Farmgirl School; Homesteading 101 (now available on Amazon!)

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I never guessed back in 2012 what this would become.  I set out to chronicle our adventures in homesteading.  To create a template and how-to that we wish we had.  We weren’t able to find information on how to farm high altitude, or how to bottle feed a goat, or how to do any of the hundreds of things we did by trial and error on Pumpkin Hollow Farm.

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Those years on the homestead were some of the best times of our lives.  Re-reading the manuscript was like reading about an old friend.  I laughed and recollected.  I finished the book with a smile.  As if I had read it for the first time.

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This book is priceless, I tell you, it has everything a new homesteader could possibly need to get started on their journey.  Organic gardening, high altitude farming, canning, dehydrating, root cellaring, freezing produce, back yard chickens, bottle feeding goats, taking care of ducks, candle making, soap making, herbal remedies, recipes, homemade gifts….goodness, the list goes on.  The textbook we needed, but in a humorous storytelling method.

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I am so excited to see this book in print!  It is now available on Amazon in paperback and for Kindle.  https://www.amazon.com/dp/152077494X?ref_=pe_870760_150889320

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Wishing you many blessings on your homesteading journey.  See you ’round the farm!

Hugelkultur Gardening

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Hugelkultur gardens.  Heck, that is just fun to say!  This German word means “hill culture”.  It is an easy form of raised beds.  Some beds can be seven feet tall!

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Logs and branches are your foundation. We have branches piled up behind the chicken coop.  Doug was going to use them for firewood, but I claimed them for my gardening project!  One could dig a trench or place rocks or other materials around the bed to hold it into place.  The logs are laid out, filled in with branches, straw, leaves, then topped with gardening soil.  The bigger logs take many years to break down and hold on to water.  So a seven foot tall bed would never have to be watered, even in the desert!  Now, mine will be just a foot or so tall once it settles and shrinks.  The microorganisms in the wood benefit and improve the soil.  It’s all pretty ingenious.  By the time the wood completely breaks down, the soil beneath should be pretty cleaned up.

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I’ll have enough materials to make one bed like this.  We’ll do many beds of different styles so that we can compare them at the end of the season.

Farmgirl School Live!

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I would cordially like to invite you to the Colorado Springs Home and Landscaping Show this weekend, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  If you love decorating, improving, gardening, and events as much as I do, you will love this show!  HGTV, inspiration, ideas, and of course, White Wolf Medicine will be there!  And yours truly is one of the guest speakers.  I will be speaking all weekend about how to create an Apothecary Garden, how to create a Tea Garden, and about High Altitude Farming; Tried and True Tips.

So, if you already know me and Doug, come out and say hello.  If you haven’t met us, come out and introduce yourself.  I would love to meet you.  Maryjane Rose will be there Friday and Saturday as well helping me spread Farmgirl cheer!

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Colorado Springs Event Center 3960 Palmer Park Boulevard at Academy with Free Parking!

Show dates, times, and ticket prices are as follows:

Colorado Springs Home & Landscaping Show:

Friday, January 20, 2017 1 pm – 7 pm
Saturday, January 21, 2017 10 am – 6 pm
Sunday, January 22, 2017 11 am – 4pm

Adults $6, Youth 16 & under free!

http://ColoradoSpringsHomeShow.com

Farmgirl Gardening Series Week 12

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Every year’s garden is different. As soon as you think you have it figured out, the next year throws you for a loop.  This is why becoming a professional farmer can cause severe anxiety issues.  There is no control.  Over anything!  Here in our three community garden plots we are simply trying to feed ourselves for the summer.  And we are eating delicious food.  This year we may not see pumpkins (which is crazy to me, my farm was called Pumpkin Hollow Farm, for crying out loud!) but we will see for the first time ever sweet potatoes.  We have had lots of rain for Colorado and it shows.  So for starting with a plot that had sand and ant hills, with little amending to the soil, and two tons of hail thrown in, I’d say we’re looking pretty good this year.

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In season now are peas.  Glorious purple snow peas and crunchy snap peas.  A few thick pods of English peas are ready but I do believe that I am missing several vines of English peas.  The rabbit seems to know nothing of it.

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The collard greens are prolific and delicious young.  Crisp them in the oven with the snow and snap peas, some garlic, salt, and a good drizzle of olive oil for a farm to table side.  The tomatoes are setting on their vines as well.  Yesterday I did have a hankering for fried green tomatoes but they aren’t quite that big yet!

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The cabbages are growing their heads.  Now, there is a fine line in the high plains of Colorado, one week you could have happily growing cabbage and the next little black bugs will be sent by Mother Nature to take them out since they aren’t ready yet.  The clean up crew.  So, sometimes you can just harvest as is, without the finished head.  Chiffonade the leaves and stir fry.  With the snow and snap peas, of course!

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Some of the potatoes have flowered and some are yet to flower.  Potato flowers are amazingly beautiful.  They always surprise me in their lovely understated elegance.  I let the mustard, radish, and arugula plants go to seed.  I enjoy their flowers and they may reseed themselves, which is always a nice treat.

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The herbs have been prolific.  Waving California poppies, knee high cilantro in bloom, morning glories grasping for the trellis, volunteer borage with its star-like blooms.  Chamomile and its glorious scent, the first head of Calendula, roses.

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Lots of fresh lettuces, baby carrots, greens, young onions, and herbs await.  I am better after an hour in the garden.  My medicine.  Watching the water crystals from the sprayer bounce off the leaves of the great sunflowers, watching birds flit by, a lady bug lands on a nearby leaf.  I am in my element in a garden, wherever it may be.

Farmgirl Gardening Series (First Week of June Checklist)

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One thing to remember while gardening in the high plains is that one needs to add a full 2-4 weeks onto the supposed harvest date on the seed packets.  I have never had a radish ready in 21 days.  I’ll tell you that much.  So, when planting seeds make sure you add an extra few weeks to the math.

#1 Acknowledge disappointments.  I started crying, I’ll admit it, when I saw that the plots next to mine had been rototilled.  I cried because six inches of their dirt was now flipped upside down on my rows next to theirs.  6 inches of upside down topsoil.  Once the seeds that I had planted came up they were all bunched together in a softball sized circle.  Once I thin them I will have 4 plants from an entire envelope of seeds.

These things happen.  The term “One for God, one for nature, and one for the gardener” is very, very true.  You can count on one third of your seeds coming up and surviving.  The good news is we can always replant!  There are many life lessons in the garden.

Not a single soybean has risen from the soil surface.  I will assume they will come up next week.  If not, I’ll plant something else.

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#2 Note where there are empty spaces.  Only half of my zucchini seeds germinated.  I didn’t use as much space as I thought I would for tomatoes.  There is a strip of empty soil along the south side of the garden that I didn’t plant.  I can save them for the second round of cold crops (we’ll plant those in July) or plant annuals, another type of seed that looks intriguing, or more of what we love to eat best.  No space unused!

#3 Check your mulch.  Right now it is to be a light covering, thicker on the paths.  The mulch over the plants is not for weed suppression right now, or the plants won’t come up!  It is just lightly covering the soil so it doesn’t dry out or erode or blow away.  We’ll mulch thicker as the plants get up and stronger.

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#4 Water each day if is no rain.  I will never forget my lessons with my friend, Deb, years ago in which she would have me water then ask me if it was watered.  I would say yes, she would have me check the soil and it was dry!  Three times I watered and directly beneath the surface was completely dry!  So I check the soil with my finger.  Wet up to the second knuckle and it is watered.

#5 I weed on my hands and knees this early in the season.  It helps me not accidentally hoe a vegetable seedling.  It helps me see what is coming up and what is not.  I can be more intimate with my garden this early in the season to get a better idea of what is going on.  I do wish the red ants would move out of the north garden!

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#6 Take a few minutes in your garden each day.  Even if just to enjoy a few sips of water and watch the birds.  Talk to the plants.  Encourage them.  Sing, hum, sit in the sun.

Farmgirl Gardening Series Week 6 (Tomatoes, Peppers, and Eggplants)

Well, it’s Memorial Weekend.  If you are following along, this is what your garden might look like:

  1. Potatoes, onions, garlic are shoving through the straw.
  2. Kale, chard, collards, mustards, lettuces, radishes, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, carrots, pak choi, and spinach are about an inch tall. Don’t try to thin them, let them be!
  3. Peas are 2 inches high.
  4. Sunflowers and pumpkins are all beginning to pop out of the soil.
  5. Morning glories have sprouted.  Looks like we might lose one or two herb plants, but the rest look like they are hanging on despite our cool nights.
  6. The other seeds are still under the warm soil working.

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Now, we put in the summer plants.  If we started these from seeds right now they would never make it.  Best to find a good source (I like Kevin at the Parker Farmer’s Market right as you walk in.) and let them get the nightshades up and going.

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In the book, Wisdom of a Radish, by Lynda Hopkins all of her tomato starts die (as they do often) and she had to go buy plants to put in the ground.  She mutters to herself, “Only f#@k up farmers have to buy starts!”

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Now every year when Doug  and I buy our starts we chant that.  We don’t mind.  Sometimes a farmer has to rely on other farmers to ensure success.  No shame.

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Dig the holes 1 1/2 feet apart for peppers and eggplants, 2 feet for tomatoes.  Then walk back down rows and pop in starts complete with labels.  Then walk down aisle with a bag of organic garden soil and fill the holes, patting around the plants so they stand up nice.  Water well then add straw around the bases to keep them upright and allow less moisture to escape.  Put snazzy looking tomato cage over.  Or not.  I am still saving up for the other 28.  I planted 20 tomatoes, 12 various peppers, and 4 eggplants.  That may seem like a lot but we want tomatoes as deep into winter as we can get!

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I have gone without and had a brilliant crop, they just run all over the ground and tempt animals and black spots.  Anything could work that has a little strength.  We have a week to think about it.  In the meantime, enjoy your garden and your Memorial weekend!

See you next week!

Save Some For Me!

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Lisa came over to get some herbal medicine.  I walked her through the gardens and we gushed over how incredible all of our respective plantings are doing this year.  This is my first year farming a quarter acre and she asked a reasonable question, “Do I think it is enough to feed my whole family for a year?”  Unquestionably, no.  I thought it would be, but it is not even close.  I do see all the wasted space though, five gallon pots that could be filled with more tomatoes to line the porch, criss cross the rows, add more here…there.

I sold all of my beautiful purple green beans as soon as they hit the tables at the farmers markets.  I got a handful of the remaining growing and cooked them up to add to fresh potato salad; the lovely purple fading to green as they cooked.  I only got one serving!  I also realized that I was being really silly with my new farming mentality.  ‘Can’t eat that, that is to sell.  Save that for Woodland Park!’  I get bushels of vegetables from my friends at Miller Farms to can.  Granted, I am not growing bushels of anything yet, but I could also be saving some of my own produce for..*gasp*…us.

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My original plan since I was a child was to be a homesteader.  To follow in the footsteps of Laura Ingalls.  To skip through fields of wild flowers instead of cement sidewalks.  To can my own side dishes instead of consuming who knows what from poisonous cans.  To build a fire on a stormy night and heat up a kettle of tea on the stove; cozy and warm reading by oil lamp light.  To spend most of my time in an extensive garden among the bees and butterflies, tending to all the life around me.  To hold an infant lamb, to laugh at chickens running by, to feel the breeze and know the weather.  To not hear traffic, to hear only silence (except for cows lowing).  I am half way there, working my way towards this complete homesteading dream.

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I also have an extreme passion for farming that I could talk one’s ear off a hundred miles an hour about.  Non-GMO’s, organic, heirloom, urban farms, country farms, feed the masses!!!  Or at least the neighborhood.  I need to teach.  I need to get people started on creating their own mini-farms.

“How are the onions?”  Someone asked at the market.  I have no idea.  Sheesh, I planted all these onions to put in the root cellar and here I am selling them off for a buck a piece.

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The time will come when I can create a larger farm.  For now, though, I better sell what we can’t eat, but eat what we can!  Homestead first, then feed the masses….or the neighborhood.

Colorado Oasis

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I cannot believe how amazing my quarter acre garden is this year.  Twenty years of gardening, and I finally have the garden I thought up in January!  At this altitude, I have never seen corn over seven feet tall as it is now.  I have a pumpkin that is almost ready and it is early August!  I am usually begging it to hurry up and ripen before the frost.  Now, the Jack Be Little pumpkins are nearly ready to harvest!  We have been blessed with rain.

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I know in other areas of the country where farming comes easy the rain has created flooding and crops are failing.  I feel bad about that, but we are reveling in the increased precipitation this year.  In Colorado, after so many years of drought and hail that has left us virtually fruitless, we are a veritable oasis right now.  Never have I seen the grass (okay, weeds, whatever) so green in August.  Never have I seen the trees flourishing this late in summer.  There is no comparison between rain water and sprinklers.  Rain water is superior and we are finally seeing a great amount of it.  Pumpkin Hollow Farm is spectacular this year and we are thankful for the rain!

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