Swenson Gardens

Yearly Archive: 2020


Yes dear peony gardening friends, its time to remove the mulch on your newly planted peonies! In a normal spring, we usually gauge the mulch removal time based on when the tulips are 8-10 inches tall. This year, we are foregoing that tip based on the amount of rain and warmer temperatures that many of us have had. Removing your mulch in its entirety is paramount to the success of your peonies. Make sure you have bare ground about 24 to 30 inches around your peony. This allows the ground to dry and warm up quicker. If you do not remove the mulch, this will inhibit the ground warming up and it retains the moisture in your soil that may then lead to the roots rotting out. Peonies are ready for spring so lets help them out now!


Life on the Swenson Gardens peony farm continues to surprise us…again! As I mentioned in my previous post regarding a calf that was born on 3/19, found her frozen to the ground the morning of 3/20 and from there whisked into our back entry way (in our home) to warm up. Well things went downhill after that. After she was warmed up and was able to stand on her own, we took her back to her mom to nurse. No go! She would not take her. We tried everything to get her to nurse but mom wanted no part of her daughter. Back in the house we came.

During that day and night, she would not bottle feed so we tried to force some colostrum into her mouth with a syringe. We’re talking cc’s of liquid versus a pint or two that they usually drink. The morning of 3/21, things were not looking good. Thankfully a neighbor had an esophagus tube feeder that was our first usage thereof to save this calf. We gave her four stomach feedings that day and night and prayed for her life to continue on.

Sunday morning, March 22nd, we were awakened by a mooing sound coming from our back entry. She’s alive, standing and very hungry. We bottle fed her, stroked her gently as a mama cow does after feeding her calf and said a prayer of thanksgiving for her life. Needless to say having an active calf, both ways, in our home, is a very fragrant event. Thankfully we had some of Heidi’s potty training pads left to at least ease the cleaning up process.

Monday evening, March 23rd, we tried again to invite the mom to accept her daughter, no go again so we made the 8-week decision to continue bottle feeding her, of course now in one of our horse stalls…in the barn! Her name is Cocoa as she is a red Dexter heifer. What a joy to hear her moo’s when entering the barn and calling our her name. She is doing very well and is now starting to eat hay along with her raw milk that we purchase from a local organic dairy farmer at yes, $7.00 per gallon. We made the decision that our peonies are chemical free so why not the same for another member of our fertilizer production team starting their life too without chemicals!

Fast forward now to 7 am April 3rd. After feeding her I was thinking, ‘too bad Cocoa would not have any four legged friends to live with’. I didn’t know if this thought was from our Creator or just a passing thought? Cocoa is in our south barn so I went up to our north barn to check on the fertilizer production team during my morning routine. As I was looking in our north field, about 300 yards away, I saw an outline of what I thought was a wild turkey. However after watching it for a couple minutes, it didn’t move. What in the world is it then?

Venturing north and closing in on this object, finally registered…CALF!!!!! Oh my word, not another one! Oh dear she is still wet, standing and shivering. She was a heavy one, maybe 40 lbs and quite feisty. Found a dry towel, held her close and soon the shivering stopped. Ok so where is the mom? Opened the gate and went searching for her mom. There she was standing over the afterbirth with no clue what had happened. I understand Cocoa’s mom having no interest in her calf, as this was her first one, but this calf’s mom had her first calf last year.

Ok new mom, here is your daughter! She proceeded to lick her and mind you this calf is still standing, walked 300+ yards and is trying forcefully to nurse. My guess is this calf had been born a couple of hours earlier based on the signs. Oh dear, mom kicked her away while trying to nurse multiple times. The calf tumbled and finally gave up trying to stand and nurse. Ok Cocoa here we come! A quick trip to the local feed store to purchase another bag of colostrum and into the bottle it went along with some of the raw milk. She devoured a quart in a moments notice. Wow, what a difference versus Cocoa’s two full days of life and this young girl is maybe two hours old.

We kept the new calf in Cocoa’s stall for another, now quart and a half, feeding a couple hours later and then brought her up to the north barn where we had her mom penned inside that barn. Again she licked her daughter and moved away from her. A few hours later we went up to check on them and saw her mom kick her and yes stepped on her leg as she rolled across the bedding. I really don’t like to see any living thing suffer, so yup, into Cocoa’s stall for a permanent roommate.

Needless to say, Cocoa was a tad overwhelmed to now share her room with a larger four legged living animal. Cocoa was just getting use to our cats who like to be with her and also supervised visits with Heidi and Redd. That evening we had the joy of trying to feed two very hungry calves with only one bottle. (A video of this will be posted soon on our social media sites.) I wish GoDaddy would fix our blog so I could post some of the pictures, but oh my word what a crazy event. Cocoa and the new calf were running around us, trying to nurse in areas where the sun doesn’t shine, pushing each other away from the bottle and yes, mooing like all get out. What an exhausting event for us! Will be getting another bottle today for the rest of our feedings.

This morning, April 4th, we ventured into the barn early to see two red Dexter heifer calves, sleeping next to each other. Of course the chaos followed once they knew it was breakfast time, but the smiles on their two legged mom and dad were priceless! So I would like to officially welcome Cocoa and Mini to the Swenson Gardens fertilizer production team! They provide life giving nutrients to our peonies and we provided the same to them.

Life on the Swenson Gardens peony farm…lives on!


Greetings from the Swenson Gardens peony farm! We are still experiencing technical difficulties with our blog. Repeated phone calls to our web hosting service continues to be ‘we’re looking in to this’? For now the best place to view real time photos are on our Facebook and Instagram sites. If our web hosting service ever resolves the ability to add photos to our blog posts, will be posting more often. So for now, here are the text only updates on our peony farm.

We are certainly blessed to have a somewhat normal winter so far. Adequate snowfall stayed on our peony fields allowing a blanket of insulation and retention of moisture as the snow melts. There are still some drifts left but for the most part, fields are void of snow cover. Seeing the color brown in the fields is a great feat of patience this time of year as the ground starts to warm up.

Speaking of the ground warming up, we’ve been monitoring soil temperatures the past few years and can now say with confidence that peonies begin to show above ground growth when the soil temperature is 44 to 46 degrees six inches deep in the soil. I’m not concerned with the ground temperature on the surface knowing that peonies grow from underneath the surface first. With more daylight hours now, green and color coming soon!

The fertilizer production team continues to grow and increase in quantity. Last evening we had our first new addition to the team in 2020 as a red Dexter heifer was born. Mom and daughter are doing great and the team was so excited to meet their new team member. Elvis Lee, our herd bull, was especially proud as he guarded mom and daughter from the team and us. He gets a tad protective when a new calf is born so glad he takes on that demeanor. However, having his horns brush against my unbeknownst back and lower extremity while petting the calf results in a quick escape and yes a bellowing SCREAM!

Heidi, our German Shepard, is now 2 years and 4 months old. She no longer has her puppy frame and is now rather imposing to visitors, cats and of course Redd our red lab. Redd is 10 years and 7 months old. He’s slowing down a lot and dad lifts him into and out of the Gator and tractors. His slower pace though changes in an instance when he gets tired of Heidi picking on him so he has to show Heidi who is still the boss. They are such a joy to have around and hopefully Redd stays healthy for many years to come.

Yes our cat patrol is still employed on our peony farm. There is far less shrieking going on in our home from some people as they seem to have reduced the rodent appearances. We now have 4 members of our cat patrol. Toby, Tiger, Grey Beard and Hey Stash. Hey Stash is a lovely black and white female cat that took on that name as she has a mustache. Cold nights finds all four of them huddled together in our heated garage. I’m sure they too are anxious for spring so they can spring into their rodent patrol job.

We are so anxious for our next batch of peony seedlings to bloom this spring. As you’ve seen on our new website, the seedlings from Roger F. Anderson and our own seedlings are world renown and very spectacular. Perhaps you were able to purchase some before they sold out and even now may be a great time to order some before they sell out as well.

We wish all of you good health, peace and God’s blessings! Happy peony gardening from Swenson Gardens!