This coming weekend is the Kansas Mother Earth News Fair and I’ll be there as a presenter. The Fair is going to be fantastic. The speaker line-up is incredible! I’ve presented at Mother Earth News Fairs before and these are really great events. There will be vendors of every kind towards a sustainable and earth-friendly lifestyle. There will be demonstrations whether you are interested in livestock or spinning and everything in-between. And the food…well, come hungry, because my past experience has been that the food is really delicious and not the ordinary “fair type” of food. This is real food and tasty!
I’ll be sharing ideas about gardening in a wildlife friendly way to address both the positives and the challenges. I’ll also be sharing some of my favorite North American plants and many of the ways that people use them, including California Poppy, Mexican Cacao (Chocolate), Mesquite Trees, Cattails, and Milkweeds.
The Fair Bookstore will have all three of my current books available to buy…Homegrown Herbs, The Wildlife-Friendly Vegetable Gardener, and Cattail Moonshine & Milkweed Medicine. Cattail Moonshine is hot off the press and only just released 4 weeks ago. Of course, besides my books (which I hope you’ll take a look at) there will be hundreds of other books there. All the presenters books and every other possible earth-friendly sustainable living type of book you can imagine. I plan to do some serious book shopping while I’m there, as this is always a great opportunity to find interesting and unique titles to add to Chris and my library.
I’ll hope to see you there. Google Mother Earth News Fair for all the specifics.
More locally, I’m quite excited to be participating in the Holiday Open House for the Covered Treasures Bookstore on November 5, 2016. I’ll be there for a book-signing from 11am to 1pm. This is truly a lovely book shop and of course, if your like me, I’m always looking for some great books to gift away for the Winter Solstice and Christmas holiday. If you’re in the neighborhood on the 5th of November, I hope you’ll drop in to the Covered Treasures Bookstore and say hello.
We’re in the final weeks of the outdoor food garden harvest season. I’ve been picking a lot, including these Cuban Heirloom Cachucha Sweet Peppers and Cucamelons (also called Mexican Sour Gerkins).
My friends, Diana and Merrilee at Perennial Favorites, introduced me to the cucamelons this garden season and I planted the plant they gifted me with. Oh my goodness…this is one prolific vegetable! Below is a plate full of little 1-2″ long cucamelons I picked on Sunday and that was only one picking. Diana says these are really delicious pickled, but they never got the chance to be pickled around here. We ate them in salads, on sandwich wraps, and just as snacks. They are very fun. We hope to grow the plants of this vegetable to offer for sale in our Farm Stand store next spring.
Two years back, a friend of ours in the community gifted us with the Cuban heirloom pepper called Cachucha Sweet Pepper. Her mother in Florida grows these every year and Barbara grows some too here in Westcliffe as a patio plant in summer and then brings it indoors to grow it into the fall and winter seasons. She gave us some seed, which we grew into a small crop of these pepper plants last spring, and sold them in our Farm Stand store. They were a big hit, and I very nearly forgot to pull out a couple of plants for my own growing so that I could save some seed to plant them again next spring. Luckily I remembered and that plant has produced probably a hundred peppers at least. It’s still getting more peppers now that I brought it indoors with the cooler nighttime temps outside. These peppers look like scotch bonnet hot peppers, but they are sweet fry peppers and really delicious. They also dry very nicely for later use this winter.
Yesterday was my day to scrub the bird feeders for the fall season. I do this task once a season and it is a very big project since we have a LOT of bird feeders around here. It’s important, though, because if your bird feeders get too dirty, they can promote disease in birds that are eating from them. I scrub them in soapy water with scrub brushes and then rinse them in clear water that has 2% non-clorine bleach added to it. Once they are dry, I fill them with fresh bird seed and put them back in place around the farm. The birds are enjoying a meal from freshly scrubbed feeders.
Oh, and don’t forget to scrub your bird-baths once a week with soapy water. Rinse them very well before filling them with fresh water for the birds and other wildlife to use as a drinking and bathing source. It’s really important to scrub birdbaths weekly, because if you have watched the birds at your birdbath, you will know that they bathe in these, drink from them and poop in them. Unwashed birdbaths are a recipe for sick birds and other wildlife.
Speaking of other wildlife, we’ve have a family of raccoons hanging around (well, raccoons are always around the farm) with three youngsters. The other night those young coons were playing in the Manchurian apricot tree and making all kinds of racket. I stepped out on the back porch and they froze with fright in the tree. That was my good fortune, as I was able to take a few photos of them. Sadly, though, one of the youngsters was hit by a car in front of the farm this morning. It’s not easy to be any kind of baby in this world. There is so much to learn, things to be wary of. Life for wildlife is tricky when you exist in a world with humans and other kinds of critters.
I know that some of you will say one less raccoon is a lot less trouble, but they are just doing what they need to in order to survive in the world. We co-exist in a friendly way here on our farm with raccoons, and lots of other types of wildlife, because this world belongs to them too. We use wildlife friendly methods to keep raccoons, and other challenging wildlife, from causing too much trouble here by using motion sensor water spray contraptions, scarecrows, yellow caution tape, and other methods. If we have a big problem we can put out Plantskydd, a deodorized blood meal product that they can smell, but we can’t. It is OMRI registered, which means it works for organic growers, and it lasts for 6 months even with rain or snow. It is pricey, but if there is a big challenge with wildlife eating our produce or seed crops, and we can’t solve the problem in a different peaceful way, we fall to the Plantskydd. It works well for us when we need it.
As I said earlier, this is the time to get everything left in the garden harvested before we get a hard frost in November. I harvested my potatoes a few days ago. I had grown them in 50 gallon tree baskets, which makes the harvesting pretty easy. I just dump the pots out in an area that needs some extra garden soil, and then forage through the soil to find all the potatoes.
Once harvested, the potatoes are laid out in a shallow layer on cardboard or drying screens and allowed to cure for a week or so in a place out of direct sunlight and with good air ventilation. Then they are ready to store until I use them up through the winter. Store your potatoes in a cool dry place and they will keep quite a while before sprouting. If your concerned that they will sprout before you can use them up, I’ve had great luck chopping them up into chunks about an inch in size more or less, and then boiling them in broth until they are nearly done. I leave the potato peels on, but scrub them before cooking to remove any bits of lingering dirt. After the potatoes are cooked and cooled, I put them into freezer containers and freeze them. They make for delicious soup, potato salad, skillet dinners and such. I’m told you can cook them and then dehydrate them, but I’ve never tried this myself. Might be a good way to store them if you have limited freezer space and more potatoes than you can eat fresh before they sprout towards the late winter or early spring season.
Last week, Chris and I took off for an overnight camping trip in northern New Mexico to celebrate our 22 wedding anniversary. It’s not a very easy time of the year to get away from the farm for more than an afternoon, but we left Lizz in charge of the cats and the farm and we left. Lizz did a great job of watching after things here, as she always does, and we had a wonderful time.
We drove to Espanola to eat our favorite tacos and then camped out in our handy-dandy camper, which actually finally has a working heater after 2 years of trying to get it to work properly…yay! On Thursday, we got an early start and went hiking on the Manzanita Canyon trail north of Taos. We were looking at interesting plants and enjoying a great day on the trail with our dog Shrek. Then back home we went Thursday night happy and smiling.
It’s impossible for us to be away for more time yet, as the seed crops are still ripening and needing to be picked. The greenhouses always have plants and tasks needing to be tended too, but this little break from farm and work was much-needed and enjoyed.
With Green Thoughts, Tammi