I CUT HER LOOSE – LOOK OUT!

This last weekend I finally cut my sister loose and let her play in the dirt.  There are two big things in her life that bring her great joy:

  1. Playing in the kitchen because she has a passion for cooking.  
  2. Playing in the dirt, in this case it is starting seeds. 

I brought all the grow lights, heat pads, and various other seed starting items up from the shed.  It took her about two days to get “her” areas set up.  Yes, they are “her” areas as it is her job to do the starts.  My task now is to design all the plot areas on our little farm and what will go in where.

If you think about it I got shafted in this deal.  All her job is done in the house and in just 2 places:

  • Her porch (it is hers because that is where she can smoke and contemplate life issues).
  • Her kitchen (yes, I can cook in there too, but it is mostly just warming stuff for me).

I am better with the computer than she is, so I created some charts.  The first is centered around seed starting and maintaining the starts until transplant time – this is Spring.  The second I labeled Summer.  This will be my turn to track things.  It will have when and where I put in the transplants.  It will also have all my direct sowing information. 

This will be the first year in many, many years that we actually have some kind of handle on our gardens.  Too many disasters have stretched out too long for us to properly concentrate on the gardens.  The only bummer is that my body is only a fraction of what it was 10+ years ago.  Simple things like getting down on the ground (my favorite place to work on plots) and getting back up again take enormous effort.  Fake knee and shoulder joints, massive surgeries for my major joints, and replacement parts add to my dismay.  You would think they could come up with something like the Bionic Woman for replacement parts by now?

Yes youngsters, that was a real TV series, and yes oldsters, I watched it.

What a wonder it would be if I could just pull weeds stronger, faster.  I could pull my garden carts without major issues.  Best of all, I could get down on the ground and back up again, without looking like a Flamingo on ice (not a pretty sight but very funny to watch – oh, and don’t get me laughing or I will NEVER get up!).

My major task over the last 20 years is to make life easier and not harder.  So why does life want to throw a wrench into my ideas every time I turn around?  She is so wicked that way.  Wish me luck on my endeavors this year.  Maybe we will finally have a great fall harvest.  I will let you know how it goes.

You can also check me out at:  https://helbergfarmstories.com/ for fun stories from our farm.

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I HAVE TO TIE MY SISTER DOWN.

She is only allowed to be hands-free when she goes to work or is in the kitchen.  Our seed orders are coming in, and I gave her a new “toy” this year, a seed planning, planting guide.  My BIG mistake!

Dirt is in our souls.  We grew up on a farm and will (hopefully) die on a farm.  With that said, we both share particular duties on our little patch of heaven.  She is in charge of the “starting,” and I am in charge of the transplanting and keep it running.

We go through the same mess every year.  She gets the garden bug way too early, and then I am last minute slamming things in wherever I can find the room, so they don’t die.  She gets them started far too early, and we have flowers appearing before the last frost is done.  If I don’t get them in somewhere (fast), we could lose them.  This year I have decided to tie her down to get-our-ducks-in-a-row!

She has specific orders NOT to start any seeds until our new cheat-sheet guidelines say so.  (Got it free from a fellow blogger/grower here in Colorado.)  Even though they were developed by a “foothillser,” and we are plains people, it is all Colorado.  Mountains would be very different, but the foothills are close enough. 

According to the charts, she should not be starting anything until the end of February.  Then, the only ones to start at that time are the long-term veggies.  The rest is not to be started until mid-March, and it is killing her!

I told her that she could play with her seed starter, soil mix to her heart’s content.  But she must leave the seeds in their packets!  At least the new charts are keeping her busy.  She has to list all the packets and the standard info on them.  Oh, and she also has to have them sorted by category, as well as alphabetical.  Hee hee, I can be mean when I want to.

In the meantime, I am mapping out all of our plots and planting spaces.  I am also revamping our backyard double plots into a mini-greenhouse.  I want to move our starts out there when they start getting into the hardening-off stages.  The side walls will be rollups, so I won’t have to move anything, just open the sides and let in the sun, air, and whatever.  I will try to remember to get pics as I go to share here.

I think my plan will work as long as she does not start setting seeds in the middle of the night (yes, we do wake up at all hours of the night – it’s the age curse).  I check her fingernails when I get up to make sure she isn’t trying to sneak a seed or two in.  Sisters?!?

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ONE OF MY MOST FAVORITES!

Farm kids find the simplest ways to entertain themselves.  Making hay is hard work, but building forts while putting that hay up in our barn was tons of fun.  (There were only regular small bales back then and, sad to say, there are very few places that still make them today.)  Rolling down our steep hills was also a form of great joy, and then there was the Milkweed plant.

It is a weed, so, as such,  most farmers would destroy them in favor of their paying crop.  We played with ours, which, I think, made our father a bit mad.  If you broke open the stem, it produced a milky substance that was very sticky (just try to mess with the plant without getting sticky!?!  Can’t happen.), but our favorite part was the pods.

It is a strong and pretty plant that produces a heavy bushy type of flower during the summer and is best known as the perfect food for the Monarch butterflies.  Then as the summer ends and fall begins, they grow these pods.  The pods are filled with tons of little brown seeds, and each seed is attached to a very light and feathery stem.  This is where dad would get mad.

We would break open the pods and purposefully pull out all the seeds on their feathers and throw them up into the air.  We would pretend they were little fairies floating all around us.  Pretty obvious why dad didn’t like it, but also pretty sure Mom Nature loved us for it.

Countryside.com just sent me this email:

Milkweed Plant: A Truly Remarkable Wild Vegetable

Discover the Many and Varied Milkweed Plant Uses, Including Sustenance for Butterflies

It is a perfect read, especially since I have never looked at them as a veggie, but they needed to add the joy that it can bring to little kids as one of its best benefits.

On a side note, I need to thank our neighbors.  They own big fields of paying crops (including crops that go into cow bellies) but have never stopped to ask us to get rid of them.  The plant was not originally on our farm.  The first one showed up in our front yard about five years ago, and my sister and I protected it.  No, we did not pop open the pod and watch the fairies dance (but it was a thought); it did that all on its own.  We just encouraged it to grow and enjoyed watching it feed our honeybees, butterflies, and other beneficial bugs.

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DO YOU LOVE YOUR BUGS?

No, this has nothing to do with the virus.  Today, I am back to talking about chemical-free gardening stuff.  We are officially into the spring season, which for us means prepping, planting, and planning.

Our home has started this season as it should:

  • Flies and spiders sneaking into the house.
  • Little bunnies hopping all over to test our predator defenses.
  • Rhubarb, tulips, iris, and several other things, popping out of the ground.
  • Like every year – we have the Odd Thomas poking up out of the ground. Later it will be determined friend or foe and dealt with accordingly.

baby bunny

These are the standard spring bits of proof.  Then we have the oddballs:

  • I spotted my old nemesis – A WASP (Yellow Jacket) – grr!
  • A skunk has already invaded our chicken barn for the barn cat food, pee-u.
  • What would spring be without Miller moths (stay out of my hair!). It just seems a bit too early for them, but they are here.

skunk

We cut the cord a couple of years ago, so I rely heavily on the internet for my valuable data.  My email box receives tons of information – daily – that I have specifically requested (vs. T.V. which bombards with junk I did not ever want to see).  One such request is from my Joe Gardener.com, which originated on our local PBS channel while we still had satellite T.V.  His name is Joe Lamp’l, and he is just full of excellent gardening stuff.  The best part of his shows is the guests.  If he doesn’t know a lot about a specific subject, he is not afraid to go to a guest source for the nuts-and-bolts of the issue.  This email was about the Monarch Butterfly (one of my favorite good bugs – also endangered species.).

Several years ago, we were lucky to be witness to a Monarch migration.  They came in the hundreds and landed on our trees, bushes, fences, house – you name it, they were on it.  IT WAS OUTSTANDING!  They did not stay long, but we felt gifted that they chose our little piece of heaven to stop for a rest.

That one-time massive visit threw me into a frenzy to find out more about them and ways to help them survive.  I was not the only one that was enthralled by them.  Dr. Agrawal is a professor in the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and Department of Entomology at Cornell University, was one of his guests, and spent time learning all he can about the Monarch.

This recent post by Joe shares a ton of great information, and EVERY gardener should learn.  It doesn’t matter if you grow for beauty, for food, or both; you need to learn to save our nature’s helpers.

147-Monarchs and Milkweed: A Precarious Struggle Between Life and Death

MARCH 12, 2020 | GROWPODCAST

(Please feel free to join me in the Monarch Watch group to help monitor the migration and population.)

The big thing that caught my eye was “monarchs and milkweed,” of which I had forgotten how much the two are connected.

milkweed and monarch

A couple of years ago, a milkweed plant sprouted in our front yard – all on its own.  I took that as a sign and saved the pods.  Remembering back to my childhood, we used to love popping the pods and watching the feathery seeds fly everywhere (F.Y.I. Dad hated it when we did that because they are a weed, and as such, he did not want them in his food fields.  Nothing worse than having to walk a field and handpick weeds – wait – picking rock was worse.).

The milkweed is crucial to Monarch survival.  Knowing this, I cherished the newbies on our property and encouraged them to continue.  We do have hay and corn farmers around us, not for human food but animal food.  We also have bees and a Beekeeper, that has our blessing to use our place as needed to allocate his 600+ colonies of honeybees every year.  The bees love the milkweed just as much as the Monarch, but for a different reason.  The article goes on to explain this in more detail was some fantastic pictures.  I hope that all of you read his article – gardener or not.

HAPPY SPRING – HAPPY GARDENING!

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I COME FROM A FAMILY OF BULLHEADS.

No, I am not talking about the fish (although they are one of my favs when they are in-season).  I am talking about being stubborn.  Stubborn to the point of sinking your heels into the dirt, and not giving up till hell freezes over.

bullhead fish

We finally had a couple of days of true February weather – but not enough.  This has brought out my bullhead side.  I am determined to have good gardens this year (not great, just good, and I will be happy) no matter what life throws at us.

I have given myself three main goals for this year:

  1. Continue to take my online learning classes and write more (and better, I hope).
  2. Get the gardens all back in order again.
  3. BE HAPPY.

I have a passion for a lot of things, crafting, writing, gardening, to name a few, but do not feel as if I am a professional at any one thing.  I hope that by the end of this year, I will feel like a pro at least one of my passions.

OCD crafting

The gardens have been a mess since the year of the fire (2014).  When the fire happened, I also had a severe infection in my left-hand index finger (from a cut on the job), which became Mersa.  In the course of taking care of the finger, my Surgeon discovered I have severe osteoarthritis (why is it never just “1” thing with me?).  The gardens got neglected because of all that mess, and my depression (yep that has been severe since the fire also) just took over and made me feel defeated before I even began on all our gardens.  Well, baby, my bullhead is back and in full force!

The last of my three is be happy, which has seemed to elude me.  I have moments of happiness, it’s just not been an on-going feeling of joy until now.  Not sure what has changed (except my new moon according to my Astrological sign), but I am feeling more empowered.  This is a great thing for me because it has been sorely missed over that last five years.

So, gardens beware!  I am on my bullheadedness (is this a word?) and plan on using it – grr!

HAPPY GARDENING!

*************************************************************************************

FYI:  One of the Bloggers I follow is called Better Hens & Gardens, and they have been kind enough to post an easy-to-understand article about the difference between seed types (Heirloom vs. GMO vs. GE, etc.), and I found it a great read to share – she here it is if you would like clear-cut information:

GARDEN SEEDS – GE, GMO, HEIRLOOM – WHAT’S IT MEAN?

I hope that if you are planning a garden this year for feeding your family, you will take a moment and read their helpful information.

*************************************************************************************

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IF IT ISN’T ONE THING, IT’S ANOTHER?

Just an FYI – this one is going to be silly. One of the reasons for the question mark after the title. Not sure which direction I took on this post. Hang on to your butts; it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
betty davis(I don’t have many idols, but she is one of mine.)

It started with the storms the other night and just kept me up thinking. I couldn’t turn off my head because there is so much that still needs to be done. Here is how it goes:
The fishpond pump blew (ok, take a few seconds and try to say that 5-times fast without falling into the word “plumb”). It was a couple of months ago, and it’s ok because we all know that nothing lasts forever. However, I was trying to save a few pennies and thought the one-size-smaller pump would work just fine for our fishes. Oh, stupid me! Yes, it works, but we now have to clean our all the filters at least once a week – grr. The old pump was strong enough that I just needed to shake off the outer filter bag to get all the dead leaves and slime off. Then just wrap it back up and drop it back in the water. Wait another month or two, and do it again. Save a penny, screw yourself out of time. In this case a penny saved is not a penny earned. It is hours lost (idiot move #1)
The greenhouse still looks like crap.

9-8 gr overgrn
It’s been over a year since the tornado ripped it up and we still have not decided on a roof cover. NO-it was not insured because no company would carry it just for the cover. They all said: “our winds and hail are too often out here to balance out the risk.” WHAT A CROCK!?! Isn’t that the whole point of insurance? Now I am also trying to find room in our budget stash (isn’t that a special word – stash – like there is such a thing?) the amount of a monthly insurance premium away for the next ugly storm. The cover decision has its ups-and-downs too:

  •  Go with our old-standby 6-mil or try to find something heavier?
    • If it is heavier, how will the plants react to it – less sunlight?
    •  Do the double, bubble 6-mil again or only a single layer.
    • Will that hold up as well as the bubble and what about tears?
    • The bubble worked on bouncing off most hailstones, would a single do that?
  •  Then I found some new stuff called “Solex” which is a flexible form of the harder end plastics we have on north and south sides. The current stuff does not bend, and cutting it is ugly. This new stuff comes on rolls. We would have to use scaffolding and ladders to lay the tracks for it over the top of each rib (oh, and my fear of heights works great at level).
    • It is heavier than the 6-mil, but how would it react to hailstones?
    • Worse, how will it react to the winds?
    • Will the thin tracks be strong enough to hold them in place?
    • There is no way to screw down the tracks along the top, so how can we be sure there will not be loose gaps that our winds will grab and rip the plastic off?
    • Yes, it would be nice to have to replace a section instead of the whole thing, but are the tracks sturdy enough for possible multiple switching’s.
  • This year without the constant monitoring and cooling, the weeds have gotten out of control. Oh, and let’s not forget the grasshoppers-from-hell that go along with more weeds (#1 on my top-ten hit list). I planted potatoes in there somewhere this last spring. Pretty sure they have been wiped out by the weed monsters. Either that or some have grown legs and eyes and are going to attack me in my sleep for neglecting them – eeek! (Ooo, great new “B” movie story: Attack of the Killer Potatoes – the “eyes” have it.)

Then we move on to the evil chickens. I thought (there I go thinking again – idiot!) since the two new back yard plots were empty, start some fall crops in there. Maybe we could get a bit of luck and at least have root veggies. I used my seed back from the spring and dumped the rest of the parsnips, carrots, beets, cabbage, lettuce, and broccoli seeds into the plots. Then, just for grins-and-giggles, I threw in some Roma tomato seeds on the west end and heirloom cucs on the east. My goal there was to put of wire trellis if they started to sprout.


I put everything in, weeded and watered as needed and hoped for the best. I forgot about the evil chickens. They have the WHOLE yard/farm to dig around in and where did they choose to go? Yep, my newly seeded plots. Granted, I was stupid and didn’t put a fence up around the plots first (another thing on my to-do-first list), but I foolishly believed that since we have piles of decomposing wood chips (filled with significant bugs now I assure you) that would be dinner of choice for the evil birds. We are only down to four now (thank you predators), so I encourage them to eat as naturally as possible. I never meant for them to pick my pretty plots (fewer bugs mind you) over the delectables in the compost piles – JERKS!


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SHHHHHHH, I Would Like To Talk About Hobbies and farming.

Yes, I wish to discuss this quietly.  There is a reason for this.  I am obsessed with my hobbies, and I believe that if I discuss this quietly, like a secret, that maybe my subconscious won’t kick in and go craft-crazy.

Sounds easy, but when your “to-do” list is as huge as mine, just a thought of having a moment to myself for hobby stuff is insane.  There is always something that MUST be done now, especially on a small farm like ours.

crazy face

Don’t get me wrong; I love the rural life.  I love the space, the gardens, the critters, and even the chores (a little less weeding would be nice).  But I also love my hobbies.  When it gets right down to it, I prefer my hobbies.  I can easily do them any time of the year, day or night.  I don’t have to wait for good weather, or a certain season to get things done.  The bummer is that they are still just “hobbies” and do not pay the bills (yet).

I have been taking some online classes (all freebies-yea!) to learn all I can about running a home crafts business.  I think I have boiled it down to one major problem – TIME.  I never have enough time to do what I want to vs. what I have to do:

  1. Every morning by 5 a.m. I have to start the watering cycle.
  2. When it gets to be 90+degrees here, this must be done every day. We have some drip lines set up (in the corn & tomatoes mainly) which I can just turn on and let run for the allotted time.
  3. The rest is all hand watered. We have new, spring-planted, fruit trees which must get major watering every day right now.  I know it’s working because the “shock” part is over and new leaves have appeared (woohoo).
  4. Then, while it is still cool out, I work on weeding. EVERYTHING needs weeding this year – all the time it seems.  Normally we are not this wet so once weeded; an area would stay clear for a month, maybe the rest of the summer.  Not this year.  It was so moist and so cool this last spring, I swore I was back in upper Wisconsin.  I even have a 10’x10’ canopy that I can move around to help shade me while I weed.  It works great except that as soon as I move on to the next area, the last cleaned area starts to weed-up again – grr!

not that kind of weed (NO – not THAT kind of weed.)

If I had less weeding in the front yard,  and just concentrate on one major area each morning for about 2 hours (By then, it’s getting to be noon, and the wind dies – makes it awful to be outside because of biting black flies – hate them worse than mosquitoes. ); that would leave me time in the afternoon for my hobbies.

The only thing harder to do is decide which hobby I want to work on first:

  • Card Making
  • Beading
  • Embroidery
  • Knitting
  • Crochet
  • Sewing
  • Painting
  • Calligraphy
  • The list just goes on.

Oh well, tomorrow is another day, and another area to weed.  Perhaps a moment or several for one of my crafts?

Happy gardening – or hobbying!

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WAY TO GO MINNESOTA!

All-in-all, it’s sad that we have had to come to this.  But I do give major kudos to the state for finally doing something to support our natural critters, even if it had to involve money.

The Smithsonianmag.com email that I recently received posted this new report:

Minnesota Will Pay Residents to Grow Bee-Friendly Lawns

It’s part of their “Smart News” series which I love reading.

We try to do as much as we can and promote others to do the same, in all ways natural.  We saw our first Bumble Bee of the season just a week ago.  It was having a hay-day on our Honeysuckle.  I could not get close enough (or get it to slow down enough) to see if it is a “Rusty” or some other species.  I just loved that it chose to visit us.  The stupid boxer, Pig (yes that is his name) dog, spotted it and thought it was worthy of chasing – idiot!  Caught him snapping at it, so I had to chase him off of it.  His is supposed to be a smart breed, yet I constantly catch him doing really stupid stuff?!

bumble bee

I had a wonderful, beautiful wandering thought.  What if everyone in the world grew flowers?  They could be as simple as a single Daisy in a pot, or a rail basket full of marigolds, or a ton all over your yards (kind of like our home – we try to put flowers in everything).  Imagine not only the beauty but the benefits.  Feeding good bugs and birds naturally (FYI: I love it when our Humming Birds come to visit our Honeysuckle).

We also love to use companion planting with as much as we can in our gardens.  When I initially started learning about it, I was amazed at how many ways you can protect and encourage your own little space of land, just by using “buddies” while you do it.  Isn’t it nice to know those good friends work best together in nature, not just in humans?

Happy Gardening!

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THIS IS A FIRST!

When we moved to the farm, we neglected to check out weather patterns.  In the long run, this was a good thing.  It was the first of three years of the worst drought Colorado had seen in 100+ years.  It was the perfect time for us to learn all about water usage (in the right spot at the right time) and conservation.

water conservation

This year we have the complete opposite.  We are mid-June and still very green.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the green (it’s not my Irish roots, but my garden roots), it’s just that this much of it here at this time of year is very odd.

Usually, we get less rain and higher temps about now.  The gardens pop up like gangbusters and bring all the weeds with them.  The biggest benefit of our dryer weather is that it is much easier to keep the weeds semi under control (all gardeners know you cannot completely control weeds – physically impossible).  With all the rains and cooler temps, the weeds are thick and thriving – grrr!

coyote HELP

It’s just been so strange:

  • Green everywhere, even where the farmers are not using their sprinkler systems.
  • Humidity – that is a major “ugly” word out here. It’s supposed to be dry and easier to breathe.
  • Thrown off mowing schedule – this just ticks me off! Normally only mow once a week or even every two weeks.  Now it’s every couple of days – I don’t have that kind of time?!
  • More moisture – not necessarily a bad thing, just not normal. With more moisture comes all the extras we don’t usually have: Mushrooms (not edible and on/in everything), thick prolific weeds, wet everything in the mornings, and humidity – ugh!

Mushrooms in grass

You would think that a kid from Wisconsin would appreciate and be used to “wet” – nope – been in Colorado long enough to know that dry in the morning is helpful for gardeners.  I like to get my mowing done in the early mornings.  It’s better for the grass and, for here, less wind.  It usually means fewer bugs.  Now the bugs and my allergies are running amok.

sneezing   (Thank you, Dave – so true!)

Guess I just need to stop bitching, appreciate the moisture (because it may not be here later), pull up my big-girl-panties, and get my chores done.

Happy Gardening Everyone!!

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PLANT, SKI, OR GOLF? THAT IS THE QUESTION.

Ah yes, spring in Colorado.  Almost June first and you can go golfing and skiing in the same day.  I have only been golfing once.  I did enjoy it, but just don’t have that kind of time.  I have been skiing also, but found it was a great way to break a limb- and I want to keep what I have – thank you.  So, it’s on with the planting.

Our poor plants can’t decide if they should bloom or hide.  We did get a chance to get our corn, root veggies and peas in, but still, have not been able to transplant our pepper and tomato starts.  This year that may be a good thing.  Normal high today is supposed to be 76°F, and today we are only getting to about 55°F.

We had been concentrating on clean up and repairs, but now we must get the rest of our seeds and transplants in or there will not be enough for harvesting this fall.

Stupid dogs have been our main project.  Every time they get out of the front yard, they kill something we want to keep – chickens, cats, birds.  Heaven forbid they actually go after the pests that attack our gardens – prairie dogs, monster gophers from hell, and rabbits (yes I love bunnies but not when they choose my garden over the fields around us.).

We constructed a new pen just for them and thought we had a tall enough fence around it.  Apparently, our Boxer is a fricken athlete.  If he gets a running start at it, he will make it over – shit head!  The other dog must have been a gopher in a previous life because she can build a tunnel under anything in under thirty minutes – dumb ass!  (FYI – new names for the two are Shit Head and Dumb Ass.)

My sister and grandson tried to surprise me by using 2” PVC tubes (stolen from the greenhouse rows) and some orange plastic horse fencing (bought that years ago as an instant trellis for vine veggies) and ran it around the top of the pen.  They had it curving it which was a great idea-sort of.

Between the wind and our athlete dog, it only took about two days to have it all torn down.  So sad they worked so hard on it for me.  I originally had a different idea that I now began to put in place.

My sister had gotten a bunch of free black weed barrier type material from work (they usually throw it out – NOT if you have recycling fanatics around like us!) which was a bonus for the new pen.  I cut 2”x4” boards up to create an inward incline around the top.  I also ran the black cloth around the fence on the areas that faced the barns and tacked it down with the new 2”x4” boards.  Then I ran wire fencing on the top of the boards all around the top.  When I was done my sister took one look at it and said: “It looks like a prison.”  We both bust out laughing because it has come to this with our dogs – jerks!

 (Prison, Prison, dog pen – jerks!)

It’s not done yet, but Shit Head is already tearing the vinyl off the gate – one of the few parts we left a view for them – grr.  Guess I will have to cover that one too.

Once I am SURE the monsters cannot get out and get into anything I will finally get back to my planting (no skiing or golf for this garden gal).

garden gals

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