Green grasslands

Written by karen on August 26th, 2015

The monsoons have stretched out this year and have provided good, solid rains for two months now. They could end any day now, and we are enjoying them while they last.

The grass is tall and green, and we have actually had to cut the grass in the courtyard between the houses a couple times now.

On a walk the other day, we surprised a few javelinas, which looked rather like dolphins on the ocean as they lept through the tall grass.

This morning, looking out at the cows, they appeared to be floating in the field.



Cabinets and closets

Written by karen on July 24th, 2015

This set finally done!



Progress of the beans

Written by karen on July 8th, 2015

The magic beans are doing well. Here are some pics along the way and a few random notes.

beans at day 10

beans at day 10

beans at about 6 weeks

beans at about 6 weeks

first blooms

first blooms

Miscellaneous notes:

  • The beans took about a week to come up. I watered them daily until they were about 6″ high and then less frequently after that.
  • The germination rate was close to 100%.
  • Somewhere around week 2, the leaves of the beans started getting eaten pretty good. I suspect cutter bees. Since they aren’t around much and are supposed to do more good than harm, I decided to just leave them and see what happened.
  • As expected, the cutter bees didn’t stay around long. They did a fair amount of damage, but nothing that couldn’t be overcome.
  • At about 4 weeks, the monsoons hit, and the beans started growing much faster (like everything else).
  • Today, at about 6 weeks, we saw the first blooms. I had heard they would be very pretty and red. these are a dark orange. We’ll see how the others look.

Garlic and Shallots for 2014-2015

Written by brad on July 6th, 2015

Back in the fall equinox of 2014, we planted 300 garlic and 50 French shallots. They plodded along all winter and then took off in the spring. After a few years experimentation, we’ve concluded that garlic/shallots like being sprinkled (as opposed to just dripped) — at least come spring (we hand water in the winter).

We had a very good year for both with greater than 100 percent yield. What you say? During early spring, Karen noticed garlic and shallots volunteering themselves in various beds around the garden. I told her to pull them up and compost them. Instead she began carefully digging them up and replanting them in what we began to call the “rogue” bed. I had a lot of doubts, but I was wrong. What little loss we had in the main beds was more than made up for from the “rogue” bed.

boxes of garlic

The garlic harvest

Garlic store quite well, but sometime around December-January each year our eating garlic starts to get a little soft. In an attempt to stretch out our supply a little, we’re switching to two types of garlic. The purple majestic is ready a little earlier then most garlic — around the end of May, early June. We’re adding a type of garlic called Music (very white in color) that is ready about a month later in early July. This doesn’t mean it will last a month longer, but it’s worth trying.

For our shallots we’ve settled on just the French shallots. I like red shallots a lot, but they don’t like the heat here — especially after they’ve been harvested.

The shallots have been harvested and are curing now. It’s interesting to note that while garlic are really missing something if you eat them before they are cured, shallots are yummy immediately.

The total haul for the garlic (post curing) this year is twenty-two and a half pounds. We won’t know about the shallots until they are finished curing.

One thought I had this year when I was doing the final processing of the garlic is just how much you touch garlic to produce it. At the start, you separate the cloves by hand. You pick each one up to plant them. Once they’re harvested, you pull them up by hand, and you spread them out to cure. They final step is to cut off the roots and the top before you rub vigorously to remove all the loose layers of skin.

garlic on a scale




Monsoons have arrived

Written by karen on June 27th, 2015

The eagerly anticipated monsoons have arrived here this week. (Did you know there was a monsoon season anywhere in America? I didn’t before I moved here.) This is big fun for us. Billowy clouds build up over the mountains during the hot, sunny days, gradually darkening and getting more ominous, and then bursting into violent thunderstorms in the evenings. Sometimes drenching us with torrential rains; other times surrounding us with downpours that seems to be everywhere but on our little piece of land. It’s an adventure every day to see what happens. One of my favorite times of year here.



Variety, volume, and resilience

Written by karen on June 7th, 2015

One thing about growing as many different things as we do here is that for all the crushing disappointments (which I mostly don’t write about here), there are just as many stunning victories. Sometimes both wrapped up together.

Last year, we bought a small fig tree. It’s one of the few things we’ve bought, since we get most of our starts from friends or grow from seeds, and it cost a fair amount. Last year, it seemed to adapt well and even produced a few figs. Then this spring, it looked dead. In fact, you could see where birds had pecked holes in it, and the branches were dry and  brittle. Big disappointment. After several months, I emailed someone I knew, and they said, “Just wait. They often die back and come back up from the ground.”

Indeed, a couple weeks ago, fig leaves could be seen at the base. It’s looking pretty healthy now. (I’m not sure whether to cut back the dead tree or just leave it. When in doubt, I generally opt to leave things as is.)


Nature is resilient, though sometimes things are successful and sometimes not. Trying lots of things seems to increase the odds that something will go right. Not just in gardening, but in life in general.




Written by karen on May 25th, 2015

This weekend, we took an excursion south of Animas to an old (ghost?) town called Cloverdale. (Spoiler: There isn’t much town left.)

It was a beautiful drive with amazing landscapes. Most of the land down there was bought up some time back by the Diamond A Ranch, which is 321,000 acres and is connected with the Nature Conservancy. Despite that, there were “no trespassing” signs posted everywhere.

On the whole drive, we only saw two other vehicles, one Border Patrol and one rancher, both pretty close to Animas. We did see several pronghorn as well.

In the southern part of this land, we found an old abandoned homestead house. We also had directions to the old Cloverdale cemetery. It turned out that there wasn’t a road to it any more, but we walked a mile or so and found it.

Near there, the ranch is bordered by large amounts of national forest and BLM land which you can access by road. We are definitely going to return and do some camping down there.

Being there felt like being in a place no one else had been in a very long time.


Magic beans

Written by karen on May 24th, 2015

A few weeks ago, I went to the International Seed Library Forum. It was a great gathering, and I met some amazing people, including a guy from Silver City.

When we met, he hold me about some multicolored “Legendary Beauty Way Beans”  that he originally got from a friend in Snowflake, AZ, who says they were originally from an archaeological site in the southwest. After the event, he followed up by email and told me he’d send me some.

I got them and was astounded by how beautiful they are.


I’m planting them this weekend and will post updates on how it goes.



Written by karen on May 23rd, 2015

This morning, I was brushing my teeth, looking out the window as I often do, and saw something unusual out toward the back. It was a large mammal, dark brown, stout, low to the ground. My still half-asleep mind searched to figure out what this might be. A large dog? A small bear?

Yes, you guessed it, it was the evil javelina. It lumbered off into the brush as I was calling Brad, but fortunately he got there in time to see its partner following behind. They were running off from having a drink at the water hole we put in for the animals. Silly us.

While we’ve seen plenty of damage from javelinas in the last two years, this was the first ones I’ve actually seen on our property. They were surprisingly large. All morning, I shook my head in amazement at having actually seen them.

As you may remember, last year, the unseen javelinas did quite a lot of damage to our garden. They ate tomatoes, watermelon, and sweet potato greens, as well as ripping up a lot of expensive insect netting.

Two weeks or so again, we had another visit; it was too depressing to write about at the time. They ate all my tomato starts. After nursing these along from seed for five months and just getting them outside, it was pretty awful. (The good news is that a few have come back, and I still have some starts in the house as well.)

After that, I did some more serious research on the problem and determined that an electric fence was the best solution. So last week, we put one in. It’s only about 10 inches high, and since we’ve put it in, we haven’t had any problems.

In the course of my research, I also found that javelinas are drawn by food outside (especially dog food or bird seed) and by water. Ok, affirmative on that.



Rogue plants

Written by karen on May 17th, 2015

This is the third or fourth year we’ve planted in most of our beds. As such, we often have odd rogue plants come up from previous year’s ungerminated seeds. I always hate to pull these up, and so our beds sometimes end up to be an odd mix of things.

Last year, we had several random garlics coming up all over, and so I transplanted them all into one “rogue garlic” bed. We’ve been harvesting our regular garlic this week and so I decided to dig up a few of the rogue ones to see how they were. The greens didn’t look very robust, but the garlics looks great. We will have a bigger store of garlic this year thanks to these.