Archive for June 2013

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Behind the Scenes - CTV Noon News Garden Segment

Colleen Christie and I enjoy a little punch together during a commercial break
Yesterday I went on local television to do a gardening segment and basically I shared with viewers the groceries I bought at Safeway the night before:

Pink Lemonade concentrate (which was on sale, BTW.  5 for $5)
7 UP
Garlic sausage
Goat Cheese
Sun-dried Tomatoes

Yup.  That's what I did.  I told everyone who would listen to buy what they probably already buy.  My kids were mortified.

"Mom, couldn't you have just been a LITTLE more creative?!  You were on TELEVISION.  You could have presented something just a little more DEEP, don't you think?  Couldn't you just PRETEND you made that punch from scratch?!"

And then Mini Me asked me if I she could have the dress I was wearing because apparently I finally bought something that's HIP.

I gave it to her.

I want my kids to love me.

Now, as I was preparing this current segment last week, I had a number of panic attacks just thinking about what to present.  When I had emailed the idea to the producer, it seemed like a great concept.  An idea on paper always seems quite logical.

What was my original pitch?

Get the most out of your garden by using the K-I-S-S method.

Keep - It - Simple - Stupid.

It all made so much sense until.......

I realized that STUPID might not be a word you can use on live television.

There was nothing I could do though, by the time I realized it.  I would just have to go with it.  It's kind of like CLIFF DIVING Tamara style.  Your only option is to take the plunge once you are at the precipice.  For all I knew, they would have to BLEEP me.

I hoped CTV Noon News had a delay in place to give them time to deal with a guest like me!

As per usual, the Big Guy was my ROCK and REFUGE in times of trouble.  He just calmly went about loading and unloading all my props with his quiet demeanour.   Anyone who knows him though, would not be fooled by his cool-as-a-cucumber facade.  They KNOW what he is thinking.....
The Big Guy hauling all the props up to the Studio
 "Why did I ever marry this NUT BAR?!"

The poor guy never knew what hit him the day we met.  If he could have seen into the future, he would have turned tail and run.

Now, I also had the incredible help of our newest Team Member at Milner Village Garden Centre, Shelley, designer extraordinaire.

Shelley is such an amazing gal.  I feel really blessed to have crossed paths with this lady.  I don't think SHE knew what she was getting in to either when she happened to wander into the VORTEX that is Darvonda!

We managed to make it to the studio very early this time.   Last time the elevator was not working and it took us forever to get all our props up to the 3rd floor and set up.

This time we were ready early so that gave me time to really start getting nervous.

My kids tell me that they can see how nervous I am in this picture.

They don't know the HALF of it.  My mind was on over drive while I was sitting here.

"What questions are they going to ask me?!  Why didn't I receive a script by email like last time?!  What if Colleen doesn't like pink lemonade?!"

The CLIFF DIVE appeared to get just a little higher.

Fortunately for me, the camera guy was a really nice fella.  He told me how things would work, explaining that there would be a 10 second segment before a commercial break where the camera would focus on me and that I should do something interesting for the shot.

Last time I did a segment.......I waved.

I was mortified with myself but that was all I could think of doing.

Good thing my Little Angel did NOT forget my previous humiliation and made sure to text me the following:

"Remember.  Don't WAVE!"

What would I do without my KIDS?!  They are just so HELPFUL.

So, I can thankfully say that when the camera man told me to DO something this time.....

I chose to turn my corn on the cob with my brand new tongs on my cold as ice BBQ.


Once the segment got going though, I felt like time sped up.  As soon as the teleprompter starts scrolling it feels to me like taking a leap......

I can feel the wind in my hair as I descend at break neck speed......

I can hear myself talking.......

I think I may have been rambling......

Colleen is looking at me like "Who IS this NUT BAR?!"  Who can blame her?

Oh Colleen, WHY didn't you STOP me?!  If we ever do this again......please, feel free to kick me under the table.  I am used to it.  I won't be offended.

The really adorable thing about the whole episode is how, once the camera's were turned off and we went to commercial break, all the crew encircled the counter and polished off my goodies within the blink of an eye.  It felt so ENCOURAGING to know that simple really does work!

Following our morning adventure, we decided to treat ourselves to a nice lunch at the Craperie close to the studio.  Shelley and I indulged in a Nutella Martini......


 a delicious cocktail which I can HIGHLY recommend.  Chocolate + Alchohol = Yummy Goodness.

Thank you to EVERYONE who helped out including Mini Me who had to race out from Langley with the PINK LEMONADE and the 7 UP which I had forgotten at home in the fridge.

What an awesome daughter!  I have no idea WHAT I would have had to substitute with if she hadn't come out to save the day.  WATER?!  Oh my, that would have taken SIMPLE to a WHOLE NEW LEVEL!

If you would like to watch the episode, click HERE, however you have been forewarned.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Simple Garden Entertaining - Tips from a 5 minute Martha

A Parisian Bistro right in your own back yard
This Spring we have watched endless scores of people rush out to their local garden centre/Big Box store and load their cars up with yards of top soil, fertilizers, shovels and hoes in a heroic attempt to get their annuals and perennials planted and ready for a summer full of back yard fun.  The work is hard but the rewards are great.

Well, today I am here to say that it is officially time to put down your hose, clean yourself up and finally get out there to enjoy the fruits of your labor!  What are you WAITING FOR?!  Summer has ARRIVED!

Now, in the spirit of helpfulness, I have decided to give you my best advice on Garden Entertaining that I hope will show you the genius that is my method.  It is a method that many Pinterest junkies may find utterly appalling.  Even Martha might have a bone to pick with me in this regards but here is my MOTO......

Keep it Simple Stupid.

Yup, that's it.  K - I - S - S.  An acronym and concept I stole from the business side of life that has nothing to do with stolen embraces in the park.

Hold on!

It has EVERYTHING to do with stolen embraces in the park.  If you learn to adopt my method and keep things SIMPLE, you will have more time on your hands to head out into the garden with your significant other, or perhaps a good book, and just enjoy a special moment.  Now that your flowers are in full bloom, you need to get out there and enjoy them.  Now!

NOTE:  It is currently pouring rain outside as I type so I am NOT actually referring to THIS instant.  I prefer my outdoor garden moments to be on the dry and sunny side.  Always wait till the clouds part and you've had a chance to dry off the chair you are going to sit on.

Now, the first step to becoming a "5 minute Martha" is to drop all your misguided ideas that everything good takes a long time to achieve.  Contrary to popular belief, a good punch does NOT have to be made from scratch.  All that boiling and stirring can be avoided if you just come to the understanding that punch can be made from juice concentrate and 7-UP.

Serve your punch in Mason Jars so your fruit garnish are visible.  Simple and easy!

Don't be shocked.  You can do this.  You just have to trust me.

Now, make your Pink Lemonade or whatever juice concentrate happens to be on sale that day, add a bottle of 7-UP and VOILA!  You have lift off.

But, here is the real SECRET to being a 5 Minute Martha.  It's all in the PRESENTATION.

If you take your simple punch and pour it into an attractive glass punch tureen, add some fruit slices, berries, ice cubes and even a few pansy blossoms, you have suddenly transformed your store bought goodies into something even Martha would be proud of.

Well, maybe not but I would sure be proud of you!

Next step is to find a little corner in your newly planted garden and set up a small table and chairs.  But don't just plop it out there without adding some SERIOUS BLING.

Color coordinate your table clot, napkin rings, plates and pillows to add contrast to the beautiful green foliage and bright floral back ground you are surrounded by.  When you set up your little get-a-way, remember to add layers of color that will stand out from their surroundings.  Be BOLD.  Be DARING. Be BRAVE.

Now, should you be wanting munchies as well, make sure to think SIMPLE.  Slice up a coil of Garlic Sausage.  Open up a pack of Goat Cheese.  Grab a can of Garlic Stuffed Olives.  Add them all to a pretty plate with a few of your favourite fancy crackers and garnish with a blossom picked out of the garden.

See?!  Simple?!  No fuss, no muss.

Now, what are you waiting for?  Get out there and party!

NOTE:  If it is raining by the time you reach the end of this post, just go on PINTEREST and check out all the beautiful garden party photos people have been posting lately.  It's the next best option to sitting in your own little garden.  

Now, I am off to do a segment on the Noon News here in Vancouver.  Wish me luck.  I am hoping to convert all the viewers to my way of thinking.  I am heading up the "5 Minute Martha" movement and there is just no stopping me!


Monday, June 10, 2013

We've Come a Long Way Baby!

 The Big Guy and I at Prom in 1986

I received an email this morning that I thought I should share with my blogger peeps.  It is from a farmer out in Alberta.  She has a retail greenhouse not too far from a greenhouse we bought last Fall just 70 km outside of Edmonton.  I haven't had a chance to write a blog post about the new greenhouse yet but I will do that in short order, I promise!

When Sigrun heard of our purchase, she was concerned about how that would affect her own business.  Somehow, via my sister's blog, she got in contact with me and we had a nice chat.  This morning she sent me a follow up email with her most recent blog post.  It never ceases to amaze me how blogging can connect people with similar interests from all over the world in a way like never before.

Anyway, here follows a link to Sigrun's post and my response:

Hi Sigrun,

Thanks so much for sending me your blog post link.  As a farmer, I first want to say that I understand your feelings of concern and worry.  Being in business is never without that constant nagging feeling in the back of your head that keeps whispering "This just might be the season where everything falls apart".  As a woman of faith, I constantly pray that I can place my trust in my heavenly Father and accept what He has in store for me, no matter what.

A skit at our wedding in 1987 is all about flowers.  Who knew the roller coaster ahead would be so wild?!

I really appreciate your letter and the title "I'm really upset but I don't know if I should be...." and the openness with which you address your fears and concerns.  I love the fact that you put it all out  there.  You are my kind of lady!

You describe in your post how you conduct your business and what motivates you.  You work hard, you give to your community, you invest in your farm and family and at the end of the day you lay it all on the Lord in prayer.

Believe it or not, that is EXACTLY how I would describe myself and my family.  We started from nothing, just like you.  We took risks that failed, just like you.
Placing a new boiler in 1997 - Not an easy job
 We took other risks and some paid off, just like you.

The Big Guy making sure the boiler is level - The year the bank called our loans!

 And even though our farms don't look exactly the same today, despite being in the same industry for almost the same amount of time, I see that our goals and dreams are the same.  We both want what we do to have a deeper meaning.

It sure has been a long road though, don't you think?!

I have been in business with my hubby since we were married 26 years ago.  He was working for his dad in a small 10,000 square foot greenhouse, selling flowers to our local flower auction in Vancouver, the United Flower Growers Co op which is fashioned after the dutch flower auction in Holland.  My Father-in-law was one of the first members at the UFG.  He built his greenhouse originally with a specific thought niggling in the back of his mind.   He had been through WWII and remembered vividly what starvation felt like while living in occupied Netherlands under Hitler's vicious regime.  In the back of his mind he felt that if he had a small greenhouse in his yard, he would be able to grow his own food if a time of war ever came to his new homeland, Canada.

My in-law's tried many different crops back in those days.  Hothouse Tomatoes and the like were all part of the repertoire.  They tried renting the facility out to other growers.  They ran it themselves.  They tried hiring managers.  Nothing was particularly successful but they kept working away at it.

Jump ahead to 1991, the hubster, or as I like to call him, the Big Guy, was working for his Dad growing a crop of 6" potted cyclamen......
Junior has been helping out in the greenhouse from birth.
which were dying like flies for no apparent reason.  Every day he would walk through the greenhouse and find mature, 9 month old plants completely collapsed on the tables, even though they were perfectly healthy just 24 hours before.  We had no idea what was going on.  We finally found a science student at the University of British Columbia who was interested in solving this mystery for us.  Finding her was a real godsend, since we were at our wits end and had no money to spend on expensive laboratory tests.  Her findings were shocking.  We had an untreatable virus in the greenhouse which came to us directly from our seed supplier in Europe.  There was nothing to do except empty the greenhouses and start from scratch.

We were a young married couple, two little children and one on the way, facing complete devastation.  We got down on our knees and prayed for wisdom.  What should we do?!

What we decided in the end was to switch over to a completely new crop.  We decided to go into BEDDING PLANTS.  Now, at the time, if you were a grower in the Fraser Valley, you were a bottom of the barrel grower if you grew bedding plants.  Mostly back yard operators dealt in that kind of stuff.  A GOOD grower would never touch them.  But........we did it because we could see that it was in demand more than anything else the auction had to sell.

That same year, my father-in-law said "Son, if you want the place, you can have it!" and that was it.  We were in charge and free to do whatever we thought we needed to do.

First thing we did........we bought a fax machine.  I started sending out regular faxes to the local garden centres to let them know our availability.  Pregnant and ready to pop, I drove around in the truck with the Big Guy and dropped off samples.  We were even forced to sell on consignment just to get through the crop.  We worked during the day filling pots.....

Hand filling pots was a labor intensive job back then!!!!!

spraying weeds, picking plants......

I never really thought about germs in those days.  The kids crawled around the greenhouse freely.

and doing all the hard work that comes with being a grower who had no staff left but ourselves.  At night we would hop into our one and only truck loaded full of mature plants and beg stores to try our stuff.  The two oldest kids fell asleep in their car seats while we drove around looking for customers.

NOTE:  Getting in and out of an 8 cart delivery truck while 8 months pregnant is not an easy thing.  On occasion I felt sorry for myself that I was the verbal one in this partnership since that meant the Big Guy was never the one to talk to the customer.  However, the birth of my 3rd child ended up being the easiest one of all since my muscle tone was FABULOUS from all the exercise I got on the job.  
Our third daughter, Rebecca is born.
She just sort of popped out when the time came.

So, was it all uphill that year?  Certainly not.  We ended up just barely breaking even.  I was paying for groceries on my Visa and hoping my car would not break down because the bank account could not support a repair.  Scary stuff, being in business for yourself.

To make a long story short, we faced MANY of these sorts of challenges over the last 26 years including crop losses, power failures, accidents, fires, floods, septic malfunctions and all manner of troubles that would cause a sane man to call it quits.  There are enough stories in our very short history in business to write a book!

Where are we today?  Well, today we are 26 years older and wiser, with 5 kids and 3 grandkids whom we love and adore.  Our greenhouse has grown and prospered, regardless of the enormous challenges we faced over the years.  We see the hand of our heavenly Father in it all.  It's not because we made all the right decisions.  It's not because we were so smart.  It's not because we had all the advantage that other's did not have.  Nope.  It just happened while we went about our daily duties as given to us by our Creator in Genesis 1:28:

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Creativity lives in man.  It's what makes us tick.  We work at re-creating things in our homes, in our businesses and in our own personal selves every day anew.  When change comes our way, it's a bit scary but it provides us an opportunity to respond with courage and optimism.  That's why we're here on this earth provided with talents and abilities to use in our Creator's service.

In truth, our business grew from a very small operation to a size we could never have imagined back in 1991.  During the busy seasons we now have at least 200 people working for us, depending on us for their livelihood.  This both humbles and emboldens us.  With so many people counting on the greenhouse to help them pay their mortgages and buy their groceries, we have an enormous responsibility to keep the whole company healthy and in the "black".....or perhaps "green" would be more apt in this case.

I hope you can see by my story here that we are not some evil, multi-national, inhumane corporation with no heart.  We are a family run farm that has prospered in our work over the years.  Our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, and a great many friends work here.  We all go to work every day with the same worries and concerns that every farmer and grower producing live organisms must live with.  Crop failure and human error lurk around every cloudy day or accidental growth regulator application.

Please don't judge us by the size of our greenhouse.  We love what we do. It's our PASSION!

So, in the spirit of the Golden Rule by which we always strive to abide, please let me share with you a few things I have learned in business over the years.  Maybe they will help you understand what decisions you might need to make for your own farm in the future.  Or perhaps they will be things you already know.  Rest assured, they are things that we have learned the hard way.  I hope it can go easier for you!

1.  Be PASSIONATE.  If you love what you do, it is so much easier to face challenges and trials that are sure to come your way, because you are doing what you LOVE to do!

2.  Infect others with your ENTHUSIASM.  If you are enthusiastic about what you have to offer, other's will want to come along for the ride.

3.  Consider any NEW CHALLENGE as a NEW OPPORTUNITY.  We have found that time and again, when a new challenge comes our way, it always leads to new ideas and ways we can improve.  ALWAYS.

4.  NETWORK with a vengeance. We have learned that partnering with greenhouses around the world is the best way to go.  Your competition does not have to be your enemy.  As a matter of fact, they may well be the answer to some of your problems.  Sharing with each other will always be the way for everyone to improve.  Have you thought about how partnering with a bigger greenhouse like ours might help you cut some of your costs?

5. As much as possible, avoid producing crops on SPECULATION.  We grew cyclamen for many years on speculation.  We just HOPED the customers would come and buy.  This tactic ENSURED us the lowest price year after year.  We finally learned to PRE-SELL our crop so that if we grew it, it already had a home to go to once it was ripe.  This gave us the advantage of knowing how much our customer was willing to pay and we could work with that budget ahead of time.  

6.  It's not just "All about the money"!  Our life here on earth is all about living in a community.  Our Creator made sure that we were not alone.  He told us to care for each other, to "love our neighbour as ourself".  That's where the fruits of our labor comes in.  We can leverage our assets, whether that is our time, our wealth, our support, our home or our hearts, to the upbuilding of others.   That kind of connectedness builds us ALL up.

And now, I should really go check on my adorable grandchildren who are visiting for the week.  Their mommy just had a baby......
My Little Angel and her bundle of joy

and she is busy bonding with our newest member of the crew, Wee Three.

Welcome to the world, little Miss Avery!  
I have been put in charge of babysitting.  I am thinking that the addition of an icecream cooler at the retail might be a dangerous one for this gramma!  Wee One and Wee Two LOVE ice-cream.

Wishing my FARMER PEEPS out there all the best!  Want to join in the discussion?  Feel free to leave a comment below.  There is just so much we can all learn from each other......