…and Moe, Winner of the Women Create Your Studio Assistant Contest
A Word From Moe:
The first time I sensed her, she was pulling me from the sleeping pile of siblings I was tucked in with. She had been on the hunt for us since our mama cat had disappeared with her rounded belly and slow walk. We could hear her whispering with her daughters that she used to do this when she was little: find the sleeping kittens in her grandfather’s workshop. They all squealed with joy when they spied us. Then she claimed me, named me Moe and deemed me the little orange kitten that would become the keeper of the greenhouse. Some things never change; we are both just older now.
Sarah Lacko, collector of seeds, stories and lovable farm animals, is raising her two daughters alongside her husband on their little flower and seed farm nestled in the outskirts of the tiny town of Sheridan, below the Northern California foothills. Sarah is a visionary who loves creating gardens of wonder and gathering up community and friends to share space at the greenhouse table.
It started when I was a little girl, with sun-kissed long blonde ponytails, carrying saltshakers out to my grandma’s garden to eat the tomatoes. My mother holding my hand, walking me through the flowers, teaching me their names, showing me the beauty around us. Carrying barn cats around the garden in my overalls. It was the corn-shucking parties under Grandpa’s big old oak tree where we would sit in the June sun under the shaded tree, my sense of community born there.
From there, I carried my love of the dirt to my first apartment, where I grew begonias in the windowsill. Getting my hands in the dirt, rolling up my sleeves. Just as a garden changed with the seasons, so would I. But those deep roots would always ground me, and I would flourish under the right conditions.
When my daughters came along, I knew that a garden was a must. Even at the little house we rented in the city, I planted herbs, and I wore a sleeping baby in a sling close to my heart while her older sister ran her hands through the soil on a blanket in the sun. Soon enough, we moved to the little house in the historical part of town. It’s where we created a secret garden made of whimsy and twisted grapevines. We would read books with kittens on our laps and lay in the shade of the hydrangeas. The girls and I climbed a ladder to see the tops of the 17-foot sunflowers. From the first sunflowers we planted, we had close to a thousand seeds. True joy and wonder in learning the art of harvest, the saving of seeds. From those seeds, we decided we wanted a wide-open space of possibility.
We bought an old farm that had long forgotten the feeling of love. That’s when the magic really began. It was late August of 2019. I stood on the back porch overlooking a dead field and piles of trash. The realtor thought I was crazy when I said, “We’ll take it.” All I could see was a vision of flowers and trees and a wealth of possibilities — and a little bit of feeling like it might be more than I had bargained for.
I spent the next few months scoping the 12 acres for the best location for our garden and greenhouse. I wanted a space to create in but also a place to host our family, friends and, eventually, the community. It had to be both practical and pretty, and a must was a feel of vintage charm. We scoured cities for French salvage windows and doors. Once we had the bones of the building, I sketched out the design, and my husband started building. I hand-stenciled the floor and learned to use the lathe to turn my own wooden table legs. The greenhouse was finished just in time for spring planting.
As majestic as the greenhouse was, I feared it wouldn’t measure up to a garden of such large-scale proportions and dreams like the one in my head. I pulled out the seeds I had saved from past gardens. Heirlooms from my mother’s garden and seeds I had been tucking away. The goal was a cottage garden paired with Beatrix Potter whimsy and the French art of growing flowers right alongside our fruit and veggies, better known as potage style. A collection to feed my English countryside soul in the farmlands of Northern California.
It was June of 2020 when it all almost burned down. A fire came raging through our fields. With the help of our amazing neighbors, the fire department saved not only our house but the greenhouse, too. A mere 40 steps off the back porch, scorched earth. Having the start of your dreams almost go up in flames before you even get started is enough to make you want to retreat to the safety of a smaller life. I would stare at the untouched garden early in the morning, the seared black earth just past it. I realized that not only had I been given a gift in everything around us still standing, but I also saw myself walking into my purpose. The community had come together to extinguish a fire, and it fueled a dream into reality.
A few months later, as we were harvesting all the wealth of spring’s labor and June’s warmth, I held in my hand all the seeds of October’s harvest, hundreds of them. Seeds I wanted to give back to the community. A winter promise of hope and good things to come. That October night, I awoke from a dream so vivid that the details of our name and logo were stamped in my mind. A seed company that people could come visit. I envisioned the greenhouse, with its French windows and its starry floor, to be filled with abundance. Flowers and seeds that were our own way of contributing to the community and teaching our daughters the art of sustainability, wonder of nature and the cure to grief.
As a pandemic would rage around us, we could retreat to foxglove and zinnia and hide under the towering sunflowers. All the beauty collected by hand, counted and sorted by our family, then packaged to be shared with whoever needed the gift of hope.
As our garden grew, so did its impact with our family and friends. I would open the greenhouse and host dinners made from what we grew. Salt and pepper shakers having their own shelf, an ode to my grandmother, her apron on my chair. Old tins and glass jars just like the ones in Grandpa’s old workshop holding wondrous treasures of seeds of every color. Magic unearthed and carefully stored. Work benches covered in soil and tulip bulbs. Roses spilling over in abundance. Kittens sleeping on the fresh-shorn wool, chicks in nests of terra cotta pots and ducks wandering through for snacks. Stories just waiting to be told, heard and shared.
“Hope is a thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all.”
— Emily Dickinson
In January of 2022, I decided it was time to register our farm with the department of agriculture and to move from Etsy to an official website. Not letting imposter syndrome convince me that it wasn’t time or that I couldn’t create a space for people to not only walk amongst the flowers but to take the seeds home, too, and create their own space to grow their story in. We signed the papers, and my heart grew. Showing our daughters that a garden was an art form that fed and nourished the whole body.
People asked, why seeds? Because I think they are magic. To think something so very tiny holds the contents of something so magnificent — only if you give it the right growing conditions.
I devour books on sustainability and making sure to create an ecosystem that thrives. There is lots of life out here, and each contributes in their own way, especially bringing a deep sense of belonging and joy. Cows, sheep and chickens help with fertilizing and grazing fields; compost tea from the pond and the ducks’ water; field cats — like Moe, the greenhouse keeper — for keeping the little scavengers out of the garden.
Each season we bring a new story to the greenhouse. A constant motion of prepping and harvesting. Carefully choosing what seeds to sow and what needs more care, less shelter or more sun. Sweeping the starry floors and swinging the glass doors wide open when the rain falls or when the golden hour fills her with light. It’s sharing the magic of our space and letting the stories of family, friends and community be woven together. It’s quiet cups of tea in the morning while I sort seeds. Welcoming the morning sun with gratitude. It’s planting my grief when the world is heavy. It’s for watching joy spring up when the sprouts burst through the dirt. It’s a filled vase of June flowers for remembering to find the beauty. My pencils covered in dirt and my metal scoops filled with seeds. Documenting the growth with photographs and words like poetry. A tapestry of blooms and friends to gather around a table to share a meal, to share a story. I am ever-grateful to watch a world bloom with color and then collect it all in glass jars, marvel over its wondrous magic and then send it off to be part of someone else’s garden.
For now, I will let our garden grow, sip some tea on the back porch and dream up more spaces to fill in with color. The hope of a tea garden waiting to be planted. Welcoming in the community to be inspired and find joy. Most importantly, though, to share the wonder of a garden with my children through an abundance mentality and sense of belonging.
Catch up with Sarah and Moe on Sarah’s blog at: www.TheVoiceBehindMyTeacup.com.