Growing Food: Fun for Every Season

We have fun and enjoy the outdoors by growing food, foraging, hunting and fishing every season.

| April/May 2007


Amy makes the most of Montana’s short gardening season.

Photo courtesy GRANT GRISAK

Nearly everything we do for fun involves gathering food. For my husband, Grant, my 13-year-old stepson, Blaine, and me, it’s just part of living in Montana. After all, how better to spend a summer day than to hike to a mountain lake, pick huckleberries along the way and take home trout for dinner?

I’m a freelance writer, and also occasionally do landscaping work — I especially like working with rock. Grant is a fisheries biologist for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. We’ve been married three years now, and live in Kalispell, a town of about 15,000 people in the northwest part of the state.

When we’re at home, our lives revolve around what needs to be done in the garden, orchard and bee yard that day, and what wild foods can be found in the mountains. Each year, we grow or gather at least half of the food we eat. Every season brings something new, which varies our recreation and dinner planning.

Spring Fever in Montana

Early spring is the time to tend our old fruit trees. We have nine altogether: three plums, two pears, two apples, one crab apple and one pie cherry. When we bought this place three years ago, the 20-foot ‘Yellow Transparent’ apple tree hadn’t been touched for years. Now, when Grant prunes this veteran tree, it’s a spectator sport. He climbs as high as possible while straddling the trunk, and removes any wispy branches and limbs that are growing contrary to the pruning plan, which increases the yield of fruit.

Our vegetable garden is about 2,400 square feet. Technically, our growing season is Memorial Day to the middle of September, but I manage to add about 40 days to it with season-extending techniques. In spring, my perennial challenge is to coax the greens we planted late the previous summer to resume growing and produce fresh leaves.

After years of trial and error, I have found that if I use a floating row cover inside the cold frame, they kick into gear earlier. Now, we’re often enjoying tender, fresh salad greens by the end of March. Once winter begins to loosen its grip, I pull back a thick layer of insulating leaves and dig any carrots I left in the ground over the winter. Spending a winter in Mother Nature’s storage cellar makes them sugary sweet. It’s like finding buried treasure!

luann white
10/12/2008 9:28:05 PM

Great article. made me feel like I know what it feels like to live with the enviroment challenges of the area

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