Most people are familiar with a garden on a farm. No surprise there.
But at Lakeview Village, residents Bob and Sue Hamilton have turned that idea on its head and instead created a farm . . . in their garden.
It’s a miniature farm, of course, complete with growing trees, shrubs, a farmhouse and barn, barnyard tools, a windmill, and all the other items you’d expect on a full-sized farm – including picket fences, terra cotta garden pots, a birdbath, clotheslines with fresh washing (a gentle touch from Sue, widely known for her painting and artwork), a horse and cows, an outhouse, and even a mountain lion prowling the perimeter!
The fanciful farm has a tiny VW “bug” parked in front, and you can almost hear the rooster crowing from the fencepost.
The farm reflects,as closely as possible, the Nodaway County farm that Bob grew up on during his childhood in Northwest Missouri.
But unlike big farms, this one spends the winter indoors. Bob brings the house, the barn, the outbuildings and all the implements, vehicles and animals inside in the fall to help protect the integrity of the paint and structure from harsh winter weather. After all, he built them all by hand from scrap wood!
But each spring, the farm’s back again – bigger and more detailed than ever, drawing admiring glances from other residents, and reflecting the looks of wonder in the eyes of the children who march over from the Child Development Center. What’s more, the farm and its different parts seem to grow in number each year. Friends, anonymously or not, drop by throughout the growing season with tiny “additions” to the layout: a little figurine passed along with love, a new tiny animal mysteriously appearing seemingly overnight.
Next year will be the fourth “outing” for the Hamilton farmstead, and Bob and Sue look forward to another year of gardening in their two raised beds at Lakeview and maintaining the farm.
“All of the ‘trees’ and ‘shrubs’ are real,” Bob explains. “The tree next to the farm house is actually a volunteer ash. Each year we look for new plants at the local Family Tree nursery – plants that can mimic the plant and tree growth you’d find on a regular farm. The woods behind the house are actually live parsley plants, and we’ve used pepper plants and other types of small plants and grasses to imitate trees and shrubs. The pasture, for example, is all ryegrass.” Bob even keeps the grass trimmed – with scissors. And at Halloween, the trees are festooned with ghosts for the season.
Bob and Sue both are avid gardeners, but for different reasons. Bob, a former fighter pilot in the Pacific Theater in WWII, is an enthusiastic grower of vegetables, including everything he needs to whip up his favorite recipe for salsa.
Sue, in her garden, grows a vegetable or two (a colorful miniature pumpkin squash arrangement from her garden decorates their Northpointe home), but her focus is most keen on plants that attract Monarch butterflies, something she’s studied extensively, and still does.
“Bob grows everything from tomatoes and onions to peppers and cucumbers and asparagus,” says. “In my plot I grow plants that are known attractors to butterflies, especially Monarchs. Milkweed is probably the most commonly known plant that draws the Monarchs, but I like to grow blue salvia, lobelia, and many others.”
Not only does Sue use the plants to support the butterfly population, she also harvests seeds to pass along to others with a similar passion.
Together, the Hamiltons represent a formidable force of creativity, nature conservancy, building skill and dedication to gardening. In fact, Bob and Sue are some of the best examples of life at Lakeview Village: energetic, involved, and active examples of the Lakeview spirit.
And although we’re heading into the winter months, be sure to mark your calendar to get out next spring and take a stroll through the community gardens on our campus. If you happen upon a virtual miniature farm fairyland, you have experienced welcome to Bob and Sue Hamilton’s whimsical gift to all, rendered in loving detail. It’s an irresistible invitation to stop a while and enjoy the scenery.