It is already mid-January, but I finally have a few minutes to look back at last year at Squash Blossom, a year that did not go at all according to our lofty plans, thanks to Covid-19. However, we are fortunate that none of our family became sick and and grateful for some of the projects and opportunities that a pandemic year allowed us.
Here are a few highlights of 2020, and some of our hopes for 2021:
My birthday falls between Christmas and New Year, and in 2019, Rog and I celebrated it by having dinner in the vardo, which was sheltered in the greenhouse for the winter. It was so lovely, we decided to turn it into an exotic AirBnB. All winter, we re-furbished the inside of the vardo with a comfy custom mattress and set up the greenhouse with an inviting dining and relaxing area. Of course, as soon as it was ready, everything closed down for the pandemic and the AirBnB did not happen (yet). Maybe in 2021...?
We spent much of last winter and spring perfecting our chocolate-making, designing molds and packaging, and deciding upon flavors. This has been a SWEET enterprise!
We finally had time to complete our long-awaited farm sign! Our talented woodworker friend Jim Frost built the components, carved in the design and cut out the letters and medallion, I painted it and glued it together, and Rog erected it. How ironic that the year we finally had a beautiful sign was the year we were not open to the public. In 2021: expect some beautiful plantings around this sign.
In January, I had a big sale in my little eclectic store in the granary, parting with my vintage inventory to turn the granary into my studio. I completed the transition just in time for the pandemic, and this sewing area(above) served me well, sewing masks galore. Then, our daughter Sara moved home, taking over the studio to live in and write her masters thesis. Giving up my studio space was a small price to pay to have her here! Now she is in Costa Rica, working with the chocolate farmers who trained her in chocolate making and some of whom grow our cocoa beans (expect some guest posts about chocolate!) and I have reclaimed the studio. In 2021, there will be art-making!
In 2020, I had decided to discontinue my CSA program and only grow veggies and herbs for our pizza-making and to focus on flowers for a friend's boutique florist business. But then, when Covid hit, it seemed like a better idea to concentrate more on veggies. Reluctantly, we had let go our planned staff and interns. Despite not having interns, I think we accomplished one of our most beautiful, productive and weed-free gardens ever!
We didn't have pizza nights to use up all the veggies, but we used them in much of our market baking and set up a little farmstand at the end of the driveway when the tomatoes and squashes got out of hand.
We are grateful that Rog was able to retain his architect position during the pandemic last year, but his reduced hours allowed him to tackle some of his dream projects on the farm. For instance, after finding a bunch of used laminated bowling alley lanes for a ridiculous price, he installed them in the south side of our barn, which we envision as our future (2021?) mead-and chocolate-tasting room.
Now, he is focused on turning the north side of the barn into a commercial kitchen expansion, a future chocolate-making area in 2021(and maybe a farm meadery?)
One event that caught us by surprise this summer happened along our gravel township road. It was taken over by the County and paved, and now parking for our events will no longer be allowed along the shoulders. We still do not know fully how this road construction will impact our events in 2021, if the pandemic subsides enough that we can hold them, but we have a few ideas and have re-homed our cows realizing that the best part of our pasture will have to become parking area.
The most disappointing aspect of the pandemic upon our farm was not being able to have Summer Sundays music and pizza nights and special events. We missed our wonderful interns and staff and the hustle-bustle-fun of people visiting the farm. Loss of our pizza income also had a financial impact, but we are grateful that our Farmers Market sales were crazier than ever. In addition to summer Rochester Farmers Markets at Graham Park, we participated in the experimental online market begun during the pandemic, which was a tremendous success. We are still baking for the online market this winter, and have added frozen wood-fired pizzas, pot pies and homemade soups, as well as our breads and pastries. Meanwhile, Rog has gotten oh-so-accomplished with his sourdough breads, which are truly delicious works of art. We cannot thank you, our valued customers, enough for your continued patronage during these hard times!
With every crisis comes opportunity, they say. The disaster of Covid last year gave Rog and me our first summer together, just the two of us, no staff or interns, in ten years. I am so grateful to be isolated with my perfect partner, with my beloved critters, with no end of exciting projects, in my favorite spot on earth.