Farming in Challenging Times

Farming in Challenging Times

The Family Farm in the Neighborhood

“I believe that to live and work on a good farm, or to be engaged in other agricultural pursuits, is pleasant as well as challenging…”

This is a portion of the FFA creed written by E.M. Tiffany. I can’t think of a time when it could be more appropriate than in our current era of overlapping crises. I teach this creed to all of my agricultural education students at Alameda International High School, and I carry it with me as I work alongside my wife Chelsie and we push through these heavy and hot summer months farming here in Lakewood.

Our farm, The Fleischer Family Farm, is a two-acre organic vegetable production farm in the Southern Gables neighborhood. We grow lots of great vegetables, cut flowers, and fruits and we have chickens for eggs and bees for honey. All of this production is “challenging” enough in its normal state, but amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been especially difficult. We have had to put new safety precautions in place, set up social distancing platforms at our Saturday farmstand and we’ve even worked through a period of time where we only took online orders for contactless pickups. All of these things have cost us more money and time and complicated the whole process quite a bit. Our business slogan is “Building Community Through Food” and despite the fact that we are now one of the largest Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms in the entire Denver Metro area, we have been disappointed that the masks and distancing have somewhat interfered with getting to know our CSA shareholders and weekly farmstand customers on a more personal level this year.

As with most things though, there is usually a silver lining in any problem. This season our stand has been constantly busy every weekend with more people interested in eating healthy and staying close to home. Our sales are up, but that only just compensates for the extra labor hours and equipment needed to keep people safe who do show up. We have also had to put all of our Urban Homesteading classes and our Farm To Table Dinner events on hold because of this mess. Those are major profit marks for our small family business and not having them this season will surely hurt our bottom line. However, Chelsie and I remain steadfast in our belief that we will get through this if we continue to support our neighbors and our community.

Perhaps this pandemic will even leave us as a better society overall that prioritizes self-sufficiency, natural foods, supporting small and local businesses, and strengthening a sense of community. Whatever the outcome, we are pushing through it with vigor and tenacity and could not be more pleased to be supported by such an amazing community of neighbors and friends.

Paul Fleischer is the co-owner and farmer of Fleischer Family Farms. He is also a high school agricultural education teacher. He cultivates the land on his Southern Gables property alongside his wife and co-owner, Chelsie.

Invasive Plant Species of Southern Gables

Invasive Plant Species of Southern GablesSouthern Gables Neighborhood Association

Myrtle Spurge, Cheatgrass & Field Bindweed

My husband and I walk our neighborhood every day (multiple times a day during COVID) and we love getting to see all that our neighbors have growing in their yards. On these walks, we have also seen some weeds that should be removed and it’s possible that many of us don’t realize how to identify these nor have the information needed to properly and safely remove them. I wanted to write this blog post to help our community identify three of these and provide resources for removing them. 

What is a Noxious Weed?

Invasive species of plants can be trees, vines, perennials and even grasses that are not native to our region. They don’t have natural predators (animals or bugs) that help control them, are resistant to disease and are able to spread at an alarming rate. Myrtle Spurge, Cheatgrass and Field Bindweed are all considered noxious weeds by Colorado.

Why Should I be Concerned?

The primary reason we should be concerned is because these species take up space normally occupied by native plants or they are stronger and take over the plants. This displacement reduces food sources and habitats of our native bugs and animals, essentially adding to their decline. 

Myrtle Spurge

Myrtle spurge is a gray/blue succulent plant that flowers between March and May. Before I knew that these were noxious weeds, I actually thought they were really pretty. I have even seen them being sold in Taos, NM, which shocked me. (I did let the plant manager know.) Common names of Myrtle Spurge include: Donkey tail spur, Myrtle Euphorbia, Creeping spurge, Blue spurge, Broad-leaved glaucous-spurge.

In doing my research for writing this, I learned that when the flowers (actually bracts) release their seeds, it is really more of an explosion. They can send them out 15 feet from where the original plant is growing. In addition to seeds, they can reproduce by any plant stem or root that was not completely removed. 

This plant is extremely toxic. Per Jefferson County Invasive Species Dept., several people end up in the hospital because of burns they have received when handling this plant without the proper protection of gloves and even protective eyewear. 

When you consider removal, please do your homework and make sure you wear the proper protection or consult a specialist to help you. I have removed this wearing thick garden gloves and protective glasses and I threw it away in the trash. This isn’t something to put into a compost bin. 

Here’s a video from the Colorado Weed Management Association:


As you can see by its name, Cheatgrass is a grass. It is also known as Downy Brome. In my  picture you can see both Cheatgrass and bindweed. It is one of the first grasses to turn green and by July, it has turned to a reddish or straw color and is beginning to drop its seeds. It is also highly flammable when dry. 

Cheatgrass is very common around our neighborhood and I am constantly pulling it in my own yard. The seeds are very prolific and can even get stuck in animal fur and be easily carried to different locations. It is very easy to pull as the roots are shallow (wear gloves!), so if you see it, pull it and also throw this guy in the trash. 

Here’s a video on this one from Colorado Yard Care that provides great information:

Field Bindweed

Field Bindweed is rampant in our neighborhood and it is really hard to control. Their root systems can grow up to 20 feet deep into our yards and their seeds are viable for 40 years! Here’s a great Bindweed resource where I gathered this data from the Colorado Dept. of Agriculture.

In my yard, I try hard not to use herbicides like Roundup; however I did use it on this. But, it didn’t work! The Bindweed kept coming back. In my research, I have consistently read that pulling it when you see it over and over and over again is the best way to eradicate it from your yard. It’s blooming now (early July), so I’m regularly out hunting for it in my yard. I have also recently heard that the University of NM has found a mite that eats only Bindweed, helping to biologically control this plant. I’m a bit leery about introducing new bugs into our environment, but I’m going to be watching this to see what happens. 

If you can pull it before it develops its long root systems, it’s also a great win. Here’s a picture of what it looks like as a baby.

Be an Advocate for Removal

Jefferson County Invasive Species Management has some great educational information related to all noxious and invasive species around our area. I highly recommend that you utilize them when you have questions related to weeds. They have a lot of great information and really care about our area. Another great resource is the Colorado Weed Management Association

If you have any questions, please leave a comment below or you can message our Southern Gables Neighborhood Facebook page.

Kristen De Lay is an avid gardener with a special interest in native plants and creating wildlife habitats. She is a member and volunteer for the Colorado Native Plant Society and also participates in our Sustainable Southern Gables group. She and her family have lived in Southern Gables since 2016.

In the Footsteps of the Pioneers — 3

In the Footsteps of the Pioneers — 3Southern Gables Neighborhood Association

Southern Gables – A Historical Perspective (Part 3 of 3)

Ahhh… Lakewood!

After leaving the smelter smoke of Denver, traversing miles… in reaching the summit, behold the sublime work of nature, a panoramic view of a picturesque valley bursts upon me… Southern Gables.” – Molly Brown.

What? No, we’re kidding! She didn’t say Southern Gables. She said “Avoca Lodge.” In 1893, after making his fortune in the mining business and moving to a mansion in Denver,1 J.J. Brown bought 320 acres out in the country, at what is now Yale and Wadsworth. He had a house built there, and he and Margaret (you can call her Molly if you like)  moved into it in 1897. Margaret named it Avoca Lodge. The name was inspired by the beauty of our location near Bear Valley , reminding her of a poem, The Meeting of the Waters by the Irish writer Thomas Moore.

Sweet Vale of Avoca! how calm could I rest
In thy bosom of shade, with the friends I love best,
Where the storms that we feel in this cold world should cease,
And our hearts, like thy waters, be mingled in peace.

It was more than just a peaceful place to rest, though. They raised their children there, and…

“Through the guidance and ingenuity of J.J. Brown, Avoca Lodge became one of the most productive working farms in Colorado. Hundreds of orchard trees in every variety were planted and produced bountiful fruits like plum, peach, apple and cherry to name a few. Along with produce were a variety of fowl, livestock, and thoroughbred horses, all of which combined to create another form of financial success on the stately property.” 2

Mrs. Brown was already famous before moving to the Denver area and was quite a popular figure around her second home in Lakewood. She occasionally drove her electric car around the nearby roads, drawing crowds. When she would take the 4-hour buggy ride to Denver the students of Bancroft school were dismissed to wave to her. Some have said that her flair for the dramatic arose from her association in her Missouri childhood with Samuel Clemens. She was a friend to the Sisters of Loretto, whom she hosted regularly and assisted in their work of education and social justice. The parties she gave were high profile, energetic, and sometimes unintentionally colorful. One afternoon she hosted a gathering of “high society” ladies and when she ran out of food her reaction to the issue was described as the afternoon’s entertainment.

Originally in Jefferson County, the Avoca Lodge property was later annexed by Denver. After the Browns let it go, it was purchased in 1928 by Robert V. Fehlmann and his wife Rose, with the 100 or so acres then remaining. Almost a century later, with generations of that family’s childhood memories yielding to progress and growth, we now find the house has become the main feature of a popular museum and event center. It is still maintained by Robert and Rose’s descendants. 3

Green Gables Country Club

Photo from the The Denver Post, story published December 27, 2010 “Historic Green Gables Country Club expected to be sold to land developer” by Margaret Jackson

Moving north from Molly Brown’s Summer House, and moving forward in time, we will skip over Lakewood’s newly acquired “Taylor Property” for now. That takes us up to Jewell Avenue, east of Wadsworth. All but our newest residents will remember that the exclusive Green Gables Country Club was sequestered back on that spacious wooded lot. Built on 150 acres by the Reed family in 1921 as a ”honeymoon cottage,” the original estate got its name from the deep green shuttered windows and the roof gables prominent in the structure. The Neusteter Group bought the acreage in 1929 and established a social club which developed into the golf course. The cuisine was termed on par with the Brown Palace. Golda Meir held a fund raiser for the State of Israel on site. The structure suffered a horrific fire in 1983 which prompted a two million dollar rebuild and renovation. Now, of course, you know the property as Lakewood Estates.

The Midway School was a one-room schoolhouse which stood near the Green Gables gate prior to the Reeds’ ownership. It was known as the Montana school. In attendance there was young Marion Scott whose family operated the “Treat” race horse facility, located at Estes and Morrison. She recounted contact with the Downeys, who worked in housekeeping and blacksmithing in the area of the school. Mr. Downey was older (by census born in 1838) and had been a slave. The Downeys fostered their granddaughter, Irene Harrison, who was born in Colorado and attended the Montana school. Irene continued to reside in Lakewood and it is likely that her family still has Lakewood ties.

There are other ties to the early days, of course, that we can see when we look around a little. In the northwestern corner of our Southern Gables neighborhood, the photography studio in the 9000 block of Jewell has buildings which date back to 1892. The land was purchased on a Pacific Railroad land grant in 1892, and the lot and buildings were sold in 1923 to Edna Woodard who lived there for 38 years. The Woodard name became permanently engraved upon the land as Woodard Drive.

These old memories still hover around the land here. The early settlers would be astonished to know how many of us found their idyllic valley and surrounding area the perfect place to make our own lives. The spirit of working together as neighbors, enjoying good times together, and helping one another in difficult times as we do in Southern Gables, still lives on as in the old days.

— Ken Fischer is a longtime resident of Southern Gables. He compiled this material from historical records from the Lakewood Heritage Center, the Jefferson County Historical Society,, and interviews with Lakewood and Jefferson County officials.