The Little City Greenhouse

May 21st, 2019- SNOW.

I wouldn’t say that it is out of the question for Colorado to get snow this late but I personally have never witnessed snow past the 14th or so.  Really, everywhere along the front range, folks have probably already put in their summer crops.  Here in Pueblo, I would have put out my tomato and pepper plants by now if I hadn’t had a hunch and a hint from Accuweather.  An hour north of here my daughters both got a good foot of snow.  Here, we got a ton of rain (we are still high desert and very thankful for rain, even if it slightly floods the chicken coop) which turned to snow overnight and is now back to rain.

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There wasn’t a dry space to be found outdoors so Gandalf worked from the couch last night.

Thick blankets of slush are currently sliding down the outer greenhouse walls. Tonight will drop to 30 degrees.  I may lose my pumpkins, beans, and corn that are all growing proudly in the beds.  I may lose some of the flowering plants.  And we will deal with losses as they come.  But, in the greenhouse, cold steam fills the air.  Peeking through the plastic I can see the tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers standing green and solid.  I dare not open the door and blast them with cold air.  I will probably bring everyone in tonight though.  Just in case.

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I am still experimenting with my new greenhouse.  I have never had one before, so temperatures and humidity and all that are still a bit of a mystery.  This is a kit from Home Depot.  My friend generously bought it for me for my birthday.  They run about $650 plus shipping.  Not inexpensive.  This particular greenhouse would have never stood up to a foot of snow at our old house, nor would it withstand the wind of the prairie.  Tucked behind six foot fencing in the city in a mild climate, it does pretty good.  I have to replace rogue pieces that fall off from time to time, but it is fulfilling its purpose of keeping plants safe.

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The temperature varies from 32 degrees to 114.  It baffles me.  Maybe because it lets in all that beautiful sun without any harsh breezes that the plants sit in a happy state.  I keep the seedlings on the second shelf of the greenhouse.  The color was being bleached from their leaves on the top shelf.  Watering every day to every other day keeps them happy.  I cannot get my seeds to germinate in there.  I speculate that they need individual cells that drain and are specific to starting seeds.  My peppers are still in their plastic salad bin and I think they would love drainage as well in the greenhouse.  But today, in their cold steam room, they are alive.

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It does get super hot here and my soon-to-be son-in-law recommended shade cloth.  If I planted a few tomatoes straight into the ground, would it boost production?  If I started seed pods of fall crops right now, would they be ready to plant in August?  (In Colorado, if a seed packet says it takes 90 days to mature, you can bet your apron strings that it means 120 days.  Maybe the altitude?)

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If not for the freezing night temperatures the rain would be most welcome!

It is fun having a new tool for gardening.  I can only say a prayer for my plants in the garden, but in the greenhouse, all is well.

DIY Seed Potatoes and Spring Planting

20180316_121644Today is the perfect day to finish the first spring planting.  When the moon is on its way to full, imagine the energy rising, so one would plant crops that grow above ground like peas, spinach, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, and lettuces.  When the moon is waning and heading towards a new moon the energy is focused below the ground and root crops are planted like potatoes, beets, and carrots.  The Farmer’s Almanac goes into more detail but I follow the best I can and also look at the weather.

Tonight we may have rain and tomorrow light snow.  That is a perfect finale for planting!

Last week I bought seed potatoes from a local nursery.  I usually buy seed potatoes through mail order.  Seed potatoes are not cheap, y’all.  I looked at those seed potatoes and they each had one eye.  As I planted that one eye in the ground a foot a part I remembered the potatoes with multiple eyes languishing in the basket in my kitchen.  I went and retrieved them.  I planted fingerling potatoes and red potatoes along with the Yukons.

You think a lot while you are digging in the soil and I remembered a few months ago when I stopped by a roadside stand.  The man was grumpy.  He picked up produce from all over and sold them it out of the back of his truck.  We had an argument because he didn’t believe that pinon nuts were the same as pine nuts.  He wouldn’t sell organic potatoes because they rot too quick.  He pulled out a few bags of organic potatoes with eyes growing out of them attaching to the bag.  Conventional potatoes are sprayed so that they don’t sprout.

I have been a Farmgirl a long time, y’all, why am I still purchasing seed potatoes?  Buy a bag of organic potatoes from the store in varieties you enjoy.  When they start to sprout cut them into large pieces with at least two eyes on each.  Plant in loose soil eight inches down.  Cover with straw once they sprout.

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Do a rain and snow dance after you finish your spring planting!

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)

Snowfall

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Across shallows and brooks

the snow falls driftlessly down

laying thickly over pines and rooftops in town.

Winter softens into spring

but today her cold gaze

diligently waters the ground, a frozen blanket lays.

A perk for bulbs who will hobble forth

quench the thirst of trees and the new growth

the bitter cold will not wane

Oh, why couldn’t Mother Earth just send rain?

Homesteader’s Espresso (off grid ready and fuel for chores)

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We are trying to purchase any desired or needed items to be off-grid ready, non-electric, and well made.  Doug works at a coffee shop in the winter, we enjoy really good coffee, and I do like an occasional espresso in the afternoons.  I researched non-electric espresso makers.  They were pricey and the concept was the same as our non-electric French Press.  Just pour boiling water over coffee grounds!  The containers were smaller and made a more compact, stronger cup, but essentially it was the same.  I poured roughly one cup of water over 4 Tablespoons of good coffee grounds and let it sit for four minutes or so.  Perfect espresso!

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My friend, Nancy (dang, I miss that woman!), taught me to use lemon peel.  She learned it in Italy.  She rubbed the lemon peel on the lip of the cup before taking a sip of the dark, rich drink.  It didn’t sound like it would be a good pairing but it was. A burst of sweet and tart and rich and earthy in one small, timeless sip.  This is best enjoyed on a patio, or under a tree, or with friends.  A little pick-me-up before the second round of farm chores.

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I have been enjoying it on rainy afternoons since the rain just won’t let up, but the past two days it has been sunny during the day and rainy at night, a perfect combination!  Look at how beautiful everything is turning in its electric green and soils filled with life.

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Perhaps summer is coming after all!

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Rainy Days, Worries, Manifesting, and Farming

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The rain has been gently coming down for days.  It will continue today.  My cold crop seeds, parsnips, potatoes, garlic, onions, radishes, mustard, stir fry greens, spinach, Swiss chard, snow, snap, and Alaskan peas, pak choi, carrots, beets, lettuce, herbs, all these things stay in their blanket of fresh soil and the water will rejuvenate them into life.  The rain dampens my heart just a bit.  A sliver of warm sun would do me good but perhaps this rain will wash away my worries.

Oh, we all have worries.   I take them as a waver in faith.  I know all is well and that we are where we are supposed to be but sometimes the mind can get oversaturated with thoughts.  Perhaps I should stand in the rain until they are gone.

Did I move too far away?  We end up driving back to our old town nearly every day.  Over 160 miles for two round trips to watch our beloved baby.  Back there again for Celtic Festival meetings and bank trips. I only know the friendly faces that I miss seeing regularly at the coffee shop and around town.

Will the landlords grow tired of the animals and the farm and the comings and goings that go with it?  Already a comment was made about the chickens.  Did I make a mistake?

Did I really just practically give away our means of paying bills?  I dreamt I opened another apothecary, this time in the high end Cherry Creek district.  A laugh of course.  Why can’t I be patient and finish jumping off this cliff and see that we will be just fine financially?  That we are living the life we wanted.  That we are always fine.

Perhaps I am tired from assisting Isabelle’s birth and then watching her baby go to her new home yesterday.  Perhaps the weekend caught up with me.  Perhaps I should go sit in the rain.  It is so cold though.  Coldest winter we have ever endured.

My cousin, Heather, said to me, “You manifested everything else, why don’t you just manifest another wood stove?”  And of course we did and it is being put in tomorrow.  So enough with the worries.  We will have food here on this farm, new friends, our family, and a spectacular view.  Another shot of coffee and plan the week’s course.  There are animals to care for and seeds to plant.  No time to second guess myself now.

This was from the series of paintings I did four years ago of the animals I eventually wanted on my imagined farm.

This was from the series of paintings I did four years ago of the animals I eventually wanted on my imagined farm.

And this is one of our sheep, Sven.  I do love living on a farm.

And this is one of our sheep, Sven. I do love living on a farm.

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.

 

Homestead Spring

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The first day of spring might have been in March but around here the first day of spring was yesterday.  The sun shone gloriously from its perch, the air was warm, the lilac and choke cherry leaves are stretching their arms out of their winter cocoons.  It even rained instead of snowed!  Of course I have four loads of wet laundry draped on the clothes line now, but just imagine how fresh they will be when they dry!  Nature’s fabric softener.

I could hardly get myself to stay inside.  I cleaned quickly and spent most of my day outdoors basking in vitamin d. I seem to be sun operated, it charged my batteries after a long, cold winter, and I got ever so much done!

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The big chickies enjoyed their romp around the yard.  I locked them out of their own pen to allow the chicken pen door to remain open and inspire the little ones to take in a little sun.  Nala and Sophia, our fabulous Araucanas in their fashionable leopard coats, remind me of those girls in school who were so much prettier than everyone else and so much bitchier.  They tell everyone what they may and may not do.  They chased any curious chick away from the doors.  A few times Gretel was able to spread out in the sun, her wings spread wide, in a lounging position until one of the Araucanas decided that she had enough.  A few snuck out for a few minutes but the guard girls shooed them back in.  Poor Henry Higgins.  He spends most of his time in the dog kennel out there hiding from the increasing estrogen levels of the female teens.  Brigitta is quickly becoming one of my favorites.  She runs and stands on our foot when we arrive.  And she felt safe to venture outside if I could stand with her.  She is the goof ball looking at the camera when I was taking a picture of Sophia.  Who’d a thought that chickens would have so much personality?

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Out in the garden, I transplanted the oregano and cilantro, planted six more rows of greens, and watered well (before the rain storm…).  It felt good to get my hands dirty.  The seeds are germinating and shoots of promising food are slowly popping up here and there.  The carrots are the last to come up.  I was hoping this would be my first year successfully growing carrots!  The herbs are taking off and look wonderful.  The bees came to visit and I enjoyed their gentle buzzing.  I will not have my own bees this year.  I recognized that I had taken on a bit more than I could handle.  Not knowing where we will be, not having any of the equipment to prevent stings, and a general nervousness about 10,000 bees coming over for dinner, I decided to see if someone else would take them when they arrived.  My young bee mentor was hoping for another group of bees but the company had sold out.  So, mine are living happily at his house.  Farmgirls have lofty goals, but sometimes they have to be spread out a bit.  There is always next year.

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Speaking of lofty goals, I sat there shaking my head at my garden plot.  I have six beds that are 10×3, three beds that 5×3, and two beds that are 3×3.  It may seem like a lot compared to what I could do in an apartment, but the square footage gets used up pretty quick once you plant three kinds of corn, squash, zucchini, watermelons, garlic, onions, Brussels sprouts, grapevines, radishes, lettuce, collard greens, kale, potatoes, peas, carrots (come up already!), cauliflower, cabbage, soybeans, three kinds of cooking beans, medicinal herbs, and culinary herbs…..yikes.  My main goal is to grow enough to substantially help feed my family.  Add to that market growing and I need a bigger plot!  Even though Nancy will be doing the bulk of the market growing, I wouldn’t mind helping out a little and I am growing a lot of the herbs.

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Then I started to see it.  Look at that space just to the left of the peas….or in between lettuce plants….or in that pot over there…or…there are a lot of spaces that can be filled.  I placed the oregano in the potato bed.  I placed the greens where I will add tomatoes and peppers in a few weeks.  Everyone will like each other.  I can see what doesn’t make it, replant.  Or find a foot here and there.  It is doable.  No long rows of the same thing.  Lots of interplanting (making sure they all get a long of course) and space making!  If the water wasn’t so exorbitant in this town, I would have already plowed the front yard and made a giant corn field and pumpkin patch.  Our space is as limitless as our imagination.

I wanted to attack the crabgrass before it grew up to high and we got a notice from the town.  But in my quest for all things non-electric, I bought a push mower last year.  It is a nifty little thing, just doesn’t cut grass.  I took my kitchen knife sharpener out and worked on the blades.  Had the whole front yard mowed in no time!

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My indoor garden survived their indoor recesses, and like me, were anxious to get a smidge more sunshine.  They are enjoying their stay on the porches looking out for possible freezes, but I think they can spend the majority of their time out there now.  Just as I will.

The sure sign of spring for me yesterday was the familiar whistling moped sound from the sky.  And there she was.  Our beautiful hummingbird has returned.  Welcome, welcome Spring.

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!