HAPPY NEW YEAR! This year slow down!

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Sometimes I feel like this ant!

I just read an article ‘Regenerate Yourself’ by Andrew French from the Permaculture Research Institute email newsletter that I get. A great story about a couple working on changing their property into a Permaculture paradise and all the hard work needed to transform their property into their dream. The above picture from the article shows a very hard-working ant moving a drop of water many times its size. Sometimes I feel like that ant when I seemingly have an insurmountable task to do. I think we should all read this article, whether a gardener or not.

The article hit home for me because it speaks to how hard we work and how little we care for ourselves. We keep on trudging and working until we are either exhausted or injured (or both) trying to meet our goals. Whenever this happens I think it’s the universe’s way of actually making us slow down and now after many years, I listen. I try to slow down and take care of myself (sometimes I’m not so good at this). I look not only at what needs doing but what I’ve already accomplished. This is a great read and seems perfect at this time of year when most of us are doing a little reflecting and recharging our internal batteries, getting ready for the 2014 gardening season.

May you all get excited about what crops you are going to try this year but do please stop and listen to what the universe is saying to you as the season progresses. Maybe 6 hours in the garden is too much (your body will let you know) so why not do 3 hours or less if needed. It will still get done and you’ll be less sore. As I get older I realize taking things in small bites is actually wonderful, letting me enjoy the process instead of just the end goal. It slows me down, let’s me see, smell and feel what is going on in my garden. I become more in touch with what I’m doing, what I’ve already accomplished and this wonderful universe we live in. So slow down, take care of yourselves this year and enjoy life while doing all your projects!

Lookee What I Found!

Yesterday I found all kinds of things!  Now I’m not the greatest at putting my tools away after I’m done with them. In fact it’s like leaving a trail of breadcrumbs for anyone to see where I’ve been. So I decided to walk around the gardens here at the house before the Arctic Blast comes in this weekend to see what tools I could still find outside. I wanted to do #9 in my earlier post of 10 Things to Do for December’.

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First I found one of my lopers (my best one) hanging on a chair on the deck—and it was in plain sight. I’ve must have walked by it a hundred times and never saw it before!

found _leaf rakeI was wondering where that leaf rake went! Here it is leaning on the arbor in the shadows!

found_rake and apple pickerAnd on the other side of the arbor is a fence and I found an extension cord,  mini leaf rake and apple picker leaning on it (what’s that apple picker doing there? There are no apple trees up by the house!)

found_coffee cupAnd lookee what else I found! My favorite coffee cup still filled with coffee!  Yes that is a cup (the handle is on the other side). I was wondering where I left it cause it’s been MIA for a while. That will be fun to scrub out!

found_sawAnd then when I went to the shop I found the circular saw that I had at the house that mysteriously disappeared.  I took it back to the house so I can finish the greenhouse!

Tough year in the vegetable garden

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Yesterday’s hail storm-October 11, 2013

This has been one of the most challenging years in the veggie garden that I can remember.

First the leafhoppers arrived in spring to infect the tomato plants with the curly top virus they carry, a fatal disease for tomato plants. They particularly get bad during drought years because they like it dry and hot. I pretty much thwarted them by covering all but 4 of my tomatoes with row cover (I ran out) which acts as a physical barrier until they left in July when the rains came. So my loss was minimal-maybe 10% compared to the 50% loss of tomato plants last year for me. Luckily I always grow more than I need. I will definitely will cover them again next year.

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Biggest pumpkin ‘Honey Boo Boo’ only 176 lbs at end

A squirrel ate my best and fastest growing giant pumpkin plant which put me out of commission to be a contender for our state record, putting me 2 months behind when growing the back-up pumpkin. Here is a pic with my total pumpkins-biggest this year-named ‘Honey Boo Boo’ – 176 lbs-bummer…

We had one of the worst hail storms I can remember in early July but again since the tomato plants were still covered, they were protected. Everything else really got set back but did come back eventually. Many of my gardener friends got hit really hard and lost many crops in that one storm.

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Hail damage-tomato on left, cracks (now healed) from too much water tomato on right

Then in August we finally started getting a lot rain which we desperately needed. Unfortunately we got 3 inches of rain in one week which the plants couldn’t handle all at once and many, including rock hard green ones split or cracked from too much water. (Ahh, whata ya going to do? First too little water, then too much water all at once!) The tomatoes were a little watery for about a week until they absorbed the extra water and healed their cracks. Now they are good again. Most of the uglies became sauce.

Then another devastating hailstorm this time with the row cover off so the tomato plants took it hard and many started to succumbed to fungal diseases because the hail damage weakens the plants and makes them susceptible. Kinda like us getting a severe beating opening up many wounds.

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Hard freeze in late September finished off tomatoes

While I was on vacation, we got our first hard freeze in the last week of September which basically finished off the garden except for the chard and the grass growing under the tomato plants. Pretty unbelievable that we got such an early freeze in Sept when usually it doesn’t come till the second or third week of October. So the season has ended up very short. Usually I can go to the Farmers Market through the first week of November now I’m not sure I can get thru the 3rd week of October. I will go tomorrow to the market as I still have 8 boxes of good tomatoes but we will see after that. I just picked the green ones that were starting to ripen and see if they will still ripen.

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Pumpkin patch almost cleaned up before hail hit.

And finally yesterday we had another hail storm-in October no less! Unheard of to have hail so late. Luckily I had finished picking any tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and a few squash that made it just yesterday morning before the hail hit. So that’s it-THE END. (although I think I may still have some chard left-gotta see how beat up it got…)

Which brings up a point as I am rather calm about all this. I use to get super upset but I learned 11 years ago when we had our 3 year bark beetle infestation due to a severe 4-year drought that basically wiped out 98% of our pinon trees (I lost 300) that we really can’t fight Mother Nature. We can only beat our heads against the wall for so long. We try to do our best and then at some point I learned that I just have to surrender to what is—’you can’t stop an avalanche’ as I was told once. Once I surrender, all stress leaves because I realize I can only do what I can do and that’s it. And surrendering is not so bad as now I can let go and start to plan the next season. Ahh, the life of a little farmer. Luckily my main income comes from glassblowing not farming so I am very lucky in that sense compared to the farmers whose main income is from their crops.

Besides I haven’t been able to write that much in the blog this season as I’ve been so busy in the garden but I did take pics and can catch up on some of the things that took place but didn’t have time to write about. Stay tuned…

2013 Garden Pictures

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I’ve been taking some photos of the vegetable garden the last few days. The light is so beautiful at 8 am every day that before I started weeding, I took these photos. Slowing down and and really looking how beautiful the garden is makes all the work worthwhile. Enjoy!

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10 more things to Do in February For the Garden

We may not be able to get out in our gardens now but it is time to get busy with things to do to get ready for the garden. March will be seed starting time and there will be lots to do before for that. I will be elaborating on some of these items over the next few posts as I see there is more info I can offer.

1. Go over your current seed supply. Organize it. Get rid of any seeds over 3 years old unless you froze them. Fresh seeds are essential for good germination. Older seeds have less success of germinating.

2. Decide which vegetables you want for this year and order any seeds you may need to get from seed catalogs.

3. Talk to your local nursery to see what they might be growing this year. I give a list to mine and they tell me what they are growing so I don’t duplicate. I prefer to let them do the growing, it’s just that I want to grow so many varieties that they might not have so I have  to start some by seed.

4. Stock up on any fertilizers, amendments, compost, nutrients, mycorizzial, and biomicrobes you may need for veggies. i.e- tomatoes, giant pumpkins

5. Check your grow light boxes to make sure they work. Get new bulbs if necessary.

6. Check grow heating mats to make sure they work and get more if necessary. Last year I had one and ordered another as my seed growing expanded.

7. Consider purchasing a seed mat thermostat. Last year I had to get one because the seed heating mats were running too hot and burning up the seeds before they have a chance to germinate. The mats stay 10° F hotter than the ambient temperature of the room so if we are having a really warm spring and the temperature is 80° F inside than the temperature would run 90°F in the seed flats-way too hot. The thermostat will keep the temperatures in the pots at whatever is best germinating temperature.

7. Purchase soil seed starting mix. I use Metro Mix 100 to start seeds. This stuff is great. The water doesn’t roll off the ‘dirt’ like many seed starting soils

8. Clean and sterilize any containers you plan to reuse for seed starting or transplanting seedlings. Use a 10% bleach to water ratio to rinse off the containers.

9. Buy any containers you may need for seed starting/transplanting. Most gardening stores sell up to 3″ in the peat pots. If you want a 4″ peat pot, go to Territorial Seeds. They are the only ones that have that size. I need them for my giant varieties cause they grow so fast. I also like the flats that have a raised lid. good for germination.

10. Read at least one good gardening book your interested in each month during the winter. I’m almost finished with ‘Four Season Gardening’ by Eric Coleman and just ordered ‘The Compost Tea Brewing Manual’ by Elaine R. Ingham.

10 Things to Do in January

Now that the gardening season has slowed down to a snails’ crawl, put your feet up by the fireplace, drink a hot mug of chocolate and relax! You deserve it! But for those of us who like to stay busy, here are 10 things gardeners can do in January.

1. Reflect on what you did in the garden last year-what worked, what didn’t and what you might do differently this year.

2. Get those new seed catalogs and start planning next season’s garden.

3. On a warm day tidy up your garden shed or tool area.

4. Sharpen and oil tools. Sand rough handles and oil them too.

5. Sort and organize seeds you’ve collected and older seed packets/ Get new seeds for packets over 3 years old.

6. Catch up on all the gardening magazines you have lying around.

7. If we get snow, shovel it off the pathways and put on your trees nearby-they will love the extra moisture.

8. If we don’t get snow, water your garden on a warm day.

9. Empty the hoses out so they will be ready for the next watering.

10. Prune and shape fruit trees-cut off those waterspouts now that the trees are sleeping.

And don’t forget to feed and give water to the birds.
Can you think of more things?  I’m sure I’ve missed many things we could do and would enjoy hearing what you will be doing this January.