A Visit to the Desert Botanical Garden in Arizona

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The Desert Botanical Garden was my favorite outing this week in Phoenix.  It was the only day my friends that we are staying with had off work.   At the Botanical Garden, I learned about the ecosystem and plant life here.

The long, meandering paths lead in circles around the living outdoor exhibits, so it was easy to traverse.  I found myself fascinated by the landscape and the warm sun felt great upon my skin as the four of us wandered around the expansive space enjoying each other’s company and watching exquisite birds.  Fluffy chipmunks darted to and fro and a large hawk hovered near.

We found great enjoyment watching the blackbirds dart full speed into holes in the Saguaro cacti, apartment buildings for the birds.  Hummingbirds happily drank nectar from cactus flowers and trees in full bloom.

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I have an enormous aloe plant in my house that flowers each year and it is always a topic of conversation the first time folks visit my home.  To see these beautiful specimens full of juice and flowering prolifically beneath the Arizona sun was wonderful.

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There is a medicinal herb that I use called Chaparral.  It holds the astounding properties within it to kill cancer cells, repair teeth and kill infections.  It is often hard for me to get.  Its other name is Creosote Bush and there it was, prolific across the desert.

The herb gardens were thick with rich aroma and life as bees darted from tip to tip.

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I wondered how the indigenous people of the land here could withstand the heat.  There were many examples of willow and ironwood structures for cooking, living, and communing.  Gardens and history were provided around the simulated village.

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My husband is a very good photographer and I was happy that he could capture the day for us.  If you find yourself in Phoenix, Arizona, head to the Desert Botanical Garden for a day of history, beauty, and desert magic.

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It has been a lovely six days in Arizona and now we bid a sad farewell to our dear friends and travel east to Santa Fe, New Mexico.

On the Verge of Spring at Pumpkin Hollow Farm (an enchanted life)

Petunia is still rather plump, even after having babies last autumn.  She is very fluffy and so cute I wish she would come in the house to live, but of course squirrels don’t typically enjoy living in the house.  She sits next to me on the porch as I eat my lunch on warm days.  I just watched her from the picture window jump from limb to limb.  I need to put more bird seed and peanuts out.  The Blue Jays are making such a racket.  They do despise when I am late.

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Hundreds of lovely, chirping sparrows reside here.  As do many doves and starlings.  Crows fly over.  Owls can be heard in the night.  Hawks stop to rest.  Sea gulls and geese fly over towards the lake.  A third of an acre in the city sure can be a wild life haven.  I love it here.

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The chickens from the factory farm that we rescued are plump and quite loud.  They run towards me bow legged and squat, hollering like miniature geese.  They love to eat and are firmly against being on a diet.  “We are not broilers here, Dears,” I remind them, “You do not need to get so fat!”  Dixie is still tiny.  My granddaughter renamed the infant rooster, Bob.

I am fervently manifesting and saving for a greenhouse.  The ducks come April 20th.

My classes are chosen for the autumn session of college.

I am quite sore from teaching dance last night.  I am teaching two herbalist classes.  Just keeping busy until I can be in my gardens full time!

I leave in three weeks for ten days in Arizona and New Mexico for my birthday.  Such wonderful blog posts I will write!

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The seedlings are doing well.  The ground is softening.  I am teaching a gardening class Sunday to plant potatoes that have taken over the cupboard.

My friends are here visiting for the weekend.  I have so many dear friends.  I am so lucky.

Such a slow, lovely, blessed, ordinary, extraordinary life I lead.  And that, my friends, is what is going on at Pumpkin Hollow Farm on the verge of Ostara and the equinox.  Spring is next week!  Here it is quietly arriving.

What is happening on your homestead this week?  I am honestly interested!

The Sparrow Lofts

Amongst the branches of the miniature dome, they sing.  I watch them flitting in and out of their hogan happily, busily.  Some groups fly en masse to the bowl of bird seed in the front yard, another group will chat and catch up on the fence line, and yet another seem to be busy within the home, perhaps preparing for new babies or maybe they just got out of a town meeting.

I can hear them clearly through the thick, glass paned windows, and as the dawn breaks they begin to chant and chirp the loveliest, loudest songs to the sun.  As I approach them on my way to the hen house, they fly up in a tornado of song and air.  Exhilarating.

I shake my head when I see giant black trash bags of branches and yard clipping sitting in militant lines by garbage cans waiting to go to the dump.  Such a waste.  There they will never decompose.  Here on our urban farm, we throw them into a pile.  A large, haphazard pile (away from the eyes of the zoning lady down the street) behind a six foot fence.  An eyesore?  They are branches, for gods sake.  Make use of them.  They can be used for kindling or firewood or you can just let them be.  We thought we would get a wood chipper and attend to them but the sparrows had another idea.  As we threw the neatly clipped branches and larger weeds over the fence, blindly knocking leaves and clots of dirt into our eyes, they all landed in a great pile.  The sparrows dive in and out perfect holes.  A housekeeper I had said I ought to get rid of the mounds of wood because they invite mice.  So we dubbed it the “Mouse House.”  Haven’t seen any mice in there.  They are too busy in the chicken coop.  The mound gently settles each year and begins to decompose and we add more on.  Nature makes use of all things, they do not throw things blindly into a landfill to suffocate the land.

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Look at all the birds on the fence line and in the branches! Hundreds of voices come from this back yard pile!

The birds have created such a lovely haven out of those branches, carefully shaping them into lofts for hundreds of sparrows.  And their uplifting songs and antics please me as I watch them.  They make me laugh and smile.  Such a gift to be amongst nature and all of its inhabitants.

(Tip: create a place next to your compost piles for items that break down slowly.)

After the Rain

 

free-after-rain-wallpaper-1An early summer rain fell in nourishing streams all night.

Sweet smelling morning, the sunshine struggles to come on bright.

Listless sleeping clouds shift and moan in their heavy weight.

They’ll be moving out at their slow encompassing rate.

Birds are already singing their tunes of glory be,

as they flit around and praise summer from tree to tree.

Garden crops will come alive with water in their little feet,

and flowers tumble forward greeting each bumble bee they meet.

A hummingbird comes to my window buzzing in the air.

I do believe this summertime will be so ever fair.

(It has been a year since we learned that a rented farm would again be the end of our plans.  This time we would lose almost everything and would embark on quite a journey.  We made it through one of the hardest times in our lives and came out still together and happy, dreaming of our own farm this time, and embracing a summer of new memories.  Happy Summer, y’all, thanks for supporting us this last year and for following along!-Katie)

The Balcony Garden

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I love that seeds want to grow.  That Mother Nature is so efficient and that life wants to be.  That one could plant corn seeds in a five gallon bucket and it will grow.  I love the option to farm in pots.

I feel so blessed and so happy when I am digging in the soil of the community garden.  A place of therapeutic bliss while in between farms.  I know that I can grow in pots as well.  My balcony garden is a place of respite.  I opted to grow more herbs and flowers than vegetables because I have the three plots at the gardens.  I did include a raspberry shoot I rescued, and transplanted sunchokes, which are doing great.  A rose garden adorns my third floor balcony.  Roses are so easy to grow in Colorado.  We have few pests and it loves an east or west facing balcony or garden spot.  I had a vision while we were in California of the rose garden I needed to create.  I have roses growing in the community garden as well as home.

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The six year old geraniums left the shop (against their will) and have joined the balcony.  They think it’s autumn presently, for the nights are so cool, but they will flourish.

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Pots of herbs, and petunias, and lavender, stinging nettles, and the poinsettia from Christmas line the walk and new table.  Bird feeders and a saucer of water entice the birds (when the kitties aren’t around).  I am planting tall sunflowers in each pot to create an enchanting privacy fence.

This is the perfect space for morning cups of coffee and writing.  For lunches alfresco with Maryjane.  For dinners with friends and laughs, the view of the mountains beyond.  It is a nice balcony farm indeed.  Just goes to show, one can grow anywhere!

Intertwined with Whales

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A woman on the boat showed us a picture of a dolphin head just coming out of the water.  She had missed the jump.  She had a long telescopic lens and a very expensive camera.  Doug pulled his IPOD out of his pocket but then placed it back in.  I was proud of him.  Doug has an amazing eye for photos and I cannot imagine the work he could do with a real camera.

The water was amazing.  A calm day six and a half miles from shore gently rocking on the ocean.  We were gifted an amazing memory.  Fin whales blew their breath and water straight up in the air around us.  A mother and baby among them.  They were about a quarter mile from the boat and as they went for a deeper dive their backs arced over the water in graceful movement.  They were large and gentle.  The cow and calf came closer to the boat and as their water shot from their blow hole their faces could be seen.  Their arched backs and dives sent the boat rocking.  Like the little boats we had in the bathtub years and years ago with the thick bases that rocked and stayed up in the waves of the tub.  We were a toy in the whole depths and miles of the magnificent waters watching these creatures swim and forage under the filtered sun.

The sky and the ocean fall together in an embrace making it difficult to see where one ends and the other begins.  The whales and playful dolphins the same color as the currents.  The birds swooped down, rested, bobbed, flew, caught our boat, rode the breeze easily on.  Our spirits were deeply connected with every living thing around.  So intertwined with the shy seal who came by, the sea lions, the birds, the sea life, the water, the sky, the sun, the sand, the people around us in similar awe.  We are all one.

“Stop planning.  Prepare for opportunities.”

I heard this as clear as if my friend had said it out loud next to me.  I heard it in the sky.  I heard it in my heart.  Most of the chaos I create within revolves around planning.  We limit ourselves.  Buy a house.  Get a job.  Take a vacation.  Work.  Stay where you know.  Do what you do.  But, what if my future isn’t on a farm?  What if I am to rent an apartment on the beach and write a novel?  What if we take that trip we planned across the country documenting life on small farms?  What if we nestle into our community and have a small garden and chickens and run our shop forever?  What if we don’t?

I know better than to plan.  This time last year we played bocce with our kids on the lawn, the gardens turned and ready to be planted.  A few days after the bees would die.  Then a few weeks later our dog would pass. Then we would receive a letter demanding our demise from farming and the life we knew.  We would laugh, cry, grow, and strengthen and a shop would seemingly appear.  All would be well.  Doors open, doors close, without my planning.

“Be still.”  This I hear a lot as well.  No more planning.  We are ready to take the ride and just see where it leads us.  Leading us out on the ocean to commune with singing whales and playful dolphins was a gift not planned.

 

Is That You Spring?

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I heard a faintly familiar sound as I approached the front door to let the lambs out.  A swooshing and cleansing sound.  The sound of rain.  Of Spring rain.  The shivering breath I had held all winter was released in a single, thankful exhale.  We made it to spring.  We made it through our first winter in this 1905 homestead.  We made it through the thirty-five degree bathroom, we made it snuggled up with cats, and with six layers of clothes on.  We are entering springtime on the homestead.  It is beautiful.

The rain washes the porches and my clothes on the line clean.  The trees are drinking in giant gulps and spreading their arms after their long winter nap.  Bits of green spreads like fingers across the prairie floor.  The meadowlark sings.  The robin searches for worms.  The birds are home for spring.  My gardens await and I have much work to do.  A fresh start and half an acre to prepare in the next few weeks.

Baby season is upon us and the lambs warm our hearts and laps.  The goats are getting large with child.  The world and I are waking up.

Welcome Spring.  You are our blessed guest.

 

How to Predict the Weather

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The weather reports are generally so off here that the weather announcer actually brags when they get it right!  I’m not kidding.  The snow from yesterday still wasn’t in the forecast as it was gently making its way down from the clear blue sky.  I used to think that the saying, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute, it will change” belonged strictly to Colorado but I have heard people outside of Colorado use it, so I guess not!  The point is, sure it’s nice to see if a doozy is coming.  If three feet of snow is expected, I will refrain from filling the clothes line.  But ordinarily, your guess is as good as mine, which is as good as the weather report’s.  In the city or country there are tell tale signs of weather changes on the horizon. Here is the scoop on knowing the weather.

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Snow Storm is coming- The lilac bushes and pine trees act as community apartment buildings.  The noise is intense filled with gossiping sparrows and laughing blue jays.  Scamper the squirrel has found a new girlfriend and they spend hours racing around trees and giggling.  The birds flit to and fro and the air is filled with activity.  If it stops suddenly…and I mean you can hear a pin drop….something’s comin’.

Cold Front is coming- Go stand outside.  Most of the time in Colorado the wind comes up from the south-west.  It is our “normal” wind if you will.  It brings snow or rain, neighboring smoke from wildfires, or fresh air through the front range.  The arctic wind will come from the north.  As I was putting the clothes on the line on a seemingly lovely day last month I noticed that it was cold..nay, freakin’ cold.  My fingers turned the most odd shade of purple and black after only a few minutes playing with wet clothes in the wind.  I noted the direction of the wind and went and turned on the heat lamp in the chicken coop.  It was ’bout to get very cold!

Tornado is coming- Huddling in the basement of our house in the middle of the city as a child, we heard what sounded like a train and hail hitting the windows.  We lived off of Broadway and Evans and the hail was actually signs from the highway!  The tornado ripped through, pulling up trees as if they were chopsticks leaving them in the streets.  Parts of fencing were gone, roof shingles, parts of 7 Eleven.  Our power was out and we had to be escorted to a motel where the Red Cross bought us McDonald’s and my siblings and I had the time of our life while my parents worried over the damage.  We met Mayor Pena and were in the newspaper. It was great fun. Now as an adult, I could probably do without the house being hit by a tornado.  One will first note the quiet, the wildlife in the area will let you know whenever something is about to hit.  They are way more in tune than we are, and will huddle in for oncoming storms.  The sky will be a greenish tint.  The wind blows.  When debris starts spinning up in little circles, time to get in the basement.  If the wind stops, the birds stop, the sky looks like something evil from the Hobbit is coming but with a touch of green and pink, you best run to the basement.

Rain is coming- Not quite so noticeable.  We watch towards the southwest at how big and how dark the clouds are.  On the open fields you can actually watch the storm blow towards you, like a giant tumbleweed.  It is awesome.

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Beautiful, warm, clear day- A most delightful day. The birds are singing, the animals are playing, the sky is clear with wispy clouds, the breeze is soft, not much moisture in the air, clear all the way to New Mexico and Kansas.  Time to take a baguette, some goat cheese, grapes, and a bottle of wine out for a picnic.  I can’t wait for the next one!