Flush, abundant, bloomin’, full-speed-ahead, busy -are all descriptors for this time of year on a Midwestern flower farm. We’ve been buzzing with lots of activity on Delight Flower Farm as you might have noticed on our various social media feeds. Here’s a recap of what we’ve been up to.
Our first annual Hops Plant Sale for Father’s Day weekend was mid-June at Sipyard in downtown Urbana with music by the lovely Matt and Claire of Meadowhawk. It was a grand success. We met a bunch of friendly local brewers, herbalists, and gardeners and sold some plants too.
CSA on-farm pick up. This year, we’ve changed the shareholders’ pick up format from years’ past. This new location and structure -just a short 2 hour pick up window on the farm-puts the big “C” back into our flower CSA. Being able to greet shareholders in person each week and have shareholders meet each other really does feel like it cultivates community (& the fuzzy baby goats sweeten the deal!)
Thanks for keepin’ up with our growth (pun intended)!
We are so grateful for the warmth we’ve had this past week. The flowers needed that good, nourishing sun to make some food! And the soil was in need of some drying. The difference between weeks of endless rain and weeks of sunshine definitely shows. This week we harvested lots of queen anne’s lace, gladiolas, zinnias, black-eyed susans, sunflowers, pink sunday sage, marigolds, and the last of the goosenecks. The colors in the garden ranged from deep oranges, to dreamy purples, with buttery yellows and bright pinks in between. There was one sunflower whose head was almost as big as any of ours, roughly 7 feet tall, with a thick stem. We decided not to cut this baby, but to leave her standing tall in the entryway of the garden. Thank you, sunny guardian!
:: speaking of thanks ::
Just before our first harvest of the season, and just after weeks of preparing the garden in oh, so many ways for the season, my mother and I took a trip all the way across the world to Bali. It’s marvelous to me, to know that people all over the world celebrate life every day in a different kind of way. While so many parts of my trip and this new country struck me as remarkably unique, one of my favorite things that I witnessed was the daily offering, which no visitor of Bali could go without experiencing.
Outside nearly every doorstep, on every street, in every town we visited, people would set out a daily offering to the gods, called a Canang Sari, consisting of an assortment of flower, incense, food tidbits, tobacco, whatever one had to give just little of–all wrapped up in a little box, handmade out of a coconut leaf. Walking through the streets we often would smell incense burning for blocks and see groups of friends making more little boxes for the days to come. So many people we spoke with while there expressed an appreciation for the gifts of every day, and the desire to recognize them and to give back–this notion I loved and shared with them, and upon coming home I wanted to make sure could hold on to this sort of kinship with life, and others in it.
:: back in the garden ::
When we got into the garden for harvest #1, we were all so excited to see the first teddy bear sunflower (named for its fluffy, shaggy aesthetic) ripe for picking. It was a bit early for sunflowers, so this early bloomer seemed so special. We talked about who might get that one in their CSA bundle that week. As Holly went to harvest it, the flower’s stem snapped all too close to the head. It was too short to put in a bundle. We shared some ‘ahhs’ and ‘awws’ about it. But not for long. Holly suggested we make it our offering for the day. “This is what they would do in Bali,” she said, as she placed the flower floating face-up in a bowl left over from that morning’s breakfast. She laid the bowl in the center of the garden, where the ray-shaped flower beds met to complete the sun-inspired garden layout. Now, we make offerings almost every week.
It’s often that a beautiful flower’s stem snaps in an unfortunate place during the day’s harvest, making it unsuitable for the CSA bundles. In an effort to memorialize it’s beauty, and show gratitude for all of the beauty that surrounds us inside and outside of the garden, we offer it up – sometimes to the universe, or to the “gods”, maybe even to each other and this amazing opportunity that we share. Whether it’s a snapped sunflower, or a shorty-marigold, or a droopy gladiola bloom, we give thanks.
This week’s harvest was a pale palette. I think all of the recent rain we’ve had seems to have limited the more colorful blooms. Green and white are nice enough for now though! (and SUNFLOWERS, already?!?)
When all the world is quiet, when I can get away and all of the chaos of chaos lifts, I find myself happiest in a patch of grass admiring the flowers and the bees and the fresh air. When I’m left to the land I feel quite simply at home, enveloped in care, and most connected to myself, others, and the clarity of what love feels like. In nature, we can plant seeds, give them the purest love and attention, and in return, we are given the most glorious gifts I’ve ever seen.
It was last Winter when I bumped into Maggie in the street, it was the evening time and the snow was coming down and she was walking home from work, I was walking in the opposite direction. She said she’d come to where I was going because she wanted to talk to me about something, and once we sat down she told me about the flower garden for the first time. We had only been becoming friends since that Fall before, but we had a lot in common and we knew that about each other, so it only seemed fitting that this was happening and I never hesitated in knowing that I could be there for her.
What I mean by this was that Maggie had started a community supported and shared flower garden three years before that time, this was her business, her hobby project, and now she was facing not being able to continue because her body was about to undergo surgery due to a spinal condition. She had heard I’d been working on gardens and farms in my recent past and we must have spoken at some point about how much I loved such work and the natural lifestyle. In the dim lighting, over a drink and the murmur of the crowd around us she told me more about this surgery to help her back; she was still uncertain, it was risky, the recovery was long, and she wasn’t sure it would work. But it was either that or her back would only get worse and she knew she needed to be brave. There was another thing, the matter of the flower garden, she’d be in recovery during much of the beginning of the season, she needed an assistant to keep it going. She asked me if I thought I could help her, she assured me she would do what she could until it was time for her surgery, and from there I had know idea how I could help us succeed. I had never taken on such a serious gardening project before, I had less experience than I think Maggie or I knew that I had at the time, everything else in my life was transforming at an overwhelming rate, and there would be shareholder’s money at stake if I failed. But without knowing what I was saying, and recognizing this gift as absolutely extraordinary, I told her that I would be able to help her.
We started out the first few weeks together, she taught me the basic techniques and plan, we dug the first few beds together and planted some seeds before it was time, and from there she came to be my mentor. I visited her weekly to learn what I should do in her stead while she healed, and I would walk over to the garden in the early Spring and dig beds with my hands, and pick out all the weeds that I could, sometimes I would have help from my friends, sometimes Maggie would come out and sit by the garden and guide me, other times I would pass hours of the afternoon nearly unknowingly, planting seeds, always weeding, thinking that it felt like meditation.
Weeks passed and seeds turned into flower sprouts and more and more of the little garden plot became groomed beds, and with each turn of soil it seemed that Maggie became stronger and stronger in her body. I too felt that I was becoming stronger in my body and in my mind and myself, surely more so than ever before. I remember the first time Maggie walked over to the garden from her house, it was just down the street but the sun hadn’t shined like that in a long time and Maggie had not been able to do something like that in weeks. By that time it was getting close to our first harvest. We still weren’t there yet, there were some late seeds that had yet to be planted, some gladiola bulbs, Maggie still couldn’t push her body too hard yet, healing is slow, her strength grew like the seeds, slowly but steadily, and with care and patience. More weeks passed and sprouts turned into flowers and lots of bees started visiting the garden and Maggie started to be able to move with more ease, and nearly two months later we had a quarter of our plot filled with blooms and it was time to deliver the first share of bundles to our 8 starting members of 2014.
We had goosenecks and asters and cosmos, coneflowers and daisies, others I’ve already forgotten the name of, just enough to fill all the water buckets we’d place the cut flower stems into as we picked the harvest in the early morning before the heat of the day struck. The season had officially begun and it seemed that although still taking it easy, Maggie was back in action and we still had the rest of the garden to finish up. We took our time and gently finished weeding the plots, planting the finals seeds, and tending to the garden as the summer days passed, making sure not to push ourselves to hard-life, flowers, seeds, the body-all too fragile.
Ten weeks passed and zinnias, sunflowers, gladiolas, dahlias, more and more zinnias all came up, the asters and the cosmos lasted all summer long, the first seeds we planted together. Maggie’s recovery went smoothly, and I learned so much about myself, about care, giving, friendship, commitment, community, and my connectedness to what I do during this whole experience. From start to finish we worked on this for about six months.
It’s one year later and we are only a few days after the time when Maggie had her surgery. We’re already about a third of the way done with prepping the garden-weeding, bedding, planting-we’re much further along than we were at this time before but we’ve had so much extra energy this year. Maggie has made a full recovery, I am by her side again with last year’s experience under me, and our friend Liz has joined our efforts, she lives at the house where this garden grows and is enthusiastic to be a part of the Delight CSA project. So many people working in the Delight garden has meant we’ve been able to redesign the space to be in the pattern of a sun, creating more room for more flowers and more members, each ray varies between a garden bed and a walking path. We’re also reconstructing the fence, moving the compost pile out of the garden to plant in the rich soil beneath, adding more perennial plants to grow back every year, and making room for a sitting area for the gardeners and the CSA members to enjoy.
Only six days remain until the deadline and only a few spots are left for this year’s CSA season, so sign up while you can! I’m so excited to be able to be a part of giving this gift back to the community.
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. It’s a model used by farmers to enable their farms to thrive even in years of drought or too much rain (or sun, bugs, etc). CSA farms are financially backed by local members of a community who want to invest in the farm. Which means the farm is able to sustain itself financially even in bad weather conditions. When weather is good and circumstances go well, the community backers get an abundant share of the harvest. In not so ideal farming conditions community supporters still get a share of the harvest, although, it might be smaller. The farm is able to continue on into the next year in either scenario. It’s a way of sharing risk as well as harvest!
We are very pleased that this year two local community/cooperative organizations have decide to support our farm by purchasing shares of the Delight CSA flower farm! Common Ground Food Co-op and Urbana Community Acupuncture.
Common Ground Food Co-op is located in Urbana, IL and is based on the consumer owned co-op model. It’s responsive to member/owner input. Common Ground is quite a power house in our little Urbana and is soon to expand to a Champaign location too. They need more members (your support!) to make this 2nd store happen, so there’s another opportunity to grow together! Some of my favorites at the co-op are their house chai, and local produce (You can’t beat the sweetness of Blue Moon carrots!) Common Ground is supporting us for the second year in a row. Our flowers will be blooming on the cafe tables all summer long!
Urbana Acupuncture is a business with a like-minded business philosophy. Here, acupuncture is offered in a group setting and at a sliding scale rate. This model encourages people to heal together, receive treatments often, and keep costs affordable. When people spread the word and bring friends for treatments everyone benefits. The business thrives, people heal, and the prices for customers stay affordable! I especially love the ambient sounds and comfy chairs available at Urbana Acupuncture- excellent for relaxin’! This year our flowers will be there to greet you as you come for healing!
We membership page. Thanks for your support, Urbana community!
Several of you have asked, “What’s that lovely yellow button flower?”
It’s tansy! Tansy is also known as Common Tansy, Wild Tansy, Gold Leaf Tansy, Stinking Willie, Bitter Buttons, Ginger Plant, Cow Bitter, Scented Fern (for the odor), Cheese (for the flowers), Mugwort, or Golden Buttons.
It flourishes wild practically everywhere. You may see it by the road or growing in recently disturbed soil. The tansy in the Delight CSA garden planted itself and I’ve let it keep growing where it landed. This is the third year it’s come back and now it’s taller than me! Tansy is a lovely addition to the weekly shares, but it’s also an invasive species, so unless controlled it takes over. That’s a great reason to harvest its’ blooms and stop the spread of its’ seeds. I’ve put it in the harvest bundles for several weeks now. I just harvested the rest of the blossoms to dry for natural dying and homemade insect repellent. Although you can tell from the pictures that it won’t keep all of the bugs away! There’ s a big beetle clear as day- just like some of us- in a tizzy over tansy. Enjoy!
This week’s inaugural bouquet was inspired by the season of fireworks as well as a tribute to my mother, whom died on the third of July ten years ago. She was a dedicated and knowledgeable gardener. I learned so much from her about growing plants, landscape design and the fundamentals of artful flower composition. She had many tips and tricks that have stuck with me and are now evident in these bouquets. Her advice: include flowers of varying heights, feature plants should be in odd numbered groupings, make color a conscious decision, etc. But enough about my own nostalgia- this post is about new beginnings! Flowers included in this week’s posies are: queen anne’s lace, daisy, rocket snap dragon, native sunflower, a few herbs, dill, garlic tops and a couple of prairie-seeming plants I don’t know the names of but would imagine names like spiky ball grass and white prairie bloom. (If you can identify these flowers, please share!) In case you aren’t one of the lucky recipients of this week’s harvest here’s a glimpse of the flora for your enjoyment.