Thursday, March 29, 2012

If you know soil....A tribute to our friend.

If you know soil, you know hands that have worked it.  It is not knowledge you gain from a book or lecture.  It is knowledge gained from reaching your hands in and feeling the softness, the richness, the buoyancy conducive to life.

If you know soil, you know the patience inside it.  The steady hands planting tiny seeds, sometimes so small they appear an illusion.   

If you know soil, you know though the earth may be beautiful, the garden is a mastery of time, of trial, of sweat.  

If you know soil, I hope you know, the brilliance of a row of pole beans, a field of poppies, a hill of dahlias.  If you sew only one, you know that brilliance well.
Today, as the day was only beginning, I heard news of the passing of a friend.  This friend, Ruth, knew soil well.  On this farm, as far as you can see, are plants started by her loving hands.  She worked in the greenhouse sewing the tiniest seeds while listening to the radio and beaming brilliance into the earth....and into the world around her. 
As we spent our afternoon outdoors, the sun did not hesitate to warm us.  The flowers, did not hesitate to shine.  The day did not hesitate to vibrate the high tone of celebration.  Brilliance.  Brilliant. Her loving hands that sewed in this earth were everywhere.
When Lola was born, Ruth gave us a book about a little soul who goes to God and declares, "I know who I am!"
God says, "That's wonderful! Who are you?"
And the Little Soul shouted, "I'm the Light!"
I believe Ruth knew exactly who she was.  

Dearest Ruth, you were, and indeed still are, "the light." 
Goodbye Beautiful Ruth....we will continue to see you in flowers for all the years to come.



Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Willow Love & Mishaps

For any of you that may have tuned in to this blog over the winter months (or maybe I should rephrase that as the winter MONTH....), you may have seen signs that there is a bit of willow growing on this flower farm....catkins abound!  Now that spring is springing rapidly into place we continue to find ways to use the willow and this past weekend had a lovely time of it.  A willow trellis for our soon to be growing pole beans; a trio of tomato cages; and one "fary party" concoction of willow, monstera leaves (pruned from our indoor plant) and other odds and sods.

If you have access to any willow, from a store or from a bush you might be pleased to know that should you want more, willow is extremely easy to root.  In fact, it is so easy that despite my best efforts to dry our willow out before using it, I will have to remove my fine work from the garden beds tomorrow and let it set awhile longer.  The shoots are already producing roots and lovely little bits of foliage.  While I love my new trellis, it is meant for the beans.
For my own future reference, willow can easily be cut in the fall, dried over winter, and soaked in spring to regain pliability.  The ability to twist and bend the willow is the primary reason I wanted to work with it.  Last year I used bamboo, which while pretty, was so stiff it was hard to really manipulate the shapes I needed.
I will check in soon and let you know how this late-stage drying process goes.  In the meantime, here's a rundown of what we put together.

Vertical pussy willow (salix discolor) poles placed 5 inches apart, tied at the top in an inverted V-shape.  Horizontal poles for trellis-like support.  Additional horizontal poles can be added as needed. 
An example of how each pole is tied in place.  I used wax covered twine for a snug hold.
Meanwhile a Fairy Party was taking place.  A spot fit for afternoon tea.

One thing I know for sure, to sing while you work is proof of joy.

Tomato Cage: Pussy willow (salix discolor) poles wrapped with thin tendrils of curly willow (salix matsudana)

Fortunately all of these constructions are easily removed from the garden beds and placed in our studio to dry out.  The beans will need a trellis relatively soon but we should be ok.  I'm thinking I may form this particular trellis into a tunnel for the kids and go to plan B for the beans...otherwise I might be wrapping duct tape around the roots and doesn't that just sound so awful?  Stay tuned and.....
Thanks for stopping by,

Monday, March 26, 2012

Ask The Flower Fanatics: Dahlias for dinner......

Question:  I saw dahlia bulbs at the grocery store today; dinner plate and another kind. Are they annuals or perennials? I was thinking of getting some for my yard. Thanks, Colin

Answer: (from Farmer Bob, grower of 10,000 dahlias!)

Dear Colin,
A dahlia is perennial bulb or tuber.  Where you live (anywhere in Zone 6 or below) will certainly loose their dahlias to a freeze in the winter so they must be dug and divided. 
When you do plant them (and by all means I hope you do!) follow these tips for best success:
Plant in full sun when there is no threat of frost. 

Plants 3-4 inches deep with eye of tuber facing upward – it should be looking at you!
When planting tubers beware of rotting beneath the soil. Water tubers once on the day they are planted.  Do not water again until shoots emerge (2-3 weeks).

For more information please visit our website:
KDCiMages took this photo of bouquets Cammie made a few years back....the Thalia Dahlia...always a favorite.

If more questions come up please let us know and be sure to choose some great colors!

Happy planting,
Farmer Bob

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Guinea Fowl Ate My Homework (and other Flowersome Tales)

As it turns out, living in the country means you can be late to school on a friday morning because you nearly ran over a flock of guinea fowl in the road.  As it turns out, after you drive past the newly renovated barn; the old schoolhouse that makes you drool with desire; the circa 1800 farmhouse where the owners have had honeybees stuck in the attic walls for the last four come across five guinea fowl just at the moment when you are thinking, "we actually made it out of the house on time this morning and wouldn't you look at DD, his hair is even combed....", but instead of being on time you are very, very late for kindergarten because no matter what you do you can't get the guinea fowl out of the road.  As it turns out, they are really cute and really friendly and when you whistle to them they waddle the most ridiculous little side-to-side bobble that makes you and your kids giggle harder than you've giggled all morning.  As it turns out, guinea fowl also like to pose and pluck up to get their pictures taken.  It also turns out they like to admire themselves in rays of sunlight.   
As it turns out I left a message for Saffie immediately after this episode saying, "we need guinea fowl in our life...please please please can we get one...or how about five?"  I haven't heard back yet but I'm thinking he's going to walk in with one any minute........

I think I'll name this one Poppy.

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Dandelion to the Bee

As a girl who grew up in suburbia there was never any doubt in my mind I would eventually live in either a city (right smack in the center!) or the country.  My husband and I lived together in the city for a while and than when the moment presented itself (and I was six months pregnant) we moved out past the suburban sprawl and into our cozy house next to the flower farm.  The question comes up often enough as to whether or not we can really make this life work....(a down economy doesn't help).....but than we have this sense that our path lead us here, that it is our home and that if we can give one thing to our kids, it is a childhood where they can run free and love the open world around them.  To love that world we hope, will help them want to take care of it as they grow older....either that or "pie in the sky" should be my middle name.
Of course the factor of wanting to make our life out here work is made easier with days like we had this past weekend.  There is no question spring is early and as concerning as that may is beautiful.  The sun was shiny, the birds chirpy, and the kids hopped like little tiggers from one exciting adventure to the next.  I was right there with them but it was clear, I wasn't necessary.  The fun was there.....everywhere around them.  The adventure was inlaid.

From what I understand there are dictionaries being printed today that do not include the words "dandelion," "acorn," or "willow".......perhaps that is why I see little need at this stage in my children's lives to expose them to much more than school, some great theatre (we travel to the city for this!), a few museum trips.....and anything and everything outside the back door.  Even in suburbia, the things I remember the most (more than the ballet lessons or soccer clubs) was trailing through the forest, building forts and finding frogs. I remember the camping trips, the summers on my Grandmother's Vermont farm....I remember the grass, the trees, the sticks I trailed in the creek.  When I grew up I found ways to travel the world and explore beyond my small horizon....but as a kid....dandelions, acorns and willow.....they were the foundation.  (Makes me wonder what kind of "backwoods" dictionary I would put together.)
A new table and benches for the fairies......"you know Mom, now that spring is here."
The truth is, I could find this the city, in the suburbs.  If you look for nature, you will find it pouring through the cracks and pushing its way in everywhere we have tried to squelch it.  I know, I have found it in the big, bold, industrialized streets of our cities.  But....if you don't learn to look for it.....if you aren't given the eyes to find it....will you know what you are seeing?  Will you know how precious it is?  Will you know when it looks weak and in need of attention?  You may know somewhere in that deep reservoir of ancient brainwaves but will that be enough?  Will you have any idea how important the dandelion is to the honeybee if the dictionary doesn't even bother to include it?  I don't know.

The American Toad mating in the pond.  Their survival technique is to mate in a frenzy and lay all their eggs at once so the predators do not pick them all off.......This weekend was most absolutely "The American Toad Day of Mating" was quite awesome.

"American Toad Day of Mating," gelatinous egg production......creepy but oh so cool.

More quince.
Mud bath....stage two.
Found: One teeeny tiny nest.
Found: One four-leaf clover.

Virburnum macrocephalum.
Time to attach the hose.

So.....this post is a little bit about why I chose to write a blog in the first place.  If you find something worth loving, you may also find something worth taking care of.  We found something we love and we're gonna fight to stay here because of it.  If we ever do have to move back to the city we'll still build fairy houses....they just might be the kind of fairies that live under fire escapes.  

Thanks for stopping by,

Friday, March 16, 2012

To Cut the Willow.

I knelt to cut the willow
with pole beans in my mind.
To form a house to twine on
to twist a rope of twine.
But the willow was wild and laden
catkins heavy with life
the bees sang with exhilaration
their pockets full and bright.
I knelt to cut the willow
but found instead a song
of life and light and unbroken desire
to which my memories all belong.

Thanks for stopping by,

Thursday, March 15, 2012

10 Things I Cannot Live Without

My dear friend Jane, from Small But Charming asked me to do a guest post on her weekly "10 Things I Cannot Live Without" series.  It was a welcome challenge.  Jane is one of the smartest, wittiest, coolest women I have ever met....and she was my teacher.  She taught me floral design and so many life lessons you'd think she was my mother.  I love Jane and I love her blog.  It is perfectly her world....full of delectable food, friends, flowers and love.  You could learn a lot from hanging around with her....I do.  Stop by for a read and while you're at it check out "The 10 Things I Can't Live Without."

And by the was 90 degrees in Virginia today.

Thanks for stopping by!

Part Two: The Inherited Shed/Barn: Laid to a lovely bed.

The saga of the Inherited Shed/Barn continued one cold, late-winter day when our dear old friend Sam happened by on his bulldozer....that kind of "happening by" just seems so normal after living out this way for awhile.  At that stage, we had done some good work making shelves for the kitchen and kids rooms, and a tv stand for our living room but the plans were now to make a bed and for that we needed the rest of the wood pried free.  Sam, the mighty bulldozer driver, jumped aboard and laid the shed to rest.
For DD, who was only one at the time, this was considered a day of bliss and we watched every move both from the back steps and through the screened window 
Down it came.  The old tin roof was repurposed for an awning on my flower studio and the wood moved into Saffie's hands where it was capably worked into my dream bed modeled after one I had coveted in the Sundance goes nothin'!
Saffie built the frame right in our room since it was much too big to move through a doorway.  The base, where the kids are sitting, was than covered with plywood and the mattress dropped inside.  There is no box spring.  
The boards from the shed/barn were sanded with Saffie's handy-dandy Hitachi Belt Sander (his favorite Christmas gift ever!), than scrubbed with a wire brush, and sealed with Minwax wood sealer.  
Each board took a couple days to finish but it was fun and we shared the load.  When they were finished they each had their own unique grain and quality.  So lovely! 

 And finally, we attached them to the bed frame.
I topped it off with the a Kantha quilt I had also coveted from Sundance catalog which without the cost of the bed, seemed like a steal....
Now, my little refuge is coming to fruition but what to do for a bedside table?  

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Onion Grass Beauty

As we all know it wasn't much of a winter.  A winter that felt like spring but with not a whole lot to show for it.  In my house this translated into a daily "gift" of onion grass bouquets from Lola and DD.  Not so long ago I pointed them out.  We knelt down to smell the oniony scent and admire the twists and curls of the green blades.  They really are quite pretty.
After our exploration, Lola and DD took it upon themselves to deliver me bouquets of onion grass.....every day.  I have received more onion grass bouquets in the last month than I have received junk mail in my mailbox....and I receive a LOT of junk mail.
The kids are always quite thrilled with themselves when they give me my gifts and while I love them all, this little bit of joy in a glass bottle took the cake....

The bottle was found in the wall of our house when we tore through during renovation.  The green glass turned rust colored from our water which turned every white shirt I ever owned the same color orange.  Lola put the ranunculas in the bottle with the snips of onion grass and left it for me in the sun.  Thank you Lola, I love you too.

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Phillie Flower Show Part 2: The Gardens = The Good Stuff

In a convention center overflowing with orchids I was overcome by the lettuce.  I love orchids, all kinds.  They are an amazing flower and as delicate as they appear they are an incredibly tolerant species.  I oooohh and aaaaah over them every time we share a space and I never tire of their remarkable details.  So why at The Flower Show, which brimmed with orchids, did I steer elsewhere?  Sometimes it seems, a good idea can be buried in even better intention.  It was ALL gorgeous but when you see more and more and more and more of a similar thing, one (at least THIS one) can't help but seek the change.  Kind of like a beautiful song played again and again.  Even if it moves you, even if it is your favorite song, you can't help but prefer the live version where they spice it up a bit with a different beat and a riff that takes you to heaven.
So,.....I gravitated to the lettuce (displayed by Meadowbrook Farm).
And the arbor of tomatoes.....
and the canning jars lining the windows.....
And lest I should forget.....the simple path running through it with the sprite of parsley growing like the vine that peaks through the concrete cracks.
This was enough for me to walk away happy but when I turned the corner I found these.....
The Seed Savers Exchange had every seed I have ever dreamed of planting.....let the good times begin.

Thanks for stopping by!

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