Tuesday, December 30, 2014


I planted artichokes in the raised beds of the Three Sisters Garden in 2012. They produced well. I picked the blooms and ate artichokes until I got tired of them and let their flowers run their course.

Artichokes are related to the thistle plant. If you let them go to seed, they make spectacular purple flowers that eventually dry out. This triggers the plant to go dormant and die back.

They are perennials, which means they will return year after year, sprouting back up like a Phoenix rising from its ashes.

My artichokes have been very low maintenance. I've even stopped watering them altogether. They are growing in a raised bed fertilized with composted cow manure and shaded by Canary Island date palms and wild amaranth when in season.

I went through last week and cut all the dead from the plants, discovering new growth beneath. All of the plants had flowers still attached and I sat and picked out the seeds, pictured below. Come spring, I'll drop them in the soil and hopefully have many more artichoke plants in the future.

Barren Space

There are spaces on the ranch that are fairly barren. They might grow a scant amount of short, scrubby grass that withers and dies with the first blasts of summer heat. Mostly it's because there are no trees shading these spots and the ground is flat.

Here is a section of this barren land behind the cow corral that I have decided to experiment with. Old fashioned furrows of earth, dug up with a hoe and layered with compost and mulch were slowly added over the course of a week. (The cows were fascinated.)

After they were built, I planted mangel seeds and sprinkled the rows with a pasture seed mix appropriate for our climate. I watered once and decided to let nature take over from there. This spot is far from the reach of the hose and I had to connect three hoses together to get to it.

It took a few weeks of waiting. And even though it's winter here, we did get some rains. I also noticed that the dew forming in the mornings was watering these little furrows daily.

Some days the dew forms frost on the rows and is melted down into the earth once the sun comes up, watering naturally.

I was skeptical that it would work, but my doubts were soon laid to rest...
The pasture grass has started to come up all over the rows but most heavily in the dips where the most water would naturally pool and soak in. No signs of the mangels yet. Mangels are a giant beets used for fodder for livestock.

Sustainability has always been my goal, and the more food I can grow for my livestock, the better. When the weather warms up, I plan to drop in organic, non GMO fodder corn seeds and transplant some mesquite trees to help nurture this once barren space.