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Yesterday, on my way home from doing errands I stopped at the thrift store and purchased several interesting metal and enamel dishes. Today my Dad came over and drilled drainage holes in the bottom of each container.

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Some I planted with succulents and others I planted with miniature plants. These dishes are wonderful re-purposed to become patio and countertop container gardens. We will have them for sale at our Farm Stand store this spring and by that time they will have rooted in nicely and filled out beautifully.

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Last year we also grew a number of these terra cotta clay succulent gardens and folks really enjoyed them. Today I planted up a dozen of them with both succulents and fairy garden plants. I think they will be very nice by April when Open Farm Days begin.

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All winter long I’ve been storing and cooking winter squash and pumpkins of various kinds that grew in our garden last summer. Many years back I would store these vegetables and never cook them because seeding and peeling them was so difficult to do before I cooked them. Thankfully, my sister clued me in one time about a super easy way to cook squash that takes all that difficulty out of the process.

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These are red kuri squash. I set them in my roasting pan and take a sharp knife and slice several 1 inch long slices through the peel into the flesh. These slices act as steam venting holes when the squash or pumpkins are cooking in the oven. I pre-heat my oven to about 300 degrees. When the oven is hot, I pour in about 2 inches of water into the roasting pan and then set the whole thing with the squashes, just as you see them here, in the oven and let them slowly cook. When the squash or pumpkin starts to cave in on itself, then it is done.

Remove the pan from the oven and allow it to cool down somewhat. Then it is an easy process to slice open the squash, scoop out all the seeds and cavern stinginess. Once that is accomplished, I use a large severing spoon to scoop out all the cooked flesh from the rind. The rind and strings are discarded to the compost pile. The seeds can be composted too or you can roast them in a cast iron skillet with a bit of butter and sea salt for a snack. They are delicious!

The cooked flesh is ready to become whatever you would like it to become. It can be mashed with butter and a tiny bit of brown sugar and cinnamon and eaten like sweet potatoes, puree and made into a tasty winter soup, cooked into pumpkin bread or biscuits…there are lots of ways to use it. If you have too much to use at one time…no problem, just put it into a freezer container and save it in the freezer for another time.

In truth, this has to be the simplest and easiest way I know of to cook your winter squashes and pumpkins, no matter what variety they are.   Enjoy!

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Lizz and Beki had fun this week painting the little houses that will be living in our raffle display fairy gardens for the Farm Stand store. Each year we raffle off a fairy garden or two, and the money generated by the raffle is used to buy fresh produce to donate to our local food bank. In the next two weeks Lizz will be planting those gardens so that they will be beautiful by the time our Open Farm Days and Farm Stand plant store open on April 16th. I’ll get a picture of the finished houses this week and post them up next time for you to see.

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Yesterday was a doozy of a day! This is the yarrow greenhouse and it was empty on Friday. The entire stock garden living in pots in the basil house had to be moved to the yarrow house so that we have more room in the basil house (which is our propagation house) for seed flats and cuttings. Today, we are having a snow storm and I knew that it was on its way, so yesterday was the only opportunity to move all these large clay pots to the yarrow house, AND I was the only one here to get the task done. Well, me and Shrek that is. So for the better part of the day we moved large heavy clay pots from one greenhouse into the other greenhouse that isn’t kept quite as warm as seeds need to germinate, hence the reason the stock garden had to be moved there. We got it done, but by the end of the day my whole body ached and my feet and hands are still not happy today. I was so tired I went to bed at 8pm last night.

Why not wait for someone else to be working to help with this task? The short answer is the snow storm is supposed to be raging for the next three days, which means no plants can be moved outdoors from one greenhouse to another. There wasn’t any room left in the basil house for seeds to be planted, and tomorrow when the ladies are here to work they will need room for 150 flats of seeds that they will be planting. If those stock plants had stayed put, there would not have been any way for the ladies to work until the weather warms back up on Wednesday. This time of the year, things must happen on schedule, or the plants won’t be ready for sale on time starting in March and going through the spring. Never let it be said that a snow storm stopped the seeding schedule on this farm, at least not this time!

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The lizard greenhouse is full to the gills too. We finished filling it up last week. Elisa got a great start at getting the rosemary and thyme crops transplanted into 2″ pots, and Lizz and Beki helped her finish that very big project up on Wednesday. Then there were seedlings waiting to be transplanted from tubs into plug flats. The ginger crop in the foreground is looking quite nice and will be ready for sale in April when the Farm Stand opens.

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This morning I harvested some carrots. I grow carrots in boxes that can be kept in an unheated greenhouse, or your house, during the winter months if necessary. I can harvest them whenever I need carrots without the trouble of digging them up in the garden. Since its snowing today, I really appreciated that all I had to do was pull them out of the box, trim off the tops, wash them and they are ready to eat.

Anyone can grow carrots in planter boxes and keep them indoors during the cold months so that you can eat fresh carrots whenever you want too. For container growing it is good to grow nantes or parisan carrots, which don’t grow too long and will work in pots. We will have carrot boxes at the Farm Stand store too this spring, but if you are in a hurry to start growing carrots, buy some seeds and plant some.

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Finally, this morning I planted three container gardens in old slightly cracked bird baths. These bird baths won’t hold water any more for the birds, but they are lovely re-purposed into gardens. Two of them are succulent gardens and the blue one is an herb garden. I still have the stands for the blue and white birdbaths, so these gardens will have their pedestals. The red bowl’s pedestal was broke when the deer knocked it over in the garden, so it will be a lovely stairstep container garden on my back porch to greet visitors when they come to the door. As these gardens grow and fill out, I’ll take an updated photo so that you can see how they are turning out. These will serve as display gardens during Open Farm Days to give visitors some ideas of what they might do at home with their cracked, but still useful birdbaths!

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Stay warm, enjoy the moisture of the snow…the gardens and wild critters are grateful for the moisture and so am I!

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Hi Everyone,

Chris and I are very excited to share that we are celebrating our 20th Anniversary as Desert Canyon Farm this year. We are making plans and growing a lot of new plants for our Farm Stand store as part of our celebration. We’ve added another open day of the week to our schedule for Open Farm Days this year too, so we will be open earlier in spring on April 16th, and stay open until June 5th, Saturdays thru Thursdays (closed on Fridays).

So, this message is to let you know that I’ve just updated the Open Farm Days page of this blog with our open dates for this spring 2016, along with all the specific details about that.

In addition, there are lots of classes and events happening in 2016 and I’ve updated the Classes & Events page of this blog to give you the most recent information on happenings. Chris and I will be speaking at some different conferences and trade-show events this year. There are garden show events and several other special events coming up that we will be participating in.

As of Friday, January 22, 2016 I just posted up the free workshop topics, dates and times, along with who will be teaching each workshop. We have four wonderful guest teachers again this year to share their wealth of knowledge with you on specific topics. In addition, Chris will be teaching a class this spring on native plants. I have plenty of workshop offerings included too. Surely there is a workshop to please everyone…at least we hope so. Take a peek at the “Classes & Events” page of this blog to see what will be happening during our Open Farm Days this spring.

I think that’s all for tonight. Cheers, Tammi

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It was our first really super busy week of the year this week and I must admit that we are feeling a little bit overwhelmed. Kinda farm-whipped so to speak, but we’re still smiling!

We had 9000 strawberry bareroots to plant.

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Chris has been very busy doing building and equipment repair work. He’s been fixing ceiling heat retention blankets, cleaning greenhouses so that we can start putting plants in them in the next week, repairing our very old and fussy tractor (which is not cooperating I might add).

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We have loads of seedlings ready to be transplanted now, so that will be one of the things we start working on next week.

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Chris potted up the heirloom stone fruit trees (cherries, peaches, apricots) that arrived as bare-roots. This batch of trees will be grown out for sale in spring 2017.

We have lots of wonderful heirloom varieties of fruit trees that have been growing here the past year that we will be selling in our Farm Stand store this spring.

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The truck arrived from Manitoba, Canada with our greenhouse soil mix. Our neighbor, Jim, comes with his fork lift and unloads the truck for us, since we don’t have that kind of equipment ourselves.

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I uncovered the garlic chives from underneath the frost blanket, where they have been sleeping dormant this winter. A week in the heated greenhouse and they are beginning to sprout from the roots. When they get a bit further along, we’ll clean away all the dead top-growth from last autumn and then they look amazing and be ready to sell.

Behind the scenes, M’lissa has been working on the pages of this blog that gives information about our heritage and heirloom food plants, herbs, perennials, fruit trees and berries, iceplants and succulents…the list is very long. She has gotten the databases updated with all the new plants we are planning to grow this year and offer for sale in our Farm Stand store this spring.

If things go as planned, (which rarely happens around here, but one can hope) I will hope to get the Open Farm Days page of this blog updated with the dates and times we will be open this spring.

I also have some classes and events that are upcoming, which I will try to get posted too, so that you can plan to attend if you would like to. The Open Farm Days free workshop schedule is about 2-3 weeks out from being finalized, but we’re working on it and your going to be very pleased I think with the workshop topics we will be offering this spring.

So, keep checking back and soon there will be a lot more information for you to peruse. In the meantime have fun looking through the plant information pages of this blog. There are lots and lots of new plants planned and we are very excited about that!

With Green Thoughts, Tammi

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The year is coming to a close and a new one is right around the corner. I hope it will be a really good year for you and yours.

Yesterday, our bare-root heirloom fruit trees arrived, which Chris will be planting up this next week so that they can grow for a full year here on the farm before we sell them in the Farm Stand in 2017.

Last year, we potted up heirloom fruit trees that went through the same one year waiting process and those fruit trees will be for sale THIS spring in the Farm Stand. It’s all very exciting that we can sell heirloom varieties of fruit trees here at Desert Canyon Farm.

We’ve planted one of each variety we will be selling in our own heirloom fruit tree orchard, and although those trees are still really young, it won’t be too long before we’ll get to harvest the fruit for our own use. Maybe we’ll sell the surplus fruit if there is any once I’ve filled our pantry. That is still a year or two off, so in the mean time I’ll have to be patient. We have an older orchard on the farm back by our ponds, so we do have some fruit trees that are bearing fruit, but they sustained a lot of weather damage last winter and need some TLC to recover from that.

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This is a quizz…what does this photo, plus

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this photo equal?  Well, for any of you who have the misguided concept that working in an organic greenhouse is very romantic, let me give you a bit of insight about the reality of many of the tasks we do here. Lizz and I spent MANY hours crawling on our bellies underneath the greenhouse benches, in the muck, scraping algae and moss off the floors. That glamorous head scarf was to keep the cobwebs and maybe some spiders out of my hair and ears!

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I do this task two to three times each year and I usually don’t have the heart to ask any of the folks that work with us here to help me with it, because it is just such an awful job to do! Lizz took sympathy on me this time and offered to help, which meant we were able to do the job in two days instead of the three days it usually takes me to do it solo.

Why, you might be asking? Greenhouses have a lot of fluctuation in temperatures and moisture levels, but over all there is a huge amount of moisture, so underneath the benches, and other places, the moss and algae grows abundantly. Snails and slugs think this is a grand place to set up housekeeping, and they sneak up to where the plants are each night and have a feast! Slugs can eat a LOT of basil in one night, so they’re not welcome in our greenhouses.

We use OMRI Sluggo snail and slug bait to manage their populations, and we welcome any predators like toads into the greenhouse that eat these critters, but this time of the year when days are short, nights are cold and days are very warm and humid inside the greenhouses, there is typically a population explosion of slugs. The toads are hibernating. Limiting the places slugs and snails can live, like in the moss and algae, helps a tremendous amount to get rid of this pest. So, the floor must be cleaned regularly underneath the benches and that means doing a belly crawl, with cobra head tool in hand, to scrape every inch of the floor free of moss and algae.

Now that this task is once again finished for a while, we can move on to more exciting and pleasurable tasks, that are still a huge amount of work, but no belly crawling is involved. This next week we are expecting to plant 6000 strawberry plants, about 3000 tiny herb plugs will be ready to transplant, and there is a long list of seeds to sow. As of this coming Monday, we are very busy now and that will be the case until summer is well settled in.

Is this greenhouse profession romantic? Definitely not! Is it fun and rewarding…absolutely! It’s what I do. It’s how I earn my living. It’s good work. It’s often hard and tiring. It’s physically, mentally and emotionally stressful during the spring busy season, but it’s good to be organic farmers. This I know to be totally true and I’m honored to call myself an organic farmer!

004Sadie got a new stuffed mouse for Christmas and Shrek got a froggie chew toy. Poucita thinks she is too old for toys, and she’s probably right. She’d rather be laying in front of a warm woodstove fire. Watching all of them keeps us smiling.

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Have a really nice New Year’s holiday. Here’s to a fantastic 2016 for all!

With Green Thoughts, Tammi

 

 

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Yesterday brought the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, and in many ways closure for Chris and I of this farm year’s seasonal work. Today begins the return of the light as the days will grow longer now. Of course, you can’t notice that right away, but it’s about being mindful of the process, of how the seasons shift and change.

We are very involved in the next farm year’s work already as we are planting for spring and summer, doing building maintenance, getting the office ready for 2016, working on Farm Stand and Open Farm Days preparation…all the things that shape our farm lives.

This is also the time of the year to catch up on our personal lives by accomplishing projects put off during the busy seasons of the year, visiting with friends and family, enjoying long quiet walks in nature and all the other bits that shape our winter season.

This hawk has been hanging around the farm a lot lately. The other day she was resting on a branch of the lilac bush. She had just hunted a small bird and had finished her meal and appeared to just be resting. I watched her there for maybe 3 hours before she finally left. I see her nearly every day somewhere on the farm and I enjoy her company.

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One of the tasks that has been filling my time this past week is taking an inventory of all our farm property and personal property for our home and farm insurance. Every once in a while we have to update this information, as of course, what we own changes with each year. Since it has been a few years since we took a thorough inventory, this time it was a major project. Now it’s finished for this round, thank goodness!

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We’ve had small amounts of snow a few times in the past couple of weeks. I took this picture of the honey locust tree (aka: peace tree) because as I was looking at it I started to ponder how the snow sits on the branches.

Plants have unique ways, each of them, to channel moisture so that it flows to the roots in the way that they most need it. If you are watering a houseplant or a plant in your garden, notice how the water moves off the plant itself towards the soil. Some plants like beans channel the water pretty much straight down towards the roots, while others like squash send the water rolling across the big leaves in rivulets, and the result is that the water filters down to the soil around the entire area of ground that the plant is covering. My agave collects water from the pointed tips of its leaves and the water rolls straight to the main stalk and then down to the earth below, making sure that a plant that typically lives in an arid climate (as many agaves do) gets full advantage of any rain moisture that happens and none of that precious water is wasted as it finds its way to the roots.

So, looking at the honey locust tree and how the branches hold the snow on the tops of the branches, I could see that this tree is being very intentional about spreading out all the available snow moisture that will melt from the branches and fall to the ground across the entire tree’s canopy area. Trees typically have a root structure that covers the same amount of area underground that the branches and leaves spread out over above ground. The further out the roots reach the more feeder roots the tree will have and those roots need moisture and all the nutrients contained in that moisture. By the snow melting off each branch of the tree and dripping down to the earth directly below that branch, all those roots will get a drink.

Plants are quite expert at survival, thank goodness, and they can be very cleaver at the ways they accomplish the tasks that allow them not only to survive, but hopefully to thrive. There are a lot of lessons we can take from these members of the green nation. Next time it snows or rains, take a bit of time to observe how the plants near you are making sure they can utilize that moisture in the best way possible for their needs.

Have a wonderful winter solstice season and Merry Christmas too.

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Yesterday was an extremely busy day here on the farm.

We had a huge truck-load of greenhouse supplies arrive that had to be organized and stored in our supply barn. This is 90% of all our growing supplies for the year 2016, so all our pots and trays, vermiculite, soil mix for propagation, fiber boxes for planting in, yucca wetting agent, sign labels, etc. We still have another truck-load of soil mix for general planting to arrive later on.

After that task was accomplished, we had another large truck arrive to pick up our seed shipment that is now on its way to Germany to Jelitto Perennial Seed Company. This is our entire year’s worth of seed harvest, and once packed it weighed just under 600 lbs, so quite a lot of seeds!

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In the afternoon, when the temps finally warmed up some, Chris and Shrek worked on covering some of the more delicate perennial seed crops with frost blanket to give them just a bit of extra protection from the cold and harsh winds of winter. We don’t cover all the seed crops, but there are a handful of varieties that appreciate this extra bit of tender loving care. In March or April, he’ll remove the frost blanket and store it in the barn until the next winter.

Lizz, M’lissa and I are continuing our work on the new signage we are preparing for every plant variety we will be selling in the Farm Stand store next spring season.

Since there are now over 600 different herbs, heritage heirloom food plants, native plants, unique perennials, wildlife and pollinator friendly plants, and so much more, the three of us have our hands full getting this project accomplished. Once the signs are created, we will print and laminate them so that they can be posted above the plants in the Farm Stand to give our visitors information about growing and using that specific plant. And, once the signs are finished, M’lissa will be updating the databases on this website with growing and use information too for all the new varieties we are adding (of which there are many!). A lot of work, but very exciting as it comes together.

So, that is about all the news for the moment. Have a great week!

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