April in Paris (and Venice and London)

I am glad to be home after a spring trip to Paris, London and Venice with my family. The leaves were just starting to come out in the allees at the Palais Royal, and the mix of black branches and bright green was fantastic. There must be a way I can incorporate an allee into the flower fields. I just haven’t quite figured out exactly where to put it so that it is out of the tractor’s way.


September is a favorite time of year for us as our marigold fields are out-of-control beautiful. It’s hard to decide which marigold I love the most. One day it’s the small rusty French marigold, the next the tangerine edible, the next the yellow African. For more on stringing marigolds, take a look at my latest post for Garden Design Magazine. Marigold Garlands.

Dad’s Daffodils

I am up in the San Juan Islands for my first annual Marigold and Mint corporate retreat. Number in attendance: 1. Seriously, I feel enormously lucky to have a few days to step back from the farm and shop and think about the big picture of the business. I also came to check on the daffodils my Dad planted from my surplus in the fall. Turns out he had some work planned for me, too: before I left Seattle he loaded down my car with native perennials. Now that the wind has stopped howling I will plant them today in his fenced garden-in-the-woods.

Between all the serious corporate business I am hard at work tackling (in the form of: thinking, staring at the ocean, thinking, having a cup of coffee, taking some notes, staring at the ocean again), I am taking breaks to collect moss and nettles for the shop, as well as the odd bits of animal bones scattered in the woods. They must be good for something.

When I told Sarah, my farmer friend who helped me start my fields four years ago, that I was up here, she said: “Best of Luck, you are the CEO and migrant labor force all rolled into one! Makes it tough, but easy, at the same time.” Not to discount the help I do have at the farm when I bring a few part-time people on in the summer, but she has hit on some of the best and worst parts of the job I’ve created for myself. To save money I do much of the farming myself (and because I want to be in the fields), but then I end up being stretched pretty thin: not enough time at the shop, not enough at the farm, working weekends when I’d rather be with my family. All things to sort out up here.

Speaking of work, I was at the farm on Sunday, taking care of the anemones:

Monitoring the progress of the tulips:

And weeding some of my herbs. I harvested the first flush of spring sorrel (behind the chives). It wasn’t enough to bring into the shop, so I made some mint and sorrel salad instead!

March 8

Stealing a dry day between weeks of rain, I snuck in time to clean up my bed of cardoons. This is the first year I’ve had so many overwinter, so I am crossing my fingers to hope to haves buckets of spiny blooms to bring into the shop this summer. The first time I saw them for sale was at a flower shop in Lucca, Italy, about 5 years ago, where the florist took time to talk with me about them, and the generations of florists in his family.

I also got blood meal down on the bulbs, and alfalfa on my roses. My roses look HORRIBLE. I need to give them a lot more attention this year, and/or move them to drier ground. I recently ordered another 75 bushes so I’ve got to get my arms around taking care of these. For starters, I know they need more consistent water in the summer and more than the neglect-breeds-strength approach that works surprisingly well with a lot of my flowers.

Last of all I repaired some drip tape, pruned some herbs and perennials, and got compost tea down on my anemones and ranunculus. And here’s the first harvest of a bunch on anemones. I am so happy to see their pretty faces!

February 6, 2012

No matter how hard I try, I can’t get the dirt completely out of my fingernails. Well, I can with a stiff nailbrush, but when I wash my hands at the farm to break for lunch, there always seems to be this residue.
The sun has been shining for days in Seattle, a real treat, and a signal that it’s time for me to start working regularly at the farm again, getting ready for spring. I’m going to try and get back in the habit of using this space to track what is happening on the farm, with the occasional break for photos of work coming out of the shop.

In that vein:

Today I replaced segments of drip tape that were leaking too much in the anemones. The anemones and ranunculus in the hoophouse are maybe 4 – 6″ high right now, a bit behind last year, but coming along. I then found some real satisfaction cleaning up the herb beds. I used my favorite tool, the hula hoe, to do a light weed and loosen the soil, and then cut back the cardoons so that only the center leaves remain. I’m thinking of ditching the lovage and marjoram beds — nobody buys them — and adding two more beds of alpine strawberries.

That’s a start for now.