Life on Desert Canyon Farm

Reader Contribution by Tammi Hartung
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I am Tammi Hartung, an herbalist and organic grower of more
than 31 years. My husband, Chris, and I own Desert Canyon Farm, a certified
organic farm in southern Colorado
since 1996.

We do a lot of things on our farm, but the primary way we
earn a livelihood is selling wholesale potted herbs and heritage food plants to
garden centers throughout Colorado and
northern New Mexico. We grow more than 500 different varieties of potted plants! In addition, we
field grow perennial flower seed for Jelitto Perennial Seed Company.

Chris and I farm more because of a chosen lifestyle than
anything else. Organic farming is very important to us. Surviving as a viable
small family farm is hard work. We recognized when we first started this farm
that this was not going to be about making a lot of money, because we do not
and never expect to, however, we make enough to pay our bills and stay out of
debt. It is not about providing us a way to retire, because the possibility of
that is very slim…we expect we will need to work until we die. So, why is it
that we do this very important, very hard work of farming? It is that lifestyle
thing again.

Simple pleasures in our life is our main objective and
earning right livelihood. We farm organically because we are good at it and
enjoy it. We love this part of the country and small town life suits us. We
like working for ourselves, knowing that if we mess up, we have only ourselves
to blame, and only ourselves to fix it. It works. We are reasonably content. Farming
is very challenging, especially with this terrible drought we are having. I
think we work as hard as any two people on the planet, but our hard work is
laced with laughter. Life is pretty good.

I grow much of our food here and that brings me such amazing
pleasure and so much abundance. This is half our garlic crop curing. How people
can cook without garlic is beyond me! I plant a lot of garlic. We use it for cooking
and also medicinally for its antimicrobial benefits.

Two years ago we had the farm certified as a wildlife
sanctuary through the National Wildlife Federation. We are also a United Plant
Savers Medicinal Plant Sanctuary. Working with nature is extremely important to
us, and we welcome wildlife on our farm. This solitary bee is living in a mason
bee house mounted in our orchard. We are in gratitude to the many great
pollinators for the help they give us on our farm.

I prepare traditional herbal tinctures and herbal vinegars
to meet our needs. This is tumeric, usnea and ginger in the process of
extracting. After 4 to 6 weeks I strain them, and the liquids will be our
tinctures and vinegars. Tumeric is great for joint pain relief and usnea we use
for sore throats. Ginger vinegar is one of the best things I know to soothe an
upset stomach, plus it makes a tasty salad dressing!

My passionflower vines are amazing this summer. They are
absolutely loaded with flowers, which will eventually lead to a small harvest
of fruit. The vines create a beautiful entryway to our gardens. They are
perennial for us here in Colorado.
In September I will harvest some of the vines, flowers and fruit and dry them
for herbal tea.

I raise many of our vegetables in raised beds made from
cinderblocks. They are not pretty, but they are incredibly practical,
inexpensive and fast to build. That works nicely for me in my veggie garden. This
one has everbearing strawberries growing in it. I usually do not have a lot of
trouble with the birds bothering my berries, but this year without much for
them to forage due to the severe drought, they have really taken a toll on my
strawberry bed. I finally decided the only way to deal with the situation was
to cover the box with row cover to keep the birds out. It is working perfectly!
Each day I harvest a good sized bowl of strawberries.

Remember that stuff about lifestyle, well, for me my work
and my pleasure time are pretty much all intertwined, and it is truly about
simple pleasures like hanging my wash up to dry. My clothes smell fresh and
clean. I save about $150.00 each year on electricity using a clothesline rather
than an electric dryer.

This is a picture of our flower seed crops. The field north
of our home is the production garden for these crops and it is a pretty sight. I
thought you might enjoy seeing it. Chris does most of the work in the flower
field. He has two part time people for his field crew. All the work is done by
hand, from planting to weeding and the picking of seed at harvest time. He
works the flowers from end of April through middle part of November. Once all
the seeds are picked, they are boxed up and we ship them to Germany to

I grow a lot of lavender in my garden. I love the fragrance
and it is a great herb for medicine, household needs like lotion and in the
bath, plus it makes a delicious herbal honey for pancakes and tea.

And now it is time to plant the first of three cycles of
garlic that will be the harvest for next summer. I plant the cloves and mulch
it with fresh barley straw. Next July it will be harvested.

If you would like to know more about the happening at Desert
Canyon Farm you can go to My blog is a great place
to find recipes, gardening tips, how to use herbs and so much more. I will be
speaking at the Mother Earth News Fair on September 21 and 22, with a book
signing event on Saturday. The title of my book is Homegrown Herbs. I hope
to see you there!

Tammi Hartung will present workshops at the Seven Springs, Pa. MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR. 

Please visit the FAIR website for more information about the Seven Springs, Pa., FAIR Sept. 24-25. Tickets are on sale now.

You can also get FAIR updates on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

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