Thursday, December 13, 2007

Snowy Start to Winter
November came and with the arrival of December we have received some of the 'white stuff', yes, the 's' word - snow. Personally I love it. I know that the snow means my perennials are sleeping peacefully beneath a soft, protective blanket and that next spring there may actually be some moisture to wake them up.

We're already starting to receive inquiries about tours and speaking engagements. I would encourage anyone anticipating a visit to the farm or wanting us to speak at an event to contact us soon. Usually, right after the holidays is when we start to book up quickly and dates become unavailable in a hurry.

I'm also waiting until after the holidays - once the busy season of parties and visiting is over, I plan to work on our new web site. The site will be much more user friendly and hopefully be full of additional information for our customers. We're also hoping to add a store where you can purchase calendars and other merchandise with photos taken at the farm.
Please be sure to check back often to take a 'new look' at gardendwellers Farm.

We're also working on finalizing a few new photos for the art gallery. Many of you really enjoy our take-off on 'American Gothic'. We have two more in the works for you - 'The Flower Carrier' by Diego Rivera and 'The Angelus' by Jean Francios Millet. They should be as much fun as our original. We're hoping someday to have our own art gallery online with take-offs of many famous paintings.

For now, we wish for you a Happy Holiday season and our best wishes for
a Joyous New Year!
Barry and Holly

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Hey Everyone!
It's been a while since we had a chance to chat but that is a sign of fall, I start to get lazy and busy all at the same time.
We've completed work on the Harvest House and are now ready for some indoor classes and retreats. Please let us know if you would like to have a great place for a meeting, private class, or day long retreat for your business associates (groups of 45 or less please).
We were lucky enough to get a grant from the Division of Tourism and Department of Commerce for funding to help us complete this infrastructure. Thanks to them we are well insulated and finished and ready for the 2008 season. A great big thanks needs to go to the Towner County EDC who sponsored this grant application for us and helped us receive the funding. We hope to say thank you to them in a very special way this winter some time.

Deer season is coming and our house will fill with visitors from around the country. We will have our usual family gathering of Barry's family and mine from Tennessee, Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Carolina. Every bed will be full and the house will ring with laughter - AAAGGHHH, just the way I like it.

After deer season I'll start working on the class schedule and marketing for next year. There's plenty to do in the winter - finish up grant reports from the summer's work, send thank-you's to our wholesale customers and try to make some contacts for the next year, design and get printed the new marketing materials and of course, special projects.

This winter I would love to learn more about Letter Boxing and Geocaching. They both are take-offs of a traditional scavenger hunt. I really enjoy scavenger hunts. It will be quite the learning curve to get into either one of these but I think it would be great fun to have some hidden treasures around the farm for our guests to find. Hopefully it would also bring in some new visitors.

Here's wishing all of you a very safe hunting season and a happy Thanksgiving.
Bye for now

Friday, August 24, 2007

The days are getting shorter. That means fewer hours of daylight to work in the evenings which has made for some hectic harvests as we work to fill all of our restaurant and grocery store orders. Because of the lack of length of day - I've gone in to work late the last couple days and spent the early morning hours harvesting. Everyone should be able to spend their mornings in a garden and start their day by harvesting herbs. I've been in a MUCH better mood the last couple days at work and I'm sure it's becuase I have started both days harvesting basil or better yet, this morning, lemon verbena.

It's hard to be in a downer mood when you get those great smells, the peacefulness as the farm comes awake and the birds start their day, and the quiet rising of the sun in the morning.

I'm really excited about September 12th. You may have noticed it as an addition to the calendar. My friend Lisa Swanson Faleide has booked our farm and my services for her first venture into 'Plainswoman Presents...'
Lisa wants a forum for plainswomen everywhere to explore new things, including their spirit, faith, artistic expression, and their inner selves. She has asked me to present an interactive workshop on Rosh Hashanah. This is really exciting for me as being Jewish on the prairies can be kind of lonely - so being able to share this wonderful start to the high holy days with others is wonderful. This workshop is meant to introduce the traditions and theologies of Rosh Hashanah to people of all denominations and explain why it is important in the Jewish religion. Hopefully I'll also be able to relate how the Jewish religion is similar to the Christian religion and break down some barriers in that way. Anyway, for more information regarding this wonderful workshop - where by the way we will have a lighted labyrinth walk, a short hayride to the coulee, and other fun - please contact Lisa at
I look forward to seeing you all at the Produce Party and maybe even at "Plainswoman Presents...The Beginning of the Days of Awe"

Monday, August 13, 2007

Busy Week.

Last week was a really busy week for us. We had an excellent class on Monday night with people attending from Grand Forks, Tolna, and McHenry. We had great fun.

Side-note: I told someone in this class that I would post something to this blog for her and then - duh! I promptly forgot what I was to post, please email or call me and let me know and I'll be sure to get it right up here.

Later in the week we received news that North Dakota had been part of a Today show segment on America The Beautiful - the most beautiful things in our country. As a part of that segment, gardendwellers Farm was highlighted on MSNBC and the Today show website. Wow! What a thrill. And - it was totally unexpected. To see the series and the segment, check out this link:

Then of course it was harvest, harvest, harvest. The restaurants and grocery stores are loving our herbs. The freshness is what gets them - you can't blame them. There's nothing like fresh from the farm veggies, fruits, or herbs.

My mother stopped yesterday - she's been busy too. She brought over all of the jelly she has been making for us from the fruit that grows at the farm. There were boxes and boxes of Nanking Cherry, Chokecherry, and Black Currant syrup and jelly. We are truly blessed to have such a Mom to take care of us and help us out. She also was over on Wednesday when she leafed 10 pounds of Genovese Basil for a Sanders 1907 Restaurant delivery. Each week she usually does 5 pounds but Chef Holmes and Mom and I are all going on vacation this week so he ordered 10 pounds. Let me tell you folks, 10 pounds of leafed Basil is a LOT of Basil.

This week Mom and I will be taking off Thursday and heading for the North Dakota State Horticultural Society Annual Conference and the State Fruit and Vegetables show in Jamestown. We go every year and I am the editor of their quarterly newsletter. I've been saving my pennies so I can buy things on the silent auction and we always have lots of fun.

Hope your days are filled with Flavor!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A Bounty of Basil

Seems like the last two weeks I've had more than my fair share of dreams about drowning in Basil. Last week we started harvesting and making our deliveries to Minot and Grand Forks. This truly is my favorite time of year as nothing is better than pounds and pounds of fresh herbs all around you.

This year for the first time we are dealing with packaging and labeling - seems the grocery stores kind of like them that way! Apparantly my fears about that were unfounded as well because Tracey at Marketplace Foods loved our labels and packages.

We've also had some great classes the last two weeks. Last week was 'cooking with herbs' and we had a full class. Everyone had a blast and the weather cooperated for our class so we had a great time. This weeks class was 'herbal wreaths'. We had 8 people in the class and the wreaths turned out beautifully. A great big thanks to all the people who come out to take our classes. We sure have fun meeting all of you and visiting as we have our outdoor gatherings! Next weeks class is Home Made Beauty. There is still room in the class so if you'd like to learn to make a lavendar sachet, bath oils, bath salts, or other beauty products - give us a call or email us to sign up. Everything we'll make will be yours to take home or give as a gift and we'll make them from herbs and flowers from our garden. This is one of my favorite classes so please join us.

Tonight I'll go home and start to harvest again - more and more and more basil - for delivery to the grocery store and the restaurants tomorrow and then the cycle starts over. I guess that's how nature is - one cycle after another, always growing, and always appreciating the beauty along the way.
Happy Summer

Monday, June 18, 2007

Animal Spirits

Every once in a while, the higher spirit sends us a message. Several times in the past 5 years, that higher power has sent me messages through what many native americans call 'Animal Spirit Guides' or 'Animal Spirits'. The trouble with an animal spirit guide is you have to interpret what they are trying to tell you.

Just like when your dog gives you that look - you know the one - the look you get when you have just poured your heart out to your furry friend and their head tilts, their eyes get wide, their nose flares, and you wonder whether they just smell the neighbors grilling steak or if they really understood the importance of what you just told them. Animal spirit guides are a lot like that.

Not that long ago, a wolf spirit visited me. It was almost freightening and kind of scary until I thought about it. Wolves are intelligent pack animals with a heightened sense of surroundings. The females care deeply for their pack. When she visited me, I began to look deeply at what she might be trying to tell me. After much meditation and contemplation I figured it out.

Several years ago I had a guide visit that transformed from one animal into another. This guide was telling me to trust myself and that although some rain may fall, it wouldn't spoil our plans for the Produce Party.

This past week I have been visited by Moths. Two rather large moths actually. The first one showed up at the college - a large Cecropia moth and the other showed up the next day at the farm, a polyphemus moth. Both are large impressive, beautiful creatures. Both stayed put for hours before just disappearing. Both moths were not listed as being commonly sighted in our county according to the NDSU extension web site. Both were out of their natural territories. Both were trying to tell me something. Now it is up to me to determine their message. Was it that change, like the moths' transformation, is something we need to embrace. Was it their quiet stillness and beauty reminding me to slow down and enjoy the simple beauty life has to offer? I guess I'll have to do a little more thinking and until I figure it out, I guess I'll just marvel at G-d's little miracles and bless the heavens that I got to be a part of it.
Take Care

Friday, June 15, 2007

All things Considered...

Those of us with a few wrinkles and gray hair will remember this phrase, from our parents and maybe from Prairie Public Radio. It's not a phrase that gets used much anymore and certainly not by the next generations. It came to me last night as I was weeding.

Yesterday I decided to look for more plants to fill the bible garden. I received a wonderful donation last fall for the bible garden which I used to purchase a small garden ornament, a plaque with the requested inscription, and some daffodil bulbs but the garden still has some empty spots. I quickly printed off the internet a listing of plants from the bible and last night while weeding I went over the list. Mustard (Matt. 13:31-32; Mark 4:31-32; Luke 13:18-19), Grass (1 Kings 18:5; Job 4015; Ps. 104:14), Thistle, also mentioned but no reference given, and ash Isa 44:14. As I looked at the 'weeds' in the bible garden, I realized all of these were pieces that were already growing in the garden and that my spade was ready to pull out. I wondered how many times in life do we cull those things that have value without realizing it? How many times do we overlook the things we see everyday in favor of something new or splahy? Like the crow, are we always looking for the shiny piece of silver to feather our nest only to forget the practical? All things considered, I left the 'weeds' in the bible garden for now. I'm sure I'll fill in with more 'slash' later, but for now the ash seedlings, the mustard, thistle and grass are safe.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Building an Ark and Lots to be Thankful for!

As many folks have noticed, we've got a little building project underway. With over 9 inches of rain in the last 4 weeks, we're telling them that we are building an ark. Really it is a multi-purpose building that will serve as classroom, harvest room, distillation room, extra sleeping quarters, storage,and more! That's a lot to pack into a little space, maybe we need the folks from Mission Organization on HGTV to come and help us out!

Thanks MUST go out to John and Daniel - the fine young men who helped us with rhubarb harvest - they were great workers. Also a BIG thanks to Uncle Jim Wilkie, Taylor, and Nephew Brian for their help in putting up rafters this weekend - without them the ark would not have a roof skeleton! Thanks everyone. We also need to thank our son Adam and his girlfriend Rin who came to help with Rhubarb harvest and although we had a nice time visiting, flying kites, having a campfire - I know that we worked those kids hard. We really appreciate their help.

We also need to say thanks to Connie and Louise Nelson for returning the dahlias and cannas again this year. They donated them to the Churchs Ferry garden several years ago and have been taking care of winter storage every year. I really am thankful for these wonderful women.

A big thanks goes out to Eric Woodard and Sheila Moser - both of who helped us out at an auction by watching out for items we wanted after we had to leave. Eric was able to get a wagon wheel for us for the Churchs Ferry garden and Sheila brought a book that Barry had his eye on. What wonderful people!

Lastly, the gardens. With all this rain the gardens are full of weeds. The theme gardens are starting to come into flower and look great from a distance but those of you that are gardeners will notice the almost knee high weeds if you get up close. It seems like planting is taking me forever this year as I still have things that need to go in the ground inclduing 20 high bush cranberry, some lemon verbena, the second succession of basil, the cilantro, dill, and others, a few tomatoes for personal use and some climbing vines. The rain has been great for transplanting, little or no shock to the plants, but it has meant the soil is so soaked that I just can't get on it very often. We're hoping for a little moderation in the rain department from here on out - or we'll have to convert the multi-purpose building to an ark for sure!
Have a great week.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Busy time at the gardens!
It seems there are too many things to do and not enough time in the day lately.

Tonight I'm hoping to seed the rest of the herbs and plant a few plants out of the greenhouse. I'm fairly confident in the weather now so the tender stuff should get out of the greenhouse and into the ground. The asters are looking spectacular and the snapdragons too. The lemon verbena arrived in great form the other day and it is crying to get out. If the rain holds off tonight I should be able to get the lions share of all of this done.

The pond needs cleaning and now that we have a new pump that chore should be an easy one. The medieval garden needs revamping as the grass has taken over and we're building a brick entrance to the labyrinth.

Speaking of building, the concrete for the Harvest House is poured and set and the lumber was delivered yesterday. I expect at least preliminary building will start on that this weekend. It will be so nice to have a place to hold classes if the weather goes bad and a place to clean and package herbs inside. I can't wait until it is all finished. We're hoping it is up and looking good way before the Produce Party in September.

The perennials are up and looking good and I can't wait to see some color in the gardens again, we're only about 4 weeks away from that. By July we should look really good.

We're still waiting on the arrival of the still. The shippers tell us it should be here in 7 to 10 days. Not soon enough for Barry who is really anxious to check it out before the herbs are ready for distillation. This is another thing we hope to have all figured out and ready to showcase this fall at the Produce Party.

I hope all of you are out playing in the garden and having a blast. Take Care.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Spring is definitely here!
The last couple weeks have been very busy for us. We've had a visit from Amity Moore of AAA Living magazine and Annette Schilling of the ND Division of Tourism. Amity will be writing a piece about ND Learning Based Vacations later this summer and was here to visit all of the wonderful places she'll be writing about. We had a great visit and even joined the pair for supper at the Ranch.

We also had a great time with Nancy Crowfoot and Phil her camera man from Iowa Public Television's series Market to Market. We'll be featured on Market to Market, which airs on Public Television at noon on Saturdays some time within the next month or so. We spent most of the day with them and found them to be truly delightful. Nancy and Phil also interviewed Paul Christensen, our mayor, for added commentary on rural development in Churchs Ferry.

The rains from this last weekend and the heat this week have the rhubarb growing like mad so we'll be on schedule for rhubarb harvest on Memorial Day weekend and the following week just like previous years. We are happy that our son, Adam, will be able to come home and help again. We really appreciate the time he takes off from work to come home and help us out. Besides, it really great to see him.

If the weather keeps up like this, I am hoping to get the seeding and some transplanting done this week. The lemon verbena was shipped from Ottaway yesterday, the hazelnuts should be on their way within a week or so and the seedlings in the greenhouse are screaming to get out. We've already had plenty of visitors, even though the flowers and herbs are not much to see at this time, and Barry is working hard to finish little projects that help to give us a more polished look.

Last night he finished a new highway sign that is visible for those traveling from the north and today he hopes to finish a new bench that will replace my poor example of a grass bench - that never grew - for the George Christianson memorial bench by the pond. He's been mowing like mad and trying desparately to finish plans for the harvest house which we will be building this spring. Concrete company problems and leveling have delayed this process. By now, we were hoping to have the concrete in place and ready for walls but sometimes things don't always go as planned.

To all of our friends - please be sure to plan your calendars around a stop to visit - we enjoy seeing all of you.
Happy Spring!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

So many people have asked us if we’re ready to get into the dirt, if we’ve already started to plant, and if we’ve started the seeds yet. What most people don’t realize is that at this time of year I’m busy finishing the marketing for the summer. There are many little details that need tending before I can even think about getting into the field.

We’re finishing the schedule for the Produce Party. That means we’ve lined up most of the demonstrators and started planning the posters, fliers, and advertisements. We’ve even started lining up the prizes for the contests.

We’ve been very busy booking tours and groups to visit the farm and will have an out of state guest hosted by the ND Tourism Division later this month in hopes of booking some additional bus tours. This visit means assembling a package of brochures and fliers with options for visitors.

Speaking of brochures, we’ve just received a shipment of 5000 new brochures that need folding. These brochures will be circulated to the Devils Run and Peace Officer convention participants in hopes of getting more visitors to the FARM.

We’re also very busy working on our contract customers, such as restaurants and this year even a Minot grocery store. The grocery store brings with it a whole new set of challenges – packaging and labeling. It took us a while to find a supplier for the right packages for herbs and now we need to settle the labels. We’ve wanted to design and have printed some custom labels that would include our logo and have a space for the name of the herb. The containers would also have stickers from the North Dakota Farmers Market and Growers Association that advertise our product as North Dakota grown. We’ve even considered a custom sticker for the back that would include a recipe but we’re not sure we can afford that. So far, the only custom label and sticker maker we’ve found is Frontier Label. If anyone has any other ideas, please drop me a note.

Barry has been working on spring clean up – branches and leaves and I’ve been tied to the computer finishing up these details. We do have some seeds started and I was able to get the temporary greenhouse up this weekend. As soon as we can get the temperature regulated we’ll start moving our little seedlings from the bath tub out into the real world.

So for now, it’s type, type, type – order, plan, design and return phone calls. I’ll see you all out in the dirt soon enough I hope. For now, take care and enjoy the sunshine.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Happy Spring?
Seems our Mother Nature is just out to tease us here in the North country. We have been vacillating between 45 degrees Fahrenheit above and 7 inches of snow and blowing wind for several weeks now. I'm ready for gardendwellers season.

We're already gearing up for Rhubarb harvest and my mouth is already watering thinking of rhubarb pie, strawberry rhubarb jam, rhubarb sauce over ice cream, rhubarb bread pudding, rhubarb cookies, and the list goes on. Last year at our Chef's appreciation day, where we treated our customer chef's to a nice lunch and tour, we featured a nice pork loin with rhubarb marinade. It was great. Being the first crop of the season to be harvested, rhubarb is always a signal of the beginning of the gardendwellers year to me.

The Rosemary, Lavender, Chamomile, and several other varieties of seedlings are sprouting in our makeshift greenhouse. Their little bits of green give hints of good things to come this summer. I've also seeded the Artemisia or Sweet Annie we'll use in the herbal wreath class. I love its spicy aroma that blends so well with the other herbs. Each weekend from now until April ends we have more seeds to start early and then as soon as we feel the last frost has come and gone we will begin seeding outdoors. Basil is always one of the last to be seeded as it HATES frost. Dill, Cilantro, the Parsleys - yes three kinds this year - and fennel will be the first ones to go in. Some of the perennial herbs like Winter Savory, Thyme, Lemon Balm, Chives, and Sage will start greening up as soon as the robins are back.

I'm terribly excited this year as we are trying a new herb - Lemon Verbena. We tested it last year and it grew very well so I went ahead and ordered 120 of them, or was it 240? Either way, I'm hoping to have plenty of this amazingly lemon plant to sell for culinary, aromatic, or decorative purposes.

Can't wait to see all of you! Think Spring Thoughts.
Holly Rose

Monday, February 26, 2007

Hello all of our gardening friends,
As some of you may have heard, we have just received an APUC (Agricultural Products Utilization Commission) grant for $9,000. This is for a research grant that we proposed in cooperation with Lake Region State College. The money will be used to purchase a stainless steel steam distillation unit, to pay student researchers and a head researcher at the college and pay their travel to and from the farm. We will work on finding the best conditions for distilling essential oils from the herbs that we grow. Hopefully this research will benefit many small companies across North Dakota that produce products using essential oils such as soap companies, health and beauty products companies and more. It also means a new demonstration at this years' Produce Party. Watch for more information on that as September draws closer.
It was fun to see the grant results in the paper. After our presentation Barry and I thought that we had blown it and there wasn't a snowballs chance in you know where that we would get the grant - and then WOW - There it was. Every season we throw away many many pounds of Basil, Spearmint, and other herbs that are either not restaurant quality or will not take a freeze in the fall. In this way we can utilize those herbs and turn them into a useful product for either gardendwellers Farm or for other small companies like Aromaprairie in Minot who makes the most delicious smelling body sprays.
In the middle of all of this excitement, we have been very busy dealing with health problems of our parents. My mother had a total knee replacement and Barry's father has had some heart and health problems that have landed him in a nursing home in Minnesota. It's nice that we are able to help but we wish we could do more. We're happy to report that both parents are on the road to recovery.
Spring is definitely close as we have also been very busy on the road with speaking engagements. All of the locals must be sick of hearing from us as this year most of our engagements have been farther away from home. We spoke in Aberdeen SD a few weeks ago and had a great time there. On Wednesday we will be speaking in Mandan at the Farm Credit Services Ag day and we are also booked later this month in New Rockford and LaMoure. Keep checking back to see where we'll be next.
Thanks to all who supported us through the grant process and through our busy times of late.