A Funny Thing Happened in 2015…

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Annabella Charles Photography

A funny thing happened when I took on everything at once: photo shoots, articles, weddings, graduating college, and farming over and acre of flowers in one year. It turns out you can do and have it all, but something may have to be put on pause. That something, was my blogging; which until 2015 was steady as a seasoned sailor’s boat.

Annabella Charles Photography

This post feels a bit new; a first chute, an unfurled leaf, testing the air above ground. Here we are at the beginning of 2016. I say “the beginning” in February because I honestly live better on the Chinese New Year calendar than I ever have fared on the January 1st New Year method. The entire month of January is best suited for regrouping as well as staying indoors a little bit more in our minds and in our physical homes. It is a good time for cleaning, restructuring, paperwork, and planning.

 Deepening the Roots:

January heals my body and my heart as I de-clutter the home and defragment the soul. This sentiment is shared especially among friends and fellow farmers as we transform the past lessons, (the highlights to the downright scary events), into future plans for success and growth. Seasonal careers are like that for many people and it’s a passion and privilege to work hard when nature does, and grow deeper roots when the surface remains still.

In the past, I worked in a more quarterly-based, corporate calendar environment. It was difficult to enjoy December’s celebrations when I knew January 1st was right around the corner. New Year parties and holidays usually brought with them questions of new resolutions that I wasn’t ready to answer. I wanted a moment to pause, to reflect, and to tidy up last year’s remnants!

Now I notice that the more I harmonize my life with the outside world, the better I make use of January as a whole. The feelings of starting every calendar year “behind”, have now shifted to anticipation and excitement. I look forward to the first month of the year for renewal of my path, goals, and overall direction. This builds confidence to proceed at a faster pace than my former days of pushing ahead too soon and planning “as I go”. A lot of mental and physical energy is required to remember, learn from, and store the highlights of 365 days worth of living. It is ok to move at a slower pace for a little while.

Annabella Charles Photography

A Look Back at Last Year’s Milestones:

Experience, learning, preparation, mindfulness, and being surrounded by trustworthy people –  These were last year’s huge personal goals and tackling them has moved mountains! I dove into learning larger scale flower farming, creating better routines in business, and developing trusting relationships.

In 2015 , noteworthy highlights included being named as a top flower designer in Martha Stewart Weddings magazine, a four page education article in Flower magazine, and developing a brand name of local flowers sold in the heart of my city. I also finished a college degree and closed a business chapter in events and weddings, to more fully pursue teaching and farming. 2015 was wild, and I worked hard to also spend as much quality time possible with my dearest family and friends. I studied and embraced the power of a better life through nature. My family and I began living in tandem with nature. We chipped away at dependency on packaged items and the plastic, breaking the old habits when possible. It was the beginning of a long and worthy process that still continues.

These experiences and many others, have brought a new perspective that has changed my life in the best ways. I wish for everyone, the very same clarity, elevation, and openness. Whether the start of an evolution or propellant to continue one, I look forward to posing new and interesting questions, finding amazing facts to share, and sharing visuals from a life with flowers. It is through this window into our world, that my family and I aim to inspire positive changes in the lives of others.

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Left: Flower Magazine October 2015 Cover. Right: Feature Article Photo by Annabella Charles Photography

Now We Have Arrived:

After a long and snowy January, we are here. February 8 is the beginning of the Lunar New Year and I am ready! Are you ready? The seeds are sprouting, the cool flowers are greening, the earth is holding on to a few more winter weeks and then … what happens next depends on what we are all willing to put into ourselves, our inner circles, our community, and our businesses.

2016 Projections:

It is a thrill to announce that 2016 looks to be a bountiful year at the farm, in both a spiritual nature and in flower production! As I type this post there are cold hardy flowers in the ground, bulbs sprouting, seedlings in trays, and spreadsheets full of plans for the millions of seeds I have collected over the fall and winter.

Our plans include the usual hard work but with more mindful pauses, so we can truly offer a wider view to our world. I will be filling this blog with as many useful and entertaining posts possible: Flowers, Fun, Farming, Friends. All the while my family and I are on our own journey. It’s a lifetime of practice as we strive to move both forward in progress and backward in method; rediscovering the simple ways of living fully, naturally, and happily, on Earth. We would like to truly thank you for your time spent here. It is our pleasure to share the magic of flowers with you!

 

What About You?

What are you planning to

master?

conquer?

give?

receive?

honor?

do?

fulfill?

tear down?

build?

accept?

achieve?

 

 

 


Field Trip: Floret Flower Farm in Washington State {Part 2}

In case you are wondering about the title, the phrase “Field Trip” reminds me of when we would get to travel by bus during grade school and learn abroad for a day. The trips were usually to museums or farms and I loved every minute. I find as an adult, I still do.

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Part 1 of this journey to the Floret Flower Farm and workshop was through my own camera and perspective. Now I offer a real treat because this post (Part 2) is composed of the highlights of Chris Benzakein’s photos. I am grateful for the photos for many reasons. They are a beautifully documented reminder of our adventure as strangers in a beautiful land sharing meals, ideas, hugs, and help to one another, as well as way for us to get over the desire to post only photos of our flowers and arrangements as not the person behind the magic. It makes sense when I think of what I love to see on other artist’s journals and instagram accounts, which is photos of people in their environment; a human connection and not just the finished product.

If we thought photos of ourselves was the last test of our self image, we were all in for a bit of a surprise later that week when a film crew from a tiny company (just kidding) called Martha Stewart Omnimedia stopped by to film Erin for the American Made competition. For the record, it was a lot less intimidating than I thought. Though I had reservations when I saw the equipment in the back of their SUV, I was instead surrounded by a crew of three truly warm, friendly, and professional people who were as approachable as a friend. We were excited and inspired to find out that Erin had won the design category in a contest designed to highlight the best in creative businesses across our large and diverse country.

The workshop at Floret Flower Farm was divided into three parts over three days and photographed by Chris Benzakein the entire process. All of the photos below are by him with the exceptional treat of having my final arrangement photographed by Georgianna Lane which I will note in the caption.

Day one was a full of farm planning and extremely useful hands on work while learning how Floret does everything from soil preparation and seeds, to cutting, packaging, and selling their flowers wholesale.

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2Day two was flower harvesting (so AMAZING) in the fields of dahlias, mums, greens, celosia, zinnias, and more. It absolutely shows in these moments just how happy we all were in the glorious sunshine doing what we love the most. These photos inspire me to move forward with all of the very un-pretty ground work required to make fields into flower filled heavenly rows.

3Erin and Sue Prutting from White Magnolia are knee deep in some jaw dropping dusty pink button dahlias.

 

 

 

4 Tania C. of Windrose Flowers in Illinois holding the most delicious bunch of Crichton Honey Dahlias. This face says it all, I love this photo so much.

 

5A gorgeous mix of button dahlias cut by the sweet, knowledgeable, and tenacious Amanda C. from Cook’s Market.

 

5bRachel from Alaska Stems is another pro in this lineup of cutting photos. She was cutting and banding bunches so fast!

 

5cSerene and heart filled Lindsey is holding the mystical Cafe Au Lait Dahlia here in the sunshine. Look for her upcoming flower farm of Grown/Gathered/Styled blooms in Tampa, FL!

 

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6aKatie from Sacred Bough Farm is holding all kinds of fall mums, she and the mums are both strong and wonderful to be around.

7Of course after spending some time in the experimental dahlia patch I headed straight for the one I think is queen of them all, the Appleblossom!

Day three was design work with Erin in a lovely barn that is owned by a dream family who believes in creating a home-like and inviting place for artisans to gather and create. I want to meet them and kiss them on the forehead, then later in my own life I want to create a haven like that here for artists in Tennessee!8 Here Erin is showing us how she makes a fresh natural arrangement with her fresh (I am talking FRESH) product.

9Eileen T. mindfully and happily gathers stems for her arrangement in the sunlit barn. She is a born organizer and so sincerely caring.

10Kay Davies of Martin and the Magpie came all the way across America from the UK and is the most charming, witty, funny woman. I just love her honesty and spirit!

10bRachel from Alaska Stems is working on her masterpiece. Often this is how it’s done, lovely vase, amazing flowers and… an overturned bucket.

11Here is part of the’Martha Stewart three’ filming for American Made. The entire barn was overflowing with buckets of flowers, flower lovers, and even cameras filming flowers! (I sense a theme here).

13 Erin’s lovely arrangement in the most gorgeous fall shades photographed by Chris Benzakein. I think it is spellbinding in placement and color, plus the flower quality is so overwhelmingly good.

12Janet C. of Redwood Roots Farm is so full of fun and vitality with a never ending supply of optimism, you can see it here on her face! Thanks for holding the screen for our photo session with Georgianna Lane.

14 Georgianna Lane for KWMy final arrangement was is inspired by the color of strawberry patches from  white flower to ripe berry and photographed by the sweet, the patient, the talented, Georgianna Lane.  I loved all of the enormous greens and went wild with the size and abundance, yet Georgianna did not once pout for a more petite creation to photograph and instead took in every leaf with her lens. Meeting her was a gift. Thank you!

With all of the new information learned in October, I plan on enjoying this same level of superior quality and quantity in my farming, designing, teaching, and sharing with the floral community when our flowers and foliage take shape this season on our own soil.

15The class of Floret October 2014: A beautiful bunch of farmer/florist friends I hope to keep for a long time! There are so many more photographs of each of these amazing women and I can’t wait to share more of their stories on the blog this year, but in the meantime here is a gift, the link to each of their instagram or social media accounts is connected to their names below!

Back Left to Right: Kristin, Amanda, Allison, Sarah, Erin B. (a little hidden), LindseyJanet,  and Katie.

 Middle Row: Sue, Eileen, Rachel, Erica, and Tania.

Front: Vanessa, Kay, Me, and Toni.  Not in Photo: Margaux B.

I saved the best for last, this is such a great group of women. I miss them so much already and was humbled time and time again when every one of them, each in their own time and own way, helped me through the very spiritual journey of traveling to a new physical and emotional destination. You ladies made as much of an impact as the flowers and the lessons, and I am grateful for each one of you.

 


Field Trip: Floret Flower Farm in Washington State {Part 1}

1There are truly no words to describe a moment like the one I had when I first walked onto the grounds of Floret flower farm. Although I do not often watch TV or movies, this is one of those rare times where I can only liken it to a scene such as the one in the original film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. That first look into the confection dream world where everyone wanders around in a land of pure imagination touching candy flowers quiet in disbelief, was happening to me; only these were real flowers and this was not fiction. Perhaps I had imagined I would prance and sing, “The hills are alive!…”, but that did not happen as I had wished it to. It was either shock or joy that led me through the rows of dahlias and hoop houses full of floral surprises (and one territorial rooster) like those wide eyed children pawing at the giant candy plants in that wonderful movie scene.

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Erin and Chris opened their doors and themselves to our barrage of questions, photos, and note taking on their every word. They are simply a wonderful team whom any romantic like myself would root for sailing smoothly through every challenge life will ever offer them. I think the best part of listening to them talk and watching them interact is that they admitted to tiffs, being nerdy, making mistakes, and celebrating like fools in the flower patches. To me it was and always is the realness that counts most.

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I did my best to listen to every word, but at times my poor brain was overloaded with the stress of trying to listen like a good workshop attendee and it would wander. Chris likely is saying something important here about the geranium and the greenhouse, but who can concentrate when they smell and see this?

So we need to have a just moment here dedicated to just the Café Au Lait and like dahlias in the hoop houses here. They are simply like nothing on earth. Period. They were bigger than a platter and so healthy and tolerant of sitting out for days without refrigeration of any kind! WHAT!!?? The dahlias we get shipped into my city are quite fragile and petite compared to this. If I only had seen those 3 rows, I likely still would be motivated to create more product for our region here in TN. I honestly think these dahlias wouldn’t have stunned me any more even if they were made of candy. No pesticide. No hormones. Wow.

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Here we see the fall crop of Sweet Peas. Look at those beautiful babies who are going to grow up to become 7 foot vines of heavenly flowers.

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So the main point I would like to share about this experience is that I learned enough during the beautiful time at Floret to keep our own farm going strong. I saw firsthand that farming is as easy or difficult physically depending on what you want to come out of it and how much money you have, but that money is not going to get in the way of everything you want to accomplish and grow. Money is just going to make it easier because you can buy better equipment as you have more to invest in upgrades and staff. Farming is a simple practice that is as old as time. Those who are most successful love what they do, and are not afraid to listen to others, try and fail, try again, and work hard. That’s the bottom line and the nuances learned by research or seeking those with experience are out there to find. I made so many wonderful farmer florist friends that I hope to have for life (more on each of these amazing women coming up in my future posts, as well as photos from Chris Benzakein and Georgianna Lane!).  I’m so glad I was able to visit Floret to catch a preview of what is possible on my own land and hear a large portion of their advice, as well as the advice and practices from farmers all over the globe, in a three day intensive.  It was worth the journey for my nature loving heart, my sense of community, and the future of my farm.

(I also think that the adorable truck sold me on the notion that I need a little vehicle to fill with flowers. It’s just so fun and practical! Hauling buckets all my life and now to see this? I’m a Jeep woman myself, so maybe the world’s oldest Willys Jeep will show up in my life, needing a good retirement home. I can dream can’t I?)

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Erin, Chris, and the entire team at the farm, including some surprise guests like Sue Prutting and Angie Tomey, really left me with not only a great deal of wonderful information and experience, but also many questions I needed to ask myself before I found the answers that were right for me, my family, and the future of my farm. I will leave this post with more from that great Willy Wonka song that I hum often as I walk through my own world of creation. We can be anything we truly wish to be.

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 (All photos by me, unless a “camera angel” came to take the photo for me).

If you want to view paradise
Simply look around and view it
Anything you want to, do it
Wanta change the world?
There’s nothing
To it

There is no
Life I know
To compare with
Pure imagination
Living there
You’ll be free
If you truly wish to be.

-Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newlwy

Sung by Gene Wilder


Inside the Mind of a Flower Lover {Feature in Floret Flower Farm Blog}

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Photo Credit:  Annabella Charles Photography

After a whirlwind autumn of travel and work (with family life somewhere in between), I am now able to share some of the last three months here and what better way to start than to announce that I am featured in the farmer/florist community section of the Floret Flower Farm Blog! The interview gives a little insight into our plans for this coming season and includes some photos Annabella Charles and I have been dying to share from a photo session we designed here at the studio.  Now that the post is live I can share one of my favorites because it is how I feel often when I move through the routines of life. I see the floral potential in everything, including this hilarious cereal box brand I made from old lithographs by using Photoshop and brought to life by a husband willing to get Kinko’s to print a big enough version.

A special thank you is in order to Erin of Floret for sharing other farmer/florists on her blog as a way to grow the community and just be an all around amazing resource by sharing such valuable information to strengthen our farms and design businesses.

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THE FIRST HELLO

My name is Karin and I am starting a new journey toward operating a small specialty cut flower farm in West Tennessee. There are sure to be many ups and downs along the way and this is in essence my foot taking the first step forward. I will be here talking about a variety of ideas and lessons, some of which I have learned while approaching my 7th year of floral design and a degree based in art, psychology, and education, and of course some of which I am sure to learn beginning my first year as a flower farmer. This is the space where intend to find my voice just as this article from one of the finest examples in the slow flower and farmer-florist movement Erin Benzakein explains . I just so happen meeting her at Floret Flower Farm in three short weeks… things are about to get even more crazy and beautiful on this blog.

David Austin for Dinner

flower trimmings

The photos above were taken this summer and unretouched. They are of the very first precious garden roses offered by our 30 plants this year. May the feast of flowers grow for years to come here at Seventh Hand Farm!

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