What are you going to do with your bountiful harvest? Part of the age old tradition of gardening for “victory” or in today’s parlance, sustainability, is the passed on genetics and the knowledge of preservation and storage of foods and medicines. Thinking ahead and planning out your recipes may greatly increase the longevity and palatability of your harvest.
Why have staples such as potatoes and cabbage been so important for our survival, and how are they optimally grown and stored? What do you do with potatoes to store them for next year? And how can we spice up our staples to give us some amazing tasting probiotic foods? These will be some of the topics covered in our effort to inspire others with knowledge and tools to be their own keystone species. Like the beaver, we have the capacity to influence other species downstream. Local staple foods are part of decreasing our high country carbon footprint.
Gardening in the high altitude takes patience and determination as well as utilizing knowledge gained from others. Some of this knowledge is passed down in various cultures (human and microbial-pun intended). We will focus on two staple crops today that are useful as a nutritive and can be stored for winter consumption. What we at BPEEC are finding is that with the right vegetables a bountiful harvest can be obtained without pests or weather damage.
Whether the topic is local food and sustainable agriculture, ecological diversity and webs of life, green building methods, alternative energy sources, or water quality in the mountain watersheds, our goal is to inform and educate other busy bodies, shakers and movers, and people just genuinely interested in becoming better stewards of the land.
Here is a short introduction to the most local ecological niche that we know. The micro biome refers to the arrangement of microorganisms in the gut. The gastrointestinal system is an ecological niche and as scientists learn more about gut flora, the importance of proper floral balance becomes more and more apparent. Gut flora influences immune health, mental health, and certain fermented foods like sauerkraut, Kim chi, yogurt, koji rice, miso, and others are examples of altering staple foods via the introduction of other microbial species. For more information or for a hands-on fermented foods class, contact Beaver Ponds Environmental Education Center (BPEEC).
Spinach, cabbage, chard, kale, and Brussels sprouts are all staple foods in the Brassica family (Brassicaceae). Right now at 10,200 feet between the outdoor huglekulture and raised beds we are growing dragon carrots, Napoli f1 carrots, white satin carrots, Broccoli, garlic chives, Tyee f1 spinach, Bilko cabbage, potatoes, fennel, calendula, Waldstroms and Concept lettuce. Since potatoes are in the Nightshade family they produce pest deterrents and require little to no protection from the chipmunks. Along with the cold-hardiness, this makes for a great high altitude staple food. As well as being loaded with carbohydrates to fuel the brain and replenish glycogen in the liver, the potato is a plant with very high levels of the mineral potassium.
In the geothermal greenhouse we have Red Rubin Basil, Korean Licorice mint, Osaka Purple Chard, Collard greens, Arugula, Dino Kale, Fennel, Garlic Chives, Daikon radish, Cherry Radish, Tomatoes are not producing fruit yet, Summer Thyme, Tyee F1 spinach, Aloe, Banana, Lavender, Bilko F1 cabbage, Dill, Parsley, among other wonderful vegetables, many of which are being utilized for our 5 year anniversary Shindig meal on August 26th. Check in regularly to see what’s growin’ on at Beaver Ponds.
Eric Chatt N.D. (Site Manager)
Over the past two years we have received funding from South Park National Heritage Area (SPNHA) to conduct research on dendrochronology and herbchronology. Their generosity has allowed us to study the science related to these two disciplines, by measuring the growth patterns of trees and herbs, respectively. We are looking to complete a bio-chronology at Beaver Ponds this coming summer. A bio chronology is the ages and growth patterns of all species that add annual growth rings. Growth rings are displayed in several plants but there are animals that display growth rings such as fish and turtles. Some of the animals also show a climate signal in their growth rings. A climate signal is shown as a pattern of wide and narrow rings displaying the influence of precipitation rates.
During the summer of 2015, with help of Drs. Richard Guyette and Rose Marie Muzika from the Missouri Tree Ring Laboratory (MTRL) at the University of Missouri, we sampled trees at Beaver Ponds and on University of Colorado-Colorado Springs and Mountain Area Land Trust Land on nearby Pennsylvania Mountain. The impetus of the project was to determine growth rates and ages of trees at Beaver Ponds and on Pennsylvania Mountain. At Beaver Ponds, we collected increment cores from lodgepole pine and cross sections from old stumps. On Pennsylvania Mountain, we collected increment cores from several bristlecone pines. We found live trees on Pennsylvania Mountain near 2000 years old while the oldest tree at Beaver Ponds was a 215-year-old Engelmann Spruce. One of the cross sections collected at Beaver Ponds started growing in 1356 and was over 500 years old when it was cut down. Most of the lodgepole pine samples at Beaver Ponds gave us recruitment date 1870. This corresponds with the establishment of the Duquesne smelter. Our guess is that most of the larger timber in the immediate area of the smelter was harvested for fuel. More than half of the cores from the bristlecone pine on Pennsylvania Mountain showed increased growth rates over the past 100 years. This is counter intuitive; you would expect diameter growth to decrease over time due to competition with other trees and old age. What caused the increased growth is unknown but it could be due to increased temperatures and/or additional CO2.
In 2016 Dr. Mike Stambaugh, (MTRL) along with Beaver Ponds personnel and volunteers collected samples of various herbaceous alpine plants that display annual growth rings. At Beaver Ponds, we sampled two types of cinquefoil – an herbaceous plant of the rose family; and a pea we still must identify. We collected several samples of Whipple’s Penstemon a species that is known to have growth rings. To be able to see the growth rings, we needed to slice the roots with a microtome. A microtome is an instrument that can hold a sample in a vise as it is drawn over an extremely sharp blade. The result is a sample that is about the third of the thickness of a human hair. After slicing, we stained the sample so we can see the cells with lignin. Lignin gives plants the ability to be erect. During collection, we collected additional above ground information that might be used as predictors of the plants age. What we found is that the sum of the diameter of the rosette and plant height are good indicator of the age of Whipple Penstemon.
In 2017 we are seeking funds to cover the cost associated with collecting information related to shrub growth at Beaver Ponds and on Pennsylvania Mountain. Shrub-chronology looks at the growth rates of shrubby species. At Beaver Ponds, we are planning on sampling stream side willows, shrubby cinquefoil, mountain sagebrush and common juniper. On Pennsylvania Mountain, we will sample shrubby cinquefoil, common juniper and willows. These species show growth rings well and display a climate signal. In preliminary sampling, we found a juniper that is 114 years old and a sagebrush that is 45.
With the collection of the 2017 shrub age data along with the dendro and herb-chronology data we will have made the first pass on determining the vegetative portion of the bio-chronology at Beaver Ponds and Pennsylvania Mountain.
Green Tips from Beaver Ponds to Your Home
Make sure you sign up for our monthly newsletter for sustainability tips like this delivered to your inbox.
This month's tip on composting
comes from "Eartha" our neighbor over at High Country Conservation Center -- Be sure to share this with a young person in your life, as she originally wrote this for elementary school age children. HC3's mission is to promote practical solutions for waste reduction and resource conservation in our mountain community. You can learn more by visiting www.highcountryconservation.org
Why should you compost and why is it good? There are LOTS of reasons! Adding compost to soil gives plants all the building blocks they need to grow big and strong - nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium and lots of other micronutrients. It's sort of like a human taking a multi-vitamin. Additionally, putting compost in soil helps the soil keep water and improves air circulation - water and air are both very important to growing plants.
Compost also helps keep our air clean. Most households throw away about 474 pounds of food a year, which is about 1½ pounds of food per person per day! If you piled all the food scraps by all the households in the USA on a football field, it would be more than five miles high. Wow! When people don't compost, those food scraps end up in a landfill; and, because landfills lock in layers of trash keeping oxygen out when those scraps of food decompose - or break down - they create methane gas, which is very bad for humans to breathe.
Lastly, we live in a big country that is very beautiful. Throwing food scraps away with garbage and putting everything into a landfill takes a lot of space and is not very pretty. Right now, some cities, like New York, where there are lots of people and lots of trash, have run out of landfill space. They load their garbage into trucks and drive it 600 miles away to dump in a landfill that still has space. All that trash is a mix of everything people throw away, but paper, plastic and food scraps are most of what is in the pile. Food scraps can be composted, so imagine how much smaller those landfill piles would be without those things!
It is very easy to compost! First, collect all your unusable food scraps — basically anything that comes from the refrigerator or pantry. Do not include any paper, plastic or paper coated in plastic. You’ll want to collect over time, so work with your family to figure out how you want to store the food scraps until you have enough to take to the Recycling Center or to start your own compost pile.
One way you can store the scraps is in a brown paper bag in the freezer. The cold helps it, so there isn’t any smell. You can also store them in a lidded kitchen compost pail (basically, any container with a lid). You’ll want to make sure the container is easily washable, though, as when the food scraps break down, it leaves goo. Every couple of days, you’ll want to empty out this small container to something larger like a 4-5 gallon bucket. Keep the bucket near your backdoor, and, after dumping the small container into it, add a damp paper towel on top or sprinkle some sawdust, leaves or dirt on top to cut down on the smell. Once the bucket (or the bag in the freezer) is full take it to your local recycling center that accepts food waste.
If you have space where you live, you can also compost in your backyard. There is a lot of information online, but you’ll need a bin, brown “stuff” (dry leaves, paper) and green “stuff” (food scraps), water and a way to mix everything together. If you really take care of your compost, you can have rich, black dirt in no time! However, if you live in the mountains or somewhere with bears in the area, a little extra care is needed.
Additional tips on composting in bear country:
For composting up in the high country you need to get material properly composted indoors in order to detract bears and other animals. One way to do this is by utilizing other organisms to break down the waste material. Namely, worms and fungus are great assistants to utilize in the composting process. Most gardeners realize the value of vermiculture by utilizing their castings as natural fertilizer ~ namely worm poop. "Worm bins" using red wriggler worms is a common method to compost kitchen scraps. Bokashi is another indoor friendly method to compost in your home using beneficial fungi to break down the material in a closed bucket system. This is a great way to utilize kitchen scraps by composting indoors and involves inoculating the bucket with a powdered fungus and adding scraps of vegetable matter to the bin as it collects, mixing occasionally.
Green Tips from Beaver Pond to Your Home
Make sure you sign up for our monthly newsletter for sustainability tips like this delivered to your inbox.
This month's tip on eggshell gardening comes from Beaver Ponds friend and guest writer Marjorie Gillmeister who left the limelight of New York City to farm organically in Texas on The Gillmeister Ranch established in 1972 by her 90 year old father-in-law with their sweet son Wolfgang.
If you begin your garden from seeds this year, why don't you consider starting seeds in eggshells? Growing seedlings in eggshell pods is a natural, biodegradable, and environmentally earth-friendly way to recycle and can be planted directly into the soil after being cracked a little with care and supply nourishment to the plant and soil by slowly releasing calcium.
- Egg carton
- Seed Starter Planting Mix
- Small spoon
- Spray bottle or plant mister
- Awl, ice pick, or wide sharp needle
1. When cracking the eggshells, crack the top part of the egg (narrower point end) with a sharp knife and gently pour the egg from the opening for use.
2. Save eggshells, and rinse well inside and out with warm water. For extra sanitation, boil the shells for a few minutes to make sure all traces of egg residue are cleaned out. If the shells foam up a bit, you will know that you've brought the leftover residue to the surface.
3. Rinse eggshells again and place them back in their egg carton to dry. Once dry, gently chip any rough edges of the eggs to desired opening size.
4. Use awl, ice pick, or wide sharp needle to puncture a single hole in the middle base of the eggshell. You have then created a drainage hole for your egg planter. I puncture the eggshells from the inside while resting in the egg carton to provide a buffer for it. You may have to remove parts of the thin membrane alongside the eggshell by spraying water gently inside eggshell.
5. With a small spoon, scoop some seed starter planting mix into eggshell to fill. You may want to carefully shake egg to even out soil.
7. Plant seeds according to seed packet directions to determine depth and any other special care.
8. Spritz water with spray bottle to moisten soil but not to the point of soggy and place eggshell container in a well-lit area with sun indoors by a window with the most light.
9. Water plants with a gentle spritz with spray bottle each morning to moisten, taking care not to make the soil too soggy. Watch and wait for your seedlings to sprout - usually in a few days depending on seedling emerging time.
10. Once sprouts have grown large enough to transfer (usually 4-6 weeks) thin them out and plant directly into the ground or larger planter after gently cracking the eggshell around them. The roots will grow beyond the eggshell into the soil, the shell will continue to provide nourishment to the plant and surrounding soil, and will eventually biodegrade.
Do you remember the article from last month's newsletter when Beaver Ponds discovered a nearly 700 year-old tree on our property? This was the result of a dendrochronology study (tree ring growth)...next up is an herbchronology study.
We are very excited to share with you that Beaver Ponds recently received a significant grant from the South Park National Heritage Area (SPNHA) to measure the annual growth rings of alpine herbaceous plants!
The technical term for this work is herbchronology - a term coined in the 90s for this type of work.
This may not seem exciting to you at first glimpse, but can you believe that like trees, perennial herbs have a growth zone that tells us the age of herbaceous plants like the penstemon pictured above?
Put another way, using similar techniques as dendrochronology, the study of tree rings, we can measure these annual growth rings and learn a lot about their life because of the growth zone called the vascular cambium found between the root bark and the rootxylem (tissue) - shown below in the picture of a penstemon stem. In addition, herbchronology is used to measure population age structure (the age span between plants in a determined area) and the effects of localized climate change.
This summer you will find Beaver Ponds staff, in conjunction with Dr. Michael Stambaugh from the Missouri Tree Ring Laboratory, out sampling perennial plants on Pennsylvania Mountain and at Beaver Ponds. With the assistance of Dr. Candi Galen, from the University of Missouri, we will sample plants that support the long-term existing research projects that have been active on Pennsylvania Mountain for the past thirty-five years.
You'll be the very first to know the results of this study. A big shout of gratitude to SPNHA for all of your support of Beaver Ponds.
Cock-a-doodle-doo is not a sound you will be hearing from our hen house any time soon, as our new flock is "ladies only"!
Our new flock of chickens is established and the hens are great winter egg-layers. We chose special heritage breeds, that could manage our altitude and climate better, such as the "chocolate egg layer" from France the Cuckoo Maran, and the green egg layer called the Americauna, along with the New Hampshire Reds, Silver Laced Wyandottes, Barred Rocks, and Silver Leghorns. The Silver Leghorns are a very rare breed that were bred for their white egg color, although they produce fewer and smaller eggs compared to the other breeds.
The chicks arrived last summer as babies in the mail and their first winter at 10,000 feet has been a great season for egg production. Our beautiful ladies are laying between 8 and 12 eggs per day. Their appreciative clucks let us know how very fortunate they feel to have such healthy and sustainably grown food. Their yolks are deep yellow/orange and their flavor is superb.
The hens are fed fresh barley grass from our greenhouse to supplement their grain and pellet feed, which helps keep them healthy, and in turn, we are rewarded with fresh eggs galore! Locals you can call ahead to swing by and purchase a dozen eggs for $5 to help support Beaver Ponds' hen house.
Watch for a hen naming contest on
our Facebook page later this month.
Thank you for helping sustain our hens and the rest of our domestic animal crew!
We’ve just started thinking about our first outdoor crops of the year. This past week we started seeding our potatoes. Seeing kids planting and picking potatoes is a simple pleasure as they get their fingers dirty and discover wriggly worms and insects along the way. Since the snow continues, we’ll probably stagger the plantings out a few weeks apart just in case we get another hard freeze!
Beaver Ponds was lucky enough to receive a donation of seed potatoes and excellent quality potting soil this year and for that we are very, very grateful.
As all you gardeners know, right now is a good time to go over your seed stock and decide what to begin for the summer season. In the geothermal greenhouse we have many varieties of lettuce ready to pick, spinach started, basil babies, fennel ready to harvest, garlic chives to eat (which we found visiting kiddos devour), cilantro bolting and going to seed, the aloe is thriving, and the banana tree is alive (no fruit yet)!
Some of the plants to start early in our greenhouse include tomatoes, brussels sprouts, beans, carrots, onions, and basically any other plants that take over 70-90 days to finish. We will keep you posted on what varieties we get going this year, hopefully providing some agricultural shoulders on which the local community can stand. At 10,000 foot elevation, we are very lucky to have a geothermal greenhouse to start the plants in, and thanks to a Colorado Garden Foundation Grant we are putting up another greenhouse to accompany the hugelkulture [link here] and raised bed projects. We could still use some support from folks like you – please consider donating here. [link]
Our raised beds have been relocated closer to the alpacas and we utilized the same aeration and soil layering techniques that we have employed in the past. The soil in the beds is improving over time with amendments and special potting soils added. One of the four beds was left as a pure compost and topsoil mix without the extra potting soil. We will use this bed to assess the compost quality versus more amended soils. Stay tuned.
Colorado Mountain College Sustainability studies and business major Jeff Kepler has researched greenhouses which incorporate concepts of sustainable design such as passive solar, trombe walls (define) and thermal mass, a “climate battery” to circulate warm air under the roots, vermiculture, and other important elements for high country greenhouse design. This summer he is taking on an internship with us to write a short book or manual on building a greenhouse in the high country. The goal is to provide a simple resource explaining various options, costs, and challenges associated with building greenhouses in the Rocky Mountain high country.
What about your greenhouse and beds?
It’s a good time to give your greenhouse a thorough cleaning to prepare for the summer with a bit of pest and mold prevention. Things you can do to clean the area and prepare include cleaning with a bleach/water solution, cleaning using vinegar/water, burning sulfur in a diffuser to kill fungal spores, and tidying up before the summer gets into full swing.
Other preventative measures can go a long way for success! Soils may be left outside during the colder nights to kill insect larvae. Placing the soil in direct sunlight can help sterilize it as well. Whiteflies and aphids are primarily what we have come across in the geothermal greenhouse; you always have to be on the lookout for preventive strategies, integrative models, and sustainable ways to react to new challenges.
As with any ecosystem there is a niche battle going on. By improving and encouraging beneficial microbial life in the soil we can influence this niche occupation to our benefit. Utilizing compost, and compost teas, keeping the area clean, pruning dead leaves, utilizing yellow sticky traps, implementing beneficial nematodes and ladybugs when necessary to eat larvae and eggs, vaporizing sulfur for fungal spores (be careful to not inhale vapors and spray the area down with water as the sulfur treatment begins), among other methods help influence the biodiversity towards the species we want in our garden, both in the soil and above the soil.
Written by Dr. Susan Bender who co-founded the South Park Archaeology Project and the South Park Site Stewardship program
Scraper Artifact Found at BPEEC in 2016Native American Indians visited South Park seasonally for at least 10,000 years prior to the arrival of the first White explorers, trappers, traders, and settlers. These Native people moved their base camps seasonally according to the availability of wild food resources, and visited South Park regularly in their annual rounds. Although archaeologists have yet to recover direct evidence of the seasons when Native people were in South Park, they assume that Indians were not here during those times when the weather was challenging and food resources limited.
While the Ute were in South Park at the time of contact with White populations, we know from a series of archaeological studies that their history here is limited to the last 1,000 years. Thus the traces of Ute culture that can be found in the Park, such as peeled trees and stone enclosures, as well as the chronicles of early settlers and explorers, record only the most recent part of Native American Indian history in South Park. The prior 9,000 years of Native American Indian history is recorded only in the archaeological remains that can be discovered throughout the Park.
Given their transient lifestyle, hunters and gatherers had limited material possessions and few (if any) of the tools that they made from perishable materials could survive the rigors of exposure in South Park’s environment. Thus the archeological remains of early Native activities in South Park are limited. Lost or discarded stone tools and the remains of their manufacturing process are the primary archaeological traces of this history, along with a variety of stone constructions including cairns, enclosures, and alignments.
To date, archaeologists have studied only a small fraction of South Park’s landscape (less than 5%), but they have been able to identify and document over 1,700 sites that records 10,000 years of Native American Indian history here. Stone tools (principally projectile points) found in the Park and made in styles characteristic of specific time periods bear witness to this deep historic time span. In addition, South Park Archaeology Project archaeologists have recovered charcoal from two separate excavations that dated these samples to 3,000 and 6,000 years ago. Every time we can associate traces of past human activity with a place and a time, we come closer to being able to map out what type of Indian activities occurred within the Park at particular places and times. These data then start to build a picture of dynamic human interactions in the past. We are beginning to understand that certain areas of the park were favored for different types of settlements, that certain ritual activities were undertaken to map this landscape, and that likely more than one cultural group occupied the Park at any given time.
Our ability to expand upon this emerging story depends on the preservation of a fragile data base. Artifacts removed from sites and sites destroyed remove vital information from an already restricted database. Volunteers who have helped archaeologists to gather the information that we currently possess understand this principle well, and as a result they have formed the South Park Site Stewardship Program, whose purpose is to promote the preservation and protection of prehistoric, historic, archaeological, and paleontological resources within the South Park National Heritage Area.
“Beaver Ponds Environmental Education Center has hosted the South Park Site Stewardship classroom training sessions for the past two years. The staff have been consistently gracious, knowledgeable, and easy to work with. Technical equipment is provided for the classroom, and the environment is relaxed. The overall experience in working with Beaver Ponds has been excellent. We’re thrilled with the recent scraper discovery on their property and look forward to continued partnership." Linda Carr, South Park Archaeology Project
It is an interesting times for seed cultivation and unfortunately for all of us, a lack of biodiversity may have a negative impact on our food security. Due to changing agricultural practices and the loss of many heirloom varieties, patents, and pollen drift (accidental cross-pollination), the old practice of saving seed for the next year and community sharing of seed is decreasing overall in current cultivation and modern farming practices.
Seed libraries allow individuals to "check out" seeds. They then plant the seeds and "return" seeds back to the library at the end of the growing season. We recently selected many plants to narrow down what performs well in our environment at 10,000 feet. Our hope is to then contribute meaningfully to the local seed library in Park County and to offer a workshop to the community on what grows well at this altitude and tips and tricks we learned along the way.
This year we will be experimenting with growing many new varieties and heirloom strains including carrots, fennel, marjoram, dill, parsley, cilantro, Cress, broccoli, chard, peppers, and many others. Through our ongoing efforts to identify heirlooms that grow well in this environment and to harvest seed for seed swapping and seed library collaborative projects is one-way Beaver Ponds is helping with our local food production and demonstration of sustainable high country gardening.
We are currently preparing for our short outdoor season by starting many seeds in the greenhouse. Dino kale, red Russian kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, lettuce, radishes, and many other plants are being started indoors to go outside. Likewise, we are starting trial runs on plants such as basil in the greenhouse to determine which varieties perform best for future cultivation efforts. The more climate sensitive plants will stay in the greenhouse, and those that are more cold hardy will be transplanted to the raised beds or a huglekulture mound (to read more about huglekulture mounds click here).
Grassroots movements to preserve heirloom varieties and create hybridized plants are increasingly important, as the dominant paradigm is moving toward mega monopolies of seed. Biodiversity impacts our food security, so please support and utilize your local seed library. Summit County has a seed library and your local community may as well -- a simple search online can get you headed in the right direction!
Are you curious how alpacas fit into Beaver Ponds sustainability picture?
The answer is two-fold: poop and wool.
Alpacas are unique because their manure isn't "hot" and therefore is able to be used to fertilize plants without having to wait for it to process for a couple years. While the alpacas are eating and digesting and lending a helping hand to the food and plants we are growing, they are also growing their fiber that we have been gathering and now have processed into yarn!
Thanks to SunCrest Fiber Works in Palisades, CO for processing over seventy pounds of Beaver Ponds fiber! After processing, we ended up with 82 skeins of yarn totaling over 16,000 yards of worsted yarn, almost 1000 yards of rug yarn, and 7 pounds of batts that are ready for spinning.
The majority of the yarn is black, due to our three young black alpacas but our number one producer is Nash, with his beautiful dark brown coat. We also have white and light brown yarn. The rug yarn comes in white, brown, a mix of black and brown and a mixture of greys from our suri llama Donzi.
$20/200 yard skein for the worsted yarn
$18/pound for the rug yarn
$15/pound for batts plus shipping cost.
This is a wonderful way to support Beaver Ponds and to create sustainable pieces from our lovely rescue alpacas and llama that we have taken in over the past four years.
The alpacas have been good fleece producers and a great teaching tool for students and visitors about how alpacas fit into the sustainability equation.
Do you ever check the labels on your clothing and discover that an item is made of alpaca or other natural fibers?
Beaver Ponds is working toward creating useful and artful objects with our fiber -- from the coats of our llama, alpacas, and goats. Over the past two years, we have collected close to 100 pounds of fiber from our alpacas - Boone, Zeb, Nash, Quantam, Radar, and Kaya, our Llama - Donzi, our angoras - Jellybean and Kalahari, and last but certainly not least our Cashmeres - Viola and Miranda. Don't you agree that they have been very generous? We will process about a three-quarters of the collected fiber and retain the rest as raw fiber to be used in future workshops.
With the help of one our volunteers, Ellwood Barrett, we skirted our fiber -- the process of removing anything from the fleece that is dirty, coarse, contaminated, or otherwise unusable -- in preparation for having the fiber processed. In addition, Elwood is using some of the fiber to learn about cleaning, carding, and spinning. After processing, we will have several skeins of fiber with which to make creative projects.
Beaver Ponds has approached our local senior center to enlist them to help with spinning, knitting, weaving, and felting our fiber into products and art objects to sell locally. We recently submitted a grant proposal to the Denver Foundation and Staples Foundation to help with funding this project.
More than just a bunch of fun words to say, these are some of the ways that Beaver Ponds is engaging in sustainable high elevation agriculture.
You can consider each of these initiatives as "demonstrations" that are meant to inspire folks like you to try some of these practices at home. Some may be more realistic for your lifestyle than others!
Over the past few months, we have had fun learning together with our interns, students, and visitors about how we are efficiently utilizing our agricultural resources at Beaver Ponds. This includes learning about high elevation gardening such as hugelkulture (a composting process employing raised planting beds constructed on top of decaying wood debris and other compost), micro fodder feed systems (a system for sprouting and growing barley for our livestock), vermiculture (process of using worms to decompose organic food waste), and mound composting.
As the the winter winds blew outside, we were able to grow Mesclun and Buttercrunch lettuce, Oriental giant and Tyee spinach, radishes, arugula, and barley grass for our animals in the passive solar/geothermal greenhouse. It is nice getting fresh leafy vegetables year round. Watch your inbox for upcoming opportunities to learn more about how you can grow your own leafy vegetables during the winter months.
The fall potato, calendula (marigold), and cabbage harvest was both fun and rewarding. Students from the Denver Downtown Expeditionary School and preschool-aged children from the neighboring town of Fairplay enjoyed pulling out potatoes from our new raised beds, while learning the source of some of their food.
With the help of volunteers, we were able to harvest a large amount of calendula seed to use this year in spring planting. Calendula Officinalis -- common name "marigold" -- is a medicinal plant that is widely used in balms, salves, and tinctures. The medicinal effects include antiseptic, antispasmotic, and skin healing properties. It is in the same family as Arnica and displays wound healing properties as does Arnica which is used topically for bruising and skin trauma. Interestingly, in the culinary world it is used as a dye for cheese and butters.
You may recall that we have planted oyster mushrooms on logs in our greenhouse. We are keeping our fingers crossed that they will begin fruiting soon and that you'll be reading about a bountiful harvest later this year. We've been told that patience is a necessary virtue both in life and with growing mushrooms!