Come hell or high water, some of which we have already had, I was determined to get this blog post out. I have been trying for at least three months to get this completed but to no avail. It has been excessively busy with our landscape jobs, garden center, farm, employees, kids and family.
Skip Laurel with burnt foliage.
From the winter that would not end, to the spring of insanity, where I am so busy I cannot catch my breath. Albeit good insanity, as moneymaking insanity is always better than the alternative, but with this kind business it is always feast or famine.
We just survived that little thing around here known as Derby. Since only Louisvillian’s can turn a two-minute event into a month long party, of course many of our clients have to have their gardens and landscapes be just perfect for this time of year. Now we are into the normal spring rush. It is so crazy and intense that I often forget why I do this line of work.
I was at a new client’s home the other day, a friend from Rotary, and the first thing out of his mouth was, “Man, you have a great job; you must love what you do. You get to go to people’s houses, be outside, not cooped up in an office and see all kinds of great things.” I had that brief moment as often before, that I had to remind myself, “You know what, he is right and this is awesome.” However, I am just like anyone else and who is caught up in the day-to-day grind and forget what I am doing.
Spring has been spectacular as usual and we are fast approaching summer. However, it still seems that it is not business as usual. Plants are off schedule and blooming at strange times. Some are dead or some are tricking everyone into thinking they are dead, as they have taken longer than Rip Van Winkle to come out of their slumber.
For months now, I have had clients asking me about various plants and whether they were indeed dead. Most have assumed they are dead, as they just look horrible. All of the broadleaf evergreens took a hit. Plants like Southern Magnolia, Cherry Laurels (Skip and Otto Luyken), Holly, Boxwood, Nandina and many others. Other plants that are supposed to marginal here were not hit at all like one of my Osmanthus that looks amazingly well.
Scratching the bark of a Foster Holly.
I have been seeing some amazing things happen with plants coming back. I have been periodically checking on a planting of laurels that we installed last fall. A few months ago, I thought for sure they were all dead, but now all have flushed out and are looking great. Trust me, there are many that didn’t make it, but I am surprised by how many did survive. All we have to do is show them a little patience.
Keep in mind things like Crape Myrtle, Vitex, Nandina, etc. always take a long time to flush out their spring growth. We get asked about these plants every spring. The best way to check to see if a plant is still alive is to scratch the bark lightly with your fingernail or a knife and see if there is green underneath. If there is green, the plant is still alive. This doesn’t guarantee that the plant will flush out new growth, but there is a better chance than not. I have seen “green” plants stall out and just not have the energy or resources to push spring growth. Another possibility too, particularly with deciduous species that were knocked to the ground with total dieback, is new growth coming up from the roots. So again, be patient.
New growth on Skip Laurel
The amazing thing in all of this is to bear witness to the tenacity of life. This winter did claim some victims, but there are way more survivors than casualties. Plants are just like people; whatever doesn’t kill them makes them stronger. They just need a little time to gather themselves and pull out of the winter funk; Lord knows I have. Finally, plants like people will often surprise you in amazing ways, if you just give them a little patience. Happy Spring Everyone!
After misreading her signs, more like the independent, little girl decided to wait awhile, Violet (our youngest goat) went into labor the other night. Being the sweet girl she is, she could not have picked a more convenient time for us. It was last Saturday night; we did not have plans and were home with the kids. Hope had just gone outside to feed and was making the rounds when she called me on the radio saying that Violet’s bag (udder) looked awfully full.
I replied, “Yes, I saw it yesterday and it looks good.” As we have been a little bit worried that her udder wasn’t bagging up enough and that she was not going to have much if any milk for this new baby. I was having flashbacks of Hope nursing Captain Black Boots, a little Jacob lamb we had, at all hours of the night like one of our own children. Hope then calls back over the radio and says, “I think she might be going into labor…well, if she isn’t she is really close and it will be tonight or tomorrow.” I said, “OK, keep me posted and let me know if you need me to come out.”
I was trying my best to stay calm and hang with the kids, not goats but our actual children, however something inside of me kept nagging saying something is up. Then Hope calls back over the two-way radio and says, “You might want to come over here if you want to be part of this!” I reply, “Oh come one! All right, I have to get dressed and I will be over. Just hold on!” Like she has any control of this, but I was not there for the full birth of our last goats and I want to be present for the whole process.
Hope in the goat hut with Violet in labor
I hurriedly scamper around the kitchen to get on my Carhartt overalls, boots, jacket, hat and gloves. Like any of these moments when you are rushing it feels like you are moving in slow motion. Hope later remarked jokingly to her Dad that I did somehow manage to come out with a bourbon cocktail in hand. Well I did, but I had already poured that before this whole thing kicked in so I figured I might as well bring along the traveler.
I get outside and proceed towards the goat pin and sure enough, Violet is in labor. Hope is already in the goat hut with her and I bring her the towels and the lantern. We are thinking there are two goats in there so everything we are doing is geared towards that. Violet is lying down and we can see a hoof and the little goat’s face. She is moving a little, and it is truly the most amazing thing you have ever seen.
Truly beautiful and once you have done this, you move past the gore or so called grossness of it all, which is none really and see the miracle of birth for what it is, a MIRACLE. Violet seems to be stuck as there is a little bit of a pause at this point. We get worried for a moment that we can only see one hoof and that maybe the other is stuck. Violet stands up, which alarmed us at first, but all at once she lays back down, a few strong pushes and the baby kid just spills out. The amniotic sac breaks immediately, Hope helps clean off the kid with a towel a little at this point. She then picks up the kid and puts her in front of Violet. Before too long, she is licking her and cleaning her off, which is exactly what you want.
Violet with Daphne, 1 minute after birth
We wait for a while, expecting another baby and yet there is nothing. Hope and the veterinarian clearly saw two spinal cords on the ultra sound. Since nothing is happening, I rush to feed and water the other animals while we are waiting, as they are all hungry on this cold winters night of 22 degrees already.
Twenty minutes pass and after much deliberation, we decide that we should move our newest, little family inside. I run into the garden center offices and prepare one of our landscape design offices that is not being used. Yes, we put goats in our offices. We are pros at having livestock indoors as we have had a lamb, among other creatures in our house! The good news is the garden center has concrete floors. I get some old floor mats, a corral we had used for our own children, fresh hay, feed and water.
I then go get the baby kid from Hope and take her into the design office as it is getting very cold quick. Hope puts a lead around Violet and walks her in, I help them through the door and we get everyone inside. The whole time this is going on our kids keep calling us over the radio asking if the can come see the new baby goat. We keep replying to hold on and that we will let you come over soon.
We are all in the office, the two of us and the two goats, and we can finally take a sigh of relief as we realize that there are not any other babies coming; which is fine as we have a healthy girl. Hope reminds me that we need to dip the umbilical cord into iodine to sterilize things. I discover the little iodine wipes that I had in a first aid kit are all dried up. So I rush over to the house, tell the kids to sit tight and I will be right back. “When can we see the baby goat, when can we see the baby goat!!??” they ask me. I tell them to let me run to the store and we will go over together.
Kids loving on Violet and Daphne (new kid)
After driving over to CVS to get the iodine, I run back into the house, get our kids and run over to the garden center. Crain and Lily, our children, are delighted as always with the new baby goat. We dipped her umbilical chord in the iodine and decided after sitting with the goats for a while, that it might be a good idea to feed our family. Hope calls our friends over at China King (Crain is in class with their daughter Xin, got to love Oldham County) and I run back out to get Chinese take-out. This was just another normal day on Acorn Lane Farm.
Here I am with little Daphne
“Winter’s Coming” For those of you who may watch or have heard of the HBO series based on the book Game of Thrones, this is the motto of the House Stark. The meaning behind these words is one of warning and constant vigilance. The Stark Family are the lords of the North, Winterfell, and strive to always be prepared for the coming of winter, which hits their lands the hardest.
A deeper, metaphorical sense can be found in the motto. According to the author George R.R. Martin, it more generally expresses the sentiment that there are always dark periods in each of our lives, and even if things are good now (“summer”), we must always be ready for a dark period when events turn against us (“winter”). In this sense “winter” parallels Richard of the House of York’s opening line in Shakespeare’s Richard III, “Now is the Winter of our Discontent/ Made glorious by this sun of York…”
In this sense it is loosely matched by the Latin phrase “memento mori” (“remember you have to die”), which was whispered into the ear of victorious Roman generals during their parade of triumph, to remind them that all earthly success if fleeting. (parts of these paragraphs came from the website Wikia.com)
I started reading the book series a couple of years before the TV series came out and I immediately connected with the Stark Family and their view on life. Having a garden center, landscape and now farm business, which is not just a business but way of life, we know better than anyone what this means. I worry about winter coming all year and this year was no different. In fact, I kept saying that I had a feeling this winter was going to be a bad one. I was unfortunately right, and little did I know how bad.
I’m not one to normally do selfies but I had to laugh at the ice in my beard, a la Ned Stark
As a child, I used to love winter and the beauty, adventure and fun it can possess. The child in me still feels that way; however, the adult in me worries ad nauseam about all of the things that can go wrong. We Louisvillians have been spoiled for years with mild winters, but this winter is different, this is hardcore and playing for keeps. I have not seen anything like it in my lifetime.
Usually, we have a snow or ice event and it is gone the next day, or even that afternoon. We have had Polar Vortex #1 roll through here, then Polar Vortex #2 and now this. We close the retail garden center in the fall and our landscape jobs are the only source of income and cash flow that we have all winter long. First trick is to sell the jobs, second is to execute them. We are used to having to work around the winter, but this is just something different. This week alone we had snow on Monday, temperatures have kept it from melting, then snow, rain, sleet and ice on top of it. With forecasted continuing below freezing temps, there is no way we are going to be able to work this week at all. (Yes, this is a year that we should be doing snow removal as we don’t, but that is a discussion for another time)
Since we have started this whole homesteading farm and petting zoo thing, many of our friends, say to us with a little envy “we could never do what you guys do.” “We really admire what you do and it’s wonderful that you do it, however, we could never do it.” We always say, “Of course you could do it, it is just a matter of doing it.” We would have never thought that we were the ones who would do this if you asked us 5 years ago. But this is the winter where I say to many of our friends, “you know what, you might be right, you might not be able to do this.” I say that because this is the winter where I wonder if I can continue to do this!
It was bad enough to have winter affect our landscape business but now we take on this farm venture which adds even more winter stress. We must be masochists or something! And now, as if to add insult to injury, we get ice and lots of damage to our trees on the property, just relentless!
I am not writing this to complain, as I would not trade it. I write it more to reflect how interesting and different your outlook is on life when you are so connected to the natural world. We as humans have done a very good job of shielding ourselves from the problems of winter and adverse weather. Of course, our family has these modern conveniences as well, but for us the weather is everything. It literally dictates how the whole day is going to be dealt with and things change on the fly because of the weather all of the time. Just as it has been for millennia for farmers and people who work the land.
There is a sense of accomplishment every morning and afternoon, when I have completed the chores of feeding and watering, that I have done something real and honest. A sense that I am part of God’s creation and fully involved in the process, instead of just going through the motions, allowing technology to rule everything.
I can also guarantee you that there will be a sense of accomplishment, when this Spring I am reflecting back on the how we survived the worst winter we have ever experienced and are better and stronger because of it. After all, Spring is Coming!!!
Stop by today and pick up some fresh veggies grown on site by Boone Gardiner. We have a nice selection of veggies, harvested when you want them. Just come out and if you see something you like, we cut and harvest it right there for you. Right now we have Kale, Mustard Greens, Leaf Lettuce, Radishes, Cauliflower available for dinner tonight. Don’t forget our farm fresh eggs from our happy hens and our local honey.
Cabbage and Kale
We should have posted this last week, but we have been a little busy around here at Boone Gardiner, with Pigs, Parties, Plants and more!!! Last Tuesday the garden center reopened (from by appointment hours) to normal retail hours of Tuesday thru Saturday 10:00 am-6:00 pm. We are excited to be officially reopen after 2 years of By-Appointment only hours. Our awesome Herbaceous High Priestess Shelley Palmer is back at Boone Gardiner, many of you will remember Shelley from our days at the old location in Eastwood. We have lots of beautiful plants to check out including our own grown in house selection of perennials. Acorn Lane Farm and Petting Zoo is officially opened for daily visits, parties, tours, etc. We have Alpacas, Chickens, Goats, Guineas, Bee Hives, Peacock, Pigs, Horse, Donkeys, Vietnamese Potbelly Pigs, Rabbits, Sheep and more! We have two baby goats and Gracie our potbelly Pig just gave birth to 4 adorable baby piglets the other day. You will want to come out soon and see these little guys. As always our landscape division is staying extremely busy design and installing beautiful projects all over town. We are here to help you with any of your landscaping needs. We hosted an Oldham County Chamber of Commerce After Hours Event here last week and had a children’s Pre-K Graduation party at Acorn Lane Farm. Dates for parties and school groups for this summer are filling up fast, call now if you are interested. Stay tuned because we will be having (maybe bringing back a few old favorites) fun events, launching a new website shortly and more. Stay tuned!
OK…this is getting a little ridiculous! How many have you heard, “Hey Honey, the pet(s) need food” one time or another? In our house that is getting to be quite a common (and frequent) thing to hear now that Acorn Lane Farm Petting Zoo, which is our backyard, has grown more than we realized. It’s funny how things slip up on you and then it takes one moment of looking at things differently to realize how big something has gotten. I had just one of those moments tonight when I went out to feed our animals. We usually run out of food for the animals at different times, therefore it tempers for us how much food we really go thru at a time with this new petting zoo venture of ours. However today almost every species of animal (almost all) on our little micro farm needed food. Hope went to our local feed store in Crestwood, Crestwood Feed and Seed, and picked everything up. I had a late meeting tonight but I texted Hope and told her that I would feed when I got home, since she had the kids. She told me that the food was in the back of her Explorer. After unloading, and carrying 7 bags of feed ( 350 pounds) back to our storage area I looked at it all and said to myself, “OK this is getting ridiculous and a little out of control!” I guess that is what we get for having Chickens, Goats, Alpacas, Guineas, Ducks, Geese, Pigs, Horse and miniature Donkeys. And that’s not counting the Dog, Bees, Cats, Rabbits (currently 9 are in cages in our house, more about that at a later date) and Fish on the property! But you know what, I wouldn’t trade it for all the world. We are having so much fun and cannot wait for all of our friends to come out this spring and see all of the madness we have been up to!!
Here is all of the food that was in the back of the Explorer.