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Tonight, Chris’ trio will be playing in town for First Fridays on Mainstreet. He will be playing at The Pantry at 619 Main Street from 6-8pm. If you are here in town and would like to join us to listen to some great jazz music, please come down to The Pantry tonight. We’ll hope to see you there!

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This is the “boys club” at our house…Pal (gray), Shrek and Willow (black). They were all enjoying the woodstove fire the other night. The kittens are 6 months old now and rarely do they sit still long enough for me to take a picture, but this time they were in the mood to just soak up the warmth of the fire and relax with their buddy Shrek.

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I made a fast trip to Nebraska this week for an overnight visit with my sister and her husband. They recently built this greenhouse to replace a smaller one they’ve had for many years. This greenhouse turned out wonderfully and she’s planting now in the ground inside. So far there is a section of herbs, some wheat grass for her chickens, and cool season veggies for her kitchen use.

We stayed up late talking about everything. The next morning after breakfast I was headed back home, but feeling loved and in gratitude for the time to spend visiting with her even if it was a short visit.

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Then there is the sad news… after 20 1/2 years, our old gal Pouncita passed over. We all miss her terribly. She adopted us when she was 4 weeks old and we had only lived on our farm for a couple of months. Her mother left her in our farm-yard. She was a feisty little kitten then and she ran the household as a queen would all the nearly 21 years she lived.

Sadie, our black cat, and the kittens and Shrek are missing her company too. We’ll all adapt to her being gone, but right now it feels like someone is missing and she is.

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All for now. Time to get back to work on the farm office tasks.

With Green Thoughts, Tammi

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Make your own household cleaner! It’s simple and easy to do, inexpensive, and it will clean as well or better than any cleaner you can buy, plus this homemade cleaner will not harm the earth or any beings that live on it.

Fill a spray bottle with good quality organic vinegar. I use organic distilled white vinegar for my cleaner. Note that you never want to use non-organic white vinegar, as it’s made with solvents that are not good for you or the earth.

Next add pure essential oils to the bottle of vinegar. I use about 10-20 drops per ounce of vinegar. You can mix and match and use any essential oil you like. They all have good antimicrobial and antiseptic properties.Never use poor quality essential oils, fragrance or perfume oils – which may not be pure essential oils at all, or industrial grade oils. If you use pure essential oils, these will be the purest therapeutic grade oils that the plants produce, and perfect for making household products, especially cleaners.

I use tea tree oil, lavender oil and peppermint oil most of the time, as these are the scents we most like for our household cleaner. Sometimes I use tangerine, spearmint, cedar or spruce, so you can take your choice really.

After you add the essential oils to your bottle of vinegar, cap the bottle with a tight lid and store in the shower, the kitchen or laundry room, wherever you keep your cleaning supplies. As with any cleaner, keep out of reach of young children.

When you are ready to use the household cleaner, shake it well to disperse the oils into the vinegar. Then spray on the surface you wish to clean. You can rinse after cleaning if you want to, but it won’t be necessary to do this.

Vinegar is a perfect base for your cleaner. It is a good de-greaser, removes hard water deposits, discourages molds and mildews. Whenever we are finished showering, we spray all the inside surfaces of the shower to clean it and prevent mold from growing. We don’t rinse it off. It smells great and does a super job cleaning.

I use the same cleaner on the BBQ grill after we grill something that is very greasy and hard to wash off. I let the cleaner sit on the grill in the sink for about 15 minutes and then I wash it with hot soapy water. It cleans up easily and usually with not an ounce of scrubbing needed. This cleaner also works well as a glass and window cleaner, for mirrors, faucets, floors (even my hardwood floors), anything that needs cleaned practically.

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In honor of all four-legged family members everywhere!

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Pal playing with Shrek’s toys

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Pouncita getting attention from Chris.

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Sadie looking very majestic.

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Willow in his favorite basket.

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Shrek keeping Chris company during a football game.

Happy Thanksgiving from Chris and Tammi

This past week Chris and I packed the camper and the dog and headed to southern Utah  for a few days. We try to go there each November, in part to gather some native seed to use in our production here at the farm, and in part to have a mini camping holiday after the seed crops are all harvested.

This year the seed crops are going very late, in part due to the extra warm fall we’re having, and we haven’t finished harvesting them yet, so we left poor Lizz behind to take care of the farm, pick the seed crops, and watch after the cats and fill the birdfeeders. As always, she did a wonderful job of being the caretaker and we came home to all in order and looking great!

We thought we were going to get a frost last night, as we still have not had a frost yet here, but no luck. It did drop to 32 degrees, but there was no evidence of any frost or plants getting frosted. We are ready for a frost now, so that the seed crops will finish ripening and we can get them harvested and shipped to Germany soon. It’s time for this year’s farm season to come to a close and we’re ready, if the seed crops would just get finished!

Anyway, let me share a few pictures of our trip.

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These are fossilized dinosaur tracks of a three-toed beast. They were right at the beginning of Butler Wash where our Utah trip focused this year.

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We were able to pick small amounts of seed for some native plants that we really want to grow. This is a tall Castillegia that is amazing and quite beautiful. We’ve seen it in years past and last year we got a bit of seed and had some germinate. I have a plant settled in the White Rabbit Garden and I’m hoping it will survive our winter nicely and thrive next summer and provide us with a good amount of seed grown on the farm. In the meantime, we did pick a teaspoonful of seed from these wild plants so that we can attempt another round of germination this winter, while were waiting for the plant in the garden to mature.

That is always our objective with the wild seed we gather, is that if we can get a few plants to germinate and then establish them here on the farm, we will have a homegrown source of the seed going forward.

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This is a horrible photo of a sweet little annual. The breeze was making it impossible for me to get a clear picture, but even with this bad one, you can sort of see how sweet this plant is. We don’t yet know what it is, but we will key it out botanically soon. We decided it looked like the heads of little birds. It was pale purple in color and there was a LOT of it around. It’s annual, so we didn’t harvest any seed for it, but it sure is a cutie.

We did get a bit of seed of Service Berry, single leaf ash, some penstemons, a wonderful little slickrock-loving yucca and a few other things. It was a successful seed harvesting trip.

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These ruins are called the Butler Wash ruins and they are easily accessible near the highway. We normally hike up canyons to see the ruins and pictographs, but we’ve never stopped to see these ruins before, so we drove into the parking lot and made the short walk to the overlook to see them before we started our journey down Butler Wash road in earnest.

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Then we hiked up short canyons each day to see what other kinds of amazing things we would find. Most of the canyons are short and take between 45 minutes and 4 hours to hike, so we were able to do about 3 of these canyons each day without feeling rushed.

The canyons have the most incredible plant communities and we really love that. They are also filled with Anasazi ruins and rock art.

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This was a ruin near Wolfman Panel, a really nice panel of pictographs.

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Near one cliff overhang, filled with ruins, I also saw these swallow mud nests. Beautiful!

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The ruins below are called Monarch ruins and indeed, we did see some monarch butterflies in that canyon.

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Shrek discovered little lizards are interesting and fun to chase over the slickrock. They are way too fast for him to even get remotely close to them, so they were not in any danger of being caught. After he noticed the first lizards, he started being watchful for them whenever there would be an area of slickrock. They are really amazing to watch, and orange in color, the same as the much of the canyon rock colors.

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This rock art was also at Monarch Ruins. As we understand it, if it is a painted piece of rock art it is called a petrocliff. If it is pecked into the stone, it is referred to as a pictograph. At least I think I have that correct. They’re all amazing ir-regardless of painted or pecked.

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This is our home on wheels for these trips. It’s not too pretty and has a few warts. The heater works sometimes and sometimes not, but it is dry and pretty comfortable and the price was right…cheap. We’ve decided that we’d rather not sleep in a tent in November when it can be below freezing at night and may snow or rain at any time, plus this has a stove and I can make my tea with little effort. Life is good.

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I still have vibrant fresh nettles growing in the garden, so I’ve been harvesting 2-3 fresh springs (about 5-6″ long) to make a quart of nettles infusion.

I use a french press to make my infusions (but a quart canning jar or similar heat tolerant container will also work nicely), as it makes straining the infusion tea easy once the preparation is complete. I put the nettles in the french press and fill it with boiling hot water. Put on the lid and allow it to steep for at least 4 hours (up to 8 hours is fine). This allows all the water-soluble constituents, including all the minerals and trace minerals, to be extracted from the plant material. After the steeping process is done, I strain out the plant material and store the infusion in a clean glass container in the fridge, for up to 3 days, until I’m ready to drink the infusion tea. When you are ready to drink your nettles infusion, you can reheat it on the stove if you like to drink tea hot, or you can drink it cold, or even use it as the cooking water when preparing soup, rice and such.

The process of preparing a medicinal infusion tea is a bit different from making a beverage tea. If I were making a beverage tea from nettles, I would simply allow the plant to steep for about 10 minutes or so and then drink it as I might any beverage tea. When I’m drinking herbal beverage teas I’m not as concerned that all the constituents are pulled out of the plant, I just want a nice tasting herbal tea. If I want a therapeutic tea, then I prepare it by the guidelines above for an infusion (leaves, flowers and volatile roots or seeds) or decoction (barks, non-volatile roots and seeds), which will be much stronger medicinally and it will also taste stronger too.

Nettles is a great whole body tonic herb, meaning that it supports the good function of every body system we have from the urinary tract, to the blood, the skin/hair/nails, respiratory tract, and all the rest of the body’s functions. It is really a mineral rich herb and for me that is important at my age of 55 years when I want to support my bone health as I’m getting older.

Remember that fresh nettles has formic acid oil on the plant’s hairs all along the stems and leaves, flowers and seeds. It does not actually have thorns or stickers of any kind. This formic acid oil can burn and “sting” the skin if the plant is handled fresh bare-handed. To handle fresh nettles, one can use gloves to prevent getting stung by the plant’s formic acid oil. Once the plant is fully dried or has been cooked (as in the case with steeping it in boiling hot water to make an infusion), the formic acid oil evaporates and is no longer a big concern. If you do get stung by nettles, be patient, as the stinging/burning sensation will eventually stop, usually in an hour or so.

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We had the most glorious visit from friends we met when we were in Germany a few years back. We had gone to Germany as I was a speaker at the International Perennial Plant Symposium, and we met these folks at that conference. Doris and Eckart are here in America on holiday and they came for a visit this week. It was wonderful to see them. We talked about our nurseries, as they have a small nursery and garden center too. We talked about their alpaca breeding operation, our daughters, and life in general. It was a very good time in the very good company of friends!

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We still haven’t had a hard frost here, but we know it should be coming and probably soon. So this weekend I covered the heirloom fruit trees with straw to protect their roots in the pots from the freezing temperatures that winter always brings.

If they were planted in the ground, this extra protection with the straw wouldn’t be needed, but in pots where there isn’t a lot of soil mass around the roots to protect them from the cold, and the straw adds extra insulation and protection.

These are the heirloom fruit trees, mostly apple varieties, that we will have for sale next spring in our Farm Stand store. We grow them for a full year in pots from the time that Gordon and Margaret send us the very young bare root grafted fruit trees. This allows them to get well-rooted and grow a bit more, plus it allows them to qualify for certified organic status through our organic certification, and we can sell them in the Farm Stand store as the organic fruit trees they are.

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It has been so unseasonably warm this fall! We are still harvesting seed crops, as the warm temperatures are encouraging many of our seed crops to continue producing seed. Even as we prepare the farm for the cold seasons of the year, like covering the fruit trees with the straw, there are still plants (quite a few actually) that are blooming. Below is a Salvia greggii ‘Furman’s Red’ that is growing in the goddess garden.

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And the nasturtiums are happily blooming too in the company of the Belen Hen.

The warm weather feels nice to us, but we know that it is time now for plants to shift gears and start going dormant for the winter. If they don’t complete that process far enough along and we do get a really nasty cold spell, there will be plants that will be killed or stressed from that weather event. So, even though the nice weather feels good, it really is time now as we leave October behind for the perennial plants to sleep for the winter. Cooler temperatures will encourage that to happen, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed that the weather cools down a bit more and we have a more seasonally cool fall going into winter.

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As we begin November in the next few days, we hope you are enjoying your autumn and looking forward to the quiet of nature that the winter season will bring.

 

 

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Greetings from Topeka, Kansas and the Mother Earth News Fair!

This morning I spoke on Wildlife-Friendly Gardening and the people who attended were wonderful and welcoming. This Fair is a lot of fun! Tomorrow at  11:30 am I’ll be giving another talk called Cattail Moonshine & Milkweed Medicine. That presentation will be at the Mother Earth Living Stage if you are attending the Fair and would like to join me.

In Cattail Moonshine & Milkweed Medicine I’ll be sharing some of my favorite North American native plants and how people use them…past, present and going forward into the future. I’ll hope to see you there.

Oh, and visit the Mother Earth News Fair Bookstore if you are attending. All of my books are there, of course, if you are interested in purchasing a copy, but there are hundreds of different books for sale there. I had the most glorious time shopping today for books in that bookstore. Books on gardening, using herbs, raising livestock, foraging wild plants, building sustainable structures…you name it and if it is about earth-friendly or sustainable living, they have a lot of books for you to explore. Enjoy!

Back at home, seed harvesting continues. We are expecting we might get a hard frost any day now, as when that happens the seed crops that are still maturing in the field will finish ripening and we can pick the seed. There are still a lot of seed plants that we’re waiting to harvest, including the Sunset Hyssop, Chocolate Flower, Sporabilis grass, Mojave Sage and a number of others. Autumn, thankfully, is a pretty long season for us in Canon City, so it won’t surprise me if we continue to pick seed crops well into November. Since Autumn is my most favorite time of the year, I’m always happy if the season goes long and lasts a while.

Driving to Topeka, Kansas for the Fair I was able to enjoy a lot of beautiful fall color. Chris and I have been getting in some Sunday hikes in the Sangres too and the color there was lovely, although it is mostly past now. In Canon City, the fall color is really getting cranked up now, so life is good!

I’ll be back to write more when I’m back at the farm homeplace. Hope you are enjoying your Autumn too!

With Green Thoughts, Tammi

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This coming weekend is the Kansas Mother Earth News Fair and I’ll be there as a presenter. The Fair is going to be fantastic. The speaker line-up is incredible! I’ve presented at Mother Earth News Fairs before and these are really great events. There will be vendors of every kind towards a sustainable and earth-friendly lifestyle. There will be demonstrations whether you are interested in livestock or spinning and everything in-between. And the food…well, come hungry, because my past experience has been that the food is really delicious and not the ordinary “fair type” of food. This is real food and tasty!

I’ll be sharing ideas about gardening in a wildlife friendly way to address both the positives and the challenges. I’ll also be sharing some of my favorite North American plants and many of the ways that people use them, including California Poppy, Mexican Cacao (Chocolate), Mesquite Trees, Cattails, and Milkweeds.

The Fair Bookstore will have all three of my current books available to buy…Homegrown Herbs, The Wildlife-Friendly Vegetable Gardener, and Cattail Moonshine & Milkweed Medicine. Cattail Moonshine is hot off the press and only just released 4 weeks ago. Of course, besides my books (which I hope you’ll take a look at) there will be hundreds of other books there. All the presenters books and every other possible earth-friendly sustainable living type of book you can imagine. I plan to do some serious book shopping while I’m there, as this is always a great opportunity to find interesting and unique titles to add to Chris and my library.

I’ll hope to see you there. Google Mother Earth News Fair for all the specifics.

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More locally, I’m quite excited to be participating in the Holiday Open House for the Covered Treasures Bookstore on November 5, 2016. I’ll be there for a book-signing from 11am to 1pm. This is truly a lovely book shop and of course, if your like me, I’m always looking for some great books to gift away for the Winter Solstice and Christmas holiday. If you’re in the neighborhood on the 5th of November, I hope you’ll drop in to the Covered Treasures Bookstore and say hello.

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We’re in the final weeks of the outdoor food garden harvest season. I’ve been picking a lot, including these Cuban Heirloom Cachucha Sweet Peppers and Cucamelons (also called Mexican Sour Gerkins).

My friends, Diana and Merrilee at Perennial Favorites, introduced me to the cucamelons this garden season and I planted the plant they gifted me with. Oh my goodness…this is one prolific vegetable! Below is a plate full of little 1-2″ long cucamelons I picked on Sunday and that was only one picking. Diana says these are really delicious pickled, but they never got the chance to be pickled around here. We ate them in salads, on sandwich wraps, and just as snacks. They are very fun. We hope to grow the plants of this vegetable to offer for sale in our Farm Stand store next spring.

Two years back, a friend of ours in the community gifted us with the Cuban heirloom pepper called Cachucha Sweet Pepper. Her mother in Florida grows these every year and Barbara grows some too here in Westcliffe as a patio plant in summer and then brings it indoors to grow it into the fall and winter seasons. She gave us some seed, which we grew into a small crop of these pepper plants last spring, and sold them in our Farm Stand store. They were a big hit, and I very nearly forgot to pull out a couple of plants for my own growing so that I could save some seed to plant them again next spring. Luckily I remembered and that plant has produced probably a hundred peppers at least. It’s still getting more peppers now that I brought it indoors with the cooler nighttime temps outside. These peppers look like scotch bonnet hot peppers, but they are sweet fry peppers and really delicious. They also dry very nicely for later use this winter.

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Yesterday was my day to scrub the bird feeders for the fall season. I do this task once a season and it is a very big project since we have a LOT of bird feeders around here. It’s important, though, because if your bird feeders get too dirty, they can promote disease in birds that are eating from them. I scrub them in soapy water with scrub brushes and then rinse them in clear water that has 2% non-clorine bleach added to it. Once they are dry, I fill them with fresh bird seed and put them back in place around the farm. The birds are enjoying a meal from freshly scrubbed feeders.

Oh, and don’t forget to scrub your bird-baths once a week with soapy water. Rinse them very well before filling them with fresh water for the birds and other wildlife to use as a drinking and bathing source. It’s really important to scrub birdbaths weekly, because if you have watched the birds at your birdbath, you will know that they bathe in these, drink from them and poop in them. Unwashed birdbaths are a recipe for sick birds and other wildlife.

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Speaking of other wildlife, we’ve have a family of raccoons hanging around (well, raccoons are always around the farm) with three youngsters. The other night those young coons were playing in the Manchurian apricot tree and making all kinds of racket. I stepped out on the back porch and they froze with fright in the tree. That was my good fortune, as I was able to take a few photos of them.  Sadly, though, one of the youngsters was hit by a car in front of the farm this morning. It’s not easy to be any kind of baby in this world. There is so much to learn, things to be wary of. Life for wildlife is tricky when you exist in a world with humans and other kinds of critters.

I know that some of you will say one less raccoon is a lot less trouble, but they are just doing what they need to in order to survive in the world. We co-exist in a friendly way here on our farm with raccoons, and lots of other types of wildlife, because this world belongs to them too. We use wildlife friendly methods to keep raccoons, and other challenging wildlife, from causing too much trouble here by using motion sensor water spray contraptions, scarecrows, yellow caution tape, and other methods.  If we have a big problem we can put out Plantskydd, a deodorized blood meal product that they can smell, but we can’t. It is OMRI registered, which means it works for organic growers, and it lasts for 6 months even with rain or snow. It is pricey, but if there is a big challenge with wildlife eating our produce or seed crops, and we can’t solve the problem in a different peaceful way, we fall to the Plantskydd. It works well for us when we need it.

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As I said earlier, this is the time to get everything left in the garden harvested before we get a hard frost in November. I harvested my potatoes a few days ago.  I had grown them in 50 gallon tree baskets, which makes the harvesting pretty easy. I just dump the pots out in an area that needs some extra garden soil, and then forage through the soil to find all the potatoes.

Once harvested, the potatoes are laid out in a shallow layer on cardboard or drying screens and allowed to cure for a week or so in a place out of direct sunlight and with good air ventilation. Then they are ready to store until I use them up through the winter. Store your potatoes in a cool dry place and they will keep quite a while before sprouting. If your concerned that they will sprout before you can use them up, I’ve had great luck chopping them up into chunks about an inch in size more or less, and then boiling them in broth until they are nearly done. I leave the potato peels on, but scrub them before cooking to remove any bits of lingering dirt. After the potatoes are cooked and cooled, I put them into freezer containers and freeze them. They make for delicious soup, potato salad, skillet dinners and such. I’m told you can cook them and then dehydrate them, but I’ve never tried this myself. Might be a good way to store them if you have limited freezer space and more potatoes than you can eat fresh before they sprout towards the late winter or early spring season.

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Last week, Chris and I took off for an overnight camping trip in northern New Mexico to celebrate our 22 wedding anniversary. It’s not a very easy time of the year to get away from the farm for more than an afternoon, but we left Lizz in charge of the cats and the farm and we left. Lizz did a great job of watching after things here, as she always does, and we had a wonderful time.

We drove to Espanola to eat our favorite tacos and then camped out in our handy-dandy camper, which actually finally has a working heater after 2 years of trying to get it to work properly…yay! On Thursday, we got an early start and went hiking on the Manzanita Canyon trail north of Taos. We were looking at interesting plants and enjoying a great day on the trail with our dog Shrek. Then back home we went Thursday night happy and smiling.

It’s impossible for us to be away for more time yet, as the seed crops are still ripening and needing to be picked. The greenhouses always have plants and tasks needing to be tended too, but this little break from farm and work was much-needed and enjoyed.

With Green Thoughts, Tammi

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I’ve got quite a few events happening this month. The new one just scheduled is that I will be speaking at the Kansas Mother Earth News Fair the weekend of October 22-23, 2016. I’ll be giving presentations on Saturday and Sunday mornings and a book-signing event on Saturday. Here is the link to find out all the details about this Fair

MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR

Three years ago I spoke at the east coast Mother Earth News Fair. It is a really great Fair with so many different speakers, vendors and delicious food. If you can come to the Kansas Fair, maybe I’ll see you there.

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Household news is that the kittens have graduated out of the bathroom and bedroom and into the rest of the house. It’s going rather “interestingly”. I’m not sure if that is a real word…but, for the most part the kittens are learning about the rest of the house. They are learning what they can do and what is off-limits, and Sadie is trying her best to teach them to respect their animal elders. Some  days she has better luck at this then on other days. The picture below is one of her with her ears flat and I think she is feeling a bit frustrated that they will always be goofy kittens! Pouncita, the Siamese is over 20 years old, and for the most part she hangs out in the rocking chair sleeping or sun bathing and trying to ignore the kittens. Shrek, the dog, in truth, isn’t sure what to think of them. Pal, the gray kitten, pushes Shrek’s buttons at every opportunity. Willow is more respectful.

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We had a deer put its hoof or antler through two layers of plastic on our Plant Barn greenhouse and these holes are about 8″ in size. Yikes! All the time we worry because neighborhood cats sometimes climb on the plastic of the greenhouses, puncturing it with claw holes. Too many cat claw holes and the plastic is ruined and has to be replaced, which costs us a few hundred dollars per greenhouse to put new plastic covering on them. In 20 years of being here, we haven’t ever had a deer  damage the plastic, but this time they sure did a number on it. I patched it up and for now it’s holding. Hopefully, we won’t have to recover this greenhouse just yet.

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I finally got my almond tree planted. I was beginning to feel like I wasn’t going to get it accomplished before it was too far into the Fall for it to root in well before winter. It’s now happily adjusting to having its roots in real soil in the earth, rather than growing in a large pot of bagged planting mix.

Growing an Almond tree in Colorado will be an experiment. If you go by the zone requirements, it should be hardy enough for us in southern Colorado. A tree friend tells me they are hardy in Santa Fe, NM, so maybe it will do well here in Canon City. I sure hope so. I would love to have almonds to harvest in a few years.

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All for now. Have a really nice week.