Flower Farming

A Life Fulfilled

Earth chunks soared over my shoulder. Some fell short only to land onto my itchy scalp. My shirt was soaked all the way through, my jeans… pressed so tightly against my skin that in order to remove them, they had to be peeled below my hips. Once I tossed the last of the carnage into the compost pile, I am rewarded by sinking into a hot lavender bath. I can almost taste the icy bottle of water that I left in the freezer before it’s pressed against my sun kissed lips. It only takes about an hour for me to get the job done because I am determined to get it over with.

The war on weeds is my biggest gardening frustration to date, yet I feel so empowered and satisfied when I’ve finished the task. I wait until the sun begins to set after a small rainstorm has loosened the soil and then… I attack! I rip unwanted stems out by the head and dig for their roots with my hands until the muscles in my legs feel too wobbly to keep me in a squat position. Sweat pours from my brow and my hair lacks luster when I’m done, but tiny red curls form at the nape of my neck.

The long-term reward of weeding around all the beautiful things in my garden is spying brand-new buds on my camellias the next morning. Eagerly waiting for my dahlias to make their appearance and having the room I needed to tuck new blooms into the paradise I have created with my own two hands. I use the hose to fill up my mud smeared watering can, and then I take a little walk clutching a pair of nippers against my chest.

Stormy and Waddles, (our ducks) are usually taking a stroll as well. I typically need to wave them away from my vegetables or they will use them as an all-you-can-eat buffet. Sometimes I’m forced to chase them off because they like to crush my flowers as they walk and nibble leaves and petals off my blooms. During our big family trip this summer, I received a call from one of my best friend’s informing me that Waddles wasn’t a drake (a male duck) like I had originally suspected.

Waddles had laid a clutch of eggs near Stormy and the two ducks were terrorizing my farm sitters. The girls were determined to have babies, but I didn’t have a drake old enough to provide them with fertilized eggs. This problem also caused havoc for Harlow (our big black and white paint) and Caspian (our miniature donkey). While trying to eat their feed, Stormy and Waddles would launch themselves at the equine and horrify them by nipping at their hooves. It was hysterical to watch the boys retreat to a corner of the pasture and eye the ducks suspiciously out of fear for their lives. Two large animals at the mercy of two angry females.

Izzy (my daughter of sorts) made a wonderful suggestion. She recommended buying some baby ducks and in the cover of darkness, to swap the duck eggs in exchange for ducklings. This way the girls get the babies their hearts desired, and the little ducklings get the mothers they never had. So, I went to Tractor Supply, and I carefully selected and bought four tiny, orphaned puffballs. I had never witnessed an adoption like this before and I couldn’t wait to see the outcome.

I sat on a log nearby and watched the shadows in the forest grow longer. I listened to the chuck-will’s-widow and heard an owl shake off the cobwebs of slumber. A daddy-long legs with two missing limbs crept over the dirt but when blackness encompassed me, I made my move. Moose (our farm dog) had stolen Waddle’s eggs earlier in the day, but thankfully I was able to snatch some from Stormy. Izzy had told me that the two ducks would share and raise the babies together if the imprinting was fruitful.

Stormy tucked those babies underneath her wings as if they had been hers all along. The relief in her body language was evident. Her purpose in life, fulfilled. The next day my neighbor drove by with her granddaughter and watched the ducklings play in a puddle with their two mothers. I myself stopped mid-snip of a flower stem to witness the binding love between adopted ducklings and their protective mothers. Rather than chasing two ducks out of my garden beds, I was now having to watch my step and encourage six to find another place to feast.

I adopted a love for gardening in the same way my grandfather adopted me. I didn’t have a father who was present in my life when I was young until my mom meet my stepfather. My childhood after their marriage became even more complicated but that’s a story for another day. My papa was the one (besides my mom and grandmother) who was always there for me no matter what. One of my most favorite memories was of holding his finger in my fist as he let me pick an armful of flowers.

He had sewn the seeds inside a drainage area that was fenced off and locked up when he worked as a ground’s keeper for a local hospital near Chicago. The skill seemed to come naturally to him while it took a long time for me to learn how to have a “green thumb”. It’s funny that I say that because the secret to growing beautiful things is simply… sunshine, food, and water. I reached a point in my adult life where I had a moment of clarity and suddenly an achievable passion blossomed. My papa however… he could grow things in the middle of the desert.

Long before I was good at growing things, my husband knew that simply pulling over on the side of the road to pick a bouquet of wildflowers was the way to my heart. I can’t imagine what people driving by must have been thinking. I wonder if they sat and watched as a tall man with broad shoulders, in full military uniform stood alone in a field of flowers as he carefully selected which blooms to add to the handful. They probably assumed he was in marital trouble. As a friend pointed out to me not long ago, my husband understands my love language and he knew what would make me happy. He still does.

Before that green thumb kicked in, I used to dream about having a secret garden full of beautiful flowers. It helped me cope with events in my life that were out of my control when I was young. Underneath my bedroom window a large cluster of daffodils bloomed and there was (to this day) the biggest lilac bush I had ever seen near the edge of our property. I would pick clusters and stash vases on every available surface. It was my way of bringing light into the darkness. Storm clouds brewed within the walls of that house. It was beautiful on the outside, but what lied within was destruction.

As an adult, I have surrounded myself with people who bring peace into my life. One of my most precious friends is a woman named Heather. When I was feeling especially lost with yet another health crisis, she invited me to see the farm where she worked and encouraged me to bring along a bucket for cut flower clippings. Her hard work and encouragement inspired me. She had created an oasis of living things with a few seeds, some bulbs, and a lot of hard work. The beauty of it breathed new life into my soul again.

“Do you think that I could have a garden like this one?” I asked her.

“Girl, I believe that you can do anything!”

My first year growing cut flowers was so successful that I made floral arrangements and gave them away weekly. Seeing how much joy it brought into the lives of other people had me researching ideas to improve my output. One of the first steps I needed to take was to expand our farm. We succeeded in doing that in March and rebranded our farm with the name Everpine Forest & Farm. This year we’ve cleared trees and worked to create a new pasture space that would allow us to move the equine around.

Harlow’s original pasture has served as my new gardening space. This spring I bought out four stores of their cut flower seeds. I planted hundreds of dollars in seeds and bulbs. Most of the time it was a matter of experimenting to see what worked and what didn’t, but each day taught me something new. I now know that next year I need to stagger my blooms by their growing season to help me have flowers to cut year around. I also learned that it’s best to keep each type of flower together with its own kind, so they don’t have to compete for sunlight.

I have discovered that like any crop… spacing is EVERYTHING. Rather than planting thick rows like I did this year, I need to plant smaller rows with a narrow space in between so that I can walk in and gather blooms without trampling, tripping, or dancing my way around them. I’ve learned that it’s better (and cheaper) to buy seeds and bulbs in bulk than it is to buy from your local Walmart, nursery, or dollar general. Best of all… I learned that in order to keep my output flowing efficiently, a greenhouse is a must have essential.

While all these changes are in the works to help me improve next year’s garden, I am thankful for the joy that this year’s garden has brought with it. I look forward to planning and building our greenhouse, and I can hardly contain my excitement regarding my future cut flower stand. I have high hopes of donating arrangements to people in hospitals and nursing homes who need a little extra love to lift their spirits.

A couple weeks ago Heather called to tell me how proud she was of my hard work. To my delight she told me that she was envious of my flower garden this year! This woman is the most selfless and hardest working human (besides my husband) I’ve ever meet. Her house is covered in plants, and she basically helps grow lovely things for other people even though she works three jobs and has no spare time. I’ll never forget her kindness in sharing seeds and bulbs with me to help get me started.

I can’t adequately put into words how much sunshine floods my veins when I’m standing in the middle of something tangible that I thought I could only dream of accomplishing. As a summer storm unleashes above me, I’m laughing as I chase six ducks out of my haven. I have rose petals plastered to my cheek. Rain is dripping off the tip of my nose, and my butterfly top is drenched as I attempt to carry a watering can stuffed with blooms up to the house. My favorite pair of nippers are clutched close to my heart and I’m overflowing with fulfillment.

One of my most recent arrangements from my garden 🪴
My magnolia that I planted a couple years ago.
These beauties took my breath away this spring
An arrangement that I made for my neighbor
I had rows of seedlings lining every countertop in my house and covering my porch.
Created with roses that I grew myself
A special delivery
Another bouquet that I was delivering
I hand deliver to our local coffee shop as well
Roses from my garden and some rather beautiful weeds that I was trying to identify
They’re everywhere!
It’s hard to see everything that’s in here but there’s rudbeckia, poppies, zinnias, marsh pink, cosmos, sunflowers, cornflowers, sweet asylum, marigolds, Asian forget-me-nots, cowcockle and so much more! Not to mention I planted a bunch of various bulbs, roots, about a hundred dahlias (no joke), and peonies in another area closer to my house.
Stormy and her ducklings
Stormy, Waddles & the youngsters (plus one chicken) playing in a mud puddle near the creek
My favorite butterfly top!
New business logo!
Nikolai & Moosey (our farm dog)

47 thoughts on “A Life Fulfilled”

  1. You covered several topics in this post, LaShelle, but the love and pride in your garden shine through the most. It’s a reminder that the things we’re passionate about and work hard at bring us the most joy. It’s the best feeling when one of our mentors heaps praise on our accomplishments.

    The war on weeds is never-ending. We don’t have a garden, but we have a big yard that I try to care for. My wife loves her flowering plants. We have a ton of flowers in pots on our deck.

    Your husband sounds like a great guy. It’s so sweet that he takes the time and finds little ways to make you feel special.

    All of your animals and their unique names may be worthy of a post somewhere down the road. The duck adoption must have been a wonder to watch in real-time—a reminder that true love has to do more with nurturing than biology.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t normally read long posts but I couldn’t stop with this one! No only have you developped a fantabulous green thumb, your flower arranging is stellar.
    What a wonderful world you have created, LaShelle.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow. I only have a small garden and not a farm, and I can’t even manage that when it comes to weeding.

    There was a time I was spending an hour per day just trying to pluck those danged weeds, but they seemed to grow back quicker than I could deal with them. I’d have mass-murdered those weeds with herbicides had I not had a dog. So yeah, the green-thumb life ain’t for me.

    Lovely pics as usual LaShelle, and I wouldn’t expect any less. Looking good in that butterfly top too. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Such a beautiful post – in so many ways! Love the duckling story, and of course the flowers which you not only grow and deliver. But most of all, I loved your line, “how much sunshine floods my veins when I’m standing in the middle of something tangible that I thought I could only dream of accomplishing.”

    It seems to me that is the stuff of life – being able to actualize our dreams. You’ve done that on your amazing farm, with your lovely writing and in your beautiful family. Kudos on all the sunshine you spread, my friend!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi LaShelle – the post and the pictures … wow! I kept scrolling, taking it all in with my eyes.Before walking I had a perennial garden in the backyard. I catered to butterflies with shelters, rocks, puddling dishes all for their enjoyment. Mine too, as I took a lot of photos. I loved going out back in my tiny yard and spent hours back there weeding, deadheading … all the gardening chores that are necessary. I had annuals in the front and side yards.

    I discovered walking in 2011 and decided to just have perennials and rosebushes in the backyard and bought silk flowers for the front and sides to “plant” in pots and a pair of resin Wellies (like your yellow boots). The Polar Vortex of 2013-2014 killed off everything but the rosebushes (which looked horrible but I cut them to the ground and poured gallons of Rose-tone on them and brought them back). But I never replanted the perennials or butterfly bushes – I was pretty upset. I told myself I would when I was retired – but with climate change do I dare start from scratch even though it is a tiny yard?. I am not retired yet, so have some time to decide … my boss is 75 and I am 66 and it’s just the two of us. He is a workaholic.

    I love ducks and the picture I saw on your site when I got here of the two Pekin ducklings with the blue ribbons melted my heart. I want to send you a site for another blogger but she’s not posted in a while, but you may enjoy reading a few posts about how she grows flowers, sells them in a roadside stand, also sometimes gives them away. She lives in a rural area in Virginia. Kim’s blog is fun, reminds me of yours, but Kim has been painting and involved in that so not posting as frequently. I will look for the link to her site and send it separately. She has chickens, not ducks, but her writing and photographs are something you might enjoy. I see you were a professional photographer – I loved all the photos. P.S. – I clicked on your picture and it took me to your blog but I actually had to log into WordPress to follow and post. That is evidently something new and maybe the glitch you encountered. Sigh – always new stuff to learn.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would LOVE your other blogger friend’s information and thank you so much for making day with your thoughtful comment. It filled me with such joy this evening that I read what you had to say to my husband 🥰💓

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Your blogs seem so similar to me – Kim has chickens, you have ducks – but you had one chicken too as I recall from the picture. Kim’s cutting garden was her pride and joy, just like yours is to you.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I have THREE roosters right now (possibly more because of all the babies I pulled from my grow-out coop). Big red will be turned into dinner for my husband soon. Too many roo’s is terrible on my hens and he’s a jerk.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Everything about this post had me smiling from ear to ear. Adorable baby duck adoptions, stories of secret gardens and bringing light into the dark with flowers, and your perseverance to create such a beautiful and prolific flower garden—simply wonderful! Your arrangements are stunning and lovely! You brightened my day. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. These flowers are beautiful. This story is beautiful. Your RED hair is beautiful. And I’m not sure if I’ve ever said this to you, but your writing is beautiful. This story, in particular, reads like a novel.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh my goodness you made my day! Thank you SO much!! I’m feeling a little guilty today because I haven’t caught up on everyone else’s blog who has written on mine. I’ve been delivering flowers today! People are interested in buying them and I’m suddenly more busy than I anticipated 🥰. I’m really looking forward to catching up on yours just bear with me this week. Niki is also headed back to school tomorrow. First day of second grade (I could cry!) thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment on my blog and for making my day brighter with your thoughtful words 🥰

      Liked by 1 person

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