ST. JOSEPH – For Josh and Vidalia Fiedler, Saturday was all about reading.
Liz Fiedler, Josh’s wife and Vidalia’s mother, said she believed that a standard Saturday Josh could have read Vidalia’s 50 books.
“I’m not kidding when I say Josh read Vidalia thousands of books,” Liz said. “He read 10 at bedtime.
Now Josh participates in Vidalia’s reading sessions in a different way. Instead of reading the book, he’s in it.
Josh Fiedler passed away on December 9, 2020 – two days after Vidalia’s third birthday. Her funeral was on December 14, 2020 – a day before Liz learned she was pregnant with their second daughter, Davie.
Liz said she waited until she had an official hardcover copy of “When Flowers Bloom” before reading it to Vidalia. This is the book she wrote after Josh died about patience and knowing that you can’t control everything, Liz said. It’s a book about hard work and helping those you love.
It’s a book about Josh and Vidalia.
“She’s memorized it now, pretty much,” Liz said.
News of Josh’s death has reached Dan Mondloch, an artist and resident of Cold Spring. His wife worked with Liz at St. Cloud Hospital and their children went to daycare together.
“We had heard what had happened to her husband and were trying to figure out what we could do,” he said.
Mondloch usually paints from a “source”. Rather than creating a scene in his mind, he tends to work from what he can see. And when he browsed Liz’s Instagram account, he found photos that he thought would make great paintings. He gave her four small black and white watercolors.
Liz credits these paintings as the initial inspiration for “When Flowers Bloom”.
“They were just very precious – just a very sentimental gift,” she said. “And I kind of looked at them for a while and I thought, ‘They’re so beautiful. They belong to a book.'”
She thought about the changing seasons and how soon she was going to sow the seeds in her garden.
“There is certainly a spiritual aspect to the book about God’s timing, and we can’t choose when things flower, when things die, when things are ready,” Liz said.
She wanted her new baby Davie to know about Josh and Vidalia’s relationship and what it would have been like to have Josh as a father.
“That’s what he wanted to teach you,” Liz said.
She said she didn’t realize the emotional weight she carried during her pregnancy with Davie. But now that Davie has arrived safe and sound, that weight has come off.
Mondloch said Liz had “amazing” photos to work on, and producing watercolors for the book in this way meant the images matched the personal story, he said.
“I’m so impressed with how she turns that into something positive, and her momentum and bringing it to fruition – (it’s) something that’s just nice to be a part of,” said Mondloch said.
Liz said that after Josh died of a heart attack while running, she received many books to help children grieve. They were books about letting go or falling leaves.
“And Vidalia would just think they were books,” Liz said. “In the meantime, I read them and cry because they have so much deeper meaning.”
This is what she wanted to do with “When Flowers Bloom”: create a book which, for children, talks about gardening and the seasons, but which for parents, has a deeper meaning.
A portion of the sales from the self-published book is used to fund a scholarship in Josh’s name at Saint John’s University, his alma mater.
The books are available for purchase at www.sunnymarymeadow.com. There is also a book event from 10:30 am to noon on October 9 at the St. John’s University Bookstore. More events are in the works and will be listed on the Sunny Mary Meadow website.
Where the flowers bloom
Liz and Josh were introduced by Liz’s best friend, and the two went out for happy hour. She had just moved to the southwestern Minnesota area. He was born and raised locally, on the family farm.
They married in 2014 and moved to the family farm two years later. Their daughters are the sixth generation of the family to live in Sunny Mary Meadow, named after Josh’s mother.
Her mother died in a farming accident in 2010. This is the main reason their family moved there, Liz said.
“That was right where he felt his presence, and that’s where he wanted to raise our kids because that’s how they could know her,” Liz said.
Although they wanted to do something with the farm, the couple did not move there with the intention of running the farm as their full-time job, Liz said. Josh worked for Compeer Financial in Waite Park. And for years, Liz traveled to Sioux Falls almost every week to complete a doctoral program. She is a nurse practitioner with CentraCare in St. Cloud.
Over time, “this farm was everything,” said Liz.
It was a dairy farm, a blacksmith’s shop, a butcher’s shop and a sawmill. Now that’s where she grows about half an acre of sunflowers, dahlias, tulips, zinnias, snapdragons and more. (It is also home to chickens.)
Liz started planting flowers for sale in bouquets in 2020. At that time, she was only growing flowers for a self-service farm stand at the end of their driveway. Chicken eggs and a neighbor’s honey are also sold at the farm stand.
This year, she started offering subscriptions to the bouquet. Customers can choose to get weekly or bi-weekly arrangements and select a day to pick up their fresh flower bouquets. For a little more, customers can also donate another bouquet, which is dropped off at various local long-term care facilities. The farm stand is only stocked occasionally, at times when Liz has leftover flowers from preparing the subscription bouquets.
Liz also organizes U-pick events and offers courses on the farm or in businesses in the area.
Its experience in making bouquets goes back beyond its recent plantations. She participated in the FFA in high school, judging, identifying and arranging cut flowers.
“Honestly, that’s why I wanted to change my nursing specialization when I was 18, 19,” Liz said. “But I knew I loved health care and … I had no idea how I was going to make money from the flowers.”
But increased consumer demand for buying locally (and some nice photos of cut flower farms on Instagram) has encouraged her to dedicate land to her own flower farm.
The flowers she cultivated are featured in watercolors in Liz’s book – there to remind her children of their father, home, and God’s moment.
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