I NEED YOUR GARDENING INPUT PLEASE!

I was perusing my Old Farmers Almanac and came across a Gardening Adage:

If you grow it for the fruit or the root, you need full sun.

If you grow it for the leaves, partial shade is all you need.

I have never heard this adage before but find that it is very true.  The blurb even highlighted the specifics of the statement (which I have bolded and underlined).  It gave me an idea for updating my blog.  I think I will create a page that is nothing but these adages and wife’s tales from the past.  Some of them will be bizarre, and some will be true, but most of all they will be fun to find and read.

happy cabbage

Cares melt when
you kneel in the garden.

I find that one to be very true for me.  Especially when it is time to do weeds, I can really get into ripping those suckers out, and I surprisingly find that my cares have drifted away – after about two hours of doing it.

zen frog

Can’t see the forest
for the trees.

This is a huge truth for me in the garden and regular life.  I can’t count the number of times I was working on a problem or project wishing for an easier way.  Then, usually years later, it just pops into my head.  It was right in front of me the whole time, and I just did not see it.

cant see forest

A dedicated
gardener dwells within.

Ok, I admit I have no clue on this one?  Is it supposed to mean that gardeners are introverted, or is it just stating the fact that someone who really works hard on their garden is living in the house?

dedicated gardener

In spring at the end of the day,

You should smell like dirt.

Margaret Atwood, Canadian Writer (1939)

This was actually a quote and not an adage, but I have heard it tons of times growing up on the farm (never knew who started it before).  Most adages are simply passed down through families with no real concern for it being a quote or not.

chicken digging in dirt

This one made me giggle:

Gardening is just
another day at the plant.

Then last, but not least (I hope) is one of my most favorites:

Dirt poor, filthy
rich.

I think it should be the other way around.  If you have dirt, you should be rich because you can feed those you love.  Then again, I get really filthy when I garden (or any work out on the farm), and yet I am nowhere near rich.

I would love to hear from you all!  Please share any family goodies that you carry with you in your gardening endeavors.  I would love to add them to my new page — the funnier or sillier, the better.

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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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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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ALL IS RIGHT WITH THE WORLD – maybe?

Well, this year is starting off just loverly – NOT!  It’s been three months since I last posted something for good reason – TOO MUCH DRAMA.  I’ve finally found my funny bone again, so I have taken back my life once again.  Time to remember that life goes on.

This is just a small part of what’s been going on:

  • The daughter was sent to rehab center – court ordered this time. Second time for her.  We will see.
  • Bullies have zeroed in on my Grandson. Awful verbal abuse: ”You should have died instead of your brother.” Just wrong in so many ways.  They targeted his feelings toward missing his dead brother (the fire was four years ago – April), which is BEYOND tolerance.  So, of course, I had to go ballistic on the school.  I wanted the parents, but they are not allowed to tell me who they are.  They said they would handle it.  Again, we will see.
  • The weather changes have brought “sustained” strong winds. We get gusts, no big deal.  When this round happened, it was vicious.  It’s been seven years since we put the double poly top on the greenhouse.  Took us the better part of the day to do it.  It took these wicked winds just moments to find a weakness (in the middle no less) and rip it wide open.

4-17 the cause 1

Looks like haze, but it’s not.  The winds were so strong and so continuous that they were picking up the dry dust/dirt from farmers fields, roads, and wherever and sandblasting everything.  A couple of times we could not see this overpass due to the thickness of the dirt.  April 17th, day after my 59th birthday – sucked!

4-17 the cause 2 This was just before it happened.

It all happened so fast; there was no way to catch or stop it.  You can see it popped open at the middle, grabbed the top layer and just flung it up and over. If you look close at the bottom layer at the opening, you can see where the wind was able to yank the clamp right out of the wood.

4-18 distruction 2

We put straps over the roof on either side of the opening, but two days later another sustained wind from the south grabbed the north end and ripped it the rest of the way off.

4-20 distruction 3 (2)

So, after a day’s worth of crying, I pulled up my big girl panties and started brainstorming.  How was I going to make lemonade from this huge lemon?  Viola′ – greenhouse part two, phase one:

4-23 phase 1 new life

Obviously, someone somewhere was trying to give us a hint that there is just too much on our plates right now.  Hense, the hint to downsize.  Phase one: build a wall in the middle of the greenhouse.  No, it’s not for the hot tub we dream of having one day again.  It’s for our new “seed/plant starter” area.

5-14-18 phase 2 new wall GH

Phase two has a partial plastic wall up.  There is a vent at the top center and will be screened, closeable windows on either end of both sides of the wall.  We are not worried about cooling, as the swamp cooler is on the north end and totally useless to us now.  It will be used for starting seeds and young plants.  Eventually, we will put some in-ground plots in there, just not right now.

There is a door in the center to transplant seedlings into our plots to the north (No they did not end up in Kansas.), or to easily move them to our other outdoor plots when ready.  It is downsizing without losing space.  It should be easier to maintain in the winter.  I am worried about it just being a single cover.  Not as strong as the double layer, but it will have to do for now (replacement double cover is out of our budget.).

Then (while I was reviewing everything) doing my extra watering needed now on the north side, and hating the 85+ degree weather we have been having – our bee guys showed up!  Ahhh, heavy sigh of relief!  When they come in the spring, I know everything will be alright in the world.  They had unloaded some the night before which, at sunrise, has them immediately seeking out water.  What was I doing?  Watering.  Where were the bees?  All over me – landing on my hands, arms, crawling up my legs, and forcing me to watch where I step in my own walkways.  I LOVE OUR BEES!!

I then went and picked up my Grandson from school that evening.  The school Counselor had called me and told me of what actions were taken against the bullies and assured me that things were going to be better.  He was smiling as he came running up to the car.  Always, the first question from me to him is, “ How was your day Punk-a-doodle (One of my many Nic-names for him)?”  His response was a very loud and squirrely “GREAT!”

Planted back into the moment again, all is right with the world.  We did not have blossoms during the winds-from-hell, so no lost fruit (actually some tiny fruits on the trees now).  Our spring flowers had not emerged, but they are here now.  Our little Downey Woodpecker is back up front.  And I saw my beautiful Red-headed Woodpecker on a fence post this morning.  Life goes on.

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Little White Plastic Boots.

I find it funny, as I grow older, the things I do and don’t remember. I know that it is normal for the human brain to block out really horrible things that happen, but there are times that it seems I blocked out the physical pain and I am not sure why?


My prime example of this came back as a partial dream the other night. Most dreams, I feel, are just an extension of things that happened during the day. Things that may have affected me, more than I realized, at that moment. This one was a blast-from-the-past wild one. Have no clue what brought it up from the depths of my overloaded brain.

When I was about six or seven, I had these great little white plastic (Rubber was too expensive for a little farm kid to play in), and I loved them. I could just slip them on and terrorize the farm. They were my favorite shoes back then. They were stiff as a board, light-weight, and all mine!

kids plastic boots (They were like this only all white, no special designs, bows, or faces. Faces came later with Peter Max.)
One afternoon a bad storm was coming in, and Dad said he was going to run out and close the sliding barn doors before it rained – I ran to help.

The sliding doors were on the back side of the barn, and they were HUGE! You may have seen smaller versions being converted into bedroom doors on the DIY channels or social media. These were at least twice the size. We had them open to throw out hay for the cows and horses to eat. Then we would also throw down straw which:
1) Kept the area mostly dry.
2) Critters loved to sleep on it – a form of insulation.
3) If the pile we threw out was big enough, it was great fun to jump down on it.

sliding barn doors
(This is what most of you know – picture a single one as big as the whole opening, and not so pretty. That was what just one of the sliding barn doors was.)

Dad went straight to the door on the left as it was closest to the hay.

I squealed out, “I’ll get the other one daddy.”

Running and bouncing over to the other huge door. I never even thought about looking where I was going. Here is where the memory gets weird.

I remember seeing the board because I knew it would give me the boost up I needed to close the big door. I do not remember seeing the rusty nail until I had already bounced (yes – not just stepped but I pounced on it) on it and the top of the nail was sticking out of the top of my beautiful white plastic boot. Red was shooting all over the boot.
rusty nail in board (Old barn boards required about 4-inch long nails.)

  • I remember dad stomping on the board and yanking me off the nail, but I don’t remember the pain.
  • I remember the blood trail that followed us all the way up to the house, as dad scooped me up and ran as fast as he could to the house.
  • I remember my foot being placed in something wet, but I don’t remember if it was hot or cold.

The next thing I remember is that ugly shot I was getting at the doctor’s office. Then there was the cast that he wrapped my little foot and half my leg in. The worst that I remember was the awful words he said to my parents:
“She will have to stay in the cast this summer…” He went on to give them other instructions, but all I remember is “all summer,” and I remember the crying.

That was a close second to my worst summer in history.
• No participation in the haymaking with friends and family.
• No riding the horses in the water because I couldn’t get the darn thing wet.
• No running  jumping and playing with the other kids in the back yard, hay mow or fields.
• No swimming and baths were just nasty. Took both my parents to help me. One held the leg out of the tub and up in the air, the other did the washing – no fun at all.
• I know there were more shots, but I don’t remember the pain of them either.

The strangest thing about this story is, as much as I remember loving those little white plastic boots; I have no clue where they went after stepping on the nail. I never saw them again.

the MIND,

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