Debra Prinzing

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Episode 269: Living on a U-Pick Flower Farm and channeling your inner flower farmer, with Cathy Lafrenz of Miss Effie’s Country Flowers in Donahue, Iowa

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016
The cutting garden at Miss Effie's is filled with sun-loving annuals, old-fashioned favorites, and lots of surprises for U-Pick customers to take home. (c) Jean Zaputil Photography

The cutting garden at Miss Effie’s is filled with sun-loving annuals, old-fashioned favorites, and lots of surprises for U-Pick customers to take home. (c) Jean Zaputil Photography

Do you need to relax? Do you need a break from traffic jams and hectic schedules?┬áThen you need to come to Miss Effie’s. Miss Effie’s is a U-Pick flower farm on the east coast of Iowa.

Called the "corn-zebo," this charming open-air structure is fashioned from a former corn-storage silo and decorated with a whimsical door and roof. Here's where tea is served, with views of farm fields beyond.

Called the “corn-zebo,” this charming open-air structure is fashioned from a former corn-storage silo and decorated with a whimsical door and roof. Here’s where tea is served, with views of farm fields beyond.

That’s the invitation from Cathy and Cliff “Honey” Lafrenz the real human flower farmers who preside over Miss Effie’s Country Flowers (and Garden Stuff), a picture-perfect, two-acre country farm. Visiting was on my to-do list this past September, when I traveled┬áto the Quad Cities area, which is a metro hub that connects Iowa and Illinois across the Mississippi River.

Two views of "The Summer House" at Miss Effie's, a tiny country crafts store where flowers, fresh eggs, and fine handcrafted linens can be purchased.

Two views of “The Summer Kitchen” at Miss Effie’s, a tiny country crafts store where flowers, fresh eggs, and fine handcrafted linens can be purchased.

I was lured to the area for several reasons, including an invitation from a local garden club in Moline, Illinois, which invited me to present a lecture about the Slow Flowers Movement, followed by a hands-on design workshop for 25 members using only Iowa-grown flowers.

Jean Zaputil captured the character and detail in every view -- from quilting fabric (and kitty) to a small wood stove.

Jean Zaputil captured the character and detail in every view — from quilting fabric (and kitty) to a small wood stove.

When the garden club booked my lecture, I told them I wanted to source local flowers — and fortunately, Miss Effie’s isn’t too far outside of the urban core. The garden club members arranged their pickup of hundreds of Cathy’s beautiful blooms and took time to process and every beautiful stem in time for our workshop.

Cathy Lafrenz (aka Miss Effie) and I enjoyed refreshments and recorded this podcast episode inside the cool shade of her "corn-zebo"

Cathy Lafrenz (aka Miss Effie) and I enjoyed refreshments and recorded this podcast episode inside the cool shade of her “corn-zebo”

That left room in the schedule for me to visit Cathy for a private tour, for refreshments and to record this podcast. I couldn’t have done any of this without the help from my dear, longtime friend Jean Zaputil of Studio Z – Design & Photography in Davenport, Iowa. I’ve called Jean my “garden muse” for years and now that she has moved back to her childhood state after being in Seattle for more than two decades, I don’t get to see her very often. The occasion of coming to Quad Cities to lecture was really a chance to visit and play with Jean, tour Iowa, go antiquing, sit by the fire as her husband Mark played old Beatles songs on his guitar, and generally soak up the Iowa life.

Gotta love a motto like this one, spotted high on a barn in the cutting garden.

Gotta love a motto like this one, spotted high on a barn in the cutting garden.

As it happens, Jean and Cathy are also friends, and we made a fun morning of our visit. Jean documented Miss Effie’s charm, character and creativity with her camera, and I have her permission to publish those photos on the podcast show notes. All images are (c) Jean Zaputil.

Find all-American and all-local Iowa-grown flowers at Miss Effie's.

Find all-American and all-local Iowa-grown flowers at Miss Effie’s, plus the clothesline and flagpole flapping in the breeze.

Here’s more about Miss Effie’s from the farm’s welcome page:

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