Monday, April 25, 2016

Zone 14

While I was away for the weekend at a scrap booking crop, the Head Gardener was home working on a special project.

We moved here in late winter 2009. In 2010 we gardened in a grass ridden spot north of the barn. The following year we moved the vegetable garden to the south side of the barn where it could be watered using the water from the irrigation wells that we share with 5 neighbors, which we use to water the lawn and pastures. Wanting not to use city water which was both expensive and seemingly not a good use of water, we pondered how we could connect to the irrigation system. After much discussion and the HG's genius mind and hard work, we now have the Garden Spot all on an automated irrigation system. While not fully automated, Zone 14, the vegetable garden, will be more efficiently watered. There is a trade off, however: electricity vs. city water, but the whole system now works from one zone to the next seamlessly with each zone timed according to its need, the vegetable garden included. Whew. What a chore. Thank you, dear HG.

When I got home mid afternoon Sunday, the HG met me with the EZ-Go (our golf  garden cart) to take me on the Grand Tour. So now pretend that you are riding along with me on the EZ-Go, and I'll take you on a tour of the Garden Spot, including Zone 14. Grab a sweater because it is just a bit chilly.

I knew exactly what the HG was doing while I sorted,  cropped, and trimmed photos for little Lily's photo album because my cell phone was exploding with the HG's texts to not just me, but to our two daughters. These first four scared me. I told my crop friend that my husband had either purchased a drone or was on the roof of the chicken house.  The photos do show the trench he dug in which to lay the plastic pipe for the watering system: along the coral fence,





 and around the corner with sprinkler heads attached to water the day lily garden, and along the back side of the chicken house with sprinkler heads attached along the way to water the mound. This week we will add sod to the bare spots to reduce weeds. Reasoning: Grass is easier to mow than weeds are to pull.



His text photo shows that the system works.



Right now we only have potatoes, onions, and peas growing. Tomatoes and seeds will go in after Mother's Day, the second weekend in May, the safe time in Zone 5 to begin planting tender plants to avoid that one last freeze.



From the ground: It works.


Good coverage. The well water is stored in an underground tank beneath the mound.

 Now fully, automated, irrigation will much easier to accomplish.

Our EZ-Go tour will take us down the driveway to see the tulips. We planted them the first fall we were here, and this year they are spectacular.



Don't pay any attention to the dead trees. We lost 3 of the flowering crabs a couple of years ago. This year they will come out. We have pondered a number of solutions for the bare circles that will be left. Everything from sod to new trees to flower beds. I am opting for flower beds at least one year. I'll get back to you on that.


Have I mentioned the red bud lately? Yes, I admit to having been a bit obsessive about my little tree, but would you just look at her. She is at her best this year. The cold and snow from last week didn't damage any of the spring bulbs or the blossoms on the trees, so the northern Colorado landscape has been ablaze in color.



We had our first roasted asparagus the other night. You well know the difference between store bought; healthy and green as it may look, the taste does not compare with the home grown. Of course you can grow it in your own garden. We did. I figured that if it grows wild on ditch banks and along roadsides that it will grow in my garden and it is. You jut have to be patient because this is the 3rd year (or 4th) and finally I am getting healthy big stocks. 

A Fond Farewell



 We parted ways with this handsome fellow, the cuckoo maran rooster. We didn't need two roosters (we really don't need one). These are last year's photos before his tail plumage fully matured. He is a real beauty and gentle since he was handled quite a bit. He had large golden tail plumage that made him look so grand. He went to a good home to lady who keeps a number of hens and sells eggs, so he will be happy.



This is our setting hen, a Black Rock Partridge. She has been setting on a fake egg that we keep in the nesting boxes to remind the ladies where they should lay their eggs.


Even though we have had two roosters, we kept them from the hens so we don't have any fertilized eggs, so we got 8 from another keeper of hens. The hen sat on them, then moved to another nest, so we took away 4. She sat on them for a couple of days then moved off. Oddly she hasn't laid any of her own. We have been told that we must chase her off the nest to make sure that she eats and drinks for hens will literally starve themselves as the they set. She is pretty thin now, so who know how long she will keep this up. I am not expecting any chicks.

I appreciated all of your comments on the homemade yogurt that a ranged from I don't eat yogurt, I buy it once in a while, I prefer Greek yogurt, I think I'll try to make some, to Joanna who wrote that she makes her own and told me to strain the yogurt through muslin to get a sweeter,  Greek style yogurt with less lactose. I am going to do just that, Joanna (at Petal Pics), this week. I did like the homemade, tart as it was and really it isn't that much of an effort. Thanks so much for weighing on the subject. 

This week, weather cooperating, yard work: Clean-up and planting. I am excited to plan out the tree circles. I am thinking of Cannas in the center for drama, surrounded with a variety and annuals, petunias--sun and head hardy plants with lots of color to match the drama that the tulips have added this year--oh and bunny resistant, too. A good plan, until I get to the garden center and see the price of plants. Then I will opt for sod, I am guessing.

I also have to finish packing up the kitchen and living room to have the new flooring installed next Monday.

Today I'll play with the granddaughters. They have a mini spring break since Easter came so early. Guess I'd better get dressed and get on with my day.

Enjoy your week, and thanks so much for visiting. Hopefully I'll do a better a job of getting around this week to see you.

If you have mind to, visit Ann's Dollhouse Dreams to see the recent project.
















Monday, April 18, 2016

Life's a Journey

Before I married, I lived with two PE teachers while I worked on a master's degree for secondary (hight school) remedial reading. One roommate's parents owned a health food store, so I was introduced to all sorts of healthy suplimenets and foods. They even made yogurt using a yogurt maker, a small counter top appliance with individual cups that contained the milk. I remember the final produce as too sour to eat.

Now years later I have found myself lactose intolerant, so I had to eliminate commercial yogurt, and I miss it terribly. Our neighbor who has the cows mentioned that she had made yogurt for her kids in her slow cooker and described the process. Because she has a large family, she made a gallon of yogurt. Of course, I didn't need that much; instead I found a recipe for a quart.

Here then is my journey in yogurt making. Should you want to try it yourself,  this is the recipe I found on CreativeSimpleLife.com.




The milk maid shared a bit of her starter with me, while this recipe suggests buying an organic plain yogurt at the super market. At my local super market, I couldn't find a small container of just plain yogurt. Perhaps if I had gone to an organic grocery I would have found the plain organic yogurt. I preferred the milk maid's starter, anyway. For 1 quart, I used 1 tablespoon of starter.


While the yogurt cooked, I could smell it sweetness even downstairs. Now the finished product ready to be stored and saved for breakfast.

The recipe says to warm the milk to 180 degrees F, taking about an hour to an hour and a half. Using my old slow cooker, the process took much longer. At one point, thinking that the milk was warm enough, I unplugged the cooker before taking the temperature, but its was not hot enough. When I turned the cooker back on, I set it on low by mistake. When I discovered my error, I turned it back to high, so I can't say exactly how long the heating process took--3 hours. I used my heavy duty candy cooking thermometer instead of the meat thermometer . Once the milk has reached 180, cool to 120--again this step took longer than the recipe suggests--then stir in the starter, 1 tablespoon of organic, plain yogurt. Now the milk will ferment.


And here it is: fresh, home grown, home made yogurt. In my Goggle research, I have discovered that raw milk reduces lactotose intolerance. I must stress that the fresh milk I am using is pasteurized.  Our milk maid is very careful to remind us that her milk is pasteurized and that she does not sell it. There are very strict government laws controlling the sale of fresh milk. Having said that, I am quite spoiled because for years we have had milk delivered to the door in glass jars from a local organic dairy. And while our milk maid does not claim her milk to be organic, we do know what the cows are fed--I see them munching on sweet grass all day.

So how does the yogurt compare to store bought--organic or not? 
  • consistency: runny and clumpy, not smooth like processed yogurt. I don't mind. Next batch I will place it in cheese cloth to let the liquid separate. The liquid can be used, too, so  I will have research to see what to with it.
  • Taste: sour and tart, much like commercially processed yogurt. I never thought that I could get used to or even enjoy the tartness. This yogurt has no salt, no sugar, no stabilizers, no artificial coloring, not artificial anything. Essentially straight from the cow. Served with fresh fruit and sweetened with honey would make a percent snack for hungry children and and grandparents. I thawed out sweet black cherries to add to my yogurt last night. 
  • With fruit added or even nuts or granola, the homemade yogurt is just as tasty as the commercially prepared, and I would venture to guess that fresh milk from a small local dairy will not have the residual antibiotics, hormones, and other chemicals added during processing to insure public safety as mandated by government regulations. 
  • I feel that I can trust the probiotic and bacteria content of homemade yogurt more. I don't know why, so I need to do more research, but the milk maid did tell me that the home cultured yogurt should help with the lactose problem. I'll let you know. 


Spring in the Rockies (rather the on praire to the east)


I know that I have shared these beautiful flowering crab trees at the University of Northern Colorado before, but they are so gorgeous I just had to share again. The front range last week had been blazing with the crabtree's splendid beauty.


Around the corner the university's Eastern Redbuds are in full splender.



 

Friday as I pulled out of the garage, I took one last photo of my redbud with the daffodils. The weather people predicted a horrible storm for the week end: rain turning to snow, more rain, freezing temperatures, more snow lasting through Tuesday. Are we depressed? Well, who wouldn't be?


The rain began late Friday


So I took photos


And I picked flowers


Even my precious giant red tulips, but only a few.


And then the snow came, heavy and wet, full of moisture.


Today, most of the snow has melted, but it is cold. I haven't gone out to check the damage. What's the use? I can't do anything about it.


At least for a few day we enjoyed the spring flowers. I am sure that the daffodils will bounce back. They are almost done, anyway. There are still some late tulips left to bloom and the lilacs are weeks away. 


I leave you with this beauty, a double pink poppy. Isn't she gorgeous? I should have brought her home. Even with the crummy weather yesterday, we toured our favorite garden centers where I bought more gladiola bulbs and some dahlias. We price checked tomatoes since we didn't start any this year. We will purchase them in couple of weeks.

Well, time to get busy. I have plenty to do today: laundry at the top of the list and I will start packing way dishes and knick-knacks in the china hutch and cleaning out the floors in the closets in preparation for the installation of new floors next week. What do you have going on this week? Will you make yogurt? 

Thanks so much stopping by. I'll be visiting around, too, and linking with Mosaic Monday, hosted by Judith at Lavender Cottage. Join us.





Tuesday, April 12, 2016

And So It Begins



New gardening gloves


If you follow bloggers from England, they will show lovely fields of daffodils this time of year. Elizabethd  and other always show the woodland daffodils. Then if you follow bloggers in Texas, they will share fields of Texas blue bonnets. Even though I have a family in Texas, I have yet to visit him when the blue bonnets are in bloom. When I have little else to do, I will use Google Earth to fly over the Netherlands to see the vast fields of tulips in rainbow colored strips going on endlessly.



Here at the Garden Spot, we have our own vast sea of yellow: dandelions in the front pasture. Mostly I see them as a vast nuisance, especially in the lawn. I have seen them proliferate the mountain meadows, thinking how beautiful they are there, too. Here at home, though, that thought is momentary for as they mature they will reseed and there will be even more. At the moment, though, dandelions are a cheerful reminder that Spring dances in the garden.


The daffodils, too, are splendid this year.


In their height of glory, they make me smile each time I see them. So far no snow to ruin them; just lost of rain to keep them strong and healthy.


I like the creamy yellow in the center of this one. The little grape hyacinths grow wild in abundance. 


Lots of rain the last few days had helped garden growth along.

The Eastern Red Bud looks wonderful, the best results I have had with my red buds--ever.








Which is your favorite? I can't choose. I do love the creamy, lemony one on the right end. But they are all my favorites. 

The Asparagus is coming too. You must look closely for you can barely see it. This is the 3rd year, and the spears appear to be nice and big.



In the garden things are beginning to happen, too.

No potatoes yet
Can you see baby peas?
Onions are up
New Drip System





Apricot Blossoms. We will be very lucky to have apricots.


Peach blossoms: another wishful thinking or a lot of luck to get peaches.


And so the Gardening Season begins. 



Next, a trip to Lowes Garden Center for pansies.

I missed Mosaic Monday because I had Little Lily over night,--ya' can't blog with a 3-year old around--, but I'll be visiting Judith and Lavender Cottage anyway to see what you posted. Thanks so much for stopping by. I'll see you soon, too. You will probably find me at the very bottom of you comment list.