Winter is here early

Fall harvest-tomatoes, Tahiti Butternut squash, Bradford watermelons and Craupadine beets

I just heard last night’s snow was the earliest on record for Oct 14th in Santa Fe. The weather apps have said it was going to be 27°F last night. Woke up this morning to a light snow, ice and the temperature was 24°F here. Harvesting has been intense the last few weeks. Why is there always so much to pick in the end? The only annual crops left are a few kale, beets and cabbages outside in the main garden and greens in the greenhouse and cold frame. I’m not sure how they fared as I wasn’t able to go out and check today, and in truth, with 34°F for a high, I was in no hurry to see if they made it. They were covered with winter weight row cover with the hopes they make it and I will check tomorrow. I was more concerned the barn animals were ok with this first cold snap and made sure all the heaters in the water tanks were working and the chickens had their heat lamps on. I guess winter is here.

Esmeralda-the crowing hen

We got a hen that crows. That’s right, a hen that crows and lays eggs and she’s not a rooster! Her formal name is Esmeralda and got her from a friend who had 2 hens and one died and she didn’t want Esmeralda alone so she asked us if we would take her. I was hesitant to bring a lone chicken into our established flock. Sometimes they don’t do well and get picked on when introduced. But I said we could try and see. When our friend brought her over we hung out to see what would happen. Esmeralda strolled right in and started to eat some grain while the others watched. The leader of the flock picked on some of the other chicken but when she went over to Esmeralda, Essi as we started to call her just stopped eating, looked up at the leader and resumed eating and that was the end of the confrontation and the pecking order. Essi was the new leader and is always kind to the others.

Then one summer morning I heard crowing from the open window of our house and it seemed to be coming from our flock but we don’t have a rooster. Every time I walked out the door to investigate, the crowing would stop. So one morning I took a different route down to the coop and there was Essi crowing as she didn’t see me.  She goes Err, err, err, et et. Not a full fledge crow like a rooster but definitely a crow. She is so sweet and always runs up to be petted. I researched ‘crowing hens’ and sure enuf, once in a while one will crow. First time in 15 years of having chickens that I have experienced that! She is my most favorite chicken. Ever. Just had to share this with you all.

Gardening this spring


But first one last memorial-I couldn’t resist because I found this photo. I haven’t written much lately because I’ve been sadden by the death of my favorite kittie-kat, Trini. Above is a photo taken by Genevieve Russel several years ago when Trini was younger that I just found and wanted to share. Wasn’t she beautiful? She had a heart of gold too. She would let you do anything to her-toss her around, make her dance or dress her up in doll clothes and put her in a high chair (Flynnie did that years ago). I even made her play the drums with me once! And whenever you answered the phone, there would be Trini, meowing loudly in the background so as not to be ignored. Absolutely had no boundaries (which is unusual for a cat). We have two other kitties (with boundaries) who would never let us do any of those things (probably claw our eyes out), who are wonderful too, but Trini was a very special being.

But I haven’t been sitting around either. I’ve been sooo busy finishing planting cool season veggies outside in the greenhouse and coldframe, and doing succession planting of more lettuces as I use them up. Here’s what’s been up around the farm:


Wrapping up all cool season crops-lettuces, bok choys, kale and chard are going outside either in the greenhouse, cold frame or in the main garden. Many have already been growing (and eaten). Pictured above, my coldframe shows lettuces, cilantro and bok choy ready to harvest. As we eat them, new ones go in any empty place. This cool spring has been great for the cool season crops this year. Absolutely no bolting yet-wonderful! Notice the bamboo shade screening on the outside of the top of the coldframe. It was cut to size and screwed on and provides wonderful shade to help keep the plants cooler and keep them from bolting. I won’t be planting any more lettuce greens for a while, but when I do, it will be with HEAT TOLERANT lettuces for summer outside in the shade. Besides I have enough to eat for at least a month…


Here are some other lettuces inside the greenhouse we’ve been munching on since winter. This variety is ‘winter wonder’. I’ve already harvested a bunch and will soon finish it as this variety likes cooler weather. In case you’re wondering, that hardware cloth in the pic above the lettuce, is a lid covering all those beautiful lettuces. I propped it up to show the lettuces. I built it to keep the mice from eating them first. Last year was terrible for me and great for the mice-they ate anything young or tender. The lid is working-no lettuce has been eaten in the greenhouse by mice, only me! Haaa!

BT in GH

But maybe the presence of one of our cats, BT (broken tail-hey we didn’t do it, we got him that way!) the great mouse hunter, also has been an influence on no mice in the greenhouse! Here he is checking out my building skills.

Bt in lid

And here he is trapped in one of the lids!


spinach spring


spinach bed with shade clothWonderful spinach-this variety, Carmel, shown above has some radishes growing with them. You can still buy starts from Aqua Fria Nursery but soon the spinach season will be over so don’t plant by seed now. To extend the season at this time of year, I put a shade cloth over the bed (right) so they will last a little longer and not bolt. Meanwhile the spinach has been wonderful with this extended cool weather we’ve had. Better enjoy it now as it’s gonna get warm soon.


kale floweringLast year’s kale is toast. Finito. The pic on left shows them bolting (flowering) and putting all their energy into making seeds and fighting off the aphids. Kale is a biennial plant, meaning they will live two years, putting most of their energy into making leaves the first year and making seeds the second year. Since I don’t want to keep the seeds this year (I have plenty), I will pull them and give the plants to my chickens after they finish flowering (the bees like the flowers). The chickens will enjoy the kale and get extra protein with the aphids-perfect. Otherwise if I had no chickens, I would be composting them. There would be no problems with the aphids as they need living plants to feast on. In the compost pile, as it heats up, they will become toast anyways (I like that word)! But don’t worry, I have another crop of kale going in this week!

red orach reseeded

In the left pic is Red Orach. Plant it once and you’ll have for a lifetime. It readily reseeds itself. It is very tasty—kinda like spinach (in the same family) so you can cook it or put it into salads. Here it is growing willy-nilly everywhere.


garlic and shallotsIn the right pic is garlic growing nicely. Planted it last fall and mulched it with straw to help keep moisture in the soil. It’s not a cool season crop but does come up with the other cool season crops. I bet you wonder why I have a ladder across the bed-well it is to keep the neighbor’s dogs off of it and it works! They use to come over and lay or wrestle on top of the garlic and straw and now they don’t bother it at all.

rhubarb spring

And let’s not forget rhubarb this year! Mine is up and I’ve already cut off the flowers so all of their energy will go to the leaves and stalks. Only eat the stalks as the leaves are toxic. They have concentrated levels of oxalic acid in them.  How toxic? I don’t know how toxic for humans but I once saw a dead mouse who ate part of a leaf and died under it! Soon there will be rhubarb-strawberry pie-yum!


potato bags in herb garden

Finally I planted some of the potatoes in ‘potato gro bags’ in the herb garden. Can’t wait to see how they do! These are “purple’ potatoes whose variety name I can’t remember, but they are a fingerling type. The herbs are doing well too. This is the second year for these perennial herbs. There is marjoram, oregano, kitchen sage, winter savory, thyme, chives, tarragon, lemon thyme and garlic chives. We beefed up some of the drip system so they should get plenty of water this year. Lavender is in another part of the garden and lots of basil will go down in the main garden later when it warms up!


Hard Boiled Eggs-Not!

eggs steaming

I just read about a new way to ‘hard boil’ eggs which doesn’t really entail boiling them at all but instead you steam the eggs. Why would you want to steam them? Well, have you ever had hard boiled eggs that were hard to peel? The reason eggs can be hard to peel is because they are the fresher eggs. The fresher the eggs, the harder to peel. But when you steam them with the pointy side down and the fat end pointed upward, they peel perfectly every time. Just put them in a pan with your steamer and water underneath and lean them against each other so they stay upright and steam them for 20 minutes, then rinse them in cold water. I also mark my eggs so I know I ‘hard boiled’ them if I put them back with the other eggs which I’ve been known to do but without the markings. Then it’s a guessing game! I have chickens that lay every day and since I’ve been steaming them, they are now always easy to peel. No more frustration when peeling eggs.


growfood,not lawns

It’s time to get growing!

Now is the time to seriously get into your garden. This is the busiest time of the gardening season with everybody wanting to get everything in their gardens. The day temperatures are now in the mid-high 70’s and the evenings are in the mid-high 40’s. PERFECT PLANTING WEATHER! Here is what’s been going on at my place. I feel I’m ahead so I actually have time to post something.

May 21-I waited to plant till after that last snow right after the May 15 date. All 120 tomato plants were in the gardens by May 21 with the help of Elodie Holmes, Lava Ewersmeyer, Mernie Ellessner and Janet Hirons and of course me! Many thanks to all my friends for their help! Boy, was I tired by the end of last week. This is the most tomato plants I’ve ever planted-hopefully it will be a great year and I will have many tomatoes to sell at the Farmer’s Market later this summer! I have 31 varieties this year. My favorites plus many new varieties. They are all in Wall of Waters (WOW) and I wouldn’t attempt to plant them at this date at our 7000 ft high altitude without them. Later the WOWs will be removed once the tomato plants reach the tops of them which will be sometime in June.

May 24-Meanwhile I’ve already put SEEDS in for Atomic Red carrots, Cosmic Purple carrots, Cylindra beets and Craupadine beets, transplanted broccoli-raab, Lacinto kale, Ruby chard, Argentata chard, Burgundy Amaranth and Zino fennel bulbs as of this week. All got row cover over them to give the transplants time to adjust in their new environment.

May 25-The peppers and eggplants are still inside, the little finicky darlings, basking in the windows as the nights are still too cold to plant them yet. If it stays warm I will put them in by the end of the first week of June.

May 26-I will NOW plant bean, corn, cucumber seeds, many flower seeds AND my giant pumpkins. I will also put row cover over them till they come up about 4 inches to keep the birds from eating them.


Artisan Farm Tour-2014

It’s been a very busy summer for me. I’ve been preparing for my tour here on the property since spring. Nothing like having people over to get things done. I’ve had a punch list that I’ve chipped away at and finally got almost all of them done before last weekend when I had an educational tour for the Santa Fe Master Gardeners of my little Artisan Farm here in Santa Fe. Between the Home Grown Kitchen Garden & Coop Tour (different tour the week before) and my tour last weekend, I’ve pretty much been headless all summer. Now it’s all over and I can get back to a more normal pace. But wait, I’m getting ready to go to the SF Farmer’s Market! Always something. I guess I can rest in the winter! Here are some pictures of my Artisan Farm tour last weekend. The garden looks the best ever…

Latest addition to the barn-KOKO the horse!

Koko_side shot_2 yrs

Koko-just before loading into the trailer

Wow! First, last month in September we get the baby goats, Pumpkin and Iris, to add to our other goaties, and now we get a horse!

After my other horse, Bri died 4 years ago, I wasn’t sure I wanted another horse as the hole in my heart was as big as the horse and wasn’t sure I could go through that again so I had converted the corral into a giant pumpkin patch.

Fast forward to last month when a friend emailed me about Koko needing a home. Her owners who had lived in Nambe moved to town and Koko was being pastured at a neighbor’s place and they needed to find her a home before winter. So we went out and looked at her. She is a beautiful little 2-year-old black and white philly. She is considered a ‘pinto’  with her black and white coloring and is not registered. Pinto can refer to the coloring of a horse and not necessarily the bred and Koko is a mixed bred. I have always wanted a pinto horse, loving the colors and patterns they come in. In my mind’s eye I could see her in our corral even before I got her.

All week long I’ve been converting the giant pumpkin patch back into the corral and yesterday, our new friend, Nick, came over to help put the finishing touches on the corral before we all went to pick her up.

After finishing prepping the corral, Elodie, Chelsie, Nick and myself went out in their truck/horse trailer to pick up little Koko…

Koko_nick loading 2013

Nick tries loading Koko to no avail

It was challenging to say the least to load her in the horse trailer as she wasn’t use to getting in a horse trailer and was totally trailer shy. It took us over 3 hours to get her in it. I tried a few times-no luck. Nick tried the second time-no luck. Nick tried a few more times but still no luck. After that her owner, Steve tried multiple times-no way!

Koko in trailer_2013

Chelsie finally got Koko into the trailer.

After many, many, many times of no go, it was Chelsie, our neighbor friend’s daughter who was finally able to coax her into it using Pat Parelli’s (a horse whisper) training techniques.  We got her in  the corral at home right as it was getting dark. She is very loving and sweet, only needs some training and attention. I can’t wait to start using Pat Parelli techniques that I’ve learned and had trained Bri with once I get my roundpen up again on Wednesday.

Koko in the morning in her new home happily eating her breakfast.

Koko in the morning in her new home happily eating her breakfast.

This morning she seemed very happy in her new digs. It feels good to have a full barn once again. Please welcome Koko!

New additions to the family!


I don’t know where I got this farming thing cause I grew up in a city but I really love having a mini farm or as I say a ‘artisan farm’ on the edge of town. Four years of attrition, losing 8 animals (all but 2 were geriatric—1 horse (colic), 3 dogs (old age), 2 goats (old age) and 1 cat (old age) and 1 more goat (bloat) is sad enough. Two new baby goaties have been added to the barn. They are about 1-year-old bringing our total to 4 goats. It feels good to build up the farm again. Nothing worse than an half-empty barn.


The other two are Bella Rosa and Hunwee, the 3-year-old African goaties.


The new goaties pictured above look like baby deer or antelope to me with their tall skinny legs and fine bones. They are a cross between a Lamacha goat and another goat-father unknown.  Pumpkin is a orangy-brown and Iris is tri-color with predominately black white markings. Iris has a face like, well an iris. They are built very different from the short squatty African goaties.


Pumpkin likes to stand in the food bowl while she eats. I’ve even caught her sleeping in the food bowl but didn’t have my iphone at the time to take a pic.


In fact Pumpkin likes to eat all the time. Soon she will outweigh Bella Rosa!


Iris has a markings on her face that remind me of an iris. I think she is very beautiful. Notice her very small elf-like ears which are a Lamacha goat trait. Very different from the large African goat ears.


She is the most shy of the two new goaties and cries if separated from Pumpkin even if only for a moment. They are sisters and are inseparable.


Here are all the girls together. The white goat in the background is Hunwee, next is Bella Rosa with the big bat ears (she is all black except for the most gorgeous white teeth!) In the foreground are the two new baby sister goaties, Iris and then in front of her is Pumpkin.

Please welcome Iris and Pumpkin!

What do Bees Have to Do with Gardening? Everything!

So what are bees doing in a gardening blog? Why am I writing about them? Well, bees and gardens go hand in hand. Without bees we wouldn’t have our crops. They pollinate over 90% of all food crops in the world. So please bear (oh oh, bad word for bees) with me while I get another hive established on the property. I’ve learned so much from Caleb and his hive this past year and I’m very excited to get my own. I hope this year is better for the bees than last year. We need more rain this summer.


Homegrown New Mexico-Vegetable Gardens, Potagers and Coop Tour

Today I volunteered at the first Homegrown New Mexico tour of 6 homes featuring vegetable gardens, potagers and chicken coops. I can’t say how impressed I am with this organization. First, they picked some fantastic examples in our city. The tour was incredibly organized AND they are only 5 months old. Phew! A big chunk to bite off and they did it extraordinarily well. At every site I got several ideas that I will want to incorporate into my own gardens. Here are some of the things I particularly enjoyed. Great job to all!

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The Bella Rosa and Hunwee Dance

I saw Bella and Wee playing the head butt game. One jumps up and then the other one jumps up and then they butt heads really gently. Not aggressive at all. When I first clicked the camera, they stopped. So I waited patiently and they started again. Here are some pics of the action.

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Sonny, Bella Rosa and Hunwee-my little barn buddies

"I'm Hunwee!"

I still have barn animals having rescued (3) one year old Dwarf Nigerian goats, Sonny, Bella Rosa, and Hunwee. A friend, Kate, who lives in the city, came to us telling us that someone had shot one of her goats and was wondering if we knew anyone who might want the rest of them as she feared for her little clan. So they live in the country now away from danger. They are young and healthy and they bring lots of energy to the barn with their antics. Sort of like monkeys running and jumping and butting each other. They play king of the mountain on their jungle gym I made them. Here are some pictures of them.



Bella Rosa sez, "What's up?"

Sonny-"Mr.Chow Hound to you!"

"This is our jungle gym!"

Sonny-"Hey where's my chow?!"

"We want to be on your side"

Brutal Cold Weather Hard on Barn Animals

The weather here in Santa Fe has been brutal, no make that VICIOUS with it’s extreme cold weather this last few days. We’ve had -10 to -15 ° F weather here at night with the daytime temperatures only getting between 6° to 10° F  for 4 days and that doesn’t include the wind chill. Coldest weather in decades.

My poor barn animals have not been happy. There is little way for them to recover from the cold nights with the equally cold daytime temperatures. We’ve definitely been in a survival mode here at the little farm.

My Belgium Golden Campine, 'Chimay'

I lost one chicken to the cold even with my heat lamps on inside their coop.  It was a Belgium Golden Campine, named ‘Chimay’-I will miss her and her little chirps. She never did very well with cold weather much less this extreme cold. The chicken water heater wasn’t working very well so I took them hot water to melt it yesterday. I have another new water heater for them that I took down today and installed it.

The goats have a big water trough outside in the corral that is heated (and working) and I have a little heated bucket inside in their stall at night. The heated bucket  decided not to work and when I went down yesterday morning at -15°, it was frozen solid so I brought it up to the house to thaw and it evidently had cracked but I couldn’t see it through the ice. So it leaked all the water all over the living room yesterday after it melted while I was at work. Great.. I finally found a feed store with only 2 heated buckets left and got one of them.  All the other feed stores were sold out. Phew!

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I’ve been making both the goats and chickens oatmeal (with raisins!) everyday and they have enjoyed a hot meal. I give little blobs of peanut butter (high energy food) on a popsicle stick to my goats to help keep their energy going and grain and of course LOTS of hay. The goats are amazingly hardy as their barn is not heated. They have a big stall with about a foot of straw on the floor and yesterday we made smaller areas with straw bales inside the stall for insulation  and protection. They are out of the wind and wet but the temperature is still bad (but suppose to improve). Today the sun is out and no wind and they are out sunning themselves, I’m sure trying to suck up as much heat as they can get from the sun. Ahh. Life on a mini farm.. Finally it is starting to warm up 34° high/14° F low tomorrow-if you can call that warm..

Well, one good thing-Phil didn’t see his shadow so hopefully we will have an early Spring.