Spring...is it spring? Supposedly, back in February, the groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, predicted 6 more weeks of winter but since then we've had snow, nighttime temps in the low 30's, and more rain coming (thankfully). Despite the wintery weather, things are waking up and sap is beginning to flow–apple, quince, plum blossoms and daffodils are poking out their sleepy heads. It might technically be spring, and be starting to look like it, but it certainly doesn't feel like spring yet.
Don’t you love spring? So much hope and energy surging. I’m an April baby, so spring meant birthday celebrations. Mom always did such a beautiful job creating spring-themed parties for me. One year I had a giant watermelon carved into a basket and filled with fruit salad for my cake. We played “pin the tail on the bunny” on a giant bunny she had painted on butcher paper, and had a carrot-eating contest. Another year, we took a trip up to the Mother Lode and had a picnic under a big oak tree on a golden hill. The cake was stenciled with powdered sugar to look like lace, and I wore my Laura Ingalls Wilder-esque bonnet and Osh-Kosh B’Gosh striped overalls. Such clear memories from long ago–I remember not wanting to leave that hillside, and daydreaming that we could build a little cabin and live there forever.
The last few years that we lived in San Francisco, our neighbors were Greek, and had fantastic Easter parties replete with a lamb on a spit, tables and tables of food, lots of shots of Ouzo passed around and dancing late into the night–all in their small backyard in the city. They would shout to us from over the fence, "Melinda, come join us!" The grandpa of the family would hand-feed us the best parts of the roast lamb and the mom would place piece after piece of bougatsa and baklava on our plates. We always left with enough food for the next few days and a taste of what it must be like to live in a large, extended family with its built-in community–something both my daughter and I craved.
I think we are all longing for community and large gatherings right now, aren't we? Do you reminisce about being in a crowded room with lots of people and layers and layers of laughter and talk? It's coming, and we are doing some prep for when those days return.
Last year, we made it a goal for 2021 that we would bring more organization, and figure out ways to save time and energy in the daily things we do. We have to be super efficient with our time since it is mostly just the two of us and there is so much to do on this little farm. With all of this in mind, we have spent the first weeks of the year creating some new work areas and systematizing things. We now have a much-expanded wash and pack area for the market garden, with a "bubbler" ( a cool bubbly tub for washing salad greens), spray hoses, draining and work tables. Simon also built a sweet little tool shed we call the "bus stop" over by our hoop houses so shovels, hoes and rakes are right there instead of the previous 200 feet away.
We now also have two hoop houses, as we have expanded our salad greens production and next on the list is the 2nd cool storage room, for which we received a "Good Farm Fund" grant to build. Simon will be doing all the work himself, except the electrical. This cool room will be near our market garden and will hopefully allow us to harvest larger amounts at a time than we were able to last year. We really hope to have a farmstand full of variety and well-stocked year round.
Along with systemizing some work around the farm, we have also been working towards expanding our cut flower garden. We've been hard at work making "lasagne" with cardboard and compost over the new bed areas. We used this method last year for the market garden and were so happy to not spend a single hour weeding! I'm going to try my hand at growing flowers I have never grown before–snapdragons, dahlias, and strawflowers, to name a few. I am starting everything from seed–let's see how it goes.
I'm also growing oodles and oodles more gomphrena so we can make oodles and oodles more of the lovely gomphrena garlands that were so popular over the holidays. I'm added more colors, from pale blue to purple so I hope that this year's garlands will be even more stunning.
I've been tinkering away, creating new products using our saffron and other exciting farm-grown things for both the physical and digital farmstand and our mission is to continue to offer a growing variety of goodies. It's been so fun creating in the new "test kitchen" that Simon built last year. Some new products we are testing out are fresh saffron-infused pasta, take-home-and-heat farm-made soups, saffron infused mirabelle plum jam as well as saffron ice cream and saffron lemonade popsicles for the summer.
We also used the test kitchen during the Saffron harvest. It was so fun to have a big, clean space in which to separate the stigmas from the flowers and make piles and piles of bright red saffron. Our team also discovered that the building has excellent acoustics, playing guitar and singing in their time-off. It is such a sweet memory and I often find myself singing while working in there.
Speaking of our team, Meg, our wonderful intern, is back with us for the third time. It's so good to have her to help and be able to tick things off the to-do list so much faster. It's so much easier with another set of hands making the work lighter. We will also have Ryan and Anna joining us again for the spring and summer. Ryan and Anna were with us for several months in 2019 and will be back for a good, long stretch. It's so comforting to have helpers return year after year, becoming like family. If you or someone you know is interested in coming to work on the farm, we are still looking for the fall saffron harvest crew so feel free to reach out!
We are pleased to announce that our 2020 harvest is now available for purchase online! Thank you for waiting so patiently.
P&P Events:Back in 2019, we met with a wonderful woman, Gwen Hellbush, who I found through an article in The Atlantic. Gwen has 30 years experience as a wedding planner, and a huge, warm heart and deep kindness as well as a very strong sense of organization and attention to detail. She came up from the peninsula and met with me, and over the course of two days, mapped out the future of Peace and Plenty Farm as a wedding and events venue. We spent time that year doing a very fun two-day photo shoot of mock weddings and made so many plans together with our shared goal of promoting the farm as a dream wedding spot.
Then everything changed in the world–we had to cancel weddings booked in 2020, and Gwen, having battled cancer several times already, is again struggling against that terrible illness. With Gwen needing to focus on her health and recovery, we have had to put a pause on the plans we had made together. While I'm mourning this partnership and wish nothing but a speedy for my friend, I've decided to forge ahead with plans to make P&P a desirable venue for weddings, retreats and any other destination event that visitors can cook up.
So, with that in mind, I would like to announce some exciting news: we have decided that 2021 will be the year that we renovate our lovely old historic barn to have it ready for events in early 2022. Built in the 1850's the barn was originally used as a milking and hay barn. It's tall and light-filled and I call it my Ag-Cathedral (AG=agricultural); it is the heart of the farm.
The barn has sat derelict for years and will require some potentially big work to get it seismically retrofitted and inhabitable. There is termite damage to some of the main supporting beams as well as water damage from the leaking roof. This is no small undertaking but one that we are incredibly excited to finally roll up our sleeves and tackle. We have hired an architect firm who is doing all the work of finding the engineers, getting permits, etc. Of course, Simon and I will be involved in parts of the renovation, because we just can't help ourselves but get in there and work, but there will definitely be parts we can't do ourselves. In addition to the barn itself, we will be tackling some landscaping around the yard to create a lovely space suitable for events, (and so Simon and I can enjoy some order and beauty around the house). If you have wedding or event plans or have friends or relatives who do, keep us in mind for 2022!
We wouldn't be here without your love and support!
Best wishes from the farm,
Melinda, Simon, Goblin the at and Ruby. the dog