Author Archives: anaincolorado

About anaincolorado

Hi, I am an avid gardener both at home and at Rosedale Community Garden where I've had a plot for 19 years. I am very interested in learning more about gardening, how to preserve it, incorporating farm fresh produce into my cooking and living a healthy lifestyle. In addition, I am a Master Community Gardener through Denver Urban Gardens and am a shareholder at the Chatfield CSA. In 2015, I spearheaded an effort to start a community donation garden at St. Philip's Lutheran Church -- a project I will share on my blog. I am eager to share what I've learned and the adventures I had learning new things and interacting with the garden community.

Managing Garden Pests the Organic Way: My Arsenal of Pest Weapons

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There are many safe, non-toxic and inexpensive methods to manage pests in your garden.  Organic and natural pesticides can be very effective and are usually less toxic to wildlife, pets and humans rather than synthetic pesticides.

I’ve been gardening for nearly three decades and each year, there is always something threatening the bounty of my harvest.  Hail, rabbits, Japanese beetles, powdery mildew, aphids and more.  There will always be something but the key is to be aware, be flexible and be prepared to act.  Over time, I’ve assembled an arsenal of supplies and tricks to help manage the problem.   In this article, I am going to share what I actually carry with me to the garden and how to make most of them at home.

 

 

In my garden bucket:

Soapy Water Spray (homemade)

Soapy Water Spray (homemade) or Insecticidal Soap Sprays are highly effective against mites, aphids, whiteflies, and other soft-bodied insects as well as the softer nymph stages of some tough-bodied bugs.

Recipe:  Mix together 1 tablespoon of dish soap (pure soap like Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Soup) Mix the solution thoroughly and pour it into a clean spray bottle and add 1 quart of water, or 5 tablespoons of soap per 1 gallon of water if you have a lot of plants to spray. Mix the solution thoroughly and pour it into a clean spray bottle.   Apply in the morning or evening when it’s cool.

Hot Pepper Spray (homemade)


Recipe:  1 gallon of water, 3 Tablespoons of hot pepper flakes (or 10 peppers chopped up finely if using fresh peppers (cayenne works the best – but you can certainly use jalapenos, Habanero’s or other varieties.)  Add the ingredients into a pan and bring to a simmer for 15 minutes. Heating the liquid will help to infuse the oils from the hot peppers into the water – making for a more potent spray.  Let the mixture sit for about 24 hours to absorb the hot pepper flakes – then strain and add a couple of drops of natural biodegradable dish soap to the gallon of mix.  (This helps the mixture stick to the plants better).

You can mix ingredients cold and let sit for 36 to 48 hours – occasionally shaking the jug if you prefer not heating.  You will need to strain the cold mix as well and add a few drops of dish soap and you are ready to spray!

Spray in morning and evening and wear protection on hands and eyes.

Deters mammals such as rabbits, squirrels, dogs, moles and insects.

Garlic Spray (homemade)

Recipe:   garlic, olive oil, dish soap and water.  Add 2 cloves of minced garlic to a one tablespoon of olive oil to 1 gallon of water.  Let the mixture sit and steep for at least 24 hours (48 hours is better) Strain out the garlic and add a couple of drops of natural biodegradable dish soap to the gallon.

Garlic spray doesn’t kill the beneficial bugs but its pungent odor simply makes the plants undesirable as a place to eat or lay eggs. This helps maintain the balance your garden needs to defend itself against ants, army worms, aphids, borers, slugs, beetles, white flies, mosquitoes.

BT Spray: (make it, solution only good for 24 hours)

The most common strain of the bacterium—BT var. kurstaki (sometimes called BT var. berliner)—kills hundreds of different kinds of caterpillars, including cabbage loopers, tomato hornworms, cabbageworms, corn earworms, European corn borers, and squash vine borers. BT var. tenebrionis (a new name—until recently this one was called BT var. san diego) kills Colorado potato beetles.

Purchase 12 oz solution of Bacillus Thuringiensis (Bt) (brands like Bonide).   About $12-15.  Mix in spray bottle with water according to directions.   Solution must be used within 24 hours of mixing to be effective.

Kills:  leaf eating caterpillars controls caterpillars, loopers, cabbage worms, gypsy moth caterpillars and leaf rollers.   Insects stop feeding and die within 2-3 days of ingesting BT Spray.

Diatomaceous Earth (purchased)

Diatomaceous earth is a naturally occurring, soft, siliceous sedimentary rock that is easily crumbled into a fine white to off-white powder.   It 100% consumable by humans but deadly to certain insects.  It can be purchased in 4 lb bags from local nursery for about $14.

Kills insects by ingestion/dehydration within 48 hours indoors or outdoors.  For ants, bed bug, cockroach, flea, earwig, silverfish, cricket, millipede and centipede control.   Must be applied when plants are dry to be effective.

Beer (cheap stuff or leftover)

Place small cup of beer to attract slugs on group near affected plants. The slugs will be attracted to the beer, go for a sip, fall in and drown. Don’t submerge the top of the tin even with the soil level or you might also kill ground beetles which eat slugs.

Lacto-Bacillus Serum (homemade)

Lacto-Bacillus Serum is an easy to make fertilizer that helps enable plants to absorb the good nutrients that promote healthy growth.   The ingredients you need to make “labs” are simple — rice, water and milk.   Directions to make can be found at this link:

https://anaincolorado.wordpress.com/2018/06/15/making-lacto-bacillus-serum-organic-fertilizer-to-fortify-my-garden/

Flashcards

I keep a set of flashcards in my bucket with common pests and how to treat them and one set with each of the above sprays/powders/liquids and how its used.

 

In addition to the pest control methods I carry in my bucket, I also employ of mix of companion planting, barrier methods, trap crops and timing of planting to deter unwanted pests.  Stay tuned to a future blog post on these topics.

 

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Recipe: Tasty “Superhero” Muffins

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Shari brought these muffins to our post-run brunch at Suzanne’s and I thought they were the most delicious muffins I’d ever tasted.  I couldn’t wait to make some too!  They are full of delicious ingredients like nuts, raisins, zucchini, carrots, oatmeal and gluten free! Yesterday,  I picked up the ingredients at Trader Joe’s to make a batch at home and even my teenage boys loved them!

The recipe is from Olympic medalist Shaleen Flanagan’s Run Fast.Eat Slow website and cookbook.

http://www.runfasteatslow.com/blog/2015/9/25/superhero-muffins#comments-outer-wrapper

Yield: 12

These muffins were designed for superheroes like you. They’re packed full of veggies, and are sweetened with maple syrup instead of refined sugar. In addition, almond flour and whole-grain oats replace nutrient-stripped white flour. These are Shalane’s go-to muffins—nourishing and sweetly satisfying for an easy grab-n-run breakfast.

And don’t fear the butter. Fueling up with healthy fats is a great way to start your day. Fat helps transport important vitamins throughout your hardworking body and will help keep you satisfied longer.

As a bonus, these muffins are gluten-free.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups almond meal
  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (use gluten-free if sensitive)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup currants or raisins, optional
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup grated zucchini (about 1 zucchini)
  • 1 cup grated carrot (about 2 carrots)
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup Grade B maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • paper muffin cups

Arrange a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 12-cup standard muffin tin with paper muffin cups.

In a large bowl, combine the almond meal, oats, walnuts, currants or raisins, if using, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, and salt.

In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs, zucchini, carrot, butter, maple syrup, and vanilla.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined.

Spoon the batter into the muffin cups filling each to the brim. Bake until the muffins are nicely browned on top and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 25 to 35 minutes.  

 

Tip: Keep a batch in the freezer for a sweet grab-n-run breakfast. Simply defrost on low power in the microwave

Making Lacto Bacillus Serum (organic fertilizer) to Fortify My Garden

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Do you want to learn about a super easy way to increase the productivity and health of your garden?   This fertilizer called “labs” for short is easy to make and the results are amazing.  I learned about making lacto-bacillus serum from the head horticulturalist at the Denver Golf Courses who also heads a very productive donation garden at Harvard Gulch Golf Club in Denver.

The term Lacto-Bacillus Serum sounds fancy but in truth, this simple to make recipe provides a workhorse of beneficial bacteria for your garden and has multiple other applications including :

  • Speeding decomposition in the compost pile
  • Unclogging drains
  • Treating powdery mildew on squash plants
  • Eliminating odor in animal bedding
  • Improves growth of plants when applied as foliar spray and soil drench.
  • Improves their efficiency in absorbing nutrients so naturally, growth is enhanced.

“With the use of these microorganisms, the nutrients you spray or drench to feed your plants become more bio-available and are more easily absorbed by the plants. Technically, you can say that plants do not use organic nutrients directly. Microorganisms convert organic nutrients to their inorganic constituents which the plants utilize. Utilizing microbes, you will notice better plant growth and health.”   –The Unconventional Farmer.

Labs Recipe:

Ingredients:   rice, water, milk

Directions: 

  1.   Day One:  Immerse a cup of rice in a quart of water.   Drain the water into a canning jar – filling it about 3/4 full.   Discard the rice.   Cover the jar with a paper towel but it should not be airtight.   Store it on top of the refrigerator and after a few days, the liquid will separate.
  2.  Day Three:   Siphon off the center layer adding 1 part serum to 10 parts milk and put in another container, cover tightly and let sit for another few days.   Once curds appear, you can strain the liquid with a cheesecloth (the curds can be fried up and eaten).
  3.  Day 5-6   For the Garden  Add 1 part serum to 20 parts water to spray in the garden.   Use on plants weekly Store in the frig or add molasses to store at room temperature.  Stable for about a year.

Sources of information:

The Unconventional Farmer:   http://theunconventionalfarmer.com/

Build a Soil:  https://buildasoil.com/blogs/news/8634877-gil-carandang-lactobacillus-serum-recipe

Hiking Kilauea Just Before the Eruption

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Hiking Kilauea Just Before the Eruption

In light of the recent eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano, I wanted to tell the story of our hike down to the lava flows on the East Rift at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.   It was a strenuous long hike – 2.5 hours out and 3 hours back – with the reward of seeing the lava glowing brightly as night descended upon the island.   During the hour we spent near the constantly shifting lava flows, I remember being nervous and feeling in the pit of my stomach that the earth was alive beneath my feet.   Could the volcano blow at any moment?  As it turns out, it did not that night in late March but just 5 weeks later, it did.

This year, it was my youngest son’s turn to go on a big trip so he accompanied me to the Big Island of Hawaii.   My plan was to take him on some great adventures while also competing in the Lavaman Triathlon a second time.   When a high school friend posted some cool photos of a lava hike they’d taken on the Big Island, I wanted to check it out.   How cool would it be to hike across dried lava fields to witness real live lava flows?

Amy highly recommended the guide they’d used so I checked out the website – Active Hawaiian Lava Tours, liked what I saw and booked my son and I on the expedition.   Active Lava Hawaiian Tours, https://www.activelavahawaiiantours.com  It was a somewhat pricey tour at $135 per person but well worth the opportunity to see this awesome natural wonder.  Later, my two daughters decided to meet us for the trip and joined us on the lava hike.

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The map above shows the two main area where the Kilauea Volcano can be viewed.   The caldera at the visitor’s center to the north and about an hour’s drive south, the east rift.     Our tour at the east rift started just south of the small town of Pahoa, near the south entrance to Hawaii’i Volcanoes National Park.    We were headed to Kalapana on the southern coast – a drive that is surprisingly rural with beautiful dense palm forests lining the narrow roads.   IMG_3898As we approached the rendezvous site,  barren black lava fields stretched out several miles toward the ocean beyond.   Getting to the tour site was a bit confusing with directions like “turn just past the bike rentals” and “look for the yellow house down a block or two” and we thus, made a few wrong turns.   Turns out that the modest yellow house/cabin we were looking for was located down a bumpy dirt road in a black lava field surrounded by a few dozen squatter shacks, piles of seemingly abandoned vehicles, water tanks, construction materials and just an occasional tree or plant rising from the uneven black rock.   Talk about at the end of the road.

At the Kilauea Visitor’s Center in front of the caldera.   Photo 1:  Tristan and me.   Photo 2:  Tristan and Madelaine.  March 23, 2018

 

Surprisingly, we arrived early and waited on the lanai with several other people while our guide Matthew introduced the plan and let us use the bathroom.   He was very bubbly, informative and friendly.   Unlike other tours groups, he informed us that we would not be biking to the entrance of the park tonight but rather, driving and then walking about a mile to the gate.   That’s cool, I thought.   I was happy to walk a little more since my triathlon was just days away.

After making sure that our water bottles were full, snacks were packed and our day packs secured, we were ready.  By 4 pm, eight of us boarded a van for the short drive drive out of the black lava neighborhood and down the stark uninhabited road toward the entrance to the national park.   Along the way, there were several tents set up to rent bikes but little else.   I surmised that one could do this expedition without a guide but since parking was several miles away, renting a bike to ride into the entrance was more expedient.   At the park gate, several dozen bikes were locked to metal posts nearby.   We stopped to take photos and continued our walk down the road; perhaps a mile or so.

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About a half mile into the park, we entered the lava fields.   The surface of the dried lava was black, gravely, uneven, hilly and full of cracks.  There was no established path or direct route.  Each step was a challenge to avoid tripping or twisting an ankle.   I was especially careful and unfortunately slow, since I didn’t want to injure myself before my triathlon that weekend.   I worried that my young son Tristan might have difficulty but at 13, he’d recently grown 6 inches, slimmed up and magically transformed into an energetic and strong young man.   He was a billy goat on this trek — no problem!   My daughters Megan (21) and Madelaine (30) were similarly light on their feet.

The hike was long and rocky.   The kids taking a break for me, the slow one.

 

Our guide used GPS to set the trail but as dusk fell, we could see lava glowing in the distance — a worthy destination to aspire too.  We were joined by other small groups of people – couples, tour groups, families with small children and grandparents, college kids – hiking in the same direction.   In truth, the going was tough and the hike took hours.  By 6:30, we finally reached the fresh lava flows.   Arriving at sunset was the prime time so we could really relish the glow of the lava in the dark.

The lava flows weren’t like the rivers you might see in films, however.   They were little flows of maybe 2-6 feet extruding from crevices in the black rock.   At places, you could look over at the ridges of rock rising next to you and see the lava glowing deep inside the cracks.   There were many such extrusions and you could walk around and take photos.  Nothing was moving too fast that you couldn’t get out of the way.

At one point, my kids headed over to a larger flow about 30 feet away which required that I climb over a few mounds of loose rocks.   I hesitated since I was nervous about all the lava around me.   I took a few deep breaths and finally heeded their calls to join them.   As we posed for photos, the heat of the lava was so intense we tried to hurry.   When I turned around a few minutes later, I saw that a new small river of lava had emerged right over the path I had just crossed.   My heart palpitations had been justified!

In the distance, lava was visible on the slopes of the volcano as it rose up miles toward the caldera.   Other, more adventurous hikers made their way up there but we were content to wander around closer flows take our photos.   Our guide advised us on the most dramatic poses to maximize the affect of the lava.  As night fell, it dawned on me that the hike back might be even more difficult in the dark and rallied for an earlier departure.   Unfortunately, being the laggard in the group, my entreaties fell on deaf ears.  I  had to wait for everyone eager to see the glow of the lava in the dark.   After an hour, we set off with headlamps on and flashlights.   Although the hike back took more than three hours, everyone arrived back uninjured and full of tales of a once in a lifetime expedition.

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My three travel companions, Madelaine, Tristan and Megan.

 

After nearly seven hours on the trail, we were starving and hoping to treat ourselves to a hearty dinner.   Unfortunately, the nearest town of Pahoa literally closes down by 10 pm so we resourcefully found dinner at the local gas station — yogurt, milk, sandwich wraps, cheese sticks did the trick.   It is sobering to see the news of the continuing eruptions of Kilauea and the destruction occurring in the area that we visited.   The roads we drove to reach the tour no longer exist and quite likely, the little yellow house and its neighbors are also gone.  Perhaps, even the gas station where we found our dinner is also gone.  Our thoughts are with the residents of Pahoa, Kalapana and the area near the volcano.

A little video of the lava flow:

Iris Love

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Iris Love
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Yellow irises in my community garden

I’ve had a love affair with irises for a long time.   They are easy to grow, easy to trade, and their colorful blooms signal the end of spring and the promise of hot summer days to come.   When my mom would come to visit in the spring, we’d visit the local iris nursery and appreciate the blooms scattered around my community garden.   She especially loved the yellow ones growing in Millie’s plot.   She LOVED it when I brought splits to her on my trips to Wisconsin.   She lovingly planted them around her home and over time, amassed quite a collection of those yellow blooms!   When she passed away last fall, her spirit came back to one of my sisters talking about yellow flowers and I knew that she wanted us to have her yellow irises.   We dug them up and split them among her four daughters to grow in our gardens.  I will always think of my mom when I enjoy the irises of spring!

After this afternoon’s sudden hailstorm – a relatively common spring occurrence in Denver, I rushed back to my community garden to check for damage to my newly planted tomatoes and was struck by the vast array of blooming irises all around.   Despite the rain, I couldn’t help but walk around and take photos of the beautiful blooms.  Here they are:

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Deep purple and yellow in Brenda’s Garden. May 28, 2018

Carol’s garden

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Jackie’s Garden

The Herb Garden

Millie and Theresa’s Garden

Charlie’s Garden

The south border next to the orchard and Brad’s Garden.

The east border along the fence.

I love how gardeners at Rosedale settle in and plant beautiful perennials for all the enjoy.   After looking at all the possibilities, I would love to expend my collection and just might be offering to help people split their irises in the spring.

The Flowering Fragrant Trails of Spring

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Just days after our last snows in Colorado, spring flowers start to emerge to brighten up the landscape and fill the air with lovely fragrances.  During this time of year,  I make it my mission to get outside as often as possible to fill my senses with the joy that spring has to offer — and actually surprised myself with how many wonderful many blooming trails I’ve visited lately.   Here are some of the highlights of my recent adventures in Jefferson County:

Crab Apple Route, Littleton,  April 23, 2018 – Blooming Bike Ride

A group of us got together to ride the 7 mile Crab Apple Route in Littleton — a 40 year old loop lined with crap apple trees that bloom for a few beautiful weeks in April.

 

South Platte Trail, April 29, 2018 – Crab Apple Trees just North of Hudson Gardens

The Sunday Run I attend with the Columbine’s Running Club is secretly known at the LTR’s (Love to Run) and we meet at Carson Nature Center every Sunday at 8 am, 7:30 in the summer.   About two miles down the trail, there is a tunnel of crab apple trees that bursts into white and pink blossoms at the end of April.    Running through this fragrant stretch of the trail is a worthy goal for my Sunday workout.   Once I reached the trees, I had to stop, close my eyes and take a few deep breaths to saturate my senses with the heady aroma of the sea of flowers surrounding me.

 

 

Writer’s Vista Park, Highline Canal, April 30, 2018 – Pam’s Last Marathon Training 

During my sister Pam’s marathon training this winter and spring, I often agreed to accompany her on the trail.   At her last training run before the big race, we met at Writer’s Vista Park to run one of our favorite trails.   It is a relatively flat tree-lined crushed gravel trail that winds through the backyards and horse pastures of Littleton.   As an added bonus, the crab apples trees were in full bloom.

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South Valley Park, May 5, 2018 – Trail Running Practice

Pam and I decided to participate in a trail running program this spring and so far, the training has taken us to a variety of beautiful trails in Jefferson County.   I ended up missing the group on Saturday morning (since it was rescheduled to the evening) but hit the trail at South Valley on my own and enjoyed the pleasant weather, spectacular rock outcroppings and many flowers.

 

 

Hildebrand Ranch Open Space Park, May 10, 2018 – Fly Girls Flower Run

The leader of our Thursday morning running group (Suzanne Buntrock) selects a different trail every week depending on trail conditions, weather and this time of year, flowers.   One of our favorites in the spring is the Two Brands Trail at Hildebrand Park. The park is accessible in two spots — in the Trailmark neighborhood near my house and from a parking lot just past the Denver Botanic Gardens on Deer Creek Canyon Road.   It runs along the hogback and wraps around my neighborhood of Trailmark.   This week, the flowers were blooming!

 

 

Deer Creek Canyon, May 12, 2018 – Training Running in the Rain

Our trail running group meets rain or shine and despite the morning drizzle on Saturday, we all met at Deer Creek Canyon Park.   The run up the trail was damp but fragrant and beautiful.   Many of us “power hiked” up the slippery trails but when the the path evened out, we jogged.   Dashing up the “stairs” was challenging and fun but definitely an exercise I might have skipped if alone.   The jog down was a nice reward after the two mile ascent.   We heard about a very challenging half marathon called “Fear the Deer” being held at the park next weekend.   Pam and I are committed to train and sign up to do it next year.

 

Chatfield State Park, May 16, 2018 – Walking Bennie along the River

My friend Suzanne is a naturalist guide at both Chatfield and Roxborough State Parks and we often meet to walk.   I always enjoy our get together’s because she is so familiar with the flora and fauna of the area and I inevitably learn something new.   On this day, we were walking her grand dog Benny who poked along while we looked at trees felled by beavers, enjoyed new flowers, found plum trees and choke cherry bushes and marveled at the running water in the river.   A beautiful day for a leisurely stroll in the park!

 

Massey Draw in Ken Caryl, May 17, 2018 – Fly Girls on the Private Trail

Thanks to Kim, a resident of Ken Caryl Valley, our Fly Girls group, could enjoy a morning workout on the Massey Draw Trail in her neighborhood.   Our hike/run started with blue skies and a warm morning.    The dirt trail ascended quickly and was decorated with mobs of bright flowers all along the route.    I was too busy snapping photographs and chatting with Jan to run too much.   We still worked up a sweat climbing up the trail and down.    A lovely prelude to our coffee talk at Atlas Coffee down the road.

 

 

Roxborough State Park, May 17, 2018 – Naturalist Wild Flower Training Hike

 

When my naturalist friend Suzanne mentioned that she had to attend a wildflower talk this evening, I was immediately interested.   How can I go?   Do I have I have to sign up?   It was a training for naturalist guides, she said, but she’ll call and see if I could tag along.   Yes, I was in.   She picked me up at 5 and we headed to Roxborough State Park and there, met about ten other naturalist guides.   The leader Ann handed me a sheet with a list of about 50 wildflowers and told me that we’d be attempting to see almost the entire list in the next two hours.  Wow!   What a treat and a mind bender.   We hit the trail with our list, pens and cardboard squares for note-taking.   The tree-lined trail was chock full of blooming flowers of every color — naturally growing in this spring forest.  Ann shared scientific detail of each flower we observed, the family name, species identifiers, uses by native Americans, color, etc.    Rather than being overwhelmed, I took great notes, many photos and left with the urge to come back tomorrow to solidify the new knowledge I’d gained.

 

Whew!    Its hard to believe I’ve been on so many trails and enjoyed so many flowers during this busy time of the year!   My gardens are keeping me very busy after all.   I’m within days of planting warm season crops so have been prepping plots, tending to seedlings, planting the last of the cold crops, weeding and shopping for garden provisions.   But busy or not,  I wouldn’t miss the opportunity to inhale the beauty of the season!

 

Heirloom Tomato Seedlings for Sale or Trade – May 20

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Heirloom Tomato Seedlings for Sale or Trade – May 20
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One day’s harvest of heirloom tomatoes in August. Joy!

This is the second year I’ve attempted to grow tomatoes from seed.   I amassed a great collection of heirloom seeds over the last several years so with the help of my co-gardener, Terry, we planted two trays of tomato seeds on March 31.  With grow lights, heat mats and close attention, we had an amazing rate of germination.  After weeks of splitting dozens of seedlings, we are faced with a huge surplus of beautiful tomato plants.   I can reasonably plant about 80 at Rosedale, the donation garden at St. Philip and at home but would like to find homes for the rest.

The tomatoes were seeded to be ready for planting after the last frost date in Denver — around May 20.

If you’re interested in acquiring tomato plants, contact me at anaincolorado@aol.com.    I have about 80 to spare so quantities are limited.  You can reserve specific ones if they are paid for by the time of my porch sale on May 20.   I will have the porch sale on Sunday, May 20 and one at St. Philip’s on May 27.   $3 each.   Email me for details.

Some tips and info:

  • When planting, dig a hole deep enough to bury the tomato up to its top two branches.   The extra branches will form roots under the soil.  It is OK to bend the plant gently sideways if it is too tall.
  • Add bone meal or crushed egg shell (1/4 cup) to add nutrients to the soil.
  • Soil temperature should be about 60 degrees.   It does no good to put the plants in early — they thrive in warm temperatures.
  • Fertilize every 2-3 weeks with high phosphorous organize fertilizer.   I use worm tea or bokashi.
  • Indeterminate:  more commonly known as “vining” tomatoes, can grow anywhere from 6′-10′ tall and will continue to grow, bloom, and set fruit until they are killed by the first frost of the growing season, require lots of staking and pruning of tomato suckers, will form flowers along the sides of the shoots
  • Determinate:   often grown in a cage or even without support, as it has a more compact shape, also produce most of their fruit on the terminal end, are usually smaller and can be grown in containers.   Tend to ripen earlier.

IMG_5574[1]Abraham Lincoln: In 1923 the H.W. Buckbee seed company of Rockford, IL introduces an heirloom variety named in honor of Illinois’ Greatest Son – Abraham Lincoln.   This late-season tomato produces large, beautiful, dark red, sweet, and meaty fruits in 87-90 days.   Good for Slicing, making tomato juice and ketchup. Plant 18 inches apart in rows 3 ft. apart.  Needs staking.  Indeterminate.

 

IMG_5575[1]Amana Orange:  One of the tastiest and earliest of the heirloom beefsteaks.   Deep orange color and rich flavor make this an all-time favorite.  Matures in 85 days.  Indeterminate – vigorous vines require tall, sturdy stakes or trellises.

 

 

IMG_5594[1]Beefsteak:  9-12 ounce tomato is splendid for slicing.   Plants are large and spreading, with medium green broad foliage.  Transplant to harvest: 55-60 days.   Needs inch of water each week.

 

 

IMG_5576[1]Black Krim:  Beautiful, dark purple=black fruits have rich, old-fashioned flavor with a hint of smokiness.   Reliable and very productive.   This Russian heirloom originated in Krim, a Crimean town on the the Black Sea.   Baseball-sized fruits weigh 10-12 oz. ad have reddish-brown flesh filled with an earthy, almost smoky flavor.   Fruit sets well in heat and is the most reliable of the black tomatoes, producing even under adverse conditions from summer to fall.   Provide support for vines that reach 6 ft. or more.   Indeterminate.   Matures in 70 days.

 

img_55821.jpgBrandywine Red and Yellow Pole:  Not the shapeliest tomatoes but their extra large size and outstanding flavor has made them a favorite of tomato lovers for more than 100 years.   Beefsteak-type fruits average around a pound but can weigh close to 2 pounds.   Yellow Brandywine turns golden yellow when ripe and is meaty with a slightly tart flavor.   Red Brandywine has a rich and well-balance tomato flavor.   Indeterminate – vines reach 6 feet or more and need staking. 80 days to maturity.

 

IMG_5577[1]Cherokee Purple – Pole:  Cherokee’s rose/purple skin with green shoulders encases red brick colored flesh with just the right level of sweetness.   You’ll be harvesting large numbers of 10-12 oz. tomatoes from this well-regarded heirloom vareity from summer to fall.   The flavor is tasty, wonderful delicious, heavenly and unbelievable!   Provide support for vigorous vines that reach 6′ or more.   Indeterminate.   Matures in 80 days.

 

img_55791.jpgCostoluto Genovese:  the Italian heirloom standard for flavorful sauces.   Flat, heavily lobed shape with deep, slightly acidic flavor.   A popular choice for canning and juicing.   Indeterminate – vigorous vines require tall, sturdy stakes or trellises.   Best to let ripen on the vine.   Matures in 80 days.

 

IMG_5581[1]Golden Nugget:  extra early to ripen and takes the heat all summer long, making it a good choice for hot climates.   Abundant golden clusters of mile, sweet 3/4 inch fruit, perfect for snacking straight from the garden.   Determinate.   Matures in 55-68 days.

 

IMG_5584[1]Granny Smith Hybrid:  Great for fried green tomatoes.   Tomatoes stay green, even when ripe!   Round, 8-10 ounce fruit are firm and sweet with just a hint of tart flavor.  Great for salsa verde or eating right out of the garden.    Semi-determinate plants show strong diseases resistance.   Support with stakes or tomato cages to keep fruit off the ground.   72 days to maturity.

 

IMG_5583[1]Hungarian Heart:  Said to have originated in a village 20 miles from Budapest around 1900.   Huge pink oxheart fruits weigh upwards of one pound.   Very few seeds and almost no cracking.   A favorite for eating, canning and for making roasted tomato sauce.   Indeterminate.   85 days to maturity.

 

IMG_5586[1]Lemon Boy Hybrid:  Bright yellow fruits make an eye=catching display when sliced with red tomatoes.   Deep, sweet flavor.   Indeterminate.   72 days to maturity.

 

 

IMG_5585[1]Marglobe VF:  Heirloom, 1925.   Fruits are red, medium-sized 5-8 oz. with firm walls and good flavor.   Plants are stocky, vigorous, and have excellent disease resistance.  Determinate.  70 days to maturity.

 

 

IMG_5588[1]Mortgage Lifter:  This old-timer produces one pound, meaty tomatoes with few seeds.   Well-shaped fruits with dark pink skins.   90 days to maturity.  Indeterminate.

 

IMG_5587[1]Oxheart:  Also known as “cuore di bue” is so named because of its shape.   An heirloom variety popular in Italy and France because it is dense with few seeds, cooking down to a robust, think sauce.   It can also be a star sliced fresh atop salad greens or paired with mozzarella and fresh basil leaves.   85 days to maturity.

 

IMG_5590[1]Red Cherry Large:  Luscious clusters of bright red one and a half inch gems.   Prolific bushy plant.  Let fruit ripen on the fine for best flavor.   Matures in 75 days.

 

 

IMG_5591[1]Roma VF:  America’s most popular vegetable.   Indeterminate.   An old-time plum type tomato on a compact plant.   65 days to maturity from transplant.

 

 

img_55921.jpgPineapple:  Stunning and high-yielding variety.   These beautiful tomatoes ripen to a yellow-orange accented with hints red that go through the solid, meaty interior of the fruit.   Large beefsteak type fruits don’t have a lot of seeds but are filled with complex tomato flavor with a hint of fruitiness that’s just he right balance of sweet and tangy.   Adds eye=catching color to salads, sandwiches and salsas.   Indeterminate.  Provide support for the tall plants and their heavy fruits.   90 days from transplanting.

 

img_55891.jpgSan Marzano:  Want to know the secret of the real Italian cooks?  San Marzano tomatoes!   This is the authentic Italian past tomato.   Its superb flavor is enjoyed both in fresh sauces and processed for later use.   Great for dried tomatoes, too!  80 days to maturity from transplanting.   Indeterminate.

 

img_55941.jpgSteak:  Bushy plants.   Indeterminate.  Sandwich slicing.   Indeterminate.  70 days to maturity.

 

 

img_55951.jpgSupersweet 100:  Garden fresh flavor in every bite=sized gem.   Each beautiful ruby red fruit is exceptionally sweet.   Very prolific plants producing hundreds of tomatoes.   Disease resistance to verticullium and fusarium wilt.   Provide support for vigorous vines that easily reach 6 feet.  65 days from transplanting.   Indeterminate.

 

IMG_5593[1]Tricolor Cherry – Garden Candy:  Bite sized, beautiful and early bearing, these 3 different colored cherries are the sweetest of all tomatoes and yield abundant harvests in all climates.   Mixed seed packet offers orange Sungold, bright yellow Sweet Gold and rich red Supersweet 100.  Mature height  5-7 feet, transplant to harvest: 65 days.

 

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Repotting the seedlings on May 8. Two trays have multiplied into 10. More than we can plant! Tomatoes are growing bigger everyday and will be ready on May 20!

 

Spring in My Gardens, 2018

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Spring in My Gardens, 2018

Photos from March 30:  Lillian planting peas with her grandma, Terry.   Turning the soil in the raised beds.

Although its early May, I’ve already been working in my gardens for nearly two months.  Often the first trip to the community garden occurs on a warm day in late February or early March and snow may still be on the ground.  Many times, we’ve had to brush aside snow and chisel away at the soil to get our St. Patrick’s Day peas planted.  But not this year.   We had a rather mild winter in Colorado so the soil was uncharacteristically workable in early March.   My garden pals and I were thus at Rosedale digging early in the season and the peas went in like butter.

Photos:  Toasting St. Patrick’s Day with my mom’s Waterford goblets, picking up free compost and burlap bags at Allegro’s Coffee’s Earth Day Celebration, me posing in front of our robust garlic patch with Marilynn’s garden behind me.   She was my neighbor for 17 years and sadly died of lung cancer the day before this visit to our garden on March 16.

By March 16, we’d planted our first round of peas and spinach.   A few weeks later, we planted more peas with the help of Terry’s grand daughter Lillian as well as other cold crops including lettuce, carrots, beets, broccoli and more.   I was also surprised to find that many crops that typically don’t make it through the winter, survived — cilantro, rosemary, kale, chard, parsley.

Photos from March 16:  Ana,Terry and Susan getting ready to plant peas on a very windy March afternoon, our tomato cages all lined up where we plan to plant tomatoes in late May, the garlic patch growing between planks of wood for walking.

We’re off to a good start and busily prepping all the beds for the big warm season planting in just a few short weeks.  Although the weather can be deceptively nice in May, we still must restraint ourselves from planting our precious tomatoes, peppers and warm season crops until we’re safely past May 22.   Last year, we had about 6 inches of snow around May 20!

Photos from March 31:   Free tomato seeds earned as a volunteer at DUG free seed distribution, tomato seedlings planted on March 31, two trays of 12 6 packs of tomatoes and peppers growing under lights and on heat mats.

Timeline of Chores

  • March 9:  Map the garden
  • Order or shop for seeds
  • March 12: Volunteer at Denver Urban Garden Seeds Distribution — earn free seeds
  • Visit the plots and make plans for prepping the soil
  • March 16: Plant peas and spring crops
  • Fill milk jugs with water and pack in back of car
  • March 30:  Start seedlings — tomatoes and peppers in early April
  • April 7:  Attend Rosedale Community Garden Spring Meeting, pay fees and network with fellow gardeners
  • Turn soil, pull weeds, lay down burlap on paths
  • April 20:  Visit Allegro Coffee for Earth Day Celebration — pick up burlap bags and free compost
  • April 23:  Flower garden consultation at home with Shirley at http://www.mindful-gardener.com (More later!)
  • April 25:  Transplant seedlings to larger pots
  • April 26:  Scored 6-packs of broccoli and cabbage seedlings at King Soopers for $3.49/pack
  • May 1:  Plant spring bulbs, broccoli and cabbage; plant cover crop in the pumpkin patch
  • May 2: Plant broccoli and cabbage at St. Philip Donation Garden with Jennifer

Photos from April 25:  Susan working on repotting the tomato seedlings, tomato seedlings ready to transplant, individual seedlings in peat pots.

Photos on May 2:  Newly planted broccoli and cabbage with Jen Drews at St. Philip Donation Garden.

 

Aquaponics: Behind the Seeds Tour at Epcot

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Aquaponics:  Behind the Seeds Tour at Epcot

 

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During my recent visit to Orlando, I had the opportunity to attend the “Behind the Seeds” Tour to get a close up view of the greenhouses at Epcot.  The hour long tour was led by a young college graduate interning in the shrimp propagation lab and worth every penny of the $25 admission fee.    Laura was enthusiastic, knowledgeable and fun!

The greenhouse showcases a variety of cutting edge agricultural growing methods including the propagation of beneficial insects, aquaponics,  hydroponics and the use of sand as a growing medium — all developed to increase production of crops in smaller space with fewer resources.  Lettuce, for example can be grown much faster in an aquaponic environment with nutrient rich water.   Currently, 1% of the produce used at the Disney properties come from the crops grown in their greenhouses.

 

Parasitoid wasp raised to eat invasive insects, squash growing in water on a revolving wheel, greens growing in revolving towers.

 

The produce highlighted included herbs, greens, huge winter squashes, gourds, cherry tomatoes, pineapples, spices, cucumbers, and flowers.  I was interested to see how the trellised the tomatoes, cucumbers and melons resulted in such a high yield.   There was a demonstration of several different non soil growing mediums which included some that I already use.

 

Non organic growing mediums, flowers growing in nutrient rich water, cucumbers grown in a specially shaped container

 

One highlight were the “hidden Mickey’s” tucked around the greenhouse in surprisingly places – some of which I didn’t notice until I looked at my photos later.  The methods demonstrated looked so clean and sterile and different from the down and dirty gardening methods that I employ in my gardens.   I was also impressed with the amount of technology necessary to be successful — the right amount of nutrients in the liquid or non soil mediums, the temperature control, the use of motorized “pots” for the plants, carefully trellised tomatoes using string and likely, lots of careful pruning, etc.

 

Me posing with a huge winter squash grown in the sand, English cucumbers and squashes growing on trellises.

 

The tour provided a fascinating behind the scenes (seeds) glimpse into some very different growing methods.  I admire and appreciate  but for now, I’ll stick with my traditional gardening methods.   On the other hand, I learned a lot and have been inspired to give the Tower Garden another look when I tire of the physical labor of my community gardens.

After the walking tour, we took the “Living with the Land” ride that toured the greenhouses by water and gave us another perspective of the gardens and fish.   A great combination!

See if you can find the four hidden Mickey’s!

 

A tray full of peas growing in water and hollyhocks growing in sand.

 

Dave and I posing in the spice garden, a topiary of guess who and a trellis of cherry tomatoes growing in sand.

 

Cherry tomatoes hoisted up on strings, cherry tomatoes galore and more racks of greens.

My Hawaiian Adventure at the Lavaman Triathlon – 2016

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For years, I’d heard about the Lavaman Triathlon in Kona, HI and had secretly wanted to participate.   When my friend Sally’s husband Todd organized a team to do the Lavaman and raise $100,000 for a leukemia and lymphoma research in his wife’s honor, I decided to join the cause.  In addition to training to successfully complete this Olympic distance event, I would also be faced with the challenge of raising a big chunk of money and convincing my husband to support this BIG, expensive adventure.  I reasoned with Dave that this trip would occur in the month of our 20th anniversary so might be a great way to celebrate this milestone.

Fast forward six months and I’ve accomplished all three!!

While preparing to get to the start line, I faced some BIG challenges.   After nearly, 19 years as a SAHM, I started a full-time job in early January.   Balancing my new schedule with a busy training schedule -as well as a family and home to care for — was daunting.   I adjusted my goals from getting faster (a real stretch for me) to just being able to do the event and feel good at the end.   In the midst of all the training sessions and fundraising, my seven year old Honda Odyssey with nearly 220,000 miles broke down and needed a $1500 repair.   With plane tickets to buy, a bike to ship and trip expenses, we decided to garage the ailing vehicle and divert the repair money to the Hawaii trip.   Fortunately, my 19 year old daughter had left behind a car when she moved last fall and we were able to put it to use.   I booked my mother to watch the boys, arranged time off from my new job and talked my husband into joining me.

The Trip – April 7, 2016

Hoping to arrive before nightfall, I had booked an very early flight through LA with several connections.   Realizing only later that this early flight meant leaving the house at 3 am to catch my 5:30 am flight, I understood the wisdom of paying more money for a direct flight.  Note to self  – saving money is not worth the extra travel time or early departure.   Arriving early enabled me to participate in two days of bike and swim workouts, rest up, acclimate to the hot weather and connect with team mates.   On Friday morning, I joined the team in the lobby of the Palace Tower to hike down to the beach for the swim.   It was quite a hike – about 1 1/2 miles – along the beach and a rocky lava rock path; a trek which provided an excellent preview of the final run section of the race.   After a brief talk by our coach, we jumped in the ocean and swam a lovely half mile around a buoy in the distance.  With the exception of the taste of salt in my mouth, the swim was very pleasant.

Despite warnings about avoiding the coral near the shore, I managed to cut my toe on my way out of the water.   At the time, I noticed that my toe hurt but didn’t realize I needed medical attention until after a three mile walk and finding a pool of blood in the shower.   Having packed only carry-on bags, I had not brought a first aid kit.   Note to self — don’t forget band aids and Neosporin!   Fortunately, our team coach, Mary Carey, rescued me with the needed supplies and advised me to sit out the Saturday swim.   The cut looked pretty nasty and was very bothersome considering the extensive walking required to navigate around the huge Hilton property.   I worried about getting it infected and the possibility that I might have to quit the race.   With such an investment in time and resources, I focused on letting  the cut heal and tried to be positive about participating on Sunday.

Race Day – April 10, 2016

The 4 hour time difference between Denver and Kona made it relatively easy to get up before dawn to meet the team in the lobby at 5 am — a full 1/2  mile and an elevator ride from my hotel room.   We had been instructed to bring head lamps for the mile ride to transition in the dark but afraid that I might crash before the start line, I decided to bypass this challenge and walk the mile to transition.   Confident that the weather would be Hawaii warm in the predawn hour, I didn’t wear a long sleeve shirt and later regretted this decision since it was a windy, chilly 68 degrees.  But no matter, I got everything set up, networked with my rack mates, applied sunscreen, drank water, stood in line for body marking, got my timing chip,  took photos with team mates, and enjoyed the view of the Mauna Kea volcano silhouetted in the distance.

Choppy Swim – .9 miles

By 6:45 am, we marched down to the shore to start lining up for our waves and do practice swims.    Initially, I thought about skipping  a warm up swim to avoid a chill but later, changed my mind since my wave  was slated to start 30 minutes after the start.   Jumping in the water helped stave off some of my nervous energy and provided a good distraction since the water was warm and calm.  Of the many triathlons I’ve participated in through the years, this was one of the nicest and more picturesque starts.   I knew I could do it and only hoped I wouldn’t come face to face with a shark in the water.   For this reason, I kept my eyes closed when my head was in the water

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At 7:45, our wave was called to get in the water for the deep water start.   After a few minutes of treading, the signal sounded and we were off.   As usual, the start was a tangle of arms and legs and churning water for a few minutes until I found my space.   I had no trouble rounding the first buoy but later had difficulty seeing the course so resorted to following someone ahead of me.   Unfortunately, I passed them and had to take a few moments to breast stroke and look around.   Several times, I think I was actually sighting the swim patrol’s paddle boards and not the buoys.   Why do they use SUPs that are the same color as the buoys?   Halfway through the course, I noticed that the water was getting choppy much like the drill we’d practice in the pool with a lane of swimmers churning the water with kick boards while we swam through.   Simple — I can do this!

Windy Bike – 24 miles

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As I exited the water, I knew I’d completed the easiest part of the race for me.   I’d forgotten my watch in Denver so I had no idea what my time was but figured I’d done well enough when I saw that most of the bikes were still in transition.   Once I reached my spot, I shoveled down a pb&j, guzzled some water, took some salt, slathered on sunscreen and put on my socks and bike shoes – all somewhat difficult being wet.  After buckling my helmet, I ran down the lane to the bike start and started to face my bike fears.   These fears had prevented me from adequately training on the bike and now that I was actually facing a 24 mile bike ride, they were pushing forward in my thoughts.   During the mile ride out to the main road, I kept telling myself, “you can do this, you can do this, you can do this!”   These magic words must have helped because once I reached the highway, I was OK and happily able to focus on pedaling, enjoying the view, feeling grateful to have gotten this far and knocking out this portion of the race.   As expected, I was slow and nearly every woman I knew on the team passed me on the bike course; each one of them saying “hi” as they hurtled past me.   I tried to congratulate myself for doing well on the swim and to just be OK with the fact that I am weaker on biking and running.

The bike ride was a very straight forward out and back course with relatively easy hills compared to my hilly home state.  The only negatives were the few goats that ran out into the road and the strong head wind on the ride back.    The views were spectacular and I especially enjoyed seeing the Anaeho’omalu Bay on the ride back to Waikoloa.   At the turn around, I decided to get off my bike for a few minutes to drink water — a move I might not have had to make if I’d actually done enough bike training ahead of time.    Upon passing the 20 mile mark, I cannot tell you the sense of euphoria I felt as I approached the entrance to the road back to transition.  With one mile to go,  I had made it without a flat tire, without dying of exhaustion, without falling — I was almost to the final leg of the race!!!!!

As I approached the transition area, I hit a speed bump a little too fast and all the stuff in my stem bag exploded out onto the road.   This  mishap took a few minutes to recoup from but did not compare to the inevitable deflation I felt as I got back on my bike and faced the stream of competitors packed up and heading back to their rooms and cars after completing the race.    Uggh!!!   “It’s OK”, I had to tell myself, “they started earlier than me and besides, I am here to have a good time, not win!”.

Whew!!   I got off my bike and ran to my spot, peeled off my helmet and bike shoes and quickly, changed my shirt, ate the other half of my sandwich, tied my running shoes and dashed off to the run start.    By this time, the teen volunteers staffing the run zone were busy texting, socializing and unaware of us stragglers heading out.   I had to stop and shout for directions.   “Which way?   Hey, which way is the run course?”   Hmmm….being near the back of the pack does have it disadvantages!   I was finally pointed to a path across the lava field adjacent to the transition area.

Hot Run – 10k

I could tell right away that the day was heating up and this run was going to be a hot one.   After so many training runs during winter conditions, I wasn’t going to complain a second about finally being able to wear shorts and a sleeveless top.   Thankfully, the route was well staffed with water stations and abundant bags of ice which I positioned at the back of my neck or down the front.   About two miles in, I ran past the aid station where my husband Dave was working and briefly said “hi” as I slogged past.   As I proceeded, I saw many of the teammates who had passed me on the bike, heading back on the run course toward the final leg of the race along the shore.   Such is life!

Finish Line on the Beach (!)

Our coach had warned us to try to pick up our pace earlier on the run since the final section along a narrow dirt path just above the rocky shore followed by a trail of chunky lava rocks would necessitate a much slower speed — walking for me!  It was a hot slow journey but lovely, nonetheless.  Halfway through the run, I was so happy to have made it this far and still feeling pretty good.   As I ran past our wonderful coach at about mile 5, all I could say was “I’m getting hungry!”   The last mile seemed to take forever — especially the final 100 yard dash (?!) in deep sand.   I crossed the finish line, stumbled toward cold water and the shiny medal.   After that, I searched for sustenance, grabbing some cookies and fruit and then, headed to the shore for a quick dunk to cool off.

The water was miraculously cool.   After hoisting myself onto the beach, I sat in a stupor on the sand for about 10 minutes.  I noticed someone like me (in a sweaty tri suit) with a plate of food and realized that there was some real food for us; not just cookies and fruit!   I mustered the energy to get up, search out the buffet and gratefully, loaded up with a burger, chips, fruits, coleslaw and more.   I found another team mate and together, we parked our weary bodies in a shady spot to eat and recap the race.   Later on, my husband appeared to finish off what I couldn’t eat and wait in the line for beer.   Sitting about 20 feet away was a group of other Team Sally members, including Sally, Todd and their daughter, Hannah, I wanted to go over to congratulate them and take photos but once seated, I was immobile for almost an hour.  The toughest part of such a big athletic endeavor often comes after crossing the finish line. The getting up, the trudging back to transition to collect one’s bike and gear and then, getting back to home base all seemed improbable after over four hours on the race course.

The Icing on the Cake

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While Dave waited in the long food line at the Kona Brewing Co beer tent, I decided to take one last dip.   As I waded in, I heard a voice over my shoulder say “Hey, you passed me on the bike course!”   I turned putting my hands up and shook my head, “not me!”   The real truth is that everyone had passed me on the bike course.    But as I looked up, my eyes fell upon the most handsome shirtless man in the race – God’s gift – looking straight me.   “No, you passed me!” he said, “Some of you gals are so fast!”.   No way, I thought.  I took a deep breath and just decided to go with it and enjoy the moment.   We chatted about his hopes to do an Ironman in Sydney, his 18 year old daughter going to USC and my plans to do a half marathon with my sister.   As we turned to say goodbye, we shook hands and exchanged names.   His name was Murray.  Thanks Murray for that undeserved compliment — it was almost as good as earning the Lavaman medal.  A nice ending to a long, fun day.

 

Stay tuned for a recap of my second Lavaman in March 2018!

https://runsistersrundotorg.wordpress.com/2016/04/18/my-hawaiian-adventure-at-the-lavaman-triathlon/

April 2016