Children's Fashion Workshop



I'm Erin.  Gardening addict, incurable maker, insatiable reader, closet author, chronicler of childhood, wanderer, wonderer.  I'm glad you've come to sit a while with me.

Instagram @ewatsonhowe


Offhand comments:

9.y.o.-"I have three ant bites.  Can I use this stuff I found in the first aid kit on them?  It's called ant-acid." 

9.y.o.-"It would be awesome if we had a 3-d printer because then we could print anything. a tiny little model of Angkor Wat!"




I know that we've shuffled around a lot lately, you and I, moving from over here to as I've tried to find my footing in our new life.  Those of you who are still with me, still reading, thank you for your dedication and continued concern for our story.  

You may have noticed that the posts here took a decided farm tone and then stopped.  It seemed prudent, as we are opening a flower business, to put all the farm-related posts in one place, so I've done that over  I would love to have you continue to journey with us there as we open up this new chapter in our lives.


 Join us, won't you?  We'll see you there!



smashed, but still growing

The very bottom edge of a big winter storm touched our town this last weekend.  Just enough to leave us with six inches or so of snow on the ground and everything shut down for the weekend.  This is our second winter in South Carolina, and our first living here, north of Spartanburg.  So I didn't know whether this was normal winter behavior for the weather or not.  Consulting a weather history chart, I find that it's not common, but not unheard of.

The children were beyond thrilled.  Since we moved from California the possibility of snow has been a hope they've cherished.  We grimaced a little at their hope, since we moved to South Carolina, not exactly known for its white winters.  So when I woke up on Friday morning and the whole place was blanketed, I breathed a little happy sigh for them.  

The field/garden (we really need a name for this space) was blanketed too, and for a while I worried about my flower babies out there under the snow.  

There I am walking on top of the tough snow crust.  

But when the snow began to melt, I found that it wasn't a big deal for these plants.

Snapdragons are tough!

Anemones couldn't care less.

We've learned that plastic pipe won't hold up to any kind of weight being put on it.

The ranunculus and anemones have been a bugbear this winter.  Growing directions from everywhere tell us that we need to protect them from prolonged winter cold, and that an unheated hoophouse is ideal.  Not having an unheated hoophouse, we put up two rows of rebar-and-plastic-pipe arches and slung greenhouse plastic over them.  No good.  One arch sheds rain, but two arches side by side collect it between them.  

More research revealed that the anemones would probably be fine in our climate, so we pulled the plastic off of them and the ranunculus in the next bed over.  A hard frost later, the anemones had proven they were fine, but the ranunculus were a little frost-burned, so we covered them with frost cloth.  Ah!  What a good solution!  The rain goes right through frost cloth, and the plastic pipe is sturdy enough to hold it above the plants. 

But then there was snow.  Snow did not go through the frost cloth, it collected on top and mushed everything.

At some point, being unable to do anything, I gave up worrying and enjoyed the days in socks and pajamas with my family.  It was very helpful to our enjoyment that we had hot water and electricity throughout our long, long winter.  

And of course, when the snow began to melt, three days later, there were a lot of flat, but still happy and growing plants out there.  

A trooper of a poppy:

Nothing seemed to mind being mushed, so hopefully we're in the clear.  We're still trucking toward flowers in the spring.  And maybe that can be our motto for this first winter as we muddle toward that vision.  We may be mushed, but we're not out of the game yet.  Here we are still, smashed a little, but still growing.



cabbage is food


Months ago, I set up two little shop lights and placed four flats of seeds underneath.  Those plants grew, and I put many of them out in the field to deal with fall and winter.  And then I planted more and they grew.  The shop lights, the timers, the shelves, the whole thing grew and grew until it's climbing a wall in my basement now.  It's kind of like I imagine riding a horse would be, this growing a flower farm thing.  Let loose the reins for a moment and let the plants do their thing, hold them back now until conditions outside are right.  Some seeds go in the fridge for weeks before planting, some are covered after planting because they like to germinate in the dark.  Some like the summer heat, and some like the long cold slow of winter.  

Now, in January, we have the following plants out in the field battling it out for themselves:  Rocket Mix snapdragons, Amazon dianthus, Spencer sweet peas, Dara Queen Anne's Lace, Bupleurum, Bells of Ireland, Meadow Pastels and Champagne Bubbles poppies, Sublime larkspur, La Belle ranunculus and Galilee anemones.  There are roses and hundreds of peonies.  This sounds like an impressive array, but the plants themselves look worn and weatherbeaten.

There was ridiculously warm wet weather right up until the end of the year, and then the bottom fell out of the thermometer.  I watched my plants, growing lushly and happily, get frosted and yellowed overnight.  And now, I don't know. Will they hang on until temperatures pull back up in the spring?  Are they growing good roots down there?  Or have I killed them all by my bumbling inexperience?  I am careful to apply everything I read and know, and these are the plants that are supposed to be able to make it over winter in my climate.  Still I chew my nails.  I haven't seen it happen yet.  

I know, in a logical sense, that the first years of any new endeavor are going to contain the most failures.  How will we learn, I tell myself, if we don't kill some plants on the way there?  At the same time I'm so frustrated by what I find I don't know.  I've been gardening for years, have a horticulture degree, for goodness' sake, but here I am new and it all means nothing.  In this place, with this soil, this climate, I haven't yet paid my dues.  You will work with me, at my pace, says the land, or we won't work together at all.  Slow down, it says, listen, and learn.  I am trying, but today my hopes for fields full of flowers are at a miserably low ebb.

Quite apart from the actual yield of fruit and flower that we expect, we are beginning to see another interesting harvest.  We're learning lots of lessons among ourselves on what it means to be an employee, a shareholder, a good worker or a slack one, how to meet a deadline, what working conditions are actually adverse, and so on.  How will we set up a farmer's market stall?  What's necessary to good customer service?  How do we spread the word on the existence of our farm?  All of these make for fascinating discussions, at least for me, which the rest of my crew seems to tolerate or join in on to varying degrees.  

The first cabbages have come up.  How I love their little heart-shaped seed leaves!  We're not focusing on growing vegetables and fruit, as most of our field is devoted to flowers.  But growing food connects us to the ground we came from in a way nothing else can, and I can never give it up.  Cabbage, as humble as it seems, thrills me in a different way than the hundreds of flower seedlings we've already grown.  Sorry, flowers, I love you, but cabbage is food.  



this is November


Dig, dig, dig.  Plant, plant, plant.  Actual flower count at five months since starting-zero.  Well, three if you count those that bloomed on the rosebushes before we planted them and cut them back.  And of course we do count them, cooing over each one as though we'd grown it ourselves, cutting it and carrying it inside to put in a vase in the bathroom and stare at for a week until all the petals drop off onto the counter.  Soon there will be buckets of flowers, too many to love each one so much. 

Planting, and the waiting that comes next, is showing me how patient I am not.  After hauling wheelbarrows of compost until my arms ache, I stand in the middle of the sea of black landscape fabric and fret about there not being any flowers.  Thousands of plants so far, but no flowers.  Months' worth of work, and no flowers.  I know in a theoretical way that there will be an avalanche of flowers in the spring, a steady stream of flowers until frost, but not having seen it, it's taking an awful degree of faith to keep planting.

My baby girl turns five (!) this week.  She is as enthusiastic a gardener as ever there was.  When we dug the first hole and put in the first gnarled peony root, she heaved a satisfied sigh and said, "Now we are farmers."  She is the self-appointed "peony master", (or daffodil master, seed master, etc.) her job being to gently disentangle a peony root from its sisters in the bag, brush off the peat moss, and hand it to me to put in the hole.  She takes her job seriously, and comes running to take up her post whenever I haul something out to be planted.  

Four big boxes of daffodil bulbs appeared outside the garage door this week.  I, knowing what they would become, opened and was exulting over them when the peony master came around the corner.  She was excited because I was excited, but when I showed her the brown bulbs I was so thrilled about she was baffled.  "Huh," she said, "onions."  Ah, but these'll be easier to explain in spring.

The only place the flowers that'll come from these onions exist now is in my head and on my Pinterest daffodil board, which is here if you'd like to see them.  For that matter, here are all of my boards, many of which are lists for the various plots in our flower field.  There are the rose beds, the dahlia selection, the peony plan.  Our whole garden, blooming only on Pinterest. 

There were a couple of light frosts in October, and only just this weekend was there the hard glittery frost of real autumn.  We bundle up and trudge out to dig new beds, only to throw off our jackets and scarves after 15 minutes of work.  "Can you believe this?" we shout at each other across the field, "This is November!"  Inside we're each thinking of the job we didn't take in Rhode Island.  Beautiful working weather, this. 

I'm having a fun time sourcing plant material.  Each time I think, time to order (phlox/alliums/dahlias) I think it'll be simple, I'll just order some.  But every flower opens up a door and there's a full-on party going on for each kind of plant.  There are varieties and shapes and colors and heights and each one has its fans and haters and specialty nurseries and websites devoted just to it.  We love phlox!  Dahlias are our specialty!  I feel like such a latecomer.  But I'm a latecomer who's fast getting an education. 

I'm also having to triangulate to figure out planting times and varieties for upstate South Carolina.  Vegetable information you can have buckets of, but flowers aren't such a well-peopled field, and I'm hanging on the advice of a handful of experts.  But, I think as I read, she's in Kansas.  She's in Washington state.  They're at Louisiana State.  What does this mean for South Carolina?  So we use the best available information, make a good guess, keep lots of notes for next year, and plunge in.  

Sweet peas are up, standing in rows like little 4" tall soldiers.  Snapdragons, icelandic poppies, and pinks are all set into their homes for the winter.  We're halfway to our goal of 60 beds by March.  This week anemones and ranunculus should come, getting in line to be planted and believed in until spring.  I made a calculating error and ordered twice as many as I meant to.  I'm sure the ranunculus master will be thrilled.  



future farm


This gardening thing.  This farming thing.  It won't go away, won't clear up, won't leave me in peace to walk around on top of the ground without wondering, if I dug it up, what could it grow?  And so here we are again, building another iteration of The Farm.  The plan for this chapter involves a ton of cut flowers, and the farmer's market, and pennies and dollars clinking into childrens' bank accounts to plant the seeds for their own futures once they've flown from here.  

So we have cuttings rooting everywhere, curly willows, hydrangeas, forsythia, pussy willow.  Sweet William and snapdragons under lights in the basement, soon to be joined by Icelandic poppies.  Then, later, in the field, sweet peas, larkspur, Queen Anne's lace, anemones, ranunculus, bupleurum.  (Don't ask me to pronounce that last one.)  We have a slowly-growing number of beds with soft amended soil.  A fuzzy rodent-control crew.  Sore hands, dirty jeans, tired backs, and a vision of a farm full of growing food, flowers, and futures.