Ric Plese, co-owner of Cliffrose, Your High Desert Gardens, arrives at the nursery early to unleash the pest control chickens.
Nineteen hens and one very protective rooster, natures own pesticides scuttle out to patrol the nursery grounds pecking diligently at the ground.
Theyre fun to watch, Plese said. Its almost therapeutic.
Besides eating pesky insects, the birds dispose of leftover vegetables, produce fertilizer and lay eight to 12 eggs daily, Plese said.
As the impacts of rising energy costs ripple around the globe, Plese is taking steps to improve the environmental sustainability of his home and business.
I just feel better doing it, he said. And hopefully, it rubs off on people.
At both his Cortez residence and business, Plese composts, recycles, grows his own produce, as well as making efforts to reduce garbage by buying products in bulk, while avoiding cans and plastics.
Plese hopes to have photovoltaic solar panels installed at Cliffrose this summer. The business already utilizes programmable thermostats, compact florescent lights and light emitting diode (LED) Christmas lights.
At home, Plese said he usually accumulates a foot of garbage in the bottom of his trash container.
I like seeing an empty Dumpster on pick-up day, he said.
At the nursery, large plastic planting pots are returned by customers for re-use in planting or to be sold. Plese said the pots are popular among medical marijuana growers.
The challenge with a retail nursery, he said, is that he cannot control what suppliers ship their products in. As a result, Plese said the business can wind up with large amounts of Styrofoam or small, flimsy, plastic plant containers.
I wish everyone would ship in biodegradable containers, he said.
Not only does Plese utilize organic soils and pesticides in his gardening, but he sells a variety of organic gardening products at Cliffrose. He said the organic soils cost a little more but are of better quality.
You learn to maybe accept things that are a little different, such as a few weeds and bugs in the garden and blemishes on fruits, he said.
Plese grows his own food from gardens at his Cortez home and Cliffrose, which utilize compost and crop rotation to increase soil fertility. He does not use his compost in potted plants sold to customers, saying he does not want to unintentionally spread weeds or plant disease.
Eating foods from his gardens and eggs from his chickens, Plese said he saves money especially in the summer.
We hardly ever go to the grocery store at all, he said.
He also said the home-grown food is healthier.
I think were slowly being poisoned by corporate agriculture, he said.
Plese also buys food at the Cortez Farmers Market, saying some area growers specialize in certain vegetables and he finds comfort in being able to look a grower in the eye.
Buying local food and products also cuts down on the amount of petroleum needed in shipping, he said. If the price of fuel were to skyrocket, Plese said the Cliffrose greenhouses could be used for local food production.
Its kind of prepping us for when gas is not as readily available and cheap as it is now, he said.
Although Plese drives a mid-sized pickup, he said he hopes to someday purchase an electric vehicle.
Water conservation in the arid climate is also a priority for Plese. Instead of using overhead sprinklers in Cliffrose greenhouses, plants are watered by hand.
To make sure the plant gets it and not the ground around it, he said. For a business our water use is slightly above most homes.
Although Plese does not claim his lifestyle is completely sustainable, he said he makes an effort to be more environmentally friendly because it makes him feel better.
I just do conscious things that I feel are right, he said. Whatever little bit we can.
Reach Reid Wright at email@example.com.