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Last week we had an extremely busy week, but it was super good, and so much got accomplished. We have been so fortunate to have help from a great many friends, and of course our incredible greenhouse crew, to get this new Farm Stand building finished and ready for plants and opening day on April 15th.

Above is James and Chris doing the very dangerous work of putting on the polycarbonate roof panels. Dave, another friend, spent the entire next day helping to attach the curved sides where the roll-up walls will eventually be.

Here is Beki and Chris working on that same project and on Thursday Beki and Lizz finished the entire other side of the greenhouse curve while Chris was making customer deliveries to Denver and Boulder.

Our friend and neighbor, Jim, brought sand and road base to make a nice even floor inside the greenhouse and to have a level walking area outside in the Farm Stand nursery area.

Lizz, Beki and I pounded in posts and put up the fencing that surrounds the Farm Stand store and nursery. The fence will give guidance to our farm stand visitors as to where the shopping area is for plants, but most importantly it will keep the deer out of this area so that they don’t get hurt running between benches and such.

Finally, on Thursday, I hauled in the first load of plants. The building is nowhere near completed, but we are desperate for space in the other greenhouses and all of our seeding and transplanting has basically come to a screeching halt this week because there isn’t anywhere to put more flats of plants. We desperately need this Hygge House to be able to house plants, not only because our opening day in April is drawing incredibly close and there is still so much to accomplish before we are ready for Open Farm Days visitors, but also just so that we can continue to plant as per the planting schedule so that things are ready on time for spring sales.

Lizz made the sign that will be attached to this new Farm Stand building. It is the Hygge House!

All our greenhouses have interesting names rather than calling them by numbers. We now have 9 houses; the Plant Barn, the Lizard House, the Yarrow House, the Woodstove House, the Uffta House, the Goldfish House, the Supply Barn, the Farm Stand, the Hygge House, and the Basil House. It’s more fun to have names for our greenhouses.

Sarah put in time in the gardens, since we weren’t able to work on seeding and transplanting. There is still quite a bit of gardening to do before we open for Open Farm Days, but we’re getting a good start on that task.

This is our future greenhouse crew in training. Beki’s girls were on spring vacation this week and they came on Wednesday morning to help out. Here they are planting mint plugs. They also got the fairy garden ready and fed the birds, helped with gardening and were really busy while they were here. On my next post, I’ll show you some pictures of the fairy garden they took care of.

Then there was the forecast for last night and today. It called for a 60% chance of rain and wind gusts to 15-20 mph through the night and more rain today. Instead we woke up in the night to 75-80 mph sustained winds!! We could hear things crashing around outside and breaking but there wasn’t anything we could do in the dark. It kept us awake the entire night knowing it wasn’t going to look good this morning.

At first light we were out to see how things looked and it brought us to tears and made us feel ill at what we found. The roof on the Uffta House blew off and the side was all caved in where the winds had pounded at it all night.

When the Uffta house roof panels blew off, they blew through both layers of plastic and the heat conservation ceiling blanket inside of the Goldfish House. Beki, Lizz and I spent the early morning trying to patch up the Goldfish House enough to get us by until new plastic covering arrives early next week to recover this house.

Then there was our beautiful new Hygge House with its completed roof….well, 8 panels blew off, the top cap was twisted and unusable, a number of braces were also twisted and ruined. Chris and I walked through our neighborhood retrieving sheets of polycarbonate roof panels that were found far from our farm in the neighbors hay pastures. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

This house has been so incredibly difficult to construct and now we are faced with having to do it all over again and in a hurry before opening day on April 15th. We had to order new sheets of roofing, roof cap and bracing. This house is now way way way over budget, which adds to our challenge. This is the life of farmers! There are good days and bad days. Last night the wind gods were angry and today was a very bad day as a result of that!

And the greenhouse buildings weren’t the only damage done. The woodstove we use to heat one of the greenhouses had its exhaust vent come apart from the pressure of the wind tweaking it all night, and this was while the woodstove was burning. Thank goodness nothing caught fire. We had ceiling heat conservation blankets in several houses that fell down and had to be put back up and reattached.

There is outside furniture that was damaged, the coyote fence that marks the entrance of the Farm Stand blew down, the blue room (portable toilet) was moved about 15 feet from where it normally stands and thank goodness it wasn’t blown over, but the handwashing sink next to it was destroyed and sent blowing through the greenhouses to land in pieces. Again, thank goodness it didn’t blow through the plastic of one of the other greenhouses. And my favorite dragonfly glass candle holder that M’lissa gave me years ago was broken on the back porch. Every bird feeder on the property had to be searched out and found having blown out of the trees in the night. Anyway, the list is long and we’ll be cleaning things up and repairing things for a while I think.

We do have much to be grateful for in all this carnage and that is that no one human or critter was injured! We had only a couple of flats of plants in the Hygge House that were dumped out, amazingly, and we were able to replant those.

Sadly, we didn’t get a single drop of rain in our 60% chance of rain. We badly need moisture here, so there is supposed to be another chance for rain on Sunday.  We’ll keep our fingers crossed that we are more lucky then and get some good gentle soaking rain, hopefully with no damaging winds…thank you very much.

All for now. With Green Thoughts, Tammi

 

 

Recently, we had a visit from the staff at Phelan Gardens in Colorado Springs. They wanted to check out our farm and the only time they could do that was at 7am in the morning…whew, that was pretty early to have a farm tour, but we had a blast showing them around and talking “plants” with fellow plant folks. Phelan is one of our wholesale customers, so that is one place you can shop for plants grown by Desert Canyon Farm.

This past weekend we spent at Spencer’s Lawn & Garden Center for their annual Garden Show event, also in Colorado Springs. Spencer’s has been one of our oldest wholesale customers and they are great! Lizz, Chris and myself worked the booth for 3 days, plus a day to set up, so it was a lot of time off the farm, but worth doing. I gave two workshops while we were there for the Garden Show. Everyone that visited our booth seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely.

And if you have any doubt that spring has arrived, besides this very warm weather we have been having, just take a look at the picture above. This is what 8am on a Monday morning looks like in our workspace during the spring season. We can barely walk around in this space because of the wholesale orders that are waiting for our attention. When a wholesale customer orders, we pull the plants and then we clean them, label them and put them on racks for Chris to deliver later in the same week. It’s pretty hectic around the farm this time of the year, but as the saying goes….”You’ve got to make hay while the sun is shining.” That is so true in this business. We earn 80% of our annual livelihood from March thru the middle of June, so everything counts and adds up to us being able to earn a living and provide a living for our farm crew. All those 2″ pots of tomatoes help to accomplish that and leaves us in gratitude for this work that we do.

Meet Beki! Beki works with us each spring as part of our greenhouse crew. We love her dearly and she is an amazing person to have on our crew. Here she is sowing vegetables like beets and kale. She also sowed the melon crop this week, which takes quite a while to grow large enough to sell so we start it early.

Beki also gave our Farm Stand wagons a refresh coat of paint. She got very creative in the process and painted on leaves and feathers. These wagons are going to be extra fun this spring!

Here is an update on the Hygge Farm Stand House. It’s slow going! This has been our most difficult greenhouse structure to put up, but Chris, with the help of our friend James last weekend and another friend Raymond this week, is working to get the roof in place. Time is running short, as the Farm Stand store opens on April 15th, so we are doing our best to get this house finished, along with setting up the outside nursery area. Once everything is set up, then it will take us at least 3 weeks to get the plants stocked into the Farm Stand, signs up, and everything else done so that we will be ready for visitors on the 15th of April. We’ll make it, I’m sure of that, but it is stressful between now and then. That’s stressful with a smile, as everyone is still smiling so life is good.

 

Just to leave you with a bit of nature. The herd of 35 plus deer are here at least twice a day – morning and evening, and often they spend the whole day on the farm. These does  were helping themselves to a drink of cold water from the “Deer Drinking Trough”, which is in the south side yard garden near the driveway.

Desert Canyon Farm welcomes wildlife to be on the farm. Indeed, the farm is a National Wildlife Certified Wildlife Habitat, a Xcerces Pollinator Habitat, part of the Colorado Birding Trail, and a United Plant Savers Native Botanical Plant Sanctuary.

If you visit us during our Open Farm Days from April 15th thru June 4th, 2017, you’ll be able to enjoy the farm in many ways besides coming for free workshops and to shop for plants in the Farm Stand store. Please visit the Open Farm Days and the Classes & Events pages of this blog for more information and specific details you’ll want to know.

All for now. Have a great week and I’ll be back in touch soon.

 

 

 

 

 

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Chris has been continuing his work on the farm buildings here. This week he put in a water line that gives us a water spicket in both Farm Stand buildings! Yahoo! This is like a luxury, as we’ve been running hoses from one greenhouse, outside, and connecting to the hose in a different greenhouse for years. It takes extra time, energy, and when it’s winter and cold outside, it is precarious to have doors cracked open to allow the hose to go outside to connect with another hose. Needless to say, I’m thrilled with improvement.

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Yesterday, he began to frame in the sliding doors on the newest Farm Stand building. It was freezing cold yesterday and the wind blew all day long, but he kept working and made a lot of progress.

We are running short of space for plants, so we are eager to get this greenhouse finished. Last week Lizz and Beki planted penstemons, little bluestem grass, yellow eye grass and lots of other new varieties that we plan to have available in spring during our Open Farm Days plant sale.

An Earth Day Invitation

As you may know, Desert Canyon Farm is part of the Colorado Division of Wildlife’s Colorado Birding Trail. What this means is that we welcome people to the Farm to do some bird and wildlife watching.

We have a tremendous community of wild birds that live and visit the Farm. So, for Earth Day this spring, which is April 22, 2017, Chris and I would like to extend a special invitation to you to come to the Farm and do some bird-watching. Earth Day will fall on our Open Farm Days, so there will be free workshops happening that day, along with the Farm Stand store to visit in case you want to shop for some plants, but even if these things are not of interest, this will be a wonderful day to come and commune with nature and some of the wildlife that we share this Farm with.

Here are some examples of some of the birds you might see while you are here…

mallard pair 2010  Mallard Ducks and Canadian Geese

egrets 007  Egrets

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white faced ibis 2010 dcf oibd Ibis

pomegranate 014  Pinon Jays

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Goldfinches and House Finches

sharp shin hawk 12-2011 3  Maybe a Sharp-Shinned Hawk or a Merlin

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  Definitely, the Curved-Billed Thrashers

We have a huge diversity of wild birds here. On Earth Day you are welcome to wonder the Farm and enjoy them. What you may want to bring; birding or field glasses, a bird id book, maybe a nature journal or sketch pad, your camera. We have some places to sit and watch the wildlife on the farm, but if you want a mobile chair, bring a folding camp or lawn chair. Dress for the weather and a water bottle if it is hot or a thermos of hot tea or hot chocolate if it is cold, would be nice too.

We won’t be doing guided tours on this day, but we have a map of the farm and you can explore the outside areas to see what birds and other wildlife (cottontail rabbits, rock squirrels, tree squirrels, deer) you can enjoy watching. This is a free invitation and we encourage you to accept it between the hours of 9:00am and 4:00pm on April 22nd, Saturday.

You know, we are living in times right now that can be a little bewildering. We all work a lot it seems, so there are busy work lives, and of course, there are domestic chores and tasks that are ever-present. Our society encourages us to live in an electronic world at our fingertips each moment of the day and night, which has its advantages, but also some real disadvantages when it takes our attentions away from the natural world. We have political and governmental chaos in our country right now, which is not only baffling, but for many of us it is extremely frustrating and sad.

Amongst all these challenges and every day occurrences, we also have our sense of community and the natural world, where we can take respite in nature and in visiting with others who share our respect for each other and for all the aspects of nature that surrounds us. This is what Earth Day means. It was started all those years ago as a way to remind us to honor our community of nature and people, whether they are in our back yard, in our region of the country, or some other part of the country, and even in our great big beautiful World.

Please come on Earth Day for a Bird & Wildlife Watching Day. Absorb the sounds of birdsong, take in the gardens, and give yourself a bit of time to enjoy Nature. You can find directions to the Farm on the Open Farm Days page of this blog.

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And, look at the dwarf iris that started blooming this week! Spring is upon us!!

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Take a bit of time for yourself today. Make a cup of tea or coffee or whatever kind of nice beverage you enjoy. My current morning favorite is Vanilla Almond and Peppermint tea with a spot of cream.

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Spending a little time with someone special or a good friend, or maybe just take a nice long quiet walk in Nature. Earth Day can be any day of the year if you choose to make it that way….remember it is about your sense of community and your sense of the natural world.

Have a wonderful day. Time for me to go to work…there are plants to be watered and transplanted, seeds to be organized and at the end of the day a walk with Chris and Shrek and then some time to sit at the woodstove with my husband and our four-legged family…Shrek, Sadie, Pal and Willow.

With Green Thoughts, Tammi

 

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It’s February, but the weather has been so warm and sunny of late, that it feels like it is much later into spring than just being late winter.

With that thought, we have been very busy in the greenhouses growing all sorts of plants in preparation for our Open Farm Days this spring. We are, of course, growing hundreds of varieties of herbs, heirloom and heritage food plants, fairy miniature plants, native and wildlife habitat plants, and succulents and a few varieties of cacti.

Above is a picture of our desert garden in the driveway of the farm. This garden provides us with a lot of seeds and materials for vegetative propagation for some of the plants we will have available in our Farm Stand store this spring.

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We will have some agave plants, This one in the desert garden bloomed last summer. If you follow this blog, you will recall all the attention we gave her as she put up her seed stalk.

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We have chollas, which are native to our part of Colorado, and important habitat for many birds like the quail, house finches, and these three curved billed thrasher chicks. The parents of these chicks live in the cholla year round, and they raise three batches of chicks each spring and summer.

This is the mother plant to some of the chollas that will be for sale in the Farm Stand this spring.

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We have great fun making these plants available to our farm customers, and we are thrilled when our farm visitors and neighbors enjoy the beauty of our gardens here. There will be yuccas, some cacti, hesperaloes, iceplants and sedums…lots of different succulents and cacti.

Everyone especially enjoys when the blooming begins, like this Chinle Opuntia with its beautiful double peach colored flowers. This is a plant we got from The Cactus Man!

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So, The Cactus Man is a very special friend of ours and especially to me. His birth name is Kelly Grummons and he is a plantsman extraordinaire.

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I met Kelly when my 33-year-old daughter was 5 years old and I took a job at a very large nursery in Denver called Paulino Gardens. I’m sure some of you shop there and it really is an incredible place to find a large selection of plants. Kelly was the head grower there at the time and I spent 6 years working with him as his plant propagator. I gained experience growing a couple thousand varieties of plants while I was there, including a lot of cacti and succulents. Kelly gained an amazing reputation for growing  so many varieties of plants, but especially these types of plants and native species.

It was a tremendous experience for me to work with him and he became a special friend and a plant mentor to me. Chris also knew Kelly in those days, as Chris was working as the manager of Chatfield Arboretum, now called Chatfield Farms at Denver Botanic Gardens, and his and Kelly’s paths would cross sometimes through their work.

Later after my days at Paulino Gardens, Chris and I went on to start our farm Desert Canyon Farm in 1996. Kelly left Paulinos to run his own specialty nursery in Arvada called Timberline Gardens, which was open until about a year ago. Kelly also began a very special and unique mail-order nursery called Cold Hardy Cactus, which is how he spends most of his time now.

Through the years, Kelly has gathered and been gifted with unique, sometimes rare, collections of succulents and cacti, which he cares for in his beautiful stock gardens.

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These stock gardens are the source of much of his seed and vegetative propagation materials that he uses to grow the plants he offers through his website mail-order nursery.  Truly, even if you only like cactus and succulents a little bit, you will love the plants Kelly grows and sells. If you really like these kinds of plants, you will think you have died and gone to heaven when you browse his website! Surely. you will find special plants you must have for your personal gardens. This I definitely know to be true, so check it out.

cold hardy cactus – Kelly Grummons

This is The Cactus Man! This is Kelly Grummons, our friend and a passionate plantsman. It is my honor to introduce you to him if you haven’t met his acquaintance before. If you know Kelly already, well… then you know this is a very special man and a gift to all of us who love gardening and unique plants.

Enjoy!

With Green Thoughts, Tammi

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Chris and Shrek have been working all week on the new Hygge Farm Stand building. The wind has been horrible here for the past 2 weeks, but in truth, this week has been over the top where the wind has been concerned. It makes this project much more difficult.

Below is “Supervisor Shrek’s” lounge. A bale of hay that broke apart and which he has now claimed as his spot when he’s working on the building with Chris. Shrek has a pretty cushy job description around here!

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This week we planted all the bare-root small fruits, including wine grapes, table grapes, elderberry, sand and Nanking cherry, currants, raspberries and more. The strawberries that were planted in January are growing nicely.

Of course, the fact that the weather has ranged from the high 50’s to the high 70’s all week has encouraged everything to grow. This is the craziest weather. Last night the low temperature was 56 degrees F and tonight we are supposed to get rain and snow. All of that is fine if the wind would just calm down! It wrecks havoc around here with the greenhouses and it gets on all of our nerves wondering what will blow apart next. Yikes!

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The beautiful batik below is from Uganda. We have a friend, Chris, who just spent 6 months there working with a remote tribal group. Now Chris is back working in the States. He gifted us with this lovely piece of art work, which I framed and hung in a place of honor. Thank you Chris.

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Well, this will be a short post. I’m working on updating all our databases for the new plants we are growing this year. This information will be used for the plant label printer, the Farm Stand inventory, the databases on this blog, and to make signs for these new plants which we will have for sale in the Farm Stand store. It’s a huge task and it seems to be taking me forever to accomplish. I best get back to it.

With Green Thoughts, Tammi

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We were taking Shrek for an evening walk this week at Oil Well Flats and we came across this hole in the rock.

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Just perfect for my husband, the goof, to have some fun sticking his neck through. Kinda reminded us of a mini Utah bridges event from our hiking trips in Cedar Mesa, Utah, but of course, those rock bridges are truly huge and real bridges, not just for fun like this one. Still, it made us smile!

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Construction work has begun on the new Farm Stand House. Our friend, Jim, is doing the dirt work to create a level place in the pasture for the new structure to be built. It will be going next to the existing Farm Stand store, with outdoor nursery space behind them for the heirloom fruit trees and other woody plants.

All our greenhouses and cold frame structures have names like the Basil House, the Plant Barn, and so forth. I’m going to name this house the Hygge (pronounced Huga) House. Hygge is a Danish word that means to “live well and simply”. I think that completely embraces what plants give us…quality in our lives that is simple, useful and beautiful. Perfect!

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Chris has begun putting together the bows so that they will be ready to put up once the dirt work is finished. If we get another stretch of warm weather, like they say we will, things should really begin to happen with this project.

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Meanwhile, in the Basil House there are literally hundreds of plug flats growing baby plants that are starting to be ready to transplant into larger pots. Today, Lizz and Beki began the process of starting to transplant Lemon Verbena, Gotu Kola, Baby Tears, and lots of other little plants.

We were expecting more bare roots this week to pot up, but because of the weather they were delayed and are now supposed to arrive on Monday. Next week will be a very full planting week.

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I’ve been enjoying the rich red color of the rose hips on this Red Leaf Rose bush. It produced a bumper crop of hips this past year and I’ve made tea and honey with quite a few of them. These are left for the wild animals to forage and for our farm crew to harvest for tea at their homes.

Now, this is our crazy dog, Shrek, who seems to think he is a cat and will fit into the cat’s bed! Oh my goodness!!

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Have a great rest of the week. The groundhog says we have six more weeks of winter ahead of us. I’m hoping he is a little bit wrong and we get some nice sunny warm days soon. This icy humid cold is no fun at all, although it does mean I can do my farm work near the woodstove and that is pretty nice and cozy. Stay warm friends.

 

 

It has continued to get busier in the greenhouses the past two weeks. Today, Beki divided the roots or tubers of this huge Jerusalem Artichoke (sometimes called Sunchokes) stock plant so that we will have some 2 gallon pots of these for sale in the Farm Stand Store.

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You can see where I scraped aside the soil away from the tops of the tubers (which look a bit greenish from being exposed to some light).

Jerusalem Artichokes are pretty darn tasty. They have firm white flesh and a thin skin that looks a bit like ginger, although these plants are completely unrelated. Jerusalem Artichokes are part of the sunflower family. Some of the perennial sunflower members of this family have fleshy tubers for roots. To eat them, you can peel the tubers, slice them and eat them raw as a finger food like carrot sticks or dice them into a salad. You can also add them to stir-fry similar to how you might add water chestnuts. You can cook them in any way you would cook a potato. Some people think they taste like potatoes, but I would say they taste like their own selves…still really good. One of my favorite ways to prepare them is to peel them, cook them in boiling water until tender. Once they are done, mash them with some garlic butter, add a generous amount of sour cream and some shredded parmesan cheese and stir in well. Serve as you would mashed potatoes. Perfect!

If you like the idea of cooking with Jerusalem Artichokes, also take a minute to check out the “Recipes” page of this blog for other delicious ways to cook in your kitchen with plants.

Jerusalem Artichokes are about as easy as can be to grow. Find a good spot in the garden where you don’t mind if they spread, because they will, and plant them about 5 inches deep. They can be planted at any time that the soil can be worked, so spring thru fall works. Then let them grow. Harvest at any time the ground is thawed enough that you can dig it. Lift out the tubers, trim off the stems, and take them to the kitchen to use.

If you don’t want them spreading into a patch in your garden, then grow them as I do in a big container. This keeps them manageable and they are very easy to harvest. Plus they are cheerful to look at in the garden. They get very tall stems and bloom with small yellow sunflower blooms. If you harvest the whole container of tubers, as Beki did today, then just add fresh soil to your container and plant back three or four tubers that will multiply into more tubers as they grow. Simple. Because they are perennial and very hardy, if you use a big container that has some mass to the amount of soil in it, you can winter them over outdoors with no trouble, just remember to water them about once a month if there isn’t any snow moisture to do the task for you.

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Last week Lizz and I planted 6000 bare-root strawberry plants of the Eversweet and Ft. Laramie varieties. First the roots have to be trimmed so that the plants will fit into the pot.

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This year we are following our friend Jere’s tip and dipping the trimmed plants into a vat of kelp solution, as this helps to lessen the trimming shock to the roots. Jere is one of the growers at Tagawa’s Garden Center in Centennial, CO.

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Then we planted the little plants into these very large 6-packs, where they will leaf out and root in and grow happily ever after!

Next week we will plant 1000 more strawberry plants, but this time they will be the variety Tristar. We also will be planting raspberries, elderberries, wine and table grapes, sand cherries, currants, and loads of herbs. Things are hopping around here.

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And at the end of a busy work day it’s time to relax in front of the wood stove fire with my 4-legged friends… Shrek the dog, Willie Willow the black cat and Pal the gray cat. Sadie our other kitty thought it was beneath her to cuddle up with two feisty young cats and a dog, so she went to bed early!