Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Quoting Dr. Phil ............ sort of.

OK .... I am baring my soul today.

Fact .... I am very very insecure about my business. 


I want everyone to love it!  And although I think its just like chocolate cake .... not everyone likes chocolate cake.

And that insecurity is weird ... cuz I really don't care what you think about me!!!  You may not like my cooking ... I don't care.  You may not like my clothes ... I don't care.  You can tell me "I'd burn down that house!".... and I don't care.  I may think you are rude ... but I don't care.

But say something negative about my business .......... and it eats at me forever!!!!!

Yes ... it is story time.

A few years ago, an acquaintance called about bringing a group to the farm.  I told them about the hours, times, etc and what would be blooming and the conversation ended.

A couple of weeks later .... an older farm couple came to the farm.  They had driven quite a ways to "inspect" the farm for their daughter ... a member of the group.  They were quite upfront and honest that they were here to look everything over to see if it was worth the trip.

They questioned why anyone would tie tea cups to the tree.  They wondered about the hankies on the line.  They were confused about using a corn crib for dining. 

Maybe they were looking for beautiful gardens.... I plant my flowers in rows, like a cornfield.

Maybe they were looking for exotic flowers ... nope, just a lot of pretty zinnias, snapdragons and lisianthus. 

Maybe they were looking for shiny new buildings instead of worn paint, swoooopy roofs and 80 chickens.

Maybe they were so used to the patch work quilt of fields .... that they couldn't see past the corn to appreciate the view.

After they walked around the farm ... they said their goodbyes .... and walked to their cars.

I heard the old farmer say, "Ain't much here".

I never heard from my acquaintance again.

I know the old farmer was so used to seeing through Midwest eyes .... that the beauty of the little things was missed.  The usual and the unusual weren't worth the drive.

I listen to the tree frogs.  I hear the robins sing.  I see the wonder of a black-eyed susan unfurl its face to the sun.

But over and over and over, as I work through the gardens this spring, I hear "Ain't much here."

You are wondering where does Dr. Phil come in?  About now.

It takes a thousand "atta-boy-s" to erase one "ain't much here".

I'll be working on this for a while.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

A walk down memory lane..............

No -- not me!  At the moment, I don't have time to find the memories!  I know I put them in a pile in the office ... and who know where they are!!!!  And the lane .... I'll find it in November!!!!

Yesterday ... we were working.  Sheepie Neighbor had stopped by for a brief moment when an unfamiliar car pulled in the lane.

The occupant kept looking at the house.  Stared ...... and stared ........ and stared at the house.

I asked if I could help her.  She asked if we had a store on the farm .......... and then she said, "My grandmother lived in this house."

I know you have seen this before ... our house circa 1927

She was surprised that we lived in the house as it needs paint. ;)

But when I talked to her ... and learned her memories ... and she told me about Sunday dinners in the kitchen ... I knew she loved this house. 

I learned of ball games that were played, the chicken coops.... the hog lot that is now my cutting garden.  The dairy barn that was over there ... and the creek where they splashed on a hot summer day.

And although ... we grew up in different states ... different areas ... our Sundays were so similar. 

She told me about her ill grandfather, sleeping on a daybed in our family room.  She told me about her grandmother, sitting in the bay window that was in  the kitchen, reading late into the night.  I heard about babies that died upstairs ... way too young.  I envisioned the stacks and stacks of dishes from a Sunday chicken dinner and a house full of laughter.

I told her about my process to get the house on the National Registry of Historic Places.  I told her about discovering the writing on the stairwell .........


I showed her some of the photos her late aunt had sent me.... and a map that showed the farm in 1906.

And I showed her "Jenny's Garden" ... unfortunately, still filled with weeds .... it was named for her grandmother and is filled with heirloom flowers.   

And I am certain .... a tear or two watered that little piece of ground.

Thanks Carol ... for stopping.   Come by again ... you are always welcome.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Grow, damn it!!!!

The weather on the east coast of Iowa has been delightful!

Yes ... it has been dry.  We are in desperate need of rain.  Yes ... it was really hot on Thursday.  It was almost 90 degrees and they are talking about 93-94 degrees tomorrow.  And yes, that wind was awful ... 45 miles per hour.  Blew everything and everyone around the county!!

But it is May ... and I'm not wearing long underwear.  I could host a Memorial Day party in the corn-zebo instead of the my living room.  And my arms really have a nice tan.

So ..... what's my problem????

I want things to grow ..... NOW!!!

I want blooming flowers .... NOW!!!

I want to sell buckets and buckets and buckets of flowers .... NOW!!!

Yes ... it is time for my annual lesson in patience.  I try.  And I try.  But I don't get it.  

Yea .... this is from last year!

I water them gently with the sprinkler ... give them a little manure tea .... tell the larkspur how much I love it.

It doesn't help.

I cross my arms and tap my toe on the mulch and talk sternly to the snapdragons.  

It doesn't help.

I walk by the dianthus and pretend that it doesn't exist.... ignoring its tiny shiny green leaves.

It doesn't help. 

So it is back to my lessons.  We will see if I get it this year!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

I have a job....................

You are my friends.  I know you will understand.

But when you run a business through your home ... many don't think you are working.  You are just goofing off.  Lounging around.  Eating bon-bons.  Its not an important job.

It may not be a fancy job.  I don't wear designer  clothes.  Or drive a new SUV.

But I do work........at home.  MY HOME ....not a park.

I plant flowers.
I dig weeds.
I gather eggs.
I knit scarves.
I keep kittens safe and chicks warm.
I make jam.
I wash tablecloths.
I teach classes.
I clean the bathroom.
I pay the insurance.
I plan the gardens.
I design the website.
I write this blog.
I embroider tea towels.
I attend meetings.
I hang signs.
I spin yarn.
I spread manure.
I answer questions.
I harvest herbs and veggies and put them up for the winter.
And I give thanks to God for the strength and the health to do it.

And I as much as I love doing it .... it all takes money.  A lot more than you think. (Except spreading the manure stuff ..... that shit just seems to appear!)

I do it for a reason.

To pay for my 13 year old car.... my 120 year old house.  To put groceries on the table and propane in the tank.  To buy feed for the chicken coop and cat food on the porch.

To make a living. 

Call me mercenary .......

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


I lost a blog follower yesterday after posting my participation in a Women for Obama event.

This bothers me ... not because I lost a follower.  I didn't start this blog for anyone but myself.  I enjoy writing and telling you about the farm, the food, the fiber and flowers.  My life.  Including my political beliefs.

It bothers me because it is symptomatic of what is wrong with our society today.

NO respect.


We have drawn lines in the sand.  Wide lines.  And every team has to be on their side of the line.

We see it in relationships.  The words ... they didn't show me respect.   Really?????  Did you deserve it???  Were you kind and thoughtful and understanding that they might have had a bad day???

We see it with food issues.

Recently ... a farmer journalist said to me ... I know you are not a fan of conventional agriculture.

That could not be farther from the truth!

I grew up in conventional agriculture.  Those farmers are my neighbors, my family and my friends.  I happen to be a small farmer that raises flowers and chickens.  And I talk about what I know.  And for me,  small scale farming is what I know.  Very small!

I understand the economic impacts of the 1980's and the changes that were needed to farm.  When you can't afford hired help .... you farm differently than you did prior to 1980's.

Personally ... I am not a big fan of certain herbicides.  I don't use it on my farm.  I'm not totally convinced of its safety.  But I  understand the economics behind the use ... no cultivating, less gas being used, more free time to do other things.  The list goes on and on.  And I hope my neighbors respect my desire not to use certain herbicides and my method of weed control. 

Which, honestly, is kind of crazy for my back and knees!!!

We see that same lack of respect all over television.  The lack of any kind of political respect is appalling.  It doesn't matter whether it is "my side" or not!  They immediately draw their lines ... and start tackling each other!!

And personally ................. I think that line drawn in the sand .... could easily be blurred.

So .... if I took my foot and erased that line ... could we be friends again??????

Monday, May 21, 2012

I think this is who I am ..........

OK .... First of all ... we are friends.  And although we may disagree on politics .... let's just agree to disagree and give each other a hug and move on.  Even though ... I can get kind of snarky about some things .... I really believe this country would be better off with some mutual  R-E-S-P-E-C-T!  (Sing it, Aretha!)

Today .. I told the story of agriculture, small farms, local foods and women to Women for Obama event in Davenport. 

Moving fast ... mouth wide open ... talking loud .... yea, that was me.

Surprised????  Neither was Honey.

It was fun .... although I was nervous as hell!!! 

And honestly, this was physically the cleanest I have been in a month. Really, what was up with that???  I had almost no dirt under my nails.  It felt totally unnatural!  I had to wear jeans to feel like myself!  (OK -- I only wear jeans!)

So I might do this again some time ... some place.  But as for tomorrow and the rest of the week .... I am playin' in the dirt! 

It's good to be in my element! :)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A tonic for what ails ya!

First of all .......... if you are feeling down, get your butt outside!  Our weather in the Midwest should make anyone and everyone happy.  Sunshine..... lollipops .... rainbows.  Wait ... where were those lollipops???  (And do you really remember that song???)

OK -- today's post is a public service announcement.

So -- let's just say you are a 30 year old woman with 30 years of experience.  And besides that broken thermostat that you have tried to get replaced under warranty .... you are now experiencing leg cramps.

Constant leg cramps.

In the middle of the night ... constant leg cramps.

You have tried aspirin, hot baths before bed, lots of calcium, lots of water .... and nothing has seemed to work.

Oh yea ... you hear about meds that you could take.  But you also hear the list of side effects.... so you decide to keep your money your pocket and try to walk those leg cramps out.

Or ... you can try this.

Tonic water.

OK -- let me tell you.  This is AMAZING! 

I heard about drinking tonic water a little over a week ago.  Honey said that I should try it so he could get some sleep.  He did some googling .... discovered that you want to make sure the tonic water you drink has quinine in it.  And he insisted that I try it so he could get some sleep.  INSISTED.  I guess I kicked him one time too many!!!

I tried it. 

Whoa.  Not so sure about drinking tonic water without the gin to flavor it!!!!!

But with the addition of a little lemon or lime juice .... a bit of Crystal lite, if you like..... the taste is more than ok.  And 16 oz a day ........... I have been leg cramp free for over a week. 

Not. a. one.

Literally ... the first day ... a little twitch ... but no cramps.  Since then ..... NOTHING!!

So .... if that 30 years of experience is keeping you awake at night ....try it.

You are welcome.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


I've got that busy as a bee thing going over at Miss Eff's at the moment.

And .. if truth be known ... I am doing that "flit to one flower then the next".  Yea ... floral ADD has set in. 

It kind of goes like this.............

I pick up a tray of flowers ... say dahlias .... and I diligently start to plant.  I get 85% of the dahlias in the tray planted.  And I am suddenly at the end of the row. 

Now ... a huge thrill to me this time of year is an empty plug tray tossed in the garbage can. 

So I go on the search for a place to plant that last 15%.  I walk through the garden looking for the right mix of location, soil and sunshine.   Will people see them?  Can they get to them to cut the flowers?? What other flowers are there?? Will they coordinate well together??

I find the perfect location.  But it is weedy ...

Here comes the garden trowel, the cobra weeder, a hoe and a bucket.  The dibber is there to plug those plants in place.  Several trips to the coop with the discarded weeds .... and I am ready to plant.

The yellow dahlias are in the ground, staked and ready to go.  But now I need something to make them "pop" and to fill the space.  I know!!  I have a tray of hot pink zinnias!!  Perfect!!

So I take that tray of hot pink zinnias .... and plant 10%.


Flit.  Flit.  Flit.

Monday, May 14, 2012


Well, not really.............. but I really don't have anything to say.

I should .......... but I don't.

It is work ... work .... and more work this time of year. 

The new little chicks are growing.  The old girls are laying like crazy.

We have two new litters of kittens.  The litter from Little George .... not to be confused with George and Really Fast Little George ..... is ADORABLE but camera shy.  Well, really shy.  Like run-under-the-old-Mustang shy.

Little Face Fluffy Tail's litter will not be shy.  But at 3 days old .... they are not ready for a close-up.

We have been cleaning gardens and planting flowers. 

OK ...have been planting flowers.

Its a control-issue thing.  I agonize about what is going where.  Tall ... huge burst of colors ... need to be up-front ... but not blocking the view of shorter, more delicate flowers.  I want you to walk up to the garden and say ............... wow! 

Sometimes, that happens.

And sometimes ................... it doesn't.

So I am always moving things around ... trying to find the best place for you to see it ... touch it ..... and cut it.  And hopefully .... it will be just the right soil, light levels, and soil moisture for it.

Right now ... I am planting dahlias.  This one ... looks like it might be my favorite this year.

File photo found at verwer-dahlias

And there is one    itsy --bitsy --- tiny   problem.

I bought too many flowers.



I did.

Maybe a lot too many!

I should not be allowed to be alone in a room with a seed catalog and a phone!!!!

I'll let you know how that resolves itself.  I'm thinking there will be flowers from every corner of the farm.

That can't be a bad thing?????

Can it?????

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The noise you hear in the night

When you farm like I do ... there are two ways to increase your income.

The first ... of course, is to raise prices.  That works ... to some extent.  If I have 10 dozen eggs and raise the price 50 cents ... I'm going to make $5 more.  If I raise it a $1 a dozen ... I'd make $10 more but will I sell the eggs I need to sell???  If John sells his eggs for $2 a dozen and I sell mine for $4 a dozen... with all things being equal, John most likely will sell his eggs while mine sit.

Or you can go the more common route.  In this little parable, I would raise more chickens and sell more eggs.


Grow bigger.

And that my friends, is today's dilemma.

I made my farm bigger.  Well -- figuratively.  I didn't add any acreage but more gardens.  More flowers to grow.  More chickens to raise.  More weeds to pull. More work to do.

Too much work to do.

So in this down economy, with so many people out of work, the easy answer is ............. hire someone to help.

And I am discovering something.....

OK -- it hit me hard on my head.   

People may be out of a job ..... but they don't want to work.

I am not a slave driver.  I don't make people work in the pouring rain.  I am grateful to be done working before the temperature and the percent of humidity reaches 100!  But farming/gardening/livestock chores = sweat/dirt/sore muscles. 

And I am a little farmer.  (Well yea ... I am extremely short!  But I meant the scale that I farm!)

The search for affordable, reliable help is hard.  I have had fantastic results with college interns... where through grant programs, students received financial or college credit reimbursement for their time on the farm.  But sometimes, I would like someone early in the season ... late in the season.

So begins the search.

And the search is hard because people want to be paid what they think they are worth.

So I decided that I will pay an employee EXACTLY what I got paid last year.  After expenses, working a 40 hour work week (yea, like that ever happened!) .............. I made  (drum roll, please.)

$19.84 a week.

I guess that would be a  menial salary for a menial job.  :)

That noise you hear in the night?????

Its me hitting my head against the wall.  Again.  And Again.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


Its has been a very busy week.  Barely a moment to take a breath and ......... think. 

I have the urge to curl up with my knitting or a book in the lath house and relax as the soil dries out from yesterday's rain.  I'd like to hang a load of laundry in the sunshine.  Maybe bake a loaf of bread leisurely.

But that has wait for another day.  Today is busy.  Today is special.

Today ... I get to spend the day with my fibery sisters and we will share what we love.

We will wear blue jeans and sweatshirts.  We will sit on the ground and talk softly.  We will play with baby chicks, goats, a calf and share our love of our lives with 7 year-olds at school.  They will hold the babies and draw pictures ... and see "Charlotte's Web".

And maybe E. B. White will inspire them with the love of Wilbur..... like we were inspired.

Our nails are dirty.  Our jeans are stained.  Our noses are sun-burned.  And the work is never done.

Our vacations consist of a rainy day run to Kolona or a cold beer under a tree.

It is not a fancy life.

But it is ours.  And we are forever happy.