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I’d like to introduce you to our two new members of the farm family, Hansel and Gretel.

They arrived a week ago and have settled into life here without much effort. They are friendly and beautiful, so I am enjoying them. Today I decided they looked like a Hansel and Gretel to me, so that is what I’m going to call them. Maybe they’ll have a family at some point.

This week has been another full week in the greenhouses. Lizz and Beki planted over 35,000 cells of seeds in plug flats! They sowed the main pepper crop, loads of herbs and perennials. Sowing that many seeds over two days time is not for the weak of heart, and they kept smiling even though I know they were probably ready to have screaming mimi attacks. We will have a lot more seeds to plant between now and the first part of May. Nearly every week there will be a seeding project, and some will be as big as this week’s seeding project. This task required Chocolate!!!

In addition, they had a big batch of plugs ready to be transplanted into 2.5″ pots in flats of 32 count. I think they planted about 200 flats on Thursday.

As if that weren’t enough, they also planted up about 250 (2 gallon) pots of bare root small fruits….grapes – both table and wine varieties, raspberries, loganberries, kiwis, hardy figs, and more brewing hops varieties!

And…today we had our greenhouse inspection, which we have each spring, with the Colorado Dept. of Agriculture. Beki and Lizz and I spent part of the week making sure everything was in order for that inspection.

Chris introduced beneficial mites to all the newly planted pots and flats. He does this each week for all the newly planted inventory as part of our IPM (Integrated Pest Management) program. The predator insects make sure that no pest insects are around and if they do find any pest insects, they quickly eat them.

So it was quite a busy work week for all of us around here!

Chris, Shrek and I did get in a few evening walks. Those are so much fun and so necessary for mental sanity especially in the busy season.

Pal and Willow put in a lot of effort, as you can see, into sunbathing in the morning hours.

Sadie is the queen cat here, as she is the elder of the three. She gets the best sunbathing spot on the kitty pole right in front of the south-facing window.

This is our crop of Tanager Gazanias (also called African Daisy). These plants are to be planted in the flower seed crop production field this spring. They surprised us by starting to bloom in January! and they will keep going like this until fall.

Because they are growing right now in a greenhouse, they really do not have any pollinators working the flowers, so Beki hand pollinates each flower every day with a small paint brush. When the seed is mature, we’ll start picking it. Once they are planted outdoors in the flower field, we won’t have to hand-pollinate them any longer as bees and other pollinators will take over that task with pleasure. They sure are pretty and a reminder that spring is well on its way.

This weekend I’ll be planting salad boxes of gourmet greens, lettuces and spinach, plus carrots, leeks and onions for the Farm Stand store. I also have a seeding list of my own to accomplish this weekend, plus farm stand plant signs to work on. It will require good music and plenty of hot chai tea!

With Green Thoughts, Tammi

 

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Sunday I returned from a working trip to Kansas City, MO to speak at the 2018 Kansas City Garden Symposium. It was an excellent event and I so enjoyed the three other speakers. So much wonderful information to think about!

I was hosted by two wonderful ladies, Ann and Sue, who took such good care of me while I was there. Chuck and Brian, who coordinated the symposium, are truly amazing and all the efforts of them and the huge group of volunteers showed in the perfect details and how everything fell into place beautifully.

People were enjoying my books, which really makes happy. I signed a lot of copies.

It was my birthday while I was there, so no birthday celebrations, but it hardly mattered. We were busy the whole time I was there.

Now I’m back home at our farm and I got a loving greeting from Chris, Shrek, Sadie, Pal and Willow! The work week took off in a flurry and  we are swamped busy. It’s all good though.  Last night, Chris treated me to delicious Mexican food for my birthday, so I had my celebration after all!

I’ll be back in touch again soon. Cheers!

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Frost-Covered Greetings,

I have some very cool photos to show you in a minute, but first let me quickly remind you that next weekend I’ll be speaking in Kansas City, Missouri at the 2018 Kansas City Garden Symposium. You can find more details on the “Classes & Events” page of this blog. Perhaps you’ll have an open weekend and you can attend. It should be great fun for all.

Last year in March we had a terrible wind storm with 80+ mile per hour winds and it wrecked havoc here on our farm. It tore the roofs off several greenhouses, including the Uffta House below. All the other roofs had to be immediately repaired because we had tender plants in those houses, but the Uffta House only had some hardy shrubs in it, so that roof repair was put on hold until this winter.

This past week, Chris began the work of putting a new roof on the Uffta House. We will be moving plants into this house in a week or so, and we need a secure roof in place before we do that.The project is close to being completed with only a few more days left of work to finish. Yay!

Today the forecast was for 55 degrees and sunshine. Instead it has been bitter cold with freezing fog and a high temp of 30 degrees! What happened?!

I had planned to finish putting the shade cloth up in the Hygge House and starting to move plants into that space, but no such luck. It was far too cold to move plants outdoors from one greenhouse to the other, plus I wasn’t thrilled about working out in the Hygge House in 30 degree temperature putting up a ceiling shade cloth. So, tomorrow it is also supposed to be warm and sunny. Let’s hope so because the ladies and I will need to move a LOT of plants to other greenhouses via the great outdoors, and there is still that shade cloth to put up before we can move plants into the Hygge House. This all really must happen because all the other greenhouses are full now and we have a lot of new planting to do this week and nowhere to put the newly planted flats unless this moving project takes place. Keep your fingers crossed that it will be a nice day tomorrow and we can accomplish what we plan and need to do.

The hoarfrost on all the plants today has been amazing and beautiful. Let me take you through a quick virtual walk in the desert garden here all beautifully coated in hoarfrost.

       Rabbitbrush

      Sporabolis grass

     The Thrasher’s Cholla Cactus

     Thrasher’s Cholla Cactus close up and personal

     Yucca

      Mahonia fremontii

     Arizona Cypress

      Kelly’s Chinle Opuntia

      Ephedra nevedensis

 

If you follow this blog, you have heard me mention before about the Smith farm next door and the family’s efforts to preserve it as a Conservation Property. They are very close to accomplishing this goal and they hope to close the arrangement with the Central Colorado Conservancy in April. They still need to gather a few more funds and so here is the update below on what they are doing and what they still need. If you feel you can help out, I know that they would be endlessly grateful and appreciative. Chris and I are also thrilled about this project as it will make a permanent space for wildlife adjacent to our farm.

Since Desert Canyon Farm is a part of the Colorado Birding Trail, a Xceres Pollinator Habitat, A Certified Wildlife Habitat and a United Plant Savers Native Medicinal Plant Sanctuary, the Smith Farm Meadow would be a tremendous gift to have next door to our farm with no threat to it of future development.

photo by Tammi Hartung, Desert Canyon Farm

Please Help Protect the Smith Meadow

A unique gem on the outskirts of Cañon City will be protected forever through the generosity of the Smith family, long-time residents of Fremont County. The Smith siblings – David, Lee Ann, and Susan – are donating a conservation easement on the family’s 8-acre, beautifully irrigated hay meadow, to prevent additional homesites and development, and to preserve this peaceful, scenic spot in honor and memory of their parents, George and Dorothy Smith.

photo by James Krumm, nature photographer and local school teacher

It is the family’s desire that in the future, the property will become a park with walking paths, wildlife habitat, gardening, and local food production. The property, which is located along the popular Gold Belt Tour Scenic Byway on Field Avenue, provides a safe haven for deer, birds, foxes and other wildlife. The curved-billed thrasher nests nearby, attracting tourists on the Colorado Birding Trail.

The Smith family is donating this conservation easement to the Central Colorado Conservancy. The Conservancy needs to raise $10,000 to help cover the costs of creating and stewarding this protected oasis. Generous supporters have already contributed more than $5,000 in donations big and small. We need to raise just $5,000 more to complete this project in April 2018. Please consider making a donation of any amount today to help protect this beautiful green space in a growing suburban neighborhood.

You can contribute online at the Conservancy’s website at centralcoloradoconservancy.org. Click on the “Smith Property” green box on the bottom left-hand side of the homepage to make a donation.

 

Well, Chris, Shrek and I will leave you with these thoughts for a cold frosty winter evening. Stay warm and cozy if you can.

With Green Thoughts, Tammi

 

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Last week we finally got some real snow! It was only 3-4″, but it was slushy wet and we measured 4/10″ of moisture from it. That isn’t enough in the big picture by a long way, but in that moment it was enough to give the gardens a tiny reprieve. Now we’re back to overly warm and dry, dry, dry. Our irrigation water comes from the back side of Pike’s Peak and there isn’t any significant snow on Pike’s Peak at this point. Actually, there’s barely any snow you can see at all on the Peak. We’re not happy about that as we start into the 2018 farm season, but we remind ourselves that most of the snow pack for our water shed happens in March and April, so there is still a lot of time for the snow piles to build up. And anyway, Mother Natures is in charge, as always, and we respect that.

Today we had a lovely visit from the Denver Botanic Gardens Herb Guild women who are ordering plants from us for the Denver Botanic Garden’s May Plant Sale. They wanted to see the farm and talk plants. We had fun showing them around and telling them about all our projects here. They learned that we host school groups for educational tours and planting projects, that our farm is registered as wildlife and pollinator certified habitats and part of the Colorado Wildlife Viewing and Birding Trail, along with being a United Plant Savers Native Medicinal Plant Sanctuary. We showed them our flower seed production field, and of course, we took a long walk through all the greenhouses that are quickly filling up with plants. We really appreciate that they took time to come down from Denver and visit us.

If you’d like to check out the Colorado Birding Trail, here is the link  Desert Canyon Farm – Colorado Birding Trail

The strawberry plants, that are currently under frost blanket in an unheated greenhouse, are starting to leaf out now.

Last week Beki planted hops rhizomes for several brewer’s hop varieties. In addition to having the seed grown traditional hops that we always offer for brewers and herbal medicine makers, this year we will also have Chinook, Cascade, Newport, Nugget and Sterling hops that are medicinal, but have specific desirable characteristics for brewing beer as well.

As a FYI, for 2018 Hops (all varieties) has been selected as the International Herb of the Year. During Open Days this spring we will have a workshop on brewing with Hops and another workshop on the medicinal uses of Hops.

If you have a spot in your garden landscape that needs something climbing and robust, consider planting a hops vine. They are a very sturdy vine and need something strong to climb on, either a strong trellis of some sort, a fence or a building wall. They are beautiful and of course quite useful.

On Saturday, Shrek and I went walking on BLM land near to the farm. Chris was on a ski hut trip, so it was just me and my dog pal. We had a lovely walk. On the way home I stopped at a place where I could walk to some local ancient Indian rock art. I’ve been meaning to take a picture of it for years now, so I finally got it done. This is the type of place that makes me feel humble and honored by these people who lived near where I live so very long ago.

For those of you who regularly read this blog and are Shrek fans (of course he has a number of spring farm visitors who are also important friends in his friendship book), well, this might make you giggle. Two nights ago I went into our bedroom and Shrek was in his bed and he had covered himself up with his extra blanket. I’ve never seen him do this before. Usually he just bunches it up and curls up in the middle of it, but somehow he had gotten underneath it and looked like he had been covered up by either Chris or myself, but neither of us did that, and we are the only ones that live here besides Shrek and the three cats. Hmmm…

Then today while the Herb Guild women were visiting, Shrek was in the house and after they left I went in to get a drink water and saw that Shrek was in Pal and Willow’s kitty beds. He had his behind in Pal’s bed and his head in Willow’s bed. I guess he has decided he is a cat now!

This is another busy week for us here. I think all the weeks will be very busy, at least through the spring season. Lizz and Beki planted another round of seed flats today, including the first batch of cool season veggies and salad boxes. Tomorrow they are going to plant all the flower baskets and planters for the Farm Stand store. There is a massive amount of plugs ready to move into bigger size pots, and it’s time to do the next round of mint, sage, oregano and lavender cuttings. They are going to be two very busy women! I so enjoy working with them both and words do not do justice to how much I appreciate all that they do for the farm!

While they are doing all this planting, I’m working on my own set of tasks including Farm Stand signs, tax preparation, organizing the next week’s seeds for planting, tagging Farm Stand plants in the greenhouse so that we can keep track of them within all the other plants that are for wholesale.

Chris worked on his seed crop field plan today, which is another big project. All his field plant starts are in my care right at now in the greenhouse, but a bit later this spring he will be planting new seed crops in the production garden field, along with cleaning up the existing seed crops that already live there.

I know it’s winter and all the flower seed crops are dormant at the moment, but here is a wee peek at how one section of the flower seed crop production garden looks in late spring and summer and well into the fall. It’s beautiful and you should see all the amazing native pollinators and honeybees that enjoy these flowers! If you visit during our spring Open Farm Days, especially later in May and in early June, but plants will start waking up in March, so even if you come to Open Farm Days in April, there will be plants to enjoy in this garden field.

So, I’ll leave you with this to read and enjoy. Talk to you soon.

With Green Thoughts, Tammi

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Whew…what a week! I’m kinda glad it’s Friday and hoping that next week and this weekend go a little bit more smoothly!

Above you are looking through the Goldfish Greenhouse (named that because it is right next to the goldfish pond, which no longer has goldfish because the blue heron ate them all – good for the blue heron, as we really didn’t need any goldfish here to begin with!). This is a 96′ long greenhouse and it is half full at this point with small plants that are to be planted in our flower seed crop production field this spring. All sorts of cool crops like Echinacea angustifolia, scarlet tanager gazania, more agastache rupestris, two kinds of Alliums and a whole lot more. These were transplanted from plugs about 3 weeks ago and they have grown a lot already. The goal is for them to have some good size to them when they get planted in our field in April or May.

We’ve been struggling all winter with overly abnormally warm temperatures and NO moisture. It’s getting pretty scary because our water shed isn’t any better off in the mountains than we are here on the farm. We are keeping our fingers crossed that some good moisture will start happening and soon!

So, a week ago Sunday, Chris finally had to irrigate. He called for irrigation water to fill our pond and while he was irrigating the orchard and the pollinator pastures, I started the rotation of watering gardens, hedgerows and trees with the hoses. We still have the desert garden and the greenhouse hedgerow, plus the flower seed crops, to irrigate before we will be finished. If you are also living with abnormally dry conditions, it’s time to water your trees and shrubs and perennial gardens.

This coming Sunday we are supposed to get some snow, so we are hopeful that it will amount to some good measurable moisture. We did have ice and snow last Monday, but it was mostly ice and the snow was so light and dry that it only yielded 1/10″ of moisture, which really isn’t anything to get very excited about. Keep your fingers crossed that good moisture starts adding up here soon.

This is the ditch that carries water from the main ditch on the road into our pond. From the pond we can either drip irrigate the parameter trees and the flower seed crops or run hoses with low sprinklers to the gardens and hedgerows.

Chris spent the last week or so cleaning the equipment shed and his workshop. Once it was clean, he began an upgrade project in the workshop that he has been wanting to do for a while now. This makes a much more usable work space for him.

And then there was our heater disaster on Monday night…major yikes!

Sometime in the night on Monday the heater in the lizard greenhouse blew a fuse and stopped running with outside temps at -1 degrees F. When I went in to water the greenhouse at 8am, there was frost on the inside of the door and the thermometer said it was 20 degrees F inside. Twenty degrees does not make for happy plants and indeed the entire new cape violet crop and a couple of other varieties froze and died (above).

Many of the plants, like the scented geraniums (above) and the ginger (below) were hit pretty hard, but we’re hoping that by trimming off the damaged growth, they will re-group and start to thrive again. We’ll see what happens. There were some varieties that were more badly damaged than others by the cold, but it could have been so much worse. I think we lost a couple thousand dollars worth of plants in this event, but that house easily is filled with $18, 000.00 worth of  plant inventory. If most of it grows out of the damage, then we will consider ourselves very fortunate. Time will tell.

Needless to say, next week we’ll be planting replacement crops of the varieties that died. Those plants may be a bit late showing up in the Farm Stand store, but I think we’ll still be able to have them for sale in May, but probably not in April.

So, what do you do when you feel like crying. You take a long afternoon walk with your husband and the dog. Well, an hour-long walk feels pretty darn long at this time of the year when we are very busy. Shrek, Chris and I headed up to Oil Well Flats near our farm and had a nice walk and it did help us to let go of some of our heater frustrations, re-group ourselves, and prepare to get back to work the next morning. These trails are great for hiking and the mountain bikers and horseback riders also frequent them a lot. This trial is called the Fire Canyon Trail.

Do you ever feel like your being watched? Hmmm…I think Pal is in a spying phase these days and the bathtub seems to be a favorite hideout to spy from.

Have a nice weekend. Tammi

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I just finished posting up all the information about our upcoming Open Farm Days this spring. I also posted the schedule for all the free workshops that will be held during Open Farm Days, plus other events that are scheduled so far in 2018.

If you go to the “Open Farm Days” and the “Classes & Events” pages on this blog you will find all the details about when our farm will be open to the public this spring. You’ll be able to visit our Farm Stand Store and Nursery to shop for more than 1400 different varieties of plants – including all types of herbs, heritage and heirloom fruit and vegetable plants including heirloom fruit tree varieties, loads of native plants and wildlife habitat-friendly plants, edible and old-fashioned flowers, and other unique kinds of plants for your gardens, patios and porches or inside your home.  The free workshop titles and dates are there along with the teacher’s name who will be presenting the workshop. We have amazing guest teachers this year again and we are very excited about their offerings. Chris and Tammi will also be teaching workshops on a variety of topics.

Open Farm Days is a great time to visit the farm. You can explore the wildlife viewing and birding opportunities while you are here, stroll the gardens, bring a picnic and eat your lunch or enjoy a thermos of tea to drink. You can walk through the flower seed crop production field and see what is starting to come up or may even be blooming. You might see frogs in the pond and hopefully the heirloom fruit tree orchard will be blooming when you visit.

Take a look and start planning to visit during our Open Farm Days here at Desert Canyon Farm….Your Invited!!!!

With Green Thoughts, Tammi & Chris and the farm crew family

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This past weekend Chris and I were busy in the greenhouses introducing some beneficial insects. Above, Chris is applying Hypoaspis mites, which help manage thrips and help a little bit with fungus gnats.

Below are the empty packets of beneficial nematodes that I applied with a water soil drench. These nematodes feed on the larvae of all sorts of pest insects, but especially fungus gnats and shore flies. During the winter time, when the temps can be cold and the weather cloudy, with high moisture in the greenhouses, that is a good environment for the gnats to start happening. We use only beneficial insects for our pest management protocols (also called IPM or Integrated Pest Management)  in Fall, Winter and early spring, so much of what we do is preventative. When you are certified organic, the best gift you can give yourself is to prevent problems before they happen, as this is an easier way to handle things rather than deal with problems after they are in place. So, we keep the greenhouses clean and weed free to prevent diseases. We water carefully, especially in wintertime when it is far too easy to over-water plants and then insect problems can start happening. We use beneficial insects as predator patrol insects in all the greenhouses so that they will stop any pest insects that might show up dead in their tracks. Beneficial insects are notoriously expert hunters and if there is a pest insect around, they will find and eat it…end of story.

Chris is continuing to arrange for jazz music to happen at Ito’s Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Restaurant in Florence, CO. There will be jazz music there every Friday and Saturday night throughout January and February from 5:30 to close. Chris will be playing on several of those Fridays and Saturdays, and he has arranged for some excellent jazz musicians and singers to play on the other Fridays and Saturdays. Visit Ito’s website or Facebook page to find out the specific schedule.

This was last weekend when Chris, Rich and Kimberly were the jazz event of the night.

We are settling into the new year. This is Chris’ slower time of the year, although he has plenty of farm work with building and equipment maintainance in winter, but he gets a bit of time to focus on his music more, ski (if there was any snow to ski on :-{{ ) and some hiking and biking. His days this week have been occupied with cleaning out the workshop, the equipment shed and the garden house where we keep all our farm hand tools. To some, this might not seem like a big deal, but believe me, it is a huge task!! So far he has been at it for several days with still a couple more long days before this task is finished and crossed off his list.

This is how Chris sometimes watches the football game and practices guitar all at the same time. Works pretty well!

This is not my slow time of the year (for me that is mid-summer and fall) and the greenhouses and office work is at a full-blown pace! Lizz and Beki are back to work and we are putting in long full days with planting and other farm work. For me, I will be working every single day now until the middle of June with no days off and a very full work schedule. This isn’t unusual, it’s like this every year, but that doesn’t mean it is any easier to settle into the work pace when I’d rather be doing something for myself. Thankfully, I like my work with plants, so onward I go.

That said, I’m doing my best to keep some perspective, at least for the month of January, so on Sundays after I finish the greenhouse watering chores I’m trying to take a couple of hours off to either go for a hike with Chris and Shrek or sit a while with my needlework. Sadie and I finished a project a week ago Sunday that was for M’lissa. I packaged it up and posted it off to her last week.

This Sunday I started a new project. I’m needle felting a picture using the milkweed roving that Lizz made for me for my solstice gift. All of those little colored balls of roving are made with milkweed floss she collected here on the farm this past fall. She dyed them lots of bright colors and it’s going to be perfect for my little garden wheel project below.

We also had a hike with our friends, James and Michelle, in Deer Haven. Many of you know James from the Open Farm Days free workshops, as he teaches several of them. We did finalize the workshop schedule this past week, so now I just need to get it typed into the “Classes and Events” page of this blog. I’ll do that soon.

James, Chris and the three dogs (Shrek, Tessala and Rollie) went hiking this week too and had a great time! Of course, Shrek and Jame’s dogs all think any hike or even a good walk is a great time!

James is an amazing photographer and he focuses a lot on nature photography. He was up at the farm over the weekend taking some bird photos.

The curved billed thrasher was very interested in being the subject of a number of James’ photographs. Here my favorite one he took of the thrasher!

The sharp-shinned hawk was also here when James was taking photos, but she thought she would stay high up in the Peace Tree (aka: the honeylocust tree) in our back gardens. I still think this photo is amazing! You should have seen how high up she was and James was below the tree looking up with his camera. As an FYI… James is going to be giving a photography workshop on photographing plants, especially flowers, during our Open Farm Days this spring.

So, I think that is most of the news I have to tell for this week. Enjoy a great week yourselves!

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