Monday, June 30, 2008

Summer Break

So a happy Alice is one that is on vacation. Yep, Stuart and I actually left our safe haven of bluebirds and meadows and trucked it up the blue ridge mountains to the relaxing town of Hendersonville where my father and his girlfriend own a cabin in town with an acre pond. We raided my dad's awesome garden for
these delicious mulberries and raspberries. I've never had the pleasure of plucking either fruit from their ground rooted source, so what a pleasure. We'll be trying to grow both of these fruits, although I hear raspberries are tricky in our region. There were also ripe blueberries (garden planted), and on a hike up to the top of a mountain near Lake Lure we scavenged for mouthfuls of ripe, juicy, sweet and tart blackberries. Can we say heaven? Most definitely.
We also got a self-guided tour of my dad's leaf mulch pile. He got all the leaves collected from the town of Hendersonville dumped in his garden. These pictures do no justice to the size and scope of this pile of leaves. It goes back about 50 ft behind my father, and about twenty more ft in both directions to the right and left. HUGE!!!! This is the one of the best assets a farmer can have, this mound of organic mulch, and my father is quite proud of his pile. Within a year, even if left alone, around 1/5 of the pile will turn to leaf mold, a rich, velvety textured organic soil amendment that is basically like worm castings. Last year the town of Hillsborough brought leaves to us, shredded up and ready to mulch, and saying goodbye to those leaves was probably the hardest part about leaving our former garden. Leaf separation anxiety is a real condition. We did a soil analysis on some leaf mold from our old farm and the nutrient content was off the charts. Needless to say, my mouth was watering over this mound of goodness. Wish we had the luck of such a vast organic pile with which to condition our soil, but I guess cover crops, chicken manure, and rabbit manure will have to do for now. We also did a bit of canoeing and Stuart got to show off his mad skills. Feathering, j-stroke, draw-stroke, his triple lutz diparoo stroke, and all those other great strokes he loves. When canoeing.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Flower Confidential notes

So this past week I listened to a great podcast. It was the 6/09/08 Democracy Now broadcasting Bill Moyers keynote address at the National Conference for Media Reform. AMAZING!!! What a job we all face. If any of you have the time, it's well worth listening to. This past week I also finished a book I've been reading, Flower Confidential. It's kind of like a flower version of the omnivore's dilemma, but without as much of the ethical pathos that Pollen creates. I personally think it would have been better if she would have presented more questioning about the flower trade system as is, but it was a good read and I definitely learned quite a few things. Such as: there are flower companies in central/south america that will dip whole flowers, flower bud first, into vats of fungicides so that the flowers will pass though US customs (note to self: gross, no more rose petal baths!); flower imports make up nearly 80% of all flowers purchased nationwide (note to self: grow more flowers); California dominates the domestic market, growing 68% of the flowers in the US (California, no doubt about it); there are roses in Ecuador that grow five ft tall and have a bloom the size of a softball (note to self: DANG!); imported flowers are not tested for illegal pesticide residue (vegetables are); at the customs checkpoint for flowers and veggies in Miami, if a box of flowers fails inspection or is questionable regarding insects and fungus, sometimes the flowers will be fumigated in a special methyl bromide chamber at the airport (disgusting); Stewart writes "flowers aren't the only item subject to fumigation....all of the asparagus coming in from Peru was fumigated as a matter of course," including organic no spray asparagus (never again will we yearn for out of season asparagus); the Swiss spend over 100 dollars on flowers per capita annually, with Holland, Germany, and Great Britian all spending forty to sixty dollars per capita. The US only spends 26 dollars per capita, and most of that spending is concentrated on a relatively small number of households (fellow friends, indulge yourselves with local flowers!) That is probably enough for everyone to digest. She also takes the reader through the Aalsmeer flower auction in Holland which sounds pretty fascinating. So this beautiful creature munching on some old dill we have is a black swallowtail caterpillar, also known as a parsleyworm. I almost walked right by it as they camouflage themselves so well. I think they are so gorgeous. If only I could have such color and vibrancy and patterns of delight. And then to metamorphosize into a black swallowtail??!! I wonder what the human equivalent of metamorphasis would be. I could use a cacoon right about now. Come out on the other side capable of flying; sounds good to me. And here is another pic of an item I can't wait to eat. MELONS!!!! We have so many melons this year. We hope they're as good as last year. We get customers for life from a good melon. We're trying some new varieties this year as well. Last year our best variety was "orange coban" or something with coban in the name. It was an heirloom and I have never tasted a more delicious canteloupe.
The flowers up top and here are bouquets I made up for our special community dinner at Panciuto which was a great experience.Salpiglossis (or peruvian lily), scarlet scabiosa, black knight scabiosa (love it!), ping-pong scabiosa, and lime zinnias made for a nice dark expression of romance and intimacy. We weren't all making out or anything at the dinner, but hopefully the flowers helped to increase the convivial mood. Stuart and I had to talk for a brief while before dinner was served and of course I was nervous for hours leading up to it. It wasn't so bad. I actually rambled on and on and think I may have not let Stuart talk enough. The food was amazing as always and Panciuto is hosting more of these dinners if anyone is interested. Well worth it.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Public Enemy Number One has arrived

No, enemy number one is actually not this menace of a worm. This hornworm is such a pig that its latin name means glutton. Believe it or not, manduca sexta is only ranked enemy number three right now. Enemy number one has arrived with its glinty, metallic coat of armor, ready to wreak havoc in the safe haven of bluebird meadows. I've already had enough of their orgies and ravenous attacks on our zinnias and basil that go on all day; they make me think of Bosch's work. I think he must have been a gardener with the Japanese beetle in mind when he painted. He just superimposed humans on the images of the beetles. Yes, they are a serious menace, and I think we may have to get traps for them this year. I hate to see our flowers bite the dust to such a pest.
Our hero here who spotted the hornworm eating a green bean of all things is our amazing helper and my mother Paula. She has been coming to help us out on our hectic Fridays, so a shout out to my mom is in order. We've also had some help from Mike Adamo and Adam Gori, both of whom are photographers masquerading as normal people at their regular jobs. Adam has some of our wedding pics posted on his website, First Person Photography, if anyone is really bored (bored enough to look at our wedding pics, not bored enough to check out Adam's great website).
As for flowers, we're still waiting on the lizzy. The salpiglossis is blooming, as pictured; a unique cut that few people seem willing to purchase. It has a velvety texture and looks like a petunia crossed with alstroemeria. Nothing too exciting. Speaking of exciting, I need to go write the CSA newsletter! We have potatoes and green beans coming in. Even though potatoes are so commonplace, they are one of my favorite vegetables, especially fingerlings and any fresh dug tater. Hopefully our CSA members enjoy them as much as I do. Until we meet again friends.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A few places I'd rather be and Papaver Somniferum

Here is a stunning gift of poppy seed heads from Helga, our friend from four leaf farm. Aren't they incredible? Each seed head contains around 1500-2000 seeds. Might be even more than that. Amazing. Celosia is another flower that is a seed producing superstar. The only problem with these ladies is that the seed scatters all over the counter or floor beneath the flowers. So little black seeds are their trademark. In any case, we'll have lots of poppy seeds, and we just hope we're not mistaken for criminals as we try to grow them. We'll hide all the opium in the basement I guess. As for the flower scene on the farm, we're stuck with black-eyed susans and sunflowers this week. I'm ready for the lisianthus to bloom. Stuart and I netted it and put shade cloth on it today so it'll stretch and be tall and beautiful with legs like Uma and a face like Salma Hayek. Well, I guess we'll have to see about that. They might turn out to be more along the lines of Imelda Staunton and Janet Reno.

And seeing as how it has been so hot and I've been daydreaming about places to be other than 105 degree north cackalacky, here are a few photos of places I wouldn't mind revisiting. Here I stand at Avalanche Lake up in NY, enjoying a little hike in the Adirondacks. Nice and cool, 40s at night, 60s in the daytime. One of my favorite hikes ever I might add.
And here goes Stuart down our favorite swimming hole up at Stone Mtn., NC. We love it there. Not only do you get to take a nice hike up a 600ft granite dome, there are waterfalls galore and it is only two hours and fifteen minutes from here. We'll be making an annual visit at some point this year.And last but certainly not least, we have the bahamas. This is Stuart's niece Claire, or should I say her behind, and I must say she is one of the most adorable children ever, comparable only to her older sister Ella who is just as adorable. Almost makes me want kids. Almost. So it's nice to be able to virtually revisit these places, and there are oh so many more places we'd like to go. But the reality of it all is that I am in NC right now. In the hot Piedmont. Farming. Crazy fools we be. World-travel will have to wait until we (1)find the million dollars hidden on our farm, (2) planes run on solar or wind-powered electic energy (3) the crops decide it's time for a vacation and (4) we run out of things to do on the farm. For the time being, NC isn't really all that bad, and where else could we make it farming our second year together?

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Hot in the city

I tried kissing this little guy today, thinking he might turn into a cold shower, but alas, not even Stuart's double appeared. Which is probably a good thing. We've been sweating buckets and guzzling water like crazy today. We're in for a break from the oppressive heat right now, and I can tell our laundry is about to increase exponentially along with the temperature as I refuse to put back on drenched and dirty clothing. I think a run to the thrift store for some more work clothes might be in order. We've been irrigating daily out of our pond which we're praying will hold up for the season. It already looks half a foot low and we're just getting started. No more overhead sprinkler; drip line from here on out. I should take a pic of the lotus flower a customer gave to us this spring. It's unfurled a few big leaf pads and I'm ready to start some more. I've always wanted to have some lotus flowers ever since this woman brought them to the Carrboro market ages ago. They're on up there with tulips, dahlias, callas, and peonies. Speaking of which, I'm going to be ambitous and try to grow callas next year. Even the Arnosky's said callas are hard to grow, but does that stop Bluebird Meadows from trying? I don't think so. Hopefully the price of their bulbs won't stop us either. And, as we're on the topic of incredible flowers, here is the very beginning of a oriental lily bud. Kind of, what's the word, yonic? I do believe so. I am psyched to have the orientals on the way even though lilies are ubiquitous at this point in the flower grower's world. I've always been intimidated by them, but they really weren't that hard to grow. I should probably say this after they bloom.....
and here are some pansies we started in January, thinking they'd be blooming in March. Just three months off. They're a little too smily for my taste, but I do love how small and delicate they are, and anything blue and blooming is alright with me. Feels like I could just dive into them. I'll be using them in the wedding we have this weekend, our last in a stream of them. Enough already of wedding flowers!!! I get too emotionally involved doing all these wedding flowers. It's a little too reminiscent of feeling like the bride the day before the wedding. Or the day of the wedding. Nervous, anxious, sleep deprived, high-strung. I think I might just revert to growing the flowers. We'll see. I guess I should go back to the field and plant some zinnias and sunflowers. I'll leave everyone with the image of avant-garde Clover-rover.