Wednesday, June 30, 2010

My customers bring me joy........................

There are people that just make you smile.  On the left, is my dear friend Kelsey.  Kelsey and her mom (Molly) and not-so-little sister, Brenna, have been coming to the farm since day one. So for nine seasons I have had the honor of watching Kelsey grow up.

Kelsey is an opera student (soon-to-be opera star ..... bet on that one!) and came home from Oklahoma for a visit.  This time, she brought her friend Amelia to the farm. (We will talk about Amelia in a few minutes .... and that awesome dress!)

Kelsey has always "gotten" the farm.  It must seem special to her as she seems to come back time after time.

She is an amazing young woman .... full of talent.  She recently competed for Miss Oklahoma (Miss America pageant)  Although she didn't win -- she is back on the pageant circuit again -- and applying all that she has learned.  She has worked at an orphanage in Ghana.  She is advocating for an educational program for youth about dealing with Alzheimer's disease.  She has performed at dinner theatre and community playhouses.  She funny, generous and smart.

And 9 years ago, she told me that she is getting married on the farm.  Fortunately, she hasn't found the right guy yet.  (That means I still have plenty of time to weed!!!)  And we will have the wedding on the farm if Kelsey wants it here.  We will be so very very honored.

So on this visit... she brought her friend Amelia.  Amelia is a creative writing major that aspires to work at National Public Radio.  (OK -- I love her already!) And that awesome dress.... her mother wore it in 1968 to her rehearsal dinner.

They made me laugh.... they made me cry.  They are wonderful young women that make us proud.

Thank you for sharing part of a day with an old farm woman.  You definitely brighten my day!!!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Crispy around the edges.

This first brief note is for all my friends that call when I haven't posted for a couple of days..... I'm OK.  I'm fine.  Honey is fine.  We are simply recovering from a weekend of 90+ temperatures.

OMG! Friday was bad but Saturday ..... I seriously boiled the brain!! Way too much sun.  My poor face was burnt to a crisp... even with sunscreen and a hat. By the end of the day ...(Noon -- the day should end at noon!!!)......... I was exhausted, brain dead, and in need of embalming!

Which brings me to ......... farmer tans.

I love these gals with beautifully even tans.  You know the girls.... they can wear any dress, any shirt and look great cuz that tan is perfect. Yes ... I know most of those tans came out of a bottle or a booth.  But they are perfect tans.

That is not me!  I haven't quit wearing jeans yet as I am weeding all day !  On my knees.  And dirty jeans are one thing .. dirty knees, something else. Yea ... I have nice tan arms and shoulders.  Yes ... my face has a very rosy glow. (Like a beacon at the airport!) My ankles even have a pretty tan.  But my calves and thighs are......... the color of new fallen snow.

But the most surprising tan lines that I have are ..........


(First of all ... forgive the dirty feet!  Then realize that they are in desperate need of a pedicure that they will never get!  And to top it off ..... they are tiny little chubby feet with useless toes!)

Those are not bug bites.

They are tan lines ........... from these shoes.

So when you see me in the next issue of Glamour Magazine with a big black bar across my face.......

Yea ... that's Miss Eff.  I've wanted to be in a national magazine.  Does being a Glamour-Don't count?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Nail It, Honey!!!


Welcome to the Summer Kitchen!

Yep... that is the front door of the Summer Kitchen.  Maybe you noticed, it is just an arms-length away from the tea cup tree.  It will be so handy to harvest them right off the tree.... particularly since there will be such goodies inside.  But more of that later!

First ... a little more of a tour.

This is a small window ... it will be over the sink.  It is a tiny cute antique window that we have had -- with three little windows.  It is a stationary window but sooooooo cute.  And of course, the sink is an old metal sink cabinet with a porcelain sink and drain board.  Very much a farmhouse look.  That will get a paint job in the very near future.

Speaking of farmhouse looks ........ the Summer Kitchen is not your typical out-of-a-box shop.  No ... Honey has a great sense of style so the Summer Kitchen has a Classic-L Farmhouse look and feel.

If you aren't sure what a Classic-L farmhouse is..... well, here it is in 1927!!!!

This is the bay window/bump-out area. There will be a solar heat panel under the window to give a little heat during the winter .... plus a nice air-flow system to help cool things off in the summer.

As I try to explain to people ... the Summer Kitchen is a small local retail store.  I mean local.... real local.  So if I can walk and get merchandise, I might just have it in the store.

We will have a fridge full of Miss Effie's Pretty Eggs from Pretty Chickens.  You just don't find those everywhere!  There will be shelves full of jams and jellies.  Today, Emily made a batch of bluebarb jam.  And then she made a ginger-mint lemonade concentrate.  Next week, it will be ginger-mint syrup.

I will be harvesting flowers to dry from ladders ..... hanging from the ceiling.  Baskets of dried flowers will be hold gomphrena, statice, yarrow and strawflowers. Fresh herb bouquets will greet you .... sitting in jars on the table as you walk in the door.  Herb teas and mixes will fill jars.

And above that door will be a hat rack ... full of vintage straw hats for you to borrow as you walk through the gardens.  Except one .... and that will be my favorite one.  (I just have to decide on that!!!!)

I can see it all in those walls.  It will take time.  It will take effort.  But in the end, it will be perfect.

Because some way, some how ... magic has a way of appearing at Miss Eff's.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Can I get there from here........

This is 275th Street in rural Scott County.  This is the main thoroughfare from Long Grove to Dixon.  Most of the road has been paved but there is a 3 mile or so section, near Donahue that has remained gravel.

For years decades, we have heard that it is on the list to be paved.  And for years, nothing has been done.  But now, a new bridge is going in.   Newer, bigger, wider bridge so we have hopes that paving the road may truly be on the list.

(For the locals trying to get to the farm ..... take Saint Anne's road and go 1 mile south when you reach 130th Ave.)

But this bridge (or lack there of) seems to be a metaphor for my life and business at the moment.

I packed my bags .... I checked the car .... I'm ready for the trip ....... and then I discover that the bridge is out.

I was ready to go but now, what do I do?  Do I turn around and go home?  Or do I do a Dukes of Hazzard routine and fly that General Lee over the creek???

Am I overly cautious with my business or do I plunge head-first into a new path????  Or is there a good detour???

I am certain this is the road that God wants me on.  I know this is where I can make a difference.  But I fear the road blocks.  I fear jumping the creek.  And is the detour right for me?

I want a newer, bigger, wider bridge in my life.

So -- how do you overcome the obstacles of your life?????

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Just a little paint...........

When I was a child, we used to go to the Illinois State Fair.  And as we would drive along, there was an old farm house that we would see every year.  It hadn't been painted in decades! (Sounds/looks familiar?)  It was worn and old looking.  But you could see beautiful gingerbread trim on the porch.  And the shingle work on the peaks was lovely.

I would look at it and say ....... All it needs is a little paint.

At which time, my parents would look at me and laugh. (I came to old houses early in life!)

Year after year, we would drive by the house and I would say the same thing ...... All it needs is a little paint.

And Lord and behold, one year......... someone saw what I saw and painted it.  And all of its beauty and potential showed through.

I became a true believer in the power of the paint brush!

Saturday, after this event, we lost two decorative pots that sat at the end of the steps.  Now those pots were foam pots but in the past, I have had terracotta, fiberglass and ceramic pots.  All have come to horrible ends when a car will back into them.  I have learned by lesson ........ looks are great but durability is better! 

Besides, the replacement bargains that I could have gotten at Retail-Hell are long gone and the containers at the fancy-pants garden centers are much too rich for my blood!!!!

So it was time to become creative.

Honey had placed the smashed-to-smithereens pots in large black plastic landscape pots .... they probably came from the apple trees we planted last year.

Hmmmm...... those don't look too bad.  There is potential in those black pots. But what could I do???

Well -- spray paint for plastic came through for me.  $4.39 later, I've got these.

Reuse -- Reduce -- Recycle.  As Martha would say .... its a good thing.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Buckle your seat belt ... we are in for a bumpy ride.

Friday was one of those ominous weather days.

It started out nice enough .... my friend Debbie came out to help me weed.  Yea ... that is a true friend.  Help me weed and get muddy.  That is what friendship is all about. 

We are weeding away and Sheepie Neighbor calls.  Button down the hatches, she says... there is rough weather coming in!  Sheepie wasn't kidding!!  Sheepie had heard about the straight-line wind damage in Iowa City. Within a minute or so, the sirens went off in Donahue and I got Debbie and the customers in my garden on their way home to safety.

The wind blew ... it rained... and it rained .... and the wind blew some more.

All in all, we walked away unscathed from that storm.  We are much too wet.  A little wind damage in the lilies.  But the new support systems looked like they did their job. We were blessed.

Another dear friend, Sarah, came out to weed later. (Don't ya just love my friends????  I know I do!!!) A little green therapy. But the soggy muddy conditions prohibited that.  She cut flowers and bought our soon-to-be-famous Miss Effie's applemint  mojito lemonade mix for a party.

And again ........ the sirens went off. And again.  And again.

Honey and I again try to button everything down. Benches were laid down.  Lumber for the Summer Kitchen was covered, tied, and weighted down. (Nothing ruins a day like a 2x4 sailing through the air!)

The good news is ....... we didn't lose a tea cup!

So for the first good weather day of the week ... with no storms in the forecast....... we are cutting up branches and cleaning up.  Three large 40' branches. There looks to be no other damage .. so we were very lucky.  The wind could have put it on the neighbor's fence, our cars, our railing on the steps.  Or .... it really could have landed on the roof of the kitchen and had done some major damage. But God protected us from that and we are thankful.

Even though, we won't be selling flowers today or working on the Summer Kitchen ... we are taking care of business. We are stocking up on firewood for the winter.

And that's pretty good idea, too!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Scenes from Miss Effie's..........

There is so very much to show you today.

First of all ........ the first lisianthus of the year bloomed! Yea ... it was a little short. And it was pure white. But it was the first!  And it is gone!

The first zinnia of the year bloomed.  And again, it is gone! 
So do you want to know where they went?

 Kelly won this battle of the buckets!

The flowers above are Heather's.  She will win the next round.... I am certain on that!!!

In wildlife news ... lots of new birds are showing up at Miss Effie's.
Remember this picture?

Yep ... we now have these little guys!

And then late this afternoon, we found this guy.  I was a little worried.  He didn't move as I approached him or even took his picture up close.  But soon after he gave me a fantastic photo opportunity, he was on his way.

This is a baby sparrow hawk or kestrel.  And, yea, on this one ... I was that close.

So after a day in the warm sunshine and gentle breezes.  After seeing customers cut and marvel over every blossom ..... I get to experience this. I am so incredibly blessed and thankful for these moments.
Ain't nature grand?????????

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Inquiring Minds Want to Know.

I had an interesting question today on the farm.

Do you hang clothes on the clothesline just for the effect?


Have we gone so far away from a simple eco-friendly lifestyle that hanging clothes out means that I am a freak of nature? (Don't answer that!!!)

Thank goodness, they didn't notice the hand-knit socks. That might have sent them over the top!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

June showers??????

This is the way our sky has looked lately. Rain. Rain. And more rain.

My garden squishes beneath my feet and our yard is crying out to be baled. At the same time, the sump pump runs constantly so the cellar doesn't need bailing. It has been a tough spring.

Work on the Summer Kitchen has been interrupted for weather delays.

This brings me to an "I don't get it moment!". Everyone understands weather delays in baseball. The game was rained out .... they understand it. Rain in my garden ..... not so much!

Classic story happened last year. We received 6" of rain in 2 days. Blossoms had beaten down by the rain. Petals were like wet tissue paper. And the stems ... literally exploding by the amount of water they were taking in! A customer called, wanting to get flowers. I told her of the situation in the garden ... mud, water, muck..... and she said "Does rain make a difference?" She was serious.

Yes, Virginia.... rain does make a difference.

But .... today..... we might just have a break in the clouds. So I took a walk through the garden and found these beauties.

Yea ... these are today's favorites.

I can't wait for these Black-eyed Susans to fill the front of the barn. I love the yellow against the red barn.

Profusion zinnias .... short ... not good cuts but great container plants. And I am thrilled with their clear bright colors.

This is a tiny little clematis blossom but it is really a cutie.

The cotton candy of flowers.... the filipendula will be blooming for a very short time in the garden.

Wait.... did I say those other pink lilies were my favorite???? Decisions. Decisions. I think you should cut both.

I know the main cutting bed is not at its glory. But there are so many beautiful flowers.... I am blessed and thankful to see moments like this. I'm glad I got to share them with you.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Scenes from Miss Eff's.............

The lilies are bursting into bloom this week.

A thrush hid her nest among the bitterweet vines.

The sweet peas hide among the calendula, slowly climbing up the trellis. In its past life, it was a curtain stretcher.

The garden in front of the coop .... the china plate border has been vandalized by the marauding ducks as they search for bugs.

Prayer flags -- Miss Effie's style -- yes, I do need more!!!

And finally, the teacup tree is bearing more fruit. Just waiting for Alice and the White Rabbit .........and you stop by for tea.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Building our future?

Progress is slow but steady on The Summer Kitchen.

For those of you out of the Miss-Effie-loop, The Summer Kitchen is our new retail area.

I love growing and selling flowers but if this is our retirement income .... I need to beef it up a bit! So after a very long time of thinking and agonizing(more agonizing than thinking!) We decided to build a small retail store.

This is not retail in the traditional sense. There will be no boxes delivered by UPS, full of manufactured items .... all looking alike. And all with the very same label .... Made in China.

Nope. This is local. Real local. Like I can walk everywhere to get product. If I can't walk there... it just ain't coming here! So a new small building was necessary.

Many of you might call the local lumberyard and have them deliver a small shed or garage. But not my Honey. Honey has a unique way of building. He takes an old envelope ... sketches a picture on the back and says ..... What do you think?

Fortunately, my warped mind goes the same way. So instantly, I started thinking interiors. We can put the sink here.... the cupboard there. If I take that curbside chair and paint it ... it would go with the rug I found for pennies! And I have some antique lace to edge the shelves......... and what about that shade of blue????

Yea. That is how it goes.

And now, the problems begins.

1) We are AARP members. (I HATE admitting that!) We are moving slower than we did ten years ago. Both of us. And you add 5 stents, 1/3 of a lung missing and 90 degree heat .... Honey just doesn't kick ass like he used too!

2) Weeds!!! Would someone please, tell them to slow down a bit??? Twelve hours a day in those gardens and I am whipped! And it doesn't look like we are making any progress at all! So I am little-to-no help to Honey by the time he gets home from work at night.

3) Organizational skills. OK -- I will admit it. I am organizationally challenged. There may be good reason .... I can justify it ... but it is still there!

We took the potting shed ... full of pots, tools, books, my desk, cupboards .... and turned it into a chicken coop. Chickens didn't appreciate the pots, tools, books etc..... so some of the stuff came into the house. And some went into the barn. And more yet, went into Honey's shop.

Then I decided to take my office and turn it into a library. We built in two walls of bookcases and that was fabulous. BUT the old desk, bookshelves, cupboards from there will work great in the Summer Kitchen. However my little 7x15' office can't hold everything.

So there is frickin' STUFF EVERYWHERE!!! I swear the piles of stuff are exploding into more piles. My living room has become a holding cell. My laundry room.... a holding cell. My kitchen is beginning to explode with jellies and jams and dried herbs .... all destined for The Summer Kitchen.

And you already know the state of my refrigerator .... stuffed with eggs!

4) Rain. Rain. And more rain. Need I say more?????

So, this is what I am asking ......

Please. Please. Please....... have some understanding for Miss Eff and Honey. No .... we know the property is not picture perfect all the way through. No .... Honey wanted to have the Summer Kitchen further along by now. But we are making progress. And this is going to be sooooo cute!!

I just know you will love it!!!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Opening Day ..................

Nine seasons and counting! We have been open for nine whole seasons.

For the last 6 weeks ..... I have been a wreck. Yea. Every rainfall, every cold snap, every stretch of above-average temperatures...... I have been a wreck.

I would bite my fingernails down to the quick ... if only I had fingernails! (I garden ... no nails!)

I go through this every year. Just ask Honey. He hears it all.

"What if the flowers drown?"

"What if the flowers don't grow?"

"What if the flowers don't bloom?"

"What if no one comes?"

"What if they don't like Miss Eff?"

I am a classic worrier.

So I am always grateful to have that very first day under my belt.

We started the morning with a party in the corn-zebo.

These are our newest thrift store finds. Cute, aren't they?????? I just love dishes!!!!

I am not much of a "snack set" owner .... but when I saw these! They are sunflowers... and again, thrift store bargains. Service for four .... a whopping $1.50!

We layer tablecloth on top of tablecloth. And of course, none of the silver or crystal match. Yikes .... that was bit of a stretch. The crystal .... straight from the thrift stores again... the most expensive piece was 88 cents!

Got to deck the whole place up!

Eight forever friends came today for lunch.... they laughed. I loved hearing the laughter echo through the gardens. To listen to them .... is like listening to Nancy and Debbie and Cynthia and Deb.... old friends from high school and college that mean so very much to me.

And if Miss Effie's can offer a place to relax and giggle and laugh and just, be.................... then all my worries are worth it.

Its going to be a wonderful season! Thank you for sharing your lives with me.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Reaching for the sky....

I don't know if you have noticed but Miss Eff is pretty durn short! Like really short. Like .... I-don't-make-Mickey's-hand short! A little more shrinkage and I will have a booster seat to sit on when I drive!

So I am impressed by tall climbing things like vines. Plants that start out little and grow and grow and grow. Very un-like Miss Eff.

I really like clematis. I can't even begin to count how many I have on the farm. I seem to be constantly adding another one.

So if you are only accustom to Jackmanii clematis..... take another look. I'll take you on a tour.

This one climbs up a ladder into the tree ..... it is surrounded by lilies, hostas and delphinums.

This one has tiny tiny flowers. It is very vigorous as it is really climbing up the fence and it is only its second year.

Finally, I am beginning to get the gazebo look that I dreamed of ....with the clematis twining its way up the sides.

This is one of my favorites .... it is actually a great cut. It has been used in numerous bouquets. It blooms a long time but not through out the entire season. What a great shade of blue!

This is new this year. Not quite as red as I hoped for but still very very pretty.

This was described as vigorous .... which means it will grow quickly and climb on everything! Ah.... a two year old boy!!!!! Well -- that it is! It is Avant-Garde. It desperately needs a new trellis.... the discarded piece of ladder is much too small. And this is only after one year! It is just covered in blooms.

Betty Corning doesn't have the problem of out-growing its trellis. Betty is slow deliberate and beautiful.

And finally...............

The granddaddy of them all ... Jackmanii. A gift from my dear friend Dan Mays (aka..Buffalo Bill to my wedding guests!) this clematis grows on a trellis of hedge posts and barbed wire. But now it uses the support of neon orange lilies.... the orange against the purple is amazing. It should be in bloom next week.

The farm opens on Wed ... June 9th. We are still a little rough around the edges. The Summer Kitchen is under-construction at this time. And some of the gardens aren't quite ready for prime time.... but pull a weed and find a flower!

But as always...... Miss Eff and her flowers (including the clematis!) will be happy to greet you.

Just don't make fun of her being so short!