THE FUNNY FARMER: An astonishingly boring, painful, humorous and occasionally insightful approach to gardening and life as amom, a former psychotherapist, and apparently a life-long patient.


My name is Cherie and I live in Southern Maine with my husband and two young children. I have a Master's Degree in Counseling Psychology and still have about 10k in remaining student loans to prove it. I left the field of practice three years ago, so this is not the place to be posting any suicide notes, okay? But if you want to hear about my garden and my gremlins, my pests and my problems, well then you just sit right down and read on!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

2010 Vegetable Garden Inventory


1) Tomato: Black Cherry

2) Tomato: Sungold Cherry

3) Tomato: White Cherry (pale yellow, really)

4) Tomato: Chiquita

5) Tomato: Cherokee Purple

6) Tomato: Brandywine

7) Tomato: Striped German

8)  Husk Cherry:  Goldie

Cucumber: Striped Armenian

Pumkin:  Rouge Vif D'Etampes
Pumkin:  Musque de Provence
Zucchini:  Costata Romanesco
Broccoli:  Santee
Broccoli:  Spring Raab
Brussels Sprouts:  Churchill
Patty Pan Squash:  Sunburst
Bell Pepper:  Bianca
Leek:  King Richard
Snap Bean:  Pole:  Fortex
Snap Peas:  Sugar Sprint
Beet:  Golden
Beet:  Forono
Radish:  D'avignon
Radish:  Shunkyo  Semi-long
Carrot:  Deep Purple
Carrot:  Rainbow
Spinach:  Smooth Leaf EMU
Swissh Chard:  Brigh Lights
Greens:  All Greens Mix (Salad & Braising)
Lettuce:  Allstar Gourmet
Scallions:  Deep Purple Bunching
Scallions:  Nabechan

Friday, May 21, 2010

Recession Garden Garden Plan

An article thieved from The Gardener's Rake...
(The pic, however, is my own :D)



transitive verb
1 : to handle or direct with a degree of skill: as a : to make and keep compliant b : to treat with care : husband c : to exercise executive, administrative, and supervisory direction of
2 : to work upon or try to alter for a purpose
3 : to succeed in accomplishing : contrive
4 : to direct the professional career of

Soooooo I think that my first error occurred many weeks ago on the Johnny's Selected Seeds website  Influenced by red wine, weeks of cold weather, and very short days, I was dreaming of lush green gardens, bountiful vegetables, and filling my flower vase daily with freshly picked flowers.  I vowed to start my flowers and vegetables from seed for the first time (I also vowed to run the Mother's Day 5K, but that's a different story).  I finally made decisions on a heating mat, a soil block maker, cell flats and biodegradble pots.  I clicked "add to cart" more times than I can count.  I justified my purchases with receipts from the grocery store, the benefits of organically grown produce, teaching the kids about gardening, and the satisfaction that comes from putting my hands in the soil.

At this point the word MANAGE may be part of my vocabulary, but not my life.  I have spent many a late night germinating and potting up.  Every morning I carry 23 trays of seedlings to the deck, then back inside at night.  Of course a day surgery that I had last week did not help.  This all on top of a 2 year old, a 6 year old, 2 cats, a hubby... you know the drill.

I had some FB correspondence with some friends yesterday about the weather forecast, the date of the next full moon, the actual temperature of a "frost", and ultimately when to actually plant our seedlings.  There were opinions ranging from daring to cautious, but one friend summed up my situation quite succinctly.  She wrote that she planted most of her seedlings already and that "Some of my seedlings did die when we got that cold snap, but they would have died in the house too because I couldn't stand them anymore and would have refused to care for them!"

Very well said!  One of my four followers (yes, I'm up to four!  Wohoo!) commented on my last post that my pic of out of control seedlings looked like her house.  So I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one out there. 

So here is my plan for MANAGEABILITY NOW:

1)  Get as many seedlings into the ground as possible so I'm not schlepping them back and forth.  I HAVE DECIDED TO PLANT THIS WEEKEND!!!  WOHOOOO!!!
2)  Extra plants go to friends, family, and donated to the Plant-A-Row program and my town's Garden Club Plant Sale on Memorial Day Weekend.

And here is my plan for FUTURE MANAGEABILITY: 
1)  Re-read this post in January of 2011, BEFORE purchasing seeds
2)  Do some cost comparisons between growing from seed versus purchasing seedlings (Yes, I will post my thorough analysis) 
3)  Evaluate my success rate between which seeds I purchased and which were succuessful
4)  Purchase all of my needs ahead of time so that I am not constantly running to the garden shop for more soil, bio-degradable pots, etc.

Wish me luck!!!!

Thursday, May 20, 2010


I have no patience for narrtive right now, so I'll just lay it all out:

*  Overwhelmed by seedlings overtaking my home
*  Exhausted by the seemingly constant need for potting-up, hardening-off-schlepping, and watering
*  Got some sort of white patches on many of my tomato plant leaves.  I assume I was not gradual enough in my  introduction to the outdoor elements?
*  I keep dropping cash on additional pots, trays, and soil, thus reducing my "cost effectiveness" theory about growing seeedlings
*  Many of my seedlings are not particularly thriving

*  I'm just not into being a responsible wife and mother this week
*  My post-surgery healing is slow
*  I am absolutely exhausted
*  Laundry
*  Phone calls to make
*  Bills to pay
*  I am not eating healthfully
*  My surgery recovery is slowing my already-weak exercise routine

*  I spent many hours potting up my seedlings last night and they are looking a lot perkier today
*  It's almost time for the seedlings to MOVE OUT! so I can re-claim my office (I'm blogging from my sofa right now)
*  The sun is out
*  My husband is going to attend marriage counseling soon, he just doesn't know it yet
*  I don't pee everytime I sneeze or cough anymore
*  I have spent a lot of time with my girlfriends the past couple days and that makes me very, very happy
*  My two-legged seedlings.  Ahhhh yes, my children.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

First Harvest

Now seriously, can you think of a more facile, more space efficient planting than salad greens?  I know there will be more competition in the coming months, but I am so pleased with my first harvest for so many reasons!

The first advantage is how easy it is to grow greens, lettuce,spinach, swiss chard, and so on.  You can use them if you want to, but threre is no real need for cell packs, heating pads, or grow lights.  Just toss those seeds right into the ground, water, and wait.  Now how easy is that?  Seriously? 

The planting requirements of salad greens, greens, and lettuce are relatively simple.  They are shade tolerant, so there are many places in my small yard/garden where they will thrive.  They are compact, so the yield per square footage is quite high.  You can plant them in containers on your deck.  I have even planted some in a flower box on my deck so I can just step outside for a few clippings when needed.  Though growing lettuce is very easy, Edward C. Smith in the Vegetable Gardener's Bible states that rapid growth is the tip to tastier lettuce. This can be accomplished by adding compost to the bed a week before planting the seeds and again to the surrounding soil about a week after germination.   Simple enough.

Another factor that pleases me about lettuce and greens is the cost benefit.  When you purchase these from the grocery store, you are not only paying for the commodity, but the picking, packaging, storing, and transporting as well.  However if I continue sow every couple of weeks (aka succession planting), I will not purchase any greens at the grocery store until October.  At roughly $8 per pound for organic lettuce, spinach, and greens, it's truly a no brainer.  At about $4 a packet, my growing plans this year include:   two types of lettuce mixes for salads, swiss chard, baby spinach, and a mix than can be used for both salads and braising.  That's a total of $20 in seeds for a variety of greens that will feed our family, gift to friends, and appear at pot-lucks for six months.  The other 26 weeks I typically purchase lettuce or greens every week, so during those months I will probably spend at least a couple hundred dollars.  One day I will build a cold-frame which will extend my season even more.

The environmental impact of purchasing your lettuce and greens from the grocery store also bears mention.  Although the plastic boxes used for purchased lettuce makes the produce last longer, plastic is still plastic.  and whatever I can do to minimize its use makes me very happy.  I have saved a few of these boxes to store my own greens as well as to fill and give away when I have too much.  There is also adverse environmntal impact through things like transportation, the manufuacturing of trucks, the building and maintenance of warehouses and grocery stores, and the use of fossil fuels.  Growing your own lettuce alone will not put an end to these problems, but the more one can do to lessen your environmental footprint, the better.  From a broader socio-political perspective, one might also consider the use of immigrant workers as well as US dependence of foreign oil.

Health considerations are very noteworthy.  Aside from the beneficial nutrients found in lettuce and greens, they are very easy to grow orgranically so you are can be sure that you are not consuming pesticides.  Because there is less time from garden to table, fewer nutrients are lost durng storage and transportation.  And once again, there has been another E-Coli outbreak reported in four states:  Michigan, New York, Ohio, and Tennessee.  As of a couple of days ago, there were 23 confirmed illnesses, 12 hospitalizations, and 3 instancs of kidney failure. 

On a more pleasant note, people are unnecessarily impressed when you host a meal and serve a salad made from your own greens.  Or you show up to a pot-luck with a salad and casually mention that you just picked it from your garden.  There is definitely a feel-good component to growing your own and feeding your friends and family.  If plant in succession, you never have to run to the store at the last minute for some salad greens.  You will always have a supply on hand to snip from.

Here are my first snippings of the season!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Planting Ponderings

I'm still post-op-sitting and haven't required the heavy-hitting-street-value-medications since last night.  The hubby and the kids are off to a TBall game, and I am wondering how I can schlep my seedlings from their current inside location to the deck for the day.  I pulled a laundry hamper across two rooms this morning, so I guess where there is a will....'s 10 day forecast, which I visit frequently as of late, predicts the following night time lows for my location: Sat 46, Sun 45, Mon 49, Tues 51, Wed 49, Thurs 57, Fri 53, Sat 53, Sun 52, and Mon 54.  I think I recall reading that I don't want night time temps lower than 45 degrees before planting my babies outside.  With this forecast, I'm inclined to plant by on Tuesday if I am feeling well enough.  Of course, next full moon is not until a week fter that, the 27th, which could bring some colder temps.  Curve ball.

So I'll keep schlepping (pushing, pulling, dragging) my babies to the deck for marching practice in anticipation of graduation ceremonies, the date which still is yet to be determined.  While I am sitting, sitting, sitting... I will consult my gardening books (housewife porn, as my hubby calls it) for more clues about the big day.  And when that day comes, my brand new $5 clearance gardening boots will be ready, too :D

Friday, May 14, 2010


This morning I had  minor surgery and am not supposed to lift anything over 30 lbs for six weeks.  Right now I am feeling very sore, having a difficult time walking, and taking percoset for the pain.  I anticipate that this will last for a few days.  So on this brilliantly beautiful day I am sitting.  Yup.  Sitting.  Butt to sofa.  Necessities within reach.  Feeling a little woozy.  Sitting.

Anticipating my imminent immobility, I spent the entire day gardening yesterday.   I pulled out my "potting station" (see pic to immediate left for chuckles), pots, soil block maker, trays, trowel, shovel, and a giant bag of soil.  I set up shop on the deck and began the projects that are more demanding physically.

One goal was to graduate some seeedlings into larger containers so they don't become root bound or tip over.   I suspect that this will be the last "potting up" before planting out - Yippee! 

Another goal was to germinate the last of my seeds (all flowers) and that was mostly successful.  One glitch is that many of my remaining seed packets suggest germinating 4-6 weeks before last frost and that time frame has long since passed.  I suppose I'll just keep the seedlings inside until they look strong enough to harden off and plant outside.  I do still have some seed packets remaining however, because the next glitch is that I ran out of soil before I ran out seeds.  Truth be told, I needed a stopping point so it was probably a blessing in disguise.  I guess I will just save them for next year and see if they will still come up.

A neighbor stopped by as I was puttering about and we were equally pleased for me to unload some seedlings on her.  Among other babies, she bravely accepted some of "Matilda's Mystery Tomatoes".  This variety got their name when my helpful 2yo switched around some labels early in the germination process.  Also taking advantage of the beautiful day, my neighbor's project du jour was dividing perennials.  And I am now the proud owner of some Stella Dora Lilies and Daisies!!!  If you've been reading my posts, you know how much I LOOOVE to have plants with stories other than "I bought this at...:"  While still able to dig, I grabbed my shovel and introduced these babies to their new home.

All day and evening I ran around doing this and that:  Direct seeding some flowers, moving around some planters, digging, weeding, and watering.  When my assistant was not helping me, I was also busy chasing her from potential chaos.  Not only was my  day quite productive, it also took my mind off from the anasthesia that was about to render me unconscious and the scalpal that was about the enter my flesh.  Once again, my garden helped to ease my anxieties.

Today I am grateful for the miracles of modern science, my garden, for the lasagne my neighbor/friend Larina made for our family. 

Oh yes, and for sitting.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

My, But They Grow Up So Fast!

It has been time for my babies to visit the great outdoors and to see what else life has to offer them beyond these four walls.  They really seem to be happy with their visits.  For almost a week now, my 2yo and I have brought these darlings outside to get used to the elements before they are ready to go out on their own.  I guess they are adolescents now, preparing for adulthood in their own soil apartments.  Ready to really grow without my parental eyes. 

Now my mothering skills will be put to the test.  Did I germinate the seeds long enough before planting?  Did I give them enough time on the heating mat?  Did I let them become root-bound?   Have they had enough water?  Did I adequately expand their freedoms with gradually increasing pot sizes so that they didn't get top-heavy and topple?  If you look closely at the picture, you can see that the answer to the last question is "No, no always."  I have some re-potting to do tongiht. 

With record breaking warm days this spring, all green thumbs are itching to kick their babies out of the nest.  I have been addicted to's 10 day forecast.  hoping for a pattern of nites that don't drop below 45 degrees.  Right now all lights a green.  The night of the full moon is Day 10 and the forecast at this point is for 53 degrees that night.  Perhaps this weekend I will put them in?  I don't want to jump the gun, but I'm also getting pretty excited!

So with dramatic grunting sounds, Miss M carries her end of the trays and we do the schlep - in and out - every day.  Tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, broccoli, husk cherries, cucumbers, pumpkins, zucchini, patty pan squash, broccoli raab, brussels sprouts, and various flowers. 

Are you as excited as me to let our seedlings fly?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

A Mother's Garden

As Mother's Day has been approaching, I have been doing my gardening with motherhood on my mind.  I have been thinking about the cultivators, the nurturers, the harvestors, the gatherers, the chefs, and the makers of beauty.  I think about roots, seeds, blossoming, providing, and nourishing .  We have so much in common, gardens and mothers.  And for me, the garden is where I go to rejeuvenate myself.  Not in a lawn chair, but wandering and working, pulling weeds and observing changes. 

One of the early projects in my garden came with budget considerations and serendipity.  I asked my mother and my mother-in-law for some babies from their gardens, and both of them gifted me with Periwinkle.  The periwinkle from my mother's garden was actually planted by her mother, my maternal grandmother, because that's where my parents now live.  For best effect, I combined the Periwinkles from two different locations and planted them in a ring around a large oak tree in our back yard. 

It wasn't until after they were planted that I became sentimental.  This flower bed is a combined legacy of both my and my husband's mothers, and from both of my children's grandmothers.  I simply LOVE this bed!

Another contribution from my maternal grandmother is jonquils, which are also in bloom right now.  After she passed, the cottage she lived in by the ocean was in such bad shape that my parents had it taken down, put up a new house on the same foundation, and moved in.  The "taking down" process was going to ruin Grammie's flower beds, so I took some bulbs from her garden, a bed that I often weeded as a Mother's Day gift to her, and planted them in the garden of a wonderful old apartment building I lived in for five years.  When we made the move to  a house, there was no question that the jonquils would join us.  Aren't they sweet?  Miss you, Gram!

Now my Paternal Grandmother lived in the same home for at least fifty years, and the flower that most reminds me of her is the lilac.  My mother had white lilacs, but I was always soooo admired Grammie's dark purple ones.  They were in an intensely sunny spot behind her house where I often played with my cousins.  I vividly recall the luxurious scent of those gorgeous blooms!  With every inhalation of lilacs, I think of my grandmother and her house.  When we bought our house, it came with MANY lilac bushes, but none of them were getting nearly enough sun.  I recall one of my first serious gardening efforts being the relocation of multiple lilac bushes.  There are so many that I divided them and have given many away.  Mine are light purple (see pic), but part of my garden visions include a dark purple lilac just like my grandmother's.  Hmmmm...... I wonder who lives in that house now... And if it would be weird if.......

Anyway...  I have to say that my biggest "gardening for beauty" inspiration has been my mother-in-law.  In fact, I think that she is a descendent of.... is it Linneus?  A Swede who documented and classified hundreds of species of plants and flowers?  I'll double check on that.  My MIL's garden is gorgeous and fills her with a lot of satisfaction and pride.  She will not travel or plan any medical procedures in the sprintime because it would interfere with her gardening.  Some of the things she has taught me is the "one person's weed..." lesson (see photo below of a wild strawberry), and that tree stumps make wonderful plant holders.  She believes in natural beauty that is cared for.  Here are some pics from my garden, all inspirations or donations from my wonderful MIL.


Friday, May 7, 2010

Green Gifting

This is the first year that I have grown seedlings indoors and am loving the whole "gift" thing!  Here you can see my "greenhouse" (aka living room/toy room/office) that is starting to look like a jungle.  I barricaded the seedlings with toys so that little fingers would be less likely to explore.  I learned this early after little Miss M moved around some of my markers early in the season.  Because of this, many of my plantings are now called "Matilda's Mystery Tomato" because it could be any one of the 5 different tomato varieties I planted.

As you can see, my desk has officially succumbed to these babies and I am now blogging and working from the kitchen (that's Basil in the background.  Not the plant, the cat).   My husband doesn't get this but I planted extra seeds in case some didn't come up, saved some seeds to give away to other green-thumbers, and I still have a plethora of babies!  Tomatoes, red peppers, husk cherries, broccoli, pumkins, cucumbers....  It's a little out of control to be perfectly honest.  The time came to start "gifing" out of both love and necessity.

Some occasions have come up in the last couple of weeks where this abundance has come in handy.  We visited a friend at her parent's house while she was in town and I thought that it would be nice to buy some flowers for the host and hostess.  Being short on both time and cash, I went to my stash and assembled a lovely seedling basket of two types of tomatoes, pepper, and broccoli.  On a note card I wrote the names of the plants, the dates the seeds were planted, and the website of the seed company so the recipients can look up any other information about the seeds/plants.  They loved it!

Last weekend I did a similar thing...  I found a basket in the basement, and terra cotta pot in the shed, put together a gift of seedlings.   This time I had my son draw a picture on some card stock and I wrote the seedling information on the inside.  See attached pic.  Again, the recipients were quite pleased as they are planning their first garden this summer.

Another green gift opportunity came this week when a neighbor/friend had a birthday.  She had been talking about wanting to have more plants and flowers in front of her house, but did not know where to start.  So I attacked my perennials with a trowel, dug up different types of hostas, some periwinkle, and sedum.  While she was at work, I did some stealth planting and left a birthday card at her door.  She called me later that night and said that she was so surprised and touched that it made her cry!

Today's gift was to my son's after-Kindergarten program and my daughter's daycare.  The After-Kindergarten program is located in a former Farm Store on property that has long been farmland.  Last year the farm generously allocated a portion of their property for Community Gardens, where my son's program keeps a 15'x15' plot.  They need seedlings for their new garden, so it was a very welcome contribution.  They will bring the seedlings outdoors with them during recess for "hardening off", to acclimate them to the elements before planting them in their plot.  It feels really good to donate to such a wonderful learning opportunity for these little ones!

My daughter's daycare just happens to be located in an old Farmhouse.  They keep chickens, have wonderful outdoor plants and flowrs, lovely trails in the woods, and an all-around wonderful earthy feel.  I surprised them with some seedlings this morning for the owners and the teachers and they were all very touched and pleased.  One teacher is thrilled because she is having financial difficulties and this will provide food for her family.  The owner is planning on growing some of the plants beside the playground for the children to watch, nurture, harvest, and for snack time.

My next donation will be to the Community Garden's Plant A Row (PAR) program.  We are collectively tending two 15'x15' plots which will soon be ready for seedlings.  We will share the donations, the weeding, the watering, the harvesting, and the delivering of the produce to a town/church food bank that has identified 26 local families in need.

I tell you, I think my heart is going to explode!  I am honored to spread my love through gardening and also love that my children are observing and participating in this process.  The many late hours of planting, watering, nurturing, and re-potting are paying off and these little gifts are treasures will nourish my family, my friends, and my community.  Now I look forward to the hardening off, planting, coddling, and harvesting.  Oh yeah, and to getting my office back :D