May 15, 2019

10 Questions With Michelle Cannon Smith

It was this image of an amazing greenhouse that first introduced me to Michelle Cannon Smith. You know those moments where you see one photo, click to see another…and then you’re down a rabbit hole of inspiration? That’s how it went with Michelle’s instagram feed. Her style is undeniable, both inside her charming home and outside in her garden.

I was so excited to have Michelle agree to be the next woman featured on “10 Questions With…”! Her thoughtful answers are exactly why I wanted to start this series in the first place, to get to know more about the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ and the actual person behind these gorgeous inspirational images. I hope you love this interview as much as I do, and be sure to follow Michelle on Instagram and check out her blog, Iron and Twine.

What is the first thing you do in the morning?

Coffee, kids, water the garden!  Not necessarily in that order.

As a mama, I know mornings can sometimes be tough to get everyone organized and out the door. Do you have any tips or routines that help you and your kiddos have a smooth morning?

On school mornings we’re pretty regimented.  This is their first year in preschool, and in my attempt to not be the mom and family who are always frantically trying to get out of the house, we introduced the kids to a simple weekly calendar with photos of what their day looks like.  For example, an apple for days with school, ballet shoes for ballet, soccer ball for practice and games, etc.  On that chart there are also their morning and evening “tasks”.  Someone once shared with me to not give your kids more responsibilities than their age.  With them being in the three year old class this year, their morning routine consists of only three things.  Eat breakfast, brush teeth, get dressed.  Once they accomplish that, they’re welcome to do what they want, (play, watch a quick show) until it’s time to leave for school.  I think consistency is key and also giving you and your family grace when things just don’t go as planned.  I think we’ve all been there when mornings go awry.

Your greenhouse and garden space is literally my dream! I think we’d all love to hear a little bit about how you created the space. Did you have a set plan, or did the space grow more and take shape organically?

To be honest, the greenhouse all started with a spontaneous online order at 1 am.  During that time, my husband, Brian and I, found ourselves in a moment of life where we needed a fresh perspective and frankly a new start.  The greenhouse for us was a response to our life just not going as planned.  Four years ago and soon after my twins were born, my mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  During that time I also had severe post-partum anxiety (which lasted for two years).  And because of all that, life was really put into perspective for us as a family.  You very quickly learn what’s important in your life, and you very quickly see the value in surrounding yourself with people, places and things that bring you joy.  We decided to sell our first home and bought a second fixer-upper.  After running into some hurdles with the interior of our house, Brian and I knew we needed to change things up for us.  In wanting to find more joy in the ordinary, and bring back more happiness into our daily life, we very intentionally, but in a way also irrationally, ordered our greenhouse kit online at 1 am.  Seriously!

That decision laid the groundwork with the intention of us fixing up our house (and in a lot of ways our life), starting from the outside.  From there the space has grown organically.  Over the last year, what had been the most neglected and frankly ugliest part of our space, has now become the favorite spot for all of us.  I love watching it grow, evolve and change, and I love the ability it has given me to once again create and learn.  I’ve found spirituality and peace in a way I never quite knew and found a new found respect and love for all living things.  For someone who never quite got or understood the lure of gardening…I’m now completely hooked.  I think what’s important is making intentional decisions (or spontaneous ones at 1am), that over time will bear all the fruits of your labor.

I love how your kiddos are often in the garden with you….any tips for getting them involved, or specific tasks that seem to work best for them?

We decided from the start that our garden would not be a ‘precious’ place, or one where there were too many rules and restrictions (obviously outside of safety).  I think if you make it a place that encourages them to discover and explore on their own, you’ll be set up for success.  Most of the items in our garden have actually been picked out by our kids and I think by allowing them to have a huge say in the process and involvement throughout each step, I think they’ll automatically be interested.  What I have spent a lot of time and energy on is designing our garden in a way that is organized, aesthetically pleasing, and easy to maintain.  Harmony with nature.  That way my kids can easily go out there on their own, help themselves to snacks and blooms, water as they please (my son’s favorite part!) and therefore become the ‘experts’ of the space.  I love what it is they’re excited to show me…a new bug, an herb they insist I must try, a flower that they grew for me, or a newly ripped tomato that they think will go great with dinner!

So, it really doesn’t matter what your budget, space or needs are, there’s absolutely a garden that’s right for you, even a few containers on a porch can provide you and your kids with the benefits of gardening.  When growing ours, there have been three main things that my kids really seem excited and drawn to.

1.       Kids love butterflies!  So for us we started with a butterfly bush, and have since added colorful flowers to invite more pollinators in.  My kids love watching the bees work, and love finding new bugs and worms to examine.

2.      Herbs, Yellow Pear Tomatoes, and Garden Greens.  What surprised me most, was that by allowing my kids to pick and eat anything from the garden whenever they please, they’ll try (and like) just about anything.  Mint is a favorite, they eat it by the handfuls.  They love trying any and all herbs.  And most surprising, they love every variety of kale.  Still can’t get my son to eat it from a plate at the dinner table, but in the garden he will snack away.  And tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes.  They first fell in love with yellow pear tomatoes (small, sweet, perfect for little hands to pick and they grow abundantly), and the rest is history.

3.      Fragrant plants!  Not only do I want a pretty and useful garden, but the aroma of a sweet space too!  My kids, specifically, my daughter, loves all the things that bloom!  Lavender and roses are a favorite of hers and the ability she has to care, grow and then share a pretty bloom with someone is her love language!

For us what was important was to start small and grow from there.  I’ve learned the inconvenience of my children coming in soaking wet or muddy, is far outweighed by the joy and accomplishment the garden brings them.  What started with me wanting a space to teach my kids in, has now turned into a space where they teach me!  And it’s now also a space where swimsuits are required…you know, for when they come in all wet or muddy!

Favorite and least favorite thing about Instagram?

I love the community and ability of sharing, learning and being inspired.

I think the key to Instagram is to remember it’s meant to be an inspiring space, and often, it’s easy to forget that this is typically the highlight reel of life.  I think when you lose sight of that (which we all do at times), that’s when it can become a place that feels defeating.

What one gardening tool can you not live without?

My Haws brass watering lance and garden shears for cutting all the herbs and flowers!

Can you tell us a little about someone who inspires or influences your gardening or home style?

My mom.  Being a military family, we moved a lot, and yet somehow she always made sure every place felt like home.  It was simple things that brought her comfort through all the change, a favorite dish towel, a canning jar with a hand picked bouquet, or a small pot of basil near the kitchen window.  My mother also had an impeccable sense of style and design and did so effortlessly. 

In recent years, trips to Los Poblanos in Albuquerque and a visit to Costa Farms in Miami, have really influenced our garden.  And on Instagram I’m constantly inspired by so many…@floretflower is currently a favorite!   

How do you stay motivated in what sometimes seems like a very saturated world of lifestyle/home/mama bloggers?

Believe it or not, I actually started blogging over a decade ago.  What originally started as a place for us to document our journey with our first fixer-upper, quickly provided us with opportunities we never would have dreamed of.  As the industry has evolved, so have expectations.  And what started for many as a hobby, quickly turned to a business.  I had big plans for where our blog and business would go, and in the middle of it my life went in a different direction.  And I’m ok with that.  I think for me, the goals are now different than what they use to be.  The content you see here is not manufactured or with the purpose of driving traffic, making the sale or increasing the likes.  Instead my focus is back to how I started in the first place.  Simply documenting the journey and hopefully inspiring someone along the way.  So, if you too feel defeated and unmotivated, I encourage you to re-ask yourself the ‘why’.  Why are you doing it?  I’m finally confident in who I am and no longer need the likes or traffic to validate that.  So, after taking a major blogging hiatus, I’m slowly re-introducing content onto Iron & Twine (as family life will allow) and can be found more regularly sharing on Instagram, @michellecannonsmith.  I would love for you to come over and say hello to me there!

What binge-worthy TV shows are you watching right now?

Somebody Feed Phil, his expressions when trying something new just make me happy.  Anything comedy, laughter is always the best medicine!  And of course I’m counting down the days to the second season of Big Little Lies (total guilty pleasure!)

What is the last thing you do before going to bed?

A cup of lavender tea followed by my newly implemented skincare routine.  It gives me a moment of pampering at the end of what are very busy days, and allows me to take some time to myself without feeling all the mom guilt!

A huge thank you to Michelle for participating!!

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