In fairness to the animals, I will find them homes nearby. The 18.5 hour trip will be too hard on them. Saying goodbye is hard but the right thing to do. As the chores go away when the animals leave, my days will be filled with packing after 14 years on this farm. So many decisions- but the new farm is going to be a lean, regenerative & sustainable farm. I’m going to do things easier with less consumption. I’m going to get the right systems set up so I’m able to break away from the old habits & give away things that I no longer need. It feels good to have a plan and to farm smarter not harder. And honestly I can’t wait to get rid of the snow blowers 🤣
Author: Valerie Fradette
Exhausted, sad, and ready for the first truck trip. It’s so hard to remember the plan – don’t fall back on old habits keep this farm lean if you don’t need it don’t bring it. ￼
Of course it had to snow during our drive…. to remind myself while we were doing this.
After unpacking , and looking at our new farm, walking the land, playing in the soil again, I had a freak out moment – how long will it take to build the infrastructure? We’re going to need a place for the all important barn cats as soon as possible… our solution is a large shed pre-built that will house them as well as much of our stuff while we wait for the other buildings to be designed and built. This journey is going to be a lot of exercises in patience.
They bring me voles and mice that have been near the flowers and they get tasty treats
Long winters are getting old to us
So as I start writing this there are so many bittersweet thoughts & feelings! As I get older I long for making farming a little less difficult. In New Hampshire the winters are long and they’re cold and the hard days on the farm outnumber the easy fun ones! Springs are short but are always challenging as frost kills the best laid plans. The annual ritual of carrying thousands of seedlings inside and outside and inside and outside and inside and outside so they get enough sun and wind but no cold at night gets very tiring. Frost cloth on frost cloth off , repeat, fills my morning routine.
It’s time for lean farming -time to make change. I’ve been reading and reading all winter getting spectacular ideas for how to make this easier but change is hard. We have decided to move to a new farm which is down south , outside of Nashville. The new Acres Abloom begins is literally land that is a blank slate there are no flowers just an old horse field waiting for blooms. I’ve never had a blank slate before so I’m excited and apprehensive…. So much to think about and get ready for. I’m ready to be challenged. I hope you’ll follow our journey.
On a farm in NH you need to care for your animals to keep them warm so they are able to do there job! The sheep mow the pastures 3 months of the year, but need heated water buckets, plenty of hay, some grain & a keen eye to make sure everyone is getting their share! The barn cats who are so valuable on a flower farm need special items to keep them healthy in the winter. They bring me hundreds of voles moles and field mice who attack my flowers, so the cost of a few heated beds & a cat door and a heated water are so worth it. Although I strive to be as eco minded as I can, I must use this energy to keep them warm. I’ve been looking into grants for solar or other ideas, but it’s already seeding time so my time is short. I will keep thinking of ways to make the farm more eco friendly!
What’s in a word?
Some of my customers say “I love your wildflowers” and I smile & say thank you but I’m never sure how to explain that my cultivated flowers that I’ve worked with for anywhere between 6 months to thirteen months are NOT wildflowers that popped up on their own which I foraged! I’ve planned the gardens for months before I even start the seeds so that there is no flower in the same spot if it’s an annual plant- that helps me be able to grow my flowers sustainably and without chemicals which is important to me. Keeping the earth healthy is part of my plan. I grow all of my annuals & perennials from seeds placed in soil. I create seedlings that need care ;they need water and air /wind , they need nutrients and they need me to keep them safe from pests and diseases. 5 AM every single morning I am adjusting to what each variety needs. Once the seedlings are old enough it’s time to transplant & adjust to outside pressures! Heat – cold- wind- bugs- deer & disease are some of earths challenges! Hopefully they make it through to harvest, condition & arrange . With over 40 varieties of specialty cut flowers grown locally in New Hampshire that’s a lot of time and effort to get the beautiful blooms to my customers. If I were selling wildflowers I would go out side with a pair of snips forage for a bit of time & sell. One bouquets of foraged wildflowers might take an hour, where one bouquet of my cultivated flowers took anywhere between 50-70 hours per bunch of any one variety. Obviously those hours are not all at once but each & every day there’s something flower done here at the farm. So what’s in a word – wildflowers are wild & not tended, my flowers have a unique style that nay sometimes look like I’m trying to duplicate Mother Nature’s design, but I assure you I’ve tended them with love.
Some beauties take time
Did you know that most perennials take 3 years before you should cut from them? Yup it’s true. Some that I’ve started from seed have been 5 years in the making. the other hard thing is most perennials only bloom a short time & then go back to working on their plant. Enjoy those peonies while they last
The Acres Abloom pop up shop will be open soon!
With spring sprung it’s time to let you in on a little secret… This winter my husband and I worked on a pop up shop! It’s portable so that we can go to selected businesses and have a chance to sell blooms & share information about like minded small businesses in the NH local movement. Here’s a quick timeline of the shop in pictures.
Please follow share and like on my Instagram @acres.abloom I will post ahead of time the when & where we will be POPPING UP soon & thanks for all my supportive people- I really appreciate you!!! 💐
March & April were a blur
9 lambs & 4 goat kids kept me so busy I forgot to post – when I wasn’t doing something with the babies I was sowing, planning or planting! My hubby has been very busy building a beautiful pop up shop so I can go to different locations to sell- a blog on that soon. I posted on Facebook about my daffodils on the porch- contact free fresh beauties that we all needed after this long Covid winter!! I sold out in 2 hours ! Tulips have come & gone just by those same people contacting me! I’m humbled as I know it’s the flowers that are the stars. I just tend them & see what Mother Nature develops. Please send me your email address if you would like to know when I have pedals on the porch & also soon to come my pop up shop locations.
Those babies had me hopping, but even more exciting is that I saw growth down in the Germination chamber ! I love when the lambs & kids start arriving because that means that in about 4 weeks, the ground might be able to be worked enough to put my cold loving plants in. I already have several hundred seeds that I winter sowed, and they will be strong healthy plants because they use mother nature for their guide. I try to mimic mother natures spring, so that i can trick my inside starts to grow a few weeks earlier. Without using any chemicals or synthetic fertilizers can be a challenge with algae growth, nats, but a good dose of cinnamon and sticky tape works wonders! Im so excited to see flowers after this gloomy winter!
People ask me, “What do you do in the winter?”.
I smile because I know they are thinking that it’s my down time. Winter isn’t a time for rest, but rather a change in farm duties. Farming is not just work in the fields, sweating and tired from hours bent over, tending to plants & animals. Farming is my business. It’s a business that is a year-round, full-time job. Farmers spend the winter planning, studying seed catalogs & crop spreadsheets & figuring out breeding pairs & grazing plans. Setting up the farm calendar for the year is a huge undertaking with many moving parts! Winter is also when the ewes are lambing & the goats are kidding! It’s when the wood can be split and the barn gets a much needed cleaning. I also spend the winter working on marketing plans, updating the website & blog and even figuring out financial stuff. This year I’m excited to be doing some long-term, planning for what is next here and at our new farm. So although I do get a little break from weeding & cutting flowers, it feels a little too short and I never get caught up. Hopefully some of my future plans will help me with time management and a leaner farm!
So today the sheep decided to go for a walk about! I never worry during winter bc the flowers are farther away than they will venture! They prefer the paths so I never snow-blow to the fall planted seeds that are slowly growing the way Mother Nature intended. Keeping animals & growing unique cut flowers always has its challenges but it’s worth it!
Ironically today we are getting 8 to 16 inches of snow and it’s 30 degrees but the Lisanthus emerge today to show spring will be here soon! The tiny seedlings have started to polk out of the homemade potting soil so I put a ring around them to give you size perspective. Now we wait and wait and wait , all the while tending them with love. I am anticipating finally getting buds & flowers to make beautiful bouquet designs that will bring joy , love & so many emotions! I’m energized & look forward to seeing everyone with the new pop up flower cart shop as soon as I have flowers in New Hampshire
Well the leftover & customer donated pumpkins have been eaten by the goats & sheep, all the flower beds have been prepped for planting in the spring, and now it is time to start new seedlings for the 2021 season! The teeny tiny Lisianthus seeds will be the first as they take forever to grow, but the end result is pure heaven! I’m trying some new varieties this year… stay tuned to see the progress as these are one of the slowest growing flowers I know
It’s finally raining
Well NH has finally gotten a forecast of rain but I doubt it will be the 14 inches we need for this year!!! I will be hopeful and grateful for what we get! Hand watering this year was crazy & ate my time!! That fact has showed me that drip tapes are a must for flower farming because of global warming. This is our second year in drought, so I doubt the trend will stop, but if everyone could be mindful of water use, it could slow the progress. Flowers just can’t be spectacular without water, so I will use best practices to conserve water. I will continue to catch rain water, but will need to supplement with other water too. If we can all start to do small things to fix the earth… for example buy local so there is less transportation, we can help! My flowers have never been on a plane, boat or the like as I do my part. Today I will do my research for the best drip tapes to purchase with my sustainability in mind.
Today on the flower farm will be busy trying to secure things and keep the leaf mold where it belongs. I am behind, but I am confident that a few extra minutes can get my landscape cloth down over the leaf mold. Trying to heal the soil from the last blooms is so important, and I do this by adding natural ingredients to the soil that boost the microorganisms and nutrients. The leaf mold is key. As it decays it will add what the soil needs, and help with weed suppression. So much work goes into the flowers, and many don’t realize that without these extra steps, the flowers would not be premium but weak and lanky with blooms that last just a few days.
The Evolution of a Flower Farm
At the age of two I went missing, My panicked parents found me, lying on my tummy, in the middle of a flower garden carefully inspecting the blooms. My father handed me some pansy seeds & a gardener was created. My eyes sparkled with anticipation that the tiny seed I planted would someday be a flower. As I aged I would come and go from the garden, as all youngsters do, but the scent of the sweet peas would bring me back every time. For a time I was a gardener for my profession, but college graduation brought all the changes and responsibilities it does. Marriage, kids and house; I was never without a flower garden in all of my many years. Earth is life & growing is spiritual for me. Touching the earth, supporting the dirt, growing substantially, farming is sacred work. I dreamed someday I could spend every day in my gardens.
In the middle of the pandemic, I found I NEEDED my flowers, and so I focused on my cut beds more than ever! I realized others were in need as well. So, this year I donated my stems to those who were having a tough time. To see memories on someone’s face who received a bouquet of flowers that remind them of a simpler time is priceless! Acres Abloom will continue as a flower farm for the locals of New Hampshire. A place where you can get local long lasting flowers that have been grow sustainably and with mother earth directing growth.