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june 2017


In this issue

Local economic opportunity Cheat grass 4-H leaders and more!

Celebrating 30 Years in Business! • June 1987 - June 2017 Thank you for your patronage.

in this issue Local Economic Opportunity................................. 5 Farm to fork............................................................. 7 Grass Speak: cheat grass....................................... 8 New regulations for food producing animals.... 10 4-H grows true leaders......................................... 12 Ravalli County Fairgrounds.................................. 14 Espalier 101........................................................... 16 Agriculture Heritage Notebook.......................... 18 Common Bugloss................................................. 22

M A G A Z I NE How did you like this issue of Agriculture Magazine? Do you have any ideas you’d like to share with us for our next issue? Let us know. Sent comments to: Ravalli Republic, 232 West Main, Hamilton, MT 59840 or Photos on this page provided by Perry Backus, Wendy Beye, Grant Carlton & Kellieann Morris Cover Photo by Perry Backus Agriculture Magazine is published by the Ravalli Republic & Missoulian Newspapers, divisions of Lee Enterprises Mike Gulledge, Publisher Perry Backus, Associate Editor Kathy Kelleher, Lauren Ford & Jodi Lopez, Sales Dara Saltzman, Production & Design Agriculture Magazine is copyright 2017, Ravalli Republic.

232 W Main, Hamilton, MT 59840

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ravalli county museum and historical society photo archives

Sugar beet farming in the Bitterroot Valley in 1955.

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Specialty crops bring local economic opportunity to the Bitterroot by Katrina Mendrey Program Coordinator, Western Agriculture Research Center

Haskap season is upon us and currant, sand cherry, and aronia will soon follow. If you aren’t familiar with these novel fruits, just drive east on Quast Lane, north of Corvallis, to the MSUWestern Agricultural Research Center (WARC). The center grows apples, grapes, and other small fruits, as well as vegetables, grains and even poultry with the aim of delivering new crops and improved management practices to farmers in western Montana. Operated by MSU under the supervision of Zach Miller, the research and outreach at the station focuses on specialty crops that can be grown profitably on smaller acreages. “Our goal is to provide growers with the information they need to make informed decisions both about what to grow and what will be mar-

ketable,” Miller said. “We are blessed to live in a region of Montana where you can grow highvalue crops like grapes, apples, and berries. There are certainly opportunities to sell these fresh or create value-added products like jams, cider, and wine.” Projects at the station not only include research trials to determine how best to grow these fruits in a short growing season, but also to provide education and marketing assistance to growers to increase local interest and demand for the diverse fruits, vegetables, meats and value-added products like cider. For example, funding through the station has helped establish a local cooperative of growers, Loyal to Local, which provides a platform for buyers to more efficiently purchase local food for sale in groceries and through a community supported

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agriculture (CSA) model. Through this cooperative effort, CSA members can purchase shares of a wide selection of the products grown in the area. In addition, the project assists farms in marketing their products. Grocery stores and restaurants need only coordinate with one source to purchase local food, saving both them and the farmers’ time and money. “We want folks to experience that buying local isn’t just great for the community, it can be convenient and affordable too,” said Amy Hutton, Loyal to Local produce market researcher and sales coordinator, “The diversity of agriculture in the Bitterroot, creativity of local food entrepreneurs and the opportunities for season extension makes eating local mean eating well.” Other projects under way include research to

determine what cider apple varieties are best suited for our growing conditions, development of an updated and regionally specific online growers guide for apple producers and other orchardists, and workshops to provide new and established apple growers with the information they need to be successful. Recent funding from the USDA’s Specialty Crop Block Grant program also will help continue cold-hardy grape and small fruit production research at the facility. WARC showcases these projects and others with public tours, including their field days held each July. This year’s Fork to Farm field day is 4:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday, July 27, (see related story) and offers tours to schools and community groups by appointment. For more information about the station and growing fruits of all sorts in the Bitterroot Valley, visit agresearch.montana. edu/warc/.


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Agriculture Magazine, June 2017 - Page 7


Fork to farm ride supports agriculture and safe biking As many Bitterroot residents know, the valley is a great place to ride bicycles and enjoy local food. Fork to Farm allows you to do both. It’s a bike ride to support local agriculture and to raise funds for Bike Walk Bitterroot, an advocacy organization for safe walking and biking in the Bitterroot Valley. It’s also an opportunity to visit local farms, orchards, vineyards and ranches while eating delicious food. The ride takes place each September. This year it starts at the Western Agriculture Research Center (WARC) at 10 a.m. on Sept. 17, with stops at Sweet Root Farm in Hamilton, Lifeline Dairy in Victor and Willow

Mountain Vineyard in Corvallis. At each stop, riders can sample foods, beverages and other locally grown and prepared treats. When they return to WARC, riders can fill up on more from local farms and businesses including Tucker Family Farms, Mill Crick Farm, Homestead Organics, Ellen and Ian’s Farm, Lifeline Produce, Loyal to Local Co-op, Western Montana Cider and House of Ferments while enjoying live music. Registration for the event is $50 before Sept. 1, and $70 after with a final registration deadline of Sept. 12. For more information, visit

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Grass Speak: Watch out for cheat grass By PATRICK MANGAN MSU Extension Agent for Ravalli County

June is the best time of the year in the valley, if you’re into grasses, that is. The grasses have exploded out of their winter dormancy, shooting up into the sky. Atop their green leaves and stalked have emerged seed heads with panicles of every variety splaying out the seed, or standing rigidly up in a precision line of orderly seeds. The diversity of shapes and arrangements can delight the eye as they dance lazily in the breeze across a tall meadow. Even that purple hue can be a real eye-catcher as we zip from one place

to another down the valley. Wait a minute… did I just say purple hue? In a grass? But grasses are green, right? Oh yeah, that grass turns purple, right at the onset of summer. Cheat grass. And those pointy seeds! They are the bane of existence for my dog and her ears. Even my socks and ankles aren’t safe! Bummer, I was really excited about this grass thing. Cheat grass, also known as downy brome, is scientifically named Bromus tectorum. And while I personally think tectorum is a pretty cool name, my fascination stops short not long after the admiration for the moniker. This little species of

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grass has made its move along many road corridors, parking lots, dry hillsides, and any other place where a little disturbance can give it foothold into the plant community. The strategy for survival cheat grass employs is a real winner in the conditions found here in western Montana. As a winter annual grass, cheat grass will begin growing earlier in the spring, often before native or perennial grasses have come out of dormancy. It quickly establishes a flat-spreading rosette of leaves, taking advantage of the slightly warmer micro-climate right at the soil surface. When it’s ready, it shoots a stalk skyward full of the flowering seed heads, which quickly mature into viable seed. With its reproductive success secured, it turns purple, dries out, and fades away as the spring moisture leaves the rooting depth of the soil profile. With its early season growing habits, cheat grass can take valuable spring moisture from more desirable grass species, and leave those grasses parched and thirsty through the hot, dry summer days. In the right conditions, without supplemental moisture from irrigation, it can outmaneuver the native and desirable grass species, dominating the area with its sticky seed awns and sea of purple, dry stems. But don’t despair completely about the rampage cheat grass must surely be poised to unleash upon every space it doesn’t currently occupy. It has some weaknesses that we as land managers can exploit to the benefit of desirable grass species. Bromus tectorum is an annual grass. This means it needs to complete its entire life cycle, produce seed, and reseed itself, in order to be successful. The mature plant dies after it sets seed and it won’t grow back next year. Perennial grasses, on the other hand, regrow from the root base every year. If we can interrupt cheat grasses’ ability to reseed itself, we can decrease the population and reinvigorate desir-

able grass communities. Sheep will graze cheat grass early in its growing cycle, but find it less palatable when the awns and seed heads mature. There can also be some success with the “mechanical grazing” of a lawnmower, but that will most likely need to happen more than once each spring. It’s important to use these mechanically inclined treatments before cheat grass goes to seed. Another strategy with good success rests in the encouragement of a healthy, thick community of perennial grasses. With a little help and support, desirable grasses can occupy the space, blocking cheat grass out, and keep it from establishing its own stand. There are a lot of factors involved with choosing and enhancing desirable perennial grasses species, and each location has its own set of attributes and requirements. Contact the MSU Extension office in Hamilton for suggestions on your specific location and set of circumstances. There’s one last promise moving its way through the possible alleyways of cheat grass control: a biological control bacteria. This bacteria, when applied as a soil amendment, will denature the seed coat of certain grass species, including cheat grass. As the seed coat ruptures, the seed loses viability and can’t stick around to grow in the spring. This strategy is pretty new on the market and might be difficult to get right now, but it holds promise for future control of cheat grass. Next time you’re walking along the edge of a field of grasses quietly swaying in the wind, take the time to enjoy this miraculous family of plants, who colonize so much of the earth’s surface. And when you see those patches of purple cheat grass alongside the road, or in an old abandoned field, you can send a smirk its way, silently telling it that yes, little annoying grass, your time here is limited.

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New Regulations for Food Producing Animals By Dr. Linda Kauffman Burnt Fork Veterinary Clinic

For this edition of the Ag Mag, I would like to provide information that affects large and small livestock producers, particularly those raising food producing animals. Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) This new directive was established in 2015 to come into effect in various stages and regulates the judicious use of antibiotics in food producing animals. Written by the USDA, this measure states that owners or caretakers using animal fee that contain certain drugs (generally antibiotics) to treat their animals must do so in accordance with FDA approved directions. Which animals are affected? Any animal that is or may be used for human consumption of milk is covered by this regulation. For instance, chickens, cattle, sheep, hogs, goats, rabbits, and bees all fall under the new rules. How does VFC work? Effective in January 2017, this regulation involves the animal owner as well as veteri-

narians, feed stores, and feed manufacturers. It states that veterinarians must have a “client-patient relationship” with the animals that require the medication, meaning the veterinarian must have physically examined (or seen) the animal. The vet must then write a prescription for the needed antibiotic, which allows the animal to be medicated with the feed at a certain dose for a specified amount of time. For many small, local producers, this will not be a big change as most of them don’t use antibiotics in the feed they provide their animals. The bigger change in this multi-year process will come in Jan. 1, 2018, at which time, antibiotics used in human and animal medicine will no longer be available through veterinarians or by veterinary prescription through veterinary pharmacies, many of which are online. In my veterinary practice, I have heard from a few people who have already been surprised by these changes. They include backyard chicken owners— who are used to buying tetracycline over the counter for treating their birds – a beekeeper

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and livestock producers looking for penicillin. Through these new regulations, the USDA is encouraging a closer relationship between meat and mile producing animal owners and their veterinarians. This move is not a ploy on the part of veterinarians to increase their income but is instead a logical step in an effort to promote the judicious use of antibiotics in production livestock to try to avert the disastrous consequences of antibiotic resistance. The end result should benefit us all—from the animals needing medication to the consumer of livestock product. More information is available at: www.fda. gov/animalveteraniary/ucm071807.htm Scrapie A second area of regulation that can affect any sheep or goat breeder is the Scrapie Federal Identification program. Scrapie is a neurological disease of sheep and goats that is related to Chronic Wasting Disease of deer and elk, “Mad Cow Disease” of cattle and Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease of humans. The regulations are intended to eradicate Scrapie by providing a means of identifying as many sheep and goats as possible and where they originated (i.e. the flock they were born into). In the event that an animal develops Scrapie, that animal could then be traced to its origin and further effort can be made to identify the existence of the disease in this original flock. The process of obtain a flock identification number and the associated ear tags for the animals is fairly simple. Montana producers can contact the federal regional USDA-APHIS office in Idaho, who will gather your information on the species and breed of your animals as well as the location of your breeding facility. If you are wondering whether you would need to participate in this program, that depends on what you will do with the animals you produce.

If they are sold to private individuals and never cross stateliness, you may be able to avoid registering. If, however, the animals you sell are to be shipped across state lines, a certificate of veterinary inspection (CVI) is required. Additionally, many states require Scrapie ID tags as the primary type of formal identification on the sheep or goat that is to be shipped. If you are not part of this federal program, you may have a problem trying to ship your animals across state lines with the legally required CVI. A recent experience by a visitor from a Virginia to Montana demonstrates the need for this type of tag. The visitor fell in love with a lamb from a local sheep flock and purchased it as a pet. The flock was not part of the Scrape Identification Program. When the visitor – the new owner – the took the lamb to a veterinarian for a CVI so it could be flown to Virginia the following day, the visitor of course had no idea that the lamb was considered livestock and the veterinarian would have to comply with Virginia state regulations for the import of sheep into that state. These regulations required the lamb to fear a Scrapie ID tag for identification in order for it to enter the state. In many cases, the shipment of the lamb would have been delayed until the owners could obtain the appropriate tag. Fortunately for the Virginia visitor, the local county extension office came to the rescue and they were able to procure a tag, and the veterinarian could then write the CVI for the shipment. County extension offices can also issue special Scrapie ID tags for use in the identification of 4-H and FFA sheep and goats. Youth involved in these programs—who exhibit sheep and goats within the state or across state lines—are also required to have Scrapie ID tags for identification of their animals. For more information, you can go to:

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Throughout the year, youth have opportunities to grow into true leaders. This last fall, 4-H members engaged in Montana 4-H Week of Service and helped remove noxious weeds from St. Mary’s Mission. 4-H members are 3.4 times more likely to be actively engaged in their community.

4-H grows true leaders through varied experiences By KATELYN ANDERSEN MSU Extension Agent for Ravalli County

Summer, fair and 4-H seem to go together. Imagine the big grin on a kid’s face when the judge shakes their hand and hands over a Grand Champion ribbon. Or, the 4-Her at the 4-H Corner Café counting change back to a customer. Fair is the place where memories are made, awards won and skills developed for kids and their families. But 4-H doesn’t stop on the last day of fair. The experiences at fair and throughout

the year with 4-H empower young people to become true leaders – who have confidence; know how to work well with others; can endure through challenges; and will stick to a job until it gets done. In 4-H, we believe true leaders aren’t born – they’re grown. We know that our youth will grow up to work in our offices, at restaurants, and create new businesses. They need opportunities to prepare them to lead in life and career. They need experiences where they have the freedom to learn by doing, grow from failure, express their ideas and

use their influence to drive position outcomes. The 4-H program provides youth with the opportunity to develop the skills of confidence, independence, resilience and compassion. Throughout the year, 4-H members are learning important life skills through the guidance of community members and their families. A 4-Her may choose to raise a livestock animal or take a veterinary science project. They could also take a project in robotics, outdoor adventures, photography or engineering. With over 200 project to choose, youth develop their own pathway in 4-H. In Montana, 4-H is the largest out of school program reaching over 18,000 youth annually. In Ravalli County alone, we engage over 500 4-H members through 23 community clubs through the support of over 160 registered adult leaders. Every year, through the support of MSU Extension in Ravalli County, we reach over 2,000 youth through various school and out-

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of-school activities. These activities include the 4-H Mentoring Partnership Program, 4th Grade Farm Fair, 4-H Fun Day, Plants Grow Children, Montana 4-H Week of Service and more. This summer, if you see a youth walking a lamb down a dusty dirt road, just know they are growing into a true leader through 4-H. If you are interested in volunteering with the 4-H program or becoming a 4-H member, visit or call your MSU Extension Office in Ravalli County. We are always looking for adult volunteers to donate their skills to help educate our youth. Connect online at www.msuextension. org/ravalli or call our office at 375-6611.

Katelyn Andersen, M.S., is an Associate Professor for Montana State University. She serves as the 4-H/Youth Development and Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Agent for Ravalli County. Contact: 375-6611 or 215 S. 4th Street Suite G, Hamilton.


Matthew and Jonathan Trull take their 4-H lambs, Vanilla Wafer and Sissy, on their daily conditioning stroll on Lone Rock School Road. Their mother, April, and the newest member of the family, Rebekah, join them on a picture perfect summer morning.

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Three-year-old Raeland Nutt works to prepare the goat she calls Dreamy for the show ring at the 2016 Ravalli County Fair.

Ravalli County Fairgrounds is already making ready for annual fair

By CRYSS ANDERSON Ravalli County Fairgrounds Manager

It is the beginning of June, and most folks agree that winter is over in these parts. Crops are in the ground and the first round of hay is getting cut and baled. These seasonal indicators are good reminders that there is a county fair coming, and although most folks aren’t in a hurry for summer to be over, there is eager anticipation about what to show at fair. There have been livestock weigh-ins and showmanship clinics already this season and our

valley’s youngsters are working on their 4H and FFA projects. The exhibitor’s handbooks are out, and available for all to get crackin’ on their entry forms. With nearly 60 different departments, and innumerable classes and lots, there are seemingly endless opportunities for everyone to enter something at fair. Some folks make dozens upon dozens of entries, filling pages of entry forms, while some folks bring just one hopeful blue ribbon entry. We all have talents, and the place to showcase yours, is the Ravalli County Fair.

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You can’t beat the sense of nostalgia that you get from attending and participating in the fair. The Ravalli County Fair has iconic images in spades…rodeo queen pageant, walls and walls of quilts, and preserved foods, home sewn projects, and woodworked toys and replicas. The antique tractors and threshing demonstrations add wonder to the eyes of fairgoers of all ages. I especially love the beautiful pies and extra baked goods that folks bring in for donation to the FFA auction. The spirit of coming together as a community is alive and well in our part of the world. County fairs have historically showcased the agricultural community and they continue to serve as a connection between farm, ranch, and supper table. As time passes, and generations of folks move into faster lifestyles, it is even more important to have the fair experience to remind us how important it is to know where our food comes from. Surprisingly, there are Bitterroot kids that have never seen a cow or

Since 1907

2017 Field Day Western Ag Research Center Corvallis, Montana July 27, 2017 (Thursday) 4:00 pm – 9:00 pm 4:00 pm Intros & Talks by Faculty 5:00 – 6:30 pm FREE Barbeque Field & Hoop House Tours Wine & Cider Tasting 6:30 pm – 9:00 pm COME JOIN US FOR A GREAT EVENING IN THE BEAUTIFUL BITTERROOT VALLEY!!!

Western Ag Research Center 580 Quast Lane, Corvallis 2½ miles northeast of Corvallis

sheep up close until they walk through the full barns during fair. The learning opportunities at the fair can be found in every barn and building and throughout the grounds. This year, I hope you check out the schedule, and take in something new; livestock judging, demonstrations in one of the buildings, or even a session of the world renowned hypnotist on the free stage. The Ravalli County Fair hasn’t been continuous, but we have had more than 100 of them. Every year, we strive to make the annual fair the best one, ever -- and that wouldn’t be possible without the folks who have been here for 100 years or the folks who are bringing their first entry. The sense of pride that folks share, when they talk about their ribbons is always inspiring. I’ll look forward to seeing you at the fair, and until then … I hope your fields are fertile and your equipment is reliable. See you at the Ravalli County Fair & Rockin’ RC Rodeo, August 30thSeptember 2nd. What will you enter?

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Espalier 101: practice started in medieval times By MOLLY HACKETT Dirty Fingernails

Q: Since my yard doesn’t have a lot of space, I would like to espalier fruit trees, so that they don’t take up the whole yard. I have seen pictures of espaliers grown against a wall, but I don’t have any walls except the ones on the house. Is there some way that I can grow fruit trees and have space for other plants, too? A: The practice of espalier started in medieval Europe, partly in answer to the same problem that you have. Because the word comes from medieval France, it is pronounced ess-PAL-yay. Originally, espalier referred to a framework to which trees were fastened; now it means the whole process. An espaliered tree is grown flat instead of round, so that it takes up little space. Medieval fruit trees were grown against the walls of monasteries and castles, usually in a courtyard. As in your yard, space inside protecting walls was at a premium. Bare stone walls were ugly, even though the space they enclosed was warmer than the open countryside. Espaliered fruit trees made only a small footprint, while they lent grace to the massive walls. Another reason for espalier was that fruit ripened better in the warm courtyard than in the chilly fields of northern Europe. The walls also protected blossoms from the same kind of late spring frosts that we get in Montana. European fruit growers were not the first to try espalier. Egyptian hieroglyphs from 1400 BC show espaliered trees. Currently the practice is becoming more and more common in back yards throughout this country. It saves space, keeps fruit within easy reach for picking, and looks artistic. Nor is espalier limited to fruit trees. It is practiced on many kinds of ornamental trees and even on bushes. This year I have pruned the native bushes growing at the base of my deer fence into an informal espalier. Their flat shape creates an airy and delicate border, leaving my yard connected to the space beyond

the fence. Apple trees are a good subject for learning espalier. They adapt easily to the technique, and they look beautiful. Indeed, the artistic effect of an espalier is reward enough for the work of creating it. The first step in the project, of course, is to choose a likely place for an apple tree. If it is to bear fruit, it will need at least six hours of sunlight daily; more will do no harm. The tree will grow in two dimensions. It will be narrow from front to back, but it will make a sideways spread of about eight feet. To plant a row of espaliered apple trees, allow 10 feet between them for dwarf varieties, increasing to as much as 18 feet for standard trees, whose root systems are much bigger. If there is no available wall to support the tree, is there a sturdy fence in the right location? If neither exists, build or buy a free-standing support of posts and wires, like the trellis for a grapevine. A free-standing espalier is often called a step-over; planted in a row, they make a living fence. There are several classic styles of espalier. Branches may be trained to grow horizontally. They may be trained to grow at angles like a fan, or they may be trained to the side and then bent upward like a candelabra. A Belgian fence is a row of trees with branches trained up at a 45 degree angle, so that the line of trees looks like a woven lattice. For a first effort, an easy way to train an apple tree and also get a big apple crop is to grow an espalier with three tiers of horizontal branches. Buy a dwarf or semi-dwarf tree, preferably one young enough that it has not yet grown any branches. Set up a framework for the tree, using a wall, a fence, or posts set in the ground. One post will go directly behind the trunk of the apple tree, and one will be on each side, three and a half feet away from the center post. The espaliered tree will mature at four feet high and seven feet

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wide. Those dimensions do not have to be exact. An espalier can be 6x6 feet, or even 3x8, but the mature size of the tree must be determined at the beginning. Install six- or eight-inch eyebolts on the trunk support and the posts marking the ends of the branches. There should be three bolts on each post, 16 inches apart. Thread wire through the bolts in the pattern that the tree will eventually assume. It will have three tiers of branches, 16 inches apart. Use 14 or 16 gauge wire; it needs to be strong enough to hold the branches sideways as they try to grow upward. Keeping the branches horizontal is crucial because, as with any fruit tree, only horizontal branches make fruit. With the framework in place, plant the tree, six to ten inches in front of the center support. Attach the trunk to the lowest wire on its support, using a figure eight tie to protect the bark when the wind blows. Always tie the tree to the wires with a soft material to avoid damaging the bark. Then find some buds on the trunk near the ground. Take a deep breath and cut the trunk above the lowest horizontal wire and just above a bud. The tree will branch from that bud. Let the buds grow for up to a year, and then begin training the tree. Choose three strong shoots and cut off all the others. When these shoots are three or four inches long, gradually bend them to make one upright (for the trunk), and one each to the right and left (for the lowest branches). Tie the branches to the support wires, and continue to tie them every six or eight inches, as they grow longer. Top the trunk shoot again, about six inches above the lowest wire. That will encourage the

horizontal branches to keep growing. When they have reached about three quarters of the way to the end of their wires, let the trunk grow upward to the second horizontal wire. Repeat the pruning and training process until there are three branch tiers and the trunk is four feet tall. Always keep the ends of the branches cut at the end of their wires and the trunk at the top wire. The basic shape of the espalier is now complete, and it has been three or FILE PHOTO four years in the making. All further pruning is just to maintain the shape. In the dormant season remove all suckers, watersprouts, and vertical shoots. Further pruning during the growing season will be necessary, but do not prune until after the year’s crop of apples has been set. A good look at the tree while it is blooming will show where its apple crop will be. Fruit spurs will need to be pruned also, but keep them four to six inches long. If they are cut too short, there will be fewer apples. The tree may need thinning if branches become congested anywhere. Be patient with yourself and the espaliered tree. Trees all have their own ideas of perfect shape, and yours may not exactly match the picture on the internet. Don’t worry if you prune off a shoot and then wish that you had not. The tree soon will grow a new shoot nearby; you can train it to be a replacement. Although some tree experts recommend using a west instead of a south wall for growing an espalier in a climate like ours, there is an old established espalier at the Corvallis agricultural experiment station. It grows against a south wall.

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Agriculture Heritage Notebook The Bitter Root Cultural Heritage Trust

interpretation and affirm cultural values.

works in partnership with families,

The Heritage Trust provides an article for

neighborhoods and communities to restore

each edition of Agricultural Magazine,

historic structures, bring back traditional

highlighting the Bitterroot Valley’s

events and celebrations, encourage

agricultural history and heritage.

Bitter Root Barn Story Favorites

Duus Barn Story and photos by WENDY BEYE

For the past seven years, I have spent many pleasant hours photographing the Bitter Root Valley’s historic barns and visiting with ranch owners who so lovingly cherish those icons of our agricultural community. Stories shared help all of us better appreciate the treasures that surround us and understand the value of preservation. Although I began documenting historic barns in 2008 by flying the valley, marking

barn locations, and taking aerial photographs of them, I didn’t begin digging into the history of selected barns until 2010, the Agricultural Magazine quarterly was published by the Ravalli Republic in March. The Ag Mag seemed the perfect place to feature the valley’s barns and their stories. Bessie Bolin graciously agreed to be my first interviewee. Her family’s barn was built by homesteader

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Erickson Barn South

William Franks and his son Cyrus prior to 1907. The barn’s big rough-cut beams were pegged together rather than nailed, so it is likely that it was constructed before the turn of the century. The family homesteaded the property in 1887, and many homesteaders raised a barn before they provided for their own comfort by building a house. The Bolin family maintained the integrity of the barn’s roof, so the straight-backed struc-

ture will likely stand for another 100 years. I was so glad I interviewed Bessie when I did, because she passed away the next year, and her family now has a little more history recorded to help future generations know her story. In September of 2010, the story of a very unique barn belonging to Quinty Smith’s family appeared in the Ag Mag. The most unusual feature of this barn is the

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Butler Barn

Bolin Barn

Erickson Barn North Smith Barn

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house that shares a common wall with the barn. It is also the only barn I’ve seen in the Bitter Root that is built into a bank and channels spring water through a trough that used to run behind milking stanchions in the lower level of the barn. Research uncovered the probably barn builder as W.E. McMurry, who arrived from Minnesota to homestead in 1892. Bank barns are much more common in Minnesota than they are in Montana. The house attached to the barn features details similar to those in the larger home nearby, and both were likely kitbuilt, a common practice in the early 1900s. The Smith family is faced with some major restoration problems with the barn because of its location on marshy ground. I hope that this beautiful barn can survive into the future. Lindy Duus Wemple gave me a tour of the barn most evocative of its agricultural past of all the barns I’ve visited so far. It was a cold, snowy day in February of 2011 when I visited the barn built by Marcus Daily to house many of his Stock Farm draft horses. With wind pushing hard enough on the roof and walls to produce ominous creaks and groans, I could imagine huge horses standing in the stalls, stamping their feet, their backs steaming from their hard work in the fields. Some granary boards bear the signatures of farm workers, dated as early as 1887, so this is one of the oldest barns in the valley, as well as being one of the largest in footprint. The tallest barn I visited belongs to Lee and Lorena Erickson. Their barn towers to three stories, with wings built along each side that once housed a thriving dairy operation. An unusual method of hay stacking was used inside the cavernous interior that lacks a loft floor in the center of the barn. Derricks were temporarily inserted into metal plates and fastened high up in the barn’s vaulted ceiling. Each derrick had a crane arm with pul-

leys and a hay fork attached to it that could be rotated from hay wagon to hay stack inside the barn. This method is usually reserved for building haystacks in the field rather than inside a barn because the derrick has to be very tall. The barn was built by former Canadian Bernard Smyth, sometime between 1909, when he purchased the property, and 1917, when the barn is rumored to have been built for $2,700. There’s a story of failure associated with the handsome barn on Ed and Carole Cummings’ ranch north of Stevensville that was built by the Bass Brothers in 1889 (a known date, as it is immortalized above the window on one end of the barn). Hyland Butler, who made his fortune in the cornflake cereal business in Wisconsin, bought the ranch from the Bass Brothers in 1909 and added a huge dairy barn to the original building, forming the current T footprint. What he didn’t do is build any ventilation shafts from the lowest floor up through the hayloft to the roof, nor construct a trough for washing waste out of milking and herd holding areas. His cows kept dying mysteriously during the winter months. Methane gas from accumulated manure was the culprit. Mr. Butler was obviously more knowledgeable about making breakfast cereal than he was about animal husbandry. It’s difficult to choose favorite barns, and a limit on words for this article forces me to stop here. Each barn has proven to hold unique secrets, and every barn I’ve photographed and written about has shown me a beauty that I hope is preserved. The shared agricultural history of the Bitter Root Valley is the glue that holds our community together.

Page 22 - Agriculture Magazine, June 2017


Common Bugloss mature plant


Common Bugloss Flower


Common Bugloss rosette

Common Bugloss (Anchusa officinalis)

By Christy Schram Ravalli County Weed District

Common bugloss is also known as “Common Alkanet,” “Anchusa buglossm,” and “Alkanet.” Common bugloss is a part of the Boraginaceae family. It prefers dry, gravelly, or sandy soil in full sun. It can be found primarily in right-of-ways, roadsides, meadows, dry pastures, rangelands, fields, open woods, waste places, and disturbed ground. Common bugloss is a deep-rooted perennial herb that reproduces by seed. It forms rosette of basal leaves in its first year, then a blue-purple flowered stalk in the second year. Multiple stalks form in subsequent years. Common bugloss has a long taproot and new shoots can develop from root stock fragments.

The lower leaves are lance-shaped, with a stalk attaching to its stems. The upper leaves are stalkless, with either smooth or slightly toothed edges. The slightly pointed leaves are succulent, fleshy, and covered with stiff hairs. Each flower stem starts out coiled like a fiddleneck, then straightens outs as each flower bud opens. The stems are robust, hairy, and grow up to two-feet tall at maturity. The flowers are initially reddish, later turning to a deep blue to purple flower with white centers. The flower originates at the end of each stalk. Each flower produces four small, nutlet-like seeds. One plant can produce an average of 900 seeds and 90 percent of the seeds remain viable after nine years.

Agriculture Magazine, June 2017 - Page 23

Common bugloss is spread when seeds are eaten by animals and when seed-bearing stalks are tumbled in the wind. Vehicles, animal, human feet, redistribution of soils, gravels, and contaminated hay can also spread the seeds. Common bugloss was originally found growing near Mead, Washington. It spread from 14 square miles of infested area in 1980 to about 200 square miles of infested area in 1987. It was first spotted in the Ravalli County in 2002 around the Grantsdale area. Due to the nature of this weed Ravalli County placed this on our county’s weed list. It is currently not on the Montana State’s weed list. Since 2006 the Ravalli County Weed District has spent over $225,000 on educating the landowners and assisting the landowners in treating common bugloss. There is evidence that the common bugloss may cause cancer if taken internally over a long period of time. It is also very troublesome to

farmers and ranchers in hay crops. Due to the high moisture content found in the succulent leaves and stalks can cause mold in the hay once it is baled. There are several useful tools for managing common bugloss. Prevention is very important for areas that are not currently infested with this weed. Small infestations and small plants can be dug up or pulled. Mowing is useful if used prior to the weed flowing and repeated throughout the season. Burning will not likely work due to the fire not getting hot enough to burn the root system. Larger widespread infestations can be controlled by herbicides. Common bugloss is susceptible to herbicides prior to flowering. If you are considering herbicides to treat the common bugloss, or have any questions about common bugloss or other noxious weeds please contact the Ravalli County Weed District at 777-5842.

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Agriculture Magazine June 2017  

Agriculture Magazine June 2017