Life as I know It

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

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


My Baltimore Oriole on one of his favorite snacks.

Stoop, kneel, tug weeds, plop them into an old tin bucket, scoot onward, ever onward. I've been smiling at the lengthening days, the awakenings in my garden, the near completion of my book, and the arrival of family and friends for my grandson Moses' fifth birthday. On Saturday night, we had 18 people crammed into our little house for dinner and celebration. Phew, what a crush.

Although we still have chilly nights, the days feel silky, warm, and filled with bursting life. As I walk my garden paths, I am amazed by the brilliant oranges shining from so many pots and plots. And then, to add to the plethora of oranges, as I worked in my studio, this flaming orange Baltimore Oriole appeared on my new pages of paintings. It felt like the easiest drawing I've ever done, and it seemed to flow off my brush and onto the page. Why couldn't every illustration be this easy?

Won't you join me on a short walk through the gardens? We'll stop and look closely at some of the magical unfoldings. Spring is careening toward us.

The aloes provide welcome nectar for hummers, orioles, and the warblers who hover in front of the long, tubular blooms and sip.

The little kumquats, which are the size of my thumb, are all ripening, which makes my grandson so happy. He is a fruitaholic and loves picking fruit fresh from the garden.

I have a small crop of blood oranges, which are almost ripe. I love using these in salads. Their deep red flesh is always a surprise for my guests.

This small Washington navel is loaded this year.

Yum, it will be time for my Grandmother Lovejoy's California orange marmalade. Her recipe came from my Great Grandmother Abigail, who was born and lived in Pasadena, California. 

The old-fashioned Calendulas are in full bloom now. I pick them every few days and dry the petals for my salad mix toppings, but I also love them fresh and scattered in rice dishes, custards, and on salads.

My potted and in-ground Meyer lemons are producing like crazy. Wow, these Meyers are the best. Zest them and put on a parchment covered cookie sheet; bake at 250 degrees until they're dry. They have a hint of vanilla taste to them and are great on desserts.

Ok, I know these are humble flowers,  but I adore them. These nasturtium (called Lark's Heel in olden days for the spurs on the backside of the flower) are ubiquitous in coastal California, but I never take them for granted. I know it is old hat to use them in cooking, but I do it. I cut the petals and confetti them over salads, stuff the whole blossoms with my homemade cheese mixture, and plant them in pots for my beloved hummingbirds.

I am not a great photographer (where is Carol Duke of Flower Hill Farm when I need her? ) Here are the hummingbirds who bring so much life to my garden. 

I photographed these three (one behind one on right) through my bedroom window. At dusk, there will sometimes be 5 hummingbirds feeding here. I keep two feeders filled and hanging close by so I can always watch them. They give me so much joy, and they love all my Salvias and the pots of colorful nasturtiums.

I mix fresh syrup for the hummingbirds every day. I scour the feeder with a bottle brush, and clean it with hot, hot water.

Many of you have asked what I feed them. It's simple. 1/4 cup of pure granulated sugar (NEVER use sugar substitutes or honey), and 1 cup of water. I mix the sugar and water and microwave it for about a minute and thirty seconds, then let the syrup cool thoroughly. I keep a jar of prepared syrup ever-ready in my fridge so I never run out.

Hummer syrup

Every morning when I feed the Scrub Jays and Mockingbirds, I stick a small fruit atop a birdhouse. The birds love the fruits and now someone (maybe a little woodpecker?) is working at opening a larger entry hole in the birdhouse. 

I must return to my work table now to finish some illustrations of Pine Siskins. Before I leave though, I wanted to offer my readers a chance to win a wonderful and colorful gardening book, The Complete Kitchen Garden, written by my friend Ellen Ecker Ogden, who is the co-founder of The Cook's Garden.  This special book, published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang, will give you a wheelbarrow load of ideas. The plans, plant lists, and 100 recipes are great. Good luck to you. Be sure to leave a comment to be eligible for the drawing to be held on the last day of this month.

Next month, I'll begin my spring give-aways of goodies from Gardener's Supply Company.  Check back in March thru May.

Here is a delicious little tidbit from one of the pages of this inspirational AND useful book.

What gardener could resist this???

Sending love across the miles,


P.S. I want to thank one of Indiana's BEST teachers for her thoughtfulness. Thank you Lori Hibbard for the antique bird book AND for the faerie doll for Sara May. It even looks like her, and she loves it. You're a peach!


torchy said...

I look at your garden and drool. Springtime in the Rockies is still a dream; my garden sleeps under a foot of snow. Thank you for your colorful posts!

Spinneretta said...

I can't wait to get our garden going here in central VA.
In the meantime, I shall live vicariously through you!

suzanne said...

Hello Dear Sharon

What a glorious post full of yellow and orange~ I love your illustrations. I cannot believe Spring is with you. I have been telling Winter to hold back here as I am not ready yet...

I hope you are well and its good to see you enjoying big family gatherings. I love them too. My Summer flowers are loosing their petals and seeds are on their way. I am sure if I prune my roses, I might just have one more flush before the Winter. I have just finished harvesting 80 pumpkins. Lined up all ready to eat and hand out as gifts.

Sharon have a wonderful week.
Lots of love

kj said...

you are one lucky duck, ms. sharon lovejoy. i am salivating. (don't laugh, i know what you're thinking: this time i mean salivating!) i cannot believe all those fruits and flowers you have in your yard. i say 'yard' instead of garden because it makes it clear that you are common folk like the rest of us :^)

and you stuff the nasturtium blossoms with your homemade cheese mixture? oh be still my salivating heart. like in italy? could there be anything in the world more wholesome and more delicate at the same time?

you make me silly happy, sharon.
(big grin)


Hindsfeet said...

"Spring is careening toward us!"

Oh Sharon, how I *loved* this was nectar for my soul....thanks, Dear, for such a lovely breath tonight...

Everything Lovely for you,

Cindy (Applestone Cottage) said...

Hi Sharon,
Oh do I love the pics of the flowers and oranges and all the lovelies of spring by you!
We still have snow and winter and cold.
Such beauty you have shared and I would love to win your give-away too!
You have such a charmed life!

Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

Loved the walk though your garden this morning Sharon. A great way to start the day. I have to say I'm a bit jealous of your blood oranges. How wonderful to have them all to yourself in your own back yard.

Kay G. said...

Dear Sharon,
I do the exact same mixture for my hummingbirds.
Also, did you know that orange has been chosen as "THE" color for Spring? You are right in style!

Can't wait for your bird book!

Cristy said...

Beautiful lemons and kumquats. Thanks for offering this great looking book.

Sonia said...

We loved our time out in your neck of the woods, seeing hummers and citrus was a treat in the middle of our winter! Such a beautiful picture of the oriole. We get an abundance of them when our grapes are almost ripe. Anxiously awaiting your book!
Miss Bloomers

Darla said...

Thank you for the visuals of your garden. It was a lovely way for me to start my day in southwestern Ohio. I would love to win the book, because I am deep into planning our garden for this year. Always new things to try and old favorites to look forward to enjoying once again.

Comfrey Cottages said...

Your sweet little oriole flew off your brushes and pencils to bring you sunshine, (and positive changes), to your life and your current book project! :) How alive he looks, Sharon! Thank you for the lovely walk through your gardens! Quite cheery and colorful compared to mine right now, here in Illinois:)For years I devoted much of the summer to feeding and watching our little hummingbirds. I remember when I was first trying to draw them into the gardens, I went and hung red strips of cloth on all the trees! lol! That was a hoot when the squirrels found them and I could see them waaaay up in the trees entwined in their nests:) lol! I never considered it, but when I decided to start keeping bees, it heralded the end of my hummingbird feeders... you can imagine what happened there... now I content myself with watching the little hummers feed from the plant/flowers they can drink from:) I miss feeding them though!
What a pretty illustration in the book!
Big hugs and much love from Comfrey Cottages! xxoo

Maggie said...

Lucky you to be out gardening and in warm weather too. It will be a few weeks yet before I can venture out and get my hands dirty.
I love that you're operating the Hummingbird Cafe and envious that you can pick fresh citrus fruits whenever you like.

Unknown said...

Our weather is very teasing here . . . lurching from freezing, to highs in the 70's, to a white-out snow storm that we got caught in, in the center of our state, and back to a freeze. The daffodils are blooming, the tulip magnolia flowers frozen and brown. But the seeds in my Salad Table have sprouted and I have bluebirds at my feeder.

Robin Larkspur said...

I love the fruit idea; of perching a pear onto of the birdhouse! As always, inspiration everywhere on your blog. We are weeks away from outside gardening here in central new york, but you have gotten me excited and ready to plant!! The giveaway book would be most helpful!! Enjoy the hummers for us back here in winter!!

Stacey said...

Hi, Sharon. Here in Southeastern PA, the sun is shining and it will be 60 degrees. Unbelievable for this time of year. My pea seeds are calling out for me and I have to remind them not yet, not yet ...

The book is lovely. I have a kitchen garden, but I am still a newbie and would love the inspiration it would afford.

I can almost smell the lovely citrus in your garden from here.

As the Crowe Flies and Reads said...

I'm so envious of your fresh-grown citrus! As always, I enjoyed my walk through your garden, and I'm no major judge of flower, but the nasturtiums don't look so humble to me.

Kay's flowers said...

Dearest Sharon,
It's been a while since I've written anything but I love to read your blog. It's always inspiring and the pictures say a thousand words. I hope your new book will be out soon and I can add it to my list of favorites. Have a great week!

nana pam said...

I would love to win that book. How I envy you Californians all the fresh fruits, veg. and flowers. People are so much healthier there. Nasturtiums-how I have always loved them. I have to baby them along here from seed or tiny plants and they never do very well.
pam G.

Wylie said...

Lovely drawing and photographs! It is still cold here in the northeast, but my Meyer lemon tree has several lemons on it (indoors)! Lovely give-away....hope I win!

Blondie's Journal said...

Your illustration is wonderful...I am excited about your new book. Have you given any hints that I may have missed?

What I would give to have fruit trees. And you are so sweet to share with the birds. I have never thought to leave fruit for them. I can't have feeders because I am back and forth between different homes during the week and I wouldn't want them to go without food. I hear they become very dependent on their feeders. My next door neighbor feeds the birds, including hummingbirds, so I have the thrill of watching them come to my garden to check out the flowers! I think your picture of the hummers is quite good!

Thank you for the generous giveaway. This looks like a wonderful and handy little book! :)

Hope you are having a great week, Sharon!


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

Have been checking daily for your new entry.
Loved the tour through the garden.
Plants just emerging in my area.
May plant some ettuce and onions next week and also a few peas.
Take care...

Anonymous said...

Hello, Sharon! Thanks for your hummer syrup recipe! The weather out there looks wonderful especially as the backdrop for your aloe. I have received some special news - I am going to be a grandmother! I'm over the moon - of course! I think your upcoming book will be perfect in my expanding universe! xoxoxo thea

Lori ann said...

dear sharon,

i love your oriele. i'm sitting listening to birds twitting and tweeting as i type, just this week i layed out wool scraps for nest making, if i can find any pieces in a new nest, its the biggest thrill. spring is really and truly here!
enjoyed your post so much, as always,
xxx lori

Pat said...

Thank you Sharon - knew I could visit you and feel revived with a garden walk...such a welcomed escape from our steely gray skies, snow covered ground and more on the way...2 more months of this...

Lili said...

You just blow me away Sharon Lovejoy! And to me nothing you do is old hat for goodness sakes. It sounds so elegant and yet at the same time so simple, and I always marvel at all the inspiration you provide. Your garden out there is so lush and vibrant already, it is just amazing to me. I'm going to have another look around to savor all your little tidbits on here too. love and hugs to you both ~Lili

Terra said...

Enter me in this drawing for the book, pretty please.
I enjoyed this stroll through your garden with you; I have Meyer lemons and nasturtiums too. I got some great ideas here.
On my garden list: plant red onion starts and basil seeds. I agree with you, the air feels silky here.
Oh, this is the last day for the drawing on my blog for 3 books and magnolia soap. One of the books is Anne of Green Gables.

africanaussie said...

Oh how wonderful to be able to create those beautiful little birds with your hand! every one is exquisite! that looks like a great book - would you post it to Australia if I won?

Carol said...

Oh, Sharon . . . this post is so full of treats! Thank you for mentioning me too!! What an honor surrounded by all this beauty. Your gardens are magical . . . wow! You are picking fresh fruit while our winter (mild as it is) carries on. I do envy you your double life. I love your Baltimore Oriole. You certainly have captured the spirit of the striking bird. I love the photograph too . . . with the brushes, pencils and paint about. To me there is nothing humble about nasturtium . . . they are lovely in a garden, vase or atop a salad. Yours look especially beautiful in your bright yellow vase. The photo of the birdhouse with the fruit on top is precious, as is the thank you note from Sara. What a joy to visit you! Hugs from the cold northeast. Carol

Susan said...

I love visiting your garden--it gives me such inspiration and serenity. I had a sighting of a Red-Headed Woodpecker this week while working in my studio. I smiled and thought of you and your birds. XOXO

Larkrise garden girl said...

Sharon. What a beautiful walk thru your garden. I love this time of year. Maulie and I are out in my garden working away. I love your garden it always touches my soul and leaves me with such a warm feeling of appreciation of Lifes joys.Hugs Cheri

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Love, love, love hearing from all of you!

Yes, I will post a book to Siberia if that blogger's name is pulled. I sent two books to South Africa last year and I think the postage was waaaaaay more than the cost of the books, though one had a Tasha Tudor autograph.

Thea, CONGRATULATIONS!! Of course you are over the moon. Hurrah!

Love to all,


LindaCTG said...

What talent you have! Your garden design, your illustrations, and the way you bring it all to life in words, too. And orange is one of my favorite colors. Amazing person you are!

Unknown said...

Sharon, Your words make up for any seeming lack of photographic skill. Always a joy to read your posts and see what you are up to.

We are still munching on kale that wintered over from last year's spring crop in our kitchen garden which is badly do for a complete overhaul. The book looks intriguing especially with the upcoming project in our own garden. It would be wonderful to win it so put me on that list. And thank you for hosting the lovely giveaway.

The Painted Garden said...

Hi Sharn,

Oh my goodness - your garden looks lovely in her early Spring finnery.How special that you have the blood red oranges - such a beautiful color and tasty as well. It is always a joy to visit you and spend a little time with you in your charming garden.

Thank you for the walk through your garden.
Have a lovely day.
Blessings, Erin

P.S. I saved the magazine featuring your garden and I still enjoy reading the article.

Jim Longs Garden said...

I can't believe you grow blood oranges AND Meyer lemons! You lucky thing, no wonder the orioles find you! I'll bet you talk to those birdies while you're painting them, too!

peg said...

Sharon....your illustrations are wonderful! I can't wait for your new book to be published! BTW....have you ever thought about designing some bookmarks that your blog friends could download and print? I would love to have some garden/sunflower/bird bookmarks to mark my favorite outdoor books!!! xo peg

Joan S Bolton said...

Thanks for the warm, cheery walk through your garden.
I loved the photo of the hummingbirds -- although can't believe that yours are willing to share. Ours sip nectar one at a time -- only staying until the next hummer buzzes him/her off!

Anonymous said...

Thank you Sharon for a glimpse of HOME!! I have lived in Colorado for 25 years now but I never stop missing California in the Spring! We had a huge lemon tree in the backyard of the home I grew up in! But Colorado has its beauties too! Thanks for the chance to enter.
Kathy L from Colorado

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Hi all,

So happy to hear from you and I LOVE Peg's idea of doing some downloadable bookmarks. I will do it if I can figure out how. I know my pal Susan Branch does downloadable things and may have to ask her assistant.

I'd love to do that if you want them.


Jennie said...

Thank you for all the beautiful "oranges" and for the winning opportunity.
Blessings to you and yours.

Anonymous said...

Gardening, birding, cooking how could we ask for a better theme for a blog day! Thank you.

Vee said...

Should I win, would you please give the book to the person behind me? I was so blessed to win three, THREE books recently.

Lovely drawing and I am glad that illustrating the oriole has come easily. I'm a bit surprised to learn that they don't all work that way.

A full house of 18. It'll be a full house of 8 here tomorrow and I will think it a "crush."

Thank you for the stroll through the garden. I'm imagining enjoying some blood oranges on a salad now...

Jackie DiGiovanni said...

Sharon, I so love that your are sharing some of your drawings as you create them. It's all looking good.

And I would lovd go win the gardening book, too.

Viki Hoover said...

Love this post !! How I envy you your ability to grow Meyer Lemons and Blood Oranges. Where I live in Illinois these are tropicals I can only grow in pots .

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

I am always envious of those who can grow citrus trees in theri backyards, Sharon. What a delight it must be to ahve all the fruit you can pick!

The garden book looks wonderful!

Nan said...

I read somewhere that oranges could bring orioles or maybe cardinals to the feeders. Well, you know who loves my half oranges stuck on the maple branch? The dear little red squirrels!
Your color and plants leave me shaking my head in amazement.

Pondside said...

As I walked with you I imagined that I could feel the warmth in the air and the warmth coming up from the earth. We're still a ways away from flower-time up here. There are crocuses now, and 2-3 inches of daffodil foliage poking up through the soil. We'll have blooms, with a couple of sunny days!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your garden with us! I am So ready for spring! It snowed yesterday and got down to 26 degrees last night.(Western Washington) At least the sun shining this morn. Count me in on the book drawing!
~ L. Croyle

Stephanie Roth Sisson said...

Sharon! What a beautiful Oriole illustration! xo

Privet and Holly said...

Oh, this has me so
excited for our spring
break in Palm Springs,
where the air will be
silky and fresh, just
as you describe, and
the citrus will be hanging
from the trees. Love
your illustration as well
as the sweet garden
picture from this lovely


Anonymous said...

Sharon, is it okay with you if i use your hummer recipe in my garden club's newsletter? I will include the link to your blog as well. let me know. thanks, thea

Teri said...

Wow...glad to see you here again. I was worried that something was wrong but I should have known better: you were gardening and illustrating! There just doesn't seem to be enough time in a day, does there! Luckily, the days are getting more sunlight, like you noticed too. I can hardly drag myself in after a day in the yard. Hate the word verification!

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Hi Thea, ABSOLUTELY feel free to use this recipe and publish it. I am always shocked and saddened when I find out that folks are using the wrong recipe. And, please mention that FOOD COLORING IS NOT NECESSARY. Some scientists believe that the coloring is bad for kidneys. To first entice hummers just tie some red ribbon on the feeder if it isn't already red.

Stephanie Roth Sisson, you are such a FABULOUS illustrator. Right up there with Melissa Sweet. I could never do what you do and I truly appreciate your words of encouragement.



Anonymous said...

I will include all your warnings about honey and food coloring. the red ribbon is such a great idea. thanks, Sharon Lovejoy!!! Thea

Suzanne in Sweetwater said...

Love, love, LOVE your photos and your description of 'silky' days! And I think it's great that you love nasturtiums as much as I do! Texas greetings from the bright side of the road!