Life as I know It

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

Monday, May 31, 2010

Sifting Through Starlight

A friendship gift of an antique pin from Jane Hogue. The pin is resting on peony petals. Karen had a fat bouquet in our room and the scent is dreamy.

Am I dreaming the past few days? They feel like a dream to me. Two great couples, two great farms, fluffy beds, and a field of flashing fireflies–what could be better?

We love our times with our old friends Jack and Jane Hogue of Prairie Pedlar in Odebolt, Iowa. If you're EVER even a state away, you must go visit them. Their gardens, barn, schoolhouse, chicken coop shop, and greenhouses are amazing.

Approaching the Hogue's barn.

Jane hosted a tea and book signing for me, and it was held inside the barn. We had a ball. About 30 people attended, and I gave a short talk; we made hilarious paper hats and ate Jane's famous chocolate chip cookies. It was a wonderful day and we got to spend time with Tyler (he is mentioned in Sunflower Houses and Hollyhock Days) and his adorable wife Cara.

One of the many gardens and outbuildings on the Hogue farm.

An overview of just one of the gardens.

We didn't want to leave Jack and Jane, but we were looking forward to our time on the farm with Karen and Doug Jimerson (Doug is the editor-in-chief of the garden group at Meredith Publishing). Karen wrote my FAVORITE Country Home column "Slow Lane" for many years and now writes it for Country Gardens magazine and Cat Crossing Farm blog. Her tales of life on a farm are heartwarming and personal–100% Karen through and through.

Approaching the Jimerson's Cat Crossing Farm.

Oh, and their gardens here at their 100 year old farmhouse–I'll let the photos tell the story for me.

Archer follows us through the gardens.

The welcoming front porch.

Breakfast with fresh eggs from their "girls." Doug predicted that the long egg would be a double-yolker.

He was right.

When Karen yelled for Yukon, her bay, all the sheep and horses thundered into the yard.

I have always wanted a miniature donkey, and I've been in miniature donkey and animal heaven here. Three minis, Cisco, Riley, and Peso. They are gentle, intelligent, and fun. Now I want them more than ever. I think we'll have to move back to the country.


Peso, what a mug!

Riley and me.

A great water garden. Doug loves the koi.

Archer and Tess enjoying the water garden.

Last night, I climbed into a four poster bed under the eaves. Lights out and stars everywhere, but the stars moved, flashed, dipped, and dived, and I realized that the fireflies are already out!

Love and best wishes to you,


P.S. Don't forget to check out the new posting on Lowe's Garden Grow Along. This week's post is about  ways to save $ when you're gardening.

P.P.S. For my up-to-date book tour schedule, click here.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Lavender Dreaming at Los Poblanos and a Dose of Dee

The gate clicked shut, the key turned, and we headed toward Maine. Although we won't arrive at our cottage for at least 5 weeks, I still felt that child-like whisper of butterfly wings inside me. True excitement.

In Albuquerque, we finally got a chance to slow down at the wonderful Los Poblanos Inn and Organic Agriculture Center (and YOU have to visit there) and lavender farm–the old Santa Fe style casa designed by famed 20th century architect John Gaw Meem. I wanted to move right in. I could picture myself gardening in the courtyard, tending huge containers of plants, and cutting bunches of lavender from the broad fields.

The new farm shop is wonderful. I think it is housed in an old creamery building. The ag center sponsors jam making, cooking, herbal, and other workshops. The manager told me that he hopes to have noted author Deborah Madison teach some cooking classes there. Hey, I'm game for that. I once attended a great workshop-cooking class taught by Deborah at Fairview Gardens in Goleta, California.

I couldn't resist buying three of the hanging tin bluebirds. I'll dangle them from the beams in my California studio.

Chickies and mama hen under the wheelbarrow

Yesterday, I did a short segment on KFOR (NBC) television in Oklahoma City and then drove to the rambling log home of beloved blogger and gardener Dee Nash (Red Dirt Ramblings).

The "girls" finally meet. See the flock of hens over Dee's shoulder?

A TRUE GARDENER! Hurrah! We loved visiting with her and her family– Bill her willing-worker husband and their son and two of their three daughters. We shared a meal together around the big family dining table, then we wandered the gardens, smelled roses, talked about great nurseries, plantsmen and women, writing, families, you name it.

Dee's perennial gardens. Their lake is down at the bottom of the hill.

Dee and Bill (and some helpers) constructed her new potager. Some of the bricks are from another project. Bill made the fountain (maybe Dee will share HOW)

Wandering, picking, laughing, and sharing. I felt right at home.

Dee is one of the garden bloggers for Lowe's Garden Grow Along and I always read both her personal blog and her Lowe's blog. She shares a lifetime passion for gardening as well as the wildlife her gardens host.

Tonight I'll be doing a talk and book signing at Best of Books in Edmond, Oklahoma, then tomorrow onward to Kansas and to the farm of our dear friends Jack and Jane Hogue in Odebolt, Iowa. They own Prairie Pedlar, which has been featured in many national magazines, and their gardens are magnificent. I am going to give a talk and have a book signing there on Saturday, and then Des Moines television on Sunday. With my next post, I'll share some photos of their fabulous gardens–I know you'll love them and be amazed at the paradise they've created in the middle of a Jolly Time Popcorn field.

Sending love and thanks to all of you,


P.S. Please check in at my Lowe's blog and leave one of your valued comments. No matter where you live in the USA you'll find great garden insights from 8 passionate gardeners.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Potato Chapter

Have I forgotten you? Not a chance. I've been busy preparing for the long-anticipated Country Gardens photo shoot in our urban, country garden. When we returned from Wisconsin last week, we knew that the clock was ticking. Time to buckle down, weed, finish laying stones (thanks Jeff), transplant potted specimens, clean up the grounds, deadhead, and plant the remaining flowers for our new 3-B garden–birds, butterflies, and beneficials.

To say that we worked 10 to 12 hours a day is no exaggeration. Some afternoons Jeff would look at me in my muddy nightgown and utter one word, "PITIFUL." We forgot to eat and drink, we lost our senses of humor (HEY, gardening is NOT supposed to do that), but after all, we'd been away so much that the garden had gone wild. We had lots of catching up to do before the photographer Lynn Karlin (Maine Farm, Gardens Maine Style, Gardens Maine Style Act ll, and more) arrived late Saturday.

We picked Lynn up at our little SLO airport and deposited her in my studio-loft. She had traveled all day with a few plane changes. We expected her to sleep in on Sunday morning, but when I woke at 6 and stumbled outdoors, she was already in our garden and shooting like a crazy person. Maine is still in its late spring sleep and our place looked like the tropics to Lynn.

On Sunday, stylist Andrea Caughey arrived. Why a stylist?? They're trained to know where and how to place things so that they show to their best advantage in the photos. She knows how the camera lens sees things and how to weed out extraneous objects. Believe me, I have plenty of those. Andrea would paw through my quilts, watering cans, arrangements of pots, and pillows, and pull out just the right one for a shot. You've seen her work in many, many magazines and books. She is one of the best.

We all know that it never rains here in mid May. Right? Wrong. It sizzled while I worked in the gardens, but the minute the crew arrived it clouded up and began to rain. RAIN! A blessing for the garden, but the bane of photographers. Jeff had to stand next to Lynn with a big umbrella to keep her camera equipment dry.

The photo shoot is over and will be only a slightly painful memory until the story is released. Was it worth the work? Let me tell you a short story about work. When I was writing Roots Shoots Buckets & Boots, my editor asked, "What do you know about potatoes? Can you write about growing them for the container garden? I need it on my desk by tomorrow morning."

So, I bent over the keyboard and typed a 3,500 word chapter. I worked through the night and at about 5 a.m., Jeff proofed it and sent it off so that she would find it when she arrived to work.

That morning the phone rang and it was my editor. "What in the world were you thinking?" she asked. "I told you to write something about growing potatoes, but you wrote an entire chapter...I only needed a couple of paragraphs."

When I moaned in pain and exasperation, Ruth said, "Well, Sharon, no work is wasted." For me, right at that moment I felt like jumping off the swinging bridge and straight into the Atlantic. But Ruth was right. I learned that whenever I pushed and worked until I felt like I would drop, well, I became a better person, did a better job, and felt good about things in the long run. So, was all the worry and work worth it? Yes, because no work is wasted.

We took Lynn to the airport at 5 this morning. She mentioned that she really never saw the sun the entire time she was in California. She'd packed for warm weather, but wore double sweaters as she did her photography. Her plane took off and the brilliant California sun broke above the mountains. Sorry Lynn.

Sending love to you all and asking you to wish us well. We're leaving on a five week US book tour (I've heard from many of you and know I'll be meeting you in person) and then to Maine. Our wonderful caretaker is moving in here at Sunflower House, and my son will also be helping to care for the garden. Oh yes, and the has never looked better and I will miss it.


P.S. Please visit my newest garden post on Lowe's blog and leave your valued comment. Working on these short, personal pieces has been a real hoot.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

To Persevere & Bloom

Wow, Madison, what a great city. I loved meeting everyone, especially the teachers, children, and blogger Brimful Curiosity, Janelle, and too many more to name. Thanks so much for making me feel welcome.

All of the kids wanted to show me the beans they sprouted in small pots

I am on a wild run right now and running along beside me is my amazing husband Jeff. I'm still on a central time clock and arise early to work in the garden in preparation for the upcoming photo shoot for Country Gardens. Yes, although I live in a city in California, our garden is strictly country– bountiful, overflowing, and filled with color and life. It isn't fancy or landscape architect designed, but is ours to the core–from the tiniest seedlings to the towering fig trees and grapes I started from cuttings only 3 years ago.

Getting ready to move decomposed granite, soil, and stones

A mess back here, but Jeff is setting the stones for the pathways and I see progress

Last night I collapsed onto ice packs with an aching back, sore hands, and a bad attitude. "I can't do any more," I said to Jeff, but he assured me that I could. As I looked at recent pictures of our trips, I spied these dear little violas struggling to grow in a slender crack in a town's concrete sidewalk. They not only managed to grow in that inhospitable spot, but they bloomed! I plan to keep struggling, to force myself to forge on, and to bloom.

I saw something in the crack of the sidewalk and got out to look closely

Bloom where you are planted!

All joys to you my dear friends,


P.S. Please drop by and visit my new Urban Garden posting on the Lowe's blog.

P.P.S. THANKS to you my new book Toad Cottages & Shooting Stars just went into its 2nd printing. I never expected that to happen so soon. XX

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Fill With Love and Laughter

Our dear friends in Maine and all our out of town friends always fill our cottage with love and laughter. Fox Drink Ledges is a home and hard to leave, but I know I will be there in just a few months.

Now I am at home in San Luis and trying to work in the garden, write, take time for my family, and prepare for our trip tomorrow to Madison, Wisconsin, which is one of my all time favorite towns.

This morning from 6 to 7 host Joy Cardin, Wisconsin Public Radio, welcomed me to her program. We took calls from listeners and answered their question. One caller said that she has planted a memory garden in honor of beloved family members. Each person is represented by his or her favorite flower. Every time she looks at her memory garden she is reminded of people who are dear to her heart. I likened it to a patchwork quilt, pieced with fragments of colorful memories and love.

The garden here is exploding with life. Fat pink crepe-papery crabapple blossoms sway above a bed of blue penstemon, native speckled pink clarkias, rockets of yellow columbine, and a mat of 20 varieties of thyme (from Mountain Valley Growers).

Last night I planted two tall terra cotta pots with corn, strawberry popcorn, zinnias, moonbeam coreopsis, and butterscotch wallflowers. Along the edges of the pots, I tucked in painted lady runner beans, which will form a cascading curtain of leaves, and salmon and white blooms. These pots will shine from late May through September.

Off to pack and get ready for Madison. Remember, fill with love and laughter!

I check my blog entries every day and although I am on the road and can't answer everyone, I do treasure and appreciate your words, memories, and good wishes.


Check out Lowe's for the words of 8 passionate (and opinionated) American gardeners.