Week 1, 2016
Welcome to the new year!
It is finally starting to feel a little bit like winter is here with our first day below freezing at 3 weeks into the season. Hopefully this will not do too much damage to the garlic plants that started to sprout up in the field and the plants in the hoop house that were growing in there like it was spring. One of the first things I learned as a farmer was that every year was a “crazy year” for weather. It seems every year has it anomalies.
The beehives have also been checked since the nice weather had them all flying around outside the hive in December, which is a strange site indeed. If the weather is nice for a sustained period then the queen starts laying eggs and the bees start “working” like it is spring and then end up eating all of their honey reserves. Luckily only one hive out of four seemed to have a food shortage and so we have started to supplement their honey with sugar syrup.
Buttercup, our new farm collie is doing well. She just turned six months old and made it through the gauntlet of family holiday parties. She did great with all the people and had great manners overall but we have noticed that she is a bit fearful of other dogs. I have noticed since she was quite small that her reaction is to bark at them and step back first, and then, reluctantly, she will say hello. I will have to work with her on this since we have visitors to the farm often and I don’t want this fearful behavior to carry over in any way. Our former farm collie and dog extraordinaire, Daisy, had so much confidence that I thought this puppy would have it built in since she was Daisy’s niece. And while I would not call Buttercup a withering flower (pardon the pun!), she could use a little boost for sure.
Finally, while things are a bit slower here on the farm during the winter months, things are really hopping in the world of love! The winter holidays are when many young couples get engaged and thus start down the road of planning their wedding. So these days we are fielding inquiries about our floral services and meeting with bridal parties to discuss all things floral for their special day. Our calendar is filling up faster than it ever has before so that is pretty exciting for us. Looks like 2016 is going to be busy, that’s for sure!
No sooner does the box of holiday decorations make it back into the closet that the seed trays come out. Or so it seems.
Each year, Patti starts thousands of seeds. No kidding. The process is part science, part artwork, part luck. So many things can go wrong, which makes “attentiveness” the most critical component of raising flowers from seed. You have to pay close attention to the soil, the lighting, the heat, and moisture. And then there are the field mice who consider tasty green sprouts quite a delicacy!
When most people think of starting seeds, they think spring, but here on the farm seeding is actually a weekly activity that takes place right up until the end of July for cultivating this year’s flowers. Seeding actually continues right into the fall for next year’s flowers.
We currently grow more than 60 varieties of flowers, many of which are unique and not the kind that can be shipped in the cargo hold of a plane. Flowers such as cosmos, zinnia, allium, celosia, nigella, poppies and ammi are just a few examples of beautiful, locally grown flowers that look amazing in wedding bouquets (see our flower photos). These flowers are quite delicate and have a hard time making the overseas trip.
When growing a variety of unique specimens, finding the right seeds can be a bit of a challenge. We tend to depend upon commercial outfits such as Geo Seed and Johnny’s Selected Seeds for sourcing, however, seeds may actually be available through your local library, which may have a seed library, or your local garden club.
Remember, it may sound counter intuitive but, seeds are not ubiquitous and are not always available. Suppliers can run out of certain stocks during the year. It helps to order ahead. The best time to order seeds for a flower you love is right after it has finished flowering. In that way you remember the colors you liked, how many you needed, and if you want to try a new variety for next year.
If you are interested in learning a great deal more about seeds and, for that matter, everything a flower farmer needs to know, consider joining us for one of our full-day workshops this summer. These are “boots required” events for budding flower farmers and serious garden enthusiasts. Learn more on our workshops page.
Before we sign off, I’d like to thank Lucas of TYDΛLFORCE for providing the original soundtrack to our video above. Just like our flowers, that song was home grown.
We’ve received many exquisite photos from our clients this year. Nothing makes flowers look more lovely than when they are seen in the arms of a happy bride or groom.
As a result we’ve spent several winter nights “pinning” our flowers to Patti’s Pinterest site. What’s so neat about Pinterest is the way it allows one to organize photos and share them on unique “boards.” We have begun to create a number of boards to display the variety of designs and arrangements available as well as the local flowers that are in season at a particular time of year.
On a sunny and spectacular September 27th, more than 500 people pedaled their way through Warren County, NJ, on the Tour de Farm. Among their many farm stops that day, the cyclists had the chance to build a bouquet on Little Big Farm and sample some Blairstown honey and pollen before ending their day at a locally sourced gourmet feast at Race Farm.
We were excited that the New York Times covered the event. Though they didn’t mention us by name, they did include a photo of our place in their collage. Notice Lucas kicking back in the top left corner of the frame!
For years we threw around ideas about “signage” for the farm, but we were so busy tending other aspects of farm life that we never quite got around to it — until now. Thanks to a casual conversation among friends, we learned that one of our closest friends right here in Blairstown was not only fully capable but willing to tackle painting a mural on our barn. Local artist Gina Danesi Trish completed formal art training at George Washington University and held an artist residency at Peter’s Valley Arts and Craft Center. While “Barn Painting 101″ may not have been on the curriculum, it is evident that her training provided all the requisite skills to transform a blank wall into a magnificent canvas. Watch this time lapse video to see how Gina spread a little pixie dust on Little Big Farm.