Geese Trimming the Grass

Geese Trimming the Grass

Wednesday, January 6, 2016


Using these cold winter days for planning and contemplation.  Winter provides time in our schedule for me to think and project and plan.  

The picture to the right I found on Facebook. The artist is Jessica Boehman.  It is a great rendering of how I feel on this cold winter day.

First and foremost; I am planning the vegetable and herb gardens.  This is our first spring here and we have to rely on historical averages to plan when to plant what.

Historical averages? I am talking mainly about temperatures.  It is kind of difficult to figure because the winter has been colder and wetter than normal. As I plan, I wonder how long the El Nino trend will continue.  Even as I write this there is another storm taking aim at us from the Pacific.  This gives me pause 
as I  try to plan when to start the garden.  I researched my USDA zone  on their website.  I had been told that I was USDA zone 7 but as I studied their website I understand that this is zone 6a.  That makes more sense with what I am observing.   The nights below freezing started the first week of November and we have not been much above freezing since.  The daytime's are into the 30's and 40's and most days we see the sunshine.  

Seed catalogs started arriving in November.  I have my favourites- Territorial Seed out of Oregon has some of the seed varieties that I love.  Like Sweet Meat Squash.  Horizon herbs, also out of Oregon see my favourite herb seeds and plants.  Baker Creek has a multitude of heirloom seeds and is my go-to for seeds.  I try to choose varieties that are native to environments that match mine.  With heirloom seeds, natural selection has already occurred.  You can choose seed varieties that have evolved from similar environments.  I will choose seed that have thrived in high desert, alkaline and windy environments.  
"Don't Fight Mother Nature, She Always Wins"

Into the plan I will insert the gardening knowledge of planting by the moon cycles.  For generations, gardeners plant based on the cycle being above ground plants ( Lettuce and other greens, tomatoes, peppers, peas, beans, squash, melons)  are planted by the light of the moon or waxing moon- New moon to Full.  Below ground plants (Root Vegetables of herbs grown for their roots) are planted by the dark side of the moon or waining moon.  Full moon to new moon.   Along with the moon cycles I use companion planting charts to use as I plot out the garden.  

I draw out a diagram.  I map it out on a piece of graph paper that details width and length of my actual garden.  First on the chart will be  the Cole crops.  Plants that do well in nights will be cooler.  Cole crops are shallow rooted and thrive in the early spring or fall gardens.  These crops will have shorter crop time.  I will harvest these by June and in their place will add in the summer lovers like tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, melons, beans, corn and squash.  There will be a few in-between crops that I plot to plant Peas like the cooler weather of spring but they have a larger and deeper root system.  I plant them at the same time I plant the Cole crops.  I will also plant potatoes at this time in deep trenches that I fill in with straw as the plant grows.  Potatoes don't have to be planted this early, but I seem to have better luck when I plant early.  I also plant beets, carrots and parsnips in this in between time. They will continue in the garden long into fall and I harvest as I need them.  

I will start the tomatoes and peppers indoors and transplant the plant into the garden as the weather allows.  Everything else I will direct sow into the ground.   Another trick to pass along is to not plant everything at the same time or else I will be harvesting all at the same time.  This is great when I am canning, but when I am not canning then it does not work well for this family to have several heads of lettuce or broccoli all at them same time.  

It will be more important this year to keep a gardening journal.  It will be a diary of observations.  Observing the weather, the way the sun falls across the garden, the way water flows over the property and what the wildlife is doing.   Nature gives me clues constantly.  When I have the awareness, being mindful of the environment and nature it becomes an exercise in communication and I stay in tune with Mother Nature.  I have learned "Don't fight Mother Nature, She Always Wins."

In the weeks ahead I will be providing an update on how the sheet mulching is doing; how well it is breaking down/composting.  Also to come will be articles on my micro-greens business and another article on preparing a place for the goslings.  Let me know if there are any topics that you are interested in or questions that you may have.  Looking forward to hearing from you.



Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Intricate Environment Connections and Interactions of This Farm

As I walk this land and work to remove trash, debris, and weeds, I think.  I think about all the causes and effects that I cause or change.  Some for good and some for ill.  I think about how everything in our environment is connected and how everywhere on earth we remove forests, mine the mountains, frack, drill, spray chemicals, overgraze, and try to control the environment.  

As I have lived, worked and spent most of my life with plants and animals it is easy for me to see the cause and affects of our daily lives and how we can, through our practices and intentions make a difference.  For instance the decisions I make on how to treat the elm leaf beetle on the giant Elm trees on this property.  I  cannot in good conscious treat them with Imidicloprid (Neonicotinoids)  There are just too many concerns connected to these chemicals and the health of the soil and pollinators. 

 I am going to let the Elm trees figure out what to do about the insects bothering them.  They may decide to die.  They may decide that it is time to go back to the earth.  They may decide to overcome them or live in some kind of status where the bugs and the tree find some kind of balance.  I will do all I can on my end to provide health and nutrition and remove any stress that I can.

I think of the work that was done in Yellowstone.  Back in 1995 they quietly experimented  re-wilding a small pack of wolves.  Their impact was amazing.  We saw how the overpopulation of the deer were slightly thinned, but also that the deer moved out of certain areas of the park.  This allowed for the streams to repair.  The banks were positively effected by the lack of deer browsing on the riparian plant life.  The trees were able to grow. The birds and raptors returned.  The beaver returned to parts of the streams and, as beaver do, they created pockets and pools in rivers and streams that aided a whole host of animals to live and thrive.  Nature knows what to do.  Through co-dependant behaviour, micromanaging we cause more harm than good.  "When help isn't helping, it isn't help."

Farming and working the land is a good place for thinking.  I also think about my breath.  I am often breathing hard.  Inhaling, exhaling.  My breath connects me to the flowers, the trees, the animals in the farm next door.  We are sharing and building a relationship from sharing C02 and oxygen.  We share this world we are all connected.  I will use these thoughts as I go forward.  My intentions are to be in harmony with the garden.  I have decided the animals living here will not be eaten, but allowed to work the land doing what they do- helping me to balance out this Eco system.  Mindfulness.  The garden will be a place of mindfulness.  The garden and orchards will be tended with loving intentions.  I believe this energy is perceived on some level.

This is all for today.  It has been good to have a couple of days of rain.  I hope it is a good space where you are this day.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Sheet Mulching; using what you have to make a difference.

As you can see above and below I have started sheet mulching an area for the vegetable garden.  This garden will be 10 feet by 15 feet. The Herb garden just west of this one is 10 feet by 10 feet.  The soil is in pretty good shape.  I had it tested by the lab up at CSU.  It came back as sandy loam, good on organic material, good in nutritional values of N (nitrogen), P (phosphorus) and K (potassium).  One issue I will have to contend with is the high pH.  It is sitting at 7.2.  Not too bad and I can remedy with the help of good compost and the sheet mulching practices.  Sheet mulching is a good way to kill grass and weeds in an area where you want to create vegetable, herb or flower gardens.  Bermuda grass is resilient and it will be difficult to kill.  This will be a true test of this technique.

Sheet mulching, also known as "Lasagna Gardening" is a good way to repair soils or build up poor soils.  This is an easy practice that can be done by anyone anywhere with just a few ingredients.  The bed will be built in an area of just Bermuda Grass.  I want to eliminate some of the grass areas on this small farm as they require too many inputs.  I would rather the inputs go into food and herb production- they will be less than required by a lawn.

The first step was to cut the grass in this area very short.  I put the lawn mower on the lowest setting and scalped the lawn leaving the lawn clippings.  I then measured the areas and staked the corners using string to create a straight line.  Then the digging began.  I dug out the edges of the garden to separate it from the existing lawn.  Noticed while digging that I saw very little in the way of earthworms.   The sheet mulching process should help to bring more earthworms.  Using  a "what I have philosophy;" I will take some of the big tree limbs that are already down to line the garden edges.  Continuing to use what I have,  I took the boxes from moving to create the first layer.  I removed tape and labels to lay them flat on the soil.  The boxes overlap each other by about 6 to 8 inches on all sides.  My next layer is newspaper.  I used the newspaper from packing and moving.  The ink is soy and safe for the garden.  I did not use the glossy sections as they are not safe for the garden.

One whole length of the garden will be used for garlic growing.  I have several varieties of hard-neck and soft-neck types that I will plant in October along the south edge of the garden where I have dug out the grass and worked in compost.  I will not be sheet mulching that area.  More on garlic planting later on.

The third layer was local manure.  I spread enough to cover the newspaper completely- approximately 2 inches total.  The third layer was local compost.  This layer covered the manure layer.  The next layer will be fall leaves.  The property is full of trees; Mulberry, Alder, Red Bud and Elm. This layer will be added this fall.  Leaves will help to build great soil.

If you have water where you are, go ahead and water in between layers.  Water is like gold here and I planned this project around rain storms.  Rain fell on this site three times now in the last week.  I will update this blog with photos to show how the layers will start breaking down and how fast.  I will record temperatures to let you know how well this process cooks.  Starting this process now in late August will give the layers all of the fall, winter and into early spring to breakdown.  In the spring time I will do another soil test to see where we are for N, P, K and pH.  

Stay tuned......the adventure continues.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

View from the window and treasures found

So from here we can see some clearing has begun.  We have a small chainsaw that cuts out the brush. Mainly finding Sumac and Elm tree starts.  This jungle that lives here has his head and is running roughshod over this property.  The roots will have to be dug out.  Sumac sends runners and has a strong desire to live.  It reminds me of a tree form of bindweed.

In amongst the brush we have found treasures.

Two large currant bushes.  One was so completely buried in Sumac that it has received no sun in awhile.  Jim was able to carefully cut away the Sumac to allow her to find the sun. She is of course leggy and pale from lack of sunlight.  Today she is learning to stand on her own two roots!  The other shrub was over by the barn.  We will pick lots of luscious fruit from her this morning to add to our breakfast.  

Another find was this lovely blooming Cardoon.  It is big and spreading so it seems pretty happy here.  I should have fun with growing artichokes here.  

We slowly work away on the house.  Cleaning and unpacking.  The house was in quite a state.  I decided that the previous owners were blind and could not see the dirt.  Also, taking into consideration that the house was abandoned for quite a time- I think almost a year.  I spend days negotiating with spiders, ants, beetles (more on them later) and Rollie-pollies that they need to move outside.  

I am continually amazed at the validation received from the universe on the new venture.  Last week in Virginia I met another amazing soul on his journey named David.  He is involved with food distribution channels for organic and sustainable farmers.  He explained to me that it will be necessary to establish a network of distributors that take into consideration how to move the food to market so that we can grow past farm to table.  To this point I had only given thought to distributing the food through farmers markets and roadside vending. I will contact this group in Paonia, Colorado to understand their logistics to see if my little farm will merge with their channels. David thinks they don't have anyone in New Mexico yet.  I can also deliver the food also using my 1985 Mercedes wagon that runs on bio-fuel, but her range is limited.  A problem I will try to solve. 

I ponder these important questions daily.  I have to remain true to my love of the land and hoping that in my limited imprint I will remember that like a pebble dropped into a pond this energy will expand out to universe.

I have named this tree Big Mac Daddy.  It is a huge and lovely Alder tree that seems to beg children to climb him.  He will be a great place to ponder this journey and Jim and I plan on setting up a space here for meditation and resting.  

While at the Monroe Institute I was found the space to ask the universe if this plan will go forward.  I sent the message with an apple seed that I planted into the ground.  My answers were sent in picture of young apple trees that were young, growing and blooming.  Next pictures were the apple tree in fall colours.  I asked then for clarity as I saw no fruit.  Next images were of an old metal sieve with lots of pulp in the grids and a cup below the sieve full of apple juice.  The metal sieve had interesting carvings on it that looked like hieroglyphics.  Again, I feel so sound in these decisions.   

One of the best parts of my day are walking the Bosque in the morning with Jim and Kota.  The water is soothing to walk along and the trees and wildlife there are amazing and restorative.  This will be an important part of my new life.

Time to go pick some currants.  Sending this on with love and light..........................

Monday, June 8, 2015

From the beginning...........

My Mother would say "Child you have the itchiest feet of anyone I know"  There was no better truth spoken.  I was a rambler and a wanderer.  I have a clear memory of being about 4 years old saying to my Mom I am going to California.  She told me "That was fine but don't cross the street".  So, around and around the block I went asking everyone I met a long the way "Which way is it to California?"  I did not find it that day but I eventually got there. 

Since those very early days I have spent time in many countries and have been able to do what I love.  I am a gardener and an herbalist.  Nothing makes me happier than to have my fingers in the soil growing food, herbs and flowers.  

 The traveling and wandering desire has now led me on a new journey to a new patch of ground.  This blog is part of my new journey and a big part of the new future I am trying to prepare.  I hope that this blog is entertaining enlightening and an education for all of us.  

As my partner and I traveled the desert southwest we would comment on how we loved the area.  We would take any time we could to camp, hike, soak in hot springs of the high desert of Colorado and New Mexico.  We would often comment to one another "Wouldn't it be great to live here!"  But our grown children were all around us in the Denver area and I had a great job that I loved- Why would we move? Why would anyone give up such a great job?

Fate, serendipity or just the natural evolution of life happened and here we are on the brink of moving to a small piece of land in New Mexico.  We find ourselves watching our children are all setting off on new adventures heading off in all kinds of directions to see and experience the world.  My partner's daughters graduating from University with one heading west and one staying in Denver but leaving all options open.  My daughter's family are all heading out to the Pacific Northwest to start a new life near the Puget Sound so now it feels right for us to chase our dreams and jump into this new life.

Friends had seen this place a few months back and found it was not the right fit for them but said to us "You ought to go and see this place"  Jim, my partner was in the area at the time and went to take a look.  Jim sent me the link via the real estate website and I was struck with a thousand ideas of what kind of amazing experiences this place could bring.  A few weeks afterwards I took the time to drive down and look it over.  I was first struck at all the vegetation.  We were in New Mexico but could not believe all the foliage.  Walking through the property I identified Apple trees, Plum trees and tons of Alder trees.  Alder trees tell me a lot.  They whisper the truth that there is a lot of surface water on this property.  The property had me hooked, but then went to look at the house.  An amazing nearly 100 year old adobe.  Walls that are 2 feet thick.  A huge kitchen and pantry.  A real root cellar.  The rooms are all painted in traditional southwest colours- Turquoise and peach.

Moving a head.  Life and progress moves a lot slower in New Mexico than it does in the Denver Metro.  I am so looking forward to a slower moving lifestyle.  This one has become a lot faster than I feel comfortable with.  We hope to close sometime this week.  

The overall plan is to create a sustainable and organic garden farm.  It is a small place so being mindful of the land, water and all resources will be a cornerstone.   Stay tuned as we move forward with the plotting and planning.  I hope this will become a learning experience for all of us.

Till next time.......