Minding my own beeswax and taking my own advice.

Local ingredients yields the opportunity to learn new homesteading skills.

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Our friend, Randy Bulla, a well known blues harp player who has been a touring musician for most of his life, lives on his 92 year old father’s land near the Paris River bottoms between gigs. When he’s in town we play a little music, talk about gourds and lately he brought me some beeswax that he harvested from beneath an old trailer on Pappy’s land. He thought I’d like to try it in a recipe for the latest “farm to salon” beauty product that I’m working on.

I watched a youtube video on rendering beeswax, ruined a few plastic containers and a sauce pan and ended up with 4.7 ounces of beautiful local beeswax!

I have been testing a mint tincture, plantain salve, rosemary hair spray, and a charcoal drawing salve for the past year with great results.  I look forward to working with this local beeswax and bringing new products to the market.

The Farmer’s Market is the perfect field test environment for gaining face to face feedback about products.  And for us newcomers, a great way to meet the more conscious people of the town.  All of the vendors and attendees are the best and brightest that Paris has to offer.

A couple of other lives ago I owned boutiques in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, Austin, Texas, and Barcelona Spain. I started making bath salts and selling them at the counter. I found the Chinese take out containers that I’d used to package the bath salts. I added the blooms and botanicals that I had gathered and dried for the past year and a half to the bath salts recipe from boutique days of yore and put our farm’s logo on it. Found some burlap bags and gourds in the barn, cleaned them up and we were ready for our first Farmer’s Market.

We’d visited the well attended Ft. Smith Farmer’s market and asked a friend who has successfully created a product line which she sells at the award winning Fayetteville Farmer’s Market for some coaching. We bought a tent, folding table and market tea jug and set out. The smaller size of The Paris Farmer’s Market felt comfortable for us newbies.

People really responded to the fresh mint tea (made from mint and stevia grown at Bohemian Farm) that we served at our booth.  The feedback we received regarding our packaging, logo, and aestethic was positive and affirming.

Farmer’s Market Assessment:

Some pop up tents are heavier than others.

There are people on the planet who are unfamiliar with mint tea.

People care about packaging. The months I spent researching and designing our brand paid off.

Beige blooms in the bathtub are less appealing than ones with color.

Hire a beautiful friend to model your T-shirt.

My approach to design, styling, and writing skills are valued by my new community. I’ve had the pleasure of contributing my expertise to many projects in town. However, Paris does not share the same population as the larger markets such as Ft. Smith and Fayetteville.

After advising a fellow farmer to look outside of Paris for the recognition and fulfillment she seeks, I’ve decided to take my own advice.

 

 

 

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I made my own assessment of my life, and I began to live it.

Bohemian Farm Photo shoot

Bohemian Farm Photo shoot

I made my own assessment of my life, and I began to live it.  That was freedom.  Fernando Flores- Chilean Minister of Finance, Engineer, Philosopher

August’s brutal heat kept us from selling at the Farmer’s Market, but provided us with time to assess the progress of the prior months since April.

Assessment: We are great at planting and sucky at harvesting.

A friend waiting tables at a new trendy Farm to Table restaurant offered an introduction to the chef. We’d thought to deliver, herbs, micro greens, tomatoes and maybe flowers.

Assessment: Our sucky harvesting skills kept us from pursuing this account. What if some of the harvested greens were not harvested on time and half were perfect and half were bitter?  Micro greens needs to be harvested several times a day it seems and bolt if they get too hot. We used a shade cloth and tried to harvest promptly, but invariably some bolted causing me to worry about bitterness. I wanted to take a bite of each leaf to check. Not gonna work.

Further assessment: Tiny tomatoes require more time to harvest than large tomatoes and require more prep for dehydrating than does the prep for blanching a large tomato.

Some varieties of spinach look like petunia if you do not harvest in time.

Hot peppers are not as hot as they might be if you harvest too early.

So, our only commercial account (friends Bert and Carly, owners of the award winning hot sauce company http://www.mundisauce.com) needed peppers in July. Our bushes were laden so Bert drove down from Eureka Springs with his kids and we spent an enjoyable evening picking peppers.

Early on I’m in the kitchen making some iced tea for the kids when Alan bursts in followed by Bert chewing on a habanero. Alan: “They aren’t hot”!  Me:”WHAT?” Alan: “Not hot”!  Bert: “Not hot”. I bit into one and felt a burn. I choked and grabbed some tea.  Me: “What do you mean?”  “This is burning my mouth.”  The peppers were not hot enough for Bert’s needs.  After some research and speaking with chef friends, we realized that we’d harvested too early.  We were/are so excited to work with them and thankfully, they are having a time finding enough hot peppers to fill their orders. So, as ours mature and hopefully heat up, we’ll have the chance to try again.

We are still learning how to determine when things are ready for harvest. We pendulum between becoming distracted by outbuildings that need purging, and an ongoing parts replacement for the well saga; preparing beds to fill with thinned out daffodil, iris, and lily bulbs to what to plant next.

Harvesting means food prep soon to follow.  This year we’ve grown enough produce to put back enough salsa, red sauce for pasta, roasted peppers and tomatoes, peas, collards, and squash for the winter, as well as some for the Paris Farmer’s Market.

My next blog post will assess our Farmer’s Market experience thus far.

Orange beefsteak heirloom tomato with heirloom cherry tomato

Orange beefsteak heirloom tomato with heirloom cherry tomato

sidedoorgarden

sidedoorgarden

 

 

 

 

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Plan your work and work your plan

When we decided to pursue earning a living farming, in our case, market gardening for profit, we realized that our daily spinning in circles wouldn’t do.  We’d need a plan.

from my windowsill

When we inherited the garden here, the weeds were at our armpits.  It was a snake pit with purple orbs of garlic blooms floating above yellowed Johnson grass.  Once we got it all whacked down, we found muskmelon, yard long beans, a huge asparagus patch, hundreds of elephant garlic scapes, banana peppers, kidney beans, and a straggling snow pea vine. They were all so happy to be found and nurtured.

Our days were dictated by whomever we glanced at first. “Mexican tarragon on the deck, gone to seed already, needs a trim.  Hostas in the side bed, too close to the mint.  Mint needs to be thinned. Morning glories, taking over the compost, transplant near the front porch“. It guided us rather than the other way around. We felt constantly overwhelmed and hated spending time trying to figure out which task to do when.

The infrastructure was great. Dad had so much homesteading knowledge. I appreciate all of his amazing talents. He was a master mechanic and could build anything, fix anything and was great at long term, large scale planning.  He’d chosen the perfect sunny spot, rabbit proofed and deer proofed the area with proper fencing.  He created a built in compost bin and situated the green house (with electricity) and water spigots near by. The outer edge of the fence is lined with deer resistant lillies and the the martin and bluebird houses are positioned around the perimeter.

We’d read Mother Earth news and Rodale’s Organic Life and Garden and Gun, Backyard Chickens, Modern Farmer, MaryJane’s Farm for years and had spent the past year and a half reading Dad’s gardening library. We felt we’d gained a good amount of knowledge over the years and that the knowledge of our grandparents and parents runs through our veins.

But, in designing our garden, firstly; I wanted it to reflect our tastes rather than our parent’s. What do we eat?  More into black beans than yard long beans.  More into chickpeas than green peas, spaghetti squash rather than summer squash,  purple potatoes rather than white.  Alan is from Georgia and prefers Vidalia onions.  We sweeten our tea with stevia.  We wanted our own citrus, nuts and berries to support our latest “we are getting old and have to obsess on what we put into our bodies” diet.

Secondly; we have to make money. So, What does the market around us want?  Lot’s of Farm to Table networks in the area, so, we’re thinking micro greens, heirloom tomatoes, peppers for our hot sauce account, juniper berries to the cocktail set.  Cut flowers and home decor gifts with a farmhouse vibe.

So, how many of what do we need to grow to make money? how do we arrange them in the space to make best use of water, sunlight, soil, fertilizing, pest control and harvesting? The  growveg.com software we purchased in January helped us get on track and working on it in the winter months worked great. Then in March, we started the seedlings in the greehouse, put cardboard down to kill the weeds, built two raised beds outside of the fence when we realized that we needed more space, built trellises for the tomatoes, peas, beans, cucumbers and squash, made string trellises for tomatoes and built up the bed for the potatoes, hauled in tons of organic soil, black cow fertilizer, mixed it with our composted soil and worked the beds with a broadfork. Brown paper was added  to hold in moisture and keep the weeds down and the seedlings and direct sow seeds were watered in. Next up, we’ve ordered the drip irrigation system and shadecloth and hope they arrive before the hail and tornadoes do and will participate in our first Farmer’s Market this Saturday. Here goes nothin’!

 

seedlings2016026   20160419_112819

 

 

 

 

 

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Reinventing ourselves, again.

When my father passed away in 2014, my sister and I were forced to figure out what would happen to our family farm in Paris, Arkansas. Neither of us could imagine living in such a rural setting on 75 acres and so far away from a city of any size. What the heck would we do?  
BohoFarmsBlogpost photo gourds hyacinth bluewhite enamel

 

But as we walked the land the day of Dad’s funeral, I was stirred by its magic.  I explained that night to my husband that although it seemed illogical, I thought we should move there. If for no other reason but to secure this new asset.

Our lease in Eureka Springs, Arkansas was up and we had been looking to buy something with a few acres near the enchanting Victorian Village. We had put an offer in on a TinyHouse with some acreage just outside the Eureka Springs City limits and about 15 minutes after we learned that Dad had terminal lung cancer, we learned that our offer was not accepted. The universe had been conspiring to get us here even then.

 A tourist destination filled with galleries, spas, two writer’s colonies, a monastery and a Harley dealership nestled in the ancient Ozark hills, Eureka is a small burg filled with well-traveled people of vision and visited annually by millions of tourists from around the world. It offers the safety and community spirit of a small town with all of the broad-mindedness of citizens whose fingers are on the pulse of the wider world.  A vibe that is important for my husband and I at our core.  

Leaving our happy jobs and visually stimulating environment surrounded by people who “get us” and moving to an area that lacked the same aforementioned list, proved most terrifying for me. Still, we had not found a place to move into yet and a home of our own again with 75 acres and outbuildings was a dream we’d held since we moved back from Spain.  

We cut our work schedules in half and commuted two hours from the farm in Paris to work in Eureka Springs. We took turns looking after the farm and driving to our jobs. We began living in the house that my Dad built, cleaning out the barn, the potting shed, the green house and out buildings and protecting the estate from being vandalized again. Dad had abandoned the place handed down from his mother for his most recent wife and her 200 acre spread in a county nearby. More stories about that in future posts.

Alan embraced the change of more and more time at the farm more quickly than I was able to do.  There was so much to be done on the property immediately that he barely had a choice. I tortured myself with questions such as “We don’t know anyone! What would we do for social life? Would we be lonely without our peeps?” “If we gave up on Eureka and moved lock, stock, and barrel to the farm, how could we possibly make enough of a living to create a secure future?” “What would we do for jobs? Could we be farmers? At our age; 51 and 64, would we have the back strength necessary to grow the volume of food needed to be able to participate in the local Farmer’s Markets?” The numbers didn’t look good.

Our long time friends know that we reinvent ourselves every so often. Alan has been a bass player, recording artist, hair dresser, boxer and stone mason. I’ve been a voice over artist, actress, musician, handbag designer, children’s entertainer, hairdresser, makeup artist, boutique owner and wardrobe stylist. We’ve lived in Atlanta, Austin, Barcelona, Little Rock, Eureka Springs, collectively, and Coconut Grove and Dallas individually. While Alan and I are always ready for a transformation, even with our varied experiences, this one would be a bit of a stretch.  We didn’t know what a crop matrix was, what all of those tractor implements did, how to create pasture land from forested land, or how we could possibly compete with other River Valley farm families like the very experienced Xiong family down the road. And we wished that we’d been a little more specific with our dreams about the location. Paris, France would’ve suited just fine. Paris, Arkansas?

Our drive from Paris to our jobs in Eureka was largely through a scenic, 2 lane, winding road perched on the sides of massive rock faces with hair pin turns known as the Pig Trail. The drive through the mystical Ozark National Forest is a favorite of sports car and motorcycle enthusiasts. With its scenic look-outs and dense forest surroundings, the drive on Hwy 23 is at once stunning and, terrifying. The fear of fog, deer, landslides, trees falling, flash flooding creeks and visions of distant banjo music wafting in should your car break down at the wrong crook in the road, became too much.

My time at the farm this past year and a half consisted of meeting with bankers, lawyers, accountants, financial planners, extension office representatives, farmer’s co-ops, neighboring farmers and ranchers, experiencing failed crops and successful ones. It has taken me that long to work through the grief of letting go of our idyllic life in Eureka Springs where I knew everyone and what I was doing and to embrace a life we know little about.

It has been the deepest transformation that I’ve ever experienced because of what it represents. Letting go of our lives there represented letting go of old comfort zones and finding the courage to live the less conventional lives that we secretly craved. I had to let go of judging myself by the measure of other’s ideas about me and find the courage to give in to what the small voice was saying. I had to let go of worrying about measuring up to their ideas of how my life should look and jump into the unknown. Not my strong suit, number one. And number two, my friends celebrate my journey and love me as I am. So, I also had to learn to stop imposing complete delusions onto myself. Geez. I have trust issues okay.

The re-invention of myself into someone who trusts herself more than she trusts others to know what is best for her was a deeply frightening personal hurdle for me. I had to learn to experience the planet sans the force of my father’s existence, and give in to the illogical conclusion that we want to live in the middle of nowhere, in my Dad’s house, and become farmers .

The new plan is the subject of a future post.  Stay tuned.       

bizcardNoBrown

 

 

 

 

 

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About Bohemian Farm

I am the third generation to live on this family land in Paris, Arkansas.  Located in The River Valley, nestled between the Boston and Ozark Mountains, Paris is home to Mt. Magazine and is the highest point in Arkansas.

My farm is named after a true Bohemian, my grandmother Ida.  She handed the 77 acres down to my father and after I inherited 74 acres and the homestead, I changed my life and moved to the farm.

 

Our focus now is on harvesting our juniper berries for wholesale to makers of simple syrups and eventually gin and our hot peppers for wholesale to makers of a local hot sauce. We also grow and sell seed crops from our heirloom vegetables, flowers and shrubs. We also sell pods, branches, twigs, cones, pressed flowers, dried flowers and dried herbs at farmer’s markets and on Etsy.

We hope to add a herd of alpaca this spring.bizcardNoBrown

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