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

Hallow’een Whimsy!

Pirates in East Cornfield, a pumpkin witch at Metamora, IN, and a toasty All Hallows’ Evening bon fire.

Hallow’een has always been one of my favorite seasonal celebrations. It marks the very end of the harvest for us here on the farm and it provides me an excuse to be creatively ghoulish. I have as much fun carving Jack O’ Lanterns and decorating the yard as my daughter Kayla.

As we light our bon fire and get ready to barbecue some weinies and burgers, we can feel a definite closure to the summer season as we pull our jackets tighter and warm our hands around the fire. We know that Winter will be knocking on our door soon, along with snow and freezing temperatures. But right now, we enjoy the riotous golden colors, the crisp fresh air, and spicy pumpkin cheesecake with tart apple cider. Oh yes!

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 Our little farmhouse in all its Autumn glory.

It seems like the maple trees turned orange and yellow overnight and we find ourselves shuffling as we walk outside, kicking up crisp leaves and giggling like the ‘mature’ adults that we are. Most of the major preparations for the Winter have been completed and I for one look forward to the quieter, calmer season of introspection.

My daughter Kayla reminds me (often) that her favorite celebration is only 53 shopping days away. But I feel confident that she will stay busy as she prepares for the holidays. She enjoys the process of creating gifts and special seasonal cards for her family. Her special needs require that we begin early, so that each card and gift has been crafted just the way she likes. Hallow’een is our special reminder that it is time to get creating.

This is Kayla patiently waiting to roast her hot dog, our old maple tree showing off its colors, and a passel of lazy farm cats.

One of the biggest enjoyments for me living on this farm is actually experiencing the seasons both in work and play. My daily life is intertwined with the changing seasons as everything ebbs and flows, withers and then blossoms again, resting and preparing for the next season of growth.

Whimsical Moon Farm has moved into its season of cozy retreat.

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Captain Jack wishes you an abundant All Hallows’ Evening!

Just One of Those Days!

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Our changing landscape: the harvested corn fields and fall trees look bare against the Autumn morning sky.

I woke up early this morning and knew it was going to be one of those days. A fabulous day! The sun is shining, the air is fresh and crisp, and I feel like I can conquer the world. Well, at least my tiny, tiny corner of the world.

I practically skipped as I did my chores, my steps light-footed, and my off-key singing barely bothered the chickens. What is it about some days that allow you to feel like everything is exactly the way it is supposed to be?

My schedule is full with necessary activities that I have to get done, but I felt optimistically confident that creativity and calm will reign supreme. My daily writing practice has been swept aside lately with the accumulated tasks that have piled up, but today is the perfect day to make my writing a priority again. I fired up my lap-top as I sat on the front porch, listened to the ‘girls’ softly cluck, and spent pleasant moments as I revisited my story in progress. I even got to share the calm with a deer as she crossed the barn lot. Thank goodness we always keep the camera handy and ready to roll for moments just like this.

A deer wandered into our barn lot, the chickens keep me company while I write on my porch, and the day-lilies always make me smile.

Monday is always clean house day, and usually I drag my vacuum cleaner around like it is a torture device. I grumble and sneer. Today I decided to open up the house one last time before the weather turned cold and give the place a thorough once over. Cobweb patrol, chasing dust rhino’s from under the furniture, and even washing windows gave me a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. A good spit-shine can lift the spirits of an old farmhouse and it just feels good to sit back and ’embrace the clean’. This is a fabulous day!

 Kayla standing in front of our ‘Gandalf’ scarecrow, newly canned applesauce, and dinner: big ol’ chopped salad.

Maybe it’s just the Autumn season that provides this feeling of exuberance. The cooler temperatures and the shorter days give me many reasons to spend time ‘nesting’ and slowing down. Life doesn’t feel nearly as frantic and things get done as they get done. I have crossed many chores off my to-do list, like canning applesauce and dilly beans and freezing summer corn. Most of the outbuildings are secured and ready for the harsh Winter weather ahead. The chicken coop is almost ready for Winter and we’ve stocked up on bales of straw and feed. Being prepared does provide much impetus for a fabulous day!

My daughter Kayla has decided she would have a fabulous day today, too. Her special needs and her battle with schizophrenia can often cause her anxiety and stress, but how can anybody be ‘down-in-the-dumps’ when you have a friend like ‘Gandalf the Scarecrow’ to protect your pumpkins and make you smile? She decided to help me make our main meal and cheerfully began chopping vegetables and tossing in handfuls of walnuts and dried cranberries. Soon our salads will change over to thick, hearty vegetable soups but since today is so fabulous, chopped salad it is.

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Ninja toady. Can you see him?

As I brew a pot of coffee on the stove-top and look out the kitchen window, I notice the drain spouts full of dried leaves, old clay pots that need to be stored in the shed, and fallen limbs that need to be stacked on the burn pile. I will save those chores for my next fabulous day. Right now, I need to go take a peek at the big toad Kayla found next to the smoke house and have a mug of hot, fresh coffee.

It’s just been one of those days! I hope you have a whimsically fabulous day, too!

Growing a Cottage Business.

Herbal soaps and Whimsical minions, Salvia and Echinacea, Herbal apothecary, and a loaf of uncut lavender soap.

We have lived a year and a half on Whimsical Moon Farm now. A full growing season under our belts plus the original fall garden I planted while we were getting settled has given us much to be thankful for. As I contemplate what we have accomplished, I find myself already figuring out where to build new raised beds next Spring, how I want to increase the herb garden, possibly with a small turtle pond (our turtle Grover has almost outgrown his aquarium), plus I would like to create an herbal medicine wheel near the barn lot. We  have added a small flock of laying hens, a handful of farm cats, and we are researching Dwarf Nigerian goats for milk. (They are adorable!) A never-ending process of growing, experimenting, and enjoying the harvest.

Our local Farmers’ Market, raised bed, owl soaps, a loaf of soap ready to be cut, and my daughter Kayla holding one of our new chicks. 

 Mindy works off the farm so we can make ends meet while I handle the farm chores, the gardening, as well as regular care of my special needs fairy adult child. It dawned on me one morning, while enjoying my first mug of extra bold Sumatran coffee on the front porch, that a small farm business would be a pretty darn good idea right about now. I handcraft herbal soaps for gifts and for sale at the farmers’ market, I figured herbal body products would be a great ‘cottage’ business I could run right out of my kitchen. I grow most of the herbs I would need for the soaps and sugar scrubs and I could work around chores and my daughters needs.

I passed my brilliant idea by Mindy that evening and she said, “um….okay” and thus began my business adventure. I’ve always been a rather ‘shoot-from-the-hip’ type of person, and working for anybody but myself has always been rather unappealing but I did promise Mindy that I would put together a business plan. My research consisted of re-reading Chris Guillebeau’s book, “The $100 Start Up: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future” (which I highly recommend), Blake Mycoskie’s book, “Start Something That Matters” (of TOM’s shoe fame) and “Creating an Herbal Bodycare Business” by Sandy Maine.

I learned from Blake, “When you have a memorable story about who you are and what your mission is, your success no longer depends on how experienced you are or how many degrees you have or who you know. A good story transcends boundaries, breaks barriers, and opens doors. It is a key not only to starting a business but also to clarifying your own personal identity and choices.” Well, I certainly have stories. And the story about Whimsical Moon Farm certainly identifies my mission and is easily entwined within my business purpose.

 Butterfly on Echinacea flower, me holding Mamie, one of our Ameraucana chickens, and a field of wildflowers near the barn lot.

As I hammered out my business plan, I decided simple was best. So, I determined I had products to sell: herbal soaps, bath salts, sugar scrubs, and dream pillows.

I considered who my targeted customer base would most likely be (besides my loving family): those people, mostly women ages 16-90 (approximately) interested in lovingly hand-made, natural body-care for their personal use and as gifts. Although I also create a wonderful beard oil and soaps for men, I have found women are usually the ones initially attracted to my products.

And, I figured out a way to get paid, or how I would sell my products: an online market/website plus my favorite farmers’ markets and seasonal festivals. I chose Wix.com as my e-commerce site not only for its ease of navigating through the complex dashboards plus their on-going support, but also because the cost was budget-worthy and I thought the name Wix was catchy. Not to negate Etsy or Shopify, (or any of the other many possible markets out there) they are excellent sites as well, but I felt Wix.com would be a good fit for my farm soap business.

After stewing and fretting over my business plan, which now exceeded three paragraphs, I felt confident I could present to Mindy who, by the way was now listed as CO-OWNER, the details and the budget for OUR ‘cottage’ business start-up. I had determined a nice round figure of $1000 would be sufficient to get the business up and running with a little cushion for padding. Where we would get this $1000 was undetermined at that time but after an informative meeting with our bank customer service rep, we walked out with a zero-fee, zero interest-rate for 15 months, credit card with a cap of $3000. We still intend on keeping the business costs at or below the $1000 we planned for and figure if the business is not paying for itself in 15 months, then we would surely need to reconsider our options. I, however, am confident that between the two of us and the story woven throughout our farm business, we will be prosperous. Well, you know….something like that!

Our goal is to have our web-site up and running by early November, but we are shooting for Halloween because it seems rather auspicious and fun. I have been learning about marketing via social media (I had NO idea there were so many sites to get involved with) and I have been crafting soaps like a mad-woman. The kitchen smells incredible as does the pantry where I dry the soaps and any other flat surface in the house that isn’t occupied at the moment.

I am looking forward to growing, experimenting, and harvesting this newest ‘crop’ endeavor here on Whimsical Moon Farm, and I will definitely follow up with our experiences and adventures.

Stay creative and have a prosperous Whimsical Moon day!