Latest Posts

Slacking Off

How do you run a small farm and have sanity at the end of the day to be a good family unit?

I’m not really sure, we’re very much running this show with a “fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants” mentality. We don’t have it all figured out, I’m not sure we really want to have it all figured out. And quite frankly as grey hairs keep creeping onto my head I’m pretty sure NO ONE has it all figured out.

But we’re slowly learning how to make this farm work for us instead of us constantly working for this farm.

I can’t stop thinking about this article I read a few weeks ago called “Darwin was a Slacker and You Should be Too”. To save you the time of reading the article heres what it’s about:

  1. Charles Dickens, Henri Poincaré, and Ingmar Bergman showed an almost superhuman ability to focus on their work
  2. This superhuman ability comes from only focusing on something for four to five hours a day and napping, walking, and resting your brain for the rest of the day
  3. Scientists who spent 25 hours a week in the lab were no more productive than scientists who spent five hours in the lab
  4. Scientists who spent 60 hours in the lab were the least productive
  5. This also applies to writers and violinists
  6. People do the best when they follow a pattern of working or practicing the hardest and longest in the morning, taking a nap in the afternoon and then going back at it again for a few hours

What does this have to do with small-scale farming? Because frankly, there are many days where we are in the studio designing for 12+ hours or in the field for 16+ hours weeding, planting, harvesting, turning beds over, etc.

My point is. We take breaks. And it’s become healthiest thing that we can do. We are far more efficient when we aren’t physically and mentally tired. We can wrap our minds around a problem better and aren’t super stabby grump-asses by the end of the day. We’re better to each other and more importantly, we’re better parents to our son.

Our breaks range from stopping during the heat of the day to taking a little family adventure off the farm. We find our best re-grouping time is when we are off the farm.

There have been times this year where it feels like we’re slacking a bit because we’re not frantically trying to make this thing work like in the past two years. We’ve had to check ourselves a few times and realize we have better systems in place that allow us more down time to be us.

The better systems came about because we:

  1. Realized we HAD TO GET a piece of equipment that would help us farm. Doing it by hand was no longer an option.
  2. Kept really good records about varieties that we grew and what crops were the most profitable and what crops we enjoyed growing. Anything that didn’t bring money or joy was axed.
  3. Tracked all of our farm finances in Quickbooks and set financial goals for this year. What do we have to make to pay off the BCS tractor and hit our goals so we can have fun at the end of the year? Having a black and white plan that guides us along the way feels better than assumptions on crops and constantly searching for buyers.

We just keep realizing, there is no need to get bigger if we can do more with less. We trimmed excess fat and have sold pretty much everything we’ve grown with little waste. I can’t say the same for last year. We’ve held on tight to the tribe that puts their own blood, sweat, and tears into our dream too. Because frankly, our people are the only reason this farm even works.

So slack off, friends.

P.S. Did you catch that our lettuce and micro greens are currently for sale at Green Top Grocery and that we are at the Downs Farmers Market each Wednesday from 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.?

 

 

 

Our Long and Fulfilling Days

During the school year, I usually go to bed with a tired mind and a restless body.  These days, though, I’m typically going to bed with a tired body and a mind full of ideas for what needs to get done the next day.  I’m not that old, but it only takes so many 10-12 hour days in a row to remind myself that I’m not getting any younger here.  The work is good, though, and usually provides a tangible result that teaching doesn’t often give to those of us crazy enough to keep at it.  Right now, though, this farming thing seems pretty crazy.  After a wet and cold spring, we were a little behind on our planting schedule.  Now, though, we’re struggling to get seeds to germinate with all this incredibly hot and dry weather we’d had so far in June.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s been absolutely beautiful weather, but a little moisture would go a long way.  And it’s amazing how different 80 degrees feels compared to 90 degrees, especially when you’ve been out in it for 10 hours straight.

We have been hitting it pretty hard this past week.  I’ve been working down my long list of projects that always seem to get postponed until I’m done with school.  There is still a long way to go, but this place is (at least for the moment) looking like we might know what we’re doing.  We were excited to have our first farmer’s market of the season this past Wednesday at the Downs Village Market.  If you haven’t been, it’s worth the trip.  It’s a nice little market with a good variety of vendors.  The organizers of the market have been working at this for fifteen years now, and their efforts show.  

We were also blessed to do flowers for two big weddings this weekend in Bloomington.  Admittedly, Friday and Saturday took about everything we had out of us.  Thankfully, we had the remarkably hard working Olivia at our side once more, my mom came and helped again, and we even added Hannah (my student teacher from this past year) to the mix as well.  As usual, we couldn’t have done it without our supportive team behind us.  We’re blessed to be able to work with talented, funny, hard-working people who help make this difficult work that much worthier.  

I came across an Annie Dillard quote recently that said, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”  I’ve been thinking about this quote a lot lately.  We hope that however you spend your days, you go to bed at night with a tired mind, a tired body, or a tired everything and feel as blessed as we do to do worthy work for and with like-minded, kind people.  We all deserve to live lives full of meaning, grace, (and local food and flowers).  

Come see us at the Downs Village Market on Wednesday from 4:00-6:00 this week!  If you’re interested in learning at the farm this summer, we have three flower-themed classes available.  Each of them have just a few spots left, so sign up soon!

Early Summer

Chris has been hauling major keester in the farming department.

We purchased a BCS tractor and it has been a major game changer for us. We’re able to turn stuff over quickly and get plants in the ground more efficiently.

We are in major prep mode as we head into wedding season. Our peonies are in their second year and we are SUPER excited to be able to finally cut on them next year.

We have even squeezed in a little fun during this holiday weekend.

Have a fun, safe holiday weekend friends.

Head Bonk

If you knock yourself in the head in the vast acres of Illinois corn and soybean fields, does anyone hear it?

No. The answer is no.

Mothers Day needed some spicing up. And what better way to do it then accidentally knocking myself in the head with a t-post driver while being home alone? After a great morning of mimosas, cinnamon rolls, and reading in the sunshine under our walnut trees, Chris and Lincoln went to my in-laws to assist with a few project. I stayed behind to get some child-free work done.

I started installing our trellising system for some of our cut-flowers. After driving in one t-post, I put on some safety headphones, because the metal-on-metal banging hurt my delicate and dainty ears. Little did I know that wearing these ginorm-o, yellow headphones will prevent me from a concussion twenty minutes later.

I’m not sure how it happened, but I wacked my head with the driver. I thought, “hmm. that sort of hurt.” and then felt something wet seeping towards my forehead. “Sweat, Audra. It’s sweat, calm down,” I told myself. I calmly removed my hat, wiped my forehead, saw the hot red liquid on my hand and slowly positioned myself in a laying position in the middle of the field and commenced what I’ll call, “a total and unnecessary freakout”.

I won’t get into the grossness of this situation, head wounds seem to cause a lot of blood and make things seem worse than they really are. Of course, I forgot this logic and reasoning and could only focus on the amount of blood that was all over me and was hyperventilating and waving my hands around in some sort of attempt to help the situation.

By luck, I had my phone on me (which I rarely have my phone on me in the field because I get so dirty). I called Chris, no answer. I called my mother-in-law, no answer. I called our neighbor, no answer (who I later found out was out to her birthday and Mother’s Day dinner….great timing, Audra! My neighbor sent me this hilarious text later “I leave once and the whole neighborhood goes to hell!”) I finally got a hold of Jim, my father-in-law. Through hysterical screams and sobs I told him what I did. He was as cool as a cucumber and walked me through finding a clean rag to apply pressure on my head while Chris was running back home to be with me.

Chris finds me sitting on the cool concrete of the shed with blood all over me. He didn’t hear I had hit my head before he left, he heard I cut myself, got in his truck and left. I can only imagine what he thought when he saw me. He cleans me up, assesses that I have just scraped the top of my head. We think the headphones blocked most of the blow and that’s what actually scraped my head. I’d hate to think how bad it would have been without the headphones or without me having access to a phone. I haven’t shown any signs of a concussion, my head is just pretty tender. I am lucky. I have a good family.

So I definitely succeeded in making this Mother’s Day memorable! You’re welcome, world!

photo by studio fuze

 

Grit

This weekend over on Instagram Stories, I talked a little about “grit” and was surprised by the number of growers that reached out in appreciation for what I was saying. By grit, I mean the stuff no one wants to see or the stuff that takes away the magic and romanticism of farming. I listened to a flower farmer at a conference this past fall talk about how you shouldn’t show any grit or talk about how hard farming is because it makes people lose interest very quickly.

While I agree there are some things we shouldn’t show, like Chris and I arguing, unwanted rodents that show up, crotch sweat, or ugly crying. But I really believe there are some “good gritty” things we should show. Like Lincoln wearing pajama pants in 75 degree weather, the look of frustration on Chris’s face as he figures out how to operate our new BCS tractor, or me explaining how tired I am from planting 1/10 of an acre of perennials on my hands and knees.

I feel like good grit translates to “look at how our life is honestly” and I feel like this is something consumers need to know.

This all stemmed from a wedding inquiry we got a few months ago that said, “I figured the cost would be even less with you since you grow your own flowers!” I truly believe this inquiry wasn’t coming from a hurtful place, I think she just didn’t understand the backbreaking, hard-ass work it takes to grow things. And that really good things don’t come from a push of a button. They come from long days, sweat, blood, tears, laughter, and maybe a little bit of luck.

So why don’t we as farmers talk more about, “good grit”. I think we don’t talk about it because we don’t want to seem ungrateful, whiney, or that we don’t appreciate or deserve what we’re doing. Nor do we want to be seen as humble bragging i.e. “I just plowed this field by hand. #MichelleObamaArms”

But as my homegirl, Brene Brown said in her book Rising Strong,“I’m a firm believer that complaining is okay as long as we piss and moan with a little perspective.”

Be simple and be honest. It’s okay to have a moment where we share that we’re frustrated and it’s also okay to have a moment where we’re really proud of ourselves. It’s all about balance. Like yesterday we worked ALL STINKING DAY getting one field prepped and then I was hell-bent on having a milkshake with a greasy burger and onion rings. So even though we’re growing super nutritious foods…I didn’t want it, I just wanted that artery-clogging food in my mouth.

Or like when I took the following photos of Lincoln, I mumbled “goddamnit” a little too audibly because he wasn’t listening. Dropping swear words in front of my three year old is never a bright spot on the parenting journey, but I also know I’m not alone here.

I know our readers want to know about our honest moments, because they have them too. No one feels connected to someone who seems perfect online. We have found that people connect better when you really hone in on the fact that we’re all just floating around on this blue marble trying to figure out this crazy thing we call life. Grit on, friends.

Stay Little Forever

Please stay little forever.  Please let me never forget how you said, “I took a good nap, the sun is out, now we can blow bubbles!”

Please let me never forget how Chris hates cats, yet Sweet Pea needs to constantly know where he is and likes him better than me, and I hate that. 

Please let me never forget the salty, somewhat slobby kisses you give after dinner when you make your rounds thanking us for feeding you. 

Please let me never forget that you are enjoying dressing yourself and that you are ROCKING that Daniel Tiger shirt with those cowboy boots. 

Please let me never forget how hard it was to follow our dream and days like yesterday are the exact reason why we did.