Tag Archives: modern mountain woman


This summer has been crazy. It started all with a seeming utter collapse of health that led to my having to leave a great little job at the small town- family owned store. However, that in turn allowed for several things to happen all at once. The first and most consuming was that Shane had the opportunity to tear down a rather large green house and take it away. So as i was saying I needed to build one and seek to making a living growing herbs and veggies he shrugged and said he could help me make that happen. Tearing it down took us only a few weekends but the design was … shall we say… not well thought out.

After a little reworking and the use of an excavator the work began. Sonnet tubes set to help stabilize it no matter what weather gets thrown at the mountain. All the lumber cleared of nails and soon the posts will go up. I don’t think it will be done before the end of next month this gem will be year round and offer the smell of green and earth even in the long winter months this far north.

The green house hasn’t been the only project. The Little Cabin is getting face lift with wrap around decks (decking from the greenhouse that does not fit into the new plan) and the pond is under way. This week I hope to get the last few touches onto the drain and then the rest of the fill can happen.

James has begun to study for his GED as well as working on designs for his own room. It will be a small space but his. Gabbion walls will support bottle and cob walls, with a sod roof. Its hard work to build the walls but it will stand up to just about anything when we are done.

I also have had time to begin to edit again and pick up art that I have been remiss of in the last few years. Glass paint, pencil sketches (when my hands allow) and even a bit of clay… oh for a kiln and wheel. Today i will be working on the water tanks and securing them for winter so this year I need not haul water when -20 hits.

I haven’t posted for a bit as I hate to do so without pictures and a friend ‘helped’ me set up a google photo account and now I must learn how to access my photos for use anywhere else. If any of you know how to do that, Let Me Know! As soon as I figure it out, my usual number of photos, of work as well as the landscape will return.



Tour at Paul Wheaton’s

After getting a short notice invite to a quick tour of Paul Wheaton’s Permaculture site in MT.  I had to go.  So my son and I picked some June Berries (Sarvice Berry- not the same thing as Huckleberry) to take and add to the pot luck we headed out.  The day had started out cool and raining but by the time we got there the sun had made an appearance, with stunning cumulus clouds.

I would have stopped to take pictures on the way but we were on a time limit and drove straight through.  Tucked away we found the gate after some back tracking.  Paul jumped down from the tractor and his dirt work to say hello before we headed off with Sam.

We got a look at their massive Hugelkulture walls.  aug 2014 001Here wood, from twigs to entire tree trunks are layered in with the soil to absorb water.  It takes about three years to get the wood broken down enough to really retain the water but once it kicks in the gardens you plant on the sides need little if any watering.

The outdoor showers were a quick stop, but the compost pile water heater held my son’s interest far more than the shower itself.  aug 2014 007The pile provided water at about 110degrees for 15 people at a time without they ever having run out.  If the space is there and this system can be implemented I have seen it not only be used to heat water but for radiant heating as well.

The composting privy required a quick peek

aug 2014 010They separate soils and liquids here unlike I do in my little composter, but the numbers who use this toilet far out number mine.  The separation helps with the smell if the system is not vented and weekly emptied.  From there we went up to look at the sun walls where there are plans for citrus trees in Montana.  I very much want to come back and check it out next fall (and the fall after) and see how it has progressed.

aug 2014 012The higher back walls will not only hold in heat but block the wind.  The dry stack wall build into the inner scoop will also hold and radiate heat.  This is not an option on my mountain side but a method I would like to work on.  Perhaps one of my farming fellow mountain women would be interested in this.

We checked out the Waddie house.  aug 2014 015If you are in a place where timber is readily accessed this style is similar to earthships with a few key differences.  Still under construction it had many layers yet to go on including a very deep live roof.  Not too far away we passed the tepee witht he rocket stove heater…aug 2014 019and the bear proof bee hives…aug 2014 021After all the questions and a stop to pet the resident dogs we headed back to base camp for dinner.

aug 2014 022Heading off to writers group I missed the movie, Food Forest, but other stayed to share popcorn and conversation.  I want to thank Dave from   http://www.offgridding.com/about-us.html for inviting me to join the tour; Paul, Joyselen, Sam and all the others who answered questions, took the time to give the tour and made us welcome as well as laid out such a wonderful meal.

Bottle Garden (project2 part2)

I rarely, if ever, buy water in bottles, I have a large mug for my water, but I do buy ice tea. These bottles are a bit more work to make into a garden but I have to say I like the result. I think I will stuck to the ice tea bottles unless some one requests the water bottle style.
All the steps are the same except that the lids are large enough to put in two screws on the union from bottom to catchment, making it more solid and eliminating the need to add super glue. The bottom of these bottles are made in such a way it is VERY difficult to drill them out, but have a nice circle that can be followed with a razor knife. Do this carefully so you don’t slice too far or slice off a finger! Doing this however, makes the hole too large to just push the tops through as you do with the water bottles. I had to find a washer to put between the cap and the bottom of the bottle. This is not a common washer size and might require you taking in the bottle to find one that works.
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with the amount of caulking between the lids once the caulking is dry the drain holes will be need to added so the caulk does not plug them.
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Bottle Lanterns – project 1- 2014

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Alost as soon as the snow melts in Montana the bugs begin to appear. Mosquitoes come out with sharp and hungry bites that are known to ruin the enjoyment of many stunning evenings. Beyond planting bug repelling herbs or spraying for them citronella candles help to hold them at bay, as well as offering a touch of light to any twilight conversation.
Using old bottles, (beer in this case) you can easily make as many as you like at very low cost, with some rather stunning results.
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you need the bottles of your choice, a small copper fitting (1/2″) plumbers tape and the wicks. You can add decorative details to them if you like, but really that’s up to your time and desire. Most bottles are just a little too big for the fitting to stay in place snuggly. To fix that you just wrap the copper in the plumbers tape.
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In this case the Lucky Buddha bottles fit the piece well enough that I did not need the wrapping on it. Just be aware that if the copper is in direct contact with the glass the heat will transfer. The wicks fit in like they were made for it. Just give it a bit to let the oil soak up the wick to get a good flame.
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Keep in mind the more of the wick that is out the bigger the flame and the more smoke it will make. I have made these for years and often give them as gifts to friends with summer birthdays.
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These too are for my sister.
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Flirting with Spring

This year we have had record breaking amounts of snow. The snow piled up, buried vehicles, crushed green houses and piled up deeper and deeper on the roves of campers, 5th wheels and homes of all sorts. Metal roofs, without the proper gutters and edges to deal with heavy snow load slip, became dangerous avalanche zones. Snow plows were put to more work than the last ten years combined. One thing after another had to be dug out.
The poles of the green house bent, the plastic tore and from under the banks of snow the floor is flooded. (I tried to take pics but the water is so clean and over a sheet of ice so it does not show in pictures.)
(love my fuzzy pants. Warmer than Long Johns)
I do not recommend the plastic come-in-a-box green houses. For the same amount of money something far more sturdy can be built. If a person has no construction skill or the tools sometimes the buy it from Ace green house is the only option but keep in mid very few will last more than three years. With the weather in the 40’s it feels like spring and I am eager to get a green house built.
This time of year is a good time to walk, to wander and observe how the snow piles, where the water runs, what areas melt faster, where the ice stays the longest. This insight can help you to refine and tweak long term plans. I am eager to go hiking but the snow is still past my knees and now it is so wet its almost like wading.
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I have posted so many winter photos Im not sure I want to post more. I am looking forward to seeing he ground again, to being able to touch moss and earth, to being able to walk without slipping on ice or being hip deep in snow. The weather channel tells me that the next ten days the highs will be into the 40’s, even brushing towards 50 with nights barely freezing. Spring is flirting with promises of wonderful things to happen, but this is MT. I have never known a spring to whisper in gently and stay. She is a tease and likely to vanish the moment you think she might stay.
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Winter Walk

For the last year it seems I have been in an endless round of edits. Books written over 20 years ago have been fighting for the light of day and chapter by chapter have clawed their way from the battered pages of old notebooks and old floppy disks. This last week I have been compiling chapter names, page numbers, title pages and debating dedications. Today I ordered the proof for book 6 in the series and while there is one more book before I step back from this series, to dive into another, I can see the end top of the wall. So forgive me in this blog, (as I have mentioned earlier) if I don’t edit.
As a lover of words, of clever phrases, of well written and clever insights, I have been known to cringe when I look back at some of the rough draft things I have poster. Then again I remind myself that those things I have read that follow strict rules either of formula or grammar laws I find less then enjoyable. This blog is not however supposed to be about writing. It is about the moment after the order notice came back saying my book proof would arrive on the 3rd. I felt my shoulders drop just a little. I noticed my coffee was just on the cool side and it was snowing like the depth of a Narian Winter outside.
The dog looked at me hopefully!
“Yes please!” She seemed to say.
So still in my fuzzy jamma pants I slipped into boots, grabbed my camera and a go mug of fresh hot coffee. Stepping from the warm indoor and away from the computer, away from the music and away from the endless rounds of nit-picking how to say “said” as many way as possible and not sound like a jack ass, I entered another world.
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Dashing outside the dog stopped, she looked at the snow fall and back to me to make sure I was seriously going to join her on such a great day.
The snow had been coming down since about 4 am and pushing 1 pm it had all but hidden the knee deep foot paths that criss cross the yard from one point to another. A path around back to the water tanks, another to the fire pit; cutting across to the propane tank, to the green house/storage shed and a twisting trail to the solar panels that need to be kept swept clean.
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The fire pit seems lost at this point, only the nearly buried chairs even shows where it hides under the deep blanket of snow.
We waded through the snow to the road with the idea I might hike up tot he spring and try to find the stump I had sat on a month ago to listen to birds and soak in the sun but once on the road looking at the 4 feet of snow on my path and down at my rather unlikely hiking gear I decided to stay to the road. So we walk from one end of the property to the other.
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Thankfully more than one of the neighbours on this little road come though and keep it plowed. Even so the snow was past the top of my boots and trying to get down inside. Even so it was hard to turn back.
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There is a beauty to winter that can not be grasped from behind the wheel of a car trying to get to work. With such views I can only be grateful I do not have to attempt to wind my way down this road to get to work daily. Editing seems a small price to pay for the option.
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It is hard to walk in such a reality and not dream up new stories, eager to be told. A hundred old notebooks whisper at me “remember us? We have such scenery in our pages remember out heroes.”
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All the snow on the trees is from today alone. Yesterday sunshine and a gust of breeze now and then had left the trees clear, their limbs and needles clean and lifted upward.
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For all my desire to be planting things, to be breaking ground for building and sinking in roots it is impossible to not be caught up by the beauty of a mountain forest draped in winter.
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On such a day, in such a deep silence, where the loudest sound is the snow falling, you can almost imagine snow dragons watching from the mountain cliffs above you, of fairies catching snow flakes, or ancient Elves and Druids whispering blessing on the forest and all those who walk among their trees.
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January Walk

The clouds lifted and left the sky clear blue. Thin beams of light came past the road and into the yard itself but above the mountain was bathed in glorious sunshine. I grabbed a camera and headed up,
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Laving the denser forest I reached an area where the trees had been cleared in time past, offering a wonderful area of brush, bush and grasses.

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Higher up the sun was full, lifting over the mountain. My coat came off. I turned my face to the sun and just soaked it in. The human body, the very chemicals of our skin and brain require the sun. With the knowledge I stood listening to the birds I had not heard yet this winter, sharing in the gratitude for the break in the weather and the chance to just Be there.

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The snow was gone, replaced with mud. I found an old stump and just sat. The spring was moving enough that even where I sat I hear it trickling over the little water fall. I stayed with no sound beyond the water, the birds and further up the mountain the dog dashing about. No cars, no neighbours, no engines of any kind. I should have brought a folding chair. The stump was wet and eventually I had to head back down, but not beore I took another shot.

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Heading back down it was hard to leave the private moment of spring time above for the crisp cold below. This time of year is hard on plants an animals as it tricks them into thinking it is spring but its not. We are still in winter and the coldest months are yet to come. The chance to feel the sun is wonderful but I whisper to the trees to the stay sleeping, its not time yet. Soon, but not yet.

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Old Things

Ever since I was a child I had a love of old things. “Antiques” people would correct me. “No,” I would think. “Antiques belong in museums and serve no purpose but to remind us of the past. Old things are things you can still use.” That love of “old things” has never left me. Those wonderful objects that were made to not only serve a purpose but to do so aesthetically as possible. From old cooking utensils to hand pumps I always pause and think, can I use that? Not, how quaint.

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When I was young we had a neighbour named Jim. He was an old man who lived in a house build of Cottonwood logs of a girth few trees today have a chance to achieve. His house had one light bulb hanging from a cord with tinfoil to direct the light as he needed. He had a tv that he only used to watch baseball and a fridge that normally only held lunch meat and milk. Those three things was all he owned that was “new”. His house was dark and smelled of the wood stove and tobacco chew.
He would sit in his chair and tell stories about how he used to be a cook in the army and served up 300 meals a day to the boys on a cook stove like he’d never seen, it had space for 24 pots. It was an all day task back then, you split the wood between cook times and had to keep those fires just right. His own stove was just a tiny thing compared to the one he used in the Big War.
His water came from a hand pump that was attacked to a sand point pounded down into the ground water. he taught me how to hold the edges just right as the metal had worn so much they no longer fit quite right. He talked about how the leather diaphragm inside it worked to suck the water up and how to prime it. He explained that if you let the leather dry out it would crack and then… no more water. So every day, if he needed water or not he would be out there to pump up a bucket of water. No water ever tasted better to me.
(I have a picture of that old cabin and Jim in a photo album that I would love to add, but my scanner is not recognizing my computer…)

On the farm I grew up on the barn was a wonderful old thing, filled with old tools, from hand crank drills, to horse pulled plows and seeders. I loved them all.

(My mom, sister and I in front of the old barn) Sadly it burned down in the late 80’s

Perhaps this love of the old things is what led to my interest in permaculture and off grid options. For if Jim could live with but a bulb and baseball game now and then why couldn’t we all? It has also given me a fascination with old buildings. I do not think my son is quite as exceited about them as I am.

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On the corner of the property there is an old cabin that is mostly been lost to the past. He and I walked out on the 30th as it was remarkably warm with the snow melting and the need for coats debatable. We climbed about the old logs and mounds of earth about it. The logs themselves held little interest to him, it was the plants that had begun to grow on them that held his focus.

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I had to wonder how tall the walls had been, when it had been built and why had it been left, bot those a are questions that only the local historian could hope to answer. Luckily for me she does not live far but trying to track her down is another matter. In the mean time, I will debate digging up the floor and shifting for clues or should leaving it to melt into the forest.

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