Located at the base of Buckhorn Mountain at 6700' elevation, Buckhorn Gardens is a small, organic vegetable farm 13mi. south of Montrose, Colorado. Our farm is an active part of a 12,000 acre ranch; however, we only manage 3 acres with intensive vegetable gardening.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Hello again everyone, sorry about the brief hiatus. We've had a few technical difficulties and some hectic weeks here at Buckhorn. The temperatures have begun to drop and covering and uncovering beds has become a frequent chore. We had a morning of steady, cold rain today and there was some snow up on Buckhorn (Storm King). We've been spending the bulk of our time ripping up old beds, amending them, and replanting them for our winter crops.

Several trays of seedlings waiting to transplanted in Mars the hoop house

A new row of Red Russian kale transplants in Mars

This has been going on in the greenhouses and the dome for the most part, since this is where the bulk of our winter crops will be grown. Long rows of kale, chard, spinach, and lettuce have been planted in the greenhouses as well as partial rows of carrots, beets, leeks, and scallions. Radishes and daikons as well as more lettuce and carrots will be planted in the dome. Some of the radishes as well as some basil have been planted in the dome already.

A freshly dirt-filled bed in the dome, waiting to be planted

Lately we've been lending a helping hand at some other farms. Two weekends ago, Breigh and Darren helped the folks at Circle A Farms tighten their hoop house (greenhouse), so as not to be lost to high winds. Last Friday Breigh, Darren, and I drove to Tomten Farm on Hastings Mesa to help with the construction of a 33-foot diameter dome that is new to their operation. I had a great time meeting other farmers and seeing other farm sites.

After the work day, we all went to the Telluride Farmers Market Dinner, which was held at Cocina de Luz on Main Street. Buckhorn Gardens would like to send out a big thanks to Chris, the farmers market director, and all of the other folks who helped to put that event on. Everyone had a great time eating delicious food donated by all the farm vendors.

Some information for our CSA members who pick up at the farm and who live in Telluride: We will be having this week's pick up on Thursday, as usual. This is also the case for the Thursday October 29th pick up. Thursday November 5th will NOT be a pick up day. Instead we will be hosting a "Pick Your Own" CSA Day on Saturday November 7th. Bring your family, friends, and work gloves if you feel like pitching in with some bed amending or weeding after you pick your own share from the garden.

I hope everyone is having a great week, take care!

Jack-o-lanterns carved down at the intern shack -- Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 9, 2009

The last weekend in September, Breigh, Noel, Jinelle, Jesse, and I set out on a road trip to New Mexico. After doing chores on Saturday morning, we packed the car and headed for our first stop, the Durango farmer’s market. Here we chatted with other farmers, compared prices, and bought apples. We had some lunch in Durango then hit the road for our next destination, Taos, New Mexico.

Driving in to Taos, we passed the “world headquarters” for Earthships, houses made entirely from recycled materials and built into the ground. It was a neighborhood consisting of over 100 Earthships. You couldn’t even see them all from the road and they spread over miles. We returned to this site on our way home, to have a look around the visitor’s center (which is an Earthship), but we found a seminar under way that prevented us from going inside. There were license plates from as far away as Ontario and Alberta in the parking lot.

The first farm we visited on Saturday was called Hondo Seco Farms, or “2 Blondes Farming” located just outside of Taos in a small town called Arroyo Seco at about 7,600 feet. We visited one part of this farming operation (it is somewhat spread out) and were welcomed by a charming blonde woman named Julie in overalls and knee-high rubber boots. “I’m doing irrigation today,” she explained. Irrigation was, in fact, one of the most interesting aspects of this farm for me.

At Buckhorn, we use only drip lines and hand watering as of now. At Hondo Seco, they use a system of small ditches to water their fields. They do this only once a week. Julie explained to us a peculiar ritual that they take part in order to obtain their water. They use the old acequias to water their fields and every six days they must visit the mayor and ask for their water to be turned on.

Hondo Seco also had a medium-sized hoop house, a mature and lovely orchard, a beehive, and a very nice looking chicken coop that housed a handful of young chickens.

View of the Blondes' main field

Sweet chicken coop with young chickens

Jinelle and Noel inspecting the greenhouse

Irrigation ditches - fascinating!

Saying goodbye and thank you to Julie at Hondo Seco, we hopped in the car to drive to our next destination, Beneficial Farms, in the hills outside of Sante Fe. Steve, who welcomed us, is farming at about 7,000 feet and living completely off the grid. He has owned the land since 1979 and began farming it 1994. The farm is part of a year-round CSA cooperative with several other farms in the area. It also produces 150 - 300 eggs a day from its large flock of chickens, which Steve sells wholesale. One greenhouse is home to tomatoes and peppers, and the roof can be opened during the summer.

The adobe/hay structures were one of the most impressive aspects of this farm. The intern/guest house has two sides made of hay, one of solid adobe, and the fourth of wooden frame. This structure is also the packing/processing center and there is a sunroom/green house attached on the south side. All of the living spaces, farming spaces, and animal spaces are completely off-grid, as I mentioned. Steve uses rainwater catchments, solar power, and wastewater recycling to accomplish this. Below is a photo of just two of the rainwater catchment tanks.

Steve's fields and the adobe structures in the distance

Two rainwater catchment tanks on the side of the intern/guest house

Steve left us with some words of wisdom on the value of obtaining ones own land and staying on it. He said that 30 years on the same patch of land has given him the ability to not only read his own land very well, but the ability to read unfamiliar land almost immediately as well. This skill allows him to time his crops well and to know what his soil needs. His thoughts were taken to heart among the five of us guests and I think we all ached a little inside just thinking about getting our hands on land of our own.

That night we camped out in Sante Fe National Forest, then headed back to Taos the next day for our final farm tour. We pulled into Morning Star Farms, back in Arroyo Seco, and Melinda, the farmer, greeted us warmly. Like Benefitial Farms, Morning Star practices Biodynamic farming. She has been farming for 12+ years and has had her CSA running for about 10. This year the CSA has about 54 full shares, all of which is produced on about 2 acres, much like ours, and she doesn't use a tractor either. She has two green houses full of tomatoes, basil, and many other warm season veggies. She also grows corn, which was impressive to us, given the size of our stalks this year. Her crops were grown very close together, which was some advice we learned from Steve the day before, in order to maximize water efficiency. As the soil gets better at Buckhorn, we should be able to start doing the same. Morning Star also attends the Arroyo Seco farmer’s market and also sells to local restaurants.

Noel regards the corn with wonder

Morning Star's adorable farm dog, whose name I never caught

There were at least two more rows of basil just like this. Pesto anyone?

We said goodbye to Melinda and prepared for the long drive home. It was an excellent, educational, and beautiful trip.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The weather here at Buckhorn has taken a sharp dive past autumn and straight into winter. We've had many nights in the low 20s this past week, our lowest being 21°F. This has been uncharacteristic for the area. We all love an Indian summer, and sadly it seems we will be found wanting this year. As a result of the wintry temperatures, we've lost a lot of vegetables despite the fact that we double covered most of our outdoor crops. Beets and broccoli will not be making another appearance this season and some of the greens have suffered frost damage. Wednesdays are our day to harvest greens and it was quite the challenge. Many leaves have brown tips, so we have to do our picking with an even more selective eye than we usually do.

In preparation for the forecast cold snap, we completely tore up the two green houses. Last last week we harvested several hundred pounds of green tomatoes, which are currently ripening (fingers crossed) in our root cellar. While we wait (and hope and pray) that those turn red, we're working on finding some recipes for green tomatoes. Those will likely be making their way to you CSA members in a few weeks.

Now that all the tomatoes, squash, cucumber, melons, and other miscellaneous veggies have been uprooted from the green houses, it's time to get the beds prepped for their winter residents. We have begun doing this in the past couple of days. First we soak alfalfa pellets, which we then spread on the beds to add nitrogen to the soil. Next we spread a layer of dry, crumbled leaves to add organic matter. If we're lucky, we can put down some pine needles as well, which are naturally acidic and benefit the alkaline pH level in our soil. The next layer is one of cow manure and compost, which contribute more organic matter and nitrogen to the beds. Our next step was to use the small rototiller to mix up all the aforementioned ingredients. This is a step that we will skip in the future. It chops and thus multiplies the roots of weeds we worked hard to eradicate. Second, it destroys the "structure" of the soil, which in turn compromises the diversity of micro-organisms that benefit the plants. Further, after time it can cause the formation of a "tiller pan," a layer of hard packed soil just below where the blades of the tiller reach in the dirt. This is the last thing we need in our clay-ridden soil. Newer beds, like the ones we are working in, do benefit from the rototilling, so we decided to use the contraption again this time.

What will go in these beautifully prepped beds? We have over a dozen flats of transplants readily waiting in the dome. These little plants include cold-hearty greens like kale, chard, arugula, spinach, and perpetual spinach. We are also going to directly seed lettuce and our special "lettuce-less bliss mix" (a label coined by Darren mere minutes ago). After these crops are planted and transplanted, we are going to use an Elliot Coleman technique to aid in their protection from cold. With hoops of wire and long strips of remay and plastic we will basically create mini hoop-houses over the rows of veggies. This should double up the warmth kept around the greens as they grow.

The last bit of exciting farm news is that we are now hosting a billy goat to breed with our oldest and best-milking goat, Belle. The other two goats, Fanny and Chev, have gone away so that Comanche and Belle could have the barn to themselves. Comanche (ko-MAN-chee) smells pretty bad, so we have special "goat clothes" that we wear to the barn to milk Belle now.

That's all there is to report from the farm this week. See you all tomorrow or at market, be well!
Sweet and Gooey Parsnips

1 pound parsnips
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Scrape or peel the parsnips, then cut them into sticks about the size of your little finger. Dry well with paper toweling.
2. In a heavy 10-inch skillet, melt butter; then add the parsnips, shaking to coat. Sprinkle with nutmeg. Cover tightly and sauté on medium heat for about 5 to 10 minutes. The parsnips should be tender and gooey, and slightly caramelized. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Yield: 4 servings

Cock-a-Leekie Soup

2 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
3 cups water
1 stalk of celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
1/2 cup barley
1 cup chicken broth
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3/4 pound leeks white and green parts, sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)

1. In large saucepan, combine the chicken breasts, water, celery, carrots, barley, chicken broth, bay leaves, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Heat to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 30 minutes.
2. Add the leeks, heat to a boil, reduce the heat again, and simmer until the chicken is tender.
3. Remove the chicken and let cool. When it is cool enough to handle,cut into bite-size pieces.
4. Skim any fat from the broth and remove bay leaves. Put the chicken pieces back into the broth and reheat for about 5 minutes.
Yield: 6 servings