Friday, July 17, 2015

Summer Bouquets; Windmill Farm CSA (Community Supportive Ag) How We Pack Boxes

What a hot and busy farming week.  A lot of people continue to ask us what is it exactly that we are doing at our farm.  Our CSA business is a membership farm, a certain number that we can handle ourselves.  We grow, weed, water, care for vegetables, herbs, flowers and have heritage breed, free ranging chickens and sell their eggs.  Once the produce is ready, we deliver whatever is ripe, put it into a certain size box (price and sizes vary) and off it goes to our members, every other week.  

This week seems like every fruit tree has something ripe which needs to be picked and the vegetable garden tomatoes are a sea of red.
I put all our baskets out on a table; line them with a special open air plastic liners and then we start out with putting items that are firm on the bottom that can't be damaged, and start layering after that with produce.  Squash, cucumbers, onions, garlic, egg plant are normally at the bottom and work our layers up from there.

We also have special flower, jam, and egg orders to go along with our CSA baskets.  All produce  items have to be picked, washed, sorted with the damage and imperfections culled out before we start packing.  Some boxes are  labeled by member's names (only for those that have special requests or changes); when finished packing with the most fragile on top, like berries or figs; the boxes are placed in the cooler by delivery dates.
Tuesday night we put out a few boxes after 5:30 pm for the members that work and can not come by Wednesday morning to pick up of their boxes.  Then Wednesday morning, I put out more boxes out at my roadside stand for my members that live outside our delivery zone.  We have several families that have friends that are members too, so one person will pick up several boxes to deliver to some far off homes even up in Bangor and Palermo.  The van gets loaded up with our local members here in Gridley and they get their boxes delivered to their door steps.
Interesting event happened last year, I put the Wednesday morning boxes out early, on our roadside stand.  None had names on them because there were no special orders.  When I drove by to deliver to my Gridley people, I noticed several boxes had their plastic liners up and items put on the table.  Some passer byer had come by and thought the boxes, with the contents were available for sale and picked through the produce and took what they wanted.  There were a couple dollars in the $$$ slot, but they took much more than they left in money.  I had to take all the boxes back and re-pack.  Since then, I leave a note on the stand and have the member's names on them.When the van is empty, we come back home and re-load up and head out to our Oroville and Paradise member home/offices.  It is a big relief when the last box is in the hands of the member, our farming job is done!  All the flowers, eggs, jams, watermelons, boxes are gone; matched up with the right sized boxes; the right number of members.
I pick and prepare my flowers after packing all the boxes, normally later in the day when it gets cooler, Tuesday evening. It is a nice time to unwind, let the creative juices flow with whatever I pick in the flower gardens. They get packed into the van along with the produce to match up with CSA members or additional clients. The van is normally a sea of boxes, flowers, watermelon, eggs.  Thank goodness I have my handy delivery list and Frank as my navigator.  It does take a bit of organization, if anyone is ever interested in doing a CSA farm.  1/2 of what I do is marketing; keeping financial track; emailing and keeping records of who wants what in their box next delivery; or the number on locked gates; who has coolers to leave the boxes; one member has the box delivered to her husband's business which is upstairs in a complex.  I text them and someone comes down to greet us so we don't have to cart these 20+lbs of produce + a watermelon up flights of stairs.  
I am sure the members must think I look weird delivering with a sweater on during these hot days.  I want to tell you, inside the van, the air conditioner is on maximum to keep all the produce and flowers as cool as possible.  When the boxes leave our care, we have done our very best to deliver the freshest, most perfect fruits, veggies and flowers our little farm is able to do.
Even Bella was tired on Wednesday as she lays on the cool floor of our sorting shed. Hard life.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Teddy Bear Sunflowers; Dahlias Blooming

In spite of the heat, nature just keeping on giving.  I planted successions of sunflowers, mostly my favorite-Teddy Bear Sunflowers.  There is something about Teddy Bears that just make me smile.  And they beg to be touched, the centers almost look like velvet.  I love all sunflowers, they just make any arrangement burst of summer.
One problem I keep having when I make up arrangements, is to put too many flowers in each bouquet.  I start out with some greenery; then I add some side flowers; but then I start with the main flowers and I can't stop myself.  
Next time you receive a bouquet from a florist or one put together at a market, count how many stems you are actually getting.  Here at Windmill Farm you always get your money's worth in product-lots of stems in my arrangements.  You could even divide them up and make two out of one!!
I plant my Teddy Bear Sunflowers on the edging of my vegetable gardens, like a picture frame.  
The plants do not grow every tall, maybe 3' tall.  The flowers are very hardy and last after being cut for several days, if almost a week.
When you put a sunflower, in an arrangement with more serious - beautiful blossoms, such as dahlias, or roses, it changes how it appears.  Some people don't like to mix them, but I feel sunflowers are the quintessential summer flower with all the golds, yellows and oranges of a hot summer sunset.
Speaking of dahlias, who doesn't love dahlias?  I saw at our local Safeway that they have been selling these huge, almost 4' tall dinner plat dahlias in a 1 gal container with the bulb/s.  I bought one just because I couldn't resist it.  
A friend of mine, a few weeks later, texted me that she just took home 2 of the most fabulous dahlia plants in front of Safeway.  They had gotten a new batch.  The dahlia bug has bitten someone else!! 
 Yesterday, my daughter sent me a picture on my phone of a huge display of dahlias for sale at Costco.  Honestly, if I had some extra $$$, I would have told her to buy every single one of the.  Unbelievable gorgeous and unusual for stores to sell blooming dahlia bulbs.
 Must be a new trend.  Safeway's bulbs/flowers were $12.99; Costco price was $10.99.  Not bad when they are a lot more money in the catalogs.
 I am sure there may be more than one bulb in the containers and you get to see what the flower will look like as you plant it in your garden.
As a produce and flower farmer, my difficulty in growing dahlias is WHERE to plant them.  With our winter weather here in Butte County, we do not need to dig them up each year.  Once they are in the ground, they stay.  I planted a number of bulbs in a location where I thought they would be best to leave, within the vegetable planting areas.  Unfortunately, when Frank disked up the field in spring, he happened to dig that area too even though I had it marked off.  I lost a great deal of the bulbs, and had to dig them all up and re-plant someplace else.  They are not happy where they are now, so I will have to find a permanent and safe home for them after this year.
These arrangements were a special order for a baby shower, after the baby was born.  They were having an outside lunch and wanted the bouquets to be given away as gifts at the end of the shower.  They did not want traditional baby flowers, but wanted  large and bright colored summer bouquets.  So off I went, started adding more and more flowers; added sunflowers to the arrangement and ended up having to change out the containers to larger ones to suit the size better.  Just can't help myself.  The client was ecstatic and the new
Mom loved them too.
Add some sunflowers and dahlias to your gardens!   

Friday, July 3, 2015

Windmill Farm Chalkboard Class-Part 2

Thanks for coming back to Part 2 of our chalkboard art/writing classes.  Since my last post of Part 1, we picked, washed, sorted and packed another week of our CSA-Community Supportive Agriculture baskets.  It was so darn hot here in Gridley, I was picking cucumbers at 9:30 pm.  A few times I was afraid of sticking my hands into the plants because I really couldn't see what was there.  All those years living in Nevada City training to beware of rattlesnakes in cool, dark places.
The chalkboard art classes, as I mentioned before, were so much fun for everyone, but not without a lot of preparation work.  This process is what we normally do here at Windmill Farm to put on our classes.  Most times, they are outside in our outdoor kitchen or sorting shed.  This time, it was inside the house so it took more furniture prep.
Re-cap:  I set the dates with instructor, Andrea Bradley; started advertising; kept records of people who stated they were coming; Frank cut out all the chalkboards, I painted them with chalk paint, several times!!
Moved all the furniture in the front room the day before the classes; Celli, my daughter came with the grandkids and helped me set up the room; she made banners and hung them around the room; we prepared the food/snacks/drinks. Set up black paper on tables for people to use to practice while Andrea giving instruction during class. Interesting side note, I ran out of chalk paper for the class on Thursday.  I ordered another roll on and it came at 3:00pm on Thursday!!!  Staples and Michael's did not have it locally.
We placed chalkboard, rulers, chalk, sharpeners, Q tips, water, rags at each table for people to use.
Andrea arrived with all her wonderful chalkboard examples; a presentation board and we hung up all her suggested artwork to inspire.
We used the theme, 4th of July-Americana.  The chalkboard Mason jars had red/white/blue ribbon on them; Q tips were red/white blue!!! Banners were red, white, blue also.
Andrea moved a few things around on her display and presentation table because she is left handed and it worked better for her.  Off she went with her terrific examples of writing, tips and artwork.  At the end of the class some of the gals had their pictures taken with their finished work.


Sorry, I am not good at placing photos on my blog.  On my to do list to learn more about in 2015.  but you get the idea, lots of fun by people and they all went home with great chalkboards.  Also wanted to mention to the Wednesday group, I will post photos of their finished projects next week.  These photos I took with my phone, Wednesday's photos were taken by my daughter, Celli's phone so I need to get those pictures.
Thank you all for attending the class; thank you for coming and learning about what it took to put these 2 classes together; thank you goes to my wonderful daughter Celli for making all those adorable banners; helping me set up and make the food.  And a general support to me as I was getting a little worried about it all Wednesday afternoon!  And last but not least, a big thank you goes to our chalkboard artist extraordinaire-Andrea Bradley for teaching the class.  We are hoping to put another one one in early winter.  If interested, doesn't hurt to email or FB me early as I am sure that class will fill up quickly as these 2 classes did.