Sunday, March 31, 2013

Quotable Sunday 03/31/2013

Happy Easter!

                "See the land, her Easter keeping,
                 Rises as her Maker rose.
                 Seeds, so long in darkness sleeping,
                 Burst at last from winter snows.
                 Earth with heaven above rejoices."
                                                                                                                 -Charles Kingsley-

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Quotable Sunday 03/24/2013


Ask a flower farmer what their favorite flower is and they will probably say, I love them all  and can't choose or will love the fancy flowers of roses, peonies and lilies.  I love some flowers more especially for their season.  The daffodil is one of my favorite for the early spring season.  I love how it grows in the cold dreary part of the winter, sending up fronds to say, I am still here, just wait.  How it grows and spreads and multiplies into other little friends and says just wait, there is more of us.  How at just the right time of the season, it bows its head and says, pick me now if you want me to last.  And no matter how hard you try and keep up with the picking, a warm sunny day; the kind of day that says spring might just be here, the daffodils can't wait any longer and bust out blooming. How can you not love all that cheerfulness.

We have them in pots, under the trees, and out in the front of the property.  They grow and naturalizes so well here.  There are even fields of daffodils where they are really raising grass seed.  The daffodils come up, show off and then die back while the grass grows and never get touched and come back year after year. They are so smart to be not so tasty to the deer and other critters so they don't get nibbled on. 

We are raising quite a few varieties for our flower markets, mostly the double and fragrant daffodils.  We have approached this slowly as when they grow practically wild we have been testing the interest level and it has been great.  

For the past few weeks, I have been meeting with many lovely young gals who are planning their weddings for this year.  Lots of flower talk, bouquets, table centerpieces, colors, ribbon;  it has been so fun and exciting to help them plan their special day.  It created an urge in me to play with some flowers.  So taking some field daffodils and some fancy daffs that got away from me,  I played.

I had a blast making this bouquet and a few other goodies.  It was fun to get back into the wedding mode and stretch and play.  I am so excited about the new season of weddings that I will play a small part in those couple's  magical day. 

For a few lovely days, I will be able to gaze upon this little bouquet and be amazed by the colors, textures and just the beauty of the flowers and know that it was worth the wait.  I bow down to you little daffodils.

"All day long blew the daffodils,
Oh, what a sight to see,
A myriad gold-gowned daffodils,
Moved to a rhythmic glee."
-Teresa Hooley-

Monday, March 18, 2013

Spring Flowers

We planted last fall, we nurtured and protected all winter and now that spring is just a day or two away, we are rewarded with spring flowers.  Nothing like spring flowers blooming to create a sigh of relief that all the hard work and hours of worry is finally paying off.  We are so grateful to all the interest in our flowers and so love sharing them with fantastic designers and florists.  

For me, I get the leftovers. Don't get me wrong, I love the leftovers, pretty much leftovers in general.  Some dishes and stews just taste better the next day.  The leftover flowers are the ones that just didn't grow as tall or got snacked on by slugs or grew twisted stems or mostly said it is time to bloom and did so while we were seeding their buddies for summer.  So this month's flowers in the house are the goof balls and dainties, their gorgeous pretty girl friends are all ready gone from the farm.

 Hopefully these will brighten your day and give you hope that spring is on its way.  

Check out Jane's flowers in the house party over at Smallbut Charming blog.  It is always a great treat and worth a visit.  Thank you Jane for hosting.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Quotable Sunday 03/17/2013

Just Working...

Another week as gone by and they seem to be going by at a very rapid rate.  We are just a few days away from the first day of spring and although we are working hard, it feels like we are running behind. Probably just because there are SO many things that need to be done.  Here is a little review of this weeks activities.

                          Finally remembering to plant veggies in amongst on the flower seed planting.

Our diet has changed to a very low carb diet full of tons of veggies.  So every few weeks I need to sow some veggie seeds.  Here are some soil blocks of broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, bunching onions and shallots.  Did you know that cauliflower is an excellent stand in for rice, mash potatoes and makes a great cheesy waffle. We have started a couple of tomatoes to put in a hoop house for some early tomatoes.

Our lawn mower is finally back from a major repair, it has been gone for a month.  Works great now and will be put to the test mowing grass that looks like a hay field.  It is also needed to move our buckets of flowers up to the cooler.

Tulips and the Stock are growing nicely in the hoop house.
Frost blankets are left in for a few more weeks.  Last year this week we had a major snow event and we are little nervous for this year's weather.

Some of our dahlias have been pre-sprouted.  We tried them in a crate in our home next to our warm pellet stove and they seem to have done pretty well.  It was just a little test to see if this would work.

Planted 2000 tulips for sale around Mother's Day.  They are wonderful spring colors like these tulips from last year.

Besides all the seeding, planting and soil prepping this week, there is another job that always needs to be done somewhere here.  That's weeding.

We have seven boxes toward the front of the property where it is pretty shady in the summer but will grow daffodils, alliums and other spring bulbs.  This is our sort of test garden for daffodils.  Daffodils grow all over in the fields around here sort of wild.  They are the King Alfred variety, your standard big yellow daffodil.  We have been trying out the smaller, more dainty, fragrant varieties, to see if folks are interested in them.  Only a few hundred of each type until we go big.  Well, the boxes needed to be weeded.  Not our favorite sport, but the day was nice, the soil was warm and the spring bulbs needed to be saved from the weeds.
Farmer Tony and I worked on it for about an hour with our favorite tools.
I then spent the next couple of hours completing the job, rocking out to tunes on my ipod and enjoying the a nice spring day.  Sort of  back to nature type of experience.  
Clean boxes, happy daffodils that need to be picked and a sore back and legs. Oh well, such is life of a flower farmer. Here's a photos of some of daffodils in the boxes from last year.

Today is St. Patrick's Day and while everyone claims to be Irish today, we both have great grandparents who came from Ireland, so here is more of an Irish blessing than a quote.  Happy St. Patrick's Day!

May luck be our companion
May friends stand by our side
May history remind us all
Of Ireland's faith and pride.
May God bless us with happiness
May love and faith abide.
~Irish Blessing

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Quotable Sunday 03/10/2013

Busy busy busy.......

The sun has been shining for the last couple of days and we are busy seeding, planting and caring for our little flower seedlings.  We are playing catch up after being ill for most of February. So much for the word of the year being healthy, but I am feeling much better now and working my fanny off trying to get the seeding caught up. 

So here it is Saturday night and my homework is due tomorrow(this blog) and I am not sure what to talk about so when in doubt go with pretty pictures. 

This is a new daffodil for us called Ice King.  It is big and fluffy and creamy looking.

No matter how diligent one is at picking daffodils before they open, mostly because I was busy in the greenhouse, they exploded open and then became ours for the house.  Aw shucks, what a shame to have them in our house.
They are everywhere. Still our designers received so many!!

Our anemones are producing like crazy and we are constantly picking them.  Some teeny ones ended up on my counter and window sill.

So forgive us for not being more chatty and just know that we are busy, busy busy.... working for beautiful flowers for this season.

One last thing, thank you to the folks at homestead

they posted a link to our making soil blocks blog and we have had a great many visitors to our blog.  Thank you to those who emailed and asked further questions, we hope it was helpful.  Check out the web site, it has a lot of great information.

In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.  ~Margaret Atwood

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Quotable Sunday 03/03/2013

In the Greenhouse

Flowers are starting to bloom for us, we have anemones and daffodils with ranunculus a few weeks away.

The majority of my day is spent in our little greenhouse and I truly mean little house. When we first built it about 12 years ago, it was for raising veggie starts and flowers for around the house and the many pots we had everywhere.  There were no plans to grow flowers for sale until one day my friend said "why don't we raise a few flowers and sell them at the local farmers' market".   Thinking it would be fun and not too hard we launched our little business.  We were together for 2 years when she went back to full time work and Farmer Tony and I have continued on for the last 9 years.  Anyway, the greenhouse was not built for flower production to sell flowers and yet somehow we have made it work.  Mostly out of necessity because money is always tight and there is no where to built a larger house yet.  Our open flat fields have no power to them and dragging in a power-line would be expensive.  Getting off topic, here is how we make this little greenhouse work.... it is about planning, scheduling, and parking my butt in there pretty much all the time.

 As you can see the greenhouse is a 8' by 12' kit we built on a slab that has a tiny free standing heater and a fan for cooling.  No irrigation or misting except by hand.  There are two banks of lights for seeding and germinating and shelving to hold trays.

We have 4 shelves with heat mats on them and that works the best for germinating seeds for us. For flower seeds that germinate in the cool, the greenhouse is fairly cool with the heat mats running at about 72-78 degrees of warmth.
We are growing more seedlings in our mini soil blocks for one main reason, I can seed 300 seeds in one standard 1020 tray of mini blocks and it only takes up one tray on the heat mat.  Doing the math, that is 4 trays of 300 times 4 heat mats which hold 4 trays each and you have 4800 potential seedlings in not much space.  Those numbers work for us.  But when they germinate this is when it gets a bit more tricky.  

Here is an example of  Snap Dragons transplanted into 2" blocks after 2 weeks. Again because of space constraints we  put 50 blocks in a standard 1020 tray. To get the best air pruning of roots leaving a little more space between the blocks by putting fewer blocks in a tray would work.  However, as you can see, even with the tight spacing the roots do come out of the block but don't intertwine so much as to cause major damage or transplant shock at planting time. The blocks easily lift from the trays separately.

 The mini blocks have to be bumped up to a bigger 2" block which takes up more space in our propagation house. We love making the bigger blocks but they fill a tray with just 50 blocks versus 72 in a plug tray so for now to conserve precious space, we have to bump about 40% of our seedlings into 72 plug trays.  Last year we had hoped to make the full transition to soil blocks in 2013, but unfortunately we didn't get our new propagation house built.  Our new goal is to complete our transition to all soil blocks next year after we build our larger propagation house this summer. (Farmer Tony swears to it this year!)

There are upsides and downsides to using  plug trays.  They are quick to transplant, uniform in size and the plugs are sized well for our pottipuki.  The downsides are that they don't give as robust a transplant as a 2" block, don't last many seasons and ultimately end up in the landfill.  They cost money to repurchase and one of the biggest downsides is that they have to be washed and cleaned before use each time.  This is the LOUSIEST job of all jobs to do in flower growing.  All these downsides plus the poorer transplant quality are why we are switching to all soil blocks.

Waiting to be washed
We have a deep utility sink in our greenhouse which will hold quite a few trays to soak and clean.  I found baby bottle brushes at the dollar stores that clean the gunk out of the plugs trays. Buy a few, the season of cleaning is hard on them.
We also have a mini hot water heater that provides hot water for the sink and helps keep your hands from freezing from water from the well.  Very handy!!

In terms of actual seeding, here are some of the highly technical instruments that we use.
 The only method we have to seed is by hand, we would love one of those machine seeders or even a automatic tray cleaner but way too many dollars.  So this little green seeder is my best tool.
It has slots for different size seeds, from teeny tiny to big seeds. The big seeds work great with the seeder but the tiny ones are harder to use for me.  So we came up with a way to seed the little specks of seeds without any waste.

A finely honed Popsicle stick and a little vial of water.  You dip the stick to moisten the tip and just touch the seed with the damp tip and place it on the soil of your block or plug.  Works great, rarely drop a seed and then we have one seed per block and no waste. If the seed is pelleted and colored its easy peasy and I can use this on all the seeds we grow with the exception of one... the snapdragon.

Even with my magnifying reading glasses, I cannot see if a snapdragon seed is on the block, they are incredibly tiny, black and my eyes are bad!  Farmer Tony seeds the snapdragons.

A couple of other necessities include a indestructible old radio.

It is really old but works and can be heard over the fan.

  A great old bar stool that you can park your butt on all day and saves the feet for another day of hard work.
The biggest necessity is good record keeping.  Farmer Tony, the former manufacturing guy, always says " If you don't measure it, you can't control it; and if you do not know if you are in control you are by definition out of control."  Not a good thing, so we count everything.  We count seeds we buy, seeds we plant, germination rates, seedlings to transplant, seedlings to the field, plant survival, flowers cut for market or wholesale, flowers sold at the market or wholesale giving us the cut stems to stems sold ratio.  We count things so often, that I found myself counting things that don't need counting, just numbers on the brain.  All this record keeping helps us with succession planting,  the timing of seedlings, builds our own data base for how long seeding to flowering takes for our area and how the flowers perform in the field, at the market and overall popularity of the flower.  Flowers have to earn their keep by being profitable per square foot of growing area.  Flowers that are too labor intensive especially when cutting (there is only the two of us) are removed from the mix even if they are really pretty. Good record keeping is a must and sometimes we fail to do a good job at it, but we keep trying.

We have another seedlings stand in our home in the basement which will hold 12 more trays and it is warmer because the basement is heated with our pellet stove.

Finally all seedlings that have germinated or have been transplanted end up in our unheated propagation house (18'X20') where they grow, harden off and become ready for the field or hoop house.

It is vented on the side and has a back window for cooling, no heat but has the capillary watering mat system we have previously blogged about, to keep the seedlings well watered.
This is the way we have come up with to do our seeding, but we are so open to any other tips and or techniques that others have used.  If you have a good method, please share it with us, we are always looking for ways to improve.  

So if you were to stop by for a visit, you would find Farmer Tony out in one of the hoop houses or on the tractor. As for me, I am always in the greenhouse,  come by and I will put you to work washing trays.

The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies.
Gertrude Jekyll

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