Tag Archives: outdoor living

June berries verses Huckleberries

Having gone to several famers markets of late and found a number of people who are advertising Huckleberries only to find what they have are June Berries, also known as Service Berries or Sarvice Berries.  These two plants are very different, from when they ripen to the flavour and availability.  I am not going to go into deep detail as few people would remember that anyway but a basic detail of how they differ might help.

Huckleberries grow on low shrubs, in alpine conditions.  They are ripen late in the summer, have a glossy shine to them and cluster on the branch.   Huckleberries are nearly impossible to grow on your own. They almost refuse to grow if they are tampered with.  They often cost $60 or more a pound.

June berries grow on tall bushes, often reaching 15 to 20 feet. They ripen from late June to mid august depending on elevation.  They grow from low elevation to high elevation as long as they have water.  They have only a few berries together, look almost dusty, and are as common as Choke Cherries.  You can find them in many tree nurseries in the Rockies and can be planted for decoration, food, or wind break.  June berries are my absolute favourite but cost no more than blue berries at a fair price.  I would never pay more then $7 a pound.

Knowing the difference between the two can save you a bit of money but do not expect those selling June berries as huckleberries to be happy if you tell them they don’t know what they have.  June Berries

huckleberry branch

huckleberry branch

If you compare the two side by side you can fee the difference between the leaves, the berry texture as well as the way they grow on the branches.  When you are buying or eating wild harvested foods it is important to know what you are picking and what you are eating.  It is always wise to double check and ask questions.  If you happen to find berries while hiking it is always wise to be certain what you are picking before you eat any.  Not all berries are edible and not all berries taste all that good but now and then you can find some of the most wonderful things hidden just off the trail if you know what to look for.



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 Lanterns – project 1- 2014

april 2014 011
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.
april 2014 001
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.
april 2014 003
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.
april 2014 007
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.
oct2012 126

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.
march 2014 007
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.
march 2014 010