Are You As Concerned As I Am?

It is Wednesday, February 8, 2017, and it will be over 50°F. in Brush, Colorado.  We are expecting 70°+ on Friday – BUT IT’S FEBRUARY???   This is so not normal.  We have started seeds, but I am afraid they may be in for as much of a shock as we are.

Starting long-growers this time of year is nothing new, but my sister is looking at starting a bunch of flowers?  She wants to replace all the Iris’s around the pond in the front yard with a multitude of flowers and colors.  Great idea, however; starting them right now may not be.

the-pond-in-feb-normal

This is the normal pond area this time of year.  Last Thursday (2/2/17) we had such a bad ice storm that they shut down over half of the state (schools, businesses, and roads).  I tried to approach her on this, but she has spring fever extremely bad!  The flowers she is thinking of are of fantastic colors and strange looks, but they must have a “no freeze” time to make it.  We are zone 5 (click on the zone 5, and you can locate your growing zone) and are still susceptible to a deep freeze.

We historically put in our onions and potatoes about the middle to end of March.  Then we cover them with a very thick layer of straw mulch (this year I am adding chicken wire and my feathery monsters decided that was the best place ever to dig for bugs, and dug up everything I put in – grrr!).  They will last through most any freeze here.

One of the best things I have always loved about Colorado is our weather, however; a couple of years ago, was a real freaker.  It was 90° on Friday, then less than 30° and snowing on Monday.  We had planted our corn in mid-April – normal –  but lost it all to the wicked, weird weather.  This warm in February worries me a lot.

I love the strange and abby-normal things, but not when it comes to my food sources.  We grow our own and rely on the seasons to determine when to start what.  Yes, we are lucky to have a Godzilla-size greenhouse, but we do not keep it heated throughout.  We usually let the weather (the sun mainly, but even on a cloudy day it can get over 70° in there easy) manage most of it.  We keep a single electric heater on the west side for the herbs and ever-bearing strawberries.  The heater only maintains those two rows.  There are four other rows for seasonal things.

greenhouse-interior-before-plants (This was before we filled it. You can see the very first plot on the far right side – that is our “east” side of the greenhouse.  The ladder in the center is 6′ tall, the edges (where the plot and the dog are) are 3′ underground.  From the outside it looks like you could easily reach the top – not – it’s about 20′ up.)

 

We are looking at cabbages, spinach, carrots, broccoli and other “cold weather” crops this time of year.  But if that greenhouse gets over 70° for more than half a day, we could lose those in a heartbeat.  We have a swamp cooler that covers the whole north end for the hot summer days, but it is in storage right now.

We also hope to build a “starter area” in the southeast corner this summer.  Right now, all the starts are done in the house and the porch.  It is enclosed and attached to the house, but no heat vent to it – just small space heater to keep it over 50°, and a HUGE south facing window that warms it up to over 80° when the sun is out.  These wild changes in weather have us worried about what may happen in the greenhouse starter area?

I have a lot of family in the upper Midwest area (MI, WI, OH) and I watch what their weather is doing also.  They started out with a mild winter then –BAM­ – getting nailed with tons of snow and freezing storms.  Their storms have been so bad that they have gone without power for short periods of time.  One other reason to fear to start seeds now.  If we cannot keep the heat consistently above a certain temp, they won’t germinate and grow.

The other great thing about Colorado and weather is that when the sun shines here, even as low as 20 degrees, it will make it warm enough to melt the ice.  Place that sun in a huge window or greenhouse, and you have instant warmth.  As I said earlier, even on a cloudy day, we can be warm.  It is the fluctuations that are freaking me out.  The abby-normal warm temperatures are no help either.

miser-brothers

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ARE YOU ALWAYS LOOKING FOR MORE?

I grew up on a farm, moved to the big city of Denver for 20 years, then choose to move back to farm life in 2000. City life is (and was) great fun – however – just not for me. I found I was always looking for more.
I do not hate big city life; there is much to be had there. It is still a lot of fun to go back and see all the unique things it offers – museums – zoos – specialty shows (Stock Show just came through) – and all the little out-of-the-way spots I know. The problem, the thrill is gone.
Don’t get me wrong; I loved living in Denver when I was young and unattached. My gal pals and I used to go out every weekend. Dancing and shooting pool were my most favorite activities back then. I was pretty good at both (ok, maybe not so much on the dancing side – but I did win a lot of trophies for shooting pool.) The stories I could tell of those younger days, but then I don’t want to keep you up at night.

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My thrill now is the farm and all the wonders it shows me. I was watering in the greenhouse yesterday and found a baby Praying Mantis – WOW! Here I thought it was too early for my cuties to be out and about? She was very tiny – but alive and well. We do not heat the whole greenhouse in the winter, just a part of the herbs and our ever-bearing strawberries. She was playing in with the strawberries (smart girl!).

bb-praying-mantis
The latest newbie came in an email I received from Farmers Almanac is regarding today – Groundhogs day. There is a special section that states this day was originally called Candlemas Day – this is something new to me:

For as the sun shines on Candlemas Day,
So far the snow will swirl until May;
For as the snow blows on Candlemas Day,
So far will the sun shine before May.

I do not know where this little quote came from (folklore they say) but I just fell in love with it. This is part of the fun of living on a small farm. I get to take a moment and enjoy these little oddities. I took a moment to do some digging and found that this is a traditional Christian festival that commemorated the ritual purification of Mary forty days after Jesus’ birth. I am a Christian, and I never knew this. Without the internet and the wonderful people at Farmers Almanac, I might never have known this!
The farm has so much to offer, and there is something new at least once a week (sometimes once a day). This date – February 2nd – will now hold a stronger meaning for me. When my January’s get to overloaded (like this last one has been), I will make it a point to place the phrase “Candlemas” on my calendars. This will be my hint to myself to seek out something out-of-the-norm new. So here are some more bits of obscure facts I found for this day:
• It is also called the Festival Day of the Candles, from the past when there was no electric for lighting. A year’s supply of candles was blessed on this day for the church.
• Candles, symbolic for Christians, are to remind us of Jesus – The light of the world.
• Midpoint of winter – half way between the spring and winter equinoxes.
• Folklore again, stated the Christmas season lasted 40-days – until February 2nd.
• Another lovely old saying: “The Snowdrop (we have these on the farm), in the purest white array, First rears her head on Candlemas Day.”

snowdrop-flowers-2

• This is also the day for you procrastinators to put away your Christmas ornaments.

The next one’s to look forward to will be Valentine’s day (yes, I do know about this one) and Kissing Friday (see, here’s another I know nothing of – gasp!), alas, this one ended in the 1940’s boo hoo!

prarie-dogs-kissing

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WHERE WAS I AGAIN?

Ok woman – get your hands back in that dirt!  Ahhh, warm, living, comforting soil!  Breathe deep, life goes on (hopefully), pull up your big girl panties and move along.  Seventy plus degrees – November 2016 – Colorado – WHHAAATTT??

If things were not going freaky enough, we are going to have 70 ° today and the next couple of days?  Now Colorado weather is strange, major part of why I love it here.  But seventy in November is just abby-normal!

I do not have, nor do I want spring fever right now.  I have been sucking in the Hallmark channel trying to bring back my happy-happy, joy-joy of the holidays…p.s. it’s not working – grrr!

I have been working on all kinds of crafts for family and friends for Christmas.  We purchased a ½ a grass-fed beef to present a great meal for the family Christmas Party.  I have been pricing turkeys and checking out recipes for all kinds of side dishes.  I WANT MY FALL WEATHER!

A lot of leaves have fallen, but a bunch are still hanging on.  My honeysuckle, and winecup still have flowers on them?  The California Poppies were over eight inches tall (until my grandson thought they were weeds and helped me by pulling them out – eeek, boo hoo, hahaha).

The Robins, Blackbirds, and ladybugs are all still here?  My Blue Jay’s and Chickadee’s have not shown up yet?  There has not been a single fluke drop of snow yet (by now we should have had at least one fluke flurry)?

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We put the heater in our pond for the fish, but now it’s just a waste of electricity.  The trees can’t make up their mind either:

So now I must trudge on!  Keep creating.   Keep cookie planning and prepping going.  Keep the mood heading toward holiday happiness. 

Maybe I will take this picture, blow it up and hang it on my bedroom ceiling.  This way I can wake up each day thinking it will be the holidays soon:

fall

Or maybe this one would be better:

frozen pond 2-3-16

Then I can remember what winter feels like. (Ok, I am sick – Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer – my likes in that order!)

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WELL, THIS WAS A FREAKIE-DEEKIE FIRST FOR ME!

Anyone with any type of outdoor yard or garden space should be able to relate to this. Freaky things you find in your gardens. I’m not just talking about bugs here! Check this beauty out:

odd-man-out-2

In a huge bush of yellow flowers blooms one wild card – a red one.  Same breed, just a different color.  So I think that old Mom Nature is smarter than us by a huge amount!  She doesn’t care what color it is, how big it grows, male or female; she only cares that it grows.

This plant/bush is HUGE.  It is another my sister started for me and my “dried flower experiments” (failing at that by the way – LMAO).  It has the benefit of growing up in a well-nurtured environment and has been living quite beautifully in the greenhouse (away from nasty hail and wicked winds).  This is my first freaky-deekie simply because it still simply astounds me how a flower of a different color can pop up totally unexpected in a single color batch.  Grant it, the yellow in here does have specs of red in them, but it is like this one went reverse on purpose – LOVE IT!!

Now my real freaker…the rosemary bush.  I have had rosemary growing and doing quite well in my greenhouse for about five years now.  I recently introduced a new plant in there about a year ago.  Both are doing beautifully.  Huge, dark green, lush, and smelling of Christmas trees (every chance I get I run my hand through the bush – just cuz the smell makes me happy!).

Now I don’t know tons about rosemary, just what I have been experiencing but this one blew me away.  I went to pick some fresh broccoli and, of course, had to go past my rosemary and SURPRISE:

flowers-on-rosemary-1       flowers-on-rosemary-2-3

BLUE FLOWERS???? WHAT’S UP WITH THAT?? This is the younger/newer bush also. The older, more established has never had flowers! I have taken cuttings off of it, started new plants for many friends – but again, never flowers. AND – the flowers do not have a scent? It may be the rosemary scent is so strong that I can’t smell anything else, or it maybe they would be embarrassed to try to upstage the pine smell?

Whatever the reason is for their appearance, I don’t care. I still think rosemary is one of my favorite plants/herbs. I don’t use it for a ton of things, but the fact that it makes me think of Christmas every time I am near it I just love it!

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone could have a small rosemary plant in their home? Then instead of wanting to get into arguments, we could all smell that beautiful herb, think of the holidays, and just feel comfort in the joy of company. (Ok, it’s cloudy/rainy here again and I get this way on these types of days – moody to the hilt – LOL!! Hope you enjoyed my little trip!)

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I JUST HAVE TO BRAG UP SMART FARM/GARDEN PEOPLE!

The fact that these smart people also happen to be some of our dearest friends is purely coincidental.  We love to think- outside-the-box; you know, look at a stick and see a staircase type of thinkers.  Maybe this is why we have the best close friends in the world, we all think like this.

First example, our own greenhouse.  When we (my sister and I) initially thought about our new farm life, one of the things we knew we had to have was a greenhouse.  If you have the money and the space I highly recommend getting one.  It does not have to be as big as ours, but you need a place to grow your own foods. DSCF5121

I picked this picture to show you that we did build it ourselves (you can also check out my posts from 2012 for a lot more details).  This also gives you an idea of just how big it is.  The out-of-the-box thinking here (Kudos for our friend for thinking of this) is why it is 3 feet in the ground.  You actually have to step down 2 steps to get into it.  The friend also discovered a stellar insulated siding to pour the cement into that gives it a triple insulated side wall on all 4 sides.  The reason for this (for those asking) is to keep it warmer in winter and cooler in summer – on its own – with little to know help needed sometimes in the year.

Well the friend that helped us with this is ALWAYS thinking outside the box.  He came up with a couple of amazing simple things to help on their beautiful gardens.

HAIL – a harsh topic for anyone that loves plants.  You can spend days, months, and years working on your plants, trees, bushes, lawn, gardens and in an instant – HAIL – will destroy all or most all of it – grrr!  Fortunately, (knock on wood) we have not been in the path this year (yet), unfortunately our friends have been for the last several years (major bummer!).  So, Mister Think-Outside-the-Box came up with this nifty idea:

knj garden1

He is (they are) just so ingenious!!  (deserve many, MANY more exclamation points here but my writing checker won’t let me do it – boo hoo!)  Take a good look at this pic.  Not the raised beds, not the walk ways but the top and the slanted boards.  They placed wire hog/field panels (like this):

field pannel

The hole size in the squares is about 4”x4”, some have narrower holes toward the bottom to keep baby pigs in)

All over the tops of their garden spaces.  Then covered that with a finer mesh wire like this:

rabbit wire

Some people call it rabbit wire because the square holes are smaller than the holes in chicken wire and rabbit feet won’t fall through.  These are only about the size of a dime.)

NOW HOW BRILLIANT ARE THEY!!!

Then (like the top wasn’t enough smarts), check out the boards that are slanted in the raised bed.  They also have the hog panels attached to them – FOR THE VINING PLANTS NO LESS!  HOW DO THEY KEEP DOING IT?

They just keep coming up with these outstanding ideas.  How many years have my sister and I cried over lost crops to hail damage, but we never once thought of something so simple (almost seems like it should be common sense – LMAO), but so right?  We have hog panels all over our place, mostly for fencing.  There are some that have been damaged to the point of not hanging on a fence anymore, so they are just lying around – OH DUH!?!  (OK, can’t stop giggling at myself now.)

We have seen the panels used for gardening at this angle:

field panel in use

But never once thought far enough outside-the-box to come up with the perfect ideas that they did (yes, a bit of jealousy here – but just a bit because they are dear friends!).

I know that some of you (my Blogging Buddies) have seen some pretty nasty hail this year (maybe in past years also), so I wanted to share their smarts with those of you that have the same issues with your gardens.  I also wanted to brag up how beautiful their work is:

knj garden 2

Makes you want to just grab a lemonade, pull up a chair and watch the bees and butterflies do their thing.  AND THEY DID IT ALL THEMSELVES! WOW!!  This is not the work of a landscape specialist, it’s just them and their marvelous brains (more exclamation points – can’t help it – I’m just so excited for them)!  They work hard but they also work smart.  They deserve this Kudos!

I love my friends

I AM NOT A BIG FLOWER LOVER – BUT…

I am not a big flower lover, but I do love to look at them – when they are alive.  Never been too thrilled with getting cut flowers.  You want to get my attention, give me a potted plant!  Having said that, these crazy things have really caught my attention:

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The picture only shows their vibrant colors.  I just love how Mother Nature kicks our butts naturally when it comes to color.  AND – whatever did she think when she came up with these wild things?  I wish I could pass on a “touch here” pic so you could see how funky (yes, I said funky) they feel.  They feel just like stiff paper – but they are alive and thriving – what’s up with that?

They are a beautiful bright pinkish/purple but when those open up there is a striking yellow center to them?

pink w yell paper flowers

Who would have thought?  In the above pic, you can see how well the center is hidden.  I was actually very surprised to see this center.  Then to touch them – WOW – just does not seem real, but it is!

So, I said I am not a big flower lover, and this is true.  But these beauties have won me over to the cut flower idea.  They are meant to be cut.  This is why my sister grew them.  I do a ton of crafting and this fall I want to try some wreath designs.  These will make an excellent addition to the scheme. 

I also get to learn something new – how to dry flowers.  I have pressed flowers and herbs before – for my record keeping (yes I am OCD on organizing EVERYTHING!).  I like to press then draw them in my plant journal, so I not only see, but understand the plant better.  I am a very physical learner.  LOVE to read and see pics, but I have to touch it physically or do it to get it to sink in (whatever “it” is).

This is my birth month flower:

20160712_185500

It’s a Sweet Pea.  They come in a variety of colors, run like a vine (but do not appear to be strangling the peppers next to them), and would never make a good pressed or dried flower.  They are way too delicate.  HOWEVER, I do have ideas for paper copying their beauty.  Ahhh, another crafting thought to float around in my already stuffed brain of endless thoughts – eeek!  LOL

I swear, some days (or better most nights) I would love just to turn it all OFF!  Easier said than done.  I have journals, notepads, recording devices up the wazoo to try to help with these endless ideas, just no quick way to turn it all off.  Even worse, once I dive into an idea, it always leads to more ideas.  I think the ones I love best are the ones that are late bloomers.  We do or build something, then a couple of years later I get this “great idea”…this is inevitably followed up with the self-bashing “why didn’t you think of this X years ago Dumb Shit?”  (remember my Dad’s fav nickname for me? Still, fits this day! LMAO)

So, bottom line, I could use a bit of help here people…got any ideas, tricks, tips, techniques on how to dry these beauties so they will work in my wreath making?  All help/input is greatly appreciated!

<img class=" wp-image-1456 aligncenter" src="https://helbergfarmstories.files.wordpress.com/2016/07/dream-of-a-flower-wreath.jpg&quot; alt="dream of a flower wreath" width="256" height="256" Ahh, if only! Lol)

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