Farmer Florist Workshop May 19th & 20th

_MG_9907 We are excited to open our farm for a collaborative hands-on flower farming and design workshop! Nestled in the rolling hills of North Central Florida, students will find inspiration from fields of seasonal flowers in peak bloom. Day one will focus on growing fundamentals, including soil fertility, variety sourcing and selection, harvesting, and post harvest handling. Day two students will learn about the principles of floral design and have the opportunity to design their own personal flowers and centerpiece. It’s sure to be a weekend full of hands on learning and creativity! Please join us on this inaugural intimate event and meet like-minded flower lovers from the surrounding area and beyond. All skill levels welcome.

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Day One: Growing Fundamentals

The first day of the course, we will focus on all things growing, from soil preparation, seed sourcing and sowing, bed design, planting, weed management, harvesting, tools of the trade and favorite varieties.  In the morning we'll tour our propagation house, practice different seed starting techniques, and explain how we’ve evolved our practices over the years. We'll take a walking tour of the farm to examine our crop planning and succession sowing.  We’ll also cover irrigation, fertigation, and fertilization. Be prepared to get a little dirty during this stroll as we’ll fill buckets and take snips to the field to harvest blooms together! You’ll learn the how to identify the proper stages of harvest, efficiency of movement, and post harvest handling. In the afternoon we'll dive into variety selection, and how to develop a plan for a well-rounded selection of flowers throughout the season. We'll explain how our small business has developed strategies to wear the many hats of a farmer florist and balance successful management of production, sales, marketing, communication, and design work.

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Day Two: Principles of Floral Design

Our second day together will begin at 9:30 as we wander the fields and make some choice selections to add to the flowers you’ll be designing with throughout the day. We’ll cover the principles of floral design as we tackle each arrangement beginning with personal flowers. Each student will have the opportunity to make a bangle wrist corsage, a head wreath, a boutonnière, and a hand tied bouquet. The later afternoon will be spent constructing a centerpiece using a ceramic urn made locally by ceramic artist Bridget Fairbanks. The vessel is yours to take home at the end of the workshop. The main goal of the workshop as a whole is for a hands on in depth experience with plenty of one on one time. You can expect each arrangement we make together to be demonstrated at the beginning of each segment. You will then be let loose with the tools and flowers needed to make your own creative version. Feel free to bring your own clippers, or knives, however we will have a few handy if you need to borrow some.

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Amy has been a floral designer for the past 10 years. After receiving a degree in marketing she decided to embrace the life long passion she had with flowers by obtaining a floral design certificate from the South Florida School of Floral Design. She worked in several florists learning the laws of the land and all sorts of techniques before branching out on her own. She owned her own wedding and event business for about 8 years collectively. In that time, she recognized her passion for sustainability in the industry and now owns and operates her own small farm in Saint Augustine called Conservatorie Floral. Her Father, Danny plays a big role in her floral passion as he has quizzed her on the names of plants from a young age and laid the foundation for her love of gardening by teaching her how to use a shovel, plant seeds, and roll up a hose when she was young. He has joined her on the farm as they start growing flowers for the first time together this season.

 

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This workshop is an immersive experience and we're so excited to grow and share with you! We highly encourage attendees to stay locally and hang with us! Our farm is open throughout the two day workshop to engage in conversation, partake in farm chores, and explore the farm at your own pace. Camping is an available option for free and is totally encouraged. We encourage participants to pitch a tent and join us at the bonfire! We have a 7 student minimum to host this class. For more details and to purchase tickets visit our website.

 

Favorite Early Spring Blooms

_DSC0953 Spring is officially here and it is without a doubt my absolute favorite time of year. Its beauty is enhanced by its fleeting nature. A blink of the eye, and summer will be here. But for now, I'm doing all I can to soak up the beauty and abundance of blooms appearing all over the landscape and in our fields. Cascading, intoxicating, fragrant purple wisteria blossoms hang from tall trees along the roadside. Fragrant Jasmine vine begins to bloom on fences and trellises. The saucer magnolias, red buds, dogwoods, and Chickasaw plums burst from their winter slumber in dazzling arrays of pink, purple, and white flowers. My Spirea plants put on an amazing show of white flowering branches over the past few weeks and have since faded. Propagating more of these beauties is definitely at the top of my to do list!

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Our flowers have been slow to come on this year after experiencing a "real" winter. In contrast to last season, when we could count the number of times we had to pull frost cloth on one hand, this winter we had over 12 nights of below freezing temperatures in January alone. We've had another handful of frosts since then, and while most of the plants survived, their blooms have been delayed a bit, leaving me anxiously waiting.

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There have been some early winners though, pulling me through our early March weddings and flower share deliveries. We had a nice flush of snapdragons with beautiful, sturdy, long, straight stems come in by mid February. Their buds were since damaged in the last few cold snaps. We have a few more successions coming in behind them, that are growing beautifully and will provide tall spikes of color for our bouquets in the coming months.

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Some of our other early bloomers include beautiful blue Cynoglossum, Nigella Delft Blue as well as Love-In-A-Mist, and several varieties of Calendula. These were all sown back in early October, transplanted by November, and over-wintered for blooms starting in late January. A favorite Calendula variety this season has been Indian Prince from Baker Creek Seeds. They produce deep orange flowers with the most beautiful shade of crimson on the underside of the petals atop tall sturdy stems. We also have a succession of an apricot-peach colored Calendula called Zeo Lights in the ground from Floret that looks promising!

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This season we're trailing some new bulbs en masse that we've experimented with in seasons past in small numbers. One of my absolute favorites are the anemones. We're growing Marianne Panda, Marianne Lavender, Galilee White, Jerusalem Red White, and Carmel Blue from Gloeckner. We soaked the corms over night and planted them 4 rows in the bed about 5 inches apart on December 20th and harvested the first few blooms the first week of February!  The bulk of the flowers came in by mid-late February and we've been harvesting from them for a solid 6 weeks now. Ideally, we would have gotten our first succession in the ground a few weeks earlier, and planted a second succession as well. The flowers are so lovely and delicate, and age beautifully as they unfurl in the vase. As the plants have matured we've observed longer stem length, but some are still a bit short for our bouquet work. Constructing a hoop house for specialty bulb production to encourage longer stems is also on the to do list for next season!

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Another favorite thats just starting to bloom are our ranunculus. We planted 2,000 of these exactly as we did our anemones, and would have liked to have gotten them in the ground a bit earlier as well. Ideally next season they will also have a hoop house to call home. They are absolutely to die for and are growing surprising well here in Zone 9a.

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With temperatures finally starting to warm up, we're expecting lots more flowers to start pouring out of the fields over the next few weeks. Soon we'll be harvesting classic spring blooms like ammi, stock, delphinium, larkspur, foxglove, statice, campanula, asters, and godetia. Some of our warm seasons flowers, like our early plantings of sunflowers are already starting to bloom. We've been busy transplanting other warm season blooms too, including cosmos, zinnias, celosia, marigolds, and some new trails of nicotiana and salpiglossis.   I'm looking forward to bringing them to the local markets, offering daily deliveries, designing with them for weddings and events and offering them again through our Spring CSA bouquets. Cheers to spring! I hope it brings some beauty your way.

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5 Flowers to Grow for Fall

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We have been sowing seeds non stop for the past week now at the farm. Seeding is one of my favorite activities. I can visualize how beautiful and full of color our fields will be once they begin to bloom! Here in zone 8b, we start our heat loving fall flowers now with the goal of having blooms by late September through first frost. The list is long and filled with new varieties we're trialling this season. In a few short weeks these babies will be ready to head out of the greenhouse and into the fields!

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We start nearly all of our tender annual flowers in plug trays. We use two main sizes, 98 count trays for the larger faster growing plants (sunflowers and zinnias) and 128 count trays for most everything else. Starting them in the greenhouse gives us more control over temperature, watering, and more of a head start on the weeds. Our plugs take an average 4 weeks to form strong roots that are ready to pull and plant into the fields.  Starting plants in a greenhouse is helpful, but not absolutely necessary. All of the flowers in this article would be happy to be directly sown into a clean and weed free garden bed as well. When seeding, keep in mind as a general rule that seeds should be planted at a depth that is 1.5-2 times their size.

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Once the plants pull easily from their trays we transplant them into raised beds in the field which have been prepared with compost. We like to water them in with dilute seaweed and fish emulsion, which can make for a stinky planting process, but ultimately happy, healthy plants. We plant most of our flowers pretty densely with 4 rows per bed. After they are planted, each bed gets two lines of drip tape for irrigation.

The following 5 flowers are some of my favorites for fall blooms.

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Sunflowers: We plant lots of sunflowers in the fall. They are easy to grow, reliable and easy to schedule successions in our planting calendar for continuous flowers from first bloom through first frost. Many varieties are quick to bloom in just 50-60 days while some can take up to 80 days. Check the days to maturity to be sure you have enough time for them to bloom before frost. In the fall I’m drawn towards the darker colored varieties including Red Hedge, ProCut Red, ProCut Bicolor, Chocolate, and Moulin Rouge. I also really love the Strawberry Blondes,ProCut Plum and a Teddy Bear type with a dusty brown center called Starburst Panache from Territorial Seed. We plant our sunflowers 4 rows in the bed 6 inches apart. This dense spacing produces slightly smaller flowers which are more manageable for our bouquet work. We grow mainly single stem varieties, but there are some lovely branching types available as well.

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Zinnias: Zinnias are one of the most cheerful flowers in the garden and provide armloads of color until frost. We plant ours 4 rows in the bed 6 inches apart. Some of my favorite varieties include the Persian Carpet Mix for their daintiness and unique color palette, the Cactus Flowered Mix for their distinct petal shape, and the Queen Series, including Queen Red Lime, Queen Lime, and Queen Lime with Blush. I also highly recommend the Oklahoma series which has demonstrated itself to be extremely vigorous in our climate and less susceptible to powdery mildew than some of the other traditional varieties we grow. We plan to plant about 3 successions in the fall.

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Celosia: Celosia comes in several different forms including wheat, plume, and crested types. Each one has it's own character and add's a different element to garden beds and bouquets. We plant our celosia densely with 4 rows in the bed with 6-9 inches between plants. This plant sets seed readily and will self sow easily in a garden if blooms are left to mature. This season we are growing 10 different varieties including one unnamed variety from my friend Jon at Cottage Gardens who saved seed from a beautiful crested type he had in his garden. Others we're trailing include the Supercrest Mix, Celway Salmon, Cristata Orange, Chief Persimmon, Bombay Pink, and Sunday Orange. Many celosia come in bright and bold colors, and I've been on the hunt for some more subtle and muted tones we can incorporate into our wedding design work. We source the majority of our flower seed from Gloeckner, but also use Johnny's,  Territorial, and Baker Creek . You may also check our Floret Flower Farm's collection of seeds for some new and unusual varieties.

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Cosmos: A bed of cosmos in full bloom is a pretty dreamy place to be. These cut and come again beauties produce more the more your harvest them and have beautiful lacy airy, foliage. This fall we are growing 8 varieties including Xanthos (meaning yellow in Greek), which ranges from pale ivory to a beautiful buttercream color. Another fun variety were growing for the second time is Capriola which is white with a light rose picotee.  Other varieties worth trying include the Cupcakes mix, Versailles Mix, and Double-click Mix.

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Basil:  To compliment our blooms we love to incorporate interesting greenery and fragrant foliage into our planting schedule. Basil meets both these criteria for our bouquet work. In our hot humid climate, we've had some issues with basil downey mildew the past few seasons and have been searching for resistant varieties. A clear winner for us has been Cardinal Basil which resisted  mildew as our traditional Genovese varieties were ruined along side them.  This Thai variety produces big beautiful burgundy colored flower heads atop lush sturdy plants and has a wonderful anise aroma.  Other varieties with amazing aroma are Citrus Basil and Aramato.

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There are lots more fun annuals to grow for fall including marigolds, amaranth, gomphrena, salvia, ageratum, nasturtium, and lots of fun ornamental grasses to name a few. Trailing any new fun varieties in your garden this fall? I'd love to hear about them! Happy growing!

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Thai Tulip Wedding

_DSC0691 Jenny initially booked her wedding with us for June but had to reschedule. When she called back and asked if we could provide flowers the first weekend in August, I explained to her that all of our fields are still in cover crop and we wouldn't have any of our own flowers to work with. She insisted she really wanted local flowers and asked if there was anything I could think of. I gave my friend Joe at Possum Hollow Farm a call, and he let me know he would have an abundance of Cucurmas, also called Thai Tulips, available during that time. Jenny was totally into it. Looking back, I'm so glad she was so open, flexible, and excited to have locally grown flowers in her wedding. We've never done an August wedding before and it was a real treat.

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Over the past few years, Possum Hollow has been growing these beauties and trailing lots of different varieties. They're in the same family as Tumeric, and native to Southeast Asian and Southern China. They're super hardy, have a long vase life, and are really different from anything we grow on our farm right now.

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It took us a whole day to complete the ceremony and reception centerpieces. We designed the centerpieces in my favorite compote vessels by B Practical Pottery. Our newest farm apprentice, Amber, and Lillian from Hallwood Floral helped to create some real beauties! We mixed the Cucurmas with some foraged greenery including flowering Loquat branches, scented geranium, crepe myrtle foliage and seed pods, privet, golden dew drop, river oats, asparagus fern, and spirea.

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For the aisle, we created larger arrangements in french style buckets. In these we also incorporated some fun Globba Obscura, or Dancing Lady gingers. These come in white, and pink have an awesome cascading shape that add so much movement to the design.  These beauties looked gorgeous adoring the aisle under the shade of large oak trees at the venue, Clark Plantation.

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On the second day of prep we worked on the personal flowers including boutonnieres, corsages, and the bridal bouquet.

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We make most of our corsages with a technique I learned from Passionflower Sue at the Floret workshop in which we attach flowers to brass cuff bracelets. We used Strawflowers I dried from our spring planting along with foraged greenery and crepe myrtle berries.

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The bridal bouquet is typically one of the last elements I design. As soon as a bride books with us, I begin to develop an image of what their bouquet may look like and carry it in my mind until the design is finished. I consider it an honor to be able to contribute locally grown beauty to someones wedding day.

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On Summer, Ceramics, & The Dahlia King

We are in the thick of summer now. The fields at the farm have all been sown in cover crops of Sunn Hemp, Buckwheat, and Iron and Clay Peas. Last season's crew has departed, leaving the barn feeling quiet and still. The pace is slower, more relaxed, allowing more time for reflecting and dreaming. There are no flowers in our fields now. Only seed orders being compiled, new varieties being researched, planting schedules being drafted. _DSC0650

Having no flowers in our fields during the height of summer is part of the natural rhythm of our farming cycle. The land needs time to rest. We need time to rest. But during these months I do miss growing plants and watching them bloom. So much so I have found myself calling flower friends nearby and inviting myself to their fields for some flower therapy. Last week I called Jon at Cottage Gardens , Gainesville's Dahlia King.  He's been trailing over 300 varieties in his gardens over the past ten years and has some amazing flowers to show for it. Florida is not exactly the most hospitable climate for Dahlias. It can be done, but is most certainly a labor of love.

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It was a great joy to pair Jon's flowers with locally crafted vessels that ceramic artist Bianca Williams made for us. It's my goal to have these beauties filled with flowers from our farm available to order in our new online shop (stay tuned).

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This partnership between florist and ceramicist is one I've seen forming across the country and beyond lately. Check out Saipua and Pistil and Stamen among others. I'm so thankful for the slower pace of the summer months that allowed time for this dream to come to fruition.

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Little Pond Farm Field Trip

Wow! I let an entire season of flowery goodness come and go since I last wrote here. And it was perhaps our most flowery season to date. Last year we grew more flowers, booked more weddings, and distributed flowers to more locations than we ever have! I was too busy growing and harvesting to make time for writing. But a recent visit to an awesome farm has inspired me to share again. _dsc0759

Last week we took our crew on a field trip to Little Pond Farm about an hour south of Gainesville in the small town of Bushnell. Little Pond was founded by Cole Turner in 2013 on a 26 acre parcel of land. It has grown to an impressive operation now co-managed by Ellen Trimarco and Willie Bonner. Together with their crew of apprentices, they make for an amazing team of farmers producing incredibly high quality organically grown fruits, veggies, herbs, and flowers.

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Ellen, who worked as a conservation biologist before becoming a farmer, was gracious to give us a tour of the farm during a busy harvest day. She showed us their impressive new high-tunnel greenhouse where they are growing beautiful, early tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers. Her Masters in Conservation Biology has proven helpful in the management of pest and disease issues and informs her approach to managing them in the high-tunnel.

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Next stop was the flower field which was, of course, my personal favorite part of the tour. Ellen told us that Cole is the flower guru of the farm—and it shows. Alongside beautiful cherry caramel phlox, delphinium, larkspur, calendula, and scabiosa, they have a gorgeous crop of tulips coming in right now. I've only tried to grow tulips twice with very limited success.  It's encouraging to see them being produced by fellow growers in our Florida climate. Ellen mentioned they are growing in Zone 9a; we're 8b here in Gainesville.

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The other blooms that caught my eye were the poppies just starting to show their faces. I have never attempted to grow poppies here, but after seeing these I'm inspired to try next season!

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Flowers are harvested Friday morning and brought to the barn to be made into bouquets for Saturday Morning Market in St. Petersburg. The market is about an hour and a half south of the farm, and the crew begins their market day at 3:30 am to have enough time to travel and set up their stand. I had the pleasure of attending the market to see all of the farmers hard work on display. If you're ever in the area I highly recommend checking it out. It's incredible!

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I'm so thankful for the long distance farm friendship we've been able to cultivate with the Little Ponders. I constantly ask questions, share stories, ask advice, and generally check in with Ellen about how things are growing. There is a lack of cultural information regarding farming in Florida; having a network of small farmers to consult with is an invaluable resource. It's clear Cole & Ellen are extremely dedicated to their craft and are pushing the boundaries of what is supposed to be possible in our area. It's impressive to see what they've accomplished and it inspires me to be a better grower!

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Floret

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When I first started farming, a friend turned me on to the publication Growing For Market, a fantastic resource full of great advice for growers.  I was immediately drawn to to the flower articles written by Erin Benzakein of Floret in Washington State.  They were bursting with information about new varieties, wedding design work and growing tips–you name it. But most of all, they gushed beauty and conveyed an utter love for growing flowers.  Erin’s enthusiasm and passion for her work was contagious. The stunning photos of beautiful blooms she included in each article were breathtaking. What an amazing job!!! I pretty much wanted to be her when I grew up. For years, I read her column, gobbling up every bit of knowledge I could, experimenting and expanding the varieties in our own flower fields.
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A few years ago, Floret started offering workshops at their farm.  The thought of traveling to that mystical land seemed like an epic flowery pilgrimage too good to be true. It also seemed lavish and out of reach.  What right did I, an amateur flower geek from Gainesville, have to sit amongst flower goddesses?   But my husband said, "why not?!" He encouraged me to follow my dreams and make it happen. He convinced me. Plus, it was a great excuse for a delayed honeymoon!   So just like that, last September, we found ourselves on a plane to Washington.
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The workshop began in a beautifully restored barn on a historic homestead down the road from Floret in the Skagit Valley.  About 30 women from around the country gathered in a circle and awaited Erin's arrival.  I was about to meet an epically inspirational figure in my life and was doing my best to play it cool. Erin arrived and introduced her team for the weekend, which was an all-star cast from the flower world including Mandy O'Shea of Moonflower Design in Georgia, Susan McLeary from Passion Flower, Erika Stephens of Junes Blooms, and Stephanie of Sassafrass Fork Farm in North Carolina.
From the very beginning Erin made it clear that she and her team were there to do everything they could to give us the tools necessary to make our flower business dreams a reality.
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On the second day, we caravanned to Floret.  We talked about nitty-gritty flower farming work, building soil health, efficient harvesting techniques, farm planning, variety selection, propagation, and season extension.   Hearing Erin talk about efficiency made my heart swoon.  I like to work FAST and love seeing systems that make sense.  She demonstrated how they fly through their grocery bouquet assembly line with a quickness–a woman after my own heart.
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In the afternoon, the whole group was turned loose in the fields to cut whatever our hearts desired for the design portion of the workshop.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?! Erin's farm is only about 2 acres, but she packs a tremendous amount of blooms into that space!  We cut foxglove, feverfew, lisianthus, celosia, rudbeckia, ornamental grasses, and zinnias to name a few. It was interesting to see so many of the same varieties that we grow in Florida in bloom in the Pacific Northwest.  The belles of the ball were definitely the Dahlias. So. Many. Dahlias.  I could have stayed there snipping stems until the end of time.

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Everything we cut was trucked to the barn and added to the sea of flowers that had already been harvested.  It was a sight to behold.

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The third day was all about design.  Sue of Passion Flower taught us her technique for floral crowns and living corsages and then guided us through creating our own. She is such an incredibly talented designer and sweet and personable woman!  It was a real treat to see a master of her craft so effortlessly in action.

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I have so little experience with this type of design work. I felt like an ogre attempting such dainty, delicate, detail work, but somehow managed to somewhat successfully create a demi-crown.

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Next, Erin demonstrated her technique for  formal centerpiece design and a hand tied bridal bouquet. It was awesome to see how she selected her color palate, established the shape of the arrangement and incorporated each element seamlessly into the design.

IMG_1658After we watched Erin work her magic, we were set free in the sea of flowers to make our own creations.  It was a bit overwhelming to choose what to work with from such a bountiful selection.  As we worked, the team gave us suggestions, tips, and guidance.  I was so inspired by the generosity and support of everyone there.  It was amazing to be surrounded by so many badass successful women in my field.

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I left Floret feeling so pumped for our upcoming flower season! I learned so much, most of all that I still have so much to learn! Regardless, I and can't wait to put it to use.  It was wonderful to realize that even the wildly successful Floret was born of humble beginnings. You have to start somewhere.
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Top Ten Fall-Sown Flowers For Spring Blooms

_DSC0192 It has been a long hot summer.  During the scorching humid months of July and August we take time to let ourselves, and our fields rest.  Covercrops of buckwheat, sorghum, cowpeas, and millet are broadcast across our fields to help suppress weeds, prevent erosion, and create biomass that will be turned back into the soil before we prepare our beds for fall planting.  There isn't much going on in terms of production, but all of our planning is taking place for the upcoming season.  It's hard to believe we'll be sowing seeds for spring shortly! Right now I'm making sure I have all my seeds stocked to ensure we have an early flush of spring blooms.

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Here's my list of must have fall-sown favorites:

Stock: This is one of my absolute favorites.  The clove-like scent of these little blooms is to die for.  They come in a lovely range of colors, including white, cream, apricot, pink, and purple.  We sow successive rounds every 2-3 weeks beginning in September and October. Transplants are spaced out about 2 inches apart, promoting nice long stems, and helping them out-compete weeds.  It's one of our earliest flowers to bloom, and always brings a smile to my face.  Some of my favorite varieties are the Katz and the Cheerful series, both available from Gloeckner seeds.

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Snapdragons: What's not to love about these cheerful, bright beauties?! The seeds are extremely tiny and require patience to sow, but are well worth the effort.  We start ours in 128 count flats, but I'm considering trying 288s this season. To extend the bloom window you can  select varieties from each of the flowering groups. Group 1 is the earliest and Group 4 is the latest.  We've had great success with the Animation (Group 2) series.  We harvest spikes when the bottom 3 to 4 blooms have opened and consistently get 7 to 10 days vase life.

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Ammi:  Ammi visagna, ‘Green Mist,’ and Ammi majus, ‘Casablanca,’ are early season bouquet staples for us. This season I fell in love with 'Daucus Black Knight', a purple flowering False Queen Anne's Lace.  This phenomenal plant was a vigorous producer yielding 7-15 stems per plant.  I love the delicate lacy texture they add to mixed bouquets.

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Bupleurum: This was our first successful season with this knockout, and I wish I would have planted more!  The shimmery golden stems add so much volume and movement to bouquets. It is a phenomenal must-have filler.

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Statice: This classic is a workhorse in the garden.  We start our first plants in the greenhouse in September and October for beautiful long stemmed early spring blooms.  It comes in a range of colors and is great for fresh or dried arrangements.

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Nigella: Love-in-a-mist is a charming addition to early spring bouquets.  We direct seeded these for the first time this year with much greater success than we've had with our transplants in the past.  My favorite part about these jewels is the fantastic seed pod they produce once the petals have shattered. The variety pictured above was sources from Johnny's seeds.  Next season I am going to try  some new varieties, including ‘Delft Blue’ and ‘African Bride'.

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Calendula: These guys were not a favorite of mine until this season.  In the past, varieties were tried flowered on short stems that were difficult to include in bouquet work.  This year we found an incredible variety from Baker Creek Heirloom seeds called 'Orange King' and they are fantastic!  These gems produced huge blooms on long stems and kept on giving. I highly recommend giving them a try.

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Agrostemma:  While not my favorite to harvest, Ocean Pearls Agrostemma was great to have blooming in early March for wedding design work.  They are simple, elegant, 1-2" blooms on willowy-gray stems that really dance in bouquets!

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Bells of Ireland:  These majestic blooms add interest and a unique fragrance (they belong to the mint family!) to early spring bouquets.  We had great success with seed from Baker Creek this season.

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Larkspur: These are one of the easiest to grow early spring bloomers.  We direct sow them about every 3 weeks beginning in October for a steady stream of tall colorful spikes. We grow the Giant Imperial Series for standard tall spikes, but I've also enjoyed growing the Cloud Series from Gloeckner.   These produced delightful small blue or white single blooms on 40 inch stems, perfect for bouquet filler.  I put my seeds in the freezer for 2 weeks before sowing to increase germination.

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Even though spring may feel like a distant dream right now, timing your plantings early will reward you with a garden of bountiful blooms!

This Week on the Farm: Week 11

_DSC0736 I spent some time foraging for unique elements this week.  We had two small weddings booked for the weekend and I wanted to incorporate some extra special stems in the mix.  Walking the property I was able to gather some awesome foliage, a few springs of a pink spray rose, river oats, and blueberry branches with fruit to include in a bridal bouquet.  I love, love, love selecting special details for bridal work!  They give such a sense of connection to the season and place where the wedding took place.

_DSC0768I really enjoyed including some of our spring veggies into centerpieces for a local chef friend getting married this weekend. Both receptions we're held at The Wooly downtown which has been an awesome venue to work with.

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A post for this week would not be complete without recognition of my dear friend Amber who will be moving on, along with Ryan, her partner in crime,  to pursue other agricultural endeavors next week.  She started at Swallowtail 3 seasons ago when we were all just babies (ok we're still babies) and has been a constant source of goodness, encouragement, understanding, and support throughout the seasons.  It's strange to think of what the farm will be like without her presence.  Over the coming weeks as the season continues to wind down,  other apprentices from this season will be moving on as well.  It can be bitter sweet this time of year to say farewell to a group of people with whom such strong bonds have been built.  But, I know they are all bada$$ and are going to do amazing things!!!

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This Week {off} the Farm: Week 10 Angel Gardens

_DSC0637 I was enchanted the moment I stepped onto the homestead of Pam Greenewald. The air was rich with the scent of magnolias and gardenias and everywhere you looked there were stunning roses in bloom.  My friend Lane told me a few weeks ago that I absolutely must visit this place.  He was right.

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I first met Pam last year at a workshop we hosted on the farm.  I gave a small seminar on flowers and I remember she sat in the front row and shared lots of information with the group. I was so thrilled when she graciously invited us to her place for an afternoon stroll through the gardens.  Pam has been growing roses for 30 years and is a tremendous wealth of information.  I was astounded to learn that she propagates nearly 2,000 different types of roses on her property.  YAY! More cool things you can grown in Florida!!  You can check out all of the varieties here.

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It's always amazing  to spend time with people who have been perfecting their craft for so long.  As we walked, Pam casually pulled her pruners from her belt and tended to plants by snipping dead growth off.   She showed us so many awesome plants, each one with a story.  A particular favorite of the group was a rose named Tipsy Imperial Concubine.

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I'm super stoked to try my hand at growing a few roses that Pam selected for me!  If I'm lucky I'll get a few blooms to use in some special wedding work.  She even snipped a few cuttings from her Dahlia for me to try. Sweetness!  We also dug up a few coral vine plants for me to take home. I used to love this plant when my mom grew it in her garden.

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I left Pam's place feeling inspired and like I need to step up my perennial plant collection.  So many plants, so little time!

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This Week on the Farm: Week 9

_DSC0577 This time of year can be challenging.  As the days grow hotter and we approach the end of our season, part of me is relieved to have a break to look forward to and part of me wants to keep going-- to keep growing.

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The volume of blooms coming out of the field is decreasing and the overall workload is lessening.  I've been joking with Chelsea lately saying "What are we going to do with ourselves now that we won't be making bouquets until 10:00 on Friday nights?!"

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I'm looking forward to planning and to dreaming this summer.  And to growing a bit too.  I can't help myself!  We've sown a little of this and that for a small summer cutting garden.  We'll see how it does.

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I'm also looking forward to visiting some farms locally and abroad this summer.  I just came across the website for Jubilee Flower Farm this week.  It's located just outside of Tallahassee and looks super rad! Definitely need to check them out.

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We're scheduled to visit a local rose farm later this week.  Can't wait to share it with you!

This Week on The Farm: Week 8 Floral Design Workshop

_DSC0486 Yesterday, my good friend Robyn Moore of Small World Greenery and I teamed up to host a summer centerpiece design class at the farm.   Robyn does amazing design work for weddings and special events and often sources stems and greenery that we grow at the farm.  The two of us were stoked to greet a lovely group of women who are as enchanted by flowers as we are.

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Robyn started the class describing how she begins to design a centerpiece by building her overall shape with a variety of greenery to add texture and interest.  She created a darling centerpiece showing off lilies from the farm as well as some foraged spray roses, zinnias, nigella, privet and wild carrot.

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It was so interesting to see how everyone chose to approach their design differently depending on the vessel they chose  and which blooms spoke to them.  It was a privilege to be able to provide buckets full of blooms grown right on our farm for people to create beautiful arrangements with.

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It was a real change of pace for me to have a few hours to be able to focus on one design rather cranking out loads of bouquets for the farmer's market.

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I can't wait to host another workshop!  Robyn and I are already conspiring on different goodies we can create together.  Flower crowns, hand tied bouquets, boutonnières, what else?!  What would you like to learn to make?  I'd love to know!

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This Week on the Farm: Week 7 Mother's Day Madness

_DSC0356 The week of Mother's Day is our peak week for flowers.  All season long I've been planning and planting to have the highest volume of flowers blooming for all the mammas out there!  We sent buckets and buckets of bouquets to the Union Street Farmer's Market  Wednesday.  I'm so glad we took a moment to snap a photo of  them with the crew.

The first of the marigolds began blooming in earnest this week.  These flowers take me back to my mom's garden growing up.  She always had them planted around the edges of her tomato beds and I would stroll through them enjoying their distinct scent.  I  took the luxury of collecting some for petals this week and we had a blast scattering them.  There's nothing quite like being showered with petals falling from the sky.

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Friday I prepared bouquets for the Haile Village Farmer's Market Mother's Day Event until midnight and still couldn't finish all the arrangements!  I spent the first two hours of market making bouquets until every last stem was gone!

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This weekend I was so tickled to receive phone calls from California,  New York, and France from sons and daughters wanting to send their moms in Gainesville locally grown flowers!  This is a new service we are offering for the first time this season and it was a treat for me to be able to deliver a special little bouquet of love on their behalf.  Across the country, business like Farm Girl Flowers in San Francisco and Local Color Flowers in Baltimore are offering people a way to send beautiful locally grown flowers.  We're tickled folks are interested in supporting this growing part of our local flower business right here in Gainesville.

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I am so thrilled to be teaming up with Robyn Moore of Small World Greenery to lead our first collaborative Summer Floral Design Workshop next Saturday May 16th at the farm!  This is sure to be an enchanted evening as we provide limitless buckets of stems and a unique vessel to create a stunning centerpiece to take home.  More details can be found here. Hope you can join us!

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This Week {off} The Farm: Week 6 "Farmer to Farmer"

_DSC0391 This week, two of my greatest mentors in the local farming community graciously accepted my request (during the busiest time of year) to come visit them on their farm! Joe Durando and Trace Giornelli own Possum Hollow farm just 15 miles North of Gainesville.  The first time I visited their farm was during this time of year, and it was just as magical then as it is now.

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Joe and Trace’s land exudes beauty from the moment you pull into the driveway. Over the years they have scattered Coreopsis, Florida’s state wildflower, in meadows and under the shade of their Chestnut orchards.  The thousands of golden flowers that blanket the ground are a feast for the eyes and soul, and give the farm an enchanted feeling.  So genius!

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Upon my arrival we cracked open a few cold ones and Trace guided me to meet Joe who was harvesting the first of the tomatoes in their new fields.  We were greeted by their new, painfully adorable and fluffy puppy, Khoa.   Recently, the couple purchased 20 acres of land bordering the 30 acres they have owned for roughly 20 years.  I am in awe of how quickly they broke new ground and began producing beautiful vegetables and flowers from their newly acquired land.
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Joe and Trace grow an awesome crop of Gladiolus that I am a bit envious of.  They have been saving corms from season to season with great results.  Once upon a time, Lee County Florida, where I'm from, was the Gladiolus capital of the WORLD. Early settlers from Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg brought them over and they adapted well to the rich soil and climate.  Needless to say, I have to step my Glad game up.
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After touring the new fields, we hopped in the truck and headed through the woods to the back fields which are guarded by an extensive deer fence that Trace built, and a fearsome bunny rabbit mascot.
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The first field we came to was home to some drop-dead gorgeous lilies, of  which some were also grown from saved bulbs.  We grew some lilies for the first time this season, and they bloomed on stems about six inches long!  I'm looking forward to learning more about this crop and trying again next season.
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Strolling past their grape arbor, we chatted about all sorts of things.  We shared frustrations about how the warm spring has caused many things to come on early.  Rounds of Snapdragons and Sweet William, planted in succession to bloom over a period of weeks, are all blooming near the same time!  We shared fears of not having enough in bloom for Mother's Day, our biggest flower market of the season.  We talked about which sunflower varieties are blooming best and which are not making the cut.  We moaned about how the week of heavy rain ruined this year's Status crop, and also flattened many other flowers.  Part of me found relief  in hearing experienced growers being challenged by some of the same things I am challenged by.  I was also filled with so much gratitude for the wealth of information they so willingly shared.
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As the sun set, we headed to a meadow near the house.  There were two perfectly placed adirondack chairs facing the bat house that Trace (did I mention she's a bada$$ builder?) constructed over the course of a few summers.  What an awesome idea!  What an amazing place so filled with love and thoughtful intention!  We watched as the bats flew out over the fields to gobble pesky insects.
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When I first started farming, I pretty much wanted to be Trace when I grew up.  Her market stand was always arranged so beautifully and artfully, it seemed to have a mystical aura around it.  You can find her Saturday mornings at the Haile Village Farmer's Market.  Joe, who's market stand is just as lovely, perhaps with a bit more masculine touch,  can be found at the Union Street Farmer's Market, Wednesdays in downtown Gainesville.  Seek them out and get yourself some goodness.
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This Week on the Farm: Week 5

_DSC0223 Spring is glorious.  I feel like everywhere I go in Gainesville these days my nose is filled with the sweet scents of Jasmine and  Magnolia flowers.  My neighbors have a large arbor covered with Jasmine in full bloom right now.  It makes me think of my dad--it's his favorite flower.

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I was chatting with Chelsea while cutting stems and decided that Nigella is my favorite flower this week.  It's so delicate and dreamy and has come in on such long stems this season!  And what's even more awesome is when the flower has passed, it produces an equally awesome pod that is perfect for fresh or dried arrangements!

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When we started cutting Sweet Peas, I decided I have two favorite flowers this week. I can't believe we've never grown these before! The scent is so amazing.  Definitely trying them again next season.

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This week I had the pleasure of cutting flowers with some young ladies from Suncoast Waldorf school. They spent the whole week camping at the farm and learning different skills from folks on our team.  We strolled through the gardens and selected stems for them to use to make flower crowns.  It was great to watch them create their little works or art.

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Each day that passes in the fields brings something new.  Some Gladiolus opened this week in our keyhole garden.  These volunteered from old bulbs we planted a few seasons back.  Next year I will get my bulb order in on time and grow more of these majestic blooms.

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The Queen Anne's Lace and Larkspur are still producing copious amounts of stems.  Last Friday we raced the sunset to get everything we could cut for market the next morning.

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Tuesday morning I drug the crew out to the sunflower patch for a farmily portrait.  They were a bit sleepy still, but they entertained my flowery request.  I can't express enough what an amazing group of people these guys are.  It's hard to believe that our official season will be coming to an end in a few short months.

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Whats blooming in your neck of the woods?  I'd love to hear about it!

This Week on the Farm: Week 4

_DSC1064 It’s amazing how fast the season is changing.  The  beds of Snapdragons, Bells of Ireland,  and Calendula that were producing buckets and buckets of stems are now past their prime.  The Statice beds that were so beautiful the week of the festival have now faded and withered with the rain and heat.  It happens so quickly and I am sad to see them go.

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But just as quickly, new crops are coming into their time.  I can hardly believe the zinnias and marigolds are already in bloom.  I'm so thankful for our later sowing of snaps and baby's breath that are flowering now.  The thistle-like eryngium are coloring up, and the purple Dara Ammi Queen Anne's lace is supplying steady armfulls of umbels.
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The sunflowers are beginning to reign king in the fields, demanding to be harvested daily.  Keeping up with harvesting sunflowers is like keeping up with harvesting squash-nealy impossible.  By the time you’ve finished picking a bed, more have bloomed behind you.  We’re experimenting with planting ours four rows in the bed six to eight inches apart this season to try to save on space.  The beds are so thick and densely canopied it feels like being engulfed in a sea of sunflowers when entering the patch.
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Lately we’ve been racing the rain to harvest all the stems before their petals become saturated.
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This is the first season trying our hands at Sweet Peas!  They are coming in with super short stems as are the Chinese Forget me Nots. Better luck next time.
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I'm struggling to keep up with my commitment of one blog post per week. "This week on the farm" is turning into "...Last week on the farm."  But I will not be discouraged!

Last Friday evening Emily graced our bouquet making session with wine and some of her very own artisan cheese.  What a treat!  It was such fuel and inspiration to keep the flower party rocking.  She even jumped in and put some masterpieces together herself.  Gotta love it.  Beautiful chaos.

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This Week on the Farm: Week 3

_DSC0785 Where to begin.  The past seven days were such a blur.  We worked all week balancing keeping the farm running as usual with preparing to host our spring festival.  It was amazing to see everything the crew is capable of accomplishing.

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Tuesday evening we cut flowers until sunset while sipping cucumber gimlets.  There are some amazing nigella I forgot I sowed starting to bloom in the larkspur patch. Their beauty was so striking to come upon in the evening light.

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I was expecting to be  stressed with the pressure of everything we had to do, but instead by Friday I was feeling completely calm.  Everything seemed to be falling seamlessly into place.  The crew coordinated and executed an exceptional Farm to Table dinner with special guest farmer extraordinaire, Joel Salatin.   Mr. Salatin owns Polyface Farm in Virginia and has written extensively on small farms and local food systems. He was featured in Micahel Pollan's The Omnivores Dilemma and  the award winning documentary, Food Inc.

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Members of the community including local farmers gathered around the table and shared stories about different growing practices and philosophies.   It's an experience I'm still marinating on.

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My favorite part of the week by far was sharing the farm and the festival with my family.  My mom, dad, niece, and nephew all came to visit for the weekend.  It was such a joy to share the fruits of our labor with them.

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There is nothing quite like seeing the farm through a child's eyes.  Everything becomes marvelous and wonderful and full of joy.  I could hardly keep up with them as they sprinted up the hill to harvest peas and strawberries.  Then, back down the hill to pick cucumbers and squash.  "This one is the crown jewel!" my nephew exclaimed upon discovering a giant cucumber.  Can't argue with that.

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This Week on the Farm: Week 2

_DSC0578 It feels like time is accelerating.  The days fly by beginning at 5:30 a.m. when the alarm rouses me from my slumber and I stumble into the kitchen to put the kettle on and start making coffee.  Thirty minutes to get ready and out the door for my comute to the farm.  I am so thankful for Michael and his new Vitamix obsession making me a nutritious shake every morning or I probably would not make time to eat a proper breakfast.

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7:00 a.m. and the crew gathers in the packing shed for our morning meeting to set the agenda for the day ahead.  We have so much to do!  7:20 a.m. and we hit the fields.  I am assessing every movement we make as a team, which crops are abundant, which are on their way out. We have to push ourselves to accomplish all that we have set out to do.  We have to move quickly and efficiently; I can feel each minute slipping away as the sun moves higher in the sky and the temperature rises, threatening to wilt the greens, or make the roots more difficult to clean.   By 10:00 a.m. the dew has mostly dried and I can begin cutting stems.  I am challenging myself to balance the pressure of production with enjoying the beauty and magic of life that surrounds us.

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At noon we brake for lunch.  Each week lunch duty rotates and a member of the crew prepares a meal for the nine of us.  It has been up for debate lately if we should try to make up for time by having a quicker lunch. But, the question arises, why are we growing such great food if we can’t make the time to prepare it and enjoy it together?

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After lunch and a second cup of coffee we crank back up again.  As Amber leads the crew in the packing-shed processing the veggies, I return to the field to continue cutting stems.  There are loads of Bells of Ireland, snaps, and statice to cut for Easter weekend. The sunflowers are really rolling now and have to be cut everyday to keep them fresh.

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This time of year is always a test with so much to harvest.  Friday evening we found ourselves still cutting stems at 6:00 p.m.  Market bouquets didn’t start until 7:00 p.m.  By 9:30 p.m. it was time to call it a night even though there were still many more flowers to arrange.  I felt slightly defeated, but also confident that Chelsea and Asim would work their magic at market and finish the remaining bouquets in the morning.

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I don't mean to complain here.  I love my work and I feel fortunate to have to opportunity to do it.  Even if it can be overwhelming, it is satisfying.  Last week after delivering flowers, the mother of the bride gave me a big hug and expressed her gratitude for our locally grown blooms.  After a long week, little things like that make it worth it.

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This Week on the Farm: Week 1

_DSC0224 There is abundance and life all around the farm these days.  It’s my favorite season but it can also be the most hectic.  We’ve been asking ourselves if we are crazy, lately, as we hustle to harvest our CSA, market and restaurant orders amidst new calves being born, a creamery being built, preparing for our spring festival next month, hosting a wedding this weekend, and inviting local school groups to the farm for field trips next week.  Then, of course,  after we finally planted the bulk of our warm season crops, and the squash and cucumbers have begun to flower, the forecast dropped to 36 degrees on Saturday night. Too close for comfort.  Out comes the frost cloth again.  I’m always in denial when I see a forecast like that, mostly because I’m trying to figure out if there is any possible way to avoid hours of extra work schlepping sand bags between rows, erecting  wire hoops and pulling cloth.  But then, memory of a last year's late, unexpected frost reminds me that we have to do our due diligence.  I was just telling Noah how I felt like we got off too easy with the mild winter this season. What can you do.

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There is the most amazing meadow of wildflowers blooming  along the driveway right now.  I admire it each morning we drive up the hill to the top fields.  I want to lay in it and bask in all its glory.  Instead I snap a few photographs and make my way to the snapdragon patch to begin harvesting.  I place my tin bucket at the head of the bed, take my snips from my apron and begin the rhythmic movements of cutting and then removing the bottom leaves -snip-strip-snip-strip-snip-strip. The snaps are so awesome right now.  They are a pleasure to cut and they smell like bubblicious chewing gum._DSC0333
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The fields are bursting with blooms.  The first sunflowers opened this week.  We planted thousands of sunflowers in succession this spring.  I hope we can keep up with the picking when they start rolling in. The patch of Agrostemma is magical.  There is no way I can cut them all. They really dance in the breeze.
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This week James and Chelsea helped me cut stems for the first time this spring.  It sounds silly, but it takes a lot for me to let go of anything having to do with the flowers.  I feel like a mother hen, protective and territorial over them.  But I am so grateful for the help. There is no way I can do it all myself. I would never sleep.
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Thursday night I arranged centerpieces and a bridal bouquet for this weekend’s wedding.  The couple was incredibly sweet and trusting of the farm and gave us so much freedom to design the florals for their event.
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Friday night Joelle and Chelsea put together the most darling boutonnières and Amber jumped in to help with market bouquets.  The studio was buzzing.
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I am challenging myself to keep this blog current as we dive into our spring season- I find myself thinking about it all week.  I was inspired to do this by the series "This week on the farm" on the always amazing Floret blog. Looking forward to next week.