Archive for 2014

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Christmas Crazy

Christmas time on the farm can only be described as CRAZY!  One can never guess what the season will bring from minute to minute.  FLEXIBILITY is top priority for us greenhouse peeps. It's the only coping mechanism we have to avoid the extreme stress which could potentially lead to institutionalization.  The bizarre challenges we meet would make a really exciting REALITY TV SHOW to rival DUCK DYNASTY.   This year has been no exception, including but not limited to:

-  Containers from Asia taking the long way to Vancouver
-  Delivery trucks (with human drivers inside) inching their way through blizzards on the Coquihalla, better known as the "Highway through Hell" in white out conditions
-  Power failures
-  Wind storms
-  Computer glitches
-  Delayed flowers


 -  an inconvenient meeting with a moose while on a sales trip between Edmonton and Red Deer.
NB:  thankfully the vehicle managed to remain wheels down, regardless of the air time/Duke's of Hazzard stunt Junior managed to pull off!   However the damage sustained from the impact did render the car un-driveable.

The list could go on AD INFINITUM.

Yet, as every poinsettia grower knows, these plants have to make it to market as fast and fresh as possible!  Nothing must stand in our way.

It's a good thing for me that the younger generation loves to hang around the greenhouse during this hectic time.  Their smiley faces and sparkling eyes remind me of all the best things that Christmas has to offer.
My Little Angel provided soothing Christmas carols even though she is ready to give birth any day now!

It also keeps me from using any of the unsavoury vocabulary that regularly pops in my head when some NEW problem arises.  I would hate to have a negative effect on their upbringing.

So, we hope all of our poinsettias (better knows as "our babies") have found a warm and cozy home with a happy family for Christmas.  Don't forget to water them or they may drop a few leaves and that would be a crying shame!  

Now we can finally head out on a well deserved holiday in the mountains where NO ONE can reach us with any problems for at least a few days.  If you need me, I'll be curled up on the couch in front of a cosy fire in SunPeaks enjoying a bottle of wine and a good book.  Just leave a message.....


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

One More Year of Gratitude

My 4th Birthday

I woke up this morning one more year older, one more year wiser and one more year grateful.  Now, perhaps I am feeling all this gratitude more acutely on this particular birthday because I just spent a weekend with my dear sister Rosa down in Moscow, Idaho.  We were at a writers workshop being encouraged to immerse ourselves in gratefulness because that's how good writers SHOULD live.  If you want to be a REAL writer, they told us, you have to be the kind of person who notes the little details and stores them up in a thankful heart to be shared as a blessing to others.

Point well taken.  Thank you Wordsmithy 2014.

Recently my mother sent me this photo of my wee self on my fourth birthday. I found it again this morning in a photo album.  It brings back stored memories as bounteous as a squirrel's stash of winter nuts.  When I look at it, the faded colors and indistinct details snap into sharp focus.  I recall the scratch of my dress, all starchy and stiff, on my tiny little shoulders.  I hear the clink of my birthday bracelets dangling heavily on my pudgy little wrist.  I sense the squeeze of new clip-on earrings pinching my lobes like crabs clinging to a sandy beach.  I  recall how much I hated that short, boyish pixie cut hairstyle which denounced my feminine sensibilities in a way that I found completely reprehensible.  The memories are so intense, I just want to reach into the photo and hug this little me and comfort her, for I know that the years ahead are heavy with fear and sadness, loss and loneliness.

My childhood was spent in uncertainty, having to choose between my Father and my Mother, living apart from my sisters.  Rosa, the oldest, chose to live with my father.  I chose my mother.   I missed Rosa intensely, those many years we spent separated.  She had a wonderful sense of the magical that I idolized.  I would imagine the great stories she would tell when we would see each other again.  I thought up plots and sub-plots which we could weave into one grand fairy tale on our next visit.  Every fable I concocted had a raven haired princess warrior who was brave and true, just like my big sister.

The past few days were a great gift, a chance to once again weave imaginary stories  that may never be written, and spend precious time with my dearest friend and kin.  We shared a bed, talking into the wee hours of the night about metaphors and similes, hobbits and wizards, dragons and Dumbledore.


We giggled together like we were little kids.  We immersed ourselves in the details.

No barn went un-photographed......

and no meal went un-documented.

  Megabytes of data are cluttering "the cloud" with digital memories of our wonderful weekend.

And I am one more year older and one more year wiser and I am one more year grateful.

Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
The Lord works righteousness
    and justice for all the oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
    his deeds to the people of Israel:
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
    slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
    nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
    or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
13 As a father has compassion on his children,
    so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
14 for he knows how we are formed,
    he remembers that we are dust.
15 The life of mortals is like grass,
    they flourish like a flower of the field;
16 the wind blows over it and it is gone,
    and its place remembers it no more.
17 But from everlasting to everlasting
    the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,
    and his righteousness with their children’s children
18 with those who keep his covenant
    and remember to obey his precepts.
19 The Lord has established his throne in heaven,
    and his kingdom rules over all.
20 Praise the Lord, you his angels,
    you mighty ones who do his bidding,
    who obey his word.
21 Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts,
    you his servants who do his will.
22 Praise the Lord, all his works
    everywhere in his dominion.
Praise the Lord, my soul.

Psalm 103


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Alice in Wonderland - Parade Edition

The rain didn't keep us from having a great time at the Fort Langley May day Parade!
Some of my best childhood memories are of sitting in an upstairs window above my Dad's bakery in downtown Chilliwack watching the May Day parade pass by.  I had the best seat in town!  I loved watching the clowns throw candies pell-mell at the kids who scampered out onto the asphalt to retrieve their bounty while bagpipe bands passed by in perfect formation.    Parades remind me of a time when kids were kids and unwrapped candy that landed in muddy puddles was fair game.  Back in the day, I could hang out that second floor window as far as possible to catch a better glimpse of the Clydesdales prancing along in unison, no one pulling me back inside for fear I would fall out.  Those glorious days of innocence and freedom are far behind me but........for the past few years we have been participants in a number of community parades where I get the opportunity to be drawn all the way back to the good ole days.   Only, now WE are the parade and the next generation of kids line the streets in anticipation of treats and fun.  You can imagine that with such grand memories of my youth, I am determined that we not let the kids down!

This year we had an easy choice for a parade float theme.  We have had an "Alice in Wonderland" theme set up in our Garden Centre all spring long.  It was just a natural choice to keep that going so we started trolling Pinterest and craft blogs to find easy ways to make it happen.

We found this super easy pillowcase/card soldier costume idea on-line and got to work.  I cleaned out two Value Village in Saskatoon and one in Langley of every white and red pillowcase I could find.   To be truthful, I ended up making 14 in total.....

which was not as much work as it sounds, amazingly enough.

Next my Little Angel came up with some great ideas for the White Rabbit which was also found on Pinterest.

I am telling you, PINTEREST is a WONDERLAND of great ideas!  No more "googling" for me.  I am addicted to "pinning" these days!

Then while I was gone on a trip to the Prairies last week my daughter just came up with a whack of great ideas for the rest of us.  She whipped up this Queen of Hearts costume......

and collected up our "Alice" costume from one of the garden centre displays to complete our character trio to perfection.

Not satisfied with just that, my Little Angel threw together a Mad Hatter costume for herself......

including a fabulous mobile tea party......

with the Cheshire Cat as special guest!

Now, you might think that this would have been enough work and that we had enough details organized to make a great float but then you would not know my daughter very well.  Nope.  If she has more time available to her, she will just keep adding more detail to an already fantastic presentation.  And so.......

the TALKING DOOR KNOB was added to our little float house from last year!

But wait......that is STILL not the end.  No, my Little Angel decided that we needed to dress up our electric car as well, making it look like "Absinthe" from Disney's cartoon version of Alice in Wonderland.

A couple of blue sheets sewn up at midnight, stuffed with a few pillows and VOILA!  You have another fabulous display for the kids to enjoy!

The morning of the parade was just a little chaotic.  Hair and makeup were courtesy of my darling daughter-in-law who took a little time out of her crazy schedule at Darvonda to make the perfect bun in Wee One's hair.

The float was loaded onto the trailer by 8 AM and whisked off in the pouring rain to find our spot in line before it got too busy with parade participants clogging the road ways for us to safely get off loaded.

We had hoped the clouds would dissipate quickly but they didn't and we all had to take cover under our pop up tent.

However, it seemed like none of our helpers even NOTICED the rain.  The air was electric with excitement.  The music was blaring and we finally started rolling but somehow, the White Rabbit was nowhere to be found!

Eventually we realized that he was happily sitting in the the little house unable to get out.  The Big Guy had put the door in place without realizing he was still inside.

Wee Two is not quite sure he likes being the White Rabbit all of a sudden!

We managed to coax the little fella outside and he walked the entire mainstreet hand in hand with his Dad, the March hare, where little girls ran out in the road trying to give him a hug!  Literally!  One mother had to dart out into the parade to retrieve her little girls who were determined to HUG the White Rabbit.

Yup.  My grandkids are just THAT adorable.

So, in my mind, the 92 nd Annual Fort Langley May Day Parade was a GIANT success, regardless of the pouring rain.

We all really had a great time!

Thanks to my friend Mirjam for this fun photo!  
I think I had the MOST fun of all!

Can't wait to start planning for next year.


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Farming Isn't For Sissy's

This is it, my friends.  This is the time of the year when everything we farmers planned, everything we planted, everything we watered, everything we picked and packed......all comes together!  It has taken 12 months of pain staking processes, 100's of hours of computer work, 1000's of meetings and 10,000's of kilometres walking the greenhouses to get our plants ready for this very moment.

Now the final stages of the plan are nearing completion........

our product is on the way to a store near you......

One of our loads headed through the Rocky Mountains has a "mishap".  No injuries to the driver.

What could go WRONG?!

Nothing was salvageable.  A replacement load was on the road in less than 8 hours
I must say that this business is probably the VERY BEST business to remind a man of his complete reliance on God for all things!  There is absolutely never a dull moment here at Darvonda and the year 2014 is absolutely NO EXCEPTION.  So far we have battled:

-  Tobacco Mosaic Virus (bio security measures have been in place all season)
-  A Strike by truckers at the Vancouver Port (all our pots were delayed)
-  Cold Spring weather in all of Western Canada (it even snowed this morning in Winnipeg!)

There's a whole lot more I could put on the list but I would hate to make your blood pressure rise.  It's best I keep it to myself.  I have learned a few coping skills over the years to get me through the stress.

At this time of the year......

My coffee intake spikes.  My sister gets a whole lot of "woe is me" phone calls.  My knees get red and raw from bending down in prayer.

Farming just isn't for Sissy's, that's for sure.

Ironically enough, our week started out very relaxed in Las Vegas where we basked in the evening warmth on a patio overlooking the Bellagio Hotel's beautiful fountain.

During the day we were scouring the Las Vegas Hardware Show for what might be the next big "thing" in the horticulture industry and chatted with suppliers to source what is needed for Spring 2015.  The planning has begun for next year already.

It wasn't long before we were back on a plane and flying to the Canadian Prairies to set our product out on the shelves in a number of Big Box stores there.

Before and After shot showing the complete annihilation of our racks on the Mother's Day weekend
We had to do it ourselves because we just can't seem to find anyone who needs a job and can help us out in that region!  

NOTE:  If you know someone looking for a job in Saskatoon who like plants, just leave me a message below.  I would be forever in your debt.

We spent 3 days driving back and forth in Saskatchewan to make sure everything was watered and healthy in all the stores.  A pair of steel toed shoes were my most expensive purchase this week but I must say, they saved me from a broken toe for SURE!  I actually ran over my own foot in my rush to get stuff out to the customers.  That is the first time I have ever done that in 25 years.

Our favourite ice cream stop between Saskatoon and Regina.  Too cold for ice cream this trip!

By late Saturday evening, the Big Guy and I were absolutely BUSHED.  We sat in the Saskatoon airport to compare cuts and bruises we had acquired during the week.  We took some Advil.  We drank a nice glass of wine.  We shared some Cheeto's.  We snoozed a little.  We were too exhausted to do much else.

NOTE TO SELF:  Saskatoon airport is too small for a proper restaurant.  Eat dinner BEFORE you go through security!

And then on Sunday......we had a PARTY!  We celebrated with friends and family another blessed week that was full of excitement, grace and blessings.  Every week again we are in absolute awe of the goodness of our Heavenly Father towards us in all things.  We may plant but He provides the growth.  We may build the greenhouse but He provides the sun.  We may bring the plants to the customer but He provides the sales.  He is the great Master and we attempt to serve Him in humble thankfulness.

Soli Deo Gloria!


Monday, May 5, 2014

Flower Shows that Will Blow Your Mind!

Our yearly trek to the Las Vegas Hardware Show in the Spring
It's that time of year when we start planning for NEXT year, believe it or not!  Yes, my friends, although it is harvest time in the greenhouse right now, it is also time to plan for what will be the next biggest thing in Spring 2015.  This weeks trip is flying us off to Las Vegas for the Hardware Show.  It's gonna be acres and acres of everything you can imagine you need for your yard and garden all displayed under one roof.

It's unbelievable!

It's Home Depot on STEROIDS!

It's a BIG show!

Every year again I come home with BLISTERS.  Why, oh why do I insist on buying NEW shoes right before a big show?!  You would think I would have learned my lesson by now.

We actually go to a lot of different shows around the globe throughout the year which translates into a whole lot of travelling for the Big Guy and I.  We are constantly on the prowl for new ideas, things that you are not going to find at any other store except OURS!

So......we travel abroad to horticulture shows where styles and fashion are ahead of ours.

IPM Essen, Germany
 I know, it's a tough job but someone has to do, right?!

IPM Essen 2013

The Europeans REALLY know how to put on a flower show!

IPM Essen 2014
They also have an incredible style when it comes to cut flower arrangements......

Here on the North American continent we may not do things quite as big as THIS.....

Florema, Amsterdam

but judging by the beautiful models in THIS Red Fox advertising campaign....

At the OFA - the Dummen booth in Columbus, Ohio

we do know beautiful when we see it!

So, even though it's crazy busy at the greenhouse, we are on our way to Las Vegas to search for some new ideas.  The Big Guy booked us in to the Paris Hotel because he KNOWS it's my favourite AND......

it has the BEST view of the fountains at the Bellagio! 


Saturday, May 3, 2014

Come Visit the Milner Flower Fields

Things are really getting crazy around here!  The Greenhouses are STUFFED to the gills with color and we are all riding the roller coaster that is SPRING RUSH at Darvonda.

All of our exclusively designed planters have arrived from over seas......

although there was a WHOLE LOT of nervous nights without sleep during the Port strike here in Vancouver.  Our containers were being re-routed or held at the dock while the truck drivers were busy sorting out their differences with the Port officials.

Suffice it to say, our fingernails are FINALLY growing back after munching them down to nothing while waiting patiently for everything to clear customs and arrive at the warehouse.

Another crazy issue we have been dealing with this year.......starting already in January...... was a terrible VIRUS that infected plants the world over.  The entire horticulture industry here and across the globe, has been fighting  to irradicate the nasty pest and judging by our beautiful crop, the battle has been WON!

These days, our minds are full of trucking, planting, watering, fertilizing, spacing, picking and packing. It's time to "make hay" on the farm and that means there is little time to eat or sleep!  There's just TOO MUCH WORK to be done around here right now.


the Big Guy has been given permission by Junior to take his motorbike lessons this week so he can finally get his full license.

I managed to sneak in a bit of time with my own hanging baskets the other evening since I live right BESIDE the greenhouse and it just wouldn't look right if MY place didn't have some color as well.

Making sure to add Time Release Fertilizer with the help of the grandkids
But we still have thousands and thousands of pots to ship yet......

so if you are curious to see what goes on inside the WHOLESALE arm of the business, just stop by Milner Gardens on Saturday morning at 11 AM for a tour!  We have started those up again now that the VIRUS danger has been averted.  Bio Security measures have been lifted.

Here is a short video to show you how CRAZY it can get in the greenhouse at this time of year!

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