Archive for October 2013

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Plan an Event - Plan an Adventure

Photo Credits:  Dragonflight Photography

If there is one thing that gets my blood pumping, it's planning a PARTY!  My initial attempts at being an event coordinator were for my children's weddings.  First it was my Little Angel's "Phantom of the Opera" theme, then Junior's "Please Make it Simple MOM" theme and the  most recent Opera Diva  wedding based on "A Night in Venice" theme .  Oh, how I love a themed wedding.  However, those occasions are now distant memories and with no imminent betrothal's on the horizon from my 2 youngest children, it seemed wise to me that I scratch my party planning itch in some other way.  So, this summer we started working on our 2nd Annual "Fete for the Foodbank" at the store.

Photo Credit:  Dragonflight Photography
Last year we had 175 people join us at a big Wine and Cheese soiree with proceeds going to our local food bank here in Langley.  This year we wanted to change things up a bit by adding a PAMPERING aspect to the evening.

I made a few strategic calls to some talented family and friends...

My Niece Deanna doing mini nail sessions.

and we set up a few beauty stations around the store.....

My cousin's daughter Laurel does a mini up-do
giving our guests the opportunity to sit for a 5 minute consult....

Miss Eigenraam does her magic on Miss Schouten
or some were even treated to a 5 minute MASSAGE.....

Photo Credits: Dragonflight Photography
in the middle of the greenhouse!

Starbucks donated coffee for our bistro......

Photo credits:  Dragonflight Photography
and Tracy Cakes donated cupcakes.

Photo credits:  Dragonflight Photography
Township 7 came by and served the wine.

Photo credits:  Dragonflight Photography

Wine always lifts my spirits!

Photo credits:  Dragonflight Photography
We also featured a fashion show by "Everything but the Groom" as well as "Nectar Lingerie".

Then Chef Glen Zoteck showed us how to whip up the yummiest chicken skewers in just a flash!

The crowd got an opportunity to nibble and sip all night long.

Our volunteers just kept the food coming!

As the sun began to fade, our appetites were wonderfully satisfied with all sorts of tasty morsels.

What do you get when you combine good food....

liberal libations.....



and more SHOPPING?!

You end up with a wonderful night out with new friends....

neighbour friends....

sister friends.....

FRIENDS of every sort.  Each of us united in our wish to connect on a deeper level with one another and with those in need.

So, if you are feeling the need for a little adventure in your life, I would like to suggest you start planning a party?

All you need is a little decor.....

some mood lighting.....

a few tables and chairs.....

and a whole lot of flowers to set the scene.

OR.....if your real hobby is ATTENDING parties, you could always come to one of my parties here at the greenhouse.

This November 16th we are planning a big Winter Reveal shindig at Milner Village Garden Centre which will feature all of the right elements for a fun evening out.  You can register here.  The evening will include 5 local fashion designers presenting their recent creations, local cheeses, local musical talent, catered appetizers, wine tasting and a chance to see the store all done up for Christmas!


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Creative Costumes - Pumpkin Style

Pumpkins and scarecrows are popping up everywhere.   Grocery stores, home improvement stores and corner stores have palettes of colourful gourds bubbling out of giant cardboard boxes as you walk in the doors.  Sunny fall days are slowly transforming as temperatures dip and fog begins rolling in to the Milner Valley.  That's the signal it's time to start planning for the upcoming fun of Halloween!

No need to travel far for an adventure THIS week.

This is the time of year when MATURE citizens get to suspend their adult frame of mind and start thinking like a kid again! Memories of late night trick or treating in the rain and snow with winter coats beneath our cardboard Robot masterpiece keeping us warm while hampering our ability to move freely.  Pillow cases bursting at the seems with bubble gum, candy bars and sweetarts that would last well past Christmas.  Oh the sugar highs and inevitable crashes are indelibly etched in my memory.  Those were the days!

I distinctly remember how much fun it was to plan what costume I was going to wear for the annual candy heist.  Rolls of aluminum foil and tubes of red lipstick were always in short supply at this time of year.  You can imagine then that when I grew up and became a mom, I had even MORE fun dressing my kids for the many parties that happen around this time of year.

Mini Me and Opera Diva as Hiawatha and Snow White

Sometimes the kids LOVED their costumes.....

Mini Me as Pocahontas

Sometimes they helped design their own costume......

My Little Angel draws her dream dress for Mom to sew

And sometimes they re-designed costumes to suit their own personal preference.

Mini Me makes herself a paper crown and train to change things up just a few years later
The boys generally didn't enjoy dressing up as much as their sisters.

Junior's very last costume.  He made a mighty fine Scarecrow!

I just don't understand why NOT?!

Anderson Cooper was VERY scornful of being dressed up.

We always found it such a joy to go around and meet the neighbours whom we never normally saw.  The Davis family, long time farmers here in Milner, held an annual party where we would all gather after the candy was gone and the children were too tired to hit another house.

Now that I am an empty nester, I realize that I still need to itch that creative costuming side of me.  I am finding myself sending Facebook suggestions to my College aged kids for "just in case" they might go to a party next week.

So reply.

So what's a gal like me supposed to do when she has no one to dress up?!  She goes out and buys a bunch of PUMPKINS and uses THEM to curb her addiction.

Never one to leave good enough alone, I find myself going crazy making all sorts of wacky planters just for FUN!

I crack myself up!
Heather, Chrysanthemum and Winter Kale make a perfect combo!
I think I will sell them this weekend at the Winter Market here in Milner Village Gardens so that I can afford to make some more again NEXT WEEK.  My addiction has taken hold I fear.

So, if you are someone who LOVES to hark back to those wonderful days of childhood when your imagination was boundless and magic was real, stop on by the store this weekend.  We are going to be holding our Winter Market where all sorts of fun things will be going on.  

Unfortunately, someone STOLE Frankenstein last year so he will not be attending.

35 Vendors will join us in selling their handmade goods....

Fresh organic veggies.....

and even HOTTIES Food truck will be there!

Using our imagination to pretend there are NO CALORIES in Hotties's fresh pasta!


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Travel Tuesday - Trying New Things

The man behind the "vision"

If there is one thing we are really good at here in Darvonda, it's trying new things.  Life is in a constant state of change and we have a knack of embracing that change.  Starting out as a one horse pony enterprise, our company has grown to include 100's of different methods, customers, employees and crops.  Never one to sit on our laurels and wait until the change overtakes us, we actively look for new programs to enhance the core business we already do.  It makes for a wonderful, roller coaster ride of opportunity and challenge.

A few years ago we embraced the idea of growing hot house veggies in our "off season".  No one was doing it quite the way we planned to do it.  Some of us old timers were hemming and hawing about the risk of trying a crop that, from the outside, appears to be quite difficult to do.


"Dad, why don't we grow cucumbers and tomatoes in the rental greenhouses as a way of keeping them full until Spring.  That will secure the space for our busy season when we need it most and give us income during the months between Summer and Christmas?"

The Big Guy:

"I don't have a clue how to grow veggies!  You think we can do it son?"


"Just give me a chance and I'll show you it can be done."

The Big Guy:

"OK my boy, give it your best shot.  Let's see how it goes."

A flurry of phone calls, meetings, contract negotiations, food safe procedural lessons and equipment training later and we were in the hot house veggie business!

Most people think it starts with a seed but I can assure you that before germination begins there has been months of planning and preparing.

These days, everything is done very scientifically.  Detailed calculations are made as to how much yield each plant will bring.

After the seed has been sown into the Rockwool, vermiculite is spread over the surface to protect the tender shoots as they emerge
Here in BC there are strict quota regulations which we must acquire beforehand, marketing companies we need to partner with, greenhouse preparations that need to be tended to.  Growing a vegetable crop is very different from growing a bedding plant crop.  Our greenhouses need to be as flexible as we are!

Germination is such an exciting thing to see!

Normally we have our heating pipes hanging in the air above the spring plants so the pots can sit flat on the cement flood floor below.

Each bay is engineered to hold water an inch deep.  Water drains away after 5 minutes into a huge recirculating tank.

When it comes time to do our veggies we unhook the heating pipes, lay them down on the cement and they become the tracks on which we send our specialty rail cars in for production work.

When the veggies are harvested, they are collected in bins which run on a special cart adapted to the heat pipes/rail tracks
Each plant is individually fed by a watering tube which is monitored by computer, dispensing the exact amount of fertilizer and moisture as required.  Plants can be receiving water at 10 minute intervals, depending on the daytime conditions.

Growers check the roots to ensure they are healthy
Our tomato crop actually requires us to bring in bees to carry out pollination.  Without those little critters flying from flower to flower with a steady Calvinistic work ethic, the plants will not produce as planned.  Even more intriguing is the fact that Canadian bees are too lazy for the job.  We bring in Mexican bees to carry out the task.  They are known to be the hardest working insects in the pollinating world.


But, there is one small drawback.  The Mexican Queen bee must be securely locked inside her cardboard box hive at all times.  She is such an agressive critter that, should she escape, she could potentially wipe out the Canadian bees in our area.


So, every day we busily plant, pick, and prune with the discipline of Olympic Athletes.

We must constantly monitor the amount of buds being produced and adjust the environment should things not look quite right.

Newly planted cucumber starts are quite finicky.  We watch them closely for stress.

Every plant progresses at a similar rate, 18 days from germination to planting and 21 days from planting to first harvest.

The first day of harvesting is always exciting!
 Each plant should produce around 30 Long English cucumbers in it's 13 week production life span.  That's a total of 800,000 cukes that we will produce out of our little old greenhouse this season.  And every single one of them was planted, staked, tied and harvested BY HAND!

Father and Son checking the crop
Now, you might think that is the end of the manual labor for this particular product but it's not.


Now we have to grade them and pack them for market.  This is another assembly line job that requires concentration and discipline which we have had to learn from scratch.

Our fantastic crew picks up new skills with ease!

Cucumbers arrive in the warehouse daily for sorting and wrapping.  Second grade cucumbers that are too short, too thin, too fat or too crooked are selected and set aside.  Only the top quality ones make the cut and are wrapped for shipping.

NOTE:  Did you know that the annoying plastic wrap on your cucumber is not just an unnecessary nuisance but actually keeps moisture in the cucumber?  That means it remains turgid until you eat it.  When not packed in plastic, they quickly become limp and unappetizing if left too long in the fridge (outside the fridge makes them lose their turgidity even faster).

Now, as you can imagine, we did not stop at learning how to grow just CUCUMBERS.  Once our initial foray into the hot house veggie business was deemed reasonably successful, we branched out into all sorts of other things.

We produced a crop of 36,000,000 grape tomatoes in a 6 month time span.

Then we moved on to Beef steak tomatoes.

Remember, each tomato is picked, sorted and packed BY HAND!

It is quite MIND BOGGLING how we even get it all done every day again!



and shipping.

Hard to believe this is what we consider our SLOW SEASON at Darvonda.

Now, just a fun fact I am sure you will enjoy.  Do you see the label on these plastic bags?  I'm talking about the white sticker with the Net Weight information.  Well, Junior and his wife, in a money saving, family bonding sort of way, called us over to their place one evening for a "Duck Dynasty" marathon event.  We LOVE Duck Dynasty and don't have cable so Junior PVR's it for us.  We were given a seat at the dining room table with a good view of the television, a glass of red wine, a pile of Tesoro bags and a GIANT roll of white Net Weight stickers.  We spent the evening together around the table stickering bags as a family.

The family that stickers together stays together!

So there you have it.  My latest edition of Travel Tuesday with a twist.  Are you always open to new things?  Do you find they keep you excited about what's around life's next corner?  Join in the fun and post with us your latest adventure.