Episode 67: Luci Hall | Experienced Passionate Gardener | Eureka, MT

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I am very excited to introduce my new friend and neighbor Luci Hall! Luci has a beautiful garden that I have been admiring, and on Wednesday, I ran into her husband collecting the mail, and introduced myself and asked if they would be willing to share their garden journey and he said well that would be my wife – come back in a hour or so! Luci graciously accepted my invitation after visiting the website and reading the questions, so I am happy to introduce Luci Hall!

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m Luci Hall, I live here on Grave Creek, my husband and I retired here, he from the railroad and me as a medical secretary. We’ve been married 37 plus years, 3 children, and love the area. We’ve been gardening ever since we’ve been married. he was born and raised in Troy and I had 2 aunts that lived up there and married brothers. The Lord led me to Troy, that’s where I met Bert, well I met Bert in the fourth grade.  I went to school in Troy in the fourth grade, later I moved back to Troy and we got married.

Now where did you grow up?

Here there and everywhere. Mostly in Treasure Valley down by Boise, Idaho, and up here around the Moyie Springs area. I had  grandparents in Wilder. My dad had itchy feet.

One of my most downloaded episodes is Kathi O’Leary from Boise Idaho and also Nancy Oliver has a little blog called the Little Homestead in Boise

Tell me about your first gardening experience?

My first gardening experience, I can remember going back and helping my grandparents, both sides, huge gardens we’re talking a 1/2 acre or better.  My first garden would have been when we got married, it’s a way of life with my family, it’s a means to provide food and wasn’t really an option. When I left high school, I said I’m never gardening again. But that only took about a year and the bug bit again!

What does organic gardening/earth friendly mean to you?

Well, I have probably been basically an organic gardener all my life. I’ve tried to avoid chemicals as much as possible. I have no good words to say about Monsanto and GMOs. In the last few years I have discovered sources for heirloom seeds and heirloom plants. So in my garden I have only heirloom seeds or plants, I try not to use the hybrids of any kind. I try to use grass clippings from my lawn, put in the pathways, and mulch it back in in the wintertime. I try to feed the soil as much as possible, what I know is good organic materials. To nourish the soil with good stuff!

Who or what inspired you to start using organic techniques was it your grandparents? 

I pulled from them, they didn’t use a lot of chemicals either. It was after Bert and I got married, I developed what they call multiple chemical sensitivity. It’s from growing up down in Treasure Valley and the air and the water’s full of toxics and the soil is full of toxics. So rather then use any more chemicals, I started looking to find alternative methods of  taking care of things in my lawn and garden and alternative medicinals for myself. Taking a chemicals only exacerbates the problem. And…

Reading books… reading books…reading books.

Did you have any resources, for where you got heirloom seeds or plants?

It’s a place called Heirloom Seeds. Family organization.

Now I order basically from Baker Seeds, and Pine Tree.

In episode 33 I interviewed Robin Kelson who owns the Good Seed Company which is a seed library as well as a store.

We have a large garden, but we decided it needed a rest, we’ve been using it ever since we started gardening  for probably 9 years, so we decided it needed a rest. I wasn’t gonna have a garden at all this year, but being me, I couldn’t not play in the dirt, so we tilled up about a 1/3 of our yard and made a new garden and that’s what you’re seeing over here in front.

Do you want to tell listeners why you decided your garden needed a rest? What’s that all about?

First of all, we didn’t fertilize, we had about 1/2 that size, it was about 20×40, something like that, and we’d used it and used it and hadn’t fertilized it as it should have been, when we doubled the size of it, we really noticed a difference in the soil that we hadn’t been using versus the soil we had been using. So we decided it really needed a lot of work. So we just decided to follow the biblical, the year of jubilee, every 7 years we let it rest.

I have to play in the dirt. So I made him till up. The garden needs to rest every so often.

So let me make sure I’m understanding this right? So the new land you dug up produced so much more you decided the older spot needed to rest?

Right.

Tell us about something that grew well this year.

Last year our garden didn’t do well, part of it did,  did tremendous! I had tomato plants up to my eyeballs! This year my garden was a little bit later, my tomato plants are doing well, my beans are doing well.  What else is doing well? I didn’t plant a lot because I just wanted to play in the dirt. Most things are doing ok, again, this soil has never been worked. There’s no abundance of fertilizer in it, no fresh cow manure, so it’s just starting to come around because I finally got some organic fertilizer in it. Mostly the cool weather crops didn’t do as well, because it got to hot. The other crops, like the tomatoes and beans took off once it warmed up, and they are doing very well.

How did your tomatoes do, because we had the big freeze last September? Are you right on the creek? How’s that working for you?

If I can keep things under cover in the spring and in the fall we do ok. Not last year, but the year before, I had a huge hoop house in my garden, I put the green beans, and the cucumbers and I even tried corn, and those things just did tremendous! Because the hoop house was there all year and it kept the warmth in, when they needed it.

this year I had the tomatoes started in the hoop house and then we had that tremendous fourth of July wind that just shredded it! So now they are standing out there by themselves, but because it’s warm so they’re doing ok. We are about 6 degrees cooler then people who are right up the road. As you drop down in the lower level of this valley it cools off, so I need protection earlier in the fall.

We pretty much lost everything last fall? That big freeze didn’t kill them? We had like 22 degrees. But the hoop house protected them?

I didn’t lose them, because I had a heater in there,  I heard it was gonna get cold so I took a little radiant heater, the ones on the end the heat didn’t get to, yes they froze, froze solid, but the ones in the center near the heat, I was able to save those and get those in the house to ripen!

Is there something you would do different next year or want to try/new?

I’m working on establishing a medicinal herb garden, thanks to Teddy I’m learning more and more. Its actually supposed to be a door garden, for things you’re gonna go out and gather to eat fresh, like a kitchen garden, but we’re gonna turn it into a permanent raised beds, always done the old fashioned row garden or the free form raised beds. So I’m anxious to start with this, cause I want to diminish my work and it’s been so nice to have it just outside my door to run out and grab it for dinner.

I keep telling Mike I want a kitchen garden, right outside my door. … Now what’s a non-permanent raised bed or a free from raised bed?

What I have always done it, instead of just making a row in the garden, these big long rows and everything was down on one level. I will use my rake and rake up these mounds, like 6-7 inches high, however I want long I want them maybe 10 feet long. I walk in between areas, and I never walk on those raised bed areas. Then in the fall everything till in.

I agree, I love raised beds, and sitting on the edge of the beds to weed or harvest makes everything easier.

REdHatFArmer

Joyce Pinson from  in Episode 45 recommended Jean-Martin Fortier  for his 6-figure gardening tour. His book is called the Market Gardener: A successful Grower’s Handbook for Small Scale Organic Farming how to make a good living using some French bio-intensive farm methods.

Tell me about something that didn’t work so well this season.

CORN, didn’t have it in the hoop, if you don’t start it in the house, it just seems like we don’t have a long enough season up here. This year, my peas and carrots didn’t even germinate this year, I don’t know what was wrong? My carrots I planted 6-7 weeks ago, and I was gonna tear them all out and then last week, they all germinated.

I think it’s been the craziest year too? For a year where spring seemed to come so early and then we just started  picking peas this week and usually we’re lucky if we have them left when the kids come for the Fourth of July and then on the flip side, Mike said I ate the earliest eggplant ever the other day.

I just pulled up my cucumber plants and my zucchini plants because they got powdery mildew. So now I’m in the process of trying to figure out how to take care of that in the soil instead of using pesticides.

Here are some solutions to powdery mildew I found:

Russ Medge from Simply Trees talks about powdery mildew in Episode 26 by keeping everything very dry and cleaned off.

In Episode 52 Shelly Clark talks about the importance of you need to getting rid of those bottom leaves so that air can get around the bottom of the plant. to reduce the risk of bugs in your cabbages and I think this works for powdery mildew too?!

from Growing A Greener World

and similar advice from the Master Gardeners of Santa Clara (this was my favorite answer I think – the most comprehensive anyway)

Something that you find is easy to grow and is generally successful every-time.

Around here probably beets, I love beets. Just about any kind of green you want to grow, swiss chard, kale… spinach will bolt really,, but the rest of it will grow really well.

Now do you ever do any fall plantings? One of my listeners wrote me and asked about fall plantings? I asked Mike about that and he said he hasn’t had good luck with fall plantings, either we get the frost too early or even with cold weather crops. Have you had any luck putting spinach in now, coming out the first of August or so?

You know I haven’t tried it before, that’s one of the things I was gonna try this year, seeing how it’s right here. I did have to pull up the cucumbers and the peas and things that didn’t germinate. I’m thinking I don’t like that bare ground sitting there, so I was I was thinking of putting in some more spinach and lettuce, the things that like the cooler weather. I have thought about putting cover crops for the winter, I have never got around to doing that, it’s one of those things on the two do list in the back of my mind. But I’ve never tried the fall crops, it’s something I want to try.

Mike’s been bugging me to get some cover crops, some clover or something but I haven’t had that extra $50 at the Feed Bin or so.

Something you would steer new gardeners away from that you find is typically challenging to grow in your climate.

In my climate probably the number one thing I have given up is:

Watermelon, I have tried so many ways, buying the plants, keeping them in hoop houses, it just doesn’t seem to work, either they don’t grow, they don’t get bees pollinating, or it get’s cold before the fruit sets, I just haven’t had good luck with that. Most other things I can make grow, I can provide the right conditions to get it to grow, different kinds of melons. both here and in Troy. We lived right on the river in Troy. It was AWESOME! We had the earliest planting time. and the latest frost in the whole valley.

Troy has a longer growing season then ever Eureka (which has about 3 weeks on either end of us just 6-8 miles south of town)

RiverWild

Lived right on Kootenai River 6-8 foot of silt – beautiful garden… moved from there to Wolf Prairie, in that triangle between Libby, Eureka, Kalispell… had to cover my garden every night because it frosted every month of the year.

The Kootenai River is in the film the River Wild.

 

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Which activity is your least favorite activity to do in the garden.

Thinning seedlings, I hate to thin seedlings, I’d rather weed than to thin, It kills me to pull up those plants that are growing right where they’re supposed to grow in the row where I planted them.

I’m getting better about tit because I think we all know what happens if you don’t thin, nothing grows. Robin Kelson from Episode 33 sent me a recipe for carrot green pesto.

LilyLuciHall

What is your favorite activity to do in the garden.

For me, when I because I gardened even when I was working, to go out there in the evening when it cools off, I just wander through and just admire what’s there and pull a weed here, and pull a weed there and nibble this, and nibble that, just spending time out there. That’s my relaxation, I don’t know it’s an activity, I’m just enjoying what’s there.

I was just gonna say that the activity is enjoyment, enjoying is a verb.

Tell us about the best crop you ever grew. Was there something that was just prolific one year?

That would be here in Eureka, probably 2-3, 4 years ago, I had planted different kinds of swiss chard, I had 3-4 different kinds, I had a plethora of swiss chard, we ate swiss chard for years off of what I canned. Good things my family likes swiss chard.

Now you canned your swiss chard. 

Yes I can my greens.

How do you can it?

Just wilt it down in a big pot, with a little bit of water, just enough to keep it from sticking, and then you put that in your jars and then pressure cook it and then you have your greens whenever you want them. They don’t have to go in the freezer that way. If I’m being rushed then I will put them in the freezer, I like to save my freezer space for my meat.

Its just like cooked spinach then? And your family will eat that? All right! I like the rainbow swiss chard, the rainbow colors I don’t really like the white swiss chard. I eat the swiss chard raw a lot, like celery, you really have to pull that back rib off, they get really stringy. But I like that with dips.

What is the best gardening advice you have ever received?

It was from a book it’s called Companion Planting, to control the pests, and to strength the plants. It’s a little book called Carrots Love Tomatoes,  or tomatoes love carrots, I can’t remember which way it goes. That or somebody told me. It’s about 3 years, floating row cover.

Whenever I plant any of the brassicas, the cabbage, kale, bok choy, I cover them as soon as I plant them, with the floating row cover, I put hoops up and I cover them and that floating row cover stays on there till I’m done harvesting. Because that way I don’t have to worry about the little green worms. I just don’t get them. Because those little green worms come from the pretty little white butterflies that are flitting around in the garden, so if they can’t light, they can’t lay their eggs and you don’t get the green worms. So  buy your husband those floating row covers.

Have you ever entered a fair? How’d that go?

Nope. You know I’ve been thinking about that for 35-36 years, every year I think I’m going to and every year it comes and I go you missed it again!

A favorite tool that you like to use? If you had to move and could only take one tool with you what could not live without?

My garden rake, I use that thing for everything. I use it not just for raking but to make my free form raised beds, I use it as a measuring tool, the length of tines is about a foot, I turn it over and use the handle to make my planting rows. I use it for everything!

We use that a lot too. Kathi O’Leary was talking about when she makes a bed, she makes short rows. Instead of making a row that is like 10 feet long she makes a lot of little 3 foot rows.

I rarely have a row that is longer then 6-8 feet max, my beds are usually 3 feet so I can get to them from either side. But I don’t like, my dad had a 60 foot straight row. Not me, I like a little variety.

Do you have any secrets for preserving food-making it last? 

I do a lot of canning, I also dehydrate a lot of things. I either, vacuum seal it,  just last year I learned about oven canning, if I have a lot that I can dry, I will put it in jars and oven can it. When you oven can you have shelf life of about 20 years.

Do you want to share that? I never heard of oven canning.

You can oven can anything that is dry, like flour, dehydrated vegetables that you have done. Anything like that. You preheat your oven to 200 degrees which is not hot enough to boil, but hot enough to kill any bacteria. You put the produce that your canning or the flour in jars, it doesn’t matter what size of jars, as long as you can seal it,  I have canned half-pintsand quarts all at the same time.  You put them in a cake pan in the oven, it goes in there for an hour. You take them out one at a time, seal with flats or rings, just like you were getting ready to pressure cook, set it on the cabinet and let it cool and that heat will suck it out and seal it. Then you put it on your shelf and it’s good for 20-30 years! You can even can sugar! It does not melt.

One of Mike’s goals is to grow our own flour. To bake our own bread. Plus the most important ingredient is the wheat germ because it goes bad the quickest to increase the shelf life.

LivingHomegrownLogo

Theresa Lowe’s Living Homegrown Podcast talks about canning. She’s the Canning Expert for PBS and is on Growing a Greener World.

Do you have any special techniques for cooking weird or unusual foods?

I’m pretty standard, just an old fashioned hill-billy raised person. I’ve tried to get away from fried food, so I’ve been getting more into poached or oven roasting vegetables, I love oven roasted vegetables!!

I have a son-in-law who cooks salmon in the dishwasher! He seasons the salmon wraps it in foil, puts it in the dishwasher, runs it through a cycle and the heat steams the salmon. Believe it or not it works!

A favorite recipe you like to cook from the garden?

That would be roasted beets, you’ve not tasted beets till you’ve roasted them in the oven, they are just amazing! We pull them out fresh, we’re gonna have some for dinner tonight! Wash em good, cut em up, throw a little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper, maybe a little garlic, put them in the oven,  450,  roast them. Yellow beets, are better then the red ones that way!

BeetGoatCheeseStacks

My friend Marisa from The Kitchen in Missoula has been coming on and talking about cooking and last week she talked about golden beat stacks with herb goat cheese.

A favorite internet resource?

I’ll google something. I have so many books.

A favorite reading material-book, mag, blog/website etc you can recommend?

One of the best ones is the Companion Planting, my go to when I’nm planting, it’s an old, old book i got it from my mother in law

the Complete Book of the Garden, old Reader’s Digest. Has everything in it.

My children got me the Practical Gardener’s Encyclopedia. It’s got everything from trees, flowers, fruits, vegetables, it’s a great one.

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 environment either in your local area or on a national or global scale?

The biggest problem, is Monsanto, and companies like that. We have got to get people to realize that just because it’s cheaper doesn’t mean it’s better for you. We have to get back to the old-fashioned ways of growing food, of producing food, of storing food. Monsanto is the worst thing that has ever happened to this world, as far as I’m concerned. That’s the way it is, big companies, big business, put it back in the hands of the gypo loggers and home farmers and we would be much better off.

Mike always says everything changed when the clipper came along, that’s what run him out of the woods he was a sawyer for years and he says all they wanted the loggers to do after the clipper came along was the steep stuff the clipper couldn’t get too.

Do u have an inspiration tip or quote to help motivate our listeners to reach into that dirt and start their own garden?

Well, I don’t know, for me getting out there, and feeling the soil, and picking it up my hands, and having my feet in it. I’m always barefoot in the garden, its like I kick my shoes off at the door! Thats’ my therapy and my sanctuary, that’s where I go to have my alone time with god, it’s so therapeutic to nurture a plant and then to have it reward you with something to nurture your body! Go garden! If you’re frustrated go garden!

OGP is dedicated to encouraging gardeners and people who want to grow food and flowers to choose an organic approach

organic gardening, gardening, growing your own food, growing food, organic vegetables, organic fruit, organic flowers, flower gardening, vegetable gardening, herb gardening, organic herbs, organic houseplants, worm vericomposting, permaculture, fruit tree pruning, organic succulents and bromeliads, organic CSA, organic seeds, heirloom seeds, open pollinated seeds, organic hemp, organic wine, organic viticulture, organic viniculture, organic gourmet cooking

 

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