Reflections of a year of farming flowers for dye, cut flower and aromatherapy.
Happy end of 2021. As I reflect on this past year I wanted to take some time to chat with you about the farm, flowers, and the effects of the seasonal weather pattern on my production and my life.
It's been a year. Phewf. This season brought some overwhelm that I had to face head on. I am a highly sensitive person, and the hullabaloo around Covid and the abrupt weather patterns not only took a toll on my production and farm, but on my life as well. I had to learn some hard lessons this year, and I choose to learn those offline. So you may have noticed I was not very social on the socials. I needed some space to sort through this years business ups and downs and figure out where I was going. So much of the year hinged on the development of new restrictions and figuring out how and where the best place was to sell our products, that I couldn't manage writing about it all, till now. It's been a very personal journey this year. But, if I may, I would like to share some insights with you. Pull up a chair, let's look back at a year of flowers.
The year started out with a few new intentions. 1. to grow a dye garden and experiment with color. 2. to grow 2 extra fields for drieds and vegetables.
We managed to reach our goals this year and in the process learn a ton of useful and not so useful information about growing on a larger scale. The long and short of it is, large scale variable flower crop growing, is not for me. However, I seemed to thrive on the idea of growing roots and blooms to dye with in our off season, which amounts to about 7 months of each year.
The Second Field
Let's take a look at the second and third fields we grew in this past season. We were blessed to have some extra land in the valley this year to really stretch out and try some new things. I not only got to grow a field of extra blooms for fall, but also try my hand at pumpkin growing and veggies.
Here's the fall flower field after everything was mostly planted in. This took me about 3 weeks to plant. between late spring frosts and rain, I managed to finally get everything I wanted to in the ground for a fall harvest. Including 900 glads and for the first time, a successful crop of dahlias.
The green house was brimming as I started plants indoors and slowly moved everything out. I had over 75 trays of annuals filled with 100 plants each. This was a record year for plant propagation. We also expanded our Lavender crops with several new varieties of lavender. These plants unfortunately were very late to arrive and spent the summer in pots because fields had already been planted by the time they showed up. It wasnt until fall when I could rearrange the field as things came out for a sampler row of lavenders I wanted to put on feature.
Here's the second field putting on weight. We encountered some abnormally hot dry weather this season which brought temps of 40+ degrees celcius to this field. Most plants made it, but we did have some loss including 300 sweetpeas that shrivelled up before they could even bloom.
Mid summer and the second field is looking good after getting some rain and emergency sprinklers in place. Most of the plants I grow are drought tolerant, so I rarely irrigate or turn on the water. But it got so hot and dry that forests were burning down around us, and, with a record low of rain, we needed to feed this field.
The cool fall weather and fall rains sent this field into a tizzy of harvestable dahlias, glads and sunflowers. We cut blooms right until Thanksgiving when the frost hit this field just 3 days before turkey day!
The Veggie Garden, third field!
Meanwhile in the third field, I was growing massive vegetables and hopi sunflowers along side a pumpkin patch that I think was by far the most exciting plant to grow!
I grew enough food in a reasonably small plot for at least 5 families. Potatoes, turnips, carrots, beans, beans and more beans, a few zucchinis and loads of pumpkins. The harvest was excruciating along side my usual flower fall clean up and planting. I actually started pulling the fields in mid august and didn't finish the harvest until the end of October. It was a long haul.
A little peak at what passed through my fingers this year in the flower fields.
I have proudly grown thousands and thousands of blooms for cut this year. Some of them you enjoyed in the summer. Some in your winter wreaths, and there's still one more handful coming for valentines day.
A few things became very evident to me this season, there are just some things, that wont grow up on my mountain, no matter how I try. And some things that grow like weeds. So as I head into our 5th flower year, I will be focussing whole heartedly on some very special flowers, collections, herbs and dye roots and blooms that I know will thrive and give me a good harvest. This year we grow smarter, not harder. Because friends, it was hard to manage all by myself this year.
The Peony Patch
My peony collection is a labour of love and time. With over 250 roots in the ground, these beauties are undoubtedly a special part of the farms future. I have been growing these peonies for the past 4 years and adding more as I go. They tell stories of heirloom lands and waft fragrances of the past as they grow larger every year. I am in love with my peonies. And will soon be able to offer peony divisions from our own root stocks.
The Lavender & Herb Field
Our Lavender and Herbs are another area of deep reverence we have for plants. We now have another 7 varieties of Lavender being trialed for our fields. And we successfully distilled several gallons of Lavender hydrosols this season we will be offering up in our Hydrosol Bar coming in the spring. We also grew and distilled our own eucalyptus, sage, mint, fennel, and wildcrafted evergreen hydrosols that will be available again in the summer. We have plans to expand this area of our fields to expect new herbs for our distillates each year including patchouli, holy grass and bayberry, just to name a few.
The most amazing emotional moment of distillation is in the first few drops of hydrosol. This happens about 1 hour into steam distillation and is absolutely magical.
We have unfortunately run into supply chain issues with our current packaging and will have to update our packaging for the new year. But we believe this product is so healing and needed in our world, that we are committed to getting this stuff out to you. I am hopeful we can bring a new designer on board and get these into production early next year.
Dying in the Garden
The best take away from this year was the dye flowers and roots we grew to extract color for fiber. I had to laugh at how many times I've told people that I was dying this season and then realizing they had no idea what I meant, had to explain my color fascination with flowers! From growing our own Indigo and fermenting and processing pigment to marigolds, hollyhocks, madder and coreopsis. Color has painted our garden plans for next season and the production of DIY products and classes have begun to unfurl.
The year brought us the same hardships as you had to endure. And I dont want to conjure up all the things we had to go through again. It's been a challenge as a people to live and love together. I have found it hard to feel everyone's feelings and be able to let them all go while I hold onto my own family. The cries of our land, our people, our grandchildren haunts me and often times has left me speechless. And I think that is ok. We dont always have to have the answers or the right words. I had to disconnect from the social media culture to find this truth. And its why my squares have been void for most of the year. I dont want to be the farm who does it all and pushes and pushed till the brink of exhaustion, like I did this year. If this pandemic has taught me anything its to slow down, listen, feel and surround myself with what I love that also loves me.
In the end, the season exhaled. I cleaned out all the gardens and fields, mulched, build compost piles, planted in tulips and more peony roots, divided daffodils, dried flowers and collected seed. And then, I fell asleep until New Years. I hope you are also feeling the natural ebb and flow of the seasons after this holidays and are hoping for brighter days ahead.
I hope you enjoyed everything you could this year. I look forward to the next season and growing with you again.
Happy Year end.