It’s All About the Water

Since moving to Colorado I have had some serious doubts about my green thumb. I have killed a lot of plants and had several garden fails. I do include the ...

The Market Season is Upon Us

Some things are worth repeating. One of them is the schedule of farmer’s markets. Why, you might ask? Because now is the time. Drake Road Farmer’s Market was the first ...

Gettin’ Your Buzz On

Sorry for the post title. I couldn’t help myself. Yesterday was the day for bees in Fort Collins. I know of several folks who went to Copoco’s Honey to pick up ...

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TBT Pie Season

It’s a travel day for work. Poor me. Driving through the mountains during beautiful July. Seeing all the signs for peaches made me think of pie! Trust me, I’ll be heading home with a box or two of delicious palisade peaches. That leads me to share a post from last July. This crust is killer! Enjoy.

birthday pieIt’s here. The season is coming into full swing and the veggie choices are growing. And the best part? The peaches are here!!

The things you can find at the farmers market are herbs (basil for pesto anyone?), tomatoes, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, strawberries, carrots, peppers, kale, chard, eggplants, beets, salad greens and more. Last weekend I picked up some apricots that were divine along with peaches for a cobbler. It’s pie season!

This week was the hubby’s birthday. He’s a pie man more than a cake man. I am in full agreement there, so here is the wonderful pie recipe I used this week. This crust is incredible!

 

 

Triple Berry Pie

Crust

  • 2 1/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 6 to 7 tbs. cold water

A good non-bleached flour is best, sometimes mixing it half and half with a wheat pastry flour. I prefer sea salt over table. It has a strong flavor so moderation is key. Earth Balance shortening in the sticks is the only way to go. Once I made this crust with it I haven’t used anything else.

Mix all the ingredients, except the water in a food processor, pulsing about 15 times until you have a crumbly mixture. Then, add the tbs. of water, first 4 then pulse a couple times, then the last two and pulse a couple times. The mixture should stick together without being too wet and gooey, and should not crumble too easily. The trick to pie crust is not to over work it. You should split the batch into two dough balls.

Flour your rolling surface and from the middle of the ball of dough working out. Back and forth works the dough a bit much and can cause tears in the dough. Work firmly and evenly until the dough is to your thickness liking. Somewhere around a 1/4 inch. Flouring the rolling pin helps too. The dough shouldn’t stick to the pin. Place the first dough circle into the bottom of your pie plate and keep the second for the top.

The Fillingberries

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tbs. cornstarch
  • 2 tbs. quick cooking tapioca
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 cups each: raspberries, blackberries, hulled and halved strawberries
  • 1 tbs. cold butter, unsalted and diced small

Mix the first five ingredients then sprinkle them over the berries, mixing evenly. If your berries are super juicy, you may want to add a little more tapioca. I use tapioca flour, which acts as a binder and thickens the juice so you don’t have berry juice pie. Pour your berry mix into your pie shell and dot with the butter chunks.

Add the top crust and cut the overhanging dough to the edge of the pie plate. Seal the two crusts. Dab water between the edges of the two layers if you need to make a good seal. Pinch the edges for that classic pie crust look and poke small venting holes in the top and a couple slits to release the steam during baking.

Egg washing the top of the crust makes for a crisp top nicely browned. Just beat an egg white and brush over the top, finishing with a sprinkle of sugar. I like to use a sugar like Florida Crystals versus plain white sugar. The taste is subtler than white or substitute sugars. It lets the berries take center stage for the sweet.

Then, bake for 50-60 minutes in a 350 degree oven. If the top starts to brown too much before the pie is done, throw a loose piece of tin foil on top.

Serve warm with homemade vanilla bean ice cream if your feeling adventurous.

Enjoy! I know we did.

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Reader VIP Party at Lodge Sasquatch!

Scoop-Blog-Network-VIP-flyer

They’re here! Are you ready for the first round of our blogger events? Join us at The Lodge Sasquatch Kitchen on Tuesday, August 5th from 8:30-10:30 pm to hang out, chat about Fort Collins food and farming, and have a good time offline.

The Lodge has reserved space for us upstairs and is providing appetizers and the first round of drinks for your ticket price. You are more than welcome to purchase more drinks and entrees if you’d like! This is a ticketed event, and there will NOT be ticket sales at the door. We’re only selling a limited amount too, so get them while you can. You can purchase them through this link!

The money from ticket sales is going toward our updated website fundraiser that we’re doing. Missed those details? Then here’s that post. Don’t forget that you can get your Shirts With Perks, too! And if you can’t make any of our events this month, or purchase a shirt, then we have donation options available as well. Every little bit will help and we appreciate your support!

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Shirts with Perks – Scoop Blog Network Fundraiser

Since the beginning of the year the Scoop Blog Network has been planning on a new website for all of our blogs in the network. We realized that we didn’t need to give each blog an upgrade, rather, we needed to bring the whole network together into one site to share information with all of you in a better and easier format. Like a Fort Collins meets Huffington Post magazine site, but a heck of a lot better looking.

Each blog in the site will be listed at the top navigation bar so you can easily see what else is going on in the city without having to look very far. Want to know where to eat and catch some entertainment after the farmer’s market? It will be a click away, taking the need to search several publications /websites off your hands. Have kids? Learn about what’s happening in the city that’s of interest to families. The point is to make all the information we procure easily accessible to all of our readers in the network.

You’ll be able to see a list of most recent posts on our home page. We’ll have a Most Popular Posts section so you can see what everyone in Fort Collins is talking about and you don’t want to miss out on the details. We’ll also have a comprehensive community calendar on our sidebar. You’ll be able to sort events by a specific blog – so you can see all of the ag related events from Farming Fort Collins, historical events from Forgotten Fort Collins, Happy Hours from Late Night Fort Collins, etc. etc. etc. We will have THE CALENDAR that you want to look at to plan your Fort Collins fun.

backSo, this is what we have been working on in the background. When it comes to each blog section on the site, we want to make them easier to search so you can fine the info you’re looking for. We’re going to get a reader survey out so you can tell us what you need – both in our new website function and what kind of blog posts you want to read (or don’t).

This is one big and exciting project in our evolution. After coding and design costs, we’re looking at raising $10,000 to cover the building/design costs to make this happen. After researching several options, including a few conversations with the bank, we came to the conclusion that it’s going to take a village. Since our main focus is to build community and dialogue we decided it had to be something that incorporated all of those things. Rather than the typical crowdfunding campaign, we actually wanted to provide our readers with more value, and more opportunities to enjoy this wonderful city we live in. So we went a little bit old skool, with a twist. Hence, Shirts With Perks! Each blog in the network will have a selection of shirts and hoodies that you can purchase. A portion of each purchase goes to our website development. By selling 2,000 shirts we can completely fund the new site, AND you have access to all sorts of fun perks!

front vneckWhat’s in it for all of you, you might ask? Not only do you get a nifty shirt in support of yours truly, or one of your other favorite bloggers, but we’re also planning a boatload of events with our readers. That’s where the perks come in. Since we’re hosting a ton of events over the coming months, if you show up in your Perk Shirt, you’ll get VIP treatment. That could be free event access, a drink on the house, a free ice cream at our upcoming ice cream social. Whatever we’re doing you will get discounts, free stuff and exclusive benefits that other folks won’t be getting. Why? Because you support us! And that support means a lot to us and allows us to keep providing great local content for FREE!

The t-shirt campaign only runs for 21 days! As soon as we sell 25 of them, the shirts will start shipping out. That means you can get your shirt by our first group of events in August (details coming soon!)

Thanks so much for reading and helping us reach our goal of building a better website for you. It means the world to us!

 

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County Fair Time

county fairIt’s that time of year when those months long 4H projects come to their conclusion with shows, pies and preserved goods find a blue ribbon or two, and rodeos and the carnivals are cranking loud and rebellious in the Colorado sunshine.

This weekend is the last of Cheyenne Frontier Days, ending July 27. The weekend of August 1st is our own Larimer County Fair and also the Denver County Fair.

The Larimer County Fair began it’s competitions July 18 and will go through August 6. The Fair will start its lead up this week with 4H shows and various rodeos and barrel racing. The big fair with all it’s vendors and events starts August 1. There you can check out the 4H barns, there will be a host of shows and vendors, and domestic competitions will be displayed in one of the buildings. The Fair is held at the Ranch in Loveland. The Gnarly Barley Brewfest will also be held there on August 2.

022The Weld County Fair is an annual free event, held from July 23 to July 28. The Fair is open to the public and boasts a variety of displays and contests. The Fair gives the youth and adults of Weld County an opportunity to exhibit their skills in a wide range of areas including agriculture, livestock, natural resources, engineering, consumer and family, fine arts, horticulture and family living. It is held at the Weld County Fairgrounds, Island Grove Regional Park, in Greeley.

The Denver County Fair , held August 1 to August 3, honors most of the fine traditions of America’s county fairs, which have been enjoyed by millions of people for over 100 years. But, they are NEW – founded in 2011. Today, Denver is a progressive, bustling metropolis, forging a reputation as “the new creative capital.” So expect them to do things differently than the fairs that were established last century, or the century before. Their motto – “We are new, we are urban and we are still pioneers!”

010The Boulder County Fair, Livestock Show and Rodeo, held August 1 to August 10, in Longmont Colorado. There will be a host of events including a Farm to Table dinner, a craft distillery festival, rodeo, 4H, music, a 5K and more.

The Colorado State Fair in Pueblo will be held August 22 to September 1. Since 1869 the Colorado State Fair has continued to grow into one of the biggest events in the state. Rodeo, exhibitions, concerts and more. Their motto, “Educating Youth in Agriculture.”

 

 

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Chicken Surgery

Have you ever had to perform any sort of chicken surgery/procedure? How did you figure it out? How did it turn out?

When you raise animals, especially ones beyond the average pet variety, you quickly learn how to doctor your animals. At least to a small degree. The more animals you have, the more potential for large vet bills, so having a few skills is helpful.

chicken surgery 3This weekend I was performing the usual chores. Cleaning coops, cleaning out all the waterers. While I was puttering about, I noticed two birds limping. One, a guinea hen, has always had a limp due to an unfortunate interaction with a dog in its youth. The other, my favorite little chicken, has never had a limp. I noticed her first. Between two of her toes were two noticeable bumps. The guinea, who has always had a deformed foot, was the same only more swollen than usual. So, it was to the books and the internet for me. I quickly, and thankfully easily, was able to diagnose the two as having bumblefoot.

Bumblefoot, or plantar pododermatitis, is an infection on the bottom of a chicken’s foot. Usually noticeable by a bump and a dark scab on the pad of the foot. You may notice either the bump or the limping first. The infection is typically the result of an injury, cut or abrasian to the foot. Injury can also result from the roost (check for splinters), heavy landings from a roost that is too high, or poor litter management. Vitamin deficiencies can also be a cause. The injured area is then susceptible to infection, resulting in an abscess. Failure to treat can result in death.

chicken surgery 2Making sure your flock has a balanced diet and regular checking for injuries is a good starting point. Whether your flock is in a suburban backyard or free range in a pasture they can get into all manner of trouble.

If you find your chicken has bumblefoot, and can’t get to a chicken vet, there are plenty of tutorials and videos online to assist you. That is the course I took, not having an avian vet. ***Folks, I am not a vet or a professional, just a regular joe chicken wrangler, so as with anything on the internet take it with a grain of salt and when you can get to the professionals for treatment or advice do so.

These are some of the things you want in your chicken medicine cabinet in the event you need to provide care yourself, like on a mellow Sunday morning of chores.

> Epsom salt

> Betadine

> Vetericyn ( I also use Schreiner’s, a great anti-fungal anti-bacterial herbal solution. You can find it in the equestrian section)

> Triple antibiotic ointment like neosporin (do not use the variety with pain medication, it is toxic to the chicken)

> gloves

> gauze

> vet wrap

> scalpel (I found sterile disposable scalpels at Jax ranch and home store in the equestrian section. $1.50 each)

> sanitized bucket

> tweezers (optional)

> clean towel (that you don’t mind getting gross!) and some paper towels.

chicken surgery 4*I also keep several other items in my aresenal like nutrient drench, electrolytes, and sunscreen (for birds whose backs are feather free from pickers or molting).

One person can perform the surgery, but two is definitely better. If you are weak of stomach, definitely have help. Or find someone who can perform the procedure. (This is Fort Collins folks, if you spit you can hit a vet student. Just sayin’, but don’t spit. It’s rude.)

First pick a clean and well lighted area. I chose a table outside, cleaning the table with bleach first. Cut strips of the vet wrap, about 1″ wide and 4-6″ long. Have everything you need ready. If your instruments (scalpel, tweezers) aren’t in sanitized packages clean them in a bleach solution before and after each use. Everything I read indicated the procedure would take about an hour.

Clean the affected foot (I did both to ensure more cleanliness) using the betadine solution. Then soak the affected foot in warm water and epsom salt. Spray with Vetericyn.

Wrap the chicken in the towel, making sure the bird can breathe freely. Don’t cover their head. Wrapping them keeps them from flapping and calms them to some degree.

You want to make sure you have gloves on. The procedure can be messy and infections can be passed to humans and other animals.

Take the scalpel and cut the pad in a circle around the scab at a slight angle to get under the infection. The pad will bleed, but should not be large amounts. Keep a paper towel close by to keep the area clean. Under the scab, or attached to it, will usually be a hard yellow kernel like substance. This is the infection. If it is not hardened it may be yellow and stringy. At this point, if there is a kernal remove it. You may want to gently work any swollen areas to see if any remaining pus can be removed. Soaking again in a betadine or epsom salt and water solution will assist. Once the removal is complete, clean and spray with Vetericyn again.

chicken surgery 1At this point get the gauze and coat the open wound area with the antibiotic ointment. Cover with gauze and secure in place with vet wrap. Vet wrap is amazing. It is self adhesive and stays in place well. Wrap around the gauze, between the toes and around the ankle until everything is covered and secure. Clean regularly (every 24 hours) and spray with Vetericyn each time.

If the infection is extensive, antibiotics may be necessary. The size of the swelling, if extreme, is a good indicator antibiotics may be needed in addition to the procedure and regular cleaning.

If you want to learn more there are a lot of great resources online. There are several comprehensive how to videos of the procedure and proper bandaging techniques if you google “bumblefoot in chickens”. Just don’t wait until you need them! And keep those supplies on hand. I need to head out and check on my girls now. Good luck keeping your flock happy and healthy.

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Delayed post

I’ve been a little sidetracked today, researching and conducting chicken surgery. Come back tomorrow to read all about it.

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Farm Tours

Vector-Image-Bicycle-Men-GraphicsFairy21Funk weeks Brewery is hosting four farm tours, one each Wednesday in August. Folks can meet at the brewery at 5:00,  1900 East Lincoln, Unit B in Fort Collins, where you’ll bike to the farm, take a tour and enjoy some brews.

The cost of the tour is free. If you get some farm goodies and don’t have a bike basket, don’t worry, they’ll get your goodies back to Funkwerks for you. Sound interesting so far? Well if it is here’s the lineup.

August 5 – Native Hill Farm
August 13 – Spring Kite Farm
August 20 – Jodar Farm
August 27 – Essex Homestead

Reserve a spot at Funkwerks 970-482-FUNK.

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Farmer Profile: Nic Koontz of Native Hill Farm

NicKoontzThis past Tuesday was a gorgeous day. Perfect for an early evening farm visit. I pass Native Hill Farm often on my way home. I’ve watched it grow over the last couple seasons, most recently with the addition of a honor system farm stand. Nic was gracious to meet with me after a long day. Katie Slota, the farm and Nic’s other half, was at a board meeting for the Food Co-op. It’s hard to pin one farmer down during the season, even harder to pin down two! It’s a busy life.

Nic came to Colorado via Indiana, Texas and Pennsylvania, with a few other locales thrown in the mix. While educated in Bio Systems Engineering, he came across farming through working at the student run organic market farm for three years at Clemson University, where he went to school. Following that he gained another two years of experience working on a farm in Alaska and a mid scale CSA/market farm in eastern Pennsylvania. He was also reading a lot about topics that resonated with him like the works of Wendell Berry and Edward Abbey. He thought about consumerism and the lack of a sense of place many folks have. Long having thought that farmers are the true philosophers, my conversation with Nic led me to believe he definitely fits the profile.

About six years ago Nic took the plunge and leased some land on Shields. He was working as an engineer in town, for what he describes as a great company. It just wasn’t a fit for him. Through farming Nic found a place to apply both his idealogy and his education. Farm work is more than digging in the dirt and harvesting vegetables. There are a myriad number of things to fix and problems to solve. That engineering degree comes in handy with irrigation and mechanical concerns popping up on a regular basis. What Nic expressed that he liked best was that he can be working on pumps, have an opportunity to be creative while also working on the larger issues that he cares about.

With that fateful decision to lease land and take on farming, Nic was also involving himself in the local food movement. He spoke at Matterhorn’s first annual town meeting on food. It was at that event that he met Katie. Originally from KatieSlotaWisconsin, Katie majored in microbiology and holds a master’s in environmental health. Having mutual concerns and passions, they talked after the event. Katie eventually came to work in the greenhouse. The relationship grew and they grew Native Hill Farm together. Two years ago they were both able to leave their off farm jobs and focus on farming full time. As Nic expressed, “When your split, you aren’t doing either job well.”

This year marks the farm’s sixth season. At the corner of Taft Hill Road and 287 they lease six acres. To the east they lease another acre and are just getting ready to cultivate another four acres west of the main farm. The goal is to have three times the land than that in cultivation each year. Growing towards regularly farming ten acres, that would mean thirty acres would need to be available. For rotation, cultivation and rest. Nic explains that they are not motivated to own the land they farm. They are part of the evolution of traditional farming, where land is historically passed down generationally, and they have peace with leasing the land. The motivation is to be viable. And with land prices what they are, owning doesn’t necessarily equate to viability.

Native Hill Farm is lucky to service solely to Old Town. They don’t deliver any further south than Cafe Vino on College. In the farm’s second year they started their market CSA, as the land originally leased when the farm started did not allow for any visitors. The CSA currently consists of 145 members, with an additional 30 trade shares with working members. As a testament to their popularity, they sold out their shares  in two days. Nic explained the reasoning behind choosing the market share versus the traditional box share. “While the traditional box share works for the farm, it doesn’t always work for the customer.” Through the market share folks get to pick what they want each week. With the box share, members receive a variety of vegetables based on what the farm has available. While box shares are much easier to plan for, Nic has found many of his customers prefer the free choice share that they can pick up at the market each week at the Larimer County Farmer’s Market in Old Town, and the weekly farmer’s market at Beaver’s Market. In addition to the farmer’s market, they sell to 4-8 restaurants and now have the farmstand at Taft Hill/287.

I asked Nic if they were seasonal or year round. He explained the first few years they experimented with selling at the Winter Market and the Food Co-op. About three years ago they offered a nine week fall share. This allowed them an opportunity for learning and market development. The fall share consisted of 1/2 storage and 1/2 fresh items. This was a great option to extend the 24 week market season. This year they are offering a 26 week fall/winter/spring (November Native Hill Stand 2to late March) share in addition to the 24 week summer share. This winter share will consist of storage vegetables and fresh greeens from the hoop houses. Their hoophouses currently cover a quarter acre. The two shares combined will provide 50 weeks of veggie shares, taking only two weeks a year off for both farmers and eaters. Nic stated that they took this as a professional challenge in their 5th year to extend to a year round model. “It’s nice to have some continuity.” As it stands, right now their thoughts and planning are on next spring.

If that wasn’t enough, Nic explained how he and Katie are always looking at the larger picture and how they can impact that greater vision. “Growing food is a powerful thing. We’re able to watch kids grow up on our food. And they stay with you.” The vision includes him still growing food in thirty years . While he says they have no unrealistic expectation of making a living, they seem to be doing pretty good. Having established themselves over the last six years they are currently finding balance and managing their time better. “We’re excited about getting home at a reasonable hour and cooking what we’ve grown. Walking the dog.” It’s impressive that they have found that balance considering the number of things they are involved in. As mentioned earlier Katie is on the board of the Food Co-op. They are also active in the Building Farmer’s Classes. Nic as an advisory and class development participant and Katie as a teacher.

In looking to the future his eye is set on conservation and cooperation among farmers. While many farmers have a willingness to show up and coming farmer’s the ropes, it isn’t always possible. If a farmer is showing you how to till and plant and harvest, it means they aren’t using that time to do their own farming. Always thinking of how to address these concerns, coversation turned toward cooperative endeavors. A recent CSU Specialty Crops Grant was awarded to investigate how to create a multi-farm cooperative CSA, in partnership with Carl of GreenDog Farm. While such cooperatives are not new, this one is particularly interesting as all the farms involved cater to the same geographic market.

morningharvest-native hillIn looking at cooperatives like this one, Nic explains that there is great potential to not only share equipment and knowledge and reduce small scale competition. There is opportunity to create more viability for each farm than is available through several small independent and individual farms. The farms involved could also simplify, through specializing in a few crops rather than each farm juggling twenty to forty crop varieties. This type of cooperation would also allow for them to expand the potential market, reducing the small pool competition that can be found in areas like Old Town. While small independent farms may not have the infrastructure and resources to expand up the canyons, to Denver or North, a collective of farmers could. Thereby reaching more customers who want good local food, and again, creating sustainability for each farm.

As the sun started to wain over the mountains, we wrapped up our conversation. Nic ended with this note, an example of his passion for farming and evolving, “I would love to do this forever in varying ways.” Yup. I get it.

If you want to learn more about Native Hill Farms or where you can find their goods, check out their website or stop by the farmstand when the doors are open!

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Pledge for Produce

10515071_10152303288661185_5695496962926082696_oWe’re lucky that Northern Colorado hosts a multitude of people that care about food. Good food. Locally grown food. That folks laden their tables with numerous vegetables and pasture raised meats. We truly live in a world of abundance. If you take a closer look, not everyone is at the table of abundance. That is where the “community” rubber hits the road. Sometimes we have to look beyond our own table and see where we can share the abundance. Maybe with someone that we don’t even know. There are a lot of ways to extend the harvest. The Growing Project has found and implemented a few of them.

This week The Growing Project launched it’s Pledge for Produce campaign. Their goal for the Food Finders program is to deliver 15,000 lbs of locally grown food to nonprofits that feed the hungry and to be 90% bike powered.

The Food Finders are a network of volunteers that pick up unwanted or excess produce from local growers and grocers and deliver it to nonprofits that feed the hungry. Most of their deliveries are done on bicycles with trailers. In 2013, Food Finders delivered 10,000 pounds of locally grown produce to hungry people, 85 percent of it by bike.

As they gear up to ride the streets of Fort Collins this season, with trailers overflowing with squash and rainbow chard, they have set a big goal and are determined to increase their impact. The Pledge for Produce is a challenge to the community to do something as well. In conjunction with rescuing 15,000 pounds of food, the Growing Project would like to raise $15,000 to support their organization. Whether that is a penny per pound, a dime, or a dollar, they anticipate your support to helps them immensely.

If your interested in pledging, or learning more about The Growing Project, Food Finders or the Pledge for Produce, you can check out their website.

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Weed ‘em and Reap

 

Hoss 'lil Double Wheel Hoe

Hoss ‘lil Double Wheel Hoe

There aren’t many things I seriously dislike. But weeds. I hate weeds. These insidious little creatures that start off looking benign enough. Manageable even. Then overnight they ravage the landscape coming up like some evil forest from a dark and creepy fairytale. Every year ends with pledges that we will be more prepared. Take preventitive measures to offensively tackle the weed problem. So far it hasn’t happened. We were so focused on irrigation, we didn’t even think about the weeds.

But all is not lost. It will just take a bit of work.

After a couple busy weekends, and some welcome rain in the late spring/early summer, I had such a forest of invasive weeds in my garden. My husband offered to help. But then he couldn’t distinguish the weeds from the plants. We thought the drip irrigation we put in would assist by not watering the walkways, only the rows. But it rained. Often enough for these little buggers to take off.

041This was going to take more than hand weeding on our knees (mind you the garden is about 3,000 square feet, we may have finished by October with that strategy). We needed to pull out the big guns. And so a trip to the shed, or arsenal as it has been referred to, was in order. My husband always says life is easier when you have the right tools. Last year I purchased a Hoss ‘lil Double Wheel Hoe. Not having had a chance to use it, I wasn’t sure what to expect. We put on the oscillating hoes and went to work. I was so amazed I almost cried. A couple trips down the paths and the weeds were dessimated. In a half day I had clear walkways. It comes with an attachment spreader which allows you to choose your width, so you can expand over rows and hoe each side at once. Closer together and you have a great path cutter. Literally, I heard angels singing. I also have the plow attachments, which are great for trenching rows for potatoes and reversed for hilling those potatoe rows during the season. And we have the cultivator teeth. I told my husband between the double wheel hoe and the hand tools I bought, it was clearly the best money I ever spent.

 

Hori Hori and cobra head cultivator

Hori Hori and cobra head cultivator

A friend of mine recently asked me if I had ever tried straw mulching. My answer was a definitive yes. Since my early days of growing food on an organic co-op, the straw method has been a tried and true practice. I love it for so many reasons. It keeps moisture in and for the most part weeds out. If a weed does poke through it pulls out easily. If grass comes up form the straw it is usually growing from the straw and not the ground. Again, making it easy to pull out. We used to first lay newspaper (soy ink based, not full color inserts) down as a first layer. Here where it dries out quickly, that hasn’t worked so well. Each year I tell myself I will mulch early. But alas, I was not prepared and suffered the inevitable takeover of weeds.

So now that the rows are significantly less weedy, and my paths are mostly mulched in straw, I can focus on the care and harvest of what is really important. My plants and vegetables. And it’s only July!

 

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