After parking the truck I tentatively walked inside the barn. The workshop had begun that morning and all around I found evidence of the budding gardeners. There were notebooks, sketches and snacks and I could hear the humming sound of a still running projector. After assessing the scene, I could tell everyone had moved on outside— somewhere else on the farm. I immediately recognized this as an opportune time to do a quick search myself. The drive up 36 through Boulder can be more arduous than planned at times and I desperately hoped to find a bathroom. I saw a door which looked innocently enough like a good spot to house a WC of some sort. The thick, rustic door creaked as I turned the handle. My eyes saw a shocking surprise. It wasn't exactly what I had been anticipating, but I did find a treasure. Inside, the bathroom had been converted into a cozy chicken brooder. There were at least 25 baby chicks (probably more) snug and happily chirping in their cozy first home. After living with human babies for the past few years, I immediately appreciated their soft and oh-so-quiet chirps. It was adorable, they were adorable, it was...a perfect introduction to a pretty perfect kind of place.
A chance to hang out in Lyons, Colorado, with some incredible pros who love to garden, use power tools and sneak in some playtime with baby animals too? Yes, please! I was at the Lyons Farmette photographing one of their spring workshops; a gardening intensive that spanned two days and taught participants everything from how to work with soil, to building a raised garden bed, irrigation techniques and even how to preserve your harvest.
Any time I get to wander to the northern Boulder County foothills back to my old stomping grounds, I become nostalgic. I LOVED living just outside of Lyons because it meant I lived almost in Lyons. The town is full of genuine, hard-working, happily eccentric and always talented folks. Returning to the land where sandstone cliffs and the South Saint Vrain Creek meet, definitely feels like home. I was excited...no ecstatic to head on up to the Lyons Farmette on a cloudy afternoon.
If you've ever strolled through the Farmette it is immediately apparent that the farm is cared for by people who do what they do out of love. They created a unique space where plants and animal grow, live, and thrive. It is a peaceful and incredibly gorgeous spot of land. It's obvious why there are myriad ways to enjoy the farm. Year-round the offerings are bountiful. The Lyons Farmette hosts farm dinners, numerous spring and fall educational workshops, provides an unforgettable backdrop for some truly unique Colorado farm weddings, and runs a CSA from June through October (there is still time to sign up for the 2015 season!)
After my initial welcome from the baby chicks, I grabbed my camera gear and wandered up a hill. My ears perked up at the sound of laughter and digging just beyond and I knew I had found the crew I was looking for. I met Helen, the farm's Director of Education as well as the participants who seemed almost giddy. I soon found out why. Helen was showing them a 2x4 and talking about how to properly cut your lumber to construct a raised garden bed. Yes, I had made it just in time for the power tools. However, more surprises were seeded in the clouds. No more than 2 minutes after I arrived, I was greeted by a brief but powerful hail storm. Most people shy away from this sort of thing but when you are on a farm, you expect all kinds of weather. So while everyone grabbed lumber and saws and headed to the hoop house, I covered up my gear and sauntered (by sauntered I mean bolted) after everyone.
Helen definitely knows her way around a garden. She was genuinely happy to show the crew how to make the proper cuts and even let a few lucky folks try out the power saw themselves. I love how the Lyons Farmette strives to support and empower the local food community. I was eager to listen to the tips and knowledge Helen was offering up while I photographed a fun and lively scene. Every year I plant a garden and every year I am surprised at how inept I am. While I can get pumpkins to grow pretty reliably (well outside of Florida...apparently one does not plant pumpkin seeds in Florida in May unless one wants fully ripe pumpkins in July) I also pretty reliably kill off starter plants seemingly just by looking at them. This past year, a dear friend of mine shared a few of her gorgeous tomato plants. I lovingly brought them home and...I am not exaggerating this...killed every single plant within one day of their arrival in my yard. I have a very special kind of gardening ineptitude. I hoped that while I was photographing the workshop, perhaps I could absorb some of Helen's talent through diffusion in the air. Gardeners of all levels participated in the weekend-long event and it was obvious that with Helen's teaching, everyone learned a lot that day.
The cuts were made, the hail subsided, the clouds rolled on and everyone worked together to build a beautiful raised garden bed. Throughout it all, Helen was there with knowledge and patience. Later on, Garrison the Farm Manager, stopped by to discuss irrigation options and explain how he manages the farm. Just like Helen, Garrison provided plentiful expertise and shared it in a way that engaged and excited the participants who eagerly soaked it all in.
Throughout the afternoon I noticed a theme. There was a lot of dirt, a lot of digging, and so much joy and laughter from everyone in the class. A pretty perfect way to spend a weekend indeed.
Want to learn more about this unique and special place? Well then by all means, please check them out at http://www.lyonsfarmette.com/ or head on over to Lyons for a visit. I promise no matter what the weather, you'll have a grand ol' time.