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 ...

Latest News

Hive Check

hiveYesterday I asked my friend Connie, writer of the blog Urban Overalls, if she and her husband would mind coming over sometime to check my hive before winter. I saw on her facebook account that Mr. Overalls (Todd) was assisting a bee class yesterday. Not only did they say yes, but they came right over to the farm. How awesome is that!

This is my first year with bees. I wrote a post earlier in the year about preparing for the bees and then introducing them. During the summer I did my best to leave them be, once they established and I no longer had to feed them. There was regular activity around the hive and I peeked a couple times inside, and all seemed well. The thing is, I have no idea what I am looking at. Basically for me all was well if I saw any bees at all. Not what I’d recommend for wanting to be more than an amateur.

So I called in the troops and they came. And, I can’t wait to take a class in the spring. I pulled off the top and saw they had just started building out the comb on the small box. I pulled it off and then checked the first super. Full and swarming with activity. Good sign. Todd pointed out the capped honey and the abundance of pollen still being brought in. It’s an odd summer this year, and I still have a lot of flowers and weeds blooming. The bees are doing their best to grab all the pollen they can. He also pointed out the wings of the bees and explained what to look for as to mite infestation.

I tried to pull off the top super, but man, it was heavy. So we let it be and continued to look around. Todd pulled out the board at the bottom where everything falls. There were tons of little orange balls, which were pollen, Amid that there was some evidence of mites, but not significant. Todd pointed out the tiny red dots, that were evidence of the mites. I cleaned the tray and placed it back in. After that, I put together the rest of the hive, eliminating the short box since they had barely started filling in the wax.

Other than checking for continued activity through the entrance, where I placed an entrance reducer, or through the hum of the hive, they’ll pretty much stay shut tight for the winter. To protect from the winds we get up here in Wellington, I’ll place some bales around as a wind break, but not too close. They have stored up plenty of food, and I’ve made sure there is a water source nearby for now. It felt good that my benign neglect actually led to a strong hive. They were so happy and mellow I didn’t even need the smoker (until I went back later to mess with the entrance reducer – a little guy got me in the leg! Ouch!) As for the winter, I will be educating myself so I can become a better and more pro-active beekeeper. I’m also looking forward to honey next year!

How are your hives doing?

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Email

Grieving a loss

Windsor DairyBy now many of you have probably heard of the closing of Windsor Dairy. I hope you join me in extending a thank you to Arden and Meg for everything they have provided the community with their products, their education and their passion. Our community has a big hole to fill.

Whatever the reasons behind their closing and the selling off of the farm, it strikes a deep cord in me. Family farms, small farms, organic farms, close at an alarming rate. Here in Northern Colorado, with what seems like endless bounty and choice at times, is no different. It’s easy to take such access for granted. To assume choice will always be accessible. The loss of Windsor Dairy is a sharp reminder that our system is maybe not as sustainable as one would think.

When I think of the Dairy, I have often assumed a certain level of success in their model. They have been around for nine years. In the current agricultural system for small farms that seems like forever. But the traditional model was ongoing. Success was measured not in years but in generations. I don’t know about any of you, but I kinda miss the traditional model. Where farming is deep rooted and something you can actually make a living at. Maybe that sentiment is romantic or naive. I’d like to think it is possible, on a grand scale. Not just an individual one.

What I find tested in me is my assumptions of success and how I am supporting it in others. At this point I ask that you forgive the soapbox I am about to step on, with the thought that if I don’t choose with my dollars, or my votes, or my habits, then I inevitably lose my variety of choices. If I want biodiversity I need to eat diversely. If I want humanely raised meat, then I have to raise it or buy it from someone I can trust. Someone that will allow me the transparency of a farm visit. If I want to restore my health then I want to know what’s in my food and that it is in fact food and not someone’s lab experiment. So needless to say, I can’t merely bask in the pleasure of local food. I need to put my money where my mouth is and support it in every way I can. And trust me, there is progress to be made on my end.

I think a lot about sustainability. More and more, I think of it in terms of economic sustainability. Not just environmental. If an environmentally responsible farm is not economically viable or sustainable, then we lose on two fronts. We lose access to nutrition and the long term result of healing the environment. Again, I question myself as to what is the value of my local farmers success and what am I willing to pay for it. To ensure that success. While I twist that question around in the old squirrel cage with regular consistency, it becomes a sharper question in the face of loss. Grief is a motivator. Albiet a short lived one. Sustainability isn’t short term. It’s the ultimate long haul. My question to you, as to myself, is are you in it for the long haul? I hope so. If you need help on where to start or how to find the products you’re looking for, send me an email. I’d be happy to help!

In closing, I’d like to express my deep thanks to Arden and Meg. They opened me up to the magic of creating cheese many summers ago during a workshop at a Sustainable Living Fair. I am forever grateful to have experienced their wonderful teaching. I wish you both the best in the next phase of your journey. Whatever community you land in may they love and appreciate all you have to offer. You will be missed.

 

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Email

Diggin’ It

Maybe you think the season is over for farm dinners and seasonal food events. Well, not quite.

Jax Fish House is hosting 5 Chefs 5 Farms on October 28. The event will feature a six course meal, all showcasing local ingredients from local farms. Each course will pair a local chef with inspired eats from Native Hill Farm, Fossil Creek Farm, Revive Gardens, Crego Livestock and Spring Kite Farm.

For $75 per person, it sounds like you’ll be enjoying a wonderful menu, wine pairings and the sounds of Blue Grama Bluegrass band (which by the way includes the multi-talented Michael Baute from Spring Kite Farm).

For reservations call Jax Fish House Fort Collins at 970-682-2275. Eat great with a fantastic date night out and support local in the process.

20141019-084222.jpg

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Email

A Great Local Resource

WindbreakHere in Northern Colorado we are lucky to have some amazing resources when it comes to learning about farming, homestead management and the like. One of those resources is the Small Acreage Management program of Colorado State University Extension.

They provide a digital newsletter covering topics from pasture management, soil health, weed and pest control, cottage industry and more. I’ve utilized SAM’s resources countless times for pasture management, identifying weeds and pests, designing and planting windbreaks and more. If you have an acre in town or 20 acres in the county, having this website bookmarked is essential.

If you’re the hands on type, there are plenty of educational opportunities. Here’s the schedule for the rest of the fall:

Oct 18 Jefferson County Farm Tour
Nov 1 On-Farm Small Acreage Workshop
Nov 6 High Tunnel Workshop
Nov 15 Swine Seminar – Today’s Swine Operation, What You Need To Know
Jan 8, 2015 Western Colorado Food and Farm Forum

sheepOr maybe a quick webinar over lunch is more suitable to your time and learning style. The following webinars were recommended for the Jefferson County Farm Tour and presentations.

I can’t plug these guys enough for providing great local information and resources. Whether you’re a native or a newcomer to the area, Extension Services has got you covered.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Email

Winter Feasting

 

Winter Farmers Market at Opera Galleria

Winter Farmers Market at Opera Galleria

It’s October. My favorite time of year. Cool nights and crisp air. The sun seems just a little bit more technicolor. And the changes afoot. They make a girl downright happy.

The flipside of that coin is that harvest is winding down. Many of the outdoor farmer’s markets will be closing up shop for the season, as well as the roadside stands. And you may be getting the last of your CSA shares.

You may not want it to end. You may be asking yourself how do I continue to eat local and fresh food year long? Well, don’t fret. You can.

The NoCo Food Cluster has taken over operation of the Winter Market. The Market is held on several Saturday mornings throughout the season from 10 am to 2 pm in the Opera Galleria, 123 North College Avenue in Old Town (next to Jax Fish House). The dates of this year’s Winter Market are:

November 8, 15, 22

December 6, 13, 20

January 10, 24

February 14, 28

March 7, 28

April 11

If that isn’t enough several farms are offering fall and winter shares to get you through the darker months with some crisp greens and wonderful root veggies and the like.

The following farms offere extended season CSA’s:

Green Dog Farm20 weeks, on sale now

Ollin Farms offers a 5 week extender

Native Hill offers a Fall/Winter/Spring share – SOLD OUT

Monroe Organic Farms offers a winter share

Donoma Farms offers a 20 week winter veggie and egg share and meat shares through December

My suggestion, as these lists are never exhaustive, is to ask your favorite farmer if they provide winter shares. You can also stock up on those root veggies, and canned goods. Freeze your abundance and dry those fresh herbs. It’s also a great time to think about stocking your freezer with shares of meat. There are numerous ways to extend your season and keep it local and fresh. Happy feasting!

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Email

Pumpkins and Corn Mazes!!

Jack-o-lanternsIt’s fall once again, and you know what that means. Corn Mazes! Up here in Northern Colorado we do harvest festival time right, and that means pumpkin patches and corn mazes. I’ve put together a list of some of the options in the area. And if you like to get your scared on, well we can accommodate those tastes as well.

So grab your compass and your headlamp and get out for a fall adventure!

 

Anderson Farms Corn Maze

Anderson Farms Corn Maze

Anderson Farms

This maze is open daily now through November 1. The farm is located at 6728 County Road 3 1/4 in Erie, Colorado 80516. Check out their website for daily hours.

In addition to the usual family activities like: the corn maze, hay rides, a pumpkin patch, animal acres, pumpkin launching, pedal karts, mine cars, barrel train, farm animals, kiddie korral, tire mountain, hay bale maze, gem mining, private campfire sites (5pm to close, Thursday through Sundays), and live entertainment, the maze also hosts Terror in the Corn and Zombie paintball starting at 7pm on select nights.

Prices range from $10 to $12 for regular admission and $20 to $55 for Terror in the Corn, Zombie Paintball and various packages. Discounts for groups and Seniors are available.

Bartels Farm 

Join the farm for its 11th annual pumpkin patch! This maze is open daily now through October 31, 10 – 6pm. The farm is located at 3424 E. Douglas Road, Fort Collins, Colorado.

A kid friendly choice, they offer a corn maze, hay rides, pumpkin patch, punkin chuckin, farm animals and a straw bale maze for the wee ones.

Prices range from free (0-5), $6 (kids) and $8 (adults), hay rides $2. Admission to the pumpkin patch and it’s events, along with the mini straw maze for the small ones is free.

fritzler-corn-maze-design-2014Fritzler’s Corn Maze 

This maze is open every day except Monday and Tuesday now through November 1. The farm is located at 20861 County Road 33, LaSalle, Colorado. Check out their website for daily hours.

Plenty of fun choices here. Fritzler’s has a corn maze, helicopter rides, go carts, concession stands, a family maze, kids activities, corn and small pumpkin shooting, personal camp fire sites for reservation, and some seriously scary evening activities like Scream Town and Zombie Slayer paintball. There are more activities than I can mention here!

Prices vary depending on activities. Check their website for pricing. Non-scary activities start at $12 and Scary activities start at $20.

Harvest Farm

This maze is open daily now through October 26, Friday through Sundays. The farm is located at 4240 East County Road 66, Wellington, Colorado.

As part of their annual fall festival, they offer a corn maze, petting zoo, pumpkin patch, corn cannons, hay rides, evening camp fires and more for all ages.

Prices range from free (0-3), $13 (4-12) and $15 (13 and up). Discount options for seniors and group rates.

Cat Carved in Jack-O'-LanternNorthern Colorado Corn Maze 

 This maze is open now through November 1, Sundays and Thursdays 11am – 10pm and Fridays and Saturdays 11am – 11pm. The farm is located at 2318 South County Road 5, Fort Collins, Colorado.

They host a corn maze, a pumpkin patch, petting zoo, corn chuckers, pedal karts, picnic area and if you come in costume, you get a trick or a treat. The maze also hosts a haunted maze at dusk (around 7pm).

Prices range from free (0-3), $8 (4-11) and $10 (12 and up). Discounts for military members and Seniors are available. Scary activities are $16 – $30.

 

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Email

Right to Know – Proposition 105

Right2Know_CO_LogoI don’t know where you fall on the issue of GMO’s. Maybe you fall on the side that science is assisting us in the face of so many natural predators, environmental conditions and weeds that can make farming difficult. Or maybe you fall on the side that science shouldn’t mess with mother nature, as she is perfectly capable of adapting to the changing environment without our intrusion. Maybe you fall in the camp that is concerned about the health risks associated with such alterations to our food. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, you probably want to know about this year’s grassroots campaign launched by Right to Know Colorado GMO.

This campaign is based on the simple premise that consumers have a right to know what is in the food they are buying and feeding their families. Proposition 105 asserts that as a result of its passing, Coloradans would have the right to make informed decisions about their diet, health and general lifestyle. We already have food label lists describing details of ingeredients and allergens. Right to Know believes that by adding a simple label for GMO ingredients, this would fulfill the consumers’ right to know, thus enabling them to make informed decisions.

Currently there is no state or federal regulation of GMO’s. While research is underway, there have been no conclusive results as to the long-term health, safety or environmental consequences attributed to growing and consuming genetically modified foods. Connecticut, Vermont and Maine have already passed labeling bills. Several other states, like California and Washington, have had such ballot measures fail. More than 170,000 Coloradans have signed petitions to get Prop 105 on this year’s ballot.

So, what would the Colorado bill cover? Prop 105 would require the labeling of raw, packaged and processed foods sold in grocery stores. A food will be considered genetically modified or engineered if the genetics have been altered through in vitro and in vivo nucleic acid techniques, the fusing of cells beyond the taxonomic family (i.e. fusing cells that could not be otherwise fused in nature), and when the organism from which the food is derved has been treated with a genetically engineered material, or contains an ingredient, component or other article that is genetically engineered. You can read the full text here to learn the details.

Prop 105 has several exemptions not requiring labeling. These exemptions include, but are not limited to, food or beverages for animal consumption, chewing gum, alcohol or foods and beverages served by restaurants. It does not require labeling for food (livestock) that has consumed genetically modified food.

If this is a topic that interests you, or you want to learn more about the campaign to label GMO’s, I suggest you check out Right to Know Colorado’s website. My advice is to do your research, educate yourself on the issue, and then vote this year!

 

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Email

School Garden Grant

untitledLooking back I wish we had school gardens when I was a kid. Even though I lived in a farming community, it wasn’t evident within the classroom walls. Or the schoolyard for that matter. At least not as far as I could tell.

Whole Kids Foundation is accepting School Garden Grant applications from now through October 31st for schools in the United States. The program provides $2,000 monetary grants for new or existing edible gardens run by K-12 schools or their nonprofit partners. If you want to learn more about learn more about the program visit their website or check out the grant map to see which schools have already benefited in your area. Good Luck!!

 

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Email

Bedtime!

Colorful Aspen Pines Against Deep Blue SkyCan you believe we have already had frost on the ground? Say it isn’t so! Luckily, I was home this past week and able to harvest the majority of my fragile veggies. Which let me with half a bushel of ripe tomatoes! Since I like things on the low maintenance side, and can only handle so many nights of covering my plants before I am over it, I will likely have a bushel of green tomatoes taking over my dining table very soon.

This week got me thinking about what needs to be done to clean up my garden and prepare it for spring. To make your spring easier, a little work now will go a long way.

Ridding your garden of any plants that were less than healthy this season, like those with powdery mildew or blight, is important to your beds future health. These plants, especially those from the nightshade family, should not be added to your compost. You can send them to the trash or burn them, but you don’t want them hanging around to cause problems next year.

Now is also a good time to get a jump start on weed control. Oy! Weeds seem to have super powers around here! Get them out of the ground, especially before they seed. Again, you likely want to avoid adding them to your compost piles. The temp of your pile may not be hot enough to kill the seeds. Did you know some weeds can create more than 50,000 seeds per plant? You don’t want to add that to your beds if you can help it. It can be tempting to just give in for the season and leave it all to die out on its own. While that may be the easy way now, you may regret all the work it will be next season. Weed, weed, weed!

Mulching will help protect any late season crops, like carrots and some hearty greens, that you can keep harvesting until the cold and snow gets steady. It’s also a good idea to mulch your strawberries (I like to use straw) and your perennials. Since our winters can get unseasonably warm during the days, mulching 2-4 inches will help maintain cooler soil temps. This will also keep your plants going into a premature growing spurt during any warm spells. After a hard freeze it’s a good idea to cut your perennials down to a couple inches. If any are unhealthy, keep the cuttings out of the compost.

If you aren’t going to mulch, it’s a great time to try winter cover crops. CSU extension services have a number of recommendations for winter cover crops in our region. It provides two benefits, the benefit of mulch throughout the winter, protecting your top soil, and organic matter in the spring when you till it under.

Many of us add soil amendments like composted manure in the spring. Fall is actually the perfect time to add a top dressing of manure to the garden bed. This will allow it some time to break down and age, eliminating the potential damage a fresh spring dressing can do to young plants. Once your amendments are worked into the soil, a layer of mulch will protect it and keep in more of those nutrients for your spring planting.

Inside a wooden shed containing gardening equipmentMaking sure your trees and shrubs stay healthy usually requires a couple good fall soakings to maintain adequate soil moisture. It’s not a bad idea to water monthly during any warm spells throughout the winter. Wrapping younger trees will keep them from experiencing sun scald. The combination of intense sun, warm days and frigid nights can play havoc on the bark of trees, injuring them severely or worse killing them off. Be careful not to wrap too tightly to allow for expansion and contraction with the temp changes.

Fall is also a great time to clean up those plant containers. A simple bleach solution will kill of any harmful pests. Clean off those garden tools and get them sharpened and ready for next year. Putting containers and tools away, inside the shed or garage, will extend their life.

Once your done, get out your pencil and pad, and get hold of those seed catalogs and start planning! Next spring will be just around the corner before you know it! I hope these small tips are helpful!

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Email

Call to Action!

There are a couple things happening with the Northern Colorado Food Cluster. The first is that they were accepting applications for the Winter Market, which they took over from the now defunct Be Local. Applications were due September 8. Check their website for more info and to see if you can still send in an application if you missed the deadline.

The second is a call for support and action. The Cluster asks everyone to envision a unique downtown marketplace whee you can buy local food from producers and artisans, ethnic foods, freshly prepared foods, enjoy local commerce, community and music. Sound good? This vision could become a reality with your support.

Fort Collins has a voter approved sales tax initiative Building on basics (BOB) that is set to expire. This initiative was approved in 2005 and was a 1/4 cent tax. This money supported renovations to the Lincoln Center, the Museum of Discovery, new bike facilities and improvements to North College and Timberline and the coming Senior Center expansion.

A new BOB 2.0 initiative will be presented to voters in April of 2015. The Cluster is happy to announce that one project in the BOB 2.0 calls for the creation of a Community Marketplace. This marketplace would include an indoor market hall allowing for year round operation of a farmers’ market. The intent is for the marketplace to become a focal point for local food production as well as increasing the availability of Fort Collins products. While the project has been in discussion for several years, and vetted by external consultants, the opportunity for this idea to come to fruition has arrived. You can learn more about the history of the project at website of the Downtown Development Authority.

So how can you help? Glad you asked. BOB 2.0 includes proposals for $280 million in projects. By the time the initiative goes forward, this figure will be trimmed to $80 million. Which means the City of Fort Collins will have to choose which projects will be funded. The City is currently conducting public outreach and soliciting feedback through September. Which means, if you think the idea of providing our local farmers a year round venue to market their wares is awesome, let the City know. If you want a wrongful new venue to shop and build community, let the City know. Let them know that a Public Market is a crucial, value added, missing element in our community!

To voice your opinion and support you can

> visit http://www.fcgov.com/bob/projects.php
> under “economic health” select the “Community Marketplace” box
> enter your name, email and comments in support of a Community Marketplace
> visit http://www.nocofoodcluster.com/action-alert/ for updates and talking points
> share this call to action with all of your friends and social networks to spread the word!

You can also attend a Community Issues Forum with the City of Fort Collins, in collaboration with CSU’s Center for Public Deliberation. The Forum will be held Thursday, September 18 from 5:00 to 8:00pm in the Prairie Sage Two room at the Fort Collins Senior Center, 1200 Raintree Drive. This meeting will provide folks an opportunity to discuss and contribute ideas and opinions on the capital expansion projects through BOB 2.0 and the tax renewals proposed for the Street Maintenance Program. RSVP here https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/BJF2JWM

Tell them Erica sent you!

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Email