This story doesn’t go in a straight line. None of the really good ones do. It is filled with difficulty and joy alike.
But it’s ours and it got us here, so I’ll do my best to tell it.
My name is Colleen and I was born on my mother’s birthday and raised right in the middle of Seattle, Washington in a family with 10 kids and no pets because my mom is pretty allergic to nearly everything. I camped and played in the woods and fished and knew my trillium from my cedar the way that nearly every kid who grows up in the Pacific Northwest does. I learned to sew from my mother and made clothes and aprons and gifts as I needed. I learned to titrate and weigh and take careful notes from my chemist father. I wanted to be an astronaut. So, as anyone who wants to be an astronaut does, I went to the University of Washington and studied acting as an undergraduate and then was admitted into the prestigious Professional Actor Training Program. My course was set for a life in theatre and that suited me just fine.
In 2001 I was readying for a move to New York with my newly minted MFA and “why wouldn’t I” as a motto. We all know what happened in September of that year, so I decided to stay in Seattle and let things in the city settle down a little bit before I made the move. I took a position at the head of a theatre department at the high school I had attended and spent three years teaching, learning, producing, and believe it or not, designing wedding flowers for friends. Creativity begets creativity, I guess, and it seemed perfectly natural to throw together flowers and ideas for friends and family. I didn’t know enough to know what I didn’t know. Wow. Parse that for a second.
This is the Fast Forward montage set to catchy music: I finished grad school at 25, moved to New York at 29, worked as an actor, toured the country, moved back to Seattle, went back to the east coast for summer stock, recorded an album (did I mention that my family of 10 is Irish and I grew up playing and singing and Irish step-dancing?), moved to Portland, Oregon, made 4 more albums, and for 7 years continued to tour the world as a singer. Which I still do, and you can read all about that here.
But in 2016, my husband (also a touring Irish musician) and I decided it was time to change our stars. So we packed up our life and drove it almost as far as you can get from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine. We bought a little house, adopted two hilarious kittens, and I started growing everything I could get my hands on. Something about a life on wheels makes you really want to feel grounded when you’re home. My commitment to vegetables was intense. I planted 35 tomato plants. In one garden box. Kale, cabbage, carrots, collards, chard, zucchini, cucumbers, daikon, shiso, green onions, sweet potatoes, and more. On the tiniest bit of yard around our house. And I was stewarding the crap out of those vegetables and the land as much as I could with the little I knew. I’m pretty sure I wore out Google and gave my library card a run for its money, but I absolutely loved it. I didn’t need them to like me, I didn’t have to audition for them, I didn’t have to ask them to book me or prove that I was worth growing for, I didn’t have to compare myself to other backyard vegetable growers. I just had to pay attention. To listen. To observe. And to do my best to create an environment where the plants did what they wanted to do most – grow. Part of that was to encourage pollinators and beneficial insects into our little patch. So I chucked a ridiculous amount of wildflower seed into a patch of ground that my husband had been painstakingly clearing of Japanese knotweed.
The wildflowers that I planted to help the vegetables grow became a strange obsession. I tended that little patch like they were the rarest blooms and not just some cosmos, calendula, mallow, and a whole bunch of other stuff that kind of just grows on its own if you leave it alone in the sunshine. I cut them and made posies for around the house. I gave them to friends. Two little girls and their nanny would walk by every day and I learned that the little ones called my house “the flower house” so I gave them both little bouquets as they toddled by. I started reading and researching and learning everything I could about it from podcasts and internet stalking. But the nice kind.
Which brings us to now.
In June of 2019 we bought a farm in the village of Springvale, Maine with 10 acres of property. We’ve got our work cut out for us, but we had a great half-season of flowers grown right here in our soil once we got everything moved! Over 10,000 plants will be seeded, cared for, transplanted, and harvested in the 2020 season, and that’s relatively small compared to larger farms. Weddings weekends are booking up after a wonderful 2019 season, we added a seasonal flower subscription started providing a la carte wedding items for smaller weddings and elopements, joined 3 farmers markets, and there’s more to come! We are proud members of the Maine Farm Bureau, the York County Farmers Network, and the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers. Needless to say, things are getting pretty exciting in our little corner of Springvale. We hope you’ll join the fun!
Thanks for reading all of this and watching us grow! Please be in touch if you’d like to chat about something.