Flower CSA – Week One

Last year, some of you requested to know the names of the flowers in your bouquet. However, with bouquets going out Tuesday-Friday, the ingredients often change from beginning to end of week, depending on what’s blooming in abundance that day.

But! This feels like a good challenge! I am going to try to provide you with a sketch and names of the flowers I hope to include in the bouquet that week. You may not see everything on the list, and you will more than likely get a surprise element not listed! Enjoy!

Here’s week one:

 

parsnip

Parsnip flower: green with yellow umbels; looks much like dill flower.

lady's mantle

Lady’s Mantle: green with tiny yellow star-shaped flowers; perennial and common ground cover.

peony

Peony: comes in many varieties of whites, pinks, & reds; grown from a root that can live for decades.

delph

Delphinium, Magic Fountains: shades of blue that are fairly rare to flowers, as well as whites and purples.

poppy

Poppies, Icelandic: tissue paper-like petals in many vibrant colors. Singeing the stem after cutting can help blooms last longer.

Flower CSA Start

To my lovely CSA members:

Only one more week to wait for your beautiful bouquets! The CSA will be starting the week of June 29th!

For your flowers to last as long as possible, bring a jar of water for the trip home (especially if it’s a long one). After unwrapping, trim stems at least an inch and put into a clean vessel with fresh water. Refreshing the water every other day will keep the flowers looking beautiful even longer!

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Why I Love Maine

I’d like to take a moment to recognize this great state in which I reside and conduct business. It was fond childhood memories at a remote lakeside camp that lured me here in the first place, but re-living it now as an adult, my appreciation for Maine has grown much deeper. This marks year six of being a (unofficial, non-native) Mainer.  I really started to love Maine from year one of my residency, and began uncovering more of its wonders in year two. It was somewhere around year four when someone asked me to name one thing I didn’t like about Maine. After thinking for awhile, and thinking some more, I came up with nothing. That’s when I knew I was home.

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Portland Headlight

The first three years, I had the privilege of exploring Maine’s backwoods while building trails with the Maine Conservation Corps. I witnessed serene beauty in places most of the world will never see. I travelled through towns so sparsely populated their names consist of letters and numbers. I found peace crawling out of my tent in the morning to a lake shore sunrise, and returning at night to swim off the day’s sweat and dirt. Among my favorite places were the sparkly blue waters along the rocky Cutler Coast, the thrilling vastness of Baxter State Park, and the familiarity of the Appalachian Trail. In the winter, Sugarloaf has become my home, where I spend the majority of my time riding the varied mountain’s terrain via snowboard.

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Doubletop Mountain, Baxter State Park

Maine wilderness is pretty perfect, offering mountains, lakes, rivers, and ocean. For an outdoor enthusiast, the possibilities are endless as the seasons rotate and express an array of options along with dramatic scenery transformations.

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Baxter Peak on Katahdin, Maine’s highest mountain

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Katahdin silouhette

It may have been my passion for the outdoors that led me here, but the people and atmosphere have enticed me to stay. Maine-ah’s are welcoming and generous. It seems each person prides him or herself in being more helpful than the next. Stranded on the side of the road with a flat tire or dead battery, I’m continuously amazed by the amount of people who are happy to stop and offer whatever help they can. Strangers walking down the street say hello or comment on the niceness of the day.

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Isle au Haut coastline

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From Swan’s Island lighthouse

Farmers in Maine have demonstrated similar kindness. Neighbors are quick to lend a hand (or tractor) or simply share a meal or advice. I love that I have found a small group of flower growers with similar goals and interests. Rather than taking on a competitive nature, everyone is excited to share experiences and resources. When the stress of running a farm business feels unbearable, knowing this group of independent lady flower farmers are enduring and overcoming similar challenges, helps pull me through.

Maine is a wonderful place, to live and farm. Sometimes I’m not sure if life can get much better than this.

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Honeysuckle Way Flower Farm, summer 2014

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A memorable campsite in the North Maine Woods

Spring Seedlings and Wayward Pigs

There was a time I thought this winter snow and cold may last forever. Not that I have reason to complain, considering my winter was filled with teaching snowboarding and baking desserts. There were also high hopes of painting masterpieces, learning to knit, and ending world hunger, but alas, being outdoors (even in subzero temperatures), often took priority. Luckily, with the change in season, I can continue working outdoors as the farming season makes a gradual entrance.

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Now that we have reached some pleasant days in the 50’s and 60’s (with 4 inches of snow last week already behind us), working outside has been rejuvenating as ever, and I am full of hope and excitement for flower season.

As farming goes, this spring has already sprung its share of challenges. First was moving some stubborn pigs and chickens out of our much needed workspace. For the pigs, we dug a snow pit, a “Pig-loo,” if you will, to keep them contained within four towering walls of snow.  Restraining the chickens proved to be more difficult. Upon entering the greenhouse every day, we began constructing obstacle courses in our wake to deter nosy chickens from entering and wreaking havoc on our seedling trays. This created a challenge for the farmers and chickens alike. Luckily farmers are smarter than the average chicken.

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Furthermore, when the relief of cleaning up the farm in the fall arrived, we hadn’t really considered some items (including animal fencing) may be hidden by two feet of snow come April! I guess we also failed to realize sliding shed doors may freeze into an impenetrable block of ice. And without the ability to open the doors, we may have to disassemble our wheelbarrow, chuck the parts out a sliver of opening, and reassemble outside the shed.

As fellow flower farmers giddily posted pictures of apple blossoms, poppies, and tulips, I looked across my snow covered field and sighed. Even now with the snow melted, it will take some time for my field to dry up and be ready for planting.

Still, as spring leisurely strolls in, I am a seeding machine in the greenhouse. I am excited this year to be growing more flowers and some new varieties! I am looking forward to arranging for summer weddings and the opening of the Gardiner Co-op, where I plan to offer fresh cut bouquets.

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In other big news- I bought a filing cabinet. A wise man (Ben Marcus, owner of Sheepscot General) once told me, “there is a fine line between self-employed and unemployed.” I’m pretty sure owning a filing cabinet solidifies the former, or at least I hope.

So fear not, fellow Mainers. When summer arrives, it will be filled with flowers. Sign up to get a Honeysuckle Way bouquet each week with my CSA, if you have not already done so. And take some time to enjoy the sunshine and pleasant days!

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In awe and thanks…

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After a whirlwind first season growing flowers as Honeysuckle Way at Crooked Door Farm, I am beginning to prepare for next year.  This time of year is bittersweet.  It was hard watching beautiful plants wither in last month’s frosts, and maybe even more difficult ripping out living plants in attempt to get the field cleaned up before winter.  As crisp fall weather sets in, I’m suddenly realizing how much I’ll miss the flowers that once seemed overabundant mid-summer.  Yet, it is also a relief to be finished rushing around preparing for markets and keeping up with the farm.  As the days grow shorter, I am grateful to be able to sleep in a bit later.   It’s nice having the time and energy to cook more creative meals, using the crops grown at Crooked Door to their full potential, instead of just eating twenty cucumbers because it’s quick and easy.

Of course there were tough days- arriving at market with a car full of flowers, only to find the market had been rained-out… Realizing my sweet pea would never flourish due to an overwhelming population of bugs… But days when I was scolded for having too many beautiful options, making it difficult to choose just one bouquet, and begged to return to market next week with even more flowers- made it all worthwhile.  Knowing that even just one person appreciated the soft blue hue of the delicate nigella stems, or the uniqueness of the scabiosa stellata flower pod, confirmed that not only can we still appreciate beauty in the world, but that I am making a difference by growing and providing local flowers in Maine.

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I owe you all a sincere thank you for supporting me through this exciting and scary experience.  It has been such a pleasure serving you with my floral creations.  It would not have been possible without the kind-hearted support from family, friends, CSA members, market shoppers, and flower lovers like you!

Whether you bought my flowers or not, I hope you became more aware that local flowers are often fresher and more fragrant than imported flowers.  Unique varieties are available that would otherwise not package well for plane rides, but will, however, stay just as vibrant as I hand deliver them several miles down the road.  I hope you have a better understanding that responsible farming practices, free of harmful chemicals, produce flowers just as lovely, if not lovelier, than those shipped from foreign farms that often underpay workers and expose them to dangerous working conditions.  Buying locally-grown flowers contributes to your community’s economy, supports sustainable farming practices, and eliminates fuel and energy costs.

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Thank you for your continued support and enthusiasm for Honeysuckle Way, as well as local flowers in general.  I am already giddy dreaming about which flowers to grow next year.  I can hardly wait to brighten more days with fresh-picked bouquets, or even a virtual bouquet for those too far away to enjoy the imagery in person. But first: some rest, some fun, and some time to appreciate how lucky I am to have the life I live, along with the wonderful people I’m fortunate enough to share it with.

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Climbing Mountains

Recently my family came to visit Maine.  With a flower field to run, markets to attend, and CSA shares to fill, I regret I did not spend nearly enough time with them.   Still, we were able to squeeze in a trek up Katahdin, Maine’s highest and (in my opinion) most epic mountain.

From Moosehead Lake, we got up before the sun and braved a stretch of the Golden Road, a  logging road that spans a hundred miles or so across the North Maine Woods.  It’s riddled with unpredictable washouts and blowdowns, moose encounters, and those 20-ton logging trucks that come barreling around the corner, just when you are convinced you were alone for miles and maybe days.  We made our way north with my uncle steering the family van as I kept a careful eye on the map.  We continued reassuring ourselves the heavy rain “showers” would clear into a beautiful day.

As we began our hike, the rain had mostly stopped, but the atmosphere and surrounding woods remained saturated with moisture.   A gradual three miles led us to Chimney Pond, which shimmers beneath the rocky Pamola and Baxter Peaks, with an intimidating view of the legendary Knife Edge connecting the two.  This day, however, our eyes traveled across the clear water to the beginning of some craggy cliffs, which quickly became engulfed by dense fog and mystery.

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Joe, Joan, Lilly, and me at Chimney Pond in Baxter State Park.

It began to dawn on me that the clouds may not magically part, gifting us with a beautiful sunny day, as I kept imagining they would.  Still, my brother, sister, cousin, and I forged ahead up the mountain.  After stumbling up slippery rocks and taking several moments to catch our breath, we reached a particularly challenging section.  The trail rose nearly vertically above us, leading up a river of boulders into the misty sky.  We discussed our options.  We needed to be back to level ground in a few short hours.  The rocks were precariously slippery and the view from the top may very well be nonexistent.

Yet, we had come here on a mission and already made it this far.  We put our heads down and scrambled further up into the clouds.  Without any clearing, we couldn’t see what we were climbing to, making it difficult to gauge when, if ever, we would reach the top.  The last mile dragged on, but suddenly, there we were, standing before the legendary Katahdin summit sign.

We saw nothing beyond a 20-foot radius of boulders and a gathering of two dozen hikers, some celebrating as they had just finished their 2,500 mile thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail.  The remaining miles of mountain and ridge line disappeared into the gray billows of fog.

I couldn’t help but feel denied the satisfaction that accompanies conquering a giant mountain while towering over the world below and taking in the rugged landscape I’d just pushed my body to overcome.  Needless to say, the summit was cold, wet, and windy.  We ate a quick lunch and hurried back down the way we’d come.

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A fleeting glimpse of what lay below our Katahdin decent.

As we descended, I began to realize it’s not always about getting the best view.  We may not have returned home with a picturesque photo of a breathtaking scene, but there were more valuable rewards to be had.  The sense of accomplishment after persevering, when it would have been far easier to turn back…  The journey we made together and encouragement to get each other through it…  Believing in whatever we are doing enough to not give up, despite the outcome or whether or not others are able to witness, or even appreciate, how far we’ve come.

My life over the past couple years has been, and continues to be, a journey- both to find myself and my purpose.  There are always those rock scrambles to defeat and a thousand excuses to turn back, but how would we ever know what we are capable of if we gave up when things got tough?  Looking ahead, it may all seem like an insurmountable jumble or vision masked by clouds, but you have to start somewhere to uncover a path and direction.

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Blooming zinnias

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The flower field

Starting a farm is not as romantic and glamorous as we imagine, and while I feel well-supported and loved, it’s hard coming to terms with the fact that not everyone has the same appreciation and awareness for what I am doing.  But I think that’s ok, because I believe in what I am doing, and if I can share even the slightest piece of that with those around me, then I’m making progress.  It has become important for me to be deeply connected to food and flowers, from seed to table, and be able to channel my creative energy into beautiful arrangements that make people smile.  The key is having faith that I’m doing the right thing and that it’s all going to turn out ok.  To quote my most favorite Tracy Chapman song, “I’ve conquered hills, but I still have mountains to climb.  And right now I’m doing the best I can.”

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Just some things I’ve been working on…

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