Spring has sprung and none to soon, the much anticipated warm weather is exactly what us Manitobans need to feel rejuvenated after our long winter.
Finding myself in my second season as a flower farmer with a flood of mixed emotions. Comparison to last year with an abundance of rain three inches at a time, drainage ditches were incorporated to alleviate the year’s excess water. This year we are finding ourselves scrambling to add some form of irrigation for our dry field. Sharing this with my brother, a farmer of twenty years, laughed and he said “Welcome to Farming!”
Photo of our bouquets displayed at The Home Workshop Open House. Photo by Sawmill Photo Co.
This being said, the year is going better than last year as we have had plenty of orders to fill, along with sales at a few local spots we are encouraged to continue.
The nurturer in me loves to care for the flower field and is driven to provide the most fertile soil for the best blooms possible. We have a little ways to go yet with our heavy clay soil, having added six loads of new earth and lots of compost we still can use more.
On the design end of things, God has already designed the beauty of each flower, now it’s up to me to make the right combinations of blooms with foliage. With a few weddings coming up this fall we will be busy creating our flowers into the brides dreams.
It is a privilege to work with flowers, learning from others and seeing all the beauty that can be made from locally grown flowers is inspiring to say the least.
The farming aspect is a challenge, as a colleague of mine stated, if it wasn’t a challenge you wouldn’t do it.
This month we’ve decided to give you an inside look at our little hobby farm, the animals and how we manage the farm during our Manitoba winter months. Every farmer spends most of the summer preparing for the dreaded long winter, making sure you have enough hay, that the fencing is safe and secure and to ensure the run in the sheds are prepared for the wintery blast.
The last few winters, the weather has been particularly pleasant for the most part, with the exception of a few very cold days, during which time special care is provided for the animals with extra grain rations and bedding.
The morning feed for the sheep starts whenever the sun rises, sometimes I think their routine reflects our routine. They literally only exit their sleeping quarters at approximately 8:00 a.m. How perfect for us! They understand the value of morning coffee!
They wait for us to open their fence, we do lock them up as we are surrounded by neighbourhood dogs, plus coyotes. Once we release them, they are off for their breakfast of mixed grains, lentils and chickpeas. Sheep by nature are followers and they love routine.
Maverick our future guard dog is much to young to protect his herd, but he definitely thinks he is part of the group!
The hay bale gets placed in a pen, we hand fork it to the edge, the sheep then eat the hay through the page wire, this system works great for keeping their feed clean and leaves very little waste. It is a win/win!
Sheep are creatures of habit, they love routine and in winter they always travel in single file. They are easily trained and are highly motivated by grain.
Now for the animals that are near and dear to my heart, in the country during the winter we call them hay burners. Cody and Shadow are our quarter horses and their short sidekick Turbo the pony and Maria the miniature donkey.
Let’s start from the beginning, why flower farming? Well, two summers ago I started to cultivate an outdoor riding area which was to be my riding coral. Last summer, I worked my horses in this particular area but something was not quite right, the dirt was very nice. It had a lot of organic matter (old hog manure) which caused me to think, I should really be growing a garden in this location. We can always put the riding ring beside the garden, why not!
Since vegetables did not pull at my heart strings, that left me with flowers! So the research began and ever since then, I have not looked back. I learnt as much as I could, plus with a little bit of seed knowledge from my young married years, I moved forward with this exciting new venture!
I began most of the seeds in my basement under lights and by April, I moved all my seedlings into my old green house. Things were starting to look promising.
Early spring, we put up temporary fencing to keep the horses out of the garden and give definition to the space.
Then, it was time to put the baby plants into the new garden. Planting a few thousand seedlings actually should be classified as a sport, because I felt every muscle in my body and found a few that I was unaware of. Next year the plan would be to train physically prior to this spring time event so that I’m better prepared physically and mentally!
- To provide fresh local flowers during the growing season for the Guesthouse, and Horse Barn Rentals
- To sell locally grown flower bouquets
- Entertain the possibility of offering bulk flowers for DIY brides and events
- Heavier clay soil than first anticipated
- Abundant rain, which drowned out a third of our crop, right off the hop along with a few deer
- Bugs that were unfamiliar to us, eating my precious Zinnias and Sunflowers
- My pony Turbo, who is actually related to Houdini and has no problem showing me how he can enter my garden whenever he wants and step on all my flowers
- To continue to learn about flower farming; knowledge is power
- To bring in extra topsoil to amend the soil and add organic matter
- To continue to work on organic farming practices to conquer bad bugs and encourage good bugs and growth
- To educate the consumer on the need for locally grown products; flowers included
The first year of flower farming has been a learning curve. It seemed as though germinating, transplanting, and growing in the greenhouse was the easy part. Once the transplants hit the dirt, I thought they would take off; it was not so easy. Learning what kind of soil and its drainage was most important. Eventually, after a slow start we started producing flowers and at times more than my market could use!
Thanks to good friends, they received a few flower gifts along the way. There is a sweet joy that these home grown flowers bring to my soul. I can’t explain it, you can just feel it. The season is almost done, and I can hardly wait to start again next year!