Saturday, September 29, 2012

Potpourri


Weather Report: We had rain this week. Glorious, sweet, wonderful rain. Not a lot, mind you, but these days we will take any amount that we can get. The days are cooler, a welcome relief after the horrid heat of the summer. Autumn slowly descends over the Garden Spot, gradually coloring the landscape in the city and country side with yellows and oranges and burnish reds.


I drove to work Friday in heavy fog, enjoying every moment of it.  We don't get fog much, only a couple of days a year. Maybe I am weird or something, but I love those overcast, cloudy damp mornings  shrouded in the cold grayness where the landscape looks mystical and magical. Everything is soft and quiet, a good time to be peaceful.

Rain drops on roses
Fall Harvest Continues: Harvest is in full swing. The silage corn has been cut, and now the picking corn dries in the fields for a later harvest. The onions have been pulled and bagged, headed to market;  the sugar beets dug and shipped off the the sugar plant. Pinto beans are being cut, and the last cutting of hay is baled--except for ours. Rain and hay down in the field don't mix. So much for our third cutting.


 

Pickin' Peppers: Talk about harvest. I went out put the hens away and feed the horse (hubby is off fishing) then toured the garden. I've been waiting on these peppers to ripen. They won't win any prizes at the county fair, but they will be wonderful in salads and stuffed. The orange peppers take a long time to ripen; I was afraid that the frost would get them, but we haven't had a hard frost yet.



Trick or Treat?: I have been trying to break my magazine habit, but I gave in to the urge to buy Martha Stewart Living because the caramel apples on the cover called to me. Pet Smart has an ad for Martha Stewart doggie Halloween costumes. Cute little dogs all dressed up as alligators, princesses, pumpkins. spiders. So I decided to ask Max what he wanted to be for Halloween. He's never showed an interest in dressing up for Halloween; even though, he loves to greet the little ghosts and goblins at the door as they come to Trick or Treat. Perhaps this year, I thought, he might just like to surprise the kids, be a cool dude in a clever doggie costume.


Harry Potter, perhaps?


Waldo, maybe? Or Professor Max Von Muttenheimer

Actually, he wasn't very cooperative. No dressing up. He's a highly specialized bird dog, a hunting dog, he tells me, with a pedigree that goes way back to whenever. "No. No costume. No dumb glasses. No Harry Potter, no Waldo. Just let me be me, Max. I need a nap," he tells me. "I'm old and I'm tired, and I need my rest. Go pick on the cats." They have claws, I tell him. And bad attitudes. "Dah," he replies, as he shakes off the spectacles and falls asleep.

I never was good at dreaming up creative costumes for my little girls. Not so good for the dog, either.

Hope you all have a fab week.






Sunday, September 23, 2012

Ending the Season


We worked in the yard today; we are nearing the end of garden duties for the season, and yet there is so much more to do. Did you get all of your gardening chores and plans done for the season? I rather disappointed myself this year because I didn't get as much done as I wanted to. The heat stole my passion to get outside and work. And it was dry. It's called a drought. Our lawn has huge brown spots that only a good rain soaking can revive. Like that is going to happen. 



We do have great pepper production this year, the best ever. We started some from seed and some from sets. The yellow bells are slow to ripen. I picked this one to let it ripen off in the house. It still had a touch of green to it. The sweet reds certainly had to finish ripening in the house. They are sweet and tender. I also planted orange bells--an odd bunch of peppers they are, but really sweet and nice sizes. If you look really closely in the upper right corner you will see a tad of orange on the bottom of one pepper. The orange peppers seem to be the most difficult to ripen.

 I sliced. I diced.  I sliced both red and green peppers and an a couple of onions. Then I layered them between parchment paper and put them in zip lock bags. They are ready for home made pizza. I diced the rest of the peppers. They will come in handy for omelets, chili, and soups. 



While I sliced and diced, hubby raked the hay. For the first time we got a third cutting of hay. He uses his rake to fluff and turn the grass over so that it will dry more quickly. Instead of the normal 90 bales, we will probably get 40 bales. We sell it pretty cheaply. Hay is quite expensive, Our bales could sell for about $15 a bale. Now that's pricey eats for horses.




So how dry is it? We received our prized peony in the mail this week. I showed the head gardener where to plant it. Did I mention that we are in a drought? To be fair, this part of the garden has pretty poor soil. We dug out an iris and another plant to clean things up, but the ground was just too hard,  so we planted the peony tuber in another spot that wasn't so hard, amending the soil by adding some peat, top soil, and compost. Hubby will dampen this spot and add some compost and top soil to loosen up the it up. No wonder that my asian lilies did so crummy this year.


Clumps and lumps.



Look at this lovely--the best surprise of late summer. I planted 4 dinner plate dahlias, but the rabbits or some varmint dug them up. I managed to find 3 tubers laying about. I guess they didn't like them after all. In order to get dinner plate sized flowers, all buds except the main one must be removed . I can never bring myself to remove buds, but this year the plants grew so healthy and strong in the center circle I am encouraged to try to grow the big flowers. After the frost, we will dig the tubers to save them for next year. I love this shade of pink.


These two flower got too wet with irrigation and broke off, so I bought them in. I hate cutting them for the house when I have so few outside.


The chrysanthemums were a huge disappointment this year. They bloomed way too early and died out way too early. This clump is so large that we will divide and move it. It obstructs the sprinkler head, so it has to be moved.


It's great having a daughter who is a horticulturalist who works for tree company. She brought me a bit of a gift the last time she was here, a buckthorn. It will grow 5-7 feet tall and about 2 feet in diameter. Right now it looks a bit sparse, but it should fill out nicely nest summer. The roses are amazing. The red rose is about as tall as I am, close to 5 feet tall. It and a couple of others have had real growth spurts here at summer's end.





Finally a bit of a surprise. I purchased this mini rose at the super market. You know, they always have these charming mini roses for gifts. I picked this one up from the bargain table for $5.00. It was actually 2 roses planted together. I think a pink and a white. I should have bought a couple more. It is doing well, even has a bud. Because it is planted in the courtyard, it should winter over and do well next year. Can't wait.

We planted pink and white tulips in the court yard that I bought at the super market, too. I love pink and white. Can't wait.

And we planted 3 aliums to replace the ones that rotted over last winter.

And we are done planting for the season and as this season ends, we can't help but to have dreams of next spring.

We still have to put the vegetable garden to bed, but we haven't had a frost yet and have tons of tomatoes and peppers yet to ripen. We may not have frost for a few weeks. I sent a bunch of tomatoes home with Jen Saturday. She and her mother-in-law will can them. I just don't have the time now that I am back at work.

So week 5 of the semester. The comp kids will write their first essay this week. We have been doing grammar review. Boring. Necessary. The advanced writing class is giving presentations on the qualities of good teachers. I love to hear what they have to say. And the lit class will be presenting short stories for the next three weeks. This week: Kafka "The Metamorphosis," DH Lawrence "The Rocking Horse Winner," and Steinbeck "The Chrysanthemums." I love my job.

The weather lady announced cooling temps and maybe some rain mid week. Wouldn't we love the rain. 

Hope you all have a groovy week, and if you have suffered through the heat and drought, I hope rain comes your way, too. 









Sunday, September 16, 2012

Meet the Meekers

Okay, fellow bloggers. Really I am still here. I just have more work and less energy to keep up with the blog. I try to read my blogs everyday, but I am not keeping up with the commenting. Sweet Rose at Second Hand Rose awarded Welcome to the Garden Spot the Liebester Award. I just have not had enough time to accept the award in fine fashion. Thank you Rose. I love your kind comments and I love visiting you to hear about your adventures with Miss May, the hedgehog, and I do enjoy seeing your wonderful treasures that you find. I would love to go shopping with you. Thank for the award; it's nice to be recognized.

Work wears me out. And the garden has gone dull. Not dead yet, but so pathetically lack luster. So I am not inspired to take photos or write about gardening--there isn't much inspiration there these days, but let me introduce you our dear friends who work hard to grow food.

We've been friends with Russell and Doris Meeker for a long, long time. Russ and my husband grew up together. Their dads farmed through through the 1950s, both finally giving up on farming in the 1970s as the farm economy tanked into an agricultural crisis, causing farmers across the country to lose not just their farms, but their way of life. 

Russell joined the military after high school. Gerald went to junior college, earning an Associates degree in accounting and went to work for a grain elevator. Both young men married and began raising their families; both eventually went to work for Woodward Governor as machinists. Russell after 15 years decided to answer that nagging call that never leaves a farm boy's soul: farming. Gerald continued to work for Woodward 31 years, retiring 3 years ago. The men's paths would once again merge. We ran into Russell at the local cafe when jokingly I asked him if he didn't have any work the retiree. (You know how husbands tend to get underfoot when they don't have a job to go to.)  Be careful what you wish for because a few weeks later Russell called Gerald and asked him if he would haul his fresh produce to 5 grocery stores in Greeley and Denver. Gerald agreed to help out. Now whenever Russ needs a bit more help doing field work in the tractor, Gerald is there, answering his heart's desire to farm, but his main job is hauling Russ' vegetables to grocery stores.

In addition to nearly 200 acres of field corn, Russ plants a pretty big vegetable garden, selling his produce in a roadside stand in Eaton, Colorado: 27 acres of sweet corn water melon, musk melon, a variety of peppers, cucumbers, squash, and tomatoes. Gerald delivers sweet corn, watermelons, and peppers to 14 grocery stores including 11 Safe A Lot grocery stores located locally in Greeley, Longmont, and Denver. Most of the stores serve low income neighborhoods who appreciate the fresh produce. Right now he hauls two to four loads a week of sweet corn, peppers, and water melons. 

By day Doris works for their church, the Evangelical Free Church of Eaton in the office, then at the end of the day,  she heads to the stand to serve their loyal customers. 


Russ grows real water melon, seeds and all.  His customers love them.







 I took the photos several weeks ago, so the vegetables were not yet mature; now the farm labors are busy picking and sacking corn, loading bins with watermelons, and harvesting the other vegetables for the stand. While Russ is busy in the field, he hires extra help to run the stand located just off of Highway 85 in Eaton until Doris can take over at the end of her day.


 The vegetables are irrigated with well water which is carried from the ditch to the field through aluminum syphon tubes.

Tools of the Trade

Look at these big boys. Guy toys, especially for the farm kid living in town. It is true what they say: You can take the kid out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the kid or a 60 year old man.


More machinery than one can image. Farming is costly, even a risky business with the heavy investment in farm implements from ditchers, to cultivators, to waders.



 And no farmer can go without his waders when it's time to irrigate which could be by the light of the moon.


 While Russ leases his farm ground, land owners supplement their income by signing oil and gas leases along with farming leases. Existing together side by side, corn used for silage (cattle feed) or ethanol and natural gas wells and oil wells are a common sight throughout northern Colorado farm fields since there are huge oil and gas reserves below the surface in Northern Colorado.



Follow the sign to fresh, healthy vegetables.

 

Picked fresh every day although the onions come from another farmer. Russ and Doris also sell peaches and pears grown on Colorado's Western slope--the other side of the Rocky Mountains.





Doris helps a customer while Russ and Gerald tell tall tales of their youthful past.



This time of year the farmers' markets and our gardens are full of fresh produce. As consumers, we love the fresh produce and place special value on the food we feed our families when we know that it is locally grown. As gardeners, we understand the challenges that farmers face growing fresh food; it is hard, expensive work with few guarantees and lots of risk. Russell luckily has survived this summer's hail and drought, two of the farmer's worst perils to overcome. He did have to let about 35 acres watered with ditch water lay fallow because of the drought in Colorado.  

As backyard gardeners, we tend to take fresh foods for granted, but as the cliche states, a farmer's row is not an easy row to hoe. Russ loves his job. Gerald loves helping his friend. Together with Doris to keep the men in line, Meeker Produce helps put fresh, healthy produce on the table. With their strong Christian faith to guide them, hard work, and positive outlook, the Meekers run a successful business providing healthy food not just for their local friends and neighbors, but their food also ends up on the tables of families who are on tight budgets who want to provide fresh produce for their families.

The growing season is coming to an end with about two more weeks of deliveries. Meeker Produce has had a successful season, but the question remains, "Will they go again next year?" No one knows the answer. Well, really the answer is probably "yes"; however, it really does depend on what sort of winter we have, how much snow and moisture the Colorado mountains receive on whether or not there will be enough water for any of the farmers who rely on irrigation to water their crops. Hopefully next spring I can announce that hubby is helping Russell get his fields ready to plant.

So tomorrow I will lecture on pronoun agreement, Ethics of teaching, and the elements of short story. Exciting stuff. While some bloggers tweet and FB, you follow my course web site www.unco.edu/english/aerasmu. Actually, go read about how Rose at Second Hand Rose rescued and saved Miss May.

Have a glorious week.




Sunday, September 9, 2012

How Many Peppers?

If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, how many peppers did he pick? Well, let me tell you: a  lot. We spent the morning picking vegetables in the garden. Our plan was to dig the onions and potatoes. We came to the house with a whole load of goodies.


It's not a very aesthetic garden; it's become pretty wild and weedy here at the end of the season, but it has produced quite nicely and isn't finished yet.


The cantaloupe may or may not have enough summer left to mature; although this one may be about ready. They are small, but boy are they sweet. The vine produced dozens of blossoms, but few fruit. You can see how dry the garden is by the color of the drying leaves on the cantaloupe vines.


We have far too many tomatoes. The vines have grown so large and heavy that they have bent the tomato cages to the ground. I keep telling the head gardener that he needs to do 3 things: not plant so many tomatoes (we had 35 at one time), prune them so that they don't grow so wild, and build some strong supports for them.


We have a ton of peppers: red bells, yellow bells, green bell, anaheims, and jalapenos. They are prolifically producing with some very nice sized peppers.


In addition to a wild and weedy and gnarly garden, it has holes too. Worm holes. Cabbage butterflies make themselves quite at home, and that's okay.


We had a wonderful onion harvest, both yellow and red onions. We are storing them in sweet corn sacks in the barn, hoping that they don't rot. I will give a lot of them away too. They are really good, strong onions. Goggles anyone?






Here are the potatoes. We didn't get around to planting potatoes this spring, but we must have had left a few in the ground last year for they sprouted, grew, and produced. Not many. But we have a few fresh potatoes.


See the little dust cloud around hubby's feet. He irrigates the rows with a garden hose, the paths between the rows are dusty and dry. The hens when he lets them out love the dust baths that the dry dirt provides. One boon of drought: hen dust baths.





And I pulled the rhubarb and got it cooked. I love it on toast in the morning. Hubby doesn't eat it.


 And would you look at that asparagus. It is really coming on. I bought two 1 gallon containers at the end of the season and they have really taken a liking to their new home. I worried that we couldn't keep them wet enough to get them started. They even have real spears. I won't pick them, though. And I hope to add more next spring. I'd like about six plants. When we planted them, we mulched them with horse manure and grass clippings. The plants have done well.




Yep. A peck of peppers and a few egg plants in the bucket.


We use everything in the garden except for the eggplant--aren't they pretty? Someone doesn't really like eggplant, so I give them away to the faculty at work. They just look so pretty in the garden.





From top counter clockwise: Spaghetti squash, potatoes, egg plant, peppers, some sort of winter squash,   tomatoes, and rhubarb.


And Mother Earth washing it all. (She has changed her moniker from Mother Nature, now allowing her little sis to go by Mother Nature. She is learning about continents and oceans and other earthy stuff  her first week of kindergarten and decided that she likes being Mother Earth.)

So for supper tonight we had squash and potatoes from the garden and I had a little dish of rhubarb. How satisfying it is to grown food. I sent food home with Jenn; she made fajitas with peppers and onions. We are still trying to figure out the garden and how best to do it. Once the frost kills it, hubby will add more horse manure to the entire garden to add humus to the glumpy, gummy clay soil and probably some chicken stuff too. We think that the chicken that he tilled in last fall along with a lot water helped production and size. It's a good life living with dirt under your fingernails. Hope you have a bit of dirt under your nails this week end.

Hope you all have a grand week. The weather man promises that the temperatures will begin to fall, bringing much needed relief to heat that we have endured all summer. And now, may we ask for some rain? Fall is certainly in the air and as we harvest a bit of own crop, the farmers around us will soon begin bringing in their crops: corn, onions, pinto beans, sugar beets, cabbages, carrots. Here's to a bountiful harvest from your garden, too.

Monday, September 3, 2012

It just dawned me as I was uploading photos for this post, that I have had an anniversary. I launched my blog August 19, 2010. It was a pretty brief introduction with one comment. My first visitor was Carolyn at  This Grandmother's Garden. One post from this beautiful grandmother and a look at her lovely blog and I was hooked. I have made some wonderful friends along the way. I faithfully read my blogs every day, though I don't always comment, like here in the last week. So thank you my dear friends for sharing your thoughts along with me. I'd love to take a tour of the world and visit each and everyone of you, for I think that we would get along quite nicely.

Spring came in in a blaze of glory as the crab apple
trees put on a show
Classes at the university started last Monday and already we are having our first semester holiday, Labor Day, a day to honor the nation's workers--You and Me and everyone. I told my students that it is a long haul until Thanksgiving, so they'd better rest up and get ready to tackle the next 14 weeks. I do wonder about myself, however. I have a long walk between buildings that when the weather is mild, I see it as just a little more exercise and opportunity to enjoy the fresh air. We have a lovely campus with beautiful green lawns and wonderful big trees, but as bloody hot as the last few days (rather all summer) have been, the walk wears me down. By the end of day my feet hurt, my shoulder aches, me elbow throbs, my eyes get blurry. But I carry on with a smile, for my mission is an important one. Dead tired at the end of the day, I find my chair and promptly fall asleep, waking to go search for food with the hubby. And then it is the next morning it all begins again.

So tell me how did your summer go? Here in the states we had record heat with most of the country in a drought, while our British friends suffered unusual amounts of rain. How does Mom Nature decide who will get what? Can't she be a bit more fair in her distribution of the natural elements? Thus with the  heat, gardening just wasn't much fun as it should have been. I tried to get out early in the morning and late in the evening. At least here one advantage to the heat was the lack of mosquitoes.

Good things did happen.


 The court yard went from bare and blah to finally getting the little water garden going.

   
It went from blah to POW--with a leak that I have yet to find


In addition to the heat and because of the lack of rain, much of our summer was spent under a shroud for smoke and fire and worry about our friends' and their homes. For our friends the outcome was good since their homes were spared, but for so many others their lives will never the same as they begin the years long battles with insurance companies that continue to impede their efforts to rebuild and get their lives back to normal.



Fire in the mountains. Fire in the garden as the Red Hot Pokers put on a flaming hot show of their own.



I love the knohpia, delicate and rich in color, but they don't last long.
 

The iris were glorious, but I dug them up, divided them, and moved them out by the hen house to give the ladies some color in their little world


Butterflies were scarce in the Garden Spot this summer too. Early in the summer the Western Tiger Swallow Tails flitted through yard on some impending mission, stopping to nourish themselves.


The echinacea  were so gorgeous--the ones that received enough water, that is.



And let's not forget the newest little bud in this grandmother's garden, Lily Ann


There were the 4th of July fire works, some looking a bit like flowers themselves.


 The day lilies loved the heat, but craved moisture too.


Who doesn't love the purity of a white daisy with a bit of rain--fake rain from the sprinkler.


We partied a bit, too.


And I got really brave and bought not one, but two hydrangeas at Lowes on sale. I let them sit in the kitchen a bit too long so they sorta died back. I pruned them and planted them according the Heather's instructions: dig a big whole and back fill with lots of compost and top soil. So unlike the hydrangea that I planted last summer that was in a constant state of wilt and begging for water, these two and a 3rd that hubby brought home as a surprise appear to be settling in nicely with new leafy growth. We will just have to make sure to mulch them good this fall and water during the winter if we don't get much snow.


The cabbage are all harvested. Now we wait for the red cabbages. The egg plants are all going to collegues at school, the tomatoes  are abundant, the garden flourishes.



The apple tree got an early frost, so there are few very wormy apples this year. The tree is by the corral fence and Sundance begs for apples.


Over the winter, I ran out of good garden stuff to write about, so I profiled the family pets. I didn't get around to Max. Sweet, Sweet Max. A German Short Hair retriever. He is a dog pound pup, a rescue who if not adopted would have been destroyed. What a waste. As it turns out, he is registered with championship field trial lineage. But to us he is our companion. Thirteen years ago hubby brought home this hyper 11 month old pup, green snot coming out his nose with a bad case of kennel cough, and no manners at all. The dog from hell. At 14 now, he stumbles and falls, wobbles and snores. The rabbits in the yard no longer fear him because he has quit chasing them. He sleeps a lot, but he is always in the garden with us. Our constant companion.


This little bud just keeps blossoming. Her older sister who calls herself Mother Nature is off to kindergarten tomorrow. Her other sister turned 4. Her cousin Jacob, my garden helper, is in 4th grade, and his little brother Nathan  age 3 claims the hens as his own. These are grandma's special little buds in her garden.

A garden first: Lime green zinnias. Love 'em.



There is some green here.


Hail Damage. Can't have summer without at least one hail storm The garden recovered nicely. That was the last rain we had.


As summer winds down, the sunflowers are flourishing but fading, foreshadowing the dullness of winter. A new routine is coming to the Garden Spot: Work, grade papers, work, grade papers. The weather is lady is predicting a cool down. Hope she knows what she is talking about. Soon we will begin to wish for an early spring pouring over the seed catalogues. Funny how that works. Summers are too hot so we hope for winter. Winter wears us out so we hope an early spring.

I will try to keep with my blogging with regulariety. My posts hopefully will pop up each week and I hope to be able to make comments that make sense. Thanks your visits and thanks for your own grand and glorious blogs that keep me entertained and enlightened.