Flower Farming - The Homestead Weekly

The Homestead Weekly, 11 April 2021

Attempting to get the yearly family Easter pic

I want to be keeping up on these each week (if for no other reason than the fact that they’re so good for ME to be able to look back on!), but man, life has been crazy lately. Flower farming is so much work, and though I really love it, it does take up pretty much all of my time.

But since it’s been 3 weeks since my last one, I really wanted to not wait any longer before doing an update, so I’m taking a break and completing this now rather than sowing more seeds like I should be :).

Note: There are some affiliate links to products mentioned below, which means I may get a small commission on any purchases made.

In the Kitchen

I have continued to do my weekly to-do list broken down by day (with that night’s meal plan written on it), which has helped me enormously when it comes to staying on track and not feeling too overwhelmed. However, this last week I was just so exhausted every evening by the time dinner rolled around that I basically just ignored the menu and made whatever was easiest. Luckily I had made a large dinner for Easter (this delicious Instant Pot ham recipe with mashed potatoes and veggies), so we had plenty of leftovers for Matt’s lunches on the days after I didn’t cook a big dinner.

Even though my dinners haven’t been great, my lunches have actually improved quite a bit. I’m terrible at eating lunch and often just work right through it so I don’t feel like I’m falling behind, which means I often make poor snack choices around mid-afternoon when my energy definitely starts to flag and the hanger builds up. To try and head off the fatigue and irritability, I’ve tried to make myself eat something healthy (aka, something other than chocolate or Doritos), like a smoothie or a bowl of oatmeal with raisins. I haven’t been perfect at doing it every day, but I’m definitely doing it more often than not, and it really has been helping! I’m going to try to continue to set it as an unofficial resolution going forward.

On the Menu the Last Couple Weeks: sweet ham + mashed potatoes, a main dish green salad (pictured), our go-to quick meal of garlic alfredo sauce over gluten-free noodles, chicken enchilada casserole, baked cinnamon apple oatmeal, Swedish meatballs over rice

In the Coop

Our six new chicks had moved from our master closet after the first two weeks or so down to the unfinished section of the basement (which is also my grow room). After many, many nights of them waking me up/keeping me awake with their chirping (as they were right underneath our bedroom), we finally moved them out to the outdoor mini coop at exactly six weeks old.

The mini coop was what we had purchased to house our ten hens when we were living with my folks for a few months in between houses (because The Chicken Palace—which we’ve since sold because this yard came with a coop and a large, fenced-in chicken run–could literally not be moved into their backyard), and we decided to keep it for this exact reason, as a sort of interim coop for when the pullets were too small to be introduced to the rest of the flock, but too big to be allowed to stay in the house in a box.

It took several nights for the chicks to understand that they were supposed to go back into the roost area at night (and boy, did they fight us when we had to put them in by hand each night!), but they FINALLY did it on their own this weekend. Progress!

In the Garden

Seeing as it’s been 3 weeks since my last Homestead Weekly update, we’ve gotten an enormous amount done in that time with the flower farm (and experienced a whole slew of sad failures to keep us humble, too). At the last Homestead Weekly, Matt had just finished up building and filling up our second raised bed, and he has now built and filled five of them (which means we have just three left to go). All of the garden beds have at least something growing in them except the last one, which was just barely finished this weekend (and which I’m going to hold off transplanting anything into until a particularly cold night this next week passes).

A hard lesson I’m learning over and over and over and OVER again is that there are so many different things that can kill your seedlings. No, but really—I know I detailed a post last year about many of the seed failures we’d had, but I guess what I didn’t realize is that once you scale up your seed starting production, you also are going to inevitably (it seems) scale up how many failures you experience.

I have a separate post planned in my head of all the things I’ve killed lately (and how), but for now, I’ve learned that 1) I might never use manure as fertilizer EVER in the future because of how much we’re being negatively affected by the previous owner’s use of it everywhere and of how salty the soil has gotten as a result, 2) Never, ever water plants first thing in the morning after a frost, and 3) It’s best to not plant out ALL of the seedlings of one variety you have all at once, just in case something happens to them all.

And then there’s all of the things I’ve direct seeded that I’m thinking won’t ever come up, and I have no idea why—larkspur is supposed to be really easy to get to come up from direct seeding, and I haven’t had any luck whatsoever so far (and it’s been over a month since I put it in the ground).

However, lest you think that we have NOTHING growing, we DO have some successes thus far—the nigella, poppies, bachelor’s buttons, and bells of Ireland that I direct seeded into the bed at the front of our house at the very beginning of March are really starting to take off, and although I killed every last calendula transplant I put out (somehow), all of the ones that I direct seeded outside at the same time that I sowed the other ones inside are looking pretty good. And the sunflowers that I started inside and then transplanted out, purely on an experimental basis? Surprisingly the majority of them are still alive, though you can tell they probably won’t grow much until the weather is more consistently warm. I also have a few snapdragons and rudbeckia plants that are hanging on, despite the fact that we used the existing compost that was on the property on their beds, which was high in manure content and which is (I think) one of the main reasons why so many healthy transplants have inexplicably just turned white and died.

One thing that’s been fun lately is to see all of the perennials and shrubs come to life that were already in place on the property. We really had very little idea of what was already growing in the garden because everything was wintering over and bare when we moved here in late November, but I’ve been super happy by several things, like the fact that there’s a whole bunch of well-established Oriental poppies that I’ll be able to eventually use in arrangements when they bloom in May or June, and that we have several lilac bushes, a forsythia bush, and other shrubs that can be used for both foliage and flowers. I did get ecstatically happy the other week thinking that we had an established peony plant coming through, but it turned out that it was a bleeding heart plant (which looks surprisingly similar, at least initially). Oh well—at least a few of the peony roots (I planted 7) are finally poking their shoots through, even if I won’t be able to harvest from them for another few years.

Another strange anomaly? Our tulips. I’ve never had a problem with tulips blooming super short before, but all the tulips we managed to get into the ground last fall right after moving in are literally blooming on 2-3″ stems—it’s crazy. I’ve heard it’s because of the warmer-than-usual winter we’ve had, and then a heat spell that hit us last month for a week. One thing is for sure—flower farming is definitely going to keep me on my toes, and I’m going to have to start getting a little more comfortable with crop failures!

Blooming Now: all of the daffodils, many of the tulips (esp. the double varieties), the forsythia bush, the wintered-over dwarf dianthus plants that the previous owners had put in last year (and which I might be ripping out and replacing with flowers I can use for cutting), pansies.

Sowed Outdoors the Last 3 Weeks: more varieties of poppies, more calendula (since all the transplants died), more larkspur (since the first batch has never come up—I tried freezing the packet ahead of time this go around), more agrostemma (since only about a third of what I sowed has come up), salvia (a new variety I recently purchased), more borage (I killed what had come up from the last batch of sowing by watering right after a frost), nasturtium, phlox, and orach.

Other Things Planted Outside in the Last 3 Weeks: about 80 gladiolus bulbs, 5 roselily bulbs, a Japanese snowball viburnum, two hydrangea shrubs

Transplanted Outdoors the Last 3 Weeks: some snapdragons, some rudbeckia, all of the calendula (which all died), some of the stock (which also all died…once again, I’m blaming the manure compost), Canterbury bells (which look great, though they’re a biennial so I won’t get any blooms this year), some of the Colorado yarrow (which looks decent), a different kind of salvia than what I direct seeded (which is all looking pretty good), honeywort (half of which survived–I direct seeded some more over what had died), some of the strawflower (a few of which are still alive out of about a dozen that I experimentally transplanted out), and then sweet peas (which all dramatically died within 24 hours because we planted them too close to the former cow pasture, which we’re trying to leach of all of the salts from the manure; however, one lone sweet pea shoot magically came up about a week later, so I won’t totally give up hope!)

In the Playroom

The kids have been wanting to help with the flower farm (which I love), so I put aside two of the largest containers for the two oldest kids to use as their own personal “gardens.” I gave them a choice of which seeds to plant (basically all hardy annuals that can be directly planted out right now), and they both already have a few seedlings coming up! Since the seedlings don’t have their first set of true leaves yet, I can’t tell which ones they are, but the kids are really excited. The only seeds they chose in common were the “Blue Boy” bachelor’s buttons—everything else was totally different, which I loved.

On Sunday night, we made the two-hour drive to go see our folks and celebrate Raven’s birthday with them (she just turned 6 yesterday—I’ll detail her actual birthday in the next Homestead Weekly). Now that more of our families are partially or fully vaccinated, we’ve started to slowly start seeing more of them, and it’s been so wonderful. Raven loved sharing the pink cupcakes I’d made for her birthday (gluten-free, though you wouldn’t know it—Pillsbury’s GF cake mixes have gotten really quite good), and it was hilarious to watch her play her new game (Pretty Pretty Princesses) with some of her grandparents.

The one thing Raven kept wanting for her birthday was a wand, so Matt made her one on his 3-D printer

The week before last was Raven’s spring break, so I tried to make a point of taking a break wherever I could from the flower farm and doing fun things with the kids. In addition to a couple of play dates and the usual Easter fun (of an egg and basket hunt the day before the holiday), the kids’ favorite day was one when we made the 50-minute drive to one of the bigger towns near us and tried out a new burger place (which we’ve sine returned to twice because they have fabulous gluten-free hamburger buns!) and played at the city park for about an hour. After so many days (and months, really) of feeling cooped up inside and/or being so busy with flower farming stuff, it was a breath of fresh air to get out and just concentrate on having fun and trying new things. Raven especially was so sweet in her comments after—she kept telling me over and over again how much she loved our special day, and how thankful she was that we did it.

We have a vacation coming up, and I’m looking forward to getting the chance to create more memories as a family (and have Matt be with us this time, as he was working the day I took the kids on that outing).

In the Home

Having the weekly to-do list broken down by day has helped me a ton—rather than me feeling stressed out all the time because I feel perpetually behind on flower farming stuff, I can look at the list and see that I’ve actually penciled in time to do things around the house, work on blogging, and spend time with the kids. It’s definitely helped me to feel *slightly* more balanced, though our house is still a wreck 99% of the time (a fact of life I’ve mostly just come to accept for this particularly busy season, but there was one night the past 3 weeks that we had to call a neighbor over to watch the kids so I could take Matt to the ER (don’t worry, he’s fine—he had a kidney stone, but we didn’t know that’s what it was at the time), and our house was seriously probably the worst it had ever been. That embarrassment alone has motivated me to at least never let it get *quite* that bad again!)

My mom came down for a few days during our spring break week, and she helped a ton by not only getting the house back to a more presentable state in general, but also by helping to sort out a ton of the kids’ clothes and things that had just been waiting to be put in the right bin. I also got extremely sick the day after I got my second covid vaccine, so it was a total lifesaver to have her there to take care of the kids since I could barely do anything but just lie in bed.

I’m still working on my decluttering project (which you can read more about on my other blog), and I feel like I’m finally starting to see some noticeable difference from doing that. Granted, we still have WAY too much stuff, but at least now, there’s overall less of it. (After all, I’ve gotten rid of over 700 things so far this year!)

In the Soul

Although I can talk about all the garden failures I’ve had with some sense of levity now, there was a week there right in the middle of all this where I just felt extremely and utterly discouraged. I was sure that I was crazy and delusional for thinking that I had it in me to become a flower farmer (and had convinced myself that I must truly have a black thumb), but forcing myself each day to just keep going with the to-do list and the sowing and the transplanting and the watering gave me a few more wins under my belt, which helped pull me out of it a bit. I also watched a bunch of YouTube videos and read blog posts by fellow flower farmers (especially ones where they talked about their first couple seasons and about their own failures), and it definitely helped me to feel significantly less alone. (They also gave me clues about why certain of my transplants and sowing efforts had probably failed.) I have no doubt I’ll have several more moments of near-crippling self-doubt this first season (and probably in subsequent seasons, as well), but as I discovered on the religious mission I served for my church when I was 22, work is a great antidote to discouragement.

All in all though, it’s hard for me to feel too down for long when I’m outside so much every day. I’m not always the best at prioritizing being outdoors (because my autoimmune disease means my skin is extremely sensitive to the sun, and I’ve never liked being outside in the winter), but I can’t deny that I feel so much better when it happens daily. No matter how tired or depressed or anxious or frustrated I feel, I basically am guaranteed to feel better 100% of the time after going outside and working.

And on that note, I actually really do need to get back to work and back outside, so thanks for being here for this edition of The Homestead Weekly. I hope you have a wonderful week ahead!

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