Hello Steel Cow Friends!
Thank you for taking the time to read our most recent blog posts. I usually only write a couple of posts a year as they do take me awhile to write and collect my thoughts (and there is always something else to do), but I have to say it is nice to put some things down in the digital world. For our final blog post of the week I wanted to share with you a new project we have been working on - Flowers!
All of the photos in this post are of flowers we grew!!!
Two years ago my family and I moved to the house I grew up in on the edge of town. In addition to having a nice big yard for three active growing boys to run around and play in we have 11 acres of in-town but zoned agricultural property.
When we moved in (actually a few years before we moved in) we had been searching for something to grow on a small, but larger scale. I have had a small back-alley raised vegetable and herb garden behind Steel Cow for about 6 years, so I had actually put my hands in dirt before (and love it!) - but I had tended nothing on any kind of level beyond that. I had a small rose garden when I was in junior high and also helped my dad with his flower garden a nominal amount growing up but that was about it.
So, I basically had no idea what to grow - or even knew what kinds of things you can grow on a larger (but still super small level) besides grapes (and I had no interest besides growing enough for our family to have grape juice all year), hops (again no interest), berries (not much interest), lettuce or vegetables (I love eating them from my garden but I had no interest on my part for growing any more of them) or apples (again, I did not have much interest growing beyond my personal use as there is already an apple orchard in our area that grows great apples!)
Then, I came across being able to grow lavender in our area and my thoughts started lingering. Oh how I love lavender! It is so pretty and it smells so very good. In January of 2018, while I was pregnant with Ellis, I started two trays of lavender from seed from Seed Savers Exchange and stuck them in the fridge for two months before they sprouted. When they did - I chose a few of the strongest ones to plant out and into the landscaping around our house. About a dozen of them were growing well as one year old plants during the summer of 2018. Then I was stuck in bed recovering from an emergency c-section with Ellis (who was 10.5 pounds and two weeks late!) and I spent days and days googling and researching lavender and how to grow it and what it took to have a lavender farm. Fast forward two years...... and are now planning a full-blown lavender farm! We even have an official farm name and business registered with the state of Iowa- Steel Cow Lavender Farm, LLC.
As of now, we have 66 lavender plants in the ground in a test plot and thousands upon thousands planned (and already growing) for planting next spring. It takes a couple of years for lavender to actually get established - so it will be awhile before you will be able to visit us in person at our lavender farm, but in the meantime we are constructing a greenhouse where I will be able to host some painting and other workshops and working on the infrastructure for a wonderfully relaxing and incredibly good-looking (and heavenly smelling) farm for you to visit and enjoy products made from our lavender.
This is our greenhouse foundation and our raised veggie beds this spring- next year it will look much different!
Early this spring I ordered about 7 different books on farming and growing things (only one was specifically geared towards lavender) and I started reading them on a trip to visit my sister and her family in Florida. As I made my way through these books, something sparked my interest and I mentioned to Josh (my husband), that it may be worthwhile to look into adding cut flowers at some time to our lavender farm. Josh was over-the-top in favor of this idea and by the time we got back I had ordered a whole bunch of seeds and dahlia tubers for the start of our cut flower garden!
When we got back to Iowa, we planned and layed out our area. Last spring my cousin tilled our 11 acre field and a friend planted wildflowers and native prairie grasses in 9 of the acres, so we mapped out about a 1/2 acre area for our cut flower garden to go. We dug some of the wildflowers and grasses we wanted to keep and planted them in a row, but then we tilled up all the beautiful wildflowers (only in this 1/2 acre - the rest are all still out there for now!) It is crazy how quickly a space can change.
After that, we laid out our rows and started planting! For me, starting with zero experience growing things on any kind of a level, it was both exciting and incredibly frustrating. Luckily we had some help getting started from the books I had read and some help from my aunt Cathy - who has had a flower farm for many years (although several hours away from me and I don't visit very often).
We didn't know what to expect, and honestly we grew mostly easy to grow flowers.......but we actually had flowers! At first, I picked every single bloom and put them in little containers in my kitchen. Then I picked every single bloom and started giving little posies away to family and friends. Then we built a little self-serve flower cart and put it outside of Steel Cow. This is where we are now. I picked a ton of flowers two days ago and these guys are hanging out in my garage. I will put them together for arrangements for the flower cart over the next week. We also have all our beds covered, but last night it froze and I haven't been outside yet this morning. So, our flower season may be over, or we may have two weeks left - we will have to see!
I have had so much fun planting the flowers, watching them grow, and now both giving away the flowers and selling them from our flower cart that we are definitely going to be growing flowers next year again. I absolutely adored having our three kids Eddie, Harry and Ellis helping and learning how to grow things. We actually have most of our seeds for next year purchased already - in addition to 3,600 tulips! (And I may or may not have purchased too many tulip bulbs - this is sooooo addicting!)
In the upcoming months, during the long cold winter months, I am hoping to get to a website and logo for the lavender and flowers, and I am also hoping to get through the thousands of photos I have taken. But I just wanted to give you guys a bit more information behind the flowers you have been seeing on our facebook page (if you follow us), let you know what we have been up to, what's to come and maybe brighten your day a little bit.
Have a great rest of the weekend!