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019     I’ve been picking loads of tomatoes of all kinds in the garden this week. German heirloom, which is the pinky red large tomato above, red robins, black cherry, sungold, martino’s roma, italian paste, stripped cavern…just to name a few!

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These are some of the red robin cherry tomatoes, which are still one of our all-time favorites around here.

The Italian Plums are very nearly ready to harvest too. I think they need about 2-4 more days and then I’ll pick them.

Raspberries, strawberries, squash, cabbage, anaheim peppers, and cucumbers have been coming on in big amounts. I’m grateful for the harvest and having the pantry full.

 

This will be a short post tonight. I lightening storm to beat the band is starting to happen all around me, and I think it’s best to turn this computer off until a later time.

Until next time.  Keep on smiling!

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Recently, Chris, Shrek and I went for a hike in the Sangre Mountains to check out some wildflowers and try to get a bit of relief from the hot days and the farm work. It was really a wonderful day and we enjoyed it very much. Unfortunately, that was two weeks ago and we haven’t been able to break away from the farm since. The flower seed crops are coming into harvest now in a very big way and every day is filled with seed-picking for Chris and other farm work for me. I’ve been helping with the seed-picking too, but most of that has been falling to Chris to accomplish.

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The food garden is one of the things that has been filling part of my time. I’ve been harvesting tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, strawberries, and two kinds of squash nearly every day. The bounty has been keeping Chris and I in fresh produce, and also extras to share with our farm crew. Elisa, one of the field crew, has been making squash muffins from some of that squash, and sharing some of those very delicious muffins back with us!

Below is a cucumber tomato salad I prepared quickly for lunch. I added some sliced mozzarella cheese, sprinkled on some fresh thyme and basil, and drizzled the whole salad with just a bit of balsamic vinegar. All served with fresh bread and iced tea…perfect!

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On Wednesday last week Lizz and I paid a visit to Perennial Favorites Nursery in Rye, CO (which is  30  minutes south of Pueblo off I-25) to see our friends Merrilee and Diana, the nursery owners. Below is a picture of one of their hummingbird perennial gardens. I wish I had gotten a better photo, but I was hurrying, so this one will have to do.  I hope you will visit their website and read Diana’s blog, because it will inspire you and your gardens.  Here is the link… Diana’s blog perennial favorites .  Perennial Favorites Nursery will be open for a couple of more weeks before they close for the season. They have some really amazing plants for sale there, so I encourage you to visit their website to see what the hours and days are that they are open, as well as directions to the nursery. It’s an easy drive there and worth the trip, so I hope you will visit them. You’ll even get to meet their dog, Zandar, who is quite a whimsical sweet guy…a great nursery dog!

We had such a lot of fun talking shop with the two of them, and then doing some shopping for real to buy some plants to bring back to our farm. One of those plants was a fig that should be hardy to zone 5, so it should thrive here in my garden. I’m going to plant it this afternoon so that it will have several weeks to settle in before the cold weather seasons arrive.

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Every late fall after the seed harvest is finished Chris and I get to take our camping vacation to southern Utah. We love hiking the canyons there, enjoying wonderful plants, colorful rock formations and Indian ruins. Since it is late fall, though, one never quite knows what the weather will be like. It could be raining or snowing and the night-time temps are usually at freezing or below. So, I did say we were camping, right! Yes, in the past we have put a shell (not this camper) on the back of our truck and at night we roll out our sleeping bags on the bed of the truck and that is our home away from home. If the weather is dry and the temps not too cold, this has been ok, but if it is too cold for a campfire in the evenings to stay warm by before bed, or if it is wet out, the truck set-up isn’t ideal. Plus, we are getting older and our bones are getting more fussy about hard metal truck beds! Add to that the fact that we now have our dog Shrek to take with us, and the thought of a wet muddy dog sleeping on my sleeping bag just isn’t that appealing. Does it sound like I’m making excuses…teehee. Well, whatever works.

I had some money left from my book sales last year that I had saved aside, so we decided to see if we could find an older pop-up camper to fit our truck and we got lucky. There was a young couple who owned this older pop-up camper, but who also have 4 young boys and they have outgrown the space, so they had a good price on the beast. It was in very good shape and only a few things needing fixed, which Chris has been working on in the evenings after farm work. This is our new home-away-from-home for our upcoming camping vacation. It will keep us dry, and there is a heater if we need it if the temps get too cold at night to be comfortable.

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There is room for Shrek to sleep in it too and not be sleeping on top of us in our sleeping bags. And I’m quite sure the bed will be a lot softer than the metal bed of our truck! I’m really smiling now!camper 021

About three years back I purchased some kiwi vines. They have been growing in large pots since that time. During the warm seasons I take them out to the garden to live, but I haven’t been brave enough to plant them in the ground, even though they should be hardy enough to grow here. Each late fall I have put them in an unheated cold frame greenhouse and covered them with frost blanket, where they have been very content to grow with no complaints. However, they should be hardy here, so yesterday I planted them in the White Rabbit Garden. One is planted on the north side and one on the south side of our Little Garden House (where we store gardening hand tools and such). They will have a bit of protection in these spots from the wind, and I think they will like the spots they are planted in. I may cover them with frost blanket too for the really cold months of the winter, but I haven’t decided about that yet. We’ll see what happens. Keep your fingers crossed that they will be happy.

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This next week will be another week of lots of seed picking, greenhouse chores, and office work. It will be a full week of tasks at hand to get done. There will be garden produce to “put up” for later use too. I’m starting to read a couple of new books at bedtime and contemplating setting up my stitching frame to work on my needlework. It’s about that time when I should be able to sit a spell now and then and stitch. I hope so…it is August already after all! Soon the autumn will be here…my favorite time of the year, but in the meantime there is still a lot of the summer left to enjoy.

 

 

 

 

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Greetings,

I know it has been a while since I’ve written and I apologize for being away so long. Things have been very busy around the farm of late, and no matter how hard I try to get through my list of things to do every day, it just hasn’t been happening. Hence the reason I haven’t written on this blog recently.  There is a lot of news to share though.

First of all, for those of you who live near to our farm in Canon City, this Saturday, August 2nd, I will be having my annual Free Market Event. This is like a yard sale, except everything that is out will be given away for free. Please note that this is not a Farm plant sale, but a give away of all sorts of “stuff” (clothing, household items, pictures…those sorts of things) kind of event. I will plan to open about 9am, no earlier, and I will close when I get tired of being open:) If you’re in the neighborhood and you’d like to drop by and shop for free through my items available for adoption, please do come by. At the end of the event, whatever is leftover will be donated to charity.

 

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Other great news is our being a part of the Colorado Division of Wildlife’s Colorado Birding Trail. You can go to that website and find us listed as a birding/wildlife viewing location.  Desert Canyon Farm – Colorado Birding Trail

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What this actually means is that our farm is available by appointment for folks to come to and do some birding or wildlife watching.  Here is how it works…

A Farm Tour Walk-About   by appointment only   Cost is $10.00 for adults, occupied children are $2.00 each.

Self Guilded Walk-About Tour      by appointment only     Cost is a donation

Driveway Quick Stop to view the Desert Garden where the Curved Billed Thrashers and Quail live does not require an appointment, and is free, but you are not allowed to leave the driveway area around the garden.

Pets are not allowed to visit the farm…Thank you.  Please visit the Colorado Birding Trail website for all the specifics on how and when you can visit Desert Canyon Farm to do some birding or wildlife watching.

Below are some birds and other creatures you very well might see when you make an appointment for a tour.

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We see all sorts of birds here. This rosy finch is here all year. We also see Pinon jays in winter, Juncos, chickadees…

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Ibis occasionally stop over at our ponds. The ponds are also home to red-winged blackbirds and long-tailed crackles.

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There are rosy finches, gold finches, sparrows…

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Sharp shinned hawk. We have three different types of Grosbeaks that frequent here. There are meadowlarks, bluebirds, robins, shrikes, eastern blue jays and azule buntings seasonally, along with many other different types of birds.

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Mallord ducks and geese. We have counted over 70 different types of birds either living or visiting the farm, and I’m pretty sure there are more that we haven’t yet put onto our list.

You might also see some of these or other wildlife while you are here.

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Taranchula spiders

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Mule Deer

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Cottontail or Jack Rabbits

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Lots of different pollinators, including bats, hummingbirds, butterflies, native pollinating insects.

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Foxes, skunks, raccoons, different kinds of squirrels, etc. We have had bears visit, bob cats and coyotes too, although rarely.

Let’s see….other news is that just yesterday I was approved by my publisher to start a new book project as soon as the final details and paperwork is finished. I’m quite pleased and very excited to be working on a new book. I’ll share more details with you in the weeks to come once all the logistical details are ironed out.

Chris is in the thick of seed season now and picking perennial seeds every day. The flower seed crop field is absolutely gorgeous right now!

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I guess that is all for now.

With Green Thoughts, Tammi

 

 

 

 

 

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Chris and I went on a plant hike yesterday with Shrek. The wildflowers this year have been outrageously beautiful, so we wanted to see what was blooming since our last hike two weeks ago. We saw three different penstemons since we were there last and saw the Penstemon virens blooming. Here is Chris looking deep into the throat of a pink-purple penstemon flower as he went through the process of identification. This particular penstemon remains a mystery at this point because we didn’t have the better botanical key with us. Next time we go, we’ll take Weber’s book with us and I know we’ll be able to id this beauty with that key.

Two years ago our neighbors gave us a nopal cactus (which is an edible cactus used to cook nopolitos) originally from their home town in Mexico. Last year, they showed me how to cook it several different ways. It’s really delicious!

Some time back I posted on this blog how to propagate the nopal cactus, so that you could grow it as an indoor or patio plant and then harvest the pear-shaped pads to cook with. I never got around to posting up the directions of how to prepare the cactus pads for cooking. This past week we shared a plant with our brother, Rob, and I told him I’d tell him how to prepare it for cooking. That prompted me to just take some pictures as I was preparing some pads for my own cooking. So, here is how you do it…

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The first step is to cut the pads carefully off the cactus plant using a very sharp knife. You’ll see where the pads are jointed at the connection point of each pad to the cactus, and that is the spot you cut at. Once you have cut the pads off, you need to soak them in clean cold water for about 10-15 minutes. This causes the spines, which are very tiny and the dark spots you see in the picture, to swell up from the water. That will make them easier to remove.

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Next, carefully remove the pads from the water and place on a cutting board. Remember that those dark spots are cactus spines and if you are not mindful they will get stuck in your skin, which is not only painful, it’s difficult to remove them since they are quite small. Now that the cactus pad is on the cutting board, hold it securely and carefully with one hand and with a very sharp knife begin to peel off the dark spots where each the spines are. It is really only necessary to peel away the little dot of spines. You do not have to peel the whole pad. That said, my kitchen knives leave a lot to be desired in terms of being very sharp, so I have some trouble peeling off the spines and often end up peeling more than is necessary.preparing noplitos 042

This is the pad once I’ve finished peeling off the spines, and as you can see I’m not expert at it. When Chalo peeled the pads that day to show me how to do it, he had a perfectly shaped pad with just little nicks where the spines had been removed. Oh well, one of these days I’ll buy a decently sharp knife and then I know I’ll end up with a much prettier end result. Once you have all the spines peeled off of both sides of the pad and along the outer edge, rinse both sides of the pad in cold water to remove any lingering debris that might still be clinging to the cactus pad.

Cacti are often filled with a mucilaginous gel, and these are no exception, so expect your peeled cactus to be oozing some slimy gel. No worries about that happening.

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Take your rinsed pad back to the cutting board. FYI: Be sure to also rinse the cutting board you used for peeling the cactus on to remove any wondering spines that might have clung to the cutting board. Now, dice the pad up into small pieces.

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Put the dices nopalitos into a sieve and rinse very well with cold water to remove a great amount of the slimy inside gel.

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Put your rinsed dices nopalito pieces in a bowl in the fridge until you are ready to cook them.

How do you cook them? Well, there are a zillion ways from what I know about it. Sandra and Chalo cook them with scrambled eggs often and we have done that too and it is really tasty. Another way is to cook some pork, chicken or beef until tender, then add the nopalitos and cook some more until tender and serve as tacos. You can prepare a mexican red sauce to cook the nopolitos in if you want and then add the meat to that, serve with beans on tortillas. I’ve also fried them with potatoes, onions and peppers at the suggestion of another friend, Blanca, who long ago told me that was her family’s favorite way to eat them. No matter how you prepare them, I think you will really enjoy them. They are delicious!!

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Last week was my first really significant garden harvest and things have been steamrolling since. This was my first real harvest. Since them I’ve been picking cucumbers, tomatoes, squash ,peppers and peas every other day. The strawberries are starting to fruit more heavily now too, and tonight I’ll be putting my first batch of those in the freezer. The crock pots and dehydrators will be running nearly 24/7 from now through the rest of the gardening season. That’s usually nearly Thanksgiving in November for us before we get a killing frost. Yippee. So, now we have lots of fresh produce to eat each day and produce stored away for winter groceries after the garden is done.

Chris and I looked out the kitchen window yesterday morning to see this little critter watching us eat our breakfast! Kinda gives the definition of “people watching” a whole different meaning. Actually, I think what this fella was really wanting us to know is that he was waiting patiently for his own breakfast. You can see that the feeders behind him are empty. Guess I wasn’t holding up my end of the bargain:)

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Last week a wildfire erupted about 6 miles from the farm, just on the other side of Cooper Mountain (which you can see there in the distance from our driveway). The fire is being called Eight Mile Fire and it is burning off of Phantom Canyon, which is the drainage to the east of us. This wildfire is burning in very rugged country and near to a State Wildlife Park called Beaver Creek. It is an area we like to hike in during the winter or late fall when the rattlesnakes are not out! Anyway, the fire, as of today, is 25% contained, but we are having very high winds  and temps in the 90’s…not good fire-fighting weather.  Dry lightning is in the forecast for the next couple of days, which is a bit worrisome, however, tomorrow we are also to have temps in the 70’s, which should help quite a bit in the work they are doing to get that fire under control. Our farm is safe, in large part because of Cooper Mountain being between us and the wildfire.

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The past two years have been extra challenging for us in terms of finding a good soil/media mix to grow our plants in the greenhouse. In the past, I have grown in Sungro Organic #2 Basic, and I’ve been growing in that brand of soil for decades. I like it a lot!, but it is super expensive.

Oh, for those that may not know, greenhouse “soil” is actually called media, even though we still refer to it as soil. It actually is a mix of ingredients that does not contain any true soil, but rather things like shredded wood bark, perlite, peat moss, coir, and the like. It is good for potted plant growing because it is lighter than soil, typically drains better, and doesn’t have weed seeds, etc.

Anyway, two years ago we tried another mix that we thought would be similar in how it behaved for growing quality plants, but it was more reasonably priced. It did ok, but had some significant challenges that we couldn’t find a solution to, so this past year we switched again to another mix that we thought would do well, and which contained mycorrhizae, which helps plants develop a good root structure and be less susceptible to  fungal and other problems. In an ideal world, we would have found an ideal media in this mix to grow in this year, but it was not to be so. This mix has even more challenges and again they do not seem to have a solution. What is the answer to the situation is still not decided, however, we are leaning very strongly to going back to the Sungro mix, which we know performs well.

Now the question revolves around which formulation of Sungro do I want to grow in. #2 Organic Basic is what I’m used to and have used for many years. They also have a mix that never used to be available as organic, but now is, called #4. This is the same mix except with more perlite added to it so that it drains even better. That mix might be the one I choose. But just to keep things interesting, they have come out with another mix that has coir(shredded coconut fibers) added to it and it will require less watering, plus this mix uses less peat moss in the blend making it more environmentally friendly. I really like that part, but I’m not sure it will drain well enough for some of the crops we grow like tomatoes. Tomatoes are notoriously fussy about drainage in the early spring when temps are still cold and too much water on the roots can cause problems. Sungro has said that they can custom blend for us to add mycorrhizae to their blends, so that might be the answer to getting that ingredients, which we really like having, into the soil and available to the plants.

Decisions, decisions, decisions! So, Lizz and I have set up a trail of all three blends to see which one we feel will do the best job for us with the variety of plants and pot sizes that we grow in. Below are tomato plugs for Red Robin Tomatoes planted in the mixes.

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We do some large patio containers in spring of vegetables for our Farm Stand customers, so I’ve planted some peppers in these pots to see how they will like the various mixes. Tomorrow we will sow seeds in plug flats and transplant some seedlings into 2.5″ pots (which is what we offer mostly for our wholesale customers), plus we will take some tip cuttings to be rooted and see how all these various sizes and plant varieties do.

I order our soil for the whole year in August, so I want to have a sound plan of action well before then. Sungro will cost the farm a lot more if we go back to growing in one of these mixes, but compared to struggling with growing challenges it may end up being cost affective all the same. We’ll see.

 

 

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Another project that I did this week was to put permanent copper metal tags on our fruit trees and grape vines here on the farm. We have had them all labeled with plastic tags and handwritten names, but over time the writing fades away or the plastic tags deteriorate in the sun and then you are left with the possibility of not remembering the name of the tree or vine variety that is planted in that spot. Plus, it is just really nice when visitors are walking about on the farm for them to be able to read the names of the fruit trees, most of which are heirloom varieties, or grapes, some of which are wine grape varieties. These tags will hold up to the weather and will give our trees a permanent name marker.

 

 

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I think we have enough of the tags left to mark some of the other trees and interesting shrubs that we have growing on the farm too, so next week I plan to make labels for those and put them on the plants.

The other nice bit of information that I put on some of the tags is the year that tree/vine was planted. Our older orchard was planted in 2006, and the new heirloom orchard was planted this year in 2014, so that information is reflected on the tag.

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Well, I’ve run out of stuff to say for the moment. That must mean that it is time to close for now. I’ll be back in touch soon.

 

 

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Hollyhocks…you just have to love them! I certainly do, and my favorite ones are the old-fashioned single petaled varieties. This one above is a red hollyhock.

Those in the picture below are part of a mix called Outhouse Hollyhocks, which is an heirloom mix of single petal flower colors in red, pinks, and white.  Hollyhocks used to be planted near the outhouse in days gone by, which was intentional so that if a “lady” needed to use the outhouse she could look for the hollyhocks and know in which direction to go to find the outhouse without having to inquiry where it was located. That’s pretty cleaver!

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The yellow flowered hollyhock is the only perennial hollyhock species I believe, whereas the others are considered biennials, although my plants often go three or four years in the garden before they die. These yellow ones have been here at the entrance of the garden for many years, but they usually do not get quite so large. This year because of the great spring moisture all the varieties of hollyhocks on the farm are doing great, but this yellow one is especially robust.

 

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This one is the only double petaled hollyhock I have and I love it for it’s peach color. It’s called Peaches and Dreams.

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Finally, the well-loved black hollyhock, which really does make a statement wherever it grows. I also grow an old-fashioned true pink hollyhock, but it is growing where the sprinkler was running as I was taking pictures, so I didn’t get one a photo of that one.

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Last week we hosted the CSU Pueblo Extension Service’s group of Master Gardeners for a farm tour and plant talk. What a lovely group of people and we really did have a grand time.

 

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In the picture above we were talking about the uses of wild lettuce, a common garden weed that is used as a powerful medicinal plant to relieve pain.

We also had a look about in the Basil House Greenhouse.

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So, this is the season of noseeum gnats, which are a royal pain in the rear or ears or nose or anywhere else they can pester you as you are trying to work in the garden or do other chores. These gnats really get active about the time that the native cacti start blooming and right now they are in full force.  Insect repellant will keep them at bay temporarily, but you have to apply that to your body and keep refreshing it in order for it to keep on working. I make my own herbal insect repellant, but I’m still not crazy about having to stop what I’m doing to re-apply it every so often. Plus sometimes you just don’t want to have to keep smelling something like insect repellant, even an herbal one made with nice essential oils, so I have found a better solution. This is an insect net veil that sits over the crown of my gardening hat. I can simply pull it down over my face and neck when I’m tired of gnats or mosquitos bothering me and poof…the gnats are foiled!! They can’t get to me to fly in my ears or eyes or mouth, etc., and the mosquitos are the same. It’s a terrific solution and if you have any similar problems in your life I highly recommend you get a veil for your own gardening hat!

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This weekend we could have kept working away all weekend, as there are certainly plenty of farm chores that need to get done, but we’re tired of working 7 days a week, and truly a work schedule like that is necessary in spring, but now it’s summer and time to have a bit more sanity in our lives. So, yesterday we went hiking with Shrek on a trail called Wilson Creek Trail. It was gorgeous and the wildflowers blooming were nothing short of amazing. I took a lot of photos, so perhaps I’ll take you on a little blog wild plant walk soon just for the fun of it…we’ll see.wilson creek trail 029

It was a pretty warm day, though, and at one point we came to a small pond. Shrek decided to put it to good use and cool off with a swim. I wish I could have joined him:)

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This past week was very sad and difficult for Chris and I as we lost our sweet Gwenivere kitty to cancer. Gwenivere has been in our family for 12 years, so we will miss her greatly. She brought us so much joy and love in her time as part of our lives.

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I’ll close for tonight by telling you that if you want to order a insect veil for your gardening hat, check out Brushy Mountain Bee Farm online. I’m ordering them for the farm crew too, and hoping I can convince them to actually wear them so that they can experience being free of those pesky gnats while they are working in the flower field.

All for now.

 

The past week has been all about farm cleanup and consolidation after the spring busy season. I have been moving plants into fewer greenhouses, like these red robin tomatoes, and getting things tidy.

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The iceplant seed crop has been living outdoors on pallets because there was no room indoors in any of the greenhouses for them, so now they have been moved to the Plant Barn. It will be easier to care for them there, plus when it is time to harvest the seed from these little guys it will be a lot easier to do that with them on a bench instead of on the ground.001

The gardens are finally getting some much-needed attention too. I planted my birthday planter pot with succulents and my olive tree and it is now located in the little doorstep garden, which was very weedy just like all the rest of the gardens.

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Tonight I got this part of the White Rabbit Garden weeded and it looks quite sassy now!  Soon the hollyhocks that are located behind the planter pot will be taller and in bloom  and it will look really great I think.

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Chris has been planting the new field crops this past week. They are planted as 1″ tiny plugs and then must be hand watered daily until they root in and can hold up with only the normal drip irrigation. He planted Echium in this picture, and you can see in the bed just behind him some mature echiums that were planted two years ago and are just beginning to bloom now for this summer. Jelitto wanted us to expand this seed crop planting, so that is the reason for planting the baby plugs yesterday. He planted some native Gaillardia and more Echinacea paradoxa babies yesterday too.

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We will be hosting a group this week from the Colorado Springs Utilities for a farm tour walk-about, and next week a group from CSU’s Extension Service Master Gardeners group will be coming to visit the farm. We have tours at the farm by appointment, and it’s always great fun to show people what we are all about and how we do things here.  We are looking forward to it.

This stunning cactus in the desert garden in front of the farm is blooming with the most amazing peach colored flowers that are the size of tea cups! I’ll leave you with a picture of them to brighten your day.

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