Life as I know It

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

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.


Thea said...

Sharon, I have no idea how you do all you do! Between writing, traveling, teaching and gardening (and all that entails), whew, I'm exhausted!! lol. you certainly have my permission to loll around in your garden with the beverage of your choice! Regarding your pictures, love all your light blue accents. I never would have thought to plant verbena in the pot you hung on your gate, but i love it. verbena is one of my favs esp. since that is the name of a character in my WIP. have a splendid day, madam! t

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Thea dear, Look who is talking! I just wanted to mention that I love planting Verbena in my pots. They are so lovely when they weave back and forth in the slightest breeze, and the hummers and butterflies so love to sip at their blossoms.

Sending love,


Marcie said...

I can't wait to see the magazine piece! Let us know when it appears!

Take care on your travels!

Dan said...

Oh my goodness - you've been busier than we have! I hope you'll share the pictures with us UK fans when they come out.
I love the 3 Bs of gardening!
PS. My hubby is not a gardener - if he found me gardening in my nightgown he'd think I was completely mad.

Vee said...

It is know that I am not the only one who works outside in her nightgown. Oh the joy of a good fence.

This all sounds great to me and I, too, would love to know when the article will be ready. I've learned so much here already.

Oh, and you do have all good thoughts as you strike off on your tour. Enjoy the whirlwind.

And, yes, what a sorrow to miss the beautiful garden you've worked so long and hard in.

The cottage by the Cranelake said...

I can imagine how hard You must have worked, but it´s usually worth it in the long run.

It is fantastic how those designers can see things we others don´t. Something I think is less beautiful, they think is a gold nugget :-)

Of course I wish You well and don´t work to hard these comming weeks!
Have a great day and take care!

By the way, Your garden looks beautiful!

Dee @ Red Dirt Ramblings said...

Sharon, it is all loveliness. I just want to come and sit a spell in your enchanted space. I've heard about photo shoots and how unnerving they can be, but I never though about rain. Egads.

I want you to know I've emailed, tweeted, called and facebooked everyone I know about your coming. I hope a crowd comes to the bookstore. I know they're working on it too. Afterward, maybe we can catch a cup of tea here.~~Dee

Cindy (Applestone Cottage) said...

Very cool Sharon!
Your garden looks amazing but I bet Maine will be wonderful this summer. Well, I know it will, I was there in the summer and it is magical! Sounds like a whirlwind ahead, good luck and hope to see you in Wisconsin.

Erin | Bygone Living said...

You have such a gorgeous garden- it's no wonder it's being featured in a magazine!
Must have been quite exciting seeing a professional photographer snapping away at all your hard work! Can't wait to see the pictures!♥

Kay's flowers said...

Everything looks so beautiful. Can't wait to see the article. I too go out in my nightgown and we live on a busy country road where there is no high fence. Oh, well. I hope you have a great trip and that your time in Maine is peaceful and relaxing. Sounds like you need some of that. Am so enjoying "A Blessing of Toads".

Lori ann said...

Dear Sharon,
here i am waving hi and wishing you well! Your garden looks charming, it must be hard to leave it. But i know you have so much to look forward to!

travel safely!

♥ lori

Dawn said...

I can imagine it's quite hard to leave the garden behind now that it is in it's most gorgeous state! But off to Maine you go, where there is the rocky coast and sound of truly have the best of both worlds.
I really enjoyed this post, reading all about the hard work and the goings-on behind the scenes of a magazine shoot. Wonderful!
I can't wait for your posts from Maine...beloved Maine....


jaz@octoberfarm said...

ai certsinly understand what you went through! when i created my gardens, MSL wanted to cover them for the magazine. for the first 2 years i did not think the gardens were grown in enough. when they were ready, the editor was on maternity leave and communication broke down. the season after she returned my place was a jungle and i just never got it together to pull the whole place into the shape it needed to be in for a shoot. to tell you the truth, i was never really finally tackled this place this year and are making progress but it sure is a lot of wait. i have every square inch of 2 acres planted. have a fun cross country trip and i can't wait to see pics of maine. i won't be going there until fall! joyce

Storybook Woods said...

5 week book tour, good god woman, you DO work. I have such utter respect for you Sharon. I bet the photos of your garden are stunning becuase I know your garden is stunning. Make sure you find some time for play and chocolate, in all that work xoxoox Clarice

Unknown said...

Hi Sharon,
What a whirl wind getting ready for the shoot! The garden looks lovely...Every square inch is accounted for! I look forward to seeing the article. You are blessed to have such a supportive and hardworking husband in Jeff!
Count your blessings and the days until Maine...
Best to you on your tour and I look forward to catching up with you in Falmouth in June...

Dandelion Wishes,
Deb (and Nicolette)

ps. Beach Roses ( wild rose ) are in bloom in New England...pop over to Dandelion House to see some pix!

Anonymous said...

Your story is exhausting - ! How old are you 15?
I am always amazed at how much you fit into your life. I hope I will get to view the magazine because I'd love to see the photos - even though the ones you added here are awesome.

Have fun on that tour and then welcome to New England!

Anonymous said...

Hi Sharon~~ Well, you don't need a gym membership do you? It sounds like you're staying very busy and loving every minute of it.

Your garden photos look fabulous. Any idea when the shoot will be published?

I had to laugh about how the weather does these kinds of things to us--a reminder that although we plan and work hard, the final outcome is often out of our control.

Safe trip, dear friend.

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Hello all you dears, so many wonderful e-mails, some letters, and all your well wishes keep me buoyed up.

Nope, I'm not 15, although my mind feels like it is 15. My tired body feels 95.

Walking out the door now and bidding faretheewell to my gardens. Last night had a big dinner party for my granddaughter Sara May's 8th "unbirthday." It was wild.

Keep tuned for updates.



rebecca Sweet said...

'No work is wasted' - truer words were never spoken! Whenever I have an important event, I work like a fiend (though, I think my work pales in comparison to yours!) and am always so glad when it's over. Yes, it's grueling. And yes, it takes the fun out of gardening for awhile - but after a week or two, all is back to normal and you have wonderful memories (as well as a beautifully tended garden) to relax in for the rest of the Summer. Unless you're off on a 5-week Book Tour....

Can't WAIT to read the article, Sharon!

marcia said...

Hi Sharon ~
Your garden is so very beautiful and so comfortable and inviting. Seriously,I don't know how you do it all! And Jeff? what a guy!!!

I've been thinking of you lately as I have spent most of the last three days with the children going between the woodlands(making faerie houses),and the garden(testing soil and discovering creatures in the raised beds).

My daughter and I will see you on June 24! Already bought tickets!

happy day and safe travels!

Bella's Rose Cottage said...

Hello Sharon, What a lovely garden and a lovely story! It must be so exciting to be featured! I will check back by so I can see the article:-)

Kristina said...

I am looking forward to the magazine article!! You have so much energy!! :)


Sharon Lovejoy said...

Hi friends,

We are in Kingman, Arizona. Couldn't pull myself out of the garden until 4 yesterday. Made one last visit to the Leaning Tree Arboretum at Cal Poly and then headed east. Arrived here at 1:30 last night, worked on a magazine article today and now finally, off to Albuquerque.

What an amazing and vast landscape. The Joshua trees around Mojave are otherworldly.

Starry, starry skies last night. Falling stars and I made lots of good wishes.

Sending love,


Sharon Lovejoy said...


Usually magazines shoot about a year in advance. Since my garden was in spring mode, I am assuming that it won't be out until spring 2011.

Thanks for all the e-mails and yes, I will notify you via the blog.


Nan said...

What a perfectly lovely garden you have, Sharon. And I love the fence and the door. I think I would find it awfully hard to leave it.

Leanne said...

I've really been enjoying your blog. I got pulled into a blog award thingy - which gets you to pass it onto 5 other bloggers - link is at my blog.

Lots of Love Leanne New Zealand

Unknown said...

I need a nap just reading this post, dear Sharon. Especially as I just came in the house, trembling with fatigued muscles, after another go-round with the jungle that is my garden. (it's three weeks ahead of where it normally is at this time of year. It's insane, but lovely). You're right of course that no work is wasted, on so many levels. Saturday, we went to my mother's to clean up HER garden, despite my aching exhausted self and too much to do here and few days off...but the happiness on my mother's face compensated for everything.
Travel safely, Sharon--it must be hard to live on two coasts and do all the travelling for book promotion too, despite how beautiful it is to see a whole country. You and hubby are in my thoughts as you go on your adventures.

Beth said...

The garden looks GREAT! Afternoons in your muddy nightgown...funny! love, Beth

Catherine@AGardenerinProgress said...

Your gardens are just beautiful! I love all the color on gates and fence posts, just my style:) I bet the pictures turned out great and the work was definitely worth it.
I'll definitely be looking forward to seeing it in the magazine, even if it's a year away.

Anonymous said...


Your garden looks fabulous. How can you bear to leave?!


PS: It looks like it's about to rain again!

debra said...

No work is wasted. I needed to read those words - right now. Love, love, love this entire post, Sharon. You and Jeff are going to enjoy excellent gardener's ju-ju for the rest of the summer because you toiled and tarried in the pea patch, herb garden, 3B's "inn" and made everything look so beautiful for Andrea and Lynn.

PS, I was just chastised by a male photographer for writing that he "shot the garden like a crazy man." Hmmmmph.
Then I read here your description of Lynn and her energy and enthusiasm in much the same way. Maybe it's a gender thing but I like that figure of speech and I don't consider it derogatory at all. Glad you don't either. Oh well!

Having worked on oh-so-many of those Country Gardens' and other magazine photo shoots, I know how exhausted you all must have felt after your marathon, multi-day sessions. Dirty nightgowns indeed.
xoxo Debra