Sunday, December 28, 2014

Despite the Snow, Spring is Near

The Dannik Gardens crew enjoying a snowy afternoon on the south side of the greenhouse.

 Christmas has just past, and the gardens are blanketed by a deep layer of snow. The only plants we are tending are a few hardy succulents in the kitchen window. While we snuggle close to the fire, reading our books, playing games, or just dozing, spring seems far away.

And yet, with the coming of the New Year, we feel it drawing near. Every seed order placed, every pot and flat purchased reminds us; very soon, while the snow is still on the ground, our spring season will begin.

We enjoy visions of spring through the work of our young artists.

While the ground outside remains frozen, in the greenhouse we will once again dig our fingers into piles of soft dirt, inhaling its fragrant promise of new life. We will shed our winter layers and enjoy our own little tropical retreat as we fill seed flats and care for tender new plants. Before the first green leaf appears on any tree, our greenhouse will be filled with a full array of maturing plants, just waiting to be transplanted after the final frost.

Though the world outside our windows is cast in shades of white and grey, the colors of spring remain fresh within.

Yes, for us, spring is very near. We hope that you, too, are already dreaming of the first salad greens, tender peas, and delicate new potatoes. Dannik Gardens will begin offering shares for the 2015 growing season starting on January 1st. We are pleased to be able to offer half-shares, as well as several membership payment options.

Option 1:     Full payment by April 1, 2015--$500.00

Option 2:     Half-payment by February 16, 2015--$250.00
                                Half-payment by April 1, 2015--$250.00
Option 3:     Quarter-payment by January 7, 2015--$125.00
                     Quarter-payment by February 4, 2015--$125.00
                     Quarter-payment by March 4, 2015--$125.00
                     Quarter-payment by April 1, 2015--$125.00


Option 1:     Full payment by April 1, 2015--$265.00

Option 2:     Half-payment by February 16, 2015--$132.50
                                Half-payment by April 1, 2015--$132.50
With one harvest just put away, our hearts and minds begin to turn toward the one to come.
Wishing you all a blessed New Year! See you in the spring!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

A Sweet Finish

I'll admit it: my kids are becoming food snobs, at least where it concerns produce. Applesauce is one of their absolute favorite foods, but they won't eat store-bought. Not even if it's top quality organic.

This year our big apple tree was dormant. This was a huge disappointment, as we have not made applesauce for nearly three years. My kids wanted applesauce in the worst way.

Thankfully, a good friend generously let us come pick apples from her little orchard. We got enough for 70 quarts of applesauce and 15 pie fillings.

Processing apples, though simple, is very time-consuming. We had four large tubs of apples. If we started early in the morning, we were able to work up an entire tub in one day, usually yielding about 22-25 quarts of applesauce.

Everyone pitched in though, which made it all go so much faster. Undoubtedly, running the food mill was the coveted position. Even the littlest guy took a turn. And all of the children, except the youngest, got to be in charge of flavoring a batch of applesauce. Each is quite certain that their batch is the best.

The last batch of applesauce was canned about a week ago. The kids have already eaten seven quarts. I have no doubts that it will all be gone before spring.

Preserving the Harvest

I'll be perfectly honest. I don't garden because it's my life's passion. I'm just in it for the food. 

I do have a passion for providing my family with the healthiest, best-tasting food I can. Gardening helps me do this. As we plan our gardens each year, I am always looking towards what I can preserve for my family. 

 Although most of our greens were eaten fresh and raw, we did manage to prepare a good amount of Swiss chard for the freezer. It will add color to our meals and give us a delicious remembrance of summer during the long winter months. 

 A few weeks later, we moved on to canning pears. This year's harvest, while large in number, produced pears quite small in size. I was not looking forward to the process of peeling these tiny pears, especially since pears are one of my least favorite canned fruits. However, as they are one of my children's most favorite, I was determined to see it through. All I can say is, thank goodness for Pinterest!

I was able to find a canning recipe for "Depression Pears," which is simply unpeeled, canned pears in light syrup. I was skeptical at first. But, after a little more internet sleuthing, I decided it was worth a try. I canned somewhere around 40 quarts. Based on the fact that the kids devoured about ten quarts within a month, I think they were a huge success. 

Tomatoes came next. Thanks to Dan's ingenuity, we were able to extend the harvest of these beauties far into the fall. Upon seeing the forecast for the first hard frost, Dan built a hoop greenhouse right over the top of all of our tomato plants. With the use of a propane heater and thermostat, we were able to harvest over 400 lbs. by season's end. 

Much of that harvest was enjoyed by our shareholders. Happily, I was still able to preserve over 50 quarts of tomatoes for our family. Some I stewed plain and whole, but most of them were seasoned for Mexican or Italian dishes. There's not a tomato sauce out there than can match home-canned for flavor. Yum!

Slowly, but surely, our pantry was filling up. 

Friday, December 5, 2014

And Then We Were Done

As I have said before, Montana springs/summers come on like rollercoasters. Dan, the kids, and I went at a run from May through September, tending seed starts, tilling soil, setting out plants, moving hoses, and weeding, weeding, weeding. Did I mention weeding? As the plants matured and began to produce in earnest, our days became a blur. And then, as fast as it all started, it was done. Well, almost. 

A sudden week of hard freezes pretty much put an end to most of the gardens in late September. In the course of two days, Dan and the kids had harvested all of the pumpkins and winter squash, and the once lush, green gardens were plowed under, becoming once again blank palettes of dark earth.

I must admit, the suddenness of the change was a bit breathtaking. Yet, at the same time, it was a relief. The school year was already in full swing, and my roster of writing students was pushing 70. My own children needed my assistance most of the day as they engaged with their studies. I was more than ready for a break from gardening. 

With the soil turned, rich and black, filled with fresh organic material to break down over the winter months, our attention could more fully focus on the next phase: putting up the harvest. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Halfway There

I never feel like the garden is in full swing until the sunflowers start to bloom.
 As of Tuesday, August 12, we hit the halfway mark for our CSA season. The summer has been a blur of weeding and watering, with intermittent rain storms to keep things interesting. Through most of July, we averaged 12-hour workdays, six days a week. The kids worked alongside of us much of this time, according to individual ability and interest. Although the War of the Weeds was never truly won, I suppose one could say that a truce was declared. Our energies are now primarily directed at the more delightful, though no less time consuming, tasks of harvesting.

The corn is tasseled out and loaded with fat ears. It won't be long until we can start picking.

The gardens are bursting with produce, as our shareholders can attest. The past two weeks' shares have been so abundant that our children struggled to lift the bags! Members received potatoes, green beans, beets, slicing cucumbers, English cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, yellow crooknecks, and pattypan squash. Within the next week or two, they can look forward to sweet corn, peppers, larger tomatoes, and a variety of winter squash.

For those of you interested in canning or freezing, don't forget that extra produce, such as pickling cucumbers, beets, and corn, is available to purchase. Shareholders may call ahead so that we can have anything extra ready to pick up with their regular shares. Non-members may also call ahead so that we can have orders ready to pick up either on Farm Stand Friday or at Saturday's Farmers' Market.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Gaining Momentum

With little more than a week left in July, the gardens are rapidly moving into full production. Last week's share featured two types of peas, two types of potatoes, four types of salad greens, and beets. Our children have been delighted with the growing selection of veggies. How wonderful it is to have kids who beg for fresh beets for supper!

As amazing as the fresh produce is, we realize that the time to enjoy it is limited. The time for "putting food by" for the coming winter is upon us. Although it requires a lot of time and effort, I truly enjoy the process of preserving summer's bounty. Tomorrow morning I will begin gathering empty jars out of storage. By tomorrow evening, I hope to have canned my first batch of peas. I will also be making cherry pies to put in the freezer. From now until October, as God allows, I hope to be canning or freezing something at least once a week.

Even as the gardens gain momentum, Dannik Gardens, as a whole, also seems to be picking up speed as we work towards helping it grow. There are so many exciting things on the horizon, it nearly makes me dizzy. It is one thing to dream and make plans, but it is something else entirely to see those dreams and plans begin to rapidly transform into reality. We are so grateful for the support and encouragement of our CSA members, family, and friends. We couldn't do this without you.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Gardens, Goats, and Great Expectations

If all goes well, the potato patch will produce several hundred pounds.

The corn easily met the "knee high by 4th of July" standard this year. We didn't even have to use someone with short legs.
Meet Hazel, one of the three dairy goats that have joined our little farm. It's taken a bit of time for us all to get adjusted to one another, but we've managed to create a workable routine. Unfortunately for Hazel, this routine includes hobbles on her front and back legs.

The morning milking: we are up to nearly a gallon a day and are looking forward to learning how to make cheese, butter, soap, and lotion. But for now, we are very content drinking this rich, creamy milk and making the occasional batch of ice cream.

Glorious canola in full-bloom in the eastern fields of Fisher's Farm. This marks the zenith of the summer season and directs our thoughts toward the coming of autumn. 

With the extended rainy season, it seemed like it took summer an awfully long time to get going in earnest. Now that it's here, it seems like we go at a run from dawn until dark, and sometimes later than that. June and early July have provided an abundance of salad greens and herbs from the garden. But, as my kids have excitedly reported, now we get to start harvesting the "real" food.

The last two weeks' shares included snow peas, and next week's will also have shelling peas and...zucchini! Broccoli is coming on rapidly, as are the black currants and gooseberries. The corn stalks are growing at a phenomenal rate, and the tomato plants have tripled in size in just the last week.

Otherwise, keeping the gardens watered has become the central focus of most days as temperatures have remained in the 80s and 90s for nearly two weeks. That, and weeding. The second big push of weeds is upon us, much to the sorrow of our children. Still, there is such excitement as they discover the newest flower in bloom or the latest vegetable ready to pick. Together, we look forward to the fullness of the season and to savoring the fruits of our labor.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Farm Stand Fridays

Just a reminder: our first Farm Stand Friday is tomorrow from 5:30 to 7:30 here at the gardens. We will also be at the Kalispell Farmer's Market on Saturday. As we move through the season, FSF will be a great opportunity to buy extra amounts of your favorite share items. We hope this will be useful for families like ours, who like to preserve some of summer's bounty for the winter months.

In the garden this week: spinach, butter crunch lettuce, red leaf lettuce, Romaine lettuce, Mesclun mix greens, Swiss chard, baby beet greens, chives, and oregano.

We also have a few vegetable starts left for purchase. As of this week, we will not be planting any more to sell, so get 'em before they're gone!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Rain and Rest

Four varieties of basil and a cluster of dill in our newly planted kitchen herb garden.
As happy as we have been for the sunshine and warm temperatures, we also recognize the importance of sufficient rainfall, especially while most of the plants in the garden are small and tender. Up to this point, we have been dragging hoses and moving sprinklers in our efforts to keep everything alive. For the past several days, the local forecast has called for rain. To our great disappointment, the dark clouds rolling in from the west have brought little more than cool breezes. Until today.

I cannot begin to express the joy and relief I felt when I awoke this morning to the sound of steady rain. As I looked out into the gardens, every plant seemed larger, greener, and stronger. I was especially pleased when I checked on the kitchen herb garden I planted late yesterday afternoon. The rain was exactly what the plants needed to ease their transition from greenhouse to garden.

For me, the rain also means a day off from garden duties. There's certainly plenty that could be done in the greenhouse, but there's not the same kind of urgency. The past few weeks have been quite hectic as we have wrapped up our school year, set out a few hundred vegetable starts, attacked the big spring push of weeds, and planted nearly two hundred seed flats. Every morning we hit the ground running and don't stop until it's dark--sometimes not even then. There's still laundry and dishes to do, groceries to buy, meals to make, baths to give, and bedtime stories to read.

At times it can feel overwhelming, and I must continue to remind myself, to whom much is given, much is expected. In other words, we would not have so much to do if we had not been blessed so abundantly. When the sun shines, we will be thankful and put our hands to work joyfully. When the rain falls, we will also be thankful and rejoice in the rest and refreshment it provides.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Spring Rush

It happens every year, and yet it never fails to catch me by surprise: the spring rush. Two weeks ago, there was fresh snow on the mountain, and the kids still complained about waking to a cold house. Then, blink! Everything is green and lush. The trees are all leafed out. Last week's blossoms are already drifting away on the afternoon breezes. Soon we will see the beginnings of fruit on the trees. The kids now complain about how hot the house is at bedtime. Most of them are already sporting sunburns, too. 

I decided a long time ago that Montana springs/summers (for they truly are blurred together) are a lot like rollercoasters. You've barely sat down and, WHOOSH, you're going full speed. There's not much sense in trying to make a prioritized list of things to do: it all needs to be done right now. Every seed flat needs to be transplanted. Every garden needs planted. Every flower bed needs weeded. Immediately...if not sooner. It's hard not to get that "heart in your throat" sensation one feels as a rollercoaster crests the top of the first rise and begins to plummet.

As plentiful and persistent as the demands may be, the rewards are so much greater. Within weeks, we will be enjoying the first-fruits of the harvest. The gardens will be bursting with life. The weeds will be supplanted by flowers, so that every where we look there will be vibrant color. We will savor and soak in every minute we can, for as someone recently observed, in about four weeks, the days will start getting shorter again. 

While I may have a white-knuckled grip during this initial spring rush, I plan to spend as much time as possible with my hands in the air, enjoying the ride.

Four weeks ago, the chives were nothing more than fine wisps of green.
In the north garden, peas are beginning to make their way up the trellises.

The east end of the north garden, freshly plowed and ready to plant. Towards the center, the raspberries are already pushing hard.

Over 300 little corn plants are now nestled in neat rows in the north garden.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Waiting is the Hardest Part

The beginning of spring in Montana reminds me a bit of getting my kids out of bed. It takes them forever to get up and get going; but once they're up to speed, there's no stopping them.

A week ago, there were hardly any leaves on some of our trees, much less blossoms. And now, seemingly overnight, the fruit trees are in full bloom!

As we undertake this new direction of starting a CSA, it has added a new element to our growing process--time. In years past, we just accepted that the gardens would grow at whatever rate the weather allowed, and weren't overly concerned that our crops weren't "ready" at a given time. We are eager to provide our members with the the most abundant shares possible, as soon as possible. Even though we know that the abundance will come, and will keep us crazy busy through the summer and fall, it's hard to wait. The blossoms on the trees give us such encouragement that we won't have to wait much longer.

On another note, we still have some CSA memberships available. The deadline for application is coming up quickly. Click here for more information about becoming a member, including two options for making payments. Be sure to email us at if you have any questions.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Number, please?

We place a high value on building good relationships.
We are thrilled with the number of visitors we have had to our site in the short time it has been up. We have received wonderful feedback and helpful suggestions from many people. Thank you!

One thing that some have noticed is the lack of a phone number on our contact page. This is not an oversight. We are so busy tending to the needs of all of the living things depending upon us--children, animals, and plants--we simply aren't available to take calls during much of the day. That is why we have chosen to use email as the primary means of communication between Dannik Gardens and its shareholders.

However, we realize that sometimes it is preferable, and even necessary, to speak to someone directly. To address this, please note that we check our email at least three times throughout the day. If you wish to speak to us on the phone, simply send us an email with your name, number, and a brief message. We will call you back as soon as possible. We promise.

Our email address is We look forward to hearing from you!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

CSA Update

We can't wait to get growing!


Response to our transition from a farm-to-market business model to that of a CSA program has been incredible. Just by word-of-mouth, nearly 1/3 of our shares are already spoken for!

In the last few days I have had a chance to talk with several families about our CSA, and based upon these conversations, we have decided to amend our original pick-up dates/times/locations to better accommodate our members.

Instead of having two pick-up days here at the farm, we will now have one at the farm and one in Kalispell. As before, we will have to limit the number of shares available on each day. The new pick-up dates/times/locations are as follows:

OPTION 1, Columbia Falls:
When: Tuesdays   5:30--7:30 pm
Where: Dannik Gardens farm

OPTION 2, Kalispell:
When: Saturdays   9:00--10:30 am
Where: WalMart parking lot adjacent to the Farmers' Market

Be sure to mark your pick-up preferences on your application. If you have already sent in your application, and had chosen the original Friday option, we will contact you right away to update your choice.


Another issue that we have discussed is the challenge many families may have coming up with the full share cost within one month. Established CSA farms often set up monthly payment plans that begin in December/January so that share costs can be paid-in-full before the growing season begins. Because our decision to change to the CSA model was made within the last month or so, we are not able to offer as much flexibility as we would like. However, as it is our earnest desire to make farm-fresh, local produce as affordable and accessible to as many families as possible, we have decided to provide a modified payment plan.

Option 1: Full payment by May 30, 2014--$475.00

Option 2: Half-payment by May 30, 2014--$237.50
                 Half-payment by June 30, 2014--$237.50

If the full share amount is not paid by June 30, membership will be cancelled and the first installment will be non-refundable. For more information about our financial polices, please see Dannik Gardens CSA: Become a Member.

We hope these changes are helpful. As ever, if you have any questions, please send us an email at

Monday, April 21, 2014

Pest Control

Pest control is a boundless topic of conversation for all gardeners, especially those trying grow their crops naturally. Despite all of the strategies, recipes, and planting techniques, some pest damage is unavoidable. This week we lost dozens of foxglove seedlings to a particularly destructive pest. Our options for both pro-active and defensive damage prevention are limited. Looks like we'll just have to keep living with it.

Catticus Pesticus Maximus: otherwise known as Shaun, flipper of seed flats.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

First Outdoor Planting

The sun broke through late this afternoon, drawing us all outside for work and play. It's incredible how motivating a little bit of light and heat can be after a few days of clouds and chilly weather.

After supper, we took advantage of the lingering sunshine to set out some strawberries. This year we have rotated them from the north garden to the southwest garden. We think the plants will have greater success in this garden's rich, loamy soil. It was such a joy to be outside working together. In about an hour, we had 200 strawberry plants nestled snugly in their new beds.

And Then There Was Life

It's only been ten days since we planted our seed starts in the greenhouse. How exciting it is to see new life, vibrant and vigorous, pushing up through the soil. To the kids, it still seems miraculous: how is it that these miniscule seeds so rapidly transform into real-deal plants? To be honest, it still seems a bit miraculous to me, too.

Miss Rose inspecting some of the seed starts.

It won't be long until we are planting these in the ground and setting up trellises for them to climb.

I am already browsing through books for new salad dressing ideas. Yum!

Friday, April 18, 2014

In the Beginning

Visions of things to come.

Pictures of promise.

Many hands make light work; even little hands are helpful.

What could be more fun to a little boy than a wheelbarrow full of soft dirt?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Season for Change

Three of our young farmers in the south-west garden, 2010.
Dan and I both grew up in gardens. For him, it was an essential part of his life growing up on his family's farm here in the Flathead Valley. Not only did it put food on the table, but it also provided an additional source of income, as surplus produce was sold at the local farmers' markets.

For me, being raised by my widowed grandmother in Northern California, gardening was a means of survival. Apart from Nana's beloved rose garden, nearly every square inch of our half-acre back yard was given over to the production of fruits and vegetables. The temperate climate allowed us to raise an astonishing variety of produce. We grew every type of vegetable, and our little orchard gave us abundant fruits and nuts: apples, pears, peaches, apricots, nectarines, plums, figs, cherries, almonds, walnuts, pecans, oranges, tangerines, grapefruits, lemons, persimmons, and even pomegranates. We also had strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blue berries, and three types of grapes. It was a suburban Eden.
Ben, Rose, and Abbi in the south-west garden, 2010.
As we have grown our own family together, we have always maintained a garden of some sort, often from necessity, but always for pleasure. Not long after returning to Montana in 2007, after ten years away, we were further motivated to commit ourselves to cultivating as much of our own naturally grown food as possible as a means to address the autoimmune issues of four of our six children. It hasn't been easy, but it's been totally worth it. We love the peace of mind we have knowing that the food our children are eating is safe and healthy. We are also so grateful to see our children growing up in the gardens. They are learning how to work hard, but they are also experiencing the joy of living close to the earth.

Abbi in her godetia patch, 2011.
Up to this point, we have always sold our surplus produce at the Kalispell Farmers' Market. This year, giving in to the persistent prompting of dear friends, we have decided to transition our business model into that of a CSA. We look forward to the this new venture, and are especially excited for the opportunities it will bring to share the bounty of our gardens with others.