Posts tagged: small acreage

Happy Winter! Merry Christmas! Happy Hannukah!

By , December 23, 2016

Christmas tree, (c) The Herbangardener

Greetings of the Season to you all!

I hope this finds you well. Can you believe how quickly it has become almost-Christmas? It’s almost a little scary.

I have been meaning to put pictures here of the rest of the season’s garden including the harvest, but it hasn’t happened. After Christmas I will backtrack and post those pictures.

But in the meantime I wanted to put some wintry pictures up. We’ve had approximately two days of wintry weather so far this year. It’s been too warm and dry. Most of what we’ve had is this:

Sunshine, (c) The Herbangardener

(c) The Herbangardener

(c) The Herbangardener

That picture above is pretty too, but I love the raw bleakness and snowfall of a real winter’s day. We had one yesterday, and I went out and gathered evergreen boughs and made a wreath.

(c) The Herbangardener

(c) The Herbangardener

(c) The Herbangardener

(c) The Herbangardener

(c) The Herbangardener

(c) The Herbangardener

(c) The Herbangardener

(c) The Herbangardener

(c) The Herbangardener

(c) The Herbangardener

(c) The Herbangardener

(c) The Herbangardener

(c) The Herbangardener

(c) The Herbangardener

(c) The Herbangardener

(c) The Herbangardener

(c) The Herbangardener

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If you need any last-minute Christmas making-and-baking ideas, here are some from my recipe archive:

Challah Bread, 6-braid

Chocolate-Orange Macaroons

(Healthier) Pecan Snowball Christmas Cookies

Pumpkin Spice Cookies

Cranberry-Pumpkin Muffins

Gingerbread

Chocolate-Dipped Candied Orange Peel

Snow Ice Cream

Cranberry-Mandarin-Ginger Relish

Traditional Hot Mulled Apple Cider

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

*****

In the Garden This Morning

By , August 4, 2016

(c) The Herbangardener

I spent the nicest morning in the garden earlier today.

It was cloudy and 74° and a little muggy, just like a beach vacation. We’ve had day upon unbearable day of 100°+, so this was strange and wonderful. Later, the wind kicked up as it all too often does out here; I dislike the wind and so do my lungs, so I felt chuffed to have outsmarted the weather and gotten in a lovely morning’s work of potato planting. I woke up with energy and got going early, so stars and celestial bodies really must have aligned.

From breaking into grassy pasture in March, to this fairly flourishing and respectable-looking garden, I am pleased and impressed. The whole thing has felt like a giant struggle and a battle against too many factors that threatened to sink the whole plan. Not the least of which was my having precious little energy, and certainly none to waste. And for many months, the whole thing felt like a stupid waste of energy. That’s not a happy feeling.

But recently as the plants have really begun rebounding from “The Grasshoppers, Etcetera” the feeling I get when going out there is one of uplift and satisfaction. I have a smile on my face instead of a furrowed brow. It’s all coming together and it’s starting to look like a real country garden. The plants are obviously happy and it shows.

Happy plants, happy gardener!

Country garden, (c) The Herbangardener

Country garden with sunflowers, (c) The Herbangardener

Swiss chard, (c) The Herbangardener

Homegrown cantaloupe, (c) The Herbangardener

Country garden, (c) The Herbangardener

Planting potatoes into furrows, (c) The Herbangardener

Planting potatoes into furrows, (c) The Herbangardener

Sunflower and heavenly blue morning glories, (c) The Herbangardener

Heavenly Blue Morning Glories, (c) The Herbangardener

Heavenly blue morning glories, (c) The Herbangardener

*****

Garden Update! Spring Equinox thru Mid-Summer

By , August 1, 2016

Sunflower, (c) The Herbangardener

Hi folks!!

I hope this update finds you all well. Happy Summer! A lot has happened in our garden so I’ll show you that in pictures.

Overall, gardening in the countryside vs. the city is harder. City gardening was a heavenly bubble of moderated influences — not as hot, not as cold, not as windy, not as many bugs, not as many weeds.

Out where we are now, we are really in the thick of the elements. Weather, wind, bugs, weeds — it’s all here in very full force. It began with the bindweed. Uttering the word Bindweed in the presence of a gardener is enough to elicit shudders and perhaps convulsions. This land is covered in bindweed, whose roots plunge to the center of the earth, and when we rototilled the land for the garden plot, we chopped up bindweed roots into a zillion little pieces. Each minuscule piece of root, since bindweed is a perennial weed, sprouts into a whole new bindweed plant. And once the garden was sufficiently covered in bindweed, the grasshoppers hatched. Once the garden was being skeletonized by grasshoppers, the bindweed problem looked like child’s play. Bindweed doesn’t munch voraciously at least. Whenever we would walk out there, thousands of grasshoppers would scatter in front of us like a hail storm, or like popcorn. Biblical scale stuff here. Locals say they’ve never seen anything like it. The ‘hoppers ate everything and it was a real downer to go out into the garden at all. The front flower garden was also getting decimated. This year’s gardens are one big experiment anyway, since gardening even a couple hours away is very different, and the local climate must be learned. Still, it was hard to see all that hard, hard labor being ruined.

I planted 20 tomatoes into Walls-O-Water and thank goodness I did, since the Walls were able to shield the tomatoes from the grasshoppers. Because later, I planted out 35 small tomato seedlings that I’d nurtured over the course of a couple months. By the end of the day, they were all gone. Eaten to the ground, along with the bell pepper seedlings I’d planted. They even ate the onions. And the rhubarb. Potatoes. Broad beans. Spinach. Chard. Cabbage (which also had flea beetles). Two whole entire 70′ rows of bean seedlings, after I spent hours in 100-degree heat loosening the soil, amending, and planting bean seeds.

The things they didn’t eat were squash, cantaloupe, and honeydew vines. They ate the just-sprouted zucchini cotyledons down to nubs but not the mature squash leaves. But fear not–there was a bug for those. Cucumber beetles descended upon the curcurbits in force, and killed the honeydew vines outright (actually what probably happened is that they transmitted bacterial wilt to the vines which killed them).

Why don’t the little bastards go for the bindweed??

Pulling out bindweed (well you don’t pull it out really; its stems break off just below soil level) is a project for the shoulder hours of morning and evening, but once the sun goes down enough so that I don’t desiccate to death out in the heat, the mosquitoes would come out in full force and I wore long sleeves, long pants, boots, and still got bites and spent half the time swatting around my head with muddy hands. I have yet to drag myself out of bed and get out there pre-dawn, but one day I will do that, as I’m curious if the mozzies will be out before dawn.

One day a couple weeks ago, we had had enough. The vigor of the bindweed was demoralizing but the explosive number of grasshoppers was overwhelming and disturbing and they were doing so much damage that we couldn’t take it any longer. I’ve always been an organic gardener, but let me tell you that “Permethrin!!” was written more than a few times in my daily gratitude journal after we finally broke down and sprayed the grape vines, veggie, and flower gardens.

It was a strange feeling to gear up in my poison suit of long pants, long shirt, rubber gloves, respirator, and spray my garden. I’m sorry to say some beneficial bugs, and bees, were sacrificed and that was hard to see. So Sad. Caught in the crossfire. Permethrin is pretty much an instant-results chemical, which we really appreciated; the grasshoppers began dying immediately. We followed up with Nolo bait around the property and gardens. Nolo bait is an organic grasshopper-specific control that takes longer to act, but can impact future generations too because it’s a microsporidial infection that passes from one ‘hopper to another.

Hopefully the pesticide will be a one-timer, but I am SO glad we sprayed. As soon as we relieved the garden of its infestations (cucumber beetles too! flea beetles! even the mosquitoes I think!), it just took off. Exploded with growth. Lesson learned there — I cannot be depressed while going into my garden. It’s spirit-food as well as physical food. I need to have things be flourishing. I need to address the bugs sooner and if a crisis imbalance develops like the grasshoppers in this region this year, I am not above spraying non-organic-approved pesticide in defence of my food. And, um, my flowers. (We have glorious heavenly blue morning glories now that their vines aren’t being chomped off daily!)

Good news in the garden is that despite the bindweed (and before the ‘hoppers!), I harvested a couple giant trashbags full of organic spinach! A bunch of beautiful organic lettuce. Incredible sweet peas. Cilantro and parsley (two things the hoppers don’t touch!) And I’ve finally gotten the irrigation situation down to where I’m quite happy. I was very disoriented with this gated pipe irrigation, where you run water down furrowed rows. I’ve never watered stuff from the bottom and sides before, and it took some frustration, research, experimentation, observation, and tweaking to come to what we’ve got going now. Right now, it’s awesome. Everything gets a very proper drink of water and that is all they seem to ask. The soil is former bottomland, I think, due to its sandiness (I’ve always worked in clay — this is totally new!) and proximity to a nearby river. So, it seems pretty fertile on its own. Add to that the horse manure from past horses pasturing on the land, and the coffee grounds and fresh grass clippings I’ve added, and things seem to be growing themselves. I’ve applied no commercial fertilizer or even compost, although I’ve got compost ready to apply now. In all, I think the garden has good bones and it should only get better as I learn about the local climate. Onto the pictures now!

Sprouted potatoes for planting in garden(c) The Herbangardener

Planting potatoes in Garden (c) The Herbangardener

Early spring Garden (c) The Herbangardener

Grass clippings on Garden (c) The Herbangardener

Walls o water and Early Spring Garden (c) The Herbangardener

Columbine, (c) The Herbangardener

Front Garden (c) The Herbangardener

Planning seeds for Garden (c) The Herbangardener

Garden (c) The Herbangardener

Walls o water, onions, lettuce in Garden (c) The Herbangardener

Sweet peas in Garden (c) The Herbangardener

Garden (c) The Herbangardener

Well pump pulled out, (c) The HerbangardenerGetting a new well pump put into our domestic well which waters the lawn and flower garden. This is the old one, pulled out.

(c) The Herbangardener

Irrigating big Garden (c) The Herbangardener

Grasshopper closeup, (c) The HerbangardenerGrasshopper

Grasshopper infestation on grapevine, (c) The HerbangardenerSee all the grasshoppers on the grapevine?

Cucumber beetles on squash flower, (c) The HerbangardenerCucumber beetles on a winter squash flower

Sweetpea harvest, (c) The Herbangardener

Grasshopper damage on rhubarb, (c) The HerbangardenerGrasshopper damage to the rhubarb plant

(c) The Herbangardener

Bee on sunflower, (c) The Herbangardener  Grackles in garden eating grasshoppers, (c) The HerbangardenerWe love grackles! They help a lot with eating grasshoppers. We just kept the water trays stocked with fresh water for them.

Garden (c) The Herbangardener

Homegrown Cantaloupe (c) The HerbangardenerCantaloupe!

Garden (c) The Herbangardener

Garden (c) The Herbangardener

Sunflower, (c) The Herbangardener

Garden (c) The Herbangardener

(c) The Herbangardener

*****

Spring progress

By , March 21, 2016

Apricot blossoms, (c) The Herbangardener

Happy Spring! We’ve made great progress with the garden. We rented a rototiller again and did another couple passes to dig further down. F finished mowing the acreage while I tilled, so it’s all set for spring. It looks great.

We staked out the garden with string and I hoed rows. F repaired and replaced lots of stuff on the irrigation system so now it doesn’t leak.

(It’s amazing how few words can be used to narrate such time-consuming and labor-intensive activities!)

Rototilling (c) The Herbangardener

(c) The Herbangardener

(c) The Herbangardener

(c) The Herbangardener

Marking out furrows, (c) The Herbangardener

We put water down the rows but it travels too fast and pools at the end, so right now we’re fine tuning that. Also, the beds are too tall. More fine tuning.

 Flood irrigating furrows (c) The Herbangardener

Flood irrigating furrows (c) The Herbangardener

Other springtime sights:

Tulip leaves, (c) The Herbangardener

Apricot trees bloom too early in Colorado (it probably got nipped the other night):

Apricot blossoms, (c) The Herbangardener

Columbine leaves, (c) The Herbangardener

Apricot blossoms, (c) The Herbangardener

Catalpa seedlings, (c) The Herbangardener

*****

Something from nothing: Breaking ground for a garden

By , March 4, 2016
(c) The Herbangardener

Mowing out the garden perimeter

Because we are now stewards of three whole acres of land, we’ve been spending hours and hours — so many hours — researching tractors and thinking of what we want to do with the space. One thing we want of course is a garden. I am not thrilled to be starting from scratch for another garden. If you garden, you know it’s a ton of work. I don’t have the energy level to match, so it’s overwhelming. But if you garden, you also know that not having a garden is not an option! It’s a given. A necessity. After months of tractor research, stalking craigslist, exploring creative solutions, lots of sticker shock, and springtime — planting time — right at our backs, we decided that we can’t make a decision right now. We’re unclear exactly how much we want to undertake in general, we don’t have a solid plan other than Do A Big Garden, and we haven’t been on the land long enough to have clear answers about either of those things. We had nearly settled on a BCS 853 walk-behind tractor from earthtools.com, but the price is dear and we aren’t settled yet on which attachments we need. We’ve been paralyzed and overwhelmed. Finally on Monday night, the overwhelm reached its zenith as F sat wide-eyed in front of his computer screen staring at yet another page filled with tractors and tractor attachments and other hunks of metal with names we have yet to learn and prohibitive price tags or the right price tag but in a faraway state. Right then is when we decided to work with what we have access to right now that’s within our price range — and without a huge decision or financial commitment needing to be made in haste. This turned out to be a rented rototiller from the local hardware store, and the really nice self-propelled Honda mower F bought for the lawn.

The next day we rented the tiller, quickly eyeballed the area we wanted to make into garden — ‘Yep, there’s about good’ — mowed the weeds and dry grasses, and “started tilling.” But the tiller tines only just picked at the surface weeds and kicked up a little dust. It wouldn’t dig in. The ground was dry, too dry evidently, and nothing was happening. Frustrated moments ensued, we tried forcing it, then we thought of scrapping the whole thing and returning the tiller. Then we both went online, each finding some key pointers. “Ahh – you can raise the wheels so the tines dig in more” and “Ahh – for hard ground try going lightly over your whole area with the tiller east-west, then lightly again north-south. Once you’ve cross hatched it, then try going deeper the next round.” We almost didn’t, but I’m glad we stuck with it. We made progress, though not a whole lot for a laborious !6! passes, but enough to tear into the ground. While I tilled, F mowed the acreage. The lawn mower was awesome and we had no idea it would do so well on rough land; it devoured everything in its path without a single sputter. Probably the mowing of the land wasn’t completely necessary; but mentally oh very much yes. Somehow having the grass mowed on the rest of the land makes the whole thing seem tamer and more under our control and not so wild and untouchable and unmanageable and impossible. And we learned that yes you can mow two acres with your self-propelled yard mower and yes wear those comfortable shoes because you’ll be walking for miles and miles, back and forth back and forth!

The next day I turned on our irrigation well and opened the floodgates as they say. The garden can be flooded in a matter of minutes which will be a huge time saver this summer. I soaked it several times and we’ve booked the tiller again for this Saturday so that we can do the whole thing again and till much deeper this time we hope.

When I look out at the area we tilled, it’s huge. It’s nearly 3,000 square feet of garden. That in itself is overwhelming, but not as overwhelming as it was last week, before we had started at all. We made huge progress in one day and our bodies made darn sure we knew it (like ‘Ohhh…shit.”). Seeing the land mowed and the garden tilled up makes it easier to believe we can actually make something out of all this nothing.

 

Mowing 2 acres with self-propelled lawnmower

Mowing 2 acres with self-propelled lawnmower

Mowing done

Mowing done

Rototilling

Rototilling

Before mowing & tilling

Before mowing & tilling

After mowing & tilling

After mowing & tilling

Essential!!! I love these boots.

Essential!!! I love these boots.

(c) The Herbangardener

*****

Moving house

By , February 27, 2016

Moving (c) The Herbangardener

Yep, we have moved again. It’s such a breeze and so stress free, you know, we can hardly get enough!

This last year, circumstance dictated that my folks reclaim their home that we had been renting from them for the past three years, which meant we needed to find ourselves a new pad. Their house is where I grew up, so this homebody’s roots there run awfully, awfully deep–soaking up comfort and familiarity and cherished memories like precious life-giving droplets of water over these past few terribly challenging years. Difficult to pack up and go, you bet. Our move has blessedly been to a place just a couple hours “down the road,” so visits back are realistic and doable on a semi-frequent basis — which has been helpful for my heart which does not, alas, sway to the currents of logic or plan or situation, and does not apparently even realize that it’s actually their house and not mine at all. Helpful also in that I finally found some good doctors and I’m not, and I repeat not, in the mood to drop them and doctor shop in a new city right now. Commutes back for doctor appointments are softened by wonderful time spent with my family so this setup is working well, considering.

Going through the experience of a home purchase was new to both F and me. I would totally not recommend it. We’re lucky that we also did not have a house to sell at the same time! How do people do it?? We felt heroic for getting through it (applause especially to F) but wow, the stress was busting out the seams. Hopefully we will not have to buy, sell, or move again, ever, for the rest of our whole entire lives but if we do, I think it will definitely be easier the second time now that we’ve traced the learning curve.

We got really lucky with the place we found. And by lucky I mean that if we’d missed seeing the new Zillow listing by a single day, it would’ve been gone. And since we already had a contract on another house the realtor wasn’t sending us any new stuff so it was F that stumbled upon this one thanks to his persistent internet searching late into the night. We shudder now to think of ourselves at the first house we had the contract on! Instead, we lucked into a perfectly sized, solidly built 60’s house (we’re only the second owners!) on three irrigated acres. We wake up to meadowlarks and mountain vistas. It’s a special spot, as you’ll see:

Mowed pasture (c) The Herbangardener

Mowed pasture (c) The Herbangardener

Mowed pasture (c) The Herbangardener

(c) The Herbangardener

Tractor mowing the pasture (c) The Herbangardener

Wish this tractor were ours!

Tractor mowing the pasture (c) The Herbangardener

Green pasture (c) The Herbangardener

Green pasture (c) The Herbangardener

Sunset (c) The Herbangardener

(c) The Herbangardener

(c) The Herbangardener

(c) The Herbangardener

Clothesline (c) The Herbangardener

(c) The Herbangardener

Flood irrigation (c) The Herbangardener

Irrigatinggate pipe (c) The Herbangardener

Irrigation gated pipe (c) The Herbangardener

(c) The Herbangardener

(c) The Herbangardener

(c) The Herbangardener

(c) The Herbangardener

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End of the rainbow (c) The Herbangardener

(c) The Herbangardener

(c) The Herbangardener

(c) The Herbangardener

(c) The Herbangardener

Winter dusk (c) The Herbangardener

Winter dusk (c) The Herbangardener

(c) The Herbangardener

 *****

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