Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Miss Eff fell off the Wagon.............

Time for a BYOB party here at Miss Effie's!

Oh, you assumed a woman as quiet and demure as Miss Eff would be a member of the Women's Christian Temperance Union?  She might have been ... once upon a time.... but like her great-great grandfather who got kicked out of church for dancing ...... she has a tendency to misbehave.  Maybe.  A little. Occasionally.

But I digress.

That's not the type of BYOB party I'm talking about.

BYOB ..... Bring Your Own Bucket.  Any size bucket.  Little Bucket.  Big Bucket.  Red Bucket. Blue Bucket.  Any Bucket you would like.  And I do have our usual buckets if you don't have one.

On Thursday ... Sept. 30 and Friday ... October 1st.  All the flowers you can stuff in your bucket for $10!!

Yea ..... $10.  We will be open from 9-3.  The Summer Kitchen is stocked with jams, dishcloths, cocoa mix and who knows, you might find some granola.  Sorry, all the eggs are spoken for this week.

I have heard the f-word (frost) being discussed.  And there ain't no reason to miss out on these beauties!!!

Come party with Miss Eff!!!!!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Baby steps.........

The progress with Summer Kitchen comes slowly.... but it does progress, nevertheless. Every day something gets done.... and as Martha would say, Its a good thing.

So I thought I would update you on what has been happening.

The first window went in.  It is a little vintage window that we had the glass and the glazing replaced.  What do you think of the terra cotta color?  I'm thrilled with it.

We still have to add the corner pieces .... they will be stained the cream color.

Oh .... and there is a door. It will keep the riff-raff and the chickens out!

The door will be terra cotta also ..... we are debating whether to paint the panels the cream color.  And I want to add glass to it.  There will be a screen door for the summer so this door will be open most of the time. So I will I have to think about that.

Ok ... its time to walk in. Big step!!!!

No .... the insulation, wiring and dry wall are not up.  But I am moving more stuff out to the Summer Kitchen.  I need the space in my house!!!!!

So .... wanna take a quick tour????

We moved the chimney cupboard out there for jam and jelly storage.  There is the first of the market bags I have been knitting.
Yesterday, I made this long green tablecloth out of a soft linen.  After I flounce the corners, I will show that to you.  But doesn't it go perfectly with the embroidered tablecloth that I found???

I was at the fabric store and a woman behind me in line said ....... You are not going to use that, are you??? 
Yes .... unknown woman ... I am going to use it.  Right here.  In the Summer Kitchen.  And yes, something may get spilled on it.  And no, I am not going to use your tacky suggestion of covering it with clear plastic!!!!!

I'm pretty certain God doesn't cover the beauty of nature with a big sheet of plastic to protect it from us!!  On second thought, that might not have been a bad idea.

Ok.... off my environmental soapbox and back to the tour!!!

No ... the blue walls aren't there.  No, the yellow stained floor hasn't been done. But I do have the fabric for my next project!

This is the fabric for a cushion of a rocking chair.  The price was soooo right!  Free! Found by the side of the road.  Hopefully, I'll start restoring it later this week.

So that's the tour of the Summer Kitchen.  

I have to admit.  It is not hip. Not in. Not the current decorating trend of neutrals with just a splash of color.  As you can see, I'm not much of a beige gal. But the Summer Kitchen has been built in a garden that was decorated by God.  It is full of color and as friend once said to me, Nothing clashes in God's world.  I'm not competing with his handiwork.  But I do want to compliment it.

I  have my work cut out for me.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Looking forward.......

How many days till the weekend??

I feel like a kid counting the days until my 16th birthday!! How many more days till I get my license??

Yea... and for the smart-alecks that ask ... Did you really need a license to drive a  horse and buggy?  I may be older than dirt ... but I'm not that old.

But I digress.

This will be so much fun!! I have heard about this for a couple years and now ...... I'm going to see it myself!!!!

Yes ..... it is Farm Crawl weekend!!! 

I understand that research is good.  Like researching some Robiola cheese.  Maybe some honey or herb lemonade. Or maybe Maggie will have some of her awesome yarn there.  (She has got to stop tempting me with it!! My stash is much too full and I am knitting as fast as I can ... but I can't make the pile go down!!) 

It's research.  Nothing but research.  But I can handle it.  I'll take one for the team. :)

Hopefully, it will go better than getting my license. The next day or so, I scraped my folks new car against the garage door ........... I was grounded for a week.

I do hope that Jill doesn't ground me!!!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Eating Locally ............ really!

 I'm following a new-to-me blog.

The Mill Creek Cafe is a local eatery that serves only lunch and an occasional breakfast.  And of course, they had me at the first post.  Seriously, chocolate hazelnut pie???  I am sooooo there.

Everything is fresh ... all their meals are prepared around as much local food as they can get.

And its on the Old Lincoln Highway.  Yea .... the one of the first major routes across the country.

History, made-from scratch meals and local.  And only 20 miles away in really cute little Clarence! I'm pretty certain I need to make a lunch date ... like for tomorrow!!!  Oh, yea.  And their blog is written by one of my very-most-favorite people!

Why did it take me so long???  So if you are traveling through beautiful Iowa ..... work your way through eastern Iowa around lunch time.  I'm thinkin' it might just be worth the trip.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I now know why .........

people don't sleep in the garden.

Yesterday afternoon, after a quick squeezin' on the cider press with my friend Brenda, Sheepie Neighbor and I were chatting on the phone. Suddenly, the wind blew up.  Sheepie asked if it was raining and I replied that was just the wind.  And then .... this branch went crashing down!

And then ... this one!

And this one! 

In all, about 5 fairly substantial branches and lots of leaves, small branches, sticks and twigs.

We lost two arbors ... numerous potted plants .... chairs were blown down and plates in the corn-zebo were tossed out the door like Frisbees.  One large wicker basket of geraniums was tossed about.  I have found the geraniums but have yet to find the basket!

Our neighbor lost numerous shingles from a recently replaced roof.  Fortunately, ours roof stayed nailed tight.  I was concerned about the swoooopy roof of the Summer Kitchen.  At one point the shingles were standing straight up!!!  I kept praying ..... "No! No! No!  Just stay down! Just stay down!"  And  they did!

But the biggest thing ..... I went out and found another branch on top of the garden bed.  Hmmmm? I thought the bed was dressed.  But no sheets .. no quilt.. no pillow .. no mattress were to be found.  Oh ... there was a bit of white in the bean field. There were the sheets .... the quilt ... and the pillow.  But still no mattress.

I hauled the wet bed linens in for laundering ... and went upstairs to check the weather radar.  I glanced out the window and saw a bit of green foam in the distance. There ......... 1/2 mile away ..... propped up against the corn-field......... was the mattress!

The sky was ominous at 3:30 in the afternoon.  The clouds continued to rumble through-out the evening hours.

The mattress is still against the corn-field ..... 1/2 mile away.

The tea cup tree is safe and sound.  But the garden bed and the prayer flags are being tucked away for the winter

 I  do hope the fairies that sleep in my garden have found other sleeping arrangements. Maybe in Kansas.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

All I know about business. Period.

Persistent step by step can take you further than a giant leap.
                                                                                      Jesh de Rox

When it comes to business, I am like a turtle.  Deliberate. Hopefully, thoughtful. Change comes slow. I am slow to stick my neck out to spend money.  I am a turtle.

Yesterday, I took a class on Blogging for Business. And that quote was posted. And it got me thinking about how I react to a changing economy and what I have been seeing lately.  And I think there are three things that will kill a small business ........ over-enthusiasm, desperation and debt.

Now .. I have no MBA.  My formal business education is severely lacking.  But recently, several businesses that I have known, read about and observed ..... seem to be straying away from sound business practices.

Since this is my blog ........ you're going to hear about it and the basic principles that I hold true.

Research ...... Personally, I don't think you can research enough.

Read.  Read.  Read.

Talk.   Talk.   Talk.

Find out everything you can about your business before you open your business. Don't want to talk to your competitors??  Then go across the country and talk.  Develop bonds with other similar businesses. Find a mentor and ask lots of questions.  Find out what works and what doesn't work.

Shortly after I started my business, my friend Cathy emailed me about my business.  Personally, I see no threat from sharing what I have learned.  If there is another business doing the same thing ... I just have to work harder to give my customers and friends an enjoyable experience.  Besides, having that friend to bounce problems back and forth is great!!!!

Cathy started out with a U-pick but discovered with 4 children and their activities, keeping regular picking hours was difficult.  So now she does flower camps and lots and lots of wedding bouquets. After I did ONE wedding bouquet, I was done!!!!!!  No more! Never again!

There is not enough alcohol in the world to make me do a large wedding!!!

Cathy and I have developed a good friendship ... we refer customers back and forth ... we share plant orders.  We mentor each other.

And we both soon found out that the industry research was right!  One person can handle approximately one acre of cut flowers.  I know I would love to have more flowers!!  More! More! More!

I can order them.. I can plant them ... but when the season gets tough, can I take care of them??  When it rains every day ... when the weeds are taller than I am  (OK ... that's not saying much!) ... when its 95 degrees in the shade. When I am dealing with Japanese beetles, drought conditions and grasshoppers..... can I do it???


Which brings me to point number two ...... focus.

It is really easy to get distracted in business. Something new and shiny will be on the market and you swear you have to have it. (oh, yea..  that is life!) And you make a little a money at it and you think This is good!  And soon, you are totally drifting away from your business plan.

Wait ... you didn't write a business plan???? (Go directly to jail. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200)  Stop immediately and write a business plan.  Who is your customer?  Who will you sell to? Yea, who?  ... and the answer is not anyone that breaths!!! Focus on your customer.  How old are they? How much money do they have? Where do they live?  How far are they willing to drive?  

I am struggling with focus now.  How will I fill the Summer Kitchen?  Home-made and local .... really local.  Am I offering things that my customers will like?  And is the price point right? Who will buy this?  Can I possibly be open in the winter?  Am I creative enough to offer something new and different? 

And most importantly.... Does it fit with my current product line and my business plan? Am I being true to myself and my values?


And finally ... plan for the worst case scenario.  Yep .. be happy, be optimistic, be positive.  But be realistic. Can I make it through the tough times?  Is there money in the bank? Is there enough money in the bank?? Is there another way of making money?? Can I juggle it all????


As much as I love my job at Retail-Hell, would I love to be here at home?  You betcha!!!! But that job is a winter safety net.  I may not work a lot.  It may not pay too much. But it has always helped out on groceries or a utility bill or some years, paid for the next years flowers. And I am grateful for that little bit of security.

Being an entrepreneur is not easy. More of us fail than succeed.  Blindly forging ahead is like trying to navigate through an obstacle course in the dark ..... something will trip you up. 

Sometimes, it is a turtle... slowly and deliberately moving across the floor.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Taking it outside the box ......

This is a post about two creative and fantastic teachers ... that looked outside the traditional curriculum to inspire their students and an old farmer.

A few weeks ago, my friend Julie came to me with an idea.  She is the art professional at Trinity School in Davenport, a Lutheran based school.  She would like to join forces with Kevin, the 8th grade teacher and teach a joint art/science class on the farm.  Well, I jumped at the chance to have such an opportunity for the students here.

Julie would focus on botanical art and using parts of the plant to stamp on paper. She used the natural dye from leaves to color the paper.  She used leaves and seeds for rubbings.  And she had the students drawing and painting the flowers in the garden.

Kevin had them looking for perfect and imperfect flowers, examining root systems, looking at seed heads There was a plant scavenger hunt.  The students were tasting herbs ... looking at different types of flowers and how they were pollinated.

Me?  I got to show off our pretty eggs.  Many did not realize that Dr. Seuss did not make up Green Eggs and Ham!!  The students got to hold a few of the girls.... one student did not know there were "girl and boy" chickens. They looked at the different breeds, picked up colored feathers and held warm eggs.

They played with Waldo the duck ... who is now a teenager.  They watched the older ducks splash and dive in the pond.

They sat on the hill ... watched the combine harvest the soybeans. ... and just relaxed in the joy that is God's beautiful creation.

I was blessed.  In a time of tightening belts and budgets, two wonderful teachers looked for a new learning opportunity for their students. And they included me in such a magical day.

A little art, a little science and a little farming...........

Ahhhh ....... the basis of life according to Miss Eff.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Thinking out loud.............

Now that the season is beginning to wind down ..... I'm thinking of new ideas for next year. And one of the best ideas that I have heard came from a friend.

If you have been to Miss Eff's in the last month, you know that the weeds and grass are overwhelming.  Yea.  Bad.  Like I just want to mow the whole damn thing off and start all over again.

We knew this might be a possibility.  This spring we re-did the entire cutting garden by not just tilling it........ but by plowing it deep.  The cutting garden spent many years as a feed lot for the cattle and hogs that called Miss Eff's home ... 50 years ago.  Weed seeds are tenacious little characters and will hold on forever!  And they did ... and this very wet hot summer.... they came into their glory!

We know there are couple of things that have to be done for next year ....

1) We will use a bio-degradable paper mulch to plant in and block weeds.

2) I will not skimp on mulch ever again.  It doesn't matter how broke I am!!  I will order enough mulch.

3) We will have two additional interns next year.  Yea ... I really need them and I really think that there are some awesome opportunities for them.  The work on Silos and Smokestacks and Summer Kitchen can be great learning experiences.

4) And then ........... there is Julie's idea.

OK -- first of all, I need your input. So tell me what you think.

We would form a "society" out here.  I don't have a name yet .... but the main mission is to ............

1) Provide a social network for women
2) To keep the gardens far cleaner than they have been in the past
3) To benefit the community

You would join up and when you want flowers, eggs, jams, etc ........ you will weed a row or two rows (depending on the size).  I figure about 30' .... about an hour's worth of work.  And you will be given a bucket of flowers or the equivalent.

Once a month, we will plan a get-together.  Bring the kids, bring a treat to share and the recipe..... and we will sit and relax and get to know each other a little better. Have some tea .... sit and knit ..... just spend some precious  "girl time" with some amazing women!!!!

Then the recipes will be compiled into a cookbook and the proceeds will benefit a local food pantry.

The great thing about this .... we can expand the gardens to grow even more flowers, veggies and herbs for you to enjoy. 

I wish I was Wonder Woman (or at least, had that bust line!) ....... but, alas, I am not.  I am at my physical limit on what I can do but there is so much more that Miss Eff's can be.  And wouldn't it be fun to have great flowers in your house all the time for just a little sweat equity?????

So tell me what you think.  Are you game for this??? Does Community-Supported-Agriculture (CSA) for flowers trip your trigger??? Enrollment would be somewhat limited ... 12-15 very special women.

We have mentioned this to a few of our regular friends ..... and I know I have missed a lot.... so if you think this is something you would be interested .......... send me a note.  And if you think this is the DUMBEST idea you ever heard of ......... let me know that, too.  I'll put that with my mother's statement........ No one will drive down a gravel road to get flowers.

You proved her wrong on that one!!!!!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Swoooopy roof update.............

It's almost done! No ... not the Summer Kitchen.  But the roof of the Summer Kitchen.

It has been a long haul.  The roof is quite steep and Honey has not felt comfortable up there.  I know he doesn't like heights but this has been particularly tough.  Add some heat, humidity, a few heart stents, a part of lung missing and 6 decades of life ................. yea, it has gone slower than we thought.

(Note to all ......... notice, ya haven't seen my butt up there!  I ain't no fool!!!)

There is some other progress to be reported.

The new tags are here!  The new tags are here!

(I feel like Steve Martin shouting about phone books.  And seriously, who doesn't say that when the phone books arrive??)

I love the stamp ... it gives a warm handmade look to the tags.  And that is exactly what it is ... a handmade tag.  A huge thanks to Brad Ellis of the Orange Guy for his help.

I have been knitting like a wild woman.  And although, it is not very fancy... I am really enjoying this.  I have been knitting dishcloths and bath mitts.

 Very simple, fun patterns.  From butterflies ..............

to kittens.

The Summer Kitchen should be filled with handmade, local products.  Onesie- twoies.  So when you see it and you like it, you need to buy it.  It may not come back again!  It may take me a while to get the shop filled..... fortunately, winter will be here before we know it, so lots of fun creating may happen.

May .... get that? .... may happen.  We will see how ambitious I am.  ;)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Time to smell the flowers

The first 4 months of my season .... April through August .... the lists are long, the days are too short and the pressures and worries can be overwhelming. I dig. I plant. I weed. I clean.  I sow. I worry. I smile. I hug. I cry. I become worn and tired.

But come September, I can breath again.

The air is crisp, the kids are back at school ........ and the garden and the excitement that garden brings, is fading.

After a very wet year, the flowers are dwindling.  The zinnias are still in their glory.

I feel like I can now enjoy the flowers.  I can take the time to relax and arrange.  It is the time of year, I can relax with our friends and celebrate the season.

I can pull out the vintage china and the un-matched thrift store goblets.  I can separate eggs for an angel food cake.  And I can slowly begin to serve the jars of plenty from our harvest.

These dishes were my grandmother's.  I recently found an additional six place settings at one of my favorite thrift stores ....... for $5.00!! 

But like the dishes, the air of autumn takes me to the memories of  the year.  The flowers that fizzled, the friendships that blossomed and the hope for refreshing rains of spring. Like the perennial Cub fan wishing for a pennant, farmers dream and hope of a better growing season.

The flowers will continue to bloom for a few more weeks.  I hope that you will still visit.

For in fall ........ the colors of the zinnias, the blueness of the sky and the reflection of the summer past are brighter and clearer than ever. May you enjoy the clarity of your heart.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

When we grow up..................

Many ,many years ago, when we start Miss Effie's we would hear ...... Have you been to Howell's? 

And no, we had not been to Howell's.  But we were fortunate to have a cousin that would take a tour now and then and send photos.  And articles.  And newspaper clippings.

So we would swoon.  And we would dream.  And we would say, This is what we want to be when we grow up.

And last weekend..... we swooned.  We dreamed.  And we said, This is what we want to be when we grow up.

We went to Howell's.

First of all ....... I fell in love with the loft full of dried flowers.  The flower to the left is Blue Bedder Salvia ...yea, I need to be drying that.  And then that beautiful blue statice.  Swoooon............

Beautiful dyed and dried flax........ It just sparkled in the loft.  It looked like fireflies against the darkness.  So pretty.         

Bells of Ireland have always been one of my very favorite flowers to grow.  I'm excited to have them back in the garden next year.  So I will study this winter on the type of drying technique used for the flowers.  I'm certain they started out in glycerin but what a fantastic color!

We then walked through the fields and got some great ideas for growing and ..............just maybe..... the elimination of some of the weeds.

The amaranth was beautiful!

So I oooooohed a lot.  I drooled a lot. I learned a lot.  And I need to go back to see this.

And I now understand why so many schools take children on such varied field trips ................ they learn what they want to be when they grow up!!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

You've waited for it..... It's a Rant!!!!

OK .. a little background.  There is a building in downtown Davenport called the Freight House.  That's what its original purpose was ... freight came in on the train and went out on the train.  It was housed there.

For years, the city rented it out to a variety of businesses.  It has been so many pubs and bars.. I can't count them.  They open up.  They are popular.  They are no longer the "in-place". They close down. 

Over and over and over again.

A few years ago, the city went and rented part of the Freight House to our local farmer's market.  (Hence, the name ... The Freight House Farmers Market!)  The rest of the Freight House building became a sport bar, a comedy club, a fine dining restaurant and a piano bar.

You know the rest of the story .... they opened up.  They got popular.  They were no longer the "in-place".  They closed down.

Meanwhile ... the little farmer's market with 55 vendors grew.......... and grew........... and grew to over 200 vendors and hosts over 10,000 people on a Saturday morning.  The city took notice.

Now ...... they want to create the Quad-City Food Hub. (And for the record ........... I hate the name!)  So I went to the political/city/levee commission meeting.

Personally .... I love love love the idea!!!! But I so hate the political B.S. that exists in city, county, state and federal government.  I sat and listened to person after person suggest that we move slowly.  I sat and listened to people that wanted to put another bar in the building because it will create instant but unstable rent. And I sat and listened to a commissioner degrade the accomplishments of a city employee ........because they are on different sides of that political party fence.

But what really burned my butt was when the above-mentioned commissioner railed on the above-mentioned city employee about the list of things that have to get done.  Including another city park.

City parks are great!  Love them!  But city parks do not create jobs.  They are important in the big scheme of a city .... they provide great entertainment and add to the quality of life created in a city.  But many city parks are left to decay due to shrinking budgets and increased city needs.

Expanding the Freight House Farmers Market will create jobs, increase the availability of locally produced food, keep more money directly in our community and educate the public on healthy food choices.

Fortunately, for the above mentioned city-employee, he has the backing and the support of several hard-working farmers.

Farmers wake at 5 and end our work  day at 10.  We don't get hour-long lunches to sip martinis.  We don't have time to have intense debates on the virtues of local food food.  We don't get to wax poetically about the lush-color of our green beans. And Lord knows, I don't get pedicures and manicures so I can be fashionable!

We are dirty.  We are tired.  We are over-worked and under-paid.  But we are passionate about what we do and how we do it! 

And the Q-C Food Hub will be a reality (although, I still think the name sucks!) cuz some hard-working farmers will join forces with the above-mentioned city employee.

I'm certain the above-mentioned commissioner ate three meals yesterday.  Three meals that some hard-working farmers raised.

Because we get the job done.

I rest my case!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Note to friends...........

We are fine.  You don't have to call.  I know ... I haven't posted for a week. 

I have blogger's block and have nothing to say. 



Stop laughing!  It does happen ... occasionally.

I'd say I'll be back when I have something witty and scintillating to say...... but why should I wait till I'm witty? That hasn't stopped me yet.

So until a stroke of genius hits me dead-on the head ... you will find me in the kitchen, working on tomatoes.  And working on tomatoes and working on tomatoes. 

Who thought 55 tomatoes plants would be just right???????