Feeds:
Posts

This past week we got some decent snow, not just a little dusting, but about 7″ or so. It amounted to 6/10″ moisture, which is enough to help. Everything has been getting so incredibly dry again, so we needed this shot of moisture and hoping more will come soon.

For this week, at least, the weather looks warm and dry. That’s great for getting a lot of farm work done, so we’ll be extra busy taking advantage of the nice weather.

A week ago we recovered the lizard greenhouse, which Lizz and I had cleaned the week before that. It’s now ready to start keeping plants warm and growing in preparation for the spring busy season. Tomorrow we will start filling it with plants, starting with thousands of baby rosemary plants. When I write a post at the end of this week, I’ll have a lot of greenhouse news to tell you about I’m sure.

It’s also the time of year when we use a lot of beneficial nematodes to help prevent pest insects in the greenhouses. Beneficial nematodes feed on the larvae of pest insects like fungus gnats and shore flies, ant larvae, and other greenhouse pests.

The nematodes have to be kept moist and in the dark or they will die straight away. They look like microscopic little worms if you put them under a microscope. They arrive in small packages as a dollop that contains a million of them on a small moist sponge.

I put these into a bucket of water and gently squeeze the sponge to disperse the nematodes into the water. A syphojex hose attachment is used to apply the nematodes in their carrier of water to the plant’s soil as I water all the plants.

The bucket of nematodes in the water is covered with a thick plastic cover that blocks out all the light  from the bucket during the time I am watering the nematodes into the soil of the potted plants. The nematodes live in the moist soil of the potted plants and do their work of eating all pest larvae also living in that same soil. This approach works really well for us as part of our pest management protocol.

Meet Cleo, who is a hiking friend of Shrek’s, and belongs to our friends Marc and Joan. Today was supposed to be a work day for me, but the truth of the matter is, I just could not make my peace with working 7 days a week already even though I should be doing that by now. Today I played hooky from my work schedule and went for a hike with Chris, Marc, Cleo and Shrek instead.

It was such a pleasant gorgeous weather day! I did my watering chores this morning in the greenhouses and then we left for our hike.

I know I’ll pay the price tomorrow and this week, because I’ll have a lot of extra work that should have been done today to get done in the next few days, but hey….it was a really nice day to go for a hike and I’m glad I did that.

Now as I’m writing this blog, there is a doe outside my office window watching me intently as I watch her. When I talk to her thru the window glass, her ears move back and forth. This is one of the pleasures I get by having my office in a part of our house where the wildlife are always hanging out in the trees outside my office windows. What a gift from nature.  Never mind my dirty window glass though ;-}

Now it is time to build a fire for the evening and settle in to supper and closing out the rest of our day.

Tomorrow will be a very busy day! Cheers, Tammi

Advertisements

End of Year Greetings,

It’s been a little while since I wrote a post, but that is because the past two weeks have been filled to the brim with activity!

On December 17th I went to California to work with Cornelia Funke (the wonderful and magical world-renowned children’s author) on several projects. This also meant that after quite a few years, I got my “ocean fix” again as we stayed in a beach house during the evenings and went to her property (named Bonsall) during the days to work.

Sadly, Cornelia’s property was caught in the middle of the Woollsey Wildfire several weeks back and much of her land was burned, hence the reason we stayed in the beach house rental, as her home at Bonsall wasn’t yet ready to be lived in after the wildfire damage.  Thankfully, her amazing gardener, Alfonso and his crew of equally amazing men, were able to save her home, the barn and a few other structures, along with the ducks and donkeys, but there is so much work to do there to restore Bonsall to its past glory. It’s a work in progress, and indeed, so much progress is being made every single day.

Meet Cornelia, and in the background is Tapper and Jake romping in the water as we walked the beach just before high tide and sunset each night.

Bonsall has so many glorious parts to it. Of course there is the house and other buildings and the plantings around them, much of which was spared the wildfire’s worst damage. There is an entire grove of avocado trees loaded with fruit! For us in Colorado and other places where this kind of fruit doesn’t grow, it’s hard to imagine having an endless supply of avocados to pick and eat every single day, but that is the case at Bonsall.

And persimmons too!  But among all this abundance there are acres worth of trees and gardens that burned in the fire. The tree crews are working non-stop to remove the dead burnt trees. Other trees were burnt, but will come back with some time and tender loving care. There are gardens that we made plans for and she will start planting those as soon as the wildfire clean-up work is done.

My tasks in being there is multi-purpose. I’m helping with the garden restoration work, along with the planting of some new special areas that will be very interactive with visitors to Bonsall. Cornelia and I are planning all sorts of things that will keep us busy together for some time and happily so.

Now meet Larry and Laurel, who are organic farmers and next door neighbors to Cornelia and Bonsall. They were also badly damaged by the wildfire, but thankfully they were able to save their home, their farm structures and much of their crops and orchards. These folks are incredible!!! They have lemons, apples, all sorts of veggies and strawberries and so much more. In addition to selling produce directly from their farm, they also supply chefs at many of the area restaurants. We spent a lot of time talking about “farm life” and earning a right livelihood as organic farmers.

Cornelia and Angie (her right hand assistant) have big plans to bring children into the work at Bonsall and my help with the plants will be part of that work. I think these two women have endless amounts of energy and it truly is inspiring!

So, it was an amazing work trip, that also gained me some wonderful friendships, and I’m looking forward to the ongoing projects we will be working on going forward.

I was only back a couple of days from California and we left to visit our family in Nebraska for the Christmas holiday and to celebrate Mom’s 90th Birthday! She really is totally “90 Years Loved” by all of us and it was fantastic to see all of the family there and have time to visit.

Sadly, our trip was cut a little bit short, as a winter storm came in and Chris and I scrambled  to drive ahead of it back home to Colorado. The roads between Colorado and Nebraska are NOT where you want to be in the middle of a bad weather event, so thankfully, we got home before the worse of the weather hit, but it followed us all the way in Nebraska with freezing rain and snow.

M’lissa and Luke were able to get out and enjoy some of the snowy Christmas weather in Montana on Christmas day. They were checking out some ice climbing waterfalls that were so beautiful. We were happy to get some pictures so that we could see the countryside too in their new Montana home.

Today, begins my return to major farm work as we prepare for the spring busy season. There is so much now to do every day. It always seems odd to others that for us spring in the greenhouses begins the last week of December, even though outdoors and the to the rest of the world it is only just the early days of winter.

Chris will still have time off to relax, as his farm schedule isn’t super busy until the end of February. He’ll still have plenty of projects to accomplish here on the farm like replacing greenhouse skins, cutting down trees, and lots of other tasks, but there is time for him to get in some R&R too. My season of R&R was in the fall and now the greenhouses will be hopping’ as we prepare for the spring season and everything that means. Lizz and I will be working to plant, plant and plant some more from now thru early summer. My focus gets very narrow at this time of the year and it has to be that way so that we accomplish all that must get done. It’s good work, though, so I’m in gratitude that I love my work, and then I just have to hope I have enough energy to get it all done ;-}

So, have a wonderful end to this year 2018. In a few short days the new year will arrive and so will the new adventures that come with it. Here is to a year of wonderful and good adventures in all things for all of us and for this Mother Earth we live on. A year of laughter and joy, good health, lots of smiles, and everything else that makes our lives happy and filled with gratitude.

With Green Thoughts, Tammi

 

Do you have daily habits that you stick to and have kept for years and years? Breakfast is like that for Chris and I. For more than 23 years we’ve eaten the same kind of breakfast nearly every day…fresh fruit (usually berries), Brown Cow vanilla cream-top yogurt, nuts (pecans for Chris and walnuts for me), with chocolate chips sprinkled on top to make it gourmet! I love this breakfast and it is just what my body needs to start a busy day of farm work or whatever I’m doing on any given day.

And this week while I was eating breakfast, Chris motioned for me to look out the window and there was this hawk sitting in the middle of the south bird garden hunting its breakfast meal (probably a ring-neck dove is the usual choice). It’s amazing how wild critters hunt what they need to nourish themselves, but they usually don’t hunt for sport. Usually, they hunt only what is needed. We humans could learn from that I think.

As for greenhouse work, we are up to our eyeballs in seedlings waiting to be transplanted into plugs or larger pots. All kinds from native penstemons to spilanthes and aloes, and loads of other plant varieties.

Even these baby Bristle Cone Pines! Aren’t they sweet little trees!!

We are still working nearly every day on big projects of greenhouse and farm maintenance/housekeeping tasks. Last week, Lizz and I cleaned the Lizard Greenhouse in preparation of putting plants in this house the week of December 31st. It was a terrible mess, as it has been empty of plants since last end of May. The weeds had grown in, shade cloth had fallen down, pallet benches needed repaired and so on.

There was a lot of dust involved.

But now it is all perfectly clean and tidy and ready for plants! Yahoo!!

These willows grow along the edge of our goldfish pond (which doesn’t have a single goldfish in it, just blue gills) and the willows provide a lot of great wildlife habitat for red-wing blackbirds, red slider ear turtles, fish, raccoons, foxes, and others. Even the three domestic duck ladies, Hannah, Gretel and Rosie, like to hang out in the willows and this little pond when it is hot outside.

Chris will be cutting down the willow branches to just above the ground this next week. That is called “coppicing” and it doesn’t hurt the willows at all, in fact, it keeps this stand of willows happy and healthy. The cut branches will not be wasted either, because we’ll trim off the small side branches and make willow stakes from the long branches, much like bamboo stakes you buy in the garden center. We’ll use these stakes for tomato plants, vining plants like hops, morning glories and passionflower fruit vines. It’s a win win for all of us, including the willows and the wildlife, because by middle of spring they will be growing back very nicely just in time for red-wing black bird nesting season.

All for now. See you next week.

 

Winter Solstice and Holiday Greetings,

As this year closes and a new one is about to begin, we would like to send you our gratitude and love for being a part of our lives. It is our hope that your life will be filled with the very best of all that touches you in some way. Celebrate in joy and goodness, as we will too, all the gifts in our lives.

With Much Love & Green Thoughts,

Chris & Tammi

(Shrek, Sadie, Pal and Willow, Hannah, Gretel and Rosie too)

 

“In all things of nature there is something  of the marvelous” Aristotle

“The grower of trees, the gardener, man and woman born to farming whose hands reach into the ground and sprout, to them the soil is a divine drug. They enter death yearly, and come back rejoicing.”  Wendell Berry

“The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart.”  Helen Keller

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure.  There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.”  Jawaharlal Nehru

“If one’s life is simple, contentment is to come.” Dalai Lama

“Time spent with cats is never wasted.”     Colette

“Be content with what you have, rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”  Lao Tzu

 

 

Two big projects happened this past week. Chris and my Dad worked on cutting in a new irrigation ditch in a problem section of the pasture behind Dad’s house. Cows were pastured in this field behind my folk’s property and they totally destroyed the original irrigation ditch to the point you could not even tell where it had been. On top of that, because the ditch didn’t function like it was supposed to, the surrounding area of the pasture turned into a marsh and cattails had taken over. Cattails and water were both coming into my parents property to the point of threatening to damage their house foundation. That was during this past summer and fall.

We’ve been waiting for the area to dry out enough that Chris could get Poppy the tractor in to cut a new irrigation ditch without getting stuck in the mud. This week it was dry enough, at least we thought, to do the project.

Chris and Poppy plowed in a ditch and then worked to bank up the mud as a dam to further protect Mom and Dad’s property. That is when things started to go downhill. The ground was still too muddy once you got about 6″ deep and again the tractor was at risk of getting stuck. So, the ditch is to this point, but now we must wait some more time until it dries out more and then Chris and Poppy will go back and finish making the ditch a bit deeper and make sure the water will have a good flow of gravity to it so that it won’t back up anymore and hopefully the marsh will be restored to pasture once more.

This week we also finished up the seed harvest boxing and on Thursday the seed was picked up and is now on its way to Germany to Jelitto Perennial Seed Company. That is the company we grow our perennial seed crops for.

Chris is boxing up the Mojave Sage in this picture.

Loaded on the truck and headed to the airport and an international flight to Germany. Yahoo!!

Chris and Shrek celebrated by making a “beer run”.

Stay warm and enjoy the first week of December!

 

Chris and I enjoyed sharing a delicious holiday meal at my parents house. Mom out-did herself making so many delicious dishes for us to eat. My sister, Cindi, her husband Rod and son Tucker, came down from Strausburg and we had a good visiting time.

This is the time when the deer are mating for next year’s crop of fawns. The bucks have one thing on their mind and it’s not eating grass! They are intentful, persistent and focused. The does seem annoyed that they must tolerate all this extra attention and this year’s crop of fawns are just simply bewildered by it all and trying to stay out-of-the-way.

Today, there have been several very large bucks, a number of younger smaller bucks courting the does here on the farm. Traffic has been stopping all day long in front of the farm to watch the activities and admire these handsome bucks.

This buck took time out to get a drink in the deer drinking trough we keep filled with fresh water next to our south bird yard. I was about 20 feet away on the back porch, sharing conversation with this fellow, and getting some great photos. Most of these deer have been here their whole lives and they’ve known us since they were fawns themselves. Although, I wouldn’t test their manners during their hormone raging mating season, most of the time they ignore us and we ignore them and we all co-exist here quite nicely moving in and around each other without any problems. During mating season, I give them some extra space because they don’t pay attention to anything right now except chasing the does. He’s pretty handsome, don’t you think so?

Yesterday, we took an afternoon walk to the cowboy cabin and along the way I picked up some ponderosa pine needles. Ponderosa trees have pretty long needles and they are good for making into baskets. We got home around 4pm and I started the process of creating a small basket. This is the outside bottom of the basket.

This is how the inside of the basket looks as I’m working on it. By 9:30pm I had finished a very small pine needle basket.

It is about 4″ in diameter at the top edge and about 3″ deep, so it’s tiny, but it is the perfect size for a little basket for Chris’ birthday.

Here is the same basket (with green needles) and the first pine needle basket I made about 20 years ago. As the needles dry on this new basket, it will eventually turn brown in color too.

I have enough needles left from my foraging walk to make another basket about twice the size as the one I made last night. It will probably take me around 10-12 hours to make that one I’m figuring. I had hoped to start it today, but my fingers were too sore from working on the little basket I made last night, so I’ll wait a couple of days before I start the next one.

All for now. Cheers!

 

My morning started out with my adding kitchen scraps to my compost barrel, although these two pictures were taken and copyrighted by Saxon Holt when he was photographing for my book Homegrown Herbs. Since I didn’t have any of my own pics of the compost barrel to post up, I used his with his permission.

I’ve had this compost barrel for years now and it is definitely one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. It’s called an “Urban Composter” and I bought it thru RealGoods. I’ve seen them sold by other companies too. It is easy to turn, fills from the top, and has a vent to keep air circulating thru the composting mix. It doesn’t have any bad smells, so it doesn’t attract wild or domestic animals hoping to raid the food scrapes.

I put all my kitchen vegetable and fruit scrapes in this barrel, plus egg shells and sometimes a bit of cheese ends up in there too, although not very much. You should never compost animal food scrapes like meats or a lot of dairy. Grains are fine to use and a bit of fats like veggie oils works fine, but don’t add a lot of fats/oils. I also put my garden trimmings of green leafy material in the barrel and a few(not too many) fallen leaves go in. I turn the barrel by spinning it in a rotation every time I add anything, which is 1-2 times a week typically. Whenever the material inside begins to look like soil and not kitchen scraps or garden trimmings, then I know it is ready to empty into a wheel barrel or a big bucket and I add it somewhere in the garden wherever I feel there is a need for some good compost nutrition to the soil. When it is the cold months of the year, I only empty the barrel about once because the colder temperatures outdoors mean the ingredients inside the barrel will take longer to break down and compost into a usable mix, but during the warm and hot months of the year, I can empty the barrel about every 6-8 weeks.

This method of composting has worked very nicely for me because I keep the compost barrel in my gardens where it is handy to add ingredients too and where it is not very far from my back door. At other times in my past I had compost piles that were pretty far away from my kitchen and not handy to add kitchen scrapes into. They were big piles that I had to turn using a shovel and digging fork, which is quite a bit of work, so the piles  didn’t get turned as often as I would have liked. That wasn’t a huge deal, because those piles still made great compost, but since they were turned less often, they took quite a bit longer to compost well. Compost piles that aren’t turned very often can be more tempting to wildlife or neighborhood dogs/cats, who want to rummage through the pile looking to see if there is anything tasty left to eat. Having an enclosed barrel keeps all the critters out of the mix.

Anyway, setting up a compost of some sort is a very good thing to do, and you can do it any time of the year. It creates usable nutrition in the form of composted ingredients that are perfect for your garden, patio or house plants. It means the kitchen scrapes and garden trimmings do not end up being bagged in plastic bags and set out for the rubbish collectors with the other trash. That’s what you want to avoid, because if compostable ingredients end up in a plastic trash bag at the land fill, they are not going to break down very well, plus it is added mass to a landfill, taking up room, and not doing anything to improve soil health in your own landscape.

If you want to find out more about composting, you can read the simple guidelines in my books Homegrown Herbs or The Wildlife-Friendly Vegetable Gardener. Both of these books are available from a good book shop, online or probably can be borrowed from your local library.

After the kitchen scraps was emptied into the compost barrel and the dishes were finished up, Shrek began his campaign to go for a walk. We watered the greenhouses and pulled a wholesale order for this week’s delivery, and then we headed out for a nice walk. It was freezing cold!!! I bundled up, grabbed the camera, and off we went.

One of the places where we like to walk is a beautiful native habitat of desert and prairie native plants like this cholla cactus. The purplish red color happens during the cold months and you’ll notice that some of the cholla cactus arms or branches are hanging downward, almost like they are limp. That is on purpose. The cactus releases a lot of its extra internal moisture when the weather turns cold, and this causes the branches to go limp. By not holding a lot of moisture in the branches, as the cactus would do during warm/hot months of the year when it needs to have a reservoir of moisture to use to survive, in the winter that extra moisture would freeze inside the cactus branch and cause the branch to rupture. This would damage the plant and might even kill it, so nature has a plan to prevent that from happening.

All the needles on this cactus, and every other kind of cactus in this area, was coated with a thick layer of ice. The needles looked like crystal sticks and they were sparkling and beautiful! The temps did get warm enough by noon or so to melt the ice on the spines, but it still stayed in the high 30’s degrees F all day.

As we finished our walk, I felt like I was about a foot taller due to all the mud that had collected on my blackfoot daisy boots during our walk. No matter…we had a great walk…no one else was around the area, so it was quiet. We did see some quail and a marsh hawk along our journey.

Back home again, Willow and Pal were waiting to share the heat from the woodstove fire. Shrek and I were freezing by this time, so the fire heat felt wonderfully good.

I noticed as I went into our living room that my Christmas cactus has started to bloom this weekend like nobody’s business. All winter long, starting in November, this plant blooms wearing gorgeous coral flowers. I think it is beautiful!

Give me a piece of plain cloth and colored threads and I’m about as content as I can be. My love stitching hand needlework. Some people paint or draw or use other mediums to create wonderful things that they enjoy. For me it happens with colored threads. This piece of needlework is about 3/4 finished, but there is still quite a bit left to do. My hope is to finish it before the busy season starts for me at the end of December, but I don’t know if I’ll get it finished by then or not. This is one of my passions. It is how I relax and feel peaceful, so some things cannot or should not be hurried. It will create itself in its own time as I stitch in one piece of colored thread added to another until eventually I have a finished picture all from thread and cloth.

Whatever you enjoy doing, whether it is sports, music, art, reading, cooking or stitching or something completely different. I hope you will have plenty of time to work on it and that it will fill your whole self with peace and joy!

Now, I have one last thing to put before you. This is a small cholla species that Chris bought a few years back from our friend Kelly Grummons (he and Jorge have a hardy succulent business called Cold Hardy Cactus – check it out online). The plant label that tells us the species of this beauty is somewhere in the heart of the plant buried in the soil, where Chris tucked it when he planted this cholla as a baby plant.  As beautiful as this cholla is, with it’s golden long spines, it is wicked mean if you try to handle it without great care, and there is very little chance any of us will risk digging around at the base of the plant to look for the plant label to find out what the species is. If you happen to know the species, would you send us a note on our Desert Canyon Farm facebook page to tell us. Thanks very much for your help.

Have a week of joy and gratitude as you honor the Thanksgiving holiday. I hope you will enjoy it with good friends or family, delicious food, and a great deal of laughter and happiness!