Posted in Farming

Winnowing Amaranth (growing one’s own grains)

Every year we try to do a little better; buy a little bit less, throw out a bit less trash, use less petroleum, grow a little bit more, become a little more self sufficient. This rocky, dry desert wouldn’t allow me more space to do a swath of turned soil for wheat or oats, but I had a bit of room in a raised bed to try my hand at an easier cereal grain, amaranth.

Seed Savers showed a photo of lush, six foot growth on a plant positively tipping with grain. Gorgeous crimson color made this lovely heirloom plant, harvested from Hopi land in the Arizona desert, one I wanted to try and grow.

It was quite easy to grow. The largest plants were the ones that had escaped the raised bed and grew in the shale, clay, sand mixture of pasture. We watered it every day. I had no idea what to do with it from there on, so I ignored it. When do you harvest? How do you harvest? What part is the grain?

This week the heads had fallen, drooping solemnly on the ground, great shocks of multicolored tops told me it was time. I clipped the tops into an open paper shopping bag. Using gloves, I crushed the heads and stripped the stalks.

I then poured the contents into a large strainer. Using my gloved fingers, I swept around the grains and chaff until everything came through the holes except for the stems.

I then utilized past knowledge I had gathered and poured the contents from bag to bag, then bowl to bowl, letting the breeze take away the chaff. I think I might have lost some of the seed and was making a tremendous mess.

I then poured the contents into a large sieve and that worked better to pull the contents through, throwing out the larger pieces of chaff.

Still, I had lots of purple chaff amongst the tiny black seeds. Still losing much of it across the pasture (which I am certain will grow fabulously next year. No one gardens quite as well as Mother Nature.), I took the lot inside away from the wind. I poured a little at a time through a smaller sieve and that seemed to work. I used my finger to push through as much of the seed as I could, throwing out the purple chaff.

That large shopping bag was reduced to half a cup of homegrown grain. Not one to be discouraged, I realize that next year I will know what I am doing (presumably) and will harvest more of the heads. I will know what to do ahead of time. I will also have more to harvest from. And I know that many hands make light work and I may get a little help next year. Either way, I look forward to grinding some of this grain for bread or turning it into porridge. The bright red color bleeds into the food you make with the Hopi amaranth.

In addition, the young leaves can be steamed and eaten like spinach. The bright red tops in their peak can be used to dye wool. Another project I am embarking on.

Plan ahead for next year and try your hand at growing grains. Grains are packed with vitamins and trace minerals, proteins and important antioxidants, and add a bit more homegrown to the homestead table.

Posted in Homestead

10 Rebellious Ways to Make a Huge Impact Now

Be the change you want to see in the world.

Ghandi

It can feel so overwhelming. A single person on the planet amongst billions of others; our lives run by big business, lobbyists, and corrupt governments. Our ecological footprints growing larger by the day, farmable land expected to be gone in a mere sixty years, pollution, disease, starvation. We were never meant to know the problems of the rest of the world. Our minds cannot handle the influx of news and images- handpicked for chaos- across our screens. Whenever we feel overwhelmed, we simply need to step back to our own home. Our own neighbors. Our families. And our choices. It may feel like we cannot do anything about the mega-powers destroying our earth, taking away our choices, freedoms, and way of life, but that is a myth. We are the mega-power. There are things we can do that can make powerful change. Our own dollars keep those mega businesses in power. We are not helpless. We can make a huge impact on this planet and in our communities.

Heirloom “Moon and Stars” watermelon.

1- Buy organic. We should no longer be accepting the vast amount of pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers that threaten our top soil and health.

2- Avoid GMO’s. Genetically modified organisms are everywhere. Seeds brought into a lab and changed and patented to withstand massive amounts of Round Up. Monsanto used to be the face of this, but they were bought by Dow. If they own the seeds, we lose our food security. Organic food cannot be genetically modified. See #1.

Handpicking squash bugs was so much more effective than I could have imagined. We have lots of pumpkins!

3- Buy local and organic if you can. Support local farms if they are sustainable. If they use pesticides, move on to another. (Note: If you live in Colorado- support Miller Farms if you are up north and Milberger Farms if you are south.)

4- Grow food. This is the single most political, earth changing, health changing thing you can do. Start a victory garden. Let it grow each year. Grow pots of tomatoes and basil on your apartment balcony. Grow corn in the front yard. Grow! Anyone can grow food. I have developed some amazing techniques using Permaculture and no-till methods to turn even our shale filled, sandy piece of land into a food haven. Use heirloom seeds and save them. Anyone can do it.

My wwoofer, Dominique harvesting basil for lunch.

5- Cook. Not processed food. Cook vegetables and lots of them. Grind or cook whole grains. Eat wild fruit. Throw beans in a crock pot. Use lots of spices. Animal agriculture and GMO’s go hand-in-hand. If you do eat meat, support a local farmer that uses organic grains and grass. You will be a lot healthier if you just go veg.

One of my “kids”, Annie learning to preserve.

6- Teach. Learn to can. Learn to preserve. Learn to bake bread. Learn to garden. Now teach someone else. The power of community has been forgotten as of late. Sustainability and homesteading is a huge way to make big changes and sharing that knowledge has exponential effects.

Anyone can make a few jars of cold and flu medicine, pain, allergy, and topical healers.

7- Avoid pharmaceuticals- I bet Big Pharma causes more deaths than any one industrial giant out there. Learn to make herbal medicines. Find a great herbalist or holistic practitioner. Grow medicinal herbs for teas and extracts.

Love your life.

8- Make your own way- Do not get caught up in the chaos. Social media may be the most damaging driver in our society. They like to keep us angry without telling us all the facts. Focus on your family. Your neighbors. Your friends. Love all the beautiful diversity and cultures around you. Respect police officers. Vote with your heart. Vote for our rights and freedoms. Find joy.

Slow, methodical tasks are imperative to good mental health and happiness.

9- Bring back the simple life. Invite people over for dinner. Put on a record on an old player. Take up crocheting. Can tomatoes. Take a wine class. Go hiking. Pick up the phone and call people you love. Unplug. Instead of focusing on renewable energy, focus on using less. There are so many ways you can use less energy and water in your household.

10- Click here to watch an important documentary. There is hope!

Posted in Farming

Time to Start Seeds! (how to easily and on the cheap)

Starting seeds at home is a great way to try grow many different plants and be able to get a jump start on the season. Tomato starts, for example, can be pricey, and if you are planning on canning 200 jars of tomatoes, you are going to need a fair amount of plants. Being able to grow certain varieties that are not available in nurseries is another benefit. Every year the wind knocks some of my dried chile pods off my ristras from Taos, New Mexico, and the seeds shatter. This year I planted them alongside other chilies I am starting from seed. Mmm, delicious, homegrown red chile!

This here blog is filled with every bit of information you could ever want to learn about homesteading, farming, animal care, and self reliance, but I will tell you a secret…it is built on years of failures! Can’t learn until you kill ten dozen seedlings with root rot, right? I have written about different ways to start seeds every year, and they all work, but anymore, I am keeping it simple. One year I bought a very expensive grow light to start all my seeds. My children were teenagers at the time and one of them sold it to some kids so they could grow pot. Luckily, one doesn’t need a grow lamp to start seeds! You just need a sunny window, some recycled containers, and potting soil.

Recycled Containers

I never throw away salad containers with lids, they work amazing as mini-greenhouses!

You can also save tin cans and punch a few holes in the bottom. These work well because the plant can grow in them all the way up until it is time to transplant to the garden. The less you can disturb the plant the better, so I tend to use larger receptacles.

I even utilized old drawers from a broken refrigerator. They are clear so I can see how the roots are doing, if enough light reaches the plant, and I can plant many seeds in one container.

Potting Soil

I use potting soil instead of seed starting medium because I don’t have to transplant as quickly. The seeds germinate just fine and grow well. Purchase organic potting soil. Fill containers 3/4 of the way with soil and pour water over. Let the soil soak it up (it can hold a lot of water) and stir well, adding more soil or more water to make it evenly damp.

Plant Seeds

Seeds love to grow. Plant one or two seeds every three inches. I generally only plant one. That way I don’t waste seeds. I like to save some of the seeds to direct plant in case something goes awry with the seed starting endeavor (cats, lack of sun, over-watered…).

I plant things that need a longer growing season, like peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant. I planted paprika, red chilies, green chilies, ancho chilies, Cherokee purple tomatoes and cherry tomatoes for fresh eating, and Brimmer pink and Romas for canning, Sunberries for fresh fruit, and rosemary. (All other herb seeds will be direct planted.)

Cover Plants

We want to simulate a greenhouse environment in the guest room. Covering the plants creates that condensation effect. I place sandwich bags over the cans and secure with a rubber band. I placed plastic bags that contained our vacuum parts when new over the refrigerator drawers. I used the lid that came with the mini-greenhouse. And I placed the lids back on the salad containers.

Enough Sun

Finding enough sun in this house for plants is going to be a challenge. Ideally, the plants would be set up on a table in our bedroom in front of the southwest facing window, and the cats highly agree. There is nothing more they would like to do but spill pots of seeds onto the carpet. It’s great fun, you know. Now that my husband is working from home, he has taken over the office. That leaves the guest room, which can be closed and might be ideal. I covered the bed with an oil cloth tablecloth to protect it. The room faces northeast. That is not ideal so I will have to keep an eye out and make sure enough sun is hitting the plants and that the water is continually evaporating and raining back over the plants. If not I will need to move them to prevent the seeds/seedlings from rotting away.

Water

Do not overwater! Those little legs can’t sit in water. Every few days mist with a water bottle. As the seedlings outgrow their lids, begin to lightly water as needed.

Transplants

Start seeds 6-8 weeks before the last frost date. Before you transplant, let soil dry out a bit and it will be easier to pop them out of their containers. Transplant seedlings into bigger containers as needed. Remember, that most of these plants that you are starting from seed are tropical plants in nature, so give them lots of mist and sun and they will be happy! And you will be happy come salsa season!

Posted in Farming

The Intricacies of Placing a Seed Order

Oh it is one of the best days of the year for me! Not my birthday, not my anniversary (that’s next week), not Christmas, it is the day I placed my seed order! Do you know this joy? Oh happy day. My seed and orchard orders are in.

I know quite a lot of folks who are just starting a garden this year. And there are some of us that are moving more towards subsistence farming and those of you that want to start farming as an occupation. So, how many seeds? What do you plant? Drooling over the gorgeous photographs in seed catalogs not only causes hunger but a bit of confusion. Where do you order from? What should you expect?

What are your goals?

So you are just starting out. The proud new owners of my urban homestead that I sold in August plowed down all of my gardens, according to my neighbor. They can’t wait to start a quaint salsa garden. After I let out my breath, I realized that maybe they don’t have time to farm like I do. Maybe a few tomatoes and hot peppers is what will bring them joy, and that’s okay! If you are just starting out, maybe choose ten things that you really love to eat. Maybe even five. Don’t get crazy with new things. Stick with the tried and true.

What is your gardening zone? When is your first frost? Look at how many days it takes on the seed package to see when you can harvest. And then add a month! If it’s really hot in your area, you will need to sow cold crops early. And you can sow them again in July for fall harvest. If they are a summer crop, you cannot plant until after the frost. Some things are going to be started indoors or you can buy f@#k up plants (a term I got from the hilarious book, The Wisdom of a Radish. It is when farmers can’t get their seedlings to grow and have to buy plant starts. This relatively refers to tomatoes and peppers.) and plant them the third week of May. There is a lot to think of so don’t go overboard with the seed order yet! Choose ten things. And go from there.

So you want to start a farm. I guess we got tired of selling all of our best stuff. We sat at our booth amongst the bigger farms with their tables filled with produce from California and Mexico, that they passed off as their own, and their piles of corn in May for cheap, as hundreds of unsuspecting patrons bought up peppers with stickers on them. The funny looks I got trying to get a buck an onion. Selling out and taking our forty dollars out to eat because we had sold our best stuff and we were too tired to cook anyway.

Niche crops and a good market are key. And anyone that has a desire to start a sustainable farm is golden in my book. My friend, Ethan farms in New York and lamented to me on the phone about how the Amish come in with their sixteen kids as slave labor and drive the prices way down at the market. There is always something. But if you have the heart for it, think big! How much space do you have? What can you grow that is unique that would be of interest? Do you have a good market nearby or a place to do a roadside stand? Make sure you grow enough for yourself as well and take a day off. Or at least half a day off. Sustaining yourself is as important as sustaining the next guy. Your personality sells the produce. So have a beautiful display and a big smile on your face when selling produce.

So you want to be a subsistence farmer. Amen sister. I hear ya. This is a new phrase for me. To feed oneself and to teach others to feed themselves is more important than taking fifty carrots to market to sell to folks who want a half price deal. So when choosing seeds, think of space. If I have a fifty foot row that I am going to plant green beans in, and I am placing them six inches apart, and the seed packet has fifty seeds in it, then I need to get two packets or one size up. Yes? Don’t get crazy now here either. I wanted to plant leeks. I love leeks. You only use the bottom third of leeks. They take 120 days from transplant. I could do it (barely) but I could grow bunching onions in half the space and have twice as much onion in my fried potatoes.

I am intensively farming a quarter acre by hand with sustainable methods. I ordered over 75 different varieties of vegetables, herbs, and grain. I ordered 12 different varieties of fruit trees and bushes. I spent a smidge over $900. Next year I will cut that into a third because of the perennials and what seed I will save, and the year after will be even less, until I am saving all my seed. For this reason, I ordered almost entirely heirloom seeds and fruit. My root cellar and pantry will be brimming with delicious food to choose from all year and I can back out of the marketplace a bit more and more. In a few years when everything is up and going, I will save $8000 a year on groceries. And of course I will grow all of my own medicines and culinary spices. I ordered a lot of seeds because variety is the spice of life and without animal products in our diet, these beautiful plants make up our entire home grocery store leaving us to only purchase staples like flour, sugar, coffee, etc. I made sure to choose some crops that are ready to harvest in late April and those that will store through January to give us as much food security and variation as possible.

Getting Started and the Bottom Line. I like Seed Savers. I got the items that weren’t available through them from Territorial Seeds. And the remaining three items on my list I ordered from Johnny’s. I ordered all my heirloom fruit from Trees of Antiquity. I love heirlooms because I love plants that can tell an interesting story. Being a history lover, I want my food to tell tales of pioneers and indigenous growers instead of what the inside of a lab looks like. Plus I can save my seeds. One of my very favorite vegetables was Shiso, a spicy Asian green, that I saved the seeds from but the chickens got into them while they were drying on the porch and they are no longer available anywhere I have looked. Save your seeds.

If everyone planted food where they are, we would change the course of the planet. We would be healthier, the planet would be restoring, our children would be able to care for themselves in the future. All the environmental woes of the world can start being erased by planting some seeds and feeding yourself. It all starts with a seed order.

Posted in Field Trips, Uncategorized

Supporting Your Local Nursery (a field trip to Holly Acres)

zebra

In winter,  you might find a child riding a zebra or a toddler on a horse.  Perhaps you’d like to sit with Santa or drink hot chocolate.  We choose our perfect Christmas tree and haul it home happily in the season.

In spring this same place is a gardener’s best friend.  Heirloom seeds abound, many plant starts, and a greenhouse of intoxicating brilliant blooms to take home.  I get my seed potatoes, garlic, onion sets, seeds, and most of my plants from my local nursery, Holly Acres.

holly acres

It is so important to shop local.  I cannot emphasize this enough.  Our communities rely on the mom and pop shops thriving.  Holly Acres is owned by a family in our community, whose children grew up with ours, who shop local themselves, and who have an amazing oasis of nature and beauty just down the road.

bird bath

Last year when we needed a bird bath for our instant rose garden, I got it there.  Same with the roses.  And when I taught you how to plant trees, I got the trees there.  They have the best fruit trees as well as many, many other varieties of trees.  They have everything one could want at a really great price.  They are very competitive with big box faceless stores.

trees

If you need seeds, garden décor, compost, or healthy affordable trees, head to our local nursery, Holly Acres and say Farmgirl sent you!  (And if you don’t live here, seek out a local nursery by you!)

5403 Highway 86, Elizabeth, CO, 80107.  303-646-8868.  http://Hollyacresnursery.com

 

Posted in Farmgirl Gardening Series

Farmgirl Gardening Series (Planning and Prepping-Week 1)

The very first step is to sit with the land for a moment.  See which animals share that space.  See what weeds (or rather, medicinal herbs) are there.  What are the challenges?  What are the benefits?  Then measure the space.  Draw out (doesn’t have to be architecturally perfect) a grid so that you have a solid design for your garden.  You’ll know exactly what will fit and will be able to arrange the plot so that you can grow absolutely everything you want and still fit in a reading chair.

Jpeg

I have 1 garden plot that is 20×20.  I have one that is 10×20.  I decided to make the smaller one the spring and fall garden.  It will also hold medicinal plants.  Each of my gardens will have the traditional Cherokee rule; the north and east side will be the three sisters, corn, squash, and beans.  Sunflowers will line that.  The Cherokee didn’t need books to figure these things out, they were passed down and I will keep that going.  The corn provided a stalk for the beans to grow on, the squash leaves keep the weeds down and helps divert marauding characters of the night who love corn.  The sunflowers provide food for beneficial insects and birds that will help pollinate the plants.  The tall plants also provide a little respite from wind and sun to help the plants below them.

Jpeg

I opted not to rototill.  The beneficial organisms and earth worms are screaming their little heads off as the ground is tilled, plus you expose all those lovely invasive weed seeds to sunlight.  I will simply comb the areas with a rake, dig holes for each seed, and cover each seed/plant in its hole with organic garden soil.  This provides enough nutrition for now for the young seeds without creating too much havoc.  The ground will be covered with straw to keep in moisture and protect the plain soil.  Paths will be created with straw as well.  A thick pad of moist straw and cardboard makes any weed or grass that makes it through very easy to yank out.

Once you have your list of what you want to plant, and where you will plant them, go seed shopping at a local nursery (more on that Monday).

In the 10×20 I will plant 3 different kind of potatoes, garlic, onions, kale, chard, spinach, 4 different lettuces, arugula, English peas, snap peas, snow peas, wild flowers, California poppy, dill, lobelia, Bidens ticks, calendula, cucumbers, radishes, cauliflower, cabbage, carrots, beets, corn, melon, sunflowers, and beans.

In the 20×20 I will plant beans, sunflowers, okra, Asian greens, bok choi, soybeans, butternut squash, roses, lemon balm, mint, thyme, valerian, chamomile, motherwort, borage, comfrey, broccoli, 12 pepper plants, 4 eggplants, 20 tomato plants, basil, oregano, chives, green beans, collard greens, zucchini, corn, and 3 different kinds of pumpkins (I am still Pumpkin Hollow Farm, after all) plus include a reading chair for me and Maryjane, a trellis to grow the Morning Glory seeds I saved, and have a bird bath.

How on earth will all this fit in 600 square feet?  By interplanting and sticking to a map.  Root vegetables need to have something growing above them.  Potatoes and spinach, carrots, beets, and lettuces, et cetera.  No monocropping!  Tomatoes need space between them, so collard greens and herbs will fill the spaces.

I went to the gardens to see if I could plant the potatoes yet but a sheet of snow still hid the plots beneath.  But, one thing I have found is whether I plant spring crops in the beginning of April or at the end, they still grow at the same rate.  It doesn’t matter whether you get a head start and plant potatoes and greens the first week of April or if you don’t get to it until the end of April.  The germination rate seems to slow the earlier you plant in this climate, thanks in part to 80 degrees, snow, freeze, flood, hail, heat, wind, cold… the soil can’t keep up with Mother Nature’s moodiness this time of year!  Plant when you can.  Next week, we will plant potatoes, onions, garlic, and a whole slew of spring seeds! See you in the garden!

Posted in Farming

The Romance and History of Seed Saving (now how the heck do I do it?)

SAM_0851

I have been listening to lectures and reading about seed saving.  It is something I have wanted to do, but then at the end of the season I either get lazy, run out of time, or run out of plants to save!  This idea appeals to me though and makes so much sense.

There are the practical reasons, of course.  When you patent something, you own it.  When you patent a seed, you own life.  Dow, Dupont, and Monsanto would very much like to own life.  These are mega corporations that seem to have no soul.  They are made up of people with well lined green pockets and their friends in politics benefit too.  Dow and Dupont create the most powerful pesticides and herbicides on the market made from leftovers of chemical warfare, slowly killing populations of species including people.  These require plants that can stand up to them.  Monsanto, with their genetically engineered seeds, are patenting all types of seeds.  They are open pollinated so if it drifts into your garden, they own your seeds too.  If one was to stop and think about it, it is all very terrifying that a large entity could own our life force, our food, and not just any food, poisonous food.  They are already poisoning millions of Americans every day with their GMO’s that are in practically every processed food and in more and more produce.

IMG_0838

I am blessed to live in an area that is not known for farming (lucky me, there is a reason for that!) but the benefit of that is that I have no drift from GMO crops.  I should be saving my seeds!  I would also save $600 a year on seeds that I starry eyed buy in January.

I am also struck by the romance and the history of saving seeds.  Our grandparents that came over from other countries with seeds in the lining of their jackets.  Our Native American ancestors saved seed to take from place to place.  There were no glossy seed catalogues for them to order from each year.  Seeds were a source of trade.  Seeds were gold.  Over 94% of all seeds are gone.  Forever.  We will never know many of the delicious foods that our ancestors ate.  Even from the 1940’s.

Maryjane's first radish.

We have selected hybrid seeds to choose from.  This is a great reason to choose a seed company like Seed Savers.  They have successfully saved hundreds of seeds from extinction.  To plant a seed that was brought over by covered wagon or a seed from corn that was used as cornmeal are all gifts from a past time.  Then save the seed.

A beautiful story I read in a magazine years ago has followed me in memory.  After the Vietnam war there were several refugees.  I believe this happened in Louisiana.  The Catholic ministries bought two apartment buildings to house these refugees.  These folks were missing their homeland and their families.  With them when they fled their war torn country were seeds.  The people started a garden at their new place and planted the seeds from their homes.  They created an oasis of foods of comfort that are not grown here.  Vegetables their mothers grew, recognizable and tactile pieces of home.

pumpkin

I know how to save seeds from squashes and tomatoes, that type of plant.  I just need to do it.  I do not have a clue how to save things like collard greens or lettuce or radishes.  I left  some of them up and their flowers are beautiful waving daintily over the other plants.  Now what?  Will the seeds come after the flower?  Do I need to chop their heads off now?  Oh bother, I need a book and a teacher!

This year I will at least save seeds from pumpkins, from squash, from potatoes.  Start slow and work my way up to a collection.  Create my own chest of gold.

 

Posted in Farming

Pumpkin Hollow Farm

gardening

Autumn may be my favorite time of year but this month sure is close.  To spend all day with my hands covered in dirt planting seeds that will become food is my favorite pastime.  Not until my tired post-Winter body finally yelled, “Enough!” did I grab a beer and head to the porch to see all we had accomplished.  Emily and I spent the whole weekend digging up the front yard.  While others tend meticulously to the non-native grass borders, applying weed and feed and watering, Emily and I had different plans.  A full working farm on our minds.

SAM_0574

SAM_0573

Steve brought over their rototiller for us to borrow and we put Doug to work plowing eleven long rows.  We went back through digging and releasing weeds and crabgrass creating a divot in the dirt that we then filled with organic garden soil and blended it all together.

Colonies of ants came forth, small black, monster black, and stingy red, eager to eat seeds that we would offer them.  I gave them cornmeal instead.  This works in the house as well.  They take the cornmeal back to their colony and I am afraid they do not return.  Now I am a peaceful girl.  I do not want to kill.  I have been vegetarian for twenty plus years.  In high school I cut my own hair and botched a section, shaving a small piece off by accident.  I had my sister shave a peace sign out of it.  She mistakenly only did two lines making it a Mercedes sign.  I had to use a marker to fill in the third.  (My father was incredibly mad!)  Anyways, I promote peace.  But ants can be really destructive in a garden and a nuisance in the house.  Rather than bringing out toxic chemicals, Raid or who knows what else, simply sprinkle cornmeal about.  Works like a charm.

SAM_0569

Then in went the seeds.  Black Aztec corn and multi-colored Smoke Signals corn seeds went in for festive Autumn décor and cornmeal.  Bantam corn went in for sweet eating.  All heirlooms.  Next to them went Bird’s Egg speckled beans that were brought over by covered wagon, large brown Dutch beans for winter simmering in a Dutch oven, and small, white cannellini beans for sage and white bean soup.  Six different tomatoes.  I do hope the “Mortgage Lifter” tomato does its job!  Six different peppers.  Orange watermelon, cantaloupe, zucchini.  All organic.

pumpkin

Since the farm is called Pumpkin Hollow, the rows in front of the house will be overflowing with tangles of delightful color.  The Most Sincere Pumpkin Patch in the world, were you to ask Linus from Charlie Brown’s Halloween special.  Strawberry colored princess pumpkins, Jack Be Littles, Heirloom pumpkins, organic sugar pumpkins, and today I seek out one more varietal.  Perhaps the awesome white Luminaria pumpkin.

SAM_0571

The front row nearest the sidewalk will have herbs scattered and clustered about for medicinal and culinary use.  A fence is planned around the perimeter of white picket with a welcoming arbor.  My dear friend, Rod, is creating wood burned signs for the farm.

We have been offered free alpacas and plan on getting their “barn” (the garage) ready.  I was showing Steve the tour of what our farm will look like (use your imagination)….here are the large garden beds, more in front, alpaca and goats, new fruit trees….He asked what I was doing with our oversized dirt driveway.  “Festival Parking!” I exclaimed.  Can you see it?  A roadside stand.  A pumpkin festival.  Field trips for children at the nearby school where they can go back in time and see how to hand wash clothes, make butter, spin wool.  The piano and fiddle playing folk songs.  Period pioneer dress.  Vegetables growing everywhere and fuzzy farm animals.  Education, inspiration, teach kids that food comes from the earth, not the grocery store.

SAM_0575

We have never missed our annual pumpkin festival that we attend with the children every year.  This year Maryjane will go with us.  Us big kids and Maryjane making a scarecrow and touring the old structures at Four Mile Historic Park.  I would love to create a place like that for young families to make memories.

In the meantime, I have pumpkins to plant.

Posted in Farming

Not Killing Cold Crops

SAM_0288

I was going to plant all the cold crops around St. Patrick’s day.  I heard you could.  But then I thought maybe we were moving so I didn’t.  Turns out I would have killed off everything if I had!  I think my friend/teacher/Master Gardener is determined to make a proper farmgirl out of me and help me actually grow stuff.  (As a proper farmgirl should be able to provide food for her family and not just adorable stunted plants that could feed gnomes.) Our lesson last week started with me telling her about my cold crop planting plans and she asked, “Did you take the soil temperature?”  …what?…no.

I have a candy thermometer, a baby thermometer, a root cellar thermometer, no thermometers for the dirt lying around.  That is going to change.

Cold crops can be planted when the soil is 45 degrees.  My cold crops consist of yummy peas, Swiss chard, kale, collards, carrots, potatoes, lettuce, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, potatoes, radishes, and broccoli.

Use milk cartons with their bottoms chopped off for cloches.  Put the screw top lid on at night and off during the day.  If I start my barrel of potatoes, use the trash can lid to cover at night.  Keep all the kids warm and tucked in while the night sky is still chilly.  During the day let them play and take in the sunshine.  In a few weeks I ought to be eating good, fresh spring fare.

She recommended that instead of continuing the soil pattern in the potato barrel (adding 6 inches of dirt every time the leaves stick up) add 6 inches of straw.  We are just trying to keep them in the dark.  Straw is lighter, easier to dig through.

She uses a drip line for 20 minutes daily.  I told her about my absolute loss of any common sense when it comes to watering.  So I am picking up a water level checker thing too.  Just so I know when to water or not.  I have not had any problems overwatering if she is watering 20 minutes a day, more in the summer.  More than 30 seconds of watering would do my garden wonders.

I also learned that you can drill tiny holes in a five gallon bucket and place it at the base of new trees (or old) and fill with water every time you pass with the hose.  It provides a steady drip of water to the thirsty roots.  Don’t my new orchard trees wish I had learned that last year?!

So, here’s the scoop.  We are looking at one last place that we really want after we get back from Santa Fe next week.  If we don’t get it, I will stop looking until fall.  Tis gardening season after all!  I will have Doug install the drip lines here in the crumbling raised beds and grow ridiculous amounts of food from heirloom seeds in riotous colors and hone my farmgirl skills thanks to Debbie.  I have another lesson in the morning!  And I’ll be off to get a dirt thermometer as well.

Posted in Farming

Will the Real Farmgirl Please Stand Up?

debs pic

When I told the owner of Miller Farms, Joe, at his birthday party a few months ago that I wanted to be a farmer, he looked at me with a mix of pity and humor.  Apparently grown women don’t run around dreaming of being a farmer when they grow up.  The rest of the farm hands laughed too.  The grumpy farmer at the farmer’s market asked why I would want to do such a thing?  It’s hard work.  I have never been afraid of hard work.  In fact, I dislike days that there is no work.  I have to keep busy.  I am not afraid of sunrise, dirt, or feeding people.  Only two percent of the population grows all the food for our country.  Scary.  Not crazy about relying on someone else to grow food for me.  Makes me feel kind of helpless.  That is why I garden.  Be it not very well for the past twenty years but I had a slower learning curve then everyone else and no family to teach me.  Just books.  And now Debbie.

Debbie started out as one of my students learning herbalism a few years back.  She received a grant for a greenhouse and grows a myriad of wonderful herbs as well as vast amounts of food.  So, the teacher becomes the student today as I go for my internship and learn which side is up.  Everything in her hoop house survived the below zero temperatures.  I am intrigued.  Her land is a picturesque bounty set against hills and filled with roaming cows and a beautiful old restored house.  Her general demeanor is always kind and upbeat.  A renaissance woman, a Master Gardener, and a friend.  I will learn well in this atmosphere!  http://lookingoutfrommybackyard.wordpress.com is her blog.  I shamelessly stole these pictures off of her blog!

debs pic2

I think I will plant a few rows of wine grapes.  I have two Cabernet Sauvignon vines here I can bring with me to start.  An Apothecary garden that will consist of beautiful medicinal and culinary herbs.  Long rows of three sisters, corn, beans, and squash will grow together and remind us of history.  All of the glorious, unique, colorful heirlooms seeds I ordered back in January in my garden dreaming will sprout and take hold, reaching their heads up to the endless sky, looking out to the mountain range, and will provide sustenance for our family and beyond.

I never want to sell wholesale.  Just as I run my Apothecary.  No wholesale.  No faceless item on the shelf.  No wondering who made it.  I want to hand it to you.  Tell you a funny story about it.  Throw in a free round of cheese to eat with the fresh tomatoes and kale.

Now I am really getting ahead of myself.  I don’t have a goat!