Last Friday we hosted nearly 75 fifth graders from Harrison school, who came to see what a working organic farm is all about. We talked about greenhouses, seeds, all kinds of systems that help our farm function, like the solar system, the windmill that powers our pond bubblers so the fish can be healthy, irrigation and planting…all sorts of interesting stuff.

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Here they are preparing to clean hollyhock and onion seeds from the seed pods, so that they can plant the seeds to take back to their classroom.

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If all those seeds grow that these kids planted there are going to be a lot more hollyhock and onion plants out there in the gardens of Canon City!

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As they were preparing to leave for the walk back to school, I passed out garlic chive plants for them to take home and grow as a windowsill herb. They’ll be able to use those garlic chives in their cooking this winter.

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The week before the fifth graders came to visit, Chris, Shrek and I hiked up to Meagan Lakes. Since its fall the lake, which is pretty large actually, is very shallow as it is a long time since there has been much moisture happening in the form of rain, and no snow yet for this alpine lake. The entire lake was only about 6-10″ deep no matter where you checked. A lot of trout fish could be seen darting around the rocks in the water.

So, Chris and Shrek decided to do some rock hopping to get out into the middle of the lake to eat their lunch. Only Shrek discovered the trout swimming about, and honestly, I don’t think he’s ever paid attention to fish before, but this time he certainly did.

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He pounced and raced and darted and dashed all over that lake chasing trout…of course, to no avail. Those fish were much more savvy and quick than our dog, so there was no risk that he would catch any. He did have a really good time for more than an hour. Then it was time to hike back to the truck, which we did.

The next day Shrek was limping and we couldn’t see anything wrong, but clearly his foot was bothering him. So, off to Dr. Jeremy we went for a looksie. Jeremy concluded that Shrek had sprained his toe being the trout dog. I guess the fish will have the last laugh about that, aye. Shrek is back to normal now, so soon we’ll be off on another hiking adventure I’m sure.

This week is being spent doing some editing work for my upcoming book with my editor at Storey Publishing. I’ve spent the entire day today working on the sections about Cattails, Blueberries, Cottonwoods, Alder, Amaranth and other plants. For the next few weeks this will be how I spend a great deal of my time…that and trying to get the seed orders for next spring done. If you don’t hear from me for a little while, you’ll know that’s what I’m up to and I’ll be back writing the blog as soon as possible.

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Here is a carn ( a pile of rocks placed carefully on the hiking trail to act as a marker so you won’t lose sight of which way to follow the trail) to guide you on your journey this week.  I think it may be the biggest carn I’ve ever seen!

It’s officially autumn now with the autumn equinox this week. We’ve finally gotten temperatures in the 80’s instead of the 90’s, but it still feels very warm for end of September. It’s also really, really dry. We had a 1/2″ of rain this week, which was our first rain for many, many weeks and so needed, but not nearly enough. Still, we are in gratitude for all moisture that finds its way to our farm land.

With autumn comes the final days of vegetable harvesting. I’m still picking raspberries every other day, and the heirloom tomatoes are continuing to produce well, but the cucumbers and summer squash have slowed to almost nothing to pick. The same is true for peppers. I will have a lot of volunteer squash and gourds this year that came up on their own in our recycle soil pile. They’re not quite ready to harvest, but it won’t be much longer.

In the greenhouse I’m picking salad lettuce, red robin tomatoes, strawberries and carrots, all of which are being grown in fiber box containers this year to facilitate an ongoing harvest of food throughout the winter months. I could have left the strawberry boxes outdoors, but there was room on one of the benches in the Plant Barn, so I brought them in early.

kakai pumpkins

These are Kakai hulless pumpkins, which I grew for the first time in my garden this summer. They are a small pumpkin, appropriate for containers if your container is decent sized (at least 20″ diameter).  The seeds do not have hulls on them, so when I cook up these pumpkins I will simply wash the seeds and then roast them in a cast iron skillet with just a touch of butter and coarse sea salt. They’re going to make a most delicious snack!

heirloom tomatoes

This summer I grew several different kinds of heirloom tomatoes in my food garden, as I always do, but this year I mostly just planted my favorites. You can see them here.

The pillowed red and orange striped large tomatoes are Striped Cavern. They are semi hollow inside and perfect as a stuffing tomato for chicken salad and such.

In the very front of the brown bowl is a pinkish red tomato, which is German Pink Heirloom. I always grow these every year, as they are probably my most favorite of all the large tomatoes I’ve grown through the years. These get huge and early. I usually start harvesting them around the end of July, which is pretty early for big sized tomato fruits.

The medium-sized red and orange striped tomatoes are Tigerellas, another favorite I grow each year. These have wonderful flavor and are the perfect size to chop into salsa, add to salads, top pizza with, and so forth. The plants are heavy producers and I always have loads of harvest to put in the dehydrator so that I can have these to use all winter as dried tomatoes.

Finally, the cherry tomatoes that are deep purple are called Black Cherry tomato. They are sweet as anything and pretty large as cherry tomatoes go. We used to say that sungolds and white cherry was our favorites, and those are really yummy, but this one has become our most favorite cherry tomato right now. The plants get huge and wily, so you have to plan to give them a good amount of space in the garden, but your reward for that is bowls and bowls of black cherry tomatoes, and I’m talking large bowls!

Wilson's Warbler best

As summer comes to a close and vegetable plants are beginning to get tired and worn out from producing so much harvest, the aphids always tend to arrive in mass. I don’t worry much about them, because by this time of the season they really aren’t going to cause very much harm and the plants are nearly done producing anyway. I leave the birds to do our IPM work (Integrated Pest Management) in the outside gardens. These little Wilson Warblers were thrilled with the job at hand and were foraging aphids on the black cherry tomato plant. These sweet little yellowish-green birds were so intent on eating aphids that I was working around them as I was picking the tomatoes off the plant. They were so busy eating bugs that they didn’t give me a moment’s consideration of whether or not to worry about my being there.

One of the reasons we encourage wild birds to live and visit this farm is for this very reason. They are a lot of fun to watch, it’s true, but in addition to that they eat a boat-load of bugs. Because of this we rarely have to intervene and treat for insect pests ourselves. Rather we just let the birds and toads and beneficial insects do what comes naturally. They eat the pests and our plants and ourselves are quite happy with the result of that.

We received our shipment of clay pots yesterday, so one more thing gets ticked off the list of tasks and supplies to be done in preparation for the spring busy season. Lizz got all the iceplants and other succulent stock plants potted up, which was quite a big task done. We pruned away at shrubs that have been overgrown and ignored for as long as possible, so that was nice to have done too.

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I’ll leave you with this view of dry lake in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. We ate our lunch there last Sunday afternoon after a brutally steep hike up the trail to the lake. It was worth the view though, and we had the place to ourselves (probably because the trail is so steep, no one else wanted to hike it Sunday:)). It was quiet, colorful, warm and beautiful.



Who are the people who you really respect for all sorts of reasons…all important?

01-jane-portrait-714  Jane Goodall

jimmy carter

Jimmy Carter

Of late I’ve been contemplating all the people I most admire. Two of these people, Gary Paul Nabhan and Juliette de Barclai Levy, are people I’ve known personally. The rest are incredible people who have walked or currently walk the earth, and because of them the earth is a better place.

juliette  Juliette de Barclai Levy

Gary-Nabhan-150x150   Gary Paul Nabhan

I know you will recognize most of these wonderful people, but there may be some who are not familiar to you. I pay homage to each and every one them and give them my deepest gratitude for what they have given to my life. Most of them will never know how I feel about them. Indeed several are no longer living, but they will always hold a special place of honor and respect from me.

tasha tutor  Tasha Tudor

I wonder who you would put on your list of heroes and heroines if you could choose 8 to 10 people who have contributed to the person you have become in this life, or who you so deeply respect for the work they do or the kind of person they are.

EleanorRoosevelt_640x400 Eleanor Roosevelt

bill moyers  Bill Moyers

I don’t think it matters if they share all your beliefs, your values, your faith or spirituality, your politics, your work or passions…but if they have somehow gifted you, and the way you live your life in some positive way…if they have gifted society or this planet in some wonderful or important way, then that is what counts. That is what should be honored I think.


Pope Francis


The Dali Lama

It’s worth thinking about. It is appropriate to honor them in some fashion, even if it is only to name them to yourself. Maybe you will decide to make a list of the people who are your heroes and heroines, publicly or privately,  as I have done here on this post. It matters little how you honor them. What matters is that you do!

Edward_Abbey  Edward Abby

With Green Thoughts, Tammi

Once again, the week has been quite busy and full. This past Saturday a group of farmers from Alamosa, CO came to visit our farm and talk about interesting vegetables and herbs we all enjoy growing.

We had planned to have lunch together in town before they visited Desert Canyon Farm, but rarely do things turn out quite the way you plan, and when I went to meet them in town for lunch the cafe we were going to eat at was closed for the holiday weekend. We came up with plan B, which I think was more fun anyway, and we all brought things to contribute to the lunch that we had on hand and we fixed a wonderful meal at our farm. We dined on garden fresh apples, peaches, tomatoes and cucumbers, with Alamosa local meat and crackers, with a dessert of fresh picked strawberries. The company was wonderful…the conversation inspiring, and the food delicious. You just can’t get much better than that.

We had a farm walk-about, talking about plants we all enjoy and feel are important to grow. They went home with a few plants to grow in Alamosa. What a great day!

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This past week Lizz lifted up iris’ that needed divided. She potted up several pots of each color for our Farm Stand plant sale next spring, and planted back a few of each color into the gardens. She got two sections of the gardens finished and still has the iris in the White Rabbit Garden to do when she returns from a much earned vacation holiday.

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Chris went to visit his family in Nebraska for the holiday weekend, so I’ve been in charge of doing his farm chores along with my own while he was gone. I’ve been picking seed, irrigating the field, and pollinating hibiscus flowers each day. Yesterday, I took a few minutes to take some pictures of a few new seed crops we have growing this year. With a bit of luck we will have some of these plants available in our Farm Stand next spring too. I thought you might enjoy seeing them.

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This is Siberian Motherwort {Leonurus sibiricus syn. L. japonicus}. This is used medicinally to regulate menstrual cycles and support good heart health. It grows in full sun to part shade, isn’t fussy about the soil and requires moderate watering. If you are a bee keeper or are growing a pollinator garden, native and honeybees love this plant!

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Chocolate Flower {Berlanderia lyrata} isn’t really a new plant for us, but it is a newly planted crop this summer. We have grown this as a seed crop for many years in the past, and we always have this southwestern native plant growing in our gardens, but it has been a couple of years since we’ve grown it for a seed crop. It loves growing in full sun, low to moderate watering, and tolerates clay and many other types of soils. The bees love this one too. It is a fragrance herb. Each morning there is a fresh new batch of flowers blooming and they smell like freshly baked hot chocolate chip cookies! Imagine that…chocolate with no calories! By afternoon the fragrance is fading away, as the flowers begin the process of forming seed, which they do in a course of 3-4 days time. The next morning it is hot chocolate chip cookies smell all over again.

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Winter Savory is a great culinary herb that many folks are not familiar with using in their cooking, but should be. This is a dwarf compact variety called Winter Blue Savory{Satureja montana ssp. illyrica}. It is very hardy to our climate here, not minding cold winters, and tolerating hot sunny dry summers. It likes low to moderate watering and prefers full sun, but does fine in part shade too. All kinds of bees (bumblebees, honeybees, native bees) love the flowers, so it is another good plant for pollinator friendly gardens.

As a culinary herb use the leaves and/or the flowers with beef and lamb, cous cous and rice, and in soups. The flowers are edible, so they make great color garnish to savory vegetable dishes, but also good in herb butter for bread or corn on the cob.

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This is Bulbine {Bulbine frutescens}, and it is not only a new plant for us to grow here at Desert Canyon Farm, but it is a new herb for me to become acquainted with. I believe this will grow as an annual here, but time will tell. It is semi-succulent and the stems hold a gel inside similar to what you might find inside an aloe plant, although they are not at all related to each other. Georg, the owner of Jelitto Perennial Seed Company, and who determines what seed crops we should grow each year says this one is good for the skin. To quote him…”It will make your skin soft as a baby’s bottom.”. So, I’m learning about it and it’s quite intriguing to me. It seems easy to grow and not fussy. It is growing in full hot sun in our field with moderate watering and doing great. It has been blooming all summer, showing no signs of slowing down, but I expect that it will not like frosty nights very much. The flowers are delightful. It is a beast to pick the seed, which must be harvested as they ripen each day. It seems to do nicely in a pot also, so I think it could be a great windowsill herb for winter growing.

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Lately, we have had some fawn action happening around here pretty regularly. This mother doe and her twins is here nearly every day, and they really are wonderful to watch. The fawns were born a bit late this year it seemed, and they mostly still have spots, although the spots are growing faint now on their fur. They have a great time playing and chasing around.

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Speaking of chasing and playing around, wily Shrek stole Chris’ hat on our hike last week and it was a grand game of keep away! He shook the hat ruthlessly, and refused to give up to Chris for a few minutes as Chris gave chase. It was all good fun and then we settled into the long hike back down from the alpine Goodwin Creek lakes. Quite a lovely day.

Finally, mark your calendars if you are near to Pueblo, Colorado. Next spring on March 19, 2016 I will be speaking, along with several great speakers, at the Western Landscape Symposium. I’ve spoken at this event before and it draws enthusiastic gardeners to attend. Right now I have only a date to give you, but as more information comes available I’ll let you know.

All for now.








Last weekend Chris and I went hiking, with Shrek, in the Sangre Mountains to Horn Lakes. It was a beautiful hiking day and nice to have a day mostly off, once a few basic farm chores were taken care of. At this stream crossing there was the most perfectly planted by nature fairy garden on a log. No one could have planted a nicer garden than this one, compliments of mother nature.

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Once we reached the alpine lake we had a picnic lunch and enjoyed just being for a while. Across the lake was a family of coyotes yipping when we arrived. We were careful not to make them feel threatened by our presence, especially since we had a dog with us. After a few minutes they quieted down. We could see them moving about on the other side of the lake, which was quite a nice treat for us to see them in their home place.

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I’m harvesting a good amount of peppers and tomatoes now from my garden. I roasted the peppers in the oven and then put them in the dehydrator with tomatoes seasoned with garlic. By layering the trays every other one peppers and tomatoes, the flavors of both infused each other as they were drying. Today, I took them out of the dehydrator and put them into storage jars for use this winter. They taste delicious!

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This week Lizz began the very big process of potting up fresh stock plants. Each year we replace the previous year’s stock plants with new ones, excepting rosemaries and a few other long-lived plants. We used to keep our stock plants for multiple years, but we’ve found that we get a higher yield of propagation materials if we have younger fresher mother plants. Before we discard the old stock plants we take one last batch of cuttings or root divisions from them and then they are gifted to the compost trailer to go back to the earth and nourish the soil with good organic matter.

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Some years back I told the story on this blog about my experience with the women I used to work with who were from Mexico, and their thoughts about seeing a toad. If you put toads are a good omen into the search space on this blog it will take you back to that first telling of the story, but I’ll give you a short version here.

We have a small toad that showed up in the greenhouse recently as a tiny baby toad. It’s grown quite a bit, as there are always things a toad would like to eat in abundance in the greenhouse like flies or slugs or whatever. So, this toad is growing fast into a healthy creature. Lizz says he/she is a fat little toad and it’s true.

The ladies I used to work with would tell me whenever we saw a toad in the greenhouses at Paulinos that toads are good omens. Whatever positive thought you have in your mind at the moment you set eyes on a toad, means you will have something positive happen in your life. Whenever I see a toad somewhere, in the greenhouses or in the gardens, I always think about what I was thinking of that was good at the moment I saw the toad. Then I feel like it is a good omen of things to come in my life. I like having toads around. They are good for pest control and they are fun to watch. This little creature hops about as we move around in the greenhouse. It seems to enjoy watching us as much as we like catching a glimpse of it.

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It’s the end of August and a full moon tonight. I’ve been out working in the flower field today and also spending time watering the gardens. It’s still a busy time of the year, but the pace is a gentle one as long as you keep focused and don’t slack off on getting tasks accomplished. I appreciate that very much. The mornings are cool, and even though the days are still very hot, they cool down earlier each day so that the evenings are quite pleasant. I caught my first sign of autumn this morning in the cottonwood leaves which are getting spots of golden color. It’s not fall yet, but you can feel a little bit of a shift in the seasons beginning.

I saw a family of evening grosbeak birds at our platform feeder this morning while I was visiting with my parents. I really enjoy watching the wild birds, and when baby birds are involved it’s even more fun to see them learning about food foraging and how to fly, etc. What a gift for me to watch them.

Nature will give you so many amazing gifts if you are present to the process. You will gain valuable lessons too on life and how to best live it. Sometimes the lessons are difficult, other times they are glorious, always they are useful.

As September arrives, and the seasons start to change in earnest, I hope this time of the year will bring you much abundance of mind, body and spirit.

With Green Thoughts, Tammi

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Do you ever have a week that seems to present one challenge followed by another and another, and on and on it goes? We’ve kinda had a week like that here so far.

Challenge #1 Chris discovered a wet area of earth just outside the door of the yarrow greenhouse. That prompted an entire day of digging on his part to find out where the water was coming from. He unearthed the water line that delivers water to each of the greenhouse spickets, but nothing seemed obviously wrong or broken. He was about to give up and we turned on the main water line again when the leak, a very tiny hole on the underneath side of the pipe, presented itself.

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After lots of effort he repaired the pipe and now the greenhouse watering system is back online.

Challenge #2 The same greenhouse which had the outside water leak also decided to deflate unexpectedly this week. The greenhouses are covered in two layers of 6ml plastic that is inflated with air by a small fan that runs 24 hours a day. This inflation helps keep the climate control inside the greenhouse a bit more even and it keeps the outside plastic from ruffling in the wind and getting torn off. So, plastic that doesn’t inflate is a really bad deal. First we thought it was a bad fan, but no that wasn’t it. The electrical outlet seemed not to be working, so Chris checked the breaker and found it had gone off. When he tried turning it back on, sparks went flying and then the whole thing shorted out.

Ok, this  isn’t something Chris could repair alone, so we called our electrician, Ed, and after about an hour’s time and replacing some old wiring, everything was fixed and the greenhouse is re-inflated. Whew!

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Challenge #3 This is an old challenge that has been haunting Lizz and I for several years and nothing we’ve tried to date has solved the problem. As often happens with perennial gardens, grass and stubborn weeds can move into the garden and become a huge problem to get totally removed.  Not for a lack of trying many different solutions to the problem, we have been unsuccessful in solving it, and this year with all the extra rain in spring the grass and weeds have been extra large and extra persistent!

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Last week I was so frustrated by the whole deal. Lizz has spent hours and hours tending the gardens! I have spent hours and hours tending the gardens, mainly digging out bindweed and grass and as soon as we think we’ve gotten the problem under control, a few days pass and it looks the same way it did before…just like the first picture with the rabbit in it. There is no pleasure in this kind of gardening! I made a desperate decision. We would lay down a thick layer of cardboard mulch over top everything that was growing in a big area of the garden…weeds, grass, perennials and herbs. Lizz has been working on this for more than a week. It was a very big task.

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This morning we hauled loads and loads of wood mulch and covered the cardboard with about 6″ of wood mulch. The garden is effectively a new garden now. A big area is no longer planted in perennials and herbs. There are several shrubs planted in this part of the garden, which are small right now, but will mature and fill in the space over the next couple of years. What was a very large perennial and herb garden will now have several smaller areas planted in herbs and perennials, with larger areas in shrubs.

This had been the long-term plan for the garden anyway, but I had thought it would be several years out before it actually happened. We have so many gardens here on the farm that really there are more gardens to tend to then is reasonable, so I’ve been planning and slowly implementing a shift to some areas becoming more wildlife and pollinator hedges with a lot more shrubs and less perennials and herbs, leaving special areas in the gardens that are planted with perennials and herbs. There are still loads of those areas as part of the gardens, but as we get older it feels better not to have quite so many areas that require intensive weeding care.

The new area really looks good and the areas left that have perennials stand out more now. I’ll spend the fall season putting in some rock borders to further define everything. We have a lot of iris to lift out and divide, so that will be part of the process too. Then we’ll have many colors of iris for sale in the farm stand next spring.

There is still a large area that Lizz will put cardboard down in and we’ll cover with wood mulch, so the project isn’t complete by any stretch of the word, but hopefully we’ll have an upper hand on some of the grass and bindweed now. Once all this is done, there are pathways throughout all the various gardens to be mulched with wood mulch too, so the fall is going to be garden busy, but in a good way.

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A few weeks back I was sharing about the garlic harvest. I have a bumper crop this year and these baskets above are only a small portion of the harvest. Sometime before too much longer I’m going to take my friend, Jame’s advice, and puree up a bunch of peeled garlic with olive oil and then freeze it for use this winter. I think I’ll also roast a bunch, as Chris and I really enjoy roasted garlic in our cooking. Of course, some will be planted back into the food garden next month as the beginning of next year’s garlic crop.

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Other great news, among all these farm challenges, is that I finished my book manuscript this week and sent it over to my editor at Storey Publishing. That feels like a huge project accomplished, and indeed it is. Now that the manuscript is in the hands of my editor, she’ll go to work on it, with the Storey team, and later in fall it will come back to me for some editing work that always needs to be done on these book writing adventures. Then later still in the winter, I’ll have a last bit of work to review the final edited book and then it goes to the printing and marketing stages. With a bit of good fortune it will be on schedule for release in December 2016 or January 2017. As you can see, book projects take a long time before they end up being for sale in a bookstore, but this first very big portion of the project is complete now.

That leaves me catching up on other tasks that have been set aside to allow time for writing. Hopefully, now I have a bit of time for a little fun (hiking, working on my needlework, and reading books for pleasure), and I have friends who have been patiently waiting for visits and who have been giving me so much moral support during my writing. I’m looking forward to starting to catch up on a little visiting too.

It’s almost the autumn! In fact, today was actually a bit chilly, but that will be short-lived, as tomorrow we’re supposed to be back in the 90’s again for temperatures for the foreseeable future. Summer is still here for a while, but soon the autumn will arrive. I can’t wait! My favorite time of the year, with comfortable temps, beautiful fall colors in all of nature, time for my own gardening and personal projects. Maybe even a camping trip mixed in with a bit of luck. We still have plenty of farm work to do, but nothing like the late winter, spring and summer seasons when farm chores seem endless. It’s a season to look forward to.

With Green Thoughts, Tammi

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Last week Morgan and Kayelan visited the bee yard with Lizz when she went out to do her regular check-in of the hives. Here they are looking at a frame of honeycomb from Lizz’ top bar hive. They also checked on the two farm hives and all the bees are doing well and thriving.

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The past week has also brought an increase in the amount of seed harvesting ready to be done. This is the time of year when ripening seed keeps Chris busy, busy, busy. The seed in the forefront is sea kale.

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My garlic harvest is all cured now and waiting for me to make time to cut off the dried stems and put it into shallow baskets for storage through the winter. It was an exceptional year for my garlic crop and I’m very pleased with the yield.

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Last weekend we went for a hike with our friends James and Michelle to the Cowboy Cabin. This is an old homestead cabin from days long ago that is near to us and a beautiful hike. The cabin is well-kept and still has furnishings inside. Great fun.

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This is a rock squirrel and they always show up mid to late summer, usually to forage pears from our fruit trees, There aren’t many pears this year, but this critter isn’t daunted by that news. He’s decided sunflowers from the birdfeeders will work nicely in place of pears. He comes across the road from a neighbors barn, fills his cheeks with as much as he can and then scurries back to the barn, no doubt to stash his loot towards a winter stockpile. He’s fun to watch, even if he is greedy about taking too much.


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