Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Five Advil Days ............

These are the days ...........

The days that make every bone in my body ache. 

The days that my hands are permanently shaped to handle my dibber.  And my jeans are caked with soft tilled dark Iowa soil.

The wind and sun burn my cheeks.

And the layers of clothing that go on ... come off and in the cool breeze, go back on again.

These are days of spring.

The plug orders have been coming in slowly.  Last week, I rushed the order immediately into the Summer Kitchen so it wouldn't succumb to deep freezing temperatures at the end of the week. 

So yesterday ... I started planting dianthus and snapdragons.  I keep looking at orders .....am I forgetting something???

Sleep comes in fits this time of year.  Is it too cold tonight??  Did I get enough water on the plants??

I awake ..... worry and then, totally exhausted ..... I try to go back to sleep.

The lists keep forming.  Plant the sweet peas, clean the front bed, think of container combinations, clean the corn-zebo.

It will get done in its own time.

I know that.  For fourteen seasons, I have  known that.

Yet .... I am never sure if I can do it all.

These are the days..................

Friday, April 24, 2015

Changing Seasons ............

My life has changed so much in the last few years.

I used to have flowers and retail.

Now I have teaching and flowers ........ sprinkled by a little more teaching.

I never ever never thought that anyone would be interested in anything that I knew.  Partly because I thought everyone knew how to make a buttonhole or knead bread or can tomatoes.  To me --- it was the stuff that my life was made.  Nothing special .... nothing out of the ordinary.

Now .... from September to the beginning of May .... I spend three and four days a week, prepping for a class somewhere.  For the last few months, I have been teaching three nights a week at Scott Community College.

But my teaching season is ending for the year.  I finished my last cooking class on Wednesday. I have two more sessions in the interior design class I have been teaching.  And last night I finished my last sewing class ....... sort of.  (more about that later!)

It is the exciting/ bone-weary-tired/ frustrating/worrisome/ life-affirming season  ....... it is the growing season.

The hope of beautiful flowers fills my dreams.  I jump with excitement for the opportunity to fill the gardens with beautiful flowers and fun accessories.  Gardens that make you look deeply into them to find a beautiful blossom or a hidden surprise.

And yet .... frustration comes in the form of unpredictable weather.  Last weekend ..... I saw tight little buds on the lilacs ... ready to break into bloom in a week or so.  But yesterday morning ... a freeze took them all so no lilacs will be in bloom for May Day.

I am totally re-designing a new perennial bed with 160 new perennials in 400 square feet. After digging out nettles and hollyhocks, scrub trees and unproductive rose bushes .... I weeded, tilled, divided and planted daisies, coneflowers, beebalm, and helenium.

Since that photo ..... I have added a few more daylilies.  I have a couple of hydrangeas that need to go in and 100 white Asiatic lilies will arrive in 2 weeks and will find a home in the bed.

It still needs decorative accessories ..... it needs some pretty container plantings.  It needs birdhouses sprinkled throughout.  It needs .......... it needs ..........

It needs to look like this!!!!


The gardens are changing this year ............. they always do.  But the look needs to be softer and fuller and over-the-top vintage.


I want it to feel like this!!! 

Welcoming and warm and delightful.

And I want it to inspire bouquets like this one!!!!!


I think I have my work cut out for me!!!!!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Things that go peep in the morning.....

This is Kelly ..... she is the new postmaster in Donahue.  And she was the one that gave me my early morning wake up call of .... peep, peep, peep.

When you order your chicks by mail .... a good postmaster can make the difference between healthy chicks and not-so-alive chicks.  I am always grateful for those 6:30 am phone calls.

Our 25 chicks arrived yesterday ..... happy but hungry from their 2-day long, 3-state  travels.  That truly makes these chicks far more worldly than I!!!!  I barely get into Donahue!!!!

Chick day is kind of like Christmas for me.  I remember going to the feed store with my dad and looking at the chicks that arrived by mail.  They were such little balls of fluff ..... I always begged to take them home!

But little balls of fluff ... stay little balls of fluff for only a few days.  And hiding a pullet under the bed never seemed like an idea that would work ........ even for a 5 year-old.

Some the chicks had a bit of a field trip last night as I taught "Chickens in the Backyard" at Scott Community College.  They were really ready to join their friends as we were bringing them home.  It was quite the peep fest!

We have four breeds of chicks that I have never raised before.

We have New Hampshire reds, Black Laced Red Wyandottes, Columbian Wyandottes and Golden Laced Cochins.

I am excited to have the cochins...... they are such calm, docile, mothering birds.

photo courtesy of Cackle Hatchery

Maybe they do stay little balls of fluff ..............................
But I won't be hiding any of them under my bed!!!!


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Would you?? Wouldn't you??

I love searching for new/different sewing patterns.

The other day ... I came across this 1940's vintage apron pattern  that Simplicity reproduced.

I L-O-V-E-D it.


Particularly view C.

OK -- really view A.  But the fabric for that one hasn't arrived yet!

Super cute, right?????

Back to my dilemma.

I know.  It is always about me.

I want to make view C ..... which is designed for a border print fabric.

Now border print fabrics aren't common in the industry.  Oh -- you find a few now and then.

And sometimes ...... they end up in your stash.  Just hanging around .... waiting for the perfect project.

Like this one............

This is American Jane design by Sandy Klopp.

This is such a sweet vintage design.  Reminds me of Dick and Jane and Sally and Puff and Spot!!!

Look!  It has five little plants!  And six little garden hats!

And how could you not love a fabric with 9 little birds????

To shake it up a bit ............ I want to use this coordinating print for the waistband, shoulder straps and waist ties.

It sort of looks like jacks and balls.

OK -- so now is the big question.

Would you wear it?????

Or would you say ..... no?????

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Inspiration .... and perspiration.

I love when I am inspired to create something from a vintage item!

Love it!  Love it!  Love it!

And then ............ I sweat all the details.

OK .... and agonize.

And doubt myself.

And then ..... I go through the same process, again and again.

The other day, my friend Gloria sent me a box with vintage linens, some tiny sweet snaps and two adorable vintage children's aprons.  Ahhhh ..... she know me so well.

Children's aprons are really quite rare in the vintage market.  They were worn hard .....often to shreds ..... so you rarely see them.  These are in remarkably great condition and will be a great addition to my collection and the talks I occasionally give on the history of aprons.

But they also make great patterns!

So this is the front of apron number one.

The back crosses over.

And now --- as you see --- I need a 2-1/2 year old little girl to model because the hanger does not do this apron justice!!!

And here is my copy ..... the front.

And the back. 

Instead of snaps .... I used buttons and made buttonholes. 

And of course, you have to see a close up of this adorable fabric.   (From my stash even!!!)

I know!!!!  It is toooooo cute!!!!  From one of my favorite designers, American Jane.

The blue bias tape makes me happy.  I struggled between orange and red and settled on blue!  I old-schooled the bias tape because try as I might, I can't get my new binder foot to go around convex curves nicely. 

I think a lesson might be in order because I couldn't find a tutorial on it on You Tube!  And we all know we can find EVERYTHING on You Tube!

A huge thank you to Gloria ..... I love the original apron but I love the fact that now I can share it with others.  Just like you shared the original with me.


Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Great Chicken Count

It happens every year.

That moment that comes that the chickens need to be in their summer home.

Now -- I love my chickens.  And I try to be a good mother to them.  But there are some things I don't like about them.

They dig up my flower gardens.


So completely that there is nothing left!

And if you want to pick flowers at Miss Eff's ..... there has to be flowers!

One year, I have finished planting a 5'x 15' bed.  It was planted ..... it was freshly mulched.  The decorative pots were planted and in place.  Every thing was oh so Martha!

The chickens had be carefully eying the position and variety of every plant in that bed.  They noticed the smell of that pretty cypress mulch.  And they just knew that the impatiens that were planted in the planter/hog waterer/ water heater  (yea .... slightly upcycled!) were just their favorite.

I checked the nesting boxes for eggs after I finished planting ..... and went into the house for some lunch.

Thirty minutes later .... I was back .... to find that I hadn't gotten the gate to the coop completely latched and they had gone to lunch also.

On my newly planted bed.


Nothing was left!!!

It was like a scene from Chicken Run!

But no Mel Gibson.


From October to April, the chickens get free range of the farm.  They can roost on the seat of the garden tractor.  They can hide eggs in the barn.  They can steal cat food.  And they can poop on my porch.

But come planting season .... it is all over.  They are confined to the run.

Our run is about 20' wide and 35' long.  Bigger than my house.  But it only has 4' tall fences.  And chickens always know that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence.

Because they haven't dug it up yet!!!!

So it is time to clip some wings.

Just like a hair cut for us .... clipping the wings is a spring time ritual here.

A little clip on the tips of their flight wings and they won't find my petunias perfect for poaching!

It's during these beauty treatments that I check the individual hen health and look at her age ..... and count the girls.

I have had a few of the older girls and some extra roosters butchered in the past.  But that has happened once in 14 years of raising chickens.  So most live out their lives at Miss Eff's retirement home for menopausal  hens!

Today's count .... 57 hens ... one Easter Egger rooster and a Silkie roo and hen that are worthless but extremely cute.

Now I can plant some flowers.

Wait. .... that's not very many girls............

Good thing that 25 chicks are coming in 10 days!