A Bittersweet Beginning

Have you ever traveled 300 miles to spend the weekend digging over 100 perennial flowers in the mud?  Well there is a first time for everything.  On Friday March 28th, Jonathan and I celebrated his 31st birthday and the beginning of my spring break from teaching by driving to southern Maryland do just this.  The forecast was mid 40’s and half an inch of rain over the course of the day.  Believe it or not, we ended up lucky.

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Jonathan digging peonies

It drizzled nonstop the whole time but started rain buckets just as we were leaving.  We actually had a wonderful time together covered head to toe in mud and actively digging up the beginnings of Spring Forth Farm.  There was sadness in the trip too.  The reason Farmhouse Flowers sold us their perennials is because they are going out of business.  It is bittersweet to take from one small farm ending to begin another small farm.  We wish Dave Dowling all the best as he starts a new chapter in his life and we give thanks from the bottom of our hearts for the generosity he showed us as young flower farmers.

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Literally overflowing with plants

We packed the truck to the brim with our hydrangeas, peonies, sedums, foxtail lilies, mountain mint, gooseneck loosetrife, pussy willows, curly willows, and more.   We made it home to Hurdle Mills, NC and unloaded them into our bountiful supply of straw!

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Limelight Hydrangeas waiting to be planted

We spent the day yesterday building two beds by hand to plant everything in.  We finished planting just as the sun was setting.  It was a successful trip.

Planting Peonies
Planting Peonies

Thanks again to Farmhouse Flowers and good luck on the next adventure!  Stay tuned throughout the summer for more photos of our perennials in bloom.

Updated Website and a New Collaboration

One of the projects we’ve been working on this winter is updating our website with information about our wedding flower services and incorporating our logo into the website. We love how the logo looks juxtaposed with the colorful flower images.

Please take a look at the wedding services Spring Forth Farm offers and look at the General and DIY wedding FAQ pages to answer any questions you have. We really appreciate your sharing our farm website with any friends or family planning a wedding or event in this area.

Spring Forth Farmers. (Photo by Thomas Fisher.)
Spring Forth Farmers. (Photo by Thomas Fisher.)

Our friend Thomas Fisher approached us a couple weeks ago about taking pictures of us starting Spring Forth Farm for a portfolio project he’s working on. Tom is a talented photographer and we are honored that he asked us and excited to see the moments he captures. A couple days ago, we had to take care of some things on the new land, so we invited him out to see the property. Here are a few photos from his first visit.

We had a very helpful meeting with our USDA agent. (Photo by Thomas Fisher.)
We had a very helpful meeting with our USDA agent. (Photo by Thomas Fisher.)
Right now, the land is like a blank canvas. The views are all earth and possibility. (Photo by Thomas Fisher.)
Right now, the land is like a blank canvas. The views are all earth and possibility. (Photo by Thomas Fisher.)
Still cleaning out hay from the barn. It is a great resource, but harvesting it is a lot of work. (Photo by Thomas Fisher.)
Still cleaning out hay from the barn. It is a great resource, but harvesting it is a lot of work. (Photo by Thomas Fisher.)

Winter’s Work

We’ve been pretty quiet on our Spring Forth Farm blog for the last couple months. But even though it’s been winter, we’ve been pretty busy preparing for the spring season and getting ready to move onto our land next month. What have we been working on?

Our Logo: Spring Forth Farm LogoWe’ve been working with our friend Amy Anselmo over the winter to design a logo for Spring Forth Farm. Amy makes beautiful hand-carved stamps (you can see some of her work at the Threshold Collaborative), and we knew her style would capture the elegance and energy of Spring Forth Farm’s bouquets. We are happy the logo features a tuberose, one of our favorite flowers (and one of the first flowers we grew together for our wedding).

Seeding: Many of our flowers bloom best with a period of cold called “vernalization.” We’ve had two beds of seedlings under row cover all winter. We’ve been a little worried with this year’s record cold, but like all first-time parents, we seem to be a little over-anxious: The seedlings look happier than ever. Last week, Megan started a dozen more varieties of flowers in trays, including snapdragons, dill, and, because we’re always experimenting with something, flowering kale.

House Plans: One thing we’ve really focused on this winter has been reading books on house design (A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander was our favorite). We made a list of the things we want in a house (not too big, open floor plan, a big porch, passive-solar heating design). We love our house in Hillsborough, but for some reason we found we couldn’t work on our plans at home — too many distractions. Instead, we needed to go somewhere where we could focus. Fortunately for us, we could walk to the perfect place. Most of our design work was done at the Mystery Brewing’s Public House – our favorite local brewery, where delicious drinks and a relaxed atmosphere proved the perfect place to work. Now we’re working with Jeff Gannon and Molly Luby of Green Door Design/Build, who are helping us perfect the design and drawing the plans.

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The Frolic, under construction.

The Frolic: But most of our time, nearly every free hour, has been spent rebuilding our 1969 Frolic camper. We’ve stripped and gutted the inside, installed a double bed, laid toungue-in-groove pine floors, and are working on the kitchenette and dining area. These 80 square feet will be our home for the next few years while we build our house. Look for photos and the complete story in a future post (once we’ve finished it).

These are main things we’ve been working on recently. It’s been keeping us busy here at Spring Forth Farm, but in farming a busy winter helps lead to a good spring, and we’re really looking forward to this, the first spring flowers at Spring Forth Farm.

Planting Our 1st Wedding Flowers

We are excited to announce we will be providing flowers for our first wedding as Spring Forth Farm! (The first wedding we ever grew flowers for was actually our own.) In order to have flowers our first year, Megan brought back several trays of starts from her summer learning at Harvest Moon Flower Farm.

We were sort of in a pickle because the wet summer has delayed us clearing and tilling land, and our starts needed to get out of their trays and into the ground. Our friends and neighbors Liz and Paul generously offered us some beds in their garden this fall for our sunflowers, zinnias, celosia, black-eyed Susans, and tuberoses.

On a cool day with a good chance of rain, we took the trays of starts over to Liz and Paul’s house. As Mr. Bingley watched and their chickens clucked in the background, we all worked together to get these tender starts in the ground and watered.

Thank you Liz and Paul for your help and kindness. If you are interested in Spring Forth Farm flowers for your wedding or special event, please contact us.

Flowers Extraordinaire!!

I just returned from an incredibly productive 3 week internship on Harvest Moon Flower Farm, south-central Indiana’s finest flower farm.  I learned about cultivating flowers, proper harvest and post-harvest techniques, bouquet making, the ins-and-outs of wedding florals, diverse flower marketing, and good business practice.  I first learned about HMFF from Anna Dale, a Warren Wilson College friend who grew up farming flowers with her mother,  Linda Chapman, the farmer and head bouquet maker extraordinaire.  I was constantly amazed at Linda’s ability to keep a million things in her head at once.  She graciously shared her experiences and knowledge with me as I furiously tried to write it all down or capture it on camera.  In exchange for sweat and work, she gave me the basis for a successful flower farming business here in central NC.  I am so thankful for her mentor-ship and gift of knowledge that she gave to me during her busiest time of the year.  At the end of my internship, Linda helped me start 950 flower starts to put in the ground here in NC for Spring Forth Farm’s first wedding gig in October!

Harvest Moon Flower Farm
Morning at Harvest Moon Flower Farm, Spencer, Indiana
Harvest Moon Flower Farm
Harvest Moon Flower Farm
HMFF Crew
A dynamic group of hard-working women (left to right): Kuenzi Wiswall, Megan Leiss , Linda Chapman, Anna Dale (also not pictured, Ben West)

These are my first two bucket of bouquets for the local farmers market.  Entering into the “bouquet barn” to join the crew of very experienced women was, needless to say, intimidating, but very instructional.

Megan's first basket of five bouquets
Megan’s first basket of five bouquets
More of Megan's bouquets
More of Megan’s bouquets
Zinnias
Zinnias
Bouquets of flowers ready for market
Bouquets of flowers ready for market

Many Hands Plant a Farm

Those of you who know us know that we really value community.

One thing that has been great about starting Spring Forth Farm has been the many ways in which it has been a community venture.

First, there is the land-sharing arrangement with Wayne and Deborah and Orchard Hill Children’s School. We are sharing the cost and work of clearing the land, and in exchange we have a place to start our farm, they get some produce, and after a couple years, they will have well-established garden beds to expand their own garden into. Everybody works, everybody wins together.

Our friends and families have also been overwhelmingly supportive, helping us meet many of our start-up needs with minimal start-up cost. Our families, friends, and colleagues have given us a weed-eater, gas cans, a cooler for storing produce, and miscellaneous hand tools. Local farmers, including Maple Spring Gardens and Elysian Fields Farm have sold us supplies at cost, helping us add another farm to the growing network of small farms that make this area such a rich place to grow.

We relish the ways we have been able to participate in the community life of other local farms. For example, we love visiting Mike and Brenda Heindl at Emmaus Farm, and helping stoke the wood-fired kiln for Brenda’s Liberty Stoneware. We are committed to making Spring Forth Farm a positive contribution to the life of the community. We are committed to donating 5% of our sales, as well as donations of farm products, to a local food bank, helping to ensure that everyone in our community has access to food.

I don’t know if this is the case with all farms, but bringing Spring Forth Farm this far has really been an instance of community-supported agriculture. We could not exist without the support we have already received, and will continue to receive throughout the life of the farm. We are blessed that Spring Forth Farm has received such and outpouring of community support, and we look forward to finding new ways to make our farm a part of the community, too.