Hosting a Homestead Wedding

Jason and I got engaged in January of 2011, but long before that, I knew that I wanted a backyard wedding.  I had this image in my mind of a hayfield with just the ceremony site mowed out: simple white chairs, a rustic arbor, country flowers.   I had no real experience with wedding planning beyond an interest in wedding blogs like The Broke-Ass Bride, Green Wedding Shoes and Wedding Chicks.  I had a lot to learn.

One of the most stressful parts of planning our homestead wedding was lining up the vendors.  I knew we’d need tents and chairs, though I had no idea just how much tents and chairs for 100 would cost (roughly $1,500).  Beyond that, there was food to consider.  I definitely wanted to work with someone local, but it was hard to find someone willing to cater to an outdoor wedding for 100 in July that was 15 miles outside of town with very few options for electricity and water.  I was lucky enough to discover the catering branch of our local U Maine system, which produced delicious meals for under $15/plate and offered a reduced child’s rate.  They were also more than willing to help us with linens and extra glassware rentals to cut back on waste.

Photo by Allison Emmerich
Tents and chairs… well worth the cost.

Strangely, the least stressful part about our wedding was the marriage, itself.  I’ve said this to a few of my friends, but marrying Jason was the first big decision I’ve ever made that I was 100% certain about.  I couldn’t wait to be his wife and partner, and my confidence in that really carried me through the piles of mundane tasks that awaited us.

There are a few things that I feel we did right that saved us time, money and anxiety.  By allowing ourselves a full, 18 month engagement, I was able to do all of the big planning (tent, food, dress) a year in advance, allowing for a much more relaxed few months before the event.  We also decided to eschew the wedding planner that several family members suggested we get.  While this meant having to deal with more of the details, myself, it saved money and really let me interact with my own wedding and ensure that nothing got too out of hand.

By hiring a local caterer who served on china, glass and silver outside and choosing two kegs over bottles of beer, we were able to create no more than two 30 gallon bags of trash (including gift wrap), despite the number of guests and scope of the event.  We were careful to recycle what we could, but this lack of trash was important to me.  I was also careful in creating wedding signs that could either be passed forward to friends getting married or used around our homestead.  The Christmas lights are being donated to the school I teach at for an event I host every year, and the cupcake tower has already been loaned out to another bride.

Photo by Allison Emmerich
One of our many, reusable wedding signs.

Jason’s family provided all of our flowers, from the wild flowers on the tables to the four huge buckets of white hydrangeas from their gardens that provided bridesmaids’ flowers and dressing for our homemade arbor.  This not only saved money but provided a really nice connection to those we love as we were able to integrate them into our ceremony and the day.  And rather than doing vases on the tables, we used quart mason jars for the wild flowers and pint mason jars for the dianthus that held the table numbers and can, ultimately, be reused.

And despite numerous horrified family members and friends, we successfully made our own wedding cake (117 cupcakes and a small cutting cake).  We used as many local ingredients as we could, and it was, surprisingly, the least stressful part of the entire day.   I plan on writing a full post, including recipes, next week.

Photo by Allison Emmerich
Homemade Wedding Cake

So what did we learn?

Our friends were invaluable.  My best friend Allie and her boyfriend Dave came early and may be one of the only reasons we managed to dress the tents on time the day of the wedding.  They not only helped us set up the ceremony site and take care of the chickens leading up to the event, but they also wrangled kids, ensured that a few early (and late!) photos got taken, and generally did everything that I didn’t have time to think of the day of the wedding.  And Allie reminded me to drink water.  Constantly.  Invaluable.

Photo by Allison Emmerich (tripod)
Best friends really do make the difference in wedding planning!

Give yourselves extra time!  Nothing happened quickly or easily the morning of the wedding.  I was so glad that we’d planned for a 4 p.m. ceremony because with only four of us doing initial set-up, it was a miracle that Allie and I got out the door at 11:30 a.m. to drive into town for hair.

Count everything you rent.  Somehow, during our rental process, five chairs disappeared.  Since the manifest was signed without counting the chairs, we ended up paying for five chairs that I’m pretty sure never got dropped off at our home, but there was really nothing we could do.

Have a casual rehearsal dinner.  We wanted an outdoor rehearsal BBQ that was as low-key as we are.  It allowed us to invite the close friends we’ve made who were not in our bridal party and kick back with family and friends from far away.  It is still one of my favorite memories of the weekend, and the kids in our bridal party had an awesome time with the ring bearer’s gift: a kite.

Photo by David Todaro
Perfect Rehearsal… and look at that sky!

Pen up or send away animals for their own protection.  Although our flock regularly free ranges, everyone spent the three days before the wedding cooped up in their outdoor tractors because the last thing we had time to do was chase chickens.  In addition to this, we opened a basement window so the cats could go in and out as they pleased and sent Abby (our Australian Shepherd) to Jason’s Mom’s house for the weekend, as she has a deep love of both cupcakes and running in front of cars – it just wasn’t safe to keep her on site and I was more relaxed knowing that she was relaxing at her grandmother’s.

The chicks on wedding weekend. Note: they were in their indoor coop the day of the wedding. They were one of many stops for the children at the event.

Let go of your expectations.  Some things didn’t work out the way we’d planned, but at the end of the day Jason & I were the only ones who knew.  We got married.  We had one of the best days of our lives together with our family and friends.  Letting go of some of those early expectations was the best way to have fun and relax and enjoy our new life together.

The day after.

 

 

 

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Homestead Update

When I went to Boston a week ago today, I had every intention of continuing to write regular posts, but between a hotel with limited wi-fi access and a weekend of wedding-related activities (and my 30th birthday!), not nearly as much got done on the blog as needed.  This time of year always feels a little breathless, as the first truly hot summer days descend in a haze of weeding, home reorganization and preparation for canning.  Throw in a wedding to prepare for and host, and everything that used to feel normal about my days has pretty much evaporated.  That said, I wouldn’t want anything else at this point.

Always a welcome sight at the end of a long day…

In the garden, things have finally started progressing at a rate that I’m excited to discuss.  This year, we’ve been plagued by a super slow growing season and the fear that not one of

Tomatoes … finally growing!

our seventy-something tomato plants would make it.  Apparently, our problem was soil temperature because as that has climbed over the last nine days, so have our plants!  I think one of the things I struggle most with on this blog is adequately cataloging our failure and my fear of failure, as putting it in words somehow makes it seem that much more eminent.  So in that vein: I’m worried about the peppers, which have been plagued by flea beetles all season.  We’ve been hitting them up regularly with a mixture of garlic, hot sauce, Dr. Bronner’s natural soap and water, and we’re hoping to see some progress, but it has been SLOW.  We’ve also really struggled with flea beetles in our cucumbers and have had to replace some of the plants (a complete repeat of last year).  We’ve planted nasturtiums with them to try to cut back on cucumber beetles, and – cross your fingers – we haven’t seen any yet!  What do you do to protect delicate pepper and cucumber plants, and how do you keep the dreaded flea beetle away?

One Week Old Chicks – Note the Feathers on the Wings!

And in the coop?  Chicks!  Our hatch yielded 21 of the healthiest, most active chicks we’ve ever had.  So healthy, in fact, that after six days in the back bedroom nursery, they had to be moved out to the coop.

Chick-mania!

This year, rather than constructing our modified coop brooder out of cardboard, I used some scrap wood from our earlier coops and the clear panels from an old cold frame that blew apart in a storm last year.  I’ve slowly begun to expose them to a bit more light and sun from outside (keeping a careful eye on drafts).

Abby keeping a watchful eye on her “babies”. Do note that at this stage, she is never left alone with the chicks. In about three weeks, I’ll be less careful about chaperoning her, but the chicks are still way too small to protect themselves, and I’m not sure she realizes they are chickens (and meant to be protected) yet.

Rather than keeping a thermometer in the coop with the little ones, we’ve been monitoring their activity and adjusting accordingly.  Right now, we have one lower and one higher lamp and lots of space for them to move around in, and we’ve only begun to see the first hints of flight!

Flight!

This Weekend in the Garden: Flower Beds & Mulch

For the last few weeks, I feel like everything has centered around the house.  We’ve stained the decks and replaced the roof and repainted the foundation and installed window boxes on the back porch where I hope to complete a novel this summer (in my copious spare time).  However, we’re finally at the point where we can look out into the yard and start taking care of the details that will be central to the wedding and people’s first impressions of our home.

This weekend in the garden, I’m hoping to get our flower beds under control.  They need to be weeded, de-burdocked, re-edged and mulched in preparation for a long summer of neglect.  Let’s be honest, as soon as the veggies come in, my time is spent in the larger, vegetable gardens, and I need our perennial beds to be self sufficient with only irregular weeding.

So today, we’re tackling the front garden and the herb bed (which has been left to its own devices way too long this year!).  We’re also hoping to get the blueberry patch weeded and fertilized.  Straw needs to be removed from the strawberry patch, where it has formed a nice frost blanket these last few months.  Finally, I’m hoping to drag down some river rocks to encircle the ranunculus bed that I dug last weekend.

If we have time, Jason’s going to try to get some of the trim painted on the house, but – really – this is a gardening weekend.

What are you hoping to accomplish at home this weekend?

 

Holy Ranunculus!

Up until a few months ago, I was blissfully unaware of the ranunculus plant.  I am a vegetable gardener.  I dream of plump eggplants, juicy tomatoes and crisp lettuce; I spend very little time thinking of flowers… or, at least, I spent very little time thinking of flowers.  Then I got engaged.  Then I discovered the billy-ball.  Then I discovered how long it takes to grow them and how finicky they are, and what a short window of time you have if you’re going to grow them yourself (read: they are beyond my capacity as a flower gardener).

And then, then I discovered the ranunculus.  I was okay; I didn’t have to have them myself; I assumed they were difficult to plant and even more difficult to produce.  But Charity over at Spade & Spatula convinced me otherwise, and now, now we might have a problem come spring.

Photo Courtesy of Bulbs Direct (Click on Photo to Link There)

Ranunculus are related to those precious little buttercups that run riot over our fields in the summer; however, they exceed the buttercup in terms of their ability to be cut and placed in bouquets.  I  will note that they are toxic (so we’re going to have to keep the girls away from them!), but given the number of foxes we’ve seen this spring, all free ranging is going to have to be limited to the chicken tractors for the foreseeable future.

After weeks of salivating, I must admit that I did just place an order with Dutch-owned BulbsDirect.  There are 120 ranunculus bulbs in my future… but I warn you, browse at your own risk!  The combination of cabin fever and bright spring flowers is deadly!