At 10,200 feet it goes from snowing feet to sunny planting weather in very sudden ways sometimes. As the year rolled into June we began planting immediately in our raised beds. Windows that were donated briefly protected the planted seeds and transplanted plants from the cold nights early in June. We brought out broccoli and Tyee F1 spinach from the greenhouse and planted White satin F1 carrot, Napoli F1 carrot, Dragon carrot, Pawnee bush bean directly into the raised beds.
Three varieties of potatoes have been planted in the huglekulture and in “smart” pots, a fabric planting pot that drains well. We filled the smart pots with sandy soil and will see how the production compares to the mound (huglekulture). A 50/50 mix of sand and compost was used with three varieties of potatoes in the smart pots versus an aging mix of layered compost, topsoil, sand, and aspen buried deep in the mound (hugelkulture).
Pre-schoolers from summit and kids from the Park County Boys and girls club as well as the Mosquito Range Heritage Initiative also helped with a secondary planting. It was fun to see kids do what they like to do, diggin’ in the dirt and training their immune system simultaneously. Some kids were digging up potatoes as others were planting, some had obvious training with parents and were professionals, and the mood was playful and relaxed. Our potato donor was so generous we ran out of room to plant them and still have a few if anybody wants a late start.
Calendula has sprouted in the geothermal greenhouse and has been transplanted to the outdoor beds and some smart pots. This has been a hardy high altitude survivor. If the seeds are started indoors, and are then transplanted, they flourish and are able to bear seed. When we started the calendula from seed in the beds outside, they did not quite have enough time to go to seed (FYI for those herbalists and massage therapists growing this herb to use in balms, and for those interested in seed saving.) This was one of the favorite herbs used in balm making with the Cottonwood Institute this June when they camped out for a night.
June began with the shearing of the alpacas, the llama, and the angora goats. Many thanks to Scott and his son, and to Marnie for helping us again with the shearing. The fiber from the alpacas looked and felt silky and will be used in our workshops to make beautiful handmade, local crafts. Sign up for classes soon (limited space). What fell to the floor in the barn goes into the compost mound. In small quantities, hair, fleece, wool, are great additions to compost, aiding in aeration and water retention in soils.
Transplants from the greenhouse are starting to come out to the raised beds. We are using donated windows to cover the beds at night to keep a bit of heat in the soil. Three varieties of carrot (Dragon, Napoli, White satin) have been started and Pawnee bush bean from seed in one raised bed. One bed has spinach and broccoli transplanted from the geothermal greenhouse. The soil types in the four beds are a range from potting soil primarily in two of them, a mix of compost and potting soil, and a pure compost bed.
Soil dries out very quickly in the heat of the Summer. This June we barely had a drop of rain. With the intense ultraviolet rays the moisture gets baked out of the soil. Different solutions can be implemented. One is to grow crops that are resistant to dry conditions and can tolerate relatively chilly nighttime temperatures. This is why potatoes are such a great crop in the high country. We are finding also that when too much potting soil with perlite is used for seedlings, the top layer dries out quick, so try to add things such as compost and small amounts of hair or animal fiber, to aid in water retention. And be diligent with watering your plants, especially when they are young and fragile.
Other options include shade cloth, a partial enclosure (such as a skylight with a hinge, or a drip irrigation system on a timer. While the seedlings are taking root, it is very important to maintain moisture levels in the soil, but not too much. The reason for this is to inhibit anaerobic bacterial growth and allow beneficial fungal growth in the soil (mycorrhizae).
Some of the outdoor plants that are doing well this June included Tyee spinach, broccoli (doing very well), calendula, Bilko f1 cabbage, carrots (planted from seed outside-high germination rate after 3-4 weeks), lettuce, and of course the potatoes. It is always worth mentioning that the chipmunks and larger mammals avoid potatoes and require little water. Very important considerations that help determine which beds may need less varmint security.
In the Geothermal greenhouse we have summer thyme sprouting, Korean licorice mint, Krausa f1 parsley, fennel, three types of lettuce, Red Rubin basil, and our cilantro is almost ready to harvest for seed. Fennel is also flowering and may produce some seed for the Beaver Ponds high altitude seed bank. Our "seed bank" is currently tiny stock of seed that will hopefully grow exponentially and help with public health in our high country food desert.
It has been a very warm June with zero hail. Yet. This meant very nice weather for the various groups with which we have had the opportunity to collaborate with. The end of June culminated with an interdisciplinary and collaborative approach between the Boys and Girls Club of the High Rockies and the Mosquito Range Heritage Initiative (MRHI). Keystone Science School was also able to join in for one brief evening during their pre-hike campout night at Beaver Ponds. It was Science week and the kids as well as the parents really appreciated the free “camp” as kids named it that had a focus on terrestrial and aquatic insects using dissecting microscopes and collection nets on the Sacramento Creek. This was basic entomology research for kids in the guise of play.
The organization and skill of MRHI and the Boys and Girls Club made the experience for the little ones filled with learning, healthy food, and exceptional compassion. It was a pleasure to help catalyze such great hands-on fun in nature. Kudos to Cara Doyle of MRHI and Gavin from the South Park Boys and Girls club for a successful “camp.”
Other activities at Beaver Ponds this June included a training weekend for the South Park Stewards. This is a very special group of people who are finding and protecting archaeological artifacts in South Park. The mission of the group is very noble and will help us understand more over time about the 10,000 or so year history of Native American life in South Park. It was a pleasure to host this group again for their training and thank you for what you do South Park Stewards!
Thanks again to all of the donors, volunteers, community members, organizations, and individuals who have helped make our collaborative efforts fun, safe, and effective. Our goal is to teach others to be like beavers. Busy like a beaver and as a keystone species, benefitting other organisms downstream. We hope that like the snowmelt from the Continental Divide, the information, inspiration, and models of actions and behavior supporting the Earth, flow and spread far and wide.
Native and Medicinal Herb walks are on the 10th of every month. The Arnica is starting to flower and this along with some other plants will be collected this July 10th. It is free, relaxed, and fun! I will be leading the tour with an emphasis on foraging for foods and medicines in the forest.