Since one of you just asked me this question, I assume other people are wondering. What will a Connecticut-based, farm stand blogger write about in the winter? It’s a little cold for farm stands. Yeah, I hear you.
The story is: I’ve got a few ideas brewing, but I’m more interested in what you want to see!
Email me at email@example.com or comment down below. Let me know…
Are you most interested in:
easy, cheap natural skin and body care you can make with stuff that’s already in your house?
interviews with real people who run farm stands?
unsponsored, IMO (in my opinion) handmade product reviews?
my 230 year old New England farmhouse?
following the developments in my brand new kitchen herb garden?
creating a farmhouse kitchen inspired by Early American design?
vintage and antique shop finds?
winter farm stands (you know this is on the agenda either way, of course)?
farm-stand home decor? It’s not farmhouse style (farmhouse is just so covered these days)
bestseller lists of handcrafted, garden or skincare products?
kid stuff? I have two of them. It’s going pretty well.
generalized autoregressive conditional heteroskedasticity? I didn’t think so. I’m so wasting my time on a doctorate in finance. I get bored just saying that stuff.
What did I miss?
Do you have a problem related to healthy eating, skincare, motivation, inspiration, decoration?
Comment all winter long. I’ll see it! I’ll respond to you.
I woke up this morning to our first Fall frost. It’s fine. It’s ok. I expected it, of course. I’m not going to get worked up about frost on garden plants.
But, it stayed on my mind.
As the kids were getting ready for school, I walked through the chaos thinking about the tiny, frosty icicles dragging down the sage leaves and smothering the nasturtiums. Doesn’t everyone?
I made my tea and walked the kids down to the bus stop. The steam was beautiful in the chilly morning air.
The kids noticed the frost. To them, it was an opportunity, not an obstacle. My son immediately jumped the fence and began to track paths through the frosty fields. My daughter climbed up on the railings and shouted directions to him. Two little frost artists. I captured some moments in photos.
Then, I got the idea to capture photos of the first garden frost to reframe my perspective. Frost brings a new and fleeting beauty to the garden. I’ll never forget my three-year old daughter waking up one morning, seeing frost on her windows and shouting, “the princess was here!”
The root veggies – beets, salsify, parsnip, carrots – they taste a little sweeter after a frost. You can’t get that wonderful change in flavor without losing the more vulnerable eggplants, basil and tomatoes to the chill.
Take a minute to view some of the frosty scenes from my garden this morning. It was beautiful. Then, the sun rose a little higher, and it was gone.
Beautiful, frosty garden tour
You may remember the clary sage from the forgotten herbs series. It looked a little different without its frosty blanket.
Until this year, I never questioned whether Spring or Autumn was the preferred season for kids in the garden.
Spring was the only season I imagined when I thought about brining kids to the garden with me. But, this year, I am open to reconsider.
Before I had kids in my life, I idealized visions of tiny fingers pressing seeds into the rich soil. I imagined them putting on their little rain boots on a warm Spring morning and following me to the garden to check on our pea sprouts and kale babies.
Then I had kids. Two, in fact, and I realized that in real life it is a little more stressful to bring kids to the garden with you.
Kids like to scatter seeds all over. Kids like to press seeds deeeep into the earth. Kids like to water delicate seedlings until they are drowning in a pool of brown muck. Kids trip and fall and squish things that are trying to grow.
But I realize they are both trying to grow, the plants and the kids.
It’s important to bring kids to the garden in the Springtime. You just have to do it with strategy and forethought. You have to be willing to let go of perfection and accept that you will lose a few plants along the way.
in the Autumn, you don’t have to worry as much. It is pretty obvious that the cucumbers and zucchinis are long past their prime. Let the kids pull those dead plants out of the ground and bring them to the compost pile for you. Yeah, kids! Thanks, that’s actually useful work.
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Children are perfectly suited to get their hands dirty mixing compacted soil. The kids in your life will be happy to scour the shadows between leaves and vines for the last remaining fruits and veggies. It’s a garden-time scavenger hunt. They dream that one day someone will hand them a huge bag of alfalfa seed to spread with abandon.
Check the weather. If there will be a day or two of rain the forecast, let the kids toss those alfalfa seeds all over the raised beds or garden plots. Sounds like fun to me, and I’m a certified grown up. Although, to clarify, if you don’t want the entire bag of seed dumped in one spot, you’ll have to guide and oversee. Or give out the seeds in little scoops.
Six jobs kids can help with in your Autumn garden:
1) Mix soil that’s been compacted by the Summer rains 2) Scatter cover crop seeds 3) Rip out dry and dead plants 4) Carry, wagon or power wheels plant matter to the compost pile 5) Cut batches of mint or parsley, tie the stems tightly and hang them upside down inside to dry 6) Collect and separate seeds
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Looking at the food in my fridge, the eye cream on my nightstand, my modern life was coming full circle. I was striving to eat and live like my great-grandmother did 100 years ago on a farm.
All natural. Farm fresh. Organic. Composted. Home-grown. Local.
The realization reframed the way I approached feeding our family, planting a garden, and choosing my skincare. For me, it sparked a step toward rediscovering farm stand culture.
Farmstand culture is all about the way communities were for millennia. Up until we radically changed and commercialized our approach to daily life, over the past 100 years, neighbors shared their garden surplus, and families ate fresh, homegrown food.
I’m not advocating for a total return to the past. Not really. Frankly, I am pretty happy with modern food supply chains and dental care, especially the dental care.
Of course, it’s not all or nothing here. Embracing some of the best ways of the past doesn’t mean that we should throw away all of the ways of the present. We should choose the best approach, which is probably a blend.
Think about your own approach to living. Have you, too, found that your approach to daily life is a little more about fresh food and clean ingredients?
You might think I am about to tell you just to redefine weeding in your mind, and it will take the work out of it. I’m not.
Weeding is hard.
It’s hard for me. It’s hard for you. It’s hard for professional landscapers and farmers. People have been murdered over weeds. Weeding is reality, and it can get overwhelming quickly.
But for the everyday gardener, reframing weeding as winning is really about the habits successful people develop.
One of my coworkers went through a phase where he listened to a lot of podcasts about successful people and what a typical day was like for them. He asked me a question I have heard before, “Do you meditate?” I told him I don’t.
He thought for a second then asked me how I start my day.
I get my tea, round up the kids and go to the garden. He asked what I do in the garden. Pull weeds, mostly. HA! That’s it. He said successful people start their day with a “win”.
Weeding is my win.
I really appreciate someone pointing that out to me. It inspires me to share that thought with you. Oh and true confessions, I haven’t always been perfect, but I pretty much crave going to the garden to pull at least one little weed or straighten up one tilting plant every day.
My actual win today is clipping all of my chives before they go to seed. It took about five minutes. I learned my lesson with this one last year.
It makes me curious. If you think about your morning, do you start your day with a win? What is your win? PG-rated, of course.
Close enough pronounciation “ca-len-juh-la” (how a “d” makes a “j” sound in English, I suppose it’s my Connecticut accent.)
Calendula is the weirdest looking seed I plant in my garden. Really, it looks like something from an alien nation. It’s mildly spikey and curved, almost in an arrogant way. It grows easily and goes to seed easily, if you don’t harvest the blooms.
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Planting is easy. I just mix the seed lightly into turned soil with my hand, and it fills my cedar raised bed with bright yellow flowers.
When your flowers are almost fully open, it is time to harvest. If it rained recently or the petals still have morning dew on them, take a photo but don’t start your harvest. It pays to wait until the sun dries off any dampness. The blooms snap off the stems easily. You can layer your plantings a bit and gather them by hand almost all season from summer to fall. Consider getting yourself an airy and convenient basket for harvest time.
I don’t eat my calendula with the exception of a little petal here and there. They have a bitter taste.
In terms of other uses, I am not sure why would you need to do this, but Dr. Weil notes that you can mix white rice and calendula flowers together to color the rice without adding flavor. Someday, I may suggest that to my kids as a fun and interesting STEM experiment.
My favorite use for calendula isn’t making a stunning bouquet, although you could. I like to infuse olive oil with a bunch of dried calendula flowers. Then, I can add the infusion add it to salves. Salves are just heavy, solid lotions that are intended to be soothing to the skin or to wounds.
Not one to waste something so precious, I like the idea of chopping up those oil-soaked petals and mixing them into homemade soaps. Do not compost them. You shouldn’t compost oil or oil-infused herbs. Your bin will stink.
How do you dry calendula flowers? It doesn’t take much effort.
Oh, I know the internet will tell you to separate out the blooms on an old screen in a dry, dark place between two elevated stands. But I’ll tell you that during our BIG reno last year, I put my calendula flowers on a paper towel on top of our refrigerator. How’d it go? Just fine. I must have left them up there for a month or two, and dutifully, they dried out. I will likely include some in a salt or sugar scrub for beauty’s sake.
I should confess that my husband is 6’3″ tall. He could see the top of our old fridge and was not a fan of my messy flower drying station. Everyone else was oblivious.
About the scent, I am almost at a loss for words to describe it. Calendula is only lightly floral. It’s about 5% tangy, 5% medicinal, 60% fresh, 20% floral and 10% other. Mainly, I would describe calendula as a fresh scent. It’s not earthy. It’s more like the woods after a rain shower.
My calendula bed went above and beyond this year, producing three harvests. I only actually reseeded it once during the mid-summer season. Calendula is so easy. It is one of the best students in my garden class. I feel like I ask calendula nicely to keep producing blooms, and it does its best to comply.
Calendula is such a happy flower. As you go about your day today, from time-to-time think back to this joyful bloom.
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My hair stylist once asked me, “You’re always so calm and have such a good outlook on things. Do you meditate?”
Ah, I don’t. I just aspire to, like a lot of other things. Add it to the list. It’s is not to say that I don’t have other hobbies that might offer similar benefits.
I responded, “I don’t, but I pray…and I visit my garden almost every morning.”
It’s true. I wake up thinking about the garden.
And my husband. Husband first, then the garden.
When the weather cooperates, I wait for my kids to get up and ask them if they want to go to the garden with me. The kids and I really look forward to our mornings together in that peaceful, sweet-smelling space.
I brew myself tea while the little ones search for their boots.
We look for new sprouts. We assess damage from storms and critters. We push stakes back into the ground and fix the nets on the berry bushes.
I handle most of the weeding myself.
Not everyone views pulling weeds as a calming activity. Most people view weeding as back-breaking work that seems manageable one day but gets out of control fast.
Most people have a point.
Weeding is all of those things. I just chose to reframe it. Instead of being overwhelmed by the chore, over the years I learned to redefine weeding for myself.
When you garden, you quickly find out that your supply of herbs can overwhelm your needs. Herbs get too woody or too pungent quickly. It is best to harvest them when they are ready, even if you are not. Often, you will still have time left in the season to plant a second or third crop in their place. Of course, harvesting all of those herbs at once means you need some ideas about what to do with them. Leave your ideas in the comment section!
Sell them (or just offer them for free)
1. Farm stand
2. Herb salad
3. Ice cream (mint or sweet basil)
4. Herbed butters
5. Throw them over anything you’re baking
6. Mix chopped herbs with ground meat for burgers
7. Salad dressing
8. Herb soups
9. Herb-infused oils
10. Herb-rolled frittata
11. Herbed cheeses
12. Herbed spreads
13. Chicken rubs
14. Pickling brine
15. Pesto blend
16. Pasta sauce
20. Herbed breads
21. Flavor homebrew beer or wine
22. Fancy cocktails
23. Whiskey on ice with herbs
24. Vodka infusions
25. Brew teas – fresh or dried
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26. Hang them to dry
27. Freeze them in plastic bags
28. Freeze them into ice cubes
29. Keep parsley and cilantro fresh longer in the fridge with a paper towel
30. Keep basil fresh longer by coating it in olive oil
31. Grind them up to make a dry powder
32. Garnish your other dishes
33. Flower arrangements
34. Table setting accents
35. Decorate gifts
36. Add pressed herbs to cards
37. Make shadow box displays
38. Make a gentle, exfoliating face scrub
39. Add them to homemade soaps
40. Herb-infused tinctures
When even the best intensions fail
41. Compost them
42. Let them go to seed – who says you have to pick your extra herbs? Let a few plants go to seed. THEN, you actually should make a decision.
42 1/2. Choice #1: let them over-winter. Choosing option 1 means you will likely have a hundred baby plants to incorporate or weed next year. In the case of my parsley plant, I was happy to give its descendants one-third of this bed. Perfect! In the case of my chives, I knew I should have picked every one of those mesmerizing white flowers last year, but instead, we have a blanket of pointy seedlings to pluck.
Choice #2: separate and save the seeds. For most herbs, you can hang the old, brown stalks upside down in a brown paper bag until they are very dry. Then you can shake them until the seeds collect in the bag. They must be stored dry in jars with lids or little baggies. Do yourself a favor and label them well. You can share extra seeds with your friends or coworkers. You can even offer them for sale at your farm stand.
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Have another idea on how to use extra herbs? Please leave a comment below.