Summer Wanderlust!

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Mosey letting me know it’s time to get up!

It is definitely going to be another scorcher today. Early morning and the temperature is already wavering around 74 degrees. I am so ‘blessed’ to have a 175 pound alarm ‘clock’ let me know when it’s time to rise and shine and honestly, I want to get moving any how.  We are in the middle of high summer, and I need to get my farm chores done early; beat the heat.

Watering and feeding all the animals has its own rhythm, and it doesn’t take long to get them cared for. I check the gardens for ripe tomatoes, cucumbers, and summer squash. I had just picked several baskets-full the day before, so the pickings are pretty slim. For now.

I survey the farm and the animals with satisfaction, and realize I have a good hour or so before I have to get Kayla up for her breakfast. I have been wanting to take a hike to the pond and figure, why not? Wanderlust has been whispering in my ear for several days now and I am excited to finally oblige. I grab my point and shoot camera and a handful of almonds, and set off across the barn lot.

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The path leading to one of the ponds on our farm.

This particular path is just wide enough for Farmer Matt to drive his Gator in between his acres of soybean. Matt leases this acreage from our landlord, who just happens to be my room-mate’s mom, Joy. Our little farm sits on about 4 1/2 acres which is situated within the 200+ acres Mindy grew up on. The land has been cultivated with corn and soybean even before Mindy was born.

It doesn’t take long for my pants to get soaked from the knees down as the grass and wildflowers are still covered in morning dew. I find myself high-stepping over the uneven ground, and concentrate on the path ahead of me.

It feels good to be out in the open, arms swinging, as I listen to the birds call and the buzz and flutter of jumpy, flitty, insects as they cross my path.

Weedy wildflowers grow all along the path, including creeping morning glory, Queen Anne’s lace, clover, and black-eyed Susan.

The path narrows as I continue my trek. I know I am close to the pond as I hear red-winged blackbirds call back and forth. I also hear the recognizable skronk of a Blue Heron, as it takes flight from the creek that runs just to the west of the pond. And the first soldiers of the mosquito brigade begin buzzing my head.

I make my way through the scrubby brush and wish I had remembered my Deep-Woods Off.  But the panic of being eaten alive by creepy mosquitos is quickly replaced by the breathtaking view of the pond.

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The pond located on the back north of the property.

I immediately hear the splash of turtles as they slide into the water from the fallen trees they had been sunning themselves on. Another skronk across the pond, and I hear the heavy flap of the large heron’s wings. It takes flight, circling once over the pond and heads south across the fields.

I wish I could sit and enjoy the calm coolness of this nearly hidden pond, but the skeeters are pretty much driving me crazy.  I take one last picture of the serene water, and high-tail it out of there.

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The pond dappled by the sunshine.

As I make my way back down the path, I decide to cut across one of the soybean fields (don’t tell Farmer Matt) and take a peek at the creek. Just a few weeks earlier, it was running over its bank, but now it looks almost passive and behaved.

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Middle Fork Creek.

I scamper up the bank and decide to walk the road back to our farm. Our farmhouse looks sleepy and quiet as I make my way across the front yard. I pause to enjoy this time with myself, just a pocket of solitude that energizes me the rest of the day. I know, as soon as I open that front door, kittens will be hanging from who knows what; the dogs will greet me, tails wagging; and Kayla will be stretching herself awake, ready for her morning oatmeal and berries.

My wanderlust sated for the time being, I open that door and continue my farm day.

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Ye olde scruffy farmhouse!

“There is no path to happiness. Happiness is the path.” — Buddha

 

Please take a moment to check out our cottage business at Whimsical Moon Farm.

Harvesting Gratitude on the Farm.

“Tears are the summer shower to the soul.” —Alfred Austin

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Lightening bugs on a hot summer night after a storm.

It has been a while since I’ve had the opportunity to sit down and write a blog post. It has been a difficult summer so far. Outrageous thunderstorms with incredible wind and crazy rains; the bitter loss of a beloved farm cat who was hit by a vehicle and left on the side of our road; and battles with our intermittent satellite internet have all heaped frustration and stress on our farm and household.

Our creek has flooded its’ banks several times this growing season, destroying crops and causing undue wear and tear on our land bordering it. Standing pools of water in our large garden area rotted the newly planted strawberry rows and compromised our asparagus beds. Thunderstorms came rolling in one after the other causing power outages, messed up satellite reception, and downed tree limbs the size of a goat shed. Such a mess!

Kayla planting asparagus in the big garden and Kayla holding a gnarly rhubarb root about to go into the ground.

The most difficult part of farming for me, I think, is finding the positive in these difficult times. So, after taking off my grumpy-pants, Kayla and I decided to plant gratitude along with the seeds and roots we re-planted in the garden and raised beds. We created opportunities to discover reasons to be grateful (even without internet. HaHa!)

A baby cardinal in our maple tree, dandelion fluff, a bullfrog in our impromptu pond, beautiful sunsets, and the first strawberry growing in our pots on the front porch.

One afternoon, while barbecuing cheeseburgers, we discovered a baby cardinal newly fledged from its’ nest. A tiny mohawk crest on its’ head.  We listened to the bullfrog chorus each evening calling back and forth in the ‘pond’ that had formed in Farmer Matt’s soybean field. Kayla was thrilled when she discovered the first tiny strawberry growing in one of the pots on our front porch. And the summer sunsets are gorgeous.

We made it a point to slow down on our walks and listen carefully and observe deeper. We were thrilled when we discovered a cicada hiding in a basket near the chicken coop and the farm cats continued to amuse us in so many ways.

Cicada in the basket, kissing kitties, tree frog on the porch.

This summer season continues and we are grateful for satellite internet that currently works. We are thrilled to see vegetables on the vines each time we go out to the raised beds to harvest. Cucumbers, yellow squash, cherry tomatoes, Swiss chard, lettuce greens… the list continues and we are thankful for tasty summer salads. We enjoy stacking new rows of canned sauce and jam jars on the pantry shelves. We love the sunshine and we love watching the chickens peck in the tender grass for bugs and tidbits.

Living on the farm can be tenuous and difficult at times, but isn’t that just part of being a curious soul in these human bodies? That’s what Kayla and I believe.

Sunflower, romaine lettuce, cherry tomato, and Ginger-Roo, our resident rooster.

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” —John Lubbok, ‘The Use of Life’.

 

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In loving memory of our beloved farm cat, Pookie!

Please check out our website at Whimsical Moon Farm!

 

Molly Mooching!

Morels

Freshly picked morel mushrooms.

My roommate Mindy and I picked our way through the woods, carefully stepping over fallen tree limbs and budding brambles. The morning was warm and the sound of bird call echoed through the trees. Mindy knew these parts of the woods well, pointing out a slight rise as she explained to me what I was looking for. You see, Mindy has been roaming these woods since she was knee-high to a grasshopper and she was about to share with me one of her family treasures: the coveted morel patch.

The previous evening we had a warm Spring rain and this particular morning was clear and bright. Perfect conditions for the tasty morsels to make their appearance. Mindy explained to me that they were a rare find because they require such specific conditions including old growth hardwood forests; the deer enjoy dining on them, often before we can find them; plus, they are only harvestable for about three days.

Mindy showed me areas around the rotted wood and spongy lichen where they are usually known to grow. Dried brown leaves from last Autumn still littered the forest floor, so we gently pushed the leaves aside as we walked hunched over like a couple of elderly nuns.

Suddenly, Mindy let out an excited squeak as she reached down between some flowering wake-robin and pinched off a small, wrinkled, knobbily gnome shaped fungus. “Got one”, she said as she held it out for my perusal.

Within a few minutes, she had discovered four or five more of the mushrooms in the vicinity. I had yet to find one myself.

Molly mooching, as morels are often called in the Appalachians and West Virginia are actually Morchella esculenta. They are a highly prized delicacy by both professional chefs and home cooks. Currently, you can purchase 16 ounces of these dried mushrooms for $305.40. From Walmart.

I had read earlier that mushroom ethics mandate a mesh bag for gathering the gems, so the spores can scatter to the ground as you carry home your harvest. This time, we were not quite as technical as we carried our small bounty back to Mindy’s mom’s house in a grocery bag. Mindy’s mom, Joy, submerged them in a bowl filled with water and placed a plate on top of them so they would stay submerged for a period of several hours. This was to purge them of dirt and crawly things.

When it was time to cook the mushrooms, Joy placed a couple of eggs lightly beaten in a shallow bowl and whole wheat flour in another bowl. She melted half a pound of butter in a large skillet on medium low heat. The morels were sliced in half and Joy first dipped them in the eggs then dredged them in the flour before placing them in the skillet to fry. She seasoned them with a little salt and cracked black pepper and allowed them to cook just until golden on one side before turning them over. She then cooked them a few minutes more on the other side, until lightly browned, and then scooped them onto paper towel to drain.

Fried morels

Fresh batch of butter fried morels. YUM!

There is nothing I can compare these tasty butter fried mushrooms to in flavor. They are uniquely mild and earthy with a savory umami deliciousness. Crispy and crunchy, they are a delightful treat.

Our harvest this time provided Mindy, Joy, my daughter Kayla, and I a taste of an elusive prized delicacy. After we were done licking our fingers and exclaiming our pleasure to one another, Mindy informed us she would be going back out again tomorrow morning.

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Nessie’s pond located in the middle of the woods where we picked the morels.

We would love it if you took a gander at our handcrafted herbal soaps made right here on Whimsical Moon Farm.

A Bump in the Road!

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The bridge over Middle Fork Creek creating a slight bUMp in the road. This picture was taken late this Winter from our barn lot.

Many people consider a ‘bump in the road’ to indicate misfortune, a detour, or an obstacle to overcome. Here on the farm, we consider it to be a windfall or an opportunity.

You see, we live on a narrow rural road, straight and flat for miles, running East and West from one state road to another. Large grain trucks, a few commuters, and beat-up old farm trucks run up and down this road, often at indecently high speeds. The little bridge spanning our creek creates a slight bump in the road, and if you don’t slow down, may cause a jolt to the driver, and in some cases, loss of cargo in the back of the truck bed.

For instance, one day I was bemoaning the lack of straw that I needed to line the chicken run area. Lo and behold, there on the side of the road next to the newly planted soybean field, I saw a straw bale tilted at a funny angle. Huh! Where did that come from? I peered up and down the empty road looking for the owner and realized it must be up for grabs.

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My scavenged straw bale found on the side of the road.

So, I fairly sprinted down the road pulling my favorite garden wagon, hefted the bale onto the wagon, and made my way back to the chickens, my loot in tow.

It was probably a few months later when we were coming home from grocery shopping and found  three rustic wooden crates stamped with One Bushel Bean Crate  on the side. They were scattered across the road and the side ditch just past my now favorite bump in the road.

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Battered but useful green bean crate. 

One of the crates was damaged beyond repair, but we now use the remaining two as storage and porch tables for holding chilled ice tea. Perfect ‘farm chic’ decor.

Opportunity and fortune continued to fall on the farm (literally) when one morning, while savoring a hot cup of coffee on my front porch, I noticed a wood pallet sitting right square in the middle of the driveway. Seriously, I can’t even make this stuff up.

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The scrounged wood pallet.

As of this writing, we still haven’t figured out what we will use it for, but rest assured, it will find its purpose and destiny right here on the farm.

Another recent addition to the farm probably didn’t fall off the back of a wagon, but it did wander onto the front porch one evening meowing and purring, all cute and cuddly. Cats often show up out of the blue and soon move along, but this cat decided to adopt us as his own.

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Luna Kitty stretching in the early morning sunshine.

We made him a home on the front porch with our critter cage and moving blankets until we can get him ‘fixed’. Kayla named him Luna because he has a round, moonly face. It has taken a lot of hissing and meowering from our girl cats to finally warm up to him, but they seem to have worked out some sort of agreement and tentatively get along.

Last but not least, for the moment, the latest edition to the Whimsical Moon Farm menagerie is a fine young rooster named Ginger.

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Ginger Roo is an Easter-egger with beautiful shiny feathers and a robust singing voice.

Ginger came to us from my daughter, Chelsie one early morning via parcel post. Chelsie has a small flock of laying hens in her back yard in Seattle, WA. One of the two recent additions to her flock grew up to be a rooster. With a heavy heart, she called me one evening and asked if I would be able to take her rooster. The city, and her neighbors, frowned on his newly developed vocalizations.

Several days later, I received a call from the local post office at 7:08 am. “Hello, is this Terri May? Yes, well….we have your rooster here. When can you pick him up?”

A nice postal worker greeted me at the back door and allowed me into their ‘inner sanctum’. I could hear Ginger, plainly it was him, as the worker had me sign a form and quickly placed a large shipping box with a handle and air vents into my waiting hands.

 We got him set up in his temporary cage with fresh water, chicken crumble, and a few slices of his favorite apple. After a few days in a separate cage next to the hens, we slipped him in the roosting area late in the evening while the hens were sleeping. The next morning, the ‘girls’ woke up to a new dude in the chicken coop. What a pleasant surprise.

When Ginger-roo crows early in the morning, I always have to smile. It feels like we are really a ‘farm’ in the capital F sense of the word.

What is that saying? When life hands you lemons, make lemonade? Well, faced with a ‘bump in the road’, we find it quite easy to see it as an opportunity. The universe saying, “here, I bet you can use this straw bale”.

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Life on the farm!

We would love it if you found a few moments to check out our hand-crafted herbal soap cottage business at Whimsical Moon Farm.

Kayla on the Farm!

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This is Kayla on the Farm!

Kayla was born 28 years ago. She spent the beginning of her tiny life at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital at OHSU, Portland, Oregon. Many of those weeks were in the Neonatal Intensive Care Center.

The specialists soon determined that her ‘floppy baby syndrome’ would become a diagnosis of Myotonic Dystrophy (a muscle disease) along with several developmental delayments. It was a momentous occasion when they moved her onto the main infant’s floor. Many, many prayers were answered when we were actually allowed to bring her home.

As she grew into toddler-hood, her delayments became more pronounced and Obsessive/Compulsive Disorder, learning disabilities, and several anxiety disorders were treated with medications and specialized therapies. Several years later, as she matured and grew into ‘puberty’, she had a major break-down and was again hospitalized for several weeks. She was diagnosed with psychotic schizophrenia along with her numerous anxieties and her OCD. Add to that a diagnosis of Type ll Diabetes.

I am telling her story because Kayla is my daughter. Not only am I her mom, but now I am also her guardian and her full-time caregiver. Moving Kayla to the farm was not a decision I took lightly. This is a young woman with the emotional and mental IQ of a nine or ten year old. Kayla believes in fairies, dragons, Santa Claus, and the Easter Bunny.  I should know. She ‘chats’ with them often. She is obsessed with puppies, kittens, and unicorns. And Captain Jack Sparrow. (OH, wait! That’s me!!)

Kayla holding a brand new chick, two of her farm cats (Bella and Pookie), a tiny toad, fledging robins about to test their wings, and a young Screech owlet.

I chose to move Kayla and myself to this farm for several reasons. The main reason was to allow her the experience of raising animals and growing gardens. I wanted her to experience the changing of the seasons, along with the abundance and the diminishment that goes along with those cycles. Lots of fresh air, exploration, and new adventures have provided her many opportunities to get ‘out of her head’ and experience a more visceral, hands-on daily life. Moment by moment.

The fluffy two day old chicks grew into scrappy chickens!

Kayla helped us pick out our six chicks from the nearby Rural King last March and participated in raising them into the ‘divine ladies’ they are today. She checks for eggs daily and she never ceases to be amazed every time she finds an egg. Or five. She was also actively involved when we lost one of our hens to a deformed crop that suddenly caused the hen to convulse and die. We were sad and we mourned our chicken. It was both an experience of the joy of life and the grief of death.

Farm kittens in a basket, going outside for the first time, stretched out on the comfie chair, smiling, and catching the sunshine on a straw bale.

One of the things Kayla really, really wanted was a cat. We had to leave her cat, Zoe, behind with her grandma and grandpa when we moved. She missed her companion. Zoe was just a little too old and a little too settled to be bothered with being packed in a crate and flown clear across the country. I continued to put Kayla off, promising her when we were more settled on the farm we would begin to look for a cat. She wished and prayed for that cat often. Well, all the time!

Needless to say, she was beyond thrilled when I discovered  four fluffy kittens snuggled behind some old boxes in the shed early last February. It was a bitterly cold morning with several inches of snow on the ground, of course they needed to be ‘rescued’!  Pookie, Bella, Sweetums, and Whimsy soon became active members of our farm family. Mosey, the St. Bernard, was beside himself. The Chihuahuas scoffed and went about their little duties. Kayla was delighted. She reminds me often that prayers are answered!

Kayla’s creative ‘fairy’ garden, her specialty: strawberries, planting seedlings, fresh vegetables for our salad.

Kayla loves to help me plant seedlings in the garden and watch them as they mature into delicious salads on her dinner plate. She is not a big fan of the weeding process, though. Neither am I. But we get it done and then we enjoy the bounty.

Kayla loves to eat and she loves all of her vegetables and her fruits, but her all time favorite thing is munching sun ripened strawberries right off the vine. She volunteered to grow our strawberries. We have several large pots that sit on the front porch and she is eager when the season becomes warm and we can clear the straw mulch and look for the first tiny leaves. Last Winter was harsh and we had to replace many of the plants, but Kayla enjoys choosing the variety she will grow. As the season progresses and tiny flowers blossom into hard green fruits, she checks her ‘crop’ daily looking for that first blush of pink, then red. She also has no problem volunteering to taste the new strawberries and make sure they are yummy. Somehow, they are always yummy!

Kayla pulled the winning name for our Whimsical Moon Farm gift soap give-away, a big chopped salad, handcrafted items for the cottage business, a Blue Jay at the feeder, the first daffodils of spring, baby bunny in the back yard.

Kayla enjoys participating in all aspects of running the farm and growing our hand-crafted soap business. Chopping vegetables for one of our favorite farm salad dinners, testing a new fragrance for a batch of soap, and discovering what just might be outside her kitchen door are many of her daily amusements.

She does have several farm responsibilities besides gathering eggs and growing strawberries in the summer. She keeps her bedroom picked up and her bed made. She helps with laundry and puts her own clothes away. Plus, after a blustery wind, there is always yard pick-up which usually involves gathering broken locust tree limbs and building the burn pile. She is in charge of small fallen limbs.

She shares in the delight of discovering the first daffodils as they bloom and identifying the wild birds as they come to the feeders. As her focus moves from her internal landscape to what is right in her backyard, she is thrilled when she notices a baby bunny poking around near the compost. Or the bright colors of the resident blue jays or male cardinals.

How amazing it is for me to watch my daughter blossom right here on the farm. Beyond all the therapy appointments, psychiatric evaluations, blood glucose maintenance, and morning and evening medications, there is a young woman who is a part of my heart and my soul. If I ever had any qualms (okay, I had many) about bringing Kayla to this farm, they have long ago been diminished. I honestly believe divine inspiration brought us to this place. Kayla thrives!

Kayla, Kellen, Chelsie, and I, Grandma and Grandpa, Mindy and Mosey.

I want to thank my folks, Don and Loberta May (grandma and grandpa), as well as my daughter, Chelsie Johnson, and my son, Kellen New for being the most supportive, loving, and kind family Kayla and I could ever ask for.

Also, a big thank you to my farm partner-in-crime, Mindy Hall.

Please feel free to check out our hand-crafted herbal soaps grown and created right here on Whimsical Moon Farm.

 

Winter on the Farm!

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The snow plow moving Winter out of East Cornfield, Indiana.

Winter has descended upon Whimsical Moon Farm. The skies can change from gray to baby blue then gray again in a slight moment. The snow falls in tiny sparkling ice chips or fat fluffy flakes and I find myself moving through the chilly day determined to get from one farm chore to the next in the most expedient manner. The temperature usually hovers in the teens and muck boots, wool gloves, and thick layers are now the norm. My baseball cap has been replaced with a heavy knitted cap pulled down over my ears. My breath comes in silvery puffs and my glasses fog up as soon as I come back inside. Yes, Old Man Winter has made himself at home once again.

We have the chicken coop fortified with straw bales blocking the wind and holding in some of the heat produced by a warming heat pad hidden under the straw on the main floor. A heated water feeder keeps the chickens’ water flowing, but there have been a couple mornings I have had to scrape a rim of ice off the edge of the container.

Straw bales encircle the chicken coop. The girls peek out at me from their opened attic.

Neither of our Chihuahuas nor the farm cats want anything to do with the snow and frigid temperatures, but one of our beasts is totally in his element. Mosey, the St. Bernard, loves the snow. In fact, he often begs and whines to romp outside so he can plow through the drifts and sniff every little scent. He is certain the snow is here just for him as he claims every pristine area with his snuffling and galloping footprints.

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Mosey loves, loves the snow!

Although the Winter season has never been one of my favorite times of the year, I do appreciate the excuse to bake home-made bread and keep hearty soup warming on the stove for a quick bowl. The days are shorter lending themselves to getting chores done fast and then hunkering down with that good book I’ve been wanting to read. Piping hot chocolate steaming on the table next to me, a warm blanket tucked around my legs, and shivering Chihuahuas burrowed underneath.

Garden seed catalogs come in the mail regularly and I find myself dreaming of that new flower bed next spring and more raised beds closer to the house. I know, I still have a long cold slog ahead of me, but those seed catalogs can be a life-line to somebody that appreciates warmer days and abundantly bursting gardens.

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The Winter sunsets are remarkably beautiful even with the bare trees accenting them.

I try to greet each morning on the farm with gratitude. Winter provides opportunities to count different blessings as I appreciate a toasty warm home, the messy pile of books next to my futon for my reading pleasure, internet when it is actually working (unfortunately we can only get satellite here on the farm. Ugh!), hot coffee percolating on the stove, and rousing board games on the kitchen table with my daughter Kayla. She is a Candy Land maniac beating me 3 out of 4 games regularly.

I do look forward to Spring, but right now Winter has us in his grasp and we will continue to snuggle with puppies and stay cozy warm.

Hope you have a toasty warm Winter!

Please check out our handcrafted herbal soaps at Whimsicalmoonfarm.com

And The Winner Is…….!

My daughter Kayla pulled the winning name out of the highly technical drawing hat.

Drum roll please…….the winner of the festive herbal soap gift box from Whimsical Moon Farm is: TIM BOUCHER! Congratulations Tim, and thank you for participating in our gift soap give-away. If you would be so kind as to drop me a line with your address, we will get your soaps sent off to you pronto.

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Handcrafted herbal soaps made right here on our farm.

Thank you to each and every one who participated in our drawing and for taking a peek at our shiny, brand new web-site, Whimsicalmoonfarm.com. And a special thank you to everyone who has ordered our soaps, sugar scrubs, and beard oil. We are incredibly grateful!

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Whimsical Moon Farm.

We handcraft our herbal soaps and herbal products right here on our farm using herbs that we grow and dry. We feel blessed to be able to grow our farm and our cottage business right here in East Cornfield, Indiana.

Again, thank you everybody who participated in our give-away and a BIG congratulations to Tim Boucher, our winner.