Monday, October 19, 2015

IOWA2

As promised, I have returned!  Sorry, but these people are keeping me busy here.  Plus now it's a paying gig, which I think you all know is a great blessing to me right now!

Firstly, I should tell you that Joyce and Tony are two of the most hospitable and wonderful people I've met.  They have included me in everything and made me feel so incredibly welcome and at home.  Secondly, it's so funny how incredibly different they are.  Joyce is a student of Thich Nhat Hanh, and emulates his peaceful and Zen demeanor so beautifully.  She teaches ESL to a group of monastic Vietnamese sisters here, and is really tied into the community in some lovely ways (did I tell you i meditated for world peace with an interfaith group of lovely Catholics, Muslims, Jewish, Christian and Buddhist women in a Muslim Mosque - and me the token pagan) .  It makes me more mindful just being around her.  She has been to several of "Thay's" retreats and leads a lovely sangha here on Friday afternoons.  I've yet to snap a photo of her because I'm always so immersed in our interesting conversations (we have very similar spiritual beliefs, backgrounds and outlooks on life).  Here is the lovely outdoor sangha room where we meditate:


This is how it looks inside - imagine a fire and 6 lovely women on purple cushions & zafus with warm yummy purple blankets...


This is how it looks from the outside...


And this is the view from the inside...




And this is the inside sangha room.  

After we meditated for 20 minutes (which challenged me a bit, but put me in such a zen state), we walked outside to the lawn and did a walking meditation all in "honorable silence".  When you walk you are asked to be fully in your body and to be mindful of your connection with the earth.  Can I just say that when the bottom of me feet touched the grass in this way, surrounded by these lovely women in such a peaceful and beautiful place, I was brought to tears and almost to my knees.  But, since sobbing out loud seems contraindicated when observing "honorable silence", i pulled myself together and walked very slowly and deliberately, but sputtering a little under my breath.  Then back inside for another 20 minutes meditation and then a reading and lovely talk.  On top of that, they gifted me again with a lovely massage with Oonoch, the incredibly beautiful Korean practitioner who studied Chinese Medicine.  I had been told by my friend Laura that I really needed Myofacial Release and that is what she did on me just intuitively without knowing.  It hurts like a mofo, but my body feels amazing now.  I love and hate her very much.


This is the back of the house where we walked, overlooking one of the gardens & rolling native prairie that is their back yard:


This is Tony, Mo's dad.  He is a bit of a dichotomy - a very successful financial planner, with a record breaking team at Merril Lynch.  He has a loyal base of customers that have been with him some for 30 years.  He is of Sikh heritage and was living in Muslim Pakistan as a Christian up until 16 when he hiked from Pakistan to Europe on $500.  Then he came to America with nothing more than $25 in his pocket.  Spending time with him and his customers (I was invited to this great comedy show with them - Guys in Ties - check it out on you tube) it's easy to see why his customers stay.  He is an incredibly loving and loyal person.  He has one of the most incredible smiles I've ever seen (especially with a couple drinks on board - teehee).  He has taken a financial advisory role with me and has opened my eyes to a new way of viewing my financial future - which  you all know i need.   


We are working on a six year plan for the farm and I'm going to really enjoy helping them create something they can make a little money at and really enjoy in retirement. And, then there's all my furry, feathered and fluffy friends:


Scratchin' around the garden beds...



in the hen house...


eatin' the scrap maters we pulled from the garden, but my fav...


That's Momma and baby in their lil' special house. And, now for my new best friend...


Meet Lucy.  I Love Lucy.  And, she loves me too BTW, cause I know just how to scritch her.  I have videos of her making a Mancoon (sp?) spectacle of herself just like Charlie. Please, don't tell him, Although I think they would probably have a furry love affair if they met. 

OMG - I just figured out how to upload videos!


video

video

I had a lil' adventure on my own in Davenport.  Got to visit with Mo, and do some exploring in the east village close to where she lives.  And I discovered this amazing little park:




FAQ - What is a pocket park?   A “pocket park” is a small, outdoor park usually developed on an otherwise forgotten space in a “pocket” surrounded by other buildings.  





How cool is that?!  The local residents just come and make art there.  Checkout the guy behind the bench.  There was one in the tree that actually inspired me to take the pics. I could smack myself for forgetting him (not very Zen of me).  But, here's my fave... it's a close up of the back of the bench...


It's something I had just said to Mo, half an hour earlier and then said to myself.  Walking in the park and seeing it there, I remembered where I had heard it first.  Sound familiar Dave?

Ok, guys, there's so much more to say, but I am tuckered.  I'm on some weird wakeup at 3 am every night schedule, so I have to get some zzzz's in before then.  I love and miss you all.  Please, respond to my blog.  I love the feedback!  XOXOXOXOzzzzzz

Saturday, October 10, 2015

IOWA

I arrived at the farm in the evening after dark to a wonderful warm reception of a lovely salad and squash soup.  But, the most wonderful thing of all to discover (since Charlie wanted to snuggle all night before I left, and I was exhausted) was this lovely and comfortable bed.  
I'll take some more pics of the cabin they lovingly call "The Grandma House" later.


The next morning, Joyce and I did a walkabout through the lovely 34 acre property.  Tony is a lover of trees and there's every kind of tree you can imagine.  My favorite is the shaggy bark hickory, not just cause it's pretty, but cause I just love saying "shaggy bark hickory" (it makes me think of smoky food, and it sounds like something from an old storybook).  Joyce loves her native prairie, and as amazing as they look now, I can only imagine how they will look later. More pics of the property, the oak savanna and stories about that later!


Tony & Joyce on a stool looking for some local honey for me so I will be resistant to their local poison ivy.  MO is such a lovely blend of both of them and i see so much of her in them.




Joyce and I love to putter in the garden that she and MO planned and planted together.  We've been harvesting tomatoes, potatoes, watermelon, arugula, cantaloupe, cucumbers and peppers (peter peppers - sending pics later - you can guess what they look like - tehee - I'm sure Jake will add a "that's what she said" somewhere).  We put up some tomatoes, potatoes and peppers last night.  Joyce taught me a much easier way to blanch them & peel them, Jake! 



So many chickens!  She takes in strays.  There's always a rooster crowing and we don't have to drive a million miles for eggs.



So many nasturtiums and zinnias.  I hope you can't overdose on flowers!



I have been loving the time to play and do some serious kitchen witchin!  I have multiple kefir batches and am going to experiment making kefir cheese.  I've made four tinctures - lemon balm, lemon verbena, lemon grass and another holy basil.  I'm making bone broth, sprouting barley and beans, making chimichuri and on and on....  She has a kick ass deydrator called the Excaliber, so there's lots more dried lemongrass & holy basil for tea!  There's a garden here by the Grammy House (my name for it) with lots of Kale that's just waiting to be converted to Kale Chips!  I'll bring you some, Mattie and we can do some binging on green chips instead of the others! 


This morning, Joyce took me to their local market, which is huge!  It's right on the Mississippi river and has a FERRIS WHEEL! (i'll get pics for you). I might have some of these flavored honey sticks in my lil pocketses when I get home (habenero for you, Ben). 


Jake, check out these crazy looking pumkins...





I'm in hog heaven.  I have so many veggies that I don't know what to do with them!  But, their sweet potatoes look wimpy next to the one you harvested Manders. 


Nicole, I thought about you when I saw this adorable camper booth.  It's a cupcake stand.  Check out the cupcake curtains!




When we got home, Tony had set up a tour of the property with his friend Ray who is a weather specialist with the US weather service and a master gardener.  He's an expert in micro-climates.  He was amazingly helpful at helping me to diagnose some of the growing issues I've had and said the extra rain in the midwest was due to climate change.  Also, he said I can get the wilt out of my soil by solar cooking it.  Can't wait to learn about this.



Tony is in the blue jacket and Joyce is in the black one.  The people on the ends are a couple (Ray the Metorologist) and the other dude is a neighbor who's lived on a farm next door his whole life.  Him and Tony are tree-planting fools. 


Nature's Cathedral...


Farmer David found some "hen of the woods" mushrooms, right in the backyard of my house here!  I've had them before.  They taste like chicken!




So I came home and started a fire after our chily morning out and warmed up some butternut squash, kale salad and lemongrass/holy basil tea to enjoy while writing to you!  


I'll continue adding more pics and stories here about:
  • The lovely Sangha we enjoyed yesterday
  • The wonderful massages and myofascial release they've been gifting me
  • My furry feline friends 
  • and the rolling hills of Iowa...
I miss all my family, but feel your love here with me.  Every day is a new discovery and I feel so happy and blessed to have you, my roots - to know you are there, sending me love while I spread my wings!


Love, Peace & Dirt,

JO Mama
& Grammy

Friday, September 11, 2015

Visit our FACEBOOK page for the most up to date info...

Just a note to say the obvious.  I suck as a blogger, so visit our FB page at www.facebook.com/lulusgardenherbs for more up-to-date postings...

Monday, October 13, 2014


We had so much fun at our Harvest Party! Thank you to all our lovely volunteers and supporters this season. There is no way I could have done it without you!!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Harvest Party & the Story of Lulu's New Home

Join us for a season celebration Sunday, October 12th from 2 to 4 pm!  Event Link.

We are looking forward to a truly promising future here in our new little "urban" location in scenic Baldwin City, Kansas.  As many of you know, it's been a difficult and challenging time of late for the farm.  But, as always, being the ever positive and hopeful spirit, I can feel the tides are turning, as we come in line with our true mission & vision.

 Last year, in our previous location, grasshoppers made their home in the vegetative growth surrounding the garden.  Subsequently, they chose the basil (our cash crop) as their favorite yummy buffet, consuming thousands of dollars in profit.  It would have been very easy to stop them with chemicals, but I just couldn't do it.  My dedication to growing sustain ably was genuinely put to the test.  I tried organically approved inputs, but it was too little, too late.  I remember having my finger on the button to order the evil alternative and save myself thousands in losses, but I just couldn't do it.

I wish I could say the challenges stopped there.  Our joint high tunnel venture took a turn for the worse with tempers running high and, without casting blame I was sadly forced to move my perennial plants elsewhere for the winter.  Through the loving graciousness of the owners of our new farm, we were able to find a home for them in the barn and basement there.  Sadly, the winter was extremely rough and cold.  We lost nearly 300 of our 325 perennial herb inventory.  At an average cost of $30 to replace... well you can imagine.

I am happy to say that from there things began looking up - way up.  And I'm certain that all of the challenges I faced as a tenant farmer were simple driving me to begin to search for a farm of my own. I was looking for something manageable in size for a single woman farmer, but everything out there was a minimum 5 - 10 acres, or just too much for me to manage.  I was starting to get discouraged when a friend here in Baldwin mentioned a little place just down the street from him downtown. I had driven by the place often, seeing the foxes playing by the creek alongside the property.  It was a sleepy little white house with a perfect little porch and a three bay garage.  I had not realized there were several additional lots behind.  I remember saying to myself every time I drove by "that place wants something."  I didn't realize what it wanted was me.

The property was owned by a loving family, whose mother had been the local Baldwin public school nurse.  They had owned the property since 1964 (my birth year) and the mother had taken ill and been moved from there in 2008.  It had sat empty since then, although lovingly cared for over the years.  The family obviously had an emotional attachment.  They returned to the home each year in October for the local Maple Leaf Festival, and kept the family trailer/float for the parade parked in the barn.  They had finally decided to list the property when my friend interceded on my behalf.

On meeting these lovely people, I was informed that I was the person they had been waiting for.  We agreed it had been no accident our meeting and that the home had been waiting for me, and the property for Lulu's Garden.  We agreed on a very fair price for the property, signed a 30 day contract to close by November.  And I completed final paperwork for my loan through the Farm Service Agency, a division of the USDA.  I won't bore you with all the details, but there were issues of converting residential property to cropland, which was designated as highly erodible, so a conservation plan was put into place.  There were issues with the creek surrounding the property and flood plain, city approvals and much more.  Each time there was another delay, I would call the owners (sometimes in tears, ready to give up) and they would talk me down off the ledge, assuring me that the property was mine and there were many people praying that it should be so.  I am still floored by their graciousness.  With their continued patience, my loan manager, transaction broker and all those involved, we finally closed on April 1 this year, and hit the ground running.

I'm amazed what we have been able to accomplish since then.  If you visit our Facebook page, you will see the hard work of many wonderful WWOOF interns and volunteers for which I am soooo grateful!  Again, this year there have been many challenges.  My consulting job (I always have a side job to support my farm habit) to help a Baldwin group develop a small COOP grocery featuring only local products was delayed several times, then fell through mid-project with new ownership.

The marketing plan for the farm was to expand to KC restaurants for sales I had lain the groundwork for the previous years.  Unfortunately, I discovered that market has changed substantially, as competition has moved in selling herbs for $2 - 5 less per pound than ours, and I was unable to break into that market.  It was pretty demoralizing looking out at the basil, knowing I could be harvesting 60 - 70 pounds of our a week, and only having 20 lbs in orders (i think i cursed a little).  Then the fungus came.

Really, I'm not making this up -  I will never curse my basil again.  The extreme moisture brought in a spore that infected our basil and we haven't been able to harvest even 5 pounds a week since then.  All I could really do is laugh, as the expenses kept going and the income kept dwindling.  We had some very interesting brainstorm sessions, and the wwoofers and staff got very creative. I was fortunate enough to have one of my local restaurants hire me and accommodate my farm schedule.  So the bills are getting paid, but the mortgage still...not quite.

The best idea of all was to have a big party with a cover/donation.  I was not on board until I realized it might really be of value to people.  We had a couple wonderful bands volunteer to play and people donating their time and resources.  And, I think we've come up with a fun concept that people will really enjoy!

Moreover, all the challenges have given me pause to reevaluate what I really want for Lulu's, and what my true passions and gifts are.  This has proven to be a very rewarding process, and I am confident that there are a myriad of ways for this new property to provide abundance and sustain itself.  Take an opportunity when you can to visit our updated Mission and Vision in the "ABOUT" tab, and we hope that you can join us to help celebrate what has been a very challenging, and yet enlightening couple of seasons for Lulu's Garden!  In much Love, Pam