roberta mccanse

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since Apr 19, 2015
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Near Libby, MT
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Recent posts by roberta mccanse

When my 76 year old sister bought a two flat in South Chicago she bought a little push mower. This seemed like a good idea until the heat index hit 105. Fortunately her tenant's husband, who calls it "the contraption", is wild about yard work. He even cleans up the neighbor's yard.

Figuring having a garden would mean less grass to mow she began hauling in bags of dirt and compost. The soil in South Chicago is heavily tainted with lead and other bad things. She even spent an entire day putting together one of those twirling composters. To make things easier she went out and bought a little car so she doesn't have to carry bags of dirt home on the El. Even so she was grateful to the UPS man who saw her struggling and stopped to help her get them up the sidewalk and through the gate. Moral of the story,  playing the little old lady card is not totally shameless.
2 weeks ago
Right. Water. This is my biggest concern. My 354 foot deep well fills a 1800 gallon cistern, electrically. I will ask for the above mentioned hand pump for Christmas ($490). But at some point I will be out of water. Because my roof is dirt I don't have gutters to catch water for a rain barrel. Who has had experience with a good old fashioned windmill, like they use on the prairie to bring water up to a stock tank? My septic tank had a lift pump so not sure how to facilitate getting sewerage up to the drain field. Will that hand pump work for that? Or will I eventually need an out house?

Because I live in an earth sheltered home summer cooling is not a problem. Outside it was 103 today, upper nineties this week and next. Inside the temperature is 70, 60 in the garage. It may hit 72 in the house if August stays this hot. I heat with wood, use 2 to 3 cords per winter and I have ten accessible forested acres and am adjacent to Forest Service land that is heavily forested. My son, who wants Mom to stay warm, was a sawyer who fought forest fires. Unless I outlive him I'm good.

With regard to food, I garden and can. I have a small freezer for important things like ice cream but I rarely eat red meat so a power outage wouldn't do a lot of damage. (Point of view I suppose.) I do can chicken and stockpile canned tuna when it goes on sale. My fruit and walnut trees need a couple more years before they are big enough to produce significantly. I have grapes and raspberries but not enough. I really need to stockpile coffee. Without coffee I can get really mean. A couple of chickens for eggs would be good. I have lots of pasta and rice, canned beans, yeast, and Bisquick. I cook with propane. My middle sized tank requires a half refill once a year. When two years are up I will probably have to learn to cook on the wood stove.

I really don't mind staying home most of the time. This Covid-19 thing is probably not as inconvenient for me as it is for many. I am retired but if the banks close my Social Security is likely toast. I keep some coinage and some loose stones of questionable value. They are pretty and someone might trade me a chicken for a few. I can still do Zumba outside although I might have to sing. I should probably get in a supply of good historical novels, maybe a bodice ripper or two.

On the want list, in addition to the hand pump, is of course a solar array. I have large south facing windows and get some passive solar, again not enough but I'm never going to freeze. And I want a green house. I may have to grow my own coffee at some point. And an infinite supply of my anti-hypertensives, in case I actually do run out of coffee.

But back to water. I have found a company in Texas that sells windmills, efficient new versions of the prairie style one. Again, has anyone erected one, used one?
2 weeks ago
Skanbi, found this booklet from the Department of Agriculture at a garage sale. Published in 1960s so not really old but good bedtime reading.
3 weeks ago
My mother was the first of five sisters to get a bachelor's degree, in home-ec of course because she was a girl in the 1930s. She became the first home agent in Green County, Wisconsin. I'm sure that she educated her rural neighbors, the farmers' wives who always made angel food cake when she visited.

She didn't put much effort into educating her own daughters however. But I remember watching her can food, wax on top of jelly jars and rubber rings to seal jars of vegetables with a glass top that snapped down. She did instill a love of gardening and thrift so when I had my own family I taught myself more modern gardening and canning skills. How much easier things are with jar tops that seal (no rubber rings) and a pressure cooker that pretty much manages itself. The Ball's Blue Book has step by step directions for the basics. I have my daughter a copy, both are well worn.

Cool storage should be easy for me as I live underground and my garage stays about forty degrees in winter. I keep potatoes, onions, and some winter squash on plastic shelves but need to do some reading about storing such things as carrots in sand, etc. Dried herbs are easy to hang out there.

I think it's a matter of what works for you. If you don't enjoy gardening, resent the time it takes to can food, don't do it. I have very generous neighbors, picked twenty plus pounds of pie cherries last week from a friend's tree. Of course then they have to be pitted and processed. Another neighbor has a large community garden where I can pick things and leave a little cash in a jar.

Freezing can be easier than canning if you have the freezer space. I steam and freeze early kale and spinach in sandwich bags pressed flat so I can "file" them in a box in the freezer. Later I can toss them into soup, casseroles, spaghetti sauce, etc.  Anyway, whatever you decide to do just try to enjoy looking at, and eating what you've done.
3 weeks ago
Who says we have to eat three meals a day? Now with the Covid-19 threat and increased isolation, less exercise, if I ate three meals a day I would be 300 pounds. Of course I don't have kids, I've only myself to please.

So I have breakfast, toast, PB and J, or oatmeal, and lunch/ dinner mid to late afternoon. This way I can eat things that I like, and indulge my sweet tooth, without overdoing it. Sometimes I snack on leftovers mid morning. The rule is "don't deny, delay". Fasting from five PM to eight AM isn't that hard and I cook once a day, or once every two or three days. I love casseroles and fresh produce from the garden, rarely eat red meat. Veggies and chicken roasted on a pan in the oven with a little garlic olive oil is great. (I roast my tomatoes for canning this way, cut side down, 400 degrees for 30 or 40 minutes. Just pinch the skins off.)

Another time saver is the recipe I found here for "poly bread", dough that I keep in the refrigerator and pull off portions for rolls, cinnamon rolls, pizza, small loaves of cheese bread, even donuts or fry bread, pigs (or veggies) in a blanket... .

Mix 4 cups hot water, 2T salt, 2t yeast, 1/2 Cup oil. Add enough flour to make a dough, 10 cups plus or minus. Knead, let rise, punch down, and place in an oiled plastic gallon sized bag. Keeps well in the refrigerator for a week or more.

Hang in. Bobbi McC
4 weeks ago
Moles, like the evil ground squirrels that I deal with, are a frustrating issue, especially if you don't want to poison them. So you just have to outsmart them. We raised our gardens with boxes on stacks of old pallets and ran sheet metal around the tops. We also set bathtubs, easily and cheaply squired from places like Restore, up on concrete blocks. I plant tomatoes in stacks of tires wrapped in sheet metal. Although we don't grow as much as we probably would if we could plant in the ground we have enough produce for me to can and because my gardens are waist high, gardening is easy. At 78 I appreciate the ease.

You are just starting out and, as you suggest, you have a blank slate. So these are just options to consider. It took me a few years to figure things out. This works well for me and I have the satisfaction of knowing that I am smarter than your average ground squirrel.
I know that this looks pretty industrial but I battle ground squirrels and pack rats (that have stolen entire tomato plant branches). My hoop house is three cattle panels bent over a 12 by 5 foot frame. It's covered with garden cloth that lets in about 90 percent of the sunlight. The tomatoes are planted in stacks of four or five tires that I wrap with metal sheeting, lots of room for deep roots.

Cloth strings tied to the cattle panels help keep the plants upright so that I can keep the bottoms trimmed and fruit accessible. And I picked up some sturdy cages at a yard sale, will see how those work this year. No critter has yet scaled my tomato tires. Some panels were old and bent and we cut them to fit over my bathtubs planted with beans and peas. I like the strings handing down thing.

Materials can be expensive but tires were free and a neighbor gave me the cattle panels as he was disposing of them. The fabric is supposed to last seven years, I will roll it up for winter, and the metal is a one time expense. The cover extends our short growing season. And last year something, maybe some sort of insecticide drift, caused major leaf wilt. Neighbors are three to five acres away so I am not sure how that could have happened. In any case the cover may help protect the tomatoes from this, also from some flying pests.

This has been a chilly wet spring in northwest Montana. Everything feels a few weeks late. I am anxious to see how things progress.
1 month ago
I am planting juniper in areas where we have disturbed the dirt for construction. Of course the berries are probably only good for making gin, not necessarily a bad thing. But I agree, there are times when deer will eat anything. One fall they even chewed down my Bittersweet. And a very pregnant doe once knocked over the fencing around a little plum tree. They don't seem to bother the Solomon's Seal, which has a very edible root. And having foiled the ground squirrels with lavender I am going to give that a try outside the fence.

We have planted a traffic island with things that aren't supposed to tempt deer. Don't want them getting hit by the cars whizzing by. Not much of what we planted there is edible however. Who wants to eat barberry? Some Oriental lillies survive.

If you have altitude you could try huckleberry, which seem to survive the deer. And morels where there is shade and rotted wood. They are really prolific following a heavy fire season. You might have to fight the bears for the Huck's however. Good luck with that.
2 months ago
Thanks. I will try to reach some arborists here. I don't think that there are many but worth a try.

In the meantime we scored two more bathtubs from a Restore yard sale. We will put them up on blocks and no nasty ground squirrel will be able to climb into them.
2 months ago
I have just signed up for the chip and drop program. It was a bit of a challenge because my address doesn't show up on goggle maps. Now I will wait, hopefully, for a "drop". Wind storms here brought down lots of trees and branches so there may be arborists working in the area. We flagged our smaller fruit trees so no big truck will run over them by mistake.

I have been laying cardboard on my garden paths, weight them with rocks because of the wind, and would love to be able to cover them with mulch. Because I garden on the roof everything has to be hauled uphill. I can do that a load at a time. Persistence wins! PQ is more important than IQ. Lots of pine needles here, never enough, good for things like asparagus and berries as our soil is alkaline. (Ground squirrels got the asparagus, so never mind that. Does anyone have a good rat terrier to spare?)
2 months ago