

Thing 1’s first of five plotted raised beds. It will be hugelkulture style. As soon as the dirt pile is thawed enough to move dirt.

Then to address the annual run off from snow melt that inundates our foundation.

My Lil helper setting our drain system in place.

Lil Mister was a big help today. He shoveled out the ditch right beside me then helped fill it back in.

Covered up.

Whew, I’m tired. It’s time for some R&R, oh wait, I need to go grocery shopping for the next two weeks. Oy. And then cook dinner.

Ok, food is bought, dinner is cooked and I am off duty. Good night folks!

Little baby seedlings

We spent Sunday morning foraging. Niki, Mo, Thing 1 & I. City Hall has some crab apple trees and an abundance of rosehips that we harvested for jelly making.

Loaded little crab apple tree.

While there we enjoyed each other’s company and solved all the world’s problems. We also enjoyed the flower beds and various different trees planted around the premises.

Dusty Miller in the Soldotna City Hall flower garden.

We found a large patch of wild roses and harvested a nice amount of rosehips. Thing 1 had a good time practicing plant identification for her Botany class.

We harvested enough crab apples for jelly, cider, sauce… You get the idea

Cut leaf weeping Birch.

Also enough to share with others. Part of the joy of wildcrafting is sharing with others.

Some ornamental foundation shrubs.
More flowers at City Hall.
Another bed relatively untouched by the frost.

We also had to harvest our own plants. Lil Bit planted several herbs for her Botany class last year. They did very well and we’ve enjoyed fresh basil, cilantro and parsley this summer.

Lil Bit’s parsley she grew from seed. Harvested to use in our matzo ball soup for Sukkot.

Alas, Old Man Winter is knocking at the door. Time to harvest as much as we can. Hoping for another cranberry picking soon. And a moose.

And afterwards we went for coffee.

#aklife #foraging #wildcrafting #bounty