The End of Summer

The end of summer.

‘Twas yesterday eve that I felt the shift.  The night temperatures would fall much too cold for summer crops.  I gathered my long shawl- orange and reds to match the changing leaves- across my hair and over my shoulders to keep the encroaching dusk chill away and gathered my baskets.

Out into the gardens with falling light I felt for vegetables and fruits in the dirt, on vines, hidden in lush leaves, swiftly clipping and twisting them into my hands.  Watermelons, butternut squash, yellow squash, poblanos, chilies, jalapenos, green peppers, and dozens upon dozens of green tomatoes came tumbling in.

Into the warm house where the fire was lit and the candles dazzled the rainy night.  For rain it poured and torrents of it came, while lightening bid farewell to the summer night games.  An autumn chill has descended here and the nights will stay cool as the sun tends to fall asleep early and the gardening days of fall are almost done.

The oil lamps lit, and candles brighten pages of good books.  And the darkness descends us into a warming rest.  I took a sip of tea and watched him put another log on the fire.

Improving My Quick Garden Bed Method and Marvelous Summer

20180717_075151There were pros and cons to my quick raised beds but overall they are a success.  I had first put down a layer of cardboard, surrounded it with logs, then put in thick slabs of straw, then compost, then organic gardening soil.  The whole thing cost about twelve bucks.

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This row was planted directly in the soil and is doing just as well as the beds but has a lot more bind weed!

At the beginning I quickly realized that I didn’t have enough gardening soil but was tapped out of funds so couldn’t get more.  It took a lot longer to water because I think too much sand (we have sandy soil) got into my compost.  Don’t forget to check your beds after watering.  It should be wet to your second knuckle.  Beds can be deceiving, they look wet, but aren’t!  I will add more soil this fall or next spring to build up the bed.

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The second issue was an obvious one, but I didn’t think about it.  Some of the corn has to be staked up with re bar because the roots can’t get through the cardboard.  The beds aren’t that deep and the straw takes up most of the space.  So, some of the deeper reaching plants can’t get enough space and nutrients.  They are doing fine now though.

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The potatoes are prolific planted directly in the soil.

The weeds certainly found their way through the cardboard but not nearly as bad as in the regular beds.  I have had a much easier season this year with much less work keeping the beds clear of weeds.

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20180717_07533820180717_075405My yard looks pretty and more organized with the makeshift beds.  Doug can mow easier around them.  It’s been so incredibly hot and dry here that the grass all died early in the season, but at least the weeds are green!  Because of the early heat, my spring crops came up (if they came up) and promptly died or went to seed.  I will be planting the same crops today as fall crops and hoping for better luck.  I need radishes!

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I planted a tomato seedling in the porch planter and it is doing amazing!

This fall I will build more of these beds and let them sit for the winter before planting in them.  How quickly logs (that I can still use in the wood stove this winter) and railroad ties make creative beds.  I like the look of them.  The bark gently peeling off, the varying colors, the moist soil within.

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20180717_075436The lizards dart here and there, drinking water from small leaves.  The birds come for their seeds.  And the cooler morning breeze rustles the sunflowers into dance. I hope you are all enjoying your gardens.  How I love summer!

 

Geraniums on the Porch (memoirs and present)

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We sit on the balcony each evening watching the clouds.  The Creator paints and creates as we watch and laugh and point out different animals and characters.  We see the same things in the clouds, and the illustrations dancing across the sky above the mountains from this third floor view helps us wind down.

The balcony is my respite.  No doubt done with the city and missing my feet on the earth but this little abode in the sky makes a lovely garden and peaceful place of thought and memory and gift.  The bare root roses bought for dollars create a lovely garden in their brightly colored pots.  The lavender flows over its spot and the Christmas poinsettia happily flaunts green.  The transplanted comfrey and horseradish root strongly and the gooseberry, mini roses from the grocery store, the rosemary that barely made it though the homeless trek, the mint, curry, catnip, Jerusalem artichokes, and chives all spread out, face the sun, and thrive.  The gay petunias beckon the hummingbird.

And the ones that have been with me the longest, the geraniums.  They are large and lush and have survived everything along side us, from house to house, and shop to balcony, their colors rich in the summer heat.  My great grandma would be impressed.  She always had geraniums on the porch.  I would pass them as I walked up the steps and to the door where I never knocked.  And there she would be in her chair in the corner.  Smiling, excited to see me, always wanting a kiss, her love for me so evident, her small frame hugging mine.

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We would walk along her row of roses, always taller than me, their fragrance rich with summer and future memories of past.  Her yard seemed so big.  Her house quaint and tidy filled with relics and memory and life.

I went to a friend’s house for dinner last week.  She lives in Washington park, one of the places I grew up.  I rode my bike past her house a million times with my best friend, Susan, I bet.  The beautiful old cottages and bungalows all similar in their individual layouts.  I walked up the steps and noted the imaginary porch swing, knocked.  And through the door I entered and did face the fireplace and mantle, the two small windows above it with beveled glass, the couch, the corner where Great grandma’s chair stood.  The same floor plan as hers, situated just blocks away, and my breath was taken as my eyes moistened and there I stood eleven years old, gangly and tall in my all encompassing grandma’s house.  I saw her stand and squeal that I was there.  I saw us at the dining room table, plants behind us lining the south window, drinking sweet iced tea and enjoying hours of rummy, where I obtained my title of rummy queen.

How she would be thrilled with my roses and geraniums.  Now we sit watching a bear emerge from the depths of the sky and an old eagle flying by, our sights set on getting to a homestead respite of our own.  Soon.  Our feet firmly on the soil of earth and our spirits restored to freedom and homestead.  We breathe in the fumes of the city streets and post rain scent.  And look upon the roses and geraniums and flowers that Mother Earth has lent.

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The Sun and Moon Meet (so what does a full moon on solstice mean?)

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The moon was full a few hours ago.  The first time that the moon has been full on the summer solstice since 1948.  The large moon meets the strongest day for the sun.  This is more significant than one would think.

At my shop the tops of the canning jars holding hundreds of jars of medicine are popping.  The herbs move.  The fluid they are suspended in changes colors.  The medicine will be ready.  The medicines that go out into the full moon of June are always the most brilliantly colored and generally the strongest medicine I will make all year.  The full moon changes the frequency of the medicine (remember everything is energy) making it match our bodies unique energy level.  The moon cycles control the ocean, women’s cycles, and have a great influence on farming, and on medicine making.

All my medicines go through the sun as well.  This often surprises people since the little dark bottles at the health food store take such good care to not show their faces to the great sun.  Think sun tea.  It infuses the herbs.  The sun is our ally.  It detoxifies the skin, creates natural vitamin D, controls our moods, and sets our internal clocks.  The sun is as powerful as the moon for my medicines.  (I do not cut my medicines like common tinctures so I never worry about loss of energy or mold.)

So here today we have the longest day for the sun, the change of season is upon us, and the moon is there to greet the sun.  This will have a powerful influence not just on medicines and plants, but on us as well.

This is a time to become your strongest self.  The frequency is right, the season is new, it is time to be renewed.  Change is swirling all around us and it is time to really look inward and focus on our utmost important intentions.  Not your intentions for anyone else, just you.  Time to release all that is past.  Release anything not adding to your life.  Release any habits, jobs, relationships, old ideas, anything that may have been there for too long keeping you stagnant.

Focus intently on new ideas, jobs, relationships, place of living, creative ideas, and passions.  It is time to manifest the place we want to be.  To be the person we want to be.

I know I have allowed myself to become too busy.  The things I have done over the years were done with Doug but without his help I have taken on too much.  Too much time working in the shop, teaching others, volunteering for things, trying to do everything at home, at work, and for others.  I need to scale back a smidge.  My medicines and my peace of mind will suffer.  I will think today on how I can make changes to make my work and my personal life lead to the most balance.  What are my priorities?  What are yours?

I really need a bonfire to be dancing around in the moonlight tonight to bring it all to being but I guess my oil lamp and a journal will do.  Happy Solstice!  Summer is here!

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)

Summer List and Sunshine

Summer is quickly becoming one of my favorite seasons.  Sometimes in Colorado it seems like we have seven and a half months of winter a few weeks of spring, a few months of summer, a few weeks of autumn, then right back to winter.  Yesterday felt so good at seventy four degrees.

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Summer does have a wicked tendency to come and go before you can get your tan lines straightened out.  Along with our shop we do farmer’s markets and now Doug has a 9-5 job too.  We watch the baby, I am writing a novel, and we have three garden plots, and…well, we need to make a list of what we really want to do.

I am a notorious list maker.  If I don’t make a list of the things we want to do this summer then we shall miss it.

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So far we have seen a bluegrass concert at Red Rocks.  I have read a good book, The Excellent Lombards, by Jane Hamilton.  I have a beautiful garden started.

  1. Go to pool one morning a week.
  2. Take Maryjane to the carnival next week.
  3. Take Maryjane to rodeo next week.
  4. Go hiking on a trail we have never been on.
  5. Ride bike as far down the trail as I can go.
  6. Read three great books.
  7. Dance under the full moon of the summer solstice.
  8. Order lemonade at the county fair.
  9. Drink coffee on the balcony every morning.
  10. Go to the mountains and picnic by a stream at least once this summer.

I would like to add road trips and vacations and time in hammocks and bonfires but time, especially summertime, is elusive.  But we will do all we can to soak up each beautiful warm moment.

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Tell me,   what do you want to do this summer?

Late Summer Spa

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I like how I look this time of year, brown.  I generally resemble a vampire of some sort come February so that lovely layer of color makes me look a bit more alive.  The vitamin D and restorative powers of the sun help my spirit but after a summer of chlorine, hot sun, and a fair amount of crisp wine, my skin appreciates a little restoration itself!.

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After you pull your hair back, place a layer of honey all over your face, neck, and décolletage.  Honey is miraculous in its properties to heal the skin.

Over the honey add a layer of coconut oil.  It might seem unwise to slather oil on one’s face but fear not!  This will not cause you to break out or make your skin greasy.  Coconut oil is a natural sun block in itself.  It also contains saponin which is essentially nature’s soap.  Coconut oil is also restorative to the skin and replenishes giving the skin a youthful, healthy glow.

Let this sit on the skin for a few minutes before hopping in the shower to rinse off.  I used a sandalwood liquid body soap to remove the masque and for added spa effect.

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While you are at it, you may as well pluck your eye brows and curl your hair!  I used hot rollers and my hairspray recipe.  I pinned my hair up with bobby pins so that the curls cascaded down and looked old fashioned.  The next day the curls were loose but still there so I got two hairstyles for the time of one.

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I am always amazed how makeup, even a small amount, can transform one’s face.  I often go without but I noticed in a picture that my son took while I was recording a song for his new album that a smidge of mascara might have made me look more awake!

Make up can be added easily with a few simple steps.

  1. Cover eye and crease with a lighter shade of eye shadow.
  2. Fill in outer half of eye lid and crease with darker shadow.  Apply soft eyeliner to upper lid adding a little flair at the end.  The eyes really pop if you apply eyeliner inside the lower rim or at least close to it.
  3. Mascara to bring it all together.
  4. Tinted lip balm or lipstick streaked up cheek bone then rubbed in cheats as blush.
  5. Lipstick or tinted lip balm finishes the look.

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I still want a day at a spa.  A nice massage, facial, make over, hairstyle with maybe a few lavender streaks, my nails done, and a new outfit but a honey/coconut oil masque, shower, hot curlers, make up, and a new apron works just fine.

Lazy Days of Summer (a new experience for these farmers)

We’ll be getting a homestead soon.  Farmgirl school isn’t done.  In fact, it may be just getting revved up.  We have really been enjoying our summer.  We can’t remember the last time we had weekends and so much time in the summer sun to play and restore.  We’ll be soaking up every last bit of this season and saving it to memory.  Hope all of you reading this are having a relaxing, inspiring, and sunny summer.  Keep the good times rolling!

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Lughnasadh and the County Fair

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Lughnasadh (loon-ah-sah) is one of the Gaelic harvest festivals of old.  The word is from old Irish text and is a Pagan holiday celebrating the first of the harvests.  A harvest festival is always a welcome holiday in this farmgirl’s mind!  Tonight is also a full moon and I can just imagine my grandmothers of old times dancing under the moon celebrating the harvest of grains and other summer bounties.

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I study all religions and see the similarities in all of them, the same God with different names, the same holidays, many customs “borrowed” by other faiths, and the joy in all of the different ways to honor the great Creator.  Paganism was not a religion pre-Christianity since everyone from childhood was brought up with great respect for Mother Nature and the holidays were based on the agricultural calendar.  Paganism reminds me greatly of the Native American ways of worship a continent away.  The Christians use many of the same elements and traditions as the early Pagans.  I was always brought up thinking that Pagans were Atheists, this is not so apparently.  I love the various celebrations.

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Did you know that the local county fairs were originally the celebration of Lughnasadh?  The first harvest festival, showing off goods and livestock, morphed into what we now know as the county fair.

There I am on the Swingers, again 11 years old!
There I am on the Swingers, again 11 years old!
The ride that bankrupted Grammie and Papa!
The ride that bankrupted Grammie and Papa!

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This year’s county fair was more fun than ever with rides and a two year old who loved everything from the young people competing with their horses to the motorcycle ride she would not get off of until we were completely broke from buying tickets!

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Our friends at the annual Dutch oven cookoff.
Our friends at the annual Dutch oven cook-off.

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So tonight, the holiday brings with it a bright full moon, a promise of more crops, and a sense of peace.  The traditional way of late is to enjoy a beer (grains) and a bit of bread (or pizza?) and celebrate and have gratitude for the harvest.  And maybe a little dancing in the moonlight is in order!

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!