Milkweed Rising at Yellow Bird’s Rest: The Creation Story


The name of my business, Milkweed Rising, is meant to evoke something magical and gently defiant breaking loose from the industrialized world to carry us higher, up into the stars and beyond the moon. Milkweed Rising was born (like a monarch butterfly slooowly emerging from its cocoon and finding itself able to fly) in April of 2014 on Pleasant Hill, a breezy ridge in the western foothills of the Allegheny Mountain Range that’s topped by a narrow road and houses arranged like knots in a string.

My little, blue house is at the very top of the ridge, and has been hit by lightning at least once, which burned away half the roof not long before I moved in. The immediate area used to be a dairy farm, and judging by the old barbed wire fence between my property and my neighbor’s, cows used to graze my acre of land. Grazing was probably all the land was good for at the time as it’s steep, so steep that I rolled the mower my first summer on the property. That one accident, way back in 1999, impelled me to plant a wide, wild hedge on the steep slope bisecting the property, and, with no additional planning or real intent, Yellow Bird’s Rest, my own private bird sanctuary was born.

My property now includes six or seven species of evergreens, oak trees, black walnut trees, hickories, apple trees, a mulberry tree, pawpaw trees, service berries, native berry bushes, raspberries and blackberries, locust, maple, and dying ash trees, brush piles, and a naturalized meadow that I’m slowing converting to natives (with no help from the resident deer, who like to raise their babies in the shelter of my hedge). I don’t rake leaves, except to move them into one of the garden beds (the leaves are full of cocoons from which caterpillars will emerge to feed the next generation of baby birds), don’t mind bare soil (the bumblebees dig their burrows in the patches and stick around to pollinate my gardens), and spread woody cuttings under my trees, creating a woodland floor and sequestering as much carbon as I can while growing a variety of fungi (including morels that showed up one year and decided to stay) and moss (which I sustainably harvest and use to create terrariums.)

Yellow Bird’s Rest also includes a big round garden compound behind the house, protected with fencing from the deer. I grow vegetables, feeding myself and selling the excess in the summer, and flowers, which I draw, paint, and photograph to create my mandala art. New in 2021 was a shady extension to the garden compound where I’ll add spring ephemeral wildflowers. New in 2022 will be expanded cutting gardens from which I’ll harvest flowers to sell in bouquets.

My house is also my studio. I have a room on the second floor, “The Purple Room”, where I create messy art while surrounded by flowering houseplants and terrariums, and an office on the first floor, where I can look out over the garden compound while creating my digital art or working on one of my novels, surrounded by ferns and whichever resident orchid is blooming at the moment.

In sharing my art and books, I hope also to share the spirit of my place in the world, my Yellow Bird’s Rest perched on the side of a breezy ridge in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountain Range. May you feel that spirit beaming out of my creations, and may it meet you where you are, lift you like a milkweed seed, and keep you safe on your journeys.

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