Thursday, August 29, 2013

The shady side of life..............

Yea .... you've seen this picture before.  I know.  About 15 billion times before.

But I am trying to make a point ............ I live in an old house.

And I could make my old house look new by ripping away the window trims, putting on vinyl siding ... and eliminating the shingle trim work on the front.

But that's not me.

And I expect/want/dream about having my old house look old on the inside too.

Which leads me to my current dilemma.

I want good quality fabric spring operated roller shades.  With a little scallop on the bottom and a bit of fringe.  And to make me really happy, it would have a crochet-covered ring pull hanging from the bottom.

At this moment .... you should be able to hear the HGTV decorating divas scream out in laughter .....

You want WHAT?????

Yes ..... I wanted the same shades that your grandmother had.

And all I can find are these.

Oh .... there are different companies and fabrics but they all have .......


Seriously .... clutches!!!  Clutches belong in 1966 Mustangs!  Clutches are pretty little satin bags with rhinestone trim.

Clutches do not belong on my Victorian shades!!!

Search after search after search after store after store .......... I finally Googled old-fashioned spring roller shades.

And this is when the rainbow comes out .... the hot air balloons fill the sky .... and angels sing.

Yes .... this is decorative heaven for this old-fashioned farm girl.

They still make shades!

Cloth shades ..... with scallops  ..........

And crocheted ring pulls!!!!

sigh .............

I'm happy now!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Yep ...... it's that time!

Nearly naked canning has returned to Mizz Eff's!

Lord knows, tomato season could not arrive without 95 degree temps and 100 degree heat indices!

Yesterday .... Debbie and Jim, Honey and I braved the kitchen and canned tomatoes.

I had high hopes of doing 50 quarts of tomatoes.  Yea.  That's a bunch.  The vines were loaded .... the tomatoes beautiful.  And I actually organized it well.


Don't laugh. 

I did.

The jars were washed and organized on the kitchen table.  60 + canning jars.  The roaster was filled with cherry tomatoes and most of the plum tomatoes.   We cooked them down for juice.

I am very disappointed in the plum tomatoes this year.  They are small.  I really like the Amish Paste tomatoes but I didn't find them so I bought La Roma.  So I will be searching for vast amounts of plum tomatoes before we start salsa.

Two hot water bath canners were heating up the stove.

I like to hot pack my tomatoes .... so the tomatoes get quartered and put into a large stock pot and cooked.  Yesterday,  I put  a hot plate on the island. 

We have a sold surface counter top there so it can take the heat.

I use the old bread box to organize my canning supplies.  It has been helpful to keep all the lid lifters, funnels, lids, and fruit fresh in one place.  I can quickly see what I am running low on and pick up another dozen lids or a box of rings and flats. 

I plant a mix of heirloom and hybrid tomatoes.  I love Early Girl for canning .... beautiful perfect red orbs of flavor.  But I like a mix of colors and I love the rich intense flavors that an Orange Blossom or Amana Orange or Black Krim tomatoes add.

Notice the bottle of lemon juice???  Remember that Ball recommends two tablespoons of lemon juice in every quart of tomato products.  And bottled lemon juice is best because it has a consistent ph.

We sweated.  We sweated a lot.

And I am pretty certain if it wasn't for the great smell of tomatoes ....... my kitchen would have competed with the odor of any high school locker room!!!!

I was dripping!

Fortunately -- we kept hydrated!!!  Thanks to the beer angel at Bent River!    ;)

But we did break our record of 36 quarts of tomatoes in one day .... and we did 38.

Yes ... we did rock the world!!!

Friends, prayers, laughter, good food, good drink and fabulous tomatoes for the winter ........

The world gets no better than that!

I tell ya ......... my life is truly blessed!!!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Give me a moment .............

This is the time of the year that I truly feel overwhelmed.

The veggie garden is busting at the seams.  The flower beds are craving attention.  There are too many events, too many meetings, too much to do.  The summer is winding down and my to-do list is still much too long.

My house is a disaster ...... and my organizational skills left me.

I make my bed daily just so I can see order sometime in my day!!!!!

But a couple of shelves in my pantry are sparkling clean and beautifully organized.


Beautiful peaches and peach salsa.

Italian seasoned-tomatoes.

Please let me bask in the glory of two moments of order.


Now back to my irregularly scheduled dysfunctional life.

 I need a wife.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Moving on up!!

Or ........ you can't get here from there!

OK -- I am super excited!!  We are movin' on up!  Yep ... we are almost citified.

There is a hard road coming to the neighborhood!!

I will still live on gravel.  BUT there will be only 1/4 mile of gravel to get to us!  (See ... if you drive really slow .... you may not end up with any dust on that pretty shiny black car!)

OK .. so you need directions to get here!  Cuz you can't get here from there!

The road that they are closing is 275th Street ... it runs north of the farm from Long Grove to Dixon.  Most of it has been paved for decades.

275th St and the Donahue blacktop .... right past the school. 

Except for roughly a 3 mile stretch in the middle.


Right smack dab in the middle. 

Pavement.  Pavement. Pavement.

Gravel. Gravel. Gravel.

Pavement.  Pavement. Pavement.

Weird. Weird. Weird.

But I digress.

So to get to Miss Effie's .... you will want to turn on First Avenue in Donahue (Don's Pub corner) and go 1 mile east to the T-intersection.  Turn left and we are the 2nd house on the right. 

You won't get too far because this sign will greet you!!!

Currently, it is parked at the end of our lane!

And equipment is at the corner!!!!

So we are all excited!!  Yea.  Doesn't take much to thrill us!!!

Shiny new roads ..... 

As Martha would say ....... it's a good thing.

If you get lost call ...... 563- two 8 two - four 33 eight.  I'll get you here.

Cuz you can't get here from there.  ;)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

What would you do????

There is a show on television called "What would you do?" 

It shows "uncomfortable" staged lifelike situations and wonders what you would do as a by-stander. This post is not about that.

It is about my home ...... my business .......and my life.  And boundaries ---- where and if, they exist.

For the last 12 years .... I have been closed on Monday and Tuesday.  This year I chose to add Wednesday to the "closed" days.  I am happier, more content and business has not suffered for it.

Yesterday was Tuesday ....... it was 10:30 and I had been putting around the house in my yoga pants and tee-shirt.  I fed the chickens.  I canned some tomato sauce.  I scrubbed the bathroom floor.  I hung laundry on the line.  A shower was in the plans ..... but I hadn't gotten that far and I was okay with the decision.

Pajamas felt good until two vans pulled into my lane.  They were filled with parents and children.  They were  coming for a day on the farm.

There had been no phone calls ....... there had been no reservations.  And as I make inquires, I still have yet to determine who organized the event.

In the end ... there were 9 mothers and around 18 children in my yard.

And I told them I was closed. 

A very polite mother stated my sign clearly says that I am closed on Tuesdays.  My webpage says ... closed Monday through Wednesday.  Our Facebook page states hours of operation.

Several mothers were not happy. I felt their frustration.  They drove 20 miles to be told that I was closed. 

Why can't you open??

There have been times .... I have opened.  I have greeted people and said, "Come on! Let's cut flowers!"

I did not do that yesterday.

The people-pleasing gene is powerful.  I can feel guilty from just a disgusted glance. 

And yes, I feel guilty.

Eventually, there will be a gate at the end of the lane.  It will be closed when we are not at home.  But I will not gate myself off from the rest of the world when I am at home! 

So where are the boundaries??  And how do I enforce them without guilt or blocking myself from the rest of the world?

And how do I change the perception that I am not a park?  I am a working flower farm at my home .... I welcome well-behaved children and groups.  This is how I make my living.  But every time you let your child roam unsupervised or climb a tree or stand on the swing ..... my insurance agent and I hyper-ventilate!!

So I am questioning myself and my actions.

What would you do??

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Come sit with me.

It has been a very busy week on the farm.

And to be honest with you ......... I am  tired. And sore.

It is Sunday.

And I might sit.

It may be under the tea cup tree ...... where the clean cups and the fresh ribbons dance in the breeze.

It may be on the quilt block patio where the vintage chairs' gentle bounce, relax every muscle.

It may be in the shade of the dogwood tree ....................

or catching a few rays in front of the house.

Or I may move it to where ever I want!

Come sit with me.

We could chat in the lath house ..... tucked away from everyone else!

We could have ice tea in the little gazebo.

We could play a board game behind the barn .........................

Or fly over the top of the corn in the swing!

Come sit with me.

Cuz if you don't ................

I might just take a nap!!!!!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Glad to see you!

What a very strange wonderful year!!!!

The perfect gladiola ..... just waiting to be cut!

When I pulled out my crystal ball last fall .......the prevailing wisdom was that we would be in drought for the up-coming 2013 summer.  Predictions were for a hotter and drier summer than normal.  And after barely surviving last summer ........ I cut back my orders to flowers that I could easily keep irrigated.

I felt it was irresponsible to order seeds and plugs ..... just to have them die.

So .... I kept annuals out of our fence rows.  I limited what I planted to the main cutting bed.

Now ........ we are out of drought.  And have had a cooler than normal summer!  So re-bloom is much slower than normal.

And I don't have enough flowers to satisfy my customers' needs and wants.

Yes .... I tossed that crystal ball!!!! 

Right at the meteorologist's head!!!!

In the 12 seasons we have grown flowers ... we have never ever sold out of flowers.

Today .... we are sold out of flowers.

We will be back next week .... with beautiful zinnias and snapdragons and lisianthus.  The dahlias are getting ready to pop.  And the late sunflowers are coming along nicely.

All of the glads are gone for today ........... but I captured these images on my walk-around yesterday morning.

This mauve-lavender glad reminds me of that perfect Victorian shade of silk.  I would never had specifically order that variety but I am grateful that it came in the mix!

I have been captivated by the dark purple all season long, but next to the yellow with the orange throat .....

What a striking bouquet!

All of these flowers have found homes ......... and I hope you enjoy them.

I thank each and every one of my wonderful friends and customers for your support!!  You have been with us in good times ....... and bad.  I apologize if you don't get the flowers you want  We have never had this situation before .... and I will try not to let it happen again!  But it is part of the joys and frustrations of growing flowers, natural and sustainable.

Come and visit us.

Because we are always glad to see you.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Harder than it Looks!

In the last couple of weeks, I have seen several blog posts with the same sad theme.

We are selling the farm.

Yea .... lots of plans were made, dollars were spent, hours were worked ....... only to have their dreams crushed.

All have been small market farmers.  People that you meet at local farmers' markets across the country.  The same farmers' markets that  have increased 60% in the last 5 years.  Food hubs are being developed all over the country.

And guess what .... local farmers are still struggling.

A great post to read is from my friend Donna.

The other day .... a customer asked me about our egg prices.  She thought $3.50 a dozen was a little high.

Maybe it is.

But currently I am making less than 25 cents per dozen.  And that doesn't even begin to cover all the expenses.

It doesn't count the $800 a year we spend on bedding, the fuel that it takes to pick up feed, the electricity to keep the waters thawed all winter.

It doesn't count the emotional toll of finding a chicken tore apart by a raccoon or beheaded by a fox.

It doesn't count bundling up two and three times a day in the winter to check the girls and gather eggs. Only to slip on the ice and break every egg in your pocket.  (Yea ... the bruised butt and ego ... there has got to be a cost with that!!!)

I am one of the lucky ones.  I will be able to farm the way I want because of ONE reason.

My husband.

Honey works in town.  Some would ask why he hasn't retired.  Unfortunately, he will be working for another 6 years until I qualify for Medicare.

Can I make a profit off the farm??


Can I make a living??

Not so much.

And there lies the problem on small scale American agriculture.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Customer Service ...........

I have always been an advocate of local business and local food.

But unfortunately, in the world of sewing ..... it has all gone to big box stores.  Now quilting is a different creature but for basic sewing needs..... it is the Big Boys Club in the my area.

And there lies my frustration.

The other day ... I was on a mission.

If you have never met me, I am sure you are unaware of my extremely short legs.  They may be short .... but they can move very fast!

I am not a strolling type shopper.  I go ... I get in ... I find what I need .... I pay for it .... and I leave.

On to the next thing on the to-do list.

The other day, I was in my typical hurry but I had a few minutes so I stop at Big Box fabric store for transfer paper.  The only thing in stock, locally, is a sampler pack.  Four 8"x11" sheets ... one red, yellow, blue and white .... for $9.00.

It is Senior Citizen Day ...... usually a fairly busy day at the fabric store.  They are also doing inventory.  (Which I understand and hate as much as they do!!  Been there!  Done that!)

I grabbed my transfer paper .... spoke to the store manager directly ... and stood at the register.

And stood and stood and stood.

Five employees were at the cutting table.  One came walking toward me .... looked me straight in the eye.  And without saying a word or acknowledging my existence ... turned around and walked back to the cutting table.

I stood at the register for 7 minutes.  And then, as inventory people are walking out the door, employees standing at the cutting table .......... I left the transfer paper on the counter and left.

IF they had been busy with customers ... I would have gladly waited.  IF they had said hello ...... I would have gladly waited.  IF they had said, We will be with you in a minute ....... I would have gladly waited.

But customer service has the word service for a reason.  And I didn't get served!

I went home .... and found this on line.

Twelve times the amount ... for only $6 more.  And I actually, never use the yellow and white sheets.  The red transfers better for me.  And if I order 2 rolls .... I get free shipping.  Comes right to my door.

Yep -- It is a $9 purchase that will never be made again locally.  No store will go under over my $9.  But we must be willingly to fight the "Powers that Be" to get good customer service.

And how do we do it??

 1) As small business people .... we must set the example and give, not good customer service ... but GREAT customer service.

2) Vote with your dollars .... great products, great customer service, American-made products .... get my purchase.

3) And beware, Big Box Stores!  I won't name names..... but if you ignore me, I won't be back!