Tag Archives: gardening

Flowers and Frost

By Mary

This month my sister Kate came for a delightful visit to our new home. A hard frost was right around the corner, so we brought many flowers in for an impromptu photo shoot with our sister in law Nicole.


Harvesting the last flowers of the season gave me time to reflect on what a blur this growing season has been.


Last winter I paged through a seed catalog in delight, reveling at the many colors and textures and heights that I intended on planting for the 2018 season. The seeds arrived before spring did, just before our move in date for our new, tiny rehabbed farmhouse, which was scheduled on the same day as my due date for our first baby.

I used the last of my last paycheck to order berry canes, which arrived in a snowstorm. To say I was a little overwhelmed would be a large exaggeration. However, I took inspiration from Native American women, who would bring their papooses along as they worked and gathered. I also come from a line of capable women, and I clung to the advice my sister in law Aurora gave me, which was that babies sleep a LOT.


Bit by bit the tiny flower seeds became 35 flats of flowers, were transplanted, and became bouquets which I delivered weekly to the Viroqua Food Coop and People’s Food Coop for sale. All the berries got put in. And our son now sleeps substantially less and is much harder to wrangle while I am working.


This season has been bountiful in so many ways. I failed a lot, learned a lot, and am so grateful for all that has bloomed.



April 16, 2015

By Mary

With my green eyes I see beauty and with my green thumb I like to nurture and create it. One of my very favorite things to do is to spend hours lost silence while gardening. Growing flowers never bores me. I have an appreciation for the flexibility of flower gardening because first and foremost, it offers me a creative outlet that is beautiful, as well as in constant motion. I really do despise sitting still, so it’s wonderful to be engaged in projects that keep me busy and moving, Plus growing flowers is such a flexible way to have a fun niche market.

Yesterday I picked up flats of baby lupines that I had started at an Amish greenhouse back in February. While at the greenhouse I spent a few minutes looking around at what’s available, which made me ponder new ideas for this season. Later last night I was able to look back at some of the pictures from last summer which made me remember times, colors and designs that were a joy to experience during last years growing season. Here are a few memories, designs and projects from 2014.


Last February the world seemed to as if it would always remain in a cold state of below zero frozen doom. Lisa King from the GAC show Farm Kings sympathized with my state of winter misery and was able to brighten my spirits by showing me the first shoots of new life inside her greenhouse. As a side note: Lisa is an amazing flower gardener and does some amazing and gorgeous things with flowers. For some great inspiration from Lisa, checkout some of the clips that are available from their show or Freedom Farms Magazine.

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After coming back from Pittsburgh, I was able to put together some lists of records and start planting.


Writing for the Freedom Farms magazine challenged me to spend some time coming up with articles that gave potting a new twist (just like the twisted grass in the globe pots I made that resemble my unbrushed hair!). To make these, just up-cycle an old globe, slit it in half, drill holes for drainage, and plant inside before attaching rope for hanging,


Last summer I was able to burn out a stump and turn it into a flower bed.


Burning out a tree takes a lot of time, and in my case one very heated argument…. but I liked the end result!


Last year I recycled old bottles that had labels I liked and used them as vases. The price is right to reuse them. This gave me a great inspiration to buy bottles of wine that had horses on the labels, I mean, I bought them for my flowers, right?


When it comes time to fill buckets with bouquets to take to the co-op for market, I am in my zone!




This year I will have new colors and plants to work with. I am really looking forward to seeing what I come up with. My hope for this post was that it provided some inspiration to think creatively, and most importantly, encourage you to get out and get your hands in the dirt. Happy gardening and don’t forget to get lots of dirt on your hands!





Fungus Among Us (In Black Garbage Bags That Is)

By: Mary

My appreciation of working in the garden and fields results in a creative exploration of gardening. From Apples to Baby’s Breath to Carrots, I am a devoted grower of produce, flowers, and fruits. What I’m not so excited about is growing fungus. Yes, that’s right: fungus comes in many forms and that includes in the form of mushrooms.

The term mushroom describes a variety of gilled fungi, with or without stems, and the term is used even more generally, to describe both the fleshy fruiting bodies of some Ascomycota and the woody or leathery fruiting bodies of some Basidomycota, depending upon the context of the word. Here at Sweet Ridge Farm this springs plantings have included Yellow Oyster mushrooms. Though I have no expressed interest in this experiment, my brother’s Robert and James have taken up interest in this project. Resulting from a few hours of their work, a collection of ever-so-mysterious looking black garbage bags are now behind the house. After a few months of marination, the 25 units of spawn spore will inoculate and decompose. Come fall, a bountiful harvest of fungus should be upon us.

A visual tutorial on the Slattery Fungus experiment begins like this. To start with the spawns are needed. They came to us via mail and are packaged in block sized units and packed in sawdust.

The next thing needed to plant mushrooms is a place. See what I told you? There is nothing pretty or cute about planting mushrooms. What could be a duller surface than a log to plant the spawn on? But hey, it is what they require, and unlike a garden, it needs no tillage.

After you have the spawn and log in order a brother is needed to plant them. Here is James: unlike his sister’s- blogs or being photographed in the said blog is something that my Baby Brother has no time for…but really, covering this topic isn’t all so fascinating so I thought I would add this photograph to spruce up the post a bit, you know?

Here is Ja- I mean 40 Hustle, and our sweet neighbor girl, Leah tying up the project.

I make the statement of tying things up literally. The process of planting the spawns starts with them being placed on a log, then being covered with newspaper and secured with a twist tie or two. Using a right wing conspiracy laden publication to cover them is optional. My father is a former journalist, and our home is full of publications with vastly differing viewpoints, but I believe this particular paper belonged to our good friend and resident, Peter Drake.

Lastly the log is placed in a garbage bag.

As previously stated, by fall the “fruit” of the spawns will be revealed. While the fungi slowly starts to flourish in the bags, I will continue to stick to my own choice of planting on surfaces complete with earth and weeds. I guess I am just not a fungus type of person. But that doesn’t keep me from being amused by the heap of mysterious garbage bags and my fungus care-taking brothers.

When Good Shall Triumph Evil

By: Clare

Lice is a bit of a problem. I don’t like lice. I’ve never had lice, and I most certainly do not want lice. Ever. So when I was informed quite abruptly last weekend that my dear nieces and nephew have been dealing with this problem for the last couple of weeks, I was a bit conflicted. I always look forward to spending Sunday afternoon playing with them…but who wants to tell your freshman class you’re out of school because you have…lice? Not me. Thankfully, I was informed that the kids had been treated again, and they should be done with the pesky bugs. But I was still wary. Oh, was I ever.

As I slowly made my way downstairs, I was immediately caught in a circle of possible-lice candidates. And was it just me, or were they being more friendly than usual just to make me uncomfortable? Poor little Antonia wanted desperately for me to pick her up.

All of the kids were enjoying running outside in the semi-warm weather. I say semi because it definitely was not…well, not exactly leotard-wearing weather…as demonstrated by little Adeline.

Adeline has cut her own hair into an expertly styled mullet. She is almost a professional hair stylist at this point. Ask her dolls.

Speaking of hair we had our own little hair cutting party in the front yard. Complete with barking dogs and screaming children.

But when all the madness dies down, and the fear of lice subsides, order and elegance are left. In the form of tea parties.

We’re lucky enough to grown our own lemonbalm in our garden, meaning homemade lemonbalm tea!

So away Little Claire and I went, on our way to the garden to retrieve some fresh lemonbalm. Claire was fully equipped with her vintage white and purple apron to hold the lemonbalm…

Up through the garden path she paraded with her apron full of green..

From there on the lemonbalm was given a place on our long, Amish-made dinner table to be sorted through by a pair of small, determined hands..

while I set out my great-grandmother’s dainty china.

Within 15 minutes our tea was served, along with some raisin bread, and of course, cream and sugar.

Three scoops of sugar? Yes, indeed.

Cheers to elegance overcoming…lice.

See, good always triumphs over evil, sometimes it just takes a bit..

My Garden: My Canvas

By Mary

There are few interests that I take more seriously than my love of flowers. After the cold nights of October and the gray days of November, my garden takes several months of a break from its vibrant life of beauty, and calming graceful vitality.

How I do miss the sun, blossoms, weeds and dirt in the winter months. Come spring, just like the re-birth of the garden; a whole new part of me comes alive.

In February the plotting starts when I pour over seed catalogs. This year spring came early, so planting has too. All the bulbs that I carefully store away each fall get unwrapped from their improvised quilts of newspaper. Digging and designing a more perfected area are all part of the joy of gardening.

Often I second guess myself. Fortunately, I have my Mom as my mentor. She is a true master artist of cottage style gardens.

My Mother is extremely patient and supportive of my novice endeavors. Though our tastes in garden design differ, our passion for creating beauty has been a complimentary effort.

Tomorrow the two of us are driving an hour and a half round trip to pick up a box of calla lilies that I have been thinking about all winter. Some may wonder why one would spend so much time and energy growing plants, but for me, I wonder how anyone can not get inspired by the sheer goodness of growing something real and beautiful. Gardens are a canvas to me. They are the perfect opportunity to create living art, and from now to October, the artist part of myself will be digging in the dirt.

Sweet Ridge Spring

by Clare

Spring is finally here!

Or at least it was until it dipped by to the lower 50s. But before that could happen, our garden burst into bloom, and is now full of plum blossoms and tulips.

Photography being one of the pastimes that I enjoy, I brought out the camera and tried to convey the beauty that has thankfully come, through the lens of a camera.

I went a little off track on some of these photos and took pictures of whatever I thought was interesting, and since I thought those were pretty good too, I decided to include them.

More pictures of Wisconsin spring are still to come! Enjoy!