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Meet the Mad Hatter, which is our new (to us) delivery vehicle, and no it’s not really a mad hatter, it’s a Honda Element. I’ve given it the name “Mad Hatter” because somehow it reminds me of the Mad Hatter in Alice Through the Looking Glass.

This was its maiden voyage as a Desert Canyon Farm plant delivery vehicle. It will hold about 45 flats of plants, so that’s not too bad. Our old mini van held 60 flats, so this isn’t quite as good, but it is good enough to do the job. And…it’s so much fun to drive!

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Lizz and I had a meeting on Monday to start planning our propagation needs (seeding, cuttings, root divisions and the like) for spring 2017. We really have only just passed this year’s busy season for the greenhouse, and already we are beginning to work on growing our plant inventory for next spring. Oh my…I think there used to be a slow season, but that seems to be less and less the case as each year passes.

Well, anyway, the photo above is white prickly poppy, which is a plant that we grow from seed. I cannot buy organic seed for this plant, so we grow some plants in our gardens here at the farm and then harvest the seed ourselves. You can see the gorgeous white flowers, and then there are some oval-shaped green seed pods. The seed won’t be ripe for a while, but we’ll be keeping an eye on it so that when it’s ripe and ready to pick we can do that. Once the seed is cleaned, we’ll work towards growing those white prickly poppies for next spring’s Farm Stand store.

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This morning I went out at 6 am to start the irrigation water in the flower seed field, and as I was walking back to the irrigation pump I passed the agave in the desert garden. I know I’ve been talking a lot about this plant, so you’ll have to indulge me as I talk some more about it. Look at all those bees!!!

They were coming and going from the flowers like a freeway system, and they were inside the flowers, on top of the flowers, under the flowers…all over those flowers! A couple of hummingbirds also checked the flowers out, but they didn’t linger. I guess agave nectar isn’t as high on their list of desires as it is for the bees.

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I’m not sure how tall this flower stalk is now, but I would guess it is about 18-20 feet tall. There are still flowers that haven’t opened yet, so I think it’s blooming period is going to be very long indeed.

Agave have been used as food, to make fermented and alcoholic beverages, as a sweetener, to make twine and for other fiber to weave into hats, clothing and the like. Rope from Agave fibers is even used as part of the apparatus in the pulley systems that move elevators up and down tall buildings. These are amazing plants to say the least.

I hope we get a lot of viable seed from this plant so that we can grow  baby Agave paryii to sell in the Farm Stand store. It truly is a very special plant!

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Pouncita has been scowling at me tonight. She is 20 years old and completely in charge of the entire household. She tells us what to do, when and how she would like things to be done, and if you don’t listen and follow instructions properly, she will give you an ear-full of scolding yowls. She is a tough old gal, but so sweet and loveable. Most of her hours these days are spent sleeping or finding a warm place to hang out. Old bones don’t like the cold even in summer. Pouncita has lived with us since she was about 4 weeks old. She is one of our dearest four-legged friends!

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My container of sweet corn is covered in immature ears of corn. It won’t be too much longer before we’ll have some delicious sweet corn with our meal.

 

 

 

 

 

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The agave is now in full bloom and full glory! Her flower stalk is very tall, probably between 15-18 feet tall, and the stalk is about 6″ in diameter at the top just below the flower clusters on top. I’ve been noticing many different pollinators visiting. The color is amazing, golden-yellow with a hint of red at the tips of the flowers. At dusk it looks like it is glowing!

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Below, still very tall, but nothing like the agave, is a yucca flower stalk. The creamy white flowers are stunning too. These are pollinated by moths. With a bit of good fortune, we hope to collect a large amount of viable seed from both of these plants.

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It’s been a very long road over the past year and a half, with many ups and even more downs, but finally I think Shrek and Sadie are becoming friends at last. I’m not sure if they will every be best buddies, but they seem to have come to some sort of truce about bullying each other and now they are even doing things “sort of”together. This photo taken last Thursday is the proof, as they both came together at Shrek’s breakfast and water bowls.

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My newest book, Cattail Moonshine and Milkweed Medicine, is going to be released in two short months. I’m truly getting very excited! I hope you will all enjoy it and I’m looking forward to sharing it with everyone.

I also have several upcoming speaking engagements to add to my classes and events page of this blog, so check that out, as I hope to get that page updated sometime this week. Some of those events will be presentations about the plants in Cattail Moonshine & Milkweed Medicine. As part of the process to prepare for those events, I’ve been taking photos to put into power point presentations. This is always a fun task for me.

One of the plants I’ll be talking about are pine trees. Pine trees have been used, and continue to be used, in a multitude of ways from soap to tar, to building lumber and herbal medicine. Our Uncle Don, who passed away this past fall, left us with a box of odds and ends, including this very old soap tin for a bar of pine tar soap. It will make a perfect addition to my power point presentations.

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The red currants are ripening this week and I’ve been picking them by the large bowlfuls, de-stemming them, and putting them into the freezer for winter baking. Currants baked into bread is a favorite around here. Now I just need a working oven and we’ll be all set😉

The past weekend found Chris visiting his family over the holiday, and I was here with Shrek and the kitties. I worked in my gardens and made some real progress getting them tidied up. Nearly all my planting is done, with just some violas and two yellow yarrow plants left to put into the ground. Feels really good to make that progress and now it will leave me free to start walking and hiking regularly. For me, that is what the summer, fall and winter seasons are all about…several walks each week and at least one full day hike every week. My stitching is back out, as I’m an avid hand needlework stitcher, and I have several good books waiting to be read. There is still way more farm work to do than one can imagine, but we’re not spinning crazy anymore like we were in the spring, and our lives beyond farm work actually does exist. Feels really good!

 

 

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This is the Belen Hen, who came to me yesterday from my friend Kris, who lives in Belen, New Mexico. Kris was supposed to teach the permaculture classes this spring during Open Farm Days, but a snow blizzard kept her from making the drive up from New Mexico. Hopefully, she will be here next spring to teach those classes instead.

She sent this hen to me, saying that the hen was supposed to be her co-pilot on the drive up in April, but since that didn’t happen she found a large box and sent her up to me that way. I think she looks wonderful and sassy in the nasturtium patch in the garden!

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This container is growing cucumbers and corn.

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I think you can grow about any food plant in a container. I plant in my food garden in raised beds, but this year I ran out of space, so I’ve also planted a number of large containers with fruit and vegetables. Above is some yellow straight-neck squash, which I believe I will start harvesting in a day or two.

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This container is growing lucious organic sweet corn.

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This is a large pot of jerusalum artichokes, which are a member of the sunflower family. You harvest the tubors and cook them like potatoes. They’re delicious!

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This pot is Norland Red Potatoes and the one next to it has Peruvian Purple Potatoes. We’ll have plenty of potatoes to eat this year, as there are two more large barrels planted with potatoes in the garden besides these two.

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I also like growing strawberries in containers because this way I can bring them indoors in late fall and continue to pick berries from them all through the winter.

I got a call from a neighbor two days ago who is having a difficult time with grasshoppers eating her veggie garden in a very big way. She was wondering how we deal with a problem like that here on our farm.

I told her that we use a combination of Nolo Bait and Neem Oil to take on a problem with grasshoppers or crickets. Nolo Bait is an product made with bran that has been injected with a bacteria that is only toxic to grasshoppers and crickets. The insects eat the bran and then they loose their appetite and stop feeding on plants, plus the bacteria also prevents them from molting and being able to reproduce. It takes a few days to take affect, though, so in the meantime, we spray the plants with Neem Oil extract, that is diluted with water and then sprayed on all the surfaces of the plants. Insects, including grasshoppers, don’t like the taste of Neem oil, so they won’t eat plants that have been sprayed with this oil extracted from the leaves of an African tree. Between the two, we have saved gardens and crops from being destroyed by grasshopers and other pest insects. Nolo bait doesn’t affect any other insects, either pests or beneficial insects, nor pollinators. Neem oil extract should be applied by the instructions on the label, and should be sprayed after honeybees go back to their hives in early evening. It is an OMRI approved pesticide that is approved for organic growing, and it is softer on beneficial insects and pollinators, but it is still not comfortable for them, so best to apply it during the time of the day when they are not active.

Hopefully, if you are having trouble with grasshoppers, this will be helpful information. These products are available from many good garden centers and can also be mailordered online  from ARBICO Organics and I think Peaceful Valley Farm Supply also sells them. Anyway, they are pretty easy to get. They are not inexpensive, but they do work well for us, and they tend to go a long way in coverage.

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Talk to you again next week!

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Here’s the newest photo of the Agave flower stalk. Still getting taller and the flower stalk is becoming more pronounced. This gal is really busy in her efforts to make seeds!

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Amazing!

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Other happenings that took most of our attention this week included Shrek have a TPLO surgery to repair a torn ACL in his knee. This was the evening after surgery and it’s now 4 days later, but he’s not a lot more enthusiastic about any of it. He can’t understand why his life is so different right now, with no exercise, no fun, no helping us at farm work, and most of all he HATES his neck cone hat that he has to wear whenever we are not sitting near him or when we are sleeping so that he won’t lick at his incision. The whole event is a major bummer, but as all things are…this too will pass and by end of summer we hope that Shrek will be back to his old self, with no more restrictions, and back to hiking and chasing balls, helping with farm work and all the rest. Now if we can all just survive the weeks of healing and rehab in-between.

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We also got our firewood for next winter delivered, so now no matter what else might happen we will be warm and cozy. We heat our house with a wood stove, so getting the firewood each year is a very big deal!

Chris is off on a hike today with friends and I’m waiting for the temperatures to cool off enough that I can think about working in my gardens. Right now it’s in the nineties and I completely melt at those temperatures, so Shrek and I are doing office tasks while we wait for the evening to arrive and cooler temps to come with it.

Have a glorious summer solstice tomorrow! The longest day of the year, and it’s supposed to be 10 degrees cooler…yippee.

 

 

 

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Last weekend was our final Open Farm Days and Farm Stand store weekend. As part of the day on Sunday last we had a container garden planting workshop. Everyone planted their own patio container garden and had a great time.

Open Farm Days and our Farm Stand store was really good this spring. We have all of your to thank for that and we’d like to tell you how much we appreciate all your smiles, good cheer, and support to our farm! Thank you very much!

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Today was my first day off since December 30th! I did work a little bit, as I had to water the greenhouses this morning, but then we packed a lunch, put on our hiking boots, and off we went for a half day hike in Deer Haven. It was glorious! The weather was really nice, the wild flowers are starting to be amazing, it was quiet and relaxing and just plain wonderful.

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Here is your Agave update and the Agave flower stalk at week 4! It’s beginning to form flower buds. The is Agave paryii, which is one of the agaves that is very hardy here in Colorado.

The desert garden in our driveway is really beautiful this year. Well, it is every year, but we think this year it looks the best ever. The Indian Paintbrush is starting to seed and naturalize, the Prince’s Plume is huge, there are numerous kinds of Penstemons blooming, the Santa Fe Phlox is gorgeous. The whole garden looks great.

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This is the new planting of Yerba Mansa, which is a seed crop for Jelitto. We had to find a better place to plant this crop than in our flower seed production field because that field is all on drip irrigation and this plant will need a bit more water than that in order to produce a good seed crop. Chris created a planting block near the heirloom orchard, which gets irrigated every other week, so the yerba mansa will also get that extra water. This crop should be quite happy in this location.

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The fairy garden is also really beautiful now. The Fairy Rose Baby’s Breath above is planted throughout my gardens in the back yard and it’s very pretty, but it seems exceptionally appropriate in the fairy garden at the moment.

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Two weeks ago we noticed that this agave in our desert garden was starting to grow a flower stalk. Agaves only bloom once in every 20-30 years, usually about year 25, and then the mother plant will die after she is finished blooming.  She will have produced several “pups” or small baby agaves off her root crown during the years and they will take over her place in the garden. You can see an agave pup in the foreground.

This agave has a “history” with Chris and I.  I grew this plant from seed about 26 years ago when I was working as the propagator at Paulino Gardens in Denver. At the time, Chris was managing Chatfield Arboretum (now called Chatfield Farms at Denver Botanic Gardens) and we were dating. He bought this agave plant as a wee little seedling. After a couple of years we got married and almost two years after that we bought our farm and moved to Canon City. That little Agave plant came with us and Chris planted it in our desert garden. Now she is huge and about to flower!

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When an agave plant decides it is time to flower, it doesn’t waste any time getting to it. Look how much the stalk has grown in a little less than two weeks time! The photo above was taken on Sunday morning and the stalk is already about 4-5 feet tall. I’ll keep taking photos as it goes through its blooming so that you can enjoy it too.

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This weekend the Farm  Stand store was very busy, especially on Sunday. We’re starting to notice that some plant varieties are getting limited in number, but we still have a whole lot of amazing plants to offer.

Our Open Farm Days and Farm Stand store will be open thru this coming Sunday, June 5th, except on Friday when we are closed for the day. Our hours are 9am to 4pm. We’re located at 1270 Field Ave., in Canon City, CO. If you’ve been planning a trip to visit the farm and do some plant shopping, this is the week to come. After Sunday, we’ll be closed for retail and back to wholesale only.

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Another cool thing happened on Sunday, when a former student of mine, Tonya, who now runs her own herbal school, brought a group of her students to the farm. Here they are in the White Rabbit Garden, where they were enjoying a herb walk with Tonya. Tonya brings her students to Open Farm Days each spring, and we are always so happy to see her and her group!

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This is a male quail rooster, and he is perched on top of a rabbit brush branch. These guys always try to find a high spot to perch and then they do their version of a quail “crow”.  They are such fun to watch!!

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Another critter visitor who has been coming around regularly is a skunk that forages for fallen birdseed under the bird feeders in the gardens. I see this skunk pretty often outside my kitchen window and I enjoy watching it as it hunts for fallen sunflower seeds. Skunks are pretty dosile creatures actually, and although they get a bad rap from people, the skunks on the farm have never caused us any trouble. As long as you keep your eye open when your moving around on the farm at night, so that you don’t come up on a skunk and startle it into spraying, they are very easy to co-exist with.

So that is the news for this week. We’ve so enjoyed having people visiting the farm and we’re looking forward to the rest of this week of Open Farm Days. Then we will be ready for some quiet and a bit of gardening time in our own gardens. My gardens are starting to get weedy and they are crying for my attention. My veggies are all grouped together in the greenhouse waiting for me to have some time to plant them in the food garden, so I’m looking forward to that too.

With Green Thoughts, Tammi

 

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The curved billed thrasher family is growing up. All three youngsters are out hopping about on the cholla cactus branches, getting fed by mom and dad and soon they will be on their own. We unusually see the parents raise three batches of chicks each spring and summer in this cholla.

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Let me take you on a little garden walk-about to see what is blooming just now. We still have all of these plants for sale in our Farm Stand store, but some of them are in limited quantities at this point. They are all superb for gardeners in the southwest.

This is Penstemon supurbus (pink) and Chocolate Flower (yellow). The chocolate flower smells like hot chocolate chip cookies each morning as the new flowers bloom. This plant blooms from May thru end of October, sometimes into November. The Penstemon is wonderful, with vivid flowers and grayish-blue foliage.

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This beauty is Siberian Motherwort and it is a really good medicinal plant for women’s issues and as a nervine. It is also a fantastic plant to attract bees, both native bees and honeybees, both of which love it!

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The Sea Kale is also blooming now with gorgeous white flowers. This is a big plant (similar in size to a rhubarb plant). The foliage and flowers are completely edible, although the leaves, though tasty, are big and need to be cooked since they are too tough to eat fresh.

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This is a little mat-forming plant called Silver Kisses Pyrethrum Daisy. It is a very sweet plant for rock gardens, xeric gardens or fairy gardens. It prefers full sun and moderate water and gets about 3″ tall or so.

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Smokey Hills Skullcap is another small, but beautiful plant that blooms all summer. It is about 6-8″ tall, grows in full sun or part shade. Another great miniature or fairy garden plant.

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This yellow-flowered plant is Bulbine and it is a semi-succulent medicinal skin herb. You use the foliage similar to how you would use the gel inside an aloe plant and for the same type of skin conditions, but it is NOT related to aloe in any way. It likes full sun or part shade, moderate water and blooms the entire summer.

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Muhley Grass is a fantastic ornamental grass that is native to New Mexico. It blooms in late summer through the fall with pinkish-mauve flowers. It dances in the breeze and puts on quite the garden show. Stunning!

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Another really nice Penstemon is Penstemon psuedospectabilis. We have this blooming in our hawk well garden with hot pink flowers and silvery foliage. It is tallish to about 2-2.5 feet tall with large flowers that attract bumblebees and hummingbirds.

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For those that like shades of oranges, tangerines, yellows and apricots, there is Hot Poker Hybrids (Kniphofia triangularis hybrids). This is another hummingbird magnet both in our flower seed field and in the garden.

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I’ll leave you with this photo of our back doorstep garden where the huge Anasazi pot will soon be placed. This is one of my new gardens and I’m quite pleased with how it is turning out. You can see the Chocolate Flower in the background. The reddish pink is Jupiter’s Beard (sometimes called Red Valerian, but not used medicinally like true Valerian). Then there is a little dwarf iris in the front.

Hope you have enjoyed this garden walk-about of some of the things blooming right now in our gardens. If you think you might like some of them in your gardens, come and visit us on our Open Farm Days until June 5th, between 9am and 4pm. Remember that we are closed on Fridays.  We are located at 1270 Field Ave. in Canon City, Colorado. Maybe you’ll find these or a different plant in our Farm Stand store that is calling to you to grow in your garden.

With Green Thoughts,

Tammi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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