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Last weekend we opened our farm for Open Farm Days this spring. Our first day looked like this! Oh my, it seems each year, no matter what date we open on, we don’t have the best weather. That said, we had several hardy folks that came anyway, both for the free workshops, and to do a bit of shopping in our Farm Stand store. We are in deep gratitude for those people who kept our moral up as we started our Open Farm Days for this spring. Thank you.

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So, on Sunday morning it still looked pretty darn snowy around here, but the snow was juicy wet, and great moisture for the earth. We can never complain about good moisture in the farming or gardening world. By Monday morning it was muddy, but the snow was melted and soaked in.

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A week later, its beautiful here. Everything is greening up and blooming. Tomorrow when we open the Farm at 9am it is supposed to be a gorgeous day. Warm and sunny. The perfect Open Farm Day we think.

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There are milk carton heirloom tomatoes for sale.

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Or maybe we can interest you in a Mini Garden in a Tray that will attract native and honey bees to your garden space.

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If you follow this blog, you’ll remember a while back that I planted three old  bird baths that had cracked and no longer hold water to be used as a bird bath. Two are succulent gardens and this one is an herb garden. Now it is filled in and looks amazing. The herbs are ready to use. This was a perfect way to reuse this birdbath. I put this garden in the Farm Stand store as a display for a while, but eventually, I’ll take it out into my own garden and find it a good home there.

Chris and Tammi Hartung, owners and operators of Desert Canyon Farm, stand next to their farm stand store at 1270 Field Ave. Carie Canterbury/Daily Record 4-4-16

The other very exciting thing that happened is that we made the front page of the Daily Record newspaper. Carrie Canterbury, who is a journalist for the newspaper, interviewed us a couple of weeks back and said she was going to write an article about us since we are celebrating our 20th Farm Anniversary. We were stunned to find ourselves on the front page and a very wonderful and long article about us, and how we came to be here in Canon City, along with all the things we do here on our farm. Thank you, Carrie, for making us feel fantastic, and letting people know about Desert Canyon Farm, as we celebrate our 20th Anniversary here this year. We are in gratitude!

Well, this has been a whirlwind week around here, between the weather events, getting more final touches done in the Farm Stand store, pulling wholesale orders and getting them delivered, and planting, planting, planting more plants to sell in the month of May. We have filled every nook and crannies, literally, in our greenhouses! I even have flats of newly planted veggies and herbs sitting on carts until I can find them some bench space. This is how spring is. It’s both exciting and exasperating all at the same time. We’re so tired at the end of each day, but each morning we’re back at it and happy to be doing so. Life is good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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First I have a very important announcement about Open Farm Days, which begin this Saturday, April 16th. As is usual for us, the opening weekend of our Open Farm Days is forecast to be wet and probably snowy, but at least rainy.

On Saturday, my friend and permaculture expert Kris Isom, was supposed to be driving up from southern New Mexico to teach both of the workshops on Saturday. However, after looking at the most recent forecast she and I agreed that it would be very silly and possibly very dangerous for her to make the drive up to teach in a possible snow event. If you were planning to come to her workshops on Saturday, know that she will not be teaching them, and instead I will be doing different workshops instead.

The Saturday morning workshop will be “Herbs That Deer Don’t Like to Eat” and the afternoon workshop will be “Making Herbal Tinctures, Vinegar, Honey & Infused Oils”.

Kris will be checking to see if she can get off work on June 4th to come up and teach her workshops then. When we know if her employer will agree to this, I will post an update here.

We are both very sorry to disappoint those who intended to come to her workshops this Saturday, but it’s much better for us to be wise about her driving safety than to have her chance it by driving so far in bad weather.

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Today we were working very hard to get all the final tasks done in the Farm Stand store so that we will be ready to open on this Saturday. No matter what the weather, we will be open. There will be workshops on both days, and we will be holding them inside our seed room rather than outdoors like usual. If you are inclined to brave the weather, we will hope to see you this weekend.

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Morgan and Beki got all the plants tidied up today in the outside section of the Farm Stand store. Carol and Lizz worked indoors doing the same, putting in price tags, and so on.

Tomorrow we have to hang up all the plant signs, posters, and whatever else we haven’t gotten finished yet. Wish us luck that by Saturday all will be in order and we’ll be ready to host visitors to the farm for Open Farm Days. Our hours are 9am to 4pm.

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These are the two fairy gardens that we will be raffling off during this year’s Open Farm Days. We do this each year and with the money earned from the raffle we purchase fresh fruit and vegetables to donate to our local food bank in June. Raffle tickets are $1.00 each.

But maybe you would like to plant your own fairy container garden? Lizz will be doing a workshop this Sunday  at 1:30pm on how to plant a fairy garden container and good plants to consider. In the morning on Sunday at 10:00am, Monica will be giving a workshop on growing herbs in arid southern Colorado. She really knows about this first hand and will have a lot of good thoughts for you to ponder on the subject.

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While your here, be sure to wander over to Tammi’s outdoor fairy garden on the north side of the seed room. It’s 2′ wide and 30′ long and filled with a lot of fairy activity.

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Check out these containers of sugar peas! They are amazing and filled with lots of pea pods already. My mom planted them for the Farm Stand store and they are just beautiful and tasty.

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This past week, Chris built a coyote fence entrance to the Farm Stand store and the Heirloom Orchard. It turned out great and I’m so glad he did this for us!

So, we are very excited to have you visit Desert Canyon Farm at some point during our Open Farm Days. Please explore the Open Farm Days page and the Classes & Events page of this blog to learn more specific details. We’ll hope to see you soon.

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It’s very nearly April. I can hardly believe it’s true. But then again, if I look around me at all the chaos (fun chaos, but still chaos) we are now surrounded by, I can’t believe anything else except that it’s nearly April!

I learned recently that the Xerces Society, which is a group that studies and works to  support native and domestic pollinators, is going to be hosting an all day workshop in southern Colorado. I was thrilled and immediately signed Chris and I up to attend. I attended one of their workshops like this in New Mexico a couple of years ago and it was so informative, interesting and inspiring. Here is the link so that you can check it out for yourself if you might be interested in knowing more.

Pollinator Conservation Short Courses in Your Area

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Lizz and Beki planted some cool season heirloom vegetable container gardens a week or so ago and they are really starting to look nice now. These are great for patios, apartment dwellers with only a deck (providing it has some afternoon shade), anywhere really. If you are limited on space or simply want to keep things simple in your life, these gardens are perfect. A bit later on we will be planting similar ones, but with warm season vegetables.

These cool season veggie gardens have things like beets, kale, swiss chard, cabbages. The warm season ones will come later with tomatoes, peppers and eggplants in them.

Just imagine all the delicious meals you could create!

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In about three weeks the Farm Stand store will open, on April 16th…Yikes! This is what it looks like in that greenhouse at the moment! Remember that word “Chaos”, well, the Farm Stand is totally the definition of chaos at the moment.

Lizz and I worked all day last Sunday attempting to begin the process of putting things to order. I’m not sure if you can see them well in this photo, but all the flats that have a red tag in the front are for our Farm Stand. In addition, yellow flags mean that they will be going to the outside nursery area of the Farm Stand next week. Everything else, and there is plenty in this category, has to be moved to another greenhouse as soon as possible.

Most things aren’t labeled yet, so that must be done. The signs have to be put in place for each variety, along with setting up the check-out area, hanging educational posters up. Well, suffice it to say we have plenty, plenty, plenty to accomplish before the 16th arrives. But no fear…it will all get done. Each year it looks like this and each year we manage somehow to put things to order just in the nick of time.

So, with that said, tonight I need to work on some of the computer part of the signs. Once I get my part done and print them, I’m taking them to my parents house for them to do the laminating part. M’lissa has already finished about 400 signs. I’m guessing I have between 300-400 more to go. I guess I best get to it, but not before I fix myself a cup of chai tea.

Ta Ta!

 

 

 

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I’m very excited and happy to announce that my upcoming book is getting closer to being available! Here is the book cover and it is due for release in December 2016 – so at the end of this year and hopefully in time for the holidays.

Cattail Moonshine & Milkweed Medicine is a book where I can share all the amazing ways that we have used some of our most important North American plants like Cattails, Milkweeds, Spruce, Nopalitos, Mexican Chocolate, Black Walnut, and loads of other amazing plants. There are stories about Hickory bark syrup, Valerian root as a baked vegetable, California Poppy to help you sleep or as eye make-up, and on it goes. I have so much to tell you about in this book and I think you will enjoy it a LOT. And yes, cattails used to be made into a type of moonshine alcoholic beverage. Milkweeds have not only been used as a medicine plant, but they are currently being used to help clean-up oil spills and other natural chemical disasters. I hope you will consider purchasing my new book or borrowing it from a library when it is released later this year.

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You might remember a month or so ago I was talking about growing carrots in boxes or other containers. Well these are the carrot boxes we have growing that will be ready when we open the Farm Stand store on April 16th. They’re looking great.

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You might also notice in each of those carrot boxes there is a little white sachet like the one in this picture. These little sachet are part of our beneficial insect pest management program we are using now in our greenhouses in order to not need to use any organic pesticides. These sachets hold teeny tiny little beneficial mites that live in each pot and hunt down and eat any thrips on the foliage before the larvae become fully mature thrips and before they cause damage to the foliage and flowers of many kinds of plants. That is a tremendous help to us, because thrips can make plants look terrible from the damage they do to the leaves and flowers, plus if they become too much of a problem there is a risk that they will spread plant diseases as they move about chewing into the plants as they are feeding on the foliage. These little predator mites stop all those problems in their tracks and we are really excited about that.

Now, for anyone who might be concerned about these beneficial mites living in the plants, there is absolutely no need to worry. They only hunt thrips and they are very tiny. You cannot even see them unless you use a magnifying hand lens, and they absolutely do not bite!

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We’ve been doing a bit of sprucing up around here. Our little garden house and our seed room/garage building have been calling to us in need of fresh painting. Elisa, who works with us here at the farm, has stepped up to the task and is making them look gorgeous!

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Of course, the 60 mile and hour winds we got last week didn’t help the project much, and tore off part of the roof on the little garden house, so now that building will have to get a new roof to match the new paint job. Chris will be taking on the roof task soon.

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The seed room is next and Elisa started on that last Wednesday.

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All the wood trim on this building was super old and had begun to rot, so Chris is replacing it with trim that will look similar to the wood work on our house. Very “southwestern casita” like. It’s going to look fantastic and the best part is that we believe it will all be finished before we open for Open Farm Days and before the iris garden starts to bloom on the back side of this building. At least that is the plan baring any unforseen challenges.

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Tomorrow, March 19th, I’ll be speaking at the Western Landscape Symposium in Pueblo, Colorado. This is a great event, and this year is sure to be exceptional with all the wonderful speakers and people who will be attending. There is more information on the classes and events page of this blog. Maybe I’ll see you there.

Have a good week.

 

 

 

 

 

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Since last weekend things have been starting to leaf out and bloom like crazy. We really didn’t think we believed it when the groundhog said it would be an early spring, but now we’re forced to concede he must have been right.

Above is the Mahonia repens, which has been budded up for a few weeks, but is now covered in beautiful yellow gold flowers.

Below is a pink flowered sweet violet with the first gigantic bumblebee we’ve seen so far this year. These violets bloom all year, including during the winter even when there is snow on the ground, but they usually only have a flower or two during cold months. Now they are a riot of pink and this huge bumblebee couldn’t resist the chance to sip some nectar.

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Here is the bee right next to where the violet was growing. You can see it’s lovely colors of orange, yellow and black with black wings. It was easily half the length of my thumb!

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The apricot is still covered in gorgeous blooms and there are zillions of native bees and our honeybees working the flowers. This was last Saturday, March 5th, just after the tree really started to bloom. Now it is pure white with so many flowers. I’m hoping they won’t get frozen because I’d really enjoy harvesting some tree fruit this year.

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Two weeks ago we went sneaking off to Red Canyon Park for a small walk with Shrek. We decided to walk up the dry wash and avoid all the vehicle traffic that was in the park on the roads. The wash was quiet and beautiful. There were a lot of cockleburs though, and it made us thankful that our dog is not a long-haired dog. Those stickers would have been terrible to remove from long fur!

Now Shrek is on house rest for two more weeks, as he slightly injured his tendon in his knee. He’s not happy about missing out on walks, no playing ball or fetch or tug of war. Instead he follows us around looking completely bored. It’s only been one of the three weeks he must stay calm, so the next two weeks are going to be challenging for all of us.

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This weekend we will be at the Spencer Garden Show in Fountain, CO. They have their garden show this time each year and we are always there to talk about our plants, how we grow them, and answer questions. We will be there with pots of herbs and cool season veggies. I’ll be giving two free workshops on Saturday on cool season veggies and growing perennial herbs. There will be loads of great workshops happening throughout the Garden Show given by others too. You can find out more information about my workshops this weekend on the Classes & Events page of this blog. I’ll be at the show on Friday, Lizz and I will be there Saturday, and Chris will be there on Sunday, so stop in and say hello.

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Last weekend was the New Mexico Organic Farming Conference and Lizz and I were there. It was super busy, but an excellent conference. I was a presenter and did my presentation on growing stock gardens, plus we had a table to sell my books from.

Both of us took in a class or two and the one I attended was given by Dr. Richard Felger on traditional foods and their prospect of becoming commercially available as food crops in the face of climate change and more local food options. It was an amazing talk and I came home wanting to read everything this man has written on the subject!

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I also gave a small workshop at Plants of the Southwest nursery in Albuquerque while we were down there. This talk was on growing herbs and vegetables to bring more pollinators and other types of wildlife into your gardens. The people who attended were wonderful and I think we all enjoyed the exchange. Wes, the manager of the nursery, was great and we had a chance to meet part of the nursery crew too. Quite nice!

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Other big news this week is that we began to implement our expanded beneficial insect program here at the farm. Chris and Beki are putting out sachets that are filled with tiny mites that will hunt down thrips and gobble them up.

The sachets are good for 6 weeks and then they have to be replaced. There must be a sachet in every pot that isn’t touching any other pots and one sachet for every four flats if the flats are touching each other. You can imagine that we have thousands of sachets around now, but that’s fine, because this is a great approach to managing pest problems without using any chemicals, even organic ones.

Below you can see sachets in each pot of mother plants used as part of our stock garden for vegetative propagation needs.

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We are also using other beneficial insects. There are tiny parasitic wasps that will eat any aphids that find. These wasps do not sting! They are very small and they are quite savvy at seeking out aphids, laying an egg inside the aphid. The baby wasp hatches out of the egg inside the aphid and as it eats the aphid, killing it, the aphid turns into an aphid mummy that is just a shell of the pest it previously was. You can actually see these little aphid mummy shells with a tiny hole in them where the beneficial adult wasp then leaves and the cycle repeats itself. I hope I’m doing a good job of describing this, because it’s quite fascinating.

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Above are two things going on. The pot with the small pile of soil in it has tiny rove beetles. The little rove beetles will mature and when they are adults they can fly. These beetles are called Atheta beetles and they eat loads of fungus gnats, shore flies and thrips. This is the time of the year when fungus gnats and shore flies can be problematic in greenhouses, so we’re hoping these rove beetles will do a great job for us.

In addition, we use beneficial nematodes that are applied in water to the soil, and they eat the larvae stage of those fungus gnats, thrips and other soil dwelling pest insects. Today, I spent 4 hours watering in beneficial nematodes to all the plants in the greenhouses. It’s a huge task that requires an ipod full of music for me to get through the project, but get through it I did, and now the plants are protected from soil dwelling pest insects for a month’s time.

The grass plant is called a banker plant and it has parasitic wasp eggs in the soil that will hatch out, and then the tiny wasps will start patrolling the greenhouses looking for aphids to eat. The banker plant is inoculated with a specific kind of aphid that only lives on that grass plant and will provide food for the wasps (which are called Aphidius ervi and Aphidius colemani) whenever there aren’t any pest aphids in the greenhouses for them to eat.

Below are more banker plants that I sowed this week to replace the existing ones in about two weeks, which is how long a banker plant is good for. I’ll continue to plant cycles of banker plants so that the wasps will always have these special aphids to hunt, even when there aren’t other aphids happening in the greenhouses (which is the goal to not have any aphids in the greenhouses). By keeping banker plants around we help to insure that the wasps will also stick around. Otherwise they would leave as soon as they didn’t have any aphids to eat.

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I’ll be giving you an update here and there to let you know how our expanded beneficial insect program is working. We’ve been using lacewing larvae and ladybugs, along with the beneficial nematodes, as general predators to hunt pest insects in the greenhouses for nearly 20 years, but now days there are more predator beneficial insects available that will do specialized work for specific pest problems or prevention, so we’re going to take advantage of that.

This is a much nicer and better way to handle pest management in a greenhouse environment whenever possible. As the saying goes, pests cannot become resistant to being hunted by predator beneficial insects. It’s an earth friendly way to handle things, both preventively, and when there are specific problems that need dealt with.

I guess that’s all for now. I’ll be writing again soon.

Cheers!

 

 

 

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A lot has been going on this past and current week, and much of it is focused on preparations for our upcoming Open Farm Days  that start April 16th.

Last week we put a new plastic skin roof on the Farm Stand greenhouse. We had six of us to do this, plus my folks came part way through the project and they lent us a hand too. It went pretty well, but whenever you’re talking about 100 foot long sheets of plastic to manipulate, you really almost can’t have enough hands on deck. The roof is secured now and it looks great!

Today, Chris and Shrek worked on installing the circulation fans and misting system inside the Farm Stand. It gets really hot in greenhouses by mid May and this greenhouse is no exception, so we’ve been working on putting some things in place to help move the hot air out of the greenhouse more efficiently so that it is more comfortable not only for our farm visitors, but also for the plants.

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The project to create great signage inside the Farm Stand for each of the plant varieties we will be selling  is also an ongoing project. Right now it is my turn to do my part. Lizz and M’lissa created signs for every plant variety, all 800 of them, and now I’m adding some final bits of information and putting in the small indicator symbols on the bottom of each sign.

We will have seven different symbols that could be on the bottom of  any given sign to let shoppers know if that plant is a fairy miniature plant (fairy), a plant to attract beneficial insects (ladybug), a plant to attract butterflies (butterfly), a plant to attract wild birds or other wildlife (brown bird), a plant that is pollinator-friendly (bumblebee), a plant that is native to our region (green flower), or a Plant Select plant (Plant Select logo). We are hoping this make it easier and more fun for people to choose plants they want to grow.

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Lizz and Beki transplanted the first pepper crop today.

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The hanging flower baskets have been planted.

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The concord, niagra grapes, red currants, raspberries, and hardy kiwis have been potted up.

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On Thursday, Lizz and I will drive to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Thursday afternoon I will be giving a workshop at Plants of the Southwest Nursery in Albuquerque, and then on Friday and Saturday we will be participating in the New Mexico Organic Farming Conference. Friday afternoon I’ll be speaking at that conference, plus we will have a table to sell copies of my books at both events. You can get more information about this on the “Classes & Events” page of this blog. Maybe we’ll see you there!

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It’s been very warm here for the past couple of weeks and there are signs of spring happening all around. Yesterday I noticed that the Oregon Grape (Mahonia repens) plant in the garden is covered with flower buds! Soon there will be bright yellow flowers blooming on this plant.

Next week I’ll have big news to share with you about our expanded beneficial insect pest management program here at our farm. Chris has been working this week to expand our current program, which we’ve been doing for the past 15-17 years or maybe even longer. There are many more options now for using beneficial predator insects to control pest insects, so he’s giving our old program a dramatic overhaul. The new beneficial insects will arrive next week, so I’ll be talking about them on this blog. It’s pretty amazing and we are very excited, in case you couldn’t tell!

So, lots of stuff going on around here. It is that time of the year when I narrow my focus way down in life and mostly I’m just concentrating on farm work and getting everything that needs tending to done. The housekeeping suffers, I pretty much ignore all gardening work for the time-being, my friends and family don’t hear from me as often and thankfully they’re very patient about this, we eat most of our meals from a crock pot, as any more extensive cooking than that is not part of the schedule, and so it goes….but we’re happy and excited for the spring and all that it brings with it.

With Green Thoughts, Tammi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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