Make Life Beautiful With Kaleb Wyse
A Q&A with gardener and creative Kaleb Wyse
Kaleb Wyse inspires us to think outside of the box of what it means to live beautifully.
As the fourth-generation to live on his family farm in Iowa, Kaleb left business and accounting to start his platform, Wyse Guide, as an outlet for his passions in the garden and indoors in the kitchen.
Through his refreshingly candid and educational content, Kaleb shows his audience how they can start a garden no matter the size, preserve food, and create a home they love to live in.
His seasonal approach to creating intimate landscapes within his midwest farmland has drawn an audience eager to learn from his passion for the farm lifestyle and process.
Today, we’re excited to introduce Kaleb as our latest guest for our “Make Life Beautiful” Q&A series and share our conversation about his entrepreneurial and creative and journey.
What was your very first job — ever?
I hated summer camp as a kid so much that I would fake being sick to try to go home, but I loved being in the camp kitchen. I was obsessed with the idea of working there, and as soon as I turned 14, I did. It was this commercial kitchen where we made food for the camp kids all summer. At the time, we had a great head chef who was so passionate about nourishing everyone, and I learned a lot from her. I probably made hundreds of cookies a day; I really enjoyed it.
Kaleb working in his garden via @wyseguide
Tell us about your journey into the creative industry, when did you realize that you could turn your passion into a career?
I don’t think I’ve ever been someone that fits into a mold, but as a child growing up in rural Iowa, I wasn’t around enough people to realize that at first. I just knew that the things I was interested in doing were different. One summer, all I wanted to do was draw my own flower bed, and I begged my parents to let me put it in. I was so into it, probably to the point where it was extremely annoying for them. In middle school, I tried to do things that felt normal for the social construct, like going out for sports, but it never turned into something I actually wanted to do.
When my dad passed away during my junior year, I was trying to navigate what I wanted to do and decide what to study in college, but I wasn’t sure which direction to go in. I had a lot of people tell me I should study business, so I did. I added on a double major in accounting in the hope of finding a path that would feel right… and it sounded good.
When you grow up on a farm, you have this idea that an office job is the end-all-be-all. In the eyes of my grandparents, if you can sit behind a desk, you have it made. I’ve always been drawn to things that involve moving and creating, and I definitely never wanted to sit down, so I probably should have guessed that I would feel a sense of disconnect to my first job as an accountant.
I came home every day feeling drained, mad, empty, and tired. Around the same time, I bought and moved into my grandparent’s farmhouse right across the street from the generational farmhouse where I grew up. I’d come home from my office job and work in the yard, ripping out the landscaping, re-doing things, and taking care of the vegetable garden, preserving and canning what I didn’t use, just like I did with my mom when I was little. Slowly, being in the garden and kitchen became my release.
At the time, everyone was starting a blog, and although it might sound like a stereotype, I was doing all of these things I loved, and blogging provided a space for me to share them and express what I wanted to say.
In the beginning, I didn’t see it as a source of potential income, and I didn’t even understand how that would work. Over the years, as I started to share more and break down my own self-constructed barriers, I began to see a correlation between what I was putting out there and the excitement I received in return. When I started getting emails from people using my gardening and kitchen tips in their homes, it finally clicked that maybe I was on to something.
After years of creating and growing my business, Wyse Guide on the side, I quit my day job as an accountant and put all of my energy into teaching others how to garden, preserve, and live by the seasons.
One of our favorite garden vignettes from @wyseguide.
If you could go back in time and give your young creator self one piece of advice what would it be?
If I could go back in time, I would tell myself two things: 1) lean into anything that makes you feel different, and 2) never feel burdened by that difference. I know everyone says this, but being different isn’t bad. So often, I’ve let my differences hinder me in one way or another.
When I was in college, I never would have imagined studying something in the arts or communications, simply because people told me that wasn’t a valid career path. I wouldn’t change where I am now, but I wish I would have thought more about all of the things I actually enjoyed doing earlier on in my career.
A view of Kaleb’s garden via @wyseguide.
Like others would with an interior space, I think of how to lay out rooms within my yard, creating intimate spaces for living.
Where do you find the most inspiration for your work?
I draw a lot of inspiration for my garden from traditional English and French gardening, and I’m always pouring over books about old European landscape and garden design. I’m very drawn to gardening styles in old manor houses in England and French châteaux. They are masters at creating feelings of intimacy within a larger space, which can be really challenging.
I like to go against the grain of what a midwest landscape typically looks like, and I love the clean garden lines of traditional European gardening. We often think of our yard as a large open space with some foundational plantings around the house. But like others would with an interior space, I think of how to lay out rooms within my yard, creating intimate spaces for living.
What does your creative process look like?
When I’m walking around my yard, it’s all about envisioning those rooms I want to create. Since I live in a very open area where you can peer out at the horizon for miles, it’s imperative to find ways to keep the eye within the landscape. There’s a beauty in the juxtaposition of naturally occurring chaos against the order of the yard.
Considering what the land will look like 10-15 years in the future is an essential part of my process, too. If you plant a two foot high shrub here today, its final height may be 10-15 feet tall. This growth will drastically alter the appearance, so it’s all about intentionality. I’m constantly asking myself what I want the end product to be.
I also like to look at my garden from a four-season perspective and consider which tones and textures each season will bring. What hues will it give me in the spring and summer and fall? What winter interest will it bring when everything is brown and covered in snow? Will it have evergreen appeal? Will it have structure and shape? These questions are an ongoing part of my process as I’m planting throughout the year.
Kaleb’s farmhouse in the fall via @wyseguide.
What was the most significant business or creative challenge that you have encountered and grown from?
Pushing through the downtimes and sticking with it over the years before I saw a lot of traction, growth, or income has been the biggest challenge. It’s important to keep believing in yourself, but that’s easier said than done. Once you have a somewhat sizable audience, feeding off their excitement can keep you going. At first, though, you kind of have to create that excitement yourself. I had to think, okay, what would it be like if people were asking me questions or telling me what they wanted me to share? It can be a real mental game to stay positive and keep moving.
Kaleb with beautiful textural Coral Cordyline and petite helichrysum in his garden.
What has been your biggest achievement? When was the last time you thought “wow, I can’t believe I just accomplished that!”
There are two that come to mind. First, being able to give myself a paycheck for the first time as an entrepreneur, knowing that I produced, created, and did everything for that paycheck, was huge. Secondly, I had the opportunity to do a Better Homes and Gardens magazine spread that came out in print in August 2020. It sounds cliche, but there’s something about seeing your work appreciated that feels so rewarding and validating.
A dreamy scene from Kaleb’s garden @wyseguide.
Watching my audience learn how they can apply the tips I share is really the ultimate outcome for me.
Which upcoming project or endeavor are you most excited for?
I’m really excited about the gardening content I have planned for this summer. It’s so rewarding to take people on a journey from start to finish and share everything from seeding, to harvesting it outside, to preserving or canning it. There have been a lot of people who have started gardening over the past year, and watching my audience learn how they can apply the tips I share is really the ultimate outcome for me.