Farm Day!

I’m sorry that it has taken me more than a year to come back and update our goings on at our farm. I will try to do better. : ) But I have an abundance of photos for you today. On Sunday we invited our customers from the Morningside Market in Atlanta as well as those who buy boxes of vegetables from us in Madison to come to the farm for a tour and some snacks. It was an amazingly beautiful and warm day, with temperatures in the 70s! I can’t believe it is about to fall to 19 degrees in the next few days. We’ll probably lose a lot of our vegetables, those that are not in high tunnels. But Nicolas and the other farmers are tucking them in today, as warmly as possible, and we shall see.

Back to the warmth of Farm Day. A long time friend of ours from back in my theater days, Martin Lyle, showed up with his beautiful daughter, his parents who live in Madison and his amazing camera! He graciously agreed to share his pictures here on the blog, after I threatened him with my vegetable spears. I’m so grateful. Any of the amazing photos of Nicolas or the vegetables are his. These first ones are mine from my iphone.


This is our benevolent photographer and friend, Martin, getting a good shot.


Willie Dog and Lola, who both come with their owners to the farm every day, vying for top dog status.



Being led to slaughter?


Elizabeth, flower farmer as well as the farmer who fills and delivers the Madison boxes, showing a branch of peanuts.


This is Nicolas who took over our boys former job of standing by Farmer Nicolas as he spoke. Nicolas is a big fan of the farmer and of his vegetables.


We won’t be seeing these once the polar vortex hits in a few days.

IMG_6020  IMG_6011 IMG_6018   eD1tdCovad3NjMu2rUqvdXl2naj-T8d39tVVy5NXWKmMKqdXJGdN7rmdWNBvDzc6CPckDg=s190  ha6dlsRRhMz5nAx5IEk0Kl99_bYaUBAmOiZD1GunLEzN3ybjy-h7LKb60ZFSXSqi--VI4A=s190 qxfpZj9OiWPFVRqtRe4fBZsY16AgqksPmEoETFvTjebgDg1Jf5NyWicQ5nZ5dTDsHEnVkw=s190 e3oiZF92mnQqy8N6hE0UwGtNg3bzewtgknCeZOT-Oc1ISIpdze75MvxV2D0XTaRE6b9IOQ=s190 21xWvRbtN1aATJ6gaEs9VY8VibeEipuI0_NYpZjtFndWEojY4wevuj2dL96EPkvc63PtUA=s190 PcXAMysIHRoQ-mSIwvTTKm5K1l9cs2XDwxm29pDFMGy41-c7iPFPWWdoutXKIKg8Vk4mmg=s190 a4iYB3NGbT4myadRmYNnFETpMcOooxG0n2IPY09OPqYLc81aZYZlZpFWlYtPlFmIPLXT6w=s190 ppArtFoTjilZ01aJ78mjbAJJ7eGHW-CfnY6TqgpwlNYbmWZvN019lOw5YOdnJ426njKI8A=s190 Q-uUlXUCyFifpt-6q4H2pd1vWMnwyPnMwl7qYIyBAPPgEJiihzsJdI75W46LstdRdw3YOQ=s190 ppArtFoTjilZ01aJ78mjbAJJ7eGHW-CfnY6TqgpwlNYbmWZvN019lOw5YOdnJ426njKI8A=s190-1 CA6A2h_oXqE9yVyDeKlexhlWa9s1-0KZ_f0tkV_JS8691PBkTyur2ymh0UuDzoE5loQUyQ=s190 iemoRQoTowJA7WtwHoSfJm-KMaW_2rbS-r1rOLJp1T1r67xOLQP4AcdvQqTpTUcqoVX7dQ=s190 ZMWGlDHVv9hRwNUytgfmcb_3kkgg4b6BfpneK03B7Xk4SpnkVZURbM5NnQVithMFtIO1Lg=s190 qlyd7IBsG3fhO9IhF1SMZBfglhMRumFp0CemhsK6jH_joXkIe-EBb5GvpGLjPOdRjUXX4A=s190 odfrjYwVxYPiTTvdhhJq-YJAkvKlL1ngFZVEolEJg0NdlZE0-j1Ud-wcHcQkf_1fJw5KGA=s190   jr5C7Ql76z5XyMsd6uPKUyjsRtTD6u5121HBS32asWuGUbojLpCX41QFmKWSm1IfKkiGbA=s190

Passionately dyeing

I have been called on saying all kinds of weird things lately. Like, “I couldn’t sleep last night because I kept thinking about ways of dyeing.” And “You go ahead, I want to stay home and dye.”

I really do have dyeing on the brain, and it is so much about new life! I take Marigolds or Eucalyptus or onion skins or walnut husks that would have ended up turning into compost and I am able to keep them forever in the colors that they create on my shirts, or tablecloths or silk scarfs. These colors are so different than those created synthetically. In natural light, these colors move. They are so beautiful! The dyed items even  retain some of the smell of the plants. It is hard to capture all of this in pictures. But I’ll try.

This whole enterprise started with a tablecloth for our good friends, Persephone and Chopper.  I’ve mentioned them on this blog – she is the amazing health consultant who has led us through cleanses; he came down here with her one Thanksgiving and helped to kill the ducks we ate for dinner despite having been a vegetarian for a long time.They got married last weekend. When I heard about the wedding, I knew that I wanted to give them a tablecloth dyed with colors from the farm. Thus, this obsession was born. Here is the tablecloth, dyed with marigolds. The grid-like pattern is due to a Japanese shibori folding technique I used before dying it. The vegetables are all stamped with paint. I made the stamps. It was a rainy day when I finished it so I don’t have a great picture of the whole thing. IMG_4440

To add to the seasonal/nature theme, I cut leaf and flower shapes out of linen and cotton fabric I’d dyed a few weeks ago and Elizabeth sewed these pieces around the edges of the tablecloth. This flower was dyed with Eucalyptus, which makes a beautiful reddish color when you use fresh leaves. When I made the dye with dried leaves the color was more brownish.


This is what the tablecloth looked like when I had it folded up, after pulling it out of the Marigold dye bath. I wanted the CD shape to show up somewhere, subtle-y, in honor of their love of music. Their reception was truly the best dance party ever!


Below is a  shibori wrapped piece soaking up dye in a jar. Time, rather than heat, works here. I left the material in the jar for two weeks. IMG_4419

Below, I’ve used a different shibori technique and clamped on tin can lids and an old metal screen (chemical reactions occur from different metals – India Flint does this so well). Here is what it looked like in the dye bath –IMG_4407

And here is a detail of the result. I love this grungy look.

IMG_4416 With leftover dye materials (here, onion, marigold and Eucalyptus leaves) I imprinted bits of color and hints of the leaves shapes, on another piece of material that was folded up and then solar dyed.IMG_4411 Below is one I did using some of the fallen fall leaves too. A detail of it before I folded it:IMG_4442

The resulting table cloth.


Below you can see part of  ‘Crystal Organic Farm’ created on a shirt by painting on the letters with a farm egg! The egg acts as a resist.   IMG_4428

Here is another shibori technique – I wrapped up many acorns and crystals from the farm with rubber bands. These nobs will all create white circles within the dyed shirt. IMG_4373

A picture of different fabrics dyed with Eucalyptus:IMG_4289   Probably way more information on dyeing than you were seeking on a farm blog. But isn’t it cool? I will get back to the edible properties of Nicolas’ beautiful crops, soon.

Willie, our wiley and wonderful mutt, led me around the farm yesterday morning, posing as we went. First, we visited Nicolas picking turnips. Wherever Nicolas is, that is where Willie-girl most wants to be. I ate a few of those turnips and greens (that he picked here) that night. Some boys were at the Braves game, another was at a Barrel Riding event (rodeo stuff, for other city-folk like me). I sauteed the turnips and the greens, all cut up, in oil and garlic, and added a bit of Braggs. Turnips are always surprising to me. I just can’t expect them to be that good.
IMG_4324The Cosmos are back. This is Helen’s favorite flower. They are so vibrant.
IMG_4313Here, Willie led me down beautiful Shitake Mushroom Lane.
IMG_4349One of my favorite crops.


IMG_4350I was very much on a natural-dye material mission that day. Helen and Willie helped me to gather some black walnuts. I’ll be making new (to me) dyes with walnut husks, onion skins and pomegranate skins. I’ll revisit those with Marigolds and with Eucalyptus. Hopefully I’ll get this done and can show you the results by Monday.

IMG_4367I had one of Gillen’s friends drive over the big black walnut balls with his monster truck. It is not easy to break off those husks. Here they are hanging on to the branches still. They are huge!

IMG_4370Below is yet another shot of beautifully tended crops in a high tunnel.

I can not weed. Really. I get very dizzy when I turn over. So I have great admiration for those who do it so well.



Finally Fall

There is a difference to the light in Fall, a softness, don’t you think? It is bittersweet. I like it. It also suits me that I can be outside for hours without being miserable.  A lot more pictures get taken when fall arrives. Even through the simple lens of an old iphone, the farm is especially beautiful right now.



This monster grasshopper hung out for a long while, watching Elizabeth pick flowers.

IMG_4226A field of buckwheat next to our bee hives.



One of many bees appreciating the buckwheat. It was good to see the bees thriving.





IMG_4131Adolescent fennel.


Fish-eyed kale.



A study in okra. These pictures are from a week ago. when it was on its way out. Mark and Heather both saw many hummingbirds visiting these flowers.





Farmer Nicolas patiently picking and bundling a long row of baby turnips.

IMG_4133Before and after of the Marigolds. I’ll be posting more pictures of my newest obsession very soon.



Wear Our Vegetables

Nicolas and I met working at a restaurant called Eat Your Vegetables. Little did I know back then that I’d be eating so many of his vegetables and eventually even painting them, on organic T- shirts. I started out just painting one for each farmer, asking them to each pick their favorite vegetable. I ended up with 15 designs. The farmers that work at the Morningside Market have been wearing their shirts every Saturday morning for a few weeks. Today I sent a chart with pictures of all of the designs so that if a customer wants to buy one, they can pick their vegetable. The pictures are very small. For anyone who felt the need of a magnifying glass to see them, here they are bigger:padrons IMG_3921 IMG_3922 IMG_3923 IMG_3924 IMG_3925 IMG_3926 IMG_3927 IMG_3930 IMG_3931 IMG_3932 IMG_3933In the meantime, while researching how to dye a tablecloth, I discovered the magical world of natural dyes through an amazing Australian woman named India Flint. She wrote the book Eco Colour. It is changing my life. Growing a dying garden, as well as using many of the flowers, trees and vegetables that we already grow, I intend to spend every free moment soaking cottons and silks in pots of color.  In order to grow beautiful blues and reds, I’ll be farming – planting Indigo and Madder.

I’m feeling more grateful than ever to be the farmer’s wife.

A month or so ago, the kids went to visit their cousins, aunt and uncle in New York, and Nicolas and I had a week to ourselves. Since we home school, this week was the only time we have to ourselves all year. I envisioned date nights! And very little laundry. And being able to buy an organic steak to share!

Instead, I did many loads of laundry – everything that may have been near one of our dogs. I spent much of the week with a bandana around my face, spreading diatamaceous earth on every rug and floor and into every tiny crack and crevice (our home is over a hundred years old, we have a lot of those). Diatomaceous Earth comes from hard shelled algae. It has the consistency of powder and when you place it on the floor it floats up and searches for your nose and mouth in order to suffocate you. Not really, but it sure felt like that every day. The reason I was covering my house in this white suffocating powder was fleas. Our dogs were starting to be covered with ticks and fleas and we are organic farmers and love our dogs and didn’t believe in giving them chemical flea prevention. So, the alternative was combing them twice a day, covering them in essential-oil filled ointments and sprays that the fleas wouldn’t like, covering everything with this diatamaceous earth (it suffocates the fleas; they aren’t wearing bandanas) and vacuuming a lot – of course being sure to keep the vacuum bag in the freezer so that no fleas could escape back into our home.

After spending a few hours on this every day for two weeks, most of the fleas seemed to be gone from our dogs. But. Not. All. Of. Them. My mood was determined by whether or not I had discovered a flea in the comb or the trap that day. There was only one date night and it was down the street because we were both too tired to go all the way to Atlanta.

So, you may have noticed that I wrote “didn’t” believe in giving our dogs chemicals. That belief has been put to rest, for one month anyway. We sold out. We bought the chemicals. There are absolutely no fleas, for now.

As a result of this, I have even more respect for my organic farmer husband and what he goes through everyday. Because his customers’ health, his family’s health (not to mention the health of the planet) are at stake, he would never even consider the use of chemicals in his war against the many weeds and bugs. And yes, sometimes it is quite a war. I’ve seen him spend hours immersed in books about weeds and bugs and how they operate in order to come up with new ways to keep help his vegetables survive a new squash bug or crab grass problem. Beneficial insects that are drawn to our chemical-free land help, as does the production of compost tea that he sprays over his vegetables to keep them strong. But it all takes lots of time and digging deep for extra energy on those unrelenting hot days. And I thank him, for looking out for us more industriously than I was able to look out for my dogs. sigh.

It’s almost time to give them the next dose of Advantage. I think I’ll take out the Diatomaceous Earth instead. Maybe they’ve finally ingested enough garlic and brewer’s yeast and good food to keep them at bay on their own. It is so not easy doing the right thing but of course, in the pig-picture-long-view, it is worth it.



The farmers

I don’t have to do much heavy lifting, or sweating through several shirts a day,  or back-breaking, ‘God will this row ever end?’ picking. I get to pick flowers on Friday and make bouquets, and then go home and make t-shirts (coming soon to the market!). I get to cook what has already been picked. I am so grateful for the hard work of all of Crystal Organic Farm’s farmers. Here are just a few:


Above, Mark is doing some of the heavy lifting.

Here are Gillen, Buck and Aaron, the young studs, taking a break to eat the zucchini bread that Aaron makes weekly.IMG_3616

And finally, the guy who carries all of the responsibility on his back, Nicolas, looking way too relaxed. It doesn’t matter how hot or sweaty or tired the man is, he ALWAYS looks good in a picture. If only he’d let me take more of them.


Aren’t those cherry tomatoes gorgeous? They taste amazing. I have to show you another shot:IMG_3632

More farmers next week..


IMG_3545Tansies, the yellow flowers above, are very tall and hardy plants. Here is some interesting information about them. The story of our Tansies again includes Helen. She found a very small tansy plant on the farm, dug it up and rooted it to then create more plants. Her ability with cultivating plants out of just tiny bits of nothing is incredible. She transplanted these newly rooted plants into a row in the perennial bed and now we have an abundance of Tansy.

I don’t have much else to share this week as I was busy with the flowers. Here is a bouquet that I particularly liked.

IMG_3552But I did manage to take a few shots of some new vegetables that made their way to market this week.

Beautiful basil bunches.

IMG_3548Big old heirloom tomatoes:IMG_3543

Here is Amelia, Elizabeth’s helpful niece, packaging up the cherry tomatoes.



IMG_3454I had to start with this fish-eye view of Elizabeth in one of the flower fields. Makes me feel like I’m somewhere other, like Scandanavia. I don’t even know if they have sunflowers and marigolds there, but in my mind, it is a place that is very orderly yet magical.

OK. Now that I have that off my chest, on to the Elderberries. Here is lots of information about their medicinal benefits, which are mighty! They grow all over the place so you could collect them yourself, if so inclined. Here is our Elderberry Tree – IMG_3476These flowers are just starting to turn purple. Helen harvests them while they are still white and turns them into a delicious and healthy syrup by soaking them for four days in a pot. She does this every year. Helen is from Austria, where many people harvest their elderberries. Here is her recipe, as written down by Elizabeth:


The magic happening:IMG_3482My kids love it. And it is especially good for strengthening the respiratory system.

And now, for some other Friday shots from my day at the farm:

IMG_3484The flowers were so bountiful yesterday that Elizabeth had her hands full making bouquets with Helen. So I got to clean the eggs, which I loved. I love cleaning them maybe in contrast to how much I hate collecting them. I can NOT mess with a brooding mama hen and steal her eggs out from under! Just can not. So I got Gillen to help with that part. I guess I’m too city, still. But I can make a mean cucumber salad with these:

IMG_3462It’s actually Helen’s recipe. You just peel them, slice them really thin (I use a mandolin) and then mix them up with lots of sour cream, apple cider vinegar, some olive oil, dulce (shakeable kind of seaweed seasoning) and salt. Yum.

And here is Helen, our resident sweet, nutritious, beautiful Elder Berry, making bouquets:IMG_3474

There are new characters popping up every week. The Coneflowers (Echinacea) showed up last Friday.



And though I picked many of them, below is the only shot I have of the newly blooming Marigolds, here making their way to our home, along with more strawberries to freeze. I love the bittersweet smell of Marigolds. IMG_3435 Last week, Helen and Elizabeth had so many fewer flowers to work with. It all changes so quickly with each new hour of sun or rain.


And below is funny, wonderful Heather, yet another farmer whom I hadn’t introduced! IMG_3377

Next week I’ll try to make may way back into the vegetables for a bit and even include one some of our farmers’ recipes.