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February 16, 2017 The Cactus Man

 

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It’s February, but the weather has been so warm and sunny of late, that it feels like it is much later into spring than just being late winter.

With that thought, we have been very busy in the greenhouses growing all sorts of plants in preparation for our Open Farm Days this spring. We are, of course, growing hundreds of varieties of herbs, heirloom and heritage food plants, fairy miniature plants, native and wildlife habitat plants, and succulents and a few varieties of cacti.

Above is a picture of our desert garden in the driveway of the farm. This garden provides us with a lot of seeds and materials for vegetative propagation for some of the plants we will have available in our Farm Stand store this spring.

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We will have some agave plants, This one in the desert garden bloomed last summer. If you follow this blog, you will recall all the attention we gave her as she put up her seed stalk.

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We have chollas, which are native to our part of Colorado, and important habitat for many birds like the quail, house finches, and these three curved billed thrasher chicks. The parents of these chicks live in the cholla year round, and they raise three batches of chicks each spring and summer.

This is the mother plant to some of the chollas that will be for sale in the Farm Stand this spring.

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We have great fun making these plants available to our farm customers, and we are thrilled when our farm visitors and neighbors enjoy the beauty of our gardens here. There will be yuccas, some cacti, hesperaloes, iceplants and sedums…lots of different succulents and cacti.

Everyone especially enjoys when the blooming begins, like this Chinle Opuntia with its beautiful double peach colored flowers. This is a plant we got from The Cactus Man!

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So, The Cactus Man is a very special friend of ours and especially to me. His birth name is Kelly Grummons and he is a plantsman extraordinaire.

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I met Kelly when my 33-year-old daughter was 5 years old and I took a job at a very large nursery in Denver called Paulino Gardens. I’m sure some of you shop there and it really is an incredible place to find a large selection of plants. Kelly was the head grower there at the time and I spent 6 years working with him as his plant propagator. I gained experience growing a couple thousand varieties of plants while I was there, including a lot of cacti and succulents. Kelly gained an amazing reputation for growing  so many varieties of plants, but especially these types of plants and native species.

It was a tremendous experience for me to work with him and he became a special friend and a plant mentor to me. Chris also knew Kelly in those days, as Chris was working as the manager of Chatfield Arboretum, now called Chatfield Farms at Denver Botanic Gardens, and his and Kelly’s paths would cross sometimes through their work.

Later after my days at Paulino Gardens, Chris and I went on to start our farm Desert Canyon Farm in 1996. Kelly left Paulinos to run his own specialty nursery in Arvada called Timberline Gardens, which was open until about a year ago. Kelly also began a very special and unique mail-order nursery called Cold Hardy Cactus, which is how he spends most of his time now.

Through the years, Kelly has gathered and been gifted with unique, sometimes rare, collections of succulents and cacti, which he cares for in his beautiful stock gardens.

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These stock gardens are the source of much of his seed and vegetative propagation materials that he uses to grow the plants he offers through his website mail-order nursery.  Truly, even if you only like cactus and succulents a little bit, you will love the plants Kelly grows and sells. If you really like these kinds of plants, you will think you have died and gone to heaven when you browse his website! Surely. you will find special plants you must have for your personal gardens. This I definitely know to be true, so check it out.

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This is The Cactus Man! This is Kelly Grummons, our friend and a passionate plantsman. It is my honor to introduce you to him if you haven’t met his acquaintance before. If you know Kelly already, well… then you know this is a very special man and a gift to all of us who love gardening and unique plants.

Enjoy!

With Green Thoughts, Tammi

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February 11, 2017 Spring Progress

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Chris and Shrek have been working all week on the new Hygge Farm Stand building. The wind has been horrible here for the past 2 weeks, but in truth, this week has been over the top where the wind has been concerned. It makes this project much more difficult.

Below is “Supervisor Shrek’s” lounge. A bale of hay that broke apart and which he has now claimed as his spot when he’s working on the building with Chris. Shrek has a pretty cushy job description around here!

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This week we planted all the bare-root small fruits, including wine grapes, table grapes, elderberry, sand and Nanking cherry, currants, raspberries and more. The strawberries that were planted in January are growing nicely.

Of course, the fact that the weather has ranged from the high 50’s to the high 70’s all week has encouraged everything to grow. This is the craziest weather. Last night the low temperature was 56 degrees F and tonight we are supposed to get rain and snow. All of that is fine if the wind would just calm down! It wrecks havoc around here with the greenhouses and it gets on all of our nerves wondering what will blow apart next. Yikes!

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The beautiful batik below is from Uganda. We have a friend, Chris, who just spent 6 months there working with a remote tribal group. Now Chris is back working in the States. He gifted us with this lovely piece of art work, which I framed and hung in a place of honor. Thank you Chris.

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Well, this will be a short post. I’m working on updating all our databases for the new plants we are growing this year. This information will be used for the plant label printer, the Farm Stand inventory, the databases on this blog, and to make signs for these new plants which we will have for sale in the Farm Stand store. It’s a huge task and it seems to be taking me forever to accomplish. I best get back to it.

With Green Thoughts, Tammi

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We were taking Shrek for an evening walk this week at Oil Well Flats and we came across this hole in the rock.

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Just perfect for my husband, the goof, to have some fun sticking his neck through. Kinda reminded us of a mini Utah bridges event from our hiking trips in Cedar Mesa, Utah, but of course, those rock bridges are truly huge and real bridges, not just for fun like this one. Still, it made us smile!

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Construction work has begun on the new Farm Stand House. Our friend, Jim, is doing the dirt work to create a level place in the pasture for the new structure to be built. It will be going next to the existing Farm Stand store, with outdoor nursery space behind them for the heirloom fruit trees and other woody plants.

All our greenhouses and cold frame structures have names like the Basil House, the Plant Barn, and so forth. I’m going to name this house the Hygge (pronounced Huga) House. Hygge is a Danish word that means to “live well and simply”. I think that completely embraces what plants give us…quality in our lives that is simple, useful and beautiful. Perfect!

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Chris has begun putting together the bows so that they will be ready to put up once the dirt work is finished. If we get another stretch of warm weather, like they say we will, things should really begin to happen with this project.

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Meanwhile, in the Basil House there are literally hundreds of plug flats growing baby plants that are starting to be ready to transplant into larger pots. Today, Lizz and Beki began the process of starting to transplant Lemon Verbena, Gotu Kola, Baby Tears, and lots of other little plants.

We were expecting more bare roots this week to pot up, but because of the weather they were delayed and are now supposed to arrive on Monday. Next week will be a very full planting week.

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I’ve been enjoying the rich red color of the rose hips on this Red Leaf Rose bush. It produced a bumper crop of hips this past year and I’ve made tea and honey with quite a few of them. These are left for the wild animals to forage and for our farm crew to harvest for tea at their homes.

Now, this is our crazy dog, Shrek, who seems to think he is a cat and will fit into the cat’s bed! Oh my goodness!!

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Have a great rest of the week. The groundhog says we have six more weeks of winter ahead of us. I’m hoping he is a little bit wrong and we get some nice sunny warm days soon. This icy humid cold is no fun at all, although it does mean I can do my farm work near the woodstove and that is pretty nice and cozy. Stay warm friends.

 

 

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January 24, 2017 Trim, Dip, Plant

It has continued to get busier in the greenhouses the past two weeks. Today, Beki divided the roots or tubers of this huge Jerusalem Artichoke (sometimes called Sunchokes) stock plant so that we will have some 2 gallon pots of these for sale in the Farm Stand Store.

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You can see where I scraped aside the soil away from the tops of the tubers (which look a bit greenish from being exposed to some light).

Jerusalem Artichokes are pretty darn tasty. They have firm white flesh and a thin skin that looks a bit like ginger, although these plants are completely unrelated. Jerusalem Artichokes are part of the sunflower family. Some of the perennial sunflower members of this family have fleshy tubers for roots. To eat them, you can peel the tubers, slice them and eat them raw as a finger food like carrot sticks or dice them into a salad. You can also add them to stir-fry similar to how you might add water chestnuts. You can cook them in any way you would cook a potato. Some people think they taste like potatoes, but I would say they taste like their own selves…still really good. One of my favorite ways to prepare them is to peel them, cook them in boiling water until tender. Once they are done, mash them with some garlic butter, add a generous amount of sour cream and some shredded parmesan cheese and stir in well. Serve as you would mashed potatoes. Perfect!

If you like the idea of cooking with Jerusalem Artichokes, also take a minute to check out the “Recipes” page of this blog for other delicious ways to cook in your kitchen with plants.

Jerusalem Artichokes are about as easy as can be to grow. Find a good spot in the garden where you don’t mind if they spread, because they will, and plant them about 5 inches deep. They can be planted at any time that the soil can be worked, so spring thru fall works. Then let them grow. Harvest at any time the ground is thawed enough that you can dig it. Lift out the tubers, trim off the stems, and take them to the kitchen to use.

If you don’t want them spreading into a patch in your garden, then grow them as I do in a big container. This keeps them manageable and they are very easy to harvest. Plus they are cheerful to look at in the garden. They get very tall stems and bloom with small yellow sunflower blooms. If you harvest the whole container of tubers, as Beki did today, then just add fresh soil to your container and plant back three or four tubers that will multiply into more tubers as they grow. Simple. Because they are perennial and very hardy, if you use a big container that has some mass to the amount of soil in it, you can winter them over outdoors with no trouble, just remember to water them about once a month if there isn’t any snow moisture to do the task for you.

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Last week Lizz and I planted 6000 bare-root strawberry plants of the Eversweet and Ft. Laramie varieties. First the roots have to be trimmed so that the plants will fit into the pot.

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This year we are following our friend Jere’s tip and dipping the trimmed plants into a vat of kelp solution, as this helps to lessen the trimming shock to the roots. Jere is one of the growers at Tagawa’s Garden Center in Centennial, CO.

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Then we planted the little plants into these very large 6-packs, where they will leaf out and root in and grow happily ever after!

Next week we will plant 1000 more strawberry plants, but this time they will be the variety Tristar. We also will be planting raspberries, elderberries, wine and table grapes, sand cherries, currants, and loads of herbs. Things are hopping around here.

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And at the end of a busy work day it’s time to relax in front of the wood stove fire with my 4-legged friends… Shrek the dog, Willie Willow the black cat and Pal the gray cat. Sadie our other kitty thought it was beneath her to cuddle up with two feisty young cats and a dog, so she went to bed early!

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This group of wonderful folks were a group of students that visited the farm last spring.

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Hi Everyone,

I just thought I’d post a quick message to let you know that I’ve updated the Classes & Events page of this website with all the upcoming classes and presentations that are lined up so far for 2017 and some into 2018.

Especially exciting are all the Free Workshops that are slated during our Spring Open Farm Days coming up April 15th -June 4th, 2017. These workshops will be every Saturday and Sunday during our Open Farm Days season and will be taught by myself, Chris, and our wonderful guest teachers – Monica, James, Kris and Lizz.

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A workshop under our workshop tent during Open Farm Days

Take a peek and see if there is something happening that might be of interest to you or someone you know.

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Tammi giving a weed workshop.

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Chris giving a native plant workshop

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Another workshop gathered under the “Peace Tree” (the honeylocust tree) here at the farm.

Some of the workshops are here at the farm and other presentations will be given by Tammi around the country.

Remember to check the Classes & Events page every so often, as I will be updating it as more events and presentations are scheduled throughout this year and in the coming year 2018.

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It may not look like much at this point, but this week most of the materials arrived for our new 30 x 48 unheated retail greenhouse. We are expanding our Farm Stand store area with a second greenhouse space for smaller sized perennials and small fruits.

The materials were supposed to arrive the third week of January, but they showed up early and unexpected this past Tuesday – thankfully before the snow storm. Chris will be working on this construction project for the next two months and then we’ll be filling up the new space with plants before you know it.

One thing we are quite excited about is that this greenhouse will have rigid sides and roof rather than inflated double layer poly covering. The difference in cost is really huge, but we decided we needed to make this happen and it does mean that we won’t have to replace the plastic on this greenhouse every few years. As we get older, we’re looking forward to not having to do this. As the budget allows, we hope to replace other greenhouses with the polycarbonate siding and roofs too, but we’ll see how that goes. One thing at a time.

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I was also gifted with a piano this week from my aunt and uncle. It now lives in my office and I’m so excited to start playing again. It has been many many years since I’ve played, so it is going to take a lot of patience to gain back some of that skill, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.

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And here is the grand mischief-maker Pal. This should make you smile! He was watching Chris shave.

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On Wednesday we got a snow storm. The little birds were so cold and some of them were lined up on the outside window ledges trying to get a bit of protection. Pal was sitting on the inside window ledge watching them watch him.

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This week bare root strawberries are supposed to arrive. Beki comes back to work on Monday, so it is time for the greenhouse crew to expand beyond just Lizz and myself. We have a major seeding event to accomplish and loads of cuttings to get done….farm work is busy now.

Hope you enjoy your week too.

Cheers!

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January 1, 2017 The Best Back Yard!

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Today is the first day of a new year and it was a lovely day! Chris went back-country skiing with a friend today and Shrek and I had a wonderful long walk at Red Canyon Park. I’m fortunate that I have so many amazing places near by the farm where I can take a walk each day. These places are within 5-15 minutes of my home, so I consider them part of the best back yard a person could have!

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As we were leaving to come home from our walk, we passed a big flock of wild turkeys.

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Yesterday found me walking at the Arkansas river and these ducks seemed to be embracing the warm sunshine of the day. An early morning walk was a good way to close the 2016 year.

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Some friends of ours have a teepee in their back yard. I think that is wonderful!

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In our farm front yard the pinon jays have been arriving each morning waiting for their meal of dried corn. They are such a raccus bunch and noisy besides. We love having them visit every day in the winter. They don’t visit during the spring and summer months.

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We arrived home from a trip to Lincoln, Nebraska the day after Christmas. It was very nice to spend the holiday with our family, which is huge, and we so enjoyed all the young kids. It was an exciting and noisy holiday and we had a blast!

When we got home, Lizz had filled every inch of available bench and floor space in the two greenhouses that we have been heating, and she was forced to resort to putting flats of cuttings on carts until I got back home and could figure out a space plan. Well, there wasn’t any help for it…it was time to start filling the next heated greenhouse with plants, which I did, and now we’re ready to begin moving into the next heated greenhouse a week from tomorrow weather permitting. It may be winter outdoors, but in our greenhouses it’s already spring.

Tomorrow I begin a full-on work schedule, which will continue until mid-June. For me, that means no more days off until June, and the days will be full and getting fuller as the spring progresses. Our farm crew (excluding Lizz who works year round) will begin to return to work for the 2017 season on the 9th of January. It’s time to narrow our focus and stay mindful….the busy season for us has begun.

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Remember that very ugly and obnoxious wallpaper in my kitchen that I have been trying to remove for nearly a year’s time?! Well, it is finally gone!!!!! I painted the walls to look like old world plaster and Chris replaced the trim with wonderful pine trim. Curtains are up, pictures are up, and the kitchen feels pretty nice now. I still have to paint the bathroom in the next coming weeks. The rest of the house will get its fresh coat of paint in summer once the busy season is past and things are again calm.

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So, whatever is in your backyard (or at least nearby), go out and enjoy it. Welcome the new year with joy and the pleasure of knowing that life is a special gift and one we only get to enjoy for a while. Don’t waste any time. Make the most of the simple pleasures it brings. Life is precious!

Happy New Year!

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