Thursday, May 19, 2011

"If we're not growing, we might as well be dead."

Last weekend I journeyed back to Loveland, for a long overdue visit…after all it was my anniversary! To view it just how I remembered it, I was put right to work again! As soon as I hopped into the back of the truck, pounded twice on the side…we were off! That day's mission: to wrangle up 40+ cattle that had escaped the fields by climbing up the steep rim rock. The rest of the full time crew seemed a little uneasy, but I was quite excited for this adventure. Every day something new and unexpected happens on the farm…yet the majority of our culture thinks that the city life is more exciting?!

Back to wrangling cattle. We first had to hike the steep rim rocks, then merge the cattle together…on foot :) Even back to my intern days, I had never done this other than calling them into the next pasture of grass, and maybe a little walking behind them, but never in a wide open space like this. After letting one sneak through a gap in-between two of us…and having the rest of the cattle following in a stampede, we learned to get a little more aggressive so as to not backtrack.

At some point I was left with about 10-15 cattle who had tried to follow their friends back to the top of the rim rock, but I was the only thing in the way of their direct path. It was a pretty crazy feeling to be alone with them for a good 20 minutes…all eyes on me, while some trying to chew on rocks or eat tree bark. Eventually they got bored, one of the cows turned around, and the rest followed, back down the rim rock. Thankfully this is about when the rest of the crew and cattle joined in, and it was all downhill after that.

Til we realized there were still more missing! After securing the recovered cattle, we ventured back up the rim rock, ending up on the other side of the foothill where the cattle were alongside the road. It was a lot of back and forth across the road, thanks to red mailboxes and tempting luscious green grass. But thank goodness for country drivers…and for our friend who chased the galloping cows on his bike! Still no easy task to drive them alongside the road, as we pushed them up against fencing, then suddenly the fences dropped off and the cattle ran back up the now steeper incline of the rim rock. Somehow we got them all back. Safe and sound, huffing and foaming at the mouthes from thirst, and now very tired.

Needless to say, we thoroughly enjoyed burgers for lunch after all that work :)

And I saw my first live rattlesnake! Poised and ready to strike! Good thing we were in the car. And good thing this was after climbing through all the rattlesnake infested land!

It was refreshing to be back. The scenic fields and my most favoritest intern are so nourishing for the soul :)

Back to the city life…urban gardening is picking up momentum! Most of the spring crops (potatoes, lettuce, arugula, radishes) are planted, so we're weeding lots! Feels like Seattle here with all this rain. Love it for the plants, love it for curling up in bed at night, just a bit messy for bike riding…definitely time for waterproof pants! :)

My compost pile is really growing now that I'm eating more vegetables and, well, eating more at home :) I began noticing its odor and refreshed my mind with a little composting lesson from DUG. If it smells, it needs more dry stuff…like newspaper. Awesome! This takes care of my paper recycling pile too! So I was a paper shredder for a night in :)

I also noticed that most of my plants are outdoor plants, so I put an ad up on freecycle for any sort of plant, dying or alive (got this idea from a fellow apprentice), and met an angel named Fran! She invited me over and told me to bring lots of pots…she'd take care of me. And she went above and beyond! We spent an hour going through her house, she snipped off a few leaves from each of her plants, making sure I had my hands full! And I witnessed actually growing pineapples. Two! This woman is my hero! That is my next challenge for this year…to grow a pineapple!

She tried to give me a sampling of nearly everything in her yard…I only wish I had the yard space to accept the raspberries she offered! She too was from Chicago, so besides telling me all about each plant, we discussed what great decisions we made by moving out here. These discussions never get old!

I couldn't thank her enough for all the plants she donated to me. I only hope that I can pay this all forward someday! And am hoping that I can keep all of the plants alive and growing.

On that note, I'll leave you with this quote I just read…

"If we're not growing, we might as well be dead."

thankful for the changes in my life right now…thankful for the opportunities to learn and develop…feeling more alive each day :)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

happy anniversary CO!

one year ago today marks my one year anniversary of moving to Colorado! what a year!

I still get nostalgic thinking about the picture perfect little farming community I rolled up to that Sunday afternoon. The bubble, the helpful, happy, and curious roommates, the scenic plush landscape with lil foxes and owls hiding here and there. sigh...

For the moment, I think I've found the best balance, designing full time now, and urban gardening on the side. Urban gardening is not as overwhelming, and a more realistic environment for today's world. The group I apprentice with, Heirloom Gardens, goes a step further than a CSA (community supported agriculture), naming themselves a NSA (neighborhood supported agriculture). Gardens in the Highlands neighborhood of Denver have been donated by their owners to us, we cultivate, and sell the produce via the Highlands farmers market and CSA shares. I challenge all my friends to find their own local markets or CSA, or even grow their own vegetables for the summer instead of going to the grocery store for produce! You will not be disappointed!

Our NSA started working back in February, planning gardens and starting seedlings in the greenhouse. I feel like winters last forever, yet with all my fun in the snow this year and realizing that garden season starts so early, this winter took off! March and April were spent prepping the gardens by tilling in compost. And this was the first year I was able to plant spring vegetables in an actual yard! Obviously I'm still learning about hardening off transplants...which means gradually adjusting them to outside temps and sunshine, not leaving them in the sun for the first time for 8 hours! I'm also learning that new transplants need a good amount of water in the beginning...not vacation abandonment :) Needless to say, when I got back from Ecuador, the majority of transplants lived (arugula, lettuces, carrots, parsley, cilantro), and the direct seeded lettuces, radishes, potatoes, onions, beets, and peas were coming up strong! And to think before my trip I nearly caved and bought reemay row cover! :)

Back in the NSA gardens, a lot of last year's plants that went to seed have already given us some tasty dinners. Nothing beats fresh arugula, green onions, and beet greens!

And yesterday while we were prepping a garden, Sundari's goat had 3 babies! So we visited them today...too precious! I hope to capture their cute 'mmmmmaaaaa' sounds on video. They are still a little clumsy on their feet, but look so good and healthy. All nestled with chickens in the backyard of a Denver home. Awesome.