New nursery is more than plants

Published on Thu, May 2, 2002 by Meg Olson

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New nursery is more than plants

By Meg Olson

Firewind Farms is more than a nursery. It’s a testament to the power of love and the strength of family.

A five minute drive out H Street Road, the business brings together three generations pooling their resources and their talents to build a life where family life defines work life, not the other way around.

“Everybody is involved,” said Barbara Durbin Wean, who bought the farm five years ago with husband Jeff. “It’s truly a family farm. We’ve got lots of animals and people retiring here.”

Jeff is putting the finishing touches on the new greenhouse, which will be filled with annuals and vegetable starts. Outside, Barbara leads customers through a maze of perennials and trees. Her daughter Christy works on marketing and plants the huge beds they will be selling cut flowers from in the summer. Aunt Dorothy, 92, can visit most of the farm in her wheelchair thanks to special paths, built with help from Barbara’s other daughter Carol, and helps with planting. “I plant the bulbs and flowers,” she said. “I like new seedlings. You don’t know what they’re going to be until they start.”

For the Weans, now in their early 60s, moving to the farm was a solution to a tightening web of financial and family pressures. Aunt Dorothy was paying thousands of dollars a month and being bumped from nursing home to nursing home. A start-up venture they had recently added on to their careers in real estate and yacht sales was on shaky ground. Barbara was looking for a creative way out.

“What is creativity? In a nutshell it’s the opposite of conformity,” Barbara said. “I wanted to understand how to make creative choices, and one of those choices was bringing my aunt home. I told her I’d take her home and take care of her for half what a nursing home costs.” With the dollars Dorothy saved she paid to start the nursery. “Aunty provided us the seed money. Without her none of this would have happened. Now I could never imagine going back.”

The nursery is starting small this year, but Barbara has big plans. “I see this as a destination,” she said, describing plans for a duck pond, converting a barn to a store with horses, chickens and goats as residents. “I want it all to be interactive, between the nursery, the vegetables, the flowers, the animals.”

Animal residents of the farm now include two horses, half a dozen fat hens, two dogs and Dorothy’s rabbit Lily Buns. Barbara has also recently acquired six Aracana hens that look like little pheasants and lay blue/green eggs.

Barbara said they are bringing most of their plant material in from county growers this year since they didn’t have space to do enough seeding before the new greenhouse was built. “If you need anything in particular I can special order it for you and get a good price,” she said. Northwest native plants and unusual perennials like Auracaria – the monkey-puzzle tree – are standouts in the Firewind Farms collection, which Barbara said is growing fast.

The farm’s cut flowers were sold at the Bellingham farmers’ market, but they will limit sales to the farm this year. Produce from the vegetable patch will also be for sale as it’s available. “Last year we had so much we couldn’t use it all so we took some vegetables to the Blaine food bank and flowers to Stafholt Good Samaritan Center,” Barbara said. “This year we’ll make a point of it. We want to give back to our community.”

One of the family’s goals as the farm and nursery grow is to make all of it accessible to Dorothy. “I like to take her on a ride through the farm to see the gardens, the animals, but we can only go where there’s a path,” Barbara said. “I’d like to get funding to build a path like at a golf course for people in wheelchairs.”

Firewind Farm at 1860 H Street Road will celebrate their grand opening this weekend with a drawing for a Japanese maple and tours of the farm and nursery. For more information check