Life Is A Garden: Do you dig it?

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Life Is A Garden: Do you dig it?

By Sarah Fromenthal

EvoOutdoors Team Member

So you’ve gone out and harvested yourself some wild game. What pairs well with the fresh, “free” food you just harvested? That’s right…. fresh, “free” vegetables from your own vegetable garden in your back yard! What could be better than a meal prepared by yourself, from items you harvested yourself?
Growing up, I had the benefit of watching my parents and grandparents, year after year, grow a fairly large, successful garden. When it came time to do mine own, I began to do my research and realized there is a lot more to it than just throwing seeds into dirt.

A backyard garden can be the most rewarding or the most painful process, depending on the amount of effort and forethought put into it.

It takes the realization that gardening is more of a long term process than a weekend project to be successful. I compiled a list of a few things you may want to research on your own before starting your first garden.
What are you planting? This part should be fairly simple right?

  • First take into consideration what do you like to eat. Think of the recipes you most commonly eat and what fresh produce it takes to prepare that meal. Does your family consume more venison spaghetti than the law allows? Plan on planting some tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, and possibly fresh herbs.
  • If you produce too many, will you have a way to preserve it such as canning, freezing, donate to more than happy to accept neighbors, sell at a local farmers market, etc?
  • Do you plan on getting small plants from a local nursery or starting from seeds? If getting seeds please read the seed packet carefully for planting instructions. Some seeds need to be sewn indoors before being planted outside, while others prefer to be planted directly into the garden.
  • Keep in mind there are hundreds of varieties of the most basic vegetable. Look at your local agricultral publications to find varieties that have proven to work best in your area.
  • Some plants benefit from being grown next to certain plants while others when planted close by will cause problems for each other through disease, bugs, etc. This is called companion planting. Think its just by chance that basil pairs well with tomatoes in many dishes? Nope! Basil is often grown in the garden next to tomatoes. This pairing helps with repelling pests while attracting bees for pollination. In addition, it improves the flavorings of your tomatoes.

Where to plant?

  • What kind of garden do you want to have? Old fashion rows in the dirt, raised bed, vertical gardening, flower pots, etc. I’ve also seen people plant directly into a bag of potting soil.
  • How much of a space are you are willing to sacrifice from your yard? How much do you plan on planting? Are you feeding yourself, your family, or the whole neighborhood? Keep in mind a larger garden is a larger time spent tending to the garden. Also remember bigger plants (tomatoes, eggplants, squash, etc) need more space per plant
  • Take into consideration you will need a spot that gets at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight. Also think about water drainage; you don’t want a spot that water collects in your yard. Most importantly you will need access to a water source near by unless you want to haul pails of water.

Get into your “zone”!

  • What is a zone you ask? The USDA has established a map called the Plant Hardiness zone map.  This map helps to determine minimum temperature ranges of your local area. When choosing your plants, look closely on the plant tag or seed pack and they will often tell you planting schedules based on this or similar zones.
  • Each plant has a specific “growing season” in which they thrive. For example, tomatoes love warm weather and aren’t very cold hardy. Because I live in Louisiana where it warm for most of the year, I have a larger “growing season” for tomatoes compared to my friends further north who may only get warm enough weather for only a few weeks a year. All this information on the plants you chose can be found with very little effort online.
  • Soil types, minerals, and pH vary from place to place. You should send off a sample of your soil to your local Ag center for soil testing. They should be able to tell you what needs to be added to your soil prior to planting. Either amend your soil according to their suggestions or chose plants to fit with your soil type.
  • Warmer areas tend to have a larger bug problem. Have a pesticide plan in your mind. If you are choosing to go a more natural route with pesticides, research more organic options and ideas on companion planting to help reduce the bugs.

Use some common sense:

  •  Don’t “Go Big or Go Home”! Start off small and manageable. It’s easy to get overwhelmed at first and you can always expand next season. Also, you won’t need the fanciest of tools to get started. A simple, rake, spade, trowel, and pruners will get you far.
  • Ask plenty of questions. Online resources are there by the millions (just be sure to look up more area specific information) or go to a local nursery. Use local Ag center publications. They are often free and full on great information. Youtube is also a great tool to see other’s techniques.
  •  Recognize symptoms before they become a major problem and fix it before the problem turns into a disaster. For example, if you see a couple of bugs on your lettuce, look into a way to get rid of them before you come back to a half chewed up plant or they spread to others.
  • Don’t forget some plants require a little extra support from trellises, stakes, cages, etc. Some require special pruning, fertilization, etc. Want free, easy, fertilizer? start your own compost pile from uncooked kitchen scraps. Anything from paper products, uncooked fruits and veggies, the fish you filleted for dinner, shellfish peelings, egg shells, etc. can be collected and made into a compost pile while cutting back on your waste.

To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow. -Audrey Hepburn

Now that I’ve given you enough to get you a good starting point to begin your research, I will tell you how I started my garden last spring. I first decided I wanted a raised bed. This would help decrease my weeds, give me good soil drainage when we get our crazy spring monsoons, and I could personally keep better control of my soil type. I simply picked a spot, laid out my timber, and got to work. I first took my shovel and removed the top layer of grass (not a required step but it will definitely cut back on the weeds). I then screwed together my timber and I drove some heavy duty angle iron into the ground and screwed it into my timber for support. The angle iron step is not a necessity, but the weight of the soil can easily cause your boards to bow outwards. I then laid out a layer of flattened card board boxes and news papers as an additional weed barrier before adding my soil. I personally used a 25:75 mix of bagged topsoil and garden soil to promote good drainage and aeration. I also chose to go the “difficult route” and start all my plants from seeds.  Yes, over the course of the growing season, I struggled with bugs and plant disease, but as i previously mentioned, it is important to make these observations early and correct them. After long weeks of drawn out anticipation but very little effort, I began to see my little seeds grow and turn into huge plants which then turned into vegetables that we were able to eat.

A few things that I learned along the way in my first year:

  • Do not lose your cool when one plant seems not to be growing as hearty as the others, it may just need a little more TLC but will soon catch up with the others.
  • Checking the buds every twenty minutes will not help them grow faster.
  • Bees love the garden. They will pay little to no attention to you working in the garden and are not there to attack. Lizards are also a necessity to keep some of the bugs at bay.
  • I needed stronger stakes for my tomato plants that got carried away and had the tiny metals ones nearly bent in half.
  • Try growing something you’ve never tried before and it’ll force you to get creative with recipes.
  • I just love my garden. Growing and hunting my own food gives me a true appreciation for what I’m putting in my mouth and how it affects the way my body functions compared to junk food.

 

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I was born, raised, and am currently living in Thibodaux LA (about an hour SW of New Orleans). There is nothing I don’t at least attempt to do. Gardening, cooking, kayaking, bow fishing, crafts, hunting, etc. I like to stay constantly busy.

Healthy Living: The Effects of Western Hunting on a Southern Girl

In Louisiana most whitetail deer hunting is done on private land. You can ride an ATV up to any spot, throw a lock up in a tree and sit for hours. Do not get me wrong, many south Louisiana hunters put in a great effort working on the land, sometimes walking through waist deep water. Tackling the swamp while being mauled by mosquitoes for hours on end. However, it is very easy to get complacent in ones physical health, clothing/gear choices and still be able to perform the tasks required to hunt down here.

My eyes were opened to a new world of hunting necessities when I set out on a new (to me) adventure of elk hunting in the public hunting land of Colorado. 

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Heading out west, I had no clue what to expect nor had I ever seen mountains before.

I studied articles and videos to prepare myself for what was to come however, nothing prepared me for the way it would change how I thought about myself. The mountains showed me that although I was physically fit enough to be able conquer the hikes we took from the base camp, I was in no way fit enough to accomplish a pack in hike. My dream was to be able to hike in for miles with a heavy pack and sleep in the wilderness away from everything. To hike further and higher everyday than I had on that first trip. I knew doing this would take months of preparation to ensure that I was fit enough to do not only the long hike in but to also recover quickly in preparation for the following days hikes.

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As hunting season in Louisiana wrapped up, I decided to buckle down and start living a healthier life. My first step was to build a raised garden bed in my tiny back yard. Growing up, my parents and grandparents always grew a beautiful garden therefore I knew with the knowledge I had gained from watching them over the years I could grow my own veggies. It was a huge money saver. A few dollars spent on seeds translated into many meals and even some vegetables preserved to be enjoyed all year. As every hunter knows there is a sort of “slump” that sets in after season ends. My garden kept me physically and mentally active.

I quickly found working in the garden to be very therapeutic, rewarding, and a huge confidence booster to see the tiny seed that I planted flourish into a huge plant.

I decided I needed to do more than integrate a few vegetables in my diet so I joined in on an “accountability group” 9D144EC0-0EA2-49BE-8C1A-06003E9DCC9B_zpsdef38gtsthrough work.  This forced me to weigh in weekly. The fact that I was doing it with coworkers forced me to stay focused. I didn’t want a simple diet where I was omitting a certain type of food completely; I wanted a lifestyle change that would change my way of eating forever. I worked on portion control, which I have always struggled with, by weighing and measuring everything until I had a better idea what a serving size actually looked like. In addition, being creative with my wild game, seafood, and fresh vegetables, I recreated my favorite dishes into a new healthier version of its previous self. I used seasoning and spices to give food more flavor so it was more filling. By making these simple changes to my diet, I began seeing a change on the scale.

858DB16B-58B1-4135-AE06-1E2F126229B7_zps9hvnk1qhI quickly realized that in addition to eating correctly, I needed to start a workout regiment for myself to be able to get stronger and gain muscle. I started off slowly by walking around the local university. Slowly it progressed into a walk/run and further distances.  I incorporated various weight lifting workout videos I found online. After I felt that I was strong enough, I decided to start working on building “mountain muscles”. I started off with a fifty pound sack of deer corn in my backpack I planned on using for my Colorado hunt. I walked to the university stadium and did the bleachers, then I walked a lap around the campus. Over time, I slowly added more and more weight until it was time to leave for the hunt.  Not only was this building muscles but it helped me get my pack adjusted correctly with heavy weight. By adding these additional exercises to my daily routine, I was able to drop weight even quicker and I was seeing a big boost in my energy levels.

The next part of my “elk ready” process was to re-access my gear and clothing choices. I knew we would be doing a pack in hike so I worked to find lighter alternatives to the supplies I had and reduced the amount of unnecessary supplies. I planned to bring dehydrated meals, vacuum sealed “harvest kits” containing such items as game bags. I planned out how to stuff all of these items into my pack. I weighed each item and then the pack as a whole to be sure that I could easily carry everything I needed. When I went to access my new choices of clothing, I tried to pinpoint problems I saw in my previous gear and worked along with EvoOutdoors CamoConcierge service to find products that would best solve these problems.

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aProblem 1: Stretch and maneuverability in durable pants. I quickly realized that my previous clothing was actually working against me while hiking because of its lack of stretch, especially in the pants. I decided to get a pair of the FirstLite Kanab 2.0 pants and the Corrugate Guide pants. Both offered a unique fit that was looser in the hips and thighs but more fitted in the lower half. This fit allowed for full range of motion. Both have high waisted fits and can be worn with suspenders, preventing them from riding down over time with a heavy pack and impeding maneuverability.  The Kanab 2.0 pants are made of ultra light merino wool with body stretch 1441587702159-1927885061nylon and also feature a rip stop pattern making them perfectly silent for a spot and stalk while being durable. The Corrugate Guide pants are made of a lightweight, durable, breathable nylon fabric that makes them nearly bombproof against all but the most extreme weather. While they aren’t as silent as the Kanab’s, they truly proved themselves to me in the rain we endured on an almost daily basis while in the Colorado mountains.  Not only were they somewhat water resistant, but when it came to getting drenched in the downpours, they dried very quickly making it possible to wear them again day after day. First Lite also features a “shooters cut” on their shirts (see problem 2) that have specially designed shoulders to allow full range of movement and fitted lower sleeve to prevent bow string interference.

Problem 2: Odor control after days of continued use. Knowing we would be in the back country for a number of days1430188149902-2353460841430071241262694008033a with limited ability to wash clothing, I needed clothing that would naturally neutralize odors, even after days of continued use. It was suggested that I use a merino wool based product because wool naturally wicks away moisture (as much as 30% of its weight) and releases it into the air. By doing this the moisture doesn’t remain on the skins surface, allowing bacteria and therefore odors to be created. First Lite created a women’s line of merino wool base layers that fit my needs perfectly. The set of the Lupine crew shirt and Larkspur bottoms created naturally odor resistant base layer that I topped with the Artemis hoody and finished it off with a pair of their Mountain Athlete Compression socks. Even after days of wear, these products remained relatively odor free (except for the socks, but I blame the waterlogged boots). Minus 33 has a line of merino based underwear that I also used and highly suggest.

Problem3: Reusable gear. Lets face it, I am a tight with my money so I wanted gear that not only worked well in the mountains but would also be good for hunting at home so I needed something that could span from the heat of 14301875240601376827267Louisiana early season but could stand up to a cool Colorado mountain archery season morning. I also wanted a pattern of camo that would work for both areas. First Lite accomplished these as well. Another 1409588562924-768062539great attribute of merino wool is because of its extreme moisture wicking abilities, it helps maintain the body’s natural micro-climate by removing the excess moisture in the air between the skin and clothing. This makes the wearer cooler in the heat and warmer in the winter. Previously, I was using a well known popular brand of camo that blended well in some locations but not in others. The fusion camo is a unique pattern described as “crackalature” by First Lite is designed to distort the hunter’s silhouette while avoiding “color blobbing” that has truly14398583972051093645653proven to blend in with everything from the rocks to the swamp. It uses large and small shape disruption to cause distortion of not only the general shape but of “texture” and depth also. Their website truly has some very interesting literature on this subject, but I can tell you from first hand knowledge that it is easy to lose someone sitting only a couple feet away from you in the fusion camo.

 

With these changes to myself and my gear, I headed west again with confidence and the ability to conquer whatever mother nature could physically throw at me. After a little over a ten mile hike, uphill, in the pouring rain into our designated camping spot and spending nearly a week in the back country, I could not conjure a single negative statement about the First Lite gear that had been suggested to me. As for my physical fitness, I had advanced leaps and bounds over what I would have been able to accomplish had I stayed on the path I was traveling.  I am no miracle worker or extraordinary case.

If I can change my life for something I am passionate about, just about any one can if they put in the time and effort.

Sarah Fromenthal, EvoOutdoors ProStaff

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Sarah Fromenthal was born and raised in South Louisiana. Sarah has a strong passion for hunting, fishing, the outdoors, and cooking what she catches/kills flowing throw her veins. She believes archery is a sport you can never completely master and is always reading, listening, and observing to become the best archer she can be, but she also loves to share the knowledge she does have with others.