The solstice approaches.
Week Twenty-Two : Lavender Pilgrimage!
We took off Wednesday on our annual whirlwind road trip up to Palisades to buy more lavender plants from Sage Creations. We spent the morning frantically watering everything and hoping it could hang on in our absence. Kemper started a huge area of buffalo & blue grama grass between the house and the lavender field and is working constantly to keep it wet enough to get established. The lovely and amazing Callan agreed to farm-sit while we were gone but we tried to make it manageable for her… The grant check arrived the morning we were leaving so we deposited it on our way through town (phew!) and hustled up to Dolores where we bought a huge bag of clover from Southwest Seed and got a tour of their processing facilities and lots of insight into the seed saving world. Next stop was Paola’s for our plants, which–as usual–we hadn’t properly calculated the space for, so we were squishing and packing and re-packing and stuffing camping gear in any remaining vacant spot between trays. But we did it! And then camped overnight at the gorgeous Colorado National Monument before high-tailing it back to Peralta in time for the kids to get dropped off and harvest for the next morning’s market.
We discovered a desert king snake living in the hole in the unfinished slab. Supposedly they’re great mousers and are so beneficial many ranchers breed them. I feel rather honored to have it here.
Week Twenty-Three : Putting plants in the ground. (Where they belong.)
We finally started filling in the new rows on the west end of the garden. Lots of happy pairs of companions which we hope will keep the plants happy and the bugs in balance. We put zinnias, nasturtiums, calendula, and marigolds in with cabbage, spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, and peppers.
The HARDEST part of getting it all going this year BY FAR has been deciding what to put where. Kemper and I do battle back and forth every day, hashing out what little knowledge we each have and trying to decide what will work best with our limited resources but still make sense in the long term. Every tiny decision feels like a monumental commitment and I feel like we know nothing! We have so much to learn.
We started getting snap peas—they’re delicious and it’s so much fun to eat them right off the vine. But man, that’s a lot of work for a little handful of peas! Next year I hope we can get them started earlier and space them much closer together. They’re also really leaning where they’re close to the apple tree. They must not appreciate that much shade.
Week Twenty-Four : Ohmygod Callan is gone, what do we do?
Callan left on tour with Arroyo Deathmatch and we are lost and forlorn. We did manage to take some greens to market (and gave most of them away.)
We have made major progress on the grant, however. We tracked down the remaining seeds for our grant trials (after hours of phone calls and being referred in circles ’til I was dizzy.) The purple poppy mallows just arrived and the prairie zinnia we had to order by the packet, but a whole bunch of them are on their way. We also picked up a huge load of five-gallon pots from Ross, and got a load of compost from Soilutions, where Kemper designed a custom mix for the lavender and had it delivered. He staged an area with weed-cloth and started transplanting from the tiny pots up to those monsters. It’s going to be 1,000 sq-ft of pots when they’re all done. He also tilled the area just south of the garden to be the home of our test plots.
I also started a whole bunch of native trees and shrubs (from seed.) It will take forever, but I’m so so so excited about investing in the sorts of plants that we can get established and then just enjoy for decades. I am so in love with our patch of happy yerba mansa and our cottonwood tree… I can’t wait to create more and more spaces of native perennials to feed us and the birds and the bees.
Week Twenty-Five : Rain slowing and heat rising.
Planting continues into the garden, where Kemper has built up each row with perfect, neat mounds after seeing Uncle Jake’s straight manicured rows. He also spread clover seed throughout the whole garden, which we hope we can keep happy and healthy year after year as a nitrogen-fixing, weed-battling, moisture-retaining ally.
The blue grama is looking fantastic and will be ready to step down to a less-intensive watering regime any second now… At first all the thin grass-looking blades that came up in that whole area were just cruel, deceitful salsify, which is the name of that dandelion-like weed that I was struggling to identify. Supposedly its long tap-roots taste like oysters. And it does bloom, but only for a short while in the cool mornings. I’ve made a little progress identifying some other weeds including lambs quarters (aka quelites) and desert globe mallow. There are still so many to decipher!
This has been a tumultuous couple weeks in the war of the cucurbits. After reading up on squash bugs I became convinced that pumpkins and winter squashes are the worst, and that summer squash, melons, and cucumbers are what we most want to grow. But we have thousands of pumpkins popping up all over as a result of the old pumpkins Kemper spread out there last fall. We finally decided to get rid of them and try to save the few cucumbers, melons, and squashes I started from seed. Kemper relocated a few pumpkins to the lavender field, and I put my starts in the garden. And lo and behold, we’ve hardly found any squash bugs but we have a zillion cucumber bugs. Time will tell what we actually get to harvest. I really hope I didn’t conspire to commit mass pumpkin-cide for nothing.
The lavender harvesting has started! We have our first bundle hanging in the kitchen to dry and it smells so amazing. It will be so rewarding to see the bundles start to pile up.