Life as I know It

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

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Spring Harvest of Ideas

This display garden by Jason Hamon, EcoSystems Landscape Solutions, is filled with repurposed and rethought articles used in whimsical ways in the garden. His garden was called "A Breath of Fresh Air," and it won the prestigious silver medal for design. Jason's attitude is "get outside and play in your garden." Shouldn't your garden be playful, too?

Dear Friends,

This is an extra post for the week because I just returned from the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show. If you are anywhere near the show and you're looking for inspiration, rare plants, garden furniture, garden art, books, seeds galore, and more, well, you MUST take time and treat yourself to a day at the show.

Any comments you leave will be added to the hat for my double-doozie drawing this Sunday. You may win a kneeler from Gardener's Supply Company or my friend Karen Weir-Jimerson's wonderful new book So Much Sky.

Here are a few highlights and some of my favorite products and ideas:

Jason used old magazines as placemats

Jason's patio features this circa 1950ish kitchen cart, which he uses as a serving area, game holder, and cookbook storage.

Another idea from Jason, and who'd a thunk?

Another repurposing by Jason. I actually feature this idea in my book Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots. Don't you have an old wagon sitting around somewhere? I grew miniature pumpkins in my son's old wagon. A great part of growing in this is that you can follow the sun.

Handmade, glass stars dangle and dazzle from the trees in Jason's garden. The stars were crafted by Tandem Glass of Maine. 

Landscape Restoration Dan Pozzi's "Timeless Peace" won a Silver medal

An old clawfoot bathtub and shower for a water element in his garden

Dan's gardener's shed nestles among trees 

Love modern and chic? These stainless steel clad planters, all in varying sizes and heights, seem to float above the ground. They highlight the sculptural form of the plants featured.

Modern, minimalist (not enough plants for me, but perfect for others). I like the simple double rusted iron fire rings. This would be simple to do in any garden EXCEPT a California forest or chaparral lands. I liked the rectangular, shallow pool, and fountain to the left, too.

I've been drooling over one of these huge galvanized containers at our local Farm Supply in San Luis Obispo. I wanted to use it for a water element (not bad at $195.00), but the folks at Star Apple Edible Gardens, a fabulous, young company that designs and installs edible gardens, used this tub for a series of pie-shaped gardens. One is for tea plants, one for a variety of mustards, and one for tomatoes. The plant in the middle is a Yuzu, which is a citrus. Fred Hempel, breeder and farmer at Baia Nicchia Farm & Nursery, uses all the plants featured AND the Yuzu. They use both the leaves and the rinds of the fruits. 

I'll let the Baia Nicchia folks speak for themselves. They've got great ideas and great products.

A close up of the mini-garden with Yuzu in center

Patricia "Pattie" Boudier, who owns one of my favorite garden and seed supply businesses, interviews me in the Star Apple garden for a segment they filmed for their on-line Peaceful Valley Farm and Garden Supply web-site. This video should be up in a couple of weeks. I'll let you know.

Raised planters were constructed of recycled wood. I like how they've planted herbs with a repeat pattern of succulents between the varieties.

Even a tiny patio could accommodate a recycled wood unit like this. If these were all at the same level, there wouldn't be the great design wow factor.

A great use for old windows. Start your tender seedlings inside this. Ok, Lili (Fearless Nesting), now you can go look for windows and have Henri build you one of these. Or Grace Peterson, how about you and your dh? I loved these so much.

An outdoor dining table made from recycled wood and planted in the center with... array of handsome succulents

I can't shower Star Apple with enough kudos.

Star Apple used recycled wood for these restaurant planters. They lined the sides of the planters with burlap from food bags, filled them with great soil, and planted them with goodies.

Star Apples salad garden. The wooden salad fork is a garden marker.

You probably know that I have worked toward a garden in every school for two decades. Well, I have long been an admirer of Ben Eichorn, famed for his school gardens projects. Here is his "Grow Your Lunch" garden for kids. Look at some of his playful solutions for small school gardens.

Color, innovation, and organic practices inform Ben's garden designs for kids

Some products I loved (and bought)

Handmade copper gardening tools at Harley Farms. THESE ARE GORGEOUS and usable. I couldn't resist and treated myself to a weeder.

Every morning I spend time sweeping and raking my patios, stone walkways, and decomposed granite pathways. The broom doesn't quite cut it, and the rake stirs up the decomposed granite. I found my solution yesterday with this wonderful, handmade garden broom. It is lightweight and made from coconut palm leaves that have withered and fallen off the tree. I used it for half an hour and managed to do a job that normally takes twice as much time. I love it. The Original Garden, 604 724-0872.

I could not resist these tin boxes of seeds that come from Peaceful Valley (oh yes, and that is my copper weeder and cultivator from Harley Farm). The seeds are so wonderful, they have nine different collections available. I'm especially tickled by the "Crafter's Delight" autumn decor mix, which includes gourds, broom corn, blue corn, and more. Soon I will be offering NINE of these to lucky winners in upcoming drawings. If you are a follower and a member of my Grimy Hands Girls' Club, one of these could be in YOUR future.

I hope that this posting has given you a few ideas for your own garden. Be sure to leave a comment to be eligible for the Sunday drawing of a kneeler and the new book by Karen Weir-Jimerson.

Love and peace,

Still going after all these months!


Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Sweet Song of Rain

Old Mr. Crow ALWAYS thinks he knows the answer to every question, but here he is arguing with a Purple Finch. Yes, I know the finch isn't purple, but I am not the person who gave it that name.  Nineteenth century naturalist John Burroughs first described this finch as being dipped in poke juice. 
Naturalist Roger Tory Peterson described this finch as looking like he had been dipped in raspberry juice. For those of you who confuse this bird with the House Finch, you'll find that the colors are different and the HF has a darkly streaked belly.

Dear Friends,

I've been away for so long because I have been spending my daylight hours drawing and painting and talking for hours at a time with my editor at Workman Publishing. Workman is one of the most amazing companies for making books. They care about every step of the process, examine illustrations, text, and everything that goes into a book. I know that when I work for them they will promote my book for many years to come, so it is not only an investment in time, but also an investment in the future for the new bird lovers I hope to reach.

All the hours I've spent watching Eastern Towhees and Northern Flickers paid off when I picked up my pencil and brushes, and started to draw and paint them. The strip of paper to the right is where I test colors for the feathers.

The beginning drawing of a kestrel, a finished painting of a Western Bluebird, and a feisty little House Wren building her nest in one of our birdhouses.

Our dear friends the Bassettis threw a small dinner party at their ranch and vineyard in honor of the finish of my finished (almost) bird book. 

My grandson helped me prepare our potluck offering of homemade floral cheese. Mo went out to my little kitchen garden, harvested edible flowers, then made a confetti of them for the cheese. Yummy. See my posting on how to do this simple cheese. It is simple enough for a five year old to concoct!

Mo's creation

Mo's floral cheese in a bowl wearing a collar of fragrant scented Pelargonium leaves

My dear friends Marilyn and Libby compare notes about life

Finally, after a scary drought, a big rainstorm has hit the central coast of California. I am overjoyed by the sweet song the rain plays on my roof and into the buckets and barrels I have throughout the yard. Plink, plink, plunk, plunk, plink, it was a concert out there last night. My garden already looks more vibrant and all the fruit trees are flaunting their colorful blossoms.

This post will be short, but I do have TWO wonderful give-aways. One is donated by Gardener's Supply Company in Burlington, Vermont–a 100% employee owned, green company from the green state. They've offered a $44.95 Deep-Seat Garden Kneeler. Give your tired knees a break and visit their wonder site to learn more about them.

 Leave a comment, and I will pull a name out of a hat for the drawing on March 25th.  Good luck!

Also, my friend and author Karen Weir-Jimerson has written a wonderful book called So Much Sky. If you've been a fan of Karen's writings (I know I always read her column in Country Home BEFORE anything else) or if you're just learning of her, you'll love this book. She now writes for Country Gardens magazine, a Meredith publication.

Karen has donated an autographed copy of this book of country life that will be loved and treasured by farm folk to wannabe farmers (like me). Karen and her husband live on a small farm with an historic home that they've renovated and filled with antiques, extensive gardens, a fabulous pond, and a circus trainload of animals. Cats (11 at last count), three adorable donkeys, horses, dogs galore, you name it and they have them in their menagerie. Oh, and lest I forget it, two handsome and accomplished sons.

I'll pull a second name on the 25th for this book give-away.

Karen's book will touch your heart and kindle (or rekindle) your love for country life. Speaking of Kindle, it will also soon be available on Kindle if that is what you're hankering for.

Thanks so much for stopping by. I've been away from blogs and blogging for a few weeks now, but I will soon get back into gear and try to keep up.

All joys across the countryside tilting toward spring,


Some P.S. "Thank you"s:

Carol S. Y. THANK YOU for the fabulous old book on the islands of Maine. I love it and I love reading about places that are so much a part of our life now. One of the islands is featured in my first novel. I found facts in the book that I had never heard of before. Your gift is a joy as are YOU.

Mary Rae, your rainbow of handmade cotton dishcloths brightened my day. When I opened that envelope full of goodies, I let out a hoot of joy. Thank you so much, dear.

Karen Weir-Jimerson, a big thank you for the donation of the autographed book AND my personal copy. Jeff will read it to me every night after my weary eyes give out.  I already read some of the stories and love them.