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Jeff’s Schedule for August 28-September 2, 2017

This week, I’m in Patrick County and Floyd County, VA, working on some personal projects. I’ll also be at the Reynolds Homestead finishing my work there. Here’s my post on The Homestead Gardeners FB page:
“It was with great appreciation, tinged with some regret, that I cleaned up The Successful Gardener demonstration garden at Reynolds Homestead yesterday. The garden was finally starting to look good after a rocky start this Spring. We even had the only crop of organically grown tobacco in Patrick County, VA! But landscape changes in the historic area necessitated the removal.
I really appreciate the opportunity to work with the folks at the Homestead the last 2 years. We educated a lot of folks about growing good food, did some needed research on my Living Garden concept, and as usual, I learned a lot myself. Thanks to Lisa Martin and the staff for the opportunity. Thanks also to Glenda and others for their help with the gardens.
Life is taking me off Locust Ridge more and more, so I’m not going to teach at the Homestead regularly after this year. I hope to be back on occasion in the years ahead.
I also hope that you folks will continue the Homestead Gardeners. The site needs volunteers on a regular basis. Please be a part of maintaining this beautiful place.”

Yes, Life is taking me off Locust Ridge more often. But I’m not out of the Virginia Blue Ridge just yet.

On Friday, September 1, I’m headed off to Floyd YogaJam, a weekend of Yoga practice, music, and fun! There are still tickets available. Hope I see you there!

While I’ll be pretty busy this week, I can always make time to help YOU be a Successful Gardener! If you live in Patrick, Henry or Floyd County, VA and you’d like me to come by and help you with a garden consultation, I’d love to do it. I’ve designed and installed all kinds of landscapes, from formal herb gardens to Permaculture homesteads. In an hour, I can solve problems, identify plants, show you some opportunities, and help you enjoy your garden even more! If you’re interested, contact me here.

I farmed and operated a plant nursery in NC for 15 years, and was an NC Cooperative Extension agent for 8 years. In that time, I learned a LOT about farm production and farm business management. I can help you with organic certification, transition to organic practices, and marketing your farm and food products. To learn how to cultivate profit on your farm, contact me here.

In these times of great opportunity for small business owners, strategic planning is essential for success. I can help you write a business plan, construct enterprise and cash flow budgets, and do market research. Individual consultations and group trainings are options for getting the information you need to succeed! To take advantage of the opportunities that are available to small business owners, contact me here.

Remember to enjoy your garden, because THAT’S what makes you a Successful Gardener! Hope to see you some time this week!

Peace, Grace, & Love,
Jeff

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Jeff’s Schedule for August 21-26, 2017

I’ve spent the last few days in Matthews, NC, working on The Living Garden display at Renfrow Farm, and working on some other projects and consultations. This will lead up to an interesting class at Renfrow Farm this week. Then I’m headed back to Locust Ridge for some family projects and class next week at Reynolds Homestead. Hope to see you this week!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017 10AM-12PM
The Successful Gardener 2017
The Abundant Gardener: Plants Feeding Plants
Where: Renfrow Hardware, Renfrow Farm
When: Wednesday, August 23, 10AM-12PM
Cost: $20 per person, 2 or more family members, $15 each.
Parking: Matthews Farmer’s Market behind Renfrow Hardware

Not only do plants feed us, they can feed other plants as well! In this class, we’ll look at all of the ways plants contribute to growth, their own or those that are planted later.
Feed your garden with plants to create a healthier soil that produces healthier food. Plants can put Nitrogen and other nutrients into the soil by absorbing air and water, sometimes changing the nutrients to forms that the plants and soil microbes can use easier. Often the nutrients are available for other plants to use, too.
Plants also add organic matter that creates better soil structure, feeds microbes and holds moisture. Most of the time, even the plants we grow for food can be tilled into the soil to feed the “critters” – the microbes, bugs, and worms that live in our soil.
There are several time-tested ways to use plants to feed other plants. Attending this class will give you a better understanding of those techniques and how to use them to contribute to a Living Garden. We’ll look at how to use plants to cut down on weeds and manage pests, too.
Early Registration is much appreciated. To register, click here.

Summer is great for spending time in the garden, not just working, but enjoying your garden. Feed your body good food from the garden. Feed your mind new knowledge as you learn more about nature. Feed your soul just by watching things grow. All this while having a beautiful place to sit and enjoy coffee before breakfast or a glass of wine in the evening. Get the kids outside and away from “the screen”. Decompress after a hectic day on the job. The movement and exertion of gardening has long been considered a beneficial physical activity, and you get food or flowers as a result!

If you’re not getting those benefits from your garden, right now is the time to change that. I can help you evaluate your home landscape and find the right landscape for your family. In a one hour consultation, I can solve problems, identify plants, show you some opportunities, and teach you some cool shortcuts that make gardening more fun and interesting. If you’re interested in enjoying your garden even more, contact me here.

Organic farming has seen tremendous growth over the last few years, even while other sectors of agriculture have slumped. I farmed and operated a plant nursery in NC for 15 years, and was an NC Cooperative Extension agent for 8 years. In that time, I learned a LOT about farm production and farm business management. I can help you with organic certification, transition to organic practices, and marketing your farm and food products. To learn how to cultivate profit on your farm, contact me here.

As a former Small Business Center Director in NC, I can tell you that these are times of great opportunity for small business owners. Many small businesses can be started for as little as $100! To take advantage of these opportunities, strategic planning is essential. I can help you write a business plan, construct enterprise and cash flow budgets, and do market research. Individual consultations and group trainings are options for getting the information you need to succeed! To take advantage of the opportunities that are available to small business owners, contact me here.

Remember to enjoy your garden, because THAT’S what makes you a Successful Gardener!!!

Peace, Grace, & Love,
Jeff

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Enjoy Your Garden!!!

If you’ve read my blog or taken one of my classes at Renfrow Farm, you know I usually mention landscape or garden consultations. I’ve been doing that for quite a few years, but it might possibly be new to you. In simple terms, a landscape consultation offers you an opportunity to get on-site advice about your lawn, trees & shrubs, your vegetable garden, even your home composter and your rain barrels. And yes, we should all be composting lawn waste & kitchen scraps. I know there are a lot of good websites that offer excellent information about specific shrubs, trees, and flowers. If you’re more traditional in your approach to research, there are hundreds of books and magazines out there about landscape gardening. They give you lots of good information, too. But your home is a specific micro-climate*, not a zone on a USDA map on the Internet. All these things are tools, not decision makers. They can’t be. As good as all of these tools are, and as talented and experienced as the authors are, they’ve never been to your home. They can’t. But I can. Here’s why I can help you.

Over the years, I’ve installed hundreds of gardens, and visited hundreds more. I’ve had my hands in all kinds of soil from the sandy land of Carolina Beach to the rocky soils of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I’ve maintained commercial campuses and tiny backyards. All of these landscapes have one thing in common. I wanted to help folks enjoy the time they spend in the garden, whether it’s the busy person that just gets to spend a few minutes on the deck, or the person lucky enough to spend hours in the garden every day. I’m not arrogant enough to tell you that I succeeded every time, because I didn’t. But failure is a chance to learn more and more. Plus, I was fortunate enough to help folks enjoy their gardens most of the time.

What do I mean when I say “enjoy your garden”? Just that – you really like to spend time on your garden. It can be for any reason. Simply that it looks good to you. It may be tailored to a hobby like a vegetable and fruit garden or herb garden. You may want a place to relax and unwind after a stressful day at work and a long commute. Kids need a place to play. The dreams, and that’s what they are, can be as numerous and varied as the people who dream them. The landscapes around our homes are too often left to others to look after, so they reflect what others dream. Too often we don’t even really live in the place where our home IS. It doesn’t reflect who we are, so we just pass through it as we leave our home and head off to other places where we seem to want to be. We just don’t enjoy our garden or deck or lawn. Or we see it as more work in our busy life. So we don’t enjoy it. But we should. And we can! And I can help you do that.

Because of my 30+ years as a horticulturist, farmer, and NC Cooperative Extension agent, I have a lot of experience evaluating home and business landscapes. When I can stand in a yard and feel the Sun on my back, I know the questions to ask to determine if this is a really sunny spot or just a little morning sun. When I take a shovel full of soil and crumble it in my hands, I have a pretty good idea of what needs to be added to that soil to grow a beautiful lawn or establish an oak tree for shade. That beautiful old plant that was a part of the landscape when you bought the house? I can help you identify it. And that weird looking plant that’s so out of place by the foundation? It’s a weed that never got pulled and will take over if you don’t remove it.

I can stand at the street with you and see the view that you’ll see every day as you pull in the drive. We can sit in the living room or at the kitchen table, look out the French doors and visualize the garden you want to look at while you sip your morning coffee or enjoy that glass of wine after supper. That deck or patio you always wanted can be planned while we sit in that spot we picked out. We can lay out the vegetable/flower/herb garden using “The Living Garden” template that I created to help folks feed their bodies as well as their souls naturally.

As I say in my website, “In a one hour consultation, I can solve problems, identify plants, generate new ideas, and give you more information than you could find on a website or at a garden center. I bring 30+ years of experience as a farmer, landscaper, and NC Extension agent to your home, along with a creative eye for design.”

“That’s all well and good”, I hear you saying, “but I have a limited budget for my landscaping”. Most folks do. And landscaping is a significant investment in time, labor, and money. Part of enjoying your garden is minimizing the troubles you have and optimizing the money you spend. I have seen so many mistakes in planting and hardscapes (and made some, too) that I can help you avoid those mistakes and save you money.

The bottom line is this. I hope you are enjoying your garden. I want everybody to enjoy their time outside as much as I do. If you aren’t, drop me a line, and let’s talk. If we decide that I can help you, then the sooner we get started, the sooner you begin to enjoy your garden. And THAT’S how you become a Successful Gardener!

Peace, Grace,& Love,
Jeff

* A micro-climate consists of the physical and atmospheric conditions that determine the “weather” in a small spot. For example, the west side of your house will normally be warmer than the east side, because the evening temperatures tend to be warmer than the morning temps. Brick walls absorb lots of heat during the day, and this can create a spot that allows tender plants to live in colder climates. The heat radiates out to the air during the evening. I can help you identify the micro-climates in your yard, too.

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Jeff’s Schedule for August 14-19, 2017

I’ll be in Patrick County, VA, the first part of the week, handling family business. Then I’m headed back to Matthews for more consultations, farm work, and research.

Summer is great for spending time in the garden, not just working, but enjoying your garden. Feed your body good food from the garden. Feed your mind new knowledge as you learn more about nature. Feed your soul just by watching things grow. All this while having a beautiful place to sit and enjoy coffee before breakfast or a glass of wine in the evening. Get the kids outside and away from “the screen”. Decompress after a hectic day on the job. The movement and exertion of gardening has long been considered a beneficial physical activity, and you get food or flowers as a result!

If you’re not getting those benefits from your garden, right now is the time to change that. I can help you evaluate your home landscape and find the right landscape for your family. In a one hour consultation, I can solve problems, identify plants, show you some opportunities, and teach you some cool shortcuts that make gardening more fun and interesting. If you’re interested in enjoying your garden even more, contact me here.

Organic farming has seen tremendous growth over the last few years, even while other sectors of agriculture have slumped. I farmed and operated a plant nursery in NC for 15 years, and was an NC Cooperative Extension agent for 8 years. In that time, I learned a LOT about farm production and farm business management. I can help you with organic certification, transition to organic practices, and marketing your farm and food products. To learn how to cultivate profit on your farm, contact me here.

As a former Small Business Center Director in NC, I can tell you that these are times of great opportunity for small business owners. Many small businesses can be started for as little as $100! To take advantage of these opportunities, strategic planning is essential. I can help you write a business plan, construct enterprise and cash flow budgets, and do market research. Individual consultations and group trainings are options for getting the information you need to succeed! To take advantage of the opportunities that are available to small business owners, contact me here.

Remember to enjoy your garden, because THAT’S what makes you a Successful Gardener!!!

Peace, Grace, & Love,
Jeff

 

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Real Abundance

I’m a real believer in small business. We’re shopping with friends and neighbors, and the money we spend stays in our communities longer. Some studies have shown that every dollar we spend locally is spent 7 times before it leaves a community. It has a bigger impact than money spent at big box stores or on-line, which tends to leave town pretty quick.

I also believe everybody should have a business of their own, even if it’s only a side gig. Aside from the cash flow and tax benefits (which can be substantial), it’s a way for many of use to work creatively, even joyfully. In these days of sound and fury, that’s important for us. Too many people work at jobs they hate simply to make money. Lots of us are miserable, and we often don’t make enough money to pay the bills. Yet these same people perk up whenever they are doing something that they enjoy.

Joy is an important, even essential part of Life. Yet “we’ve never been taught that we should work joyfully”. No, we are taught to work hard, and now, to work smart. It’s all about efficiency and productivity. It’s never about Joy or about Loving what you do. So we put our passion into work for ourselves. That’s where we should put it, but that’s another story for another day.

The philosopher and mythologist Joseph Campbell said we should “follow our Bliss”, that thing which makes us come alive. The scholar and author Howard Thurman said that we should go and do those things which make us come alive, because THAT’S what the world needs – more people that have come alive. It’s in that moment, when we come alive, that we begin to experience real Abundance in our Lives. We Live & Move & Have Our Being in Joy, in Passion, in Bliss.

I can hear some of you saying, “That’s easy for you to say. You’re a college educated white guy with strong family ties.” You’re right on all those things. But I believe what I do because it helped me come back from a failed marriage, suicidal depression, and business failure. It ain’t book learnin’, it’s Life. I changed my attitude when Life was at it’s worst, not at it’s best. An argument could be made that I was able to do it because of my family, my friends, and my education. That’s why I write about what I do. I got a lot of help, and I want everybody to know that we can change our world by changing ourselves, and putting that changed person out into the world to help others.

We start where we are, have patience with ourselves and others, see how to follow our bliss, to Live Joyfully, and so live Lives of Real Abundance. That’s how we change the world.

Peace, Grace, & Love,
Jeff

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Homegrown Market Research 2017

The first version of this post appeared in 2014. The world of business has changed a LOT since then. It’s time for an update.

When I started my first business, there was no Internet to speak of, and market research took a great amount of time. So that meant small business folks normally didn’t do any research! Not a great idea, but that’s life. Fortunately, there’s a group of sites out there based on all the data collected by the US Bureau of the Census. Here are two I’ve found useful.

Quickfacts is a page on the Census Bureau’s website that is a treasure trove of demographics. If it’s people you want to know about, you can probably find it here.

AccessNC is a part of the Thrive in NC program developed by the NC Department of Commerce. You can do a more customized searching at that site. Here’s the link. Tap/click on “Demographics”for detailed info on NC in general or a specific County. There are multiple data sets you can research from AccessNC. Simply tap/click the icon to find out more.

There are more sites like that out there. But to use them effectively, you need to know what you’re looking for. Ask yourself some questions. Where are my customers? Where do they live? Where do they work? Where do they shop? Where are my competitors? Answering these questions gives you lots of information to help you make decisions about your business.

One example of this is finding where your customers are. If your product research has shown you that women, aged 35-50, married, with children are your target customer, then you can use either of the databases named above to find out where those customers are, and how many of them there are in a particular area. Once you do that, you’ll have a question answered for your business. It won’t cost you anything but some time and effort.

Because you know who your customer is and where she/he lives, now you can begin to ask more specific questions like, “Does my customer shop here?” Another question might be, “Does my customer get her/his shopping information from this paper/website/social media platform?” If the answer is yes, then it might be worth investing time or money into that medium. If not, then any investment is a waste of time, no matter how cheap it is.

Here’s the bottom line. The more you know about your customer, the easier it is to find her or him and tell the interesting story of your business!

Peace, Grace, & Love,
Jeff

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Be That Person…again

I’ve been looking over older posts today, and this one from 2015 jumped out at me. I needed this reminder of how essential all of us are to each other.

“Never forget that you are one of a kind. Never forget that if there weren’t any need for you in all your uniqueness, to be on this Earth, you wouldn’t be here in the first place. And never forget that no matter how overwhelming Life’s problems and challenges seem to be, one person can make a difference in the world. In fact, it is always because of one person that all the changes that matter in the world came about. So be that person. “
~ Buckminster Fuller

I love this quote from Fuller. It sums up the importance in being Who I Really Am. But who is that person?

I believe that we are unique individuals. We each create our world with our Personal Mythology, the stories we tell ourselves about how we conceive, believe, and perceive our Lives. But we come from common origins. As Neil DeGrasse Tyson puts it, “We are all connected. To each other biologically, to the Earth chemically, and to the Universe atomically”. And as I have noted, we co-create our world with all of the other beings on the planet. So why is it so important that we create from Who We Really Are? And just Who is that? The answer to that, I believe, is vital to Creation.

It’s important because it is the base from which all of your creative energy comes from. And as Fuller put it, “if there weren’t any need for you in all your uniqueness, to be on this Earth, you wouldn’t be here in the first place”. Life on this planet thrives on diversity. The more diverse a community is, and the more it accepts that diversity, the more it thrives. It may not be orderly, it may not be simple, it may not be comfortable, it may even be chaotic. But every place where beings or organisms or whatever you want to call the things on Earth, vary wildly, Earth as a whole is benefited, Life is benefited. That’s why I believe it’s important that we as individuals are here,and why it’s important to be Who We Really Are. Which leads to the second question – Who Am I?

That’s a question as old as conscious thought, and possibly older than humanity. So I don’t have THE ANSWER. But I do have AN answer.

Who You Really Are is the person doing the things that make you come alive. It’s being the person that does the things that give you Joy and Happiness. Who You Really Are is that Loving, Compassionate Soul that Lives a Creative, Abundant Life in this organic, solar-powered body you inhabit. I say this because that’s how we are as children. We are curious about Life. We just want to have fun and play and be happy. Yeah, sometimes we can be mean to each other, and be selfish and greedy and all of that other stuff. So we have to learn to Live together. That doesn’t mean we have to give up our Lives just to get along. It doesn’t mean that growing up is growing cynical and snarky and obsessive. It doesn’t mean that Life must be hard and unfair and dismal. We got sold a bill of goods long ago. We sold it to ourselves. We continue to believe all this stuff that Life is suffering and Life is finite and Life is some “other” out there.

None of that is true. There may be suffering in your Life, true. But so often our suffering is generated by our expectations, not by what happened. There may be things we lose in Life, but our sense of loss comes from our attachments to those things. We are all connected at some level, so in truth, there is no “other” out there. So we’ve sold ourself this bill of goods that WE can change. We CAN change. We can CHANGE!!!

Howard Thurman said. “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

So be that person.

REMEMBER – I AM a Loving, Compassionate Soul that Lives a Creative, Abundant Life in this Miraculous, Organic, Solar-powered body.
And So It Is!

Peace, Grace, & Love
Jeff

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Summer is for FALL Gardening!

August is here already, and with it, an opportunity to get ready to do lots of gardening this fall. For those of us who garden in USDA Zones 7, 8, & 9, Fall offers both a longer growth period for fruits, vegetables, and flowers, and the possibility to get a head start on growth next year! Plants and landscapes planted in the Fall have lots of time to establish them selves by Spring. For example, trees planted in October have 6 months of growth before heat stress returns with Summer. That time gives any plant the opportunity to grow a good root system, which allows it to deal with the wild swings of temperature and rainfall that we have these days.

The thing most folks don’t realize is that Fall planting starts NOW. Yes, I realize we’re in the midst of Summer. But to take best advantage of all the benefits of Fall, thinking about what you want to do then, means looking around and taking stock of how things are now.

Trees – Trees benefit a lot from Fall planting. As I’ve noted above, the time allows the tree to establish itself. I’ll note here that trees planted will need water if we have a dry fall. Mulching the root zone of the tree will help the tree get established, and will help irrigation last a bit longer, too.

Shrubs – Like their larger counterparts, shrubs (vines, too) benefit from Fall planting. They may even benefit more, since they typically have smaller root systems this time of year. Mulch the soil surface for your new shrubs, too.

Annual & Perennial flowers – Fall is a great time to spruce up flower beds. Summer annual flowers, like periwinkle, will be killed by frost, and cool season flowers are showing new vibrant colors. It’s tough to do, but you get best results by getting in your pansies by mid-September. That means removing blooming summer annuals (That’s the tough part) while they still look good. Replace those Summer plants with a strong cool season flower like pansies.
Perennial flowering plants love the fall, even those that die back from frost. Lots of them can rebloom if they get cut back late in the summer (That’s now, for plants that have finished blooming). And any new plantings have the same benefit that Fall tree planting has – six months of relatively stress free growing.

Lawns – Fescue lawns begin to revive in the Fall. They are a cool-season grass, and begin to grow and thrive with cooler temps. It’s time to fertilize established fescue, and it’s the best time to start a new fescue lawn. For folks in NC, look at this page for lawn info from NCSU.

Fruits and vegetables – You still have LOTS of time to grow more fresh food! August 1 still leaves us with almost 90 days of frost-free growing in Piedmont NC. And even more time for all those greens we love to eat! Even if your summer garden is looking rough, now’s a good time to clean it all out and start fresh. Charlotte area gardeners, look at Renfrow Hardware’s Holiday Calendar. For those of you in other areas of NC, here’s a calendar from NC Cooperative Extension.
Fruit trees, bushes, brambles, and vines are ready to be planted and start growing in the fall. They get all the benefits of early planting; six months of root growth before heat and drought, plus Spring pollination at your home instead of at the garden center.

One of the best ways to evaluate a garden in the summer is to have your coffee in the garden a few mornings. It’s cooler, you can take your time, and I can’t think of a better place to greet the day than the garden. Just look around; what looks good to you? What needs an update? For those of you with busy mornings, enjoying a glass of wine (or a beer, if you’re like me) with your supper of veggies you picked from your garden is another great time to look over the landscape.

Fall IS for planting, and there’s no better time to start planning for all that planting than right now! And remember – enjoy your garden, because THAT’S what makes you a Successful Gardener!!!

Peace, Grace, & Love,
Jeff

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Jeff’s Schedule for August 7-12, 2017

I’m sitting here on Locust Ridge enjoying the sound of rain. Things were getting dry here, and a few places I’ve been lately are extremely dry. Rain is good for us in a lot of ways, not least of which is that it is important to Life, including the Life of the microbes that help our plants grow. This rain will temporarily slow down the things I need to do up on the mountain, but it’s worth it.

I’ll be on Locust Ridge for a few days, handling private projects, then I’m headed to Matthews, NC. I’ve got work to do on the farm, and lots of folks to teach.

While I’ll be pretty busy this week, I can always make time to help YOU be a Successful Gardener! If you live the Charlotte metro area and you’d like me to come by and help you with a garden consultation, I’d love to do it. I’m familiar with all kinds of landscapes, urban lot or country homestead, the silty, rocky soils of the mountains, the good red land of the Piedmont, or the sandy loam of the Sandhills. They each have their challenges and their beauty. In an hour, I can solve problems, identify plants, show you some opportunities, and help you enjoy your garden even more! If you’re interested, contact me here.

I farmed and operated a plant nursery in NC for 15 years, and was an NC Cooperative Extension agent for 8 years. In that time, I learned a LOT about farm production and farm business management. I can help you with organic certification, transition to organic practices, and marketing your farm and food products. To learn how to cultivate profit on your farm, contact me here.

I’m a certified small business consultant as well. In these times of great opportunity, strategic planning is essential for success. I can help you write a business plan, construct enterprise and cash flow budgets, and do market research. Individual consultations and group trainings are options for getting the information you need to succeed! To take advantage of the opportunities that are available to small business owners, contact me here.

Remember to enjoy your garden, because THAT’S what makes you a Successful Gardener! Hope to see you some time this week!

Peace, Grace, & Love,
Jeff

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