Life as I know It

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

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Seed to Skillet

Farm dog on duty.

No clanging cymbals, drumroll, or trumpets sounded, but this morning when I stepped out to greet the first peep of day, spring had arrived. Robins chuckled and cheerioed in concert with the mockingbird, who called like quail, hollered like a red-shouldered hawk, and followed me through the garden. Goldfinches whistled their plaintive "tsee- er- eee," and the constant zip of hummingbirds stitched all these spring sounds together.

Throughout our little home, the twigs I harvested at pruning time are bursting with fresh, green leaves and  papery blossoms––shouts of spring joy.

Cause for Celebration!

I am so grateful for this time. My friend Chris has been declared clean and free of ovarian cancer. My friend Dawn, who suffered a heartbreaking loss a year ago, has a new life growing inside her. This morning I looked around and said, "O' joyous life," which is what I wrote on each hand-painted birth announcement I made to celebrate my son Noah. On that card was an acorn, a mature oak, and those words, which are a mantra of thanks to guide my every day.

Heartless Gardeners?

We finished ripping out our front garden parterre of lavenders. Sound heartless? Nope, they had grown into their dotage, flopping over and dwarfing dianthus and nepeta, and giving the entire front yard a gray pallor for most of the year. I've kept 8 lavenders in the herbal courtyard, but in the next month, you'll see how we turned our most boring area into a paradise. Stay tuned!

The Grimy Hands Girls' Club

Thanks for the overwhelming and joyful support. I am busily stuffing manila envelopes with garden note cards, Renee's Garden seeds, and my business card. We still have a few charter memberships available, so if you haven't already signed up, please do so now to receive your gifts.

Catching Up

I have been under water with assignments and am just taking a deep gasp of air and getting back in touch with my on-line friends.

We had a stream of friends who visited from out-of-state and California in the past month. Hotel California was open, and I was the chosen chef. We happily hosted friends from Albuquerque, Sacramento, San Diego, Indiana, and Iowa.

A Much Needed Break

On Sunday afternoon, Jeff and I visited our friends Barbara and Bill Spencer, who own and tend the famous Windrose Farm. Windrose is nestled into a river valley in a micro-climate unlike any I've ever known. Although they live only 28 miles north of us, their spring looks like it is a month behind ours. Sunday was chilly and damp, but our spirits were blazing as we turned on Cripple Creek Rd. and headed for the farm.

We were happy to tour the grounds of their bio-dynamic, organic farm, which has been a labor of love and work in progress for twenty years.

Luckily the creek wasn't swollen as we drove through. This could be challenging during a storm.

The long road to the farm. Since our last visit, they've planted rosemary all along the entry way.

Baaaaa, baaaaa, and they leapt around like...well, like lambs.

Ok, I PROMISE, no more lamb chops.

Bill Spencer leads some interested friends on a walk around the farm.

You can see that spring hasn't yet kissed this earth. This is an adobe paver pathway that was recycled from Bill's parents' farm in Paso Robles.

"Come on, Lovejoy!" That is Jeff on the right rear waiting for me to catch up.

The fruit trees are waking.

Oh, what is more beautiful than apple blossoms?

Uh oh, I think these are pretty knock-out beautiful too. These are lichens on the apple branches, and they're testimony to the clean air in their valley. Aren't they like a miniature faerie land?

Falling behind again. Look at those green hills. I guess I missed some of Bill's talk about how he is rotating crops, growing cover crops, and doing his bio-dynamic gardening.

Garlic, garlic everywhere, and so many varieties.

In the barn where they're drying their fabulous chili peppers. 

They offer many kinds of potatoes at both the Santa Barbara and Santa Monica Farmers' Markets. They also supply the top restaurants along the coast with their farm fresh and organic produce. 

Ok, good to know.

Drying allium heads for seed.
(My granddaughter thinks these are faerie wands.)

Seed selection in the barn.

Love these rosemary tossed in an old wheelbarrow.

Late in the afternoon, we gathered in their garage, which is more like one of their barns, and sat at huge tables where we shared a meal from the new book From Seed to Skillet, written by Jimmy Williams and Susan Heeger, both beloved and well-known gardeners, designers, garden communicators, and writers

Outside the "dining room."

Lettuce centerpieces with recipe cards for the guests.

I would've gladly sat right next to this magnificent Pozo Tomme cheese made by Christine and Jim Maguire of Rinconada Dairy. Wow, this is probably my favorite cheese of all time. Nutty, dry, a sheep's milk cheese that is unsurpassed. You need to taste it.

Susan Heeger and Jimmy Williams with their great book. 
Heck, I'd buy it just for the title, which Jimmy had incubated in his mind for many years.

We sat with Jimmy and Susan and like everyone who met them, fell under their spell. Their book is pure and shining truth about edible gardening. Jimmy is part Gullah from South Carolina and part Shinnecock Native American and Irish. His techniques and cooking sprout from the powerful roots of his childhood with his gardening grandmother, Nana Eloise.

Susan Heeger and her husband Rob care for a gorgeous edible garden in Los Angeles. Susan is not only a gardener, but a noted writer, with works appearing in newspapers, Martha Stewart Living, and many other publications. 

Susan and Jimmy visited with everyone. I think they were still in a spin after having a cocktail party hosted in their honor by old friend Michael Pollan. That is some endorsement.

Jeff eating and talking with Rob, who is a landscape architect and Susan's husband. You'll see his designs featured in the book's photographs. 

Susan and Jimmy said that I could share a recipe with you, so here goes:

Blueberry Slump 
(which I'm going to make in Maine with our blueberries,
if the birds leave any)

This is from Jimmy:

"We ate this traditional Shinnecock dish, fresh from the oven, for breakfast or as a warm dessert topped with vanilla ice cream. We even had it in winter, when my mother would make it using blueberries she had frozen the previous summer. The term "slump" refers to the fact that the dish tends to fall a bit when spooned out of the pan, and that makes sense to me. I love the smooth tanginess of the blueberries combined with the grainy sweetness of the cornmeal batter."

2 cups yellow cornmeal
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen thawed blueberries
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups plain yogurt or buttermilk
1/4 cup pure maple syrup (My choice is GRADE B)
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  • In a large bowl, combine the cornmeal, baking soda, and salt. Add the blueberries and gently toss together.
  • In a medium bowl, beat the eggs well, then stir in the yogurt and syrup.
  • Fold this mixture into the dry ingredients, stirring just enough to combine, with some lumps remaining.
  • Pour the batter into a buttered 8 x 8 inch baking pan. Bake until the top springs back lightly when touched and is golden brown, about 25 minutes.

Serves 4 to 6

Ok, have I worn you out yet? It is 11 P.M. here, and I am still stuffing those Grimy Hands envelopes. 

Sending love out to all of you and wishing you spring joys-you deserve them!


P.S. My new column "Small Blessings" in Farming Magazine just came out. This one is about growing gourds and crafting with them. 

Be sure to stop by my recent posting on Lowe's Creative Ideas.

The winner of our give-away of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published is Marianne at
Until next time...



Betty said...

You certainly have been busy with so many visitors.
What a lovely visit to Windrose Farm.
I loved seeing your twig prunings sprouting with pretty blossoms. I want to try that when I prune, this year.
Looking forward to trying that recipe too. Sounds delicious and a great sweet for family dinners, thanks.

FlowerLady Lorraine said...

What a delightful post filled with joy, visitors, gardening and tours. Visiting Windrose Farm would be a wonderful treat. Thank you for sharing your visit there with us.

I look forward to trying that recipe, it sounds delicious.


Darla said...

Oh Sharon, the sounds and smells of Spring emerging is just delighful to the senses...Thank you for taking us along on your visit to Windrose to read the thoughts of what children see in the garden...sounds like Susan and Jimmy have a wealth of information to share. Until next time, happy gardening!

Mozart's Girl said...

A wonderful & interesting catch-up post dearest! I'm sitting here, having a little break from buttering brioche slices for many orange bread & butter puddings that are ordered for delivery later..this was a beautiful escape! Blueberry Slump...mmm. And I so love the stories & happy pictures that accompany everything. Hugs to you both xoxo Rachel ps - so happy about Dawn, and I know she'll be as touched as I was by your reference x

marcia said...

I love reading about your adventures, as you know.
I gasped when you mentioned ripping out the lavender though, but I understand. I'm planning for *more* lavender at our place.

Spring is almost upon us and I am so happy!

Love to both of you!

Vee said...

Your first paragraph is so rich with beautiful description that I could read it twenty times over. Thank you for sharing spring with us and for sharing friends and fun with us, and a new blueberry recipe to try. Hope that you have time to just BE sound crazy busy.

Leslie @ Farm Fresh Fun said...

Beautiful post. So much I'll come back and explore again. I feel spring time fresh now ~ Thanks! We've seen crocus, robins n bluebirds already but today is flooding and tomorrow ?snow?!

Carol said...

Wow! Sharon, What a delightful post! I loved coming along with you to your friends fabulous farm . . . I will have to check out Seed to Skillet. The gathering of so many lovely people looked like a good time. I love your writing especially about the Mockingbird! Wonderfully illustrated post with your great photographs! I am going to jot over to read your new column!

eidolons said...

I signed up for Grimy Girls - or at least, I sent an email. But I still don't have the picture/button/thingy to add to my blog - so I haven't sent my mailing address.

I want to "force" branches in the house. It looks lovely. But... I have nine indoor cats. I think it would end badly for the branches. :/

Unknown said...

Hello dear Sharon and Jeff,
thank you for sharing your early spring outing to the farm. What a treat! I adore the lettuce centerpieces, the lamb chops, and the book looks terrific.. It's encouraging to know others " carry around words " for years on end as Jimmy did with the title of he and Susan's book, which looks wonderful by the way.
So nice to read your post today and I look forward to reading your newest column in Farm Magazine.
Enjoy this early spring day! We saw a big fat robin on the backyard yesterday and all the snow is gone!
love to you both,
Deb and Boz

Marguerite said...

Sharon you certainly have been very busy. So many ideas and thoughts in this post. I loved the adobe pathway and that new spring green on the hills - is there nothing better than that fresh green that comes with new spring leaves? Your tour and lunch looked like an awful lot of fun. Anytime someone says cheese you've got my full attention.

Pondside said...

What a lovely day that must have been. We're still waiting for the rain to stop and for spring to arrive up here.

Farmhouse Soaps said...

Oh my goodness! Sharon, thank you so much for the book. I was just finally catching up on what I like to call "visiting the neighbors" - blogs that is and I saw your book winner announcement! Wonderful! Thank you, thank you!
Spend the Thyme Farm

Claus said...

No lamb chops anymore! Look at that cute little one!...see? that's why I don't eat meat! ;o)

I am curious what will happen with the lavender spot! When it comes to changes in the garden, I'm all ears. There are quite a few spots I would like to improve in my own patios, and ideas from an expert are always a good source.

Busy life Sharon! Days must surely go by really quickly for you :o) Then again, Spring and summer days like such are always like that, right? Enjoy them!!

have a lovely day!

Erin | Bygone Living said...

What a lovely post :) So glad you are basking joyfully in the rebirth of spring!
I adore all of the pictures, and that recipe sounds divine.

P.S.- I would love to join the Grimy Hands Girls' Club! I'm going to e-mail you right away! ♥

Carol said...

Still waiting on spring here but I can feel it in my bones. It's almost here. I checked my sent email folder to see when I emailed about the Grimy Hands Girls Club and couldn't find it there. So I emailed you today twice before it showed up there. Sorry if you received several emails from me...just trying to make sure I get to join. Very excited about this new adventure !

Carol @ A Bird in Hand said...

I truly enjoyed your post. Loved hearing about the adventure to the farm and the pictures are great. I will definitely be making Blueberry Slump! However....I simply cannot wait to receive my special package from you via The Grimy Hands Girls' Club!!! Renee's seeds are one of my favorites! Thank you so much...Carol

Susan said...

I love reading how Spring is evolving at your home. I heard the geese on our lake yesterday, but their gentle honking is drowned out with the pouring rain. More to come today :(
However, I know Spring is around the corner and watching it slowly unfurl here is exciting.
Can't wait to try your blueberry slump when our blueberries are in season. Love you, XOXO

Cher' Shots said...

I had to snicker when I saw your dog pic - reminded me of "Yellow Dog" on the movie Funny Farm.
Great post!
'hugs from afar'

Lemon Verbena Lady said...

You two have a great life! It is very enjoyable to shadow you when you go visiting friends! We are getting more snow tonight and tomorrow so I'm anxious to have more blooming in the garden! Thanks for sharing your visit and that pledge about lamb chops! xxoo Nancy

Garden said...

What a beautiful place. That farm dog is hilarious!

Sharon Lovejoy said...


I got a note asking how we choose the winners of our give-aways. At first we used the old draw a number out of a hat. I number each comment as it comes in. This time Jeff got onto the internet and used a "random number generator." The numbers came out in columns and before the numbers appeared we decided from which column we would choose. Made it easy and fair.


Pat said...

What a fun place to visit - you covered a lot of ground that day - I would still be stuck by all the wonderful rosemary planted along the road.

And thank you for sharing the book information with us...something to look for!

Melissa said...

Hello Sharon darling!!! You have been so I assumed you would be!! :)....speaking of books, I posted a picture of my favorite books on my bookshelf and I, of course, posted your most recent masterpiece!!!

Stay wonderful!!! xoxo

Bonnie K said...

What fun! There is nothing better than hosting family and friends. I'm sure you had a good time. The visit to Windrose Farm looks like it was a grand time. Thank you for the blueberry slump recipe. I just bought some frozen blueberries. I think I know what I will be doing with them. Great photos. I will be looking for the book. Time with family and friends is precious time indeed.

Zuzana said...

Dear Sharon, spring is on its way here too, but is nearly as much ahead as yours.;) We ares till having traces of snow around.;))
I agree with your on the sentiments of life and renewal.;))
Lovely images as always,

Alyssa said...

Hi there,

I can't wait to receive my Grimy Girls Club packet! I am like a little kid going to the mailbox every day hoping for its arrival! What a great farm! Spring is coming here to New England...just a little slow waking her old bones up! I can't wait for it!!!Alyssa

Unknown said...

I loved all the photos and descriptions. It is so wet and soggy here in Harrodsburg, KY, I'm not sure when I'll be able to work the ground. Our yard is so green and growing fast, but I'm afraid my brand-new lawnmower will sink in the mud!!

Hope you are well,

Fun Mama - Deanna said...

I'm a little worried about my lavender. I didn't know until recently that I should have been pruning it. It has grown untended for 6 years, and now I'm worried it's too late!
Your friends' book sounds wonderful and just up my alley.

Mary said...

Sharon, I so much appreciate how personal and heartwarming your blog posts are. Very thoughtfully done - and I always want to read every word. I can't wait to try the recipe for Blueberry Slum. Oh - my - gosh that sounds so yummy. Thank you, much!

jaz@octoberfarm said...

wonderful post. i think i would have made off with one of those little lambs, i hope you are safe out there!!!

Spinneretta said...

Sounds like you had a wonderful time- I am often getting left behind while I photograph something too ;)
And the book- sounds... well... YUMMY!


Donna@Conghaile Cottage said...

I LOVE spending time with you Sharon. It's ALWAYS such fun and I always come away from my computer or book "SMILING"!!! Ah, this time I have a scrumptious recipe to try too...Thank you so much!!! I NEVER get our acres and acres of wild blueberries, The animals and birds get every one of them!OH WELL. My neighbors have OODLES of cultivates blueberries for the picking in their orchards... Thank you for this "delicious" post.
Have a wonderful weekend,
Hugs, Donna

Unknown said...

I loved the shots at the farm especially the lamb. My grandfather always took me to see lambs in the spring and I always tried to find some to visit with my children. It was much harder to find baby animals here in the Chicago burbs, if I had a grandchild it would be next to impossible but I would try. Have seen the first of my snowdrops! Yea!!!

Dee @ Red Dirt Ramblings said...

Sounds delicious. Oh, I wish I'd been with you all. I'd love to have that book. I think I'll buy it soon. Reading Growing a Gardener right now though and Michele's new book too.

Love to you. I did join the club. Did I mention it? Can't remember. Covered up with work. Blessed.~~Dee

Gardener on Sherlock Street said...

What a great tour. Thank you for sharing. Love that your granddaughter calls allium blooms fairy wands. I save the seeds from mine last year (I usually cut the stalks off after the flowers fade to put energy back in the bulb but I knew I would be replanting them.) Anyway, I plan to plant all of the seeds in our side garden and hope most of them will take and eventually be big enough to bloom! That lamb is tooooo cuuuuuute. I so wish I could pet those ears. Another book for my list (it keeps the garden)!

Lili said...

Oh Sharon it's always such a treat to visit here and see what you've been up to! Glad you had a little break from all your company and got to enjoy all the fun at that farm! That is such a great name for that cookbook and I love that you all ate outside together. Loving my Grimy Hands Girl's Club gift packet, thanks so much Sharon! I had already started some basil seeds 2 months ago inside and now I can't wait to start growing the Renee's Garden Seeds too. Your flowering twigs are glorious!! xoxo ~Lili

Brenda@CoffeeTeaBooks said...

That looks like the PERFECT way to spend a day. :)

It snowed this week but the ground is now warming up enough that it no longer sticks. Hallelujah!

the REAL girl said...

I LOVE this posting---the micro climate is so interesting!! And the road sign named Cripple Creek!! My oldest daughter's husband comes from Cripple Creek, CO, an old mining town!!!
Have a glorious weekend!!

Rebecca Sweet said...

Sharon - I'm finally sitting down after a long, long week. Glass of red wine in hand, curled up in my favorite chair and reading your latest post. What a treat it is to steal these few minutes to myself. I had to laugh when I saw your lichen photo - great minds think alike! My husband just came home from work and I had to read him your very first paragraph, and how beautiful it was. He agreed. Please never stop writing!!

Cindy said...

Sounds like such a good time. I love to see pictures of others farms and gardens, even if it isn't the height of growing season. I can just imagine the beauty.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

It was so nice to rea dall your wonderful good news, Sharon!

I love the blueberry slump recipe --bluebrries are my favorite berries!

I've heard about Seed to Skillet --it sounds like a fascinating and useful geaden/cookbook!

Hope the tsunami did not cause any damage you way today. So sad for the victims

Deb Shucka said...

Hi Sharon,

I just left a comment, which I believe Blogger ate. If not, you get two.

Thank you so much for visiting Catbird Scout and for your kind words. I'm really happy to find you here. I love your descriptions of spring, and found myself especially tickled at your picture of lichen.

I look forward to returning and getting to know you better.

Doc Chery said...

Wonderful as always Sharon!! I so enjoy all your writings and so glad you have links to them :>
This book from Seed to Skillet sounds like a must have for my library!


Larkrise garden girl said...

Hi Sharon, That recipe sounds really good and easy. What an interesting day you had with fellow authors. The allium heads looked interesting!They look like their big!Happy gardening, Cheri

One Woman's Journey - a journal being written from Woodhaven - her cottage in the woods. said...

A wonderful post. But the whole time I was reading I kept thinking - you need rest. Maybe it is I that need rest - I have worked for 2 days outside cleaning new garden and edge if woods.
Could no way keep up with your adventures. But my heart tells me tell you and Jeff - rest...

Lydia said...

How do you get the energy? I'm exhausted just reading! I am going to ask my soon-to-be daughter-in- love to pick up some of the cheese. She works in one of the cities listed. If I drive 50 miles in LA traffic to try- I'm sure my husband would have me committed):- A couple sig alerts and I might go willingly!

Privet and Holly said...

YOU are just one
of the busiest
gals around!! So
many fun projects
and interesting
friends. Love seeing
people attain their
dreams ~ this looks
like a great book that
Jimmy and Susan have
collaborated on. Your
pics have me longing
for Palm Springs and
the Coachella Valley,
which is in my not-too-
distant future : )
Happy Monday!
xx Suzanne
PS: I gave up lamb
chops years ago.

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Dear Lydia,

Once in a while I just collapse. Put on my soft, fluffy robe, curl up in bed, and read. I don't answer the phone, e-mails, or someone ringing the old bell at my gate. I just need quiet and peace.

Sending love,


From the Kitchen said...

Sharon: I've found that I can't just pop in for a quick visit with you. I need to find a time to savor your writing and photos. That time was now and I've had a most pleasant walkabout. I've gathered some new ideas and am already thinking of containers to hold lettuces that guests at a spring luncheon may take home. Thanks so much for having me.


Jan said...

OMG Sharon you have SO SO much going on! You are lucky to have your right-hand (and arm!) man, Jeff! I love many things about your post...let's see, the hydrangea 'fairy wands', the 'lettuce centerpieces', and the fact that your friend is cancer-free are just 3 of them;-) I will check out some of your links to read your other posts. Have a wonderful spring...only a couple more days until it's official! My Gardeners' Sustainable Living Project is going on now, so I hope you'll hop on over and join in;-)

Shady Gardener said...

This was truly a diverse and interesting post! I've copied the recipe, and will look forward to using it... especially with fresh Michigan blueberries gathered this coming Summer! :-)

I would love to read your article about gourds. Some of my gardening friends and I made birdhouse gourd birdhouses a year ago - fun!!

Glynis Peters said...

I love all the positives in your post!

Enjoy your Spring. Ours has arrived in Cyprus and it is so good for the bones! Especially for this Grandmother to be! LOL

Take care and happy scribbling. x

As the Crowe Flies and Reads said...

What a beautiful post, Sharon!

Alas, Barry's and my vacation falls over ethel's memorial service, so we won't be able to do that. I wish it weren't the case.

Beth said...

Hi, Sharon! What a wonderful day you had! My son and I are headed to Virginia in a couple of days, and I hope to see some spring there. I love this time of year, when things are popping up, and there is so much growth and joy to look forward to. much love, Beth

Melissa said...

Hello Sharon and All,

Does anyone have a recommendation for a container gardening book?


Sharon Lovejoy said...

Hi Melissa,

I can wholeheartedly recommend the book The Bountiful Container by Rose Marie Nichols McGee. It is a Workman Publishing book and it is used by folks who teach container gardening classes.

Good luck,


Cris, Artist in Oregon said...

There is always so much goodies to read about it takes me a few times coming here to see it all. I love that Spring is starting here with pink blossoms everywhere. Soon the Veggie gardens can be planted.

Catherine@AGardenerinProgress said...

I love hearing about what you've been doing. It always sounds so interesting. Can't wait to see what you've done in your garden!
The trip to the farm looks like it was a great time. The recipe sounds yummy. Our blueberry bushes are getting close to blooming and they look like they will be loaded this year.

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Dear friends,

Computer problems here and as soon as I can get to the Apple Store tomorrow I hope to be able to post and offer another wonderful give-away.

Gave a workshop in Saratoga, California. Today to some great and dedicated educators.

More ASAP,

The Unusual Farmchick said...

Truly one of my most cherished sites of Spring is the apple blossoms. I do love seeing them bloom but a perfect finale to their early stage would be the light breeze carrying them off like confetti.
I am so excited for the Grimy hand envelopes! A peak at the note cards had me exclaiming oooh's & awws. So excited for the seeds to try from Renee's. I almost hate to open the envelope in fear of ruining the art gracing the front. ;)
And such a wonderful time you must have enjoyed while at the farm.
As always, a most engaging glimpse of your day. Happy Spring Sharon!

Debbie said...

So glad to have found your blog. I'm going to try the Blueberry Slump- sounds delicious! and I love that you tell us about wonderful books that have come out. I'm building a "garden studio" w/ one whole wall of bookshelves- finally will get my stacks of books off the floor.

Vicki Boster said...

Sharon - what a lovely tour of your friend's farm - I loved seeing it in its "not touched by spring" state. Your photos are wonderful.

Thanks for the blueberry recipe - that will be delightful in the summertime!

I love the way that you share your activities with us all - just ordanary things that you do that we get to enjoy via your blog.

Happy Spring to you and Jeff~


Vicki Boster said...

Sharon - what a lovely tour of your friend's farm - I loved seeing it in its "not touched by spring" state. Your photos are wonderful.

Thanks for the blueberry recipe - that will be delightful in the summertime!

I love the way that you share your activities with us all - just ordanary things that you do that we get to enjoy via your blog.

Happy Spring to you and Jeff~