Thursday, February 4, 2016

We were lucky in that we had no problems with the giant snowstorm, except for lots of shovelling to get snow away from the greenhouses. It was a long day. A lot has melted, but much of the yard still has several inches left. It was so deep that Lucy had to stay on the paths we made for about a week, and she didn't like that. She had a hard time getting to places with the interesting smells.

When we  could get around, I went up to a shrub for a close look at a bird's nest. It was made entirely of twigs but was very neatly constructed. Nothing slap-dash about it at all. Then I noticed a praying mantis egg sac on the bush. I looked around and counted five on that shrub and more in the area. We should have a good crop of praying mantises this year.

Signs of spring-the number of flats of seedlings in the basement is increasing. They are so interesting. Swamp milkweed with its flat seeds attached to the top of the seedlings, tiny lavender plants with full-grown fragrance and blue flax with delicately textured foliage.  Our order of soil and pots will be delivered soon. That to me is a sure sign of spring-work will start in the greenhouse soon.

I'm also working on the new plant list. That always gets me dreaming of planting, plant combinations and visions of lush summer gardens.

Today when I went in the greenhouse, I discovered toad junior. This is obviously not the regular greenhouse toad because he's much smaller. He was out of the dirt, but still looked pretty sleepy. Regular greenhouse toad was hibernating in the back corner as usual, so maybe this is an offspring. Has to be better than hibernating outside.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Another New Year

I hope everyone enjoyed their holidays. We had a great time and John used his two weeks off to practice being retired. He seems to have it down pat.

I do not remember such an unseasonably warm December for ages. We actually had a white rose that bloomed in December. On New Years Day I told John look at that- we had calendula that were still blooming- a first! Haven't had any flowers blooming on  January 1 before. Of course, as soon as the cold weather arrived they got zapped, but it was still a sight to see! Up to the cold snap,  I still had plenty of fresh herbs in the garden- parsley, oregano, rosemary, chives, thyme- all the basics except for basil which went at the first frost. I don't think I ever such a choice of fresh  herbs while preparing Christmas dinner.

We'd  like to thank everyone who visited the farm for holiday shopping. Our open house was well attended and we know that there is much competition for people's time and attention, especially at the holidays. We also had a number of new customers, so thanks for talking up the farm.

I always say that January is my slow time, and I'm enjoying some free time, but that doesn't mean there's no work to do. I have started my first batch of seeds- early perennials like coneflower and blue flax and the lavender varieties I can start from seed and also pansies. They have all germinated and are under lights in the basement. I always feel that spring has started when I have the first batch of plants going. Also working on pre-spring tasks like cleaning in the greenhouse and shop,  ordering plant  tags and preparing spring orders. It certainly is pleasant working in the greenhouse on a sunny winter day. As long as the sun is shining, the temperature will go up to 90 degrees. It's like going to Florida.

This time of year, the shop is open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 9am to5pm. Winter is a great time for projects and we have high quality supplies along with essential oils and containers for your herbal projects. Maybe you have time to curl up with a gardening book or the newest issue of The Essential Herbal magazine. We have a fine selection of herbal gifts for any occasion.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

HOLIDAY OPEN HOUSE

Just a reminder that this weekend, Friday and Saturday, Dec. 4&5, is our annual Holiday Open House from 9-5 each day.  Stop by for herbal refreshments, enter your name for a prize drawing, and shop for herbal gifts and stocking stuffers.  There is still time for those DIY projects and we have many of the supplies you will need.  It's a wonderful way to pick up unique one-of-a-kind gifts that are sure to please those hard to buy for people on your list.

Hope to see you then!!

Friday, November 27, 2015

OPEN HOUSE IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER

Boy, I hate to see November go, especially since the weather has been so good.  So often, November is a gray and gloomy month.  But occasionally, you get one that's more like October, with bright, sunny, mild days.  This November, especially the first couple weeks, was spectacular.  Even though annuals were done, the gardens continued to look attractive.  And I had snapdragons and calendula that bloomed until Thanksgiving week.
 
I'm just about ready for our holiday open house, which will be held Friday and Saturday, December 4 & 5 from 9 am to 5 pm.  The shop is fully stocked--plenty of handmade soaps, lotions and spritzes from Tina and Maryanne--the soap ladies, along with essential oils, carrier oils, butters and containers for DIY projects.  These items have been selling well for several weeks.  I know a lot of our customers are creative and crafty and like to make their own homemade gifts.  The tree in the shop is up and decorated with a variety of natural and herbal/garden themed ornaments.  Sometimes, people say they hate to 'undecorate' the tree, but that's what we want! We also have  dried herbs  and  spices,    herbal  teas, cat toys and cat & dog treats, herbal books, garden markers, potpourri, dried wreaths & arrangements, handmade beaded jewelry and lots of unusual gift items.  We also have potted culinary herbs and live topiaries available until Christmas.  During our open house we'll have specials on several of our most popular items, so it's a  good time to shop.  We'll serve hot mulled cider and a really tasty herbal treat--lemon thyme muffins.  You can also register for our open house prize drawing.  We know how busy it is this time of year and how many activities compete for your time and attention.  We truly appreciate everyone that visits the farm and supports our small, local business.
 
The other thing I'm working on, believe it or not, is preparations for next spring.  No seeding until after Christmas, but lots of paperwork to get in order--when everything must be started, and ordering supplies so it's all ready when planting time comes.  When you're growing plants, you're always working several months ahead.
 
I'm making my annual plea to anyone thinking about getting a new pet for the holidays, to please consider adopting a shelter pet.  Our dear Lucy came from the Humane League and we couldn't have found a sweeter dog or a better companion anywhere.  You can spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on a dog, but if you're not going to show them or breed them, a shelter dog can be just as loving and a wonderful companion pet.  I swear Lucy was smart enough to realize we 'rescued' her and she was grateful for that.  I know that since we got her she's always been eager to please.  There are so many animals who would love to find a forever home this year.  

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

AH, OCTOBER!!

We are working our way down our list of autumnal chores.  First, we took the shade cloths off the greenhouses.  We put them on in the spring to cut down on the amount of direct sunlight coming into the greenhouses.  This makes it more comfortable for people and also the plants.  Without shade cloth, it would be too hot and sunny for many of the plants during the height of summer.  Next, we cleaned out the vegetable garden and buried our potted stock plants in the ground.  This is how we winter over perennial stock plants.  Next spring, they're lifted out and I divide and repot them for new plants for the spring season.  It only works for perennials that are easily divided.  Others I start from seed or purchase rooted cuttings and pot them up.

I've spent the past week admiring everything that's still blooming in the gardens.  Frost is imminent, and most things will go--certainly with a hard freeze.  For mid-October, I was amazed at how much was still blooming--lavender, pineapple sage, heliotrope, nicotiana, roses, mexican bush sage, catmint, calendula, marigolds, strawflowers, sedum, zinnias, snapdragons.  I'm hopeful that the snaps will survive a while longer.  They always look so good at the end of the season and they are long lasting cut flowers.  I have both the dark wine-red 'Black Prince' variety and pink 'Apple Blossom' - so pretty in combination.

I've cut the last of the tender plants I want to dry and cut a big bunch of basil.  I keep it in water on the kitchen counter to extend my season for fresh basil.  What a treat for in spaghetti sauce, pasta dishes, etc.  After frost, we'll do final clean-up in the gardens and let them go until spring.

Now, I'm working in the shop getting things ready for the holidays--stocking holiday items, making arrangements, etc.  Also, working on the fall newsletter.  Be on the lookout for that in mid-November.  Remember, the shop is open five days a week, Tuesday - Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Christmas.  And mark your calendars for our holiday open house, Friday and Saturday, December 4 and 5.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

FALL IS COMING

I'm enjoying the transition between seasons--savoring the waning days of summer, and looking forward to cool, crisp fall days.  I also notice the transition in my work.  Work outside in the gardens continues--but is lessening, while my work readying the shop for the fall and holiday season is increasing.  There are some things I must remind myself of as the seasons shift.  One has to do with watering plants.  During the summer, I soak the plants daily, so they can stand up to the high temps and remain healthy.  As fall approaches, and the weather cools down, I must remind myself to cut back and water just as necessary, allowing the plants to dry out between waterings.  It's the same for houseplants--cut back on the amount you water as temperatures moderate.  Also start to cut down on fertilizing.  Plant growth will slow down and in some cases, go dormant, as we approach winter.  Start slowly tapering off fertilizing indoor plants.

Work still remains outside.  Time to start thinking about harvesting annuals before frost comes.  It's a perfect time to make pesto with your basil harvest.  If you want blooming annuals to reseed next year, allow flowers to die on the stalk.  If the seed is hardy, allow it to fall for reseeding next spring.  If the seed isn't hardy, you can gather and store it, then plant next year after our last frost date.

I often talk to customers about how much I enjoy end of season plants.  As the garden winds down, some things just stand out in their amazing late season display.  Red pineapple sage flowers and fuzzy purple mexican bush sage are starting to bloom and boy, each one is stunning.  Pineapple sage has its bright color, sweetness and yummy scent.  Mexican bush sage has beautiful color and texture.  Annual vines are at their peak now.  One of my favorite part shade perennials is anemone.  They bloom pink or white, resemble a single rose and with adequate moisture, bloom bountifully.  And my snaps always look better in the fall.  I love them as a cut flower and they usually bloom longer for me than anything else--even mums.

The sweet autumn clematis is blooming.  It always reminds me of a fragrant white cloud on top of the pergola.  The fragrance is floral, but not overly sweet--a combination of floral and fresh.  The other vine on the pergola--jasmine--did not bloom at all this year.  Two severe winters took their toll.  The plants survived, but they died back all the way to the ground.  We really cleaned them out and they had lots of new growth this summer.  The tallest hasn't reached the top of the pergola yet.  I'm hoping for a milder winter--for their benefit.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

ENJOYING THE FOUR SEASONS

Last time, I wrote about how much I enjoyed a four season climate.  I also really enjoy the transition from one season into the next.  It's a combination of savoring the last of the departing season and anticipating the pleasures of the one to come.  Right now, I'm trying to relish each moment of summer remaining as it dwindles down.  The warmth of the air, the fragrance of fresh herbs in the garden and I'm eating all the fresh produce I can get my hands on.  At this time of year, I often think how nice it would be to have homegrown local fruits and vegetables year-round.  But I also wonder if it would seem such a delightful treat if we could get our hands on fresh produce at any time.

At the same time I'm appreciating the last bits of summer (like scraping all the ice cream from the bottom of the bowl) I'm anticipating the soon-to-come attributes of fall.  Some cool mornings, I can feel a slight tang in the air that I know will turn into the crisp coolness of fall mornings.  A couple times I've looked up to see small flocks of geese flying overhead.  Our lovely paperback birch has dropped a lot of leaves.  I'm sure it's from the dryness.  Generally, the leaves turn yellow in the fall.  These were dry and brown.  But it made for an enjoyable shuffle through the carpet of fallen leaves under the birch tree.  Unlike the white-barked river birch, this variety has tan, exfoliating (or peeling) bark which looks particularly attractive in the winter when the tree is bare of leaves.  It's also more tolerant of our hot, humid summers than river birches are.

Another sign of the impending arrival of fall--our goldfinch pair has started dining daily at the big stand of coneflower in front of the greenhouse.  Sometimes there are more than two, but a pair always come in together to enjoy the bountiful crop of seeds.  Sometimes, they fly back to the bee and butterfly garden to survey the area from a piece of decorative fencing or to splash in the birdbath.  Guess that's a pretty good day if you're a goldfinch.

I happened to be looking out the back door one day in time to see a giant bird flying over.  It was so low that it was easy to see it was a blue heron--I could even see it's feet hanging down as it flew over.  I thought it was going to land in the neighbor's above-ground pool, but it landed right at the edge of our wild, overgrown area.  It landed and immediately folded in its wings, making a very narrow silhouette.  It spent some time resting and walked around awhile.  I did not see it leave.  I've seen a heron flying over several times this year, so perhaps he lives in the area.

We still have a few perennials left for fall planting.  And the shop is fully stocked with our herbal products.  We are open Tuesday - Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through December.