Life as I know It

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

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Spring Chickens and The Chicken Lady

Spring Chickens visit the Chicken Lady
Our long time friends Sue Branch and Joe Hall helped make one of my decades long dreams come true. I got to visit the cemetery on Martha’s Vineyard that includes the grave site of Nancy Luce, aka The Chicken Lady, who died in 1890.
Nancy was disdained by all (except her beloved chickens) and led a lonely life on Martha’s Vineyard, but she is now visited and honored by many. 

Distant view of Nancy Luce's grave.
Look at how bare this ancient graveyard is, but in the distance you can see the glimmer of Nancy’s burial spot, which overflows with chickens left by visitors. It so touched my heart I cried. Imagine, friendless while on the planet, but loved now.
Sue is trying to master her new digital camera. I was clueless about it.

Nancy's flock.

Now she is never alone.

Joe and Sue are the best. They spoiled us, and we didn’t refuse any of their attentions. We laughed a lot, talked non-stop, ate too much, and were shocked by how quickly the hours flew past. 

Candid shot of the adorable Joe in the kitchen as dinner was prepared.

I opted for dinner in the bay window of the living room. I loved the way the lace panels luffed in the breezes.

I gave a talk based on my book Toad Cottages & Shooting Stars sponsored by Eight Cousin Bookstore at Highfield Hall in Falmouth, Massachusetts. I was thrilled to have some blogging friends and their gorgeous daughters attend. Debra Jean Bosworth of Dandelion House and Marcia Simonds from Child in Harmony are my on-line, and now off-line, girlfriends. It is amazing to me how we forge bonds with people and feel as though we’ve known them forever.
More spring chickens.

If you ever have the opportunity to visit Highfield Hall-DO IT. They saved and restored a national treasure for all to enjoy. Right now they’re having a wonderful exhibit of paintings focused on the garden. 

Highfield Hall as it looked originally. The interiors are stunning. This is a great place to have a wedding ceremony.
All joys to you,

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Dear Little House

We made it-5,250 miles, 16 states, uncountable new friends, and lots of wonderful adventures.

Stuffed to the ceiling from front to back. 

For the last thousand miles, I shared my few inches of foot space with my new lemon verbena, named Nancy for the Lemon Verbena Lady. Tucked in the bag is also a linear-leaf thyme, which was a gift from Nancy, who drove hours from Pennsylvania to Chagrin Falls just so we could finally meet in person.

Stuff kept slipping forward when we stopped. Whank, it would clobber me every time.

After a morning TV interview, we taped the FM radio show "Cover to Cover" in Cincinnati, then went on to Columbus for another TV appearance the next day.

Kathleen Gips' WONDERFUL Village Herb Shop in downtown Chagrin Falls, Ohio. It felt like (and smelled like) the old Heart's Ease to me.

Oh, wow, this old owl weathervane was a wonderful surprise. I think Joyce of Octoberfarm should have one of these.

Everything about Chagrin Falls feels timeless–even their police car.

On a side street in Chagrin Falls, we discovered this charming little guest cottage.

The Town Hall where Kathleen hosted the Fairy Tea and my talk.

Setting up for the gathering. The desserts were divine.

I loved meeting the people who attended, especially the children who had great stories to share with me.

Kathleen and Jack Gips' back garden. I wanted to plant myself there.

After my appearance in Phelps, New York, Jeff asked if we should give it a try and just drive the 9 hours straight to get home. "Yes!" I said, "I don't want to be anywhere else."

We swung into our narrow country road at about 11 P.M. The trees arched above us blotting out the stars. As we rounded the curve and broke into the clearing beside Little Harbor, we both whooped. The half moon shone above the rushing waters that flooded through the narrows between Half Tide Island and Birch Island. The stars flecked a sky blacker than any we'd seen for weeks. Fireflies flashed on and off along the roadside and up the sides of the granite cliffs by the boathouse. And the scent–balsam fir mingled with the aromas of seaweed and the Rugosa roses that brushed against our car. HEAVEN.

We're still unpacking, cleaning, weeding, and rocking in our old porch chairs whenever we get a chance. I keep saying over and over, "I can't believe we're HERE." 

Tomorrow we leave for a visit with our dear friends Sue and Joe on Martha's Vineyard, and my workshop at Highfield Hall on Cape Cod. Then HOME, to our dear little house.

Sending love to you all,


P.S. Please drop by Garden Grow Along for some ideas for focal points in your garden.

P.P.S. My apologies for not being able to answer all your e-mails and comments. We've been on the move so much, and I will try to catch up next week. I promise!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sanctuaries of the Spirit

Early 20th century painting of Selma's Garden by T.C. Steele. 
As I lectured at the historic site last week, I couldn't believe that this painting hung just a few feet from where I stood.

For a gardener, being cut off from the earth is a horrible fate. I've felt incomplete without my daily talk with my plants. We've gone 3,500 miles so far, but we still have over 1,000 to go. How do I keep sane? By dreaming of what I'll plant in Maine, by walking through my California gardens in my mind, by tugging at weeds in a park, and by losing myself in gardens we visit.

T.C. and Selma Steele's historic home, which is open for tours. Ok, I can move right in here.

We drove through the pergola at the side of the house to reach the studio where I lectured. Note Steele's painting of this scene below.

Steele painted the pergola with a view of the rolling Brown County, Indiana hills.

Steele's easel, paints, and work table. 

I always LOVE to see the tools of the trade.

One of the many outbuildings.

This lovely quote from the gardens of Indiana plein air painter T.C. Steele touched my heart. I hope it touches yours.

May your garden be your abiding sanctuary.

Sending love from the road,


P.S. On Monday afternoon, my new posting for Garden Grow Along will appear. Drop in for a visit to not only my post, but also the post of my 7 compadres-they're a treasure trove of knowledge.

P.P.S. My next stop is the Town Hall in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, on Thursday, June 17, 2010, at 6:30 pm, for a slide lecture and tea, sponsored by the Village Herb Shop. En route, I'll be doing a radio interview on Cover to Cover on WRRS-FM in Cincinnati and interviews on WCPO-TV(ABC) in Cincinnati and WTTE-TV (Fox 28) in Columbus, Ohio.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Dandelion Wishes to You

Good-bye beautiful Wisconsin and wonderful, welcoming friends. You've been a joy and an inspiration to me, all of YOU who've gone out of your way to be kind and generous.

West Salem, Wisconsin artist Judy Thelen and I are as alike as the proverbial peas in a pod. What a strange feeling it is to walk through the door of the guest house and see piles of my favorite books everywhere. It is as though she swept through my studio and transported them to her home. Judy is also a Maineiac and grew up in the Boothbay area. Our families get together every September when Judy, Dan, Raina, Jeff (and Brandy, the labradoodle) journey to Maine for vacation.

Judy is the friend who first taught me to capture dandelion wishes in a jar. These wishes just wait on a shelf or kitchen counter until a sad child needs some love and encouragement. Then, it is off with the cap, eyes squinched closed for a wish, and a big huff. This cheers children any time they're sad–and it makes me happy just to see the dandelion puffs resting in wait.

In West Salem at the Heider Center fundraiser for the Boys & Girls Club, I reconnected with lots of old friends and scores of new ones

We stayed with Deb Biechler in her craftsman bungalow in Amherst, a town I loved instantly. The first day in Amherst we visited the Tomorrow River Gallery for an art opening replete with homegrown musicians, homemade wines, and lots of lively talk.

On Saturday morning, I gave a short talk at the community center. Later that day Deb, Jeff, and a host of others made food (I never worked with so much potato salad in my life) in Deb's cozy kitchen and listened to singer-songwriter LJ: Booth play guitar and sing his original works while artist Ann Herzog Wright harmonized.

Deb Biechler, an extraordinary, love-filled kindergarten teacher, writer, and community activist, is here selling books for Dragonwings Bookstore of Waupaca after my talk in Amherst.  Jeff caught a quick shot of the last of the patient ladies in line.

Yesterday we spent the afternoon at a Chautauqua gathering. Teddy Roosevelt once said that "a Chatauqua is the most American thing in America," and I must agree with him. Experts in the field of archaeology, Native American history, geology, natural history, and ecology led us on a tour of threatened and revived rivers, creeks, and lakes. My favorite area is the beautiful Tomorrow River, which runs through (and is) the heart of Amherst.

A happy kayaker on the Tomorrow River, which is being restored by Trout Unlimited

This is a native brook trout from the Tomorrow River. Look closely at the incredible dots of color; this is a rainbow in its own right. All fish were immediately returned to the river.

Our evening ended with a gathering in the old Nelsonville Mill where about 75 of us shared food, laughter, conversation, and a short talk on the native artifacts (some of which were 9,000 years old) of the area.

I didn't want to leave Amherst, but as we drove away the sky opened and a huge rainbow arced above us. I know we'll return someday to a new "home" away from home and the wide arms and big hearts of the residents.

Love from the road as we head toward the T.C. Steele Historic Site in beautiful Nashville, Brown County, Indiana. T.C. Steele was one of my favorite of the early Indiana plein air painters. It will be a joy and an honor to be a guest at the site and I hope that some of you will join us on Thursday night as I talk about "The Artist in the Garden-The Garden in the Artist."

All joys to you,


P.S. Please drop by my newest Garden Grow Along posting. Jeff and I figured out how to turn a big metal stock trough into an inexpensive, clean, portable, and farmy looking worm bin. The "Girls" love it and the mice, moles, and raccoons know they're in there, but can't reach them.

P.P.S. To find out where I'm headed next, follow my book tour by clicking here. This does not include TV appearances, which changes daily along the route.