ONCE MORE WE TRAVEL INTO THE LAND OF THE LOST.

I was not sure how to approach the interesting thing that happens this time of year.  Yes, it is a new year, but it is also re-visitation time for garden prep season.  With this season comes the attack of  The Gardening Catalogs from Hell – dun dun daaa!

seed catalogs

Those of you that have been gardeners for more than a year are fully aware of this danger.  You receive so many catalogs, filled with so much fun stuff; you become a Seed Catalog Junkie.  Sad but true, this is a disease.  I have been lucky enough to not become infected.  I limit myself to the task of making only the final decisions.  My sister, however, is severely infected.

The ritual is for me to pick up the mail and gently place all garden and seed catalogs into her favorite chair.  Her fav chair is on the mud porch (where she smokes – yuckie I know, but another bad habit she has), where she is solitary most of the time.  Friday nights we hold game night in there, and the dogs get to stay in there at night or days that are super cold.

In her solitary confinement, she meditates on the varieties, colors, sizes, shapes, prices, and shipping.  All of these things are used in determining who will be the prize winners and receive our selections.

1st place winner-ugly dog

It must be noted that all of our entries are from organic, natural, and mostly heirloom variety sellers.  We do not get into anything GMO and only look at hybrids in flowers.  Each year we try to select something that we have never tried to grow before (Last year was melons and winter squash – in the greenhouse.  Had some tricks to learn, but it worked – woohoo!).  Tried peanuts once – big mistake but an interesting grow.  Until we tried, I did not know that they had to grow up, down, back into the ground to create the peanut.  Weirdest thing I have ever seen a food plant do.  Not much for peanuts anyway (love P.B.J. though-yum).

peanut plant

My secluded sister spends about two months going through all the catalogs (starts around Thanksgiving) and then presents me with her selections about mid-January.  The poor thing comes to me like the Hunchback of Notre Dame; all bent out of shape, glazed eyes, staggering – it’s sad.

hunchback   (yes, hee hee, her hair does look like that – she’s gonna kill me for this post.)

I gingerly accept the catalogs and various spreadsheets from her (including all the scribbles, highlights, and sticky notes) and quietly slip into the office to review.

I then have to remember to ask her if she checked all her findings against our current seed collection.  You would think by now either she or I would remember do to this first – not.  Angry, frustrated, and mentally over-worked she snatches back the documents and heads back to her solitary confinement.

angry kitty face

Once again she emerges from the bowels of the porch and presents me with the “updated” documents, and once again I gingerly accept them.  I do fail to mention that I have, while she was re-working everything, dug up last year’s seed order inventory, compared it to our spreadsheets on planting and growing progress, and created an updated inventory with which to begin this new year list. Finally:

TADA –  HOUSTON WE HAVE LIFT OFF!

AB snowman

Gold stars all around! 

This new year’s seed orders are complete and thus sailing into charted waters and:

our bounty 2016    A boon be the bounty ahead.   Arrrgg Matie.

 

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

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PLOWSHARE THURSDAY – My new best garden friend!

We are a natural farm. I am pretty sure that the pests – weeds and bugs – in the area know this. The reason I know this is because we have so many on our property. The bugs are controlled via natural methods:

• Salt, soap, & vinegar solution.
• Companion Planting.
• Creative natural habitats to encourage good bugs (bad bug eaters).
The more difficult to tackle is the weeds. Heavy mulch works to a point; then other methods must be enlisted. This week’s plowshare…The Hand Hula Hoe!

hand hula hoe(Handle length is about 18 inches total)
What a God send this little hummer is!
We have had the original version for over a decade:

hula hoe original

This one is perfect if you like to stand/walk and weed around your plants. The blade scoots just beneath the top layer and slices through the weed – woo hoo!
Me, I prefer to get closer to my subjects. I get down on the ground, so I am at about eye level to my plants. The thing is for years I have used the old “hand hoe” and would not feel like I was getting very good control of things. The old ones that we have are like this:

regular hoe
with variations like these:


None of these is a bad method, just not the one that I/we prefer.

I have a dear friend that swears by her garden shears (scissors) and will sit beside her beds and nip off the weeds with them just below soil level. Nice, but tedious. This beauty does the same bit only much faster!

I still use a jar of vinegar for my bindweed as it comes back way to fast. This is one that I love to get right into the root. However, sometimes they move faster than I can keep up and will wrap around my amazing veggies – grrr! This is the perfect time for the vinegar!
It is easy to do:

  1. Find a loose branch of your runner vine or unwind some of it from your beloved plant.
  2. Open your jar of vinegar (we put ours in a mason jar because it is easier to use and seal).
  3. Place the separate vine into the vinegar for just a second or two.
  4. Pull it up allowing the excess to drip back into the jar.
  5. I like to put down several layers of newspaper or a thick cardboard before laying that dipped vine back on the ground (just like to make sure I am not leaking to anything good). Place the vine back down and let Mother Nature do her work.

The vine absorbs the liquid to the root and viola’ – dead vine! Two things to be aware of with this method:

  • Make sure you do not set the vinegar part near a good plant. It may seep into the soil and kill it as well.
  • Make sure you are going to have at least one good dry day to allow the moisture to go into the root. DO NOT WATER THAT AREA THAT DAY! You are trying to make sure the plant absorbs only the moisture you provided.

Hope this helps in your gardening adventures! The hand Hula Hoe can be purchased almost everywhere now. It is carried in most home and garden centers. Happy Gardening!
6-6-17 mock orange ours (2).jpg                               (Our beautiful Mock Orange Bush just two days ago!)

WHAT DOES THE GRANDMA SAY?

Spring Break stinks!  It is hard enough for a Grandma of 57 to care for her Grandson of 8 using regular daily routines.  Then the school system throws in all of these extra breaks.

Every other Friday is only a half day.  Used to be the only “break” was during Christmas, now they have a Fall and a Spring Break too!  I have custody of him, so it is a never ending mental endurance just to keep up with him.  During the extended times off, I have to come up with things to occupy his mind even more.

Lucky this Grandma is a crafter and gardener!  The last three days have been really cool and rainy (of course – just because the kids are off-grrr), so they qualified for crafting days!  I come fully prepared to handle this battle.

This is the target:

n n max 3 29 17

My Grandson is holding his second favorite cat, Max.

The tools needed to complete the job:

 

The final product for today:

(It’s up to you to decide who did which project.)

One last bit of fun to share with you.  My cousin, who lives in Alaska, sent me this pic this morning:

Jeffys AK skyline 3-28-17

His skies are awesome, but check out the snow they still have – eeek!

Happy Spring Y’All!!

 

 

 

WHAT IS THE STORY BEHIND OUR GREENHOUSE? – Part 4 (last one)

Answers to all the little questions.

I think the first three Saturday blogs answered the

“Why did we do it?”     “What did we do it for?” and  “Why so big?” questions.

This final bit of our greenhouse process will hopefully answer more questions.  Please feel free to write me if you have more after this!

1)      Why Plants vs. flowers?  This one is easy – FOOD.  Everyone will always need food, not always need flowers.  We do plant flowers, but only for our admiration or to share with friends.

2)      Why inground instead of on tables?  In ground is more natural.  It also takes less water.  Plants can dry out much faster sitting up on a table.  The other main reason is temperature.  It would take more to heat the underside of the table vs. allowing the sun to warm the ground.

3)      Why so big?  We wanted to make sure we could produce enough (in the long run) to sell the extras.  We love to can and process our homegrowns, and it takes a lot of food to make something like a sauce.

4)      Why build it ourselves vs. hiring a company? This one I would re-think if we did this again.  I am very glad for the learning experience, but, it was hard, hot work.  I had never done something on this scale before (thank goodness our friend did) but I do love learning new things.  In hindsight, I would have paid a company to do it and just did some oversight on the hard stuff (to learn how it operates).  Also, because it took much longer than we originally anticipated, funds became scarce.  This is the main reason why we only have plots on the north end for now.  However, I and my motto (everything happens for a reason) also think we may have other ideas for the south end (a special seed start area and maybe an aquaculture spot?).

5)      How do we keep it hot?  The sun does most of it for us.  We do have natural gas heaters installed, but have never used them yet.  Thinking we may switch to electric, easier in the “alternative energy” long run.

6)      How do we keep it cool?  This is harder than the heating part!  Since we are in Colorado and we are closer to the sun, it is quite warm here during the summer/fall months.  We try to plant close to the seasons, but we also like things like spinach, lettuce, carrots, beets all year long.  During the summer months, those plants are closest to the swamp cooler (remember it is the width of the greenhouse – HUGE!), and we have started using shade cloth and warm weather crops trellised to provide more shade areas.  This helps to keep our cool weather crops cooler.  We tried to grow spinach and lettuce outside in the shady areas, didn’t work very well.

7)      How do we water?  We have our own well, plus we have rain barrels to collect any snow melt and rain that we can.  We have several tanks that we can transfer from one to another in, and if you noticed last week’s blog, there are several blue barrels that hold extra water inside the greenhouse.

8)      How do we feed the plants?  As natural as possible.  We have animals for manure, several wood chip piles that are continually composting down (part of this is through an agreement with our local tree trimmers), egg shells, coffee grounds, end of season plants (except tomatoes) are all mixed into our composting piles (yes, more than one).

9)      Do we use pesticides or garden naturally – how?  NO PESTICIDES!  We pull weeds by hand or dip in a vinegar, salt, and dish soap solution.  We use companion planting in EVERYTHING!  We have just started introducing the Weedless Gardening Methods to our exterior plots with great success.  We have free-range chickens and guineas to help keep down the pests (guineas are great for the grasshopper, snake, and rodent control).  The bummer to the birds is chickens scratch up everything.  We have to build good wire borders around the exterior plots, at least for the first couple of months.  Once the plants are established, the birds are pretty good about just going after the bugs.

We also leave part of our gardening areas weedy – this has been very beneficial!  We have left/created a natural attraction for the bugs, good and bad.   We found tons of Praying Mantis, Ladybugs, and Lacewings all over the natural area in the last years.  This then led them to our plots and protecting our food area as well.

It’s funny when you think about it; this trick was an accident!  Things got very overgrown after the fire and because of my surgeries.  It was all we could do to keep up with our food areas, so some outer areas were left to nature.  When we finally did get around to work on them, we could not believe how many good bugs were hanging out there!

Well, I hope this helps anyone that is thinking about creating their own greenhouse.  I will gladly share more with anyone that asks and give you any helpful hints that we have learned along our journey.  You do not have to go as big as we did.  There are now tons of online places to purchase some fantastic kits to help start you on your way.  My last bit of advice to you – HAVE FUN WITH IT!  We have been having a fantastic time learning all the unique attributes in all our garden areas.  We still are learning (hope that never stops!), and would love to hear what natural ideas you use!

Happy Gardening!!

20160605_091933 (1)         good pic our veggie garden

(Note: Neither garden looks like this for a couple of months yet)

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WHAT IS THE STORY BEHIND OUR GREENHOUSE? – Part 3

How we set up the inside of our greenhouse and why?

First, we were going to just dig in the ground – easiest right?  WRONG!  The bindweed from hell grows here.  I’m not sure you could call it growing, more like a hostile take-over!  It is aggressive, gets into everything, and doesn’t care what you say or want – it’s not going anywhere (Hostile take-over right?)!

Even with our nine months plus efforts building the greenhouse, it did not stop.  We dug three feet underground, burmed the sides and had triple insulated sidewalls all around.  But the bindweed still finds its way in.  All we knew we could do is try to slow it down or contain where it enters.

We then decided that plots were the way to go.  We are also lucky that we have a food production plant near us that gives away its drainage cloth.   We asked them about it, and they gave us the distributor.  Come to find out; it is made of the same stuff that cloth weed barrier is made of only thicker.  They use it to drain leftover water from cheese (note: eventually this bio-degrades so we will have to keep watching our weeds).  We were able to cut off massive pieces of this stuff to use on our farm.  Since it is food – there is no chemicals that are left in the cloth to do harm.  In fact, we were surprised at just how clean the cloth was.

Once the decision to use plots was settled, the idea of a whole floor weed barrier set in.  We cut off chunks of the cloth (f.y.i. this is NOT light stuff – it is very heavy) and spread them out on the floor of the greenhouse.  We used standard garden stakes to hold it all in place.  The only gaps are around the outer edge where it meets the cement wall, and where we have to overlap pieces.  When it was all done it looked great:

DSCF5135

This pic also has the very first plot I put in.  It is what it looked like before we established all the north-end plots.It is on the far right against the wall.  Those are tomatoes growing in there.  This was late summer 2011.  You can see next to that plot is the start of another.  The ones against the wall are one foot wide, the others on the inside are 3 feet wide.  We left about a three- foot walkway in-between rows.  Wanted it to be big enough for carts to get through.  This picture is also fun because we are looking north and the swamp cooler is not in yet.

This is what it looks like now- before growing season (note the tarragon against the wall by the black cover.  There is an ever-bearing strawberry bed next to it on the right):

GH blog3 pic 2

This is what it looks like at the start growing season:

GH blog3 pic 3

This is after one month:

GH blog3 pic 4

And this is full production:

GH blog3 pic 5

There are tomatoes and peppers in with the dill.  Oh, and for all you crafters out there;  dried dill stalks make great crafting/weaving sticks – BONUS!  The top center you can see some orange mesh (It is actually used as horse fencing.  This is part of a bunch of bundles we got at the auction for about five dollars.  Works great for trellising plants.), that is where our cucumbers are going crazy.

There are Four 3’wide by 26’ long plots in the middle.  Then we have a 1’wide by 26’ long plots on both east and west sides.  All plots are made with 2’x12” painted (barn paint – non-toxic) boards with 6mil plastic lining on the inside (not bottoms) of all boards.  The plastic is the same as the greenhouse cover and is used just to keep as much moisture as possible off the board.  Our way of trying to get them to last as long as possible before needing replacement.  You can also see the weed barrier up close in this picture.  It is just a fine mesh material.

The greenhouse has been up and operating for going on seven years now.  The weeds are starting to make their way in, in some spots.  We pull what we can, and I dip the bindweed ends into vinegar in a cup.  Those of you that do not know, this is a perfect way to get to the root of the weed and kill it without killing anything else around it.  The only bummer is this is a very slow process.  The weeds move much faster than I do.

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Just How Green Are You?

One of my fav all-around veggies is cabbage.  I am half Irish, and this is a must! (Mom would find a way to haunt me about it if I don’t!  Her side of the family has always been more fun…a bit off, but more fun!)  In honor of St. Patrick’s day, my Farmer’s Almanac newsletter sent me this winner, not like I needed any more reasons to eat cabbage, but they are interesting facts:

13 HEALTHY REASONS TO START EATING MORE CABBAGE!

Happy cabbage

One of our favorite ways to have it is fried.  You can make cabbage pockets:

fried cabbage pockets

Which are yummy too, but we prefer just to chop it up, and go with it.  Sometimes we will do it with onions (sorry, bad pun!).

We have grown both varieties of green and purple.  Even tried growing Bok Choy, but didn’t have the same appeal to us as regular old cabbage.

purple cabbags          boc choy

Since it goes so well with corned beef (we have feasted on a couple of those already), we just can’t help but get going on our annual cabbage frenzy!  Those of you that may need a bit-O-help getting their cabbage on, the almanac also gave up a fool-proof recipe, check it out!  (F.Y.I., we always crockpot ours at least overnight before slicing.  Oh, and always make sure to cut against the grain.)

This year my sister wants to try making our own sauerkraut?  This should be interesting since we do not have anything like mom’s old canning crocks (try to find them now – WITHOUT a huge price tag on them) to let it soak in.

old canning crock

If any of you have a good modern recipe, I would love it if you would share!!

So, HAPPY ST. PATRICKS DAY to you all!  May it be filled with fun and enjoyment.  (It’s our Friday “game night” this year, so you know we will!)

st pat blessing

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WHAT IS THE STORY BEHIND OUR GREENHOUSE? – Part 2

How and why we decided to plant the way we do in the greenhouse:

Once we knew that we wanted the greenhouse and that we wanted to make enough out of it to supplement future retirement income; we began researching different growing techniques.

HYDROPONICS

hydroponics-system

This was a fairly new fad that was popular at the time we were doing our research.  I think we got lucky when we found a place near the farm we were buying that grew tomatoes through hydroponics.  The man/owner we met informed us of his past in Agricultural Science and how he had developed a great liquid fertilizer that he used on his plants.  His tomatoes were beautiful…perfectly formed, all about the same size, smelled like a really great tomato should.  He was kind enough to give us a free half case to sample.  We thanked him for the tour of his facility and the samples and went home.

The first thing we did was review the pictures we took and discussed his set up and operations in relation to what we had in mind.  His help was immensely helpful.  Unfortunately, the taste of the tomatoes fell flat.  They had no flavor at all – bland!  We wanted to have produce that excited your taste buds from the moment it touches your lips.

To be fair, we then went to some specialty markets in the Denver-metro area and selected a variety of “hydroponic grown” tomatoes for comparison.  We found the same end results.  Yes, they were pleasing to the eye, but all flat on flavor.  That helped us to decide that hydroponics was not for us.

ORGANIC

organic-growing-system

This was something we knew a little about, mainly due to the cultural movement at the time.  Everyone wanted to go “organic” to save the planet.  Once again I began my research on it.

I knew the basics that it was grown using better methods, thus making it better for you to eat.  This was a good start, but I needed to know “how” it was grown better.  What methods were used and why?  This is what I found:

  1. A) The first thing you are going to come to is the Wikipedia definition:
    1.      Organic horticulture is the science and art of growing fruits, vegetables, flowers, or ornamental plants by following the essential principles of organic agriculture in soil building and conservation, pest management, and heirloom variety preservation.
    2. This took me to what are “essential principles of organic agriculture”, and how can I apply them? Again on Wikipedia I found this: (fyi – it’s huge, so I only took a part of the description)
    3. The principles are intended to “apply to agriculture in the broadest sense, including the way people tend soils, water, plants and animals in order to produce, prepare and distribute goods. They concern the way people interact with living landscapes, relate to one another and shape the legacy of future generations.”

2)      The four principles of organic agriculture are as follows:

(i)       The Principle of Health – Organic agriculture should sustain and enhance the health of soil, plant, animal and human as one and indivisible.

(ii)      The Principle of Ecology – Organic agriculture should be based on living ecological systems and cycles, work with them, emulate them and help sustain them.

(iii)    The Principle of Fairness – Organic agriculture should build on relationships that ensure fairness with regard to the common environment and life opportunities.

(iv)     The Principle of Care – Organic agriculture should be managed in a precautionary and responsible manner to protect the health and well being of current and future generations and the environment.

3)      This next section I found (again in Wikipedia) goes into the pest control part – the section we were (and still very much are) concerned about:

  1. a) Integrated pest management (IPM), also known as integrated pest control (IPC) is a broad-based approach that integrates practices for economic control of pests. IPM aims to suppress pest populations below the economic injury level (EIL). The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation defines IPM as “the careful consideration of all available pest control techniques and subsequent integration of appropriate measures that discourage the development of pest populations and keep pesticides and other interventions to levels that are economically justified and reduce or minimize risks to human health and the environment. IPM emphasizes the growth of a healthy crop with the least possible disruption to agro-ecosystems and encourages natural pest control mechanisms

4)      What # 3a) is actually talking about is how much pesticides they will allow a person/business to use on their plants – YET – still be labeled as “organic.”

We did not like the sound of this. According to the USDA (e) When the practices provided for in paragraphs (a) through (d) of this section are insufficient to prevent or control crop pests, weeds, and diseases, a biological or botanical substance or a substance included on the National List of synthetic substances allowed for use in organic crop production may be applied to prevent, suppress, or control pests, weeds, or diseases: Provided, That, the conditions for using the substance are documented in the organic system plan.

The big words that stood out in our heads were “may be applied.”  They are stating that if you have tried all of the natural, or organic, methods and you still can’t get rid of your pests; here’s a list of chemicals we do allow you to use and still use the label organic.  WHAT??!!  The Federal Regulations goes into a ton of beat-around-the-bush lingo but boils down to the fact that they do allow certain types of chemicals but only up to a certain limit (last I knew was up to 15% chemicals were allowed to be used but still called organic).  The also go on to let you know the National List of synthetic (Definition: of a substance made by chemical synthesis, especially to imitate a natural product) substances allowed.  Oh, and they also have a ton of things that are exempt from all the regulations.

THIS ALL BOILED DOWN TO ONE BIG THING: We did not want to use any chemicals – AND – we did not want to have to report to “big brother”  all the time.  If a person creates income from organic foods, in excess of $5000, they have to share all their records of operations and maintenance under allowable organic methods.  Well, our personal preference is that the US Government needs to keep their eyes on bigger matters and keep they nose out of our personal lives.  Result: no organic partying for us.

NATURAL METHODS

natural-growing-system

This became our destination!  What better idea is there for us than to go “natural?”  We do not use chemicals on any of our edibles or flowers.  The only thing we do with our lawn spaces is water and mow.  The farm birds take very good care of the fertilizer part (chickens mainly), and we compost.  If any manure needs to be added, we have plenty of friends willing to assist.

We pull weeds by hand or use weedless gardening methods (this is basically covering a plot or space with bio-degradable material like cardboard or newspaper to kill off the unwanted weeds) and companion planting with EVERYTHING!  Then good soil and compost are topped on that, then plant away on top.  It does not kill off everything forever, but it does limit growth and slows them down.) so, with proper prepping and being the Constant Gardener, we can spend more time on tending to our crops needs.

We use a TON of companion planting to repel or distract unwanted pests.  Some things we grow lure bad bugs away from our good foods, some just simply keep them at bay.  We have a great list of reading materials that I would be happy to share, for anyone that would want to learn more.  Read (and still do) all kinds of different growing methods and techniques, but I still have some favs that work best.

Next, I will share How we set up the inside of our greenhouse and why.

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WHAT IS THE STORY BEHIND OUR CHOICE TO BUILD A BIG GREENHOUSE?

I have had a ton of you (my lovely reader friends) asking a ton of questions about our greenhouse.

  • Why did we do it?
  • What do we do it for?
  • Why Plants vs. flowers?
  • Why inground instead of on tables?
  • Why so big?
  • Why build it ourselves vs. hiring a company?
  • How do you keep it hot?
  • How do you keep it cool?
  • How do you water?
  • How do you feed the plants?
  • You do you use pesticides or garden naturally – how?

These are just a few you all have been asking me.  This wonderful spring month of March, I am going to try to share our reasons for doing what we are doing in the greenhouse.  What works and what doesn’t work will be shared.

I’m going to split this up into several weeks and just post on Saturdays about this.  My other posts will be about other Helberg Stories (farm or family).

leveling the ground

(The spot we picked to build the greenhouse.  We had started to level the land in this photo.  You can see the piles of dirt saved on the far left side)

The first question I am starting with is “Why did we decide to build a greenhouse,” which also goes with “Why so big?”

Most of you that are following me already know that we were raised on an 80-acre farm in Wisconsin.  The love of soil is in our blood.  In my teen years, the folks sold the farm and tried their hands at bars and restaurants.  My father had this dream of having a great, famous place that he could pass on to his daughters (He even named one Rachel’s Café after me…that almost worked, but that is a story for another time.).  Through bad timing and a tough economy, we ended up in Denver, Colorado. Yep, big city – by our standards “HUGE” city.

I was 21 when we moved there, and it was great fun at the time.  So many different places to go, people to see, parties to be had; it was amazing!  Then life happened, and I was blessed with a beautiful baby girl!  Her daddy skipped out on us because she was born disabled and he was not ready to be a father.  I made a decision at that very moment that I did NOT want her growing up in a big city.  I wanted to be back in the country again.

Time went by, as it does, and my daughter was in middle school (1 grade away from high school) when the Columbine shooting happened.  All schools all over Colorado, but especially in Denver, went to major lock-down security.  The kids had to pass through hired police and security details to get into school.  Once in it was locked up tight.  A very scary time for the kids and the parents!

I had my home; my younger sister had hers and mom had just passed away about a year earlier.  Our older sister was settled with her husband and son, but I was very unsettled with worries of my daughters’ safety.  One evening I approached my younger sister (I will call her “D” for these stories) D and asked if she would keep an eye on my daughter while I go to see farms with an RE Agent.  Instead, she proposed that we go in together on this.  She wanted out and back to farm life also.  Thus the search started!

After about three months and over 3000 miles, we found what we wanted.  We knew what was already on the property and in the house, but then we discussed what we wanted to do with our futures.  This is where the greenhouse idea came up.  We had several ideas that would take us from the current stage (me in my early 40’s and she in her late 30’, and my daughter about 14) to the end of our lives.

  1. We wanted animals – preferably ones we did not have to kill to make money off them.
  2. A structure that we could turn into some type of shop so that we could sell off the property instead of spending money to rent a store.
  3. A greenhouse to grow things in year-around. We saw the land that was already there but decided that adding a greenhouse would give us an extra advantage.
  4. We wanted to build this place into a perfect place that we could retire. Worried that Social Security won’t be available when we need it, we wanted alternative sources of income.
    1. Land and greenhouse for year around produce
    2. Goats for the fiber (hair) to turn into clothing items.
    3. Chickens for eggs to sell and meat for ourselves.
    4. We also picked Yaks for fiber, milk, and meat (This is another whole other story!).
    5. And we started with Angora rabbits – again for fiber to turn into clothing.

(This story is about the greenhouse.  Someday I will go into all the fiber animal do’s and do not’s.)

So; the biggest reason for the large greenhouse was to be able to grow enough food in there, all year long, to preserve for our family and us and sell extras for additional income.  Eventually, we planned to sell processed foods as well.  Ahh, best-laid plans of mice and men! It is good to have a plan in everything you do, just make sure you leave room for “life” to interfere – because it will!

I hope this explains why we chose the greenhouse and why we built one so big (yes, we built it ourselves – see blogs from 2011-2012 about this).    The next one will be how and why we decided to plant the way we do in there.

Please feel free to ask any questions and thoughts about this.  I love getting input and sharing our experiences!

setting the footer boards

(Leveled land covered in bindweed – yes we get TONS of the stuff – and 2”x12”x12’ boards used to build the footer/base of the greenhouse)

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DO HOW-TO BOOKS COUNT AS READING?

I have never cared for romance novels.  Their stories always seemed too unrealistic or predictable.  My love life has NEVER been that way.  I have tried reading sci-fi because I love sci-fi movies, however, with a mind that wanders as much as mine does, I could not follow their plots.  I do have a passion for all kinds of how-to books.  Maybe it goes beyond passion to obsession.

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I was sitting alone after one of my surgeries and after the fire.  We were living in a trailer that was placed on our farm to use while the house was being redone.  It was a cooler, rainy summer day and the crew had the day off.  I wanted to try to crochet or knit something.  One of our many friends gave me some alpaca yarn to begin to replace all that I had lost.  The problem was that I had no patterns – 50 years of collecting, all gone.  I began to cry.

Here I sat, alone, hand all wrapped up, half my major yarn-holding finger gone, yarn – my passion- in hand and no ideas in my head.  Then, almost as if someone said “she deserves a break,”  I remembered: Knitting Daily TV is on the internet!  (Now they are connected with Interweave.com) They have free patterns, books, and even DVD’s all on “how-to” different knit and crochet things.  They did not have any free patterns, so I went digging!

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I found this: http://www.beginner-crochet-patterns.com/ – thank you, God!  I then found out through doing just the beginning basics; this was not going to be as easy as I thought!  The ½ finger was my yarn guide finger.  I saved several how-to patterns on my laptop.  I was feeling life again!

One of my goals this year is to read at least one book per week.  Now I know that some of you do not consider how-to’s in the “book” category, but I have and always will.  They saved my sanity!  Losing as much as I did in such a fast, and short time was more devastating than I had realized.  Crying on that couch woke me up to that reality.

Decades I had surrounded myself with yarn crafting.  Whenever things were bad or tough (had a lot of those), I could count on my yarn, a project, and someone in mind to give the finished product to as a means of moving forward.  To wake up one moment and realize that my “constant” in life was in a dumpster filled with ash broke me.

*The home was gone.

*Grandson is gone.

* Passions gone.

*Life forever changed.

I learned, at that single moment, just how strong I was – mentally.  I knew what would bring me back to the land of the living again, and it worked!  It took my sister a couple of years to find herself again.  My daughter is still struggling and has not figured it out for herself yet.  Time does not always heal all wounds, at least not for us.  Purpose does!

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I now have a pretty good sized library of how-to’s now.  Everything from yarn workings, to wood working, to furniture restoration, to a multitude of crafting ideas.  I am hooked on several blogs that deliver shared ideas every couple of days on how-to do something or another.  My cousin, bless her agricultural soul, has sent us a ton of ag how-to books, magazines, and hooked me into Pinterest (here is my site: https://www.pinterest.com/gardenglows/)  for millions more great ideas.

I believe that how-to books are real books and I will continue to push on to completing at least one per week.  (Truth be told, I have about 4 or 5 going at any given time and get excited when I actually get to the end of one!  Tricks me into thinking I know what I am talking about on that subject – LMAO!)

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WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO?

 

The first thing I do at my computer every day is to check the weather.  Being a farmer/gardener from birth has made me very locked into this habit.  Today is Wednesday – hump day – and the best day to try to figure out what must be done, what may be done (if given enough time), and what can wait until a later date.  This was the forecast for the next seven days as of this morning from TWC (The Weather Channel.com)

Brush, CO (80723) Weather

Observed at 7:07 am MST

Print

Day   High/

Low

Precip Wind Humidity UV Index Sunrise Sunset Moonrise Moonset
Today

Feb 15

Sunny 64° 26° 0% WSW 8 mph 34% 3 of 10 6:47 am 5:30 pm 10:29 pm 9:22 am
Thu

Feb 16

Sunny 70° 28° 0% SSW 7 mph 24% 3 of 10 6:46 am 5:31 pm 11:26 pm 9:53 am
Fri

Feb 17

Sunny 63° 32° 0% NW 12 mph 30% 3 of 10 6:44 am 5:32 pm 10:25 am
Sat

Feb 18

Mostly Sunny 66° 40° 0% SSE 12 mph 41% 3 of 10 6:43 am 5:33 pm 12:22 am 11:00 am
Sun

Feb 19

Mostly Sunny 72° 44° 0% S 15 mph 34% 3 of 10 6:42 am 5:34 pm 1:17 am 11:37 am
Mon

Feb 20

Partly Cloudy 64° 37° 0% NNW 15 mph 30% 3 of 10 6:40 am 5:36 pm 2:10 am 12:20 pm
Tue

Feb 21

Sunny 75° 37° 0% WNW 11 mph 22% 3 of 10 6:39 am 5:37 pm 3:02 am 1:06 pm

Specifically look at the HIGH/LOW column – 60’s and 70’s – WHAT?  This is February for heaven sake!  It is supposed to read minus something to maybe 30°F if we are lucky.  How are we supposed to prep and plant for this?

We have done as we normally do, started seeds.  The long-term stuff like pumpkins, melons, squash; these all take forever to grow.  We usually get a kick out of going over notes from previous years to determine just what worked or didn’t work.  Some things planted too early can lead to quite a mess.  Huge plants with nowhere to put them because the weather is not cooperating.

Well, this year has us really freaked out.  The biggest concern is because of what happened about three years ago.  We started early going with the nice weather, then April hit and blew us out-of-the-water!  We were getting 90+ degrees on Fridays, then 30ish and snow by Monday – within only three days it was changing that hard that fast.  Took out most everything we had worked so hard on.  Lucky we had the greenhouse with some backup plants in it.  The whole fiasco make a mess of our fall harvest that year!

We are only in mid-February and still have at least 60 more days before the end of the deep frost worries.  There is no fear in starting potatoes and onions here in March.  By the time plants start popping out of the ground, we cover with straw, and any freezes won’t affect them.  Something like pumpkins can be toast with the first deep frost even if we cover them with straw.

We did start designing something new to try this year.  We want to try to create a winter starter box outside.  We have specific places to put the outside crops, and one new on the south side of the house maybe perfect for this trial.  It gets full sun – no shade there of any kind.  We want to put in a planter box about one foot wide by about twelve feet long and about a foot deep.  It would be filled with our own good compost mix and then add the plants (melons in this case).  Then we will build a hinged drop cover for the top.  The plants should stay small enough that we can let them stretch out in the plot.  Then if it drops (or snows) in temps, we just close the top.  It will be covered in plastic so that the sun will keep them all nice and cozy, but the evil temps would not hurt them.

So, what do you do when you don’t know what to do?  Think outside the box, or in our case make a new box.  Such is one of our, way too many, thoughts this year.  Wish us luck!

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