surprises when you least expect them

I grew up in a northwest suburb of Chicago. I didn’t really have any idea what farm life was like until I met Nate. Literally, I went to a farm in kindergarten and remember liking the chicks. Little did I know one day I would call a farm home!

I didn’t really think about where my food came from either. Farmers markets weren’t as popular as they are now. I loved going to the grocery store with my mom, and we ate on the healthier side, but I just didn’t think about it.

As a teenager, when my parents would go to buy flowers and plants and bushes in the late spring, I would ask to pick out one flower plant and would try to keep it alive. I always failed, and deemed myself the opposite of a green thumb.

Fast forward to meeting Nate. I remember one of the first times I went to Walnut Grove Farm, I posed for a photo with a cow; I was just so in awe. The spring and summers would come and go, and we would eat fresh veggies and fruits from the garden, something that was really foreign to me in the best way possible. 

As the years passed (we’ve been together for almost 15!), I’ve grown to appreciate respect the farm, and love the production gardens. We were married there almost six years ago, featuring mostly local vendors and the majority of the flowers were from the farm.

Fast forward even more to last weekend, when I pulled up probably 30 radishes and some green onions, picked fresh greens, and planted watermelons and squash to enjoy later this year.

There is something so gratifying about harvesting from a garden. It’s difficult for me to describe. I find such peace in it. And excitement. It just feels right.

Radishes, in particular, are super fun (I realize what a nerd I sound like right now, and I’m completely okay with it) because it’s like a surprise with each radish. Is it mature enough? What color is it? Long and thin or short and plump? Will it be really sharp or mild in flavor? Not to mention they are beautiful.

Radishes now signify the beginning of the growing season (other than another new favorite–rhubarb!). It means a summer filled with fresh foods that my mother-in-law planted and hopefully I can harvest. Gardening is something I’m not sure I’ll be good at on my own, but I really hope one day Nate and I will have the land to have our own garden.

Teaching Eloise about the farm, the gardens, and about the foods she eats; getting her to eat a lot of fruits and veggies; and trying new foods are very important to us. 

Today, Ellie wanted blueberries instead of a bakery cookie. That to me was a small, simple parenting win. And I’ll take them however they come!

I’m so grateful she has the farm as her home away from home, and that’s all that she knows. It gives her balance from the hustle and bustle of the city, the ability to run and be free, and spend quality time with her family with home-cooked, home-grown meals. What could be better than that?


70 degrees in february on the farm

Never thought I’d utter the words! It’s unbelievable that it could be so warm. In the winter. In Chicago. But here we are. (And if you don’t believe this is global warming, I’m not sure what you do believe.)

We decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather and went to Nate’s family farm, where we were able to run around outside and play. I was also able to take a bunch of photos!

It was such a wonderful long weekend. I wanted to be sure to share some of my favorite pictures with you!

Help Us Raise the Roof! 

When I first met Nate 14 years ago, he told me he grew up on a farm. But being a suburban gal, I had no idea what that meant. 

It meant he and his family are hard workers, determined people, and have a strong sense of community. (To name a few things.)

Nate’s mom does even more with the farm: she hosts weddings and seasonal festivals in the main barn and on the property. 

Of course, when I first visited, I didn’t appreciate like I do now. That’s because the farm is a part of me as it has been for Nate and his family since they moved there 30 years ago.

My love of the farm only grew. Harvesting fresh produce (or almost picking a praying mantis), eating home cooked feasts (usually from the garden, when possible), visiting the shed to see if Grandpa Ted is around or in the field…these are all normal now. 

Every fall, we return to Knoxville for the Scenic Drive, an event that gets me in the mood for my favorite season: autumn. I love seeing familiar faces of artisans and friends, checking out new vendors, and eating my father-in-law’s signature beef stew that he cooks in a kettle on the fire outside. I’ve done a lot of odd and fun jobs, from grilling to apple pressing to selling Grandma Jan’s wreaths and arrangements. And I leave a bounty, too: decorative flint corn to hang on our fence, pumpkins to stack by the front door, freshly made candy for the ride home, and other goodies from the farmer’s market on-site.

The weekend after Thanksgiving, we return again for the Christmas event. This time, it’s colder, and we can do Christmas shopping! One year Nate’s aunt and grandma made ornaments out of Grandpa Len’s old work clothes to sell. These are now some of our most treasured decorations on the tree. Pottery, hand-knit hats, and Grandma Jan’s wreaths and swags, are also some of our favorites.

These events are special year after year, but we also hosted our wedding on the farm almost five years ago. We were married in the walnut grove, dined under the stars in a tent, and laughed and cried and danced in the barn until the floor boards shook! It was a perfect day with the ones we love, and I hope I never forget how magical it all was.

So why am I telling you all of this? The barn needs your help. This beautiful historic barn is in need of a new roof. It’s expensive, but necessary, and will keep the barn going strong for years to come. This barn means so much to so many. To me, it’s home.

Whatever you can contribute, I sincerely appreciate your consideration. My family works so hard to bring these wonderful events to Knoxville, and I want to make sure to keep the tradition going strong. For me, Ellie, our family, and the community.