THE FLOWERS ARE HERE!!! THEY’RE BLOOMING! IT’S REALLY HAPPENING! The miracle of nature never ceases to amaze me. And the power of hard work and determination is also rather astonishing.
With summer in full swing we are doing everything we can to ride the wave. And it’s been heat wave after heat wave! But with the support of our amazing community, we are still standing and the flowers are still blooming!
We have provided flowers for some lovely weddings (with more to come!), we’re selling our flowers to New Seasons Market, several florists, and we’re in a couple of markets. What a journey this has been since the days of seed catalogs and floral dreams.
June is upon us as the flowers are finally peaking their heads out to say hello. They’ve come along way since the February days of cold stratification (which involves refrigerating certain seeds for weeks before they are sown), the heat box of March (to keep the babies content at around 70 degrees), the mass plantings of April and May.
Everything is growing at Fawn Lily Farm…especially the grass. We spend more hours than I’d like to admit crawling around ripping out the grass roots with a hori hori – a badass Japanese garden tool. If I learn nothing else from this experience it’s this: grass roots movements are damn near impossible to stop. We’ve grown to love the soil biology we’re cultivating in our field as well as in the lines on our hands. If you were to examine our palms you’d see that our lifeline spells out “S O I L.” We hand crafted our beds – 3 feet wide and rich in healthy soil biology. When preparing the beds for the plant babies, we add crushed fish bones and feathers to bring up the nitrogen and phosphorous levels, gypsum to increase sulfur levels, limestone to bring up the soil pH by making the soil more alkaline, and glacial rock dust for trace nutrients for prime looking and tasting plants. These amendments provide food for the microbes that make their homes in the soil. Only with a healthy soil food web can you have healthy plants.
The heroes of Fawn Lily Farm We were far from alone in the first chapter of the journey. In fact, it would’ve been impossible without the help of some great Corbett folks. Michael and Pam, the ultimate stewards of Fawn Lily Farm and the rest of their 20 acres on SE Louden Road, have offered tremendous practical and emotional support. From helping me build the heat box to showing us the mechanics of the BCS tiller, Michael has been so generous with his time and knowledge. Pam is an avid gardener who shares in the excitement of new plant finds and will clip flowers from her own gardens for cut flower experimentation. They’ve helped us tackle drip irrigation and always keep an eye out on our plant babies in the greenhouse. Nothing we say here can possible justify just how lucky we feel to know them.
Dennis and Cynthia have put us up on their beautiful Ross Mountain property. They, too, are wonderful caretakers of their land, practicing sustainable forestry management, keeping bees, and living lightly. There are arrays of projects on the mountain and it’s fun to learn a thing or two about herbs, bees, horses, etc. Katie Coppoletta, who owns Fiddlehead Farm down the road, has been a steady rock for us. Whenever I feel anxiety about the farm, Katie sets me straight, telling me that we’re doing a great job. We hope to be the source of strength for beginning farmers sometime down the road. The Gordon Creek Road community: Mikaela, Ed, Chi, Forrest, Christina, and Aaron. These people have provided comic relief every Thursday at their potluck. In addition to a general good time they’ve assisted with retail opportunities, tilling, encouragement, plant nerd entertainment, and beers. Lest we forget how we came to be here! It wouldn’t have happened without the encouragement of the Marc Robbi, Corrina Cohen, and Tina Glaessner of Orleans, CA. This is a much larger story that transcends the scope of this blog, but pretty much they are our heroes. There are most definitely more people to thank, but my fingers are feeling arthritic from pulling so many weeds. We’ll just make this a series. It takes a village, you know?
Thanks to the efforts of these fine humans, we are harvesting our first sweet peas, Zulu daisies, and yarrow. Within a couple of weeks, I’ve got a sneaking suspicion the field is really going to come alive. We are so excited to share the beauty with you!
Well folks, the secret’s out. Farming is not for the faint of heart. Although to be fair, what in life is?
Yesterday was Friday…the 13th. Now, I don’t consider myself to be the superstitious type. I’ve walked under my fair share of orchard ladders, and I’m rather fond of the number 13. But Friday the 13th was not a lucky day despite starting the morning by donning my lucky underwear. Okay, I digress.
Since moving up here three weeks ago I’ve been flying by the seat of my pants. An expression that according to urban dictionary means “1. to pilot a plane by feel and instinct rather than by instruments 2. to proceed or work by feel or instinct without formal guidelines or experience ex: It’s during a time like that that you must fly by the seat of your pants.”
So I’m flying by the seat of my pants. And as to be expected, there’s been a bit of turbulence. But overall the view from this flight is breathtakingly beautiful.
I am so grateful to be here in Corbett, Oregon. A lovely farming town just outside of Portland. The people that make up this community have been so genuine and welcoming. It makes Lindsay and I wonder why we didn’t move to Oregon sooner. But alas, we were waiting for climate change to warm things up…perhaps that joke is in poor taste (dry humor might not go over well in a drought). But it has been warm here! Since my arrival, I’ve only seen a few frosts.
Our plant babies are thriving! We’re growing over 50 different species of flowers and herbs this year. We can’t wait for our fields to be in full bloom this summer.
In the mean time we’re dealing with oversize puppies and overzealous black labs trampling our flats of baby flowers. Willy the dog is an Armenian Gampr who has yet to heed the words, “No Greenhouse!” We’ve lost some of our stock to his enormous puppy paws.
But I do love that fluff ball, so I’m hoping with a few more doggy obedience school sessions, he’ll shape up into the Fawn Lily Farm Guard Dog Extraordinaire – first generation flower protector. We’re going to need a deer fence this summer & when examining our budget, it looks like Willy the dog is our only affordable option. That or we’ll sleep in the flower fields to fend off the deer (we’ll keep you posted as our strategy evolves).
So far we’ve kept our overhead costs pretty low. We found an incredible care taking gig at the magical land of Ross Mountain just down the road from our farm. And we’re picking up side jobs wherever we can get them. We’re in the process of honing our fruit tree pruning skills to start a winter business of pruning your trees into delectable works of art. We’ll also clean your house, tend your garden, babysit your kids. Pretty much, if you need a handy woman – we’re there.
Right now we’re inundated with the daunting task of finding markets to sell all the beautiful flowers we’ll be growing this year. We applied to several farmers markets, sought out some florists in downtown Portland, talked with some herbal companies, and we’ve found ourselves involved in a couple of CSAs. If you’re in the area and looking for a beautiful bouquet to be delivered to your door every week check out Kamama Flowers. If you’re interested in veggies and flower starts check out Rocking T Family Farm. We’re collaborating with both of these wonderful people!
This is a year of “YES.” We are staying open to all sorts of possibilities to see what works and how to best get our flowers to the world. The terrifying part about all of this is that we have no idea what works. Perhaps that’s too dramatic. We have an idea of what can work..what has worked for other flower farmers.
My first week out here Lindsay and I went to a PNW flower farmer meet-up organized by the incredible Elizabeth of Rose Hill Flower Farm. It was there we were inspired by other sustainable flower farmers, mentored by immensely talented growers, and on top of it all we won free tee-shirts representing the Slow Flower movement coined by our new friend Debra Prinzing.
It was there we met the floral merchandiser from New Seasons. Katie is a hardworking lady who helps bring local bouquets to the grocery store!
This brings me back to Friday the 13th…we had an appointment with Katie at 11am in Portland. So on our way we stopped at the nearest library to print our 2015 crop list. And, of course, we hit up the Dollar Tree that neighbors the Troutdale library where we printed our important documents. With our red vines and $1 candles in tow we attempted to start Lindsay’s car…to no avail. An hour later we watched her car get towed away and found ourselves aimlessly walking the isles of Safeway contemplating how we’d get back to Corbett. We had to reschedule our meeting with Katie.
Perusing the isles it hit us…all we have at this point is a bunch of baby plants with no confirmed markets to sell them at. We actually got rejected from the first farmer’s market we applied to, and we’ve been turned away from other markets who already have flower vendors. Who’s going to buy our flowers?
There we were. In our city clothes with our mascara on, and we had nowhere to go. Nowhere to sell our flowers. But just before we walked out of Safeway to hitchhike our sorry asses home, our friend from Corbett, the wonderful Mikaela, called and said she’d gladly pick us up.
Lindsay’s car will live to see another day (the culprit was a corroded wire in the engine), and we’re staying optimistic that we’ll find our markets. In the meantime we’ll keep breathing, sowing seeds, weeding beds, fixing irrigation, and singing Alanis Morissette’s “Hand in my Pocket”. We’ll keep on keeping on because we’ve been blessed with an amazing community. We have support and love coming towards us in full force! Our hearts our not faint. They are fierce, and they always remind us to stop and smell the flowers.
We aren’t sure what the future holds, but our sweet peas are coming along, so we know the future smells good.
Thanks for reading! Let us know what YOU do to make your dreams come true. Email us at email@example.com ~PEACE~
This is Lindsay writing as Courtney is on her way up to Corbett as I type this. Getting back into the swing of hoes and the prying of broad forks after about two months of lazing around my mom’s house in Spokane (and elsewhere, overwintering), drinking dollar beers and too much coffee, has been a slow process. My body seemed to reject the physical work, refusing to rise from bed with the 7:00 am alarm I set, but I think it’s coming around.
I spent the week weeding and prepping the hoop house for extra early flowers. Originally, Courtney and I were only planning on growing flowers and herbs in the field, reserving the hoop houses for our summer vegetables, but the more I study, the more I realize the hoop house will be our ally in making the flower farming business financially successful. The added protection of the hoop house will allow us to offer sweet peas, stock, snapdragons, sunflowers, and other foliage a month earlier in spring and later in fall. With enough frost protection, we can grow day neutral flowers any time of the year. These are flowers that bloom at maturity, with no requirements for day length. Examples include Bachelor Button and Sunflowers.
I’ve met some really nice folks in Corbett. Everyone has been incredibly supportive of our venture and forthcoming with advice. A local farmer and former tenant to our land, Katie, let me borrow her broad fork to work the greenhouse. Corbett is a lush place, receiving 40-60 inches of rain per year. With all of the magnificent forests and waterfalls (we are 9 miles from Multonomah falls), come the grasses and lots of them. In fact, I believe this region is the grass seed capitol of the country. Thankfully, I’ve ordered a sharp hoe and am feeling pretty fearless, but I may soon change my tune. I’ll say it now: I’ve been warned by the populace (over and over again).
It’s been interesting navigating a business of our own. At 11:00 pm, Wednesday night, I realized I had ordered the wrong snapdragon seed. This mistake was undoubtedly due to the fact that I was exhausted. I would’ve just trialed it anyway, except that the variety I was intending to order was specific to hoop house growing with diminished light. Germania is an efficient company, often shipping out the same day the order is received. Neurotic as I am, I set my alarm to 5:00 am so that I would be able to call the office in Chicago when they opened at 7:00. I probably sounded like a crazy person, and the seeds had already been shipped, but I was able to order the correct variety and go back to sleep.
I’m thinking I need to up my daily dosage of coffee, perhaps get an IV drip of caffeine, or make really good friends with a local roaster who loves mixed bouquets. Overall, things are good and soon seeds will sprout. It certainly feels like spring is in the air here.
How does one start a farm in the midst of this postmodern world saturated in virtual reality and fast food?
You start with seeds. Seeds of change. Seeds of hope for a different sort of world. A world with dirty fingernails and home cooked meals. A world of face to face and face to plant communication!
Lindsay and I dreamt up Fawn Lily Farm as we walked through a craft fair in Arcata, California. We soaked up inspiration as we perused the unique booths – like minded folks daring to create their dreams. What are our dreams? Growing beautiful flowers and glorious medicinal herbs for people and pollinators alike. So, why shouldn’t we start a flower and herb farm?
Well…money, land, time, familial expectations…the list continues. BUT dreams are resilient. We knew we wanted to settle in Oregon – California’s cool (and slightly cheaper) neighbor. We found a website, iFarm Oregon ~ http://www.friendsoffamilyfarmers.org ~ it pairs aspiring farmers with landowners. Through the website we met many potential land partners (encouragement for all you aspiring farmers out there!) with idyllic homestead situations, limitless potential for growth and downright rad farmers. *FYI: organic, sustainable farmers are some of the most down to earth (quite literally), creative and smartest people you will ever encounter*
So we found a perfect match in Corbett, Oregon – a small farming town 18 miles east of Portland. The couple that owns the land is that type of rare, genuine human that makes you proud to be a part of this species. They are excellent stewards of their land and they just want to see young people like ourselves putting it to good use. With the go ahead from the wondrous Pam and Michael, we poured ourselves into seed catalogs.
Now something else you should know about the organic, sustainable farmer: they are pretty much always down to share their knowledge with you. Why? Well, for one it’s their burning passion for such a lifestyle. And in the mind of a sustainable farmer, the more sustainable farmers out in the world, the better this world is. It’s not rooted in competition but collaboration.
Lindsay and I spent a year in a town called Orleans. It’s a tiny town nestled in the beautiful Pacific Northwest along the Klamath River. Here we met so many incredible, talented people living off the land – farming – gardening – creating a lifestyle that we fell in love with. These beautiful souls have acted as our mentors and friends as we drafted up our orders and planned out our next steps.
So…here we are. About to sow our seeds and live our dream. We’ll keep y’all updated as this journey unfurls. In the meantime, remember to stop and smell the flowers.