Bailey’s Blooms: Bursting out all over at Montsweag Farms
Bailey Bartlett loves digging in the dirt. She started her business, Bailey’s Blooms, two years ago, and is transforming the grounds around Montsweag Farms Restaurant on Route 1 in Woolwich, after moving to Westport Island around a year ago.
A community-oriented person, Bartlett said she was having a hard time being away from home. “I went to the grocery store here and it only took me 10 minutes to shop. I was so upset. No one knew my name. Nobody stopped to talk to me.”
She went to the former Montsweag Roadhouse, hoping to cheer up. By the end of the evening, she had regained some semblance of community spirit. She returned the next week. “I walked in, and Tracey, the bartender, was, like, ‘Hey Bailey!’ Someone remembered me! I so needed that at the time.”
Bartlett is exuberant about her work, and life in general. But she hasn’t always been.
The landscaper, who has a four-year business degree and a two-year associate's degree in merchandising, discovered gardening four years ago when she was working in a corporate environment in Portland.
She wasn’t happy in her job. “I was in a cubicle, under flourescent lights with windows that didn’t open. I could see this bright, sunny day, the birds and the flowers, and I was stuck in recirculated air that smelled like sadness.”
Then she lost her first-born, 4-month-old daughter, Finley Jane, to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
A few nights later, Bartlett, overwhelmed with grief and sadness, went outside, got a shovel, and started digging a hole in her yard. “I dug a huge hole. By the time I finished I had exhausted myself, but I felt better.
“I was just digging a hole, and I didn’t know what the purpose was, I just knew I had to do something. When I finished, I sat back and looked at it. I could see my anxiety, I could see my stress, I could see my pain in it.”
The next morning, she went out and bought some flowers and planted them in the hole. A couple days later, when she started feeling overwhelmed with grief again, she dug another hole, then another. “I just kept digging holes, and planting.”
One day, Bartlett realized what she was doing was working for her. She walked into her office one morning shortly after the hole-digging stretch, and quit. Her fury and frustration dissipated, and she decided to start a business doing what she had discovered she loved.
After that first visit to Montsweag Roadhouse (now Montsweag Farms Restaurant), Bartlett started returning every Tuesday evening, for open mic, and to visit with all her newfound besties.
She’d go outside for a breath of air every so often, and when he did she’d walk around the building pulling up weeds. “I’d go back in and people would laugh because my shoes and hands would be covered with dirt.”
When new owner Wayne Wescott took over in April, Bartlett was concerned that open mic night would stop, and she may not have a good reason to frequent the place on her usual Tuesday night. “I really wanted to get my hands in the dirt there, just from poking around on Tuesday nights.”
She saw Wescott’s car parked out front one day before the new restaurant opened, and pulled in and introduced herself. “I said, ‘Hi, I’m Bailey. Wanna take a walk?”
He did. They started walking around the grounds, and Bartlett pointed out things she wanted to do. Wescott asked her to send him a proposal. She returned the next day, proposal in hand.
“He read it and said, ‘Good, when do you start?’” She started that day.
Bartlett has been transforming the grounds, and adding her artful, plant-related touches inside the restaurant for over a month now, and she said she has no plans to leave. “I’ll continue working here until they kick me out."
Wescott said that won’t happen anytime soon. “She’s an amazing woman. She pours her heart out here. Words really can’t express how amazing she is.”
Bartlett spends her days digging, planting, and lugging big rocks found around the grounds, transforming them into stone walls. She doesn’t use any machinery. She uses a wheelbarrow, a cart, and a bar to pry up rocks. “Just like there’s air pollution, dust pollution, and visual pollution, there’s noise pollution. Having machines constantly running all day can be hard for animals, for birds, and for people.”
When Bartlett started her business, she owned a shovel and a rake. “That was it. I stole the broom from my kitchen to sweep up debris because I didn’t have a blower yet.”
She now shares a barn in Freeport with her partner, Michael Hughes, who had an arboriculture and land management business. He started teaching her about plants, what they needed to thrive, and where they should be planted. She is now on the board of directors for the Maine Arborist Association.
Bartlett has two children, son Trotman, 5 and daughter Teagan, 4. “I call them ‘T & T,’ The ‘Blonde Bombers,’ or ‘The Tree Team.’ Every now and then I let them skip a day of school, and they help me. They don’t understand that people pay me to work in their yards, so I created the Tree Team. We save the trees.”
Bartlett said she’s a big believer in protecting our environment, too. “I believe in protecting our oceans, and buffer fronts. Some people will buy gorgeous properties on the ocean, with native Maine plants growing along the coast, and they’ll clear everything down to the water and install turf. Turf needs to be treated, and chemicals may be added, and it all runs straight to the water, into our ocean.
“If you plant a vegetation strip between the turf and the ocean, it will filter and block a lot of the bad stuff from going into the ocean.”
Bartlett said quitting her corporate job suddenly was scary, but she has never looked back. “I’m living my passion. I dig in this yard, at Montsweag, like it’s my own, and the president is coming to visit.”
She recently spent a day at Sunset Point in Yarmouth. “Gorgeous day yesterday,” she said in an email. “I had the entire point to myself. Cove after shell-littered cove with a reservation for one. Perfection. Of course I had to work as well, but between salt air and the breeze it was invigorating and intoxicating.”