Greentree Naturals Newsletter Fall into Winter December 2021
Looking back on 2021, we have immense appreciation and gratitude for our family of friends and community. We hope you are staying healthy and grounded during these uncertain times. It is important that we all adapt as best that we can to whatever comes and never take the simple pleasures for granted. It's how you react to, respond to, and recover from what happens to you.
Farming teaches us humility. We plant the fields with thousands of seeds and seedlings and do the best that we can to nurture them to fruition. When it comes down to it, it's pretty much a miracle that we end up with an abundance of vegetables to eat and take to market. We found ourselves faced with new challenges with a lengthy drought and record-breaking heat which was hard on the crops and tough on the farmers. As climate change is very evident for observing farmers who are paying attention, we find ourselves saying "that's never happened before" quite often. Changing temperatures bring new pests and keeps us saving seed that will adapt with the changes season after season.
We started saving our snow pea seed in 2005 and every year since. Each year, the peas produce over a longer period of time and endure the weeks in May and June that can be quite warm. Pre-2005, we could always count on May and June being the rainy season. Not so much anymore. Seed saving is about creating a more sustainable future for us as small acreage farmers. I think everyone should save seeds when they can.
In August, the week the sweet corn was about ready to harvest, a big black bear broke into the gardens and wiped out our corn patch. It was heart-breaking to see months of sweat equity (labor and time) not provide the income from the harvest. This was a first in 34 years of growing here. Fish & Game came and set up a live trap to catch the black bear and instead we caught a 330-pound grizzly bear! The bear was sedated, weighed, tagged with a GPS tracker, and relocated about 150 miles from here in Montana. He made his way back to our neighborhood in ten days! He obviously likes it here. The bear presence has certainly made us pay close attention to our environment and keep a watchful eye when we are milling around outside. Our farm is surrounded by wildlife and hundreds of acres of non-populated woodlands which is perfect habitat for bears and other wildlife.
We had a 4,000-acre fire just over the ridge from us which brought us burning eyes, poor air quality, and seriously assessing what we needed to have packed and ready to go if the fire came any closer. Many of our friends evacuated their homes for several weeks. Having a huge forest fire nearby certainly made us take close assessment of what we needed to have ready in case we too would have to evacuate. Thankfully, there are plenty of lists on-line that make it easier; things like what kind of paperwork is important but contemplating walking away and what you have with you is all that you have puts a different perspective on things, that's for sure! Thankfully, the rains finally came and put the fires out.
Fish & Game believes the drought, increasing population, and the fire is why the bears came. Our farm offers a smorgasbord that was just too irresistible. With the idea of protecting the bears and teaching them that it is better to avoid human interaction, Fish & Game along with volunteers and a team of bear biologists electrified our garden fence with over a mile of fencing charged at ten thousand volts. This should keep all bears at bay next year should they return. Despite the losses, we endured and survived.
This was our third year of growing seed for Snake River Seed Company. This year we sold them Blue Hungarian poppy, Summer Snow Peas and Nasturtium seeds. Next year, we will be expanding seed production and add a few more flower varieties, leeks, and Gatherers Gold peppers. It is exciting to consider seed from our farm being planted all over the country!
In this season of gratitude, it feels important to note that we have an exceptional group of dedicated volunteers. Their collective efforts help us move through the farming season. We are so fortunate to have knowledgeable, experienced gardeners offering their time in our gardens! Our family of friends and sense of community is a big part of what holds us to this region.
This winter, I have a contract with University of Idaho to revise a handbook of regulations for direct and intermediated farm marketing in Idaho that I developed in 2008. This will provide an overview with contacts for rules and regulations governing producing crops, livestock, dairy, herbs, and other specialty products. When it comes to growing food, there are all kinds of rules and regulations that need to be considered. Once completed, I will be involved with a 10-webinar series on these topics to offer a farmers perspective. While I am not farming during the winter months, there is always plenty to keep me intellectually engaged and generating an off-season income to supplement social security.
We will resume our on farm Organic Gardening workshops in 2022 after a two year pause due to covid. I've had so many inquiries from new community members who are desperate to learn how to grow in this northern climate. I think it is important to empower people to grow their own food. Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime!
Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly.