Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Happy New Year!

Surprise! We've moved our home to the farm. Boy are we looking forward to this summer. No 11:00 PM trips back to Devils Lake only to shower, have a bite to eat and go to bed. We now live directly across from the gardens. Barry is also excited (me too) because we will have air conditioning for the first time in our married lives. That will make the summer heat more bearable.

We moved into our new home on December 10th and closed on the sale of our Devils Lake house on December 15th. Sometimes that fate fairy just swoops down and dings you one the head with her magic wand and you just have to go with it. We had not intended on moving this winter. We did not even have our house for sale. Some things were just meant to be.

We are finding out just how 'small town' rural North Dakota can as we weren't even fully moved in yet and people were saying "well, you must be moved in, I saw the lights on when we drove by". It's nice to know someone is keeping an eye on us!

As usual in the winter, we are also trying to prepare for next year. My speaking engagements are starting to fill and already include a February trip to South Dakota to speak at the Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture conference. I hope to have the summer class schedule completed and posted to the web site by the end of February and we are busy updating our customer lists. If you would like to be included on any mailings we may do in the future, please email me your address or email address and we'll add you to the list.

I'm also busy trying to plan the planting schedule. I was excited in November when I special ordered 200 Lemon Verbena. After last years' trial planting - which turned out great - I decided to go whole hog and do a couple rows. Not sure if we will sell it by the bunch or to an aroma therapy company that is interested in it, but either way I'm sure it will be a hit.

Hope this finds all of you in good health and looking forward to a properous new year. Know that we miss all of you over the winter and look forward to the spring when all of us, as little critters do, come out of our burrows and homes to mingle on the prairies.
The gardendwellers

Thursday, November 02, 2006

You can tell it's fall and I'm winding down. It's been a while since I added to this blog. Not that it's an excuse but we have been really busy.

On October 20th they pulled our new home onto its new location in Churchs Ferry. The big question everyone asks is, "When are you moving in" - well, to all of you the answer is "when our house in Devils Lake sells." I really have no desire to heat two places throughout the winter and with a large group of hunters (in size and number) coming in two weeks for deer season - I think our big house in Devils Lake will do for now. I am very anxious to move out to the farm but if you know us at all you know we do things in baby steps, one little step at a time.

Speaking of baby steps - we have a new baby. A baby of the wet nose, long ears, four paws kind. We hope to be introducing you to her at the farm next year. She is a black Cocker Spaniel whose name is Ida. Ida has been a great little baby. She is good at night and sleeps all night long with a dry kennel in the moning - what a relief to us and house training is going extremely well. She is such a good puppy and Mae is SO glad to have another dog in the house. Mae looks and feels better everyday with a companion to look after.

Now some farm news - let's all welcome the "California Kids Farms to Barton ND. They have relocated here from California and will be growing all manner of vegetables and small fruits for sale at regional farmers markets. We wish them the best of luck and welcome another grower to our region.

Also - we are already looking ahead to next year. I'm hoping to plant about 120 lemon verbena next year. A select few of you got to sample the trial plants I had this year and if my wholesaler comes through we'll have plenty more in 07. Also new in 2007 will be the wonderful "self taught" machine! We need a better name for it but that is our vending machine that we will convert to dispense self guided tour sheets, Churchs Ferry history brochures, theme garden plant lists, and kids make and take projects. (You know what I'll be working on all winter) We are also working to write an APUC grant for a distiller. Our new clients in Minot and elsewhere around the state would really be happy if we would get the grant and be able to provide them with custom made essential oils for their bath and body products. We're hoping not to disappoint them. We're also hooking up with a college or two and hoping to find an intern so if you see a new face in a gardendwellers shirt next year don't be surprised.

One last thing I am anxious for - the printing and distribution of the 2007 Prairie Garden book. As a contributing author I have seen a preview of this issue (to be printed in December and released in January of 07). The theme this year is Edible Landscapes. There are great articles on all manner of fruits, veggies, mushrooms, nuts, and other delectible garden items. Be sure to contact me if you want to know how to get on their standing order list.

Enough for now - have lots of work to do. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Fall is definitely here. We've had our first frost and that touched up most of the basil. With the basil done, that means our days at the Grand Forks farmers market are also done.

Towards the end of the season we were surprised by one of our customers - Chef Holmes of Sanders Restaurant in Grand Forks - with a gift certificate to come and have dinner. Barry and I enjoyed that dinner recently and I have to tell you how wonderful it was! We enjoyed every little flavor and as an added touch Chef Holmes himself makes regular visits through the dining room to ensure you are having a good time. It's great to have such wonderful customers.
Lately I've been wondering what to do with the HUGE pumpkins that developed in the pumpkin patch. I grow them mostly to keep down the weeds and usually have no intention of selling them. Last year we were approached by the Mothers of Preschoolers program and we sold them the whole lot for a small price that fit their tight budet. They were truly shocked when we delivered them and they were much larger than they were expecting. This year the pumpkins are even bigger. If you know of any group, organization, or business looking for some extra large pumpkins at a great price, please email us. I'd love to see them go to a great home.

We're almost done with visitors to the farm for the year as well. We will have a group of young people from the Devils Lake Middle School coming for exploratory day on October 6th. We'll learn all about labyrinths and then do a labyrinth walk. I love having young people in the labyrinth, they fill it with energy. After this group I think we're done at the farm although that doesn't mean done for the year. I am booked to speak in Rugby in October at a Women's Agriculture day and I'm sure my other dates will start to book soon as well.

Fall is also the time some of us try to stock up for winter. This year at our house that has meant grape, black currant, and nanking cherry jelly, spaghetti sauce and salsa from the tomatoes and the yet to be created apple pies. I usually make up and freeze at least 12 pies to get us through the winter. This year I think I will make Barry run the peeler/slicer. Many hands make light work. It is very rewarding to make things you can enjoy for the whole winter from the 'fruits' of your labor.

So to go into fall, here's a piece by one of my favorite authors, stay warm, relax, and enjoy the ride:
“She had only to stand in the orchard, to put her hand on a little
crab tree and look up at the apples, to make you feel the
goodness of planting and tending and harvesting at last.”
- Willa Cather

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Produce Party a Big Success, Now Off To WomanSong!

It's Thursday and the Produce Party last Saturday was a big success. We had over 350 people in attendance and a good time was had by all. Several vendors sold out early and were so pleased with sales they said "sign us up for next year right away!"

Many people participated in our contests which makes me really happy. I love to find ways to engage people in the activity. In the largest tomato contest Marliss Platz was the big first place winner with a one pound and 12 ounce tomato totally organically grown. She won a weather radio. Second place was Bonnie Himle with a one pound 7.5 ounce tomato - by the way Bonnie won second place last year too let's wish her luck for a first place winner next year. Connie Nelson came in third in this contest.

In the Ugly vegetable contest we had a REALLY ugly blue hubbard squash that looked like a yawning cyclops. I mean this thing was UGLY. This squash was grown by Jim Bennington of Churchs Ferry. Jim won a gift pack with a bird feeder filled with seed, a rain guage, and a thermometer. Second place was a tie between a potato growing out of a potato brought in by Amy Anderson of Leeds and a striped, gnarled, split tomato brought in by Joy Norman of Maddock (her husband really but he didn't even want his name on the thing it was so ugly). Third place went to Judy Sabbe of Leeds with a pair of contorted potatoes.

The Grand door prize of a basket filled to the brim with goodies from our vendors went to Gay Carlson. Yvette Paulson won a handmade handbag from Maddy Zing Designs, Madeline Brennon of Northfield MN. Crystal Meier of Minnewauken won the herbal wreath made during the demonstration by Cindy Behlolavek of Summer's Memories in Sabin MN.

A big Thanks goes out to Alex Gronas and Kaycee Scott for helping us with our booth and clean up afterward. These two kids are the hardest working kids I know (with the exception of our son) and we are so fortunate to know them. Besides being hard working they are polite and respectful to our customers. Thanks guys!

The big day is over and now I've been concentrating on WomanSong this weekend in LaMoure/Oakes. You can check out the schedule online at I'm doing to workshops on herb cooking down there and doing a reading of the 2006 Prairie Garden book - which I will also be selling. I do have copies of this book for sale so please contact me if you would like to buy one - they are $9.00. They make a great Christmas gift and of course, winter is coming - what a good book to curl up with on a cold day.

Take Care for now - we'll write more next week and tell you how it went at WomanSong.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Two Days To Go!

Well, it's two days to the big event and I can't wait. This year we feel more ready than ever to receive all of the guests, both at home and the farm, than ever before.

We're all mowed and spiffed up at the farm and with the exception of one small weed patch, we're pretty weed free too. The straw bales for seating in the demonstration tent will be delivered on Friday evening courtesy of Ron Rodenbiker. The alumni worked hard last night and got the Alumni building all sparkling clean. It's fun to hear the old school bell ring and know that there is activity there again. The bathrooms are clean and few new 'pretty' items added for a homey touch. The mini motor home has a new mattress cover and the sheets are ready as one of our vendors will be spending the night there Friday night. Last night I mowed the labyrinth and the theme gardens and pulled the last of the weeds so now I think we're ready. As ready as we get anyway.

We're very glad to be hosting some friends who will come to town from Minnesota for the event. My dear friend from the college in Minnesota is coming with her family as are our best friends and ex-neighbors from Minnesota with their four kids. Our house will ring with laughter this weekend and as usual it will be one of the two times per year when our large house is actually filled and all the beds are used. The 'lodge' as we affectionately call it, is usually way too big for Barry and I by ourselves but twice a year (during the Produce Party and Deer Season) it fills to the brim with family and friends. That's when I like the house the best.

We hope to see you all at the Produce Party. We've ordered the weather especially for the day and have been promised party sunny with 72 degrees - Perfect!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Every day - one day closer to the Produce Party!

We are still looking for more veggie and produce vendors for the Produce Party so anyone who has a few extra tomatoes, potatoes, or whatever - please call to reserve your spot today.

We're going to have a ball this year. So far we have over 20 vendors with food, produce, books, and art that will fill the day with fun. I also truly believe they are some of the most interesting people I've ever met. Be sure to check out the schedule to get in on the fun.

The rain we had sure helped things green up and we actually mowed the grass last night. That's the first time in months that we have had to mow. Things were bright green and even some of the perennials are giving it a second try at blooming. Everything seems to want to look good for the Produce Party.

Barry and I picked the grapes off of the arbor on Sunday and yesterday my mother, Delores, came to get them. She'll make us some great grape jelly to help get us through the winter. Jelly is always better with home grown fruits and this year's crops of nanking cherries, black currants, and now grapes have filled our pantry to over flowing.

We look forward to seeing you - and remember, call if you want a booth space to get rid of those extra veggies, be a part of the fun!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Grand Forks Farmers Market

This last Saturday we were back at the Grand Forks Farmers Market for the first time this season. It was wonderful to see some of our regular customers again. We will continue to be in Grand Forks on Saturdays from now until the end of August.

Speaking of our regular customers - one of them requested our Herb Cheddar Loaf recipe and unfortunately I did not have one in the recipe box. I told her I would post it here so everyone could access it - so here it is:
Herb Cheddar Loaf
1 pkg. active dry yeast, 1/4 cup warm water, 1/2 cup milk, 1/3 cup butter, 1 Tablespoon sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 3 eggs, 1 Tablespoon Each fresh chopped Oregano, marjoram and thyme (or you may substitute 1 teaspoon dried), 3 1/4 cups all purpose flour, 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, and 1 egg white.

Sprinkle yeast into warm water and let stand until dissolved. Heat milk and butter until butter melts; pour into a mixing bowl. Add sugar and salt and let cool to lukewarm. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until smooth. Mix in the yeast mixture and the herbs. Gradually add 2 cups of the flour and beat until smooth. Add remaining flour and cheese and beat with a heavy duty electric mixer or wooden spoon. Turn out on a lightly floured board and knead until smooth and satiny. Place in a bowl, cover with a damp towel, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size. Turn out dough on a board and knead lightly. Place in a greased 2 quart round casserole or souffle' dish. Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk. Brush the top with lightly beaten egg white. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 35 minutes, or until the loaf sounds hollow when thumped. Place on rack and let cool slightly. Turn out of dish. Makes 1 large loaf.


Monday, July 17, 2006

This past weekend was the annual meeting of the North Dakota State Horticulture Society. As usual, I attended the meeting sans my favorite sidekick (Barry) and substituted my mother and friend Donna. It was held in Grand Forks where community parks abound and many wonderful home gardens as well. The heat was stifling and at one point during the trip I was virtually wilted but overall I learned a few things and saw some great home gardens. The best part was seeing people I only get a chance to visit with once a year. Members come from all over the state to the meeting and we all have a great time. Connie Laugerquist from the International Peace Gardens and I had ourselves in tears several times by telling humorous stories. It was really fun.

The other fun part was the silent auction and shopping at local greenhouses afterward. I came home with a few additions for the night gardens, another crabapple (what I need another crabapple for is beyond me and well beyond Barry) and some great rocks. Yes, rocks. There is a member from the Surrey area that makes great rock mobiles. It will be hung in the gardens as soon as possible for everyone to enjoy. Of course it will take a healthy branch to hold it but it is really cool. Can't wait to get it hanging. Another piece of ND garden art to add to the growing collection.
There are no public classes scheduled this week and only one private group. We will harvest for the first time later this week and be available at the Grand Forks farmers market this coming Saturday. Hooray! The sweet smell of Basil is on its way. Barry will also go to Minot this week and pick up the chopper for the second round of rhubarb harvest.

Monday July 24th is the Savory Sage class. We have plenty of room left in this class so please call and register so I can plan supplies. We'll look at the different sages and talk about their uses. We'll cook with sage, make a facial astringent, and a small sage wreath for decoration. It will be great fun so send us an email or call to reserve your spot.
Stay Cool

Friday, July 07, 2006

What a fun evening!

Last night I traveled to Cando for the 4-H achievement day where I was to put on a demonstration of 'my choice'. I chose, of course, weeds. My demonstration was entitled, 'Eat Your Weedies'. I brought along some freshly 'harvested' purslane, chickweed, plantain, and lambsquarters. I had handouts with the nutritional value of the weeds, their wholesale value in California ($9.00-$22.00 per pound!) and recipe's for making delicious summer salads with the weeds. I even brought along some of my own. I served up a wonderful summer salad with fresh garden lettuce and lambsquarters, some egg salad with chickweed, and creamed cucumbers with purslane. It was great fun. The people were wonderful and most of them at least wanted to try a bite. It is amazing how many people you can get to eat weeds - wonder if they'd come out to the gardens to graze?

Of course, 4-H is my favorite youth organization. I was a 4-H'er. My son was a 4-H'er and just attended the Youth conference where he was an outgoing ambassador for North Dakota (outgoing - as in he is now too old to be in 4-H and must at some point become a leader to stay involved). Doing my demonstration last night made me feel as though I was back in 4-H, talking about my project, receiving awards and meeting new people. I guess even way back then I enjoyed teaching people new things. It's still that way today as people come to the gardens and take classes and tours. Here's a hefty congratulations to all of the hard working 4-H'ers and best of luck at the state fair. Thanks for the great time.

Monday, July 03, 2006

A new addition

This past weekend we were lucky enough to complete one of ourgoals for the farm. Since the beginning we've had an "on demand learning center" in our marketing plan. We never thought we would truly accomplish this as it had been 4 years and everything we saw to complete the project was too expensive.

On Friday after work I stopped at a yard sale across from our house in Devils Lake and there she was - what a beauty! A manual vending machine! It had belonged to a church and the woman assured me that it still worked. It had all of the keys and spare parts we would need and for a very nice price I purchased it (after calling Barry to confirm that this was something we still wanted to do). Saturday Barry and the neighbor worked to get it in good running order and to make sure all of the slots worked. It is in place and functioning - holding soda right now, but boy do we have plans for it.

The idea is to have a place where visitors can receive information if Barry and I are not there. The machine would be able to have plant lists for the theme gardens in one slot, a self guided walking tour in another, maybe a copy of the history of Churchs Ferry as written by G.C. Chamberes in 1894, and also some small and simple projects for children to do while at the farm. All of the items will need to be under $1.00, very affordable, but would be a nice touch for times when Barry and I cannot be at the farm to greet or tour guests. (helps to cover photocopying costs too) Now I just have some typing and formating work to do before this will be up and running. Be sure to stop by and check it out.

While Barry worked on the new 'learning center' I weeded. Right now the weeds are both a blessing and a curse. We are so dry that the weeds are the only thing holding the moisture in the soil but also because of the heat they are already setting seed which will mean more weeds as summer progresses. I hate to remove them and expose that beautiful black dirt to the drying sun and heat but if I don't - weeds, weeds, weeds will have to be a class added to this year's schedule!
Enjoy your Independance Day,
Holly and Barry

Thursday, June 22, 2006


Yestereday was a beautiful day at the farm. We had a great giggling group of gals from the Lawton Lutheran Church - yes, Lutheran Ladies are a lot of fun. After their visit Deanna from the ND Division of Tourism showed up for a quick scout of the place before she brings the tour operators in August and finally we rounded out the day with our summer solstice laybyrinth walk. Lloyd and Bonnie Himle were with us in the class, what a great way to celebrate your anniversary. During our walk, the moose that have moved into town (two yearlings) were giving 'call' and it made a kind of eerie but fun sounds to contemplate as we walked the labyrinth.

Seems like all around the farm (Penn, Leeds, Towner, Devils Lake) has received some rain but as of 11:00 PM last night Churchs Ferry was still dry. Let's all pray for rain, we only have so many hoses and so much time. Things are powder dry out there and to be at their freshest the rhubarb and the herbs could use some moisture. My friend Christie knows how to do a rain dance that has worked in the past, I'm almost ready to give her a call.

Churchs Ferry day is this Saturday and the village will be filled with alumni and previous residents. Be sure to stop by and see what is going on. There is always good food, good door prizes, a great silent auction and at the end of the day some of the best small town fireworks I've ever seen. Barry and I will be there right away in the morning as WDAZ is coming to interview us and the I will be taking off for Minot where my nephew Brian is marrying his high school sweetheart after 10 years of dating - congrats Brian and Amy! Barry will give the tour at Churchs Ferry at 10 and then buzz to Minot to spend the rest of the day at the wedding and with family. Remember, if you're thinking of visiting the farm and need a guided tour, drop us a quick note or give a call to be sure we are there.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Rhubarb Harvest is Finally Done!

Yesterday, Sunday June 4th we finally finished the last of the rhubarb from this harvest. A lot of thanks to Alex and Casey for their hard work and help in finishing this monumental task. We'll deliver to the winery on June 15th and find out then how much we really have. I know there is at least 2,000 pounds but we'll see if there is any more than that.

Now on to the rest of the chores. There's weeding galore to do, cleaning the pond, and even some planting left. These are the good chores though - the ones I like doing. Soon we'll be into class season. Our first class - Hypertuffa planters - is already full.

Barry hung some great lanterns on the arbor this weekend. As the days grow shorter they will make great evening/night accents in the theme gardens. This last winter I wrote a grant to the ND Historical society for an interpretive sign. We received the grant with help and administration from the Devils Lake Basin Joint Water Resource Board. The sign arrived the other day and I have been busy collecting information to fill it. We hope to have it up within a week or two. Stay tuned for more information...

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Rhubarb Harvest

Memorial Day weekend is typically when we begin rhubarb harvest at the farm. Rhubarb, called pie plant in other parts of the United States, is a great plant with many uses. It is also an unusual plant to be harvesting in an area where harvest usually involves wheat, corn, or soybeans. Many people do not understand the amount of time and labor involved in the harvest of 500 rhubarb plants. This year we will remove about 2,000 pounds of rhubarb from our patch in the first harvest. The product goes to Burlington, North Dakota to the Pointe of View Winery for making rhubarb wine.

During harvest we cut (not pull) whole plants then we remove the leaves, wash it, chop it with a chopping machine rented from the winery, bag it, and then ship it off to a local freezer until the winery is ready for delivery. We'll put in about 200 man hours to complete the task.

This last weekend we had some fine workers helping us, however we still have three double rows left to harvest. We hope to complete the harvest this upcoming weekend and we are hoping some of the great young people who helped last weekend will return to finish the project. Feel free to stop by and see this interesting process. We also sell rhubarb direct to consumers so if you are looking for a few stalks to make pie, cake, or sauce - come on out. Currently rhubarb goes for $1.50 per pound.

See you there,
Barry and Holly

Welcome to gardendwellers Farm blog! Here, we will try to keep you posted about what's going on at the farm and the status of the flowers and herbs. We look forward to keeping you up to date with everything we are doing so you can best plan your visit. Barry and I would like you to know that we view the Farm as a public place, so even if we are not available when you visit, please feel free to wander around, have a picnic, or even pick a few weeds. We look forward to meeting all of you and sharing with you our passion for flowers, herbs, and the great North Dakota outdoors.