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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Why Should Something So Red and Delicious be Bad?

Sometimes the email newsletters that I receive provide some very useful insite.  This one is just such a case:   Strawberries still top the Dirty Dozen List.  By mnn (mother nature network)

silly-kissing-fruit

My faithful readers know by now that we are trying hard to grow most all of our own food.  We like to know exactly what’s going into the stuff that goes into our bodies.  Not that we are perfect by any means, but we do try our best.

We also run away from chemicals.  We use companion planting, natural gardening, and natural pest control techniques, and good old-fashioned hard work to keep our farm running.  Every year we like to try some new method or idea that is running around.  If it works great – we keep it and share.  If it doesn’t work bummer – we lose it but will still share why/what went wrong.

The above article from MNN regarding strawberries and pesticides made us sad, and a bit angry.  To us, one of the best and easiest things to grow almost anywhere is strawberries.  So why should anyone (individual or company) need to use anything unnatural to grow them?  We have grown them straight in the ground as well as a variety of pots, both doing equally well.

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I have some friends in both very moist and very dry areas that are using different pot ideas and doing quite well with their strawberries.  So why poison them?  Sad to say, but I think it is all due to vanity!

Yep, we all are guilty of this one!  We go into a store to buy food for ourselves and our families.  What is the first thing you check out?  How good does it look?  Right?  I am just as ashamed as you are on this.  I always flip over anything in containers to see if there is a molded or rotting one in it.  I squeeze my cucs to see if they are firm – if not I don’t buy them.  I smell my tomatoes, melons, and most all fruits.  I should be held accountable for some of this problem.

I allow blemishes and cut off rotting parts on our own homegrown food, but hate to pay for something that has a bruise on it – shame on me!

bad fruit

(Oh, except bananas – they taste better a bit bruised and make better tasting bread that way too.)

I love going to Farmer’s Markets to see all the produce others have to share.  I notice that lots of that are not perfect, but I am willing to pay a reasonable price (as long as they can tell me they did not use pesticides or chemicals) for it anyway.  I would love to see more Farmer’s Markets to choose from in the late summer/early fall months.  Our local small town grocery store allows the backyard gardeners to sell their extras in their parking lot during the harvesting season.  This is a great thing!  So why am I so picky about the stuff inside the stores?

cone of shame

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DO YOU EVER GET CARRIED AWAY IN THE MOMENT?

Happens to me every fall.  I just can’t help myself.  I have tried. I keep myself busy with harvesting and crafting and food processing – but it just can’t stop it.  Those pesky childhood memories come flooding back every fall.

There is so much work that has to be done right now.

  • Canning, cooking, freezing, dehydrating.
  • Digging up old and prepping for new in the spring.
  • Start or end projects for the holidays
  • Then there are all the decorations – dig it out, put it up, take it down, pack it away.
  • Clean up/out the house for winter ready (basically the same as spring cleaning, but now is more to get the dust out and keep the bugs out.).
  • Pack away the spring/summer clothes and get out the fall winter clothes – and don’t forget the boots!
  • Finish any critter roofs that need to be tacked down and/or sealed.
  • Shear up any walls that got knocked around by winds.
  • Mow everything one last time (that takes two days in itself).
  • Get the tank water heaters out and make sure they are working (for critters and the fish pond in the front yard.).
  • Fix any doors, windows and shutters on all buildings.
  • Re-insulate, caulk, or trim any place that may have lost it over the summer.

This is just part of my to-do-list before the first frost hits.  One weather forecast said colder than normal; the other said warmer than normal, pretty sure I do not even know what NORMAL is anymore?!

I started to water what is left of the gardens, and heard some kids (very young) laughing as a truck drove by; and that was all it took!  I had to come in and write up my last blog (cool dad #2) while it was fresh in my mind.  (OH, for those wondering – the memory is great – only lasts about 5 minutes, but it is great! Lol)

Then I realized I left the water running in the strawberry plot – oops!  Oh well, been meaning to do that anyway.  The temps are still in the mid 80’s here during the day, and only dropping to around 40 at night (actually just before dawn), so they are safe with the flooding.

This weekend is supposed to be a bit cooler.  We have “volunteer” trees that have to come down, and some nasty rats that need some bubble gum!  I just hope my mind can stick to the task at hand?  Fall and Winter are my most favorite seasons simply because of all the delightful memories!  How about you?  Do you get carried away in the moment too?

dsc_0003  (Too many volunteers right on the fence line – both sides!)

dsc_0005   dsc_0004

dsc_0006

(You may not be able to tell from these pics, but each hill from the rats is about a foot tall!  They have even invaded our corn patch – jerks!)

THEY’RE BACK (No, it’s not poltergeist)!

I was checking out the storm Thursday morning, and that’s when I spotted it. Hanging low in our woods, almost aiming for the pond, then back up again. I’m sure it was trying to stay out of the wind gusts, but it moved like it was not affected by them at all.

Turkey Vultures!

vulture at library 4-1-16

Yep, we officially know it is spring when they show back up. They fly over heading north-northeast every spring. Then we get to see them going back in the fall. Have no clue where they are going to or from, but love to see them.

They are not as big as a Condor, but much larger than our area hawks. Guess I am just too much of a bird watching nut, so I naturally get excited when I see them. They are such smooth operators, even in our gust storms!

The first one I spotted was Thursday (3/31/16). It was all by itself which is very odd. Normally we see them like this:

vultures are back 3 31 16This group I spotted at our local small town library about an hour ago. They were dipping in between the trees there – odd? I have seen them in groups of about 5 to around 10, and I know they do not fly straight. They do this huge loop-de-loop in the air, gradually floating off in the direction they want to go. Ducks and geese fly over all year long. They are in a “V” formation, but they still move like an arrow in a straight direction. The loop-de-loop is usually how I spot the vultures. Dead give away (ha ha – yes, pun intended!)

The way they were bobbing in and out of the trees, they seemed to be playing at the library. Shame on them! They were just far enough away and moved fast enough that I could not get a clean shot of one with my cell phone – Boo Hoo! Oh well, at least, I have a couple of pics. Would love to have one close up in the wild. I think they are a bit camera shy! Too bad, I have a business proposition for them…I will set out some of my chicken feed as a treat if they pick off some of our huge ugly gophers? Think they will bite?

plains pocket gopher 2                         prarie dog

Pocket Gopher:                                                                                Prarie Dog

  1. Can’t tell here, but they have very long sharp teeth and claws.
  2. Are almost as big as a Prarie Dog.
  3. Take out the roots of EVERYTHING!
  4. Neither is cute or cuddly
  5. Both are dangerous (I actually saw some in a pet shop in WI – oooh nooo Mr. Bill! Now I hear they are having a prairie dog problem – duh!) and do not make good pets!
  6. Both will dig holes large enough for a goat, cow, or horse to break a leg in!
  7. Cattlemen and/or a good hunter can pick off a prairie dog on the plains – they are bold and brazen.
  8. Gophers are sneaky! If a cat or dog is patient, they may get one. Our guineas would rip it off if it ever had the guts to show its face to them – but nooo – they have too much fun tearing up all of our good fruit tree roots – jerks.

Well, I have news for them…soon it will be warm enough for our Bull snake momma to come out – wooo hooo – love her!!!

 

 

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IT’S OFFICIALLY SPRING, BUT WHO INVITED THESE GUYS ALREADY?

We spend the weekend cleaning up the yard.  I say weekend, but it was really just Sunday.  Everything we touched on Saturday, just blew somewhere else.  (Some days I get really tired of the wind – grrr!  Sure, now-but in a couple of months I will be praying for a breeze – LOL!)  While cleaning up, I was not even thinking about all the “little critters” I was messing with.  They decided to remind me! 

This was on my hallway wall when I woke up:

1st moth in house 3-7-16

Our first Miller Moth – oh joy (she says sarcastically)!  I have extremely thick kinky hair and the buggers love to get stuck in it!  Nothing makes you say yuck faster than hearing the crunching of trying to get one untangled from your head – ugh!

I had placed all my dusty/dirty clothes into the wash last night.  I knew I was kicking up some old weeds when I was mowing some spots, but I just didn’t realize how many bugs I was scaring up as well.  One of these was at the bottom of my washer when the load was done:

soldier bug      stink bug         squash bug

Soldier Bug – good             Stink Bug – BAD                   Squash Bug – BAD

 

stink bug-look-a-likes

I say one of these, as it was so mushed from the wash that I couldn’t tell which type it was?  The first – Soldier Bug – is a goodie, but hard to tell from the Stink Bug (baddie).  The Squash Bug (also a baddie) has a completely different look but, when it is mush in your Kleenex, looks the same as the others (yucky!!)

The Soldier bug is also called a “Spinney” soldier bug, and it does look a lot more jagged than its counterpart, the stink bug.  Oh, and if you have ever had the unfortunate opportunity to get nailed by a Stink Bug, you will understand why it is named that – NASTY!  It is definitely a very different smell – blah!

My point for you all to ponder is – was it dead or alive before it went into the wash?  I have seen tons of Box Elder Beetles, a few flies, wasps, honey bees (this one is normal as we have boxes that stay on our property year around – think it helps to bring them out early?), and just yesterday a Ladybug!  I just didn’t think these three bugs would be out until it actually got warmer and stayed (like maybe June – haha, wishful thinking)?

So I have already started my “natural bug defense training” on my other blog,  www.gardenglowsbydesign.com/blog.  My plan on that one is to figure out which are the worst bugs out there, and how many different natural ways there are to either keep them at bay or destroy them all together.  We are a live-and-let-live kinda farm, but offense is the best defense.  So, ugly nasties beware – I am on the hunt for you all this year!

me fighting bad bugs (And yes – I do look like this when I am chasing down bad bugs in the gardens! LOL)

 

IS IT OUR JOB? THEN WHY DO I FELL LIKE A JESTER?

I believe it is our job as humans to take care of the other creatures we share the planet with – yes, even spiders (yucky!).

brown spider pic

We try to keep at least one or 2 spiders in our home (as long as they stay up on the ceiling out of reach) to help control flies and other bothersome pests. We have Bull Snakes which help to keep the rodent population down (as long as I don’t confront one while weeding, I’m cool with it). We have free-range fowl that help to keep the grasshopper population at bay (just gotta watch the turkeys – they will steal your hot peppers, and the ducks will take up residence between the tomato plants and pluck the fruit at the peak of ripeness – jerks!).

We have learned a ton of natural gardening methods to deter all different kinds of critters. We would prefer to deter, then eliminate. However, once in a while, you get something that you just do not want anywhere on your property! For us, that is the Yellow Jacket Wasp!

yellow jacket wasp pic

I know it is our job as humans to tend to the creatures of the planet, but I have a real hard time when it comes to the Yellow Jacket. It is a mean monster that will sting for no reason, and do it over and over and over again. The poor Honey bee loses its guts if it stings you! I am pretty sure I wouldn’t want to sting anything if it meant having my insides pulled out – yucky and OUCH!

Please don’t confuse them with our wonderful Honey Bees:

honey bee pic

I am posting pics of both at a fairly close distance so you can learn the differences. We also love our Mason Bees

mason bee pic

I call them my Fuzzy Bees. They are about the same size as a black fly (another nasty pest), but they are all fuzzy looking here. I have heard that some are black; I have never seen a black one, just our creamy tan little cuties (yes, I love it when they rest on me – too fun!)

Then we also have what is called a Mud Wasp (also called Mud Dauber or Dirt Digger):

mud wasp

(Don’t let this pic fool you – they are only about ½ inch long when full grown, would rather walk and flick their wings they fly around after you.) Do NOT confuse them with the mean wasp family as they are not a baddy but a goodie. They usually travel alone and eat the baddies in your gardens. They like to hang around buildings collecting mud for their nests. Ours made a home between the bricks on the patio off the east porch steps. We also have a small crack in the steps when the house shifted, and she will fly from patio to porch and back. Never hurt any of us, have seen her attack a daddy long legs spider, and a pill bug. So she can stay!

In all fairness, I went to Wikipedia, which then led me to UC Davis Edu. This finally gave me the answer to my question – What are they good for? According to this article – little to nothing, which is what I thought. They are very predatory and will keep other pests away, however; I have seen them take out a Honey Bee hive (ticked me off!). So unless one of my readers can give me a good reason to keep them around, I will continue to eliminate them every chance I get!

I was weeding around a wagon of ours, it had some pretty tall grasses and some picker weeds – time for it all to go. I felt a burning sensation on the back of my hand (yep – no gloves, stupid me!) and when I pulled my hand up and flipped it over – 3 of the nasty monsters were going to town on my hand – grrr! I brushed them off and stomped on them, then went to the pump, got some cold water and made a mud pack. Slapped it on my hand which, by now, was about doubled in size and tight as a drum! Please note that I am not allergic to these buggers, or bees for that matter, but their sting is that bad!

So my takeaway today is “kill the hornet, kill the hornet, kill the hornet” (you have to sing that to the Bugs Bunny Opera episode – Elmer is a Viking, Bugs is Brunhilda – hee hee)Whats opera doc

(FYI – One of my all-time favorite Cartoons!)

 

 
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