When we started this farm, our son was an 18 month old toddler that would bump around and squeal in delight at the wonders that sit atop this sloped land where magic grows. That toddler is now a nine year old boy with legs that stretch on forever – a constant reminder of how quickly this is all going.
On December 25, 2021, NASA launched the James Webb Space Telescope and seven months later, the public got to see mind-bending, high definition images of space never seen before. These images confirmed what scientists already knew and also reminded us that we are still dumb babies floating around on a speck of dust in some massive expanse that our tiny human brains can’t comprehend.
Bill Nye once said, “We are made of the stuff, of the dust, of exploded stars. This has been proven through scientific discoveries the last few centuries. So you and I, everybody, we are one way that the universe is knowing itself.”
The star-like wonder that is produced on this farm happens through grueling, back-breaking work that sometimes, at the end of particularly hard days, leaves us questioning: is any of this worth it?
After a long day of losing a battle against the weeds, I’m hunched over my laptop staring at a photograph of an area of space that was previously invisible. On a humming computer screen, an image shows dusty swirls of sparkle tucked in clouds of shiny copper set against cobalt blue velvet. A designated spot in the universe where suns are birthed; a maternity ward for stars. I won’t be the same person after seeing this photograph.
Through work and a lot of luck, our tiny corner of earth is where flowers come into existence. Fragments of stardust taking a ride on a rock hurtling through space. We hold the granules of seeds in our hands, pressing them firmly into the soil – patiently waiting and trusting the unseen to come to life.
The flowers, our son, you, us – only get an extremely limited time being living star powder. In the blink of an eye, a bloom happens, a boy grows up, we become older. We plant the flowers as a way to acknowledge we exist and are all built from the same matter.
I’m standing in a dumpster, knee-deep in trash, with a decomposing dead mouse a foot away from my face, holding back dry-heaves when I make eye contact with my husband and give him the look that says “I didn’t sign up for this shit when you floated the idea of a farm to me.”
We have this knack of trying to complete large, complicated projects during the height of our growing season. The time when we need to focus on marketing our products, growing them correctly, and being good parents -it’s like our brains turn to mush when it gets above 80 degrees and we are like Oprah passing out her favorite things to her audience except it’s just us passing out awful projects to ourselves and instead of elated joy it’s just me curled up in the fetal position crying because my body has sweat out all moisture and just dust puffs are coming out of my eyes instead of tears.
In March, when the stay-at-home order was put in place, we were nominated as tribute by Illinois Ag in the Classroom to incubate chickens in our guest bedroom as 4th graders across the state wouldn’t be able to do so for their annual science project. Chris and Lincoln filmed educational videos about chickens and gave daily updates to the internet. We sat in complete wonder one morning as we watched 12 tiny, slimy bodies burst their way into the world. The gross, feeble, and deformed looking newborn chicks turned quickly into little poofs that bounced and peeped. “Awwwwwwwwwww” we said in high-pitched voices as our eyes turned into cartoon anime versions of eyes.
Our current chicken coop is an old tool shed that came with the property. Chris has spent years fighting off various creatures living underneath it. There are actual boards falling off of it and the boards feel spongy when you pick them up. It still has the half-assed patch job on it from when we had a polar vortex a few years ago. We knew we needed to tear it down and start over. But then we still had homeschool, weddings postponed at an alarming rate, seeds needed to get into the ground, tulips needed harvested, new markets had to get figured out, did I mention the homeschooling thing?
Months later, my father-in-law brought his tractor over to push down the old toolshed/chicken coop. It fell over like a tissue, it didn’t even put up a fight. There was wildlife underneath the shed – and that’s all I’m going to say about that.
It took us weeks to pull all the boards apart, scoop up all the old pine shavings, roll a magnet over everything, and peel off 8 layers of shingles. We burned all the wood and finally rented a dumpster so we could dispose of the shingles properly. That’s when Chris announced we had a junk pile going in one of our sheds and we could throw away all of that stuff too.
Horror that spread over me as I saw 5 years of other project demos, broken appliances, old ass landscape fabric festering in a dark corner of one of our sheds. How do we do this? How do we as humans go through so much “stuff” so fast?! So the evening before we have to surrender our dumpster, we take load, by load, by load over to the dumpster. We fill the dumpster instantly and still have a large pile of stuff to dispose of. I am the only one with pants on, so I volunteer to get into the dumpster, to compact the rubbish, so we can fit even more of our odds and end in there.
I sink into landscape fabric that fills my shoes with dirt. Metal rods scrape my shins, a ceiling fan catches me when I lose my footing. I push and smoosh with my feet while activating disgusting smells that I didn’t know existed and regretting all of my life choices.
There has to be a metaphor here right? Something like….you have to shove all of your fears and past mistakes into a dumpster while wafts of shame stink up the air, but the breeze of hope takes your regrets away. We have to physically and emotionally deal with our past to lay a new foundation for the future.
Or there’s actually no metaphor and you’re just knee-deep, in a dumpster, full of shit, during a global pandemic with a massive project waiting for you in sweltering heat.
We’re here, at home, in quarantine for an indefinite period of time. All of a sudden I have been thrust into the role of a teacher and am now expected to carry out our child’s education (this is also where I’m laughing maniacally).
So what do you do when you went to college and majored in Communication and minored in Visual Arts. You teach your kid the basic stuff he needs to know, BUT also you rub your hands together like an evil with because the past six years have been nothing but tractors and agriculture and it’s now time to get artsy and especially very farsty.
After we tackle our e-learning materials and before lunch, Lincoln and I explore an art movement and an artist and then make our own piece of art from the movement inspired by a particular artist.
Each art lesson has a basic structure: watch a few videos, look at examples of artists work online, and then make our own artwork. I create a piece with him each day and it’s been a cool thing to do together. I’ve pulled together a list of artists I want to cover by referencing my Modern Art History book from college. I’ve listed below what we’ve done so far so you can replicate it too. I’ll update this each day as we keep going.
Here’s what we’ve done so far and I have included the links for you to use too.
We first watched this video about pointillism and George Seurat. We then took a look at how other children have interpreted pointillism through this website.
We then created our own paintings by using watercolor paper, acrylic paints, and q-tips. I first sketched out a few drawings and then Lincoln went in with a q-tip to make all the dots. NO SWIPING THE Q-TIP AROUND THE PAPER! Make the dots, dammit!
We had a bunch of old acrylic paints around the house from craft projects. I have not gone out to get any of our supplies (#CVOID-19).
We took a look at this video to understand De Stijl and Piet Mondrian better. We also took a look at some of his early artwork here to learn how he made abstract art with extremely simple lines and only with primary colors: red, blue, and yellow.
Before hand, I cut out different shapes out of red, blue, yellow, and black construction paper with our paper cutter. We made our own artwork based off of what we were feeling but just glued the pieces of paper down onto a white sheet of paper. I think Lincoln’s looks like a cable car riding through the mountains.
This was a very half-assed day. We started with this video that explained Pop Art and Andy Warhol. We then just colored the following image and called it a day:
This lesson began with this video that really broke down cubist portraits in a cool way. We then looked at this website to see Pablo Picasso’s collage technique and talked a lot about the painting “The Three Musicians” and discussed what shapes are used to communicate different ideas and different materials he used. We also watched the video about how Picasso just slapped what he could find to make art. We then used different scrapbook paper to make collage portraits of our cats. Again – just using what we have around the house, paper, glue sticks, and scissors.
The coolest part about this was Lincoln understood after watching the videos that we could make the cats do things that weren’t real. So he made the sun a square and gave Sasses (the cat he drew) glasses, a shirt, and a walker (those are the sticks on the side).
Blind Contour Drawing
Today started out with Lincoln complaining about how boring home school is and it’s not as good as real school. Our spirits are a bit deflated today. We plan on trying to fry a bunch of food later for dinner to replicate eating out….and that my friends is called eating your feelings.
Blind contour drawing isn’t really an art movement. It’s a practice artists use to understand, form, shape and line. We watched this video about blind contour artist Allison Kunath. We also took a look at other blind contour drawings here.
We just got white card stock and used black pens to do continuous shapes and lines to do portraits of each other.
Ok, so I slept like COMPLETE garbage last night. My anxiety is on threat level midnight. So school at home today felt sloggy and sluggish. I had to do our art lesson on the fly. We just googled Robert and Sonia Delaunay. They were these painters that spent a lot of time staring at the sun and then closed their eyes and tried to paint the orbs onto canvas as quickly as possible so they didn’t forget how colors and shapes played with each other.
I did like how Simultanism was explained “contrasting colors brought together enhance each other.” Kinda like people or cheese.
We traced circles onto our page, used a ruler to divide the circles into different shapes and then colored in the shapes. Yet again, I can’t believe how relaxing it is to just make art for art’s sake.
After a quick google search, I can’t find what art movement this would fit into, nor can I remember from my painting class in college. Today we studied George Rodrigue who is famous for his blue dog paintings. I didn’t learn about Rodrigue in my Modern Art History course, but I did learn about him in my painting course. We had to choose a famous painter, recreate one of their paintings and then make two other paintings based off the style of the painting we recreated. Here’s the paining I did in college that currently hangs in my office. You may have seen it over on our Instagram stories.
The two other painting I made off this painting currently reside with my mom and I don’t have pictures of them.
I really wished we had the canvases around to paint the blue dog, but we’re a limited on our crafting supplies and we aren’t able to run out and get what we need, so we stuck with drawing and coloring our blue dogs with markers. We talked about how the blue dog isn’t real so we can make it be in any setting doing anything that it wants to.
Keith Haring created really simple artwork that conveyed influential messages about current issues. Relying on cookie cutter men and black lines he made graffiti, museum quality artwork, and was hired by companies to create advertising campaigns. We watched this video about him. We then looked at his artwork and talked about what we saw, who the people were, and we we think he was trying to say.
We first colored Keith Haring people and then cut them out. We used the following template.
We then used construction paper as our colorful, solid background and placed the people and made them move how we wanted to.
We’ve come to the point of our art history lessons where we have to address something that’s bugging me. When studying art history, where in the hell are women and minorities in this history? My college book when you thumb through it – stay with me here – can easily be mistaken for a creepy white guys’ porn stash. I can’t leave my college text book out for Lincoln to find, it’s highly inappropriate. Art tackles tough subjects, but my text book can do a hell of a lot better.
I know, the human form is extremely important to study and some representations of the female human form in my text book are done well, but page after page is clearly some guys sexual fantasies played out and women artists in my textbook are basically non-existent. Here’s a great article about women painters that were flat out over looked by their male counterparts. Which makes me think we’ll be talking about Guerrilla Girls soon. If you think the world is going to shit, remember there are moms out there teaching their boys about equality.
Carmela Gross made custom stamps and produced unusual patterns with her work. We couldn’t find any videos about her or really any of her work anywhere online. We used scrap wood blocks and scrap craft foam to create our own stamps and patterns.
We were both feeling pretty off and emotional today, so this art project was great for today.
We are not the same people that we were on day one.
Our child is in kindergarten, there have been career shifts, we have wandered and wondered and gotten our hands dirty and have built a sustainable business that makes money. This thang hasn’t been easy. In fact, it’s been the hardest things I have ever done and continue to do.
One of our first products when we started the farm was our story. We invited you the reader to follow a long with us as we started a farm with no farming background. We’ve strayed away from telling our story because we have been so bogged down with trying to keep a new born business afloat.
This winter has left me planning and budgeting harder than we’ve ever done before. There’s a misconception that as your business gets older it should expand and become larger each year. I want the opposite of that. I want a business that reduces expenses each year and just gets leaner and more efficient for me to be able to spend time with our child during the summer and be a good version of myself at the end of the day.
Our hoop houses are currently full of spring floral goodies waiting for winter to snap into spring. Seeds are being started and warmed under grow lights. We’re moving forward into 2020 while still seeing the remnants of 2019 lurking in the edges. There’s still landscape fabric on the ground in the field that were never properly cleaned up. The shed and floral studio are also in this category. In December, I tore tendons in my ankle and it still doesn’t feel right.
As our farm has grown, our social media presences has increased, surveys returned with kind words and hard to hear constructive criticism, it’s been hard to know what to share and how to share it.
While reflecting on the past five years and looking into 2020, here’s what I do know:
I want to grow high quality flowers that are hard to find and show they were painstakingly cared for
I want our wedding clients to feel like they are receiving an experience and products that are not produced elsewhere
I want people to come to our farm to learn how flowers and food are grown and you feel better when you spend time outside and you conjure magic when you create
I want to work with people who have good work ethic, are nice, and are human beings
I want to create experiences for people that reconnect them with nature and more importantly each other
I want to reiterate that no one knows what we’re doing and we’re all just doing the best we can while floating around on this blue marble
I want to work hard and work with people who are nice. I hope you feel that when you’re here. I hope you feel that when you eat our microgreens, buy our flowers, take a class, or hold our flowers when you walk down the aisle to the rest of your life.
I hope you feel the wonder we have discovered on this little windy hilltop.