HOW DO YOU TAKE YOUR WATER?

A farmer or gardener perspective for decades now has been to avoid plastics as much as possible.  They do not biodegrade which, of course, is not good for the earth.  This was my main concern when it came to plastics, specifically plastic bottles.

no plastic bottles

To-go containers for us are usually cardboard, paper bags, or reusable containers.  Yes, some of the reusables are plastic, but they are the good plastic that gets recycled.  We do love our redo, reuse, repurpose things on the farm, but most of these things are items that will biodegrade.  If they don’t do that then they had better last forever.

Well, my blog buddies at The Whoot.com have found a new danger from plastic, and it has to do with drinking water purchased in plastic bottles.

Plastic Bottled Water Does Damage With Every Sip

They share some fantastic info-graphics describing how the plastics are labeled, what the label means, and what the level of danger is.  I have saved several of these graphics for our own future use, and I hope you will do the same.  They even have a mini-video explaining how/where the plastic danger is.

We found it easier years ago to just purchase the heavy-duty refillable water bottles and carry them wherever we go.  We can load ice cubes in them more easily, and even freeze part on some of them.  Nothing better when working out in a hot garden than a cold drink of water.  We also have the huge advantage of our own well.  Some people don’t care for the taste of well water, but we prefer it.  To us, some city waters taste tinny or sterile.  We have the added benefit of natural minerals in our water, nothing cooked out.

This week my plow-share is all about safe, drinkable, water.  Simple, short, and hopefully refreshing.

good water bottle

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OLD FAITHFUL DOES IT FOR ME AGAIN!

Just when I thought I knew a boat-load of growing, gardening, and preserving foodstuff, along comes my old faithful Farmers Almanac and throws me for a loop.

12 Uses For Apples You Probably Didn’t Know About

by Beth Herman

Half of the unique uses I did know, but there is also half that I did not know:

  • #5. Remove Excess Salt from Soups and Casseroles – WOW!
  • #8 Combat Dandruff – go figure!
  • #11 I would never do. Apples are way too yummy and expensive to use as crafts.

What great little tidbits of information they were so kind to share.  I just had to pass their share on to you.

I love that they have been around for over a century since 1792 to be exact.  They have garnered so many amazing bits of information.  I can’t just call it gardening help, because they offer so much more.  They still create (in print no less) a fantastic almanac faithfully every year with loads of information to deal with the year ahead.  I LOVE THAT!

Old farmers almanac

Every single one of the emails I receive from them contains something that I just need to read or know more about.  I don’t think there was ever an email from them that I did not get some new information.

One of the biggest reasons we chose this place to build our farm/retirement life was because we were amazed at the information sharing, right from day one.

The day we moved out here we had a huge moving van with all our Denver belongings in it.  I clearly remember that we (moving men and us) were struggling with getting the 100+-year-old piano out of the van and into the old farmhouse (grass and tiny little wheels do not go together).  After someone finally figured out that laying down the wood planks they used for unloading onto the grass would make a great walkway for the piano to roll; an old Ford Bronco pulled into our driveway.

A man all dressed up in a head-to-toe white suit stepped out and watched our maneuvering of the piano.  Once I was sure everyone had it, I went over to the guy.  My initial thought was terror “OMG, we just bought a place that has toxic waste, and the EPA was here to shut us down or make us bare the expense of cleaning it up!”  As I got closer, he smiled and said:

“Got bees?”

WHAT?  I was flabbergasted!  Got bees?  We were now close enough to hear each other and he began explaining that he was a beekeeper and with the drought, noticed that we had a pond.  He would love to put some bees on our property and pulled in to say hello and would it be ok?

happy bee

This is how we initially met one of our best friends – Keith and his wife, Judy.  We share information and help here just like the Farmers Almanac has done for centuries, except we have only been here 18 years.

We have made tons of fantastic friends here, and each has different things to share.  I love that we may all have different political views and religious beliefs but have a common love of the land and all things growing.

Hmm, maybe if we can elect world leaders that thought more about caring for the land and sharing useful information to improve life, we would all live in a great world.

(I LOVE this song – had to end with this – enjoy!)

wonderful world phrase

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OK GROWERS – I NEED YOUR HELP!

With the advent of the tornado, lots of our garden produce got lost.  Some has started to come back, but I fear they will need more grow time than Mother Nature is going to provide.  The one thing we do have coming in great-guns yet is zucchini.

Here is my dilemma – what do I do with it all?

We have shredded, chopped, sliced and diced till my fingers are stuck in the hold position.  One of my fav recipes was a simple fried zucchini and onions.  Awesome, but best when fresh.

stuck in holding (stuck in holding position – ouch!)

Earlier this year I found a unique recipe to turn cubed, peeled zucchini into a rectangle pan type of cake that tastes exactly like apple pie, that alone was amazing.  We have taken several of the larger monsters and prepped the peeling, cubing and sauce then froze it.  We did a tester first to make sure it would work well after being frozen, and it did – woohoo!  Twelve biggies down, dozens more to go.

What I am asking for from you, my awesome readers is, please share your best zucchini recipes!

I don’t care if it’s peeled, sliced, diced, canned, frozen, fried, raw, baked, or whatever;  just as-long-as it will help to get rid of the invasion in our kitchen.

The funny part is we only planted three green plants and three yellow plants, yet we have enough food from them for an army (and why is it when you only plant one it will die on you?).

I have a stellar ratatouille recipe from about 12 years ago.  However fresh tomatoes work best for it.  I may have to travel to the farmers market in Denver to seek out some good garden stuff.

Please, if you have the time, share what you make best with your zucchini.  Leave a website or recipe or email me directly – it all works.  Hurry before we are forced to make a movie of Attack of the Killer Zucchini! EEEK!!

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IT’S OFFICIALLY HERE!

The Farmers Almanac winter 2018-2019 predictions.  (In case you have not read my other posts, I love the Farmers Almanac!)  Considering the spring and summer we have had; I was not really surprised by their predictions.

They call it their “Teeth-Chattering Cold Ahead” report.  I take issue with that statement.

I love fall colors and changes in the temps.  I love the snow even when it gets feet-deep (Anyone that has kids or still feels like one must – snowball fights and snow fort building – woohoo!).  My favorite holidays are all after October first – Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and new seed catalog shopping (yes, that is a holiday in our house).

The issue I have is the “teeth-chattering cold” part of their prediction.  I am a huge fan of cooler temps, 75-55 degrees and I am in heaven.  This bit about dropping below freezing is not so hot – bad pun intended.  I lost all my long-underwear in the fire and have not gotten around to getting new just yet.  Guess this is my incentive.  And we all know what a stunning creature anyone becomes in long-underwear!

(Why do they look so cute on babies, but so dorky on adults?)

Before the tornado, we were revamping our old chicken coup into a new garden/tool shed.  We even did some insulating and moved an old cast-iron fireplace into it for winter.  Perhaps this was our women’s intuition kicking in.  If we get enough cold and snow that the power goes out, our little shed may become home – eek!

cast iron fireplace(Close to ours but no brick wall behind it, and ours is much older with claw feet.)

Then there is the critter worry.  The dogs and cats would most likely join us, but I draw the line on the chickens (sorry Mark and Kristie).  I don’t care how spoiled your pet is, if it can’t go outside when nature calls, it does not need to be in the house!

(Looking for house chicken pics, I found this great oldie by Gary Larson.  Had to add it just because it makes me laugh!)

I hope you are all prepared for this coming winter if not, you are not alone.  If you want to check out your area here’s their link:

Farmers’ Almanac 2018-19 WINTER OUTLOOK

(P.S. – have you started your Christmas shopping yet?  OH NO I DID NOT SAY THAT!)

winter wonderland

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SPIDERS – FRIEND OR FOE?

If you are squeamish about spiders, I suggest you move on now!

Living on a small rural farm, we tend to get tons of spiders.  The spiders and I have an understanding: You stay up on the ceiling, and you live.  Come down to my level, and you die!  It is working, for the most part.  I recently read a new article shared by my friends at the Smithsonian…Why Should or Shoudn’t You Kill Spiders in Your Home by Joanie Faletto of Curiosity.com.

I love to share the stuff I read, especially when it includes something that I did not know before.  This article explained that what I call Daddy Long Legs is actually called a Cellar Spider.  The interesting part is these friends of mine (yep, I even hold them to move them to plants that need more natural protectors)  kill Black Widow spiders (one of my long nemesis).

I have seen many of both.  Thankfully never been bit by the Black Widow (knock-on-wood), but have been bit by the Brown Recluse – nasty monsters!  Now that I know my friendly Daddy Long Legs can keep at least one of the monsters at bay, I will have to bring many more up around the house.

This is what the Recluse looks like – remember it is a very semi-small spider.  No bigger than the Black Widow:

brown recluse spider

(Sometimes called the “fiddle back” spider – look close on the head area and you can see a type of fiddle)  This is what the bite on my leg looked like just before I finally went to my doctor about it:

Brown-recluse-spider-bite-1

I am a tough old bird, and I have my mother’s high tolerance for pain.  I tried just using peroxide as I do with most cuts, that was my downfall.  According to my doctor, the peroxide and bandage did the wrong thing – kept it moist – instead of keeping it clean.  When moist, it will just get worse – and it did.

This is what it looks like now:

scar-now.jpg

I think, at least for now, I have decided to continue to allow the spiders in our home – within reason.  Recluse beware – I will destroy any and all I find!

cartoon squashed spider

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Just Another “DUH” Moment.

I love to write and tell stories, and I have tons of them regarding farm life. The problem I have is trying to get them out to you during the garden season (yes, that is a season – at least for we farmer/gardeners). Well, sitting here thinking about some more stories I had a “duh” moment.

Why am I trying to dig up a time to write my fun farm stories during the gardening time? One of my blogging buddies turned me onto a wonderful, helpful website called: www.workflowy.com
‘It has been an eye-opener for me. I have lists all over the place. My computer, my tablet, my phone, notebooks, sticky notes, you name it; I tag it. Now I love that my creative juices are constantly flowing, but I hate that I slap my moment of inspiration onto anything I have handy. It all gets lost, mixed up, or forgotten.

8 hands not enough

Not anymore. Workflowy is FREE (up to 100 items), and I have connected it to all my techno stuffs. Since my phone is almost always on me, it is perfect for those quickie thoughts. Once entered into workflowy.com, I can pull up my ideas in a listed format anywhere.

NO – I am not affiliated with them, so there is no compensation for this post. I just wanted to share something I found to help me a bunch, with you to maybe help you a bunch.

Under the free program, you get to load up to 100 listed items. When you sign up, you get a GREAT tutorial that makes the whole thing work effortlessly. You can sign up (and pay) for a larger program, but since I use it more-or-less like a checklist, I found no need to increase (not at this time anyway).

So, I am now using workflowy to keep track of all my stories, ideas, crafts, and farm/personal to-do stuff. My “duh” moment came when I realized I could build tons of stories for a blog post using this format. I have started loading bits and pieces of things I remember from growing up on the farm in Wisconsin. Starting this winter, I am going to create those wonderful, fun stories to share – HOWEVER – I am going to set them up as “scheduled for a later date” in my Word Press blogs.

I feel bad when I cannot keep up with my posts during the summer. I have managed to plug in some quickie things when I don’t have to weed or water. If you garden at all, you know that the weed and water job is one of the most important and time-consuming. Now, by creating and later date scheduling, I hope to keep you all entertained all year long.

I hope my “duh moment” share helps you with any of your duh moments.

Happy gardening!

moon flower

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Plowshare Thursday – Watering Help.

What a wild planting year we have had:

  •  It was cooler than normal spring.
  • Wind gusts that decide to get nasty and take off half our greenhouse roof.
  • Now the intense (constantly increasing due to climate change – yes, I do believe in it.) heat is on again.

The year we bought our farm (August 2000) was the first year in 100 years that Colorado had a serious drought. This drought went on for another two years. It was a good thing, back then, that we knew something of water conservation. Luckily, several elderly farmers in the area shared lots of their conservation ideas.

Since we love to try new things, we decided to give some of their methods a go.

  1. We were just using a sprinkler type system that worked fine in the city of Denver, but out here on the plains with drought conditions was not a great idea. We then purchased a huge drip irrigation system. This was the, most costly, investment in our new watering methods. It was also the most time-consuming.
    1. Main connector.
    2. Mainline with all its t-joint connector lines.
    3. Row lines connect, again with t-joints, to the secondary lines.
    4. Row lines tapped with a special hole-making tool to install the drip line(s).
      That first year took forever to get it all installed, but it worked well. The next hard part of it was uninstalling to put it away for winter. Since it was all above ground, it all had to be taken apart, drained and sheltered for the winter. The next spring, we brought it all out again.
  2. We tried digging trenches like the big farms around us do. They then place short tubes into irrigation ditches. The tubes carry water from the ditch up into the fields. This idea didn’t last long with us. It just felt like too much water was being wasted.
  3. Next, we tried a bunch of different mulching methods.
    1. The first was the cheapest, but the biggest disaster. We have a local hydroponic tomato plant that uses coconut husks for mulch. When they do a “change-out” of plants and start newbies, they throw out all their old tubes of mulch. This was then free for the taking – so we did. After putting it around almost everything, we noticed some things were dying. We lost our first huge strawberry bed to this mulch. Gave away everything we could gather and never used it again.
    2. The next was “free” hay. Those that do not know, there is a difference between hay and straw mulch. Thick packing of hay can really help to block out the sun and kill weeds, just make sure you do not have weed seeds in the hay. That was our mistake. It took us future years of spot burning to get rid of all the Goathead goathead pic 1 (The cute little green pods become dry hard “spikey” beasts!)
      goathead pic 2(This is a younger full-size plant – the cute yellow flowers will become the green pods which, in turn, become the ugly beasties!)
      and

      sandbur weed grass . (Up close and nasty – the fuzzy end is not soft but spikey painful sticks to EVERYTHING – ugh!)

    3. After years of burning the sandburs and trying to coax our chickens, ducks, and geese to eat the little yellow flowers (best way to stop the Goathead from spreading). Our local energy company sent some tree cutters around to trim up the lines. They happened to stop by one day when I was in the garden and actually ask if it was ok to come onto our property (they have a “right-of-way” on file ) which I thought was very nice. I asked them what they were doing. Then I asked what they were doing with the wood chips. We now have a great agreement. They dump several piles of wood chips on our property for free. We get some awesome compost within just a few years. The piles cook down into the most beautiful dark dirt. We have learned how to use the older stuff as both new, good soil and great mulch. The one thing we did learn about wood chip mulch is that you cannot place it close to the base of a plant, bush, or tree.
    4. omewhere along the way, we started buying clean (no weeds) straw and found that using our Sucker/Blower (what we call our leaf blower) to chop it up into smaller pieces and mix it in with our wood chip mulch. We now have some stellar compost piles.

My whole share for today is to try to extend to you the opportunity to find new ways to use and save water. We all need to do our fair share to help. Conservation methods – even trial and error will help. Mulching, planting more items that will keep our earth cool, build shade covering where you can, building or creating spaces that provide use and beauty without wasting or using too much water. These are the methods we adhere to now and hope that you will too.

Happy Gardening!

PS: Here are some other helpful places to learn about using water wisely:

MNN: How to water your yard during a drought

The Spruce: Drought Tolerant Landscaping: What You Should Know

Gardening Know How: Xeriscape Design Ideas
High Traffic Lawn Options: What Are Some Lawn Alternatives In Play Areas

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Uninvited Guests That Never Leave!

City gardens are so different from country gardens with one HUGE aspect – weeds.  The farm garden when we were kids never seemed to have as many weeds or so fast.  I remember weeding, but it was a fun thing to see who could (not would) get the dirtiest.  Usually, my younger sister won just because she would be found sitting in a mud puddle before the job was done.

I remember my beautiful corner backyard garden in Denver, but again, I don’t remember this many weeds.  I would blame it on the birds, but I love all our birds – domestic and foreign.  Instead, I am now blaming my weeds on the winds.

This has got to be one of the weirdest growing seasons we have ever had.  Yes, we have some winds on-and-off every year, but this year has been just nuts!  Wicked enough to rip off our double-layered greenhouse cover, just a few weeks ago.

We have always had winds out here, just not so long, or so rough.  When the huge windmills started popping up across the U.S., Colorado was all in for that.  We have fields of them not far from our home.  I guess that is a bit of an indication on the strength of winds we get here.  The weird part is how long they are lasting now.

It was never unusual to get a gust here and there.  Even the occasional “micro-burst” would happen – but only in summer (still think they are mini-tornados that just didn’t finish forming).  Now we get the “sustained” winds.  These suckers come in without warning and last 12-48 hours.  Very unusual.

When we moved here in 2000, our biggest task was learning how to water everything using the best conservation methods.  Now, it is how to stop our plants from ending up in Kansas.

wicked winds 2(“I don’t think we’re in Colorado anymore Toto.”)

We have installed pound-in rods, rows of field fencing, and extra windbreaks all just to keep our plants from having the snot knocked out of them.  If the Hail King wasn’t bad enough, we now have the Wicked Wind of the West to contend with – eeek!

wicked windsHappy Gardening!

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SHOULD-A, My New Worst Friend.

I have realized, just this year, that the phrase “should have” (“should-a” in gardener-eze) has become my worst best friend.
• Should-a put the vinyl lattice on the outside of the fence to start. On the inside, the dogs have destroyed almost half the panels.
• Should-a put the drip/soaker likes for the plants under the soil by the roots. As hot as it is here on the Colorado plains, most evaporates before it gets to the roots – even early morning.
• Should-a bought a backup greenhouse cover when we purchased the first. (Cuz you know plastic does not last forever – ocean dump zone excluded.)

I think this phrase has haunted me most of my life. I get these great ideas, just way after the fact (we’re talking YEARS after).

Should-a turned the little grey shed into a garden potting shed when we moved in 18 years ago. No, we had to turn it from a horse tack room, into the chicken barn. Then, when we decided to build the greenhouse, we knew the chickens would not work being that close to it. So, we moved them, but then just started piling all kinds of stuff in there instead of just the garden stuff.

While working on the greenhouse, more and more things got thrown into that poor little shed. In 2017 we finally go around to cleaning up our “should-a” and decided it would be a perfect garden shed. Then the kids happened. My daughter needed a place to dump her and her stuff, so our should-a got elected.

A couple of kids from Michigan ended up in our driveway (that’s a whole other story), and they were actually living in it for a bit.

Well, this year, right now, we have finally gotten back around to our little grey shed should-a and it’s looking great! We do not have it painted as we want yet, but I will share the finished product pics as soon as it is beautiful. That is as long as another should-a doesn’t come along.

perfect garden shed
(Hee, hee, nope this is not ours – just my dream of what I hope ours will look like in the end.)

Happy gardening guys!

(Oh, wait – just got another should-a: put a piece of that huge plyboard my sister got from work onto the back wall. That should keep out a big part of the north wind chill in winter. See, happens all the time – grrr!)

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WITH ALL THE BAD COMES SOMETHING AMAZING!

With all the bad, scary garbage going on in the world, I love reading my emails from places like: SMITHSONIAN.COM.  It is a free signup for their newsletter and it is so full of “other stuff” that keeps me grounded.

One recent issue offered an article about something I have never heard of before – nanowood?  The story not only explains exactly what it is, but how it can be used to replace things like Styrofoam (something I have protested since the 1970’s).  It comes from trees.  You can read the full article here: 

Could ‘Nanowood’ Replace Styrofoam?

nanowood

The first think I thought was what an outstanding contribution to saving our environment.  There is no Styrofoam in our home nor do we support it.  I have recycled plastics into tons of great farm ideas, and gladly purchase recycled plastic containers, but no to Styrofoam. This new source/substitute sounds awesome.

The second think I thought was it came from the University of Maryland – yes, Maryland here in the United States – WOW!  There are still scientists here in the US that are trying to think of ways to help not harm our planet – congrats people

Right now, it’s still in the early learning stages, but one day it could prove to be an outstanding insulator as well.

It is wonderful to know that there are those out there that still care.  Makes all my hand weeding feel worth-while

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