right now



It is the end of another cold and snowy week here in southern Wisconsin. Usually by this time of year spring begins to temp us with longer days and warmer temps. We are getting the longer days, but it doesn’t feel like spring is around the corner. Despite the snow there is work to be done, and here’s the abbreviated list that I am hoping to finish up this week.
~Plant those anemone bulbs
~Water everything, it all is looking great
~Cold stratify the seeds for the prairie I am planning
~Look at my crates of hyacinths and will them to flower
~Think about starting on my taxes…
~Work on a sales plan for my bouquet CSA


reconsidering my plan

So remember that seeding plan that I worked so hard on, it took me weeks to complete. It’s not really going to work out…. I did take quite a few liberties with the weather in order to accommodate my desired flowering schedule. The biggest gamble was that I had planned on the soil being workable by mid March, I could have even handled late March. That clearly is not going to happen.


Why is this relevant right now? Because this week my schedule had me starting an entire bed of snaps and stock to be field planted. It’s not so much the cold in March that I worry about. These guys actually like it a little cold and I have frost blankets for just in case situations. It’s the fact that there is still three feet of snow on the field with more coming and no signs of a warm up to melt any of it. Even if it does start to melt by the end of the month it is going to be a while before the sun gets to the soil to warm up that muddy mess that will be waiting for me. For now I will continue with the seeding schedule for anything that goes in the hoop house (calendula, dusty miller, and nasturtiums this week.) Anything scheduled to go outside I am going to reconsider. As of right now I will put off those snaps and stock for two weeks, surely by the middle of April I should be able to get in the ground.

crop planning

Right now I am up to my neck in crop planning for the year. In an ideal world I would have had this done by the end of last year so I could work a little less hard this month but…. well it didn’t happen. We bought a house (no not a farm) and are busy building a new germination chamber and grow room in the basement. Yay! So in the hopes that this fancy new grow room will be functional come Monday morning, I am scrambling to figure what I am going to plant first. Here’s my process….

1. Figure out who my customers are and when they need flowers. Well that might be a topic for another day, but the short story is that I need to squeeze as many flowers out of my operation as possible for the longest possible time frame. I am particularly interested in having more variety early (April, May) and late (October, November). These parts of the season take a bit of risk and creativity. The addition of my hoop houses last fall should help.

2. I already ordered my seeds based on what worked well in the past and what I wanted to add this year. I made a list of all these seeds and how many I have and separated them into annuals and perennials. The annuals I separated one more time into plants that will be direct seeded into the field and those that I will need to start plugs for. Since the plug production is allegedly starting Monday I am working on that part first. Annuals are first on my list since most of the perennials aren’t going to produce much this year anyway.

3. I take that seed list of annuals that I created and go down the list writing in potential seed dates with the corresponding flower dates. Some, like snaps and sunflowers are going to have 8 different sow dates, others like gomphrena and kale will only have 1.

4. Then I go through that list of all the possibilities and start fitting them into my field map. I have sort of a small field so I know that not everything will fit. I begin to look for things that I know are not going to work well for me based on past experiences and cut them out. Things with multiple sowings get looked at to see if I can tweak the dates and turn 4 sowings into 3 with out much interruption in the flow of flowers.

5. Now I am going to look at that field map (which is a ridiculous mess and doesn’t make sense to anyone except for me) and group flowers together by flower date. With only 12 beds dedicated to annual plugs I am going to have to double crop as many of them as possible. I am hoping for 6 beds to be done flowering and tilled up in time to get another later group of flowers in that same bed. Which is sort of like having 18 beds to work with. That doesn’t seem so unreasonable.

6. I have the list of possibilities and the tentative field map and I start to make spreadsheet for every sowing of every variety with: variety, seed date, plant out date, flower date.

7. Lastly, I will take that spreadsheet and make a new field map. Double checking that I got everything on the map that is in my seeding plan and adjusting quantities based on how much I am trying to squeeze into each bed. Then I will repeat a simplified version of this process for the direct seed items. I have additional room for those. Lots of room actually but there is no water access in that part of the farm so I am limited to only directly seeded flowers.

I know that it will not all work out exactly like I have planned. I will forget to water some flats and plants will die, or the germination will be bad for some things, or the weather will not cooperate. Lots can and will go wrong but this makes it a lot easier in the middle of the summer when I am feeling overwhelmed and there is still planting to be done if I want fall blooms.

goodbye 2013


2013 was sort of a crazy year and I am sort of happy it is over. I had started this blog because I wanted to keep a record of my growing business but things got really out of control and it just didn’t happen. I felt like I was behind form the beginning. Partly due to the weather, partly due to my own lack of planning, and partly due to some personal things. Ah yes, those personal matters. One of the joys of being self employed, shit happens and you still have to show up for work.

Last year was by far my best year, as far as sales go. I can actually see that there is a possibility to make this a career. BUT it was a lot of work, and I mean a lot! We are talking 12-15 hour days for most of the summer. Sundays were usually only a half a day. Maybe only five actual days off from May through October. It was long and exhausting. No, that was not all spent in the field, probably less than half of it. Most of it was in answering emails, sending out quotes and invoices, meeting with clients, making bouquets, delivering those bouquets, ordering plants, paying bills…. The list goes on.

I learned a lot about myself and my business last year and I am going to attempt to recover some of that over the next month or so, before it has all become too distant of a memory.


No question about, summer is in full swing. I am covered in bug bites, the weeds are threatening to take over, there is a mountain of unreturned emails/phone calls to deal with, I cannot remember the last time I had a day off (maybe in May?), there are spiders living in my car, I wish we had a dishwasher, there is so much to do at the farm but it is hard to stay focussed in the heat of the afternoon. And, most importantly, I harvested the first sunflowers of the year a couple days ago. Yep, summer.


what’s up emily?

I had started this blog with the intention of documenting my progress through this year since I knew it was going to be a busy year. Well you know what they say about the best laid plans. So I will just have to summarize the last three months the best I can.

First off, we decided not to buy a farm for real. In a few years we will reassess our situation. We talked to Gramps about using more of his land and he said sure. But it is not really what we had hoped for. We were hoping for a long term lease with a purchase option. What we got was more land super far from water and electricity. So sunflowers, cosmos, zinnias, some woodies, and sedums are getting planted back there. And I am just going to be grateful for what I have got.

And since we decided to stay put I went absolutely crazy putting together plant orders and rearranging my field in May. We put in permanent beds and have been transplanting the perennials that made it through last year to fit into my plan. We added lots more perennials, peonies, David Austin roses, hydrangeas, and other woody cut. Most of this is not going to produce anything for a few years but when it does…. It’s going to be great. I mean really great.


And we finally put up that hoophouse. There is no plastic on it yet but I put a bunch of stuff in the ground. We also put up a giant and crazy trellis system for the hops. It’s no wonder I haven’t had time to write about it.

farm notes



We finally started work outside yesterday and it felt good! My anxiety about the cold and wet spring is starting to disappear. I will still be a little behind with my flowering schedule for a couple of months but I am back on track now with my seeding schedule. I did skip a few weeks of seed sowing in the basement and sunflowers will have to wait at least another week to get seeded into the field. To make matters even better they are calling for decent weather all week.


The perennials are starting to come up and I have already seen that some of them have not made it through the winter. The last twelve months have been stressful for these guys and I’m sure that I will find more losses as the weather continues to warm and there are blank spots where there should be plants. That’s OK I was hoping to start over this year any way.

The daffodils are getting ready to flower. If it stays nice and sunny I expect there will be a few flowers by tomorrow, a couple of weeks later than “normal”. These very same daffodils were all opened up by the end of March last year and the year before it was the beginning of May. It seems like there is no normal any more only extremes one way or the other.


i wish the fsa was more helpful

Wow, do I wish they were more helpful. I have talked to a number of loan officers in different counties and gotten different responses from all of them. Unless you plan to milk cows or plant hundreds of acres in corn, they don’t know what to do.  One guy was flat out no help at all. He told me that he didn’t really know how to help me and implied that he didn’t really want to learn. Also he gave me the wrong loan information. It turns out that there is more than one loan out there for people like me: wanting a farm but having no money. Good thing I decided not to farm in his county.

Then I talked to some other guy and he also told me that he was not really sure how to help me but he seemed willing to try if I would have pressed him. Which I didn’t because I was still working on coming up with that down payment.

I came up with that down payment, well most of it, and called to find out who would help me fill out this ridiculous application. I had to drive to Madison, seems silly but OK. And I met with a loan officer who was actually helpful. Turns out I didn’t need a down payment at all. Fine, now I have some operating money saved. But the downside is that a few of the properties that would have been a great fit for me are sold. Alright, that’s OK, we’ve moved on. We’re getting ready to make an offer and I have just a few more questions about this application. Now the once helpful loan officer is not returning my calls.

This application is so redundant and so not applicable to my operation, see above comment about cows and corn. But I have it mostly done after months coming up with theoretical numbers and figuring out how to convert bouquets to bushels. Now I am just wondering if they will actually loan me the money or not. They don’t have any to give out as we speak so I just have to get in line, for potentially six months. That seems like a tough sell when negotiating a price for a piece of land.

calm down

Alright, things are not so bad as they seemed a week and a half ago. Lat week I was very busy catching up on my planting. And I am happy to say that I am mostly caught up, which is a huge relief. I spent an entire day in the basement seeding about 80% of what I had to skip during most of March. I was able to begin hardening plants last week and that cleared the way for lots of new stuff to go under the lights. I might still have to bring it all in at night but that is better than waiting. So far germination has been good, which is really putting me at ease, I just have to remember to keep them watered.


I also spent a glorious day at the farm last week. I was planting my anemones and ranunculus into crates, they were starting to look a little sad all cramped up in those plug trays. There is not enough room for this in my yard so that means it’s officially farm time again and I could not be happier about that. I have had to bring them into the barn for a couple of nights but hopefully after Wednesday they can stay out for good.

movin’ on up

What’s that you say? A move? Yes! I am moving my flower studio out of my  non-air-conditioned, unheated, and poorly lit garage and into a lovely corner of a friends retail shop. That’s right, no more back ally flower deals for my clients. For real! People used to come to my garage door in the ally to buy flowers. Not very professional but it’s what I could afford. This move also means no more anonymous coffee shop meetings with brides. Since weddings have quickly become the largest part of my yearly sales, I decided that I really had to step up my game.

This is really exciting and exactly what I need to keep my mind off of so many other things that are distracting me right now. With this move we will reclaim our spare room and our garage. I think that Nich is more excited about this that I am. He says we should be able to use our garage for more standard garage related activities. The move will be complete by the end of the month and then I just sit back and wait for the flowers to bloom…. And plan a party, there will definitely be a party.