Tunnel of Arbors (and how I made ours)

I would love to say that I am super handy or a DIY kind of farmgirl.  But, I am not.  I can think of all sorts of clever alternatives though that don’t require more than a screwdriver!

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I am in love with this arbor idea.  I have been for years.  I find it so enchanting!

So, I priced them out at the hardware store.  Yikes.  “You can just build one so easy,” my friends tell me, “You just need PVC pipe and…” They lost me.  I can go on Amazon though, y’all.  I ordered five arbors for $24.99 each.  I have had ones like this before and they last forever.

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Feeling mighty fine wielding my trusty screwdriver, pulling screws from my apron pockets, I got three of them up and made my husband do the others.

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One went by the gate because nothing is as wonderful as approaching a home and entering a gate and walking under an arbor with climbing roses atop it.  Secret garden indeed.

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Before (this is our third season)
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The new garden beds just waiting for climbing peas, yard long beans, and loads of pumpkins!

To read how to make my signature garden beds in about fifteen minutes and fifteen dollars, click here.  They are a combination of permaculture and straw bale gardening with a touch of broke farmgirl from buying too many seeds.

Spring is here and I would love to hear about your garden plans!

A Frightfully Fun Halloween Party for Any Age

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My daughter, Shyanne, is the queen of Halloween.  She drives an old, lifted Jeep Cherokee with a life sized skeleton named Victor in the front seat all year.  When Shyanne invited me to her Halloween day with my other daughter and granddaughter, I didn’t hesitate (never turn down opportunities to be with loved ones).  I hopped in the car with my witch hat and headed to the eastern plains.

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Now there is nothing quite like the sound of a five year old’s bent-over, belly laugh.  And that is what I was met with.  “You look like a unicorn!” Maryjane wailed, a twinkle in her eye.  “I am a witch!” I declared.  “Looks like a unicorn to me.”

There were crafts laid out, and snacks galore, spooky music met me when I entered through the door.  I got straight to work, for this Grammie has a role.  I make the best Halloween hamburgers (veggie burgers) this side of the veil.  I sneaked the bits of cheese from cutting out eyes and mouths to my scary granddog.

Witch’s brew was put on, just like when the children were small.  Ah, it does not seem like it was that long ago at all.  A jug of apple juice or cider, a handful of brown sugar, a good sprinkling of pumpkin pie spice and let that begin to simmer then serve.

Shyanne put on a spread of easy treats, crackers and chips and cookies.  We decorated warm sugar cookies with edible watercolors and sprinkles.

We made puppets out of tongue depressors glued to construction paper cutouts that we glued googly eyes to.  Shyanne had carefully pre-cut Frankenstein heads, pumpkins, bats, and ghosts out.  We painted and glued and sprinkled our way into the Halloween spirit.  I did notice that is hard to get into the spirit when no children are present.  This was a welcome party for me.

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“The neighbors are going to wonder what is going on,” Emily said, as Maryjane and I danced to Disney songs and howled loudly like werewolves.

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Emily posing with her pumpkins. She is very ready for the new baby to come! (a few more weeks!)
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Maryjane’s broom. It’s a compact like my Fiat.

Pumpkins were carved, and we danced, and sang.  Halloween parties can be impromptu and easy.  For any age, for us older children regress rather quickly in the sight of sugar cookies and glue sticks.  I hope you find a few ideas to incorporate into your own spooky Halloween day!

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Redecorating for the Season (easy tricks for a beautiful home)

20171027_071224In the winter I was experimenting with how to set up our new house.  An art and writing area, a music and reading area, and a sitting area took up separate sections of the old living room.  Then my classes started and I needed to be able to seat ten people comfortably and have a bigger conversation area.  The living room was rearranged again.  Now I am looking at having my family over for Thanksgiving dinner and entertaining for the holidays.  I will need a place for the Christmas tree (I know, I know, it’s not even Halloween…) and I wanted the seating area to surround the wood stove for cozy nights with a delicious book and a cup of hot chocolate.  Add to that I wanted to display my medicines for when customers come by, and have a place for all of my plants so I tapped into my inner Martha Stewart and spent the day redecorating!

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Faux fur rugs and gold toned throw pillows cozy up the velvet futon which reclines to become a double bed for guests.
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On the other side of the wood stove the love seat sits. A colorful sofa cover and earth toned throw pillows set a comfy space to play the guitar or have a drink. Guess what is behind the cow painting? The television! Wish I would have thought of it years ago. I am always trying to hide that thing!
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I knew our life transitioned into a new stage when I agreed to buy matching recliners. To me, recliners are the ugliest things ever and I swore I’d never have them in the house. (They are awfully comfortable though…)
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There wasn’t room for the coffee table in front of the recliners so I made it into a stand for my farmer’s market kit of medicines. Games, movies, and music are stored on the bottom shelf of the coffee table.
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Books are always at the ready and Maryjane’s books are easy to reach for when she comes to visit. A set of old doors creates drama, and my lovely grandfather clock adds charm. My collection of Native art and my feathers adorn the shelves.
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The table is closer to the front door than the kitchen now but I have more space to expand the table here. I can roll the giant aloe plant to the corner and add another table in here to accommodate more guests.
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My desk is an old sewing machine table and it can be rolled into the bedroom when it’s time to add a Christmas tree after Thanksgiving.

I didn’t spend a penny on this redecorating day and it only took a few hours.  The house feels cozy and the pumpkins and colors add an autumnal spirit.  Twinkly lights are always in order for a charming home.  Wishing you a beautiful season filled with warmth and family and home.

 

 

The New Farm (starting from scratch)

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I always have good intentions.  I spent the winter learning everything I could about Permaculture and how to incorporate it into our new farm.  I was on fire about it!  The inner garden we did not dig.  We piled on six inches of straw.  To plant I opened up part of the straw along rows to fill in with organic garden soil and plant in that.  The beds will stay well mulched.  The new garden soil will be covered around the plants as soon as they are up and strong.  Eventually the whole garden will settle in and each year we will just add new layers of soiled straw and leaves and let the years work themselves into great soil.

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I saved boxes all winter and threw them into the garden.  Once they were all broken down they sure didn’t cover much space between the beds.  The weeds are peeking around it.  I would need a lot more boxes, and a box cutter to cut them to size, and a lot more patience.  More straw, I think, is the answer for the remaining paths (that is my answer to everything).

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Then I looked out upon the large pumpkin patch we are creating.  It will be a Three Sisters garden complete with five different kinds of pumpkins crawling along the ground and three different heirloom beans climbing organic sweet corn stalks.  The grass is now thick and I am sadly lacking in time or cardboard boxes.  I think we will have to rototill.

The thing about Permaculture is one starts slowly.  Creating one bed at a time.  We now farm for a living.  I have a half acre of vegetables, fruit, and herbs to finish getting in.  I don’t have time to build raised beds for ridiculously long rows of pumpkins or wait six months for a lasagna garden!

I won’t be able to do the whole farm in Permaculture this year.  Some lessons are best taught over time.  Long, windy initial rows will be rototilled into the never before planted area of the yard.  I will add aged horse manure and gardening soil and plant.  I will mulch well.  We will have a good comparison between the inner no-till garden and the traditional tilled rows this year.

Next year I hope not to have to till.  I will keep working up and adding layers of compost.  This year though, we will just do what we know, pray for Mother Nature’s blessing, light the candle for San Isidro (the patron saint of farming), and enjoy all the blessings that come from our humble patch of rented land.

Thank goodness it is spring.

A Family Pumpkin Party

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Holidays have always been important in our family.  It has been the catalyst for a million good memories, for rounding up the kids as they got older to bring us all together, to allow creativity, and to enjoy good food.

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We brought over all of the pumpkins from our garden (leaving a few for the resident buck) when we moved so our house is positively overflowing with a bountiful crop.  First dibs went to the kids that could venture out to our new house.  Andy and Megan had to work but Shyanne and Dillon, Emily, Bret, and Bret’s sister Becky drove over the river and through the woods to Grammie and Papa’s new homestead to take part in a pumpkin party reminiscent of their childhood.  We were babysitting Maryjane so she was already there to help me greet her parents, aunts, and Shyanne’s boyfriend.

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We served a simple meal of Jack O’Lantern hamburgers and veggie burgers (click for recipe), chips, pickles, and salad.  Cookies and homemade eggnog for dessert.  I was able to enjoy our festivities since everything came together so quickly.

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Becky, Maryjane, and her dad, Bret
Becky, Maryjane, and her dad, Bret
Shyanne and Dillon
Shyanne and Dillon
Maryjane with her parents, Bret and Emily.  Papa is in the back watching the Bronco game!
Maryjane with her parents, Bret and Emily. Papa is in the back watching the Bronco game!
Maryjane then stole Papa's hat and mugged for the camera.  Papa is the real paparazzi!
Maryjane then stole Papa’s hat and mugged for the camera. Papa is the real paparazzi!
Zuzu watches over in her Halloween decoration guise.
Zuzu watches over in her Halloween decoration guise.

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My hostess gift, the children writing on my chalkboard wall.

Parties don’t have to be difficult to pull off.  A few special touches and folks you love help create lifelong holiday memories.

Our Farmstead in August (chokecherries, herbs, bees, and helpers)

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August is a beautiful time on a farm.  The daily rainfall (incredibly rare) has made this place look like an absolute Eden.  Allow me to give you a tour in photos with your morning coffee.

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This wouldn’t be Pumpkin Hollow Farm if there were no pumpkins.  Princess orange pumpkins and green pinstriped pumpkins are quickly filling the front yard.  Some have taken over the herbs.  Some have volunteered in the back pasture and in the mulch pile with the help of our neighborhood birds.

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We grow dozens of herbs for the medicines we make.  Our bees need not scurry far as they are immediately drawn to the medicine gardens.  Calendula (for mouthwash and skin conditions) mingles with Bidens Ticks (a strong anti-biotic when mixed with juniper berries).  Blue Lobelia masquerades as a prim and proper flower when its real superpower is in opening airways and has a place in my asthma medicine.  Funky red Monarda (also known as bee balm) is great in cold medicines and in my brain extracts.  Another picture of fluffy calendula brightens up the herb garden.

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The bees have been tremendously busy bringing in bloomers full of pollen from the sweet herbs surrounding them.  Should we get a bit of honey this year it will taste of summer and herbs.  Wild Herb Honey.

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Such bounty we have received from our dear gardens.  I was surprised to see that even though I stole their tomato cage and stopped watering them the shelling, snap, and snow peas all continued to grow.  I shall try to extend their season next year.  I did not expect them to survive through summer.  The tomatoes are growing with a new vibrancy now that the sun has started to show hot on their beds.  The green beans are irrepressible and the corn is taller than me.

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Another thing taller than me is the mullein.  We let it grow in the yard instead of mowing it down and it is a powerful tool in our artillery for everything from asthma, colds, nerve pain, and digestive disorders.  This herb is a gift!

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Another gift of August is chokecherries! So many people ask me what a chokecherry tastes like and I am ever surprised that a lot of folks have not tasted the sweet taste of chokecherry jelly.  They are not eaten plain.  A small bite will taste like a drying powder in the mouth.  They are boiled with water and the juice is used to make a myriad of recipes from chokecherry tapioca to chokecherry pudding (an American Indian tribe Crow recipe eaten with deer jerky) along with chokecherry jelly that my grandmother used to make and my new favorite, chokecherry gin, that my friend Sandy made!

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There is something magical about berry stained fingers.   A sense of place and of the earth, the warmth of the day, an adorable helper, and the promise of goods to eat during the winter create a peace only found on farms.

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Though we are as busy as our bee hive, we take time to see the flowers, smell the earth after rain, bask in the sunshine, and give thanks for nature’s gifts,

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and fully enjoy summer for winter’s winds will be knocking on our doors before we are ready!

 

Face to the Sun (early crops and prayers)

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This is my favorite sculpture.  It was created by Roxanne Swentzell.  I could not bring the statue home but I was able to obtain this greeting card from her gallery in New Mexico and I keep it on my secretary.  It emanates my favorite feeling.  Face upturned, worries decreasing as I feel the warm sun on my face.  Even the pumpkins speak to me as my farm’s name is Pumpkin Hollow Farm!

Today will be seventy degrees here in Kiowa, Colorado and I intend to do just this.  To lift my face to the heavens whispering prayers of thanks and soaking up that beautiful sunshine and warmth.  I will plant the early crops today.  Radishes, kale, spinach, Swiss chard, and lettuces I will give extra fervent prayers to as I need them in three weeks for our first farmer’s market.  The bok choy, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli will take a bit longer.  Spring peas, snap peas, snow peas will go in buckets up against the house with a makeshift trellis behind them to give them something to play on.

With my hands once again in the dirt, the worries and sorrows of winter will be past and the present power of nature and new beginnings will pour forth as the water showers the awakening soil.  I will breathe deep, be thankful, and infuse life into the soil as it infuses life into my soul.

Happy Easter everyone.  This was my favorite song as a child sitting in church in my hat and beautiful Easter dress, content.

“This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it…..”

Harvest

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The sun came out and bounced off the crystal droplets that held fast to the plants in a great display of shimmer.  The water evaporated and the plants took a great breath of the fresh autumn air.  We headed out in sweaters with baskets to see what Mother Nature had left us.  Like Easter morning, our eyes full of wonder, searching for treasures within the rows.

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Doug deftly found the beans that we are drying for winter stews and chilies.  He filled quite a bag full.  I found rich purple and red tomatoes, bright spicy chilies, and sweet, small peppers.  Ear, after ear, after ear of corn.  The other side of the gardens yielded two gallons of Swiss chard, kale, and collard greens.  A gallon of fresh lettuce.  A bag of soybeans to eat in front of a football game boiled just right with a little sea salt and chipotle.  The last onion.  A handful of cherry tomatoes.  Spicy radishes making their second debut this year brought a spring to my step with each peppery bite.  Piles of earthy potatoes just waiting to join onions and garlic in the cast iron skillet.  And pumpkins.  I do love pumpkins.

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Through worry and work, through screwy weather and days of bliss watching the plants grow, this is truly the reward.  Seeing the rich palette of colors that start to glow and brighten the world in a majestic show.

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Happy Harvesting!

Pumpkin Eating

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I love pumpkins!  I feel like Linus from Charlie Brown about now.  I will wait in my pumpkin patch for the Great Pumpkin because I have the most sincerest pumpkin patch of all.  Here’s the interesting thing…it’s not Halloween.  The pumpkins are not supposed to be done yet!  With all the beautiful weather we have had this summer, everything is ready to be harvested!  I’ll be taking some pumpkins to the farmer’s market this week for sure.

I picked one that was for sure ready (vine died and it just practically fell off) and brought its beautiful orange self in the house holding it in the air like I had just won a trophy.  There are a few things I can do now….

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I can eat it for dinner.  Or I might want to can it for winter.  If I cannot wait then this is my favorite way to prepare it:

Slice it in half, take out the seeds (Roast them later or give them to the chickies.) and lay them face down on a cookie sheet.  Bake in the oven for 30 minutes at 350 degrees and then flip over.  A few pats of butter, a couple tablespoons of brown sugar, a teaspoon or so of pumpkin pie spice and maybe a few walnuts or pecans and back in the oven it goes to bake another 20 minutes.  Add a bit of heavy cream in each half and bake another 10 minutes until well done and tender.  Whallah.  Crust-less Pumpkin pie.

Or for later, bake 30 minutes on one side, 30 minutes on the other but don’t add any of the previously listed delicious ingredients.  Now stick in the fridge overnight to cool.  Scoop out flesh, put in food processor or Vitamix and puree.  Pour into pint jars leaving 1 inch head space.  Pour three inches of water into pressure canner and process jars at 10 lbs. of pressure (25 lbs. of pressure at high altitude, Colorado people!) for 65 minutes.  Now you will have jars of fresh pumpkin to put into coconut pumpkin soup, or delicious pumpkin pie, or anything else that calls for a can of pumpkin.

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I got one jar out of my medium sized pie pumpkin.  I better go out and harvest some more!