Free Organic IPM Farm Walks

NMSU and NMDA are hosting another series of Organic IPM Farm Walks. These are always a wonderful way to get an inside look at some local farms. There is no charge for these walks, but you must pre-register.

You may or may not be surprised to find out that there isn’t a good direct link to this information on NMSU’s IPM site. In lieu of a website link, for more information, email Deborah Sandoval at NMSU. And here is a link to an article about the walks in Green Fire Times.

There are two walks in September: 

1. Sunday, September 8th, 1-4pm at Skarsgard Farms.

2. Sunday, September 22nd, 1-4pm at Freshies in Lyden (Alcade area). See 3 acres of certified organic apples, peaches and mixed vegetables and a bonus peak at their mushroom operation. 

And don’t forget about the Urban Farm Festival on September 15th and the Local Food Festival on October 13th at the Gutierrez-Hubbell House! 

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Upcoming Events In Albuquerque

Happy new year, dear readers.

It’s true. I’ve been remiss in posting. While you wait for more recipes and farm animal lore, here are some (mostly) FREE events happening here in Albuquerque.

1. Bug Love

Wednesday, February 13th, 6-7:15 PM at Bachechi Open Space. FREE. A fun talk with my favorite entomologist Dr. Tess Grasswitz. Details here.

2. Beekeeping 101

Saturday, March 2. Erda Gardens. Details here.

3. ABQ Beekeepers Meeting

Thursday, March 7, 6:30-8:30 PM. FREE. Details here.

4. Empowering Women in Agriculture Seminar

Friday, March 8th. FREE. MRGCD Agricultural Collaborative. Register and details here.

5. Edible Landscapes

Saturday, March 9, 9 AM-12:30 PM at the historic Gutierrez-Hubbell House. FREE. Part of the popular Bernalillo County Open Space Backyard Farming Workshop Series. Details here on this and other workshops this year.

And don’t forget…now is the perfect time to plant your spring garden (under row cover, of course). Plant lettuces, greens and spring root crops for an early April harvest. While I don’t use straw bales anymore (I simply use two layers of row cover and wire wickets), here is a blog about an easy way to create a quick cold frame to grow spring greens.

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NM Native Pollinator Pocket Guides

My favorite entomologist, Dr. Tess Grasswitz, has published new and FREE guides to beneficials in New Mexico. They are available for download from NMSU’s website and have great photos and descriptions. Go to the above link and scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the link for either IPM for Home Gardeners or the Guide to Beneficial Insects of New Mexico.

There is a ton of great information on Tess’s Integrated Pest Management website, and the information is applicable to more than just New Mexico. Take a look. Thanks, Tess (& thanks, Rebecca, for sharing the link!)!

Lady Beetles and larvae on dill that’s gone to seed.

Here is one of my favorite tips for increasing beneficials in the garden:

Let plants go to seed. Especially dill, wild carrot, cilantro, basil, fennel, etc. This can be tricky when you have a small garden, but try to include a row for pollinators. The benefit of doing this really hit home a few years back when I let the collards that I grew over the winter go to seed in the spring.

I briefly worried that I would be creating habitat for early populations of the cabbage moths, but what I discovered instead was that although the cabbage moths had an earlier food source, so did the parasitic wasps that preyed on them. What I noticed after a few years of letting collards go to seed was that not only were my populations of cabbage moths reduced, the large branched collard plants provided seed (and insects) and perches for birds, habitat for spiders and lady beetles (which I typically see more in the umbelliferae plants but perhaps early in the spring they take what they can get). And, I had “free” new collard plants growing without having to do any work on my part.

Again, this is really only practical in a “wild” type garden, but I always keep some wild areas along the micro-managed gardens for beneficials and have noticed very minimal pest pressure on the veggies (except for squash bugs, but that’s another post!). I’d love to hear what others are doing in smaller gardens to encourage beneficials.

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I Wanna Go To Farm Camp!

How cool is it that such a thing as “farm camp” exists? No endless weeks of daycare, uniforms and kumbaya for the modern set. Now young’uns can learn about farm animals, growing food, and all sorts of things that were, let’s be honest, probably chores way back in the day. I can imagine my 98-year old grandmother who couldn’t wait to get off the farm at 16 shuddering at the thought of actually wanting to do all this fun farm-y stuff. (In fact, I do think she’s a bit amused at how I like to spend my time!).

Desi says she wants to go to Farm Camp!

These days, however, our youth are in critical need of connecting with nature and where our food comes from. Farm Camp may just be one of the more important movements (along with school gardens) happening in the “nature deficit disorder” scene.

Here in Albuquerque, we are lucky to have our own farm camp at Erda Gardens, a biodynamic CSA and Learning Center. In their third year of hosting farm camp, they bring in local experts to make the experience so much the richer. This year’s sessions start the first week in June. Find out more about Farm Camp at Erda Gardens on their website. Looks like so much fun!

Amanda and the Amazing Above Water Farm Camp Basket Weavers

Posted in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Permaculture, School Garden, South Valley - Albuquerque, Urban Homestead, Workshops | Tagged , | 2 Comments

2012 Herbalism 101 Workshop Series

Our 2012 Herbalism 101 series starts in just one month!

Starting Sunday, May 20, we will meet one morning a month to explore the gardens, learn medicine-making skills, and learn how to use herbs for health and wellness. We’ll cover specific organ systems (e.g. Herbs for the Respiratory System), and I’ll share favorite remedies for common ailments.

Poppies! California Poppies!

The class size is small so that there is plenty of time for questions. We always have a lot of fun. I hope you can join us!

Dates, times, and registration info available here. $40 per class or early bird discount of $200 for the entire series if paid by the first day of class. Class size is limited and pre-registration required.

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Cuckoo Marans Chickens

We get a lot of blog hits from people searching for information about Cuckoo Marans chickens, an older breed that is newly popular. There isn’t a lot of information about Cuckoo Marans out there, so I though I would add a post about my experience with the breed.

Cuckoo Marans Momma Hen and Her Just Hatched Chicks: "Oh My Stars!"

I’m not going to write about how this is a heritage breed from France, their history in the United States, etc. I’m going to tell you my experience with the breed. If you just want the details in a nutshell: they are a good dual-purpose breed, average egg-layers (don’t go for them if you’re looking for serious production), dark eggs IF you get good genetics, good mothers, the roosters are good meat birds, and they’re pretty but don’t have spectacular plumage.

1. I wanted dark brown eggs. After reading about the different dark brown egg-laying breeds, the Cuckoo Marans seemed appealing, especially since I like dual-purpose birds.

2. I ordered 25 Cuckoo Marans, straight run, from Murray MacMurray hatchery, which is my favorite hatchery. They all survived and were healthy, BUT only a handful of the hens ended up laying the really dark eggs that MM advertises. Some were darkly speckled as opposed to entirely dark. (By they way, when you get the chicks, those with a larger whitish spot on the head tend to be the roosters. The hens tend to be darker).

I think this is because A) MacMurray’s got the breed, but they’re just pumping out the eggs, not raising them up and selecting for egg color and B) word on the street is, over the years, Cuckoo Marans were crossed with Barred Rocks to improve their egg production. So, the breed produced more eggs, but the eggs had an occasionally lighter color. Don’t get me wrong, the eggs are still darker than, say, a Buff Orpington, but I’ve had RIR’s lay darker eggs.

So…if you really want dark eggs right away, I recommend buying from a breeder, not one of the larger hatcheries.

3. Barred Rocks and Cuckoo Marans have similar coloring, but the barring and coloring is really different, if you pay attention. There was one hen of the 25 who had coloring more similar to a Barred Rock than a Cuckoo Marans, which reinforced my supposition that there were Barred Rock genetics present.

That hen’s name, by the way, is Chatty Kathy, because she used to make so much noise -cackling at me when I milked the goats. I think she was trying to say “I’m not a Marans. I’m not supposed to be here.” But, unlike Barred Rocks, she stopped laying her first moult and never started up again (I think that was two years ago). That’s an early retirement if I’ve ever seen one! She’s also mean to her fellow hens. She’s been on the list to cull, but Tree likes her, so she’s still part of the flock. For now.

4. So, back on the ranch, I selected the darkest eggs from the hens with the darkest coloring to hatch out. We had a good first hatching of chicks. Our Buff Orpington named Crazy raised them up (she was a broody machine, going broody again a few weeks after each clutched was raised…even in January). Sadly of that first clutch, more than half were roosters. More sadness, several of the female chicks drowned in the goat’s water bucket (we’ve since put it up on blocks when we have chicks), so we had a small number of hens that were raised up from that first batch. Many were already promised to friends, so we kept only two.

Those two hens had the dark feather coloring and dark eggs that I wanted, however, when I went to hatch out their eggs, many of the eggs were duds (they didn’t hatch). That has never happened. What that was all about I don’t know: did the rooster really not ever mount them? Or was there something structural or genetic at play?

I ended up being so enamored with a Marans/Araucana cross name Lulu (from a favored white Araucauna (Whitey) who was an incredible layer with a great personality), that I decided to stop breeding the Marans and just raise the offspring of Whitey and Lulu.

The Marans roosters were large and for the most part good roosters (in my book a good rooster doesn’t attack people, is not overly amorous with the hens, good fertilization rate, and takes care of his hens (finds them food, protects, etc.). The last purebred Marans rooster, however, ended up being mean with the girls, so I made the decision to keep a hybrid Marans/Araucauna cross and no longer raise pure Marans chickens. After all, there’s something to be said for hybrid vigor.

So, for all of you who find this blog looking for information about Cuckoo Marans, I hope this is useful to you!

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Goat Cheese Workshop – February 19

[As of 2/16, the class is FULL. If you didn’t get a chance to register, send us your email to be on the mailing list for the next goat cheese workshop!]

If you’ve ever wanted to know how to make your own goat cheese, here’s your chance. Join Jen for a fun morning learning all about making goat cheese. We’ll cover milk handling, rennet, cultures, equipment, aging, and much more.

This camembert-style goat cheese was delicious!

We’ll go through the steps for making the various kinds of fresh chevres and also cover tips and additional resources for learning how to make feta and mold-ripened cheeses. Registration is limited and pre-registration is required for this course. Register online to reserve your spot.

When: Sunday, February 19, 10am
Where: Sunstone Farm and Learning Center (we’ll send directions upon receipt of registration)
Cost: $20

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