PO Box 2458, Tijeras NM 87059

Mountain Gardens--finding success with plants for the high desert and East Mountains of New Mexico

Monday, December 17, 2012

Winter Work in the Mountains

Lest anyone think we spend our winters recuperating from our hectic summer pace, our feet up in front of the fire enjoying the empty hours--here are some of the chores that keep us moving.

When the first hard freeze hit, icing caused the pumping rod on the windmill to noodle up. When the fan continues to turn, the captured rod can't slide up and down, and begins to twist. It can get amazingly distorted, preventing it from functioning after the ice melts. Bad things happen if this isn't caught soon enough. We know this, yet somehow the first hard freeze always catches us by surprise. This year wasn't as bad as past years, but we still had to straighten the rod. This is bad enough.

 Someone has to climb the 30 feet up to the fan assembly, disconnect the rod and lower it down. This takes muscle and know-how. Wilbur is elected (sometimes it's good to know no-how). We already stabilized the 380 feet of rod in the ground before separating if from 20 so feet above (it takes a crane to pull the whole length of rod if it should by some terrible bit of luck slip).

On the ground, Aly and I have the top sections of rod on a looong rope lowering it down (no photo obviously because it's reaallly heavy, and I can't be taking pictures which they keep yelling, this being an exciting part). Aly and I eventually get the rod down and beat it back into shape. By this time, there is a little breeze, and Wilbur is getting nervous. We haul the rod back up and he gets it reconnected. At this point he was supposed to climb onto the box at the end of the tail, and change the 5 gallons of hydraulic fluid that keeps things turning smoothly; this is quite a trick for a young guy on a still day. He’s not young, and the fan is beginning to strain at the chain. The fan will have to grind away, as we decide to save this task for another day.

Back on the ground, the three of us try to get the sections of rod hooked back up. This is another tricky part. The unchained fan is turning erratically despite the brake.  This is moving the top section of rod. A couple of years ago, I helpfully aligned the two sections while Wilbur and Aly were looking away, so as to quickly thread the sections together. When the two sections bumped, the fan drove them together crumpling the top back into the “S” shape we had just spent some hours fixing. I was unpopular for some time after that, but learned an important lesson—never show initiative when repairing a windmill. This time the sections joined smoothly. We are always surprised when this happens. 

 Chores are unrelenting during the winter. Most are not as dangerous as working on the windmill, but there’s often a little frisson of anxiety when working around farm equipment. We bring in our own wood for heat, and we each have our own chain saw—mine is the smallest, but it gets the job done. All that wood has to be split, and Wilbur split his fingernail in half the last time he used the splitter. We weren’t surprised when this happened as he tends to bleed on every job; if these were the days of blood sacrifice, this place would be a temple. 

It’s gotten cold again (windmill’s disconnected-yay), and it’s snowing, so we’re using more propane in the greenhouses (boo). We have lots of tanks that need to be kept filled, because if the two propagating houses freeze, months of work is lost. This is Wilbur’s job, another case of know-how. After he dealt with the propane, we all bundled up and went out to put the snow blade on the tractor. Pretty soon, he’ll go back out to plow the half mile of drive. If it gets bad enough, Aly will join him on her tractor.  They have the tractor know-how. I’m just the cook. It’s good to have people with know-how. 

Got to go; just got the second section of scaffolding up on the wall we’re building. When we get time, we work on the interior. Chores...

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Great Green Walls

There's an interesting article in my latest Lawyer's catalog about the Great Green Wall initiative. There are plans afoot to build what is essentially a windbreak nine miles wide and 4,400 miles long from Dakar to Djibouti (east coast to west coast). This amazing multi country project will attempt to halt environmental degradation and slow creeping desertification.

In China, a Great Green Wall being planted for the same purpose will cover 42% of the country by 2050. The Chinese have planted 56 billion trees in the last ten years. There is a lot of controversy over these projects--but as the Amazon loses 2,700 million acres a year, replacing some of that biomass elsewhere can't hurt.

There is a lot of renewed interest in the windbreaks planted during the Dust Bowl period, which had a major impact on loss of topsoil then and for many years after. Lawyer's notes that most if not all of these have disappeared, making room for modern irrigation systems.

Today, as I watch my New Mexico soils heading north on every errant breeze, I am contemplating my own wind break. I am still plotting the best layout, and assembling a variety of trees and shrubs, but this spring, come hell or high water, the planting begins.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Fruit Explorers Follow Up

We've just had our second meeting of the tentatively titled New Mexico Fruit Explorers (see October post) and we've already got a pretty impressive membership. Naming no names (without permission) we have some truly knowledgeable folks whose expertise spans apples, apricots, figs, Chinese dates and more.

Though nothing is firm yet, we're talking about hosting workshops (got some great grafters!), tours of our respective holdings, and field trips. Meetings are on the first Saturday of the month, and anyone with an interest in fruit is welcome. Amateurs to experts, or even if you just like eating it, and would like to know more. Email for more information.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Air Layering Fiddleleaf Fig

Early in September we decided to tackle the fiddleleaf fig that was touching the 15 ft ceiling in number 1 greenhouse. It took both of us to drag the monster outside where it got a much needed shower before surgery (there is a faint omnipresent haze of dust in the air here, even on the stillest of days--hence the shower). Aly and I made about 10 layers, each about three feet long, not counting a number of small cuttings we took. And there's the advantage to airlayering a tropical that makes cuttings easily--a much bigger plant.

We began by girdling the limb we were going to layer. A small box cutter with a new blade makes this the easiest part of the procedure. I made two cuts that sliced through the bark and cambium about an inch apart completely encircling the stem. I can then draw the blade from upper cut to lower cut without danger of overshooting and leaving a ragged edge or flap.

It took several days of soaking to get the peat hydrated--New Mexico. We firmed a handful of very wet peat completely around the cut--this is where two sets of hands are useful. It's not easy holding onto the stem, while keeping the peat in place until it's securely wrapped.

There are a number of commercial gadgets out there to accomplish this part, but foil has always worked fine for me. In Florida, the land of perpetual trickling sweat, foil was enough. Here in New Mexico, keeping the peat wet until roots emerge is tricky; I used a layer of plastic wrap, enough to cover the peat with a lot of overlap, with the ends twisted tightly around the stem.

The foil is wrapped over that, again tightly squeezing the ends shut to seal in moisture. I tied both ends snugly with twine just to be safe. Then we dragged the monster back inside.

Fast forward to mid-November. Roots have developed nicely, and none too soon; despite two layers of protection, the peat is drying out.

We've just finished potting up all the layers that we made in September. Although houseplants are not really our thing, we'll sell these next season when Mountain Gardens opens. For someone who considers herself an outside gardener, I seem to have acquired a lot of houseplants in sore need of division or cutting back.

Speaking of which--the monster was unfazed by our surgery. Maybe this time we'll use two layers of plastic.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

What's Still Green in the November Garden???

It's supposed to get cold again this weekend, more wind. While the days warm up, our nights are dipping below freezing, ice in the morning on the birdbath. The coneflowers are done, the hyssops brown stalks, the gailliardia a crisp haze of seed fluff. The garden's winding down and winter's on the way. It's a good time to poke around out there and make some notes.
Lamb's ear

I like to see what still has a nice green presence despite the freezes--like the very ordinary lamb's ear, soft and silvery. The grey santolina looks very nice, too. The dianthus has flowered until the very second I took the photo (a carnation is still putting out buds). So is the white tufted evening primrose, a native that blooms nonstop. A pattern seems to be emerging--these  plants all have silver grey foliage.

Still looking good, and yes, silver, are the artemesia's--wormwood, Powis Castle. Horehound is everywhere in the mountains, one of the medicinal herbs brought in by the earliest Spanish settler's and escaped. Kept trimmed up, it's a nice filler, and useful if you're an herbalist.

The sages are wonderful choices for the mountains, tough, fully winter hardy, delicious. The varigated form shown is not quite as reliable as salvia off.', but its pink and silver make any companions stand out. I haven't found anything it doesn't look better next to.

These silvery plants are among the best choices for up here, tough, drought tolerant in this arid climate, and yes, lovely far into the end of the garden season.
Horehound & yarrow

Some nice, bright greens that still look fresh are heuchera, another native, salvia nemerosa, the iceplants and sedums, evergreen germander, the yarrows. One of the yarrows still sends up an occasional burst of pink.

I'm taking my notes, looking for holes of course, and areas that need more (or less) silver. It's still a raw, new garden, the trees and shrubs too small to have any significant impact, so the herbaceous perennials provide form, texture, color. Eventually there will be windbreak trees, walls for shelter. (I don't understand why our winds don't have some romantic name like the Santa Ana's, or sirocco, or mistral--a lovely spanish word for unrelenting, pitiless, maybe despiadado. "The despiadado's have returned--I shall go mad.") But the wind has been quite mild so far this fall, and I'm my prosaically sane self.

The native geraniums are filling in nicely under a tall juniper, their leaves coloring up a bit, ditto the plumbago with a few bits of blue petal left. Colder weather coming, hope it looks this nice next week.

Varigated sage

White tufted evening primrose (dianthus & artemesia on left)

Heuchera & salvia


Yellow iceplant       

Friday, October 26, 2012

North American Fruit Explorers--NAFEX

We're pretty excited--a local NAFEX member is trying to form a southwest fruit group, and we've been invited to the first meeting.  Trying to produce fruit can be a mysterious, frustrating experience, especially when you're seemingly growing in a vacuum--no one out there to help, to encourage, to answer questions. That's why we joined NAFEX some years ago.

The North American Fruit Explorers was founded 45 years ago for that very purpose--to expand knowledge. Today there are thousands of members from across the country, Canada and farther. Anyone is welcome from the rankest (the closest you ever came to planting an apple was accidentally swallowing a seed) amateur to the most erudite pomologist. The annual membership fee is nominal--$19. And if you're serious about growing fruit, any fruit, there is no other place where you have access to so many experienced people so willing to share information.

Today, everything is available online, a far cry from the days when member's letters were exchanged in a round robin system by USPS. Members can access archived Pomona's, the quarterly magazine. Pomona is a compilation of articles, interest group postings, and even excerpts from books (usually by members). I just finished the Fall issue which included articles on apple grafting, jujubes, growing wolfberries, and an excerpt from Grow Fruit Naturally... by Lee Reich. Every issue is full of reports on how members are doing with whatever cultivar they hope to grow in their particular backyard. And there are lots of professionals reporting too, commercial orchardists, and university researchers. (Lots of folks had a tough couple of years, so we didn't feel so bad about our poor half dead trees.) And this is all nuts and bolts, no pie-eyed generalities (or very few).

There are interest groups for all the usual suspects--apples, peaches, pears--and some unusual ones. There is a huge amount of interest in fruits like autumn olive, hawthorn, honeylocust, chestnut, pawpaw, persimmon and haskap (lonicera caerulea) among others. (Some of the groups are in need of chairs--the primary requirement is "interest in the fruit...and desire to learn more about it.")

There is an annual conference--Ohio in 2013. We haven't made it yet, but are hoping to. This year's was in Saskatoon and in addition to the many talks, attendees toured local growers and the research facilities at the U of SK.

I get 2 or 3 emails a day from the listserv, and the topics cover a wildly diverse amount of material, usually about fruit, but occasionally chickens or something else will pop in--most everything has some relevance. Weather always, apple butter recipes, and what better fertilizer than well composted poultry manure?!

There are other perks too--access to seed, or scions or bud wood for grafting, The Fruit Grafter's Handbook is available to members as a pdf download.

NAFEX is a wonderful resource, especially for those fairly new to growing. And it helped the fellow hoping to found a local fruit growers group find us.

Information about joining NAFEX can be found at nafex.org

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Autumn Leaves & the Native Big Tooth Maple

 We took a few hours off and drove up to 4th of July Canyon to see the changing leaves that give the canyon its name. The fireworks were in full swing, coloring the landscape with deepest reds, delicate pinks and translucent yellows, to bright golds and oranges. Amazing how one tree can have so many expressions. When it colors, the leaves take on a tissue thin appearance, very soft and appealing.

The big tooth maple, acer grandidentatum, is a native New Mexican. It grows in moist canyons at higher elevations, but can be persuaded to come down. It's a nice choice for rain gardens; put it in a shallow bowl that captures run off from the roof or hillsides. It's an understory tree, but seems to be more robust in full sun. It's a sugar maple too, and can be tapped for syrup where the weather remains cooler.

 The cottonwood is another favorite change artist; the deep yellow truly glows, and the leaf color persists quite a while. The mountain alder turns a more prosaic yellow, pretty, but every leaf falls overnight at the first hard freeze. It can be tapped too, but mine have really suffered in the last two years of drought, losing a third of their mass. We'll need to clean out the dead wood soon.

 Aspens, of course, have beautiful gold fall color, especially at the highest elevations. At lower levels, they can be kind of sickly unless they get regular moisture. In ABQ they can sucker from one end of the yard to the other--best planted where there's a lot of space.

A native vine that can be relied upon for a burst of reddest reds, Virginia creeper was strutting its stuff in the canyon, too. It's also great at lower elevations, beautiful right now in ABQ. It has pretty berries too, relished by wildlife.

It took me a while to appreciate the oaks. The Gambel and Burr oaks we have up here seemed scrubby and dull after the live oaks of the deep south. But these oaks have many valuable assets--wildlife cover and forage, windbreaks (the leaves often remain all winter even after they turn brown) and screens. They hold soil on steep slopes. We were so fortunate that the wildfires several years ago stopped just short of 4th of July Canyon. As we drove in, the hillsides were daggered with the charred remains of the Ponderosas that had covered them, and beneath, a carpet of oak, already two and three feet tall, coloring the hills with red, brown, orange, and every subtle tint in between.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Old Gardens

In the last few months, at least three popular magazines have showcased Monticello, Jefferson's Virginia plantation. As someone married to a Virginia boy, I've visited Monticello several times, falling in love with it each time; it's an important part of our nation's history, it's beautiful in it's own right, and the vegetable gardens are an inspiration. But we have a little known piece of history right here in New Mexico, that is equally deserving of a little publicity.

A generation before Jefferson leveled his mountaintop, the first buildings were going up at El Rancho de las Golandrinas here in New Mexico. Just south of Santa Fe, the ranch of the swallows became an important way station, a paraje, along the Camino Real, and today is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Like Monticello, it's a beautiful place to visit, the only living history museum in the state, and the Fall Harvest Festival is one of the best times to go.

Fall blooming chamisa in front of the arbor
 Re-enactors skillfully recreate the day to day activities of Spanish New Mexicans in the early 1700's. Tortillas are baked in hornos, wool is washed with yucca soap, the smithy is full of sound and fury, ladies in sweeping skirts thunder by on silver decked horses. The original buildings of the ranch were restored and the site opened as a museum in 1972. Other historic buildings have been relocated to Las Golandrinas, and add to the fullness of the experience.

the grain mill
Water made Las Golandrinas possible, the springs still flowing today with enough strength to power a grain mill, one of the most fascinating parts of the visit. A smaller mill is new since our last visit, and held the kids in thrall, as wheat dropped onto the mill stone and emerged as flour.

the acequia
the mill pond
 Some of the oldest still functioning acequias, irrigation ditches, are here still carrying water to the mills and the fields where pumpkins, millet and other crops were being harvested.

The grains were prepared as they would have been in the 18th century; enormous round loaves of bread came out of cast iron cauldrons suspended over wood fires. They smelled wonderful, and the men dressed up in soldiers' uniforms were obviously enjoying their lunches.

There are orchards here too, and children lined up to press apples for cider. We had to pull our grandson away from this one, after he enthusiastically began testing the 'samples.' A vineyard offers grapes, and smaller kids got to climb into a little 'foot powered' press. The boy declined, but our granddaughter loved it. No samples of the wine, though.

The cider press

Feeding hungry soldiers

the herbalist
The dye pot

Herbs and native plants were vitally important to the early Spanish, and were used as seasonings, dyes, and medicines. There were a number of activities showing how they were used. Ladies in the hot sun in the church courtyard spun and embroidered, others prepared dyes and dipped wool yarns that dryed to vibrant colors.

In the afternoon, dancers and musicians entertained the crowds with  Spanish folk dances and colorful, twirling costumes, one more example of the unique cultural heritage of New Mexico.

It was a beautiful October day, sunny and breezy, towering trees taking on their autumn colors and giving blessed shade, flowing water never far away. It's easy to see what made New Mexico so attractive to our earliest colonists, and what makes it 'enchanted' even today.

Yarns dyed with cocchineal

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

State Fair, Flowers & Windmills

We made time this year to visit the State Fair. Haven't had time in the last several years, but always enjoy it. It should come as no surprise that I spend 90% of my visit inspecting flower beds and containers, and greening (as in with envy) over the vegetables and fruits entered in the agricultural exhibits. I always look at my pumpkins with a touch of chagrin after seeing the 800 to 1000 pound wonders sporting their blue ribbons. This year's biggest pumpkin was grown in Nob Hill!

We checked out the 4-H Exhibits, the products of New Mexico (the cattle ranchers went all out this year!), and the county displays. In addition to all the pecans, sheep, and peppers in the cases, I counted 14 windmills (I notice them now--our's is kind of iconic). Windmills have been vital to ranchers and farmers here for over a hundred years. Given our wind, that's no surprise. In the 1890's they were high tech, probably second only to the hose in revolutionizing agriculture.
In the wool shop, we watched volunteers weave, card and dye wool. They were using snakeweed for the color yellow. They use many native plants for dyes. In the photo, a yellow batch has been overdyed in indigo, and turns green, then blue, oxidizing in the air as we watched. Mesmerizing.

We saw some beautiful handicrafts. There were some amazing quilts--I bought raffle tickets for the balloon fiesta themed quilt in the photo.

We rode not one ride--not the ferris wheel, or the tilt-a-whirl, or the bungy thing-a-ma-jig. Wink ate curley fries, a hot dog, a corn dog, ice cream, TWO fried twinkies, and about a gallon of lemonade. Aly and I were more modest in consumption.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The First Honey

Wilbur decided to pull honey today, the first from these two surviving hives, the first since leaving Florida. Gilly was here with her girl, Kaiya, and they pitched in. It's always nice to have help when robbing bees--multiple targets, etc. And Kaiya got to try out her new Kaiya sized bee hat. Never underestimate the power of new hats.

He'd hoped to get more, but decided to take only three frames after checking the state of things. We'd had visions of spending the whole afternoon processing honey, but--well, we did spend the whole afternoon, but not because there was so much...

After scratching open the cells, he put the frames into the honey extractor, a centrifuge for manually extracting honey from the cells. They all got to try it out, cranking the handle as hard as they could, waiting for the honey to come flying out, and waiting, and cranking, and rubbing sore arms, and waiting...

That was, wow, the thickest honey in the world. I'd have thought it was almost frozen except that it was still warm enough for shorts (well, Aly was in shorts). We resorted to our old method of crush and drain, but the honey did not drain--it just lay there in the sieve, glistening oozily but not oozing. We finally loaded it into stockings and squeezed it from the wax using brute force.

We're stumped about why the honey was so thick--but the taste was a delight and unexpected. It was spicy with a high floral note and a pronounced tang--almost orange blossomy. Kaiya ate so much she ruined her dinner--but not dessert--chocolate pot de creme ladled over meringue, topped with chocolate ganache and whipped cream. Oh, that Bel...

Monday, September 17, 2012

An Herbal Walk

 After giving classses all summer, I finally had time to attend one. We all went on an herbal walk, and then made tinctures with the native plants we gathered.

Despite all the herbs we grow, and have planted in our own garden, Aly and I haven't had the nerve to try using them for any but the usual culinary applications (me cooking, her and Wilbur eating). I have tried the toothache plant, and the feverfew, chewing a few leaves cautiously, and of course tea--chamomile, et al. but....guess the warnings in the herbal books gave me pause. I have seen some remarkable results with herbs since we've been in New Mexico, and my curiosity has been piqued. Many of my customers are involved with herbs, and alternative practices, and when one suggested the walk, well...sometimes you just have to be shown something--

Now, let me say, I have been growing hop tree from seed, and have a hawthorne in my own landscape, but I never would have recognized them in their native habitat. They look nothing like mine, or the pictures in books, even good books! It was great to have a guide who recognized them, and could tell us about their herbal uses. Each of us had a tiny jelly jar which we stuffed with leaves, berries, and /or seeds. (Part of our pre-walk intro was a discussion of harvesting wild plants sustainably, taking only a small portion and only if the plant material was abundant). We each chose something different.
Hop or Wafer Ash Tree

We hadn't even left the parking area when we encountered native hyssop, mostly past its bloom period but a few still showing purple petals. The leaves of hyssop make a calming tea. Nearby, though not on the tour, was a stunning stand of native geranium blooming in full sun! I'm guessing Fremont geranium--a purply magenta color, and just swarming with bees. We have native geranium down in our arroyo, but its a blue purple, and very sparse. Then there was globe mallow, ubiquitous in the mountains; its a demulcent--chew the leaf to make a 'spit poultice.'

Our next encounter was creeping mahonia, a groundcover with an edible berry. Most people are familiar with mahonia aquifolium, flowering yellow in late winter, a much larger shrub though also with an edible berry. It grows well here though its native range is farther west. Mahonia repens is native and very common here, in moist canyons at higher elevations. The berries are high in vitamin C.

The hop or wafer ash tree is a scrubby small tree or large shrub. I was kind of relieved to see that the native looked as stressed as my seedlings. I'm forming a theory that natives, being native, are familiar to native pests. These hop trees were stippled  and discolored, and when the leaves were turned, the backsides were dotted with the husks of native insects. Hmmm. But I still chose it as the subject for my tincture. It's good for the stomach.

the lacy 'wafer' seed of the hop or wafer ash

We inspected mountain mahogany, some springing straight from rock, and the hawthorne, a small, graceful tree dotted with red berries--good for the heart. Artemesia will kill parasites like giardia when boiled in the water, and can be taken internally for the same purpose. Our guide uses it as a topical for poison ivy. There were large patches of woods rose, the hips also high in vitamin C.

As we passed a bank on the way back, I dug my hand into the soil--rich, dark, moist and crumbly. We have so many kinds of soil in such a small area. Wish I had some of this!

After the walk, we made our tinctures, or prepared them--they have to steep in alcohol for six weeks before we squeeze the moisture out, and bottle the resulting liquids.

We each carefully washed and dried our small harvest, then tore or snipped the leaves into small bits. They were crammed back into the jelly jar and covered with alcohol, not rubbing alcohol--this was ordered specially. Every day, we'll shake the jars to keep the leaves covered, and maybe push the contents down with a spoon if they don't seem to be settling into the alcohol. In six weeks, we'll discard the plant material, and put the liquid into dropper bottles.
Wilbur preps the hawthorne

We each got a bottle of usnea which was ready to drain and be used. Usnea (I had to look it up on wikipedia) is a lichen that grows in alpine conditions. It has an ancient heritage, and is a powerful anti-bacterial.

Next? We're going to try tincturing clary sage; not only is it beautiful, it has many beneficial properties!

Aly drains the usnea

Monday, September 10, 2012

Collecting Seed

annual, perennials, veggies, trees, shrubs...
Among other things keeping us hopping despite the shop closing for the season, we're seed collecting. I know there must be some way to keep this organized, but by this time in the season we're knee deep in paper bags, butter tubs, styrofoam cups, and plastic baggies of seed. In the kitchen, there's usually several cups of seed soaking by the sink, and there are dozens of baggies in the fridge. I've been trying to extract order from this chaos all week. I must clear my bench!

Can't move them under the bench--there's more seed down there. I'd shift it all to the desk, but could it be? More seed?!
One of our goals this year (chaos conquered) is to participate in the American Horticultural Society's seed exchange. The AHS was founded in 1922 and is 90, and has been an influence on gardening in America for lo these many years. Over the years they've funded an awards program, helped develop nomenclature standards for plants, been part of the Plant Hardiness Zone map, instituted youth gardening programs and more. I always enjoy reading their magazine, The American Gardener (free with membership). The seed exchange is open to all members, but those who donate seed get first pick from the catalog. But there must be order!

A few tips on seed collecting:
  • Label immediately--weeks down the road, you really are not going to be able to differentiate penstemon barbatus from p.parryi. I know.
  • Let seed ripen fully. One good sign is browning pods and capsules. Become familiar with what a particular seed looks like; the internet is a good resource. Unripe seed will not germinate. If we cut flower stalks that seem a little green, we hang them upside down in paper bags to finish drying.
  • Seed from fruit (any seed surrounded by pulp) should be cleaned. Washing helps remove germination inhibitors (we get great germination from New Mexico privet if we plant it right after cleaning).
  • Some seed does not keep and should be planted immediately but most will keep for years if stored properly. Seed that gets buggy (think hollyhock weevil) can go into the freezer. 
  • Veggie seed is pretty straightforward. Clean it; dry it. Some veggies like beets and celery are biennial; they set seed the second year, and will need to be protected over the winter if you want to save seed. If you planted more than one variety, say of corn, and they are in near proximity, they will cross pollinate. Plants grown from that seed will be hybrids (true of any plants close enough to interbreed).  Plant only one variety, keep well separated, or cover blooms.
We're hoping to repeat the seed starting course this winter; check facebook or the blog for announcments.

The National Agricultural Library has a pdf of an excellent resouce on seed germination--
Seed germination Theory and Practice.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

ArtFest 2012

ArtFest went pretty well this year. We remembered the trash cans and the balloons (the gas canister--brand new--was empty--manual blowing up blows). We only had one no show, and only one vendor opted out early. Sure wish we could get confirmations from the artists earlier. When half the show doesn't "show" until the last two weeks, we don't have time to get the advertising that we can now afford. Oh well...

Our artists were great this year, both returning and new. The quality of the work was especially good, and many visitors came back the second day. We had several calls after the show for artists' contact info.
Left to right--Brian Gebert, Kim Mason, Carolyn Watermiller, Alyson East

The Best of Show prize went to Kim Mason and Brian Gebert, jewelers and metal work. In a tie for second were potter Carolyn Watermiller and Michele Powers-Hardy, jeweler (the blue jean & boots table is hers'). My camera does not do justice to their work, or those of the following artists.
Gebert & Mason

Carolyn Watermiller aka Clay Woman

Alyson & Michele Powers-Hardy
Michele Powers-Hardy
Winners were selected by popular vote, with visitors marking their ballots with the booth number of their choice. First place received $100, and the second place winners received $50 each. We wish each artist could be honored for their creativity and skill. Here are a few more pictures--
Susana Andrews
Susana Andrews is a previous Best of Show winner. Her weaving demonstration is always popular with visitors.
Vicki Hudson
Vicki Hudson incorporate unique elements in her jewelry--and then frames them beautifully, gift within a gift.
Joyce McKenstry
Joyce McKenstry has been at ArtFest three years running. Her jewelry designs are classic.
Don Lightburn
Wilbur is on his second cholla walking stick from Don Lightburn. His canes are sturdy but light, and skillfully crafted.

Karen & Dana Robbins
The Robbins hand blown glass was very popular, and displayed everything from Christmas ornaments, to hummingbird feeders, to an artful pumpkin.

Wendell Unzicker
The "Unzipped" colored pencil  work by Wendell Unzicker was colorful, slightly surreal, and wholly beautiful.
Neal Drago

Martie Anspach
Richard Elvis
Richard Elvis' lightcatchers etch a fairy on the wall...

Belinda East--Bel was a huge help, a cheerful greeter, and an artist herself when she's not teaching.
Don Shapiro, seated, & friend
We can't forget our musicians Don Shapiro and Drew Fowler. Don and friend are playing cigar box guitars. The guitars are made in Madrid and sold at Roadside Attraction. They have a wonderful sound, and look great too.