Episode 51: Marci Hines | Talks about Cooperating with Nature, Growing Honeyberries & Goji Berries & Collecting Seeds| Eureka, MT
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a Montana native but I grew over on the West Coast in Washington so I’ve got some experience in different types of gardening. Coming here was a definitely an eye opener, because it’s a totally different climate. I’ve been here about 15 years. It’s a challenge, but it’s a lot of fun!
Tell me about your first gardening experience?
You know it probably started wtih the dirt, I remember being just a little kid and in the back yard and making mud pies and playing in the sand pile. My whole family was in construction so the big treat was getting to go to work and riding in the loaders and backhoes. It was all about the dirt, I just loved it. Something about the dirt, I just loved it.
My grandfather’s last name was Gardner and my dad’s middle name was gardener, and Hines means Ivy, it’s Irish. I just probably didn’t have a choice it’s gonna be about the earth and about growing.
My mom didn’t have any plants, she had sad irises and we had really tall grass, but the neighbor lady had snapdragons, she had a box full of snapdragons out front.
As for actually gardening it was after I grew up. I had to kind of learn on my own. We didn’t have that much. My mom wasn’t outside active in the garden. My dad was pretty busy. My first really garden garden experience was probably going to my grandfather’s and picking giant cabbage leaves and lacing them together and making them into skirts. He lived in Washington and then came out here for his last years and would sit outside and oversee my garden and give me tips.
What does organic gardening/earth friendly mean to you?
All natural – no man-made chemicals. I use fish meal, and green sand, some of those things. As much straight compost as possible. Minerals from the earth, or you can use green sand, bonemeal, bloodmeal all the different combinations. My preference is compost. Non – man-made.
Who or what inspired you to start using organic techniques?
Findhorn books. Like The Magic of Findhorn. This garden over in Scotland, just kind of growing in the rocks and working with nature, working with the elementals, and just the magic from it. Just the amazing gardens when your in cooperation and copartnership with nature instead of just your own agenda.
How did you learn how to garden organically?
Anastatia talks about working with the elements and working with nature.
Some of the old gardeners here, I have a friend here who works with the moon phases and you can see the difference when you’re working in cooperation with nature instead of telling it just your way of the highway, you work together.
Can you tell us about the moon element like how that works? Is that kind of like the Old Farmer’s Almanac when you plant with the new moon?
Yes, there’s something to be said for all of that. We’re all part of the cosmos and so much of everything is composed of water which is affected by the tides so it just makes sense that we’re gonna feel the differences and the plants feel it too. A lot of the time you plant things say your root crops might be in one phase of the moon and then your leaf crops might be in another phase.
Tell us about something that grew well last summer.
Our big deal here is garlic. My partner really big into garlic, he’s has had the blue ribbon here at the county fair the last 3 years in a row, and last year it was actually best vegetable too. So that was probably most noteworthy. And it’s an old heirloom variety that’s from the valley here.
Is there something you would do different next year or want to try/new?
I have some little honeyberries that I started. I love starting things from seed. The do really well in a cold area we’re zone 3-5 depending where you are here. They’re the first berry of the season, they come on early even before the strawberries do. The look like a little oblong blueberry type of look. I’m kind of excited to see how those do, because if you start something from seed to see it go the whole way.
So then are they on a type of bush?
Yeah, like a little huckleberry bush!
Started goji berries from seed too, and that was a lot of fun.
Started those inside, we’ve moved over the last few years, I’m not really set up to do a lot outside. It would be ideal if those were in the greenhouse. Really have to baby them.
The honey berries were a little hardier. They seem to do a little bit better.
Tell me about something that didn’t work so well last season.
I try not to remember those things. Maybe the carrots, because I didn’t thin them very well. I’m not real big on thinning. I try to let them get big enough, so I can use them anyway, so it probably wasn’t the carrots fault.
… Carrots are difficult because the seeds are so tiny…
I was so good this year, I was so patient, I planted each one so carefully, because I didn’t want to have to thin and then a couple of weeks later, I watched the robins out there, they were scratching and throwing the seeds in every direction.
Something that you find is easy to grow and is generally successful every-time.
We’re pretty lucky here, almost everything will grow, except for some of the hot weather stuff.
Potatoes, is probably the easiest.
There’s certain varieties that do better, we’re not really known, for doing russets in our area. If you like Fingerlings do really well, Yukon golds, some of the old heirloom varieties.
I get a lot of my seeds from Irish Eyes, and some big old purple varieties that are a lot of fun.
Something you would steer new gardeners away from that you find is typically challenging to grow in your climate.
I hate to tell anybody not to do something, because if you’re really into it chances are you could succeed, but probably corn. Because of the time, unless you’ve got a really early variety, and because it’s gotta have everything just right to get a really good crop, it takes a lot of space, takes a lot of nutrients. I’ve had good years with it by starting it early, starting it in the house.
I got some corn seeds from Alaska that made corn in it was only like a 54 dayer, it made full ears of corn in 54 days.
Which activity is your least favorite activity to do in the garden.
Thinning -I just really don’t, it’s just really hard to pull the babies.
What is your favorite activity to do in the garden.
Outside of just watching it, watching the wildlife, the butterflies and the birds. I really like collecting seeds. It’s one of those uncontrollable things I do where ever I go. Collecting the seeds at the end of the season, I like letting stuff go and then collecting the seeds.
Collecting cherry pits. It just depends what you’re getting the seeds from. You want them to be mature and dry. Make sure they’re really dry before you package them, however you’re going to store them. Just start out with them the next year. I usually collect some of everything especially off of the best crop, or the best plant.
Say I want to go for early, like on kale, I watch the first plant that comes up, and let it go to maturity and then I’ll save it’s seed. It might give me a jump start, it might have had a better spot too, but I just keep working it that way.
Collecting the best of the best.
So if I have a pumpkin that was like the best pumpkin I’ve ever had, it was so good, then I’ll save that guys seeds, or if there was a plant that was the hardiest, that no bugs bothered it, you might want to save the seeds off of that one.
I did 100 little pots of these Lambert cherries that are looking for a new home. I just need more space. I’ve got a big pile of chokecherries that I’ve got to transplant and then I have a big pile of these Italian Prunes, that are probably at their second year here, so I’ve got to transplant those.
Tell us about the best crop you ever grew.
A couple of years ago, we did like 38 tomato plants, they were in a green house, we had a big hoop greenhouse set up, we just had the whole garage floor covered with tomatoes, it was unbelievable we canned like 178 quarts of salsa, I don’t know how many of sauce, and dried them.
Slice ’em, the thickness that you want, and then dehydrate them. We have lots of dehydraters. You can sun dry them if you have a way to keep the bugs off. That’s probably my preferred method for drying things, I think you retain a little more nutrients that way.
I used to like freezing especially berries, but I’ve had a few winter’s outages when I wasn’t home on the freezer that did’t turn out real well.
As much glass as possible. Some of it’s in 5 gallon buckets, some in the seal-a-meal thing, if you keep it in an air-tight bucket and keep it in cold storage it seems to keep well.
What kind of things do you dry?
I do a lot of herbs, onions, garlic. I’ve tried just about everything lots of apples, plums, raspberries, strawberries… kale, chips,
I make a lot of seasoning, my one friend that I met here when I first moved here is an excellent gardener she has beautiful flower gardens. She has a recipe for herbs, it’s like over a dozen herbs and a lot of garlic and onion, all ground up sort of a multipurpose seasoning you can use on anything.
What is the best gardening advice you have ever received?
Oh, I guess the one tip that I hadn’t heard, is just picking the tops off the onions, you know when they go to seed to just let them get some bigger size. If you don’t have your timing just right on when you planted your onions, or the watering isn’t quite right and go to seed too soon, and they haven’t fully formed, then that can take away from the bulb, from the main onion, if you take the tops off, pinch em off, then the nutrients can keep going into the onion and the growth will come in the main bulb instead of going out into the seeds.
Have you ever entered a fair? How’d that go?
I’ve done other things over the years but that’s the one that comes to mind, that was the garlic. It’s always fun to put stuff in, and see what everybody else puts in.
A favorite tool that you like to use? If you had to move and could only take one tool with you what could you not live without?
A shovel, a big shovel. I love to dig.
Eating or harvesting vegetables or fruit on time?
Gotta have people to share with really helps out, it’s nice if everybody’s doing something different. Try to space it, do a little bit more a few weeks later, and a little bit more. Other then that, juicing. Cause you can use mass amounts and it’s way better drinking it fresh then freezing or if your gonna can it.
If we eat with the seasons, it’s the best way.
Do you have any secrets for preserving food-making it last?
Dehydrating, is a good way to go. With the canning, the one tip for pickles around here, I’ve had to use distilled water, to keep them from clouding up because our water’s so hard. We have really hard water, lots of lime.
Do you have any special techniques for cooking weird or unusual foods?
Just eat hone berries fresh. Gogi, are real popular dried, but I haven’t had enough of those to dry any yet.
A favorite recipe you like to cook from the garden?
I love pesto. Lots of fresh basil, and fresh garlic.
A favorite internet resource?
Depends on what I’m looking at some of the extension offices.
Michigan extension office some of the colder states.
A favorite reading material-book, mag, blog/website etc you can
My one gardening friend passes all of her Country Time Magazine
Ruth Stout has a book called the No-Work Garden.
Her thing is mulching, instead of working so hard and put a foot of hay on everything.
Final question- if there was one change you would like to see to create a greener world what would it be? For example is there a charity or organization your passionate about or a project you would like to see put into action. What do you feel is the most crucial issue facing our planet in regards to the earth either in your local area or on a national or global scale?
Well, I don’t know if I would say one specific organization, I think what people need to do is realize that the earth is alive and that the plants respond to our words and our feelings and if they really connect with what’s out there, the world will be a greener place.
Do you have an inspiration tip or quote to help motivate our listeners to reach into that dirt and start their own garden?
From the microbes in the dirt, by being exposed to them you boost your intelligence. There’s a reason if you really need a reason. I would just say any tree you plant now, will be there for someone else to enjoy so never think it’s gonna take too long.
As Marci and I were finishing up we talk about sweet potatoes …
You grew sweet potatoes?
I started them early in the house, just took an organic sweet potato I bought and kept it covered. It was a beautiful plant, kind of a sprawled out vine, not like a potato like a bush, I think I had to cover it at the end, it was really fun. I like doing that. I did peanuts in the green house. That was a kick! If you do all kinds of stuff. There’s a guy down in Trego, in his greenhouse, that has limes, bananas, and passionfruit?
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