Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

Cow Flipping in the Kickapoo Valley

Sunday, July 29th, 2012

World’s Strongest Woman

This is an absolutely un-retouched picture of Judy lifting a cow over her head.  Now you know why I’m so meek and mild mannered. I wouldn’t dare step out of line when flipping a cow around is so easy for her.  She could send me to the moon.

The picture is courtesy of Organic Valley, the Farmer’s Cooperative headquartered in La Farge, Wisconsin, where Judy and I were vendors for CobraHead at the annual Kickapoo Country Fair on Saturday.

Here’s the link to the fair’s website.

One of the Organic Valley booths was set up as a photo studio.  Folks could get their picture taken while holding up a cow or a tractor.

Kickapoo is not a big show for us, but we like it for quite a few reasons.  The show’s mission is supporting family farms and supporting organic and sustainable agriculture.

We meet lots of farmers whose operations are small enough that they actually use hand tools.  It’s a great compliment when a gardener tells us they like our products, but when I hear that from a small farmer, it’s the confirmation I need to know that we really are helping people grow food.

The fair has lots of good food, music and entertainment, and it is located in the midst of some of the best scenery in Wisconsin.  We had a pleasant day, which is never guaranteed when you do an outside event, and we’re looking forward to doing the Kickapoo Country Fair next year.

Klehm Arboretum Garden Fair

Monday, June 4th, 2012

Looking Out From Our Tent at Klehm Arboretum

This weekend Judy and I were vendors at the Klehm Arboretum Garden Fair.   This was our seventh year at the event now in it’s 19th year.  Rockford is just under 70 miles from home.  If you don’t know Rockford, it’s the second biggest population area in Illinois outside the Chicago metro area.  Rockford used to be an industrial dynamo, but like a lot of Midwestern towns, heavy manufacturing went bust, and for a while Rockford suffered some very hard times.  It’s coming back though, with a vibrant historical downtown area and lots of attractions for visitors including the Klehm Arboretum.

Our Busy Little Tent

A big advantage to this show is that we really have some room to spread out.  We are outside, which can be both good and bad.  This year it was good with a most perfect weekend, but in the past we’ve experienced some really bad thunderstorms or blistering heat.  Everyone was upbeat this year just because the weather was so nice.

Lush Trees and Grasses

The setting at Klehm is beautiful.

Looking at the Vendors

The show went well for us.  We have lots of repeat customers here and what I found particularly gratifying was the interest in vegetable gardening by older folks who had never planted a vegetable garden before or were getting back to it after a long layoff and the young couples who were new but very serious vegetable gardeners.  Gardening is the future and that makes me very happy.

Repurposing Chain Link Fences at Wamboldtopia

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

Back from the Garden Blogger’s Fling in Asheville, North Carolina; great gardens in a beautiful setting.  I saw way too much to try and put into one overview, so I’m going to highlight ideas that I got from several of the places that inspired me in a short series of posts.

Wamboldtopia is the creation of Damaris and Ricki Pierce.  Besides being gardeners, Damaris is an artist, and Ricki a stone mason,  Their entire garden impressed me, but the converted chain link fence caught my attention as I also have chain link fence around my yard and have been thinking of ways to utilize its structure to provide support for something completely different.

Chain link fence with concrete coating

The ordinary chain link fence, transformed at Wamboldtopia.

Damaris told me that she used concrete, but that adobe would also work in the appropriate setting.

Plants on converted chain link fence

Some of the original chain link fence is left uncovered as a window and plant support.

er metal mesh is attached to the chain link fence to provide support for the concrete.

A tighter metal mesh is attached to the chain link fence to provide support for the concrete.

Stained concrete, bricks and other adornments on converted fence

Stained concrete, bricks and other adornments.


Have Noel give a vegetable gardening talk!

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

Over the past couple of years Noel has been developing and refining his presentations on organic raised-bed gardening.  It’s about time.  After thirty years of growing lots of good food, he has learned a thing or two.  Below is the press release that we have put out touting his abilities.  Please feel free to share this with any groups that would want to hear Noel speak.

Noel Valdes

Noel Valdes

CobraHead’s Noel Valdes Speaks on Open Raised Bed Vegetable Gardening

Cambridge, WI – November 2011  —  For Noel Valdes, founder of CobraHead Garden Tools, it’s about helping people grow their own food.  A lifelong vegetable grower, Noel now speaks to gardening groups across the Midwest promoting organic raised bed vegetable gardens.  Noel’s methods have been influenced by the intensive techniques introduced to the United States by Alan Chadwick and popularized by John Jeavons, but over the past thirty years he has developed his own raised bed gardening style.

Noel’s method requires no power tools, uses few external inputs and provides high yields of delicious produce for him and his family.  Noel grows in over twenty raised beds producing everything from lettuces and other salad greens, to potatoes, sweet potatoes and other storage crops, to small fruits like raspberries and strawberries.  While his garden is relatively large, his methods can be applied by the home gardener who just wants to start with one bed.

Says Noel, “After years of implementing and practicing open raised bed gardening techniques and intensive home grown food production, I’m convinced that one person can easily grow up to a third or more of all the food requirements for a family of four or more in a very small area.  They can do this with relatively minimal inputs in both terms of time and money, without the need of power tools, and with organic and extremely sustainable gardening practices.”

“People are starting to realize that growing food using good food growing practices is necessary for both healthy people and a healthy planet.  If small scale growing techniques similar to the ones I explain were utilized by a large percentage of the world’s population, I’m sure issues of hunger would be reduced and the health of the earth and its human population would be greatly improved.”

Noel has presented at the Madison Garden Expo, The Chicago Flower Show, the Wisconsin State Master Gardeners Conference and the EcoFair 360 among other places.  In the coming months he will again present at the Madison Garden Expo as well as the Porter County Garden Fair in Valparaiso, Indiana.

For more information or to book Noel for a garden presentation contact CobraHead LLC. 866-962-6272.

Noel's Garden

Noel's Garden


Little John at Kickapoo

Sunday, July 31st, 2011

Judy and I did a one day show yesterday in La Farge, Wisconsin called the Kickapoo Country Fair.  The show is sponsored by the Organic Valley Farmers Cooperative which is headquartered in La Farge.    I’ve mentioned the show several times before.  Even though it’s a small show, we like doing it because La Farge is located in the middle of some of Wisconsin’s best scenery, the driftless area, which was not scrubbed flat by the last great glacier and so is much hillier than just about any place in the Midwest.

When you exhibit at trade shows that cater to gardeners and focus on sustainability you will frequently bump into  exhibitors doing the same shows as you.  The picture is of broom maker John Holzwart.   “Little John” Holzwart, actually.  We see John at quite a few shows.  John and his life partner and business partner, Linda Conroy, live in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.  Linda is an herbalist and a teacher of many types of home arts including soap making, cheese making, herbal medicines and more.

John began making brooms quite a few years ago after attending a broom making class at a festival teaching arts and crafts.  He told me after he made a few brooms he found his calling and this is now his life’s work.  John and Linda operate as Moonwise Herbs.  You can see what John does here and you can see what Linda does here.

Another Spring, Another Fling

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

Okay, so it’s summer, but summer doesn’t rhyme with fling.

For the past four years, a group of garden bloggers has met up each spring or summer in a different part of the country. I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of attending all four Garden Bloggers Flings, and this year it was held in Seattle. The weather cooperated beautifully, and we were treated to sunny days every day except one. Over the course of four days, we visited a number of gardens, both public and private. Here are just a few of the photos I took.

The garden of Suzette and Jim Birrell was a great mix of edibles and ornamentals. You can tell that they really love color.

The Prettiest Garden Shed I've Ever Seen

Gorgeous Swiss Chard

Just next door was Shelagh Tucker’s garden, where I may or may not have snitched a raspberry from the backyard.

Garden of Shelagh Tucker

I didn’t really get a great shot of Michelle and Christoper Epping’s rather amazing garden, but I did get a few decent shots of the rather amazing view (actually, there are several views).

Pictures of People Taking Pictures

In the Olmstead brothers designed Dunn Gardens, I spied this funky old moss-covered shed. I like the tree branch “antlers”.

Hidden Shed in the Dunn Gardens

During our trip to West Seattle, we visited the garden of one of Seattle Fling’s organizers, Lorene Edwards Forkner.

Lorene Edwards Forkner's "Urban Hillbilly Chic" Garden

On the last day of the trip, we were treated to the weather one expects on a trip to the Pacific Northwest. There was a good bit of rain, and even a little lightning and thunder. I didn’t really mind though, because that day we visited the Bloedel Reserve. The rain kept me from taking too many pictures, which is fine, because I’d rather just take a walk in the woods and enjoy myself. Besides, you don’t get moss like this without a bit of rain.

Moss Garden at the Bloedel Reserve

In all, it was a fantastic trip. It was great to see old friends and make new ones. I can’t wrap up without thanking the tireless organizers of the trip Lorene Edwards Forkner, Marty Wingate, Debra Prinzing, and Mary Ann Newcomer. Often on trips like this one, things don’t always run as smoothly as they’re supposed to, but if they didn’t, I never noticed. I was truly impressed with how well everything was put together.

Next year’s Fling will be in Asheville, NC, and I’m already excited!

Madison Herb Fair

Sunday, November 7th, 2010

Saturday was a beautiful day to be out in Southern Wisconsin.  It was sunny and crisp with a high temperature of about 47 degrees.  For the first week of November it was quite pleasant.  Our fall has been a lot warmer and drier than normal.

As nice as it was outside, Judy and I spent most of the day indoors doing a little show called The Herb Fair sponsored by the Madison Herb Society.  But the nice weather got a lot of people out so we had a good crowd and sold enough CobraHead tools and other garden products to make it worth our while.

The Herb Fair is held every November in Olbrich Gardens, Madison’s largest botanical garden.  Olbrich is an excellent, well laid out park with many very scenic areas.  Even with the several hard freezes and gusty winds that have stripped most of the leaves, the gardens had a lot of color to contrast with the sharp blue sky.  The larger reflecting pools had been drained and the smaller pools had a thin layer of ice on them, but it was truly a wonderful day.  With winter fast approaching it was great to take a little stroll though the gardens and enjoy what is left of our thus far spectacular fall.

Writing About Writers

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

We attended the Garden Writers Association 61st Annual Symposium in Raleigh , North Carolina, last week. It was CobraHead’s 6th GWA, and our fifth as an exhibitor.

Here’s Anneliese putting the final touches on our booth. The symposium includes a trade show, seminars, speakers, tours, dinners, and awards. It is held in a different city every year, and tours of both public and private local gardens are a big part of the trip

Pictures from the Sarah P. Duke Gardens at Duke University. A truly outstanding public garden and arboretum.

These are from Montrose , a former estate of a governor of North Carolina, William Alexander Graham, now a foundation maintained by Nancy and Craufurd Goodwin.

S.E.E.D.S. , is a community garden project in inner city Durham that teaches people to grow food and care for the earth. The young people are paid interns and the food grown is sold at the facility. They were harvesting sweet potatoes while we were there. The second shot is of a green roof project constructed on the site.

On Sunday our tour had a mis-adventure as our bus slid off a driveway and got hung up.

Touring the Wal-Mart garden center in Mt. Olive was not on the agenda, but here’s the group at the big box waiting for a replacement bus. The bus mishap put a damper on the last day’s fun as we missed several of the scheduled stops, but overall, the trip and trade show were excellent.

Next year the symposium is in Dallas and the organizers promise another excellent show. GWA is as close to a vacation as Judy and I get since we started CobraHead. So we are looking forward to the gardens of the big D.

Small Fairs – Lots of Gardeners

Monday, August 17th, 2009

We continue to do a lot of trade shows, trying get our tools known by the gardening public. We’ve found that small shows can be more attractive than large ones, especially if the ratio of hands-on gardeners to the overall attendance is good. Big shows attended by the general populace are not for us. County fairs, street fairs, and music festivals are now on our “do not even think about it” list.

We do well at energy shows that that have an overall sustainable living slant and at small, food-oriented shows where products produced by small growers (usually organic) are featured. What we are finding is that gardeners attend these shows and if there are gardeners present, we can sell CobraHeads.

Last weekend we did the Illinois Renewable Energy Association Fair in Oregon, Illinois.

Here is Judy doing a demonstration. This was the 8th IREA and our second. It is patterned after the very large Midwest Renewable Energy Association show in Wisconsin which we also do. The show draws about 7,000 people over two days.

The Minnesota Garlic Festival, now in Hutchinson, Minnesota had its fourth show this weekend. It was our second. Pictured is Joel Girardin, a long time garlic grower at his booth.

Here are Judy and her sister Diana eating garlic ice cream. It’s actually pretty good! So are the garlic chocolate chip cookies and all the garlic-laced food sold at “The Great Scape Café”. The one day garlic show draws just over 2,000 people, and for such a small show, we sell enough product to make it worth our while. Again, its because so many of the people attending are gardeners.

Back to Kickapoo

Monday, July 27th, 2009

Judy and I returned to the Kickapoo Country Fair in La Farge, Wisconsin for another show Saturday and yesterday. We did our first show there, last year, which you can read about here. The fair is about farming and smaller organic family farms, versus the corporate factory farms that now dominate world agriculture.

The show was noticeably bigger this year than last. More exhibits, more workshops, more vendors and bigger crowds. I think, if they stay on track, Kickapoo will become a major event for promoting the ideals of organic farming and sustainable living. A large field of sunflowers greeted us when we entered the grounds of Organic Valley Headquarters. The sunflowers are part of an experiment in bio-diesel fuel.

Wisconsin has lots of old-time tractor enthusiasts. Quite a few older vehicles were on display. In the front of the picture is a tractor I would try to buy if I were doing a small organic farm, the famous Allis-Chalmers “G”. $850 new in 1955.

One of the better family events we attend, Kickapoo has lots of things for kids including very kid-friendly animal exhibits.

Both the kids and adults were entertained and enlightened by musicians, poets, storytellers, and educators. All for fun was Nanda, – half of the act pictured above – jugglers, acrobats, dancers, and kung-fu artists that put on a great show.

Home and farm-craft exhibits were plentiful. This is Jan Rasikas at the spinning wheel.

The man with the hat demonstrated working with his Suffolk Punch draft horses. Next to him is Robert Schultz, a blacksmith, who demonstrated hand forging of useful farm implements.

Judy relaxing in the tent.