Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Magic Mushroom

Magic Mushrooms

They dot the mountain sides this time of year in the Colorado Rockies, more specifically, Summit County. These were found just outside of Jefferson in South Park. I had never seen red mushrooms before, but apparently they are common because as I tell friends about them they have seen them.

Scientifically known as Amanita Musceria, also known as Fly Agaric

because it was once used as fly poison.

Easily recognized as the mushroom the caterpillar sat upon in Alice and Wonderland.

Thought to house fairies and gnomes.

Used unwisely as an hallucinogenic. Best to dry the caps first, they say.

Known for its mystic and religious powers.

A really interesting plant,

But deadly poisonous. 

And these little guys are cute, but I have not yet been able to identify them.

Check out this article on mushroom hunting

Novice mushroom hunters will join an organzied hunt lead by true experts who know the difference between the poisonous shroons and the safe ones. 

Me-- I'll buy mine at the super market.

And look what I found in my own garden:

This little toad abode has been in the garden getting moved from hither to yaun, so, inspired by the mountain mishroom, I gave mine a new look and a new purpose--a fairy home. The toads never used it anyway.

And more from the garden:

Our peach harvest. I put our poor little peach next to an apricot so that you could see just now small it is. But what it lacked in size it made up in flavor. The little peach tree was loaded with baby peaches, but they all fell off. A seasoned peach grower told me that the same happened to his peaches. There is always next summer. Right?

Pans and buckets of tomatoes.

The tomatoes are not very pretty, but they will make a very good salsa.

Only four potato plants were ready to dig: russet (rather small-- more water), Yukon gold, and red.

Finally from the berry patch. The strawberries are a year old now and should be producing gallons. We have 3 varieties. The  last to be planted came from Jen's garden and once they got more water, the berries started to form. The blackberries are small, again more water, but worse I found a Japanese beetle buried head first in one berry. Never had them before. Now what do I do about them?

Thank you for all of the encouragement. We tend to think that we are the only ones who don't get perfect crops. 

The university classes started yesterday without me. I had a bit of a moment, then I got over it and decided to embrace retirement  by posting to my blog on this my second day of retirement. I will stop counting the days now and start enjoying the things that I really want to do. I am thinking about signing for an online class offered by Kim klassen on using photoshop Elements II. I will let you know how that goes. 

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.

Friday, August 23, 2013

There's Always Next Summer

It is time to take the blog back to the garden after many other things have taken us out of the garden beginning in April with heavy, winter-like weather. In May my father in law had a major health crisis,
requiring the Head Gardener's attention for nearly a month. Then in June we took our vacation. July was the month of company. Instead of weeding, we made four trips to the airport, changed beds, cooked, and hung out with dear friends and family. And then there was the weather. We did get enough rain to bring us out of the drought, but weeds grew where weeds had never set root before. Then we had that one storm of storms which brought buckets of rain punctuated with hail. Our friend's 25 acres of vegetables, watermelon, and musk melon was a total loss. Russ had the best quote of the summer when he referred to the disking under of his vegetables: "It's like having a sick horse. You keep waiting for it get better and then you know it isn't going to get any better, so you have to shoot it." And then he disked under the watermelons-- those huge, old fashioned melons with the black seeds, abundant flavor, and lots of juice--, along with the rest of his vegetables that he would have sold in his vegetable stand. The Head Gardener delivers Russ' sweet corn and melons to 11 grocery stores in Denver and the customers were eagerly awaiting those melons. Fortunately they are devouring the sweet corn.

There is always next summer.

So we didn't get beans planted or red beets, or carrots, or pumpkins, nor did we get new tomato cages built. We didn't get the front circle reclaimed and redesigned. We didn't get the water garden project finished.

There is always next summer.

Take a walk with me as I wonder through the garden to see what we did right.

We have a few cotton tails. Right now we see two babies. Sometimes they have little fear; other times they high tail it across the pasture to the neighbor's lilac windbreak. This little guy probably hides in these irrigation tubes, but he sat watched me.

Gladiolas: A great success. I planted 14 bulbs. A couple of bulbs did not mature; the ones that did are spectacular. Next year I want to plant 50, a 100, MORE.

Just as beautiful in the house in a glass vase on the kitchen table, they will bloom for several days. I'll pick off the spent blossoms at the bottom the stalks. I can't say which is my fav; I love them all. I have a peach one that will soon bloom. 

Okay. The vegetables. A sad, sad tale here. We did enjoy a few cucumbers. If you don't go out and pick every day, they grow so fast that soon they are past their prime and I think mine are done. No photo of the ugly, huge, bitter yellow cukes. 

But the peppers are coming along nicely. They require a lot of water to get the nice big peppers. We had stuffed green peppers for dinner. One my favorite summer dishes. 

The broccoli has really gone to town given that it was so bug infested that I gave up on it. However, the 3 plants thrived and have produced a mountain of broccoli, sans worms this year. I don't know about you, but I don't put any pesticides in the garden. I follow my dad's Rule #2: plant an extra one for the bugs. (He actually was referring to the tomato hornworms that he always saved because they metamorphose into the sphinx moth.) (His Rule #1, one by the way, is WATER). 

The cabbages got pretty beat up by the hail, as did the egg plant. This egg plant is huge. I didn't realize there was such a big one. We don't eat egg plant, so I took them to school to share with my faculty friends, but now that I am retired, I won't be doing that; however, I emailed one faculty friend who will come tomorrow to pick the egg plants. She will bring her daughter who lives in New York. They love coming to the country garden. 

The Roses. Some are devout bloomers; other are complaining. The red rose is finally producing roses the size that she had when I bought her 3 years ago. The yellow one, St. Patrick, planted last year is a prolific bloomer. Gertrude Jekyll, a pink David Austin, is growing very tall, but not producing many flowers this year. Same for the climber James Galloway (lower left). A David Austin climber, he is growing tall, but should have more flowers. The right pink rose has the most wonderful rose fragrance, but her blooms sag because the stems are not sturdy enough to hold her heads high. But what a beautiful bloom. She shares her space with one other rose, a Home Depot rose that has struggled and I doubted that she would ever amount to much, but she blooms those beautiful creamy white flowers. Tess of the Durberbvilles (have you read the Thomas Harding novel by the same name? As an English scholar, I must have such a rose in my garden. If you like Jane Eyre, you will enjoy Tess). Anyway. Tess, one of the new DAs, grows very tall branches and produces this gorgeous magenta colored rose. I have other roses that I haven't shown here; these are the delicious ones.

By the way. Do you have any tips for photographing red flowers? I never seem to be able to get the red color right. 

There have been other successes in the garden, too. The buddleja, or butterfly bush, is one of three that I have planted. I think this is its third year and finally it is showing some nice growth. I added two new ones this summer, so it will be a while before they get blogged.  

Look at my dinner plate dahlia. What she lacks in height, she makes up in bloom size. Barely two feet tall, she should measure at least 4 feet, but I suppose due to the lack of attention and perhaps water, she didn't rise to her full potential. I love her anyway.

 The last of the clematis clings to the vine. This vine with its bell-shaped flowers is a good bloomer, too, setting most of its blooms in late spring, early summer, and they last a while too. I love the shade of pink. 

The tiger lilies never disappoint. They have been dug, dragged, planted, and replanted with each of our moves starting in the very early 1980s when I first dug them up from the Head Gardener's grandmother's garden on the farm. They do so well, while my other lilies throw tantrums, turn yellow, and refuse to bloom the second year. I think I shall move them to this north corner garden where they won't get so much water, where they will be left to fend for themselves. Maybe then the Asians and Stargazers will be happy. 

Another garden favorite, the zinnia. This is the only one of three on the entire 5 acres.  A short, sad (annoying) story that I won't go into detail on because I love the Head Gardner; however, it is the only one of half a row of seeds that did not survive the hand cultivator. Need I say more? The other 2 zinnias came up volunteer. I had half a row of multicolored zinnias and lime green ones and a half a row of gladiolas. Guess it pays to be tall and gorgeous. 

There is always next summer.

As the gardening season draws to a close, I have very much enjoyed seeing everyone's gardens, their beautiful flowers and abundant vegetable harvests. Gardening requires such dedication. This summer, however, we just had other things to do and we sort of lost our momentum with a crazy spring. 

There is always next summer.

Oh, by the way. I just remembered an anniversary: August 19, 2010 my first blog post. It was slow going in those first few months, but I was determined to blog whether or not anyone read it. And look at me today. While I wanted to write about my garden and read about others gardening, I never really thought about the friends that I would make. I love you guys. Thanks for reading, commenting, and indulging my passion (and yours) for gardening (and other life stuff that tends to creep into the blog), photography, and story telling. 

This Grandmother's Garden: My first comment. Thanks Carolyn.

Kelli's Northern Ireland Garden: Kelli has been faithful to me since the beginning, commenting on nearly every post, beginning with my 6th post. Thanks, Kelli.

Have a fabulous week end.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

A Return to Colorado Farm Country

Sherry and I spent the rest of the afternoon (there wasn't much left) driving down country roads looking for windmills to photograph. We returned home in time to porch sit with neighbors for a while then cook supper for Dave when he got home. Sherry insisted we go back to the farm fields to photograph the windmills at sunset. Come along.

Old, abandoned homesteads dot the Colorado prairie. Left to crumble and fall away, a visitor cannot help but to imagine the hardships that the first settlers must have endured.

Modern technology invades the serenity of the country as farmers across the west and mid-west least ground to windmill companies to place the new energy makers, those giant, white towers that spin catching the wind to create engery. We wonder just how much energy they really do generate.

The sun sinks lower

leaving a golden glow.

The doe watched us as we took pictures. No doubt she saw the flash of the camera. Not quite frightened, but cautious, she slowly walked away.

These are, by the way, working windmills that fill the water tanks for the cattle that graze on the prairie grasses.

I have been playing with using textures to edit my photos. I get wonderful designs for Kim Klassen's Cafe that I have mentioned in previous posts. This is an interesting effect. I call it "Windshield with Bugs."

Sherry decides to go for a cleaner look in her photo.

It is getting darker

and darker.

The sun set on another good day. I had a wonderful time with my dear friends. I thank them for letting me share a bit of their work and their life on my blog for I enjoyed showing you a bit of Colorado Farm Country.

I hope you are having a great week end. Thank you visiting the Garden Spot. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Colorado Farm Country: Amber Waves of Grain

Hello, Friends. I am so far behind in blogging. The summer is nearly over and I have an iPhoto library full of summer adventures that I have just have not had to blog about. We have had non-stop company the last month, so my blogging has had to take a back seat to trips to the airport, cleaning, entertaining, cooking, and spending time with dear friends and family. Anyway. I am back. I read your posts everyday, trying to post comments from the iPad, but not always having very good luck with it.

I did get away before to visit my dear friends in Haxtun, Colorado in the far northeastern corner of the state-- a 2 hour drive. Sherry and I shopped and scrap booked and just hung out while her husband Dave worked long hours in wheat harvest. We also spent an afternoon out in the wheat field where  I took a lot of pictures, thinking that you would enjoy seeing the wheat harvest in action.

Meet my friend Dave Anderson. We go back a good many years. He was my high school student my first year of teaching sophomore English--a long, long time ago. We became friends years later when  his wife and I became the best of friends. He and his brother Dan run Anderson Wheat Farms, a 10,000 acre family farming operation that grows wheat, corn, and millet.  I rode with Dave in the semi back to wheat field and then I rode with his brother Dan in the combine as he combined the wheat. They run an impressive operation.

We took Dave his lunch at the farm where he was ready to unload the wheat that would be augured into the grain bin. Sherry and their boxer dog Harley take Dave his lunch everyday during harvest.

The wheat falls into the hopper from the semi trailer where it is lifted into the grain bin and stored until it is sold. Andersons grow seed wheat that is sold to other farmers who will raise their own crop.

The trailer has two bins that have to be emptied, each holding half a ton of wheat, taking about 15 minutes to unload each hopper.

Meanwhile out in the field, brother Dan runs one of the two combines that cuts the wheat.

Anderson's nephew runs the other combine, so while Dave takes a load back to the farm bin, the combines keep running.

It is literally a hands-free operation.

As Dan explains to me, this is farming at the highest technology level possible. With the on board computer and GPS satellite guidance (and Sirius radio, I might add), the farmer knows everything there is to know about not just the wheat itself (moisture content and yield), but the computer also maps every inch of the field so that the speed, depth of the cutter, and direction can be mapped and controlled. The information is stored on a flash drive that Dan can take home and the end of the day, pop it in his home computer and review the day's harvest.

The combine kicks up a lot of dust and it seems that the wind is always blowing across the fields on the hot summer days, carrying the dust across the land.

Once the combine is full, the wheat is transferred to the grain cart. Also computer guided, the tractor pulling the grain cart pulls up along side the combine to take on the load while the combine keeps moving.

Then it pulls up along side the semi to unload the wheat into the trailer.

While it appears to be a simple task to pull up along side the trailer, the grain cart driver has to carefully guide the tractor into position with the help of the on board computer. While the combine keeps moving as the wheat is transferred to the grain cart, the semi sits still while it takes on a load.

And Dave makes another trip to the farm to dump yet another load.

This is Petunia, the massive tractor that pulls the grain cart.

And this is Kaytlin, Dan's 13 year old daughter who drives Petunia. This is her second year driving the grain cart. She was trained last summer on short notice, but did so well that she got to keep her job. 

And  his son Dusty, 10,  who rides shot gun with whomever needs company.

Dan climbs back into his "office."

 I really liked photographing the combines. The wheat field sprawls to the horizon, symmetrically perfect, geometrically interesting, changing as the slow crawling machines suck up the wheat. Andersons grow about 2,200 acres of wheat, which Dave calculated that their harvest would make 7 million loaves of bread.

The view from inside the combine looking down as the wheat succumbs to the cutting heads.

Amber waves of grain.

In the time it took to make a round combining wheat, Dave returns to take on another load and this he repeats all day for about 10 days from 7 in the morning to 9 in the evening, barring any mechanical failures.

While her friends who live in town are hanging out at the Haxtun swimming pool or at home playing video games, Kaytlin is learning a work ethic. She is also earning a bit of spending money, while she banks the rest for her college education. The children are learning the family business so that someday they can, if they want, take over the farming operation. Dan explained that the kids take part in the harvest because they want to be part of the family business, not because they have to. Dave and Dan both have agriculture degrees from Colorado State University with whom they participate in agricultural research; they are leaders in the wheat growers associations at local, state, and federal levels. They take their work seriously and are rightfully proud of the work they do. While this day the sun was hot, the wind was swift, the sky as blue as it could be, and the machines were humming right through the golden grains, not all days are this idyllic. Weather is capricious and machines break down; the men put in long days only to get up the next day do it all over again until the job is done. When wheat harvest ends, soon corn harvest will begin, and  then winter wheat will be planted and the cycle of  planning for an abundant harvest the next year begins again.

They were glad to take me along, eager to explain the technology and the process of harvest. Thanks guys.

But my photo session didn't end in the wheat fields. Stay tuned for more of Colorado Farm Country.

A Rose by Any Other Name

Jackson and Perkins roses have been in the garden for at least 10-12 years. This year they have been spectacular. The bushes were taller and...