Kathy Shaw, Botanicals Gardener and Earth-Sheltered Homeowner | MOTHER EARTH NEWS

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Kathy Shaw, Botanicals Gardener and Earth-Sheltered Homeowner

Read all of Kathy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWSposts here.

Residence: Central Wisconsin

Background: Kathy and her husband, Pat, have been vegetable gardening for over 30 years, consciously organic and no till for over 20. Kathy was a test gardener for Organic Gardening magazine, testing seeds and blogging until the program dissolved. Both she and her husband are Master Gardener volunteers for over 15 years. Throughout the years, their gardens grew and expanded to include perennial herbs and flowers and helped to inspire the creation of Kathy’s Island Botanicals business, making and selling bath and body products.

In 2016, they moved from their 1850s farmhouse to an earth-shelter home with only the southern wall exposed and installed grid-tied solar with a long-term goal to getting off the grid since electricity is the only external utility on the property. They also traded in their loamy clay location where you could throw seeds out the window, say “grow”, and they would, to 35 acres of glacial till hills and valleys of rocks and sand. Beginning with straw-bale vegetable gardens that first year, they now have informal raised beds that are built up organically with composted manure, leaves and straw each year.

Current Projects: In 2018, Kathy and Pat contracted with a local permaculture company, Full Circle Designs, to build a 30-by-70-foot swimming and wildlife pond. The low-tech design takes several years to get the water, plants and filtration system balanced as well as getting the surrounding terrestrial plants established.

Some of the flowers produce and herbs they grow are utilized in the creation of the bath, body, and canned goods that Kathy sells at local stores, craft fairs and farmers markets under their company name, Island Botanicals.

They also have several acres of mostly native wildflowers that they plan to clear of the invasive honeysuckle, Asian bittersweet, autumn olive and buckthorn woody plants as well as the weeds that fly in annually. Kathy and Pat also build and maintain walking trails through the remaining 30 acres which make it easier to fell and chop wood for their woodstove during the winter months.