Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Field to Vase

This week, I had the pleasure of having a piece I wrote appear on the Field to Vase blog. Many of the pictures have been posted here already, but I couldn't resist since it involves two of my favorite subjects: my flowers and my boys.

You can check out the Field to Vase website here.
Farming with Children
by  Kristin Burrello of Muddy Feet Flower Farm
When our oldest son approached kindergarten age, my husband and I thought long and hard about the kind of environment in which we wanted to raise our boys. We examined the pros and cons of raising urban children. After 20 years of living in Chicago, we began fantasizing about moving to the country where the boys could romp and be free to explore. I dreamed about starting a flower farm so I began taking landscape design classes at the Chicago Botanic Gardens and enrolled in the Farm Beginnings training.field-to-vase-muddy-feet-flower-farm-9field-to-vase-muddy-feet-flower-farm-6In 2010, we fell head-over-heels for an old farmhouse on a dirt road in surprisingly rural and beautiful eastern Connecticut, with two sunny acres of horse pasture, an additional acre with a pond, and a falling down barn full of bats. With record rainfall that Spring and two small boys (soon there would be three!) running barefoot in and out of the house, Muddy Feet Flower Farm was born. The house was perfect inside and a blank slate outside. We slowly began landscaping the property for the business – a project I estimate will take ten years.field-to-vase-muddy-feet-flower-farm-7My reasons for starting a farm ran deeper than a mere obsession with flowers and gardening. I wanted to go back to work and start a business from home where I could exercise my type-A personality and be a stay-at-home mom. I wanted the boys to see what it was like to create something by following a passion and tackling a steep learning curve. I wanted them to learn where food (and food for the soul) comes from. And I wanted them to learn the value of hard work.field-to-vase-muddy-feet-flower-farm-1The boys have been challenged by the relentless demands of Mom working and the sheer amount of time I spend tending the flowers. I’ve come to expect eyes brimming over with tears and a heart wrenching, “I think you love the flowers more than me,” at least once per season. I’m always amazed, and somewhat intimidated, when I hear other farmers talk about how their kids are out in the field with them working happily by their side. While I harbor dreams of blissful family unity and boys who love to pick peonies by the thousands, the truth is getting them actively engaged in farm work takes a whole lot of planning, patience, rewards, and consequences.field-to-vase-muddy-feet-flower-farm-8My oldest son began going to farmers markets with me when he was seven. Now ten, he’s got three years under his belt and has gone from sampling every pastry at the market and playing hacky-sack with the oyster farmer, to loading and unloading the car, re-filling buckets, helping schlep the tent, chatting with customers, collecting money and making change, and designing tight beautiful bouquets. He lines the front of our table with small jars of textural and colorful flowers. Customers ask specifically for his bouquets. In fact, he has gotten so confident in his design skills he now feels free to correct me on my flower choices and style, and sneaks into the barn at night to help us with wedding flowers.field-to-vase-muddy-feet-flower-farm-11field-to-vase-muddy-feet-flower-farm-12My middle son will work only if he gets paid. The bucket washing? $.10/ bucket. Or an hour of iPad time. He’ll do just about anything for an hour of iPad time.field-to-vase-muddy-feet-flower-farm-10field-to-vase-muddy-feet-flower-farm-14Our youngest, now three-and-a-half, is curious and willing, and loves to help with tasks as long as it’s done his way. He’s captivated by worms and sticks and peeing outside this season. I can’t wait to introduce him to praying mantises and camping in our backyard. He also wanders off and disappears, and I spend several frantic minutes racing around making sure he’s not swimming with the tadpoles or trying to drive the tractor.
field-to-vase-muddy-feet-flower-farm-15
field-to-vase-muddy-feet-flower-farm-3field-to-vase-muddy-feet-flower-farm-13Being a mother in this day and age is full of stress and worry. There are too many options and electronic distractions. Children don’t understand what it means to wait for something, that there’s gratification in the anticipation of an event. Farming teaches patience. If you plant a seed, take care of it and wait, something wonderful will happen. But you can’t control it. You can only nurture and hope that it will grow and blossom. I want my boys to bask in their childhood, not rush through it staring at a screen. I want them to learn the simple complexity of living close to the earth. And so we farm.
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Friday, July 11, 2014

a week in the life of the muddy feet flower farmer

it has been a crazy few weeks. we always buckle our seat belts when we sit down and map out our schedules for june into july; school ends, Jotham is gone teaching at the Yale summer writing conference, and there are endless flats of plants to get into the ground. harvesting the flowers takes more time each week, which means more buckets to be washed and more flowers to be sorted, bunched, bouquet-ed, sold. farmers markets are in full swing. and let's not forget, wedding season is upon us.




in case you were wondering what the pace of life is like at muddy feet flower farm, here's a blow-by-blow of my life last week:

saturday, june 28: cut, shop, make and deliver wedding flowers saturday afternoon to a lovely home across the street from martha stewart's first house on turkey hill. I pull over to reflect for a moment. there are two martha's that taught me to appreciate the good things: martha stewart and my mother.

my beautiful mom, with my brother

sunday, june 29: up at 5:00 am. cut for the morning market. normally I cut the day before a market and prep at night, but I was so exhausted from the wedding, I drank a large glass of wine and went to bed. this morning, with my handsome husband by my side, we race to get me flowers to sell. the coventry regional farmers market is the biggest and busiest in the state, if not in all of new england. the nice thing for me is that it is two towns over, right here in eastern ct.


11:00 am: the market is hot and busy, and my side-kick son wilts in the heat right alongside the flowers.

4:00 pm: home to the arrival of our girls!


five barred rock hens, one for each of us to name. this is our first foray into raising chickens. they kind of freak me out. the baby's teacher raised them from chicks and brings them to our home in cat carriers. jotham serves roast chicken for supper.


monday, june 30: up early to drive the boys to the beach in massachusetts. the boys have sailing lessons at 9:00. I get to spend the day.


tuesday, july 1: up early to drive home. it's hard to leave the boys, knowing I won't see them until friday. I linger until they leave for golf. jotham shoves me in the car. at home, my helper, bram, is here burning more holes in more landscape fabric and playing with the chickens. I sweep up the scattered remains of the wedding flowers and clean the cooler. I catch up on emails and proposals for future events. tuesdays are my office day. I watch out the window as our cat discovers the chickens. he creeps across the lawn and crouches. I wait for the pounce. after 15 minutes he gets up, bored, and walks away. nervous about getting the chickens in their coop, I am relieved when they march up the ramp on their own at 8:00 pm sharp. I harvest flowers and pull weeds until I can't see any more.


wednesday, july 2 (12:00 am):  I am at the kitchen table trying to be a good social media marketer when I hear a weird buzzing hum coming from the upstairs hallway. as I creep up the stairs, I notice millions of small gnats buzzing around the lights that line the hall. it is straight out of a horror movie! I spend the next 1 1/2 hours vacuuming the ceiling and drop into bed after 2:00 am.

6:00 am: I oversleep. (really, since when is 6:30 oversleeping?) up and out to the field. hurricane arthur is bearing down. there is much to do before the rain. I seed 3500 sunflower seeds and step on a bee. my first bee sting of 2014! bee stings and I don't get along. I usually lose knuckles, knee caps, elbows because I swell so badly. I'm not in the mood for a club foot this week. I deliver flowers to our local co-op grocery store just as it starts to rain. 

thursday, july 3: 6:00 am. market day. I forget to close the gate on my way in to let the chickens out and when I turn to leave three of them have gotten out. I race around in 100% humidity trying to get them back inside their fenced in area (have I mentioned that chickens freak me out?) I'm leaving for the day and I can't leave them! what if they get into the flower beds, or a hawk comes or...?! after 15 minutes, I get them back in. the heat and humidity are dreadful and I'm soaked. the market is busy and my sweet peas fly from my stand. their scent in the air makes me nauseous by day's end.



when I arrive home, the sky is an ominous steel grey. the car is barely in park, and I dash out to the field to cut before the storm. now, the absolute last thing in the world I want to do is cut flowers. I'd rather have my teeth drilled. but I'd be a fool not to harvest everything before the inevitable deluge. the sky is like watching fireworks in an arena with paparazzi capturing every instant. I stand in the middle of the dirt road and watch the heat lightning, the lightning bolts and the zillions of fireflies put on an electrifying show.

friday, july 4: the beach front parade is cancelled in massachusetts, so the boys drive home to spend the day. we get 5" of rain. jotham plants a crabapple tree in the chicken's yard because they need more shelter. everyone helps me make subscription bouquets and we pack up and drive back to the beach for a leisurely weekend with family and friends, and my husband steals the show once again, stilt walking in the 4th of July (actually 6th of July this year) parade.

note the boutonniere!


Saturday, July 5, 2014

{this moment}

. . . .  . . . .

"A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember." borrowed & inspired by soule mama


Friday, June 20, 2014

{this moment}

. . . .  . . . .

"A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember." borrowed & inspired by soule mama


Thursday, June 12, 2014

seasonal bouquet alliance/backyard bouquets (june 12)

last summer, I got in the habit of leaving leftover flowers on an old chair outside of my workshop/barn at the end of the week. soon, I noticed a beat-up green truck stopping, gravel crunching, door opening, silence then a loud, peace-shattering exclamation as the woman scooped up the blooms and skipped back to her truck. this became a weekly ritual.

I've come to learn a lot about her. she is my neighbor. she was in a terrible motorcycle accident and suffered severe brain trauma. she loves plants and brings me gifts more often than my husband is comfortable with. she howled when I told her that gomphocarpus was called "oscar's hairy balls". and her boyfriend of 16 years just left her, and she asked that I keep an eye out for her.


(bouquet includes allium shubertii, Nectaroscordum, weigelia, dutch iris, peony, bordo anenome, fiddlehead fern, baptisia, columbine and pond grass)

today, I set a bouquet on the chair and dashed inside to grab my camera before rushing off to deliver it to the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry. just as I reached the threshold, the familiar truck screeched to a stop and I knew. when I reached her, she was clutching the flowers, sobbing.

I wish I was that thoughtful. I wish I had let her take the flowers. tomorrow I will leave one just for her, but it won't be the same.


Saturday, June 7, 2014

farmers go shopping at eileen fisher

the westport farmers market had a small fund-raising event today at the eileen fisher store in westport, ct.


a handful of vendors set up a mini market inside the sleek fashion boutique.


the best part of the day was the generous discount the store offered us. I headed straight to the sale rack and scored a little black dress, thank you very much!