It's been almost two months since I last felt compelled to share what's been on our minds. Lately, I think the word that best describes us impatient. We want things yesterday -- a collection of perennials to cut from, the ranunculus to have bloomed, a walk-in cooler to trick nature into doing what we want. We need acres of land and we're making do with just half of one.
I have to remind myself that time moves so quickly, even when we agonize over its slowness. The hardest thing for me isn't the long winter or planting things in the fall and waiting months for them to bloom in the spring (although I do brood over the weather conditions from October until April, and then again for the remainder of the year). It's the short-term waiting: Will that flower open in time for our bride? Will we have enough flowers? Is my order of silk ribbon going to arrive? Andrew frets over the long-term, and I worry about the mail. (He told me last week he wish I'd have a meltdown over something, just so he could see it.)
That's when I remembered that this little flower journey isn't even two yet. Two years ago Andrew hadn't even tilled or planted our vacant lot in the city. I didn't know what a ranunculus was (not kidding). I would RSVP "no" to my friends' weddings because they weren't really my thing.
Thinking back to two years ago feels like another life. It is, really. I'm amazed at how many different lives we can lead in one lifetime.
After one of our harvests that first summer from our lot in Mantua, Andrew and I timed ourselves making market bouquets with our flowers, just to see if we were any good at it. It's one of my favorite memories. I wish I'd taken more photographs of things we did and the bouquets we'd made then, before we knew how to do anything (and more importantly before we knew of anything else). We get a lot of talking done when we arrange. Studio days when we design are unofficial partner meetings, since the company buys us lunch and we brainstorm about all the ways to make what we've built even better.
I think that first time we arranged flowers on Andrew's kitchen table two summers ago is when we realized we needed more space and security than an unfenced vacant lot in the city could provide. There were so many things we wanted to learn to grow, and that requires infrastructure. So that fall we expanded to more space in a hodgepodge of a community garden that we lease from a land trust on the edge of the city. I've stopped saying that CHICORY is an urban flower farm, because even though we're in Philadelphia, it feels like only a half truth. It's a temporary solution to what I hope is a contiguous 2-4 acre plot of land in an actual neighborhood in the city in our near future. But for now, we're used to driving between the two farm sites and our studio. Nothing about it is convenient, and it always feels like a hustle. We talk everyday about what we can do differently with more space; how we can scale up and grow more flowers; about what we'll grow with a four-seasons greenhouse and an acre for perennials; about all of the opportunities we can create for so many people. It's frustrating to want these things now, but I think it keeps us inspired.
I don't want to forget what Year 2 of CHICORY looks like as we grow. If you'd told us a year ago that we'd be where we are now, with an amazing crew, a high tunnel we built with our bare hands, and a few crop failures that were humbling beyond belief, I would have laughed at you. But here we are. And we did start that perennial garden, with hellebores, hydrangeas, ninebark, and the most delicious collection of iris that I'll be auctioning off the highest bidder when they bloom (get your checkbooks out, florist friends).
When I tell people who ask at parties what I do, I wish I could see what they imagine in their heads. The reality is probably very different. It's not glamorous. Everything we do feels like the most difficult thing I've ever done. It's starting to get easier, but it's never easy.