L'Ecuyer Gardens

  (Morrowville, Kansas)
A Day in the Life
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Caught in a Whirlwind!

This week has been a whirlwind.  We forgot that swim lessons started this week so there has been a mad dash to modify our schedule.  I nearly drowned when I was Autie’s age so for me swim lessons are mandatory.  At the pool I was able to make about a dozen phone calls and visit with some of the other moms.  We all had stories that I am sure you can relate to too about how we want our kids to be involved BUT they/ we are also overloaded.  None of us know how to navigate that water.  I for one am of the opinion that time at home working on family priorities NEEDS to be inked into the schedule.  I say that and admit this week is not proof of that belief.  We are ALL overloaded.  Despite that we owe it to ourselves to find ways to bring back some simple pleasure and in my opinion a nice meal made from fresh ingredients is a GREAT way to start. 

We enjoyed BLTs last night with zucchini chips and coleslaw.  After dinner, Livie went to plant soybeans with Tom last night and Autie spent the evening with me.  We took a bubble bath, cleaned the kitchen and washed our game uniforms.  Liv was so tired that she curled up with our puppy Reba and they both napped in the tractor.  Autie was so tired she couldn’t sleep and talked like a freight train ALL night.  She has the gift of gab!!!  

It was so windy it was too hard to work outside so I decided it was time to focus on things inside.  We have enjoyed very strong, hot, dry winds for several days and everyone is crabby and exhausted.  Kansas is upholding its reputation.  For those who are not close the feeling of this wind is like a blow dryer powered by a jet engine blowing straight into your face… non-stop.  Every so often the blow dryer blows sand or dirt into your face and you only hope you were not smiling or yawning in that moment.  I do not enjoy being sand blasted.    

After I dropped the girls off I made a mad dash to the grocery store and then came home with a full to do list.  I spent the morning picking blackberries and tomatoes and my surprises for the day are that my YELLOW beefsteak and my WHITE slicing tomatoes are starting to turn.  I also found a few more Juane Flemme’ orange plum tomatoes and my NEW Indigo Rose tomato is nearly ready to pick.  The Indigo Rose is a blue tomato and I will keep you posted.  BLUE!!!

I had a customer ask why I grew so many weird tomatoes/ things.  I LOVE tomatoes.  I love them so much that I am a SNOB.  I want them MY way and will do without unless that can be.  I also know there are a LOT of tomato snobs out there and they want them THEIR way.  I UNDERSTAND and I try to accommodate everyone.   My girls are young and most kids their age will not eat fresh veggies, BUT mine do willingly… most of the time.  Livie can’t decide if her favorite veggie is kale or broccoli and I am just so happy to know that I willingly fix both so she can continue to fine tune her list of favorites.  Autie is pickier and I have to work harder.  For HER I grow a lot of things that are ORANGE because it is her favorite color.  SHE always likes it when she can eat her favorite color.  She also likes yellow.  My girls eat eggplant not the big black ugly ones as Livie puts it but the little purple ones.  She eats the others too, but only after trying the others.  They also eat okra, cabbage, spinach, Swiss chard, beets, beet greens, zucchini and squash.  Sometimes it is all in the marketing.  When you buy from me you will find an awful lot of kid friendly choices.   My kids also know the difference between fresh and store bought and they prefer fresh.  It will be interesting to see how many times Livie wants to pack her lunch next year.   

Here in a bit I will pick squash, peas and maybe some green beans and then we will begin the mad dash for tonight.  Livie has t-ball tonight and we are expecting rain.  We do not look forward to rescheduling another game BUT bring it on!!!!  We have another game Friday night and I have A LOT to get ready for Sunday’s market.  We could all handle a night watching our current favorite movie Chestnut and a big bowl of popcorn.  Bring on the rain!!!!  J

Swim lessons are forcing me to alter my schedule slightly for the next two weeks.  I will make ALL of my deliveries on Thursday.  Hopefully that will work for everyone.  The plus side is that I was able to give everyone more time to place their orders.  Please go to http://lecuyergardens.locallygrown.net/ to place yours. The store closes at 5:00 p.m. today and I will begin my deliveries first thing in the morning.  I still have plenty of squash, cucumbers, zucchini, slicing and cherry tomatoes.  I also have cabbage, Swiss chard, Tabouli kits, potatoes, black berries and collard greens.

My statement of gratitude is focused on the promise of rain and an end to our wind storm. 

v
 
 

Saturday

It rained and they say more is coming.  Tom is relieved … so am I.  It came softly and the clouds moved in and so most of it is soaking in.  We still need more but this was as close to a perfect rain as it probably gets.  For now the stress over our fall crops has subsided. 

The last few days have been busy.  Wednesday and Thursday was spent making deliveries and on my way home Thursday I bought a whicker desk from a customer having a moving sale.  Livie is starting kindergarten this fall and I thought it was a perfect gift.  She had a small one and she gave it to Autie.  Livie has filled the drawer with crayons and paper and moved her lamp to the desk.  She has a place to work on her drawings and in time her homework.  She is very smart and I want her to WANT to do well.  Her life path is her own, but experience has taught me very well you never really know when you will need to reinvent yourself.  A solid education and a love for learning are more than a little helpful in that situation.

I have a young man helping me this summer who came out for the first time Friday.  He is taking Drivers Ed at school and in a few weeks will have his learners permit.  In past years he has walked milo fields for Tom so I know he will work hard.  He spent the day helping me trim back my tomato plants and fertilize them.  I picked blackberries, tomatoes, cucumbers and squash. 

Last night the girls and I took Tom to see Madagascar III.  WE ALL LOVED IT.  As an early Father’s Day we also gave him his new BBQ U guide and some new grill tools then celebrated with Chinese food.  Sunday the girls will grill hot dogs and take Tom fishing while I am at the Old Cheney Farmers Market in Lincoln, NE from 10:0 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. 

This morning Tom and the girls planted the last of my fall squash and pumpkins and I cleaned out my lettuce bed and planted strawberries, leeks, lavender, basil and sorrel.  I also weeded my strawberry beds and picked beets and radishes for tomorrow.  After lunch I will sow another cilantro bed and plant some late tomatoes.  I will also check on my peppers to see if anything is ready.  We are at least close.  Tonight is church followed by a frenzied last dash until dark to pick what I can… likely the kale, Swiss chard, onions and possibly strawberries.  With the rain has come WEEDS and next week promises to keep us all very busy.  For the first time in several weeks we will need to mow.  We mowed three times and April and not once in May.  Strange year…

With the rain came what is likely the end of the wild fruit.  Most of my best roads will not be passable in our car for several days and by then will likely over ripened.  That is the ecstasy and agony of wild fruit.  The fruit is free to those who crave it, but it sometimes it can be just out of reach.  Don’t worry as soon as the roads are good I will at least go check.  On some of my roads I found another truly coveted find… elderberries.  I love it all, but I do not have ANY picked and I am compelled to at least try.  If we miss the elderberries we still need to come back for sand plums later this fall and then there is always the possibility of wild grapes. 

The good news is this week will likely be my bumper crop of blackberries here at the farm.  I have picked a bunch and they will be waiting for you along with cabbage, hopefully some green beans, potatoes, tabouli kits, tomatoes, kale, collard greens and still some more things yet to be found.  It will be a late night I am sure, but I am glad there is finally enough to pick.  Come by and visit my booth tomorrow and let me know what you think.   For those who cannot make to Old Cheney tomorrow, you also have the option for a mid-week delivery by using my online store at http://lecuyergardens.locallygrown.net/.  The store will be update Monday and in the weeks to come there will be lots of changes and additions to the store.   

My statement of gratitude is for the wonderful rain and for a husband who in my opinion is the WORLD’S BEST DADDY. 

v
 
 

New Roads Bring Change

Today is Wednesday and I will be headed to Manhattan to deliver to my drop customers, including People’s Grocery.  I will also hang around at Peoples for the farmers market from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.  With me I will have an abundance of summer squash, zucchini, cucumbers, broccoli, potatoes, peas, pole beans, kale, and collard greens and then there are my berries… some sour cherries, choke cherries, gooseberries, wild raspberries, regular and wild black berries and mulberries.  I may have forgotten to mention the tomatoes.  I will have some nice salad tomatoes, orange parchute and I hope to have one full basket of red cherries.  The cherry tomatoes are on their way.  Next week I should have the first of my European Snowberry tomatoes and you have no idea how good a tomato can be until you try one. 

If there is something on this list that sounds really yummy reserving yours is now very easy to do.  You can go to http://lecuyergardens.locallygrown.net/ and place your order.  Orders are filled in the order they are received.  My new online ordering system will help you and me keep up on availability.  In time I will be able to accept debit and credit cards and will always willingly collect at the time of delivery.  It is a really easy system to use, so go ahead give it a try.    

Tuesday was spent picking berries and I found another new road.  It is a pretty good road and most things are fairly easy to get to.  There are a lot of raspberries and blackberries. The girls and I headed out again Tuesday evening and yes we returned to the sand road.  The girls love that road and tonight busied themselves my making Big Foot tracks in the sand.  It was a little windy and so everything rustled and while we enjoyed our visit we were all ready to leave.  We were all feeling a little vulnerable.

Tom now expects to be finished with wheat harvest today.  This is a very crazy week and between markets and t-ball games Father’s Day is more than full.  The girls and I need to find an opportunity to celebrate before then.   Tom is an awesome daddy and that is something worth celebrating.

My thoughts of gratitude focus on the thankfulness for the road less taken.  Had I not been willing to go down an entirely new road, I never would have met Tom, or would have had my girls.   The woman I was 10 years ago and the woman I am today look similar but I no longer see her in me.  Then I rarely wore jeans or any type of denim, today I rarely wear anything else.  My nails used to be perfect and they are always a wreck anymore.  Then you saw a big smile hiding an incredibly lonely and lost person.  The loneliness has been filled with Tom and the girls and a business that gives me an opportunity to meet so many new people each week.  The road has been bumpy and at times very difficult, but in the end it was the road worth taking and what a difference it has made.  Gratitude!
 
 

The Birds, Bees and Hazards of Wild Fruit

This morning started with a visit to the pea patch.  The current rows are nearly finished.  I sold most of what was picked today already and will hopefully have some for Sunday.  I have two more rows that are just starting to flower and if everything works out, I will have peas for another three weeks. 

Afterwards I decided to go on the hunt for some new mulberry hot spots.  I need a lot of mulberries for tomorrow and it was unlikely my normal route would yield enough.  One of the very best parts of picking wild fruit are the unexpected surprises you will find.  It is still way too early for most of my finds, but this year’s weather is anything but normal.  I first found choke cherries.  I spent most of my life believing they were poisonous.  They are just really sour.  I use them to make pancake syrup and YUM!  The next find was a new mile long stretch of mulberries mixed in with a black berry bramble and an assortment of red and black raspberries.  SCORE!!  It gets better.  Since I moved to Kansas I have been in search of gooseberries.  I have seen evidence of their existence but could never find their window of ripeness.  Today, I hit the window perfectly.  For three years I have promised my grandpa I would make him a batch of mulberry/ gooseberry jam.  This year is the year.  He turned 90 in May so hopefully this will be the perfect late birthday gift.  I hope everyone understands why those berries are not for sale.   

While out I found one more treasure, wild cherries. I also found a few wild black berries.  Tom may be able to cut wheat tomorrow after all.  ;) I noticed the sand plums are out in full force and I found evidence of what may be wild grapes for later this summer.  Wild grapes are almost unheard of anymore so I am particularly interested in seeing if I have truly found Big Foot.  The past few years we have had late May freezes and a lot of the fruit has not materialized.  There is a lot of wild fruit this year.  My jelly making and pie baking customers will be so happy.   

Picking wild fruit is not for sissies.  It can be grueling, even dangerous at times, but I love it.  I wear my wounds with pride.  Things like wild cherries, mulberries and chokecherries offer hazards such as unhappy blue jays and bees protecting what they believe to be theirs.  Bees are a double-edged sword.  I need bees to pollenate my produce, but I am slightly allergic.  With bees the best defense is to walk away for a bit and then come back.  I also avoid wearing colors that are common to flowers and I do not wear perfumes or scented deodorant.  I always ask myself three questions when dealing with bees: 1.) how badly do I want the fruit; 2.) how persistent is the bee; and 3.) do I actually have my cell phone with me.  My dtermination is determined by the answers to those questions. 

Blackberries are thorny and usually in the wild will be along a steep embankments.  I fell today coming down one bank.  I was alone on a road nobody goes down.  Don’t worry I did not land on the fruit.  Gooseberries are more than thorny.  If you were to rake your arm across a gooseberry thorn you would likely walk away with a serious injury.  Black raspberries are a whole other matter…snakes.  I hate snakes but I have found the high pitched scream as you run in the opposite direction technique to work about as well as anything. 

The final hazards lie within the actual roads.  The best fruit can always be found on the worst roads and I am the insane woman traveling down these roads, usually in our sedan.  We are way over due for rain and I was on a SAND road.  Tom has received that call many times over the years.  He is to the point he just expects it.  At one point today my tire sank so deeply into the sand I was about to call.  God found favor on me and I decided after that to find a new road. 

The final rule to always remember ... even the most remote roads will turn into well travel highways at the worst possible moments.  Parking cars on the wrong side of a blind hill is danger waiting to happen.  I have also noticed when Mother Nature calls and I decide I can no longer wait, somebody will come by…Every time. 

This afternoon was spent picking a few tomatoes and what are likely the last of my sour cherries.  I also watered a few things.  While I fixed supper the girls discovered that my blueberry bushes are fruiting.  They looked like gerbils.  These bushes were planted last fall and I will not have any fruit to sell until next summer, but the blue berries are coming. 

When I am alone I pursue some of the more difficult areas and save the easy picks for when my girls are with me.  Tonight Autie went with me while Livie hung out with Tom.  I learn a lot about my girls in moments like these.  We brought our Minnie Mouse scooter with us and yes got it out every time we stopped.  There is a bird that when it sings it sounds remarkably like a kitten crying.  We have had very bad luck with our kittens this year and the yellow kitten has vanished.  We have prayed for yellow kitty's safe return the past few nights.  Autie swore that bird was yellow kitty and she was going to walk through neck high weeds to save it.  I am torn in moments like these.  Tom and I both know that kitten will never come home because it died.  The girls cried so hard when the first two past we could not bring ourselves admit it.  I still don’t know how I manage to coax Autie out of the weeds, but finally we moved on to a new set of trees. 

Autie is so looking forward to mulberry cereal in the morning.  She worked hard and has earned a few berries.  The most boring of cheerios magically take on a new life with a few mulberries.  I love that kid.  We pulled into the driveway at bedtime and Livie was climbing out of the combine.  Everyone will be crabby in the morning. 

Most of the fruit picked today will delivered to my drop customers and to People’s in Manhattan, KS tomorrow.  I will hang around tomorrow night to sell a little more, plus some romaine lettuce, collard greens, fresh herbs, hanging baskets and bedding plants.  I hope you will stop by.  If you live in Nebraska, it is not too late to add yourself to my delivery list.  My prices are very reasonable and my quality is outstanding.  If you are thinking about it, go ahead and give us a try. 

 
 

The Waiting Game & The Frustrations of Modern Technology

I am frustrated this afternoon.  I have found a handy and inexpensive way to create an online ordering system and the system does not like my name.  I understand, but it is still my name.  I have sent my questions and or comments and I am waiting.  Frustrated!  Technology is a blessing and at the moment I want to throw my computer out the window.  There are more ways than ever to communicate to people and I am trying to use all of them and I cannot afford a smart phone which have been told will simplify my life.  I was told that about email too.  Frustrated.  J

Yesterday was a BIG day and today I am tired.  It started with my market at the Old Cheney Road Farmers Market in Lincoln, NE and my tobouli kits were popular.  I sold out and I even sold extra parsley and mint which are typically not easy to sell.  I came very close to selling out of everything which is a good feeling.  Now I just need to bring more. 

My friend Sandi from Filley, NE.  I asked Sandi to design and make a pick apron for me.  She delivered it to the market on Sunday and it is so cool.  It has a set of three pockets that will allow for large picks and prevent crushing.  It also has a wide and padded neck.  I am still fighting my cameras and will post pictures soon, but to my fellow growers who want something that will simply the harvest you will be more than interested.  She also designs purses and is a true whiz at the sewing machine.  She is now offering sewing classes too!

Tom and his brother Joe have been attempting to cut wheat…a little each day but my blackberries simply insist it is not time.  I have one berry starting to slightly turn purple.  My prediction is they will be able to begin cutting Thursday and I will likely begin picking berries the same day.  Tom is amused by my predictions but not convinced.  That’s okay.  I will remind him of my prediction on Thursday. 

Autie had her second blast ball game and she was a little timid and unsure of herself this time.  Usually her big sister is right there bossing her around and she is figuring things out on her own.  She is doing just fine.  Livie had a makeup game and we did not skip around the base line last night, but we casually jogged.  I think some things were said by her team mates because as she fell asleep last night she said she was sorry and would run faster next time.  My heart hurt a little for her.  I know being the big sister hard.  You have to figure out everything yourself.  Livie is like me in that she has to mess it up before she figures things out.  I need to remember how hard that was for me at times.  I will say she has an awesome swing and she knows how to keep the shortstop VERY busy.   That ball is fast and JUST barely inside the line.  She is doing just fine. 

Today I watered everything and began planting a new round of onion sets.  I have sold a lot of onions and would have sold a lot more at this point if more were in the ground.  I also need to find time to get some basil plants in the ground.

The tomatoes are still taking their time, but I am now picking my new red fig which is a cherry-sized heirloom that resembles to yellow pear.   I also see some chocolate cherry cherries starting to blush a little.  My Italian tree tomatoes are starting to ripen too and those are looking like nice tomatoes.  They are bigger than my Stupica tomatoes but still not huge.  I personally think smaller tomatoes have more flavor.  I also see my beefsteak tomatoes are getting close to size and will soon start to blush.  I have gobs of yellow beefsteak, but no signs of ripening so whenever they hit I will have A LOT.  My white, orange, pink and black tomatoes will take a little longer, but will be for sale before you know it.   I also notice my chili peppers are starting to fruit and with a little luck will be ready for Father’s Day weekend.  YEAH!!!!  I will have bell peppers soon after that.  My colored bells, and other peppers will take a little longer. 

If I do not have squash and cucumbers for sale by Wednesday I will definitely have some for sale next Sunday and I am ready.  The green beans are about to flower and my leeks are huge. 

Tonight I will plant a few more strawberry plants for fall fruit and some more leeks, and the last of the eggplant for the season.  I have a short row that at this point is empty and I am looking for some fun new things to try.  I am still looking. 

Wheat harvest is all but here so I plan to cut a few bundles of wheat in its stalks to sell as dried flowers for my markets this week.  I love wheat.  It is so pretty when it is green but as it ripens it is breathtaking.  The colors range from like gold/ almost white to dark bronze.  I fell in love with Tom and the life he offered me as a farm wife during wheat harvest.  Nearly nine years later I still love wheat harvest… and Tom.  We have brothers, cousins, friends, sometimes strangers… they all want to pitch in.  Some take vacation time to come work for free.   We are talking some seriously long hours.  There is something truly romantic about this time of the year.   I think it is partly the beauty but also the camaraderie.  The banter and yes sometimes the episodes of Tom and Joe rolling around in the parking lot biting each other’s ear because neither has slept much in days and are a little crabby.  I am not making any of that up.  At 42 and 45 they still fight like kid brothers.  Anybody who has ever worked closely with family instinctively understands how animated these fights can be.  They also understand there is only one rule.  Be mad if you like but get over it because you will sit across from that ugly mug at the next family gathering.    

In the morning I will pick peas and mulberries and the girls and I will likely pick more mulberries tomorrow night.  I have several large orders to fill for the week and it takes A LOT of mulberries to get anywhere.  Mulberries remain a very popular item. 

My words of gratitude focus on the importance of family.  My brother in law is a maddening person to be around, but he has also pulled me out of a ditch, repaired multiple flat tires and is good with my girls …so maybe he is not so bad.  I am also grateful for patient customers who are also waiting for the tomato bumper crop.v
 
 

The Lost Tooth and Fresh Produce

So my Livie lost her tooth and now we must all wait to see if the Toothy Fairy lives up to her promise.  Tomorrow she goes for kindergarten round-up.  It does not seem possible that my baby will start school this fall.  Her birthday is just eight short days past the start deadline and last year I was so convinced she should GO NOW.  Now that the time is drawing close, I just want more time.  Autie is looking forward to having Grandma all to herself in the morning.  Next year Autie will be in preschool without herself.  It will be interesting to see how much they miss each other. 

Today was a pretty good day at the market, but I sure would love for the produce to kick in!  So far it is limping along, but it is on its way.  I had a friend of mine stop by for a visit and it was a very nice surprise.  She showed me her newest creation.  It was a handbag she had made and it was cool.  You should have seen the pockets!!!!  Sandi Johnson in Beatrice will soon offer sewing classes and it is time Tom and I dust off the sewing machine we bought when first married and actually learn how to use it.  If you are interested in learning more about her classes, let me know and I will give you her contact information.  I always admire someone who can turn unemployment into a new business venture!!!  Go Sandi!

Tonight we are having and odd dinner perhaps, but YUMO.  Some of our farm market left-overs will be featured… leeks and yellow snow peas with sweet potato fries and alligator.  No the gator was not local and it is a very long story, but YUMO! We will also enjoy tomatoes numbered two and three!  I am very close to having tomatoes for sale.  :)

Tomorrow I will finally get the artichokes in the ground along with starting about a dozen different summer squash, tomatillos, red okra plants and etc.  Tom spent the day staking my tomatoes and at some point, we will have vines app 10 feet in the air.  It will be a sight to be seen for sure. 

I am also going to work on my new compost pile.  Have I mentioned that at L’Ecuyer Gardens we make our own compost?  We are working hard to be more environmentally responsible and it takes a lot of highly fertile soil to keep L’Ecuyer Gardens going. 

The rest of the night will be spent hanging out with Tom and the girls.  Mulberry season is here and this week we will have to sneak in not just one but two mulberry picking parties.  We LOVE picking mulberries.  Stay tuned!

 

 
 

Mother's Day Weekend Sale

L’Ecuyer Gardens is offering the special Mother’s Day Sale today through Saturday.  We have a huge selection of Mother’s Day baskets, containers and bedding plants.  While you are here finish your garden with a few tomato, pepper, eggplant, Swiss chard, fresh herb plants.  Perhaps you are looking for marigolds, or zinnias… well we have them.  While you are here check out the beautiful lettuce and ask about the summer of fresh produce still to come.  Hours are Th – 1:00 – 7:00 p.m., Fr – 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. & then by appointment after T-Ball practice and Saturday – 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.  Call for a special appointment if there is a better time for you.  We have unique styles, and great prices! 

v
 
 

Cinco De Mayo

Cinco De Mayo is a day to celebrate with L'Ecuyer Gardens.  Get your bedding plants and hanging baskets.  On farm visitors will SAVE BIG TIME!!!!!

 

 

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