February has brought us a lot of rain and a bit of warm sunshine as well, bringing the farm into a new season of growth. This year we are not just starting seeds and quietly waiting for warm weather. We are building more caterpillar tunnels, answering event emails, and jumping into the year head on. There are already more flower seedlings started than we grew over the whole course of 2018. I have been asked to teach a mason jar arranging class, do the flowers for a wedding, and make table arrangements for a rice growers dinner all just over the last few weeks. I Accepted all with excitement and am looking forward to each one. Last year at this time I don't think you could have even called us an actual farm but rather a large garden with a business name. To say I am grateful and thankful is an understatement, we have been incredibly blessed by everyone's support! I can't believe that our little back yard farm has grown so much over the past year, and I look forward to the season we are beginning.
'We have been starting seeds just about every week this month. There are so many new varieties popping up every day that it is always an exciting task to water and check on all the little sprouts. We currently are without a greenhouse here on the farm, so I have bombarded my in-laws' sun room with trays and trays of seedlings. Along with seed starting we also went through and pulled out all the heirloom chrysanthemums, dividing them and taking cuttings. It was a process of a few days squeezed in mainly during the girls' nap time and during grandma's babysitting. This turned my twenty or so plants into over 400! I ordered 41 new varieties for this year before I knew that I would be swimming in them. My allotted space allows for 192 mums, so I will be waiting for some good weather after all the predicted rain and will have a mini pop-up plant sale where I will gladly share all my tips and tricks. Last year they reached six feet tall before falling over! This year we will be staking them quite differently to hopefully avoid having so many bent stems this time around.
This month we finally got to eat some fresh lettuce! It has been so nice to just walk out back and cut enough for dinner. Hopefully in another week or possibly two we will have enough to share.
As you well know, February brought us Valentine's Day, which is a major flower holiday. When I was in high school, my class would buy roses, leatherleaf, and waxflower and sell bouquets to raise money for our senior trip. My brother's class took it over, followed by my little sister's class. This year my mom called me up and said the school and my youngest brother's class did not seem interested and wondered if I wouldn't mind taking it over with my sister. I agreed and planned to order a little more than half of the normal numbers but add in a few new things such as tulips and feverfew. I honestly was rather skeptical as to whether or not we would be able to sell them all, since it was no longer a school fundraiser and pre-sales were somewhat low. I was thrilled when we sold out and only one bunch of six roses was left that someone forgot to pick up. Next year it will be structured somewhat differently but I will plan to do it again!
After playing with so many flowers over Valentine's Day, I got the itch to start working with our own blooms again and it won't be much longer before I get the chance. The first buds have appeared and I can hardly wait until they are ready to pick. Far left the tulips are rising up on actual stems this year rather than little nubs like last year. In the middle a few anemones are starting to straighten their necks out, and to the right the freesias are holding on to tightly packed heads, making me wait on their sweet fragrance ever so impatiently. While I wait for my own flowers to start up, I went to my grandmother's house and gathered ideas of what to add to my perennial garden while raiding it of this armful of blooms to brighten our home!
a look ahead
Mid to late March will be the beginning of our spring flower subscriptions! If you have been on the edge go grab one there are not many left!
Mid March we will officially move into the Gathering Marketplace in historic downtown Willows and offer flowers Tuesday through Saturday 10am-5pm.
Some time in late March we will have a small plant sale here on the farm.
April 19th I will be teaching a flower arranging class at Capay's Harvest in Capay just north of Orland.
As far as events go, we will only be accepting one major event per month in order to serve you to the best of our ability and still take care of our family. The only months we are still accepting large events for are June, July, and August!
January on the farm brings with it an excitement for the new season ahead. We enjoy a slow-paced progression of projects and farm planning. It is a much more relaxed time of year for our family, and often offers a chance to spend some quality time together, embarking on little adventures and sleeping in past 6 a.m.
Back in September or October, I applied for the 2019 floret online course scholarship. I was not one of the few that received the full scholarship, but I was fortunate enough to receive partial credit towards the course and decided to go for it. In October I went ahead and signed up and eagerly awaited the arrival of my course packet in November. Then I waited and waited some more until the course finally began the first week of January. I am only two thirds of the way through and have learned a considerable amount already. We have already begun to implement a few ideas here on our farm! It is also helping me organize my seed sowing schedule so hopefully we can offer a continuous outpouring of seasonal flowers this year! I pored over seed packets and plans for a few days, arranging and re-arranging everything. Then I moved on to the pumpkins, gourds, and winter squash. After a few days of playing with numbers, graph paper, spread sheets and seed packets, I think I have finally settled on a plan.
This month we are mowing borders, planting seeds, weeding, dividing mums, and watching our babies and cover crop grow. We planted three different types of cover crop this year. Pictured below is a brassica mix we planted to add organic matter to the soil and crowd out weeds on the half of the farm not currently in use. On all the beds we plan to plant in harvestable crops this year, we planted a mix of peas, oats, and vetch to add nitrogen and organic matter to the soil. It should help to fertilize our plants naturally. Lastly we planted about 5,000 sq. ft. of winter wheat. We went ahead and got the high quality stuff because David wants to try harvesting it for flour. I want it to use in flower arrangements and fall wreaths, but there will be enough for both purposes, I hope! His grandfather had an old mill that his dad has held on to and it just might be getting cleaned up this summer. The wheat should also help to suppress the weeds, which is a huge plus.
David has been spending a fair amount of time designing and building lately. He has been working on a few projects for me, as well as building a cutting table for the shop. Below is a dibbler/seed and stake holder he designed and built for the farm. The rows are spaced 3 inches apart, and so are the holes. We can change where the bolts are located so that they make indentations in the soil at specific spacings. This is super handy when it comes to planting things that are done in small plantings. He wants to keep tweaking and says this is just a first edition, but I'm a fan.
We have added two caterpillar tunnels to the farm this year and plan to add another three to the fleet soon. They keep all the frost off and increase both the temperature and humidity inside to give us a jump start on the season. One currently houses our sweet peas and the other lettuce. The sweet peas are doing great, and I am looking forward to their wonderful fragrance filling the air in another month or two. The lettuce we have been having a lot of heartache with. I am not going to lie, we really suck at lettuce farming this year. Every two weeks we sow another round, even though the last one looks horrid. Our soil crusts over immediately even when it is wet and the poor little guys just can't push through. We just started the first "greenhouse" starts in a sunroom off David's parents' house and they came up beautifully. I guess that is how we will have to do it from now on, even though it is an extra step.
Our "bock bocks" as Evelyn calls them have FINALLY decided to lay other colors besides plain old brown. The hen on the right is a silkie mix, and she is currently setting on a little clutch of eggs we hope hatches soon. One of the chores here on the farm that Evelyn already helps with is feeding the chickens and ducks. She takes it very seriously and does not appreciate it when I do it for her.
We are building, growing, learning, and teaching our girls that when you fall down you get right back up, shake off that dirt, and just keep going.
As we look forward to February, there are a few things coming. First, we will be putting on a little Valentine's Day flower sale. We will have both roses and tulip bouquets available for pick up at Lely pump company 211 East Walker street in Orland. We are also hoping for the first lettuce harvest, so stay tuned!
Just a little thank you to my mom, Jaime, who followed us around and took real life farm photos per my request. This is our real life....except I don't generally curl my hair for farm activities!