At last

The bouquet I picked at our you-pick event.

The bouquet I picked at our you-pick event.

Ah. So I knew this day would come. The period of the season where it was intensely busy and I didn’t get this update posted on time. The good news is that the stuff that has been keeping us busy has been good stuff.

The Saturday farmer’s market on the 3rd was our best selling market ever. That was pretty exciting to experience. I credit the perfect weather, the gorgeous sunflowers, and the really fun rainbow bouquets I made. My dad was in town visiting, too, and it was nice to share a great market experience with him.

On Friday, the 9th of August, we hosted our first big party in the flower field. It was a ‘back to school’ theme, and everyone was welcome to pick their own flowers. We were thrilled with the event overall, and really enjoyed the approximately 100 people (it was hard to keep exact count) that came out. Some of my highlights of the event were watching little ones run around, observing how intently people considered their options before cutting, and the weather. All of this makes me extra excited for our fall themed you-pick party at the end of September (September 25th, 5-7 pm).

Queen lime with orange zinnias doing their thing.

Queen lime with orange zinnias doing their thing.

Then, on the 10th we flew out of state to visit my family, and enjoyed a lot of ice cream, swimming, and playing with cousins. I love family time, but it was nice to be back to the field. We actually drove straight from the airport to the flower field, and I walked around in the clothes I had traveled in just taking it all in. The asters started blooming in our absence, and I was pleasantly surprised by the growth the sunflowers put on while we were gone, too. There was a new variety of statice blooming (such a pretty purple, with small white blooms on top), and the zinnias I had planted on the 4th of July just because (well, because I’d rather plant ALL of the seed we have) started blooming as well.

After that, it was ‘off to the races’ in terms of special orders, deliveries, and prepping for the farmers’ market on Saturday. I went ‘full summer’ on the bouquets for the farmers’ market this week and used the most vibrant, bright, summery colors the field had to offer. With the buckets and buckets of gorgeous sunflowers we brought in from the field and some sweet gladiolus and perfect weather, it was another great market.

Asters are such a sweet flower.

Asters are such a sweet flower.

We’re picking up more orders for our weekly deliveries, and preparing to sell at two farmers’ markets this coming Saturday the 24th. (Ask me at 2 pm on Saturday if I thought that was a good idea after trying to corral a squirmy toddler for 6 hours. Eek.) With some fun special events coming up (fall party, sunflower photo wall, wine and design class, weddings, etc.), fall is looking like it will be a great season for us!

Of course, all of this is on top of watering, weeding, seeding, tilling, solarizing, and planning for the future. Chris is set to finish the sunflower plantings for the year soon. More tillage crops should go in this weekend, and we’re expanding production space for next year this fall. We’ll solarize the beds over the fall to help to prepare the soil for production next year. I can summarize the motivating idea in just one word: SUNFLOWERS. It’s going to be good, friends.

I know people love fall (and for some good reasons), but this period of the year is such an exciting one. I won’t miss the humidity though. That can just go away for good, if you ask me.

Here’s some of what’s been happening over here. As always, contact us to order any special orders, event flowers, or gifts that you want. Flowers make the best presents - easy on the eyes, and good on the waistline!

Yours in flowers,

Katie and Chris Francis

We're having a heat wave

When I was a kid, if I had to stay home from school sick, I would often watch old movies my parents had taped off TV - like My Fair Lady or South Pacific. I have always retained a nostalgic fondness for classic movies, so my favorite two Christmas movies are White Christmas and Christmas In Connecticut.

It is from White Christmas that I learned the song, “Heat Wave”, the first line of which is very apropos this week: “We’re having a heat wave / A tropical heat wave / The temperature’s risin’ / It isn’t surprising / She certainly can can can”. Not that I can can-can, but it’s hot here. (Sidenote: I looked up the lyrics to this song today, and a lot went over my head as a kid - for the better. It’s not the cleanest song!)

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Did I mention that it’s really hot here? Like, sit in the shade after weeding for 30 minutes hot. Like, sweat through your clothes before 8 am at the farmers’ market hot. Like, I can taste the heat coming off of the pasture hot. You get the picture.

Thankfully, sunny, hot days are good for flowers that had a very wet and cloudy spring. Of course, the sunflowers jump up quickly, daily, right now. And, we have been enjoying the sunflowers that have joined us. I take pictures of them like they are fashion models, so I hope they are enjoying the attention. I have been surprised by the growth the pea tendrils, salvia, and newest plantings of zinnias have put on. The zinnias germinated on day 3, which is great. I was planning on fewer germinating than they did, so I’ll have to do some heavy thinning now as a result. An embarassment of zinnia riches, you may say.

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The pumpkins and gourds have also appreciated the turn in the weather. Chris and his dad had to put up fence panels to help corral their ambitious growth. At some point, mowing between the rows will become impossible and we will just hope for the best.

I have been enjoying the special orders that have been coming in recently. I also have had fun finding new places to photograph the bouquets, and then I inevitably tweak the arrangement and the picture is out of date. Oh well. Fun tip: always photograph your arrangements and/or look at them in the mirror before calling them finished. It does help to see holes/missteps.

While I’ve been busy weeding, harvesting and arranging, Chris has been prepping some beds that are getting ready to get solarized, or get planted with cover crops, or get planted with sunflowers or other fall products. This is very exciting to me, for several reasons. For one, these beds have been sopping wet all season. They are finally dry enough to work, which represents progress. For another, my type A personality likes having things figured out and finished, so I’m glad to move one step closer to that goal.

All in all, we are trying to stay cool (freezing water bottles to have at the farmers’ market really helps) and keep the flowers happy.

Here’s what I can’t get over this week:

My favorite zinnias are here!

My favorite zinnias are here!

Here’s to another good week.

Yours in flowers,

Katie and Chris

Nature inspired floral designs.

Nature inspired floral designs.

Welcome, summer

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It is officially summer now, and we are welcoming this new season with open arms. This year, we started attending the farmers’ market 6 weeks earlier than any previous year. There were a number of reasons for that decision, which aren’t overly interesting. What is more interesting is what we learned from showing up to the markets that much earlier.

First, I learned to appreciate peonies in a whole new way this year. It’s not just that they are beautiful flowers (which they are), it’s that they bloom in a time of year when I’m practically desperate for fresh flowers. Other people at the farmers’ markets seemed to feel the same way, as the peony arrangements didn’t stick around for long each week.

Second, I learned how much interest there is in opportunities to visit the flower farm. That was very gratifying to see, and I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t considered making everyone pull one weed as price of entry. We’ll be rolling out more details about the first field event of the season soon (sans weed pulling requirements).

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Third, I learned to appreciate the bounty of summer more. (I feel practically obligated to say this.) Production is not a steady, increasing line for us - there are ebbs and flows in the season depending on growing time, weather, and other field conditions. When you only sell at the farmers’ markets during the period where production is high and increasing, it just seems natural to have a big volume of product to sell. There were some hard weeks this spring - gap weeks between varieties blooming, or weeks when the 10+ inches of rain in May was felt very strongly. I have worried that these low production weeks would communicate the wrong message to customers, but a quick peek at our booth in the next few weeks will dispel any concerns about production, volume, or quantity.

Fourth, and finally, I learned how much I prefer the saturated and deep colors of summer to the pastels of spring. Pastels certainly have their place, but I don’t think that they will ever have my heart in the same way as bold, rich, vibrant colors will. The colors these last two weeks have been incredible.

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Okay, enough reflections. So, what have we been up to?

In the last two weeks, we have seen the first sunflowers bloom (hooray!!!), dahlia buds about to burst (that’s never happened this early in July!), and an epic storm rip through this previous Sunday. Thankfully, the storm damage was minimal. One zinnia and a few volunteer sunflowers are the worse for it, but everyone else will pull through fine. We have ended in what we are told is our permanent home at the farmers’ market (across from the gazebo, by the aisle to the parking lot). We have dealt with some nasty heat and humidity (the ‘the sweat is dripping off my face so much I can’t see out of my sunglasses’ kind). We are on pace with planting and managing the weeds for the moment (that is subject to change on a whim, if we’re unlucky). We likely won’t take time off on the 4th (in fact, I’m going to take advantage of the fact that Chris is off for extra weeding time). And, we’ll celebrate my birthday on Sunday (if anyone remembers - ha!)

Here’s what I can’t get over this week:

In a word - COLOR.

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Yours in flowers,

Katie and Chris Francis

Back to normal

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This is an apt title for two reasons. First, with a break in May’s relentless pace of rain, we have settled back into a (more) normal farm routine. This is certainly something for which we are thankful (well, Katie is - Chris spends late into evening in the field and I don’t know exactly if he would use the word ‘thankful’ to describe how he feels about working after dark.) Second, I, personally, am back to normal after a unpleasant run-in with a migraine this week. (This is why this update, normally posted on Wednesday, is tardy this week.)

At some point this week, when I wasn’t comatose from the migraine, I realized that I must be a little superstitious, because every time I want to tell someone ‘the field is looking good’, I find myself turning around to find the nearest piece of wood to knock on. That said (with a pause as I knock on wood), I do think the field looks good right now compared to previous years. Last fall, we decided to solarize some beds where weeds were particularly problematic. (Solarizing is when you lay plastic across the bed and let the heat that accumulates over time essentially bake the soil to kill weed seeds and pathogens.) As we have uncovered some of these beds and gotten them in use this year, I am pleased with the results so far. We will keep solarizing the other beds as long as possible, which means until we need them for production.

One other fun step forward this week was that we now have ranunculus growing in our house. Quite a few of them, in fact. Ranunculus is a beautiful complicated bloom, reminiscent of a rose in its form, but more symmetrical, papery, and less overdone (that last descriptor is my opinion, of course). We decided to do a trial of them this year to see how they grow, hold up, and arrange. They are popular in design work, so I’m curious to see how well they grow. In the corm (tuber) stage, they look remarkably like little octopuses. I did not enjoy that fact as I helped to get them pre-sprouted, for your information.

We also have been joined on the farm this week by dozens upon dozens (perhaps into hundreds) of fall gourds, pumpkins, and what not. These are obviously still in the 1-2 true leaf stage, but boy howdy do they grow. Because I am the one who starts the small, finicky seeds indoors in the middle of winter, I am always a little scandalized by just how quickly these giant seeds emerge in the field. They are little monsters, and they grow like it, too.

Finally, the last remarkable thing that happened this week is that I watered the field. Save the best for last, right? While that sounds extremely mundane, it is notable in that I was desperate for the water to STOP last month, to the extent that I don’t believe I intentionally watered a single day in May. (This was only the second time I watered the field this year; I’m fuzzy on the exact date of the first watering, but I believe it was the end of April.) We’ve have 2 inches of rain this month so far, which is workable. I even let my seedlings that haven’t been transplanted yet enjoy the rain a couple of times this week. (My father-in-law tells me that rain water is better because it has nitrogen in it.)

We would be happy with another normal week for the one ahead, personally.

Here’s what I can’t get over this week:

Gorgeous larkspur joined the party this week.

Gorgeous larkspur joined the party this week.

Have a good one!

Bloomfully yours,

Katie (and Chris) Francis

 

To market, to market

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It’s been another week, and another several inches of rain. I had hoped we would have gone into a planting frenzy by now, but the farm has recorded 7.18” of rain for May so far this month. That’s a lot of rain, in case you didn’t know.

Thankfully, my survey of the field this morning found that everything is doing okay given how wet it is out there. (For those of you familiar with The Little Blue Truck books, it called to mind the “muck and mire” that ensnares the dump truck.) Weeding tap roots is nice in this weather, so that’s a silver lining to all of these rain clouds.

We were able to get the dahlias in the ground last week, and one is already up. (YAY) This is a hopeful signs, as dahlias don’t want a lot of water after they are planted (gulp). I am crossing my fingers that they pull through for us.

We were able to direct seed and transplant into the field some this week, so it wasn’t a total planting loss. (The corn and bean farmers, though, that’s a whole other story. Yikes yikes yikes. My heart goes out to them. It’s a bleak and desperate situation.)

One happy thing on the horizon is the first farmers’ market of the season this Saturday, May 25th in downtown Kankakee from 8 am - 12 pm. We will have a limited number of flowers, flowers in pots, and dried arrangements. I am looking forward to the energy and excitement of this farmers’ market; it really is a great event and it will be nice to interact with customers rather than sit around and wring our hands at the weather forecast. (Not that we every actually sit around, but you get the idea.)

In the meantime, we will plant when we can, weed when we can, and pray that everything dries out.

Send us any dry, warm weather that you can!

Here’s what I can’t get over this week:

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How many of these (Chinese Forget Me Nots) self-seeded from last year. There are so many, which isn’t surprising if you know how many seeds they put out. I’m just going to let them do their thing and enjoy the result!

Yours in flowers,

Katie (and Chris)

The most wonderful time of the year

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

And also the dirtiest.

And the most tiring.

And the most stressful.

And the busiest.

And the most hopeful.

Nope, not the holidays, it’s the first week of planting!

Chris has been tirelessly working on perfecting the planting map. He is certainly the right person for this task. He is the most detailed, thorough, and relentless worker I have met. Me? I’d frolic through the field, scattering seed like Hansel and Gretel distributed breadcrumbs and hope for the best. Well, not really, but I’m much more comfortable with improvisation, which does not translate well into knowing what is growing where. So, we do this Chris’ way and everyone is happier.

In fact, over the last few years, Chris and I have developed a division of labor that works well for us:

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Katie:

Selects seed (so much fun, and expensive when I buy ALL of it)

Starts seed

Tends seeds under grow lights (water, pot up, thin, worries about seeds, disposes of dead mice, etc.)

Harden off seeds so they can be transplanted

Chris:

Plans planting space

Preps beds/irrigation

Plants/transplants everything

Katie:

Weeds

Waters

Harvests

Arranges

Chris:

Takes care of all technical/infrastructure problems

Harvest sunflowers that are too tall for Katie

Loads everything up (if this was left to Katie, about 1 bucket of flowers would make it to the market each week, probably damaged)

Transports everything

Obviously, I (Katie) have the much better end of the deal.

So, it was a busy week for both of us. I was tending/watering/starting seed/hardening seed while Chris was planning the bed space, prepping beds, and starting planting. I’m watering and weeding today, and he goes back to the field to plant more (DAHLIAS!) tonight.

It probably goes without saying, but this week is exciting and anxiety producing (will it rain? Will it rain too much? Is the ground dry enough?). Mostly, though, it just feels good to get things in the ground.

In addition, we picked the first cut flower from the field yesterday (yay!) and the first farmers’ market is in 10 days. We will have some fun potted flowers, dried flower wreaths, and loads of info about what’s coming this season, our special event/wedding work, and more. Plus, I will have a very large hat on, thanks to Mother’s Day. (I think the thing has a 12” brim, so come check it out on the 25th in downtown Kankakee at the first summer Kankakee Farmers’ Market!)

Here’s what I can’t get over this week:

 
The first flower from the field! Promptly thrown by little one on the ground in pursuit of the dog.

The first flower from the field! Promptly thrown by little one on the ground in pursuit of the dog.

Peonies in the sunset. <Swoon>

Peonies in the sunset. <Swoon>

Yours in flowers,

Katie (& Chris)

To-do list time

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Well, it’s still soggy out. Unfortunately, it’s also now what I think of as ‘to-do list time’, that fun period of time during which things only get added to my multiple to-do lists and never subtracted. (Confession: sometimes I added easily completed tasks to my lists to give myself a sense of accomplishment.)

So what kinds of things have been on the to-do lists? In the past week, I have started hundreds more seeds (toothache plant, bachelor buttons, zinnias), potted up lots of varieties (although I think of this as plant surgery, which basically makes me a surgeon), and gone through a lot of water. These plants are thirsty!

The dahlias are all divided and just waiting for the ground to dry up enough to successfully use the wheel hoe.

And, I found that I have hundreds of rudbeckia coming up in the field that self-seeded from last year. This is both exciting and makes me somewhat regret the space I gave to the rudbeckia I have already started. Still, there was no way to know that anything would have survived the bitterly cold winter we had. With an actual temperatures of -23 degrees at one point this winter, I can honestly say that it was a new low for me.

Chris informed me today that we have over 200 varieties of seeds to plant at this point. I think he was a little shocked the number was that high because I ordered all of the seeds without him. (He may not let that happen again!)

All of that to say, it’s a big week coming up for us. Here’s what is on the horizon for us this week:

  • PLANT ALL OF THE THINGS. But, seriously, we are going to go into a planting frenzy as soon as we are comfortable with the moisture levels in the field. This means I am doing the seed shuffle right now, transporting flats and flats of seeds out of the garage and back in hours later to help them harden off and successfully adjust to their new future life in the field.

  • Tend the seeds still in the garage.

  • Start more seeds.

  • Stop buying flowers at the local hardware store for our home porch. 10 planters is probably enough (maybe not?!)

  • Watch the mail daily for the heirloom mums I ordered to arrive. (Insert so many heart eye emojis here.)

  • Finalize our vendor display and such for the Kankakee Farmers’ Markets this summer.

  • Celebrate Mother’s Day? (I’m hoping Chris hasn’t forgotten about this!)

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Here’s what I can’t get over this week:

  • This picture was from a year ago already!

  • Also, I have 245 soil blocks of multiple stock seedlings growing in the garage right now. The picture here shows, um, a small portion of that. #sorrynotsorry

Yours in flowers,

Katie (and Chris)

A clean slate / a soggy spring

Happy May Day!

May is upon us, and it’s full spring-cleaning mode over here. I’ve been through the pantry and closets at home, and have moved on to the digital world. The website has gotten an overhaul, and so have our social media sites (@proclamationflowers on Facebook and Instagram). I’m too scared to tackle the garage (eek - so dirty), so I’m cleaning up the news section here instead.

We are…well, waiting. Waiting for the rain to stop (over 2.5 inches yesterday alone) and for the field to dry out. Meanwhile, I’m tending to the flowers that were started over the winter, and repeatedly returning to the local hardware store for more supplies to pot up seedlings. It’s a good problem to have, I guess. We have the dahlias unboxed and ready to split, so that they can go into the ground as soon as the field is ready. We are working on details for upcoming events this year (the farmers’ markets, festivals, wedding/shower type celebrations), and we are planning some cool new types of activities. Anyone want to paint in the flower field? Sip wine? Shop? We’ve got you, boo.

We are hoping to have more open house (field) events this year, too, and I have my eye on an old train depot that would be perfect as a market stand. If only I can convince someone to sell it to me… We shall see!

So far, we have the following in the works (lots of varieties of some of these with a lot more to be planted directly into the field):

Stock

Asters

Calendula

Dusty Miller

Eucalyptus

Cerinthe

Mignonette

Grasses

Statice

Gomphrena

Strawflower

Lavender

Rudbeckia

Snapdragons

Celosia

Toothache plant (??? so curious about this one)

And probably some that I can’t think of right now :)

Here’s a small sample of what that looks like:

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And here’s what I can’t get over this week. All the heart eyes for these lovelies:

Yours in flowers,

Katie & Chris