Actually Moving and the Garden that Keeps Giving

20171025_14592720171025_150124In many ways I haven’t actually “moved” to Pueblo.  Perhaps because out of all the places I have lived Elbert county was the first place that ever felt like home to us.  Slowly, slowly I am moving to Pueblo.  We have been here nine months now.  I changed my bank last week.  I do my shopping here now.  I go to Elizabeth to work my shop just once a week.  I work from home and am rewarded with many new customers that seek me out here.  I still greatly love my old town and I pine for the country but I am gradually moving here.  The garden is helping me do so.

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Garlic planted for fall. The bok choi keeps coming back!

I am not sure that I could go back to gardening at 6500 feet.  Yesterday two more overflowing baskets of produce came into the kitchen.  It is late October and the gardens in Elbert county have been sleeping for awhile now.  In my gardens there is more…more vegetables to be harvested, another month’s worth at least.  I am astounded and thrilled at the farming conditions in this valley.  The soil that has not even been amended has produced the most flavorful and prolific crops I have ever grown.  I am smitten.  The weather here is heavenly.20171025_150112

20171025_15010420171025_150011I am extremely proud of what we have accomplished on this little homestead in just nine months time.  It will be beautiful seeing what it all looks like as months turn to years and years turn to decades.

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This is also the first time in two decades that we have a mailbox in front of our house.  If you would like to exchange letters you can write me at Mrs. Katie Sanders, 1901 Brown Ave, Pueblo, 81004.

A Letter to Mother Nature

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Dear Mother Nature,

I am a farmer.  There’s not a whole lot of us left, you know, especially women farmers.  This is why I am writing you.

For god’s sake, Woman, can you help a farm girl out?!

It feels like April here, so wet and cold.  As soon as I transplanted the cold crops you laughed and sent a pile of hail.  Seriously, Ma, farmers have to grow produce and homesteaders have to grow food to eat!

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

I am a great admirer of your work though.

Love,

Katie

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Apparently ducks love hail.  Gives new meaning to "Happy as a Duck on Water!"

Apparently ducks love hail. Gives new meaning to “Happy as a Duck on Water!”

The Screwy Sweet Weekend

"Why can't I come in?" Elsa wondered.

Today the weather breaks.  I believe that was our last freeze and cold spell until next autumn.  I hope so.  I plan to get all the summer crops in in the next few days.  We don’t have a long growing season here and we have to hustle once it’s time to plant.  I will go access the damage from the hail, the freeze, the ice storm, and the flooding of the past few days.  Seedlings were ripped out of the smaller beds, the basil is dead, as our some of the tomato starts but I haven’t looked in the greenhouse or the main garden yet.  The other night we actually had a severe thunderstorm with hail warning, a flash flood warning, and a winter storm warning all at the same time.  That is farming in Colorado, folks.  The High Plains is one of the most difficult to farm.  I always joke that if we moved closer to sea level I would be brilliant at farming and baking because I am so used to making it hard on myself by doing it all in Colorado!  But this is home.

The other screwy incident this weekend was our baby goat.  There were no responses from anyone to buy him.  No one wants a boy.  Now that it is so popular to have goats here I thought they would all sell quickly but it turns out everyone else is breeding and selling them too!  I was starting to believe we would have a new wether when I decided on a whim to see if he had had a sex change.  And sure enough, as I squealed and ran her around to show Doug and Shyanne, he was a she.  In the dark, rainy, muddy stall I must have gotten confused.  Glad I checked.  She will sell now.  She is a beautiful red Saanen.

We are having trouble milking Elsa.  She is engorged and chapped and it takes two of us to milk her and we only get two cups.  Yesterday I put my pain salve on her and pinned her against the gate so that I could get as much milk out to relieve the pressure.  I was in tears.  She wasn’t happy.  I get to go do it again this morning.  This cold has not helped her utters.  I hope the pain salve did its job last night and healed the skin.  Doug is the milker, but with two does freshening I am to milk Elsa.  A new milking farmgirl and a new mama who just wants sweet feed and not to be touched do not make a good combination.  It will get easier with time, I am sure.

Mother’s Day was sweet.  Andy was snowed into Denver.  He wants me to move closer.  He sent me a sweet message.  I received a homemade sign from Shyanne that reads, “Home is Where Mama is” and Emily got me a kettle to put on the wood stove top.  Doug found me a baking oven that fits on top of a wood or propane stove.  Doug is building me an outdoor kitchen soon and it will make a great addition.  A peek at a well outfitted camping store can supply many homesteader needs.

I have lost my old, cracked IPOD with the camera so I haven’t been able take any pictures for you.  I hope it comes out of hiding soon!

I have a guitar lesson today.  It makes me happy.  I think I will make cheese today as well.  May you all have a brilliantly happy day and all warm weather and sunshine ahead!

The Year Without Apricots

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This is a blissful time of year and we have been blessed with many delights of the season. The goldfinches have returned after a two year hiatus, glints of gold everywhere, beautiful blue birds, and cooing doves incant the air.  Our small farm is filled with birdsong from feathered creatures of all types.  Two years in a row now the weather is uncharacteristically cooler than usual, and though the tomatoes cry for more heat, everything else is lush and green.  Mornings with no markets are spent leisurely with a cup of coffee and a few chapters of reading before I wake Doug to milk.  Writing, reading, hoeing rows, watering with a cold glass of beer in hand, visiting with neighbors, friends, visitors to the farm.  Sitting under the canopy taking in the fresh smell of earth after a light rain and feeling the heat of summer on my skin.  It is an enchanting time.

Not yet into the throws of full time preserving, I can, dehydrate, or freeze as things come available.  It is time to dehydrate hordes of apricots for Doug’s favorite snacking.  I hide bags of them in the root cellar and ration them for knowledge that they would be enjoyed in a week if not.  To my dismay, the freeze on Mother’s Day wiped out a good portion of fruit from Colorado’s trees, apricots being one of them.  The organic farm at the market had some from Utah.  Said they were better anyway.  I doled out thirty dollars, a lot as we are still penny pinching this time of year, and took home the apricots.  They were unripe, tart, bitter.  I left them on the counter for a few days then dehydrated them.  They came out tart, bitter, disappointing.  Not only did I waste precious funds and time, but I have no apricots this year for Doug.

Lessons learned.  I cannot have everything I wish the moment I want it.  I am sure there are some apricots at the store from Peru but there is nothing like a local, freshly harvested piece of fruit.  The warm juices of summer penetrating the flesh of a small bit of sustenance.  A treat.  So this year we will be without.  But as nature does, if it misses one year, the next is sure to make up for it.  And next year, with patience, we shall dine on fresh apricots.  This year I should have waited.  Luckily the peaches survived.  They will arrive at market soon.

The Loveliness of Dark

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Driving through the rain last night, the darkness surrounding our vehicle, the only light was glimmering off of storm clouds.  Gentle pattering of rain created a soothing sound in our midst.  A small frog crossed the road in front of us heading toward the creek which is often dry this time of  year.  Frogs crossing the road are not an every day appearance.

When we drove into our town, the power was out after a lightening strike and the entire place held an eerie feel to it.  We had stepped back in time (save for the vehicle) and into an enchanting hundred year old town.  It seemed that the power going out did something else to the town…held it in silence.  It was completely quiet except for one thing….the cacophony of  frogs.  Louder than I have ever heard frogs.  Their musical aria deepened the storm filled air.  The sky tinged with pink and grey.  Lightening in the distance.  Soft rain drops on my face.  Frogs singing us into another world.

Usually when the power goes out we panic because we have no way to heat the house and it is usually a deep freeze winter storm. But tonight in the cooling breezes of a sweet summer night, the power outage was a welcome relief.  Peaceful.  Restful.  I wished I could see the stars sans clouds.  Oftentimes I am tired of electricity and light pollution.

We put the animals up and came into the dark house.  We lit our oil lamps and read by lamp light…as if we were there a hundred years ago.

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!