One of my dearest, bestest, longest known, friends, adventure buddy, inspiration, and all around great gal, Lindsey May is off on her next adventure. Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail! I admit there is a piece of my that wants to go with her, but I’m in the middle of my own adventure here. Lucky us, we can follow along her adventure at PCTmonkeys.
This past week has been for planting seeds. With this season first thunderstorms and heavy rains, things have really began to thrust towards life, showing stems and brighter shades of green.
This past week has been for tidying up perennial beds. As we scratch and scuttle in the leaves and dirt, the chickens, outside of their barnyard winter digs, and now in their summer netting, which they can, and do get out of most days, scratch and scuttle right alongside us. They’re scratching for other things, but I think we do it with the same earnestness. Hoping, knowing, that under those leaves and taupe of last years floral, lies something vibrant, something alive. Bugs for them, perennials for me.
This past week has been for building. A skill not as innate as growing to us girls on the ridge, who are more at home tending delicate plants in the greenhouse, transplanting young seedlings, pulling weeds in the heat of summer, or gracious handing out the products of our labor. But a skill we are cultivating none-the-less.
Our greenhouse is packed from end to end, and it’s time to build a cold frame to toughen up our little dears before setting them out in the field for the season. Which is only a few short weeks away.
And on these days, when the sun shines, and the wind blows, and most trees have buds, anything seems possible. All the bulbs that were planted in the fall are coming up, the lilies are poking through, I can see the fuzz of the perennial poppies, small bits of mint, and a few muscari, so small, but as bright as the blue sky, deep down in the grass.
And everything feels so right. And I remember what got me on this path, what made me, when options arose, keep choosing what pointed me in this direction. Although it was often the unknown option. Maybe I didn’t have the skills or knowledge or resume or strength.
A friend of mine once told me, when I was at a time in my life unclear of which way to go, to close my eyes and picture myself waking up in the most ideal bed. and before i even opened my eyes, in that dream bed, think about what i smelled, who was there, what was the view. when i got up, what did i do first.
i think its a good exercise. what part of our days is exactly what we want to be doing. how often are we exactly where we want to be. how often do we think, each day, i am living my dream.
maybe the adjusts would be large sweeps, maybe they would be small. maybe they would be a change in perspective. we have to remember the reasons we chose to be where we are. are they still there for us? reflect. adjust. reflect. enjoy.
and some days i’m just happy.
like a spring chicken on a winters worth of kitchen scraps.
It’s like the feeling you always wish you had, but never seem to quite arrive at. The ‘get it together’ you always put on your new years resolution list, but never quite seem to achieve because you’re not really sure what it means. You have new years resolutions, AND you complete them. In that year. It’s amazing. After the American Society of Cut Flower Growers conference in Delaware this fall, (ASCFG), I came home equal parts overwhelmed and inspired. If I’m being honest, more overwhelmed than inspired, as is the norm with most conference I attend. Everyone seems to be doing SO MUCH amazing stuff, have SO MUCH figured out, and seem so capable of doing more! Everyone is at least one zone warmer then me, except the Alaska Peony Growers, but they’ve got this whole other thing going on, which also seems really appealing and awesome, but we can talk about that later. My 5’2″ frame, seems smaller then normal when I leave these conferences. My farm clothes seem like a costume and I’m still the city slicker who thinks farming is so romantic and somehow thought I could mingle amongst these flower growing goddesses. But then…in the weeks that follow, all that I soaked up, slowly comes back out. When I’m planning out the garden, when I’m picking out varieties, when I’m choosing mulch and compost. When I look back at pictures, especially this time of year, of the bridal bouquets we made last summer. They were so special, and we poured our hearts into them. And anything you put your whole self into can never be fake, can never be a farce. On my 30th birthday, I moved. Into the farmhouse where I grew my flowers last year. I also planted, with my business partner, 500 some bulbs next to the house. I painted two rooms, with my mother and her fiancé. At the time, it just seemed like those were the things I needed to accomplish on that day, so I did. Looking back, they seem much more symbolic then I intended (even though I love symbolic activities on important days) Above: saved seed from some favorite cosmos out of last years field, atop our seeding chart. And our field currently, ammi from last year. Below: the almighty, foxgloves, coming back for their second year, hopefully we will get to see these apricots beauties this year. Biennials, how you taunt me.
Going into flower & bee’s third year, this will be the first season we are growing in the same place. We get to see our biennials bloom, we get to plant perennials, we get to see if our poppies will in fact self sow. We don’t have to move. I don’t have to move.
The farther the roots go down the higher the stems can stretch.
Rooting down to rise up.
It is good to stay in the same place.
Now that flower & bee is in it’s second year, I no longer feel like I have to explain to people what I do.
I just say, “I’m a flower farmer”.
Sure, there are lots of things I could say to fill in that picture…I’m also a floral designer, I use organic practices, I grow over 200 varieties of flowers, I have a business partner, I used to grow vegetables, I used to raise animals, I used to milk cows, sometimes I feel guilty that I don’t produce food. I went to school for art, I grew up in the city, no its not my parents farm.
And they always want to know, ‘how I became a flower farmer’. I think they assume I grew up doing this, or that it’s what I always wanted to do and I just had to learn the details. But really its been such a journey. Sometimes I tell them all about it…but usually I feel like they don’t believe me anyways, all the twists, and the reason for the decisions or moves I made. So I usually just keep it short.
I’ve tried all versions of these the last few years, but now, I don’t feel the need to explain all that. This is what I do. And that’s that.
And I DO. That is what I do! It has fully consumed this last summer, nearly everyday, and just about every waking hour of my thoughts. Sometimes I get tired of the ‘figuring out’ of it all, and than I feel liked I’m being lazy, but than I look back at all these pictures from the season, and I’m like…oh yeah! That was a lot of work and a lot to figure out!
We grew and arranged flowers for just over 20 weddings this year, provided a bouquets each week to 20 people, provided arrangements for a few pop up dinner in Milwaukee, and a few farm to table dinners in the area.
We’re trying to do more installation work for these weddings. They really fulfill a part of my creative soul and also help to make each wedding extra unique and special, because often times we can’t really even predict how exactly its going to turn out until we get there. The space may not be quite what we expected, the structure not as sound as anticipated, a different combination of greens working better than others.
It’s a good challenge, it stretches that part of me, and most often results in something original.
It requires our clients to trust us. And mostly they do.
There are still things that are mind-blowingly scary to me. Each year we spend more and more money on seeds, on bulbs, on irrigation equipment, and compost. The plan I have for our future peony field…I don’t even know if I believe it, and yet, I’m the one who is going to make it happen.
We pretty much have this poppy thing figured out, which is AWESOME!!! Dahlias proved much more challenging than last year, which is a bit disheartening, seeing as last year we grew them without too much trouble. And I have GOT to figure out how to get them through the winter.
I planted a good amount of bulbs this fall…totally scary to me, they are way more expensive than seeds! I’ll be anxiously watching the patch starting in March, I’m sure. You won’t even believe how much fritillaria persica ivory bells cost me. Only to have a very experienced and successful flower grower in my area tell me they don’t do well around here. HA!!! Well…we’ll see, won’t we!
I suppose it wouldn’t be the first time someone told me what I was doing wouldn’t work.
I’m so stubborn, which is both a blessing and a curse, and so I’ll keep growing whatever I damn well please. Take for example this experiment from the summer. CARNATIONS!!! And you know what, they bloomed!!! And they smelled like the freshest cloves you ever did sniff.
One variety never bloomed; unfortunately they were these black ones I was really looking forward too, because who doesn’t love black flowers?!!! But hey, there’s always next year.
And it’s crazy to me what a person can do. What I can do. About two years ago at this time the life I knew ended, and I had no idea what to do with myself. I think I had to prove something to myself, and I think I have.
So maybe I’m not living the life I thought was ideal five years ago, but you know, I’m doing something else, and I’m pretty good at it. I can’t do everything I want to do, but I can do this version of me the best I can, and when I reflect on the last two years of my life, I think I’ve done pretty well.
I suppose we’ve all heard that saying, something about instead of doing many things, do a few things well. The stubbornness in me says, don’t tell me what to do. But the me of this year, the me now, says yeah…yeah that makes sense.
And apparently I listen to country music now. So there’s that too.
so many of our plants are safely tucked into the ground. feeling so grateful for this lovely spring and such a wonderful spot to grow. things are blooming everywhere, the cover crops, some perennials i brought over from our old field, the hedgerows. some lupine seeds i saved while i was in maine have transplanted well and its nice to a have part of my journey alive and well with me in this new field, growing, going on. some sun, some rain. it could not be better.
soaking up june.
This is the nurse cow herd at the Heidel Farm. They are a 100% grass fed and organic dairy. Most of their calves are born in the spring and taken right out to pasture with their mothers when they fields are ready for them. In the nurse cow herd, a few cows with excellent mothering instincts are chosen to stay with the calves all summer. They ‘adopt’ the other calves. Currently the ratio is about 1 mother cow to 2 calves. The farmer, Dave Heidel, has found this method to raise the healthiest, heartiest, largest calves he’s ever seen. And he’s been a farmer his whole life. Which is 70 years.