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snowstorm 2-24-13

We’re in the weather icebox like so many others right now! We were supposed to get severe cold temperatures, but no moisture. Guess what…it’s been snowing now for 2 days, and no signs of it stopping anytime soon.

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Before the bad weather started, Chris and our friend Dwayne started putting up the log gables on the ends of the house. They got this end done before the cold settled in, but yesterday, with temps in the teens and snow flying, they put up the gables on the west end of the house. That was a brutal task in that cold!

The gables look great though and one more small step done towards a finished repair project. Albert and the stucco crew have come to a screeching halt on their part of the work until Friday when hopefully the temperatures will be better for working outdoors.

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Speaker digital decal 2015    http://nwf.gs/showpreviewguide

Next February I’ll be a speaker at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show, which is quite a large event in Seattle that will inspire any gardener that walks on the earth from what I’ve been told. I spent today, since it was too cold to do much of anything else, at my computer working on the power point presentations I will use to give my talks.

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My first presentation is going to be on welcoming pollinators into edible gardens.

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The second presentation I’m giving will be about ways to deal with wildlife challenges in the garden landscape.

009 (6)    Bird Flash Tape

flower show power point pics 011    Live mouse traps

Tomorrow I hope to be able to dedicate the day to working on my book project. I just finished working on the section about american basswood, also called Tilia tree.

This morning Chris was doing his best to stretch out his back, but Shrek had different ideas!

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Stay warm and lets hope that the temperature improves soon and life will return to some sort of normal that doesn’t involve 3 layers of clothes, wearing gloves even in my office, and 4 wheel barrows of firewood already for just one day!! It’s definitely hot cocoa weather.

What a busy week it has been so far!

Last week I interviewed Randy Reynolds, a Luthier who uses native North American woods in some of the classical and acoustical guitars he builds. I was quite honored that he agreed to talk to me about his work, and several trees that I’m writing about in my upcoming book…spruce, walnut, and maple. Here is a picture of two guitar projects he has in the works.

I was very impressed with Randy’s thoughts on conservation, and the ability to create very high quality instruments using non-typical woods. He is a man who left me feeling inspired all over again about all the ways we humans use plants in our lives. He also has a pretty fun shop dog named Rocket!

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I’ve been picking 2-3 purple beauty bell peppers each week to use in my cooking. This really is one of my most favorite sweet peppers, and a good variety to grow on your countertop indoors during the cold seasons of the year if you want to continue growing fresh produce even when the outdoor garden season is past.

Purple Beauty Bell Peppers will need bright light, indirect bright light is fine if it is for at least 6 hours a day, moderate watering and night-time temps above 55 degrees. Fertilize once a month to keep plants flowering and happily producing peppers.

I use these peppers in most anything I cook from stir-fry to cowboy chili, flat bread (naan) pizzas to skillet egg and potato suppers. They have a wonderful flavor and are great just sliced and eaten raw as a lunch finger food too.

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Our house is getting new clothes! Just kidding, but it is getting repaired. and a final coat of stucco will be put on. We did have this crazy and ugly vinyl siding on the top half of the outside walls and native stone on the bottom half of the walls. For years the stone has been threatening to fall off the house, and in recent months it actually began to happen, so it was time to deal with a problem that we had been trying to first ignore and then avoid as long as possible. Well, the house had another idea and so we are fixing it.

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Mind you, this is no small task! First, Chris and our friend Dwayne spent a couple of weeks removing all the rock from the house walls. That was hard labor…no fun either. The good thing that came from it is that I have lots of new rocks now to use in my gardens, which I believe I mentioned already in an earlier post.

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Now the Stucco crew is here working. They have removed the remaining old siding and are putting up the paper, etc. that the stucco will be applied to. Now we are getting excited about what the house will look like when the work is complete. It will look completely different from how it looked before. We are hoping to end up with a house that has a southwestern rustic feel to it. I may even paint the door purple or turquoise at the end.

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Another big event this week was the delivery of our greenhouse growing media mix (aka: soil) from Canada. When the soil arrives each year it is quite a big deal because it is 14 pallets of nearly 60 bags each, weighing about 3000 pounds per pallet. It must all be unloaded off the truck, which this year meant that we had to get some help from a neighbor who has forks on his bobcat tractor, because the semi truck that delivered the soil didn’t have a lift gate on the rear to unload the pallets. Once the pallets are on the ground, then the really hard work happens, when Lizz, Chris and I have to take each bag off the pallet and haul them on carts to the supply barn and then re-stack them. We’ve been working at it since Monday, doing several pallets-worth each day until we run out of energy and arm strength. We finished putting it all away in the supply barn this morning and thankful that we don’t have to do it again tomorrow morning!

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There is still flower color in the gardens even at this early time of November. The California Poppies are blooming like crazy. They actually love the cooler temperatures we are having in this lovely autumn weather.

California Poppy is a great herbal medicine plant. It has sedative and pain-relieving properties that have been used to support good sleep and soothe a headache or backache from moving soil bags! :)

It can be prepared as a tea or tincture from the whole plant…roots, foliage, flowers and seed pods. It has a bright orange root similar in color to the flowers.

California poppies bloom from early spring through late frost. They re-seed in the garden so I always have them there, and they are most welcome. Cheerful friends from the Green Nation plant world. Consider planting some in your garden next year. I think you will be very happy you did.

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All for now.

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Just a few thoughts…the garlic is planted and mulched.

 

 

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This native Zinnia grandiflora is continuing to bloom in the gardens, however, in the seed field the crop of this plant is pretty much finished. Chris harvested the seed this past week.

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The last dehydrator full of black cherry tomatoes was filled and dried. They are now stored in glass jars for winter cooking events.

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The sharp-shinned hawk is making herself at home. She is a frequent visitor, often hunting a ring-necked dove for her meal of the day. Since those doves are invasive and not very good community members to the rest of the wild bird community here, we are happy enough that the hawk has a taste for them. It helps to manage an over-population situation.

The autumn colors right now in Canon City are just gorgeous!  Happy Trails.

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bumble bee pollinator

I usually don’t write a mid-week post, but this is important and I want you to have a chance to know about it.  Recently, a documentary was done called “Neonicatinoids, the Next DDT”. It’s full of really important information and quite nicely done. It brings scientists and experts together to give the viewer more complete information than much of what has become available to this point. Here is the link and I hope you will take the time to watch it. It is just shy of 30 minutes in length and is on linkTV. If you have DirectTV, my understanding is that it will be broadcast on Satalite TV today, but I have cable and don’t have access to the channel information. I watched it online using this link and that was quite easy to do.

https://www.linktv.org/videos/3837468553001

On another note, I will be speaking tomorrow at 11:00 am at the John C. Fremont Library in Florence, Colorado. If you would like to join me, I’m talking about windowsill herb gardening with culinary herbs and how to cook with them.

The presentation will be an hour-long, and I’ll have my books for sale following the event. If you’re looking for a great holiday gift for someone this season, maybe one of my books will be a perfect fit.  The address of the Library is 130 Church Ave. in Florence, CO. The phone number there is 719-784-4649.

WildlifeFriendly Vegetable Gardener Cover  HomegrownHerbs

Chris is continuing his work to prepare the logs for our future porch. Lizz helped him today and they made fantastic progress. Of course, Shrek continues his role as important supervisor!

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Finally, as a reminder I will be speaking at the Pueblo Herb Society next week on Tuesday, October 28, 2014. Call 719-542-0986 for more information if you are interested in attending.

Next February 13-14, 2015, I will be presenting at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show in Seattle, Washington. This is a really huge event and absolutely wonderful. If you are pondering a trip to a conference or show that would be fun and educational, maybe this is the show for you. Google the Northwest Flower & Garden Show for all the specific details.

I realize that my events page of this blog has not been updated yet to reflect some of the events. My apologies for that. I’ll try to take some time soon to get it back up to speed.

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Mrs Powley's class  #2

Today was great fun here at the farm because we had a whole bunch of visitors. Mrs. Powley’s 2nd graders came to the farm to learn more about the life cycle of plants and seeds specifically. Here is the class holding up their chocolate flower seed heads that they picked from the garden.

While they were here we talked about wild birds and how they are good for eating pest insects. We visited the greenhouse, where they searched for plants that smelled like a pickle (dill), chewing gum (mint), grandma’s perfume (lavender), and pizza (oregano). Next they cleaned some garlic chive seed heads so that they could take some of the seeds home to plant, and then they each planted a pot of tiger’s eye beans. When they left the farm they went with their bean pots, a pot of lemon grass, and their garlic chive seeds. It was great fun for all!

During their visit here they participated in a long-time tradition at our farm. There is a tree in the gardens that we call the “Peace Tree”. It’s really a honeylocust tree, but that isn’t what we call it. When school kids visit the farm they get a colorful ribbon. Each child writes a message on the end of the ribbon about living in a peaceful world. Some kids wrote “Be kind”, others wrote “Peace on earth”. There were any number of wonderful messages for peace and good will that the kids wrote on their ribbons.

The ribbons are tied onto the branches of the Peace Tree, where they will stay all year. As the breeze moves the ribbons in the tree, we hope those messages for a peaceful earth get carried out into the universe. Certainly, it is an inspiring task for the kids and for us when we add peace messages to this tree…leaving us to think about the possibilities of  living together on this earth in good will.

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Well, it’s already mid-October, and I hardly know where the time is going as it passes by too quickly in my favorite season of the year. Already we are planting for spring now in the greenhouses, as you can see on this bench of kava kava plants divided at the roots from the mother plant. If you look closely you will see rosemary, dwarf curry, southernwood, and society garlic cuttings. Lizz was quite busy last week making baby plants for next spring’s sales.

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Below are the horseradish cuttings she did three weeks back. There are some baby hens and chicks, which are hardy succulents, that will be for sale in our farm stand next spring during Open Farm Days.

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The house project continues onward. Chris picked up spruce logs at the local saw mill. These will eventually be used as support poles for our roof gables at the front and back porch. He will be peeling the logs to remove all the bark and make them nice and smooth and beautiful. There are eight of this size log.

You can also see the neat piles of rocks I’ve been foraging. I’m planning to use these over the winter season to create some interest in my gardens. I figure this will be a good project to work on whenever I need a stretch break during book writing sessions.

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This trailer load of pine logs will become the porch railing. Again, they will all have to be peeled of bark and smoothed out to make them very beautiful.

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I’ll leave you with a picture of the rabbit brush in the south bird garden. It is stunning right now in it’s golden autumn glory. The honeybees and native bees are foraging pollen from  the flowers like nobody’s business. Sometimes I wish autumn would last all year…not really, but I do so love this season!

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Autumn Greetings,

Recently while working in the greenhouse, I was listening to an NPR report about the lack of food security that happens in so many parts of the world, including the United States. The report was specific to the people of Central and South America, where many of those countries are facing terrible losses of their primary food crops and cattle, up to 70% loss of some crops like beans and corn, due to serious drought conditions.

Drought periods are becoming more frequent and lasting for longer periods of time as climate change manifests as part of our daily lives, and this is true for many places around the world including my own area in southern Colorado which only this year broke out of a severe drought that had lasted a really long time. Extreme weather patterns, not just drought situations, but flooding and excessive periods of rain like they have been having in Arizona , extreme cold as the northwest and mid-western United States experienced last winter…these are realities we must learn how to cope with as our planet’s climate shifts, be it in Australia, Peru, Iceland, Africa…all over the globe.

And it is not just climate change that affects our food security. People have their ability to eat nutritious threatened by many different reasons, including economic influences, logistical problems like food deserts in urban areas, lack of knowledge about how to prepare nutritious meals, too much time spent working and not having time to eat appropriately. There are a whole gammet of reasons why people’s ability to eat well are threatened, some of which are relatively easy to alter and control like learning to cook a squash or a pot of rice properly, while other factors like being able to afford good food or not having sources to purchase healthy foods can be more difficult at times to correct.

The report left me pondering the situation that will leave people unable to have even basic staple foods they rely on available to them. It left me thinking about ways folks can take more control over their ability to feed themselves well.

Certainly, one thing nearly everyone can do in some capacity is to grow at least a portion of the food we need for our pantries. We may be able to plant a decent sized garden in our yards, or we can container garden on our porches or indoors in our homes.

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This is a pot of ginger and a small lime tree that I grow on my back porch during warm months of the year and bring them indoors for cold months making them house plants in winter.

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Growing pots of salad greens, baby carrots or beets, green onions, herbs and even red robin tomatoes are all plants that can be grown as indoor gardens with bright indirect or direct window light. Nothing beats being able to snip fresh-cut thyme or chives to cook from a pot growing on the counter and adding them  into an omelet or topping a baked potato.

These are small steps that add to your food security of being able to feed yourself well and nutritious. Seeds are inexpensive and a packet goes quite a long ways in producing a large amount of food. Consider trying it if you are already not doing so. It is autumn, and outdoor gardens in many climates are finishing up for the growing season, but that does not mean you have to stop growing fruits, vegetables and herbs entirely for the cold seasons of the year.

2010 peach harvest

Another avenue that is open to many of us, and this is true world over, is to utilize farm markets or food markets as a way to buy food more locally and seasonally. Here the farm markets will be ending at the end of September or early in October because it is the end of the outdoor growing season where I live. That said, it is a perfectly good idea to go to the farmers market and buy some fruits or vegetables that keep well and quite a long while at room temperature like apples, squash and pumpkins, beets and turnips, onions and garlic. All of these types of produce can be stored in baskets and used up well into the fall and winter. As the outside temperatures cool down cooking a pot of crock pot spiced apples means a delicious and good for you part of your meals.

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You can also consider making some of your own herbal remedies to help care for your health and well-being. Here I’m preparing Echinacea tincture from freshly harvested echinacea flowers I cut in the garden. Lemon balm can be dried for tea. Spearmint is delicious and nutritious prepared as an herbal honey. Lavender flowers and leaves are good stress relief remedies when added to the bath or for an herbal foot soak…on and on it can go. This will add to your health security.

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There are other simple things that you can do to take good care of yourself and the earth. One very easy thing to do is air dry your wash. A clothes line is not an old-fashioned or outdated part of your landscape. If you dry your laundry on a clothes line outdoors or indoors on a wooden drying rack (you can buy these easily at hardware stores or by mail order at places like Lehman’s) you will save yourself some money that it would normally cost to run your household dryer or pay for dryers at the laundromat, a minimum of $150.00 per year! That’s a decent bit of cash that could be going to pay a water bill or buying groceries at the market, or even paying for entertainment like going to the swimming pool or the movie occasionally throughout the year. This is really good for the environment too, as air drying clothes does not use fossil fuel of any type. This adds to your environmental and economic security.

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Finally, consider ways you can take care of your mental security like reading good books or listening to wonderful music. Going for walks or bike rides is good for mind, physical body and the spirit.

You may have heard about neighborhood “free libraries”, which are little book boxes on poles built at the edge of people’s property or yard space…a bit like a mail box kind of thing. Books are placed inside these little boxes that can be borrowed or taken for free by neighbors passing by, and they can leave a book in  return that someone else can take to read, and so the cycle goes. We could even start music free libraries too couldn’t we. At our house we have for years had a “give-away reading basket” that sits in the living room near the hallway door. Whenever I finish reading a book or a magazine, etc. I toss it into the basket. Friends, family and our farm crew know that anything that is in that basket is available for immediate adoption. In other words they can take a book(s) home for their own use and then pass it on to someone else when they are finished with it or keep it permanently if they like. Every household, large or small, could have a give-away basket of sorts, whether that be for books, clothes or whatever. Sharing our “stuff” with others when we are finished with it is always a great idea.

So, I hope I’ve left you with a few things to ponder. You can go to other pages of this blog and find recipes for crock-pot apples, how to grow ginger or make your own herbal tinctures, plus so much more. Have some fun exploring the pages of this blog and see what you find that is useful or interesting to you.

With Green Thoughts, Tammi

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This past weekend found us hiking in the mountains outside of  Westcliffe, CO. The high-country autumn colors are just beginning, but are so glorious! I think this weekend and the next one will be really a show of color.

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The marmots were keeping a close eye on us as we walked the trail past their homes. This fellow looks like a miniature bear sitting there in the rocks, but no, it was really a very vocal marmot. I really like these critters.

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I harvested some clusters of ponderosa pine needles on that hike, which I will use to make another pine needle basket sometime this winter. Here is a picture of those needles and you can see a small pine needle basket I made some years ago. It is a pleasant task to weave a pine needle basket, but it takes a lot of time, so I’ll wait for a good snow storm to work on that project.

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Some other signs of autumn here at the farm are the birds that arrive this time of the year and stay through the winter months like this downy woodpecker. There were two scuttling up and down the pear tree trunk outside my office window a couple of days ago.

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This past Tuesday evening I gave a presentation to the Horticultural Arts Society. There was a good sized crowd that turned out and we talked about herbs that have special needs when it comes to growing them, plus how to use them. Here I’m talking about Lemon Grass, which is a delicious tea and culinary herb. Use it in soups and stir-fry, or generously in a noodle bowl.

Today found me again putting up loads of tomatoes, peppers and squash from the garden. I was able to freeze a few raspberries too for later use this winter. Before I even had my breakfast I was cooking big kettles of spaghetti sauce, making fresh salsa, and a pot of cowboy chili. I used up a half bushel of tomatoes doing that, but if the weather holds there will be twice that many more tomatoes by the end of the weekend. I’m in gratitude to have all this good garden harvest to fill the pantry. Growing your own food garden translates to groceries all year, which is never a bad thing.

On the greenhouse front, we have finished potting up most of the new stock plants, and I’m nearly done with my major cleaning projects. Next week we will hope to get the supply barn organized and cleaned up so that it will be ready when supplies start arriving for next spring’s inventory. I have loads of clay pots to wash before they can be re-used, so I work on that a little bit just about every day. Scrubbing clay pots is heavy work and it is hard on arthritic hands, but it still must be done, so a little at a time works.

Lizz got all the planting done in the gardens…thank you very much Lizz! There is still some gardening work to be done, but at this time of the year we start to not fret so much about it. We’ll work on it as time allows and enjoy all the autumn colors that will soon overtake the farm gardens, flower field, and trees. What a glorious time the autumn is!!

Elisa has been working on caulking the outside of the greenhouse end walls, which is a pretty big task too. She is doing a great job and it’s going to look really nice when it is all done.

desert bird of paradise This plant is called Desert Bird of Paradise, and the hummingbirds love it. It is in our south bird garden and really only started to flower a couple of weeks ago. That is quite late compared to normal. The hummingbirds should be starting to think about making their trip south now for the winter, but with flowers like this still blooming around the farm, those little birds are hesitating to start their migration journey. I hope they hit the road soon, because its starting to get cold here at night…last night was 37 degrees…too cold for little hummingbirds to be very comfortable I should think.

Chris continues to work daily on bringing in the seed harvest. The flower seed crops are behind schedule this year due to the cooler than usual summer temps. There are a lot of crops that are still in the flower stage and haven’t yet begun to form seed. That makes us just a little bit nervous as we hope there won’t be a hard frost here for some time to give those seed crops time to finish out.

harvesting roseamry

Recently, I wrote a little piece for the Storey Publishing September Newsletter about drying rosemary and also making rosemary herbal honey. Here is the link if you would like to read that newsletter. Beyond my bit, the whole newsletter is quite fun. Check it out…

http://bit.ly/1oJl8U9

With Green Thoughts, Tammi

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