Friday, November 5, 2010


Hello November!

Looks like we made it!! This may be news to some, but before leaving Denver 2+ months ago I told myself and my closest friends that I'd be Halloween, job or no job. I figured two months would give me a chance to beg my company to transfer me...give me a chance to catch up with all my Chicago friends...all while getting me back to the mountains in time for SNOW! And here I am, right where I want to be!

So what exactly happened over the past two months that I haven't been telling? Well, let me share...

Having worked outdoors in the fields all summer, I was actually eager to get back to the stable indoor environment at the comforts of my desk...and of course catchup with my closest coworkers over pitchers of margaritas and pulled pork tacos...mmm.

It sounded like the team was swamped with work and I was ready to step back in to help. My excitement didn't last long. I sensed my other coworkers feeling a bit bitter about me having 3 months 'vacation.' I half expected this, but felt like I had to continually prove myself worthy instead of just fit back into my former role. The corporate and big city lifestyle fit me like a pair of clown shoes now.

I knew that my time on the farm was truly a mountain high experience, and I knew I'd have to come back to down to reality. But reality hit hard and fast! People at work were more stressed and upset than I remembered. One partner, whom I was working with on a proposal for the first time, actually called someone on the team a 'dummy' via conference call. Who does that?! I noticed one morning that all of the cars on Mark's block, including mine, got keyed. WHO DOES THAT?! What happened to paying things forward instead of backward?! Then things were steadily stolen from bike...then my new bike's patch kit...and then my car roof rack. Did I need anymore signs to leave? Nope! :)

Someone who does pay it forward is my fantastic friend Mark, whom I already mentioned was letting me crash at his place. I felt like I was able to make some contribution when I helped him take care of his new puppy. As much as I love and adore dogs though, I don't think my independent self will be adopting any in the near future :) Which is why Mark is the selfless host! He made me feel so welcome that I think I would feel bad swapping couches for another friend's place. How he didn't get sick of me after 2 months, I'm not quite sure.

Perhaps Mark didn't get sick of me because I was always trying to be out doing something. I set a goal to run in my first ever 10K, so every other day after work I'd usually be jogging around Lincoln Park and the lake. My one goal for finishing the 10K was to run the entire distance. Maybe that was too easy, but it still felt like quite the accomplishment...thanks to the support of my family, friends...and Michael who even flew in just to cheer me on :) Next race will be HAWAII!! I'm shooting to run a half marathon there next month, though my longest Chicago run at 9 miles is now back to barely 3 miles after my month of packing and slacking :)

I'm not really sure how far I would have gotten through the past two months without the support and encouragement from Michael :) While he easily could have saved himself a 900 mile flight, or even joined the 10K and smoked me and the rest of the runners, he savored this as 'my' race and cheered me on from behind the scenes. I visited Denver one weekend, completely unprepared for a last minute interview, but he was already back with coffee and resume paper by the time I was out of the shower. No wonder my face lights up when anyone mentions him :)

What helped move along those two months, besides Skype :) were our bi-weekend visits. One thing that Denver lacks is its close proximity to the majority of family and friends, so it felt like the holidays seeing so much of everyone. And I even got to meet my aunt and uncle's grass fed cows!!

I guess it got a little bit easier saying goodbyes to friends this time, even if it's a more permanent move. This summer was a good trial run for keeping in touch with these same friends, and with technology of internet and phones and planes, we're really not that far apart. And true friendships will last.

And thank goodness for helpful neighbors and siblings and especially my mother for all the help tetrising my stuff into the moving truck, all while keeping the cops away :)

The friendly ABF truck driver took off with my stuff and away I went with a carload of bikes in my backseat! I journeyed back to my halfway point in Omaha to stay once again with my stepfamily. More great feelings of the holidays. But better yet was recalling the last time I was there, about to go to sleep, thinking that this day...'Denver eve' was sooo far off. Two months felt like forever!! But I made it! Made it to Denver the next day by noon...signed my lease...unloaded the truck...and I'm home! Right on schedule :)

A couple weeks later and I'm still settling in! Guess I'm just taking my sweet time and enjoying every minute of it :)

Monday, August 23, 2010

city pickles

Some days I feel like nothing's changed and my sabbatical never happened. Other days I feel completely out of place here. I appreciate both sides of the coin, since I'm not looking to settle for either.

I couldn't ask for a more generous roommate, Marky Mark, for letting me crash at his place until I figure out where to go next. In fact, Mark's so generous that we had a third roommate...all of us sharing his one bedroom in a hi-rise. Tight quarters, but I'm so thankful to be able to spend time with him since I haven't for the past few months. And thankfully this weather's been great, so we spend the majority of our time outdoors anyway.

I was overly confident thinking that since I could run 3 miles in the mile-high city that I would be able to run twice as fast or twice as long in the second city, but the humidity soon stopped me about a mile in my tracks. Ick! After a few bike commutes to help me adjust to the weather, I'm back to running precisely 3 miles. Don't ask me my time though :)

This weekend I biked up to the Evanston farmer's market to find the infamous "Henry" of Henry's Farm in Congerville, IL...where my farm manager, Michael, apprenticed and learned everything he knows about gardening. I've been many of farmers markets around the city, but none quite of this size! Henry's farm stand was spilling out of 3 tents...and there were a dozen other farm vendors this size. Heavenly!

I thought back to my farming friends in Colorado, harvesting a plethora of these farm goodies...while I had to limit myself to a bookbag and walletful :)

I returned to Mark's and stacked the fridge with my purchases, while he wondered what he signed up for! I can't help but get super excited talking about fresh produce and the happy grassfed cows I once knew! For the rest of our meals I drag Mark to 'Whole Paycheck' or spend hours reading labels in Jewel and educating Mark about the importance pasture raised chicken. I even guilted him into buying a reusable bag and recycling at home. Sorry buddy! You'll thank me later :)

Needless to say, I'm overwhelmed being back outside the sunrise bubble, with the abundance of plastic bags and processed foods at restaurants and grocery stores, and the lack of composting and knowledge of our impacts. I'm still finding that happy balance between going out to dinner with friends and staying in to cook my own meals. One step at a time...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

back to reality

Turns out waterproof mascara is perfect for more than just swimming and wakeboarding...also good for trips back to the midwest! I dilly-dallied packing the car... waiting til the very last moment to say goodbye to home...

Mountains gradually disappearing in my rearview mirror, kombucha spilling at every stop for gas, and me passing every car on the right (as Coloradans do)...I eventually made it to Omaha for the night. It wasn't until here when I was tossing the end of my eaten farm zucchini out the window (highway composting!) that I felt the thick air. Eek! Humidity! I forgot that even existed!

I spent an enjoyable night with family, then left the next morning for central Illinois. This drive through Iowa I actually noticed a few grassfed cow farms! I didn't use an entire hand to count them all, but I was impressed to see cows in the land of corn nonetheless.

Apparently I-80 was closed down after Des Moines for flooding, and within that hour and a half wait to get through the parking lot traffic, I decided that perhaps grassfed cows ARE the solution to everything. If these cornfields had a more stable root system, with perennial grasses vs. annual corn, the roots could soak up all that water. And of course, grassfed cows would help mow and fertilize the grasses in the meantime. hmmmm....

Here's a shot from the exciting drive in the midwest... :)

I made it back to central IL, repacked my car with the city life necessities (dress clothes, heels, mace, bike locks) and it was back to Chicago for me! My excitement to get back to my friends and coworkers and pizza and bike riding on flat land and the 'beach' was overcome with anxiety as I approached the traffic and the high rises. oi! But I appreciated the aggressive drivers...and especially appreciated all the welcome hugs :)

Turns out my entire first week has been an easy transition...full of welcome backs :) I stepped into my office building, seeing it in a whole new light. That place is so clean...and so sterile! Definitely not in Kansas anymore. I was greeted with a desk, completely wrapped in wrapping paper, even individual desk pens. LOL.

My coworkers' fantasy football party, also my boss's birthday, included a 'welcome back, Pickles' cake instead of birthday cake...

My car got welcomed back to the hood with some lovely key scratches :)

...but I soon remembered that there are thoughtful people in this world :)

Friday, August 6, 2010

end of chapter one

For as slow as farm life goes, those three months sure went fast! The last week of July marked my final week on the farm. Who knew it would be so emotional too! This entire internship has been like an extended trip to summer camp...building friendships, living with lots of dirt and bugs, and learning and growing as an individual. Like my momma's hard coming down from these mountain-high experiences...literally.

It was fantastic being around these farmers...such real, genuine people. I was able to put away the outfits, hair-dryer, make-up, and yes, even showers and deodorant, for a few days at a time. The only judgement I got was for not wearing enough sunscreen...and I see that as a life-saving suggestion :)

As Julie did in her blog, here's a little blurb on these fine folks:

Kate. As one of my roommates, she was the first intern I met. My first impression was her plopping down on our couch with the lovely large college-style pillow in her lap, ready to chat with me about my story coming to the farm....because of this I bonded with her the most...and I knew then that this was going to be a fun summer with her :) When our managers asked one of us to step up to a task, she was first to volunteer (until Dave came!) regardless of whether she knew what the project was, or if she could handle it. She's a girly girl of much strength, inside and out. Real. To the point. No BS. And always asked me if it looked like something was bothering me. And my partner in crime for Starbucks, roadtrips, and an occasional drink to give us an excuse to enjoy some time off the farm. IMUNNAMISSCHOOO! :)

Sandy. She was my 2nd roommate, brave enough to ditch the only place she knew, warm and sunny LA, for exploring another garden path in life. My first impression was her lugging my 2 ton bag of shoes out of my car and to my room, regardless of my pleas for her to not worry about it. Firecracker indeed! She was initially skeptical of nice people, especially those drivers on the country roads that would always wave at her when she ran, but she eventually warmed up to them :) I was a terrible and messy roommate, but Sandy was very motherly in keeping the apartment tidy and homely, even by cooking for me and Kate. And she loved weeding :)

Avana. She came to the farm a few weeks after me, and I first thought she was the most innocent of everyone, so wasn't sure what to say or not say around her. Turns out that she craves a good debate, but I'm still not sure she approved of my jokes when she gave me the shocked 'look'. Each of us interns took a couple days to get adjusted to farm life, but not Avana. She started on day one...and started with digging potato mounds. Now that is hard core! I told her to take a break, but she just winked and smiled...Avana style ;) She invented the Rototill dance, always made sure I was wearing sun protection, and I opened her eyes to going out for drinks with friends :)

Julie. This girl does not stop laughing, I love it! At first I couldn't believe that someone could laugh this much without giving themselves side stitches, but Julie disproved this theory right away. Most of us interns secluded ourselves from the rest of the community, and Julie miraculously bridged the gap with her compassion for everyone. She is not intimidated by creepers or new adventures with random people. Julie's also great at sharing: music, birthday breakfasts, kombucha...and the coolest present ever: my handmade Ree-may shirt! So creative and thoughtful!

Dave. This guy would not stop volunteering...more noted, he was always the first to volunteer. I first thought as the only male intern that he was attempting to prove his manhood to us established lady interns, but Dave was just naturally eager to get the most out of his experience here on the farm. His enthusiasm for organic farming is so strong that he actually practices what he preaches. While most of us compromise with what's available in this non-organic society, Dave has set a standard for what he eats, even if it's the more difficult thing to making most of his food from scratch, and not being afraid to tell his mom he won't eat her food. Thank goodness for the college situation that brought him here! :)

Alisha. When I think of strength and determination, I think of Alisha. Specially, I think of how she snugs those irrigation pipes with such emphasis! :) If she's going to do something, she's going to do it well! Alisha did not hesitate to ask questions, and I don't know how she could come up with one after another, but that's how she knows so much. I especially admire how she's applying what she's learning about preserving to her personal life, moving from city to city via train...and on a budget. We'll all learn best by making acquired knowledge relevant to our situations. And she was always great at shining a new light on situations or opinions..."Well yes, I see your point, however..."

Sylvan. Slave driver. Ok, not quite, but close :) She has a real personal relationship with the garden and took garden work very seriously, as managers should to keep business going. This was Sylvan's first year as garden manager, so kudos for managing all 7 of us! (8 including Patrick :) We bombarded her with questions, and she answered each thoughtfully...digging deep into her wealthy memory database. She was always in touch with the land, seeing things that us innocent interns overlooked. I could see the real passion come out when we enjoyed her delicious recipes at her hip potlucks.

Patrick. Dreamer, storyteller, teacher, jokester, poet. He was the other garden manager, telling us many stories of his past travels and experiences that brought him to where he is today. What we first thought would be short stories became hours of detailed tangeants to a story, complete with jokes and life lessons. And suddenly it was lunch time! Us interns had Patrick all to ourselves on Mondays, so we soon learned that although Mondays included smelly compost and trench digging, it was also a day to ask lots of questions, and sit, reflect, and enjoy.

We all have a passion for the fields. We are proud of our hard work. All of us are strong, eager to learn, and even more eager to help. We all realize that there's more to life than money and reality TV shows and who won the super bowl. And we all want to educate the rest of the world with what we learned on the farm, so that we can together improve the world.

This crew has opened my eyes to farming, lifestyles, and myself. I am so appreciatives of this has really been more fulfilling than I ever could have imagined :)

Monday, July 12, 2010

a look at Chipotle

If there's one thing I miss about working in the city, it's eating at Chipotle every week. I can't get enough of their chicken burrito bowls and delicious chips and guac! I was able to go there a couple weeks ago...which was the first time since I moved from Chicago. Though seemingly less salty than what I remembered, or what Chicago served, it was still delicious :)

At the register I picked up their notecard describing their Food with Integrity. After learning as much as I have about proper farm verbage, I was able to really understand what all those words meant. For example, I had to laugh at "more naturally raised meat," "40% organically grown beans" (can I just have those beans please?) and "vegetarian fed" other words, not 100% organic, and not 100% grassfed (corn is a vegetable!)

I do commend them for raising antibiotic and hormone-free meats and dairy cows, along with using local farms where possible. Little steps go a long way for them, and by supporting companies like these, hopefully they can eventually go the distance and use 100% organic, 100% grassfed.

I tried doing some research on Qdoba and came back with no such high standard ingredients. Perhaps this is why Chipotle is so tasty? That's what I'd like to believe!

Friday, July 2, 2010

details of the cow harvest

Word of caution: If you are eating lunch or have a sensitive stomach while reading this, you might want to save this reading for later...

It has been a week now since we took the cows into the slaughterhouse for 'harvest'. It was definitely an intense experience seeing it moment by moment, but I knew from day one that these cows were raised for their meat (not just for mowing and growing the grass...or for pets), and that we interns would have the opportunity to see them to the end.

I found out the day before harvest that I would be going to watch the process, so I didn't have much time to sweat about it. We all watched Michael and Sara sort the five cows from the rest of the herd. The five were oblivious...they just wanted company of each other, and some grass to eat. Our farm crew was much quieter than usual that day (besides Avana's rototiller dance to break up the mood...but that's another story :)

5 am came early on harvest day. Michael had a jolt stronger than his morning coffee when the loading gate malfunctioned. One of the cows backed into the gate and sent Michael airborn back a few feet. Good thing he was able to jump up right away before the thousand pound beasts continued to back up! We loaded the trailer and drove our way to Kersey, CO...about an hour east of Loveland.

After arriving at the meathouse and waiting for 30 minutes, the butcher came out to round up the cows. My gut reaction wanted to call him the grim reaper, only dressed in white with a happy yellow apron. However, once we got inside and he could see how nervous we were to observe, he smiled reassuringly...yes, he was human just like us.

I wasn't sure what to expect once we went inside. We could stand pretty much anywhere in the large factory room...though it felt very small at real corners of the room to hide in either. I knew the toughest part for me would be the moment between life and death for the cow, but Kate pointed to the cow that had already been killed and was getting hung up by it's back legs. It was a standard black angus cow, so not one of the cows with any unique characteristics for us to recognize or become attached to...but those two unique ones were up next.

The pictures I was able to take will describe this process better than any of my words will. See here:

Viewer Discretion Advised

I winced a lot at first...mostly when the butchers were cutting the skin off the face and making the cow look more like meat than an animal. There wasn't much blood or fluids to see since most of that flowed into buckets below the hanging cows, and the butchers kept washing themselves and the floors. Some of it even looked more like artforms: the intestines looked like a sculpture...and the butchers so smoothly separated the skin from the meat. And once the skin was off and the lower part of the legs were cropped off (for health regulations), the remaining meat looked like that of an enormous chicken.

After seeing the process of the first cow, I felt a bit more comfortable knowing what part of the process was coming next and could stand a little bit closer to the action. Watching through my camera lens also created some distance between me and what was happening. When we were finished watching them half the cow, we toured the dry freezers where other meats were hanging. I'm not going to lie...the smoked meats smelled really good in seeing the entire process obviously hadn't affected my tastebuds as much as I thought. It takes a few weeks for the meat to be dried and cut, so our cows will come back to us around mid-July.

And any of you readers are interested in seeing the process yourselves, come visit...this is open for viewing!

On our drive home we past a CAFO. It was in the middle of what looked a desert, there were hardly any trees...and definitely no grass. What a contrast to see all these huge buildings and piles of feed and trains and so many trucks spraying chemicals and stirring up dust on these pens of cattle. It may have been a sad day for five of our cows today, but it will never amount to the years of filth these cows live in. Yuck.

The rest of the day when I went to the store or when I went to Denver to visit friends and people would ask me how I was...I could hardly resist saying 'I SAW A COW GET SLAUGHTERED TODAY' just seemed like such a crazy thing to witness. So be happy if you don't live nearby to hear this story over and over :)

So after all of this I will remain an omnivore. I believe that cows are some of the most efficient sources of energy, and our happy cows are not only providing us with meat, they are drastically improving the quality of our land! Can we say the same about soy? or CAFO beef? I would like to still eat a lot more fruit and vegetables to keep low on the food chain, but from now on I will try to only buy 100% grassfed beef...appreciating every bite. And I will cook smaller portions so as not to waste any leftovers by letting them rot in the fridge. The beef was a life after all. Thanks happy cows for making my tummy happy :)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The time has come

Cow 'harvest' tomorrow. Not sure if I'll be able to watch the entire process...or have to peak through my fingers like watching a scary movie...or maybe just become vegetarian after this.

For tonight the five largest cows are happily sorted from the rest, and eating up lots of grass and hay in a pen for their last meal under the starry night sky. I haven't gotten close to the cows in the past few weeks, just because work in the garden has been so busy that others have tended to the cattle. But there are definitely a couple cows in this bunch that we've bonded with, just because they look more unique from the rest of the herd.

None of us interns need to be there for this harvest, but we all feel that it is important to see our food from start to finish. We've seen these cows frolicking in the pastures...eating happily...staying healthy...loving life. I think they've lived life to the fullest!

Here are some photos of sorting cows this afternoon:

Sara waiting to let the small ones out of the pen.

Michael directing cow traffic.

Kate watching with a heavy heart.

Monday, June 14, 2010

seeds of our past

Apologies for those of you who have been holding your breath waiting for a new post! :) It's been a crazy busy couple weeks and oh so much fun! Yes, LOTS more weeding and transplanting that wasn't much to write home about anyway...but outside of the farm I put some miles on my bike, learned how to change a tire (after a couple flats nearly left me stranded :), have met a lot of great people, and I saw my first show at Red Rocks! Tom Petty just happened to be playing on my birthday and I got to spend some time with family. My dad was in town too, so I was able to show him around the farm and hear stories about the family farm. I found out that we used to have a milking cow and would make our own butter. Sure, buying it at the store today is much more efficient, but what an amazing accomplishment to be able to make that and truly appreciate the results!

Our seed saving class this week went from complicated to emotional. We learned the difference between heirlooms, hybrids, F1, open pollinated, and modern plants. I still don't completely understand them all (I never aced biology!), but I did learn a very important lesson: It is our obligation to pass along our family stories and cultures by continuing to buy and eat plant and animal varieties that our ancestors brought over to this country. We should support organic seed companies that offer many unique varieties. Otherwise these varieties and old world cultures will fade out like endangered species. Most gardening seeds actually come from Monsanto and we don't want to support their GMO seeds...check out this overwhelming diagram of Monsanto's umbrella. Although Europeans can save seeds, US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand are the only places where we have the freedom to buy seeds and grow for ourselves. And who's to say how long that will last if GMO seeds run the world. Doesn't that seem scary?

So if you're going to buy seeds, check out some independent places like these next time. Try some green and purple cauliflower or any crazy heirlooms!!
Baker Creek (
Wild Garden Seed (
Fedco (
Seeds of Change (
Seed Savers Exchange (
Turtle Tree Biodynamic See Initiative (
Abbondanza (

Thursday, May 20, 2010

planting potatoes

The mission for the past few days has been planting potatoes! I might have to join a body builder competition after this with all these muscles! :)

First we tilled a bed with 50 foot rows, then we dug trenches and mounds. We currently have dug about 20 rows...hopefully that's enough!

The potatoes need to be planted deep within these mounds so that they do not surface and turn green, otherwise they will be poisonous.

What kinds of seeds do we use, you ask? We cut up old potatoes into sections, each section containing an eye where new growth with form. I can't imagine how many pounds of potatoes we're going to harvest just from a few bags of old potatoes!

After planting some of the potatoes, we've mulched the mounds and trenches with straw. I kept calling it 'haaayyy,' but apparently hay is made of more leaf parts and grasses and used to feed horses, whereas straw is the stalk of wheat, rye, and other such grain plants. So much to learn!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

funny what we can adjust to

People think this should be a drastic change of pace for me, or perhaps this experience should be different than I expected, but neither is the case. I enjoy the hard work and I guess not much bothers me.

A few things have crossed my path that are becoming second nature to me:

1. Colorado's weather flux. mornings start with a vest, raincoat, thermals, and sweatshirt for some snow, and the day ends in a tank top and jeans.

2. composting toilets. I used to flip out when I was a kid, thinking I'd fall into the dark pit. But now it's pretty cool...especially when the water shuts off in our apartment.

3. mothers nursing in public

4. spiders. everywhere! Sure, not so much fun to see at night on my bed, but knock on wood...I haven't seen a Chicago-style silverfish/millipede thing scurrying around yet, which are much faster runners, therefore much scarier in my mind.

5. snakes, owls, elk

6. unagressive drivers driving below the speed limit, and not merging very efficiently

7. being the only girl who's unafraid of razors, LOL

8. no pop. no rye bread.

I'm sure I can add more later, but that's that for now!

predators vs. prey

Tuesday morning was just another early morning irrigation pipe change until we heard shots and saw smoke! It was cannon shots from our neighboring raspberry farmer, who was attempting to scare the elk from his crops. Now that our little valley area is free of large noisy farming equipment, wildlife have made their way back into the area. So when someone pointed to the elk, I almost didn't turn's like seeing skyscrapers in the big city...I've seen my share. But when I finally did look I thought I was on the set of the discovery network. There was a serious GANG of elk. Hundreds! Flowing like water over a broken dam, they ran across our pastures and up into the hills. This probably doesn't compare to any of the herds in Africa, but it kinda felt like that here. See if you can spot them in this first photo:

That went along well with our class session today on rotational grazing, which we are doing with the cows. When we rotate our cattle to the next field, we are mimicking what happens in nature. Ruminants (cows, bison, elk, etc) both stay in herds and move locations to protect themselves against predators (wolves, lions, people, etc). So when the cows stay in one place for too long, they will overgraze, which means that the grasses will not have the proper energy in their root systems to regrow, creating bare land (and bare land is bad!). Even 'free range' is not the best approach to raising cattle because the cattle could still spend too much time in the field and overgraze.

After Yellowstone reintroduced wolves to the park, the elk population was reduced, grasses and trees were no longer overgrazed, more birds and bugs grew in the trees, beavers found more twigs for dams, therefore many more species were brought back besides just the wolves. Pretty awesome how nature works so naturally, huh? Our jobs as 'super grass farmers' are going to be to get the land back to how it was covered in grasslands so the grasses can properly soak up water and add carbon nutrients to the soil. Maybe someday our team will come out with a comic book: Super Farmers vs. Bare Land. hha...

Monday, May 10, 2010

week one recap

Since I started working, it's been pretty nonstop, so I'll give some highlights going back to last week:

Friday (day 2):
- woke up to a couple inces of snow! this is ok for the crops we have out (peas, root vegetables, and covered lettuce/spinach). we're still in danger of frost until May 15. Frost is actually more damaging than snow since the ground is frozen, whereas the air can be cold but the ground can still be warm with snow.

- ate some rhubarb straight from the garden. tart, but somewhat addicting to sour patch kids. later that night our garden manager marinated rhubarb for a few hours in water with some cinnamon, ginger, cloves and similar spices, then drained and served. very tasty!

- weeded the onion patch for the rest of the morning. the grass weeds we were pulling looked nearly identical to the small onion shoots, so it was no easy task!

Saturday (day 3):
- repaired the barbed wire fences. having lived in the birthplace of barbed wire (DeKalb, IL) this reminded me of home. I'm impressed that us women outnumbered the men today, 4 to 1! guess we're pretty tough chics...

- I hesitate to say I was homesick...but I was craving some time with some friends off the farm, so got to spend the night with friends in Denver. just what the doctor ordered!

- checked in on the greenhouse periodically throughout the day. The plants in the greenhouse are more sensitive than those outside, so the greenhouse needs to stay between certain temperatures and the plants inside need to be well hydrated. It's no wonder farmers are such hard workers...they can't take many breaks from the farm! But I suppose 7 days of satisfying work outweighs living for the weekends and vacations.

- compost day! We took a week's worth of the kitchen's compost and dumped it next to the chicken dome. They eat some of the scraps and shuffle through the compost and dirt to find and eat little bugs and worms. so cute!

- planted 7 trees in the permaculture garden. We had to take a pick axe to the tough Rocky Mountain clay!

- weeded the garlic, then surrounded them with hay for insulation and weed prevention. This took the rest of the afternoon!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

first day on the job

6:30 AM and we were out on the chilly morning fields, realigning the irrigation pipes, aka 'pipe change'. They aren't heavy, it just takes some logic to move them on the field while sidestepping the sprouts and logic to piece them together properly. It's a fun group activity nonetheless, as the farm crew was all hands on deck.

On our truck ride to the next mission we spotted horned owl in a tree...THEN saw a bull snake trying to swim to safety out of the canal. It couldn't gain friction on the cement, so a couple brave souls grabbed it out with a couple of plastic fence posts. Bull snakes aren't harmful to humans, and in fact eat rattlesnakes, so we want to keep them around. What a jungle around here!!

The next mission was moving the cow fences. The cows are moved to a fresh pasture every morning. When I first imagined how we would be herding cows, I thought it would be like the wild west movies and I could be the cowgirl, riding the horse into the sunset...while herding the cows, of course. When I realized that there weren't horses here, I thought, perhaps we pushed them? or rang a cowbell? Is that what cowbells are for? Nope...I was way off. So the cows are pretty well done grazing a field within a day before they get hungry again. And once they get hungry they moo, and when they are hungry and see us farmers, they really moo! We don't even need to really call them, they all just bolt down the field to us and wait for the gates to open to the new field. The fence is just a line of electric wire that we string up and move. And the cows are so well trained that they won't go within a foot of the wires. When they first gallup into the greener pasture, they go to town! Their tongues hit the tallest grasses first, so they devour that, then they'll start eating the other types of plants - clover, alfalfa, dandelions, etc.

Apparently the soil here in Colorado is terrible, so grazing cows like this really helps the land. The cows are like lawn mowers, clipping the grass and making it grow to be a stronger plant (as long as the cows move daily, otherwise they'll eat too much of the grass and it won't have enough energy to grow back as quickly). They also leave their lovely manure evenly scattered around the field, providing nutrients, as well as providing a means of moving grass seeds from one field to another without the farmer having to replant seeds. We're mocking nature moving grassfed cows this way...funny how nature works so well, huh?

After lunch I worked with the garden manager in the greenhouse, transplanting tomato plants into larger containers. Some of their leaves were curled and dried, others were turning yellow or purple. This could be from the cooler weather, or from nutrient deficiency. Either way, I know my tomato plants back home had looked a little sickly like this too but i'm not sure I had ever fully saved them. So I hope I was the right person for this job!! However, I learned that the key to transplanting the tomato is to nip off the first set of the leaves (the seed leaves) then turn the plant on its side, bend the stem upward, then replant, making sure to bury the entire stem up to the first leaf node. The roots seem to grow sideways but then they don't run out of room at the bottom of the container. The soil we transplanted with was just store bought soil mixed with a bit of worm castings. And best of all, no chemicals!! The tomatoes will stay in the greenhouse since the weather here is chilly.

Even with 300+ days of sunshine it's actually still pretty cold - and makes for a short growing season. How can so many people here be organic then, I wonder?? Perhaps I should have stayed in the midwest where the topsoil is forever deep and where there are day-long thunderstorms! While Chicago's been in the 70's for the past week, it's been 50's here - and it looked like there would be huge storm this afternoon but it barely sprinkled. hha. Yup, and the biggest shock of all...the Chicago girl was even prepped for the temps with rain boots, carhart sweatshirt, and raincoat...and comes with camping experience! Chicago, you can thank me later for giving you a good name...