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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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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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A great deal has been going on around here of late. We are quickly building up our greenhouse potted plants spring inventory, as you can see in the picture about.

Lizz has been cleaning greenhouses in preparation of us moving plants into them in the next two weeks. There are huge amounts of seedlings ready to be transplanted into bigger pots, cuttings being done and big seeding cycles each week now.

Winter has finally arrived here in Canon City. It seemed like it would be gentle and warm fall forever, but at last the cold has arrived. We had one snow so far, but it was only 2″ in-depth, so we are still sorely behind in moisture. We’re hoping that more snow starts to happen soon and the moisture factor improves. All that said, in the greenhouses it already feels like spring as we prepare in earnest for the busy season.

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And there are other things happening in the greenhouse right now too. The citrus is ripening and it will be an exceptional crop this year. I picked a giant pomegranate this morning, which I plan to indulge in over the weekend.

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There are a lot of figs that will be ripe soon.

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I’m picking red robin tomatoes and purple beauty bell peppers by the bowl-fulls these days. The way things are going with these two veggies, I’ll be sharing with our local food bank  before much longer. That’s fine, because they are always in need of fresh produce.

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The wallpaper from hell is finally off the wall!!!!! I was pretty convinced that project was going to be the end of me, but the wallpaper is finally removed and today I started patching the walls. My hope is to get the kitchen and bathroom painted by Christmas, but we’ll see if I’m successful.

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On December 2nd Chris and his jazz friend musicians played for First Fridays at the Kitchen Pantry here in Canon City. Each first Friday of the month all the merchants and eating establishments on Main Street in Canon City stay open late. People stroll up and down the street enjoying good food, good company, and even do a bit of shopping as they go along. Many of the shops have live music for First Fridays. Gloria, who owns the Kitchen Pantry, has hired Chris’ band in November and December and everyone enjoyed the music very much.

The Kitchen Pantry is a commercial community kitchen which people can rent space in to prepare their food products or even a large catered meal. Some of the people who use the kitchen have their products for sale there as well. I bought the most delicious berry tarts to bring home. There are jams and cookies and pickled chutney…all sorts of gourmet foods you can purchase made locally in the Kitchen Pantry. You can also stop in there for breakfast or lunch and enjoy some home cooking. I’m told their green chili burritos are pretty yummy for lunch.

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Anyway, now that I’ve made you hungry thinking about tasty food, let me introduce you to Chris’ band. There is Dan on bass, Avalon on drums and Chris on guitar. They play jazz and it is amazing! They also had a great deal of fun while we all enjoyed listening to them.

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Now this is the photo that resulted from a very frustrated squirrel, who tried for nearly a full day to carry this acorn squash off. It was a small squash, but still half as big as the squirrel. The squirrel was trying to carry it up the stone chimney and then off to its home, but sadly for the squirrel, the squash got wedged between the gutter and the chimney and wouldn’t budge. The poor squirrel finally gave up and the squash is still there.

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And this is the evidence of a very naughty little boy cat! Willow has decided that toilet tissue rolls are purely for his play enjoyment. After two nights of this behavior, I’ve removed the TP roll and it is now in a basket where he can’t play with it! Growing up young cats is not for the weak at heart or spirit! Willow and Pal are constantly on a mission to find something new to play with.

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Have yourself a very Merry Christmas. Maybe it will be a white Christmas or maybe not, but I’m sure it will be a nice Christmas.

With Green Thoughts, Tammi and Chris

 

Tonight, Chris’ trio will be playing in town for First Fridays on Mainstreet. He will be playing at The Pantry at 619 Main Street from 6-8pm. If you are here in town and would like to join us to listen to some great jazz music, please come down to The Pantry tonight. We’ll hope to see you there!

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This is the “boys club” at our house…Pal (gray), Shrek and Willow (black). They were all enjoying the woodstove fire the other night. The kittens are 6 months old now and rarely do they sit still long enough for me to take a picture, but this time they were in the mood to just soak up the warmth of the fire and relax with their buddy Shrek.

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I made a fast trip to Nebraska this week for an overnight visit with my sister and her husband. They recently built this greenhouse to replace a smaller one they’ve had for many years. This greenhouse turned out wonderfully and she’s planting now in the ground inside. So far there is a section of herbs, some wheat grass for her chickens, and cool season veggies for her kitchen use.

We stayed up late talking about everything. The next morning after breakfast I was headed back home, but feeling loved and in gratitude for the time to spend visiting with her even if it was a short visit.

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Then there is the sad news… after 20 1/2 years, our old gal Pouncita passed over. We all miss her terribly. She adopted us when she was 4 weeks old and we had only lived on our farm for a couple of months. Her mother left her in our farm-yard. She was a feisty little kitten then and she ran the household as a queen would all the nearly 21 years she lived.

Sadie, our black cat, and the kittens and Shrek are missing her company too. We’ll all adapt to her being gone, but right now it feels like someone is missing and she is.

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All for now. Time to get back to work on the farm office tasks.

With Green Thoughts, Tammi

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Make your own household cleaner! It’s simple and easy to do, inexpensive, and it will clean as well or better than any cleaner you can buy, plus this homemade cleaner will not harm the earth or any beings that live on it.

Fill a spray bottle with good quality organic vinegar. I use organic distilled white vinegar for my cleaner. Note that you never want to use non-organic white vinegar, as it’s made with solvents that are not good for you or the earth.

Next add pure essential oils to the bottle of vinegar. I use about 10-20 drops per ounce of vinegar. You can mix and match and use any essential oil you like. They all have good antimicrobial and antiseptic properties.Never use poor quality essential oils, fragrance or perfume oils – which may not be pure essential oils at all, or industrial grade oils. If you use pure essential oils, these will be the purest therapeutic grade oils that the plants produce, and perfect for making household products, especially cleaners.

I use tea tree oil, lavender oil and peppermint oil most of the time, as these are the scents we most like for our household cleaner. Sometimes I use tangerine, spearmint, cedar or spruce, so you can take your choice really.

After you add the essential oils to your bottle of vinegar, cap the bottle with a tight lid and store in the shower, the kitchen or laundry room, wherever you keep your cleaning supplies. As with any cleaner, keep out of reach of young children.

When you are ready to use the household cleaner, shake it well to disperse the oils into the vinegar. Then spray on the surface you wish to clean. You can rinse after cleaning if you want to, but it won’t be necessary to do this.

Vinegar is a perfect base for your cleaner. It is a good de-greaser, removes hard water deposits, discourages molds and mildews. Whenever we are finished showering, we spray all the inside surfaces of the shower to clean it and prevent mold from growing. We don’t rinse it off. It smells great and does a super job cleaning.

I use the same cleaner on the BBQ grill after we grill something that is very greasy and hard to wash off. I let the cleaner sit on the grill in the sink for about 15 minutes and then I wash it with hot soapy water. It cleans up easily and usually with not an ounce of scrubbing needed. This cleaner also works well as a glass and window cleaner, for mirrors, faucets, floors (even my hardwood floors), anything that needs cleaned practically.

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In honor of all four-legged family members everywhere!

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Pal playing with Shrek’s toys

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Pouncita getting attention from Chris.

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Sadie looking very majestic.

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Willow in his favorite basket.

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Shrek keeping Chris company during a football game.

Happy Thanksgiving from Chris and Tammi

This past week Chris and I packed the camper and the dog and headed to southern Utah  for a few days. We try to go there each November, in part to gather some native seed to use in our production here at the farm, and in part to have a mini camping holiday after the seed crops are all harvested.

This year the seed crops are going very late, in part due to the extra warm fall we’re having, and we haven’t finished harvesting them yet, so we left poor Lizz behind to take care of the farm, pick the seed crops, and watch after the cats and fill the birdfeeders. As always, she did a wonderful job of being the caretaker and we came home to all in order and looking great!

We thought we were going to get a frost last night, as we still have not had a frost yet here, but no luck. It did drop to 32 degrees, but there was no evidence of any frost or plants getting frosted. We are ready for a frost now, so that the seed crops will finish ripening and we can get them harvested and shipped to Germany soon. It’s time for this year’s farm season to come to a close and we’re ready, if the seed crops would just get finished!

Anyway, let me share a few pictures of our trip.

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These are fossilized dinosaur tracks of a three-toed beast. They were right at the beginning of Butler Wash where our Utah trip focused this year.

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We were able to pick small amounts of seed for some native plants that we really want to grow. This is a tall Castillegia that is amazing and quite beautiful. We’ve seen it in years past and last year we got a bit of seed and had some germinate. I have a plant settled in the White Rabbit Garden and I’m hoping it will survive our winter nicely and thrive next summer and provide us with a good amount of seed grown on the farm. In the meantime, we did pick a teaspoonful of seed from these wild plants so that we can attempt another round of germination this winter, while were waiting for the plant in the garden to mature.

That is always our objective with the wild seed we gather, is that if we can get a few plants to germinate and then establish them here on the farm, we will have a homegrown source of the seed going forward.

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This is a horrible photo of a sweet little annual. The breeze was making it impossible for me to get a clear picture, but even with this bad one, you can sort of see how sweet this plant is. We don’t yet know what it is, but we will key it out botanically soon. We decided it looked like the heads of little birds. It was pale purple in color and there was a LOT of it around. It’s annual, so we didn’t harvest any seed for it, but it sure is a cutie.

We did get a bit of seed of Service Berry, single leaf ash, some penstemons, a wonderful little slickrock-loving yucca and a few other things. It was a successful seed harvesting trip.

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These ruins are called the Butler Wash ruins and they are easily accessible near the highway. We normally hike up canyons to see the ruins and pictographs, but we’ve never stopped to see these ruins before, so we drove into the parking lot and made the short walk to the overlook to see them before we started our journey down Butler Wash road in earnest.

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Then we hiked up short canyons each day to see what other kinds of amazing things we would find. Most of the canyons are short and take between 45 minutes and 4 hours to hike, so we were able to do about 3 of these canyons each day without feeling rushed.

The canyons have the most incredible plant communities and we really love that. They are also filled with Anasazi ruins and rock art.

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This was a ruin near Wolfman Panel, a really nice panel of pictographs.

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Near one cliff overhang, filled with ruins, I also saw these swallow mud nests. Beautiful!

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The ruins below are called Monarch ruins and indeed, we did see some monarch butterflies in that canyon.

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Shrek discovered little lizards are interesting and fun to chase over the slickrock. They are way too fast for him to even get remotely close to them, so they were not in any danger of being caught. After he noticed the first lizards, he started being watchful for them whenever there would be an area of slickrock. They are really amazing to watch, and orange in color, the same as the much of the canyon rock colors.

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This rock art was also at Monarch Ruins. As we understand it, if it is a painted piece of rock art it is called a petrocliff. If it is pecked into the stone, it is referred to as a pictograph. At least I think I have that correct. They’re all amazing ir-regardless of painted or pecked.

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This is our home on wheels for these trips. It’s not too pretty and has a few warts. The heater works sometimes and sometimes not, but it is dry and pretty comfortable and the price was right…cheap. We’ve decided that we’d rather not sleep in a tent in November when it can be below freezing at night and may snow or rain at any time, plus this has a stove and I can make my tea with little effort. Life is good.

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I still have vibrant fresh nettles growing in the garden, so I’ve been harvesting 2-3 fresh springs (about 5-6″ long) to make a quart of nettles infusion.

I use a french press to make my infusions (but a quart canning jar or similar heat tolerant container will also work nicely), as it makes straining the infusion tea easy once the preparation is complete. I put the nettles in the french press and fill it with boiling hot water. Put on the lid and allow it to steep for at least 4 hours (up to 8 hours is fine). This allows all the water-soluble constituents, including all the minerals and trace minerals, to be extracted from the plant material. After the steeping process is done, I strain out the plant material and store the infusion in a clean glass container in the fridge, for up to 3 days, until I’m ready to drink the infusion tea. When you are ready to drink your nettles infusion, you can reheat it on the stove if you like to drink tea hot, or you can drink it cold, or even use it as the cooking water when preparing soup, rice and such.

The process of preparing a medicinal infusion tea is a bit different from making a beverage tea. If I were making a beverage tea from nettles, I would simply allow the plant to steep for about 10 minutes or so and then drink it as I might any beverage tea. When I’m drinking herbal beverage teas I’m not as concerned that all the constituents are pulled out of the plant, I just want a nice tasting herbal tea. If I want a therapeutic tea, then I prepare it by the guidelines above for an infusion (leaves, flowers and volatile roots or seeds) or decoction (barks, non-volatile roots and seeds), which will be much stronger medicinally and it will also taste stronger too.

Nettles is a great whole body tonic herb, meaning that it supports the good function of every body system we have from the urinary tract, to the blood, the skin/hair/nails, respiratory tract, and all the rest of the body’s functions. It is really a mineral rich herb and for me that is important at my age of 55 years when I want to support my bone health as I’m getting older.

Remember that fresh nettles has formic acid oil on the plant’s hairs all along the stems and leaves, flowers and seeds. It does not actually have thorns or stickers of any kind. This formic acid oil can burn and “sting” the skin if the plant is handled fresh bare-handed. To handle fresh nettles, one can use gloves to prevent getting stung by the plant’s formic acid oil. Once the plant is fully dried or has been cooked (as in the case with steeping it in boiling hot water to make an infusion), the formic acid oil evaporates and is no longer a big concern. If you do get stung by nettles, be patient, as the stinging/burning sensation will eventually stop, usually in an hour or so.

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We had the most glorious visit from friends we met when we were in Germany a few years back. We had gone to Germany as I was a speaker at the International Perennial Plant Symposium, and we met these folks at that conference. Doris and Eckart are here in America on holiday and they came for a visit this week. It was wonderful to see them. We talked about our nurseries, as they have a small nursery and garden center too. We talked about their alpaca breeding operation, our daughters, and life in general. It was a very good time in the very good company of friends!

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We still haven’t had a hard frost here, but we know it should be coming and probably soon. So this weekend I covered the heirloom fruit trees with straw to protect their roots in the pots from the freezing temperatures that winter always brings.

If they were planted in the ground, this extra protection with the straw wouldn’t be needed, but in pots where there isn’t a lot of soil mass around the roots to protect them from the cold, and the straw adds extra insulation and protection.

These are the heirloom fruit trees, mostly apple varieties, that we will have for sale next spring in our Farm Stand store. We grow them for a full year in pots from the time that Gordon and Margaret send us the very young bare root grafted fruit trees. This allows them to get well-rooted and grow a bit more, plus it allows them to qualify for certified organic status through our organic certification, and we can sell them in the Farm Stand store as the organic fruit trees they are.

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It has been so unseasonably warm this fall! We are still harvesting seed crops, as the warm temperatures are encouraging many of our seed crops to continue producing seed. Even as we prepare the farm for the cold seasons of the year, like covering the fruit trees with the straw, there are still plants (quite a few actually) that are blooming. Below is a Salvia greggii ‘Furman’s Red’ that is growing in the goddess garden.

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And the nasturtiums are happily blooming too in the company of the Belen Hen.

The warm weather feels nice to us, but we know that it is time now for plants to shift gears and start going dormant for the winter. If they don’t complete that process far enough along and we do get a really nasty cold spell, there will be plants that will be killed or stressed from that weather event. So, even though the nice weather feels good, it really is time now as we leave October behind for the perennial plants to sleep for the winter. Cooler temperatures will encourage that to happen, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed that the weather cools down a bit more and we have a more seasonally cool fall going into winter.

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As we begin November in the next few days, we hope you are enjoying your autumn and looking forward to the quiet of nature that the winter season will bring.