Third Time’s the Charm

Have you noticed? Our label difficulties have lingered on for months and months. As you may recall, in January we received 120,000 labels that neither stuck to our bottles or allowed us to write the name of the Essence on their high gloss finish. Thus began my campaign to get the company to do the right thing and reprint the labels the way we ordered them.

After a number of increasingly emotional phone calls with my account executive, I was moved up the food chain at the label company to a more senior executive who could give me a more professional run around. More wild eyed conversations later, I got a promise out of this executive to re-run the labels.

We agreed upon the material used earlier on our label orders that actually stuck to our bottles and also a matte finish on the labels.

About two weeks ago, 120,000 more labels arrived BUT THEY WERE HIGH GLOSS! We were back to square one.

We now had boxes all over our building with various sorts of reject labels piled high- AND we were continuing to varnish the labels in an only partly successful attempt to keep the writing on them. PLUS we were also gluing each label onto the bottle, dramatically boosting sales on gluesticks at our local office supply store.

We had so many different things going on with so many labels- some needed glue still, some needed glue and rewriting, some needed new labels entirely, some were from the test batch the label company sent before they were willing to fix the problem…… There were so many different issues in play and things were so confusing, we had to put post its in every box indicating what particular problem each box of Essences was suffering from. Here, in fact, is what one section of the shipping room looks like right now- and these aren’t Easter decorations!

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Last Friday, more boxes of 120,000 new labels arrived. I was pretty numb by then and could hardly muster enthusiasm to open the boxes. But third time’s the charm and at long last, we have what we asked for!

Matte finish that holds the sharpie ink on label paper that sticks to glass.

Yesterday, each time we used a label that needed neither glue nor varnish we let out a small yelp of delight- and today when Lynn walked in for a day of label writing there was euphoria that we wouldn’t have to throw away a lot of her labels as we did yesterday.

So thank you for your patience with all these peculiar labels we have been using the last few months- We will delight in beginning the switch, at long last, to labels that work!

And just to demonstrate that we too make label mistakes that need to be fixed, here’s a list of some of the funny labels Lynn or one of the rest of us has written when sitting around half listening to conversations while also trying to write the same Flower Essence name a hundred times in a row!

Baby Blue Dogs for Baby Blue Eyes
Toothwart for Toothwort
Maypie for Maple
Patridgement for Patridgeberry
Red Biscus for Red Hibiscus
Rain of Snow for Rain of Gold
Wintermelon for Watermelon
(The wintry weather theme being a true reflection of this climate where we seem to have ten months of winter)
Pink Yarrow from the Cliffs of Dover for Pink Yarrow from the Cliffs of Moher
Bachelor Bottoms for Bachelor Buttons
(Our personal favorite goof second only to the next)
True Wood Squirrel for True Wood Sorrel
Golden Arbor and also Golden Anchor for Golden Armor
Yellow Rose of Taxes for Yellow Rose of Texas
(Its that time of year again)
Cherokee Trail of Years for Cherokee Trail of Tears
Ladies Broomstick for Ladies Bedstraw
(Fitting really)
Watch Your Family for Watch Your Back
(No doubt we were talking about naughty children when that one got written)
Wintergreed for Wintergreen
(Bank bail outs? Executive bonues? The possibilities are endless for what we were talking about when this one got written)

And today, I found a funny typo on the order blanks we just got printed…. Wild Psychic Nut instead of Wild Physic Nut.
(Certainly the shoe fits, just ask the folks at the label company who are hoping they never hear from me again!- but then again, I am hoping I never have to call them again either!)

Spring Banter

In Spring, most of my conversations are addressed to whomever was in charge of the gardens in season past. That would be me. Molly of yesteryear.

I am forever wondering what on earth Molly of yesteryear was thinking when she did this, that, and the other thing. Last week, I wondered why on earth Molly of yesteryear had planted all these daffodils in a place that really needed very short plants. But in this instance, Molly of yesteryear surprised real time Molly with her brilliance, because in this spot she planted miniature daffodils just two or three inches tall and they look adorable.

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Sadly, Molly of yesteryear’s forethought is not always so impeccable. For example, today after I planted sweet peas and regular peas in an early burst of vegetable garden fever, I found myself contemplating an enormous mess of crab grass and bearded iris right smack dab in the middle of the vegetable garden.

Several years ago, a gardening friend gave Molly of yesteryear a paper bag full of gorgeous pale purple iris rhizomes. She couldn’t think where to put the iris so she put them “temporarily” in the vegetable garden until permanent quarters could be found. The next season slipped by without her moving these iris and by then, she was enjoying their display of spring color out there among the cabbages. But there were problems in paradise. As Sophie and Emily can attest, way too much time was spent trying to weed this now enormous patch of iris, but to no avail. When real time Molly examined the iris patch this year it was clear that for every piece of crab grass the girls had weeded out, forty more relentless strands of grass remained.

The reason? Molly of yesteryear just slapped those iris rhizomes into the vegetable garden without removing the crab grass infested dirt wrapped around the iris roots and so, what she really planted was crab grass with a side of iris.

Today saw me, real time Molly. wrestling with shovels, pitchforks, enormous clumps of iris, and yards of crab grass roots in a futile effort to sort the mess out. Finally, utterly defeated, I retreated with a modest hundred extremely well cleaned rhizomes and put them in a Flower bed far, far away from that awful scene of crab grass carnage.

Next, when I can bear the thought of the remaining thousand or so rhizomes returning to compost, I will put down cardboard on top of the whole area of the garden and mulch very heavily. Very heavily. And I will try not to think of all the iris that someone made of sterner stuff than myself would battle on into the night to save. Or I will relieve my guilt and find a friend who wants ten paper bags full of crab grass with a side of iris and who wants to dig this confection up herself!

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In the meantime, to take our thoughts of the carnage in the vegetable garden, here is a picture of diminutive yet striking Iris Reticulata, a gorgeous early spring beauty with no interest in cosying up with any crab grass.

Sugaring Time

The first crocuses have appeared

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and it is heartening to see honeybees enjoying their pollen.

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I spent the day outside with the bees, boiling off the maple sap we collected yesterday. On our small set up, a ten gallon pan sits on top dripping sap into the boiling pan. Theoretically, this means that the boiling pan never loses its boil because only a slow steady drip of warmed up sap falls into it. But when I wander off into the garden to poke around, things can slow down anyways, because I haven’t kept loading the firebox.

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Here is the scene that greets me all day as I try to keep things boiling.

We have had a strange syrup season. While we usually get at least a run or two of sap in February, we did not get a single run until well into March and then bam bam bam, run after run.

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This is our neighbor, Jim Taylor at his family’s sugarhouse. He and his brothers have five thousand taps to our forty. They have been boiling for ten days straight and Jim said they had 10,000 gallons of sap to get through today.

While my syrup has been mostly dark, Jim says they have made a fair amount of the pale Frenchmen’s blonde syrup. This is what gets the big money around here, so they are happy about that. I like the dark stuff better because it has more maple taste.

As I was writing this, my Jim came home from his teaching job and grabbed me to go collect the day’s sap. I took the camera along to show you the sights. As we put our sap buckets down on some maple trees down in town, we have a collecting tank in the back of a truck for the collecting runs.

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Here Jim is pouring a couple of gallons of sap into the collecting tank, with one of the generous maples in the background.

Yes, I know. Maple sugaring is not exactly a dramatic process, but it is a beautiful one.

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And a sweet one too. Here’s the recipe for the most outrageous maple dessert we make. I made it for the menfolk last night as they watched NCAA basketball. Their team won so there was happiness all round. Go UConn.

Maple Dream

First layer
2 cups flour
1 cup butter
1 cup chopped nuts

Combine and press into a 9 x 13 inch pan. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes then cool.

Second layer
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup cream, whipped

Blend and spread on first layer when it is cool.

Third layer
3 cups maple syrup, the darker the better
3 eggs
2/3 cup flour

Mix in a saucepan then bring to boil, stirring all the time to prevent sticking. Cool and spread on second layer.

Fourth layer
i cup cream, whipped

Spread on third layer.

Lots of layers. Probably why we only make it once a year. But you won’t regret the effort if you try it. I promise.

Prellville

One of the gifts of this time of contraction is that it gives us an opportunity to practice a skill that may have grown dusty with disuse. During the past decades of economic expansion and affluence, its been all too easy to lose the talent for enjoying small things, small moments, small pleasures, the talent for figuring out what in the realm of the everyday gives us delight without requiring anything from our pocketbooks.

One of the small pleasures I am enjoying right now are my daily visits to the Snowdrops in the Arbor Garden. It may be 12 degrees outside with a fierce wind howling, but gosh darn it, the Snowdrops are perky.

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I actually think this kind of enjoyment of small simple moments could leave us all happier than our global buffet of options left us.

The problem with a surfeit of goods is that when we are presented with unlimited vacation options, unlimited shopping venues, and forty nine brands of cat food, we begin to think that in every situation there is a perfect choice with no downsides. While this is never true, we experience it as true. This leads to crazy decision making and restless peak bagging, the idea that we MUST do Paris for breakfast, Rome for lunch, and Las Vegas for dinner or we won’t be happy or complete or fulfilled.

When we think the perfect outfit for the perfect meal in the perfect place exists, we lose track of the positives in the choices we actually made and are flooded with restless feelings of dissatisfaction and endless second guessing. Instead of getting on with it, we recall the choices we didn’t make and imagine that one of them was a better option than what we chose.

As we eat that gelato on the Spanish Steps, we think maybe lunch would have been better in Monte Carlo than in Rome. Fewer carbs.

I hope these times will encourage us to simplify our lives and our expectations. This would give us all a chance to discover that our restlessness has less to do with our choices and more to do with our anxieties about our choices. If things do get simpler, we will have a chance to discover just how much joy and energy we lost agonizing about volumizing in the shampoo aisle when Prell would have been just fine.

I mention Prell because when I think of the shampoo selection of my childhood it was Prell, Head & Shoulders, and Johnson’s Baby Shampoo. This choice was enough. And later, when I was a teenager, it felt wildly expansive to have the option of that new upstart brand, Herbal Essences. A choice of four felt enormous. Now, there are so many hair products available, it seems a small rainforest was destroyed for the sake of each hair follicle.

Sometimes less is less and sometimes less is more.

Imagine growing up a couple hundred years ago in a small isolated village. Let’s call it Prellville. If you lived in Prellville, you had only a couple hundred people to compare yourself with. You didn’t feel bad about yourself because you didn’t look like Giselle Bundchen or play football like Tom Brady, because the prettiest girl in Prellville had a wart on her nose and the best athlete had athlete’s foot. This meant your looks fit somewhere into a smaller spectrum of beauty and talent and so did your throwing arm.

Frankly, I think this scenario was probably refreshing. Maybe not the lice or crop failures, but there were up sides to life in ancient Prellville. You were encouraged to get on with your life without expecting the impossible. You married a nice person or not, without expecting to land America’s Next Top Model or Brad Pitt. There weren’t many career options in Prellville so maybe you enjoyed the job that was your lot and maybe you didn’t, but your joy in life probably had more to do with your attitude than your options. And one attitude that your life did not indulged you in was an attitude of maximizing, thinking that the perfect choice existed in every situation and that nothing would suffice but the perfect choice.

Living without that attitude was one of the truly good things about life in Prellville.

Honestly, when are we going to notice that the people we credit with making one perfect choice after another don’t exactly look happy. As far as I can tell, most Masters of the Universe are the first rats entering the rat race every morning and the last to leave it. Their hair may be blessed with the hippest, hottest, most expensive products, but how exactly are they enjoying this?

I guess what I am saying is that if current circumstances continue to slow our society down, we may find surprising joys in the slower pace. While our minds will want to clamor on and on about safaris not taken and gems not purchased, our hearts will be quite content with the Snowdrops. Which really leads us to the only choice worth making, heart or mind? Which is going to run our lives?

As a community of Flowers, Angels, Nature Spirits, Dogs, Cats and even some People, Green Hope Farm can be a funny place……and I love telling you all about it!