Don and Dea Pyle have been gardening since childhood. "Our families always had gardens so it has always been a part of our lives," said Dea.
"Our children grew up and learned to garden by our example and now have gardens of their own."
A few years ago Dea decided to grow heirloom plants, purchased some seed, saved and dried some of the seeds to plant the next year and has found the process to be very rewarding. She started with just a few, Blue Lake green beans, peas and several others, and then expanded to kale, Swiss chard, parsnips, beets and more. She enjoys being able to go out and pick what she wants to eat from "the bounty of the garden."
She cans, freezes, and dries. "It's just our way of life!"
Dea allows some of each variety to mature and go to seed. She cuts the seed heads off and puts them into boxes in the garage to dry thoroughly. After the seeds dry, she removes the heads from the stalks and places the seeds in marked envelopes before placing them in boxes to store in a cool bedroom. She does not place them in the freezer; by season's end there is no room for seeds in the freezer.
She would like to switch seeds with other gardeners because it's better not to keep using the seeds over and over again. Anyone who would like to exchange seeds can reach Dea at 856-3969.
This past year the garden has produced a bit less than usual because of water restrictions with an increase in water prices. One thing she did not plant was squash. The garden has produced corn, tomatoes, parsnips, green beans, bell peppers, broccoli, okra, pumpkins and cantaloupe. The pumpkins and cantaloupe came up as volunteers. She has an herb garden.
Spinach has come up recently. The last rains have been a big help, said Dea. The spinach grows (slowly unless the temperature rises) all winter. She has picked spinach as early as January during an early thaw, continuing into April. She has only planted spinach, lettuce and kale once ... she lets it go to seed at the end of the season and it comes up on its own, year after year.
She does plant corn, tomatoes, broccoli and some others in February and March indoors, under a light. When it's warm enough outside, she sets out the seedlings in raised beds in the garden. Included are ever-bearing strawberries, currents, blueberries, gooseberries and huckleberries.
Fruit trees are also grown. One peach tree is 38 years old, planted from a seedling found growing in a friend's compost pile. Once it began to produce, it has supplied the family with peaches except for one year when the buds froze. Another year there were only enough peaches to fill two ice cream buckets. Otherwise, there have been plenty of peaches, even some to share. They have two other peach trees, a nectarine, two prune and two apricot trees. There are no pear or apple trees, as they would require spraying to prevent wormy fruit.
Dea tells, "A lot of the gardening that I do is plant it and let our Heavenly Father do His thing. It gets water; we weed it, harvest it, and eat it!"
Don and Dea live a few blocks northeast of downtown Cedaredge. "Being on the south side of Grand Mesa with our garden facing south is very helpful for gardening at this altitude. A small greenhouse contains baby kale, celery, and snapdragons grown from their own seeds and some strawberries.
"We compost! We tried using a compost tumbler and found that it was not large enough. So, now we just pile the leaves, clippings and other composting materials in a long row, add chicken manure from our own chickens, keep the pile damp, turn it, and have plenty to add to the already-rich soil."
The five hens not only provide the manure, they lay enough eggs for her dad and for one of their daughters, Lisa. The hens lay colored eggs: green, blue and brown. They live in their own chicken house in a fenced area with their own "run" — keeping them there so they don't scratch in the gardens.
Flowers can be found in abundance. Dea bought and planted packages of cosmos and sunflowers at one time — they have spread throughout the yard, the garden and along the driveway. Poppies, bachelor's buttons and larkspur all come up year after year from their own dropped seeds. Calendulas do the same. Dea dries the orange petals to make a salve to use on insect bites, chapped hands and such. She uses coconut oil, beeswax and other ingredients to make a good all-'round salve to have on hand. Several recipes can be found online.
Roses, tulips, and gladiola are planted inside the fenced area with the vegetables because the deer prefer them to all others. Perennials come up each year. Those, along with all of the volunteer annuals and blooming shrubs, make for a colorful display most any time.
They plan to get rid of the flower garden located at the north side of the house this fall because of the water price hike. They are trying to cut down on water use wherever possible. Don has installed drip systems and raised beds made of cinder blocks throughout the gardens to conserve water as much as possible.
Drying fruits and vegetables takes place in the garage with an electric dryer and a dryer with shelves enclosed with a net covering that hangs from a rafter. The drying area has shelves that hold boxes for further drying after harvest of garden produce like onions. The air dryer was being used to dry mushrooms that had been gathered recently.
The Pyle family, including grandchildren, made several trips to Grand Mesa this year to gather mushrooms. It was a good year with plenty of moisture, producing an abundance of mushrooms.
"I only know five varieties of mushrooms," Dea said. "I recognize and pick only chanterelles, puffballs, boletus, morels, and one that goes by many names that we call hawk wings. Small puffballs can look very much like the extremely poisonous amanitas when they first come out of the ground, before they turn red. It's best to wait for puffballs to grow a bit, if unsure. I don't touch any mushrooms that I don't know well, it's not worth taking a chance."
Though Dea says that much of the garden takes care of itself, there is no doubt that when she isn't canning, freezing, drying, or preparing meals with fresh food from the garden you will likely find her planting, harvesting, composting or weeding.blog comments powered by Disqus