It has been quite another busy week here, with a few exciting things happening. As some of you know, I’ve been writing a new book over the past year and it’s now down to the wire as my deadline for turning in the finished manuscript is quickly approaching (end of August). There is still so much work to get done on this project, so I’m pretty much hunkered down to writing, writing and pulling weeds! Oh my!!

As part of my book project I’ve been interviewing people and companies that are doing interesting work with some of the plants that I’m profiling in this book. This past week I have done wonderful interviews around milkweed and cranberries…oh, and black walnut too. I feel these personalized stories are going to make the book all the more magical to read. At least that is my hope.

Francois, who is the person I’ve been communicating with at a Canadian business called Encore3, sent me a link to a short video they made at a field day event today in Vermont. This company makes incredible products with milkweed floss (the seed hairs that are attached to the seeds in the milkweed pods). In this clip they are talking with potential milkweed farmers to raise the milkweed needed for their products. One of the things that is really special about this project is that they hope to be growing milkweed crops eventually all along the migratory path of butterflies, especially monarch butterflies, from Canada, through the U.S. and into Mexico.

Here is the link to the video and I encourage you to take a few minutes to watch it.


As you know, Chris and I are passionate about our work here at Desert Canyon Farm around pollinators and beneficial insects (other wildlife too). Of course, pollinators include butterflies, so they are one of the insects we are focused on supporting with habitat and good sources of food in the perennial seed crops we grow, along with our many gardens here.

Next spring we are hoping to have expanded greatly our offerings of pollinator (and other wildlife) friendly plants for sale in our Farm Stand during our Spring Open Farm Days.

The photo above is of Fennel, which is a great food plant for butterfly larvae(aka caterpillars), and is also pollinated by beneficial wasps. Added bonus is that we have fennel to use in our cooking and I can make medicine from this plant for digestive health. This picture is of Florence Green Fennel, but my personal favorite is Bronze Fennel, which looks lovely in my garden.


This is a photo of Butterfly Weed or Pluerisy Root as we herbalists call it. It is a milkweed species, Asclepias tuberosa, and it grows very nicely in this part of the county. The butterflies love this plant too, but so do the bees and other beneficial insects. It is a showy creature in the garden, with large clusters of flowers that are an amazing orange color.


Another important medicine plant is Echinacea, often called Purple Coneflower, and there are a number of species of this plant growing here too. This is Echinacea purpurea, but we grow about 5 different species here in our gardens, and Echinacea paradoxa (the yellow echinacea) is one of our seed crops. Another favorite of butterflies and other pollinators. I use the flowers, seeds, leaves and roots for herbal medicine.

Hartung Herb Farm 088

So, I’ll leave you with this last photograph to give you sweet dreams tonight. It’s time to call it a day. Tomorrow will be full with tasks and writing needing done. Have a great weekend, whatever you are doing, and I’ll be back in touch soon.

Hartung Herb Farm 120



Each spring during our Open Farm Days we plant a big fairy garden to raffle off during our spring open days. This year we planted two fairy gardens and raffle them off on different open days. Tickets cost 1.00 each and the money that is generated from ticket sales is used to buy fresh produce to donate to our local food bank after our Open Farm Days are past. Two weeks ago I went to Spencer’s Farm Market and purchased apricots, peaches and tomatoes with the raffle ticket monies. Then I delivered the produce to our food bank on behalf of all of us at Desert Canyon Farm and our visitors who bought fairy garden raffle tickets. Carol and Sean each won a fairy garden in the process, so they are the lucky ones too, but in truth, the real winners are all of those folks who bought tickets and made this food donation possible. Thank you!


In our county we have a native gourd that grows here. It’s called Coyote Gourd. There is one plant that came up years ago in my garden and for a long time I tried to remove it…it’s a bit of a big whiley plant you see. Removing the plant has never worked, so a few years ago I gave up on that task and just accepted the fact that it was going to grow in the garden and I welcomed it instead of trying to get rid of it. This is a perennial gourd, so this year its back again. This week I’m seeing the tiny gourds start to form. If you look closely, you can see a small striped gourd growing on the vine in this photo.

Coyote gourds come with their own legend. This legend belongs to tribes in the Sonoran desert. Legend says that this plant used to produce delicious melons, which farmers would harvest for fresh eating and to sell at the market. One day the farmer had his cart filled with the tasty melons and as he was distracted doing something else, Coyote (who is always the trickster in these stories) decided to play a mean trick on the farmer. Coyote went sneaking around the cart and pee on the melons, which of course left them tasting terrible. From that day forward no one could stand to eat the melons because they no longer tasted good, so they were then called Coyote gourds.

The gourds are terrible tasting, that is definitely true! I know because I was silly enough once to taste the pulp inside the shell. It’s bitter and soapy tasting from the saponin constituents the gourds contain. It does have some ethnic medicinal value in the southwest, and some friends of mine from Mexico have told me that there they use the pulp to make a soap for cleaning and washing clothes.

Some of the local women here in my town pick the small round gourd fruits when they are fully ripe and about 2-3″ in diameter. They dry the gourds so that the seeds can be shaken loose and it will rattle a bit. Then they lightly sand the exterior shell with some fine steel wool and paint the outside shell of the gourd with colorful designs.


We have had numerous batches of baby curved bill thrashers this spring and summer. The latest nest-full has now left the nest and is out and about on the farm. You can see a thrasher in the Cholla cactus, which is where the parents always build their nests. Anyway, there is one specific youngster thrasher that has been giving me a bit of a hard time lately in one of our greenhouses.

We call this greenhouse the woodstove house, as we use wood pellet stoves in winter to heat the greenhouse. This young thrasher has been hanging out inside the woodstove house each day, when the end doors are fully opened to vent the greenhouse of hot air, hunting for insects…mostly ants, which have a nest just outside the south door. The bird hops around on the floor and the benches. At the end of the day when it is time for me to close up the greenhouse doors for the night, I’ve had a doozies of a time getting this young thrasher to go outside of the greenhouse.

It’s almost a game, or so it seems, with this critter. He seems quite comfortable around me and not at all scared or skittish. He hops along the benches and on the floor waiting for me to catch up with him, and then he waits for me to talk to him, then hops off in a different direction (usually not in the direction of the open door). Eventually, he hops or flies out of the door to the woodpile outside, and I close the door for the night.

However, yesterday he got up above the ceiling heat retention blanket and would not come down. He seems quite happy  hopping on top of the ceiling blanket. The blanket is in three large sections that are pulled closed to shade the plants during the day. They are clipped closed using clothes pins. I unclipped both seams of the cloth, thinking the bird couldn’t figure out how to get down below the cloth. So, now he has big open gaps in the blanket to easily fly or hop down below the ceiling blanket, but no…he’s not interested in doing that. He just continues to hop around on top of the cloth, every so often poking his head down over the edge of the cloth to look at me a bit. I tried and tried to get him to come down, to no avail. Eventually, I just left the ceiling blanket pulled apart and the doors open for the night and hopped he would be out of there this morning. He was! Lizz and I re-clipped the ceiling blanket closed again and I’m wondering what kind of shanankins the young thrasher will pull next.


This is the desert driveway garden, where the thrashers cholla cactus is planted. The garden looks very beautiful right now. There are lots of things blooming in the garden including the fernbush, desert zinnias, some penstemons and cacti…all kinds of things. A family of quail also lives in this desert garden and this morning I saw them scuttling along…two parents and about a dozen chicks! Such fun!



Arkansas river 7-1-15 flood stage

It’s pretty much dried out around here now, although this afternoon we’re getting a light rain shower…enough to cool things off, but so far not really measurable. We could use some more rain now.

That said, last weekend the Arkansas river was just barely below flood stage when I went for my morning walk. Here is a retaining wall along my route, where the river curves. The high waters have damaged the wall and it literally moved out towards the river water about 6-8 feet. The top of that wall normally is about 15-16 feet above the water level of the river and at this point the water was only about 6 feet below the top of the wall. Lots of water!

currants 7-3-15

We returned from visiting Chris’ family in Nebraska on Thursday night. It was a lovely visit. When we got home the currants were ripe and ready to pick, so Friday I picked them, and more again yesterday. Tonight I’m freezing currants to be used this next fall and winter in bread.

Ted's pollinator garden

While we were visiting the Hartung family I took some pictures of their pollinator garden. It includes echinacea, butterfly bush, zinnias, and other flowers that will attract butterflies.

Jodi's birdhouse garden #2

They are birdwatchers, along with other wildlife like squirrels and rabbits, that frequent their yard in the heart of the city. This is one section of their bird and pollinator garden, with all types of birdhouses.

In the back yard they have feeders up and we had a lot of enjoyment from watching the birds visiting the feeders. Cardinals come regularly. I enjoyed them a lot, as we don’t have cardinals here at our farm.

cardinal #3 7-2015

The biggest treat for all of us was watching the little screech owls that sit in the trees of the yard and watch us watching them! I counted four owls, but there may have been more around. Apparently, they are in the neighborhood every summer. I took some pictures at dawn, but the light wasn’t very good. Still, I think you can have some fun seeing one of them in the tree.

screech owls Lincoln 7-2015

It really was a very nice visit. Coming home means everything is behind and needing to be caught up, so that is what we are attempting to do this week. There is weeding that never ends, seeds to be picked, plants needing planted in the gardens, greenhouse tasks to be done, book writing to be done…oh my. Guess I best get back to it.









bumble bee pollinator

Last year we had so many different types of bumblebees working the flowers here…large, small, all different color variations. This year, so far, we are seeing practically no bumblebees. Where are they?

We’re speculating about this almost on an hourly basis, because it is so obvious that they are missing in action. Here are some of our theories, although at this point, we do not actually know why they aren’t here in abundance like they should be.

1st Theory: Bumblebees nest in or close to the ground, often in vacant mouse nests. We had so much rain this spring that water was literally running on the farm land, sometimes 4-6″ deep, and at several different points the ground was so saturated that the water didn’t even soak in for a good long while. Maybe their nests were drowned out?!

2nd Theory: With the spring rainy season, temperatures were extra cool, although not freezing cold, and flowers were late starting to bloom. Perhaps the bumblebees didn’t have enough of a food supply here early on, and they left in search of better food sources?!

3rd Theory: Perhaps someone in the area has been spraying harmful pesticides and the bumblebee populations have taken a hit. We don’t feel confident that this is the main problem at this point, because we are seeing lots of native bees and our honeybees are doing great…but it could be a factor.

In any case, we need them back here pronto! We miss them a lot. We have flower seed crops that rely solely on bumblebees to pollinate the flowers, like bears breeches and penstemons, so we are hopeful that the bumblebees will begin to re-appear. There are lots of flowers in full bloom here now, and they are thriving with all that early spring moisture, so now we just want this group of pollinators to show up and get to work.

All for now.


Kayelan spent the morning today fishing bulbs out of clay pots, where they have been growing. These bulbs bloomed early in the spring and we enjoyed them on the porch for many weeks, but of course, now the bulbs are dormant. Later in summer or early fall we will plant them into the gardens here for more early spring blooming color next year.


With all the spring moisture we had, which was a wonderful gift from nature, we are now under siege by weeds! There are not only an abundance of them, but they are huge from all that rain. We’ve been pulling like crazy and Chris is using the wheel hoe in the aisles between the beds in our flower field. I wouldn’t say we are holding our own yet against the weeds, but it does seem like we are making a bit of progress.

Now the seeds crops are starting to come on and Chris and his field crew are beginning to have seeds to pick each day. Kayeland and Elisa will be picking Yellow Eye Grass and Pyrethrum Daisy starting tomorrow and that will be a daily task for some time. Between that and the weeding, there is more than enough to keep us still very busy.


Last weekend, we made a really fast trip to Sidney, Nebraska for our niece’s wedding. We drove there Saturday, enjoyed the wedding and visiting with family Saturday night and over breakfast on Sunday, and then back home we came to arrive back at the farm on Sunday afternoon to do chores.  Such is the life of farmers during the growing seasons of the year. Anyway, the wedding was beautiful and the trip was such a nice visit with everyone, that it was more than worth the hurrying up we had to do.

That’s all the news from here for now. It’s beginning to be harvesting season from the food gardens and the herb gardens. If you are interested in making your own herbal “stuff”, like tinctures, infused oils, etc., check out the page on this blog for herb information. You should be able to find plenty of ideas and instruction guidelines there to help you along your way.

With Green Thoughts,  Tammi


One evening this week, Chris, Shrek and I went to the Banks for a walk. This is a good place to have an evening walk near our farm, the rustic road leads down into a canyon and then through several meadows that are filled with wildflowers just now. There is a dry wash that runs along side of the road, that rarely ever has water in it, and if it does it is usually due to a flash flood type of event where the water comes on quickly and just as quickly it is over and gone. The picture above is what that dry wash looks like right now and it has been running water for the past couple of months. The water has washed the road out in several places, so walkers or horseback riders are the main way people can travel this road at the moment. A vehicle can’t pass through in places. It’s nice to see such abundant water where we live. This is the high mountain desert here and we are usually quite an arid climate. This time of the year is normally all about hot temperatures and very dry conditions. Not so this year.

If you have been following this blog, or you live near to us, you know that we have had a humdinger of a rainy spring season. The rain is still with us, although not to the same degree as during April and May. The morning I went for a walk at the Arkansas river, which is at flood stage and out of its banks in many places now. The river is deep and running very fast! It’s supposed to crest tonight sometime, but there is more rain in the forecast for tonight still. There is also a LOT of snow melt run-off right now.

Interestingly, we were supposed to get epic rains yesterday and today. Chris spent yesterday morning repairing downspouts and digging trenches to allow large amounts of rain water to be manageable. Our supply barn is still so muddy from past rains that you can ‘t walk in it without walking on wood planks. Otherwise you sink in the mud! So, he was going to be as well prepared for this next rain event as possible. We didn’t get a single drop!!! All around us people have reported that they got a lot of rain yesterday and last night, but us…no, we are completely dry here. So, the gardens needed watering, as did the new field transplants, so we have spent the day dragging around hoses and trying to get everything watered. Just goes to prove you can’t second-guess Mother Nature.


While we were on our walk at the Banks, this Penstemon had a pollinator visitor. I happened to have along my camera and got to snap the picture.


There’s been a lot of information in the media of late, well for some time now really, about bees and other types of pollinators and their importance to the cycles of life. It’s a really big deal and we should all be paying strict attention.

This video is amazing! It photographs the lives of several native pollinating bees, that unlike honeybees, live solitary lives. I hope you will watch this…it will not only help you understand the lives of these amazing creatures, the beauty of it, along with its important message is something we all need to know about.

The Solitary Bees on Vimeo

Here is a report that was released just on June 1st, 2015 that offers a lot of really important and good information on this subject of doing as much as we can to foster, not harm, pollinators and beneficial insect. It is filled with ways to handle insect problems in the least harmful methods and still get good results.


Native pollinators and honeybees are having a really tough time these days, and for many different reasons. You’ve read about this before on this blog (and other places too I’m sure), as it is a subject that is very important and dear to mine and Chris’ hearts, as well as to the survival of our farm. But, it’s a much bigger issue than how it affects Chris and I. The health and well-being of pollinators and beneficial insects, wild birds, water creatures, and so many other types of wildlife, is key to the survival, not to mention the quality of life, for human beings If these creatures don’t thrive and do well, then ultimately neither will we, as so many things in our lives is directly linked to theirs.

Pollinators of all types are struggling with habitat destruction, lack of good foraging for food, pesticide and other chemical exposure, disease and pest attacks, poor water quality…they have a lot of challenges to cope with. All of these challenges together equate to a great deal of stress, and pollinators are not much different from you or I in that if they are coping with a lot of stress in their lives, their ability to thrive will be compromised in a big way.

We as humans are directly responsible for many of the challenges that pollinators (and other wildlife) experience. It’s not enough to say that things that their challenges are not in our control. That is still yet to be determined for many of the factors affecting them.

That said, exposure to pesticides and other chemicals is something we absolutely can control, and it’s time to get really serious about this. It is not enough to say “we should plant more flowers for pollinators”. If the flowers we plant are poisoned because they’ve been treated with toxic chemicals, especially systemic pesticides like neonicotinoids,  than we can plant all the flowers we like and it’s not going to be helpful for the pollinators. It will be harmful to them and quite possibly it will be deadly for them! There are marketers and various industry groups that are doing a superb job of putting out the mis-leading message that all we have to do is “plant more flowers”.

Yes, planting lots of diverse blooming plants for pollinators will be a fantastic thing to do, but only if those plants are not tainted with toxic chemicals. Another thing that is upsetting is the promotions to support butterflies with plants that they use for food like milkweeds and echinaceas and others. That’s a really good idea too, but then in the next breath we tell people how to kill the caterpillars on our plants because they are causing damage as they forage for food on the leaves. Well, those same caterpillars will become butterflies and moths, which are also great pollinators by the way, and if we kill the caterpillars, then we won’t have butterflies or moths. I’m not sure if everyone realizes that caterpillars are part of the cycle of the life of a butterfly. That is what we need to share with people, along with the fact that those same caterpillars lives at that stage of their life is really pretty short…about 1.5 to 2 weeks long. The message we need to be sharing is to remind folks to be patient when they see the caterpillars eating their dill or parsley. Soon enough they will form cocoons and change into butterflies. The parsley and the dill, or whatever plants it is, will recover and continue growing. Poisoning the caterpillars won’t be helpful, it will be harmful. If you need to manage those caterpillars, then pick them off the plants and toss them to the birds or set up a bird bath in the area and let the birds forage the caterpillars. That is a better solution than a chemical solution.

We are talking about important pollinators and beneficial insects here. Maybe it’s time for us to re-evaluate our need to have everything absolutely perfect and beautiful in our gardens. The cycles of nature WORK if they can be fostered appropriately. Maybe it’s time for us to be good observers and participates of the bigger picture. If you need to manage a problem in your garden landscape, see if you can come up with a way to do that doesn’t require harmful chemicals like pesticides or herbicides.

If you do decide you must use a substance to help control a severe problem in your garden, then use an organic or OMRI product choice, which will be less toxic and won’t be systemic in the plants for long periods of time. These products still must be used precisely and carefully, not only for them to be effective, but also for them to be used safely not just around pollinators, but also around us and our pets, our water supplies, etc.

So, tonight as I was closing up the greenhouses I noticed that there are lots of bumblebees visiting the foxtail lily that started blooming this week. What an amazing gift to see these creatures moving around among the flowers.



The spring was even more crazy than usual this year, with rain, rain, rain! Last Friday I took my first walk along side the Arkansas river (usually something I do regularly) since February, as I’ve just been doing farm work and no time for early morning walks. This walk was a pleasure beyond the usual, because there was a family of geese also on a morning walk. There’s the two parents and three goslings.


Last weekend was the end of our annual spring Open Farm Days for 2015. Sunday evening we closed the Farm Stand to the public and began the process of putting leftover farm stand plant inventory back into wholesale inventory for the wholesale customers. The fairy garden above was one of two that we raffled off during Open Farm Days. The money earned from the sale of raffle tickets will be used to buy fresh produce for our local food bank. Thank you to everyone who bought a raffle ticket towards this good cause. Congratulations to Carol and Sean who each won a fairy garden.

It was a great Open Farm Days and Farm Stand season for us. We so enjoyed all the visitors to the farm, and we hope that everyone had a good time while they were on the farm.

Thank you to everyone who purchased plants in our Farm Stand plant sale. You are part of the reason Chris and I and the farm crew can earn a livelihood on this piece of land, and we so appreciate your support. We hope you will come again in Spring 2016 to visit the farm and shop for plants for your gardens.


On Memorial Day weekend there was a Hot Air Balloon Festival in Canon City down at the Abbey, which lies directly south of our farm about a mile away. Early on Saturday morning I was out watering the plants in the Farm Stand, when I looked up to see the hot air balloons sailing across the sky. It was really a treat for me to watch the balloons while I was accomplishing my chores.


This week has begun our fist week of the summer season and sunny weather for the first full week in over a month. In fact it went from wet, rainy and cool to sunny and hot this week (mid to high 80’s). The gardens are loving it! Look at this picture of our desert garden where the curved billed thrashers are nesting and the quail live along side of the rosy house finches.


My White Rabbit garden in the back of the house is equally stunning with poppies and iris and skullcap and fairy rose baby’s breath, just to name a few, all blooming and in their glory.


Shrek does think that the temperature is too hot for doing much except lounging around. I think he prefers cooler seasons of the year to the summer heat, but he’s being a good sport about it all the same.


Weeds are growing big and fast from the spring moisture and now the summer warmth. The ladies in the field crew (Morgan, Elisa and Kayelan) are working hard to get the flower seed crop field whipped into shape. Chris and the ladies have also been planting new field crops, so perhaps I’ll get some photos of those soon.

Lizz and I are in greenhouse re-organization and housekeeping mode. The smaller greenhouses are getting way too hot now, so we have been moving and consolidating all the flats of plants into the greenhouses that have fans and cooling pads to help manage the heat. There is weeding to be done in the greenhouses too, and lots of tidying up needing to be done after the spring season chaos.

So, that’s about whats been happening around here. I’m hoping to get my vegetables planted in the food garden sometime this week. I’m also officially back to my book writing project as of this week, so that will be taking a portion of each of my days now until the manuscript is finished and turned in. It’s fair to say that we have shifted, just as the seasons have shifted. Still really busy, but with subtle bits of sanity creeping back into daily life.

Happy Summer to you!


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