Monday, April 22, 2013

Roses Peonies and Snow Ball Plants Are Spectacular!!

ROSES:  Half of my life,  I thought roses were for old ladies, why is that?  I didn't like the smell, thought they were lots of work and you would get all cut up when you pick them.  It wasn't until we lived in Nevada City and I was creating my own landscaping and cut flower gardens, did I re-visit my notion about roses.  I liked antiques and many of my friends lived in historic houses in downtown Nevada City and Grass Valley.  With old houses, they had old fashioned gardens with lots of roses and they convinced me they weren't that much work and worth it anyways.  As I smelled the smells in their gardens and saw the varied beauty of roses
AND saw the fabulous cut arrangements my friends had I became a believer.  So started my life with roses in my yards.  When we moved to Gridley, there were only 1-2 roses so each occasion such as birthdays or anniversaries, I added roses to the landscaping.  One year, Rite Aid was having a big close out sale of their plants and most were roses, so I filled my car up with the plants.  Each year since, especially in the spring, they just give back more than they take in efforts to keep them trimmed, fertilized, aphid clean.  Frank and I recently stood in front of our huge Cecile Brunner rose and marveled at the wonderful sweet smell and magic of all the blooms that (actually I planted next to where we keep the garbage cans) you can not even see the picket fence where its' life began in a one gallon can.  From the road looking into our place it is as large as a tree with thousands of buds and blooms.  I feel you  just can't have too many roses in a yard.
PEONIES:  Just take a large cabbage rose and double the size and now you have a peony blossom.  Again, my love of peonies started in my friend's yards.  One friend had a 1870 Victorian house and all around the foundation were these gorgeous peonies.  Problem with them is that you don't know they are even there until the leaves start unraveling; then these buds start; then the ants come; then the spectacular blooms; then the blooms all fall from their own weight or late spring rains. 
 But don't be discouraged.  There are support wires that you can put in the center of the plants; the ants are part of the plant life.  Peonies give off so much nectar, the ants are naturally drawn to them.  Peonies have few predators or diseases so very easy to grow.  Because ants are so protective of their food sources, they do get aggressive whenever any other pest wants to also enjoy the sweet nectar.  Ants do not harm or hurt the plants so just let nature do what it does pest, left alone.  You will get some ants on your counter when you cut and bring the blossoms into the house.  I read the other day that peony farms cut the blossoms when they are just buds and ship to the flower markets or florists.  I always thought I would love to raise roses and peonies as a farmer, instead of fruits and vegetables but because of the cost per each peony, it would take me many years to get a good stock going.  You can divide the bulbs, oh did you know peonies are bulbs?  Yes they are and can be divided like iris.  That is how I got hooked, my friend divided up the peonies in that yard that she believes had been there for over 100 years and when I left our house in Nevada City, I had many, many clusters of the most fabulous blossoms you have ever seen!!!  I have a few now but you can never have too many.
I think I would die if I should ever get a huge bouquet of peonies like the one above!!!  Heavenly!!!
SNOWBALL BUSH:  This is another shrub every garden needs to have in it.  It looks like a nothing kind of green shrub, sometimes a little wild and gangly until it starts to show their beauty.  I gave a dogwood tree and a snowball bush to my mother-in-law when she moved to Nevada City after retiring from Bay Area.  It always bugged me because I had the same two items in my yard and planted them several years before I gave them to her.  Well her snowball bush got to be the biggest and most spectacular (only word I can keep describing the beauty) when it bloomed.  The secret was that it was planted near the septic tank and near a hose bib that leaked so it just kept growing and growing.  The dogwood tree was a pink one and bloomed next to it and the combination was a like having a natural arrangement.  I don't have a photo of it but it looking like this.
Add these three very special plants in your yard and you will never be sorry.  Oh, and did I mention I love hydrageas too!!!
Happy Gardening from Windmill Farm.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Great Classes Coming Up & Tractor Supply Chick Day Ends April 21st

My hands are constantly caked with dirt from digging and planting seeds and vegetable plants.  Although some plants in the garden are still small, on the whole it is starting to look like a real proper garden!!!  My friend Mary sent me this picture and thought I would find it fun and inspiring, which it did.  Think I will be using more burlap this summer in my floral arrangements.
I forgot to mention some exciting classes coming up here at Windmill Farm. 
Learn To Not Be Afraid of Yeast-Learn the Basics of Making Yeast Breads and Quick Hand Made Rolls - April 27, 2013 1pm - 3pmJackie Whitnack will be teaching this class. We will be making yeast breads, start to finish; learn to make up home made "Quick" rolls; you will learn about all the different types of flours so you can make the breads/rolls per your specific likes or health needs.  Snacks provided; handouts; instruction.  $25.  Space is limited so please call or email me to sign up.
Beginning Slipcover and Upholstery Class - May 11, 2013 10:00 am - 12:30pm.  Caroll Reece, Owner of Upholstery/Slipcover business will be teaching the class.  You will learn about how to figure yardage for projects; learn all about piping and construction; about trims; demo and hands on making piping and she will show you how to make a slipcover for a footstool doing it two ways.  Snacks; handouts; instruction provided.  $25.  Space is limited so please call or email me to sign up.
Discover Your Genealogy Class -Learn How to Find Out About Your Family and Start Your Own Family Tree - May 15, 2013  5:30pm - 8:30pm.  Linda Goebel will be teaching this class and has many years of experience.  You will learn the basics of how to get started, if you have done some, she will take you to the next level.  She will teach you how to navigate through and also other sites; teach tips about take the mystery about looking.  Snacks; handouts; instruction provided here at Windmill Farm.  $25.  Space is limited so please call or email me to sign up.
Learn How to Make Your Own Market Bag Using Recycled Feed Sacks.  In early June I will be providing a class on making those Farmer's Market bags using feed sacks.  I know I have talked about it forever but now that the market season is about to begin, good time to do it and it is really fun to do and each one is unique.
One other update.  Tractor Supply is having their final Chick Day April 21st.  Check it out as they are still having some special deals on chick starting supplies; they have some really great chicken coops already made, you just need to assemble and can still order your baby chicks.  Tractor Supply also has some great books and magazines on raising chickens that I still buy even though I am a pretty veteran chicken farmer.  I love reading about anything to do with chickens!!!
Having our farm has really blessed Frank and I with meeting some wonderful people that we would probably never meet without having it.  Yesterday, a lovely lady contacted me about signing up for the baking class and came over to pay and fill out the form.  We became kindred spirits and a wonderful and interesting person.  And her husband came along and he had so much in common with Frank, they sat out back on the patio and chatted away and we chatted away in the kitchen!!!   Funny thing is that she lives a very short distance away from us and she had never known about our classes, or our CSA farm.  She also signed up and became a Windmill Farm Member!!!  I am so pleased to have met her and her husband and know we will become great friends.
Back to digging and dirty hands.  Have a great weekend -going to be hot so wear sun screen and a hat.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Vegetable and Flower Planting and What is a Fence Stile?

I have been MIA-missing in action writing,but you could find me in the back property planting, planting and planting.  I started all my herbs and vegetables in the greenhouse just waiting for the right time to introduce them to the real world of the Windmill Farm soil.  I planted 5 flats of several varieties of tomatoes; 5 flats of different varieties of peppers, egg plant, parsley, sage, basil, and lots more.
We had rain, wind, cool weather, but then a straight stretch of warm weather was predicted, so out went my little plant babies.  I have been on my knees or leaning over for days and have had my share of aches.  Yesterday I recruited Frank to plant out all the cucumbers and squash so they are in the ground with a nice dose of water to perk them up. I was actually getting a little worried about not planting early enough, I was sure tempted.  My good friends who have a vegetable farm planted in the middle of March with the aid of using plastic that they put up and down over them depending on the weather.  I waited as I had previously had several negative experiences here in Gridley by planting too early.  We do get our spring early and this year our spring was beautiful and mild -yet I resisted.  And then boom!!!  The driving rain came down for days and the March winds blew and blew strong gales for several days in a row.  My friends lost many plants, mine were warm and cozy and out of the wind in my greenhouse.

Disadvantage is my friends will have their vegetables (that make it through the rough weather) several weeks early and in farming, that is a very beneficial place to be, you get your products out to sell sooner and prices are better early in the season.
This year I am adding a larger space for my country flower cutting gardens.  If my plan works, it will be not only beautiful but allow me to offer a much greater range of flower arrangements for special orders; maybe even Farmer's Market flower sales and CSA bouquets for my members.  We shall see how it goes, I will post some photos later as they start to grow.
Fence Stiles  I recently saw some photos of an open range that was crossed fenced for cattle.  In the photo was this interesting ladder that went up and over it for the rancher to cross over from one pasture to the next. The ladders are called "stiles".  A stile is a structure which provides people a passage through or over a fence or boundary via steps, ladders or narrow gaps. Stiles are often built in rural areas or along footpaths to allow access to an adjacent field or area separated by a fence, wall or hedge. Unlike a gate, there is no chance of forgetting to close it, and should the stile break, the fence remains intact (livestock cannot escape). Depending on your location, you may see some, other places you never see them.  I am originally from Rhode Island where people have rock walls as their dividers between  pastures, gardens or neighbors.  The rock walls weren't terribly tall yet great for keeping animals in/out yet difficult to get over from one side to the other.  Almost every place in Rhode Island had some kind of stile/rocks made into steps to get over the walls.
We had a house in Northern California, in a town called Manton.  When we purchased it, all the borders were covered with years and years worth of blackberries.  When we started to clear the property, we found the property was bordered on 3 sides with the most beautiful and very, very old stone walls.  And in the back, there was a fence stile but it was made by placing rocks out from the wall to create stepping stones over it!  At one time, the old homestead had 100s of acres and the previous family owners raised dairy cows.  The walls had several openings with old wooden gates to move the cows from one pasture to the next, but if you didn't want to worry about opening and closing gates, you could just climb over the rock walls using the fence stile.
If you travel to the areas where grapes are grown, you may see some stiles there.

 And of course, in Europe, they are everyplace across their rock walls.

Well, I must get back to my planting so my wonderful CSA members and customers will have lots of vegetables to enjoy this season.
Until next time-just when you think you have seen EVERYTHING-

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Sweat Pea is April Flower Month

How can one flower have so much aroma ?  I purchased some Sweat Pea flowers a few days ago as my sweet peas are not ready yet and the whole kitchen and dining room have the most amazing smell.  I wish my birthday flower was a Sweat Pea, mine is March-the Daffodil or Narcissus.  Yes, I like the Paper White Narcissus bulb if that counts as my birthday flower.  But the Sweat Pea flower itself is like paper and the colors can be a wide arrange of muted pastels to dark purples and pinks. When they grow, they do look like a snow pea bush and then they get these blossoms and even the blossoms can have little legs that cling to their stand or screen, whatever is being used to support them.  So fragile and delicate looking but they actually are very hardy plants and flowers. 
To keep them blooming as long as possible, it is better to keep clipping the flowers so it produces more buds.  They will flower and flower until the weather starts to get hot actually the same as the  snow pea plants.

I wish this blog could have a scratch and sniff box so you can enjoy the fragrance as much as I am.
It is interesting because you plant the seeds for Sweat Peas in November.  They can go through the winter and start growing their plants in February and March.  Not all regions can do it but many more than you think.  There is a Gardeners World BBC program where Monty did an experiment (at least it was done in England) where he planted the seeds in November, March, and June to see if it mattered when you actually planted them.  Of course their weather is so much milder than mine but his conclusion was that nature knows best.  The plant did do much better and produced more flowers when planted in November.
You normally do not see Sweat Peas flowers for sale at the grocery stores or even in florist shops.  They have to be special ordered.  But at least in Northern California, most of the local strawberry growers also grow flowers for their Farmer's Markets and road side strawberry stands and they grow Sweat Peas. 
Treat yourself to the sweetest smell ever, buy a bunch at your local Farmer's Market or roadside stand.  Or next fall, buy a package and stick them in the ground around an arbor or trellis, you will be greatly rewarded.  And for those that are having an April Birthday-Happy Sweet Pea Month!!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Collecting Old Buttons and Clothes Pins

Whenever I see a photograph in a magazine that I love, it usually has items from the past that are just as relevant today as they were then.  I recently saw on a fellow blogger site, Perfectly Imperfect, where she was selling in her store a set of small clothes pins, called Memo Clips. So adorable to use to hold notes or recipes a new twist on an old idea.  A jar full of old clothespins are not only handy, but cute to have on a shelf in your laundry room or out on the back porch.  I have a jar full in my sorting shed that I use all summer long in my farming business-CSA (Community Supportive Ag).  I use clothespins to put notes in my customer's baskets; I use them to hold my cloth around the produce to keep it cool and avoid bumps to them while delivering the basket to my customer and to clip herbs together.
But my favorite items to see or find at a sale, is a jar or cookie tin full of old buttons.  Think about what this collection represents.  When times were tough as people were farming and ranching central and western America, they had to use and make due with what they had on hand.  As children clothes wore out after being passed down several times to younger children, the thin fabrics would be cut up and made into quilts and the buttons cut off to be used again on some other hand made garment or to repair a lost button.  Sometimes the jars yield other treasurers like old shoe buttons from the 1880s, pieces of jewelry or even little bits of toys, belt buckels.  When my mother died, we found several jars of old buttons, one was full of bone and abalone buttons, which I just cherish in my collection today.  It seems to most people now such a waste of time to cut buttons off clothes, easier to just toss the stained or worn out blouse in the trash.  But if you sew and need to purchase buttons, you will be surprised at how expensive 4 little buttons cost now.  I have my old buttons sorted into colors to make looking for the right ones much easier. 

Button saving is re-cycling started over 150+ years ago.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Bicycles Can be Fun Garden Art

 I hope you had a wonderful Easter!!  We went camping with our family for 5 days and had just so much fun.  Carli has been bitten by the fishing bug, catch and release of course, and spent hours learning how to cast and be patient!!!  And it paid off as she caught 2 fish.  Collin has gotten so good at riding his bike he actually scares me sometimes at how fast he can ride.
I love the bicycles that are patterned off the old 1950s bikes, large fenders, aqua or pink and white colors, they are so darn fun.  Frank bought me one a few Christmas' ago and it always makes me smile when I see it in the garage with the cute wicker basket on it, also makes me feel guilty for not riding it more. 

I have collected images of old bikes on Pinterest and wanted to share them with you.
It is cute to see some old rusty ones set into a garden with flowers all over them.  I have recently seen in large nurseries where they make bikes but they are actually not working but have special holders for flower pots.
A special occasion bike-

A cute gate made from a bike-

Or just a lazy afternoon ride bicycle.
They even make a bike chain that looks like leaves.
Happy Bicycling!!!