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Art and a Country Garden : Out and About with The Wheelbarrow Gardener Leanne
Today's blog is brought to you by Sturgeon County local Valerie Loseth, The Wheelbarrow Gardener. Valerie makes the world a more beautiful place, from backyards to weddings to planters, to workshops and more!

Judy Schafers and her husband Shane own a farm just west of Villeneuve, and even though she is extremely busy wearing the many hats of a mother, business owner and farmer’s wife, Judy has a passion for painting and gardening.  A self-taught artist, Judy has been painting for over 38 years, her paintings are reflective of growing up in a rural setting and having uninterrupted time to explore the outdoors, examining and thinking about the world around her. 

As with most artists, inspiration for their craft comes from a multitude of different sources. For Judy, her inspiration comes from childhood experiences, living her whole life on a farm and her gardens.  “Mother Nature is my greatest influence. It is a fun learning experience to get down on the ground and see what's there, just as much as it is to stare off into the distance, to really look at the shapes and colors that make up the sky and the land. I love it when the light does its magic on seemingly mundane objects such as rocks and leaves and the ever- changing vista of the Alberta landscape. I could go on and on about inspiration! It is everywhere, actually, you just have to pay attention and be open to different ways of seeing things.” explained Judy. 

Designing and growing a flowerbed as a youngster, having a mother and grandmother who were flower lovers and a visit to Buchard Gardens over 27 years ago were catalysts in Judy’s desire to create some gardens on the farm.  “I loved the idea of manifesting a dream/vision and the nurturing part of it. Loved the idea of creating a place all my own, a separate world that I could get lost in and to find gorgeousness every time I turned around”.  She stated that, “The biggest challenge is in learning to let the garden have a say in how it evolves, letting go of the idea that I need to control it all. Therefore, many things have planted themselves where they want, or died prematurely, and I just let much of it be. The worst mistakes I made were planting some things too close together... and bringing home that horribly invasive creeping belleflower that looked so cute and purple in an abandoned farm site.... they are just as difficult to manage as quack grass and thistle”.

Having spent some time helping Judy maintain her gardens, I was curious if she had a favorite spot. “I don't really have a favorite spot, I like most of it, and each section has a different flavor/ feeling attached to it. Some of it is more formal, some more whimsical, some nostalgic. There are items that I have collected that have been or will be used in my paintings. I try to group items together that make sense so that the yard flows and doesn't cause a feeling of confusion. This will be an ongoing tweaking process, but that is the goal. I don't favor some of the spots behind the veggie garden.  My new thing is that I am learning/working to build a food forest in the back yard, and the garden has been no-till for 3 years now. I am planting fruit trees, shrubs and perennial veggies among other things. That's a whole other story, lol!”

Judy noticed how so many of her paintings were inspired by the gardens in general and the flowers and plants that grow there. She began to see how they fed/influenced one another and because of that, it seemed natural to have an art show that combined her two biggest passions. Judy realized that these forms of creative expression should be shared with a greater audience, and with a suggestion from a friend who hosted something similar then moved away, Art and the Country Garden came to fruition. 

In her second year Judy has come to the realization that, “ Art and a Country Garden is not only an Open Studio Art Show and Sale, but a gift to those of my collectors and fans as well as to the community. It is my hope that they enjoy the art of the paintings and the gardens, enjoy a couple of hours in a nice setting away from some of the hustle and bustle, make conversation and connections with others that attend (as well as me and my family) and to come away inspired. There will also be good food!”

I asked Judy what a successful Art and a Country Garden would look like? “It will be successful if lots of people attend, that each person feels welcomed, and leaves feeling inspired and blessed that they took the time to come out. (Of course selling lots of art will help me to be able to keep doing this, and I hope to feel supported by the community as well)

My greater aim is to bring attention to and create more positivity and beauty into the world. I know there are lots of us doing that, but it seems like our society needs all of the good stuff it can get! I really hope that what I do can help, even just a wee bit, to foster a much-needed change in the world. I strongly believe that every bit counts and we might never know how what we do impacts others, for better or worse. It would be satisfying to discover at the end of my days, that I was more frequently contributing to the positive side.”

We are so blessed to have such artistic / creative people willing to give of there time and talents here in Sturgeon County, I hope that on July 9 & 10 you will make a trip out to visit Judy, her paintings and her beautiful gardens.

If you would like more information here is a link to the event on her website.

*all photos courtesy of Judy Schafers

If you know of someone who has a farm, garden or something special that is agricultural based that I could highlight in a blog please contact me. 

Valerie Loseth

You can find me on Facebook and Instagram as The Wheelbarrow Gardener or check out my website at

Potiuk’s Paradise : Out and About with The Wheelbarrow Gardener Leanne

Today's blog is brought to you by Sturgeon County local Valerie Loseth, The Wheelbarrow Gardener. Valerie makes the world a more beautiful place, from backyards to weddings to planters, to workshops and more!

Potiuk's Paradise : Out and About with The Wheelbarrow Gardener

In the year and a half since moving to their acreage, Darren and Tasha Potiuk along with their four daughters have turned their 3 acres into a very productive small-scale farm that produces meat, fruit, vegetables and even honey for the family.

I visited them on a gorgeous morning as they were out and about feeding and tending to the several types of animals they have chosen to raise on their farm. I asked Tasha, why is it important that the family raise and grow their own food?

“People are far too disconnected to their food supply these days. It started very simply by growing a garden, and getting a few hens for eggs, then you start to look into where your food comes from. How it’s grown, processed, stored, shipped and handled. I know where our food comes from, I know how and where it was grown, how our meat was raised, what goes into everything. I know how our animals are treated, how my daughter plays tag with the pigs or that the chickens can run loose and love to take dirt baths and hunt bugs in the garden. I know our fruit and veggies aren’t sprayed with who knows what, and our bees dine on dandelions and fruit and flower blossoms. The amazing sense of peace we have when we are home. There’s a reason we call it Potiuk’s Paradise! Now that we have come this far, I can’t imagine ever going back.”

Sustainable Farming
Sustainable farming means that whatever is farmed, raised and grown on the farm is consumed by the farm dwellers themselves. They are living off the land and providing the food they need for their own consumption.

What started out as a garden and a few hens has expanded to pigs, ducks, geese, rabbits and bees. All of the animals other than the family dogs, some farm cats and one particular bunny are all raised to either produce food or to be food. Everything around the farm has multiple purposes, and a food chain is created between the animals and the plants. Weeds become food for the rabbits and pigs, the hens scratch up the soil, eat the bugs and fertilize the garden, rabbit pelts become mitts and hats, nothing goes to waste. They live as sustainable as possible, butchering their own animals, canning and preserving fruits and vegetables and even processing their own meat. Always finding ways to live with the smallest footprint on the environment Tasha even makes her own hand soap and has graciously agreed to share her recipe for it (see below).

With both Darren and Tasha working full time shift work, time is a challenge. On average it takes an hour in the morning and then again at night to do all the animal chores. “We can get it done in twenty minutes if we really rush, but I prefer to take my time and interact with the animals, everyone helps including our five year old. Our greatest success is how close we have become as a family. The day we put a meal on the table that was all homegrown, that was a pretty big success” said Tasha proudly.

I was interested in how much research she must have done before she started, but she shared that she often acts before she knows all the facts and that animals often find their way to the farm before Darren knows they are there. They explained that they are constantly learning and gaining knowledge through friendships with like minded people, mentors and groups on Facebook that share common problems and goals. When asked what is next for them and the farm Tasha said after a quick smile and glance at Darren, “Looking at adding a heifer calf next spring. She would be a 4H project for one of our daughters. A few more fruit and nut trees and a wood burning stove.”

Not all of us are blessed with owning an acreage, living within town or city limits there are some constraints, but urban homesteading is on the rise, people want control over their food. Growing their own vegetables and raising small livestock (where permits allow) can be accomplished on a small parcel of land if people are willing to make some changes. Dig up the lawn and grow your lunch. Plants trees and perennials that are food based. Raise rabbits, chickens or bees to feed your family. Shop local, visit your Farmer’s Market, or better yet visit the farm. If you are interested in any of these things there are plenty of support groups and people like Tasha and Darren who are willing to take you under their wing and show you the ropes, you just need to be willing to take that first step to food freedom.

Soap Recipe
One cup filtered water
3 tbsp. liquid Castile soap
1tsp veg glycerin.
Drops essential oil or tea tree oil (optional)
Mix and pour into foaming pump bottle

If you know of someone who has a farm, garden or anything special that is agricultural based that I could highlight in a blog please contact me.

Valerie Loseth    |    780-668-3892    |

You can find me on Facebook and Instagram as The Wheelbarrow Gardener or check out my website at


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