Prairie Ponderings – Garden Planning and Squash

It’s garden planning time at the Graham Ranch and I have a dilemma.

Our family targets 50% of our food as grown or raised in Montana and our garden provides a significant portion of those Made in Montana vegetables. My black thumb limits my list of successful garden varieties, so last fall I was thrilled when the kids and I hauled red wagon loads of squash from the garden.

My husband, Steve, and the kids were less than thrilled when I served squash for supper. They celebrated with me for the first supper. They didn’t say much, but left some on their plates after the second squash supper. By the third supper, even Abby, 2 years old at the time, picked out “this yucky stuff.” So I disguised my success story — first in soup, then with a lot of meat, then in pie, cookies and scrambled eggs. Each time, my son, Will, and Steve would exchange looks and start the disparaging remarks. I can’t abide waste so I tossed each attempt to the chickens. A chicken’s walnut-sized brain directs immediate devouring of anything and everything, but my squash sat in the chicken bucket for three days.

Now I have to decide how many packets of squash seed to plant this spring.

I try hard to serve local food at our table, but Steve has a loftier goal. He tries to purchase only products that are made in the U.S.A. He doesn’t buy much. But his efforts prod me to try, too.

We sell concessions at various events so I decided that our family needed matching shirts as a uniform of sorts when we run our concession trailer. I began my hunt for Made in the U.S.A shirts in January. Not a single shirt could I find in either Conrad or Great Falls. Online denim shirts exist, but not in sizes we need. Last Friday, I conceded defeat on the shirt front.

I see a ray of hope in the underwear department, though.

Steve and I are about a third of the way through shearing our sheep. We save some of our finest wool for roving and batting, but I pack most of it into huge canvas bags. Eventually, those bags usually are shipped to China, made into clothes and returned to American stores. A lot of American wool is Superwashed — a chemical process that removes the scratchy barbs and shrinks it so the fabric can be washed in a regular washer. But the Superwash process uses such harsh chemicals that only a few countries allow it. My Superwashed undershirt wraps me in a soft, snuggly personal heater every day, all winter long. That undershirt is my favorite piece of clothing and I wouldn’t be without it, but it was not made in the U.S.A.

Until now.

American innovation overcame yet another barrier. Environmentally safe, affordable Superwashed wool t-shirts, long underwear and other wool items will be produced in North Carolina by this November.

By the time Steve can buy made in the U.S.A. wool underwear, my garden harvest will be stored in jars, freezer bags and boxes in the basement. We will be on track to eat locally and buy American by Thanksgiving. I wonder how squash stuffing would taste? I bet I can hide pureed squash in chocolate Christmas treats. I better buy more seeds.

Lisa Schmidt and her husband, Steve Hutton, raise natural, grassfed beef and lamb at the Graham Ranch near Conrad, Montana.
She has two children; Will, 11, and Abby, 3.

Lisa Schmidt