Thursday, March 22, 2012

I’m Afraid to Believe: Could it Really be Spring?

 I’ve always thought of myself as an optimist. You know the type: glass half-full, life’s valleys will bring mountaintop experiences, every cloud has a silver lining. I can usually find the good in all situations, so I’m not sure why I have such hesitation about the weather this year. I was on the phone with Stephanie, one of the Tearoom waitresses, and she was putting away all of her family’s winter coats. I hadn’t even considered the idea that winter is over. Could it be true? Did we actually get through a winter without school being cancelled for snow? Is it really going to be warm and nice from now on?  I’m still expecting the big snow any day now.  I realize I need to brush off the winter dread and embrace the blessings of spring. I spent some time in the greenhouse yesterday and saw how quickly the plants are growing. They seem to know the sun is shining and it will soon be time to play in the dirt. I love the way the greenhouse looks this time of year with the promise of another gardening season. So I’ve decided, in the spirit of optimism, I’m declaring the end of winter! Beginning today I vow to start looking forward to more sunshine and warm weather (but wait, does that mean I have to pack away the winter coats? Umm… that sounds like a lot of work, gathering up snowsuits, boots, mittens, hats…maybe I should sit on the front porch in the sunshine with my coffee a little longer and think about it!) I hope your day is filled with sunshine and the anticipation of spring.




Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Preparing for Spring

Each spring the greenhouses are completely bursting open with plants. As soon as you take one step inside the door your senses are hit from all sides. My favorite is the smell of dirt mixed with the scent of various flowers and herbs. As you walk along the rows of herbs, it’s nice to gently brush your hand across the tops causing their scent to linger in the damp air. I also love to be in the greenhouses on a cool, sunny day. When the sun peeks out from behind the clouds the greenhouses warm up so quickly, you will soon forget its still winter outside. But probably my favorite part about the greenhouses in spring is the sight of the beautiful plants stretching from one end of the building to the other. Every table is full of baby plants just waiting to be taken home and enjoyed. Ahhh…I can’t wait for spring to “spring!”
Until that glorious day arrives we are working to prepare for the babies. The greenhouses have to be cleared out, tables removed, and new ground cover put down.

I say “we” here as if I actually had something to do with this huge, messy, hard job. I was really more of a spectator. These “manly” jobs are left for Greg, Dad and Ed.
The next step that we, or should I admit Greg and Ed, did was to fill hundreds, thousands, millions, gazillions…of pots. Now the babies will have a place to live when they are ready to leave their seedling trays.

Here’s a picture of Ed showing his “manly” skills. Ed is truly the nicest man you could ever hope to meet. Our family is so appreciative of all the things he does around the farm. 

Soon it will be time to transplant the babies and the greenhouses will again start to burst open with tables full of plants. In the mean time we will finish the winter work and prepare for spring. But I wanted to leave you with a little blessing I found. This beautiful rose was blooming in the cold frame greenhouse. I took this photograph on the same day as all the others. It was quietly surviving without heat, tucked away in the back, waiting for me to see it and share it with you.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Fifth Season

We have had such a mild winter here in Southern Indiana. I’m sure the animals are just as happy about it as I am. On the day of our “biggest snow” I took a few random pictures around the farm. The snow is pretty especially around the horses area, it helps cover up the winter mud. I’m sure you’re all aware of the extra season we have here in the Midwest. It’s known as “Mud Season.” It came much earlier this year; usually it’s here in late February through early April. Mud season is the extra bonus we get when the ground does not stay frozen and is thick with moisture. My daughter’s Arabian horse, Amira, is a delicate princess who does not like her hoofs to touch any unclean surface. She is quite the jumper and has landed Lily in front of the saddle horn on the trail when she wanted to avoid a puddle. A western trail saddle is not the saddle of choice for jumping. There’s something about a saddle horn in the stomach that’s not fun for a ten year old little girl. But Lily loves her horse and has won several ribbons with her in our local 4H show.
The light dusting of snow is also beautiful on the winter berries and garden statue which are found in the gardens of our family’s farm.
I hope you are having a wonderful winter (or mud) season wherever you might be.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Getting Started

Welcome to our family’s farm!

I’m Elizabeth Manning my brother, Greg, and I are the fifth generation to live and work at Stream Cliff Farm, Tearoom & Winery. Along with our parents, Gerald and Betty, we run a unique agri-tourism business in southern Indiana.

We propagate thousands of herbs, perennials and unusual annuals in our greenhouses. On our farm we invite visitors to enjoy our display gardens which are designed in the shape of old-fashioned quilt patterns. Greg is a horticulturist and has an extensive knowledge of plants. He is always willing to help customers in the garden center. He and his wife, Lauren, and their two daughters live on a section of our farm that was originally deeded to our ancestors from the government in the 1830’s.

My mother, Betty, is the heart and soul of Stream Cliff Farm. The land was handed down from her family. Mom’s love for the farm keeps her striving to improve it daily and reminds us and our children of how blessed we are to live here. As well as being very knowledgeable of horticulture, she is also a primitive artist, lecturer and author. Her beautiful book, Secrets of the Garden Path with Recipes, is full of images of our beloved farm. She also included several tips on gardening and many delicious family recipes. Mom has become quite the celebrity at Stream Cliff. She is easy to recognize in one of her signature garden hats!

Mom, Greg and I teach many classes on gardening, handcrafts and cooking with herbs and wine. We also have three gift shops filled with garden related items, books, soaps, jewelry, handmade crafts and paintings.

Greg and I laugh; if Mom is the heart and soul of Stream Cliff then Dad is the backbone. He has built most of the gardens, water features and buildings on the farm. He is also the head winemaker for our family’s winery where he and Greg make about twenty varieties of wines. The winery, with tasting room, is housed in Dad’s old blacksmith shop. It has been beautifully renovated to create a comfortable and charming atmosphere. Our wines are delicious and range from bold, dry reds to soft, sweet fruit wines, so we are able to suit most everyone’s palette. Enjoying a glass of wine by the fireplace on a cold, wintery day or while swinging on the porch during the summer, is a wonderful way to spend the afternoon at Stream Cliff Farm.

Another popular aspect of our farm is Twigs & Sprigs Tearoom. I manage the tearoom and can usually be found welcoming our guests on the front porch. The tearoom serves homemade meals using fresh herbs and our family farm wines. We strive for a beautiful presentation and add fresh herbs or edible flowers to each plate. Our most popular items are: Dill & Rosemary Chicken Salad, Birdseed Pasta Salad, Blueberry-Walnut Salad, Cheese Soup in a Bread Boule, Hummingbird Cake and Blackberry Cobbler. When I’m not working at the farm I stay busy with my four kids, six horses, three dogs and two cats in our log cabin a few miles from the farm.

I’m so glad you visited our family’s blog. Visit us at to receive new postings in your email. I will be giving out gardening tips, recipes and special discounts for Stream Cliff Farm Tearoom & Winery. Additionally I will share stories about our lives working on our 460 acre family farm. Thank you for joining us.