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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.

Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

GrowingBeeFriendlyReport_web.pdf

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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Since early April we have now received more than 13″ of rain and counting. Everything is so green and the flowers are huge. Everything is so soggy and muddy! Yesterday we had a sunny warm day that was the perfect spring day. After weeks of cloudy wet weather it was quite a welcome day.

Last fall we had a killing frost that was brutal on the health of many plants. Things that normally are bomb proof for us in terms of weather extremes suffered greatly…many plants just died that would normally be completely hardy here. Others, like our fruit trees, suffered major damage and are having a difficult time re-grouping and coming back to health.

One of those fruit trees is an heirloom red delicious apple tree that we brought with us to the farm nearly 20 years ago. As with many of the trees and shrubs here on the farm, the only way to save this tree was to prune it dramatically. Chris began the process last week of pruning trees and shrubs to help restore them to good health. Here is our poor little apple tree, all pruned. Hopefully, now it can begin to recover and grow strong again.

 

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The rainy weather has put the field work seriously behind schedule. The field is too muddy to work in and the weather has been too wet and cold. Last Wednesday the weather was slightly improved for the day, but only a little bit, so Morgan and Elisa worked at weeding and pruning in the White Rabbit Garden instead of working in the field. This garden is mulched and has cement and flagstone paths so they could work without bogging down too much in the mud.

It is really nice to see some work happening in the gardens, which would normally be delayed until June when more time allows. This area along the seed room wall used to be a munstead lavender hedge, which was about 14-15 years old. Many of those old lavender plants died in the harsh winter we had last year, so they have now been removed. They are one of the perennials that was hardest hit in my garden, and one of the plants that most surprised me that they were affected, since they are extremely durable to weather extremes. But they were very old plants, so perhaps that was a factor. Regardless, Mother Nature will have her way and many of the lavenders died or seriously died back. Elisa did “surgery” on them to remove those that were dead and prune back the ones that are showing new growth from the roots. Now I have big gaps in my hedge, so soon I’ll plant some things in to fill the open spots. Certainly, I’ll plant back several Munstead Lavenders, as they are perfect for this very hot dry wall in the garden and I love how they look when they are blooming. Below is a picture of that same hedge last June, so you can see what is possible and what an extreme impact the winter temps had on these plants.

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Today, is an Open Farm Day here and I’ll be teaching classes on fairy garden plants, herbs for soups/potatoes/bread on Saturday, and herbs for digestive health, along with how to handle wildlife challenges in the garden landscape on Sunday.

It’s Memorial Day weekend and a traditional weekend for gardening and buying plants  to add into the garden. I hope you will have a grand weekend that has gardening as a part of the schedule. Hopefully, we’ll see you here at the farm to shop for a few new additions to your garden, or maybe take in one of the workshops. We are hoping for some partly sunny weather this weekend, but rain or shine we’ll be here and Open Farm Days will be happening, all with smiles and good cheer.

Cheers!

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Two nights ago I finally had a bit of time to just stroll through our gardens and really notice all the things that are starting to bloom and look lovely, despite the weeding waiting to be done and plants waiting to be planted. In spring we are mostly in survival mode trying to get all our work accomplished and make sure that folks are enjoying their visit to our farm during Open Farm Days. So, as this month reaches it’s mid-way point, I’m starting to look seriously forward to having some personal time to return to a more normal pace of life. I’m eager to begin my own gardening time, and returning to work on my book project. You know…all the things that make life rich and happy.

This week’s garden stroll was a tiny step in that direction. I took time to admire the plant communities that share this land with us that we call our homeplace, and that people know as Desert Canyon Farm.

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The chives are just amazing this spring from all the extra rain we have gotten in the past few weeks. They are tall and cheerful and delicious in my egg salad today at lunchtime.

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Every weekend we have been hosting free workshop as part of our Open Farm Days. This morning Lizz taught a fantastic workshop on beyond the basics of bee-keeping. This afternoon I was sharing insights about the herbs that can be used when you are challenged by allergies. We have had so many fun workshops happening and more to come over the next two upcoming weekends. You can find the schedule of workshop titles on the page of this blog called Classes and Events.

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Look at the fairy garden right now! The sweet woodruff with its tiny fragrant white flowers is precious and the lewisias (pink) are so charming and perfect in a fairy garden.

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Below is the fairy rose baby’s breath , so sweet.

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In the desert garden the claret cup cactus is blooming too with huge scarlet red blooms.

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So, as the middle of May arrives, I’m looking forward to a bit of time to sit a spell on my porch and admire our gardens. I hope you can do the same at your place. Gardens enrich our lives in so many ways. The plants give us so many gifts to make our lives rich, healthy, and wonderful. I’m in gratitude to them for the beauty they add to my life.   Enjoy!

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