Sunday, March 24, 2013

Honey Girl Farm?

Dude by Toni Thomas Photography
I think I should've called my blog Honey Girl Farms!

 I have heard about This Old Horse for a year now. A friend of mine at work is a horse lover and her friend, Nancy, had this great idea to have a "retirement home" for horses that couldn't work too hard anymore. Some of the horses were a part of We Can Ride an organization that provides therapeutic horseback riding opportunities for persons with disabilities.  Some of the horses are retired Thoroughbred race horses, a few were mounted patrol horses, and their are others with other service related roles. Some horses work so hard all of their life for people that Nancy thought the horses deserved  a good life when they retired or semi-retired. The horses still love to interact with people just not as hard as they once did.

Saturday I finally visited Wishbone Ranch-the farm that Nancy bought for the This Old Horse Foundation. I met Dude, pictured above. Dude was once a part of a driving team. When his partner died, Dude could no longer work. Dude is also blind. Isn't he just gorgeous? I am going to volunteer to help at Wishbone Ranch and help care for the horses. There is so much work to be done that the foundation depends on volunteers to bring love and care to the horses. Some of the horses are still used for riding lessons. One of the perks of volunteering at the ranch is that you can earn riding lessons. I have always wanted to learn to ride.

As a 12 year old I read the book Gilda. She had a chestnut brown horse with a black mane and a white star. Lynn Whartman and I dreamed of having horses one day. Her Dad took us a couple of times to a riding stable in Stillwater so that we could get our horse fix. Several times over the years I would go horse back riding but nothing other than a trail ride. My granddaughters would also like to ride horses so this is one way to have horses in our life.
Joey of Half Pint Horse Foundation

Another way to have horses in our life is to get a mini horse of our own to be a part of the Half Pint Horse Foundation! Yep, I ordered me a miniature horse from Banks Miniature Horse Farm in North Carolina. That is right....Mike will be heading for the golf courses in North Carolina while I pick up my miniature horse! The horse will live with Joey and the other horses of the Half Pint Horse Foundation. He will be certified to visit patients and he will visit schools and libraries. The goal of Half Pint Horse Foundation is promote mental and physical healing, therapy, and education through interaction with miniature horses.

The goals of both foundations are to use horses to heal people and then to repay horses for the service they have given to others.

Because both foundations are dependent upon volunteers there are a couple of fundraisers. On May 4 This Old Horse will be holding a 5K at Wishbone Ranch. Half Pint Horse will be participating in the Humane Society Walk. On September 14th the Half Pint Horse Foundation will be hosting a big hoe down!! More on that later!

I had a picture of dad riding a horse that I wanted to post too...but I can't find the darn thing. So my mini horse isn't even born yet. Bill Banks will be giving me a call when he is born!! I will let you know.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Thyme seeds already sprouting!
It is so amazing that a tiny, little seed will just burst open and from it grows a wonderful, edible plant!
Tomato seedlings!
I sure hope the snow melts one of these days. I think that we were just spoiled last year and this isn't really out of the ordinary. I need to figure out exactly where dad's garden will go. His plants always came up about 2 weeks earlier than mine so I will need to get out in my yard right away and prepare the site. I want dad's plants to have a perfect new garden.

Chickens are still laying eggs like crazy. The cold doesn't seem to be bothering them. I will be happy when I don't need to change the water out twice a day because it freezes. The water heater doesn't work when it gets too cold. I will be adding to the flock the first week of April. It would be nice to add a few ducks to the group. 

I am a little worried about the bees. They were on the top of the hive when I added the pollen patty. I am afraid that with them being on the top like that they won't be able to huddle and keep warm.  I will cross my fingers. I have two packages of bees that will be delivered mid-April. I will need to set up the new hives for them too. So much to do!

Until next time....

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Seeds are Sowed!

Seed starting pellets-look at how much they expand!

Well I finally got the seeds planted yesterday that need an early start. I am experimenting this year with the different kinds of peat pellets. It is amazing that one little tray can hold 5 cups of water! Look at how much the peat pellets expand!

The little trays are the Burpee brand. I have both the self watering and the ones you have to water.

I also am trying the Jiffy brand as well. The planting material seems more loamy feeling in the Jiffy brand. We will see which one works best. I put them all on the heating mats to speed up germination. The are in my dining room right now but once I put them under the lights I will need to find a better location.

Two varieties of Eggplants
I started two kinds of eggplants, peppers, tomatoes, and a variety of herbs.

All warming up on the heat mats
So everything I needed to start now for the vegetable garden is started. Next up, milkweed seeds for the Monarch Butterflies. I started a native garden two summers ago. At first it went against by gardening sense to leave common milkweed in my garden. The former "weed" in my garden is the milkweed that really attracts the monarch butterflies. I was able to find monarch eggs and then raise the caterpillars into butterflies. Monarch butterflies are losing their habitat. That will be another post.

Common milkweed

Yesterday I decided that I had been paying for my account for long enough. I wanted to try one more time though to find my dad's grandpa. I knew that his name was Thomas Riley but I kept hitting road blocks. I also knew that my great grandma, Ann,  died shortly after giving birth to my grandpa. I was about to quit when I found a Thomas Riley! The person that had Thomas Riley in their family tree had a private account. I sent her an email thinking maybe I'd get a response.

She responded to my email, appropriately for a Riley, on St. Patrick's Day!! Turns out my grandpa lived with her family when she was a child. I found my Riley relatives! She is my dad's first cousin. She is my age.  We are going to meet after Easter. AND her name is Rose! How perfect for a girl blogging about gardening to find a Rose! I am excited to learn my Riley family history.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Another miniature day!

Harley(?), Faith, and Bella at Spike's Feed in Loretto

Today I took Bella and Faith to a seminar on miniature horses at Spike's Feed in Loretto. We  learned about the history of miniature horses, pasture, feeding, we watched them groom a horse, and then spent some time with the mini horse. Trainer Renee Bush presented and there was a special guest, Mary Sansevere. Mary has 5 children and all of them are involved in miniature horse shows and jumping events. Her husband is KQRS radio host and Pioneer Press columnist- Bob Sansevere. He told us that he went from being in front of the motor of a boat on Lake Minnetonka to riding in carts behind a miniature horse! He said he loves it.  I need him to talk to Mike! The event included gift bags for the kids, delicious treats, and prizes!

Sansevere's Mini horse with a Spike's employee
The Executive Director of The Half Pint Horse Foundation, Allison Polster invited us out to the barn to visit the therapy horses, Joey, Coal, and Cookie.
Faith brushing Cookie with the brush she won at the seminar
I am in love with the idea of using the miniature horses for therapy.  I am currently enrolled in the Pet Partners Therapy Program. The horses will be taken to nursing homes, libraries, schools, and they will also visit patients in the Allina Hospice program. Did you know they have therapy rabbits and guinea pigs too? Who knew...I thought only dogs were therapy animals!
Bella with Coal. She also won a brush and liked brushing the fuzzy mini!
The horses still have their wooly, winter coats on. It will be fun to see them after they are groomed.

To round out my miniature weekend-I got a really nice surprise in the mail today from a friend that follows my blog. Miniature pumpkin seeds-- "Jack Be Little." They will be fun to grow on a trellis in the garden. The grandchildren will love them. Thank you friend!

A nice surprise!

I am really off to plant my seeds! Have a great night and Happy St. Paddy's Day.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Fairy Gardens

Wouldn't you love to live in this miniature place?

In yesterday's post I talked about the Fairy Gardens at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. The display is called "Tiny Treasures: Fairies and Gnomes." These are miniature indoor gardens but you could do similar plantings outside too. I was thinking this would be fun outdoors with a garden train running through it. The display will be at the Arboretum through the end of March.

Miniature Toadstool house and paths
Tiny Treasures: Fairies and Gnomes 2013
Miniature gardening is like life-sized gardening but it is shrunken to a smaller scale. Dwarf and miniature trees are used. Dwarf plants grow 1 to 6 inches per year. Miniature plants grow less than 1 inch per year. Slow growing ground covers or miniature bedding plants are matched with the trees for similar light, water, and placement requirements.

There are also in-scale accessories that can be added to the plantings to make a mini garden scene. When the right plants are selected, it is possible to create a sustainable miniature garden!

Pretty Fairy in a little garden 2013
It is important to decide if you will keep your garden inside or outside and then chose the plants accordingly. You will also want to start out with potting soil if you are planning on keeping your garden in a pot. Your pot will also need a drainage hole. An outdoor fairy garden can be any size you want it to be. You can hide it amongst some hostas, or at the base of a tree, or under a bird bath.

The prince is coming for his maiden

Last year I went to the Arboretum with my dad to visit the Fairy garden display to get our gardening fix. He enjoyed seeing these Fairy Gardens and visiting the Arboretum. It was right after his cancer diagnosis. It brought tears to my eyes to see these miniature gardens again--without dad.

A little house for the fairies
People for years have been intrigued by the idea that fairies and elves might live among us. They are said to have the power to spread magic and mischief though out our homes and gardens. My friend Jeannie-a mischief herself- had asked me to share the pictures I had taken of the fairy gardens.  Jeannie's husband was recently diagnosed with stage 3 lung cancer. I am praying that the garden fairies sprinkle some magic on Bob and with all of our prayers and great medical care--Bob will hear good news at his next appointment. Love you Jeannie!

If you want more information on miniature gardens check these websites out:

Tonkadale Greenhouse They have some great pictures of outdoor fairy gardens
Summers Past Farms Super cute outdoor fairy gardens
Bachmans They sell miniature plants and accessories

I hope you enjoyed these! 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Snow, Snow go away!

I love the texture and color combinations
Minnesota Landscape Arboretum 2012

This never ending snow is getting to a girl that is waiting to play in the yard! I had no idea we would wake up to so much snow this morning. It is going to snow tonight AND Sunday. Uffda!

I don't know what it was about today but everybody I talked to was so tired. I wonder if there is some atmospheric pressure stuff going on or something?

My wonderful husband tended to the chickens for me today and slipped on the ice and thought he broke his wrist-but he is okay. I checked the bees again and they are all buzzing around the pollen patty I put in the hive yesterday. I wanted to give them a bucket of syrup but couldn't get the hive boxes apart. Those bees make some REALLY good propolis to stick stuff together. The first they teach you in bee class is to NEVER go out to the hive without your hive tool...and I did. I will try again tomorrow to get them apart.

Too tired to even sow the seeds tonight. I have the trays and seeds scatter all over the dining room table.

Have you ever been to the  Minnesota Landscape Arboretum? What a great place to check out different planting arrangements, varieties of trees and flowers, and to check out the wildlife. This time of year they have a Miniature Fairy Garden Display indoors. Dad and I went to it last year. They are getting some new people movers this year to help with the 3 mile drive. If you haven't been there you must go!  Here are some pictures to help us pretend it is summer! (They were actually taken in the fall)
A honey bee gathering nectar and pollen
Minnesota Landscape Arboretum 2011
I like how the orange flowers play off of the green foliage
Minnesota Landscape Arboretum 2011

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Bees have survived!!

 I purchased my package of bees from Nature's Nectar in Stillwater owned by Jim Kloek. I thought I better check Jim's blog to find out what I should be doing with my bees in March and I found out it was time to put a pollen patty on. I still wasn't sure if my bees had made it through the winter but decided I better check on them while it was light out and relatively "warm."

Bees buzzing on the inner cover!
I was so darn excited to see that they made it through the winter! They must be low on honey though because they are up on the inner cover. Tomorrow I will need to add some sugar syrup for them. We feed them sugar syrup until they are able to gather nectar from flowers.  How amazing is it that the bees are able to clump together in the winter and keep the temperature in their hive box between 93 and 95 degrees. It is important to keep enough honey on the colony so that they have enough food and energy to make it through the winter. Amazing huh?

Speaking of amazing. Back in the 1980's I sold real estate for Edina Realty. Their was a particular realtor in the office that I admired so much. She was (is) a top seller, a mentor to new realtors, and a great supporter of our Stillwater community. You may have heard of her... Linda Besk! I recently ran into Linda and we reconnected through Facebook. She has a fabulous garden that will be on the Family Means Garden Tour July 13th and July 14th. Stop by and see Linda's amazing garden and support Family Means.

Linda wrote to me today and told me she liked my Honey Girl Garden blog. She told me that her mom passed away several years ago. She shared with me that  she still gets teary eyed every time she separates her mom's Siberian Iris. Linda sent me a picture of her sweet mom at the Olbrich Botanical Gardens-Madison Wisconsin.

Linda's mom at her winter retreat-Olbrich Botanical Garden
I am learning that our parents and grandparents live on through us. It may be in a special recipe that you make on the holidays. It might be in a special place they liked to visit. It might be in a tradition that you carry out every year.  Or it might be in your own backyard!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

After a trip to Home Depot today to buy more supplies and more seeds, I am almost ready to start sowing seeds indoors. I had to dig out the heating pads, plant trays, and growing medium pellets.  It always feels too early to start seeds indoors so I almost always miss the date!
Plant tray with the heating mat underneath

The heating mat speeds up the seed germination. This is good for me because I then need less time to get the seeds started. Some seeds need light to germinate but I don't add the lights until I see the leaves emerge. They are in a sunny room so that should be enough light for most plants to get started.

Jiffy Pellets and tray
It is important to read the seed packets to determine how many weeks before the last frost the seeds will need to be started. Our Minnesota summers are so short that our outdoor growing season wouldn't allow for some plants to mature. On the other hand, some plants can be direct sown-read the package.
The last frost date in the Twin Cities area is around May 15th- May 21st. Use your favorite search engine to find out the last frost date in your area. 

In Minnesota, annual flowers and heat-loving vegetables such as tomato, pepper, and eggplant are usually started in early spring. Unless you save all of your own seeds, it really isn't any more expensive to buy greenhouse started plants. I like to do it for the challenge of watching those tiny seeds sprout!

Burpee Self watering tray, Burpee tray, Jiffy tray with pellets

I am experimenting with the different brands of pellets this year. Last year I also tried filling the cells with the soilless seed starting mixture but that was a mess and the roots got all tangled. The self watering trays are nice because they water the seeds from the bottom. Starting the plants with a sterile soil mixture and proper water is important to avoid Damping off. Damping off is a disease of seedlings. It is caused by a fungi and too much water can contribute to damping off. 
Soil Block Maker available at Johnny's Selected Seeds for $31.50
I took an indoor seed sowing class at the University of Minnesota and they were using these soil block makers. They are nice because the plants self prune when the roots reach the edge of the block. They sell the blocks in different sizes. The blocks just fit into the next size up. They are nice because there are no pots to buy and the block gets planted directly into the garden. A sterile seed starting mixture is used. The block stamper is pressed into the mixture to make the block. The seed is planted into the block. I haven't been able to bring myself to spend the $31.50 for the block maker. Maybe next year.

So last year I put the lights up too high and the plants bolted and tipped over. Dad didn't use a heating mat and since mine grew so fast he assumed his weren't going to grow at all. He pitched his tray of "dirt" in the back of his yard. Well guess what? Many of his squash and pumpkins came from the tray he tossed in the backyard! 

Too late to plant seeds tonight. That will be tomorrow's project.
(I lost the entire blog post once so if you saw multiple entries...oopsy!)

Monday, March 11, 2013

Well I have a start! So many plants to choose from and so much space to fill! After reading the growing guides-more time is needed for some of the plants-I better get sowing some of these indoors or order some seedlings.

I am really a fan of  Seed Savers Exchange. Their mission is to conserve and promote America's culturally diverse but endangered food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants. I took a seed saving class they facilitated at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum it was very interesting. Thumbing through the Seed Savers Exchange Yearbook is overwhelming. There are so many choices.  Gardeners become members, save heirloom seeds, and provide seeds to Seed Savers Exchange. I will talk about heirloom seeds and the loss of diversity later....I have gardens to plan!!

I bought some seeds and Dahlias at the Minneapolis Home and Garden Show last weekend. Dad loved those Dahlias so I will grow more varieties. I will be planting, Berlinger Kleene, Kelvin Floodlight-a dinner plate variety, Lavender Perfection-another dinner plate variety, and Melody Gypsy. Those should round out the Dahlia bed with the others from dad. He always admired the dinner plate variety but never planted any.

I had a pretty big and productive vegetable garden last year. It was my first year with a big vegetable garden. After dad's diagnosis it was so important for me to get that garden done so that he could walk through it and enjoy it for at least one season. I even canned pickles-and he loved them. It was so important to me that he knew I would carry on his passion for gardening and that my garden held his footsteps.

There is more work to do though! The vegetable garden consists of 8- 10X10 raised beds. I need to put another row of beds around the perimeter. This will be for the berries, asparagus, and grapes. One bed is all herbs. The Seed Savers seeds I have already purchased are-Rosemary, Bushy cucumbers, Thyme, Speckled Roman tomatoes, Purple Vienna Kohlrabi, Grandpa Ott's Morning Glory, Listada de Gandia eggplant, Tango Lettuce, True Lemon cucumbers (this was one of the instructor's favorites!)

More plants to pick out....stay tuned! P.S. It was 11 weeks ago today that dad left to garden with the angels.

 My seeds, Dahlia bulbs, and catalogs to order more!!!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Planning Dad's Garden

This spring we will be moving the plants from dad and mom's yard to a special garden in honor of dad in my yard. My dad spent many hours each day tending to his garden. Mom just needs the yard to be easier for her to maintain.

I want the garden to reflect the plants that he loved. I have the dahlia bulbs that he dug up last fall. I have hens and chicks from his garden. I have seeds that he collected. There were so many plants in his back yard that he often couldn't come up with the name right away and he would say "gosh, I know it better than my own name" and then he would come up with the name a few plants later.

Today I was able to thumb through the book where dad recorded his garden planning. He had the yard marked off into areas and had the plants numbered and what area he was going to put them in. He had receipts, packages, and tags from the flowers he planted. Most of the receipts and tags were from 2005-2007. I think many of the plants had moved into different areas over the years!

It will be fun to match the plants with the tags. He carefully wrote in the book-next to the pictures or the tags-the light, height, and spread of the plants. What a treasure to look through! If I can't find the plants in his yard I can at least try to buy them again so I have the plants that he liked!!

I have lots of planning to do...and still haven't picked out the seeds for the vegetable garden. That will now be tomorrow's project. Oh, and with the melting snow...I should have gotten ducks instead of chickens. Mike had to bail water out of the chicken coop!

A picture of dad's portfolio....too darn cute! I guess I know where I got my talents from. This is my kind of book.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Today was an exciting day. Along with the bees and the chickens, I was thinking my little garden (mini farm) could use a mini horse and a mini goat. While looking on Craigslist for my minis - I came across The mission of Half Pint Horses is to promote mental and physical healing, therapy, and education through interaction with miniature horses. Today was the first meeting!

I am anxious to work with these wonderful people. They have experience with hospice, working with horses, nursing homes, and are just a great group of enthusiastic volunteers.

 As soon as the snow melts it will be time to begin the training. I am so excited. As you know, this blog is dedicated to my dad. He loved horses and everything that had to do with farming. As a boy he spent time on the farms of his relatives. We always dreamed of owning a farm or wildlife sanctuary together. I thought working with the horses and volunteering would teach me about horses while doing something wonderful for others. Imagine the faces of the seniors in a care facility when a mini horse walks in! Or children in a library listening to story about a horse with a horse actually in the library! I am really excited about this new adventure.

The chickens are still laying eggs. They look anxious to get out and run around the yard again. It is too cold and wet to check on the bees today. Tomorrow will be time to check out the seed books and work on the plan for Dad's Garden.

Dad; the little boy holding the chicken, my Grandpa Riley, and Auntie Alice; bravely touching the Billy Goat. Farming is in my blood : )

Friday, March 8, 2013

The beginning of Honey Girl Garden

This is the beginning of Honey Girl Garden. As the name suggests-I am a bee keeper. Or rather...I am a bee keeper wanna be(e). I set up my first hive last summer. After a couple of bees made it through the summer!  More on that later.....  I am anxiously awaiting a warm day so that I can uncover the hive and reveal whether or not my bees made it through the winter!

Honey Girl is also a term of endearment that my dad and mom would lovingly call me and my sisters. My dad passed away this Christmas Eve (2012) from liver cancer. My dad was the person in my life that always encouraged my crazy ideas. He instilled in me the love for nature, animals, travel, and we shared our love of gardening. Mom gave me the confidence to do whatever I wanted to do in life.

This spring is going to be tough. Watching the birds return. Seeing the plants emerge-especially the grape hyacinths that my dad loved. Planting the seeds I saved from the Hubbard squash and the pumpkins he grew. Replanting his Dahlia bulbs. There will be both heartfelt joy and gut wrenching sadness.

So-this blog is dedicated to my dad who I miss so much. He lives on in all of the things that he loved. As he said to me, "I will be in your heart forever." You are Pops...and this blog is for you!