Next Up: Container Workshop in Vernon, CT at Strong Family Farm, Sat. May 20th

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We had a great time at my workshop last Saturday – and we didn’t get rained on, thankfully! But, if you missed our session, there is another opportunity to join us on Saturday, May 20th, 10 am at Strong Family Farm in Vernon, CT on West Street.

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As noted on www.WORKSHOPSCT.com, where you may read all the details, our plant theme this year is indoor air purifiers and flashy fancy foliage houseplant style! Don’t let that word “houseplant” fool you – the design arrangements you may create at this workshop are GORGEOUS and at a great value. Get them while they are hot!

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My workshops are set-up so you have everything needed at your finger tips – you show up and have all the fun. You only need to bring your pots – and, this year’s pots are smaller to medium sizes because of the type of plants which we are using in this year’s theme (10″-12″-15″ in diameter and depth not deeper than width). Get creative – someone brought a soup tureen last weekend, which made a wonderful centerpiece with these plants. The pots should have drain holes or we will drill them for you.

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There are many types of pots you may use. Just take a look at my Instagram feed or Container Crazy CT page for inspiration.

Saturday – May 20th – Strong Family Farm – 10:00 am 

And, the weather is predicted to be gorgeous on Saturday. We most likely will be holding this session outdoors by the farm’s big historic barns on Strong Family Farm’s property (BTW, they have chickens to see, and also a nice farm stand which opens in the summer.)

This is one of the few historic farms standing in the Vernon area. You can feel the history’s energy when there. A portion of your registration fee ($20) is donated to the farm to help support their renovations and events.

The morning will be a great creative day where you learn a lot about soil types on the market (I know they can be confusing!), various fertilizers, tips for success at growing and maintaining plants in your patio pots and container gardens, and more. I hope you will join us. Handouts for reference are provided for all attendees.

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The Plants

Again, these are low-light, bright-light, (shade or dappled sun outdoors) type of plants, and we have some flowering candidates too, along with started elephant ears – and all are foliage fantastical in my book. Lots of texture in these designs. Plus many of these tropical style houseplants do wonderfully in our summers outdoor here.

We also have a stock of mixed succulents if you prefer to create a sun loving design with these perfect drought tolerant candidates.

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Cost

$20 to register plus cost of plants you select at the workshop. You may purchase professional soil mix at the workshop or bring your own bag. We will have other amendments available for purchase as well. CT Sales Tax applicable.

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Easy Registration:

You may text me at 860-977-9473 if you want in. If you prefer to prepay by credit card, please visit www.WORKSHOPSCT.com site to pay online via EventBrite.  Or email me if preferred to indicate your interest in joining us. We’d love to have you do so.

Thank you – Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com

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Strong Family Farm Hosts Today’s Workshop

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How much fun can a gal have?! I have the wonderful opportunity to teach at Strong Family Farm in Vernon, CT today and I would like to thank Nancy Strong in advance for her support of local businesses such as myself.

“Strong Family Farm provides a historic agricultural education center where children, individuals, families, and community groups can experience an authentic family farm environment.”

This above statement is from their website. I have to say, I couldn’t agree more. It is an “authentic family farm” and historic. It reminds me of my childhood. Seeing the cow barn, where today’s Container Gardening Workshop will be held, brought back memories of being in my father’s barn and the scents, sounds, as well as the sun streaming through the cracks of the barn’s wall are all reminiscent of experiences I had growing up on a farm.

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Today’s Container Gardening Workshop

May 21, 2016 – Saturday
9:00 am to Noon
274 West St, Vernon, CT 06066

Lecture from 9:00-10:30 followed by potting up your containers.
Pre-registered attendees get first dibs on plants.
Walk-in’s for Plant Sales Welcome at 11:30 am.

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The Plants

Where do I begin? We have beautiful “Chick Charm” Hens and Chicks (Sempervivums), Cucumber plants, various Pepper plants, Tomatoes, Oregano, Thyme, Fennel, Stevia, Strawberry, Rhubarb, etc. We also have specialty shrubs perfect for containers, such as Blueberry and Goji Berry. And others for the fun of it – such as Sambucas (Elderberry). And of course, hot tropicals such as red banana plants (Ensete), Elephant Ears (Colocasia), and Cynara (Cardoon). Then there’s the annuals from beautiful Begonias to a mix of Coleus and much more.

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The Timing

I think this weekend is absolutely perfect timing too – We had a cool spring but looks like the warm up and sun is officially here! These plants are going to take off in the container gardens or in your gardens should you grab a few today at Strong Family Farm.

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The Prep

I wish I could video tape myself setting up and then do one of those speed up versions. Running from here to there to get hand-selected plants from “local CT growers only!” And running around setting up workshops – lifting tables, lifting big bags of potting mix, pushing a wheel barrel, bending up and down constantly – phew, but the exercise is great – cause you know, Gardening is GREAT for the body and soul.

The Fretting

They call me Container “Crazy” for a reason. The highs are high and the lows can be low – like when I lost two trays of basil – Why? – even with my grow room, our cool spring fluxes didn’t make them happy. But then a high again – a tree frog watching me work one day and chirping, or when the birds swoops overhead as I walk by, or seeing my first butterfly of the season visiting my honeysuckle shrub.

The Dedication is for Attendees

I do this all for my attendee and because I have a strong passion for dressing up outdoor spaces with mixed container garden plantings and patio pots. Caring for the plants, nurturing them – and yes, even talking to them – all takes place behind the scenes. Yup, crazy alright.

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After the Workshop – Attendees Get Details

After my workshops, I email each attendee individually to give them tips about the plants they selected. It may be information about how to prune a plant, its bloom cycle, habit or care. Anything I think will be useful to them. I am here to answer their questions after my workshops on plants in their container gardens or in their gardens at home too. It is one of the benefits of being on the NEWBIE or NON-NEWBIE Cathy T’s Workshops. I’ve been hosting these workshops for over 8 years – so there’s a lot to share.

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Upcoming – Ellington Farmer’s Market (5/28)

So, today will be another fun filled busy day. Then the following weekend, you will find me at the Ellington Farmer’s Market at their square gazebo (there are two gazebos on the site) where I will be offering a free talk and of course, offering more plants for sale. Pop in to say hello. The market is excellent. We bring a cooler and my husband walks around to fill it with fresh veggies, fruits, and fish while there – then we have a feast when we get home. Yumm. Taking clippings from my herbs for the grill cooking tops it off.

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Hope to See You

After today, the hammock in my backyard has my name written on it. You can find me there. But I hope to see you before, after, or later – Keep Checking In.

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473 – Feel Free to Text Me
containercathy@gmail.com
http://www.WORKSHOPSCT.com

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Container Gardening Class at Strong Family Farm in Vernon, CT

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I grew up on a farm consisting of 100 acres of land along the Scantic River in East Windsor, Connecticut – and we had cows, chickens, a horse, rabbits, beautiful cherry trees, apple trees, blueberries, along with days of fishing in ponds, rivers, and even riding a mini-bike. Yup, I would jump on a mini-bike as a young kid, and go “outback” – which is what we called my parent’s property then and still do to this day.

There’s something magical about growing up on farmland. We explored a lot as kids. One time, I found funky shaped clay formations in a crevice where water ran off on a slope. As a child, I remember collecting them and checking them out carefully. Each was soft with round patterns and curvy shapes, formed by the action of rolling waters and clay soil on a hill side.

Flash ahead to my soil science class in my late-30’s and low and behold, our professor showed us a sample of the same thing. He said they are referred to as “clay dogs” and he found it interesting that I knew what they were immediately upon seeing him hand them out in class. He let me keep one of his samples, saying I was a soil scientist at heart. I don’t know about that, but the clay dog he gave me still sits on a shelf in my home office.

Being around nature is so inspiring – especially on a farm. In the summers, as a young kid, I sat on the side of my Dad’s hay baler to make sure the twine did not break as the square bales of hay passed by me when we rolled along in a large field. The sound of the tractor, the wind passing by, or the hot day’s summer heat would lead to more fun after our day’s work – because after we baled the hay – Dad would treat us to ice creams at Dairy Delight in East Windsor (a great ice cream place which still operates today on Route 5).

Sometimes, our trip for ice cream was in the pickup truck – we would stand in the back bed as we traveled down Scantic Road – something I don’t think would be allowed today. The breeze blew off all the hay dust from our bodies as we headed down to Dairy Delight. This is one of my very vivid memories – it was a fun ride for sure, and man, was that ice cream ever good after a hot day of baling hay, especially because it was shared with Dad.

We also swam in the Scantic River from time to time. My parents didn’t have to worry as we played “outback”, and my Mom literally rang a bell to call us for dinner time. We even had a fort and stayed over night in it sometimes. One time, our cows came scratching their backs against the outer walls of the fort and we sat inside quietly laughing – and being a little scared too, but they eventually left and our fun continued at the fort for that night.

Mom and Dad under a Catalpa Tree at the Farm

Mom and Dad under a Catalpa Tree at the Farm

Picking up a blade of grass from the field to put between your fingers and blow to make sounds was a little toy on a farm as I would take the walk outback down to the river. Or collecting walnuts to eat from our big walnut tree was an experience. When you are surrounded with nature, you begin to witness life and the curiosity sets in – at least it did for me. And of course, we had a barn, a barn where we held plays as kids – setting up a stage once – and acting something out as our parents and neighbors endured our little show. The list goes on.

Cathy T teaching a class

Cathy T teaching a class

That is why being asked a second time to talk about Container Gardening at Strong Family Farm feels special to me. Strong’s farm is located in Vernon and it has been standing for 135 years, once comprising more than 50 acres on West Road and Hartford Turnpike. The farm has served as the home and workplace for more than seven generations of Strongs. Just like our family’s farm is serving generations for us too – Today my nieces and nephews enjoy the nature on the farm like we did as kids. It is fun to witness their excitement as Grandpa sits them down on the tractor seat to pretend drive – something my nephew asks for every time they visit my parent’s farm- and he even refers to my Mother as “Chicken Mom” cause he knows when he visits, he gets to go see the chickens before going on the tractor in the big barn.

Located  on 274 West Street, Vernon, CT 06066

Located on 274 West Street, Vernon, CT 06066

Strong Family Farms hosts various activities throughout the year, such as their “Adopt-A-Chick” program offered each spring. For a small fee, participants foster a spring chicken over the course of 10 weeks. During this time, class members help feed and nurture the young chickens. If you don’t have a farm of your own, this place is a way to share a farm experience.

Annual Programs

They also host movies on the farm and have a community garden. In the fall, they have a Annual Scarecrow Contest and Harvest Festival. Check out their website at http://www.StrongFamilyFarm.org for details and dates – it is a great place for kids’ activities and very family oriented.

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The farm has large yellow barns and this weekend’s Container Gardening Workshop/Class will be held inside the barn – which is a unique experience also, as you look up at the big beams in the ceilings and sit on bails of hay. Even the sun beaming thru cracks in the barn walls reminds me of farm life as a child. Birds fly by in their meadows and old antique farm equipment hangs on the walls, making us feel the presence of the many past years of farming held in this space.

The farm life is so beneficial to your health and well-being, as we know – when you grow your own – you grow your spirit too. So, if you still have patio pots to pot up – come join us – the fee is only $10 for non-members and $5 for members of the farm and it is a fun activity for kids too. There will be various plants available for purchase and you will learn the steps for success and other growing tips.

Date: Saturday, June 6th, 10 am to noon @ Strong Family Farm, 274 West St, Vernon.

Please remember to bring cash or checks, as credit cards are not accepted. Plants to expect: Some large tropical plants (drama to containers), herbs, annuals, and even some houseplants and perennials. All attendees receive documentation and Cathy T tips. We hope to see you there!

Cathy T in-front of her chicken coop and plants at her home in Broad Brook, CT

Cathy T in-front of her chicken coop and plants at her home in Broad Brook, CT

Local Farm Fresh Farmers Markets

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We are very fortunate these days to have plenty of farmers markets to enjoy, and I finally made my first visit to this year’s offerings at the Ellington Farmers Market last Saturday morning with Steve, my husband.  I sold plants there last year, and really loved the people, site, and excitement of sharing something locally crafted with everyone, but alas, this year I have another goal (greenhouse) – but that doesn’t stop me from going to the market as a shopper this season.  And I hope to return as a vendor in 2014.

Steve whines a little about going to the market because he has other Saturday chores on his mind, but the funny thing is he always ends up buying more than I do.  He loves the pickles, hot sauces, veggies, mushrooms, and nuts.  I tend to go for the fresh cheese, garden decor items, and breads.

Scantic Valley Farms at the market

Scantic Valley Farms at the market

This weekend, their feature was fresh strawberries, so I was on a mission to get some of those too.  We also planned to buy some fresh fish to cook up for dinner for his mother and sister that evening after we attended a memorial event for a friend.  But what I didn’t expect to get was popcorn.

Freshly popped Kettle Corn offered at the market

Freshly popped Kettle Corn offered at the market

As we walked passed the booth offering hand popped kettle corn, we were quick to say no thanks to the vendor because we feared the carb count.  He was quick to point out there was probably more sugar from the strawberries we were popping into our mouths than a handful of the kettle corn.  He said the carbs were 16g (5%) and due to the way they pop it, they keep the sugar and salt low.  So with a quick taste, I agreed – it wasn’t too sugary or sweet tasting, so I bought a bag.  However, fresh veggies and fruits were on our minds, so we opted to also get not one but 4 quarts of fresh strawberries from two places.

Strong Family Farm

Strong Family Farm

Strong Family Farm, established in 1878, was at the market offering various items, and fresh strawberries.  They will be holding a fundraiser today, Monday, June 17th, at the Wood-n-Tap in Vernon, CT between 5 pm and 9 pm as part of their efforts as a non-profit and education center.  We also got strawberries from Scantic Valley Farm, the market’s feature of the weekend.  Scantic Valley Farm is a family owned farm located at 327 Ninth District Road in Somers, CT, where you can pick-your-own, but I tend to buy versus pick, so having these available at the market was a real treat.  We stocked up for the weekend.

By Faith, Love and Ladybugs

By Faith, Love and Ladybugs

Also spotted at the market were garden decor handcrafted by “Faith, Love and Ladybugs” – all upcycled, instead of recycled.  These plant tags and tea cup items were adorable.  To see more, visit this creators pages on Facebook and Etsy.com.  Part of going to the market is participating in helping those with dreams achieve them.  This young lady’s creations were all well made and perfect for the gardens.  I regret not getting some of those cute gnomes plant markers now, but I can return to get them next time.

Faith, Love and Ladybugs upcycled for home and garden

Faith, Love and Ladybugs upcycled for home and garden

When we got home, we were excited to have fresh cheeses, eggs, french bread, fish, and mushrooms, a big healthy bunch of romaine lettuce, two kinds of cherry tomatoes, and more to share later that evening.  And on Sunday, we used the fresh strawberries in pancakes, and the night before I popped a few into champagne.  Yumm again.  All the while, you feel like you are eating healthy – because you are!

Pancakes next day with fresh strawberries and eggs from the market

Pancakes next day with fresh strawberries and eggs from the market

As I said earlier, we are lucky to have these wonderful farmers markets in our surrounding towns.  In fact, in two weeks, East Windsor will be featuring their farmers market open house on June 30th, Sunday, where I will be there along with my brother’s band, called the BACKTRAX Band.  Come by for a visit, on Rt 140 in-front of Joe’s Fine Wine and Spirits and the Golden Gavel Auction buildings – summer will be over before you know – now is your chance to get and support our Local Farm Fresh Food.  Drag your family along like I did – you won’t regret it.

Steve gets fresh romaine from the market

Steve gets fresh romaine from the market

The Ellington Farmers Market is held in the perfect location, in the center of town at Arbor Park.  It set up in a circle so you can make your rounds literally starting at one end of the circle and going all the way around back to your starting point.  The market master, Dianne Trueb, is quite impressive.  She and her farmers market organization have even created a downloadable app for the market where you can get automatic updates of  their scheduled offerings, and can join their loyalty programs.

Various cheese makers offerings, go see Margaret!

Various cheese makers offerings, go see Margaret!

By the way, I highly recommend the Feta Pesto made fresh with basil, pasteurized sheep’s milk feta, extra virgin olive oil, and pine nuts, garlic – oh yumm – spread it on the french bread.  Also, the Chevre cheese with balsamic and oil is yummy.  Margaret and her daughter host a booth showcasing freshly made cheeses by three different cheese makers, Sankow’s Beaver Brook Farm, The Butterfield Farm Company, and Hastings Farm.  How nice it is to have these amazing cheeses specially delivered to the market for our access and enjoyment.

The Fish Market sides

The Fish Market sides

And “Norm’s Best” marinated mushrooms are outstanding, don’t miss those.  They got gobbled up quickly Saturday evening when we were home enjoying all the goodness of fresh.  And “The Fish Market” has a wonderful selection, we got fresh fish and cooked them up on the grill with the fresh tomatoes, onions, garlic and herbs.  It was just perfect.

Cathy Testa
Container Crazy Cathy T
http://www.cathytesta.com
containercathy@gmail.com
(860) 977-9473 cell