Life as I know It

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

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Pure Inspiration

Dinner at the family table.

Sometimes a visit with old friends is enough to renew my spirit and give me a jolt of pure inspiration.

My old friends David and Julee were some of the first people I met when I moved to Cambria in 1983 and opened Heart's Ease. We shared so many of the same passions and interests, friendship was inevitable.

When Noah and I decided to move to Cambria, they pitched right in and helped transport furniture, big pots of plants and trees, and more to my new home. They helped me feel like I had a family.

David and Julee and their fabulous daughter lived in a tiny trailer while Julee taught and David labored on their amazing tree-house home over a canyon. He built every inch of it, and he and Julee furnished, decorated, and filled it with life and love. But, you don't need more words about them. You need to see some photos of little vignettes found throughout their home.

The hand painted chairs at the family table say "Eat," "Drink, "&" "Be Merry."

Family photos and meaningful words–"We do not remember days...we remember moments."

Julee said, "You always had chalkboards with poems and illustrations when you had your shop. So this little menu board is a tribute to you." 

David is famous for his caesar salad. Delish.

"Julee says I use too much pepper, you do it, Sharon."

This is the creative Julee–mistress of the house.

A small, but wonderful guest room.

A desk in the guest room.

Even the bathroom has artistic vignettes.

This is a paper nautilus atop the jar.

You can see how important the natural world is to David and Julee.

Another collector of heart shaped rocks.

And, on to the hummers, who are quickly outgrowing their tiny nest.

Their first rain. Look at how their feathers are growing. No more porcupine look.

I was about 5 inches from them when I took this. I don't have a fancy camera, just a little Canon, which cost about $135. I had a reader write and say that I must have spent a bundle on my camera, but I didn't; it is just a matter of patience and stick-to-it-iveness. I'm not lucky with the shots; I keep trying.

Look at them looking at me...are they precious or what?

Back to work on my book now. Slowly but surely, just like with the photos, I keep trying.

All joys to you,


P.S. The winner of Ivette Soler's wonderful new book The Edible Front Yard is Susan Freeman of Ash Tree Cottage. Susan is also a member of the Grimy Hands Girls' Club, so she will also receive an extra gift surprise. Congratulations Susan (and Bentley).

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sweet Surrender

I stepped outside early this morning to greet my gardens, and these beautiful cactus flowers smiled at me.

Dear Friends,

I surrender. From now on, my hours in the garden will be all about peace–not battles. It seems as though I spend too much time fighting with interlopers that are trying to take over. Centranthus (Jupiter's Beard) is galloping through every empty space. Why do I tug it out and try to reign over the spot it wants to fill with green and blossoms, butterflies, and bees? Isn't it better to have life over empty spaces?

Bloom you strong-willed vagabond.

Nigella (Love-in-a-mist), have your way with the sundial garden (and after my work outside this morning, I know you're springing up in four of my raised beds too).

Columbine, I'm happy that you overtook the pathways and fled the confines of your bed.

Rose Campion, claim your territory in every crack and crevice...

...and bloom.

Spanish lavender, you're so headstrong. You've overrun the narrow pathway along the wall. You've gone from two plants and multiplied. Now there are ten of you, and you're enticing all the bees in the neighborhood into this tiny garden.

Thalictrum, you've pushed your way into pots throughout the garden. You started living with me over 30 years ago. You were a mere one gallon splurge. Year after year, you've let me know that your life-force exceeds anything I could ever imagine. Have your way.

Blanket flower, you're strident. You're thriving. How in the world do you fit in with all the pinks and purples in the back yard? The butterflies and skippers, bees, and syrphid flies worship you. Maybe I should too. 

Oh, you hollyhock ladies. I started with eight of you along the back garden wall. Now there are dozens, a troupe of dancing pink, red, and rose hummingbird pleasing blooms.

You're crowding the Matilija poppies, nudging aside the grape vines, poking through the broad hands of fig leaves, and providing my grandkids with perfect, frilly dresses for their flower dolls.

I won't even go into the beds that are thickets of spearmint, nasturtium, catmint, Eryngium, Lunaria, and more. How did this all happen? Am I the keeper of the garden or is the garden my keeper?

Meanwhile out in the garden, the hummer babies are thriving, although I may not be. I'm enjoying every minute with them, but I also worry about them constantly.

April 15th

April 16th-two sleeping babies.

It's getting crowded in this nest. Eyes are open now and bill is longer.

April 17th-This little one saw me and opened her bill in hopes of a feeding.

I'll end this now. It has been a long, long day, and it is late. I have spent most of my time writing and drawing, and trying to answer letters and e-mails, but I am way behind (on everything). At least now, since I'm letting the garden (or is it letting me) have more free will,  I'll  have an easier job taking care of it!

Jeff and I are trying to work on some sort of letter with lots of answers for the questions you ask about publishing, agents, etc. Please be patient with us and we'll try to sort through everything.

Come visit me in Oklahoma City on June 1st for the Oklahoma County Master Gardeners meeting. Mark the date, and I'll give you the details in an upcoming blog entry. In late July, we'll also be traveling to Austin, Texas (one of my favorite cities-watch out Linda, here we come), Dallas, Texas, July 29th Agriculture in the Classroom in Oklahoma City (again), and some stops in Wichita, and Kansas City.

Sending love and hopes for a joyous spring,


P.S. Be sure to leave a comment on this posting to be entered in the next give-away of Ivette Soler's great new Timber Press book (need I say more?), The Edible Front Yard

This book will give you so many useful and whimsical ideas for creating paradise in an area that is normally not planted with edibles. Ivette is opinionated and spunky. You'll love this book. If a Grimy Hands Girls' Club member is drawn, a bonus surprise will be included with the book. Good luck!

P.P.S. Please visit Love Sown blog for a chance to win a copy of my book Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots.   

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Bird by Bird

The rescue of a young Black Phoebe who hit a window. I felt so lucky to have him rest on my hand for a few minutes before flying away. Photo by Susan Branch, photographer extraordinaire.

Dear Friends,

Time is flying past, and I am trying to work my way through my new bird book. Just when I think I am getting ahead, more things bubble to the surface and the work multiplies. I was feeling frustrated and a bit scared when my friend Patsy reminded me to do the book as Anne Lamotte says, "bird by bird." And, that is exactly what I have to remember whenever I feel overwhelmed. Bird by bird, and before I know it, the book will be finished. Oh, and if you haven't read Anne's book, well, you owe it to yourself if writing is in your life.

I turn to this book for reassurance and hope.

Mama hummer is well, and she is keeping me and both her babies happy. If I tell you that I check on the nest dozens of times a day, well, you can be sure that I am not exaggerating.

Whenever Mama left her nest for any length of time, I fretted, checked on the eggs, and wanted to knit a mini mohair coverlet to tuck over them for warmth and protection.

Mama would return, buzz me for being in her territory, and settle back onto her little jelly-bean eggs.

Last Friday, my worries got the best of me. I hauled my kitchen stool out under the tree, climbed atop it, and there they were, two wonderful, yet sublimely homely, little hummers.

Mama returned, buzzed me, and when I hid behind the gate, she zoomed over the top and hovered in my face. I turned and went into the house, and she flew up and down the gate and behind it to make sure I had really gone.

Satisfied that she had her privacy, she zipped over to my little fountain and took a bath. Sorry these photos aren't great, but my camera isn't great. 

She is smooshed onto the bubbler with her head tilted on its side.

She just spied me watching her. These little birds are SMART.

The two babies are fine. They love this sunny, warm weather. Here the first (and biggest) hummer rests with chin on nest. See how short the bill is, much more like a duck bill, but it has already grown quite a bit. When I stand underneath the nest, I can see the little bifurcated tongue darting in and out.

This is a short, short posting because I am feeling the crush of deadlines. I know, bird-by-bird is what I must do to keep going.

I'll end this with loving thoughts of baby hummers, black phoebes, and the scent of spring in the air.

Photo courtesy of Sue Branch.

Photo courtesy of Sue Branch.
Yippee! Healthy and back to hawking insects from the sky.



P.S. Our winner of the drawing for the wonderful book Chicken and Egg is Blondie's Journal. Congratulations dear and lucky one...please send your snail mail address. 

P.S.S. Finally, after weeks of travel, a sprained wrist, a sick computer that spent days in ICU, we have the rest of Grimy Hands envelopes ready to go out in tomorrow's mail. Hurrah! 

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Simply Loving

Dear Friends,

Please join my celebration of simply loving...

Stumbling upon a perfect Anna's hummingbird's nest of spider web, lichens, moss, hair, feathers, and fiber.

Examining its beauty.

Standing on tiptoe and HOPING that I'll capture something inside the nest. Yes! Two jelly-bean-sized white eggs, but where is Mama? Did she desert the nest?

Five minutes later, Mama is back and snuggled down onto the nest like a tea cozy. 

Watching her twirl around to find a comfy spot.

Having a husband who understands how important this nest is to me.

Blocking the side gate entry so that Mama is not disturbed.

Cooking (and testing recipes) for cherished friends.

Tasting fresh-cooked and creamy cannellini beans (I'm testing out Patsy's new warm bean recipe. See Patsy's recipe in my post from last week.)

Picking fresh herbs for dinner.

Prepping appetizers (oh, there is my lost phone).

Carrying out appetizers and being greeted by the dearest of friends. Bruce Black on the left, he owns The Squibb House Bed and Breakfast on Burton Drive in Cambria. Next to Bruce is birthday girl Susie Bassetti of Bassetti Vineyards, then Joe Hall, my Jeff, Ellis Bassetti, and another birthday girl, Susan Branch.

Seeing the joy in Sue's smiling face.

Feeling the appreciation and happiness in the faces of everyone around the table. And finding out that Patsy's warm bean salad was not only a hit, but a home run!

Knowing that these are such great friends, they'll love (and accept) my simple dessert of lemon sorbet and Girl Scout thin mints. They did love it!

I am simply grateful.

Sending love,


P.S. The first batch of Grimy Hands Girls' Club envelopes are mailed, another 50 to go to the first 100 charter members. Thanks for your patience. Thanks also to Lori Ann for the fabulous Mountain Bluebird mounted photo and to all my Kentucky friends...heartfelt thanks.

New Give-Away for the Chicken-Hearted

Stay tuned for another book give away. This is especially great for those of you raising chickens (or hoping to) and includes over 100 chicken and egg recipes. Billed as "The tale of three urban hens and the delicious recipes they inspire. Their owner, urban dweller Janice Cole, shares the gratification of learning to raise chickens in her yard. They make charming companions, and lay delicious eggs." 

So gear up and leave a comment on this posting and I'll draw the winner's name next Sunday, April 10th. I think you'll love this!