Garden Transitions

Nothing like taking 2 weeks off from gardening in July!!  We recently left town with everything little, mulched and ready to grow, and upon returning– well grow it did!!  There was a ton of work waiting for me when I returned and though I haven’t gotten through it, I feel invigorated to do so,especially with this glorious cloudy weather in the skies above!!  I often need this break, after a big push in the spring, often mid June, I am simply done!  I let my greens go to seed in the swelling summer heat and I sit back and sip lemonade, or better yet split town.  Even though  am always happiest to come home, that break really helps me with perspective, refreshing my brain and helping me find new energy.  Now that I have been ‘refreshed’ I wander the garden a find in doesn’t have mush to yield me right now with the exception of abundant Basil,some promising green Tomatoes, tiny Cucumbers and an amazing array of flowers

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Beyond the beauty I mostly just have work to do…..I have got tomatoes to prune and tie, garlic to harvest, onions to harvest, lots of lettuce, spinach and cilantro seed to harvest…..and then when I do all that I let my chickens and turkeys lose to forage and clean up the rest.  After they do their number my garden will be pretty wide open for a whole new spring of sorts…well fall I guess.

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With this rain and cooling weather it is a wonderful time to make way for all those fall crops.  technically we could still have almost 90 good days of growing season left so we might as well fill the garden with seeds rather than weeds….

So you might ask what do I plant and when?  Well…. I may experiment with sowing an extremely late crop of Summer Squash and transplanted Basil… and then I will plant more Carrots, Beets, Lettuce, Kale, Chard, Bok Choy, Fennel, Spinach, Cilantro, Dill, Radishes and then more Lettuce from seed…..probably in that order in the next 2-3 weeks.  Hey I might even try Marigolds, nasturtiums and Cosmos to see if I can get anything this late in the game.  If you are doing the same and want an another encouragement I found this coaxing email for Johnny’s Select Seed Company telling you all the fall varieties they are selling and even a handy planting guide quite convincing.  Succession planting is really the key to a constant food supply so I remember, you don’t have to plant everything all at once.  Spacing things a couple of weeks apart will in turn space your harvesting a couple of weeks a part making your fall abundance constant!

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Since I nurse my garden along through Christmas and somethings into the new year, this planting succession is crucial for my food supply for the next six months and has proven to be the most abundant time in my garden.  I too start to perk up with the rain and relish in all the green that blesses our high desert soils this time of year… so throw out those seeds I say, and give thanks for the rain!!!

Living Outdoors

Our house is kinda small.  It is 1,000 sq feet on the outside of thick adobe walls, and though 50 years ago that was the average size home for a family of five it can feel a little snug with us three.  IMG_4124

But because New Mexican weather is so agreeable, we spend as much time outside as possible.  Lately even at 7am my son wants to eat his breakfast on the porch and of course we all linger outside until dark.  We have furthered this outdoor life by finishing our outdoor kitchen which has been a work in progress for many, many years.  It is kind of life long dream of mine and I can’t tell you what a joy it is to be able to literally be outside all day long, gardening, cooking and eating all in the fresh air.  Since it has been such a labor of love I thought I would share the process and progress through the years….IMG_3349

When I first moved in 5 years ago Joel jumped on getting the greenhouse on the house, as he knew I would make good use of it.  IMG_4118

Now it creates one end of the outdoor kitchen and is in use 365 days a year!IMG_0142

Then there was the pallet shack built over the well house, Joel’s project while I was pregnant.IMG_1041

It is filled in with mud and straw and for our baby shower it was plastered with the same by our dear friends, completing another side of the kitchen zone.

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And then began the patio with a pile of bricks that sat in the front yard and was put to good use for almost three years as a high risk toddler climbing structure

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(Don’t worry he lived through it and loved every minute or it!)

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Sand was gathered from the river,

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Bricks were lovingly laid

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digging was done

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Trenches were made (and staid a little longer than they were welcome)

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and with all that trench dirt, old abodes from another construction project years back and a big pile of stones a bonus

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Horno!!

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Which provided hours of good family fun!

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And will continue to for years

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to come!

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The bricks continue to be laid,

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But soon enough, pure satisfaction!!

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Pride of a job well done

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the joy of sharing our space with good friends

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And best of all, lots of parties to come!!  Here’s to all your good work dear!  So many thank yous for our beautiful little home, inside and out!

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Seeding Dreams

Mercury in retrograde really got me this time with my cell phone acting crazy, my car broke down and yes my modem short circuited in Saturdays storm, so I have been not only a little out of sorts & a lot out of communication.  The good news is I have been reading, yes real books… I hate to admit this, but my hands are always so busy I rarely read, but this old fashion pleasure has resurfaced this week and oh how I love it!!

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Another old fashion pleasure that has been packaged into this week was the ancient, but new-to-me art of flood irrigation.  As most of you know, flood farming dates back way beyond 1492 and yes still there are over 1,000 functioning acequias in New Mexico still today.  I happen to live right next to one and this week by a stroke of slow, steadily evolving luck, and some dear hard working farmer friends, I had my first go at flooding a field I hope to carefully tend in the season to come.  IMG_3977

Most of you readers know farming has been a long time dream of mine and a gradual work in process.  As I  sowed my cover crops seeds this week, with my little boy doing the same in my shadow, stepping right into each fresh footprint I had made, he said, ” We’re farmers mama”.

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My heart swelled.  ” We may just be son, we may just be.”  Not every young las dreams of being a farmer, but I sure did.  From the time I first lived on a farm at age 14 I really did want to be a farmer.  As I worked on farms in college I quickly learned how much work farm takes and that I may not have it in me to farm, or at least earn a living farming.  IMG_3963

I have tried lots of different ways to live a farming life; being a farmers girlfriend (totally unsatisfying as I left the farm every day to go to work!!) living and working on other people’s farms (wonderful, but not a long term solution).  And finally just gardening and teaching other people to garden, which frankly suits me quite well….but I still pine for more open land to sink my seeds in…

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and this is not because I have a ton of free time and energy, it is, I guess what you would call a calling, a vocation.  The earth simply calls to me, what can I say?  I guess it is almost like a love affair, we were made for each other, me and mother earth.  Nothing, not even ‘reality’ and ‘impractically’ can keep us apart…for now.  So for now, this field and I, we are new and consumed; irrigating in the moonlit and step by step placing every seed as if every single one was a carefully placed kiss….IMG_3984

And as with all new love affairs, we are keeping it between us right now, not quite ready to expose our tender connection, not quite ready to meet the family yet, but I just had to share, this field found us and it just might make me a farmer yet!!IMG_3959

 

The call of home

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Somehow the height of this season has brought some major disturbances both technologically and emotionally that I am deeply integrating tonight.  And all I can say right now is that they are leading me back, inside myself towards a deeper, more integrated and truly power life of gratitude and faith.  This weekend our community experienced an earthquake of sorts when a dear friend’s child went missing in the red wood forest all night.  She was gone for 23 hours and then, by a true stroke of angels, helpers and everyone I know calling her home with all of our hearts, she was found!!!  This shook us so deeply and called forth such beauty, connection and strength in all of us, all I can say is the ripples went deep.  I know her and her family will never be the same after that experience, but I know I too am deeply changed.  It showed me the power of the human heart, of little girls will and of faith, connection and pray that ties us all together.  It is such a tender thing to even share, but so powerful I can not pretend it didn’t break me open!!   Maybe because when given the opportunity to look, feel and be penetrated by what really deeply matters to your heart, you are shown what you are here to be and do and your calling and convictions no longer wait patiently in the shadows.  I wish this truly scary and profoundly joyful experience can help us all get closer to our own hearts and the hearts beating all around us.  And one thing that has me on my knees is that the world took care of her and helped her preserve to find her family.  Though this poem is nothing like I imagine her night was like, it somehow comforts me to think the great mother did in fact care for her and guide her home.

Sleeping in the Forest

I thought the earth

remembered me, she

took me back so tenderly, arranging

her dark skirts, her pockets

full of lichens and seeds.  I slept

as never before, a stone

on the riverbed, nothing

between me and the white fire of the stars

but my thoughts, and they floated

light as moths among the branches

of the perfect trees, All night

I heard the small kingdoms breathing

around me, the insects, and the birds

who do their work in the darkness.  All night

I rose and fell, as if in water, grappling

with a luminous doom.  By morning

I had vanished at least a dozen times

into something better.- Mary Oliver

Time for sun screen!

The sun is up and the cool has gone, welcome but rough transition for some of us in the garden world.  In fact last Friday, I boldly removed my covers from my garden at SFCC, which is highly exposed to sun and wind.  Everyone was delighted to ‘finally see what was hiding under there’, but was nervous.  I was in a rush and just went for it, crossing my fingers the rain would be light & gentle and the gray skies would protect my newly transplanted babies…..Alas no such luck!!  The weather at my house is extremely different than at SFCC and it turned out the ‘rain’ there was actually hail, damaging all my newly exposed plants and even killing some newly planted ones.

 

The ones that had been uncovered weeks ago had a chance to toughen up so they weathered the storm just fine.  IMG_3924

But the ones that had been babied under row cover got deeply scarred by the rough weather.

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So what is a gardener to do?  Because row cover and custom covers are somewhat sensitive to sun and wind, I like to store them in the summer, so I can really use them when I need them in the colder months, and get the most life out of them possible.  However, a totally exposed garden in the high desert sun can really suffer from sun and wind and yes, summer hail storms…. So here is my solution, actually it is not mine, it is my husband’s idea, he is the brains behind most of our operations.IMG_6889

We bought these grass mats at Lowes that are used for fencing out your neighbors view of your yard.  We cut them into 5 ft pieces and laid them over our cattle panel hooped beds last year.  They provide great shade to a very hot part of our garden and made it useable all season.  So this season I did the same at the SFCC garden.

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Since these beds have hoops built-in, I just wired the mats to the middle bar, the sides are just clipped down so I can unclip and roll them back for easy access to harvest.   They work like a charm and look nice too, since hundreds of people walk through this garden every day, that matters!

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At home, I put them over my greens so they last just a little bit longer into the summer.  Crazy shadows make things taste better too!!

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They also work really well to shade things right after transplanting.  After a week or so they can be removed, but transplanting can be quite and shock, so protection really helps those little guys adapt.  So, since I already have had 4 people ask me, “Where do I get those”, here you go……

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This ‘Natural Reed Fencing’ is found in the way back right corner of he Lowe’s garden section with the fencing stuff.  I tried big Joe’s on Siler and they DO NOT carry them, so don’t try there.  These cost me $24.97 each and since I cut them into 3 5ft pieces, that means $8.32 per piece.  They will last me many years if I store them well when I am not using them….so I say totally worth it, especially if one is investing cash into baby plants this year.  You can of course use other things for the same effect, like old window blinds or how about loosely woven coffee sacks?  Anything that let’s rain, wind, bugs and some sun through is good.

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Whatever you choose, do consider a little sun screen for you and your plants this summer, you will all weather the weather better that way.

PS– Just a footnote on a big lesson learned (or reiterated) to me this week:

Trust you instincts

Make transitions slowly and

Don’t be afraid to protect your little ones so they can get well established before toughing up to the bright, windy, wild world.

 

Another Week of Wonder

Ahhh- Saturday morning, fresh scent of rain in the crisp air, flowers bursting to greet me and welcome me back into the folds of my little homestead after a long week of putting my attention elsewhere….

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You see, I spent the week with the ninth grade of the Santa Fe Waldorf School teaching what is know as farm week.  A week spent on digging into our food systems with our mind and bodies was truly wonderful way to spend a week for all of us.  We talked about food, farming and life on the land.  We traveled to my very favorite farms in northern New Mexico and got to witness the highs and lows of what it really means to be directly dependent to your own food supply.

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As I sit here reading the essays and evaluating the student work, I am getting a true glimpse into what seeped in through those muddy hands and sunburned cheeks.  One of the true wonders of being a teacher is experiencing the mystery of what penetrates each mind you meet.  I am still letting myself steep in the week, enjoying a quiet house, a blooming garden and a pause to breath in and make room for what this luscious rainstorm  and abundant spring may bring.

Our Week in Pictures

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DAY 1-Mr. G and his oh so organized farm!

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Day 2-Picking Chamomile and gathering eggs at Gaia Gardens

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Day 3-From milk to cheese at the Permaculture Institute

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Day 4-The miracle of goat birth and the cycles of life at Fat Duck Farm

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Day 5- Completing the circle from Field to Fork- greens picked at SFFC Garden and sold to Joe’s Dining where we got our greens served back to us!

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Thanks to all the Farmers who made our week wonderful and who make our high desert food system so bountiful!

 

Whoa, What a week

Busy bees around here; birthdays, Mother’s day, Family visits, new patio brunches, class field trip day and it’s not over yet!  I am feeling so blessed with all the family, friendship, students and beauty this month has brought…..and now I need a good nap!!

I am speechless with gratitude but…..Here are a few highlights from all the gathering we have been doing around here.Sparked up the new Horno for the 3rd birthday pizza party!!

Sparked up the new horno for the 3rd birthday pizza party!

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First horse back ride of a lifetime!

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Outdoor patio finished in time for numberous dining events al fresco!

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Class field trip to a dear friend’s place where we found an amazing heirloom peach blooming (about a month later than most peaches around here) in the snow no less!

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Cozy little home for someone special

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Greenhouse poppies peering out onto a snowy day

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Another dear friend’s verdant spring garden on the tour.

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Green green grass is a dream!!

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Ruby red hearted Lambsquarters yum!!

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So much to see do and dig!!! Such a wonderful time of year!

 

Garden Basket

I have a small obsession with baskets, possibly like many of you.

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Not only are they so naturally beautiful, but oh so versatile.

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My obsession has filled ever free shelf in the house and now has leaked out all over my garden.

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Currently my entire front yard is now essentially a garden in a basket and I couldn’t be more delighted.

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It all started two years ago when a little baby

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was crawling and learning to pull himself up.

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We harvested the willows by our River and the first fence was carefully woven between the porch and the garden.  It stopped him from going in the garden and the garden from tumbling all over the porch with his adventures.. it also seemed to help with teething, who knew?

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A few years back I wrote about it and called it good.  However the garden grew and grew and I don’t mean horizontally.  You see, every year I mulch like crazy with the leaves my neighbor rakes from his backyard.  It is kind of miraculous to garden in the dusty desert and scrap back the mulch in high July to find a totally un-watered zone moist to the touch.

Mulch works wonders for me and my planties, but because it breaks down SOOO slowly with so little moisture around, my garden is getting taller!  When I mulch, it just tumbles into the path ways and now with an almost three year old running amuck and chickens in the mix, things have gotten plain messy!!  So more willow fences it had to be.

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These fences are truly a labor of love, as this is NOT England or some lush land full of coppiced Hazelwoods for the picking.  But willow we do have  along our precious rivers and harvest I did.  I must admit I felt a little weird at first, I mean who owns the rivers and are folks are territorial about the willows as they are about the water around here?

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As I harvested with my son under foot, I felt a little weird, as if I was stealing, for the willows are in fact precious to me.  So I got permission to harvest from a friends land and as we were cutting the Mayordomo came by, a gruff seeming fellow and started out with , “Hey you got a permit for that?”  I froze and my husband laughed.  He went on to softer tones, I guess he was joking, as it seems like you need a permit for just about everything these days.  Upon parting he called back to us, ” I am so glad to see you folks using that willow, there are bountiful resources all around us and no one even appreciates them”  Yes!  I thought, these are precious resources and they regenerate upon pruning, so we are just ensuring stronger healthy growth for next year.

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I harvest all kind of amazing things along this river and these hill; sand for potting mix, clay for pots,willows for fences, pretty rocks for here and there and a bounty of wild medicines going unloved right under foot.  Of course I harvest with reverence, respect and restraint.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not encouraging everyone to rampantly take from nature as they so please!  I am simply seeing how many gifts we gain from the world around us if we can simply see their worth and find a place for them in our systems.

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Wonderful willow, I am so grateful for you flexibility, sheer strength and ability to grow even in this dry land.  Thank you for holding my garden in place and making my home nestled in a little basket.  Thank you for your generosity and for your regeneration, and your resourcefulness and thank for teaching me more about such things.

 

Spring Events

Wow it has been a serious spring.  This beautiful weather, flowers everywhere and lots going on!!  For those of you who missed it, there was a great article a couple weeks back about me and the garden I run at SFCC in the New Mexican.

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It has generated lots of interest and I have been pretty busy since!  In the spring flurry there is LOTS going on in the next couple of weeks in and around our garden.  First of all, this FRIDAY APRIL 25th From 1-4pm.  We will be hosting Deborah Madison, celebrity chef and cookbook author in our garden.  She will have a few of her new Vegetable Literacy books for sale and signing and will be touring the gardening with a chefs eye.  We will also have a plant sale where we will be selling Chard, Cabbage, Collards, & Tomatoes. This would be a great day to come out and see what we are up to in the SFCC Culinary Arts Garden.

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The Following day, APRIL 26th, while the Solar Fiesta is happening on the SFCC Campus, I will be down at the Railyard for EARTH DAY SANTA FE meeting people, sharing about our growing garden and sharing tips on how you can grow your own food.  My conmadres from Radical Homemakers of New Mexico will also be there with an amazing spread of homemade fashion, playthings and kitchen concoctions.

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And as if that is not enough…I will also be attending the Spring Garden Fair May 3rd from 10-4pm at the Santa Fe County Fair grounds.  We will have a table set up and lots to share!

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Lots of great opportunities to connect with community and grow together, though how will I ever find time for garden work?!!

 

Gardening Weather

This weekend the weather was wild– yet totally perfect for cool season gardening.  I know May 15th is the last frost date and thus a time when lots of us wait eagerly to beginning our gardening…but for me so much gardening happens before all that.  I have been growing starts in the green house since February.  With the increasing light they have been growing like crazy and so I have started hardening them off and of course make more room for warmer season starts!IMG_3326

Hardening off basically means taking the flats outside everyday to a partially sunny/partially shady table to get them used to wind, cold and even a little rain.  I still take them in at night and in one week they have gone from floppy green to strong upright little fellows.  This weekend I spent hours in the garden and tucked tons of these little guys into the cool ground.

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I know that a plant is ready to go out when the little white roots start to poke out of the bottom of the pot…

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When you squeeze the pot and slip it off the roots keep all the soil intact. creating their own little woven root basket.IMG_3379

If you wait too long, they will become root bound, and be a bit stunted, but if done right the plants actually seem to like the residence of a pot and when transplanted some feeder roots will die back and regenerate a bit stronger.

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The perfect conditions help too…moist earth, cloudy skies and of course it is lovely if they get rained on just after planting…yes we had the perfect weather this weekend and now my garden is full full full.  I planted most things among what I planted either last fall or earlier in the year and now I have a continuous stream of greens.

Everything is still covered with row cover, mostly to reduce watering– the wind dries stuff out so much, but as of now I only water once a week.  Soon unveiling more often would be good, but until I turn on the irrigation in a month I just open, harvest, water and button back up until next week.  IMG_3367

Pretty low maintenance for the return.  Ahhh the abundance of spring seems so promising!!  I am even crossing my fingers for some peaches, this may just be the year!IMG_3452

All we can do now is wait and see what the season will bring.