making change

Dear Readers,

I recently heard someone describe entrepreneurship as an exploration of self. But in addition to growing up inside, entrepreneurs manifest personal change outside of ourselves, in the form of our creative projects, for all the world to see.

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The farm is expanding in many directions. As I become ready for bigger risks and challenges, the farm reflects my growth. 

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We're building a heated greenhouse for winter growing, which will one day provide work for a full-time employee and allow us to grow flowers for Valentine's Day (a long held dream of mine). We're planting evergreen and magnolia trees, so that when Thanksgiving and Christmas roll around, we'll be busy cutting branches for wreaths. 

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Peter Sparklin (native Baltimorean, experienced farmer, and all-around wonderful person) will join our team full time as Crops Manager. Nancy Bjornard (native South Dakotan, long-time flower farmer, and bad-ass mom) will join the crew part time. We've also got some farmer trainees through the Beginning Farmer Training Program at Future Harvest CASA, which will make Thursdays the most fun day of the week.

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The biggest team we've ever had means we can do a lot more. We're doubling our annual production, putting in raspberries and blueberries for cutting, making new delivery routes to Annapolis and Frederick, adding classes at the farm... what are we not doing?!

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Being a business doesn't mean we're only about profit. One of my favorite business owners (Ellen Frost, I'm talking about you) taught me that for-profit businesses can be focused on making the world a better place. I've been thinking about that a lot lately. How am I making the world better? What can we do to make even more change?

I wish you a thoughtful Wednesday.

Laura Beth

british biscuit

Dear Readers,

After a weekend in bed with the flu, I'm now emerging from The Great British Baking Show and Gilmore Girls to confront fall cleanup on the farm.

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Unlike the anxious bakers in The Great British Baking Show, I get to dig dahlias at my own pace. The goal is to get them out of the ground by Thanksgiving, which is generally a good "end" date for all fall cleanup tasks. 

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Other than dahlia digging, there's peony planting, spreading cover crop, getting the tunnels ready for ranunculus and anemones, and a little harvesting here and there. 

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We are having a peony planting party this Sunday from 9:30 to 11:30 am. Contact me at butterbeefarm@gmail.com if you'd like to join! We will have coffee, and volunteers will take succulents home!

Photos by the wonderful Julie's Journey Photography

Photos by the wonderful Julie's Journey Photography

I wish you all a British biscuit and a florentine. 

Laura Beth

behind the scenes

Dear Readers,

Last month, we asked our photographer friend, the amazing Paula B, to take some photos at the farm. We wanted shots of the flowery paradise that it is, but also some shots of the mundanity that is running this business.

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For example, every morning, it takes me about three tries to open the barn door. I'm pretty strong, but not very tall! It's a struggle.

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Did it!

Did it!

As with any business that provides a product, we double and triple check invoices before packing up the truck to deliver flowers.

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There is, in general, a lot more note-taking than you might expect. How are the crops doing? How much is available? What needs to be done?

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We sometimes sit at a picnic table behind our house during meetings. It's a lot more fun to talk numbers when you're eating cookies, surrounded by farmland.

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Boots! There's a lot of shoe changing during the day. Waterproof muck boots in the morning, hiking boots in the afternoon once the dew dries, and flip flops if I have to walk back out to turn on the electric fences in the evening.

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These little, normal things make up a day at the farm. Other than the fact that normally I'm wearing dirty farm clothes, these photos are true to form!

I wish you all a little pleasure in something mundane this week.

Laura Beth

october at the farm

Dear Readers,

Every day starts when it's so dark out that I have to feel blindly around in my drawer for socks. I shine my phone's flashlight to get downstairs for peanut butter/honey/toast and some tea.

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Then, I head outside to fill buckets with water. Once I've packed the truck with buckets, snips, rubber bands, and they day's invoices, I drive over to the annual field and start cutting.

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Sometimes I listen to It's Been a Minute with Sam Sanders, the Startup Podcast, or Hello From the Magic Tavern. Or, I start the day with the new War on Drugs or Perfume Genius albums. Sometimes I just cut listening to the quiet early morning sounds of birds and crickets.

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I cut until I have to leave for deliveries. When I get back, Jascha and I have a sandwich or a salad together. Then I do emails, water the greenhouse, and head back outside for planting or more harvesting.

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The weather's so nice right now that work is a pleasure. Plus, it's October, which means the season will soon end, and I can take some time off. Excited!!

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Visitors to the farm also make working overtime worth it. Heck yeah, I'll work on a Saturday if it means meeting lovely and interesting people and sharing our flowers!

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My third grade teacher came to Bouquet Saturday this weekend! And one of our awesome new CSA members, and a photography contestant from earlier this summer. Our little community is growing all the time.

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At the end of each day, after dinner and some Parks and Rec, I crawl into bed at 9 pm (okaaay, sometimes it's more like 8:30) and turn out the light. Over the winter, I can stay up as late as I want- but for now, I have flowers to harvest, and places to take them.

I wish you all an October visit to your favorite local farm!

Laura Beth

a short one

Dear Readers,

We're selling a whole lot of flowers these days! Between weddings, florists, events on the farm, and our CSA, I barely have time to get the mail. But that's the way it should be this time of year.

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The big new announcement is that we've hired our first full time employee! He'll come on board in the early spring. I'll introduce him, and talk a bit about our growth, in a future post. 

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Gotta keep on harvesting, until frost comes in mid October. Then I can take a nap!

I wish you a hike in the woods,

Laura Beth

a butterbee

Dear Readers,

A "Butterbee" isn't a real creature. You didn't miss a lesson on that in middle school biology class, in case you were wondering! 

Here's the story. When I was little, my dad told me a bedtime tale about a cabin in the woods, where I lived with a butterfly named Butterbee. We would wake up to a sun-soaked morning, eat delicious muffins, and wander outside, exploring pathways and discovering mushrooms. Sometimes we got lost and fireflies led us home, or we met other woodland creatures along the way.

I loved Butterbee. My Grandma got me a necklace with a butterfly charm on it at one point, and somehow I still have it and wear it often. I also still picture the cabin and my butterfly friend when I have trouble sleeping, and it always helps.

Years later, I started this farm business, and made a list of farm names: Green Sage Farm, Wildflower Farm... and then Butterbee popped into my head. I asked my dad what he thought of naming the farm after his creation. His face lit up. And so, Butterbee Farm was born.

There is, of course, more to the story... butterflies have always been my symbol of truth and purpose. I didn't come to farming easily, and like everyone, I have demons that still emerge to surprise me. But I've arrived at a place of synergy. So naming the farm after Butterbee was just right.

There's a story to every farmer, every florist, every business owner, and every one of us. Isn't that such a precious thing about life?

I wish you all a thoughtful Monday. And, special thanks to Jin Zhang, who photographed the farm yesterday with such delight that I had to write this post featuring her photos. She asked if she could take a picture of my butterfly necklace, perhaps sensing it was something special to me.  Thank you, Jin! Her Instagram handle is is jinjin2000, if you want to see more of her gorgeous work!

Laura Beth

high fives

Dear Readers,

Yesterday was Blooms and Bouquets, our annual farmer-florist workshop, and our biggest event of the year!

It was a heart-lifting day! 28 participants came from as far as Michigan and Florida to hear Dave Dowling, Mimo Davis, Ellen Frost, and I talk about everything farming and flowers. 

Workshop topics included "Selling to Florists," "Crop Planning," "Growing in High Tunnels," "Butterbee Farm Systems," "Making a Bridal Bouquet," and more. 

Being around other jazzed flower growers is a much-needed shot in the arm during these hot, muggy summer days. Here are just a few of our wonderful participants:

This was Cassie Plummer of Jig-Bee Farm in Philly's THIRD Blooms and Bouquets! It's always so great to see her. 

This was Cassie Plummer of Jig-Bee Farm in Philly's THIRD Blooms and Bouquets! It's always so great to see her. 

Kelly Morrison of Color Fields Farm is trailblazing the way in Durham, NC- she just started a flower hub where florists can buy from multiple farmers at once! And, she used to be my manager when we both worked at a farm in PA.

Kelly Morrison of Color Fields Farm is trailblazing the way in Durham, NC- she just started a flower hub where florists can buy from multiple farmers at once! And, she used to be my manager when we both worked at a farm in PA.

Thank goodness for Carin Celebuski of Ladybrook Farm- she helped out at the event. She just started an amazing diversified farm in Monkton, MD.

Thank goodness for Carin Celebuski of Ladybrook Farm- she helped out at the event. She just started an amazing diversified farm in Monkton, MD.

Maya Velasco came from flower and veggie farming at Greyfield Inn in Florida to learn more about growing cut flowers. 

Maya Velasco came from flower and veggie farming at Greyfield Inn in Florida to learn more about growing cut flowers. 

Helen Campbell of Helen's Garden is just 20 minutes away from my farm. I'm thankful to have such a supportive and friendly flower neighbor. This was her second Blooms and Bouquets.

Helen Campbell of Helen's Garden is just 20 minutes away from my farm. I'm thankful to have such a supportive and friendly flower neighbor. This was her second Blooms and Bouquets.

Beverly Suckling owns Half Acre Flower Farm in Howard County. She was kind enough to host another farmer Angela Van Order, who came all the way from Michigan to attend the workshop!

Beverly Suckling owns Half Acre Flower Farm in Howard County. She was kind enough to host another farmer Angela Van Order, who came all the way from Michigan to attend the workshop!

Honestly, half the reason I put this workshop together each year is to get people's advice on what to do better on my own farm. It's just priceless to look at the farm through so many other eyes, and see with new perspectives.

And, lucky for me, our speakers (above- Ellen, me, Dave, and Mimo) hung out a bunch before and after the class so I got to soak up even more good vibes. If you ever go to St. Louis, check out Mimo's Urban Buds- it's an amazing 1 acre urban flower farm! 

I can't express all the gratitude I feel to this year's Blooms and Bouquets participants and speakers through words... it feels like a gazillion high fives bubbling up inside!

I wish you all a boost of confidence!

Laura Beth

PS All of these photos are by flower-lover, designer, and photographer Stacy Bauer!

farm photography

Dear Readers,

It has been a crazy couple of weeks here at the farm, characterized by these two things: business has been GREAT, and farming sucks when it's really hot out. I bounce between elated that my hard work is paying off and completely miserable at the prospect of going back outside. 

Photo by Jin Zhang

Photo by Jin Zhang

I'm enjoying a little air conditioning and office work this evening. Guess what- our photography contest results are IN!

In first place, Julie Anderson's dreamy photo of a bee in our lavender:

In second place, Jin Zhang's photo of a single cosmos, defiant against summer heat:

And in third place, Elizabeth Young's classic, summery photo of our marigolds:

All of the participants submitted gorgeous photos that we'll use on our website and social media all summer long. What a joy, to see the farm through their camera lenses!

I wish you all an ice-cold grapefruit kombucha (I know it's weirdly specific but I swear it's the most thirst-quenching drink there is),

Laura Beth

goofiness and pie

Dear Readers,

Farming is a lot like making art, in that there are long periods where it feels like the effort goes unnoticed. So when the farm gets some loving attention by friendly, excited guests, my heart swells.

July sales are always very slow for us, so instead of selling flowers, we have events on the farm almost every weekend. This past Saturday, we had over 60 visitors to the farm for Bouquet Saturday and our photography contest! The weekend before, we had a lovely pick-your-own evening session.

The hard work in July is mostly mental: maintaining a positive attitude in extreme heat is a big challenge. That's another good reason to have events- each person who visits the farm gives me a little boost of energy!

My goal this month is to approach my work with as much humor as possible. Goofiness is the only way through Baltimore swamp season!

pie by Kerry Lattimore, photos by Kate Grewal Photography

pie by Kerry Lattimore, photos by Kate Grewal Photography

Goofiness, and summer pie of course.

I wish you a blueberry chess pie.

Laura Beth

 

 

weddings, part 2

Dear Readers,

This Saturday, we're trying an experiment: we invite you to Pick-Your-Own larkspur in our flower fields! Register here. Bring your families. Kids get to come for free!

Now: weddings. Last year, we got a lot of good feedback about our process from brides and grooms. The only big complaint was that couples wanted to visit the farm, not just select their flowers from our emailed availability list. 

So, we created our Queen Bee option, where folks visit the farm for a tour before selecting their wedding flowers. Meg and Max were the first couple to test it out, just a few weeks ago.

I loved showing Meg and her group the flowers that they could use for the wedding. It's really cool to point things out and get big reactions like, "That eucalyptus will be PERFECT in my bridal bouquet!" I feel really proud of the farm when I see it through visitors' eyes. 

I've found that making sure expectations are clear and fully communicated is the secret sauce to a successful farm tour. In fact, that's a good business practice in general. I tell brides and grooms that they won't see everything on the farm, but they will get a good idea of what the flowers look like so they can start envisioning their designs.

I know I'm on the right track when I see photos like this. What gorgeous, bountiful bouquets! I absolutely love them, don't you???

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I wish you a summer garden salad.

Laura Beth

wish in a well

Dear Readers,

Thousands of small objects take on greater significance for a wedding. I wore my mom's garnet earrings, which I had admired since I was little. Jascha's tailor embroidered our names on the inside of his jacket. My bouquet featured the reddest dahlias we grow; for me, they represented joy and abundance.

This is one of our brides from last June:

I used to think objects like rings and cakes and, yes, flowers, were a silly, unnecessary wedding frivolity. But being witness to more weddings, and having one myself, opened my eyes to the real importance of objects...

They ground us in the real world. Without objects, a wedding would be too dreamlike, too abstract. It would float by too quickly, and we would have nothing to hold on to.

 

Objects at a wedding are like pennies in a wishing well. You can just barely see them through sparkling water, but seeing them makes the wishing more real. 

It's like a hot mug of coffee on a Sunday morning. You don't really need the coffee to know it's Sunday, but it sure feels right and good, and as you sip, you sigh: ahhhh, it's Sunday!

Flowers are like coffee on a Sunday or pennies in a well. They clarify the day, they tether it to reality. THIS is why I love doing weddings.

 

My favorite photo shows what I mean. See how she holds the flowers in her lap? Pennies!

I wish you all a wish in a well.

Laura Beth

an early spring

Dear Readers,

High Tunnel Dorothy and High Tunnel Mr. Bill were worth every penny. Because of them, we had plenty of flowers for Mother's Day- for the first time ever!

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Stock is the only cut flower in the broccoli family. It has a delicious spicy scent that wafts through the air as far as 25 feet from High Tunnel Mr. Bill, where we planted it back in February. Each plant only yields one glorious flower.

The ranunculus crop bloomed at just the right time. We sold out completely!

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The next few weeks will be tricky- we were expecting to have these lovely flowers just blooming now, but they came early due to a warm spring. That was big bonus for our Mother's Day sales, but it means our availability list will be a little slim the next few weeks. Thankfully larkspur and nigella are just about to pop!

The farm is beautiful- bunny rabbits hopping, birds a-singing, and everything smells of spring. Come and visit us! Bouquet Saturday is a fun, easy way to tour the farm and take some flowers home. 

I wish you all a mojito with fresh garden mint.

Laura Beth

favorite flower

Dear Readers,

Sometimes people ask what my favorite flower is.

Right now, it's glorious, luscious, silky ranunculus. I've dreamt of growing it since it was featured in my sister's bridal bouquet 4 years ago (see the flowers with a zillion folds below)...

And with the help of High Tunnel Dorothy, I am now gleefully harvesting hundreds of ranunculus every day. "La Belle Chocolate" featured here:

Ranunculus takes patience. We planted ours December 13th, and got our first blooms in early April. All winter, we opened and closed the high tunnel sides so the temperature would be just right. We put frost blankets on them when it was very cold and watered them when hot.

Here's "Amandine Blue Jean:"

So far, we've only got pictures of them in bud stage; we harvest them then so they'll last a long time for our florists. Here's "Amandine Cream:"

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I told myself I'd be real farmer when I could grow ranunculus. Guess I've made it! 

"La Belle Champagne:"

I wish you all an evening walk.

Laura Beth

april blooms

Dear Readers,

The farm is glowing from sun and spring rain.

Everything is so green! It's stunning, and it makes me glad to be a farmer.

High Tunnel Dorothy was worth every penny. The anemones are blooming faster than I can cut them. We were away all day yesterday for Passover and Easter celebrations, and when I got back, the entire bed of anemones was in full bloom. 

In High Tunnel Bill, Dusty Miller is growing nicely (right) and I threw in some veggies just for us (left). Stock, delphinium, and more ranunculus are coming along too.

Having flowers this early in the high tunnels is already making a difference in our business. It's important to have product right as the weather warms up because that's when people are really excited to buy! We're enjoying the appreciation from all of our florists and friends. Hopefully the whole season will be this bountiful!

I wish you all a barefoot walk through grass.

Laura Beth

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parrot king

Dear Readers,

Tulips are everywhere: the field, my fridge, our house, my ears. So, we're having a Passover seder flower sale TOMORROW (Saturday) from 10-2! Email or text me to reserve a $25 tulip-and-narcissus bouquet.

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Jascha and Curtis are working hard to build the walk-in cooler for flower storage, but until they're done, food is demoted to the lowest shelf in the fridge. (You can see where our food priorities are- maple syrup and kimchi front and center!)

I love having flowers this early in the year. We've never grown tulips before because they're a big investment. Each bulb (the fancy ones we grow) cost between .25-.50 cents each. By the time we plant them, keep them alive all winter, and harvest, we're just about breaking even.

But, it's important to have blooms right as our customers get itchy for spring. So tulips are definitely worth it. Plus, SO GORGEOUS and they last forever in a vase! The one above is called Parrot King.

Farm Olympics is this Monday, so expect lots of silliness from the next blog post. AND we only have a few spots left in our delivery flower CSA, so sign up soon!

I wish you all tulips coming out of YOUR ears!

Laura Beth

closing the door.

Dear Readers,

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The thing we feared is happening. The one thing that scared us about living at the farm. You know how after a long day at work, most people go home? Well, it's really hard to go inside and relax when all the farm tasks are right outside my window.

Jascha does a great job of closing the door behind him and welcoming an evening of Reddit, gaming with friends, and vegan mac n' cheese. 

I, on the other hand, look through the window, wondering if there's still enough daylight to cut the daffodils. They need to be cut! It could wait til tomorrow, but if I do it now, I could do more things tomorrow...

You see my problem.

It's a challenge. But, despite my constant awareness of what is not going well (dang you, weeds), it's been a productive spring. I planted snapdragons, borage, calendula, dianthus, feverfew, and delphinium.

Some things get planted in landscape fabric, and some things not, depending on how much of a canopy the crop will create when it's grown. The fuller the canopy, the fewer weeds. Just like a forest!

 

If you're curious about how the extremely warm, and sometimes cold, spring has affected our crops, here's an example. One variety of tulips are in bloom, but they're only about 6 inches tall. That's too short for design work!

Perennials need mulching and pruning, beds need to be prepared for planting, grass needs to be mowed, tools need to be organized, compost needs to be spread...

Thank goodness it's Farm Olympics soon! We need some superstrength on this farm. I'm looking at you, Local Color Flowers, Steelcut Flower Co, and Hillen Homestead.

On that note, I'm giving into my baser instincts to cut those daffodils in the last bit of daylight.

I wish you all scented candle and a good book,

Laura Beth

pick-your-own

Dear Readers,

I am very touchy about who picks our flowers.

It's just that certain crops need special care. For example, you have to cut a zinnia stem really low, just inches above the ground. You might think that would kill the plant, but actually it promotes more blooms.

People ask me all the time if we allow pick-your-own on the farm. The answer has been a resounding no (more like NOOOOOoooooooooo).........

 

Until now! This season, we will open the farm to flower lovers on one evening in June. We're calling it Evening Among Flowers.

 

We're trying to do a few things here: listen to what people want (pick-your-own!), make a profit (we are a business after all), and share the truly magical experience of harvesting flowers.

If you want to spend a few hours wandering through rows of larkspur and snapdragons, having the lavender patch all to yourself, swimming in African blue basil, and then making an arrangement with your harvests, then Evening Among Flowers is for you!

We're limiting registration to 10 nature adoring people. Sign up here!

I wish you all a romp in the snow.

Laura Beth

csa day

Dear Readers,

National CSA Day was Friday. This will be the fifth year of our CSA!

Our CSA is unique in that we deliver buckets filled with blooms to each home. I like to imagine our members getting home from work on CSA day, to find the flowers greeting them at the door! 

Our CSA members are kind of like family. We might never actually meet them in person, but they see the season through with us, from bachelors buttons, larkspur, mint, snapdragons, and chamomile in the early season, to sunflowers, zinnias, celosia, dahlias, lisianthus, and gomphrena in the late season. The final share in October is dried flowers and fragrant lavender to last through the winter.

Because driving around is a lot of work, we only accept 15 members each year. We've learned over time what our members like in their shares. I'm so excited to bring them our harvests this summer- we're growing so many new things, like Roseanne brown lisianthus and Soraya sunflowers.

Plus we're tripling our dahlia production! (@Ladyday, I'm looking at you.)

If you're new to CSAs- take the leap! Join our farm family. It's a sense of community that gets me up in the morning. We welcome you!

I wish you all a good sit by a sun-soaked window. 

Laura Beth

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the rabbit hole

Dear Readers,

This time of year, I have a little too much time to stew over coming challenges.

Yesterday, for example, I spent HOURS working on new events at the farm. When I finally got up from the computer, my head felt like a muffin. I kept reflexively checking my email and social media the rest of the day. Couldn't.... stop..............

An event I was working on yesterday

An event I was working on yesterday

This is all good and valuable work, but it can turn ugly really fast. I went from thinking critically and humming a happy tune to sinking into desperation for more Insta followers, more likes, more page hits. AGHHH!

There's a point at which hard work turns into obsessive work. Farmers, and entrepreneurs in general, are a highly susceptible group of people when it comes to falling down rabbit holes. 

 

I had fallen very deep down the rabbit hole of obsessive work.

Fellow business owners can likely relate to the particular slippery slope I was on: marketing. I was coming up with promo photos, thinking about how to advertise better using Instagram and Facebook, and trying to make the website prettier.

To cleanse my spirit today, I am spending time with the plants. PLANTS! 

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There's a simple, in-the-moment solution for me that I would do well to remember: take breaks!! REAL breaks, where you go outside, talk to someone who is not you, do some yoga, or whatever gets you back to reality. 

I'd love to hear- how do YOU stay sane when it comes to social media?

I wish you all an excellent Friday evening after work.

Laura Beth

 

 

 

 

sincerity

Dear Readers,

There's this thing in the wedding industry called a styled shoot. It's basically a collaboration between wedding vendors (hair dressers, florists, photographers, etc.) to showcase their offerings. Before this summer, I was not a big fan of styled shoots.

Too fake! Too phony! I thought. When Naomi from Urban Row Photography asked if she could put together a styled shoot at the farm, I said yes because I couldn't come up with a good enough reason to say no. 

Naomi, you totally changed my mind! I couldn't believe how much love each vendor put into the tiniest details. Check out the legitimate goofiness of the models, who are in real life married with kids. The bow tie! The jewelry! The makeup! The hair! Each detail contributed to the overall theme of late summer joy.

The models were freeeezing but they were troopers about it. Mallory from Everyday Rose Events did a glorious job using 100% Butterbee Farm flowers on the head crown and bouquet.

There was cake! 

There was special spiced tea!

I have enormous respect for the vendors (the artists!) who contributed to this lovely vision. 

Photographer: Urban Row Photography
Venue: Butterbee Farm
Floral Design: Everyday Rose Events
Dress: Rent the Runway
Hair and Makeup: Beyond Brides
Jewelry: Rachel Mulherin
Bowties: Xoelle
Cakes: WinniE’s Bakery
Tea: Wight Tea

There's so much advertising flashing by my eyes every day. I'm glad I got the chance to see what goes into a shoot like this. Each person who contributed sincerely loves helping weddings happen. And these businesses do work beyond weddings, in case you're wanting to eat some of that cake!

I wish you all a peaceful weekend!

Laura Beth