We are a couple steadily playing and working towards developing our private gardens for the therapeutic benefit of more people in our community. We were inspired to take action after a devastating dementia-care journey and the loss of Mary’s mom, Margaret (in 2008) showed us that more accessible garden experiences are needed for people living with long-term illness and their care-partners. With Karl’s gardening gene-gone-wild and Mary’s passion and professional background designing accessible and joy-filled experiences, we created seven wheelchair-accessible horticultural areas over four years (2009 – 2012): The Cut Flower Garden, Roses & Kitchen Garden, Orchard Avenue, Ornamental Tree & Shrub Garden, Raspberry Patch, Cedar Grove & Tunnel, and Koi Pond. April – October, we host weekend events for people with disabilities and care-partners: the once-a-month wheelchair-accessible “Sunday Stroll,” and many Saturdays, the first and only in the U.S.A. “Memory Café in the Garden®.” For more information, please see our: Events Calendar
We are not yet open to the public, a local business, nor a larger 501c3 not-for-profit organization. We are simply Karl & Mary, with a passion for plants and wheelchair-access, building the gardens with a plan for public access in the future. To arrange a private “come and see” tour, please: Contact Us
Mary, an interfaith chaplain since 2017, supports caregivers age 8 to 88+ at our Caretaker’s Cottage, year-round. Individual spiritual-care support is available by appointment. Group support for caregivers under age 65, caring for a loved one with memory loss under age 65, is offered the 2nd and 4th Thursdays of the month.
All programs are free-of-charge (donations are gratefully accepted).
Mary writes the Morning Report eco-spirituality blog and provides development milestones as they occur. Mary’s speaking, training, and retreat work to directly support dementia caregivers is available on the marymacmissions.com website.
A brief development history since 2009 is listed below.
Thanks for your interest!
With heartfelt compassion,
~ Mary & Karl
Mary E. MacDonald and Karl R. Ackerman
Garden Creators & Caretakers
202 Haverhill Rd.
Topsfield, MA, 01983
Do what you can,
with what you have,
where you are.
– Theodore Roosevelt
Our Development Timeline
Since 2009, We have worked with a survivor’s mission and a heartfelt consciousness.
We expect to receive 501c3 charitable organization status from the IRS. Mary will facilitate a Drum Play weekly program for 6 weeks, Jan 21 – Feb 25.
We celebrate 10-years of building accessible gardens. Mary facilitated a Drum Play weekly program for 8 weeks, Jan 22 – Mar 12. We received generous community donations (pavers and stone dust) from Karen and Dave Moniz, Collette Hanlon, and Georgetown Building Supply to build the Broken Heart Patio and Lightning Bolt Trail. Given that Karl would be laying bricks all summer, we asked volunteers to help maintain the gardens. This was a weekly Thursday morning “Get Dirty in the Garden” volunteer program that attracted retired folks and two day programs serving young adults with Autism. For a first time we offered “Smell the Lilacs” “Smell the Roses” and “Smell the Lilies” during select Tues/Thursdays 2pm – 4pm. We partnered with Topsfield Council on Aging and Topsfield Library to offer the Memory Cafe during the winter months, November 2019 – March 2020. Topsfield Cultural Council funded Mary to facilitate the winter program.
We continue a commitment to four support programs: Year-round Individual Support and Group Support for caregivers; Seasonal (April – October) Sunday Stroll once-a-month, and Memory Café in the Garden®. We started paving the 0.1 mile MargFMac Front Garden Loop (Karl laid all of the bricks to better access the Pear Tree Patio).
We received a third year of funding from MA DDS. We partnered with Topsfield Council on Aging and Trinity Church, Topsfield to offer the Memory Cafe during the winter months, November 2018 – March 2019. Topsfield Cultural Council funded Mary to facilitate the winter program.
We launched four support programs and published for a first time a Rest.Stop.Ranch programs brochure and calendar, which we shared with area providers and program participants. Year-round Individual Support and Group Support for caregivers; Seasonal (April – October) Sunday Stroll once-a-month, and Memory Café in the Garden®.
We received a second year of funding from MA DDS. We partnered with Topsfield Council on Aging and Trinity Church, Topsfield to offer the Memory Cafe during the winter months, November 2017 – March 2018. Topsfield Cultural Council funded Mary to facilitate the winter program.
We received seed-funding from MA State Department of Developmental Services (MA DDS) for our inclusive Memory Café in the Garden® program.
Our outdoor Memory Café, a first in the USA, was mentioned in the 2016 book by Jytte Fogh Lokvig PhD, “The Alzheimer’s and Dementia Memory Café: How to Start and Succeed with Your Own Café.”
We expanded the monthly “Sunday Strolls” program to include a Memory Café for our neighbors living with memory changes, and their care partners. At this time, we were 1 of 10 Memory Cafés in Massachusetts.
- 2015, May: On Mother’s Day (5/10), we welcome to our garden our first neighbor-family caring for an aging parent with dementia, for a Memory Café experience: hospitality, networking, and enjoyment of our gardens.
2013 and 2014
In 2013 and 2014 we created a once-a-month “Sunday Stroll” program, May – October. We shared our accessible gardens with neighbors, friends from our church family, and friends from the Northeast ARC.
- 2014, September: On World Alzheimer’s Day (9/21), our small team North of Boston re-launches the rest-stop-ranch.com website, with a focus on developing wheelchair-accessible gardens for the greater community.
- 2014, July: Mary’s support services for dementia caregivers transitions to marymacmissions.com in the form of speaking, training, and retreat offerings. Rest.Stop.Ranch Guide Services – coaching and consulting individuals and families – is suspended until further notice.
- 2014, May: Sunday Strolls 2014 series continues on Mother’s Day and completes on Columbus Day Weekend. Invited garden guests experience the wheelchair-accessible MargFMac Front Garden Loop once a month.
- 2013, May: Sunday Strolls 2013 series launches on Mother’s Day and completes on Columbus Day Weekend. Invited garden guests experience the wheelchair-accessible MargFMac Front Garden Loop once a month.
- 2013, February: Free Cafe Care Consults meet caregivers where they are at local coffee shops North and South of Boston, MA.
In 2012 we self-published an “Early Gardens at Rest.Stop.Ranch” photo book, documenting the first four years of gardens-development. Fifty copies were given to family and friends at our fall marriage celebration.
- 2012, July: On Independence Day, Care Consults are launched. Family members across continents are connected via web conference to discuss and prepare for a coordinating care-visit to a loved one in the U.S. The service offers an independent and experienced interacting-with-the-U.S.-health-systems best practices education as well as long-term-care planning tips for whole-family health and wellness.
- 2012, June: My Doable Self-Care Plan Small Group Tele-Coach program connects caregivers across the country via a weekly conference call. Each participant receives My Doable Self-Care Plan: A Playbook for Long-Term Caregivers 100-page 4-week vision/action planner.
- 2012, April: Rest.Stop.Ranch Guide Services, a life-coaching service supporting caregivers and receivers with self-care and other life goals, is offered for the first time via phone and at program locations.
- 2012, March: The Rest.Stop.Ranch Morning Report is published to marymacmissions’ Twitter page.
By the summer of 2011, we had built a deer-proof Kitchen Garden, a Koi Pond, a Cut-Flower Garden, an Ornamental Tree & Shrub Garden, a Raspberry Patch, a Cedar Grove & Tunnel, and the beginnings of an Orchard Avenue. We could envision a circular path connecting these separate garden spaces… and we made the decision to build the wheelchair-accessible hardscape with the help of local landscapers. The MargFMac Front Garden Loop project was completed in November and we celebrated our newly accessible gardens with family and local friends at a holiday party in December.
- 2011, November: The 0.1 mile MargFMac Front Garden Loop is completed, providing wheelchair access to: The Cut Flower Garden, Orchard Avenue, Fruit and Veggie Garden, Ornamental Tree and Shrub Garden, Raspberry Patch, Cedar Grove and Tunnel and Koi Pond.
- 2011, November: In honor of National Family Caregivers Month and Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, we launch the Me Moments Collection, a free self-care media library, offering 2-, 5-, and 10-minute relaxation breaks via audio podcasts.
- 2011, October: Mary speaks for the first time about Rest.Stop.Ranch, her life-changing experience, recovery, and renewal at Brooksby Village, Peabody, MA. The presentation is video-recorded and published to the playlist “Mary Speaks” on the marymacmissions’ YouTube Channel.
- 2011, April: We publish our first print publications, Take Care of Yourself: Seven Sustainable Skills for the Long-Term Care Journey journal and pocket guide, and introduce the practice of using them at on-site programs.
- 2011, April: We begin to lead on-site respite wellness programs for long-term caregivers North, South, and West of Boston. “Take Care of Yourself” respite retreats offer respite and recreation, coaching, wellness education, and self-care skill training.
We burned the cuttings from our front yard in a burn pile that measured about a 20′ diameter and 15′ high. Karl researched the requirements for a deer fence, built it that winter, and installed it the following spring around the Kitchen Garden. Our neighbors wondered what we might be doing with this trellis fence and jokes were made about us raising animals – emu – inside. That year, we harvested our first fruits from our Kitchen Garden.
- 2010, November: We launch the Rest.Stop.Shop and begin to offer thoughtful gifts and practical products for individuals, couples, families and professionals affected by extended illness.
- 2010, October: We introduce the website, rest-stop-ranch.com, and our first product (100% Sustainably Made North of Boston), the Restore and Reconnect! Yoga Kit, at our local regional fair, The Topsfield Fair.
- 2010, October: We install a home-access trail with the help of local landscapers.
- 2010, September: On World Alzheimer’s Day (9/21), our small team North of Boston launches the rest-stop-ranch.com website, and the Rest.Stop.Weekly, a weekly email and RSS delivery of 2-, 5-, and 10- minute relaxation breaks via audio podcasts. Within two months, we are serving subscribers in four countries. We produce the Rest.Stop.Weekly for twenty-five weeks and create 100 relaxation podcasts.
- 2010, April: Mary showcases the newly formed social enterprise “Marymac Missions LLC” at the Social Enterprise Summit and World Forum in San Francisco, CA, USA. Mary makes a promise to attendees to deliver wellness programs for dementia carers within 6 months.
- 2010, April: Mary incorporates the social enterprise, Marymac Missions LLC, in the state of MA, USA.
We moved into our Topsfield, MA home. That spring, we started to clear the land… Karl also built a kitchen garden (which the deer ate).
- 2009, December: Mary starts to write the Rest.Stop.Ranch Morning Report as an eco-spiritual grounding practice.
- 2009, February: Mary moves into a single-level home North of Boston and experiences it holistically as Rest.Stop.Ranch.
Our Inspiration: Caregiving Mary’s Parents Through End-of-Life
A Man Who Needed a New Heart: Joe MacDonald
The realities of end-stage diabetes and heart disease often include physical changes that limit mobility, especially in terms of balance and endurance. Considering Joe’s amputated toes, the high possibility of additional amputations, and his degraded heart condition, we prepared for his needing wheelchair-access to our home and we installed a home-access trail (with the help of local landscapers) in 2010. Joe benefitted from this accessible trail to his end-of-life in May, 2013.
A Woman with a Giving Heart: Margaret Fraser MacDonald
On Christmas Eve, December 24, 2008, Margaret passed on at the early age of 67. Victims of frontotemporal degeneration, we journeyed together as a family through this unpredictable, disorienting, and devastating disease. When Margaret used a wheelchair her last eighteen months of life, we experienced indoor and outdoor environments of good and limited accessibility. When it came to outdoor garden accessibility, we experienced room for a new approach.