Tag Archives: Gardening

2018 Free the Seeds Free SEEDS Fair and Seed Swap Promo and review of 2017

So, I’m waiting to talk to Robin Kelson from the Good Seed Company about this years 2018 Free the Seeds Seed Fair and Free Seeds Swap.

Grow Fresh Food All Winter – Laura Behenna, 5th Avenue Farm

Converting Lawn to Garden – Pamela Lund, Planet B Harvest

Dehydration for Everyone – Julie Liang, Twice as Tasty

Fruit Tree Pruning – Barton Morse, The Garlic King of Montana

Growing Your Nutrients – Linda Peterson, Polson Natural Wellness

Home Canning Basics – Kathie Lapcevic

Composting that is Right for You – Patti Armbrister, Agrarian Food Web

Gardening from the Kitchen – Julie Liang, Twice as Tasty

Real Botanicals for Thoughtful Skincare Formulations – Annagret Pfeifer, Kettle Care Organics

How to Garden Like a Farmer – Todd Ulizio, Two Bear Farm

School Gardens 101 – Alli Mitchell, Kalispell Middle School

Grow, Gather & Make Your Own Herbal Remedies – Joleen Barce, Earth Garden Herbs

Growing for Seed Saving – Robin Kelson, Good Seed Company

Beekeeping – Wade Foley, Tamarack Apiaries

Fruit Tree Grafting – Rod McIver

Soil Nutrition – Heather Estrada, FVCC Agricultural Program

Seed Cleaning – Judy Owsowitz, Terrapin Farm

Food Forestry & Managing a Multi-Species Orchard – Leslie Lowe, Beargrass Landscape Architecture

Chickens – Susan Waite, Earthstar Farms

Beekeeping – Allyson Bush, Good Bee Company

All workshops will be held at Flathead Valley Community College in the Arts & Technology Building on March 3rd from 10am-3:30pm. The schedule of times and rooms will be updated here shortly.

The fair will open with the seed swap and vendor booths at 9am. The seed swap will go from 9am-noon

2018 Free the Seeds Seed Fair and Free Seeds Swap with Robin Kelson


So I thought well I never posted pics of last year so I’m gonna put them up here. I was probably too busy teaching. This year I would like to give a presentation on my new free garden course Mike and I developed over Christmas. But with teaching and all who knows if I can pull that off?

Anyway the highlight for me last year was Patti Armbrister’s class on Garden Club Education but I also very much enjoyed Todd Ulizo from Two Bear and the kids rooms.

Looks like I actually started out that morning reading an article from wired.com about advertising in podcasting!

Building school Gardens with Patti Armbrister

Montana Adapted Indian Corn donated to free the seeds

Venders Downstairs in the Main Room

Kids Activities

Kids Garden Library

Ag Financial Management Video

Ag Financial Management- Planting the Seeds of Success – Aimee Roberts from Farm Credit

Aimee Roberts with Northwest Farm Credit Services walks you through the key steps for successful financial management of your agriculture business.

Financing over 145 commodities anything that chews or grows! Over 19,000 farmers and ranchers in agriculture. Providing financing and related services.

Improving Your Understanding of Soil Mineralization, and why it matters – Todd Ulizio

Todd Ulizio’s talk about soil health

2018 Free the Seeds Seed Fair and Free Seeds Swap

is March 3 from 9-3pm.

FVCC Arts and Technology building

as hit has been for the last two years

new workshops

additional booths at this event!

We’re planning on distributing about 10,000 seed packets

this year like last year we’re gonna have an OPI teacher k-12 training I think there are 7 spots left you can sign up at the PIR Net portal that teachers have access to.

All about how to build and maintain a sustainable school garden

  • keeping chicken’s in todays world
  • beekeeping
  • farm like a farmer
  • workshops on building your soil health
  • convert your lawns to gardens with grace and ease

Booths have 

  • great information from local producers
  • natural health food stores
  • local farmers will have systems there
  • community gardeners offering info about how to garden in your town

Lots of good stuff!

If you are not in Kalispell, Montana you might want to look for something like this in your area!

You’re gonna give out 10,000 packs of seeds and are you collecting seeds this year too?

We are taking in seed collections in the Flathead Valley

donation boxes in all the

  • libraries
  • Big Fork
  • Kalispell
  • Eureka
  • Whitefish
  • columbia falls
  • good seed co

one hundred 2nd street east in Whitefish.

you can bring seeds the day of event we will process and put them in packets.We just ask

no hybrids and no GMOs

as much seed as possible

We also video tape all of workshops

want to know we will try to film all our sessions

youtube channel

access info from other years from archives

Volunteer, donate or sponsor visit us at free the seeds.com

Obviously the crowds that come. I’m gonna watch the video about Todd Ulizio because that was awesome. 

This year he is switching it up doing a  new talk on How to garden like a farmer

  • season extension
  • tips of the trade

we have great things going on this year

We’re also going to do fabulous community conversations invite people to come on at ten

Dialogue between local chefs and local producers to get more local food on the tables in our 

  • local restaurants
  • reducing food waste
  • dealing primarily food directors of local school districts
  • dedicated to reducing food waste
  • Dirtrich hopefully will be participating
  • food access for everyone
  • key roll that seeds play in sustainability

saving our seeds.

I just want to quickly review for my new Progressive Radio Network Listeners. And explain that the first time we were expecting 350 people and 500 people were through the door more by 10am when it started! We had 500 fliers and they were gone! Over 1500 people came.

A lot of times the first time you do something they say plan for only 3 weeks. Your gonna make a lot of mistakes, think next year you can go bigger! And just quick take action!

1900 the second year

my thoughts on this

We were a group of 2-3 people who had enough of an idea to make something happen. We didn’t really know what to do. We did agree to bring 2 people to the next meeting

right away not all of those people didn’t stay to do the work but they knew other people to be interested. Even if only one of you but try to get two other people to sit down with the intention of only brainstorming

for us

3 criteria

  • share seeds
  • teach
  • provide a forum for people
  • to learn skills booths and workshops


which is a valley

get the word out enough

anyone was interested would have an invitation


everybody donated time and energy for free

It’s amazing how many people in your community are willing to support this

wasn’t expensive

11 weeks

thought it was gonna be 300

We kind of freaked out because 1500 people showed up!

2% of our county’s population

huge feedback

a few people to put it together!

need in your area and it doesn’t take that much to put in together

 I did an awesome interview with Mark Highland and thought I should call Robin!

Designing Phase 1 of My Potager Garden

          So I’m going to come right out and say it… I am not a fan of grass.  That perfectly manicured lawn look is not for me.  First of all, it wouldn’t look perfect because I have oodles of animals and animals poop.  I live on a small subsistence farm, and the last thing that I have time for is mowing grass.  And for what? For looks? Sure, it can be fed out to the animals, but they don’t eat it all so it ends up being a waste.  A waste of time, and a waste of space. I don’t want to spend hours mowing, or use what could be valuable garden space to feed my family on an aesthetic monoculture.  
          Last year I came across a French style of gardening that I wasn’t all that familiar with.  Potager Gardens, also known as kitchen gardens consist of vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers woven into a beautiful yet functional space.  I was immediately intrigued, and began googling my heart out.  Results yielded photos of beautiful raised beds made of wood and rocks, with natural walkways woven in between bursts of pollinator loving colors.  This was the solution I was searching for to transform the grassy area out my back door and kitchen (it was meant to be) into a useful and beautiful space.  

Grassy area off the back of the house that will be transformed into a Potager. Phase 1 will be the right side of the walkway.

          Just like with any garden design, layout and forethought are key.  Consideration of the sun’s path, amount of sunlight requirements for different plants, as well as mature plant heights all need to be taken into account.  You don’t want to accidentally create shade for a full sun plant by planting something taller in front of it.  With a traditional garden where everything is planted in rows, this is very easy to plan and lay out.  However, with a Potager, where “organized chaos” aka not​ rows is what you’re after, it proves to be a little more challenging.  Not only do you want to maximize space and have a pretty mix of colorful flowers and vegetables, but you the plants to actually thrive and produce as well!  The pressure was on.
           My first step was to focus on the actual beds first.  Where they should go and how they should be laid out within the given space. Because this whole area is currently under a blanket of snow and ice, I haven’t actually gone out to measure any exact dimensions of what the raised beds will be.  Hence my horrible out of scale drawing seen below.  I can easily figure that all out later in early spring, and my main focus now is the shape of the beds for aesthetic and functional purposes, and what will go where.
​               Because the space in phase 1 is oddly shaped (the left side in the photo below follows the curve of our driveway and the right side is bordered by the walkway to the house) I knew I wanted a mixture of colorful and pollinator attracting flowers to follow the natural outer left curve along what will be a split rail fence.  I also don’t want to build a curve shaped raised bed, so this will easily be able to be lined with small rocks (we have tons of those!) to create a natural boundary for the flowers.  The sun also follows that curve throughout the day as due south is the left side of my drawing and west is the top.  I want to make sure I don’t plant any annuals that will get crazy tall and potentially cast shade on the vegetable beds behind them.
​                  Since the potager is being built this year and we likely won’t be able to start until sometime in April weather permitting, I won’t be able to plant any of my cold crops in it this year.  Those will go in my traditional garden, so the potager will house various other crops that I can’t plant until Memorial Day weekend.  This area of the potager also receives full sun, so all of the plants that I am planning on growing here require such. I do not want to create shade, and made sure to position my taller vegetables like cherry tomatoes and potatoes close to the bottom of the drawing (back of the house) so they don’t block any sunlight.  I then just worked my way away from the house (towards the top of the sheet) where the plants get shorter as I go.  
                 This is my first pass at planning this out, and it will likely change a bit before we even start building the beds, and then again when my hands are actually in the dirt.  I also still have to figure out the width of the walkways, what I want to use to create a walkway, the exact size of the beds, and the various potted plants that I will likely stick in various spots throughout the area.  I have a good start though, and I can’t wait to get out there in a few months and start making this dream a reality!

Left side of paper faces due south, sun follows the curve of the potager setting in the west at the top of the paper.

212: Organic Grapes | First Vine Wine Imports and blog | Tom Natan | Washington, DC


Tom Natan from First Vine  Wine Imports has been very patient with my schedule and we are talking in August and I am just posting it today in February! To hear the full interview go to www.organicgardenerpodcast.com

Thanks I’ve been listening to a few of the podcasts and its been really fun.

I’m gonna give the credit to my guests because I love podcasting. It’s so great to meet people who think like I do. It just seems like I have been meeting a lot of different people this year. I am in fourth grade this year and the kids just jumped on the composting. Our garden is in full bloom so I’ve been bringing in dragon’s tongue beans the kids have been loving and carrots and apples and zukes for staff and parents!

Tell us a little about yourself.

A chemical engineer by training after college I worked for a food product development company. So my work history at least initially was always about food and I’ve always loved cooking.

a little bit of knowledge

My dad came to US when he

taught us a little bit about it. He was also kind of a beer person. So it was kind of up to me to educate myself. After grad school I ended up in DC. I was working ofr and environmental consulting firm and then I worked for an environmental advocacy organization

I met people all over the world interested in the environment and

I met a woman who was  married to a vineyard in Provence

went to visit in 2002

don’t make it to the US. I don’t think people aren’t aware of how much wine is made all over the world.

In the Rhone Valley in SE France

6000 vineyards in an area the size of the boroughs of Manhattan. The majority of it isn’t gonna make it over here. The idea percolated for a lot of years to get the wines over

We started with 7 wines from 4 producers and it was really fun to get those first shipments. To see those pallets coming in. Then you have to figure out a way to sell them. The whole process of importing wine is full of admin details. A lot of people would find really tedious, but I love that part of the job. I’m not a natural born salesman so that is the toughest part for me

It allowed me to combine my education and work background to doing something completely different

environmental work

As everyone is aware politics is a cyclical thing. You work hard to get something done and the admin changes, they can for the most part can take a lot of it away

directing agencies not to enforce or not directing resources towards projects. Once something gets taken away it takes 2xs as long to get it back.

It was time to get out of that kind of merry-go-ground

Im kind of a bitter and cynical person and that was just making me more bitter and cynical.

by and large nobody’s in the wine business because they have to be

  • make the wine
  • families have been making wines for generations
  • people who drink it obviously they like it

The importer to consumer chain it’s filled with lots of nice people

I’ve really enjoyed it so far

My background has allowed me to delve into

  • fermentation I had to study as an
  • undergrad
  • also theories behind the agriculture
  • how they relate to the kinds of foods that we eat and know

I import wines from

  • france
  • spain
  • italy

definition of organic is different

  • biodynamic
  • sustainable

more and more as how food is produced

probably interested in how their wines are produced.

probably 5-6 years ago, I’m not sure people wouldn’t have given it that much thought

go to the farmer’s market buy some tomatoes and they shake the farmer’s hand at the farmer’s market and go home pick a bottle of wine from their wine rack and not think so much about how that wine was produced. That’s really changed a lot

wine industry

Wine Pairs

  • sauvignon blanc
  • grape Verdejo
  • summer roses


In the summer time  you could also serve a rose with it

Rosé’s vary in level of acidity

if you find one that has a little bit of a tang to it when you drink it that would be better

I think Rosé’s look great on the table

I always encourage people to drink them

my producers drinkRosé all year long

does a lot of good things

I serve Rosé with Thanksgiving

The other thing with that recipe liquid

drink that like Gazpacho. 

Or soak it up with some bread!

Tomatoes and Eggplant – to salt or not to salt?

Something that I like to do with tomatoes and eggplant

well so the big deal with eggplant is do you have to salt it or not salt it to get the bitterness out

The only way to figure that out is to cut some up and taste it.

if it tastes really bitter to you you probably need to salt it.

if it doesn’t taste bitter

you probably don’t need to

It may seem funny to eat raw eggplant

really that’s the only way I can tell

if you stick to the smaller ones

I was gonna say, I like to pick zucchinis, eggplants smaller, like the size of a quarter, maybe a bit bigger for the eggplant.

eggplants that size

not gonna have any problem with bitterness

best things to do with eggplant is to either

roast it or grill it

I think it tastes better. go ahead if you have one of those non-stick mats for baking sheets

parchment paper works well too.

or just put a fair amount of oil on the baking sheet

parchment or non-stick mat I think that works a little bit better.

eggplants just soak up oil like crazy

  • keep absorbing it
  • less oil
  • non-stick mat
  • or paper

will help

  • brush with a little oil
  • alt and pepper
  • slices that are about 1/2 -3/4 inch
  • these will be done
  • take them out

make little stacks with

  • sliced tomatoes
  • eggplant
  • fresh mozzarella cheese is great

if you don’t have fresh mozzarella or you don’t like it 

not everybody does

plenty of other cheese

  • feta
  • something that melts a little bit like
  • swiss cheeses

make little stacks

  • eggplant
  • cheese
  • tomato
  • cheeses
  • eggplant

pop back in the oven to melt

  • drizzle with a little oil

Out they come and you can eat them right out of the oven or cool off a little bit

really delicious that way!

That does sound so good. Mozzarella you get in New York is delicious but my friend Eve who I interviewed  on the mountain who makes homemade mozzarella to die for. I was thinking ricotta would work

in order to


what you should do is put the ricotta take a sieve and line with

  • leave overnight
  • talking about lb. of ricotta
  • 1/2 cup of liquid out of that
  • can save it,
  • give to your pets don’t throw that away
  • use it in bread it’s delicious
  • drink it
  • give it to your pets
  • once the ricotta is drained it will whole hold together


I like to drain it a bit, especially if you’ve got a

good brand of supermarket ricotta they just tend to have more liquid.

Ricotta cheese is really expensive in Montana. IDK why. When I get to NY I’m like omgosh how cheap that is? That can’t be?

if they make mozzarella they probably make


means recooked

after mozzarella gets made they take the whey that’s left over

add some sort of acid or renett to it

make ricotta cheese from that

chances are if they’re making

if they’re not making

using milk and cream and making it that way which is delicious but a lot more expensive

raw material

I’m always surprised at how expensive dairy products are on the east side of the mountains which seems so counter intuitive because here I’m on the open plains and there’s tons of cows and it’s so much less expensive on the west side where we live. It all seems to come from Spokane produce so that might be why, more gas etc.

I want to give you more one more recipe tip but I want to make sure we talk about organic and biodynamic wines.

Pairing Secrets

A little secret about pairing wines with food a lot of times your pairing wine with the sauce.

we were talking about zucchini earlier

pairing wine with food secret

pairing with the sauce

  • rather then the featured product
  • you have chicken relatively mild in flavor
  • sauce that has lots of onion
  • caramelized onion and stock
  • more flavor

made your chicken and you’ve got a little lemon and parsley

then you’re probably gonna want a white wine with that

  • not only are you pairing wine with the protein 
  • sauce flavor is what your are going to taste so go with that.

A lot of Italian fish dishes have tomatoes in them

pair it with the sauce

those are a few hints

hours and hours about pairing food and wine

Their mouths are probably drooling like mine and thinking about food. You should do a cookbook!

been thinking about that


for so long

Wine Production

I wanted to touch briefly on wine production

we’re eating organically grown food

we probably like to see if we can get organically produced wines.

It’s a bit difficult.

The USDA definition for organic in the US

is pretty much the same as it is for other ag products except is they don’t allow for addition of sulfites into the wine.

hundreds and hundreds and years to preserve it

if you don’t have sulfites

2 things


You can tell if it is oxidize it smells and tastes like sherry.

If it tastes like sherry it’s been exposed to too much oxidation

shouldn’t happen quickly

the other thing is that wine can spoil and turn into vinegar


into vinegar

also help protect the wine of too much oxygen, they are in very small qualities.

headache myth

people believe that they get a headache

it’s really not true

if you can eat dried apricots and not get a headache, chances are you’re eating  a whole lot more sulfites in a bottle of wine

  • it isn’t the sulfites

got that reputation

This is not to say some people aren’t allergic to sulfites. The reason you have a label on the wine bottle that says “contains sulfites” is because some people have respiratory allergies and they will get what is to get akin to an asthma attack

any time a wine contains more then 10 parts per million ppm

sulfites occur naturally during the fermentation process

all wine contains some sulfites

10ppm is the level that FDA has determined won’t harm people

In order for a bottle of wine need to be labeled Organic not only does it have to be the same as everything else that’s organic but it can’t be added sulfites in the wine

after fermentation

it’s put into storage tanks to be aged in barrels

that’s where they add sulfites

a very small amount

white wine tend to contain more sulfites then red wines. The compounds in the grape skins also preservatives so red wine doesn’t contain

chemical analysis

upper limit that is allowed

if it has less then 10ppm of sulfites they don’t have to label it as it contains sulfites.

Wine that is labeled Organic

Organic wine in the us

labeled USDA has to not contain 10ppm

this leaves out almost every wine from Europe. They routinely add sulfites, they want it to last. 

want product to last


if I’m paying $20 for a bottle of wine and I forget it in my basement I don’t want it to spoil – I want it to be drinkable

plenty of people against adding sulfites that say it detracts from the natural character of the wine. I respect their opinion on it. I don’t feel the same way.

When you get wine from Europe that’s made under the standards satisfy grape growing

made with organic grapes they are not labeled organic wine

same thing occurs with US producers, if the grapes are grown organically it can be labeled organic grapes

It’s a small distinction but I think it’s an important one.

should know

I first of all that the USDA rules need to be changed for organic wine

talking about naturally occurring sulfites added to wine

It’s not a petroleum chemical. I’m not sure what the issue is with that. 

biodynamic wine

The other thing people might see is biodynamic wine

by and large made like organic wine

There are some tenants of biodynamics

to the casual observer that might seem a little odd.

Your winery should be oriented in a particular direction

lunar cycles in biodynamics

The thing most people find funniest is your supposed to bury cow horns with manure in your vineyards to help with grape production.

What I like is biodynamics really focuses on health of soil. I think people would believe that makes sense. 

Healthy soil is gonna make better grapes

agree that would make sense

healthier grapes comes from healthier soil.

I think that biodynamics is good concept

I lost the rest of the interview? Yikes! Sorry everyone?!

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