Life as I know It

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San Luis Obispo, California, and South Bristol, Maine, United States
Author ~ Illustrator ~ Lecturer

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Getting my Ducks (and ducklings) in a Row

Heehaw, heehaw, heehaw. Do you really think that you can get that mama duck to follow you for a half mile? Honestly? Give it a try, but don't hold too much hope.

Dear Friends,

AWOL here. I know it, but I've had lots and lots of work to do and am just beginning to breathe easier. I sent in my entire manuscript, glossary, bibliography, author's note, dedication, epigraph, and acknowledgements. Anyhow, about 300 pages of work. A load off my mind.

I know that a picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes you just can't get to the camera and take photos. So this time words must suffice.

I'd been working all day, and Jeff said, "Let's go for a walk and go out to dinner." He did not have to twist my arm. We got into the car and backed out of our driveway. Not easy. We live on a busy street near the freeway offramp.

Just as we were leaving, Jeff said, "LOOK!" Walking right in front of our garage was a mama mallard with a flock of little ducklings.

"Quack, quack, quack, quack." "Peep, peep, peep peep."

Oh no. They'd be creamed, crushed, run over by a car, eaten by a dog or a cat. We had to do something.

Jeff pulled over. I took off my sweater to use as a sling. He took off his jacket. We followed mama down the road and smack into a sheltered front porch where she promptly knelt down and called all her ducklings to her side. Great, but still, right along the road and at the home of a big dog and some fat cats. We tried to corner mama and catch the babies, but mama ran away, quacking like crazy. The ducklings took off in every direction.

I managed to net 11 of the ducklings and had to chase the 12th. Meanwhile, Jeff quietly stalked mama in the hopes of catching her so we could take her and her youngsters the half mile back to Cuesta Park and San Luis Creek. Impossible!

Our route. From the orange "A" marker on the left to Cuesta Park and San Luis Creek, the red arrow on the right.

What a zoo. Mama wouldn't let us close to her. Traffic stopped. Some college students helped. Ducklings peeped and fought to escape the net. Jeff grabbed a big box, and we put the babies inside, but I had to keep stirring them up to keep them peeping, which kept mama mallard following us (but not too closely).

We were getting desperate and knew we had to get them back to the park before nightfall or mama would fly away and the babies would have to go to Pacific Wildlife Care. We didn't want that, but we did want to get them off the road.

Light bulb. I asked Jeff to put up the trunk lid on the Saab and herd mama mallard my way. By this time, we were the laughinstocks of the neighborhood. So, there I sat, illegally dangling my legs over the rear of the car with a flock of ducklings screaming for their mama.

"Mama will follow us," I yelled to Jeff. Just drive slowly, and I'll keep the ducklings awake. 

He drove slowly. Traffic backed up. College students directed people, bicyclists, and cars past us. We had to make it a half mile alongside one of the most heavily traveled roads in the state.

Mama ran along, then took to the air, veered over the offramp of the freeway, YIKES, and flew back behind us, quacking wildly. 

I looked up, and there she was, about 10 feet off the ground and flying directly at the back of the car and traveling about 25 miles per hour. I wish I could've caught her in a video. 

I was rehearsing what to tell the police when they nabbed me.

Then things got scary. The ducklings settled into the corner of the box and tried to go to sleep. I kept having to stir them around so that they would keep peeping to attract mama.

Mama flew along behind the car, quacking, quacking, babies peeping, peeping. Then, mama veered off and took to the hills. The sun was setting, and as I told Jeff, "Wild animals just accept things. She is probably going off to sleep."

Then mama duck flew over us again, made another wide circle, and disappeared. I felt sick. We had one last chance before it got too dark for her to fly.

We had traveled the half mile from home to the edge of the park and the creek. Jeff dumped me at the top of the bank, and I slid down with the box.

A bunny watched our progress.

The babies were peeping wildly, and from somewhere above we could hear mama's answering quacks. I had to trust my instincts. We set the box down on the ground by the creek, and the little ducklings tumbled out, peeping to a faretheewell.

We turned and crawled up the bluff. We sat. We watched. The babies cried. Mama quacked. The sun set.

The babies peeped pitifully. Mama quacked like crazy. Mama looped high above us, dipped, and flew low over the sycamores and creek, quacking loudly the entire time. When the ducklings heard her, they answered. Mama landed somewhere by the creekside and called to her family. The babies quieted and lined up behind her.


Four more ducklings are in the brush beside the creek. They quickly joined the parade behind mama.

Don't you love happy endings? 

Sending love across the miles,


P.S. The winner of the random drawing for the fabulous Botanical Interests Sunflower seed collection is Dee Nash of Red Dirt Ramblings. Dee is a Grimy Hands Girls' Club member and will receive a bonus gift of Waterwise Plants for Sustainable Gardens: 200 Drought-Tolerant Choices for All Climates (Timber Press) by Lauren Springer Ogden and Scott Ogden.

Thursday, May 16, 2013


Check below for the fabulous Botanical Interests give-away of sunflowers!

Dear Friends,

After a journey of many decades and four years of on and off writing, I am finally finished with my new novel Running Out of Night with Random House/Delacorte Press. Yesterday I spent nine long, hard hours on my third draft revisions. Then, Jeff worked until 11 p.m. formatting and tagging the manuscript.

Whoosh, off it went. And this morning, when my amazing editor said that she "accepted all revisions and changes," it was over. Silently over. Period. Over.

I can only quote Julia Child to give you a full picture of how it feels:

"What a strange feeling to be done with The Book. It had weighed so like a stone these many years, you'd think I'd be tripping about in ecstatic jubilation. But I felt rootless. Empty. Lost. I sunk into a slough of discombobulation."

From My Life in France

I am not comparing myself to the amazing Julia in any way, shape, or form, but those words ring so true. Here I am, finished with the book and just waiting to do the glossary, bibliography, suggested reading, dedication, thanks, map, and illustrations. I feel like empty days are looming over me now.

Looks like my garden is finally going to get the attention it deserves.

The little kitchen garden filled with herbs, lettuces, artichokes, rhubarb, and edible flowers

Tomorrow members of Kiddie Writers will arrive at my little house for a meeting and to help me celebrate. Friday some of my very best friends (from grammar school through high school) in the world will arrive for a Fab Femmes weekend. I'm ready! (is poor Jeff?).

So now I leave you with a short video of my garden as it was about ten days ago when I wandered around and filmed it. It is waaaaaay more bountiful now. (Don't gardeners ALWAYS say that) I love that I can share artichokes, fruit, lettuces, and herbs with so many friends.

I planted over 200 sunflowers in the "Sunflower Courtyard" in front of our living room. Mind you, it has only been the "Sunflower Courtyard" for a month, but as soon as it comes into its glory, I'll take some photos.

My new babies (the red pots vinyl and are held together by Velcro tabs, which you can open easily so your new seedlings are not at all disturbed. They're from Gardener's Supply in Vermont).

To celebrate the vast array of sunflowers that are now available, I am SO HAPPY to offer this rainbow of sunflowers that were donated to me by Botanical Interests seed company. I planted six of their offerings in the courtyard and can't wait to see them in their glory.


Our lucky winner of the drawing for This Old House magazine's give-away of their Kitchens book is dear Pat of Thoughts from Taylorsoutback. Congratulations Pat! Pat is a Grimy Hand's Girls Club member and will receive a bonus gift of her choosing from my last blog posting.

Look for the upcoming August 2013 issue of This Old House magazine for a fabulous article on my little herb shed, Sprig. This article focuses on the interior and exterior, and the fun and collectible things inside it. Also a bit of our container garden. Hope you enjoy it.

I won't promise a date for the upcoming drawing since I seem to be far behind on posting, but it will be within the next ten days. After all, you'll need to get your seeds into the ground soon.

Sending love across the miles,


p.s. Those wishing to leave a comment as "Anonymous," please start your comment with "Sharon" or it will be deleted automatically. Too many "Anonymous" spammers asking me to visit their site or with recommendations for the unmentionable.