Seed starting for happiness

Winter does not agree with me as a flower farmer and as a person.  There’s always an element of surprise when I go outside to tend the chickens or check on my baby plants under the low tunnels.  I get out there and kinda…freak out.  Anxiety gnaws at me about plants and animals freezing and dying, low tunnels blowing away or collapsing and water freezing where it shouldn’t.  I’ve learned a few things help: warm clothes (we’re talking Carharts), lots of lights inside the house, St. John’s Wort tincture, exercise and starting seeds. 

For the past 15 years I’ve been starting seeds of one kind or another in February (now January, because: poppies!) and it’s become a natural phenomena; like the groundhog coming out to see it’s shadow.  Sometime around the end of January I pop my head out of my hibernation cave beneath the duvet and think “It’s time to start the seeds…”.  Except I don’t go back into my cave because, unlike the groundhog, once I’m awake, there’s SO much more to do!  In late February the mid-day sun will peek back over my neighbors house to the south.  The crocuses aren’t far behind.  Then the daffodils and tulips pop up next to the anemones and ranunculus I fell in love with last spring.  Near the middle of March I’m officially out of winter and running straight for the bulk of flower farming season. 


Starting seeds is one of the easiest and hardest things I do for my job.  Easy: seeds just want to GROW!  It’s what they do.  Hard: cover/don’t cover, light or dark for germination, heat mats/no heat, weeks to transplant…and so on and so forth.  Within this simple task are a million and one ways to screw it up and end up with no plant at all!  Then when the tiny plants are up and growing I inevitably drop a tray or run out of time (or room) to plant or the cat lays on the tray and squishes all the baby plants.  So I’ve learned to start more seeds than I think I’ll need and that having no Bells-of-Ireland really sucks. 

The magic of starting seeds lies in that trust and dedication to Mother Nature’s rhythms.  Because when it’s 15 degrees and everything is frozen outside, including the ground, starting those microscopic poppy seeds is the RIGHT thing to do. 

Joan Jach
Holiday creativity

The holidays are here and I encourage you to take the time to create!

Each year I take the time to create a handmade gift for my family.  It could be a new tradition, like the pocket advent calendar I made for my daughter, or a new recipe, like the peppermint bark I now make every year.  

Taking the time to sit down and create at the holidays can be hard with all of the hustle that also comes along this time of year.  In between shopping for Thanksgiving dinner and that New Year's champagne toast, I challenge you to find time to create!  

Do you need inspiration?  Check out my list below for resources to inspire. Some ideas I have for this year include gingerbread houses, pinecone ornaments, paper garlands, homemade cinnamon rolls, and hand-stitched stockings to hang by the fire.

I'm also hosting a wreath workshop to carve out a specific chunk of time for working with Nature's bounty this time of year.  Making a wreath isn't just an exercise in creativity, it can also be a time for conversation, relaxation and meeting new friends.

Humans are naturally creative!  We just can't help it; we love tinkering, changing, building, gathering, sculpting and otherwise messing around with our surroundings.  

It's what we do.

I'd love to help you find that special time to create and relax this holiday season.  If you can't make it to my wreath workshop, hopefully some of the links below might give you some inspiration!  

Cheers and happy creating,

Holiday inspiration:
>>Magazines Country Living UK ed and Mingle
>>Pinterest is a never-ending source of ideas
>>My old standby, Martha
>>Wool felting from Dani at Good Natured Art 
>>Anything from Amy at Angry Chicken

Joan Jach
Thinking Spring!

It's finally here: SPRING!  The flowers are blooming in my low tunnels and in the yard. Daffodils, tulips, anemones, and hyacinth; with ranunculus, flowering branches, and poppies right behind.  It's like a crescendo of flowers building up to the summer profusion of blooms!

The farm has been demanding more work this Spring with the early-blooming varieties I planted last fall and all of the seedlings I started in February.  This is on top of having another part-time job outside of the home and being a mama to my little one.  It's enough to make my head spin some days!  I try to "fit it all in" and "get everything done", but it just doesn't happen most days. I was beginning to get down on myself about it.  Social media wasn't helping either.  "How do they get it all done?  How do they afford it?  Do they ever NOT look amazing?  I should be able to...." and fill in that blank with what you like!  Whoa! It's very easy for me to go down that road of self-chastisement eventually landing on the doorstep of depression. 

Let's just not.  

I took a firm hold on reality and went out into the garden to knock some sense into my skull. Standing there in my new Muck boots (see! LUCKY!) I did a quick and dirty assessment of what I have going now compared to last year.  And you know what?? I had nothing blooming or growing this time of year in 2015!!  No farmer's market under my belt, no accounts set up for delivery, no name (seriously!), no weddings scheduled and no huge space for growing! 

A lot has changed since last March.  I met a bunch of awesome people through The Land Connection Farmers Market. (Especially my girl crush Kaya at Hopscotch!)  My space doubled.  I provided weekly flowers for V Picasso the whole summer.  I won a giveaway from Modern Prairie Woman.  Old Town Flowers was born!  Flowers grew and so did opportunities.  

I'm looking for that open feeling, cultivating it, in fact.  Ever notice how when you let go, it just seems to go easier?  As a certified control freak it's hard for me to do this!  This doesn't mean I can't be organized: dream, plan, execute.  Dot my i's and cross my t's.  But when it comes to the big UNIVERSE feeling of control: give in, let go, tune in and watch it roll!  And speaking of watching it roll...

Events coming soon...

April 5th--7-9pm--Red Herring Restaurant
Herbal body care class.  Learn how to make a spring tonic, muscle soak/rub and other body care products.  Participate, learn and take home a sample!  Contact to sign up!  Price: $5-$10 donation.

April 9th--12-5pm--In the back of Pizza M
Local artisan pop up.  Work from Michael Hannah, Elizabeth Simpson, Lara Orr and myself. Pottery, screen prints, textiles, flowers and general wonderful art will abound!

July and August--times and locations TBA
Cut flower workshops.  Students will learn the basics of creating and maintaining a cut flower patch with special attention given to flowers that do well in central IL climate.  Then we'll dive into arranging centerpieces for students to take home. Come experience the joy of local flowers while sipping wine and snacking on Hopscotch yummies during this workshop!   Price: ~$125 per person.  (Sign up coming soon!)

Summer 2016--times and dates TBA
Classes at the Common Ground Coop: Homemade Butter, Herbal Body Care, and Homemade Cleaning Products

Joan Jach
Local or bust

My heart aches for flowers right now. Actually it aches for anything green and alive, that's why I'm forcing about 200 bulbs in my basement right now! Even though I miss my flowers, I recently declined a February wedding flower request. It made my hands all sweaty and my stomach sore to write the couple and tell them no. "But it would be work for your portfolio and a Paycheck!" my brain says. "It would mean ordering chemical-drenched flowers from another continent!" my heart says. Is there a middle-ground? Can't I just go outside and find something pretty to make into wedding flowers for a lovely couple? Not in February. Not in Central IL.

If you're familiar with the Slow Food movement, the Slow Flower movement is sorta similar, except it's not just for yuppies (IMO). Slow flowers are for everyone: the pollinators, community, local economy and customers. Oh and the EARTH.

One of the core missions of my business is to educate people about the cut flower industry. Most (80%) of the US's flowers come from S. America. Most are grown with the use of chemicals banned in the US by women and children who get paid next to nothing. These flowers are shipped THOUSANDS of miles only to be inspected at US customs and sometimes drenched with chemicals again or THROWN AWAY because they have pests or diseases. The amount of waste associated with these flowers is astronomical! This includes *most* flowers you see at the grocery store.

Growing cut flowers in the Midwest might not be easy but there are a lot harder things in life. Watching a customer's face light up at my flowers is one of *best* things about this job and I can't wait for that moment to happen again!

Joan Jach

It's finally fall and the abundant world of flowers we enjoyed for the past few months has disappeared.  Now is when most gardeners give a huge sigh of relief and put the garden to bed for the winter.  I'm learning that flower farming is about thinking two months or more in advance.  So this means I'm busy starting seeds, ordering and planting bulbs, clearing beds and amending them with compost.  Getting ready for next season begins now, when the leaves are barely on the trees and winter's chill hasn't yet set in.  The colder months are a great time to clean, organize, order and plan.  

Right now is the time to plant tulips, daffodils and other spring blooming bulbs, indoors and out! While I may not have a greenhouse to grow plants in this winter, I'll have the luxury of potted bulbs like paperwhites, tulips, hyacinths and daffodils to cheer the gloom of mid-winter. Some folks don't like the smell of paperwhites, so this year I'm growing a couple of different varieties than the usual 'Ziva': 'Erlicheer' and 'Golden Dawn'.  I'll keep you posted on this project as it unfolds!

Join me often in this space to experience the seasonal flow of Nature; definitely how flowers were meant to be enjoyed!