If as Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Earth laughs in flowers,” then Cactus Creek Farmstead is one of the most rib-tickling places on earth.
The 3.5-acre plot of earth includes a sizeable creek and an unexpected number of cactuses—but what you’re most likely to take notice of at first glance are the flowers. Rows upon rows of sunflowers, zinnias, cosmos, dahlias, Ranunculus, carnations, flossflowers, strawflowers, and pincushions, to name a few, flow like rainbows across the front of the property. And as farmstead co-owner Heather Keith describes, “I’ll be adding a lot more varieties next year!”
But flowers weren’t always her calling.
Like her husband Jason, Heather is highly educated (she has a background in Civil Engineering). Working alongside each other on home improvement projects for over fifteen years, the pair has developed all manner of construction skills.
“And amassed a good many tools,” she adds.
While she envisions the project’s design (usually in her head, but sometimes on paper), Jason, who grew up an electrician apprentice to his father, assembles it. Together, the pair has renovated a number of houses, designed and partly constructed their current house, and built a number of structures on their property, including a shed and several chicken coops.
So when Heather decided she wanted to build a flower garden, Jason helped make her dream come true. The task of planning and maintaining a thriving flower haven was made simpler by the fact that they were already veggie garden aficionados. It also helped that Heather always heavily researches a project before work begins.
They chose a spot near enough the creek to absorb its moisture but also placed between each row drip tape to pump fresh water from the house. In order to keep the weeds at bay, long strips of black garden fabric were rolled out. With a blow torch, Heather burned a small hole every seven inches forming a zigzag pattern. Then, the planting began. Seeds were carefully chosen by Heather according to her taste and interest.
Their work was rewarded in full measure.
When the world became a darker place to live in the spring of 2020, a bouquet the length and breadth of a modest house emerged from the Keiths’ soil. Petals the shade of red, pink, purple, yellow, white, and more painted the yard like the brushstrokes of a fresh mural on a vintage building. Through trial and error—and the help of their four children—the blooms were crafted into radiant bouquets rivaling those from a professional florist.
Her oldest daughter particularly took an interest in the flower garden. Every morning, she followed her mom out to tend to the garden, using the time to both learn about the trade and socialize.
“And her arrangements were better than mine!” Heather bragged. “Every Friday, she picked flowers, arranged them, and took a bouquet to her art teacher.”
The mother-daughter pair made discoveries together.
“You strip the leaves off while you’re outside so you don’t make a mess in the house. Then, you bring them in and let them sit in water for about 3 hours. That rehydrates them and then they’re ready to be arranged.”
They also learned their lesson with pollenated sunflowers.
“Those make too much of a mess,” said Heather. “We’ll stick with the pollenless ones from now on.”
Heather had kept the option of selling her blooms in her back pocket—but the success of the garden, her children’s enthusiasm about it, and the sheer joy it brought her convinced her to act on it.
“Beginning in November, I’m taking a 6-week online course on flower growing and marketing.”
She envisions selling her flowers to local flower shops, having her own pop-up shop at the end of their driveway, and a unique niche which seems perfectly suited for Cactus Creek Farmstead.
“There’s a wedding barn at the entrance to our road,” she said with a sparkle in her eye. “Their brides might want to pick their own fresh flowers.”
Those brides will soon have more flowers to choose from—and space to roam. Utilizing a new-to-them-technique called ‘wintering’, the Keith family is installing another flower bed towards the rear of their property. And, as Heather explained, there’s a particular benefit to putting the flower bed there.
“It’s where the chicken coop was this past year.”
Rich with natural fertilizer, the new garden fuels high hopes for fruitful bounty. Yet, as mentioned, the Keiths’ enthusiasm for horticulture goes beyond flowers. Their veggie garden this year was a menagerie of flavor.
Tomatoes they had in overabundance, and Heather is eager to learn to can this winter so she can better store these fruit/vegetables year-round.
Their cucumbers, squash, and butternut squash fared well enough that she may sell them next harvest.
Unexpectedly, zucchini was a big hit with their only son who found mom’s chocolate chip zucchini muffins irresistible.
Heather laughs, “He made sure I picked zucchini every day!”
Squash bugs found that same fondness for the Keiths’ pumpkins, but the small gourds they managed to save made a beautiful autumn arrangement on their dark walnut mantel.
Rounding out the gourd category, Jason, Heather and their kids grew loofahs. While an amusing plant to grow, these may also prove another source of income for Cactus Creek Farmstead.
Like in any hobby, surprises will arise. Late-season watermelons were theirs—they made the discovery as they were clearing out the flower bed. At the time I was visiting with them, Heather and three children were eagerly awaiting the return of Jason and one of their daughters so the family could bust into the melons together.
Beyond the garden growth, the spring will bring more changes to the Keith family.
“Goats,” says Heather. “I just can’t decide if we’ll get Nigerian dwarves or another kind which is better for milking.”
Adding yet another dimension to the homeschooling family, Heather’s mother, a retired schoolteacher, just bought the property across the street. To Heather’s surprise and relief, her son finally embraced learning—when it’s Grandma who’s teaching, that is.
A walk around Cactus Creek Farmstead reveals other nuggets to amuse the eye and interest.
Four chicken coops—both for meat chickens and egg chickens (which they also plan to sell).
A handsome and protective rooster… and his many (c)lucky ladies.
An in-the-process-of-construction tree house both thriftily and beautifully built from cedar scraps.
The namesake creek along the back of the property which the children swear boasts a secret cave large enough for a sleeping bag and campfire.
And, of course, the cactuses which are scant in size but sizeable enough in quantity that it leaves one wondering if they are, by some twist of nature, earth’s practical joke on us.
An afternoon spent with the Keiths has revealed that there is much nature has still to teach me. Yet, I’ve learned something new: Their family is ever-progressing, if the desire for cultivating beautiful things be a destination. Laughter and joy guaranteed.
Check out Cactus Creek Farmstead on Facebook.
The Keith family had the opportunity to preview a copy of my newest book The Good King. You’ll want to read what they said about it:
“The Good King is a wholesome book that the whole family will enjoy. It will appeal both to children who prefer realistic, relatable characters and those who enjoy a bit of fantasy.
Set in the mythical land of Calloway, readers learn, through parable-like stories, about a Good King, a young boy, and the triumph of good over evil.
This book lends itself well as a family read-aloud. The chapters are concise enough to keep even a young child’s attention, but interesting enough for adults to want to know what comes next!
Readers follow the tales of young Rupert, who learns throughout the book that making good decisions has good outcomes. Rupert, and all of Calloway’s citizens, are continuously reminded that their king is so incredibly good, and only wants the best for his subjects. Sometimes, the king must use gentle discipline to teach the values of respect, honesty, bravery, and obedience.
Christians will recognize the allegorical nature of many of the characters and their stories.
In addition to the wholesome, educational aspects, this book is packed full of interesting tales of dragons, a peasant turned princess, a boy turned knight, and humorously, even the Big Bad Wolf makes a debut!
The Good King is sure to earn a place on your bookshelf as a favorite children’s book; it is the type of book you will want to pass down to your children’s children.”
2 thoughts on “Fields of Laughter at Cactus Creek Farmstead”
Thank you for writing this lovely piece. The Keith family is certainly a loving group and a joy to spend a day with.
I couldn’t agree with you more!