The scent of eucalyptus and rosemary wafted up from the kitchen table where Shawntel Green’s children worked on their latest creations.
The four children broke off eucalyptus leaves and ground them in jars. They cut sprigs of rosemary to just the right length. They scooped soil out of a pot and funneled it into a glass jar, later inserting the rosemary to make a miniature potted plant. They occasionally checked a list of instructions scribbled on a spiral notebook.
Not once did they talk about what they lost after the storm months ago.
And that’s the point of these weekly gardening and botany sessions for Green, 39, and her four youngest children. They have taken a unique approach to recovering from the flood and its after-effects that flushed them from their home and robbed them of most of their belongings.
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Shortly after moving in early November to a new home with a spacious, garden-filled backyard in Hopkins, the children became infatuated with the rosemary plants that remained strong during the colder weather, Green said.
“That’s a resilient herb,” Green, a single mother, remembers telling them. “It’s resilient, just like you.”
She said one of the children, 11-year-old Bakari Capers, came up with the idea of making products from the plants at their new home, then selling them to replace belongings lost to the flood.
Taking entrepreneurial cues from their self-employed mother, the children set up an online store, therosemarystore.com, paid $5 for a logo for their new venture and got to work.
Using herbs and other ingredients from their gardens, and with a little help from mom, the children make everything from a eucalyptus oil meant to nourish and protect skin to “Mama’s Tender-headed Mojo,” a blend of rosemary and coconut oil used to untangle hair. During the botany sessions, Green, who home-schools the children, feeds them new vocabulary words, such as propagation, and lessons about math and science.
Gardening and making new products for their store has become a “healthy distraction” from their struggles after the storm, Green said. The flooding on Oct. 4 drove 18 inches of water into the first floor of the house they rented in Forest Acres.
Clean air filters and a dehumidifier did little to slow the mold that claimed most of their belongings, including some that were donated by volunteer groups and other good Samaritans, Green said.
A month later, Green, her children and her mother had to leave, driven out by an outbreak of mold and a landlord who evicted them for refusing to pay the full amount of rent that month because of the mold, Green said.
FEMA approved the family for $1,300 in rental assistance, Green said, and they had to rely heavily on the charity of others after the storm. Moving into the Hopkins home was one step toward a new beginning, and starting The Rosemary Store was another, Green said.
“Watching them be able to just dive into something and focus without feeling defeated or any kind of lag definitely makes me feel good as a parent,” Green said. “To be able to support them through what they’re interested in and not pushing them but just following their lead gives me an idea that they are resilient. They can bounce back.”
The children haven’t made a boatload of cash from the store, Green said, but some people have noticed their efforts or heard about them through friends. Soon after they moved to the new house, people began donating gifts to the family.
The kids got new bikes, clothes, toys and more, all from benefactors who expected nothing in return, Green said.
But the children made gift baskets for them anyway, filling them with decorated pine cones and small jars of products from the gardens. Ayanna Capers, 10, said they left those baskets on the porches of people who helped replace their lost belongings.
“We wanted to help them because they helped us,” she said.
For now, the store is focused on making Valentine’s Day-themed products. But Green said they don’t plan on slowing down. The children are growing more rosemary inside a small greenhouse in the backyard, she said, and they are always researching new recipes and products to make.
“Just them being excited about something again for me is the big part,” Green said. “It makes me feel really good inside.