2023 -- Year of HOPE

2023 -- Year of HOPE

WARNING:  LONG BLOG POST AHEAD.  Grab a cuppa, settle back, and enjoy the ride!


2023 has left me speechless in many ways.  How does one describe a year that began at such a low and almost hopeless place to one filled with such hope and confirmation?  Travel with me through 2023, and you will see grace upon grace.  


January and February 2023 -- Every winter I serious struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder, and 2023 was brutal.  I was battling a serious autoimmune condition, couldn't sleep most of the time, and fought tears constantly.  While I was very thankful that my husband was still with me, his health continued to deteriorate significantly.  Everything seemed so hopeless.  But there's a reason why I'm in love with butterflies.  I just can't get past their inherent metaphor.  I've heard the phrase "everything means something" often, and as I look around at this world, I see it's truth.  Even the smallest, most fragile of creatures can reveal volumes of Truth.  My beloved butterflies provide such a powerful metaphor for me.  I live in a world where death can be a doorway and where shattered dreams become stepping stones.


Blue morpho butterfly with quote about a caterpillar dissolving into goo before becoming a caterpillar.  It ends with the encouragement to keep going during dark times.

So, trusting the process of dissolving into goo, I stratified seeds and continued dreaming.


March 2023 -- 

For years, I dreamed of having a greenhouse.  There's no way I could afford a real greenhouse, but what about a cheaper one?  Could I afford that?  After searching around, yes, I could afford a cheaper greenhouse.  And even if it only lasted a couple of years, I would be able to learn and grow and enjoy it.  So I bought a simple, inexpensive greenhouse off of Amazon.  Reviewers commented frequently about how it would blow away at the slightest wind, and this being Benton County, Indiana, home of more than 600 windmills, I also bought spiral stakes and strapping.  

Friends and family came to help me begin this adventure.  Their hard work to help me build the greenhouse was priceless to my heart!  I'm so thankful!  We finished the greenhouse on March 28, 2023.  Ah!   A lifelong dream achieved!  Stratified seeds were potted, cuttings were placed in pots, and hope began!


Then came the EF2 tornado on March 31, 2023.


As we sat in our basement, listening to the wind change sound as the tornado passed right over our house, I wondered if my greenhouse would still be standing.  As soon as it was safe, I ran upstairs, opened the back door just enough to peek through the pouring rain, and saw the greenhouse was still there!  The wind tore a couple of tiny holes and broke one zipper, but the greenhouse stood!  Hooray!  We did lose a couple of trees on the edge of the Meadow, but that felt insignificant compared to my gratitude that the greenhouse was spared.

The area just to the east of us did not fare so well.  We live amidst more than 600 giant wind turbines.  Just a couple of miles to the east, three windmills were destroyed.  One, the tower was snapped.  A second had two blades ripped off and thrown across the field.  A third had one blade ripped off.  Sadly, about 10 miles to the east, a small cluster of houses were badly damaged.  There were 23 tornadoes in Indiana that day (146 tornadoes nationally), leaving a wide swath of destruction.  It was the third largest tornado outbreak in US history, the fifth largest outbreak in Indiana.  We were so blessed (and thankful!) to have received only very minor damage.

Windmills damaged by tornadoes

April - May 2023 -- 

Encouraged by the persistence of my flimsy little greenhouse, I moved all my supplies into the greenhouse and earnestly began potting and propagating whatever I could get my hands on.  Soon, the added warmth of the greenhouse yielded seedlings, and I was so excited!

I also began taking a class sponsored and taught by a local co-working studio, MatchBOX.  I thought it was going to be a class that would teach me how to set up an LLC, how to market, what kind of accounting I would need to do, etc.  Instead, it was so much better than that!  By the end of the class, I had learned how to create a Shark Tank-esque pitch deck, encapsulating the most important and most compelling information about my business.

The class came with a really big carrot -- attend all the classes, do all the homework, participate in a couple of extra activities, fill out an application, and then I would be eligible for a $5000 grant.  That is a big chunk of change!  Believe me when I say I worked hard on that class!


June 2023 -- (Not so) Grand Opening!

I planned to begin my plant sales on June 4.  I called it my (Not So) Grand Opening because it was just me, a couple of card tables, and about 300 plants.  Much to my surprise, people came the first day to buy plants!  By the end of June, almost all my plants had sold.  I continued to work hard on the entrepreneurial class.  The class had two levels of homework -- what we were to bring to class the next week and exercises that would help us think through and develop what we were to bring to class the next week.  I asked the teacher what "all the homework" meant in regards to the grant opportunity, but I didn't receive a clear answer.  Well, I thought, "all" means "all."  So I did ALL the homework, exercises and what we were to bring to class.

We visited a lavender farm in northern Indiana, and I was more convinced than ever that I wanted to grow at least some lavender on the Meadow.

 Family at lavender field

July - August 2023

I continued to hustle hard on that class.  The teacher said the homework should only take us an hour or two each week, but by deciding to do ALL the homework, I found I was spending an hour or two daily!  Sometimes it was several hours a day as I struggled to understand such business concepts as TAM-SAM-SOM, Business Model Canvas, minimally viable product, beachhead, and GTM.

Finally, on August 2, I graduated from the class and presented my business pitch deck at MatchBOX Co-working Studio in Lafayette, Indiana, in front of a million people.  Well, it was actually more like 100 maybe, but it felt like a million eyes staring at me on stage!  My knees were knocking!  I was actually stating my dreams -- out loud -- in front of all these people!

But I did it!    I had attended all the class sessions, did all the homework and activities, filled out the application, and now... I waited to hear about the grant.

And then I took it one step further!  On August 7th, I presented my business before our town's council.  Remember those Facebook flower farmer groups I joined?  There were a couple of farmers who built their businesses only to have the local officials impose strict regulations after the fact. I wanted to get the town council's permission on the record.  I was so nervous, but I shared with them my business pitch that I had just presented at the class graduation and told them how I thought the Meadow would benefit our little town.  Our town council welcomed the idea of bringing agritourism to town.  Hooray!  Obviously, we would still have zoning regulations to work out when the time came, but they didn't have any objections.


Just before the Town Council meeting started!


September 2023 -- Environmental activism and sidewalk sales

I talk a lot about butterflies, native wildflowers, not using pesticides and herbicides, growing things naturally, etc.  So when the issue of our county becoming a Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) site became an issue, some folks asked for my opinion.  I attended a large county-wide meeting held in our town's historic theater.  Carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) is a collection of technologies that capture carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from industrial processes and power generation and store it. The goal of CCS is to reduce CO2 emissions and combat climate change.  It sounds really good and green, doesn't it?  However, it doesn't really work, if you look at the data.  

Locally, it would mean that carbon emissions from large steel manufacturers near Chicago would be compressed into liquid form and piped 100 miles south to our county then pumped 3000 feet underground for storage.  At the meeting we learned that they will have to drill down 3000 feet -- in a zone that is already somewhat seismically active!  

I didn't expect to become a 'tree-hugging environmental nut," but here I am!  The more I research the issue and share my findings via my Facebook page, the more people ask me about it.  Neighboring counties are also experiencing other environmental threats, like the LEAP project to divert water from the Tippecanoe and Wabash rivers for industrial use, and I'm being asked to help people understand those issues as well.

On September 23rd, I set up my booth for the first time at Fowler's Sidewalk Sales, an outdoor craft bazaar and store sales.  My first public appearance locally!  We had great sales, and I had many opportunities to share my dream with townsfolk, who seemed to really love the idea.  Many people asked me about carbon sequestration, and I had the great opportunity to share with them how native plants and trees are uniquely designed to capture carbon and store it long term deep in the soil.

On September 25th, I had the soil in the Meadow tested to see what kind of soil additions might be necessary to grow the flowers I want.


October - November 2023

Let the craft bazaar season begin!  I registered for four craft bazaars, so it was a busy fall!  I made several different products using lavender flowers and herbs (available in my online store).  It was delightful talking to people from all over the area about Mariposa Meadow, butterfly conservation, native plants, and so much more!

We also got the Mariposa Meadow website up and active.  The learning curve is steep!

But the best news was that on November 2nd, I was informed that I had received the $5,000 grant!!!!  MatchBOX wants me to use the money to develop and market my business, so be looking for more news about that very soon!

 Two women at MatchBOX Co-working studio in Lafayette, Indiana

Also in November, I built two more greenhouses with help of my wonderful volunteers!  That brings my total to three.  One will be for nurturing young plants, one for storage of the mower, my potting table, bags of dirt and pots, etc., and one will be where I put my plants available for sale.  I'm excited!

My brother, our neighbor, my daughter, and I spent a cold, windy Saturday afternoon in early November laying nursery weed barrier out on the ground in preparation for placement of the greenhouses.

And here they are finished!  The one in front is the retail greenhouse.  Behind it is the storage greenhouse, and to the left is the one for young plants I'm still nurturing.

December 2023 

"Sleep, creep, leap" is a common saying among pollinator gardening enthusiasts.  It means that it takes three years to really establish a strong planting.  I think 2021-2022 were my "sleep" years, preparing, laying ground work, getting my thoughts in order.  2023 became my "creep" year, when I made tiny, incremental progress all year long, but enough to know that good things were coming.  2024 will be my "leap" year (literally!) because I plan to do great things!   Make sure you're subscribed to get the latest exciting details!

From our family to yours -- Merry Christmas! and may your 2024 be filled with joy!

 Welborne family Christmas portrait 2024



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