Tag Archives: roses

Happy 4th Berry Bobbler and Bouquets

Beautiful independence morning here at Stonebridge. If you look hard, you can see a blue dot toward the right hoeing the cabbages as the sun comes up. That’s John in his early morning ritual, out standing in his field.


We’re working this morning with our Thursday bartering crew to plant kale and weed sunflowers, but we’ve got a treat in store for lunch: Berry Cobbler, which we call “Bobbler” after our friend Bob who could eat a whole one himself. If you’ve got any kind of berries or rhubarb, you can make this dessert, more of a crisp than a biscuit-type cobbler but quicker to make. The trick is to bake it with half the topping first and then add the rest so it’s crisp throughout. Part of independence for us is growing what we eat and eating what we grow. We grow raspberries, so we eat Bobbler! See the recipe below.


This year’s roses are spectacular, or at least they were until the hailstorm last Friday night. The vegetable fields took some damage, especially on the leafy lettuces, kale, and chard, but everything should grow through it. Let’s hope for a late first frost next fall to give the tomatoes a chance to catch up. Here’s Graham Thomas, a yellow David Austin rose, before the storm.


4th of July bouquets around here include daisies and Queen Anne’s lace for white, May Night salvia and purple campanula for blue, and roses and lilies for red. My favorite rose for the 4th was Mr. Lincoln, until he gave up on our dry climate one year.


Happy 4th, everyone! May a Berry Bobbler brighten your day!

Stonebridge Berry Bobbler

1 cup wheat flour or glutenfree substitute

1 cup oatmeal or other whole flakes

3/4 cup brown or turbinado sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup any kind of chopped nuts

6 Tbl cold butter in pieces

1/4-1/2 cup any kind of milk (we use rice milk)

3-4 cups berries

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly butter a 9- or 10-inch pie plate.

In a food processor or by hand, mix the dry ingredients until blended. Pulse or cut in the butter until you hae pea-sized pieces. Pulse or cut in 1/4 cup milk to moisten; add more until all the dough is moistened but not gooey.

Place the berries in the bottom of the pie plate, leaving an inch below the top of the plate for the topping.

Crumble half the topping onto the berries. Place in oven and bake for 20 minutes. Take out of oven and crumble the remaining mix on top. Bake for 30 minutes. Cool slightly and eat!


Filed under ecobiography, memoir, sustainable agriculture

June 2013


I’ve been errant in my blog posts lately because I’m getting ready for the launch of my book, A Bushel’s Worth: An Ecobiography, in August. I’ve also been hosting and co-teaching a digital storytelling workshop in which participants create first-person, multi-modal videos about significant life events. And then there’s the regular work of our CSA and the flower garden to weed and the farm chores to do every day.

Remember last June’s unseasonably hot weather with temperatures in the upper 90s and even 100s? We’ve had some hot days this June, but nothing like last year so far. Following a cooler, longer spring, 80-degree days are greatly appreciated by both the farmers and the plants in the field. The brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kohlrabi, and kale) couldn’t be happier. Tomatoes and peppers are setting fruit. We’ll pick peas this Saturday. The fall- and spring-planted spinach has bolted after weeks of delicious harvests but the chard is coming on strong. Compared to this time last year, the garden seems optimistic with the promise of a fresh season to come.


And the roses are spectacular. Between a good spring pruning and lots of early moisture, every rose is blooming right now.


The peonies too have put on a show of lush, heavy flower heads.


At last week’s digital storytelling workshop at the farm, the peonies turned up in several stories. Who could resist a picture like this?


Seeing Stonebridge reflected through someone else’s eyes makes me appreciate the farm in new ways. Here’s  a wonderful piece by Teresa Barch that captures the spirit of a summer workshop here.


With June’s transplanting, weeding, and watering, we don’t usually get to other projects, let alone ones we’ve been dreaming of for years. This week, though, we had an infusion of help from an old friend, so rebuilding the goat pen came to the top of the list. You know someone’s a really good friend when they’ll spend their vacation on your “to do” list.


Now the goats have a classier place to live and the fence (salvaged from the same farm that gave us the granary) looks like it’s been there as long as the rest of the farm buildings.


Tomorrow, John and I will celebrate our solstice anniversary with dinner at The Gold Hill Inn. Our friend Angie Burnham has made a new documentary on Gold Hill that will inspire you to visit too. Check out the trailer here.

June feels lucky this year. Lucky for the snow that fell in April, raising the snow pack to normal for the water now flowing through our ditch. Lucky for temperatures that help new vegetables grow. Lucky for friends who share their time and labor. And lucky for a 102-year-old community farm that still grows food.


If you’re in the Boulder area on August 20, join me for the launch of A Bushel’s Worth: An Ecobiography at the Boulder Bookstore, 7:30 PM. For more on the book, see abushelsworth.com.


Filed under ecobiography, memoir, sustainable agriculture

Architecture of a Rose

DSC_0283When I was teaching at the university, one of the pleasures of spring break for me (besides my birthday) was pruning my roses. Now that I’m retired from teaching there, I still prune my roses about a week after the spring equinox when the stems start to show signs of new growth. As soon as the days start to warm, I watch the roses for swelling where the nodes emerge from the green stems. That way, I can tell which part of the rose has been winter-killed and which is still alive. Waiting a couple weeks more, until the leaves have started to emerge, is recommended along the Front Range, but we get busy with farming in April so late March works best for me.

The last couple days, I’ve been pruning my roses. I used to have more roses but the last few years have been very hard on them. I lost some to drought, some to winter cold, and even a few to voles that love to burrow in the thick wood chip mulch around the rose bushes and sometimes girdle the rose completely through. I think all but one of my roses survived this winter, leaving me with three dozen or so, which I can prune in about three hours.  I look forward all winter to my pruning time in those first sunny days in the flower garden taking stock of what’s survived and what needs attention.

DSC_0288I plant exclusively “own root” roses, which means that the plant has been reproduced from a cutting of its own stock rather than grafted onto the root of another, generally more vigorous, rose stock. Grafted roses offer many more variety choices than own root roses but, if the grafted part dies, the shoots that emerge from the roots will revert to the parent stock, which is usually a ubiquitous shrub type of rose which lacks distinction in bloom. On the other hand, own root roses are slower to grow and bloom than grafted roses but, in our harsh climate along Colorado’s Front Range, I find that own root roses are more likely to survive.

During the busy farming season, I don’t have time to baby my roses, so I grow varieties that are relatively hardy. My favorite roses—and the ones that have done the best in my rose bed—are the David Austin varieties. David Austin is an English rose breeder who combines characteristics of old roses—particularly fragrance and shape—with repeat blooming varieties, resulting in gorgeous, abundant, fragrant roses with outstanding vigor, color, and scent.

My own root varieties of David Austin roses (not all DA roses are own root), have taken a while to get established, but it was worth the wait. My favorite rose is Abraham Darby for its cup-shaped, apricot-pink, multi-petaled flower. If you only grow one rose, it should be an Abraham Darby.


Another of my favorites is Graham Thomas with its rich yellow blooms. I often avoid yellow roses because, in our dry climate, they tend to turn brown, but Graham Thomas holds its color well.


Both of these roses are classified as “shrubs,” growing about four feet tall in our climate, so I position them next to short trellises to give some extra support—and I Iike the way their heavy-headed blooms drape across the trellis.


Other favorites are Lillian Austin, Gertrude Jekyll, Teasing Georgia, Mary Rose, and Othello—but be careful of the warrior thorns on that one because it lives up to its Shakespearean name. I’ve got a space selected this spring for another rose, and I’m anxious to see what our local nursery carries for new David Austin own root varieties.

Some people like to cut their roses all the way down to the ground in the fall or early spring to let new stems emerge from the root graft. But because roses are harder to grow here, I like to wait until I can see what’s dead and alive and then prune only what’s needed.

When I’m pruning, I think about the architecture of the plant. I generally leave only the strongest three or four stems, depending on what’s there, so that the bottom of the bush has a triangular or square shape. Next, I decide where to trim the remaining three or four stems to 10 or 12 inches high by looking at where the nodes emerge and choosing a top node that points in the direction I want the new, emerging branch to go. I always want that new branch to grow away from the center of the plant, meaning it should be found facing the outside of the bush rather than the inside.

Once I choose the node, I remove everything about a quarter-inch above it by pruning at a 45-degree angle up and away from the node. Last, I trim any branches from those main stems by again deciding where I want the new growth to go. As I trim, I try to imagine the architectural shape I want to create and prune accordingly.


I hope that this spring’s moisture will mean a less severe summer and more abundant roses. Last season, my roses looked miserable and bloomed sparsely. This year, I’m going to feed them more consistently (using Epsom salts dissolved in buckets of water) and make sure they’re heavily mulched. Already, I’ve done a better job pruning than I did last season and that should help.

The most important thing to remember in pruning roses is to wear heavy gloves and long sleeves to protect yourself from thorns. If you’re pruning roses, you will get scratched. That’s part of rose growing–and it’s worth it.



Filed under sustainable agriculture