Tuesday, May 31, 2011

New and Improved

Miss Eff's feels like a box of soap flakes.  New and Improved! (we hope!)

OK -- let's play a game ......... find the differences! This is the Summer Kitchen on April 5th!

And here is the Summer Kitchen today......... my sign is not up because they are predicting storms.  We have made it so it "snaps" off easily.  Cuz I LOVE MY SIGN!!!! 

This weekend, the outside trim went up and has been painted.  And now .... it makes me want the gable end decorations even more!  Yes ... when you come to Miss Eff's look for the Hansel and Gretel cottage!  That would be the Summer Kitchen.

We also started to hang our new plant markers.  Rebecca Brandow from Willow Avenue Pottery created these fabulous plant markers for our gardens.

They have such a wonderful handmade feel to them!  I love these markers!!!!

Honey got a couple of more plant supports made.  YEA!!!  Fortunately, our material of choice (cattle panels) are on sale this week!!! So I will be stocking up on more and more supports for tomatoes and our cutting gardens!

I am trying to make the gardens more picturesque.  A little "fluffier" as we would say in the interior design business.  And some of that means adding more color.  This weekend, the color of choice was yellow. 

Flea market bench before

And fortunately, the rainy weather did not totally wash out my "decorating" plans.  I hit the sewing machine.  Literally.  I some times get frustrated with my 37 year old machine!

Flea market bench after

But it did cooperate enough to make 5 pillows this weekend for the garden.  This is one of my favorites.

The remnants of a vintage tea towel or table cloth ..... I love the hand embroidered flowers on it and the hem stitching.  

And finally .... Miss Effie's has reached official status with an official Miss Effie brochure.

OK .... its not so much of a brochure as a bookmark! (Sorry .... its not compatible with a Kindle or Nook!)

Wait!  You didn't really think that I would do a "brochure", did you?????  Like a tri-fold thing????

I wish I could say this was my idea.  It was not!  When a graphic design student came to me with the idea ... and them ran with it and created this .... I was thrilled!  Instant capture of Miss Eff's!!!!!  And if you carefully look at the front ..... do you see the watermark of the tea cup tree???? 

I'm thinkin' its pretty durn cool!!!  

Yea ..... I love my brochures!

So.... do you see why I say that Miss Eff's is like a box of soap flakes???  

If I could only get the grass stains out of my jeans.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Panic Mode..............

OK -- this is not a cry for sympathy.  Nor is it a cry for help.

This is life as we know it.  Every spring.  Every May.  Every June.

I go into serious panic mode.

First..... I can't seem to get the plants and plugs into the ground.  The weeds are too tall. The weather is miserable.  I am too busy. My back refuses to move another inch!  So I go into full fledged panic mode.

There is not enough beer, chocolate, Valium, ice cream or Prozac to keep me from fretting, stewing. fidgeting. worrying and being a nervous wreck.

This is my life in May ..... as we know it.

My friend Jill sent me a note from Johnny's Select Seeds about the planting date on annuals.  May 26th.  Yea ... May 26th.  Not March 26th.  Or April 26th.  May 26th. Which was only 4 days ago.  Fortunately, that silly little note helped..... a lot.  I am relatively calm on that point.  It also helps to know that I will finish planting most of my plugs by Wednesday.

So although ... everyone else in the immediate universe has been done planting for months(!!!!) ..... I am just fine.  (Truth in blogging ........ I have been sedated by a twist ice cream cone. It helps!)

Planting worries are set aside..... now we are in the foo-foo worry state.

How do I make this place look different/ special/ unique/ new???? You know.... how to I get a foo-foo look that I want for the farm???  I'm now on a first name basis with the entire paint department at Menards.  I have gone through years of magazines, looking for inspiration.  I have poured over ideas online.

And right now....... I got nothing!

Oh ... I can find all sorts of things that costs lots of money or takes lots of time/creativity/ talent.  Oh -- I see those.  But can I find anything that I can create... right now!  With the stuff I have here on the farm ... now??

Not so much.

And this is the time of year........ I am bleedin' money.  Yep ... I spent last night looking for a transfusion.  But no one is compatible with my type.  O Negative!!!  Yep ... when Mr. Banker guys see that I am an O Negative.... they run!!!

So I'm worried.  I'm stressed.  I'm bummed.

This will pass on the day I can sell a bucket of flowers.  I know that.  I have been putting my poor Honey through this for ten years now.

Until then, I could use a twelve-step plan for cut-flower farmers. 

They say acceptance is the first step.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Can you hear me???

OK -- seems like I will be talking a lot in the next couple of weeks. Yea ... like that's anything new!!! And if you happen to want to hear me or read about the farm....here is where to tune in or what to pick up!

On Saturday, May 28th at noon.... Neal Sawyer from Sawyer Beef and I will be on the The Parent Trip on WVIK 90.3 discussing connecting your kids to their food source.  It was a fun interview with lots of laughs.  And if you can't get our local NPR station on your radio dial..... you can listen to a re-play of the interview at this link on their website.

On Tuesday, I have an interview with Jeannine Otto of the Illinois Agri-News.  I am really excited about this interview because it is going to highlight the cooperative nature of the Summer Kitchen.  The women that are creating such fabulous items for it are amazing!!!  And its really nice to be able to help provide a space that they can make money.

I feel strongly that if women can work together .... we can provide a rich strong community feeling that has been missing in society for a long time.

We have created a me-society.  My needs... My wants.  Me.... Me.... Me.....Now.  It is all about me.

Well ... pardon my French but that is chicken doo-doo!!!!

So I have looked for women that have created a little nook for themselves.  They don't copy recipes.  They don't copy techniques.  They are creative and know their strengths and their limitations.  And I love them!!!!!

So hopefully ... they all will get a little more business and the recognition they so deserve!

And finally, I will be talking to my friend and fabulous urban beekeeper .. Zan Asha on June 12th for the Renegade Farmer.(Honey and I are still trying to figure out a way to kidnap and smuggle Zan back to Iowa!!!! But I am certain that everyone in the central part of the state feels the same way!  She needs to get out of the Bronx and come hang with us!!!)

This description for the show cracked me up!!

SUNDAY, JUNE 12, 5:30pm EST ~ Cathy LaFrenz, owner Ms. Effies Country Flowers and Garden Stuff! Super Dynamo Iowan and amazing businesswoman Cathy Linker LaFrenz will be by to talk about a farming specialty--Flower Farming!  Plus her amazing sustainability classes, business model, journey to becoming a speaker and teacher, and much more. The model of small farming success, Cathy will inspire all of those small-business persons and small farmers by demonstrating that YES you CAN make a living on your farm with the right amount of strategies, organizing, and understanding of how to market your farm!

OK -- Time for truth in notes!! 

1) I am not a dynamo.  For verification of that fact, you can find me passed out from fatigue at 8:30 pm every evening.  If not..... its because I have grabbed a 15 minute nap.  Maybe 30 minutes.  OK OK -- 45 minutes!!!

2) I am not organized.  Have ya seen my office desk?  No really, have you seen it???  Cuz I have no frickin' idea what the top looks like!!!!!!!!  This, I am certain, is not a model of organization!!!!! 

But I love doing what I do .... and hopefully, that will shine through the interview. 

If Zan and I can stop talking .................. wait, this is radio .... they want us to talk!!!!  Well ... let it be known that Zan and I love to talk and we talk really fast and the conversations can turn on a dime!!!  We will attempt to stay on course!

It should be a fun interview.  And I just can't wait to do it. 

So .... that's what is new on the farm for today!  See you later.... this warm weather should help the flowers to grow! 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sign! Sign! Everywhere a sign!!!

Here it comes ......

The premier of the coolest sign on any swoooopy-roofed Summer Kitchen around!!!
(See, how deftly I avoided offending anyone???  Yea.... I was surprised, too!  Knowing my record and all!)

Made by the fabulously talented Jen of Onion Grove Mercantile..

I love love love this sign!!!!!!!! 

OK ----- close your eyes for just a second.

Now ... stand right here.

Don't move. 

OK .... when I count to three, you can open your eyes.


two .................



See how the curvy swirls match the bracket???

Isn't it beautiful????

Wanna another look????

Perfection!  Its what happens when you let a true artist go!!!

Yea .................

It's perfect!

Monday, May 23, 2011

He hears buildings talking.....................

My poor poor Honey.

Honey started designing the Summer Kitchen two years ago.  He knew he wanted a swoooopy roofed building.  Something whimsical.  Something unique.

What he didn't know.... he designed a building that talks.

Yep ... as Honey slowly tries to complete the Summer Kitchen, it continues to chatter away. 

We had this door in the attic.

It was a nice door.

We knew that we wanted to cut out the panels and insert glass ... but the Summer Kitchen couldn't go along with that.... it wanted more.

So while browsing through Re-Store Store, poor Honey hears the whispering of the Summer Kitchen. 

I would look good in that door.  You could put a fancy door knob in me and take me anywhere. 

And so... after careful measurements, stripping old paint, repairing cracked panels, painting, inserting glass panels and restoring a vintage door knob....... the Summer Kitchen seemed happy.

But that happiness was short-lived.  She wanted more.

I need a better entrance.  Something more dignified.  Not just a stoop with a step.

So Honey dug and moved dirt.  He raked and shoveled and tilled to make the dirt smooth.  He put a gravel walkway and inserted stepping stones.  He seeded the gentle sloping sides with grass.

She wants a brick walkway.  We are trying to convince her that she has to wait for the soil to settle.  But she seems to be throwing a fit.  Demanding her own way.

Like the spoiled child that she has become, the Summer Kitchen is getting a deck across the back so customers can enjoy her beauty by sitting and looking over the garden.

And although, she won that battle and a new deck will be started soon.... it is never enough for the Summer Kitchen.

Yea...... this is what she wants now!!!! Not one ... not two ... but three of those!!!!!!!

Why can't Honey see dead baseball players come out from the corn like everyone else in Iowa?????


So ... since its been forever (!) since I have posted ..... do you remember this???

That was last week.  I hang my head in gardener's shame.

But now!  Wowza!!! I'm almost happy with that!  So here's another picture.

And finally ........... another picture.

I have a few more finishing touches to get in the garden before I call it done.  Tuck in a few violas. A couple of pots of herbs.... some items that add a little more color would be nice.  But I have to remember that once the calendula and the bee balm start to bloom............ there will be more color. 

(Something other than Herb's grave marker!!!)

Stepping stones go through the garden so you can walk through ... pick the herbs that you want .... and not step on these!!!

These beautiful hand-made pottery plant markers made by the talented Rebecca Brandow of  Willow Avenue Pottery.  I love them!! 

I want my gardens to have an organic, natural, vintage feel to them.  And plastic or aluminum plant markers just don't cut it!!!  It is also important to me to support another woman with a small, creative business... doing exactly what she loves to do! So when I saw her plant markers a year ago at Prairieland Herbs.... I knew I wanted them! 

In fact, I loved them so much ... 22 more will be gracing the flower beds in the next week or so!!!  And as I am going through the gardens, I got to thinking ......... I didn't order "borage" or "lovage" or "dahlias".

So fire up the kiln, Becky!!  Another order is coming your way!!!

If I could only figure out a way to make her yarn bowls tax deductible expense!!!!!!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

My dirty little secret........

OK -- I'll admit it.  I probably take on more than I can possibly do. 

There.  I said it. 

A few years ago ... a gal young enough to be my daughter said to me ... I never take on more than I can do well.

My response to that is ......... How do you really know then, how much you are capable of doing?

So as always....... I can too much, have too much yarn and fiber, have too many chickens, teach too many classes, laugh too loud and my head is bursting with ideas!

In typical Cathy-style, I probably have too many gardens. Maybe.  At least, I might possibly think that now.

Yea ... I don't want to say that too loud or Honey might never dig another one for me ...ever!!!!! 

And I am learning that the global weather change is difficult for an organic-style gardener.  Too cold.  Too wet.  Weeds that were never there before ... suddenly are taking over the world!!! So here it is... May 17th ... and my gardens are not clean.  And they are not planted.  But the weeds and grasses  are extraordinary!  Normally, I am done cleaning, mulching and planting most everything by May 7-8th. 

Not so much this year!!!!!

This ..... is my herb garden.  OK -- this is roughly a 1/3 of my herb garden.  Aren't the dandelions a nice contrast to the tall grass???

Well, Sonya and I dug into this yesterday ... and after 4 hours of pulling and digging and weeding and sweating and a bit of swearing on my part! ..... we had this!

No mulch .... No plants .... but a huge improvement.  With a little luck we might finish the cleaning today and move on to the mulch tonight and pick up the herbs that I ordered on Wednesday or Thursday.

Its been a tough year.  Its going to be a while before all these beds are in beautiful pristine condition. 

I'm just hoping that you can see the beauty through the weeds!

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Official Color of May...........

Yep!  Every month should have its official color.  Cool icy white in January.  A deep russet orange in October.  And May .............. is purple.

Years ago, I used to go the Merchandise Mart in Chicago on a regular basis.  One of my friends would ask me to stop by a news stand and pick up "purple gum"Purple gum smelled like potpourri.  And that is what May is all about .......... it smells Purple!

From the Forest Pansy Red Bud..........

To the fuzzy blooms of chives............. (I must make some chive vinegar!)

To the light lavender of old fashioned lilacs...........

To blue ...................

Deep purple ................

Even white suddenly becomes .........purple!

The yard has that unmistakable smell of purple.

Tucked into corners.......... 


Hanging from trees.........

May is bursting its official color everywhere!!!  Way to go, Maggie!!!!  Now if we could only get that time tunnel built!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

A Sign of Things to Come

I am truly blessed.

Are there things that are not perfect in my life??  You bet!  Do I fail at some things??? Yep!  Are there times that I am anxious, scared and insecure???  More times than I want to think about!!!!

But for some silly reason .... God decided that I needed the world's best friends.  And He gave them to me.



And one of them ..... one of the most very special ones!!! ........... painted a new sign for the front door of the Summer Kitchen.

And I. LOVE. IT.!

Yea ..... I'm shouting it!!

You can read about it here.

Thank you .... my dear friend.  Thank you.

I love my sign.  And I love you.

Miss Eff

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Valuing myself...........

I have struggled with self-esteem issues all of my life.

I never felt like I was good enough.  And I honestly believe this came from a culture where women were raised to be subservient.  Without value.  Insignificant.  Hello, 1950's America. Note that June Cleaver was usually in the kitchen in high heels.  Want to keep a woman down .... make her wear high heels 12 hours a day!  (Yea Sistas.  You may not be a feminist.  But if you are wearing yoga pants and flip flops while grocery shopping, you benefited from a bunch of them!)

If I did anything good .... it was always prefaced with what I did wrong.  My hair was too thick.  My feet were pigeon-toed.  I held my needle wrong as I hemmed. (Seriously? Who cares?  The hem was beautiful.  To quote Emerson Eggerichs .... Not wrong.  Just different.)

The hardest thing to do as woman and a farmer, is to value ourselves and our talents.

So it was with great delight that I read this article. (Special shout out to my friend Maggie for sharing that!)

The other day, I was contacted by a group for a tour of the farm.  I directed them to the field trip page of this blog. 

Now I charge $5 for an adult or child to tour the farm in a group.  $5.  Your iced cinnamon dolce latte at Starbucks costs more than that.

And for that $5 ..... I clean the bathroom, stock it with fresh hand soap, plenty of toilet paper, and cute paper hand towels.  I provide some type of beverage for you to drink.  Usually lemonade.  I iron 3-5 vintage tablecloths to go into the corn-zebo.  I spend 1-2 hours answering questions about chickens, flowers, teacups and soybeans.

Where did the chicken with the funny hairdo come from? 

Did you dye your eggs?  

Do they taste the same? 

Those are funny looking geese. (Yes.  They are funny looking geese because they are ducks.)

Do your tea cups break?  Why did you do that? 

I've never seen those flowers before.  What do you call them?  

Did you can all those tomatoes?  Don't you know about grocery stores?  I wouldn't waste my time.

Do you really live in that house?  I would burn it down.

But $5 per person was too much.

And I cringed.  Because I want everyone to love this farm as much as I do.  And I want to share it with them.... but this is my job.

Its how I pay the mortgage, the utility bill, and the insurance.  Like a teacher that goes to school everyday, like the doctor that looks at our tonsils, like the mechanic that fixes our car....... I work for a living.

Too often, groups have come to the farm........ and looked at the flowers.  They have asked question after question.  They have enjoyed the corn-zebo and sat with their friends for hours. 

And after they leave........ I wash and iron the vintage tablecloths, clean the garbage left behind, scrub the bathroom again for the next group.  And I wish my work would have value.

I have never gone to the grocery store and have the clerk present me with a total of $92.00... and asked, Would you take $75? But the other day, I was asked to take $3/dozen for eggs because I don't know if I will like fresh eggs.  (I'm not sure if she deserved to eat those eggs after that comment!)

While weeding today, I realized that I am to blame.  Me. No one else.  Me.

When we value ourselves and what we do as important, others will also.

Yea.  Kind of a good message for Mother's Day.

From a woman that makes 75 cents for every dollar a man makes.

Friday, May 6, 2011


I had an epiphany the other day. 

I finally came to the realization that I will never be Lynda Carter.  Well -- I really don't want to be Lynda Carter.  'Cept she is really built and I think she is older than I am. I'm not seeing a muffin top there!  Where is that middle age spread???? Maybe I do want to be Lynda Carter..... but I digress!

I just want to be Wonder Woman. 

Yep .... I want to wake up cheerful and perky and with my hair neatly coiffured at 5 a.m. I want to play in the dirt in $100 designer blue jeans and never rip a knee out or have grass stains on the butt!  I want to wear a white tee shirt a second time!!!!

I want to spin my own yarn, knit my own socks ... and never have a WIP just hanging out around the house. I want bills that pay themselves..... papers that file themselves .... and class schedules that magically plan and organize themselves!

I want cats that don't shed.  I want a road without dust.  I want to bake without spilling flour all over the floor.

But honestly,  it ain't goin' happen!!!!

And I have accepted that.  And I kind like that make-up free, disheveled, Lee wearin' woman that greets me in the mirror.  Carrharts suit me!

But for years, I have tried and tried and tried to be "Wonder Woman".  And trust me ... the outfit just doesn't fit!!!!!  (They need to put a lot more stretch in that lycra stuff!)

So I have recently (VERY RECENTLY) hired a housekeeper.  And I got ........... But you don't work.  You are home all day.

(Hold me back now.....) Seriously .... just because you are working from home and not driving down the road to punch a time clock,  you are not working????????  And because you are home all day and not driving down that road .... you must be eating bon-bons and watching soaps.  Where the women do have housekeepers!!!!

I wish!!

I do wish I was more competent.  I do wish I was more organized.  But I am accepting the fact that if I want a clean house 90% of the time ...... its not going to happen on my watch!!!!  I need help.

So the next time you need to use the bathroom in my house and you see someone else cleaning it..... say hi!  And in my book .... she is Wonder Woman!!!!!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Life is Buzzin'

OMG!  It is May 5th and I haven't done a post yet!  I am sooo sorry!  I am still alive and kicking!

Fortunately, I have been so busy that I could not stress out (well, not much!) about freezing temperatures, too much rain and the lack of planting time.  So here it is .... May 5th ... and I am looking at 5500 plugs that need to go into the ground.  Yikes!

So wanna know why I have been so busy???

Yep ..... it is the amazing, energetic, whirlwind of a gal ........ Zan Asha!

Started out a month or so ago ......... Maggie emailed me and said Zan wanted to bring her bee show on the road to Iowa.  Prairieland Herbs was going to be her first stop and wondered if Miss Eff's could be the second.  Two seconds!  Two seconds!  It took two seconds to decide ..... YES!!!!

So Maggie and John forced me to do the beekeeper hand-off at Stringtown Grocery in Kolona.  Yea.  Ya know I avoid that place!  ;)  And I think Zan and I talked for the next 48 hours straight!!!!

I'll do a quick wrap up of her trip on the east coast of Iowa!

First, a beekeeping class at Vander Veer Botanical center in Davenport.  Hi, Judy!!!  Yep ... that's Judy from the blog, My Freezer is Full.

I am certain everyone enjoyed the class!  And boy, did we learn a ton!  And although, we won't be seeing bees this year at Miss Eff's..... they will be coming to a flower farm near me in 2012!

The next day flew by!  First Zan got her woolie-on by stopping at Crosswinds Farm for lamb lovin'!

OK -- another lamb pic ... cuz they are soooooo cute!!!!!

A little junkin' .... a great lunch ..... a little more junkin' and we were off again for a cooking with honey class!
(No ... not my Honey!  He has gotten to be a much better cook ... but I'm pretty certain he isn't going to get up and teach a class!)

A totally fun class!!!  And she brought New York style to the class with a top notch show of pyrotechnics!  Yep ... nothing like exploding sesame seeds to make a class a total hit!!!!!!  And the food was great too!

Yesterday ... it was time to say so long.... but not goodbye.  Zan is walking around New York with a little piece of Iowa with her.  We loved having her here..... and she better know .... she is ALWAYS welcome at Miss Eff's B and B!!! 

Love ya, Zan!!!!!