L'Ecuyer Gardens

  (Morrowville, Kansas)
A Day in the Life
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Monday

Sunday morning Autie woke up at 2:30 a.m. (as I was hoping to finally go to bed) with a fever and throwing up.  With Tom in the midst of wheat harvest I was unable to make it to the Old Cheney Road Farmers Market in Lincoln, NE.  Normally Tom would have the girls spend the day with him in the combine and playing in the fields, but that was not going to work for Autie.  I hate missing my markets, but Autie needed me.  She barely ate anything until 4:00 a.m. this morning when she woke up demanding breakfast.  L So you can imagine I have not had very much sleep the past two days.  On the plus side, for those who live nearby, I have a lot of produce available on farm at really good prices, so stop by. 

Autie is feeling better, but her germs were passed to me.  I can only hope to rebound as quickly as she did. Despite feeling under the weather I did manage to get a few things done today. 

I cleaned up some of my seed trays and added the dead plant material to my current compost pile.  The pile is really growing which is good. We are learning as we go about compost, but are finding the effort to be worthwhile.  We are fairly remote and buying compost is expensive, especially when you factor in transportation.  When you really think about it, there is no need for us to go off farm.  We just need to learn what we need to know.  Who knows in time we may get to the point we have compost for sale.  Building up organic matter is important for produce farms... especially if you are trying to use organic growing practices.  Organic matter provides nutrients; helps retain moisture within the soil, and can also help minimize weeding.  

I checked on my tomatoes and my Orange Parchute and red fig tomatoes are starting to ripen like crazy.  That is GREAT news.  Usually once cherry tomatoes start they fruit like gang busters.  I also expect to have a few red beefsteaks by the weekend.  I see some others that are also starting to ripen as well.  Bring them on.  I also checked on some other things and my green beans have flowers and tiny bean pods on and I will have beans within the next week to 10 days.  The zucchini, yellow squash and cucumbers have also kicked into gear.  The sweet corn is tasseling and now it is just a matter of time.  My chili peppers and bell peppers are still growing and I hope to have some by the weekend.  It may or may not happen. 

I also finished my online store and made my updates for the first part of the week.  Now you can go to http://lecuyergardens.locallygrown.net/ and place your order.  This will make it a lot easier to keep up on availability and help my customers track what they have spent.  In time I will have the ability to accept debit and credit cards and will always willingly collect at the time of delivery.  My online store will work for my mid-week deliveries and for my farm market customers.  A few customers have already placed their weekly order and there is still time for both my Wednesday and Thursday deliveries.  Some items ship very well and now my attention is focusing on how that could work for those who live outside the area. 

Tonight the girls had a slumber party with their Grandma Betty and I am working on paper work and laundry. I also need to clean my kitchen.  I made a batch of tabouli using our hard red winter wheat and yum!  Bulgur wheat is good, but our wheat adds a nutty flavor and since it is our wheat I am a little biased.  I need to check the rules to see if this is something I am able to bring already prepared.  It is good and on a hot day fills you up without the heavy feeling.  The flavor improves the longer it sets in the fridge.  If you make a batch and are not totally impressed you may be astounded to learn what the tiniest amount of salt can do to balance the flavors.  It does not need very much.  I future batches I will add the salt to the water as I cook the wheat berries.

In the morning I hope to feel well enough to go pick wild raspberries, mulberries and gooseberries.  I also need to plant a few more things.  I hope plant the first of my fall squash this week.  Livie has t-ball s Wednesday and Friday and Grandma Carol is planning to come out here to see her game Friday night.  We hope to be able to take her out for supper afterwards.  She is driving more than two hours just to see a t-ball game!!!!  My girls will be thrilled. 

Tom expects to be finished with wheat harvest by Thursday and I can tell he is ready.  Normally wheat harvest is followed by a frenzied period where he plants either soybeans or milo in the wheat fields.  We have fields we planted a few weeks ago when we were expecting rain that has not come up.   We have not received the rain needed.  If it is not going to rain there really is no point.  This is all part of farming, but… we need it to rain.

My thoughts of gratitude focus on finding a few ways to work smarter and not harder.  I am hopeful the online store will make ordering easier for you.  I also hope it will make it easier to keep track of each individual order.  Technology can be frustrating but it is a good thing.v
 
 

The Preparation continues

It is approximately midnight and in seven hours I will be on my way to the Old Cheney Road Farmers Market in Lincoln, NE.  In tow is a lot of hard work and if I don’t day some great produce. 

The girls and I spent the last two days picking wild berries and so the items I am most proud of include gooseberries, wild raspberries and choke cherries.  I will also have the very last of this year’s sour cherries, the first of this year’s blackberries and some mulberries.  This may not sound like a lot, but believe me it felt like a lot.  Yesterday I took the girls down my sand road for the first time.  Tom not sure it was a good idea allowed me to have the pick up for the morning and demanded I take along our dogs Fatty and Reba and my cell phone power cord.  Everyone except Fatty enjoyed the field trip and the girls loved the sand road so much they are demanding we go back but with shovels and buckets next time. 

Livie is taking this all in.  I am so pleased with my gooseberries and wild raspberries and she has cooed and clucked over all of them.  As a sign of support she decided the sand in the road was “wild” sand.  As she put it, “it’s so much softer than our sand.”  She is right it is very soft.  Spotting a locust tree she immediately announced we have also found Meer cat food and we had to pick some.  I am not up on my Meer cats but I am not as convinced as she is that this is proof of their presence in North Central Kansas.  Tom is doing his best to hold his tongue on the fact that the locust trees are an unwelcomed addition to our farm. 

For the entire outing, Autumn was still tormented by the bird that sounds like a kitten crying, but was more accepting that yellow kitty was not in the weeds.  While on our field trip today everyone had to stop and allow the box turtle to safely cross the road.  It was in a hurry but you know how turtles are.  Tonight Autie is not feeling very well and I hope a good night’s rest will help. 

It is days like today when my girls and I are able to share something we all love… exploring the untamed, that fills me with intense joy.   I am blessed to have girls who not only indulge my passion, but who also seem to enjoy it.  They busy themselves with their own searches and as a result have developed some of the wildest imaginations you will ever find.  I cannot help but wonder… Will they remember days like these when it is their turn to be the Mommy?   What will be their special times be like?  Will they call me to tell me about it?  While out we talked a lot about babies and each girl wanted to hear their story of what life was like for them when the lived in my tummy.  We also faced some tough questions about the birds and the bees.  Yes girls the order is high school, college, job/ business, MARRIAGE then babies.  We practiced this part together OUT LOUD. 

I know I have talked a lot about wild fruit lately, but the produce is also starting to kick in.   I will bring the first of my summer squash and cucumbers, mint and parsley, potatoes, peas, kale, broccoli, collard greens, some tomatoes, bags of hard red winter wheat berries and more tabouli kits.  This week’s kit will not use bulgur, but the hard red winter wheat.  I will also have a few onions and radishes and of course eggs.  I almost forgot the rhubarb and wheat bouquets.   I do not have a lot of anyone thing, but hopefully enough different things to make everything work. 

Tom has been busy cutting wheat and it is a disappointing crop.  It is not yielding.  He is especially quiet  when he comes home and I am trying to keep things on an even keel in the name of moral support.  It is not enough that the wheat crop is doing poorly but we are to the point with our corn and beans that a good rain just will not be enough.  We are also not putting up as much hay as we should for this winter and that will prve to be a problem.    We have never had a year where we were looking at crop failure for EVERYTHING.  The only reason I have a garden to harvest from is because we have the well at our home and at some point we may have to choose my garden or the livestock.  We will choose the livestock. 

This is part of farming, but knowing that does little to reduce the stress level in my home at the moment.  We continue to pray for rain and we would love for you to pray on our behalf.  We are hardly the only farmers in need of it.  Praying for rain would be a meaningful and powerful show of support for thousands of farmers between Colorado and Indiana.  We all need rain.  This is your food we are raising and our livelihood all rolled into one interdependent ball of twine.  We ALL need rain. 

My statement of gratitude focuses on two giggly, red-headed little girls with brown eyes and beautiful smiles.  What would I do without you?  It has been a GREAT couple of days. 

 
 

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
 
 

It is Now June

This post is a little long, but it has beena good week.   [Read More]
 
 

The Mind Wonders at the Mulberry Tree

So this week I have busied myself picking mulberries, picking peas, and enjoying Olivia’s first t-ball game.  With the exception of t-ball, there is a fair amount of time to think.  When my hands are busy, but my mind free to wonder… all sorts of things are possible.  The thoughts are random and usually grand.  In those moments I see a crystal clear path for my business’ success. It is not until I am trying to clean my mulberry-stained hands that reality kicks in.  I keep dreaming though because one of these times I can’t help but think it will all come together. 

As much as my business is struggling at the moment it is better than where I was one year ago.  One year ago I was employed full time in a job I knew was coming to an end, trying to grow my business in the hopes of a soft landing…and fighting everyone connected to both.  I spent so much energy in the name of helping others… even as it was hurting me and my family and my business…only to have those I was helping betray me.  It left me angry and resentful, distrusting, and emotionally exhausted.   I am unafraid to say it…. seriously depressed.  I am still working on the forgiveness I need to extend others and the only way I will ever get there is on my knees.  For those of who are of faith, I could seriously use your prayers to help me find my forgiving heart.  The outcome of everything, I now work for L’Ecuyer Gardens/ Farms.  The clarity is amazing.   The dreams are big.  The need is huge… given that, how can this possibly fail? 

My garden is in a lull and all I can do is wait for things to begin to ripen.  As I wait… I worry.  It has not rained in quite some time and the hot dry wind we have experienced also has my husband worried.  His crops are not like mine, they cannot be easily watered.  Young plants emerging from the ground fail to flourish in the face of these strong, hot dry winds.  There is not much he can do.  Even with my crops, it has been too windy to effectively water and that is a problem.  All of the tender, young plants I planted last week are struggling.  We have had chances of rain for several nights and the rains keep skirting up around us. 

For many, I know the weather is of little interest, but to a farmer it is both your best friend and your enemy.  We have not had anything that resembles normal weather this calendar year and it makes it hard to know what to do.  This is clearly one of those give it God and move on scenarios.  My Autie has prayed for rain so sweetly the past few nights.  As she put it…”God we need some rain.  It did not rain today, and it did not rain yesterday or on the third day.  We need some rain.  Can you send us some?”  My prayer is a little different…”Lord please hear my Autie’s prayer.”

I have picked a bunch of mulberries this week and my girls and I will be back at it tomorrow.  My hands are stained and so is at least one shirt.  You should never pick mulberries wearing white. J I knew better so I can’t complain.  Believe it or not my mulberries are a top seller and I know some of you are mystified by that statement.  I think it is a simple pleasure.  Many of us fondly remember the childhood mulberry tree that was nearby.  We were not to go there… but we did every chance we got.  The mulberries remind my customers of a time when sneaking mulberries was fun and buying my baskets provides my customers with the simple pleasures of a fond memory and a sweet treat that is actually good for you.  I am indulged with a few dollars of income and time as a pick to try and figure out how to create a business that will be a blessing to my family. 

Today I have several deliveries and I am trying to decide if an email newsletter would be good for my business.  My ability to grow my business depends on more weekly deliveries.  As the farmer, marketer and delivery person my time is so seriously divided that I need to find ways to work smarter and not harder.  I am interested in your thoughts as to how to make my business easier to connect with.    

Part of making this work is making it work for everyone in my house and things like t-ball are as important as anything.  I think that is the constant guilt of all mothers.  We need/want to work, but we need/want to be there for the important things…like watching my Livie draw figure eights in the dirt at the catchers’ mound last night.  She said she feels mean tagging the other girls as they come home.  That’s my Livie…a heart of pure gold. 

I am sharing my worries with you because many of us are facing similar stresses.  Many of us are trying to figure things out as we try to re-find our prosperity.  Personally, I think our path back to prosperity is for more of us to get back to what really matters.  We need to simplify our lives and take pleasure in simple things...Neighbors who pop in unannounced ... sneaking a fresh picked strawberry from the garden ... or concentrating our energy on how to make ourselves more of a blessing to those who are in our lives.  We are ALL going to have to dig deep and blaze new trails, but we can get there.  So I have to ask… in what way can I be a blessing to you? 

v
 
 

The Connectedness of Wheat and Blackberries

I know you are probably wondering what I am drinking, but the two have beautiful relationship on our farm.  We are usually offering predictions for the first day of wheat harvest beginning in early June and don’t start cutting until the end of the month.  If we are lucky we are finished in time to enjoy the Fourth of July.  The black berries begin to flower about the same time we are making our first predictions and usually have ripened and run their course by the end of harvest.  This holds true not only for the berries we raise commercially but also the berries we find in the wild.  Every year wheat harvest may be off by a week or more one way or the other and every year the blackberries seem to know. 

This year is no exception and it is one worth pausing for, you see it is May 13 and we have been offering wheat harvest predictions for nearly three weeks and my bushes are loaded with flowers and green berries.  Today I noticed some of them are slightly red.  I will be picking blackberries in two weeks.  The fields of wheat have been beautiful seas of green and last night on my way to my pasture picnic, I noticed it is starting to turn a light golden color.  I predict we will start harvest on or before June 1 (almost an entire month early).  Even this year the wheat and blackberries have synchronized their internal clocks. 

Blackberry cobbler is heavenly and my reasoning is because they are so closely connected and to me this relationship is the story of hubby and me.  Other than a short stint in college, Tom has lived his entire life on this farm.  He is a true country boy in every way.  Tom farms conventionally.  He is the type of farmer too many try to cast in an ugly light because he has worked hard and figured out how make farming his career.  He raises cattle and corn, wheat and soy beans.  He is an honest man and if you were ever stranded in a dark alley late at night he is the guy you hope will come by.  He has a gentle smile and a voice that always manages to calm my inner worries.  He knows who he his only want is for a happy and healthy family.  It is very easy to please him. 

I am a city gal and as a young child and again later in my early adult years I moved a lot.  My dad hit the bricks when I was young and I was in my teens before there was an adult man in my life who treated me as a daughter.  That gap created an insecure person.  I always assume that there is something about me that is repulsive to the world.  I have always had major trust issues with all people, but men especially.  I know at times I am a difficult person to want to love, but Tom makes it look easy.  For that I am grateful.  I used to live in an urban/ suburban area and enjoyed a career and a life that did not involve dirt, cows, or the late night four-legged visitor.  I enjoyed the frequent purchase of new clothes and new shoes and my idea of farming was 5 tomato plants and a honeysuckle bush.  Since moving to Kansas I have tried to be a farmer.  I love playing in the dirt but must confess I don’t always know what I am doing.  Tom is the one who helps me figure things out and at times does the work I am physically unable to do.    He makes it look easy. 

At first glance you could assume that Tom and I could not possibly have any common ground and yet the only thing that has made since in my life since we first met was making sure I am next to him.  There has been a connectedness between us that is hard to put into words, but somehow belongs together.  We are wheat and blackberries.  For that I am grateful. 

Today I cleaned all bedding plants from my tunnel and I hope within the next few weeks most will find new homes.  If not, they will end up in my compost pile.  Today we put down mulch eight new rows and tomorrow I will begin planting… bell peppers, chili peppers, eggplant, artichokes, Asian cucumbers, okra, cabbage, and lettuce.  Tom also planted a few rows of cannellini beans.  Wednesday is t-ball practice for Livie, grocery store and drop box deliveries and my farmer’s market night in Manhattan.  Thursday, I will make deliveries to Beatrice and will help my girl’s preschool plant their summer garden.   Friday the girls and I will go check for mulberries and hopefully will SCORE.  There is lots of good stuff that will come from L’Ecuyer Gardens.  Check back with us to find out what type of goodness is waiting for you. 

v
 
 
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