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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Colorado State Forest Service Seedling Program

2012 Christmas TreeIt’s that time of year to start planning the planting of your windbreak, or edible landscape, with the Colorado State Forest Service seedling tree program. This program allows farmers, ranchers and rural landowners to purchase trees for a nominal cost. The goal of the program being to provide assistance to landowners in planting new forests, establish windbreaks to prevent erosion, provide protection to homes, agriculture and livestock, and enhance wildlife habitat.

Colorado State Forest Service has a wonderful publication Trees for Conservation: A buyer’s guide. My copy is tattered and dog-eared from going through it so many times. A downloadable copy can be found here. This offers great descriptions of available trees that are suited to our climate and explains what the benefits are for your property and any critters you would like to invite in like birds. They also have a variety of publications discussing how to put in a windbreak, and even a pamphlet on what to cook with all those edible varieties.

A good windbreak is three rows, with the first row meeting the wind made up of lower fast growing shrubs and bushes, the middle row your slow growing evergreens and the final row your taller, quicker growing deciduous trees. It’s that first row where you can plant a wall of edible bounty with the fruit bearing varieties. The only downside, if there is one, is the competition you will have from your feathered and four legged visitors. They love a good berry as much as the next guy. Another thing to consider is the beneficial and not so beneficial relationships. For instance, I love Eastern Redcedars. I love their shaggy fullness and color. They are not so good to have near apple trees as they attract the same pests. Had to scratch those off the list of potential break trees. I love the cedars, but I love my Honeycrisps more.

The Colorado State Forest Serviceoffers seedling, bare root trees and some potted varieties (potted sold individually) for sale in large quantities, 10-50 per bundle depending on variety, at an affordable price for landowners. These are available for pre-purchase in the spring and are sold on a first ordered first served basis. The intent of providing these trees and the copious and wonderful amount of information is conservation. Folks from the extension service can come by your property and recommend the best varieties for your site and even create a plan. For a fee they can come out in the spring and prep the area and plant the trees with weed barrier cloth. It’s a great deal, and folks in the area I’ve talked to said within 10-15 years they had a decent break and within the first year that first row can get as tall as 8-10 feet as the bushes and shrubs grow faster than the larger trees will.

As I’ve always been told, the best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best is today! Get an application and price list here.

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Turkey time!

Tom the turkeyIt’s getting close. That wonderful culinary celebration that is Thanksgiving. Several folks have been asking me lately where they can get their turkey.

Last year I indicated it was my aim to to one day raise my own little gobblers. This year I made good on that and have three turkeys getting ready for processing the week of the big event (thank you Longshadow Farm for being willing to show me the ropes with that processing thing). But most folks aren’t in the position to raise their own. However, if you are I highly recommend it. I have found turkeys to be a most interesting and entertaining bird.

If you’re in the market for a turkey, the typical grocery store variety are the giant broad-breasted whites. Those mammoths can top out at 40 pounds. Resulting in the need for one very large oven. They take roughly 20 weeks to get to slaughter weight. More and more popular, and likely to be found in the homesteaders menagerie, are the heritage breeds. Pretty birds with a little more character. According to many of my homesteading books, the winners of the popularity contest for heritage breeds are the Narragansett, the Bronze and the Bourbon Red. These take a bit longer to get to slaughter weight, at an estimated 25-30 weeks, but they are worth the extra time. It’s past the time for getting in your order in most cases. With that said, I am aware of a couple farms that have available supplies. If I missed any please feel free to share in the comments section or on our facebook page. Some years searching for a locally pasture raised heritage bird is like seeking the holy grail.

The first is Jodar Farms. Usually known for their amazing chicken and now pork, they raise a limited number of turkeys for holiday processing. In addition, they raise a limited amount of ducks and rabbit. I saw Aaron this weekend before the Winter Market and he indicated that he still has a good number available.

Next up is Donoma Farms is located in Carr, Colorado and raises a variety of poultry options. Recently they still had turkeys available for the holiday. In addition to poultry (chicken, duck and turkey) and eggs, they offer goat’s milk, CSA shares and grass-fed beef.

Grant Farm CSA has a few birds left. Located in Wellington, Colorado, Grant Farm CSA has a variety of CSA options available, including whole kitchen shares with canned goods, fruit and meat. Turkey Dinner

Raindrop Retreatis a farm that has turkey and chicken shares advertised online for a $20 deposit. They are located in Bellvue, Colorado. This is in addition to their fruit and vegetable CSA and a variety of other value added products and services.

Wisdom’s Natural Poultry is located in Haxtun, Colorado and raise chicken and turkeys. While they can be found during the season at the Boulder Farmer’s Market, you can contact them to work out a delivery.

Carrie’s Clucks is located in Windsor, Colorado and has turkey advertised online. They offer turkey along with duck, chicken, eggs, and a market style CSA.

Longshadow Farm in Berthoud, Colorado. Sold out for this holiday season, but you can typically reserve a bird online or by calling Kristin on the farm with a $15.00 non-refundable deposit for future reference. Longshadow raises both heritage turkeys and broad-breasted. These guys are processed right before the holiday when reserved. They also raise duck, lamb, chickens, organic chickens, guinea and make a mean batch of ice cream. Perfect for that slice of pumpkin pie. (I like the cinnamon!)

I hope this helps you in your holiday feasting search. Again, please let me know if I missed a provider!

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CSU Extension Certified Gardener Program

digital-badgesLooking for a way to expand your dirt loving knowledge over the winter months? Well CSU Extension has the Certified Gardener Program available online, with the next registration for available classes due by March 14, 2015.

The curriculum is based on the Certified Master Gardener program. This Mastery Badge program is a great way to learn in a way that is flexible and allows you to choose how many classes you want to take. Bundle them or take them individually, all while earning badges. The meajor difference between the Badge Program and the Certified Program is: no volunteer requirement, it’s online so it isn’t tied to the seasons, and the ability to choose what course of study you want at any given time. How cool is that.

So while you’re sitting at home on a wintery day, much like today, you can go online and learn about things like herbaceous flowers, plant and pest diseases, irrigation, weeds, pruning, water management, and much more.

Check out their website to learn about this great educational opportunity.

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Update: NoCo Food Cluster

1415218702504Some of you may have been to the Northern Colorado Food Cluster kick off at the Lincoln Center this week. It was a great opportunity to see the ideas of a community start coming into manifestation. The NoCo Food Cluster’s mission is to create a healthy community through a resilient, local food system. Sounds great right? So, how is that happening?

The NoCo Food Cluster has been in the idea stage for about four years. The last two years those ideas have started transforming, through open community meetings and opportunities to provide input into what a community like that would look like. What would the priorities be? How would it be structured? Who would be involved? How would it be sustainable? All these questions and more have been batted around for sometime.

This year, those ideas started manifesting into an organizational structure. A staff person was hired, Ashley Colpaart. A 501C 3 was born. And outreach to the community was started. They have taken on, for now, the continuation of the Winter Markets, as this was determined by the community to be a priority, and they are moving forward full steam ahead.

The meeting on Thursday was also an opportunity to seek stability in the fragile world of a new organization. With the ambitious scope of the organization, it is now in the make it or break phase. You guessed it. The money stage. Staff funds were temporary, to get the organizational structure created. But in order for an organization to move forward with any semblance of focus and continuity, the ship needs a Captain at the helm. The organizers explained the goals within the next year, and one is to create a Board of Directors and another is to hire an Executive Director, or in other words, the make it happen person, that in partnership can take the organization to the next level.

1743746_721686964583394_2195214284015755442_nSo, as one would expect, they are in the fundraising stage. Having captured some city and organizational grants, one of which is matching, the group is actively seeking members, partners, sponsors and board members. While there will be plenty of opportunities for non-monetary support in the future, those opportunities won’t be realized if the organization can’t find it’s ground through monetary support. So in the coming months you will probably see lots of focus on the membership drive.

Like any industry cluster, the focus is on economic sustainability, jobs creation, economic opportunities for existing businesses and identification of the gaps in our food system. This will be accomplished through key projects with a local focus and policy making at the local, state and federal levels to make such goals achievable. It’s also important to note this is the Northern Colorado Food Cluster, not the Fort Collins Food Cluster. While it appears in the meetings I’ve attended to have a strong Fort Collins presence, the truth is it will take the larger community of Northern Colorado to attain the level of success being aimed for.

If you want to learn more about the Food Cluster, or how to become a member or industry partner, check out their website and follow them on social media to get up to date alerts.

 

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Vesicular Stomatitis Virus in Colorado

I am reprinting this article with permission from CSU Larimer County Extension to get the word out. As of October 29, the extension received an update from the Colorado Department of Agriculture that there are only 6 quarantines in Larimer County, down from 65 quarantines on September 4. Learn more about topics like this though the Sustainable Small Acreage Newsletter.

Article by Jennifer Tucker, Adams County Extension

Each year, Colorado livestock owners are put on notice to look out for vesicular stomatitis (VS or VSV) in their animals. Affected animals are identified by scab and sore like lesions on the mouth and tongue. Additional-ly, lesions can be found on the inside of the mouth, on the nose, in the ears, and occasionally along the coro-nary band above the hoof. Occasionally in horses, le-sions are also noted in the groin or sheath area. All of the lesions are usually painful but the oral lesions make eating more difficult for the animal. Milk pro-duction and weight gain are typically affected during an outbreak.

This year has been an exceptional year for Vesicular Stomatitis cases. As of 8/27/14, The Colorado Depart-ment of Agriculture had found vesicular stomatitis in 8 Counties (Adams County, Boulder County, Broomfield County, Douglas County, El Paso County, Jefferson County, Larimer County and Weld County) and on 222 premises.

While VSV is rarely fatal to an animal, it is still detri-mental to the agricultural industry. It is considered an internationally reportable disease. Much of the con-cern about VSV is due to its similar symptoms to foot-and-mouth disease (FMD). FMD is typically more se-vere, and was eradicated from the United States in 1929. The only way to differentiate between vesicular stomatitis and foot-and-mouth disease is through la-boratory testing. Therefore, all animals exhibiting symptoms of VSV need to be tested for the virus to rule out FMD. Most animals fully recover from VSV in about 2 weeks.

VSV is transmitted or spread in multiple ways. Com-mon biting insects, such as flies and midges are consid-ered the most common method of transmission; it is also known to move from animal to animal from con-tact with one another or through shared water tanks and feed buckets. The scabs and fluid inside the wounds are known to carry the virus. However, not all animals in a quarantined facility develop vesicular sto-matitis. Often times, it may run rampant through one paddock of animals, and a neighboring paddock seems to be unaffected!

Because of the erratic habits of flies, the spread of the disease is not always predictable. The disease spread seems to be more prevalent along waterways and in areas of standing water (lakes, ponds, irrigation, etc.) Pastured animals and those in stalls or drylots can be affected. Fly control is one of the best defenses against VSV.

If you suspect vesicular stomatitis on an animal, it is suggested to contact your veterinarian or the Colorado Department of Agriculture. The typical protocol re-quires samples (blood, saliva, fluid from blisters) be taken from suspect animals. If the lesions are con-sistent with VSV, the animals are placed under a hold order. A hold order requires the animals to stay at the current location until results come back on the tests. Testing typically takes 3 days. If the animal has a posi-tive result, the facility is then placed under quarantine. Both hold orders and quarantines from the State Vet-erinarian’s Office of the Colorado Department of Agri-culture require that there is no movement of animals into or out of the facility. The quarantine is released 21 days after there is sufficient healing of the lesions.

For the most current information about Vesicular Sto-matitis in Colorado, go to www.colorado.gov/ag or call the Colorado Department of Agriculture Animal Industry at (303) 869-9130

 

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Pumpkin Season

Some of you may think pumpkin season is over. The skeletal remains of Halloween drooping on your door step after their job of enticing trick or treaters to your door is done. Or maybe you’ve overindulged in the seasons spiced lattes and pumpkin flavored everything. But really. This is just the build up to the pumpkin holy grail come Thanksgiving. That’s right. Pumpkin cheesecake. I know. You thought I’d say pie. And yes, that is a close second.

In the days of artificially flavored pumpkin flavors, I remain true to my pumkin roots. No orange in a can for this girl. It’s only the real deal. Why? Because nothing tastes better! What other reason could there be.

To start off I find those wonderful little sugar pumpkins from one of my local farmers. They are the cute ones that look great on your table, but should not be relegated to just a mere decoration. They are packed with wonderful flavor just begging to made into a pie, or cheesecake, or muffins or pancakes or cookies, or, well you get the idea. They are for eating!!!

Take the pumpkins and cut them into quarters. If the pumpkin is on the larger side, 1/8′s will do. Cut off the stem top and scoop out the seeds. Save the seeds to make roasted pumkin seeds! Yum. Feed the rest to your chickens. They will appreciate it immensely. Then place the sections of the pumkin on a baking sheet and roast at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, or until they are fork tender.

Once done, let them cool and the skin should peel off easily. If it doesn’t just cut it away, taking care not to cut away the wonderful pumkin flesh. Cut into smallers chunks and pop it in your food processor. Pulse until the meat is smooth. If it’s too dry add a little water, a teaspoon at a time. It should be smooth and firm, with some moisture, but not runny or watery. Since you only need one cup for the recipe below, freezing is a great option, in one cup servings. Have plenty on hand for soups and baking through the winter.

Voila! You have ove roasted pumpkin puree. Now you are ready to bake!

The hubs is a big cheesecake fan. It’s usually what I make him for his birthday, and maybe once or twice throughout the year. I love it because I can make it gluten free. We both win. I’ve also found that using goat cheese in place of cream cheese makes for a richer flavor. Especially when adding flavor to the mix, like pumpkin.

So here are the ingredients for your delicious filling:

3/4 C. packed brown sugar

This baby is from marthastewart.com. Because everything from Martha looks yummy. Mmmmm.

This baby is from marthastewart.com. Because everything from Martha looks yummy. Mmmmm.

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp allspice

1/4 tsp. ginger

1/4 tsp. cloves

1 lb. goat cheese, or cream cheese for the traditionalists

3 farm fresh eggs, preferably from your backyard chickens

1 C. of the wonderful roasted pumkin puree you’ve made

It already sounds delicious, doesn’t it?

Here’s the list for the crust:

2/3 C. pecans chopped

1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted

1/4 C. brown sugar

Get your greased springform pan ready and preheat the oven to 350 degress while you get everything ready to go.

1. Put the crust ingredients in your food processor and pulse until blended. If you want more of a cookie crust you can reduce the pecans to 1/3 C. and add 1/4 lb of your favorite cookie. Gingersnaps or molasses work great with the pumkin. I like to keep the crust simple with a nut crust.

2. Once blended, press your crust into the bottom of your 9″ springform pan. Push the crust up the sides. Refrigerate while preparing the filling.

3. Mix your spices and sugar together. Keep to the side for now.

4. Blend the goat cheese in your mixer until just smoothed. You can use an electric mixer, or by hand. I love my kitchenaide mixer for this part. You can really control the blending and it’s easier to refrain from overblending. Blending your ingredients without overmixing is one of the keys to keeping the top from cracking.

5. Now add the spice/sugar mix. Scrape down the sides if needed.

6. Add the eggs, one at a time. Mix gently after the addition of each egg.

7. Add the puree and mix until everything is just blended.

8. Pour the cake mix onto your chilled crust.

9. You know those turkey cooking plastic bags? I place my springform pan, gracefully, into one of those bage with the opening above the cake. It takes a little maneuvering, because they aren’t made for this purpose, and a little cutting of the sides. There are two things I am trying to accomplish. I will bake the cheesecake in a water bath. The plastic bag, designed for oven cooking, will keep water from seeping into the springform pan. The other thing I am trying to accomplish is keeping the bag from falling onto the top of the cake while it bakes.

10. Place the pan, sealed from water (you can also use tinfoil, just make sure it seals well), and place it in a larger roasting pan filled with 1-2 inches of water. Bake at 350 degrees for about one hour. I start keeping an eye out at about the 35 minute mark, looking for the firm jiggle. I can’t help myself. And I sometimes forget things are in the oven.

11. The cake should jiggle but look firm. I think the cake is best when chilled for 1-2 days in the fridge. It has the opportunity to firm up, but its still silky.

And that my friends is why pumpkin season does not end with Halloween! You will thank me for this one.

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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?

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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