The Journey to the Ridge – Part II

Flower Farming, Venue

The next few years were filled with ever expanding borders of hydrangeas and dahlias, garlic and roses, and tomatoes in grow bags in every place possible.

Roses in Cheverly front garden

The following year I challenged myself to create a bouquet every week during the growing season using whatever I had available on our property including flowers, grasses, weeds and vegetables.

I researched and chatted with flower and food growing friends and became obsessed with learning about compost and soil health. As one of the owners of Buttercream Bakeshop, my work weeks were filled with creating over the top birthday and wedding cakes. Mine and Dan’s schedules were opposite of each others (mine with 5-6 day weeks at Buttercream, his being part of the opening management team of Liberty Barbecue) so I had lots of time to nerd out on old rose varieties and pollinator attracting plants. During our few and far between days off together, Dan and I visited Ladew and Chanticleer and our desire to create something really special began to emerge.

It was in the summer of 2020 when Dan and I started formulating the first steps of the next part of our lives together and where our hospitality focused life would lead us next.

Like so many others, the pandemic created a major shift in our long term plans. Going from working 60+ hour weeks and producing numerous birthday and wedding cakes at a rapid fire pace to Buttercream being closed to the public with just a limited number of days producing at the store made me take a step back and slow down for the first time in a decade. While it was a time of panic, fear, and sadness, it was also filled with quiet walks in nature and time with friends. Dan had left working in restaurants by this point in time but was still working a non traditional schedule within the industry as a sales representative for a premium food distributor. With my reduced hours and his remote work schedule, Dan and I were having dinner together on a nightly basis, something that hadn’t been a possibility since long back when we were in culinary school at C.I.A. (The Culinary Institute of America). The more time Dan and I had together working on new planting beds, foraging for edible plants or cooking over our fire pit, the more that stirred something within the both of us that knew it was time for a change.

After what seemed like endless discussions about what things would be like when they returned to “normal,” we finally figured out what we hoped that would look like. We both knew we enjoyed entertaining and working in hospitality. We loved weddings and parties, but not quite the way our lives were shaped around them at the time. And so we thought more and more about how we could combine our industry experience and our design to be in and connect to nature and share that with others. And thus the early concept of Quince Blossom Ridge began to develop.

With my years of experience in creating weddings as a creative partner in Buttercream and our combined decades in the hospitality industry, we knew we had a vision of something unlike anything we knew existed in our area. We had  endless weekends delivering cakes and helping to create weddings at some of the best venues in the DMV (D.C., MD and VA) , and we knew we hadn’t seen anything like what we were looking to create. Garden rooms flanking long lawns and tent spaces. Wild meadows and woods surrounding these spaces, creating a bit of a natural sanctuary – hopefully only a short distance from downtown D.C.

Our vision of future event spaces in watercolor by Right Place Studio

We knew we had our work cut out for us. We knew we wouldn’t be able to keep our house and purchase a new property. So we started to pack up our first home and developed our plan to buy a property to live and work on. We had planned to build a house on our future property – living on a tiny section of it away from the venue area. (For those who raised an eyebrow or had a chuckle over the ambition and optimism of my last statement – you are right. More on that in Part III.)

In the meantime, we started to sort out the list of must-haves for the property – walking garden spaces, orchard, cutting beds, wild areas. We also started to learn that we would probably need to have some sort of a farm operation to allow us to create this event space in an agricultural area.

And so, in the coming months, I apprenticed at Eco City Farms, an urban farm located in Prince George’s County focusing on educating others on how to grow in an organic, eco-friendly way. In 2021, I became a Beginning Farmer Trainee with Eco, embarking on  both an academic and in-person physical course of study, learning about soil health, growing and no-till practices. For those imagining a very charming “Chip and Jo”-style scene, with me wearing adorably fitted and fashionable overalls while carefully snipping herbs or pulling a few perfect carrots out of the ground with grace and ease, soft filtered light catching the slow-mo of my gloved hand wiping a tiny bit of dirt away from said carrots – I assure you, that was not the experience.

For a small urban farm, there was a lot of production and a ton of hard work all done by hand. Swelteringly hot summer days harvesting peppers and eggplants, broad forking and amending beds to prepare for their next sowing or damp frigid late fall days, scrambling between plants to harvest late season tomatoes and herbs before a sudden early frost.

Or, of course, the joys of feeding the compost with “fresh” food scraps — pineapple rinds and wilted salad leaves, eggshells and coffee grinds, which have been stored outdoors in closed bins for weeks, the acerbic scent of fermentation and decay filling your nostrils as you chop and scoop and fork the contents from one bin to another. Sunburn, exhaustion, smells unlike I’ve ever smelled, mosquito bites galore; but I truly loved it. It was intense, physical, visceral, and dirty – so many of the things I loved about cooking and baking as well.

And just like cooking and baking – it felt like magic. Every week, I would return to find the trays of seeds I had just planted sprouting, flowers emerging, and fruits starting to form. I watched the fruit trees in the orchard transform from bare branches to being smothered in petite blossoms – swarming with bees and wasps.

There was a brief window in spring for a few weeks every year where the succession of fruiting trees would go to blossom – pears to cherries and plums to apples – different tones of white, blush, peach and pops of neon pink lighting up the late day sky with their blossoms. Standing in the peace, joy, and awe of that ephemeral moment is something I hope everyone can experience at one point in their lives.

Sunlight through apple blossoms at Eco City Farms

Join us in Part III to hear all about finding our future property and development of Quince Blossom Ridge!

January 29, 2023


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