Willow & Mabel Garden Company- A Story of Making Dreams Happen 7

Can I be honest with you all here for a moment? Sometimes, as the administrator of this site, I feel completely unworthy to share these incredible stories…..Stories like this that are SO good and beautiful, that I’m left sitting at my desk, completely in awe. Women who rise above their circumstances and go after the dreams tucked into their heart are such an inspiration. Today we’re hearing from Carolyn at Willow & Mabel Garden Company. Please give her a BIG NW Healthy Mama style welcome. You guys are going to LOVE this lady! -AngelaIMG_2544I truly believe that out of every bit of bad comes some good, sometimes you have to search for it a little bit harder than you would want, but usually you can find some glimmer of hope.  

Willow & Mabel Garden Company is still in its infancy.  This is the business I started just over a year ago. It happened by chance,  default really.  There was no long term planning for this business it was more of a leap of faith.  IMG_2685In 2015 I was working at an office job, sitting in my grey cubical crunching numbers.  My goodness was it painful everyday, making myself show up to work but it had good health benefits for my family and you know that these days those jobs are few and far between.

One weekend I was looking through an English magazine (I am originally from England) and I started reading an article about two women that gave up their office jobs and on a family farm started growing their own flowers, and creating freshly cut flower bouquets for sale and then progressed to styling flowers for weddings.  Wow, this is what I wanted to do.  Don’t get me wrong working with flowers was not totally alien to me.  I had always grown flowers, be it with my parents back in England or in my own back yard.  You could say I had my ah ha moment.38-DSC_0108Talking of my own back yard here is the other part of my story.  My husband is a construction contractor.  Things were going well for us, we built a beautiful home 12 years ago, and our two boys happily spent a good portion of their childhood there.  Lots of good memories were made.  However during the recession that hit, everything started to collapse like a deck of cards around us.  Like many contractors we could no longer afford our dream home.  We lost everything trying to save it.  I am no longer embarrassed to say that like many people we had to walk away from our house.  We moved a couple of miles down the road into a dilapidated farmhouse.  Now when I say dilapidated it truly was.  100 years old and really not much had been done to it in those 100 years except for some very ugly linoleum and several coats of random turquoise pain, in many layers.  Over the next couple of years my husband & I and our two boys put blood sweat and tears into that house and turned it into a wonderful cozy family home.  Still not finished but that is another story.  How does this tie into the Willow & Mabel Garden Co.? It is set on 5 acres of land, had we never moved into this old farm house with it’s salmon stream and fields I would never have been able to chase this dream.IMG_0530This is where my story began.  I ran outside waving my magazine at my husband telling him I had found what I wanted to do.  He did not shut me down, or poo poo the idea.  He said, “What is the worst that can happen?  We will have beautiful flowers and a greenhouse.”

Spring 2015 I was out of the gates like a greyhound.  I was still in my grey cubicle each day – we really could not afford to be without health insurance but my brain was being stimulated by all the ideas that I had for my business.  Just one year on I can look back and see already how much I have changed and developed.

Carolyn-9 Carolyn-5 I grow annual cut flowers on my land.  Last year I sold many bouquets of flowers, most of the time just muddling along as I grew and cut.  I read and I researched all things flowers whether it be how to grow them or styling flowers.  I worked on three weddings last summer, I can tell you how excited I was when the first bride booked my services.   IMG_2627This year has certainly been an adventure.  Don’t get me wrong this is the hardest thing I have done in my life.  You cannot let your foot off the gas for one moment. Being a framer florist is very rewarding working hand in hand with nature but there is a lot of back breaking work that goes along with it.  Each night during the summer months I am out in my flower field until dark, some evenings I wear a headlamp to cut those last few flowers needed.  Some nights I collapse into a heap sobbing because I am so exhausted, but I pull myself up and think about the joy I feel when I am in our cold damp farmhouse basement making flower arrangements or bouquets for a wedding, I have never felt that joy before in any of the jobs that I have done it the past.  I can say that I have found my calling in life.  I have now realized that if I had not been sat in that grey cubical bored out of my mind then I probably would have never made that leap of faith.  If I had been in an OK job I would have probably just settled, but it gave me the push I needed, now I am so happy I had that job in the non-descript cubical.IMG_2847 As luck would have it someone I had worked for in the past offered me another job.  This job was not in a cubical and it had health insurance.  This job was five minutes from my house and only four days per week.  This has given me more time to devote to my flower farm.

My wonderful husband has built a greenhouse where my seedlings are furiously growing away.  Each day I go and inspect them and marvel at how much they have grown in one short day.  I have dug up more land and preparing in ready for when it is warm enough to plant all these little chaps that are developing in my greenhouse.Carolyn-18

Carolyn-3 I have no formal training as a florist so I am attending workshops to learn, learn, and learn from people that are light years away with their experience.  I am blown away by their creativity but each time I am so appreciative that they are passing on their knowledge to me.  One of best things I have found within in the flower community is everyone I have met and spoken has been so willing to share their knowledge.  IMG_30552016 is starting better than I could have hoped for.  I have weddings booked.  I am about to take the next step and start a Flower Community Sustained Agriculture (CSA) program where members of the local community sign up and pay for a weekly subscription of flowers picked fresh from my farm during the summer months.Carolyn-33Carolyn-46I have many ideas brimming in my head for my flower farm; I don’t know where this dream is going to take me.  Some days I stop and take a breath and think that I must be crazy as my plate was already full to the brim, but sitting in a grey cubical never felt this good.  For anyone out there that is sat on a dream – do it – don’t just settle, take the chance and jump you parachute will come out and not let you fall.  Carolyn-27Carolyn Thompson was brought up in rural England. After traveling the world and living in Australia for a few years, she and her English husband and two teenage boys choose to call an old red farm house in Poulsbo, WA home. She balances working four days a week for a commercial construction company along with nurturing her farmer florist business Willow & Mabel Garden Company, named after their two Pygmy goats.   Her website address is www.willowandmabelgardenco.com and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/willowandmabelgardenco/. Find her on Instagram @Willowandmabelgardenco 

Image credit for all the gorgeous pictures above goes to the super talented Rosanna Nydia.

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About Angela Strand

Angela is a wife, mama to three little ones and a lifelong Washington State resident. Besides facilitating the NW Healthy Mama website, she loves being involved in her kids' school, hiking with her girlfriends, growing all the things, writing, reading and taking photos.

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