Saturday, July 31, 2010

I know you want to do this!

 Picture courtesy of Abby Glann

Look at that stretch with the mozzarella!

OK -- by popular demand, I am teaching a cheese class in my kitchen. Yea .. my kitchen.  My very little kitchen.  With no air conditioning .... in August.  In Iowa. (Now don't get wimpy on me!!!)  Thursday .... August 5th at 1pm..... I'm thinking 2-1/2 hrs or so.  (We have to eat, you know!)

So .. if you sign up for my class ... I know you are really serious about learning how to make cheese!

This will be fun.  I love teaching this class! I love the magic that occurs when liquid milk magically *pops* into curds.  I have done this time after time and it never ceases to amaze me!

The class will be small ... it is definitely hands on. You will get a recipe folder with my pizza crusts, sauces and the cheese recipe ... and  a pound of freshly made mozzarella (by you!!!!)  I will serve a late lunch ... probably right from the garden ... using the mozzarella we just made.  And its all for the value price of $30.

And why is this soooo special???  Intern Emily and I are road-trippin' on Monday to Picket Fence Creamery to get the BEST milk to make this cheese. And butter... we need butter. And chocolate milk for Honey. And some chocolate malt ice cream............. but I digress!!!! (I need a bigger vehicle ... and maybe something that has a freezer compartment!)

Picket Fence milks Jersey cows and their milk is higher in butterfat so the cheese is incredible! Beautiful creamy yellow.  And ohhhh soooo yummy!

So if you want to learn how to make cheese ... now your chance!  OK -- there will be another chance -- for you night time or weekend gals.  And maybe another one.  I really do love to do this class!

Whether you ever make cheese again ... just knowing that you can .... is such a great feeling.  And if you are like me .... you will try other cheeses in the future.  The magic of the curds will draw you in!  And soon, you will have Ricki Carroll on speed dial!

But join in the fun.... try it out.  And make an awesome pizza on Thursday night for supper.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Progress comes slowly............

Thank you all so much for all the kind comments. I really do appreciate them (along with the birthday greetings!) but I am not that wise or confident yet.  I am taking baby steps ..... and some days I do better than others.

I love, love, love the life I live.  I would not change it for the world.  But for all the simplicity and loveliness of my life....... I still have to work hard and I still need that paycheck.

Newly-married Margaret, I do worry about money.  A lot.  Constantly.  I live in fear of not having enough.  And my needs are simple .... but there is still that nagging fear.

So today ... I will show you some progress on the Summer Kitchen.  This is a fear.  And a hope.  And a dream.  This is a leap of faith.  A big one .... for me.

Like a lot of people last year.... Honey had to take a pay cut and have DWOP days .... (Days With Out Pay).  So his salary was down to what he made in 1993.  Yea. With 2010 bills.  And somehow ... the utility guys .... didn't get that!  Go figure!!!

And then ..... the summer months were wet ... and cold.... and my flowers liked neither.  I finished paying Greenhouse Gwen in April of 2010 for flowers that went into my garden in April 2009!   I went into this season with no fiscal reserves as the politicians might say! So I taught more classes, worked some extra hours, and stretched the ground beef a bit more. And I made it through the lean months.

But you know... sometimes you take a leap of faith if you want a business to grow. You raise more livestock, you plant more land, you buy a bigger tractor or move to a nicer location.  And this cute swoooopy roof building is my leap of faith.  And if no one likes it .... Honey and I will rent out the house and move into this!! 

So without further adieu .... The progress on the Summer Kitchen!!!!

I started painting today ... staining actually. The color is a light grey-ish green.  Love it!! Its definitely more green than it shows in the evening light.  And don't you love the scallops?  As we are building this on a budget ( a very very small budget!) Honey's idea of cutting the scallops really adds some charm.

Windows will be cut out and installed sometime this weekend.  The Summer Kitchen needs its "eyes".  We will have creamy white trim and dark red windows. On the wall that I painted today ... there will be another barn quilt.  I promise .... the last!!  Six is enough!!!

But what is going in there?

Here are a few of the flowers that will be going into the Summer Kitchen.  I love this clothes rack .... $13.  Seriously, isn't that awesome????  Now to harvest more.

Speaking of harvesting ... Intern Emily has been hard at work in the kitchen again today.  Jams. Jams.  And more jams.  Carrot Cake Jam, Cheerful Morning Marmalade ( a blend of orange, carrots and apples with allspice and cinnamon) Kiwi daiquiri jam and finally, one of my all-time favorites..........

Sunshine jam ... a blend of orange, pineapple and apricot that brightens my day along with my shelves!  

You know, if I just think about that jam .... all my worries go away! 

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Looking back .... waaay back.

Today is one of those days that you look back over your life and think, evaluate and contemplate.

Yea ... today is my birthday.

Now, don't go and send birthday wishes cuz that's not what this is all about!  Its about thinking.

I turned 56 today. And I know 56 is not a milestone birthday but in 4 more years, I'll be 60!  And in nine more years, I'll be 65.

The last nine years went really really fast!!!  On Sept 11, 2001 .... I sat on our porch and thought about how I would like to take my backyard and turn it into a U-pick flower garden. I wanted to bake bread everyday, spin my own yarn and raise chickens so I could have really fresh eggs.  And although, I had been canning for years .... I wanted pantries full home-canned goodies.

All my life -- I went the safe route.  There were so many things I really wanted to do ... and I listened to others when they told me that I would fail, couldn't make money or .... I was just wrong.  I know ... I was surrounded by people that were Depression-Era children.   Money and security were important to them.... far more important than following dreams or living an authentic life.  And I hated myself for being something I wasn't.  I wasn't strong enough ... independent enough ... to stand up on my own feet and Go for it! 

And finally ... nine years ago .... I did go for it. 

Suddenly, I emerged.  Not the person that I was raised to be .... but the person I was born to be.  My soul soars when I am digging in the beautiful black Iowa soil.  I love connecting with our customers........ to sit on the ground and talk and maybe, tell the story of our tiny little farm. I am truly happy for the first time in my life..... its not about money for me but the satisfaction of being an accomplished, productive woman.

The depression that haunted me for decades is lighter ..... it is still there as it is a disease.  But I can breathe ......... and I am not smothered by the disapproving scowls of others. I work my way through it with my feathery friends, a fluffy ball of fiber, my wonderful customers or a bubbling mass of fruit.

The first half of my life was clouded by self-doubts, self-loathing and fear.

The second half ............. look out!!!  Cuz Miss Eff is on the wonderful merry-go-round of life and she is reaching for the brass ring!!!!

And during the second act of my life ..... I might just get it!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Thank you, my dear dear friends.............

Sunday in the Garden with Miss Effie and Friends is over.  Done.  History. But not forgotten.

There is still a little French vanilla ice cream in the freezer (French silk chocolate is long gone!!)  A few cookies, a little poppy seed lemon bundt cake, lots of soiled tablecloths and some dirty dishes remain.  A wise woman would get all of that taken care of ........... but I am not that wise (otherwise, I would have thought ........ Committee. I could have had a committee!)

Besides -- I'm recovering from the thoughtful actions of my friends, Jim and Debbie and Dan and Cyndia.  They know the right moment to bring out the adult beverages ..... 4:27 pm.  I was ready.

So do you want to see pictures?????  So do I! 

1) My camera is ill. And new replacement camera will arrive ..... tomorrow.

2) I spent the day hugging everyone in sight!  How do you take pics when you are imitating the Mad Hugger???  I try not to hug strangers ..... but I knew almost everyone.  If not by sight, by name or blog!!!

Fortunately, several of my blogging friends came through for you. Better pics (Kim's are awesome! She has been practicing with her camera and her pictures are wonderful!) And everyone has better writing skills than I have!!!

So .... check out Jen's, Kim's or Jessica's blogs to see what the day was all about.

We had great vendors on the farm!  Sheepie Neighbor (she needs a t-shirt with that on it!) sold yarn and eggs and nut rolls!!! We had cheese, produce, photography, yarn and fleece, jewelry and metal art. The vendors really made the day........... thank you for coming.  Thank you for spending your Sunday afternoon with Honey and me.

And now... the really important news ...... We raised over $400 for the North Scott Food Pantry!!!  We are soooo excited that our friends and neighbors can use the Freight House Farmers Market gift certificates to get fresh, locally-grown food to feed their families.

There aren't enough words to express my gratitude and my love for each and every one of you that visited the farm. (and we know ... I can find I lot of words!!!!!)  There were classmates from high school, dear customers and old friends.  There were people that I just met ..... that I feel like I know everything about them.

I love my facebook friends and my blogging pals........... and all my very dear dear customers. You have put up with soggy rains and drought conditions.  You questioned my sanity when I tied tea cups to the trees.  You've held my chickens to humor me.  But you have come back , time after time and picked the flowers and relaxed with me in the corn-zebo.

I have been so blessed to know each and everyone of you.

Thank you ..... thank you....... thank you.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

I think we are ready.............

OK -- I've been going over the list.  Time and time again.  And I think we are almost ready. 

Oh -- there are those last minute things ... scrub the bathroom, sweep the kitchen floor.  Take the vacuum out of the tv room and put it away.  (Its usually a decorative object!) Finish the dishes.  Weed the Zowie zinnia bed ------- the usual list that won't get done!!!!

But we have baked and baked and baked.  OK ... Emily baked and baked and baked. (This is the truth in blogging act!)  Lemon shortbread cookies, chocolate chip cookies, carrot cake, yellow cupcakes with fudge frosting, sour cream chocolate cake, and German chocolate cake.  I made two angel food cakes.

Then lots and lots of ice cream ....... French Silk and French Vanilla.  Which is why there are two angel food cakes ... the ice cream took lots of egg yolks.

But the weather is perfect ... 82 degrees with a very gentle breeze.  It should be perfect.  We will be here from 12-4 and serving cake and ice cream until it runs out.

So if you have been hanging out in northwest Scott County and need a break from playing Schafkopf and drinking Bud Light (for good Germans, they drink lousy beer in this neighborhood!!!) ................ come to Miss Effie's and indulge in homemade treats for a good cause. I've got a goal of raising $500 for the local food pantry.... can you help???

I betcha I can find ya a nut roll or two.

Friday, July 23, 2010

You sent me these................

OK -- I have a lot to talk about and show you.  But my camera (two days out of warranty, mind you!) bit the dust.  Oh -- I can take pictures.  I can download pictures. I just have NO idea what I am taking pictures of!

So you won't see the swooooping roof of the Summer Kitchen.  Or the siding that is on.  Nor will you see or debate the depth of the scallops that Honey is putting on the peaks.

You won't see the 6 batches of ice cream that Emily churned out today. You won't see the evidence that the ironing basket is actually empty.  (And I didn't burn or hide it!  It is really really done!)

You won't see the loaf of bread I baked, the beds I weeded, the new duckling or the kittens that are finally emerging from the barn.  (no ... they aren't friendly!)

No ..... you get to see your pictures. 

Now I love love love when you send me photos.  You share your time and your children with me!  And I am soooooo honored .... so please, I am showing a very few of the wonderful photos that I get.  And if I have never said it before ..... I think Face book is AWESOME!  Miss Eff and 500,000,000 of her closest friends. (Yea ... like Miss Eff has any friends!!)

Adorable .... right????  She is such a fashionista!!!

Today ... a little girl called us the "Kitty Cat Farm"........... she got it from him.  He just giggled and giggled.

I was concerned that no one would use the bed.  No naps .... no siestas..... no telling secrets to a BFF.  I was afraid that no one would notice how special a bed in a garden could be.

I sure got that wrong!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Sunday in the Garden with Miss Eff and her friends...............

Seriously??  Who knew that Miss Eff had any friends?????

Here's the scoop .... literally.  French Silk Chocolate or French Vanilla?

We at Miss Effie's decided to throw a party. So on Sunday .... July 25th.... we are hosting an ice cream social.  From 12-4, we will be serving up homemade ice cream along with box-free cakes. Currently on the baking list is the Super Yummy Sour Cream Chocolate cake from last year.  Along with a goodie-filled carrot cake and a very simple Angel food cake. And to round out the selection there will be piles of chocolate chip cookies and lots of cupcakes!

Hopefully, the garden will be full of guest vendors having a great time. 

I know the world-wide famous Sheepie Neighbor will be there with her clay figurines and wonderful hand-spun Shetland yarn.... and maybe some nutrolls?

Yea .... we got permission from the Sheriff's department to be on the same piece of land at the same time.  Normally, they try to keep us a couple of miles apart..... and we still get into trouble.  Its a good thing that we didn't know each other when I was younger ........ I've mellowed!

So stop by the farm ..... shop our vendors, take a nap on the bed, be amazed at the swoooopy roof of the Summer Kitchen.  We will be serving cake and ice cream from 12 - to whenever we run out of the sweet stuff!!  But the farm will be open from 12-4.

And you know me ...... there has to be a cause.  Again we will be taking donations for the ice cream and cake.... those donations will go to the purchase of Freight House Farmers Market gift certificates.  Those gift certificates will be donated to the North Scott Food Pantry this year. 

Last year, we raised $320 ... can you help us top that total?  We know that there are more and more hungry people in our area ...... let's get them the best of our local fresh fruits, vegetables, eggs and meats.

Come celebrate a beautiful summer day and relax in the gardens.................... We hope to see you!!!!! 

(If you send me a note, telling me that you are coming.... that would be great!  I want to make sure there is plenty of ice cream!!!)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Some times, it all falls into place..............

Earlier this month, I was honored to have a fantastic bride and groom pick flowers for their wedding here at the farm.

Now we do a lot of wedding/reception flowers here.... but this one was special.

Early, on a Friday morning, here came the Mother-of-the-bride with breakfast for 25!  All the wedding party, all the parents, all the cousins and friends..... came to pick flowers.

And pick they did!

And more flowers.
And more flowers.

 And more flowers......

 And still more flowers.

Actually, there were more................... Bridal bouquet, 4 bridesmaids, boutonnieres, corsages, pew buckets, flowers on the alter and 30 bouquets at the reception!!!  20 buckets of flowers!  And I still had flowers after they left! (That's why I plant 8000!)

Honey was home (working on the Summer Kitchen!) and was amazed at the fun that everyone was having.  People were everywhere.... eating rolls and drinking orange juice.... picking flowers and laughing. They were taking pictures, relaxing and just hanging out!  It was wonderful!!!!!!

Well, today I got a letter.............. and I cried.

There are not enough words to explain the joy we had picking the flowers for Sarah’s wedding. It was an event wasn’t it? ......Your flower farm brought us together and I feel we really bonded and are one big happy family.........Everyone that was here just couldn’t say enough about the flower experience. Thank you!

Sometimes, magic just appears on the farm and it did on that day.  I am soooo glad so many people saw it ..... and knew they saw it..

I have had many couples get their flowers from the farm.  But I was honored and humbled to be involved in such a wonderful day for such a wonderful couple. 

Sarah and Andy ...I wish you much love, laughter, happiness and joy in your life together. But most of all ....... recognize the magic!

May God bless you.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Meetin' Bloggin' Friends...............

I have met the neatest gal!  I am certain that we were separated at birth. We are soul sistas! OK .... there may be the fact that she is tall and elegant and slim and beautiful .............. and I'm not.  And there may be the fact that she is 30 ............ and I'm not.

But I am still certain we are sistas!

Jen likes junk stores, Re-Store, canning, and ripping into her house just to surprise her husband.  (Did you know that nothing says I love you more than a hole in a ceiling??  Honey ... look what I did today??? I love that!  Reminds me of a bathroom experience a few years ago!!!) Jen does these awesome vintage-looking signs..... I just know the Summer Kitchen is screaming for one.

Well .. Jen came to the farm a couple of weeks ago and blogged about it.  So today .... I am taking you to Jen's blog.  You must become a fan.  It is funny ... it is sweet .... it is fun.  And you will love.. love... love her house. Actually, she had me with her porch. 

So sit back .... have some lemonade.... and enjoy Jen's blog.  You will be there a while!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Question Authority.............

I hate to admit this.... but I wore mini skirts the first time around.  I had long straight hair.  And bell bottom jeans.

I was not a hippie but I easily could have been an earth mother.  I loved long flowing embroidered caftans, big hoopy earrings and Dr. Scholl's sandals.

I loved Gracie Slick and Jefferson Airplane ... that was before Jefferson Starship, then just Starship. I remember the song that Country Joe and the Fish sang.  I know who sang at Woodstock.. and what songs they sang. 

I remember war protests, deaths of beloved men, Kent State, lies, cover-ups and resignations. I remember trying to get equal pay for equal work .... in blue suits with bow tie blouses .... so you would look like a man.

But I never went to the City of Love... where draft cards and bras were burnt with equal zeal and passion.  Where communal living thrived, old Victorian homes were saved and dreams of a better, brighter future were expressed.  I never went to San Francisco.

The mantra of the day in San Francisco.... oh, those forty years ago, was this .......... Question Authority.

I find it inspirational that the local food movement, the growing of public produce, the increase in growing heirloom vegetables, chefs buying directly from local farmers ...... all of this has roots in the Bay area.

Last night, I taught my second class --- Chickens in your Backyard.  When I suggested the class to Scott Community College there was a lot of hesitation in the director's voice.  Cathy, are you sure people will want to take a class about chickens?  Yea.  They do.

I did the first class in April ... with 17 or 18 students.  A full class is 20.  Last night, we had 19 or 20 students.

The students are amazing.  They come in with wonderful questions. And occasionally  they stump me.  It happens. But really, you could put me in front of the group and ask me questions for 3 hours........ or more. And they do.

I'm not without my girls .... so they come along with me.  After all, we all like show-and-tell.  And hold-and-tell is more fun so the girls are passed from student to student.

However, the laws in the QCA ban chickens in a homeowners backyard.  Pit bulls are allowed ... no questions asked.  Potbelly pigs .... no problem.  Big icky snake .... yea, they will let you have them.  Three to five 7-pound hens ....... we have to draw the line somewhere!!!  (Owners of pit bulls and potbelly pigs ... I mean no disrespect.  Big icky snake owners ..... I'll admit it. I do have issues!!)

Tonight, I stopped at a grocery store (not my usual) to pick up a few supplies for Emily's big adventure in the kitchen tomorrow.  I got 2 boxes of canning jars.  The check-out boy with the helpful smile ... asked what I was using the small 4 ounce jars for.  I told him that I was making mustard.  Mustard... he said .... we have that in Aisle 3. You don't have to make it.

I make mustard for the same reason that we should allow hens in reasonable amounts in the backyards of urban homesteaders.  It expands our horizons.  It shows us how good real food can be.  It make us more self-sufficient.  It teaches us frugality, work ethic and patience. But most of all .... we can not be tied to a food system that allows us to eat ... what they want us to eat.

Its time to talk to our aldermen and our city councilmen and ask for changes in local ordinances. Its time to take up the mantra again.

Question authority.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Can we talk about sun-burns???

And while we are at it ... can we talk about hand care?  Or more specifically, unsuccessful hand care.

I used to be a blue-eyed brunette or what used to be known as an Irish Brunette.  (now .... I am a gray-haired AARP member!  But .... I am not a red-hatter!)  Light skin ... no olive tones.  Winter.  Think winter.

It makes sense that I burn relatively easy.

When I go outside, I apply 35-40 SPF sunscreen.

I put on a stylish straw hat.............

And I work.
And I sweat.
And the sunscreen melts away.
And I continue to work.

So I burn.............. a bunch.

But here is my problem ... people always talk about my burn. Which I don't mind. But over and over again .... its seem like it is something awful.  I could puff Camel cigarettes in the restaurant with less condemnation!!!!

You know, you shouldn't spend that much time laying out in the sun.  

You know you should be wearing sunscreen when you golf..... or boat ..... or garden.  

 Yea ... like I golf!!

I have heard it all.

You can have a fake-and-bake tan the color of a latte and no one says a word.  But do physical work and get a tan ..... you will get chastised.

Which brings me to my hands.  I have very tiny hands ... and gloves that really fit are hard to find.  Dear friend Jill sent me a great pair and they are wonderful.

But most of the time, when I am working with our customers.......

I am in the dirt.
I have a pair of clippers in my hands.
I'm running water.
I am grabbing change.
I have a chicken in my arms.
I have a cat at my feet.

And any gloves that I may have worn,  are in the back pocket of my jeans.  My nails are short and ragged and my hands are stained with dirt.

At least, I don't have Lindsay Lohan's manicurist!

There are times that I avoid social situations because of my hands and my very-burnt nose.  The comments and/or the stares are hard to take.

We are society that values looks and image over work ethic and physical labor.  And I am sooo very grateful for the many friends that I have that accept my appearance.  I try.  I really do try.

And with all the women entering agriculture ... we are going to see more ragged nails... more burnt shoulders.

We need to honor those that work ... really work.... over those that play socialite. And that means the acceptance of a burnt nose ... red shoulders ...... and stained nails.

Monday, July 12, 2010

I feel like the White Rabbit!!

I'm late!  I'm late!  I'm late for an important date!!!

That is the way I feel lately.  I feel like I am working and working and nothing says "Done!"  It might say "Good enough for now." but not "Done!".

The weekend was wonderfully busy.  Saturday morning was beautiful and clear and fairly cool.  After a pretty substantial sunburn on Friday ... I was doing little things. (We will discuss sunburns and people's reactions to sunburns tomorrow. If I hear one more mention about sunscreen ... which I use.... I will scream!!!) 

I cut milk jugs .... I sewed hankies on to a clothesline (Thanks Sue!) ..... I worked on the sink base, applying more paint stripper.

Then we had customer after customer come up the lane. It was a wonderful day with lots of great people stopping by and enjoying the farm. And I enjoyed their company.

And all projects ceased.

Sunday ... I moved slowly into work-mode.  A little laundry.  A few supper plans.  Clean the bathroom. And before 11 -- the drive was filling up with customers.

Now you need to understand how Miss Eff's mind works (or doesn't work ... that would be the proper term!)

We were having an event in the corn-zebo. So I decided that the border needs a good weeding...... which it got. Yes ... something is almost done!  I take a pile of weeds to the chickens.  But of course, I can't carry them all.  Once I get to the girls, I think I better check their feed.  Then I discovered eggs that needed to go into the house.  I put the eggs away ... and there are dishes in the sink.  I wash a few dishes and remember I have to get fresh tablecloths on the tables in the corn-zebo.  So I select tablecloths for the corn-zebo, take the old ones off, put the new ones on.... and take the soiled lines to the laundry.  Where I decide to try to iron .... but the iron has to heat up.  Oh -- I can cut a few jugs quick so I proceed outside to do that.  But I need to weed quickly around the teacup tree.................................

Do you see where this is going?????

Yea ................. there is still a pile of weeds by the corn-zebo.

If running this business was a class ........ I would get an incomplete!!!!

There are so many things to be done. And some are getting done.  And some aren't. But I don't want to be so task-driven that I miss the big  picture.

I went into this business to enjoy the beauty around me .... and to share that beauty with others.  I loved the feeling of relaxation comes when you sit in the quiet of the Iowa farmscape..... and I wanted to share that.  I want to sit on the grass and talk to my customers.  I want to happily give them a hug when they pull into the drive because they are family .... not customers.  I want to know their names ... where they live... and what they do. 

So there are places that the weeds are taller than I am.  There are gardens that need serious attention.  The Summer Kitchen proceeds at a slow pace.  The garden loom hasn't been started.  Mitzi hasn't been released from her 2x12 board.  The sink based isn't stripped and the rocking chair hasn't been painted. The list of undone projects .... is very long.

But my heart is filled with the love and friendship that I have received from my wonderful customers. 

So for now, the White Rabbit needs to grab a cup from the tea cup tree and mellow.  Summer is a precious commodity and Miss Eff is going to enjoy ever second of it.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Wanna hear what's new???

I know, you are sitting on the edge of your seat just wondering ... What is new at Miss Effie's?

OK -- you are getting the scoop. 

On June 24th we had our initial Silos and Smokestacks inspection.  Angie Reid (the Education and Interpretation Manager) came to the farm and looked us over.  She took picture after picture.  She asked question after question.  And we talked and we laughed and we relaxed in the corn-zebo. We ate too many brownies and drank strawberry lemonade. And hopefully, Angie had a good time.  I know Emily and I did.

I felt really good about the inspection when she left.  But I felt good about my first marriage years ago and we all know how that turned out!!! 

But the other day, we received a letter .... inviting us to be an emerging partner siteYEAAAAAAA!!!!

I'm going to try to explain the process to you.  If I am wrong ... maybe Candy, Angie or Aaron will pop in to correct me.

Say you want to become a partner site for Silos and Smokestacks and your farm/business/historical site are in the 37 county area in Iowa.  You would fill out an initial application and you will have an initial inspection like I just had.

First... they would determine if you have a story to tell about agriculture... modern or historically-based.  If your business doesn't tell a story that fits within their guidelines.... it won't be a site.  Now there are all sorts of categories --- it may be the story of modern production, or the history of the Native Americans that lived on this land long before I showed up.  But there are farms and business that don't fit the criteria ..... so they go no further in the process.

Then ... they look at where you are at in the story-telling process.  Why would people come to your farm and what would they see and learn?  It may have potential but ......... you aren't quite there yet.  And you will spend a couple of years (most likely) working on the educational impact of your site.

Now ... I have been working toward this for several years.  So I was familiar with Silos and Smokestacks focus ... and I tried to blend our focus with their focus.  Our first priority has been to stay true to ourselves but when we are looking at it ..... can it fit within Silos' vision?

So we are now an emerging site.  That means we still have work to do to become a partner site but its not that far away. 

We received a list of things to do .... (First words out of Honey's mouth ... I swear to God ... Oh No!  Not another list!!!! )

1) Finish building and store
2) Publish a brochure with a list of classes offered at the farm 
3) Label flowers
4)Put more signage on our gravel road
5)Erect parking signs and area
6) Public restrooms.

Not too bad.  Do-able as we say.  The brochure is in the works.  The building is coming right along.  Label flowers ... got that figured out in a classy fun way that may help another woman entrepreneur.  Public restrooms ......... please!!!!!  Yea ...  that is almost the first on the list.

Honey and I have been excited about the road signs.  One thing Angie suggested was Burma-Shave-type signs.  I know .... most of you are much too young to remember Burma-Shave signs.  Actually, most were gone by the time I would have recognized them.  I'm not sure if I actually ever saw one.

But Honey and I like corny poetry at times. So for our wedding (almost 11 years ago.  And my mother said it would never last!  I am certain no one had 11 years in the pool!!!) Honey painted the following signs to go up our lane.

Its much to hot 
to go sledding.
So walk this way 
for the wedding.

After you park
your horseless carriage
Come this way
for the marriage.

Burma-Shave type signs.  We are so all over that one!!!

So that is the list of projects at Miss Eff's.   After this list is completed, we will move on to a more in-depth application and another inspection. I'll show you updates as they come along and let you know how we are doing.

Wish us luck!!!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

What are you all about???

When you are business for yourself .... and you do something as unique as Miss Eff's.... you get the occasional question ............What are you all about?

I have tried to describe it.  I have tried to show it.  But it is best left in the hands of my customers. 

So in the next few days, I'm taking the easy way out and connecting you to first hand comments.   You get to read what others have to say about Miss Effie's. 

Today is from Sherry's blog .... My Three G's.  Sherry started coming out to the farm 3 years ago (I think I remember that right!!) She is a talented, funny, wonderful person that I love!  Yesterday Sherry and Greta  brought their friend Lynn and her two daughters out the the farm. 

Thank you Sherry, for such a nice post.  And great pics!!! And for helping me describe the essence of Miss Effie's. 

And for making my life easy.  Which I need.  Badly.  I'll be back in a couple of days with another post from another blogging friend. 

And now ..... enjoy Sherry's view of Miss Effie's.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Farm update..............

According to WQAD, we have gotten 3 plus inches of rain in the last 30 hours.

Yea ....  this is right in front of the coop.  Fortunately, once the girls and I get thru this ... there is a nice sunny dry area.

So its time for a garden update.  Our tomatoes are looking great.  This is one that I am really excited about -- it is a black cherry tomato.  With the other two cherry tomatoes that we have, we should get a lot of tomatoes for drying and a lot of great mixed tomato salad with feta cheese.

On the flower front ... we have been totally blessed.  My friend Cathy from St. Bridget's Farm in Solon has really suffered with the rain.  Fortunately, for me .... she knows where she can find a few flowers.  I can not believe the number of buckets of flowers that has gone out of here in the last week and there are still flowers. That always amazes me!  I swear I look at the buckets leaving the farm .... and I know there won't be any flowers.  But there are!  Always!!!

The lisianthus is just kicking into bloom.  We have purple.  We have pink.  We have white.  We have lime.  We have white with purple edges.  And there are more to come.

OK -- you can decide this one.  This is Cherry Brandy Rudbeckia.  So far, I'm not crazy about it.  Maybe I will like it better in the fall.  I thought it would be redder.  Its a little brown-er than I personally like.

I plant flowers really really close to get them to stretch their little stems.  These are Sonata Cosmos.  I planted these babies waaaaay too close.  Approximately 6" apart.  And I love them!!! I wouldn't suggest it to everyone but if you grow flowers for a living, I would do it.  Now .. cutting down and creating a hole helps open up a space for flowers so you don't get all foliage.  But cosmos foliage is great stuff anyway.

The flowers have been blooming like crazy.  The only thing that makes it better is to have you cut and enjoy them.  Should be a beautiful weekend.  Pack a lunch on Friday or Saturday and head out to the farm.

And share your flowers with others.  Your soul will thank you!!!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

All I can say is ........ WOW!

 The roof of the corn-zebo

I was lucky enough to have the Moline High School photography club come out and spend an afternoon. 

One of the students, Rhiannon Hunt sent me her pictures. A couple of days later, she won a Best of Show photography award at a local competition.  A talented amazing young woman.  I am so glad I have gotten to know her.
 Here are some of my favorite photos.  Remember these images belong to Rhiannon, not Miss Effie's.  Therefore, please do not copy them.


This is one of my favorites. 

Somehow, the composition of this one appeals to me.


Yoda Jo is just too cute.

And sometimes, you need some sunshine to brighten a gloomy day.

I am certain I did not do Rhiannon's photos justice..... but you will be seeing more of her.  Hopefully, she will help do some of the photos on our new brochure.  Photos by Rhiannon.... words by Emily and the graphics by The Orange Guy.  With all that talent ... it should be great!!!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Enlighten me.............

OK .... I need some help understanding an issue/problem that I have with my business.

Most of my friends in the flower business do not understand the U-pick aspect of the farm.  They question the condition of the flowers, the way people pick them .... just having people walk through the yard and cut flowers.

Some don't understand the picnic aspect of the business... you mean you can just bring a picnic and eat here while we are cutting flowers?  Yep.  Pick flowers, buy some eggs, eat in the corn-zebo.... its all part of the Miss Effie Experience

Some don't understand letting total strangers into my home to use the restroom.  Yea .... I do that. 
Daily. (Truth be known, this is one part I would like to change.  Its getting time for a port-a-potty.)

But this is what I don't get.

Yesterday (Monday .. we are normally closed on Monday) a couple hops out of their SUV and she immediately starts taking pictures.  Fancy camera ... not a point-and-shoot.  Now ... I am with a customer.  Honey is doing some trimming.  And I have a pot of jam on the stove.

So I speak to them ... ask them if they want a bucket of flowers.  And I get one question... how much are your flowers?  I answer that and that is the end of the conversations.  But pictures, pictures, and more pictures.  But no questions... no interest in who would do something like this.  No questions about the flowers.  No questions about the construction of a building with a swoooopy roof.

And I'm sorry but I feel violated.  Like I was robbed... burglarized.

I know.... I'm the one that went into a home-based business.  At my home.  Yea ... my house.  My home.  My corn-zeboMy lath house that looks like a bird house..  My tea-cup tree.  My Miss-Effie prayer flags.  My quilt blocks.  My Summer Kitchen with the swoooopy roof. 

And the thing is .... I love people taking pictures.  Lots of pictures.  Ooodles and Ooodles of pictures.

I guess....... I think of my customers as guests in my home and yard.  And I want them to have a good time.I want them to relax and feel at home. But yesterday ... I felt there were gate-crashers.

Talk to me ... how can I get over this?  I know I have to.  This is part of business.

But at this very moment.... I feel very venerable.

Monday, July 5, 2010

We be jammin'

I think I need some dreadlocks. (Seriously, did you know there is dreadlocks dot com!)

We here at Miss Eff's have been jammin' all summer.  Emily is truly queen of the canner. I say ... Emily, would you rather weed or ......................... and she is off and runnin' for the kitchen!  That girl is a kitchen goddess!

So far this summer ..... we Emily has made the following.... (Its in my pantry .. Don't I get a little credit???)

Strawberry jam
Blueberry jam
Blueberry Lime jam
Raspberry jam
Raspberry -Rhubarb jam
Blueberry-Rhubarb jam
Chamomile Jelly
Chocolate Raspberry Ice Cream topping ..... I'm sure that is some place.  I couldn't have taste-tested it all??????
Ginger mint Lemonade concentrate
Strawberry Lemonade concentrate
Apple mint Lemonade concentrate 
Ginger mint Limeade concentrate  (my personal favorite!)

But today I am in the kitchen alone as my kitchen goddess has abandon me for the week.  She escaped our heat and humidity for the Upper Peninsula of Michigan via Wisconsin.

Since she is under-age and I most certainly would not break any laws.......... I am doin' the cookin' with booze!  Usually when I cook with booze ... its in the cook. (I love it when my friend Sarah comes out to can ... she brings wine!) I am sacrificing the glass of wine for the jar.  The Vinoschnarfers will never believe it!

But today ....the first jar goes to my friend Debbie.  She loves a good Cabernet, she loves strawberry jam.  What could be better? It is Red Wine Strawberry Jam.  And so far ........ so yummmmm!

Now to find some Captain Morgan to make that daiquiri jam.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Boxes ................. progress on the Summer Kitchen.

Progress continues on the Summer Kitchen. 

When we first started this project, a dear customer said to us ......... Why don't you just go buy a garage kit?  Before the words left her mouth, she said ... Oh, I know.  You don't do simple.

And we don't.

Obviously, Honey and I were a good match.  We are quirky and odd and willingly to take a plunge and do something completely out of the box.  In fact ... I'm not too sure if either of us has really seen the box

But being outside the box ... as they say... has its drawbacks.

You think.  And you think.  And you think some more.  And instead of a straight roof, you build a roof like this swoooopy thing. (Swoooopy is a word.  Remember the song ... Hang on Swoooopy.  Swoooopy hang on.  Oh ... not so much???)

Can you see the dip in the roof line?  You don't get that in a Garage-in-a-box package.  So it takes time. And lots of calculating.  And lots of restless nights.  And a lot of thinking.

And then, there is my part.  The interior.  That's about finding the right stuff.  OK -- I can always find the right stuff.  Its just not always at the right price point.  Which has to be low.  Cuz I wanted a swoooopy roof.

An old box, a wobbly chair and a funnel.  Soon to be a cute little chair, a display case and a light fixture.

You see a rusty box with a very worn sink................

I see a pale green sink base with a charming worn sink.

I want to see the colors of the land around us.  Blue walls, yellow floors, cream trim and green accents.  All in a tiny Victorian-like shop with a swoooopy roof.

I envision the Summer Kitchen as a trip into grandma's attic.  Maybe some rust... maybe some fresh paint.  A little lace edging and some oil cloth.  A vintage rug and a painted chair.  Some chipped china and a wrinkled thread-bare tablecloth.

So I search .... and I search.  I search for printed tablecloths and vintage dishes.  I go through stacks of linens, looking for hankies.  I scrape paint .... and I polish brass.  I'll  turn a window screen into a drying rack and a bassinet into a flower display. I'll sew cushions this winter and edge shelves with yards of vintage crocheted lace..... all of it un-matched.  I'll go to the thrift stores, searching for the perfect baskets and wooden boxes.  And I'll dig through the antique shops and flea markets to find a hat rack.

We will be stocking the Summer Kitchen later this season. But I know it won't be close to being done until next spring. 

Cuz when you live outside the box .... it takes a while to make ideas come to life.