Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Welcome to the Farm! (Just Don't Block the Neighbors' Driveway, OK?)


Last weekend, Carolina Farm Stewardship Association's Upstate Farm Tour came to our house. (Yes, that's correct, turn left at the subdivision sign.)



People sometimes look a little perplexed when they arrive at Garden Delights, especially if they haven't read the description of our "farm."




But as this is now our third year on the Farm Tour, most of the visitors know that our "farm" is a bit...unusual.



While the majority of the 24 farms on the tour offer acres of gorgeous, sustainably-grown veggies or dozens of adorable animals to attract visitors, Garden Delights is an anomaly.


We live in a subdivision. With an Homeowners' Association. On less than an acre.

And when people visit Garden Delights, they realize that they, too, can grow a lot of food without a lot of acreage. At least, that's my hope--and I think that's why the fabulous organizer of the CFSA Upstate Farm Tour, Diana Vossbrinck, includes our "mini-farm." 

Would you like a tour?

Visitors check in and begin the tour in the front yard. Our property is surrounded by forest, as you can see from the photos. Still, we plant edibles that can grow in the shade, such as fraise des bois, or forest strawberries, and blueberry bushes with the ferns and hydrangea. After all, edibles co-mingled with ornamental plants provide tasty treats when you're pulling weeds in the garden. Plus, the kids know that they can always pick a berry for a snack when playing outside. On our property, we're 100% organic, so fruits and veggies are safe to eat straight from the garden.



Many of the flowers we grow serve a dual purpose--they provide a splash of color in the landscape, but they're also edible. Daylilies, roses, nasturtium, violets...depending on the season, there's always a flower to add to a salad.


After wandering in the front gardens, follow the path along the garage through the forest. Here, you'll find native plants like Oakleaf Hydrangea and Solomon's Seal, along with a variety of hostas, lenten roses, and ferns. Oh--and of course, the path also includes our favorite fraise des bois. (The forest path plantings are fairly new, begun in the fall and added to as new plants find their way to our house.)


Our first destination along the woodland path is the small greenhouse and herb gardens. Here, you'll find my first "real" greenhouse--a birthday present from a few years ago. Peter feared that the enormous amounts of plants growing in the basement might lead to a mold problem. Thankfully, we never found out, because he built this lovely little greenhouse so that I could move the heirloom babies out of the basement.


Two small 4' x 4' raised beds contain the demonstration herb gardens, planted to show a wide variety of culinary and medicinal herbs, as well as those herbs, like the many mint cultivars, that are dual purpose. Here, we also explain to newer gardeners the invasive nature of mint--and explain how one gardener many years ago thought mint would make a lovely "spiller" plant in a windowbox with geraniums. Instead, of course, that gardener ended up with a windowbox of just mint.




In this area, too, visitors see that small gardens can produce large amounts of food. Samples of a variety of containers planted with edibles are displayed: kale, heirloom lettuce, and rainbow Swiss chard in one container, and tomatoes with fraise des bois in another...



...silver thyme mixed with begonias and fuschia in a hanging basket.


While the Farm Tour didn't include the back sitting area, pool area, or the potager/nasty dog side of the back yard, one Saturday visitor wandered there unexpectedly. On Sunday, I made certain to add a sign, pointing the way for the tour. (If only you knew how nasty the dogs' play area is, you'd understand my mortification. I'm just glad she didn't break her ankle in the dozens of holes they've dug there!)

 

Passion vine, or passion flower, is a newly added edible to our garden. I grew the vine from seeds which I brought back from Switzerland, and I'm anxiously awaiting the flowering of the 18 new vines added along the woodland path fence. Not only is the flower stunning, but the plant produces an edible fruit. Plus, passion vine is the host plant for Gulf Fritillary butterfly larva. How can a girl go wrong with passion vine--particularly when it grows in the shade?


Along both sides of the woodland path, we've planted hostas and ferns. As in, I planted about 80 hostas the week before the tour. I know, I know...it's been planned for a long time, but there are only so many hours in the day. 


We also planted a few surprises. The younger visitors each receive a scavenger hunt sheet when the family checks in, with a list of things for the kids to find in the gardens. (I'll share the scavenger hunt list later this week.) Any of my friends who attended the Garden Bloggers' Asheville Fling may recognize the fairy door as the work of the incredibly talented Damaris Pierce. The fairy garden, of course, was part of the scavenger hunt.


As you continue along the path, turn left into the forest, and along the fence you'll find a hint of things to come...








Our older girls, while normally contained in this long, covered area outside their coop, spent the tour semi-free ranging in the forest, contained in a portable fence/pen Peter constructed so that visitors could meet them properly. It also allows them to free-range safely--and without escaping to treat the kitchen garden as their personal buffet.


Just past the chicken coop resides the compost. Several years ago, Peter asked what I'd like for Valentine's Day. My answer? A three-bin compost system. He told me that I'm a strange woman. What can I say? I love good compost!




And now, the fun begins! I've been remiss in introducing you to our newest babies--but that's a post unto itself. As a teaser, you can see them in the little run, just behind Kristen.

Kristen and Roxanne stole the show.



Visitors couldn't believe how Kristen carries Roxanne like a baby...


...or that she had trained Roxanne to give autographs.




Sadly, I forgot to take a photo of the actual Roxanne autograph until the only one remaining was drenched from the rain--but you get the idea.


Oreo was quite the star as well.


One child really, really loved Oreo...


Poor girl. Worn out from her five hours of fame.



Knowing that kids can only be patient for so long while parents want to chat about compost and companion plantings, I thought a little tic-tac-toe game might entertain the younger visitors.




Mikey and my niece, Lexie, also needed some diversion.



And now, onto the kitchen garden.


The garden is comprised of seven raised beds, each 4 feet x 10 feet. An angel wing herb garden is designed in front of the raised beds, containing dozens of herbs that we harvest for cooking--but also intended to help attract pollinators and beneficial insects.




The main path to the kitchen garden originates in the herb garden. We had lots of fun showing kids how to rub their fingers together on various herbs, and then asking them to smell their fingers. Sort of a living "scratch and sniff" game!


Visitors received a guide to the gardens, which listed the plantings and varieties in each raised bed. Later this week, I'll post about the specific varieties of heirloom tomatoes, peppers, peas and such in each bed. For now, I'll just share an overview, since this post is turning into an epic novel (sorry!)


In each bed, we showed examples of companion planting, both to boost harvests as well as to divert pests. We also showed different methods of vertical gardening to maximize plantings in minimal space.











My incredibly talented friend, Kate, designed the most adorable scarecrow lady and wrote about it on her blog, Farmhouse 38. Determined to emulate her sweet scarecrow, I failed miserably. I aspire to artistic greatness--but I just lack that gene. (Seriously, you must see the amazing things Kate creates.) Our lady is watering the Three Sisters Garden here.




The peas continue to produce like crazy. As they're one of the few veggies the kids will eat willingly, we have them planted all over the garden, with four varieties in one raised bed...


...as well as in the kids' raised bed garden, the potager, and in the strawberry bed on trellises. Honestly, is there anything better than fresh sweet peas in spring?




To the left, you can see the raspberry bushes, trellised along the length of the garden.


Crossing fingers, it looks like we'll have an incredible harvest this year. Hooray!
 

Our heirloom apple trees, though, perplex me. We've yet to see any blooms, and this is our second year. I'm hopeful that next year will be lucky #3, and we'll have homegrown apples.


New to the garden are plantings specific for pollinators, hoping to lure more butterflies and bees to the area. We also plant host plants throughout the gardens: dill, fennel, parsley, and milkweed for the Monarchs. Again, more about the pollinator gardens later...



There she is...the big greenhouse. She's a source of pleasure and despair. There's nothing happier than potting up seedlings in the middle of February in a toasty greenhouse, your hands smelling of basil...and there's nothing worse than losing all of your plants when the power goes out...and you don't know it until 10 p.m. because you're gone all day, entertaining the kids who are home for Spring Break. Let me tell you--when a greenhouse reaches 140 degrees, plants do not like it. Not one little bit.

However, the strawberries growing by the greenhouse are scrumptious.



The blueberries are progressing nicely. 



Located behind the greenhouse in the forest are the shiitake logs. What an incredibly fun experiment that you can read about here.


Saturday, Kristen was a busy girl. Not only did she entertain visitors as the chicken whisperer, she also sold treats.


Rosemary lemon shortbread cookies, using rosemary from our garden...




...and strawberry muffins, also using strawberries we grew. (Recipes will be posted later this week.)


Thank goodness for treats, because Saturday's perfect weather turned evil on Sunday. At exactly 1 p.m. when the tour opened, a torrential downpour began. Lightning, thunder, tornado warnings...some farms on the tour closed for safety. Us? We huddled in the greenhouse with our new friends, munching on cookies and muffins...


...checking Accuweather to determine if we needed to tour our basement. 
 

Honestly? I thought Sunday would be a bust. The rain continued all day. Not a drizzle, not a sprinkle--we're talking serious rain and scary lightning. But, as my husband says, "There's no bad weather, just bad clothing choices." And the visitors kept coming, resplendent in slickers, rain hats, galoshes, and sporting golf umbrellas. I can't tell you how much I wish I owned a waterproof camera, because Sunday's visitors amazed me. A darling little girl in a ladybug rain poncho just made me smile, and the dozens and dozens of lovely guests who braved the weather to come to our little pretend farm? 

I'm awed. Who would have thought that our crazy little piece of land would interest so many smart, funny, passionate foodies, environmentalists, and gardeners-to-be?


Two lovely visitors really stood out over the weekend. I'm so excited by the teen gardener who is planting her very first garden this year--two raised beds that I hope will bring her oodles and oodles of delicious heirloom tomatoes. I hope she will send me photos of her gardens and her harvest.

And this little precious bundle! Three months old and on her first farm tour--I'm in love!
 

So, my friends, thank you. Thank you to the new friends we met this week, and thank you for taking this virtual tour. A huge shout out to Diana for her amazing work organizing the tour, which is only one of her many duties with CFSA. Thank you to our volunteers, Sarah and Anne, and my sisters Becky and Marsha, who worked the tour all weekend. You are so appreciated!

Thank you to the real farmers--those people who work so hard to feed us, because although I'm honored to be included on the CFSA Farm Tour, I'm not a farmer. Farmers work much harder than I do. And their work affects us all.

I'm just an obsessive gardener who likes to grow a lot of things, including food.

Stay tuned for Farm Tour specifics--what's growing together, varieties of heirlooms, and recipes.

Now, though, I'm tired...the tour wore me out, but in the best possible way. New friends, new ideas, and so much I want to share with you!

Did any of you local folks make it to any farms on the tour? I'd love to hear about your experiences!

Happy growing days, friends!

XOXO ~

Julie 


(Shared with Wildcrafting Wednesday, The Backyard Farming Connection, and  From the Farm)



44 comments:

  1. I had no idea your garden and farm had grown so much! Julie, you are inspiring!

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    1. Thanks, Jessie! It's crazy, but it's fun! :-)

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  2. Oh, I LOVE the scarecrow--she's adorable!! You dun gud, kid! :-D I just love everything....I've always wanted property with meandering paths leading to all sorts of garden surprises--this is sheer loveliness and I am coveting every square foot of it! :-D :-D :-D

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    1. Awww, Kate, you are too kind! My poor scarecrow will never compete with your beautiful girl, but it was fun anyway! I've been planning to continue the garden path plantings throughout the forest--this is just the beginning, because the paths keep going and going. But for now--I'm tired! I need to leave something to do in the fall, right?! ;-)

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  3. I've said it before...you are living my dream life! Your signage is adorable, your plants are so lush and far along, and your FARM is amazing, as are YOU, my friend!!! LOVED reading this and enjoying the pictures...felt as if I were there in person!

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    1. Beth, you are so sweet! Come over any time--you know I always have wine chilling, and we can hang out and pick veggies! I'm trying to tell the tomatoes to HURRY UP, because I need some bruschetta NOW! (They're not cooperating.)

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  4. I love the chalkboard about the chicken who crossed the road...

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    1. You know I completely stole that from Pinterest, right?! :-)

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  5. Really enjoyed the virtual tour! How wonderful that you planted so many passion vine. I discovered 7 volunteers growing at the edge of our woods. I am so excited! I think it is very cool that you are able to do all this and live in a subdivision and I love that you have edibles and perennials growing together in a woodland setting!

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    1. Karin, why do I never find cool things growing wild in my garden/forest? How wonderful to find the passion vines--lucky you!

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  6. What an amazing garden! I can't believe that you can have all of that in an HOA. What a blessing. Love the sign about the chickens! HA!

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    1. Daisy, honestly--our HOA is pretty lax. Actually, it's very lax. We pay our little fee for lights and to have the street signs painted, and that's about it. I think this works on our property because we back up to a river, plus our neighbors are spread out. We're very lucky!

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  7. Julie, I am in love!! Seriously! Love everything about your farm, am officially inspired! I am mentally plotting paths that, like Kate said, lead to hidden garden delights. And also, ALSO, a pollinators garden!! Genius! Thank you so much.....now I'm off to go plan more garden work for myself. :) ~ Bobbie

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    1. Bobbie, you are so sweet! It's been a lot of fun working on the gardens. When we moved in 14 years ago, there was NOTHING--just forest. I'm going to try to find some "before" photos to post. There's still much more to do, but it's definitely a labor of love! Happy gardening to you!!!

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  8. Wonderful! Thanks for the tour. You rock!

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    1. Thanks, Penryn. Now, I just need to apply more of your permaculture teachings here!

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  9. Julie that looks like it was so much fun. awesome backyard! It looks like you have many acres so well done on using what you have

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    1. Thanks, Janet. It's amazing what you can cram into a smallish space. Still so many things I want to do, but the list never ends for us gardeners, does it?

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  10. Great tour! I love Oreo..he looks like our Linus.

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    1. Thanks, Lisa! Oreo is the sweetest cat--she was a foundling that Kristen coaxed to live with us. Can you believe that sweet thing was a stray? I always say she's like a dog in a cat body!

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  11. wow!!! beautiful set up! we are also nestled in the woods up here in Canada :)

    LOVE LOVE all your cute signs, the tic tac toe, and your little farm.

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    1. Thank you so much! It's funny, I used to curse all of the shade--after all, what gardener doesn't want more sun? And while I'd still like a tad more sun for some David Austin roses, I'm coming to appreciate the shade of the forest, particularly with the SC heat in the summer! :-)

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  12. Julie, this post was such a treat! I love seeing your garden/farm. It's amazing how much you're able to grow there in the middle of a subdivision! Shiitakis too? Incredible! It's beautiful. I'm glad the farm tour went well. I read this post during a middle of the night awake episode last night, then fell asleep and had a dream about it. Ha! And even in my dream,I was impressed! :)

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    1. HA! I'm haunting your dreams, Daricia--I just hope it wasn't a nightmare! :-) Can't wait to see you in San Fran! I'm counting the days until our Garden Bloggers' Fling--so looking forward to a getaway!

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  13. Wonderful, wonderful!! I loved it all, the gardens, your home, the kitty, the chickens, the veggies...your scarecrow ladie!! I am so inspired by you! I have one wee little raised bed at this house, and I am looking at irrigation right now...mine is less than perfect...I noticed yours...bingo!! I hope you won't mind if I borrow and adapt from yours...
    Thanks again!
    Kat

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    1. Thank you, Kat! The irrigation system is awesome. I used to used soaker hoses in the garden pre-raised beds, and I hated them--they always broken, never watered like they should. My hubby devised this system out of PVC pipes, with holes drilled on both sides at an angle to direct the water to the roots. Through a series of short hoses and connections, I just flip a switch to water each bed. It's a great system--and I really need to do a post on it one of these days! Let me know if you have any questions--I hope it works well for you!

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    2. Please post more on your irrigation system!

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  14. Julie - WOW! Your place is stunning and I am in love with the organized chaos of some of the areas. It really is a testament for you loving what you do. We're gearing up for our third farm tour with the Sandhills Farm Tour on June 15th - we are looking forward to it!
    So glad to be able to see photos and read about your experiences.....
    Love, Sheila of Hope Farms

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    1. Thanks, Shelia. Good luck with your tour--I hope the weather cooperates better for you than it did for us (on Sunday)!

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  15. What a happy garden! It looks like a great time was had by all

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    1. Thanks, Deanne! It IS a happy garden, and honestly--even though it rained on Sunday, it was so much fun. I couldn't believe so many people came in spite of the rain!

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  16. Wow, Julie! No wonder you're tired! You've got a lot going on there!!! Wish I could have joined your other guests. So many things to love! I think I need one of Damaris' fairy doors. The one I have has bitten the dust.

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    1. Kylee, there's always so much more to do, as you know! Next up--we're building an arbor by the garage as a more defined entrance to the gardens, plus I seriously need to work on the paths. And I have to admit--the potager, which was not on the tour, looks shabby right now. It definitely needs some TLC! Hope your garden club tour went well--can't wait to see photos!

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  17. You have a lot of good ideas and everything looks so welcoming. I live on ten acres and you have inspired me to plant more!! A lot of my land is woods and wetlands, but I am going to go for an herb garden somewhere!!!

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    1. Tina, you're living my dream--10 acres would be bliss! (A lot of work, but bliss anyway!) I can't wait to watch your progress with your new property! So exciting!

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  18. Very inspiring to read when so many have problems keeping chickens etc in subdivisions! Really wonderful gardens and very interesting watering method for your raised beds.

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    1. Thank you, Manuela! We are lucky in our subdivision, although we didn't exactly ask permission. It's a very lax HOA, fortunately! :-)

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  19. This is amazing. I love it! Oh, and I am totally stealing that tic tac toe idea! My 3 year old will love it in a few years. :)

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    1. Thanks, Courtney! I have to tell you, the tic-tac-toe was a hit--but the paint I used on the rocks is already peeling off. It was acrylic, so perhaps look for paint that's more suitable for outdoor applications.

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  20. This was an awesome post....great photos and fabulous descriptions! Pinning it now! Thanks for the reminder about mint. I'm growing some from seed and need to remember to put it in a pot in the garden.

    We're kinda the opposite from you...25 acres, mostly chickens (80) still working on more garden. I have the space, but love how you fit everything in here and there. I'd rather do that then make a bigger garden. You have awesome ideas! I'm following you now...can't wait to spend time reading all your posts!


    ~L

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    1. Lisa, I'm so envious! Oh, the things I could do with 25 acres...(like get a horse for our riding-obsessed girl!) Still...that is a LOT of work. I hope you'll let me know how your farm progresses--I can't wait to hear all that you're doing.

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  21. Julie,

    I've wondered about your farm since you mention it on FB. I can't believe that you have done so much on your acre!!! The description of everything made me feel like I'd been given a tour by my own personal guide, an old friend who I miss dearly, BTW. Here's to Farmer Julie and all she's accomplished!

    And my father thanks you for his kind words about farmers.

    Hugs! Linda

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  22. Wow Julie, I'm glad I came over to see this post, even though it's months after the fact. I did not realize just what was really going on in your back yard! I have just .33 acres and am not allowed to have a standing building (no shed, no greenhouse, no kidding :( Man, I wish I could.). Also not allowed in our HOA to have chickens. Again, wish we could. I DO grow lots of herbs and veggies in pots though...in the small area of sunlight we get. The rest are native plants and lots of shade-garden plants. Some areas of your yard look like mine, such as the woodland areas. I'm envious of your ability to grow those beans, peas, 3-sisters, etc...One day when I have 'less trees' I'm wanting to try more of what you are doing. It is wonderful to be able to involve your kids! Just wonderful in every way. :)

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  23. Hi there! I just took the virtual tour of your farm and loved it very much. I'm impressed with all you've accomplished there. Thank you for sharing all the photos and congratulations on being a winner of the WW people's choice award.

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