Monday, May 31, 2010


On this Memorial Day ...... I honor two very special men in my life. Both served in time of war but neither saw combat duty.

My Dad .....1945

Honey .... Based in Turkey ... 1973

Thank you to all the military men and women that have sacrificed so much just so that beautiful flag can wave in our Iowa landscape. But a very special thank you to my two heroes who served long before they ever knew me.

Thank you..................

Friday, May 28, 2010

So true ... so true.

On the infamous to-do list today ..............

Clean house.

This is so not going well. The corn-zebo is clean. Cupboard scrubbed -- floor vacuumed around the corn crib base. All the "outside" dishes washed and dried and settled in their summer home.
Tablecloths and napkins (bandanna handkerchiefs) washed and starched and ironed.

All I can do is quote Joel Salatin's wife in the movie Fresh.

If you have come to see me, have a seat. If you came to see my house, make an appointment!

Snail's Pace..............

Ever feel like you are not making any progress?? You work and work and work all day ........ and nothing is DONE.

Welcome to my life!

There are so many big/little things to do. Rows and rows and rows to weed. Gardens to clean. Containers to plant. Beds to mulch. Perennials to divide and move. Soil to till.

And I will be working along and I actually think that I am making progress. Just another couple of days and I will be in good shape, I say. And then ........ it rains. Or I do laundry. Or cook a meal. Or scrub the bathroom.

And suddenly ......... I'm way behind again.

(Which in reality means ........ I wasn't anywhere close to being done!!!)

Yesterday, I started outside at 7:30 and quit a little before 9 last night. And the list of true accomplishments is ................. pretty durn short!

The area that I agonize the most about in the garden is the fluffing. Fluffing is a highly (Yea. Right.) technical interior design term from my Ethan Allen days.

We designers were kept in a backroom ... and were called out when clients came into the gallery. But once in a while, we were let out to "Fluff". Make things look pretty.

Well--- Fluffing is what I try to do in the garden. Fun, whimsical little areas that are just a little different from the average garden center/farm/agri-entertainment business. The longer I am in business ... the harder it is to come up with something new/different/unique.

One thing I do is steal. Yep. You have a good idea and I see it ......... Hey, Baby- it is mine! It may be in an antique shop, thrift store, internet, farm or your blog.

But I will give you credit. And the inspiration for this idea came from Kim. (If you don't read Kim's blog, you should. Besides being very creative, she is really funny!)

I have three hanging baskets on the little gazebo. They needed new liners... either the coco liners or sphagnum moss. I had neither. But I did have this .............................

Burlap! I really wasn't sure how it was going to work in these 16" hanging baskets. But 2 weeks and 3" of rain later ........... it is working great!!!!

So thanks to Kim for a great cheap idea that is a little out of the ordinary. I will be showing more gardening fluffing in the next few posts.

Any idea what the statue of limitations is on creative idea theft?????????????

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Contention Creek was being .... well, contentious.

(That's our house on top of the hill ... tucked in among the trees.)

When we have 95 degree days in Iowa during the months of May and June .... they lead to thunderstorms. The hot humid air hits the cool air coming from Canada ... and up pops a thunderstorm.

I love a good thunderstorm. The thunder rolling in the background. The rain falling straight down so I can sit on the porch and listen to it.

What I don't like is a micro-burst storm. We got about 3" of rain in little more than an hour yesterday. I'm not really sure of the amount. The rain was so fast... so furious .... it knocked the rain gauge upside down.

That brings me to Contention Creek. Contention Creek is a sleepy little creek (pronounced crick) that ambles its way to the Wapsipinicon River (known affectionately across Iowa as the Wapsi) . It runs directly north of our home.......... less than a quarter of a mile away.

(Just a bit of Iowa trivia.... the Wapsipinicon river runs through Stone City, Iowa. Stone City was the inspirational artist community started by Grant Wood.)

Contention Creek will occasionally go out of its banks....... but never like this.

Conservation is important to our neighbors as they farm. But in spite of no-till methods of farming, bumper strips and grassy waterways.............

Iowa's Black Gold .... our beautiful rich topsoil is on its way to the Gulf Coast. We are sure going to miss it.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Change in plans........

Ever notice how things just ........ evolve ....... when you are gardening? Like you are digging away and you decide that this plant would look so much better there?

Well -- construction has begun on the Summer Kitchen. (Truth alert .... Honey has dug up and moved the phone line to a safe place and one hole is dug. Period! But it is a start!) I had planted three little hostas 10-12 years ago. In reality... I probably bought one because of my incredibly cheap nature and divided it as I planted.

Now ... 10 years later, these hostas are frickin' HUGE!!!! Ok -- maybe not Sum and Substance huge but big enough.

Let me give you a quick gardening lesson. Never. Never. Never buy (you know, pay with cash) a hosta. Make friends with a gardener with a shady lot. Pick out the ones you like.... and wait. Soon enough they will be dividing and you will never have spent a dime. And you will have more friends cuz other people will be looking at your yard.

So I started dividing........ and I put 4 hostas here.

And I planted 5 hostas in this garden.

And I started a new bed .... yea, I could have thrown them away. But you know how cheap I am.

So, now what am I going to do with this ONE daylily???????

Friday, May 21, 2010


There are three things one should never do in life.

1) Drunk dial an ex-boyfriend at 2 am.
2) Tell your boss exactly what you do think.
3) Blog when you are having a snarky day.

I'm breaking rule number 3!

I am having a snarky day. Yea ... I know. It's not really a word but it sure does describes my mood. SNARKY!

I feel like I can't please anyone. Including myself. I want to weep and growl and reach out and bite someone!

Case in point .... a woman calls and wants to use the corn-zebo for an evening event. Great!! When would you like to book it and do you want to use the grill? And by the way ... rental for an evening event is $25.


I am not a park. This is my home. I will have vintage tablecloths to wash and iron. I will have chairs to dust and put away. I will have to set things up ... just the way you want them. And I will have to have my bathroom available to you. I will stay up until you leave, clean up and I will make.... (drum roll, please) $25.

And this is how I make my mortgage payment, pay the light bill and buy groceries.

Yea ...... I am being snarky.

So after my attempt to "rip off the public!" .... I go to write checks for the above listed bills. Hmmmm......... more envelopes to open but there is no more money in the account. I'll have my banker call the above listed woman.

Yea ........ I am being snarky.

So I work on an event for Miss Eff's. Then I find out it is the same day as a family reunion. In the 14 years I've been around the family.... we have never been to this reunion. And I'm pretty certain we weren't going this year! But how could I possibly schedule something then?

Yea ......... I am being snarky.

It is cold and rainy and I feel like crying. Being snarky makes me cry.

So I cruise some of my favorite blogs. And I find this. And now ........... I really cry.

This incredible group of four women, Leslie, Sarah, Beth and Tesi, have come into my life and embraced me. They will never know how much they mean to me. They always brighten my day at just the right moment. They are smart and spiritual and loving and kind. And they are my friends.

I may not be snarky any more.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Some things just live on.......................

You all heard my story about the fox in the hen house..... and in the duck run.

If not ... quick recap. A fox got one of my Anconas ducks one evening. So we started locking them up again at night. Then the fox got my last Indian Runner and the very last Ancona while locked in their run. Lucy, the little mini Silver Applewood, survived because she has been nesting in the composter and wasn't found by the fox.

We then locked Lucy in the run (totally enclosed) and let her sit.

I was beginning to think it was an exercise in futility. She would sit ..... and fluff her feathers .... and hiss at me when I looked at her.

And then today..... I looked at Lucy and her feathers .......... moved. And moved again. And moved again.

So far .... I have counted eight little tiny ducklings. Still a couple of eggs left to hatch. Definitely not purebred. But definitely cute.

And cute ducks are what it is all about!!!!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

I am so not a Fashionista!

Ok -- so fashion may not be my strong suit. Well -- at least, not April through October.

Early spring is the worst! I swear I roll around in the mud! But I have yet to figure out a better way to plant plugs than on my hands and knees.

Therefore ...... my jeans always look like that! Shout, Shout Stick, and a soaking in Biz.... then an extra-heavy duty wash in hot water with an extra rinse. Then .... I have clean dirt rubbed into my jeans!!

Some people have asked why I don't wear shorts when I am planting in the garden. 1) It is still cold -- today I am lucky ... I don't have long underwear on. 2) When I was a child, my mother would scrub my dirty knees with Comet.

Yea ... I do still have nightmares over that one! How did you know?????

But back to the fashion show..................

I do have hand-knit socks made out of hand-spun wool on!! I get points for that one, don't I??

I thought so.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Just stuff...............

It's no longer raining today. It is very muddy so no planting will be done.

I have spent the morning, writing a grant application for an intern's stipend from the Women, Food and Agriculture Network. Judging from the emails .... we are still in the running for a $1000 stipend for an intern.

I have to admit that the application was relatively easy. But there was one question that was a little tricky.

How will you assess your apprentice's goals for the apprenticeship? How will you evaluate her performance and progress toward these goals during and after the apprenticeship?

How do you assess happiness, contentment and joy? I want an apprentice to walk away with knowledge, marketable skills and the ability to provide for themselves. But most of all ................. I want an intern to know that it is not only about making a living....... its about making a life.

How do I judge the way they care for a kitten? How do I assess the joy they get from watching the butterflies flit through the flowers? How do I evaluate the pride one has when they hear the "ping" of a canning jar that has sealed? How do I know that they have truly found themselves??

You don't farm if you want a fat checkbook. You don't farm if you want to be done with work at 5 pm. You don't farm if you want to vacation all summer. You don't farm if you don't want to worry about weather, crop prices, land costs and debt.

As a woman, you don't farm if you have to have a weekly manicure. You don't farm if your clothes are more important than your livestock. And if you definitely don't farm unless you can make do or do without.

I hope I have something to share with an apprentice/intern. I hope they will learn to love this land and its fertility as much as I do. I hope they fall into bed at night ... dead tired ... and yet, feel the sense of pride for a day's work well done.

I hope they want to be a farmer.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Fear of the "F" word............

Our weather has been delightful. Our lilacs bloomed in mid-April. My tulips and daffodils are done. The phone has rang off the hook with requests for flowers. But not today.

Today is May 8th. The average frost free date in our area is May 10th. We have not had a frost since early in April.

We are expecting frost tonight.

I start planting around April 15th. I start with cold-tolerant plants. Rudbeckia, verbena, dianthus and snapdragons. A lot of short-lived perennials, perennials in zone 7 or very hardy annuals.

My last shipment of planted arrived this week. 600 zinnias, 400 impatiens. The very last plants to go in the ground.

Our weathermen have been predicting patchy frost in our far northern counties all week. But I felt fairly safe to plant those impatiens and zinnias on Thursday. Now ... its not the prediction of patchy frost .... it is frost. It is almost a hard freeze. It could be the end of Miss Eff's for the year before I get started.

I watch weather forecast with great intensity this time of year. Yea, I know its time to go to bed but the weather hasn't been on yet! Its the first thing I look at when I wake up. And the last thing I see when I go to bed.

Four weeks of watching the temperatures. Oh -- I know. We farmers always complain about the weather. We complain if it is too wet .... we complain if it is too dry. We complain about the wind and the clouds and yet, tonight I want both to keep away the cold temps.

There are many days when I have sore knees, sore back or when I am trying to balance a checkbook that is lacking funds ......... I question whether I am cut out for farming. Today is is one of those days.

I fear the "F" word.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Life happens.................

Every so often, I hear the statement .... How do you do it all?

There is only one simple answer ... I don't.

I don't. I don't. I don't.

At this moment, I am certain the dirty laundry is going to overtake the laundry room. And the dust bunnies from the furry creatures that live here .... are taking over the world. Yea .... I'm just going to let them do it.

The dust bunnies that attacked Donahue. It's part of the evil garden temptress's plot!

But seriously, I don't get everything done that I am suppose to do. Case in point happened yesterday.

At the end of March, I got a notice and an application for jury duty. (First big no-no. Never! Never! Never! send me something 6 weeks ahead of time. Well ......... not in the spring!!)

So being the good citizen I am, I filled out the survey/application/questionnaire and promptly got it back into the mail. Score one for the old gal!!!

Then I have this form that says to call the court after 5pm the Friday before your jury duty date. I stuck it up on the refrigerator. BIG NOTE. Call the court on April 30 th.

You know the rest ................. I didn't. I forgot. Hell -- I don't even know what month it is, let alone what day.

So yesterday, I get a nasty-gram in the mail. I have been given 5 days to contact the court to explain why they shouldn't haul me off somewhere for contempt.

I call immediately. I explain that I have 8000 annuals to get into the ground and at least 5000 are sitting impatiently, screaming for contact with Iowa soil!!!!

This wonderful woman says......... What month would work for you? I say November!! And November, it is.

This is the part where I profusely thank her for being so kind. And in the usual Miss-Eff-way, I offer her a free bucket of flowers whenever she wants.

Ohhh. Really??? I didn't mean to bribe an officer of the court.