By Pat Maurer
If you want to put a smile on your face, take a trip north on Old 27 from Clare to James Hill and turn right on Adams Road. Less than a mile from there on the right is a huge whimsical mural featuring a variety of farm animals.
When Sharene and Dan Kirsch bought their farm on Adams Road two years ago, they named it the Helen-Jan Farm in honor of Sharene’s mother Helen and Sister Jan. She lost both within the same week. “It was a sad time for us,” she said.
“My mother was raised on a farm and always loved it,” Sharene said. We wanted to do something to honor them and we wanted a painting, something “with happy, fun animals” to relate to our farm. That’s why we have the mural.”
Their neighbor Katie Schroeder-Muma is the artist behind the painting that now graces the north side of their 57 foot pole barn, in plain view of anyone headed east down Adams Road from Old U.S. 27 on James Hill.
“We were talking about trying to find someone to paint a mural on the pole barn,” Sharene said, “when our next-door neighbor Katie said, ‘I’ll do it for you.’”
Katie is the full-time mom of a six-year-old son and is caretaker for her mom Sue Schroeder, who lives with her just one home east of Sharene and Dan’s farm.
In her spare time, Katie paints wall murals. “I usually do them inside,” she said. “This is the first one I’ve ever done on a metal pole barn. It was a challenge painting on those ridges.” She said the project took her “about two weeks with lunch breaks, one rainy day, and a couple of days for family things.” Of course she admitted working eight to eleven hours a day on the project. “I’ve been an artist my whole life,” she said.
“We wanted it done by Labor Day,” Sharene said. “I have family coming to town then. They aren’t going to believe this.”
The huge mural has already attracted a lot of attention from people heading down the road. “Last Friday, an Amish funeral was held further east and we had buggies and busses of people coming down the road for a sad occasion. When they went by we saw many smiles on their faces. That’s what we wanted the mural to do – make people smile.”
On the mural are cows, a donkey, goats, chickens, a couple of pigs and even a leprechaun peeking out from behind one of the apple trees. “That was my idea,” said Dan.
In the right corner of the mural are seven roses and three butterflies to honor Sharene’s mom and sister. “The roses are for my mom’s seven sisters. The butterflies are for my sister.”
Since they bought the farm, the Kirsch couple has been working on improvements and additions. “I love critters,” Sharene said, holding one of their three dogs. “We have five pigmy goats and we are planning to add two donkeys soon. Other plans are to add a couple of steers and some chickens. “Maybe someday we will even have a petting zoo here,” Sharene said with a smile.