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2014 Interns!

Posted by on Apr 28, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

We are so excited to be Wahatoya interns this year! Our goal is six tons of food for La Veta and now Welsenburge communities! I believe this group of like minded individuals will create nothing but great produce with the love and care I have already experienced from each intern. Please come by the Old Cheese Factory and meet us! We have much to share and and time to listen <3. Thank you for taking us under you wing this year La Veta!  Happy Growing!  -Philomena Polizzi Media Intern

We are so excited to be Wahatoya interns this year! Our goal is to grow six tons of food for the La Veta and now Welsenburge communities! I believe this group of like minded individuals will create nothing but great produce with the love and care I have already experienced from each intern. Please come by the Old Cheese Factory and meet us! We have much to share and and time to listen. Thank you for taking us under your wing Kristina and La Veta! Happy Growing!
-Philomena Polizzi (Media Intern)

another day, another obstacle

Posted by on Jul 4, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments

To add to the raging fire that cut us off from three of our plots last week, we now have to face town-wide water restrictions for at least 30 days. If after 30 days the lakes haven’t filled up again, we’ll be rationed 5 gallons per household (ours will have seven thirsty, muddy rascals). This also means some very dry plots but we’re devising some genius ways round this.

 

So to vent our frustrations we went to an anti-fracking rally. Chants of, ‘hey ho, no frackiing Huerfano’, and my personal fave, ‘noooooo fracking’, rang around the streets of Walsenburg. To all those passerbys who shook their heads or even one who flipped the bird at us, we say, ‘frack off you fracking fracks’.interactive sports games

 

In sadder news, in a few days I’ll be leaving the internship as the US immigration control is kicking me out. Let me take this opportunity to say what a wonderful time I’ve had. It’s been a whole new experience, a whole new world. I’ve learnt as much as the West Peak is tall. And the people have been both beautiful and amazing. The Wahatoya Community Initiative will go on strong for many, many, many years to come, for sure. If anybody reads this who has entered my life in the past three months, then THANK YOU. You’re a star.

 

frack attack!

frack attack!

 

truer words have never been written

truer words have never been written

 

Farming, Friends, and Fire

Posted by on Jul 3, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments

Happy July ya’ll! Never a dull day in La Veta. Last week lightning sparked a fire up by the East Peak, which would soon spread to over 13,000 acres and bring close to 800 fire-fighters and National Guardsmen to our small town. We are happy to say that the fire is now contained, and our friends up in the Wahatoya Valley are no longer under threat. I think I speak for everyone when I say that seeing Mother Nature’s unbiased and merciless destruction firsthand was a very humbling experience. As for us, the show must go on because…well…people gotta eat.

These past two weeks have been crunch time as far as getting all of our plants into the ground, so the interns have been very busy planting endless tomatoes, peppers, corn, and squash. We are also preparing the house for the arrival of our new roommates- 15 baby chicks. New at our weekly farmer’s market will be a prepared foods stand offering freshly packed salads to-go, as well as local chicken sausages grilled on site with homemade condiments. We will also have a similar stand at Art in the Park this weekend in town.

As if we needed another challenge, the recent events have left the surrounding area very water-stressed. Therefore, a water restriction has been imposed in town which  prohibits all outside watering. This poses a bit of a problem for our program. We are currently in the process of devising our plan from here on out, as well as implementing several water saving strategies around the house. Other then that, we do our daily rain dances and hope for the best.

A special thanks to the fire-fighters who came from all over the country to help protect this community. We are truly grateful of your service!

Image of the East Peak Fire. The town of La Veta is in the foreground.

Image of the East Peak Fire. The town of La Veta is in the foreground.

One of our plots at Caroline's house in the Wahatoya Valley. Potatoes in the bed. Peas,  carrots, chard, and greens in the hoops.

One of our plots at Caroline’s house in the Wahatoya Valley. Potatoes in the bed. Peas, carrots, chard, and greens in the hoops. 

The legend himself on a dyke wall near the East Peak.

The legend himself on a dyke wall near the East Peak.

Thank you Ryus Ave Bakery.

Posted by on Jun 19, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments

Thank you for all of the bread you gave us last night, we will be enjoying it, We are so lucky to have the best neighbors ever. <3

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WE LOVE BOTH OF YOU!! GET WELL SOON A!! BLESSINGS!

Spring has Sprung

Posted by on Jun 12, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments

In the past week two more interns have arrived from New Jersey. Yes, New Jersey. That makes four of us.  I think I speak for everyone when I say I am really enjoying the Cucharra Valley, the beautiful views it has to offer, not to mention all of the wonderful folks in town who are always supportive and encouraging. Ashley & Terrence are the names of the two newest members of our family and will be joining us until the end of October.  The wind is still getting in the way of our growing but we are doing the best we can to deal with that.  It is frustrating but in the end it will all be worth it!!

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Weeks 5 and 6 (at what point should I stop numbering weeks?): steppin’ out

Posted by on May 14, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments


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Weeks 5 and 6 (at what point should I stop numbering weeks?): steppin’ out

These past two weeks brought a lot of firsts: the first farmers market, the first CSA basket pick-up/delivery, the first sheet mulched plots, our first workshop.

Since our produce was not ready, we provided our members with local (and sustainably grown) honey, flour, quinoa, potatoes, eggs, and sausage. We searched for local greens, but it turned out not to be realistic with the low temperatures.

The good news is: we got a soaking rain, some residents saying they hadn’t seen it rain like that in years. The bad news is: said rain was during the farmers market. However, the vendors brought rain gear and stuck it out, and flocks of people still arrived. I am optimistic for sunny markets, although it will be more difficult to keep the produce moist.east inflatables blog

Soon after sheet mulching sections of two of our garden plots, we held a no-till/sheet mulching/straw bale raised beds/drip irrigation workshop. Or I should say workshop and workday (it was advertised as such, don’t worry). The attendees were super enthusiastic about shoveling composted animal manures and laying out cardboard on our Heritage Garden in town. As an added bonus, I got to stumble through my no-till, soil-building schpeel, Kristina helped me out, inserting the instant garden aspect, and everyone seemed to get it!Inflatable Human Spheres review

We lost some newly transplanted seedlings to the frost*, but we learned/relearned the valuable lesson to pay close attention to the weather report, and even subtract a few degrees for nights (depending on what weather service one is using). We found that the closest weather reporting station available online is at over 8000 feet and the other decent option is in Trinidad, so we have to take them with a grain of salt, but we do indeed take them; it’s what we’ve got. Perhaps we were overeager to put food in the ground. The idea is that next year we will have established beds of greens inside of the hoops to be harvested from in the cold spring months.

*SPOILER ALERT FOR NEXT WEEK’S BLOG: The Dwarf Siberian kale seedlings survived!

And now for the photos:

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Preparing and planting potato beds. Eyes up, people!

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Sheet mulching with a plethora of cardboard. We will build soil via the layers of compost, cardboard, and straw, as they slowly break down.

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Potting up starts to sell at the first market.

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Straw bale raised bed–needless to say, we moved a lot of dirt.

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Week 1 of CSA baskets featuring local quinoa, potatoes, eggs, sausage, honey, and stone ground wheat flour. Our produce wasn’t ready yet, but we called attention to foods that grow well here and their awesome growers. The “baskets” are actually feed bags sewn into this useful pattern.

Getting into a daily routine

Posted by on May 1, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments

So we have been here for about a month and things could not be going any better.  We have experienced some great weather

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and some not so great weather

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but it has been working out for us. We have a lot of plants in the ground and a lot of plant starts that are almost ready to transplant!! Everyone has done such a good job taking care of them!

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We have been cooking dinner together every night and it is always amazing.

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In other news, we will be showing Queen of the Sun on Thursday May 16th at 7:00PM in town at the La Veta Library. ALSO, there will be a no-till workshop/workday on Saturday May 11th at 1:00PM in the outdoor space at the La Veta School of Arts.   We will be setting up the heritage garden using cardboard to sheet mulch & straw bales in order to build up the existing soil.  We hope to see you all there!!

Also we are moving out of Kristina’s house and into a new space in the middle of May.  If anyone has anything that they want to let us borrow or donate please let me know.  You can email me at KelseyAltmann@me.com or WahatoyaGarden@gmail.com.  Some of the things we will be needing include:  Cook wear, silver wear, blender/ hand mixer, ANY beds or bed frames (really needed twin/full/ queen), toaster oven, couches, area rugs, throw rugs, curtains, curtain rods,  dressers, shelves, bookshelves, storage bins, any hangable artwork, baking storage racks,  & an outdoor grill.

the new intern’s first impressions

Posted by on May 1, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments

Fresh off the plane and spent almost a week living La Veta local as they say round these parts. A beautiful community, a stunning backdrop that you can melt into, the geodesic dome that looks like it’s going to lift off any time soon, sprouting plants promising a bountiful harvest and alpacas & llamas! Life’s pretty complete here I’d say.

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Week 4: new intern and cocktail party prep

Posted by on Apr 30, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments


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Week 4: new intern and cocktail party prep

We welcomed our new intern all the way from the UK this week: Aryo Feldman, joining me, Anna Farb (from Maryland), Kelsey Altmann (from New Jersey), Eleanore Nelson (from New Jersey), and Deanna Riggan (from Tennessee). Technically, Aryo grew up in Jersey, so we are literally a magnet for the Jerseyans.

Themes of the week: setting out our first transplants, aphids and sow bugs in the greenhouse, the value of counter hoops, compiling all the local food we could for the cocktail party fund raiser at the end of the week. We pulled out the most heavily aphid-infested plants from the greenhouse and tried to wash off the rest of the aphids. We will plant more beneficial flowers in there next and research the sow bug problem. As we have struggled to keep our hoop plastic from succumbing to the wind, we applied counter hoops at last, which seem to be a big part of the answer. We identify a counter hoop as an additional hoop above the plastic, so the sandwich goes, hoop, plastic, counter hoop (see photo below). Finally, we served an eclectic assortment of local foods at the cocktail party, such as goat cheese, elk, eggs, horseradish, venison, greens, and trout from the town lake.

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Low tunnel wind protection: hoop, plastic, counter hoop.

We had some intern bonding time this past weekend at the Valley View hot springs and Great Sand Dunes National Park. On the way, we picked up some seed potatoes from White Mountain Farm, being sold at Mosca Pit Stop. We found it delightfully odd to see organic quinoa being sold at this otherwise standard, gas station-like pit stop. The clerk fetched our potatoes from the back while we observed a sign taped on the counter: “Organic onions for sale: 50 lb. bag for $37.”

Without further ado, the week in photos:

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We did our first set of transplants.

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Our brassicas are germinating and growing really well in this home-attached south-facing greenhouse. They will go into the ground very soon.

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Transplanting lettuces. They will perk up a bit in their bed under an old apple tree.

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Unloading straw at each of the plots for future sheet mulching and run-of-the-mill mulching. No dolly necessary (they were light bales, I admit).

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I harvested some horseradish from the community garden for the cocktail fundraiser.

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While doing irrigation chores, we ran into a heard of elk. Check out the dike wall back drop.

The first three weeks: hoops and snow

Posted by on Apr 18, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments


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The first three weeks: hoops and snow

In my observations of farming internships like this one, some days tend to go slow, but weeks, without fail, go fast. We, the interns and the board, have seeds planted and broadcasted, seedlings potted into soil blocks, sprouts emerging, low tunnel hoops erected, people excited for harvest, and ideas, so many ideas, about how to grow food successfully here in La Veta. We have written them into our plans and will experiment with different methods; for example, on a snowy day, we seeded indoors by attaching the seeds to a stretch of paper towels using a flour-water mixture and spreading it out on the bed the next day. That area of seeding was more efficient and we got to spend our indoors time wisely; now we wait and see if they grow well. We also want to use our toilet paper rolls as seeders, but with the slow decomposition rate here, this may not work so well (the cardboard won’t break down). Each day has brought its own unique set of challenges, especially with this cold, snowy weather, the climate in general, and becoming a cohesive team. Regardless, whenever we are around our plants, future vegetables for the basket program and market, we transmit positive energies.

I think I can safely say that we have all fallen in love with the town of La Veta. The dirt roads, the mule deer, the astonishment every time you look up (the tremendous views), the hypothesis that the pet population beats the human population, and last and certainly best, the people themselves. They are so talented, artistic, visionary. This is a transition town, after all, meaning we are trying to build resilience in the face of climate change issues. Much wisdom resides here, through stories and experiences, and we hope to renew the interest in local food. Several folks already garden; we get advice all the time on how to deal with the wind and deer. I literally just went to the bakery and discussed low tunnel techniques with Sharon, who gardens at 8800 feet. However, many buy their groceries from the one supermarket in town. So far, La Veta has welcomed us remarkably, and we hope to return the favor.

The snow has come like clockwork; we have gotten at least a few inches every week around midweek, including this (forth) week! As I write this post, I have Christmas music playing because it seems only appropriate. Nevermind the fact that it’s April 23rd. Besides the snow, we have been eating, sleeping, dreaming in hoops. We are constructing low tunnel season extension hoop house beds using strong greenhouse plastic, bent metal conduits for hoops, and rebar to plug in the hoops. The trick is getting them to stand up to the wind. We have been clipping the sides of the plastic to the hoops, but are still perfecting the design, with doors, rollable sides, and of course, adaptation and improvisation for now.

Without further ado, here is my take on the beginnings of the Wahatoya Community Initiatives Farm to Table Internship in photos:

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One of the garden plots before we started laying it out with tape measures, rebar, and twine. Stay tuned for the finished product.

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We planted 4000 seeds using soil blocks. I enjoyed making the soil blocks, although it took some elbow grease and lots of water. They reduce the amount of plastic needed to propagate seedlings.

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We were in the local newspaper. I believe any young person who enters into the La Veta community will probably show up in the paper, so don’t get too excited. But pretty much everyone we meet has heard about us, the program, and seems energized that we are here.

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A view of the straw bale potato garden, the hoops, and an old apple tree at Kerstin’s (pronounced SHEER-ston) plot. Kerstin’s compost is the best in town–it’s got the poop of multiple animals, including horses and sheep.

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Seeding tomatoes, bak choi, broccoli, etc. into soil blocks. We are getting the technique down.

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We are inoculating our seeds with mycelium (the white powdery substance), a network of fungi that colonizes and benefits plant roots (not a perfect definition–sorry!). A high school student from La Veta is doing amazing work on mycoremediation, using mycelium to clean up drilling waste and such. We get our mycelium through him! The book Mycelium Running is on my list, don’t worry.

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Preparing seed potatoes for planting. We are healing the wounds of the cut potatoes by dipping them in our wood ash from last night’s fire. These are Yukon Golds, but we have a colorful assortment, too.

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Remember that photo of the empty garden plot? Here it is again, with low tunnels. And under the snow, there are baby vegetables emerging. Today we put on the doors; at each end we can remove the door hoop, so that in the summer when it gets hot, we can efficiently open the tunnels to air flow.