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How We Came to Dogwood Forest

I was asked about the history of Dogwood Forest. It's a really interesting serendipitous journey. When my kids were little, the youngest Kalen was 4 and Cara was 8 years old. It was 1989. We had saved up for a family vacation. Money was tight so it was a big deal to be going on vacation. We were going to go camping in Colorado. Rick had wanted to go for several years but I had refused because camping with a baby did not appeal to me. Yikes! 

Meanwhile my friend and chiropractor Elizabeth Laporte asked me if I wanted to go in on owning a horse. One of her clients was selling her beautiful Arabian gelding. Elizabeth lived in Raytown and wanted to keep the horse at a stable close to her. There were quite a few options. We had the money for the horse because of our vacation fund but monthly stable fees were out of reach. 


Rick had friends (Pam and Joe) that owned the property, now known as Dogwood Forest, and inquired about keeping a horse. They had recently bought the property and it came with two horses. They didn't really know what to do with the horses but they loved them as pets. We made a deal for our board in exchange for taking care of the horses. 


 I'll never forget the day we brought the horse to the property. It was just after dawn and we walked through the woods and came out on a beautiful pasture. On the top of a large hill that overlooked the pasture, was a big buck standing there majestically. Wow! We walked to the top of the hill. The horses were running around circling us. Kalen asked me, “Am I dreaming?” I said, “No Honey, this is real!” And so, the magical journey began.


In the years that followed, we got to know the property really well. The horses kept really nice paths throughout the property and I began a really in-depth exploration of the plants that grow here. We have a really moist woods environment. We are close to the Missouri River so we're downstream from everybody and it gives our forest the perfect climate for delicate species like bloodroot, Jack and the Pulpit, May Apple, Lobelia, Blue vervain and many more. 


We were living in the Old Northeast in Kansas City Missouri and had a cooperative homeschool at our house. When the weather was nice we would make a weekly trip to Pam and Joe's property to visit the horses, learn how to ride and explore the forest. 

One of our parent teachers was a botanist and helped the kids really dive into the pond environment. Literally. They used to like to dress up in the forest and pretend they were in a Renaissance culture complete with characters and jobs. They would spend all day immersed in the woods.  


Pam and Joe traveled several times a year and my kids and I would move in and the parents would bring the kids to Pam and Joe's for school. I visited every square inch of this property and got to know hundreds of plants.


We grew to love this place. In 2005 Pam died and not long after Joe decided to sell the property. I was really upset. We were not in the position to buy the property at that time. I went for a walk in the woods kind of to say goodbye. When I entered the woods, I met a little box turtle. He was looking at me and I was telling him how sad I was to be leaving the forest. I felt a real kinship with him. Turtles have always been special to me. I walked for several hours visiting all my favorite places and ideas began to percolate about engaging other people in the idea of creating a herbal/spiritual center here. I felt inspired. When I left that day by a different path, Turtle was there to greet me. I smiled at the turtle and felt blessed by the forest to make my dream come true.


I got together with some friends to see if they would be interested in going in on buying the place. My friend Elaine fell in love with the place as well and against all odds we were able to get financing. We had difficulty agreeing on a name for our property. Elaine had wanted to call it Mad Woman Mountain as at that time we were all women here. We decided on Dogwood Forest because at that time we had 5 people living here with a total of 6 dogs. Nyuk. Nyuk. We also seemed to attract stray dogs and were always re-homing them.


We started having classes here through Communiversity. This much missed program was responsible for many small business startups in the KC area. We attracted a lot of wonderful people through that program. Many of them are still involved with us as friends, teachers and students. 


My husband Rick was the coordinator of that program and retired 9 years ago. The university took on the program and it fell apart within two years. At that point it was really difficult to attract students. We started trying online marketing through Facebook. At that time it was pretty good and easy to attract people. It was before all the privacy constraints and things continued pretty well. 


In 2020 our world fell apart except for our apprenticeship programs. Students had already signed up for the year and classes were outside. So we had a good group to continue. We felt like we were huddled in a protective bubble against the world that was falling apart. We had many discussions and support for the issues raised by COVID and the racial tension that was happening that year. The forest is a really healing environment and I feel grateful that everyone was able to keep connected and grounded through that difficult time. 


Since then we've gotten more serious about expanding the school including other presenters and teachers. We have volunteers that help maintain the forest and gardens and have really developed a beautiful apprenticeship program that incorporates practical herbalism and spiritual connection with the forest and all her beings. 


I am eternally grateful for being part of this forest and community. I love that it's continuing to grow and more and more people are benefiting from the wisdom of Dogwood Forest.


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