March 26, 2012

Early Spring

These little babies are right on time at our local farm store, but our spring seems to have sprung a little on the early side.  We've had more days in the 70's than anything else.  Are we getting too comfortable with it??  There is endless speculation around Iowa about whether or not we will get anymore freezing weather or snow.

We're on our normal course of indoor planting and seed ordering, but it's sure tempting to move ahead with the whole program when it's so lovely out!   These seeds came with our last order from Azure Standard. I've blogged about this company in the past and love the products they offer.  We've been customers for a number of years, but this will be our first try with their seeds.  From what I can tell, this seed line that they sell is a small home business - a bonus!

Our strawberry bed is happily growing up through the pine straw mulch.  Do we take off the mulch and risk a freeze?  I'm dreaming of strawberries on pancakes and strawberry jam this summer, so I'm feeling protective!

Our peach tree has bloomed as well.  Will these lovely flowers escape the frost?  Does this mean we'll get a good crop?  This little tree was a volunteer from an established tree, was first planted in our front yard, where the deer liked to terrorize it, and was transplanted to our fenced garden area in the fall of 2010.  My hubby pruned in to a V shape according to expert advice, and it seems pretty happy right now!

 Leaves have set on some of our blackberry vines, but who knows what will happen here.  Last year was such a disappointment after a promising start.  Seems we had a fungus problem. We're trying to contact the grower to get some insight and perhaps a refund for some of those that failed completely.  Maybe our fruit dreams will come true this year??

 We spent most of our Saturday at a gardening workshop at the  The Henry A. Wallace Country Life Center, near Orient, IA.  This is the second of these facilities, the other being in Des Moines and that location has a different focus.  It's a little difficult to describe just what this place is too!  Among other things it's an organic CSA farm which provides weekly produce boxes to 65 people for the 2012 season, and plans to provide 40 different kinds vegetables and fruits!  There are numerous programs and workshops offered here and there is a wonderful restaurant open part of the year that features what they grow.

The grounds include the restored birth home of  Henry A. Wallace and the newer building, which includes meeting space and the restaurant.

Here you can see part of the barn and the bones of the greenhouses.  There is a fascinating young woman, Sarah Costa, who heads up the agricultural operations at this center.  She is very knowledgeable, very enthusiastic, and works her buns off at a job she clearly loves.  Listening to her talk about their growing season and her preparations for the coming season was  very inspirational!

One of the playful things on the grounds is this giant checker board!  It's made of textured cement blocks. Such a fun idea!

 The workshop was packed, and included a number of Master Gardeners that were achieving their continuing education hours as well as enjoying a perfect spring day with fellow enthusiasts. The weather was all the talk here too, and several times we heard the warning that we should not be fooled by early warm days - as in don't be tempted to plant everything just yet!

We had a number of sessions, including this one with the head of the Master Gardener Program at ISU.  She presented an interesting but intimidating presentation about Quilted Gardens. You can see some pictures of these gardens at this site.  It's a wonderful idea, but even a room full of experienced gardeners were intimidated at the amount of work that would be involved!  Most people just want to get a good crop of tomatoes and have nice color in their flower beds!

This young woman is Chef Katie, new to the center and someone they are thrilled to have.  She did a wonderful presentation on edible flowers - how to make flower butters, flower simple syrups, and more.  She was also the chef for our lunch and it was one of the highlights of the day! The menu included roasted root vegetables with herbs and fresh pea shoots (pictured above), fruit salad perfumed with lemon balm, and fresh baked focaccia bread. For our sandwiches, she made several delicious spreads, including from-scratch mustard, using two kinds of seeds plus calendula flowers - really, really yummy!

The best part of the day was the fact that I got to spend it with these swell fellas - my Uncle Jim and my husband!  They are a couple of lovable characters!


  1. I lover reading your blog. I can't garden, so I'm living my gardening fantasy through your blog.

  2. Sounds like you had a good day! Looks like a wonderful place!