How to Pull Off Your Own DIY Wedding, Pt. 1: Flowers

I just got married on Saturday. I’m pretty excited about it. first dance

Jason and I had been engaged for so many years that I can’t actually remember how long it’s been.  We’ve been together for ten years in May, and we had finally decided to set a date this last December.*  Neither of us was interested in a traditional big wedding, and we’ll all about DIY over here, so we pretty much did everything ourselves instead of hiring other people.

Over the next few weeks (meaning, when I have time to write everything), I’m going to share a series of posts about the various elements of the wedding, what we did, and how to plan it all in advance so that you don’t actually have to work on your wedding day.  The only thing I should really mention, though, is that we had such a tiny wedding that I know this information won’t really apply to a lot of couples who are having hundred(s) of people show up for their wedding.

For this post, I want to tell you about what we did for the flowers, with more to follow about the rest of the decor, our sweet little vegan wedding cake, how to self-cater everything in advance for a small group.  bridal bouquetWe got almost all of the food from local farms, but unfortunately there aren’t many local flowers to be had in Mendocino County during February.  Our farm just has a few random calendula blooms, nothing that you could turn into a bridal bouquet.  If it were the summertime, I would have absolutely just grown my own.  True, if I had planned in advance, I could have forced some bulbs in the greenhouse or something. I got my wedding dress four days before the wedding, though, so obviously growing my own flowers was just not in the cards for this.  The next best thing? The San Francisco Flower Mart. It’s a huge wholesale market for flowers that’s open to florists in the early morning hours, but then opens to the public at 10:00 a.m. The flowers are incredibly fresh, as local as I think is reasonable to expect in February, and the selection is fantastic.  Oh, and it’s dirt cheap. And there’s a parking lot right at the building. (You have to pay, but it’s only a couple bucks). bridal bouquetI live two hours away from San Francisco, out in the sticks, and I think it was totally worth the drive to go down and get a couple hundred bucks worth of flowers for bouquets and to decorate the house.   If you’re getting married, live nearish to SF, and want to arrange your own flowers, this is absolutely the route to take. During the summers, I would also suggest local farmers markets, but you probably knew I would say that.

Remember, if you’re shopping for flowers at a market like this, it helps to bring a couple big buckets with water in them so that you can keep the flowers fresh while you drive them back home.  If you get really fresh flowers, they’ll probably last about a week if you keep them in plenty of water and in a cool space.

As far as making your arrangements look nice, it really is up to you. I like a combination of lots of shapes, sizes and colors, but sometimes a bunch of all one variety can look beautiful too. You have to just keep a really open mind when you’re shopping and pick out things that you think look pretty. _MG_2685The day before the wedding, my sisters and one of my girlfriends put together bouquets and decorated the house.  Obviously, they were all in mason jars, (which is potentially an overused trend, but when you make jam for a living and have shelves and shelves filled with jars, it certainly seems like an obvious choice).  As stereotypical as it was for a bunch of girls to sit around playing with flowers, I don’t care, because it was awesome. Of course, it might not be right for all brides, but I could never imagine paying someone else to sit and arrange flowers for me. wedding flowers

So, that was the simplest bit of information to tell you about…. I have a bunch of really great recipes that I can’t wait to share for all the delicious food we made.  I need to go sleep some more, though, since apparently I’m still hungover, two days later.

*If you have a long engagement and then randomly decide to get married, everyone is going to think you’re pregnant. True story. FYI: I’m not pregnant.

Market Flowers, July 2011

July is here, which means I am sleep-deprived, sweaty, dirty and sore, but that the garden is looking pretty lovely and the produce is rolling in at the farmers market. I take mental snapshots of these busy summer days to look back on during the winter…  Farmers markets and weeding and planting and oysters on the BBQ and elderflower cocktails.

Until I get time to write down a full recipe (my mom’s blackberry pie is up next, I think), I wanted to share a bouquet from our market table this morning with any gardeners that have their eyes peeled for new plants to grow. Bells of Ireland, flowering marjoram and my most favorite of favorite zinnias: Queen Red Lime, from Johnny’s Seeds.  These zinnias are wonderful cut flowers that last ages in a vase, and the maroon to lime green petals are truly stunning. Grow it!



Gardening To-Do List, Late April

I’m working hard at waiting for paint to dry right now.  Our lovely little barn has gotten quite the facelift for 2011, but unfortunately paint just doesn’t dry the way that I want to…. which is instantly. Until then, there’s a bed frame in the driveway, mattresses in the kitchen, boxes and other junk strewn basically everywhere. The second that paint is dry, the project is finished; all we have to do is move the furniture back in.

With every second that ticks by, a surge of “holy shit I have so much work to do” is welling up in the corners of my brain. It is that time of year, after all. So, while I wait for paint to dry, I think a to-do list is probably in order.  This list is inspired by the Garden Chore posts from Margaret Roach’s blog, A Way To Garden, which I have found to be very helpful in the past. Every gardener’s to-do list is going to be a little bit different, though, and mine is more centered around growing food and less around perennials and ornamental plants.

When I was just starting to grow vegetables and flowers, a seasoned farmer told me that the goal is  to plant and harvest constantly, with some sections of the garden in the earliest stages of growth, others ready for harvest, others growing, and others waiting to be planted.  “A good farmer is always planting,” she said. It was a lightbulb moment. I used to try to have my garden be completely planted at the beginning of every season, but I’ve realized that having everything is a state of organized chaos and disarray means that it is a more productive farm. There are always flowers and vegetables to harvest and there are always new plants to replace them with.

alcosa cabbage, ready for harvest


  • Weedwack all of the borders in the gardens before the spring weeds go to seed.
  • Inspect fences for holes and repair as needed.
  • Inspect irrigation system and repair as needed.
  • Clean out foliar sprayers, watering cans, and barrels used for mixing compost tea- a mild bleach solution and elbow grease seems to work well.
mustard greens


  • Harvest winter vegetables now (cabbages, greens, carrots, beets, etc.). Cook, preserve, barter or sell to clear the way for summer planting.
  • Fertilize growing spring vegetables that are a month or so away from harvest (peas, lettuces, more carrots, beets and greens). I use an organic liquid seaweed fertilizer (any brand will do) or make compost tea.
  • Inventory starts for summer vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, summer and winter squash).  We grow some from seed in the greenhouse and I fill in the gaps with starts that I get from friends or buy at the farmers market.  Cucumbers and squash can also be direct sown in the garden after the frost date.
  • Fertilize plants in the greenhouse- they are usually getting quite large by this point, and may not be able to get enough nutrients from the soil in their little containers.  I foliar spray with a high-nitrogen fertilizer if the leaves on my starts look too yellow or pale.
  • Plant carrots, beets, and lettuce in the garden before the weather gets too hot.
summer squash start in the greenhouse
sweet peas, ready to go to the market in bouquets


  • Spring flowers which may have overwintered are blooming, which is fantastic (calendula, sweet william, sweet peas, pansies). The sweet peas smell divine and will go to the market on opening day.
  • Early season flowers that were seeded in weeks ago should be popping up by now (bells of ireland, poppies, calendula, love-in-a-mist, etc). Weed beds to keep the space open for the delicate seedlings and fertilize if needed.
  • Flower starts in the greenhouse will probably need some fertilizer, just like the vegetables do.  Varieties will vary greatly from one garden to another, but in our greenhouse I have marigolds, zinnias, celosia, and much, much more.
sweet william
celosia starts in the greenhouse


  • Tender spring growth is perfect for rooting cuttings from plants like rosemary, lavender and sage. Never taken cuttings before? Here’s how. 
  • Overwintered herbs (mint, thyme, marjoram, rosemary, etc.) should be growing nicely by now. Use the abundance of fresh growth for pestos, as filler in flower bouquets, mix into quiches, toss into pasta dishes, mix into jellies.


  • By this time of the year, trees should already be pruned.
  • Clear weeds from the base of the trees.
  • Inspect irrigation and repair any leaks.
  • Plant any remaining bare-root trees before the weather gets too hot (it’s late by now, they will need extra water to make sure they get established properly).
  • In a few weeks when the weather starts to really stabilize and get warm, plant out any citrus trees.
Cara Cara Pink Navel in the greenhouse


  • In these last few weeks before planting time, I turn the compost pile several times to try and really get everything going in there. The composting process often slows down significantly during the winter (since it’s cold outside), but once the temperatures warm, everything should return to normal. Before you planting date, break down the pile and pull out finished compost to till into beds.
  • If you have particularly hot compost, you may want to spread and till the compost into garden beds now so you can water it a few times and let it sit for a week or two before planting time.  (“Hot” means high in nitrogen; anyone using lots of chicken manure will have this issue. Or blessing, depending how you look at it).
  • Have questions about composting? Martha has a really good slideshow here (big surprise.)
butter lettuce in the garden
bleeding heart in the greenhouse

… and in case anyone forgot, since that was a long to-do list:

  • Enjoy the spring, and the sunshine, and the wildflowers. Try not to work too hard. Don’t worry about perfection, just have fun.
parrot tulips

I Took The Day Off Today

Usually I get up before at dawn on Saturdays to go sell veggies, eggs, flowers and jam at the Ukiah Farmers Market, but this week I had to be in San Francisco.  While I felt bad about missing a day of work, it meant I could have a quiet morning, sleeping late and going to the big Allemany Farmers Market in San Francisco as a customer instead of a vendor.  Certain places  in my life that I consistently go back to always seem good and right.   This market is always bustling full of smiling people- a huge range of age groups and ethnicities- with little toddlers in strollers munching on strawberries to old grandmas doing their weekly shopping.  For me, it is the embodiment of vibrant, positive, urban culture, and if I ever move away from California, I will certainly miss coming here.

Plus, the pupusas from Estrellita’s are ridiculously good…  If you’ve never had pupusas before… oh man…   They’re these Salvadorian handmade tortillas, made with masa de maiz and stuffed with all kinds of fillings like cheese, pork, and refried beans.  These pupusas are handmade to order, and fried on a griddle until the outside is lightly browned and crispy and the inside is a gooey mess of melted cheese and meat.  Top it with a slightly spicy, crunchy cabbage slaw and some hot sauce, grab a passion fruit aqua fresca, and you’re good to go.



I returned home with a bag of medjool dates, king trumpet mushrooms, a buddha’s hand for making candied citron, artichokes, baby parsnips, a pound of tiny calamondins, fresh goat cheese ravioli, bright green giant avocados, and two pounds of the tiniest manila clams I’ve ever seen.  I think I’ll steam the clams in some white wine for dinner, and maybe roast the artichokes.

Days off are really wonderful.

Stout Beer Jelly

I am a workaholic.  Almost every waking minute of every day, I’m either working in the garden, planting seeds, making jam and jelly, cooking, researching new recipes, feeding the chickens,  picking flowers, planting flowers, playing in the compost pile…. the list could literally go on forever.  Over the past few days, though, the news coming out of Japan seems more and more bleak and I am getting more and more distracted. I am supposed to be planting flower seeds in the greenhouse right now, and planning summer gardens. 

The LA Times is reporting that a plume of radiation is heading across the ocean right for us, but that it’s totally fine. (Small amounts of radiation headed for california, but no health risk seen, March 17) In a column intended to answer questions about the radiation risks, the New York Times offered this information to a concerned Oakland resident:

. . . experts I’ve interviewed strongly doubt that there will be any significant risk on the West Coast, and say there is no reason to take the potassium iodide unless high levels of radioactive iodine develop. But again, scientists consider high levels unlikely in the United States. In addition, about 98 percent of a person’s dose comes from drinking contaminated milk, and if fallout were to reach here (again, unlikely) most people could protect themselves by not drinking milk or eating dairy products. Children are much more vulnerable than adults.

— Denise Grady, Health Reporter

So if I understand correctly, as long as we don’t drink any milk everything will be okay?  What?

I understand that the general gist of things is that we’re probably going to be fine.  Do I trust the government to keep me accurately informed if the situation changes for the worse? Kind of.  Not really.  Meanwhile I am sitting in my living room watching P. Diddy and Ke$ha on MTV and reading St. Patricks Day green food recipes.  The violent contrast between what I see on the news and what I see here, in my house, out in my garden, in my neighborhood, is surreal, and kind of makes my brain hurt.  I end up thinking about really strange things…

Reaction #1: Instinctually run through the Civilization Collapse Checklist:  food and water, firearms and ammunition, camping gear, flashlights and lots of spare batteries, a good knife and basic tools, the first aid kit, and lots of seeds for future gardens.   Got it, done.  The Crazy Flag flies high here, it’s true.   I think this is a side-effect of living off the grid, since we actually have these supplies on hand anyway.

Reaction #2, now that the important stuff is taken care of as best as I know how.  Make Beer Jelly: I don’t know where this idea came from, but if you’re in the mood to push on through the bad news, celebrate St. Patty’s, and make some pretty crazy jelly, I guess this is a great idea. It’s really unique jelly and a little bit weird, but kind of brilliant too.

Stout Beer Jelly

I used Guinness for this recipe, and I can already taste the grilled cheese sandwich with pumpernickel bread, jelly, cheddar cheese and sliced apples.  It would also work well as a glaze for grilled lamb.  Or tossed with roasted parsnips and bacon.  The possibilities are endless. I have had very mixed reviews on this one so far, with some people going completely crazy about it and others deciding it was “too weird.” In the next few weeks, though, it will definitely show up at the farmers market, in a slightly more refined form with some fruit and spices.

makes: 7 half pint jars

skill level: easy


  • 2 12 ounce bottles of stout beer (I used Guinness)
  • 1 package powdered Sure-Jell pectin (I’m usually a pectin snob, but you know what? We’re making beer jelly here. So screw it).
  • 3 1/2 cups sugar

1. Bring canner to a boil.  Wash jars and lids.  Put lids in a bowl and cover with boiling water with the canner.

2. In a large, non-reactive pot, bring the beer and powdered pectin to a rolling boil.  It will be very frothy, that’s normal.  Stir in sugar and bring back to a rolling boil. Cook on high heat for two full minutes.

3. Pour hot jelly into jars.  It will still be very frothy.  I decided to leave a thick layer of foam on top of the jellies to imitate the way dark beer looks in a glass, but you could certainly skim it off with a spoon if you like.  I only wanted a little froth on top, so I ladled the jelly into jars and led the air bubbles rise to the top for a few minutes before I screwed the lids on.  Wipe rims clean, screw on lids, and process half pint jars for 5 minutes.

4. Crack open another beer, toast some pumpernickel or rye bread, spread on some cream cheese and your new beer jelly, and eat up!