FREAK OUT – Fire, Fire, Fire!?

We have a new neighbor.  One of the more prominent locals bought the field down below our small farm.  It was always just used for hay or corn planting, with occasional cows to clean up and fertilize.  The nice thing was they left the hollow alone.  Over the last several years I have posted pics of the hollow:

He has been cleaning and clearing out the hollow.  Yesterday he stopped in to say if we received enough snow, he was going to burn the wood piles today.  We have burned wood piles in our yard from fallen branches, spring or late fall weed collection, miscellaneous debris but nothing like this:

brush fire 2-7-19 hollow

First, I forgot he was going to do that and, I smelled smoke – INSTANT FREAK OUT!  Started running through the house to see where the smell was coming from (praying hard it was not another fire), then I stopped and remembered – it’s outside stupid!  I casually came back upstairs and headed to the west window in the bathroom (best view), and sure enough, the massive log piles are on fire.

brush fire 2-7-19 hollow 2

It was kind of cool to watch because it reminded me of my teenage years.  Friends from Prentice and Ladysmith Wisconsin should remember the parties we teens had with bonfires in somebody’s dads’ field.  During the summer there was usually one or two that went on.  Some pretty wild and fun times back then.

teen bonfire

I still love our fire pits which are outside and only the size of a small charcoal grill.  I love the smell of a good BBQ cooking (and my sister is STELLAR at the grill!).  But get a ton of smoke floating around and the horrific memories flood in.  Roasting marshmallows – fantastic.  Roasting house, not so good.

I then spotted something I was not anticipating.  Little black particles and pieces are floating all over the place?  Suddenly it dawned on me what they were and where they were coming from – the burning wood piles!  Just as our burn barrels will send up bits of burned debris, so were these monster piles.  Now the rest of my day will be spent on watching EVERYTHING.  I could see his truck down by the fires earlier, but don’t see anyone down there right now – not a good feeling.  I am sure he is probably just down farther behind our barn, and I cannot see him – I hope.

Funny how something like a smell can bring back such fun and such scary feelings all at the same time.

good smell   bad smell

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THINK ABOUT IT – 3-Rs OR JUST “T”?

The last several decades have been all about the 3-Rs:

  • REUSE
  • RECYCLE (or repurpose)
  • REPAIR

I’m going to blame mom and her being a child of the depression again.  SHE NEVER THREW ANYTHING AWAY (yes, I am yelling it – on purpose – at her because I know she is listening up in heaven.)!  This is a great habit to get into, to a point.  There does come a time when you just have to say “throw it out!”

Garden hoses are a tough one for me.  If it just has a split or two or an end is shot, I will repurpose it.  The first three years on our farm were major drought years (worst in 100 years according to locals).  We soaked in and tried every bit of advice from where ever it came from:

  • Overhead spraying (big waste of water, especially 90+degree days.)
  • Ditch watering. Not bad except for it being a great way to feed a ton of unwanted weeds.
  • Spot watering. Best, but doing it by hand was awful.  I had to split our gardens into three separate areas because it took me all morning just to do one of the three.

Then one day (like it always is – better late than never) it dawned on me:  Cut up the old hoses and attach connectors to the ends.  This created a bunch of mini-hoses that I could run from area-to-area or plot-to-plot without losing any water in between.  I can connect the main hose to the outside faucet.  Run that to the first plot and attach a Y-flow connector.  Then I can either turn on that plot for watering, or shut that one off and turn on the flow to the next plot/tree/row.

hose y-2way splitterI can also take smaller bits of older hose and just connect them to flow from growing space to growing space by putting male and female connection ends on them.

Then, a couple of years ago, I found one of the best inventions for gardeners in a long time – The Quick Connector:
hose quick connect setWe have a number of rows instead of regular box plots with growing stuff.  We also figured out that putting the drip line below the ground by the roots was more efficient than just placing it on top of the soil.  After a while, the drip lines can leak or split bigger holes.  Having it below ground stops it from spraying in a place we don’t want to be watered, keeps the moisture by the roots where it is needed, and if it is a big leak, it will cause pooling.  When I find pooling I mark it until I am done watering that row.  Then I grab one of these:

hose -repair connector  (This one, by the way, is awesome!  The ends (green parts) keep it all together much easier, tighter, and quick to switch out as needed.)

The just “T” in my title stands for “trash” it.  It takes a lot for me to decide to toss something in the trash (my sister can verify this – eek).  Tin cans, coffee containers (tin and plastic), odd size glass jars (meaning we never use good Ball type jars except for canning), and any size plastic jars are all hung on to by me (Drives the sister nuts – hee hee).  Here are just a few of my uses for these things:

  • Larger ones like coffee containers are used for my yarn stuff. I can fit one large or a couple of small into a coffee can.  Then simply cut a hole in the top and viola’ – perfect way to manage yarn especially if you’re doing more than one color in your works.

 

  • Medium and smaller plastic is great for loose screws, nails, or bits and pieces in the shop that we don’t want to get rid of yet. If it is good shape, it will get reused on some project at a later date.
  • Tin cans all sizes and shapes are great for crafting, painting (craft, room or building), holding pens and pencils and stuff.

tin can use-grandson craft  (Grandson made this one for me)

  • Smaller pieces of broken glass, old rusty nails or metal, any other small sharp material found around the farm (especially in the driveway – after roofing is the worst!) can be put in the tin coffee cans. When it is full, we simply duct-tape the snot out of it and throw it in the trash.  Most of it (in a couple of million years) will decompose down and not lead to more flat tires around the house.

There are tons of uses for these types of containers.  Just throwing them in the trash seems like a huge waste to me.  It does drive my sister nuts, so I promised to try to cut back on the number I save (maybe?).  A good friend of ours also used the tin coffee cans to help with his seedlings.  He puts the small, delicate plant in the spot he wants it.  Then cuts off one end of the can completely (already should be off if you used the coffee.), and only cuts off about 3/4 of the other end.  He peels back the partially cut end and places the open end over the young plant.  Our winds will dry the heck out of anything young very quickly.  This not only protects it from the ugly winds but keeps it a bit warmer in case of a fluke freeze.  It also keeps the water in the spot he wants it (the can is sunk part way into the ground to keep it from flying off), and it even helps to keep unwanted critters from attacking or eating all of the young plants.  Only had a couple of cans to try his plan with, but it worked.  Then the tornado took off with my cans.  Time to start saving new ones – woohoo!

tornado lifing stuff

I wanted to share this bit of info for those of you that are garden-a-holics like us and have started planning out this season.  We are starting seeds this weekend and hope for a mild, boring growing season this year.

crazy gardener - snl   (Ya gotta love SNL and everything Christopher Walken does – both are classics!)

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I NEED YOUR GARDENING INPUT PLEASE!

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

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

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

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

happy cabbage

Cares melt when
you kneel in the garden.

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

zen frog

Can’t see the forest
for the trees.

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

cant see forest

A dedicated
gardener dwells within.

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

dedicated gardener

In spring at the end of the day,

You should smell like dirt.

Margaret Atwood, Canadian Writer (1939)

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

chicken digging in dirt

This one made me giggle:

Gardening is just
another day at the plant.

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

Dirt poor, filthy
rich.

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

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

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GARDENING HELP SHOULD BE FREE

I read a lot.  Most of what I read is a huge variety of “how-to” stuff.  I really enjoy learning new things, improving on the skills I already have, and helping others who hope to enjoy these things I love.  I just think that of all the great things I know how to do, gardening help should be free.

I’m not talking about spending hours or days teaching someone how to garden.  That could (and should) take a lifetime.  I am also not talking about the things you create from your gardening expertise.  You grow gourds then turn them into gourd art – you should sell your wares.  What I am talking about, is sharing what you know with others, then we can all benefit from growing our own stuff.

Not everyone has a green thumb, nor does everyone want to be one, but for those that do the information should be free.  I love sharing my gardening info with others.  I especially love sharing my mistakes.  The mistakes (for me) are my best way of learning.  I find it funny that the mistakes stick in my head forever, do it right and I will have to go back and remember what I did. (Heaven forbid I have too much junk floating around in my head all the time that distracts my remembering!)

I am connected to a ton of blogs, forums, and Q & A sites that all find sharing is caring when it comes to gardening.  It corks me off to see someone want to charge for a bit of helpful advice.  If you are building a book, that’s fine and more power to you; but if you are asked a simple question on how to solve a specific problem, just help a buddy Green-thumber out!

Gardening is not easy, but it is rewarding.  Not just in the awesome food you can produce all by yourself, but for the great feelings you get along the way:

  • Playing in the mud when you are older than ten – and getting away with it!
  • The first seed that sprouts.
  • The first flower on your plants.
  • The first fruit (veg or whatever you are growing) that shows up.
  • Running out in a storm to cover and protect your babies (you put a ton of work into them).

The first time you grow enough food to have extra to share with others, well that’s a feeling that you will never forget! 

So live, laugh, learn, and love your growing efforts; be it flowers, fruits, veggies, trees, bushes, or whatever trips your trigger.  Just don’t forget to share!

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WHAT WOULD OUR WORLD BE LIKE IF…

Being a small farmer/gardener and doing it all as chemical free and natural as can be, I watch all the signs.

  • Weather: Current, future and even past.
  • News: Any changes current or future that may affect what I grow and why.
  • Critters: This is my biggie! I watch what the wild and natural critters are doing around me.

This third point leads me to today’s post.  I read a lot and have “cut the cord” so I read even more now.  I get my news online and in print.  When I turned on my cell phone this morning, one of the first articles was this:

Since it is about the insects, one of my three main critter groups, I had to check it out.  WARNING:  If you follow these things like I do, and if you are a gardener of any type, is a bit disturbing.

multiple insects The Insect Apocalypse Is Here – The New York Times

Sune Boye Riis was on a bike ride with his youngest son, enjoying the sun slanting over the fields and woodlands near their home north of Copenhagen, when it suddenly occurred to him that …

We have a Bee Keeper that comes up every spring, unloads 600+ colonies of bees, and for three days distributes them around the northeast corner of Colorado.  Those three days are a ton of fun.  BEES EVERYWHERE!  I set out extra dishes of sugar-water so they can get a drink and a boost after their long trek.  I love that; once things settle down, they will land on me while I garden.  I leave them alone, they leave me alone, and all gardening is mutual love.

Then I received another article which caught my attention.  Again, it has to do with things that affect me – like weather (which has been way off whack this year):

Global Ocean Circulation Keeps Slowing Down: Here’s What It Means

Trevor Nace Contributor Science

I know a ton of people out there do not believe in climate change, I am NOT one of those.  I think it is a very real thing and it worries me. I have read some articles on historical documents and found that part of the problem with the past cold spells may have had to do with things just like this.  Part of the reason they are tracking it so much more closely now.  When you are a natural farmer/gardener, you try to grow in the best possible means available.  When the weather decides to turn cold – and stay there – it’s hard to get a good handle on your crops.  We cover when necessary, but to keep them covered for extended periods can also be a problem.  We also do manual pollination, especially in our greenhouse.  This is time-consuming but very necessary.  Yes, we have some insects in there that help – but not enough, and usually not bees.

I hope reading this you will join me in being conscious of your surroundings.  Please feel free to share with me if you have anything like this going on in your neck of the woods.  I am also interested in finding out how others are handling things like missing pollinators and extreme periods of unusual cold.  Thank you for reading and thank you for sharing!

flower and bee

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IT’S OFFICIALLY HERE!

The Farmers Almanac winter 2018-2019 predictions.  (In case you have not read my other posts, I love the Farmers Almanac!)  Considering the spring and summer we have had; I was not really surprised by their predictions.

They call it their “Teeth-Chattering Cold Ahead” report.  I take issue with that statement.

I love fall colors and changes in the temps.  I love the snow even when it gets feet-deep (Anyone that has kids or still feels like one must – snowball fights and snow fort building – woohoo!).  My favorite holidays are all after October first – Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and new seed catalog shopping (yes, that is a holiday in our house).

The issue I have is the “teeth-chattering cold” part of their prediction.  I am a huge fan of cooler temps, 75-55 degrees and I am in heaven.  This bit about dropping below freezing is not so hot – bad pun intended.  I lost all my long-underwear in the fire and have not gotten around to getting new just yet.  Guess this is my incentive.  And we all know what a stunning creature anyone becomes in long-underwear!

(Why do they look so cute on babies, but so dorky on adults?)

Before the tornado, we were revamping our old chicken coup into a new garden/tool shed.  We even did some insulating and moved an old cast-iron fireplace into it for winter.  Perhaps this was our women’s intuition kicking in.  If we get enough cold and snow that the power goes out, our little shed may become home – eek!

cast iron fireplace(Close to ours but no brick wall behind it, and ours is much older with claw feet.)

Then there is the critter worry.  The dogs and cats would most likely join us, but I draw the line on the chickens (sorry Mark and Kristie).  I don’t care how spoiled your pet is, if it can’t go outside when nature calls, it does not need to be in the house!

(Looking for house chicken pics, I found this great oldie by Gary Larson.  Had to add it just because it makes me laugh!)

I hope you are all prepared for this coming winter if not, you are not alone.  If you want to check out your area here’s their link:

Farmers’ Almanac 2018-19 WINTER OUTLOOK

(P.S. – have you started your Christmas shopping yet?  OH NO I DID NOT SAY THAT!)

winter wonderland

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SPIDERS – FRIEND OR FOE?

If you are squeamish about spiders, I suggest you move on now!

Living on a small rural farm, we tend to get tons of spiders.  The spiders and I have an understanding: You stay up on the ceiling, and you live.  Come down to my level, and you die!  It is working, for the most part.  I recently read a new article shared by my friends at the Smithsonian…Why Should or Shoudn’t You Kill Spiders in Your Home by Joanie Faletto of Curiosity.com.

I love to share the stuff I read, especially when it includes something that I did not know before.  This article explained that what I call Daddy Long Legs is actually called a Cellar Spider.  The interesting part is these friends of mine (yep, I even hold them to move them to plants that need more natural protectors)  kill Black Widow spiders (one of my long nemesis).

I have seen many of both.  Thankfully never been bit by the Black Widow (knock-on-wood), but have been bit by the Brown Recluse – nasty monsters!  Now that I know my friendly Daddy Long Legs can keep at least one of the monsters at bay, I will have to bring many more up around the house.

This is what the Recluse looks like – remember it is a very semi-small spider.  No bigger than the Black Widow:

brown recluse spider

(Sometimes called the “fiddle back” spider – look close on the head area and you can see a type of fiddle)  This is what the bite on my leg looked like just before I finally went to my doctor about it:

Brown-recluse-spider-bite-1

I am a tough old bird, and I have my mother’s high tolerance for pain.  I tried just using peroxide as I do with most cuts, that was my downfall.  According to my doctor, the peroxide and bandage did the wrong thing – kept it moist – instead of keeping it clean.  When moist, it will just get worse – and it did.

This is what it looks like now:

scar-now.jpg

I think, at least for now, I have decided to continue to allow the spiders in our home – within reason.  Recluse beware – I will destroy any and all I find!

cartoon squashed spider

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Plowshare Thursday – Watering Help.

What a wild planting year we have had:

  •  It was cooler than normal spring.
  • Wind gusts that decide to get nasty and take off half our greenhouse roof.
  • Now the intense (constantly increasing due to climate change – yes, I do believe in it.) heat is on again.

The year we bought our farm (August 2000) was the first year in 100 years that Colorado had a serious drought. This drought went on for another two years. It was a good thing, back then, that we knew something of water conservation. Luckily, several elderly farmers in the area shared lots of their conservation ideas.

Since we love to try new things, we decided to give some of their methods a go.

  1. We were just using a sprinkler type system that worked fine in the city of Denver, but out here on the plains with drought conditions was not a great idea. We then purchased a huge drip irrigation system. This was the, most costly, investment in our new watering methods. It was also the most time-consuming.
    1. Main connector.
    2. Mainline with all its t-joint connector lines.
    3. Row lines connect, again with t-joints, to the secondary lines.
    4. Row lines tapped with a special hole-making tool to install the drip line(s).
      That first year took forever to get it all installed, but it worked well. The next hard part of it was uninstalling to put it away for winter. Since it was all above ground, it all had to be taken apart, drained and sheltered for the winter. The next spring, we brought it all out again.
  2. We tried digging trenches like the big farms around us do. They then place short tubes into irrigation ditches. The tubes carry water from the ditch up into the fields. This idea didn’t last long with us. It just felt like too much water was being wasted.
  3. Next, we tried a bunch of different mulching methods.
    1. The first was the cheapest, but the biggest disaster. We have a local hydroponic tomato plant that uses coconut husks for mulch. When they do a “change-out” of plants and start newbies, they throw out all their old tubes of mulch. This was then free for the taking – so we did. After putting it around almost everything, we noticed some things were dying. We lost our first huge strawberry bed to this mulch. Gave away everything we could gather and never used it again.
    2. The next was “free” hay. Those that do not know, there is a difference between hay and straw mulch. Thick packing of hay can really help to block out the sun and kill weeds, just make sure you do not have weed seeds in the hay. That was our mistake. It took us future years of spot burning to get rid of all the Goathead goathead pic 1 (The cute little green pods become dry hard “spikey” beasts!)
      goathead pic 2(This is a younger full-size plant – the cute yellow flowers will become the green pods which, in turn, become the ugly beasties!)
      and

      sandbur weed grass . (Up close and nasty – the fuzzy end is not soft but spikey painful sticks to EVERYTHING – ugh!)

    3. After years of burning the sandburs and trying to coax our chickens, ducks, and geese to eat the little yellow flowers (best way to stop the Goathead from spreading). Our local energy company sent some tree cutters around to trim up the lines. They happened to stop by one day when I was in the garden and actually ask if it was ok to come onto our property (they have a “right-of-way” on file ) which I thought was very nice. I asked them what they were doing. Then I asked what they were doing with the wood chips. We now have a great agreement. They dump several piles of wood chips on our property for free. We get some awesome compost within just a few years. The piles cook down into the most beautiful dark dirt. We have learned how to use the older stuff as both new, good soil and great mulch. The one thing we did learn about wood chip mulch is that you cannot place it close to the base of a plant, bush, or tree.
    4. omewhere along the way, we started buying clean (no weeds) straw and found that using our Sucker/Blower (what we call our leaf blower) to chop it up into smaller pieces and mix it in with our wood chip mulch. We now have some stellar compost piles.

My whole share for today is to try to extend to you the opportunity to find new ways to use and save water. We all need to do our fair share to help. Conservation methods – even trial and error will help. Mulching, planting more items that will keep our earth cool, build shade covering where you can, building or creating spaces that provide use and beauty without wasting or using too much water. These are the methods we adhere to now and hope that you will too.

Happy Gardening!

PS: Here are some other helpful places to learn about using water wisely:

MNN: How to water your yard during a drought

The Spruce: Drought Tolerant Landscaping: What You Should Know

Gardening Know How: Xeriscape Design Ideas
High Traffic Lawn Options: What Are Some Lawn Alternatives In Play Areas

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Uninvited Guests That Never Leave!

City gardens are so different from country gardens with one HUGE aspect – weeds.  The farm garden when we were kids never seemed to have as many weeds or so fast.  I remember weeding, but it was a fun thing to see who could (not would) get the dirtiest.  Usually, my younger sister won just because she would be found sitting in a mud puddle before the job was done.

I remember my beautiful corner backyard garden in Denver, but again, I don’t remember this many weeds.  I would blame it on the birds, but I love all our birds – domestic and foreign.  Instead, I am now blaming my weeds on the winds.

This has got to be one of the weirdest growing seasons we have ever had.  Yes, we have some winds on-and-off every year, but this year has been just nuts!  Wicked enough to rip off our double-layered greenhouse cover, just a few weeks ago.

We have always had winds out here, just not so long, or so rough.  When the huge windmills started popping up across the U.S., Colorado was all in for that.  We have fields of them not far from our home.  I guess that is a bit of an indication on the strength of winds we get here.  The weird part is how long they are lasting now.

It was never unusual to get a gust here and there.  Even the occasional “micro-burst” would happen – but only in summer (still think they are mini-tornados that just didn’t finish forming).  Now we get the “sustained” winds.  These suckers come in without warning and last 12-48 hours.  Very unusual.

When we moved here in 2000, our biggest task was learning how to water everything using the best conservation methods.  Now, it is how to stop our plants from ending up in Kansas.

wicked winds 2(“I don’t think we’re in Colorado anymore Toto.”)

We have installed pound-in rods, rows of field fencing, and extra windbreaks all just to keep our plants from having the snot knocked out of them.  If the Hail King wasn’t bad enough, we now have the Wicked Wind of the West to contend with – eeek!

wicked windsHappy Gardening!

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SHOULD-A, My New Worst Friend.

I have realized, just this year, that the phrase “should have” (“should-a” in gardener-eze) has become my worst best friend.
• Should-a put the vinyl lattice on the outside of the fence to start. On the inside, the dogs have destroyed almost half the panels.
• Should-a put the drip/soaker likes for the plants under the soil by the roots. As hot as it is here on the Colorado plains, most evaporates before it gets to the roots – even early morning.
• Should-a bought a backup greenhouse cover when we purchased the first. (Cuz you know plastic does not last forever – ocean dump zone excluded.)

I think this phrase has haunted me most of my life. I get these great ideas, just way after the fact (we’re talking YEARS after).

Should-a turned the little grey shed into a garden potting shed when we moved in 18 years ago. No, we had to turn it from a horse tack room, into the chicken barn. Then, when we decided to build the greenhouse, we knew the chickens would not work being that close to it. So, we moved them, but then just started piling all kinds of stuff in there instead of just the garden stuff.

While working on the greenhouse, more and more things got thrown into that poor little shed. In 2017 we finally go around to cleaning up our “should-a” and decided it would be a perfect garden shed. Then the kids happened. My daughter needed a place to dump her and her stuff, so our should-a got elected.

A couple of kids from Michigan ended up in our driveway (that’s a whole other story), and they were actually living in it for a bit.

Well, this year, right now, we have finally gotten back around to our little grey shed should-a and it’s looking great! We do not have it painted as we want yet, but I will share the finished product pics as soon as it is beautiful. That is as long as another should-a doesn’t come along.

perfect garden shed
(Hee, hee, nope this is not ours – just my dream of what I hope ours will look like in the end.)

Happy gardening guys!

(Oh, wait – just got another should-a: put a piece of that huge plyboard my sister got from work onto the back wall. That should keep out a big part of the north wind chill in winter. See, happens all the time – grrr!)

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