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2015 farm stand prep 007

This is the time of the year when everything at Desert Canyon Farm is all in a dither! There is more to do, of course, then there are hours in each day, so we work along as fast and as hard as we can to accomplish all that needs to be done. Right now we are scrambling around to get all the final preparation done to open tomorrow for our annual spring Open Farm Days and Farm Stand Plant Sale. You can find all the specifics about open dates, hours, directions to the farm, free workshops schedule, and so forth on the pages of this blog called Open Farm Days and Classes & Events. You can also find database pages for all the plants we grow here on the farm on the Heritage Heirloom Food Plants and Herb Plant information pages of the blog.

So, let me take you on a quick virtual walk-about of what we have been doing this week to get ready for your visit to the farm…

The picnic table sits in the White Rabbit Garden at the back of our house. It has been washed and is waiting for visitors to bring their own picnics and enjoy a bit of birdsong around them as they eat their lunch. Seriously, you are all invited to stroll the gardens, the flower seed crop production field, the heirloom orchards while you are visiting. The production greenhouses will be closed to the public, but there is plenty of other areas of the farm to stroll and enjoy.

There are zillions of wild birds all around for those of you who would like to do a bit of birding while you are here. The curved billed thrashers are nesting in the desert garden, the red wing black birds are nesting around the ponds in the cattails. Two days ago the yellow headed black birds arrived and have been hanging out. The quail are scurrying about and endless other wild birds too.

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Our friend Dwayne has been a life-saver in our preps this week. He’s been here twice to help. He and Chris assembled and put up the tents for our free workshops two days ago. Then he was back yesterday to do all manner of odds and ends from pumping up wagon tires so that Farm Stand plant shoppers have wagons to fill with their plant purchases, to planting a Persian Mulberry tree next to the Farm Stand entrance sign. He was hauling chairs out, putting signs up…on and on it goes. Thank you Dwayne for all your help!

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The farm crew has been super busy too. Elisa and Morgan, Carol and Lizz have been cleaning and labeling plants in the Farm Stand. Morgan is wearing gloves as she labels the Nettles flat of plants. So for all you herbalist and permaculture gardeners…yes, we have nettles and comfrey plants available in the Farm Stand, along with nearly 500 other varieties of plants.

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Carol finished cleaning up all the outside nursery plants yesterday. They are a bit weary from being in the snow storm last weekend, but those plants are very hardy and they are quickly bouncing back and looking perky again. Here is Carol working on the poppy section in the Farm Stand.

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M’lissa (our daughter) and Luke (her partner) have spent hours and hours on preparations. M’lissa made color picture signs for all the flats of plants we have for sale, so visitors shopping can see what the plants will look like, learn a bit about their growing needs and also how to use them, whether that is an herbal use, a cooking use, a wildlife-friendly use, or a fairy garden use…to name only a few of the ways our plants are grown by gardeners. She and Luke placed most of those signs yesterday and today I will be finishing that very big task. M’lissa helps me so much, not just at Open Farm Days, but all through the year with office tasks and updating the website databases, etc. The list is endless of ways she offers help to us here. Now Luke has arrived in her life and in ours and he has been wonderful too at offering extra support and help. Loving thank you to them both.

Chris has been hanging up posters that Lizz spent many hours this winter creating to tell you about the uses of the heritage and heirloom vegetables, edible flowers, and how to plant container gardens complete with suggestions of great plants to put together for this purpose.

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It’s really hard, nearly impossible actually, for us to get any time to work in the gardens in spring, as our time is needed planting and processing orders for wholesale customers, and getting plants ready for Open Farm Days for retail visitors. That said, Morgan, Elisa and Carol managed to get an hour in this week to do a tiny bit of garden tidying up. It’s hardly a drop in the bucket of what needs to be done in the gardens, and we trust visitors to understand that on a working farm things happen in the order of priority that is most urgent to those tasks that can wait until more time allows. Gardening is one of those tasks that must wait until more time allows. That said, there are many things starting to bloom in the gardens and flower buds getting fat and ready to open soon. The gardens are wonderful even when they haven’t been tended to very much yet.

Lizz, as always, is the quiet and steadying person here. She keeps things moving along as smoothly as they can go. When wholesale orders come in, I pull them and send them into her care, where she makes sure that every plant is dressed and labeled and ready to go to it’s new home at one of our independent garden center customers. She keeps the planting tasks on track while I’m scrambling around trying to figure out how to create more space for newly transplanted flats to go in the greenhouses. She is the farm’s beekeeper on top of all the other things she does here. In fact, today she is planning to split one of our hives that has gotten too large and is preparing to swarm. Lizz will spilt the colony to start a new colony of bees. She is amazing and Chris and I would be lost without her help and love.

Well, I’m noticing that it is time to get to work for the day, so I’ll close for now. If you live close enough to visit the farm during our Open Farm Days and Farm Stand plant sale, we will hope to see you here. If you are a reader of this blog that lives too far to visit, we’re sorry we won’t see you here, but we wish to tell you we greatly appreciate your interest in the happenings here and hope that you will find useful bits of information on this website.

With Green Thoughts, Tammi

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There is a lot happening, always, around this farm during the spring season, and this week was right up there with lots going on. Spring has full-on arrived here, with blooming flowers like this Erigeron that is a seed crop of ours. The wire cage over top protects the flowers from nibbling deer lips!

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Chris has continued with his field prep work and the seed crop field is really starting to get whipped into shape. This is the Mongolian Bells Clematis crop that is really coming up now. Chris mowed and trimmed back all the grasses and other taller perennials that needed tidied up. If all goes well, he plans to begin planting the new seed crops this next week.

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Last winter was really difficult for many perennial plants, especially the woody ones. Our fruit trees are struggling to regroup after a harsh winter with very cold temperatures, but one especially difficult cold spell where temps dropped about 30 degrees in little more than an hour’s time. That took a lot of plants and animals by surprise and we are seeing now the damage that was done. This is one of our peach trees, which we thought might actually have died, but it is starting to leaf out. Most of the buds winter-killed, but I’m seeing just a very few blooms. Maybe we’ll have enough peaches and other fruits for some fresh eating, but I’m doubtful now that we will get a really good crop of them that will allow me to preserve fruit for the winter pantry. Maybe…but it’s not looking too promising. In fact, plums are really tough and usually do well, even when other fruit trees have challenges. One of our Italian plum trees isn’t showing any signs of life at this point, although I’m not giving up on it yet. The apricot looked the same way a few days ago and now there are just a small few leaves coming out on the apricot, so maybe there is still hope that these trees will have survived and will re-group. I hope so. I so love my fruit trees!

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One very big surprise I discovered this evening is that the hardy kiwi vine has come through this difficult winter, although the tops seem to have died back, there are tiny bright green shoots showing up at the root crown. I’m thrilled about this, as I didn’t think it would have made it through our minus teens temps on several occasions this past winter. So, this being the case, we have 5 of these plants that we will be selling in the Farm Stand this spring and I can now testify with confidence that they will survive our Colorado winters. The next test question is whether or not we will have what it takes for them to bear fruit here. They are supposed to fruit here, but one never knows until you see it with your own eyes.

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We also donated these tomatoes to our local elementary schools for the young ones to do their experiment to see how plants will react to too much water, not enough water, and just the right amount of water. Tomatoes are very reactive to watering changes, so I have no doubt that the kids will see immediately the results of their watering practices with these plants.

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Chris and our friend James went last weekend to Tooley’s Trees to pick up our bare root heirloom fruit trees. On Sunday, Chris and Shrek potted those trees up and now we will hold them for 1 year to give them time to root in well before we offer them for sale to our Farm Stand customers. It is also true, that in order to label these trees with an organic tag, our organic certification license requires us to hold them on the farm for 1 year before labeling them as organic. So this batch of trees will be for sale in spring 2016.

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Last year we did the same thing with a batch of bare root heirloom fruit trees so that we could have some to sell this spring at our Farm Stand during Open Farm Days. They look great and you can see them here. There are apples, plums, peaches, nectarines and apricots…all heirloom varieties. These have been grown here at Desert Canyon Farm for the past year organically, so they now qualify for organic labeling.

The other thing you can see in this photo is a portion of our Farm Stand expansion area. We are offering more plant varieties this year for sale, and we can’t fit everything inside our current Farm Stand space anymore, so Chris made us an outside area to put out some of the fruit bushes and trees, the hardy succulents, strawberries, and lots of other great plants that won’t fit indoors.

This is all part of our plans to expand into more retail sales, and this year is the first year to implement that plan. Help us out, if you will, by coming in mass to our Open Farm Days and shopping in our Farm Stand plant sale. We’re going to need your help to make this transition successful. If it works, you can plan that each year we will be offering even more fantastic plants and different types of plants as your specialty certified organic farm nursery. If you read the page of this blog about our Open Farm Days you can find out a lot more information on what we will have and our open days and hours, etc. You can also go to the pages of this blog for “Herb Plant Information” and “Heritage Heirloom Food Plant Information” where you will find lists of the plants we are growing, and which we hope to have available for sale this spring.

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Lastly, the fairy community has returned to the farm’s Fairy Garden. I noticed that their homes and all their belongings were back in the garden this evening when I was doing my end of day farm chores to close up greenhouses and reset the thermometers for the night-time low temps. It is our belief that the fairies go to Mexico for the winter cold months, because in late fall all their homes and personal items disappear from the garden in preparation for the winter cold. There just can’t be any other explanation! Anyway, when the weather warms up and the flowers start blooming, the fairy community returns to the garden. I know our little neighbor girl, Arianna, will be pleased to see that they are back the next time she visits the farm to play with Shrek. She can often be found exploring the fairy garden. It is quite a magical place!

With that thought, I’ll leave you to your night’s rest. It’s only two short weeks until we open the farm to the public for Open Farms Days. There is so much work to do in preparation that it makes my head swim, but somehow we always seem to get enough done to feel good about welcoming visitors to our homeplace. If you live near enough to visit on one of our Open Farm Days dates, we will hope to see you here!

This week the garden has come alive with the flowers of blooming bulbs like this sweet little one that is in the Fairy Garden. There are many different blooms from dwarf iris to daffodils and lots of others. Very cheerful!

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All the seeds for new field seed crops are finally planted. Ideally, I would have gotten them planted in winter near the holidays, or even in late fall, but life gets in the way sometimes and things must happen at their own pace. In any case, the seeds are planted now and very soon the little plugs will be ready for Chris to transplant into the flower seed crop production field. There are other plants ready for him to plant that we held over from last summer and these will be planted in the field very soon, as they are all ready.

Any flat with an orange tag is a field crop flat.

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So, with all that in mind, Chris has been hard at work getting the field ready for those new plantings. Old crops that are no longer needed for production are being removed, like this planting of Penstemon pinifolius ‘Mersea Yellow’. The weed barrier must be removed, the plants dug out, manure will be added to this part of the field to nourish the soil before the next perennial seed crop is planted in April or May. It’s a lot of very hard work! Of course, you can see from Chris’ expression that he is taking it in good humor, and Shrek has been keeping him company through every step of the process. He thinks that is his job, and he’s right.

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Some of the plants that Chris has removed from the seed field have been recycled into our gardens around our house like this sporabilis grass. This is a tall beautiful grass that will be a nice complement to our new house stucco repair, plus the birds will enjoy the seed heads in late summer.

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My life right now is all about greenhouse work and getting the Farm Stand ready to open for our Open Farm Days coming at the end of April. The ladies who work with me in the greenhouse, Lizz, Carol, Elisa and Morgan, have all been equally busy. Our days are very full and we end them feeling exhausted, but knowing that we have gotten a lot of good work accomplished.

So, with that, I’ll say goodnight until next week when I’ll be back with more news.

 

christmas 2013 008 We are noticing lots of wild bird activity around the farm these days. Today we noticed the first meadowlark sitting on top of the fence near the goldfish pond. The redwing blackbirds and the long tail crackle are nesting in both ponds. When I got ready to close up the greenhouses tonight, I had to shoo the curved billed thrashers out of the greenhouses that have open doors for ventilation in order to close the doors for the night. They have been going in there to forage for insects underneath the benches. They are building a nest in the cholla cactus in the driveway desert garden. The goldfinches and house finches are getting more and more colorful now and eating a lot of thistle seed, which they always do this time of the year. There are flickers hunting ants near the door of the woodstove greenhouse where the carpenter ants live.  All the birds are singing spring songs now and we are enjoying that the farm is filled to the eardrums with bird song! Aside from that we are keeping busy with farm work. The past three days wholesale orders have been rolling in, so we’ve been getting them ready for delivery this week. I planted 76 flats of seeds over the weekend and still have our field seed crops seeds to sow this week. Those plants will be planted into our production field garden later in the spring when they are big enough. Chris spent the weekend doing all manner of different farm projects. He leveled out the expansion area of our Farm Stand so that we can put some gravel down and then set up benches for plants that will be for sale. He built most of two new garden areas for me to plant near the back porch. He and Shrek fixed all sorts of things that always seem to need fixing around here like cart tires and such. Anyway, needless to say we have been super busy and that isn’t likely to change any time soon. So, I’ll leave it at that for the moment, and keep this post short and sweet. The spring equinox arrived on Friday past, so now it is official, although we’ve known it was spring for some weeks now! With Green Thoughts, Tammi 012 The poppies are growing like crazy in the garden and soon they will look like this photo from last year. Before we know it they will be blooming.

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This week bulbs started blooming both in the garden and in pots, so I moved the pots outdoors onto our back porch to greet visitors when they visit the farm.  I love the colors or these bulbs and the fragrance is amazing too.

In the garden the sweet violets are blooming in earnest and they are also lovely and aromatic. There are dwarf iris blooming in the fairy garden and crocus are showing their cheerful colors throughout the White Rabbit Garden.

Spring has been here in the greenhouses for months now, but now she has arrived outdoors too.

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We moved plants into the last of our eight greenhouses this week and all the greenhouses are very nearly full to bursting. This week we begin to plant the peppers, tomatoes, and of course more herbs and vegetables, not to mention lots of natives and succulents. Wow!

So, here is a sampling of what is growing in the greenhouses. Above are the Kava Kava plants that were so small the last time I showed them to you. Now they have grown enough that I had to space them out more.

Below are the newly transplanted Gaillardia pinnatifida, which is a native wild flower that grows around here. It is a little yellow Gaillardia and a great plant to attract pollinators and beneficial insects into your garden. We are going to have many native plants in our Farm Stand this spring that will accomplish this in your garden.

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Then there is the Lemon Grass, which Carol transplanted last Monday. Lemon Grass is a wonderful culinary and tea herb. It grows nicely indoors or on the patio, but isn’t cold hardy in Colorado. I love the way it smells and tastes. It’s also quite good for making an herbal insect repellent to ward off mosquito bites.

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We have a good crop of Nopalito edible cacti happening. If you search out past posts on my blog you will be able to learn how to prepare these cactus pads for eating, and they are really delicious!

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New this year for those who want to grow medicinal herbs and have shady areas in their garden, consider growing some Coltsfoot. I usually don’t have great luck getting this to germinate, but this year luck was with me and we will have a small amount of these plants for sale. Coltsfoot makes a great soothing herbal cough syrup.

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I love succulents, both the hardy ones that I can grow in my garden, and the tender perennial ones that are best grown as container plants indoors or on the patio. Lizz planted a nice collection of succulent container gardens and they look wonderful as they are starting to fill out. We will also have these plants available in individual pots so that you can design and plant your own container garden if you prefer.

Outdoors, I’ve built a small garden at the back of our Farm Stand, which I hope to plant with hardy succulents and perennials, especially some native perennials. It’s gotten so busy with work that I’m fearful that I won’t have time to get this garden planted before we open in late April, but I’m pretty determined to make it happen somehow. That little garden will also double as a stock garden for propagation materials, as most of these types of plants we propagate vegetatively.

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Last week, wholesale orders started going out in earnest too, as our garden center customers are preparing to fill their stores with plants for gardeners to choose from. It’s always nice to see plants dressed in their labels and lined up ready to go on delivery to a new home at a garden center or nursery. Indeed, it’s how we earn our livelihood, and now is the time of the year that must happen, so we are very pleased to have orders going out now. Plus, we need room in our greenhouses to plant more! There are thousands and thousands of baby plant plugs ready now to be transplanted into larger pots, and I’m not exaggerating even a little bit, so space is always on my mind. I’m so glad that orders are coming in, and plants are on their way to customers as Chris delivers them each week.

The plants below were delivered to Paulino Gardens, McCord Garden Center, and Echters this past week. This week there are already orders and that makes us very happy, so thank you to our wholesale customers!

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Lastly, I’ll leave you with a sweet picture of our little bitty Sadie kitty, who is the newest member of our family. She was a wild cat that we adopted into our home just this past January, and she is oh so shy, but she is slowly warming up to life as a member of the household.

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All for now.

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This past week was spent at the Spencer’s Garden Show event. We had a booth there with our herbs and heirloom vegetables. They hold this event each year as a way to kick off the gardening season. This year we had lovely weather that always inspires all of us to garden. It was a very successful show!

Other very exciting news is that we have been listed on the Friends of Earth International’s website as a farm that is free of neonicotinoid and other systemic pesticides that harm not only pollinators and other beneficial insects, but also leave their poisonous residues in the soil, contaminate any water that moves through that soil, and also affect other creatures from earthworms to song birds. You can check out their website at this link   Friends of Earth . We are honored to be listed there, along with a number of other plant businesses.

I’m off to work in the greenhouses. The crew arrives in 10 minutes, so I’ll keep this short for today and plan to write another post later this week when time allows.

Oh, one last thing…if you are a Canon City area person, I will be writing a weekly article for the Daily Record and it will come out in the paper on Wednesdays. This week’s article is about growing greens indoors on your countertop or planting them now outdoors in your garden.

Talk to you soon!

 

 

 

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Ok, I’ve had enough snow for one winter! The snow brings good moisture, for which I am in deep gratitude, but it makes getting work done miserable and difficult. What I’m really over, though, are the freezing cold temperatures! It’s snowing again tonight, and we are expecting more snow through Wednesday. I know for many folks this would be a normal winter season, but for us in Canon City, there is nothing normal about this, and it is quite unusual for us to get this much snow, not to mention this much in a month’s time. So, great moisture, but how I’m longing for warm temps, colorful gardens, and less mud on my kitchen floor.

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Yesterday I spent part of the day transplanting baby Indian Paintbrush plants into 4″ pots. These will be for sale in our Farm Stand this spring if all goes well. In addition, I planted up enough seedlings for two plug flats of them that Chris can use to add to our Indian Paintbrush seed crop project in the desert garden. Isn’t this plant just gorgeous! And we are fortunate to have it as one of our native plants in Colorado. We are expanding our native plants and wildlife/pollinator plants offerings in the Farm Stand, so we hope to have a lot of these types of plants for sale.

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I’ve been planting loads of different kinds of salad boxes. These are always a big hit with our customers, and of course, I plant plenty so that Chris and I have fresh salad greens for our own meals too.

 

 

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A week ago our friend, James, came by and helped plant the hollyhock seeds for the various kinds of hollyhocks we offer. This yellow hollyhock is one of the few perennial hollyhocks, and a favorite of mine. This  plant is at the entrance to my White Rabbit Garden. Every year it makes a wonderful greeting for visitors. Last year, however, it outdid itself in terms of size and number of blooms! With all the moisture we have been getting, I’m thinking this summer this hollyhock should get off to a great start, and perhaps it will bloom just as much as it did last year.

Well, tomorrow we are supposed to break 40 degrees for the high. That’s the warmest it has been in a few weeks. Good thing too, because we have carts and carts full of plant flats that need to be moved into the next greenhouse, so that we will have some room to plant up more things. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the weather warms up as they predict it will, but I know they are also predicting more snow stating tomorrow night through Wednesday. I guess to be safe I should stock up the firewood now on the back porch so that we will be warm and cozy no matter what happens with tomorrow’s temperatures.

Cheers!

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