Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Take a peak..............

The Summer Kitchen has four walls.  Four!  One window ..... 2 are still AWOL and my beautiful door is hiding out in the laundry room.  But there are four walls!!!!

So to celebrate ... we will be open three days this week.  That's three.  Not four.  Like the number of walls that I have!

OK ... truth in blogging.  I'm sort of at the end of a rope.  I can't plant.  The rain won't stop and the sun won't shine.  Menard's has not delivered the wood for the ark yet.  So I'm kind of fidgety. Make that real fidgety.  So some company might keep me from drowning myself in chocolate fudge pudding!!!

Enough about my argument with Mother Nature.  How about some pics????

First up in the Summer Kitchen ..... new yarn.

Caden's Moon Alpacas has brought all sorts of goodies.  First up ... some soft and yummy hand spun alpaca yarn.

And then Cynthia made the neatest stitch markers out of some of her grandmother's jewelry.

The pink ones look like flowers.............. Be still my beating heart!  (And trust me .... with these cold temperatures at night ... they are almost the only flowers that you can find on this flower farm! Thank God for dandelions!)

Cynthia also brought a little fiber for the spinners among us.  I'm working some now and it spins beautifully!  You have got to try some.

Debbie and Karen brought some great rugs.  Some round.  Some oval.  And all in that $25-$30 range.  Compare that to similar rugs on Etsy in the $40-$50 range.  I love them!  The smaller rugs would make great table runners!

We have yarn in spring colors to brighten your day ... and mine!

And tea cozies that just scream Spring (Something should!)

Flowers on aprons.... flowers button bouquets.... flowers on hot pads and market bags.  We have flowers every where in the Summer Kitchen.  And we will be open from 9 to 4, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Fresh eggs ....... fresh salted nut rolls will also be here.  And rumors abound about the appearance of some cookies .  If they are chocolate chip shortbread, forget that I mentioned them! :)

See you soon!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Can I have some cheese with my whine???

If you live in the Midwest ... I am sure you understand my whining.

We have had measurable rain for 20 out of 26 days this month.  Yea.  I am tired of gardening with hip waders on!!  It has been cold and damp and just miserable.  I will garden with long underwear on but I draw the line with a down jacket and mittens!!!

Now I farm.  And you know farmers.  We always complain about the weather!!!

But this year ... we actually have something to complain about.  At this moment, only 3% of the corn crop in Iowa has been planted.  Compare that to last year when 61% of the corn crop had been planted.  And the 5 year average for this time period is 28%.  So we are a little behind.

But you say .... You don't plant corn.  No .. I don't plant corn. 

But the same conditions that are slowing down the corn planting, slow down the flower crop.  You destroy the texture and the life of the soil by tilling it when it is wet.  The flower roots do not like the cold soil ... and even though they may live through it..... they are delayed and stunted by the cold temperatures.  And one day of dry, warm temperatures helps..... but it does not instantly create good planting conditions.

So my plants and I sit.

Well, actually I write lists.  Dream lists ... goal lists.... to-do lists.

And guess what???  They are long lists!!!

But we do have some good things planned for the year.

The little gazebo gets a make-over with a new paved floor.... this is on the to-do list!  We are hosting our first wedding this year and I want it to be a beautiful, happy, casual look in the garden.  And this will be important to-do.

We are creating a handicapped accessible cutting garden this year.  This is going to take some "tweaking".  Do I have it in the right place?  Is it the right height?  Do I have the right flowers in it?  Is my soil mix good?  So a somewhat-temporary garden will be created and we will see how it works.

A goal project is the lath house.

This picture was taken shortly after the lath house was built.  We built this to give our customers a place to relax and cool off in the hot August summer.  It easily runs 10 to 15 degrees cooler in the lath house.  And since that time, the curly willow to the right of the lath house, has grown and grown and grown.  Despite being chopped down many a time!!!!

But the lath house needs a make-over.  A fresh new coat of paint.  Some color inside.  A couple of fun new chairs.  A chandelier.  And a sense of whimsy. 

Yea ... what Miss Eff's needs is another sense of whimsy!!!!

And the dream list?  Well, it was a rough winter in Iowa.  And I avoided ordering 15 times the flowers I need, just because it snowed!  (I have been known to do that!)

But the rainy days have me perusing the online catalogs..... looking for replacements for the clematis I lost ... a new lily .... maybe some extra cosmos.  Maybe a new look for the south garden .........

Dreaming ... dreaming .... dreaming.

I think I need to hide the credit card!!!!!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Turning Miss Eff Green.

Happy Earth Day!!!

Normally, I would  celebrate Earth Day by planting ... a tree, a raspberry bush, a row of broccoli ... anything!  But it is 45 deary rainy windy degrees on the hill outside of Donahue .... so here I sit.

Well .... sitting isn't the right word.  I stew.  I worry.  I fret. I get anxious.

I'm really good at it.

But I digress........... back to Earth Day.

I won't say I came to a green lifestyle slowly.  But I have to admit that the 1980's were a time of a consumer-driven,  materialistic lifestyle .. Why eat a $5 lunch when you could have a $20 lunch??  And I loved it!  The latest shoes, going to the best places, re-decorating on a whim...........

If I only had the money I spent!?!

But we have tried to embrace a very green lifestyle that encompasses those three magic, well-known words.... Re-use -- Reduce --Recycle

Have we made good progress?  Yes.  You have seen someone drive my car before I did.  My clothes were on someone else's back  before they were on mine.  My lighting and my front doors graced other homes before mine.  And I can't tell you how many states my furniture has lived in before arriving in Iowa ... via the thrift store!

We buy in bulk when it makes good sense.  We watch the packaging and try to limit what goes into the landfill.  We bake our own bread and preserve our own veggies for health and environmental reasons.  And after paying $10,000 for a well -- you bet I'm drinking our own water!!!!

We still heat our home with propane and I can't see that changing anytime in the near future.  But I hope to heat water next winter with the help of a solar collector.  Still no a/c as the Iowa breezes are caught perfectly by the design of our 1892 farmhouse.  The Summer Kitchen will be cooled with an attic fan and heated with a solar collector.

Personal cleansing products have been easy to use local, environmentally-sound sources.  But other than laundry soap, cleaning products have been a difficult switch for me!!!

We continue to collect rainwater.  We raise chickens for eggs and the rich fertilizers they give us.  We consider a plant's edible quality before we put something into the ground.  We rarely use herbicides ... and never a non-organic pesticide.  We are listed on the Iowa Sensitive Crop registry to make our neighbors aware of our crops and the environmental impact of chemical sprays.

Are we perfect?  Nope!  Its a journey that we walk slowly and daily.... one that we should all embrace.

Every piece of plastic that has ever been made ... is still on this earth.

Talk about a lasting impression ........... :(

As my daughter says ......... How many crying American Indians does it take, for us to understand what we are doing to this earth?

Be the change.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A soupy kind of day...............

Here .. on the east coast of Iowa.... we have traded the promise of spring for the miserable cold, rain, sleet, snow, wind, and hail of early March. 

It is April 20th and I have 300 flowers in the ground and 40' of onions.  Period.  That is all.  No more.

Today ... 1260 plugs of dianthus, snapdragons and larkspur arrive .... only to be placed in a make-shift cold frame until it dries out and warms up. 

They will survive.  I'm not sure about me!!!

So I went to the one place where I can find comfort during trying times .......... my stove!

Unfortunately, I have gone to the stove waaaaayyy too many times this winter so I need to lose some of my comfort layer.

Enter one of my favorite soups............... Green Salsa Soup.

Not a particularly pretty soup ... but spicy and warm and 167 calories per bowl. Truth in posting time ... I never ever ever follow a recipe.  I add a little .. taste... and add a little more.  So these are really rough measurements.

Green Salsa Soup

1/2 lb. ground pork
1 onion chopped 
2 cups low -fat chicken broth (I use no sodium chicken bullion)
1 cup of salsa verde
1 can of hominy (I soak and cook dried hominy)
1/2 tsp cumin
2 gloves of minced garlic 
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 Tablespoon corn meal
1/4 fresh chopped cilantro (which I did not add.  See second paragraph above!)

Brown the pork and the onion in a Dutch oven.  Add the remaining ingredients except the cornmeal.  When ready to serve ... add the cornmeal slowly while stirring constantly to thicken slightly.

We top it with drained homemade yogurt ... but you could use sour cream if you like.

I love this!  But I was raised on fried pork chops and hominy and this is as close as I ever will be able to get again!!

Comfort food for a particularly uncomfortable day.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Muddling through the century

Currently, it is 10 am and cold and rainy and 37 degrees.

Do you know where your flower plugs are???  Well, mine are on a truck, coming to see me tomorrow.  Now is not the time for a visit.

So in the meantime... in the cold and the rain and the wind ......... I'm exploring the 21st Century.

This is not easy for a gal that swears she was born 100 years too late!  But by taking little steps .... I might be making progress.

I am attempting to Tweet again ... so if you feel like following MissEffie's in the big wide world of tweets and twitters ....please feel free to.  I need the company.

And in real cool business news .... in the near future... we will be accepting debit and credit cards at Miss Eff's.  Hopefully, by June 1st ... all will be in place and ready to go!  So you can just swipe away at Miss Eff's.

To really mess with my head ....... I looked at net books yesterday.  I'm a diary/journal type of girl.  And suddenly.... I am talking net books!!!  (Seriously... they started talking gigabytes and megahertz... and I know I went blank in the face.  I soooo wanted to tweet about chickens or canning jars!)

All of this progressive talk about wireless routers and splitting lines has given me a headache!

So I will sit with my Navajo-plied merino/Jacob/corridale hand spun blended wool and work on the short rows on the heels of my entrelac socks.

Take that ... Geek Squad!!!!

Friday, April 15, 2011

500 posts????

Seriously??  I have been talking that much????

I am so shy and reserved.  Who knew I had it in me???

OK -- now that you have stepped in that pile of flower farm fertilizer.... we will carry on!! 

OH -- I will be doing a give-away in the next few days.... so stop back and see exactly what we are giving away!  No .... its not the farm.  Only feels like that on tax day. :(

New set of shelves help organize our goodies......

In the meantime and in-between time .......... a few views from the Summer Kitchen as it slowly progresses into a store!

Look at the cute birdhouse ornaments that Julie Wall has created. Perfect for an Easter tree or spring decorating!
When your budget for display fixtures is ........ zero, (Make that a big Zero) you have to get creative.  This was from a trip to the barn!

Glass sun catchers for your windows!

And these came from a trip to ReStore.  A dollar each!  Julie was brilliant finding these!  A little hardware cloth (on a farm, we call this rat screening) and we have hanging racks for small items.

In the spirit of fairness...... I should tell you that if you are not shopping ReStore, you are missing the boat.  But in reality ... I want you to continue to shop those high priced other stores.  I am looking for 2-30" or 36" wall cabinets and I don't want any additional competition!!!

Heather made some awesome sandwich wraps.

Earth Week is coming.  And one thing you can do to green up your life, is to pack green lunches.  Literally, every piece of plastic ever made on this planet ..... is still here. So to help eliminate lunch time debris that can not be recycled.... pick up some of our wonderful sandwich bags and wrappers. Totally washable and they will pay for themselves in less than 60 days!

Sherry from Poppy Cat Sews added some more masculine patterns to her line.

Another new item ..........

Made again by Heather Muir.

Tissue totes ............ 

Notice the Illini pattens.  Heather knew that as a Illini fan ........ we often have something to cry about!  Yea ... these are going with me!
I need to get a better picture of these.  Much Much cuter than my photographic skills show!

And finally, new toys!  Julie has been at it again with her adorable sock babies.  Three kittens and a dog!! Hand made ... safe..... and cuddly.

Stop in and see us.  

Tomorrow the east wall gets insulation and dry wall (maybe!).  And if it is nice on Sunday ... maybe windows???  And a new door???
We can only hope!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Girls ... of all shapes and sizes.

Well --- for a gal that 9 years ago just wanted a dozen or so laying hens................. things have changed!

My "Honey-I-only-want-a-little-coop-with-6-to-10-hens" whine has grown.  And grown and grown. 

So here are the girls ........ and more girls ........ and more girls.  Yea...... I am a sucker for a pretty feather.

One week old chicks ...........

I think I got a nice mix this time.  Ten of my favorite Buff Orpingtons. Five each of Silver-Laced Wyandottes, Black Jersey Giants and Light Brahmas.  They are doing well. They currently reside in a mineral tub but will soon graduate to larger tub in the brooder house/ chicken coop.  They will live there.

Then there are the teenage girls.  Twelve week old pullets.  

I have been told that I am crazy.  I know there are papers out there stating such.  But not even I would start chicks in Iowa in January with my unheated coops.

Fortunately for a lot of chicken-crazy people ..... there is a man with a thicker stack of papers than I have!! 

Jim Johansen.  A year ago ... he didn't have a hen on the farm.  Now he has 500! No wishy-washy  I-only-want-eggs-for-us ideas!  Jim's motto has got to be Go big or go get more hens!

He called one day and asked if I needed any chicks.  I said yes, but not in January!!  Well, lucky for me I have known Jim since high school (5 years ... maybe 10 years ago!!) so he raised the girls for me for 3 months!
Nothing fancy ... just twenty five good old Rhode Island Reds and black Sex-linked hens. Good winter producers.  These are really nice girls.... this one wants to follow me around the farm.

There is Josephine....... my little 2 pound Blue Silkie.  A totally worthless producer.  She lays 40 eggs a year.  The eggs are tiny.  She is always broody.  But she is a little doll and I adore her!

There is Liz Taylor..... a silver-laced crested Polish hen.  Again ... a worthless producer that I love!  

I couldn't get a picture of Zsa Zsa Gabor. She is a golden laced crested Polish that was busy eating all the Nigella (love-in-a-mist) seed that I had just planted!  

And she lived to tell about it!

Yep .... our girls come in all shapes and sizes and colors.

Its the United Nations of chicken coops.

It just works better than that group in New York!!!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Ahhh......... what a weekend!

What a glorious weekend!!

The sky was a brilliant blue and the temperatures were incredibly warm for April. 

We were blessed by having the storms go north and south of us.  But other areas in the state, weren't as fortunate.  So if you have some room in your evening prayers (yea, find it!) ........ say thanks to God for sparing every life in Mapleton, IA.  There is a lot of clean-up to do ... over 60% of the town was destroyed.  But no one was killed or seriously hurt.

We spent the days making progress throughout the garden and in the Summer Kitchen.

We primed and painted the first coat of blue paint to the west wall.  Hopefully, by the end of the day, we will be moving to the east wall for insulation and dry wall.

I planted a new-to-me Nigella called "Midnight".  Much taller than most Love-in-a-Mists.  I have always loved that plant. Not only for their fabulous blue blossoms, but for their "alien-look" seed pods.  So now .. I may really have the height that I want in the garden.

I cleaned the herb tutors and unfortunately, found that all my lavender perished over the winter. I transplanted them last spring into the raised beds and took a gamble that didn't pay off.  Fortunately, I always grow an annual lavender called Lady.  So there should be plenty of lavender ............ as I learn another lesson in gardening!!! 

No -- this isn't lavender.  But its pretty nevertheless!

I have always had pretty good luck with Munstead. But lavender is not a great plant for the Midwest.  Our soils are too rich, not sandy enough.  And all of last year's rain put a lot of stress on the plants.  Add a cold winter ........... they didn't have a chance.

But the mint .......... the mint is doing well.  All of it!!  And trust me, there is a lot of it!  A L-O-T of it!

Mojitas for everyone!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Questions and a few answers..........

I had an interview yesterday that really got me to thinking.  I was asked about the Homesteading Conference that Deborah Niemann-Bohle and I did on Saturday for Illinois Valley Community College.

The reporter asked me about the differences in homesteading and a hobby farm.  

Hmmmm? Its easy to explain the differences.... but what are we???

From my point of view, homesteading is taking virgin land, building a home and creating a world on 40 acres with a mule.  Hobby farms, on the other hand, are rural plots where animals may or may not play an important role but CPA's aren't looking at your profit margins.

So where and what are we???

Few people derive their major source of income from their homestead/hobby farm.  Try as we might, Honey can not quit his job to weed for me every day.  It could work if we could guarantee that we would never be sick,  the REC doesn't want to get paid and if we could make that 15 year old truck run another 15 years.  And the IRS would finally (after my countless letters!) accept green beans instead greenbacks for tax payments. (Hey ... it worked at 4-H House!)

I am not so self-sustainable oriented as many out there.  I think I base homestead/hobby farm/life off the ability to take care of myself..... but I also nod to my neighbors and friends in the community. Supporting my friends and their talents and their dreams of a successful business.

They are not Wal-Mart!  They don't own stores in the mall!  They are small businesses in "the neighborhood" doing something better than I can.  Sometimes .... the neighborhood is 2 miles away.......... sometimes its 200.

Most of the businesses I support are women-owned and operated businesses. My flower garden needs markers................ I could write markers with a stick and a Sharpie marker.  But Rebecca makes cooler ones!!  Really cool ones!! Ones that will make you drool!!!

I always painted my own signs before ........... but Jen's signs are. in. credible.  (Yea ... two words .. in. credible.  They are that special!)

So what am I ?  Am I homesteader with sense of community spirit?  Or am I a hobby farmer that insists I can live off of a flower farmer salary?

I'll just go with a one word answer .................happy!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A sign of the times..............

The sign bracket is up for the Summer Kitchen. 

My father's office sign hung from this bracket when I was a child. I would go to the end of the driveway and slowly spell out the letters to the really long word that was there...............v-e-t-e-r-i-n-a-r-i-a-n.

And soon ......... a new sign will be there.  Created by my dear friend Jen

Yep.  Its going to be super cool ........... cuz that's what she does!  I just handed her the board and said ... Go for it!  Yep.  Total trust.  And for a control-freak like me, that is saying a lot!!!!

Check out her etsy store .......... Onion Grove Mercantile.  And, of course, as we all say .... follow her on Facebook.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Sometimes ...

There is nothing to say.

For some silly reason, blogging seems to be difficult at the moment. 

It's not that my life is boring.  Its not that there nothing to write about.

The words just don't seem to be flowing.  Or maybe I am using up too many words in other places so it is difficult to find the right ones to put down on screen.

So ... I'm just going to show you some pictures of new product in the Summer Kitchen.

We have beautiful button bouquets made by Belinda's Buttons.  These are too cute!  There is one bouquet made of vegetable ivory buttons ..... those are really special and very very collectible.  And the bouquets are great way of showing off fabulous vintage buttons!

Diana Engelbrecht has been busy at her sewing machine again!  She getting ready to be out in her garden soon.  She also has a fabulous garden!  But to combine two loves together, she created these cute gardening aprons from up-cycled jeans.

Pockets (and big pockets!) for your seeds and labels.  Love up-cycling!!!!

She also stitched up these cute cute cute coin purses. Two different fabrics ... lined.... zippered and then she created adorable coordinated bead and charm zipper pulls!  Yea .... you are not going to find these at Wal-Mart!!!!

Of course, the ever busy, multi-talented Julie Wall has been at it again!

Julie made some adorable recipe cards!  Do you know how hard it is to find recipe cards??? These are beautifully created .... they are perfect to tuck into a bride's shower gift!  And so very inexpensive!

And do you know how hard it is to find toys that are not made in foreign countries?  Julie made George Kitty .... soft cuddly kitten made of gloves and socks.  It features hand-embroidered details.  I love it!  And your child will, too.  Great to tuck within an Easter basket.

Finally ... I don't want you to think that I have been goofing off!  I did complete an all-cotton hand knit market bag.   

I love this bag.  It has lots of vintage details ... a hand-made vintage lace flower with two vintage buttons for the center.  And the vintage buckle makes the handle adjustable.

As always ......... The Summer Kitchen and its treasures ..... will be available on Friday from 9 to 4.  Or drop me a note and I will save you a fresh nut roll ................. or two.  Cuz they will be here!!!