A FUN CHRISTMAS TIDBIT TO SHARE.

My Buds at Farmers Almanac have done it again.  I just love their bits of garden info and occasionally seasonal snip-its.  This one is about Mistletoe.  Did you know that it is actually a “parasite?”  I didn’t. I always thought it was some type of bush.

If you would like a fun and interesting read, along with something to share with others in a topic of Christmas conversation, this is it:

The Meaning and Folklore Behind Mistletoe  by Robin Sweetser 

This was such a fun read for me that I have decided to hang on to it.  I have printed it off and will be sending it out with my Christmas cards. 

Here’s hoping you have a Christmas full of fun and wonder!

You can also check me out at:  www.lifelessonslived.com for all the fun things I have learned in life.

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GARDENING HELP SHOULD BE FREE

I read a lot.  Most of what I read is a huge variety of “how-to” stuff.  I really enjoy learning new things, improving on the skills I already have, and helping others who hope to enjoy these things I love.  I just think that of all the great things I know how to do, gardening help should be free.

I’m not talking about spending hours or days teaching someone how to garden.  That could (and should) take a lifetime.  I am also not talking about the things you create from your gardening expertise.  You grow gourds then turn them into gourd art – you should sell your wares.  What I am talking about, is sharing what you know with others, then we can all benefit from growing our own stuff.

Not everyone has a green thumb, nor does everyone want to be one, but for those that do the information should be free.  I love sharing my gardening info with others.  I especially love sharing my mistakes.  The mistakes (for me) are my best way of learning.  I find it funny that the mistakes stick in my head forever, do it right and I will have to go back and remember what I did. (Heaven forbid I have too much junk floating around in my head all the time that distracts my remembering!)

I am connected to a ton of blogs, forums, and Q & A sites that all find sharing is caring when it comes to gardening.  It corks me off to see someone want to charge for a bit of helpful advice.  If you are building a book, that’s fine and more power to you; but if you are asked a simple question on how to solve a specific problem, just help a buddy Green-thumber out!

Gardening is not easy, but it is rewarding.  Not just in the awesome food you can produce all by yourself, but for the great feelings you get along the way:

  • Playing in the mud when you are older than ten – and getting away with it!
  • The first seed that sprouts.
  • The first flower on your plants.
  • The first fruit (veg or whatever you are growing) that shows up.
  • Running out in a storm to cover and protect your babies (you put a ton of work into them).

The first time you grow enough food to have extra to share with others, well that’s a feeling that you will never forget! 

So live, laugh, learn, and love your growing efforts; be it flowers, fruits, veggies, trees, bushes, or whatever trips your trigger.  Just don’t forget to share!

You can also check me out at:  www.lifelessonslived.com for all the fun things I have learned in life.

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WHAT WOULD OUR WORLD BE LIKE IF…

Being a small farmer/gardener and doing it all as chemical free and natural as can be, I watch all the signs.

  • Weather: Current, future and even past.
  • News: Any changes current or future that may affect what I grow and why.
  • Critters: This is my biggie! I watch what the wild and natural critters are doing around me.

This third point leads me to today’s post.  I read a lot and have “cut the cord” so I read even more now.  I get my news online and in print.  When I turned on my cell phone this morning, one of the first articles was this:

Since it is about the insects, one of my three main critter groups, I had to check it out.  WARNING:  If you follow these things like I do, and if you are a gardener of any type, is a bit disturbing.

multiple insects The Insect Apocalypse Is Here – The New York Times

Sune Boye Riis was on a bike ride with his youngest son, enjoying the sun slanting over the fields and woodlands near their home north of Copenhagen, when it suddenly occurred to him that …

We have a Bee Keeper that comes up every spring, unloads 600+ colonies of bees, and for three days distributes them around the northeast corner of Colorado.  Those three days are a ton of fun.  BEES EVERYWHERE!  I set out extra dishes of sugar-water so they can get a drink and a boost after their long trek.  I love that; once things settle down, they will land on me while I garden.  I leave them alone, they leave me alone, and all gardening is mutual love.

Then I received another article which caught my attention.  Again, it has to do with things that affect me – like weather (which has been way off whack this year):

Global Ocean Circulation Keeps Slowing Down: Here’s What It Means

Trevor Nace Contributor Science

I know a ton of people out there do not believe in climate change, I am NOT one of those.  I think it is a very real thing and it worries me. I have read some articles on historical documents and found that part of the problem with the past cold spells may have had to do with things just like this.  Part of the reason they are tracking it so much more closely now.  When you are a natural farmer/gardener, you try to grow in the best possible means available.  When the weather decides to turn cold – and stay there – it’s hard to get a good handle on your crops.  We cover when necessary, but to keep them covered for extended periods can also be a problem.  We also do manual pollination, especially in our greenhouse.  This is time-consuming but very necessary.  Yes, we have some insects in there that help – but not enough, and usually not bees.

I hope reading this you will join me in being conscious of your surroundings.  Please feel free to share with me if you have anything like this going on in your neck of the woods.  I am also interested in finding out how others are handling things like missing pollinators and extreme periods of unusual cold.  Thank you for reading and thank you for sharing!

flower and bee

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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!!

You can also check me out on:  www.lifelessonslived.com for all the fun things I have learned in life.

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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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