Monthly Archives: April 2019

Pet Peeves (April A ~ Z Challenge)

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I wonder how many people, participating in the April A ~ Z Challenge, will choose “pet peeves” as their topic today. I’m pretty excited about it. I expect it to be very satisfying to commiserate about things that really gripe me. So, on with it!

  • Misspelled words. I’m a good and careful speller but, in rereading essays I’ve posted, I still find mistakes. It’s frustrating, but fixable. With all the spell-checkers available, it should be a rare problem. Unfortunately, I’ve seen the language so garbled, I wonder if the writer is even trying!
  • Bad grammar. Especially when it comes from the mouths of people who know better. As if saying “ain’t got no” will make them seem more relatable, somehow. To me, it just makes them annoying.
  • People who can’t tell the difference between apology and empathy. I’ve written whole blogs about this. If I say, “I’m sorry,” unless I have stepped on your foot, bumped into you or said something out of line, I am most likely offering empathy. You don’t have to assure me that I didn’t cause the death or disaster. So many aggravating conversations go exactly like that, though. “My water pipes froze, and burst, and flooded my basement.” Me: “I’m so sorry!” “Well, it’s not your fault…” Ugh! I know it’s not my fault!
  • People who work in customer service that don’t seem to know the first thing about customers…or service. Having spent more than forty years working in restaurants and stores, I know how it should be done.
  • On the other hand, I am also really bugged by customers who refuse to allow for things that are likely beyond the control of the person in front of you. At a restaurant, the server has little control over the portions, prices, quality of food, or speed of the kitchen. It makes me extremely uncomfortable to be dining with someone who chooses to make themselves feel important by demeaning the restaurant staff. In a retail establishment, the clerks have zero control over the prices. When you take your frustrations out on service workers, you are picking on the people who are on the bottom rung of the ladder.
  • People who telephone, and then don’t identify themselves. When I’m home, I can usually recognize the voice because there aren’t that many people who call. At work, though, where I field dozens of calls in a day, why, in heaven’s name, would you presume I’d know who is calling? Even if the voice is familiar, I may struggle to associate a name or a face with it. I’m often desperately trying to identify the caller based on the information they give: “…was in your store yesterday,” “…my dog Spot is throwing up,” “…still struggling with that electrical issue,” until a pause in the conversation allows me an opportunity to ask, “Who is this??
  • Sarcasm. When I was younger, I used to think it was cool. Now, I think it’s usually just mean.
  • Unkindness. No matter what, I think we have to hold on to our human decency.

I feel better already, giving voice to all of my pet peeves first thing in the morning!

Once (April A ~ Z Challenge)

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Darla, one of three dogs, out on one of the two or three walks we take each day

I am sixty-six years old. That’s a long time to be an active participant in this world. Though there are still many things I have never done, the list of things that I’ve done only once is fairly short. Once in my life:

  • I got married. I wore a white empire style dress that I found on sale for $75.00, including the veil. Later, my sister Sheila wore it for her wedding, and spilled red wine down the front of it. Still later, my youngest daughter tried to modify it; that was the end of the dress. My bridesmaids had pretty, but cheap, silky red dresses that barely made it through the night before they started to fray and split at the seams. The ceremony was held at the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Lapeer, Michigan, where I’d attended mass for all of my life. Because my Dad had a little bit of a feud going with some factions of my soon-to-be husband’s family (and because many members of his family had a pretty big reputation around town as drinkers and fighters), we worried about trouble at the reception. There was none. I smiled until my cheeks ached for my Grandma Florence’s camera. I danced for hours. I tried to talk to everyone.
  • I got divorced. Marriage was hard; divorce was harder…but at least there was an end in sight.
  • I flew out to California. I went to San Francisco, San Jose, and north to Calaveras County. I swam in the ocean, camped on the beach, explored caves, and hiked in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.
  • I sailed away from Beaver Island’s Paradise Bay to Port Huron, in a twenty-nine foot sailboat, as part of a three-person crew. In October. Up through the Straits of Mackinac and down the length of Lake Huron, with a headwind all the way. Five days and five nights on the water. It was hard, but wonderful at the same time. I had never sailed before, and I’ve never sailed since.
  • I took a ride in a bi-plane, doing barrel rolls and spins in the open air.
  • I traveled to Grand Turk Island, in the British West Indies, to participate in an archaeological dig. While there, I ate conch, served up fried, with chips, and khyton, which I scraped from a rock and ate raw, as the native people we were studying would have.
  • Though I’ve been on a few “Sisters Vacations” now, and have gotten to Florida in the winter a couple times, I’ve only been to Nashville once. It was with my sisters, maybe four or five years ago. Though my husband and I drove through Nashville many years ago, with our small children, on our way to Little Rock, Arkansas. That was the only time I was there. And, now that I think about it, there were things I did or places I visited on these and other vacations that I haven’t done again, too.

And that. I think, brings me to the end of this short list of things I have only done once.

Non-Fiction (April A ~ Z Challenge)

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I read a lot of non-fiction. That’s partly because self-help books are included in this category (and I am the queen of self-help), and also because it encompasses so many sub-categories. Sometimes they overlap, but here are some distinctions:

  • Biography and autobiography. Some of the dullest books, the ones most difficult to get through, fall into this category. Also some of the liveliest, most exciting books. And it doesn’t simply mean that the subject matter made the difference. It means that good, engaging writing is important, no matter whose story is being told.
  • Instruction. Cookbooks usually fall into this category. Also books on writing, gardening, exercise, etc. Then there are the many art instruction books; whether for drawing, painting, paper-making, ceramics or printmaking, I have read plenty of them.
  • Self-help. “How to:” raise [polite/well-behaved/well-adjusted/healthy/successful/happy] children; de-clutter; stop procrastinating; be happier; become healthier; be a better employee; be a better friend; manage money; run a small business; be a better conversationalist; diffuse an argument; train a dog. Like I said, I’m the queen of self-help books!
  • Inspiration. This is one of those gray areas, but I’ve certainly picked up books that are inspirational first, and the instruction or self-help falls in behind.
  • Education. Again, this seems to overlap. Educational books could encompass any other category as well. My distinction is that these books do not even attempt to be entertaining. If you want to simply learn something, these books will tell you what you need to know. That’s it.
  • Memoir. The difference between autobiography and memoir is subtle. Mainly, it seems to me, it boils down to artistic license. An autobiography should have names and dates correct. A memoir, which by definition is reliant on memory, can play a little fast and loose with the facts, and the sequence of events. Some of my favorite books fall into this category: Growing Up, by Russell Baker; The Liar’s Club, by Mary Karr; The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls; Let’s Don’t Go to the Dogs Tonight, by Alexandra Fuller; Becoming, by Michelle Obama; What You Have Heard is True, by Carolyn Forsche; and many others.
  • Essays. Of course, essays are not always non-fiction, but the ones I enjoy most are. The Essays of E.B. White are some of the best. Essays by Jim Fitzgerald, compiled together in his book, If It Fitz, also have a special spot on the shelf. Essays by Gloria Steinem, Alice Walker, Evan S. Connell, Annie Dillard, Bill Bryson, and Anna Quindlan are as entertaining to me when read for the tenth time as they were when I first encountered them.
  • Reference. Some reference books do double duty as instruction, self-help, education or inspiration books. Depending, I guess, on how likely one is to refer back to it. I’m thinking, though, of reference books being dictionaries, and things like that. Sometimes, in a pinch or for a purpose, fun to read, but mostly just to find a specific bit of information.

Though I love a good mystery, and I relish quality fiction, I’m sure I read more non-fiction than anything else.

Magazines (April A ~ Z Challenge)

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I’ve always loved magazines. A nice, regularly received gift in the mailbox, with fresh ideas, new stories and colorful pictures. These are the ones I grew up with:

  • Ladies Home Journal. I liked reading “Can this Marriage be Saved?” I’d try to make a game of it with sisters or friends. We could each read the accounts by each spouse, and draw our conclusions. Only then would we turn to the opinion of the professional, to see how he weighed in.
  • McCall’s. As a child, I had a whole collection of Betsy McCall paper dolls, because there was a new one in each issue, along with a seasonal outfits and a short story.
  • Redbook. This magazine had more stories than the others. Being a reader, I appreciated that.
  • Reader’s Digest. I loved this compact magazine! I’d first turn to “Life in These United States,” then “Humor in Uniform.” I loved all of the anecdotes. Then I’d find the heart-wrenching human interest story, hidden somewhere in the center. Next, the condensed book featured in the last several pages of the magazine. After that, if I needed reading material, I’d pick it up again, for the stories and articles I’d missed first time around.
  • Life. Always topical, with famously beautiful photographs. I remember the discussion around the adult table (“no different than seeing a woman nurse a baby,” was my Dad’s opinion) when the cover photo featured a woman, arms folded chastely over her chest, in a topless bathing suit. I recall an issue from the sixties with a photo of a stunning black woman, in profile. The caption stated, “Black is Beautiful.” Growing up in a fairly isolated small town, Life Magazine made the world accessible, and it helped to broaden my mind. When my mother died eight years ago, the issue of Life Magazine that came out right after John F. Kennedy was assassinated was still among her belongings.

I still love magazines, though I don’t have as much time to read them. I’ll get a subscription, then let it lapse when I find I have unread issues piling up in the rack. Every now and then I’ll pick up a People magazine at the grocery store. Though I love all that gossipy news when I’m reading in a waiting room somewhere, it rarely seems worth the purchase price to me. When I’m on the mainland, and have access to a greater magazine selection, I’ll usually pick up American Craft or Ceramics Monthly. Sometimes ArtNews or ArtForum. I enjoy O magazine, and sometimes Martha Stewart Living. I love cooking magazines. I often pick up home magazines, gardening magazines and health and fitness magazines. The only magazine I subscribe to right now is RealSimple. And that’s enough.

Languages (April A ~ Z Challenge)

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This will be a short list:

  • English. This is the language I was raised with, and the only one I know really well. There are words, though, that I learned from reading, and never heard spoken. Until that occasion when I’d use one in conversation, garbling the pronunciation embarrassingly. And strong accents often throw me. Beyond that, I’m pretty comfortable with the English language.
  • German. My great-grandparents, on my father’s side, were born in Germany. My paternal grandfather, whose parents were always more comfortable with the German language and who saw two world wars fought with Germany, used to boast, “we may have been poor, but my children didn’t speak German.” Still, a few things persisted. We sometimes said “danke” or “danke shoene” for “thank you” and we always heard “gesundheit” after a sneeze. That was about it, though.
  • Latin. I never studied Latin, but I attended Catholic mass when it was still said in Latin. Our prayer books had Latin on one side, the English translation on the facing page. Though I’d have to think a minute about the translation, phrases like “et cum spirii tu tuo,” “Pater noster,” and “Dominus noviscum” still sound very familiar to me.
  • Pig Latin. Easy-peasy. Too easy to serve it’s purpose of keeping what we were saying a secret. Others soon caught on to the trick, and we had to evolve.
  • Carnie Talk. It’s more difficult to decipher than Pig Latin, mainly because it can be spoken so rapidly. Sometimes, at family gatherings, my sister Brenda and I are still called upon to speak to each other in Carnie Talk, mainly so that all the young people can laugh at us.
  • Spanish. I took only one semester of Spanish in college. I loved it so much, though, and did so well at it (and forgot almost everything I learned so very quickly!), I kick myself for not continuing with it.
  • Russian. I spent a few weeks learning a little bit of this language several years ago, with an on-line program. The Cyrillic alphabet. A few pronunciations. How to write my name, and the names of my family. That’s it.

And that’s about it for what I know of languages!

Kitchens (April A ~ Z Challenge)

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My mother’s kitchen was expansive, with large picture windows on the front and side, and corner windows behind the sink facing into the garden and back yard. The light fixtures were circular fluorescent lights, the height of modernity when they were new. The long table dominated the space. We sat around it for meals, but also for doing homework, and for evenings of puzzles and games. We used it for meal preparation, bread-making, cake and cookie making, and tasks involved in canning and freezing. I remember using it to cut out fabric for patterns. I can clearly picture Mom with her teacup at one end of the table, Dad with his newspaper, or dealing out cards for solitaire at the other. I haven’t had a single kitchen that provided the good feelings and cherished memories of that one. Still, I’ve enjoyed a few kitchens:

  • My first kitchen as a young newly-married adult, was in the upstairs apartment on Court Street. It had a stripey floral wallpaper in cream, red and blue. I hung a large poster with the same colors, of Uncle Sam saying “I want you!” That kitchen’s sink was in an alcove outside of the room, and was shared with the bathroom.
  • When we moved to a downstairs apartment in the same building, we were rewarded with a much larger kitchen. It was here that my father-in-law stopped in almost every morning, just to say hello to his first grandchild, and to watch her have her baby cereal. He’d always take the cup of coffee I offered; if I had pie or a muffin to go with it, he’d break into a grin.
  • The kitchen at the lake house was a narrow hallway. Three small windows over the sink looked onto the driveway and the neighbor’s house beyond. One of my first purchases was three tiny African violet plants, one to sit in each window. The first winter we lived there, a thousand mice climbed up the plumbing from the Michigan basement, and made themselves at home inside of the metal cabinets. They ate everything that they could get into, and tormented me for weeks until we got rid of them. The memory of the sound of those hundreds of tiny jaws could still give me nightmares!
  • The townhouse that was our next home had a small but pristine kitchen, with brand new appliances and a perfect layout. There, I taught myself how to prepare cashew chicken, lasagna, potato soup, and several other dishes that continue to be my favorites.
  • When we stayed at the farmhouse on Beaver Island, it seems there were always plenty of people to cook for. The large kitchen with big farmhouse table was perfect for rolling out piecrust, and I made many pies there with island apples and berries.
  • The large kitchen in the duplex apartment at Corner 16 was one of my favorites. Without a stove for the first several months we lived there, I learned to bake (lasagna, dinner rolls, even birthday cake!) in the electric frying pan. The long counter top was lined with special things: a tall apothecary jar filled with dried gourds; a piece of driftwood my husband had found; a framed photo of my sister Brenda and me, as babies; a beautiful large shelf fungus brought from Beaver Island. At Christmastime, we set the Christmas tree up in the corner of the kitchen, and hung the cards on the door.
  • The small kitchen at the Cherry Lane apartment on the campus of Michigan State University was simple, but efficient and well-used. We were right across the highway from the grocery store, that had large selections of ethnic foods. I had fun becoming familiar with the new flavors.
  • My current kitchen, in my little house on Beaver Island, is used mainly just for my own simple meals. It’s pleasant, though, with its view into the backyard garden, wall of bookshelves, and hanging baskets. Because I rarely eat out these days, the kitchen gets plenty of use, even just for me.

This isn’t a list of all of my kitchens, but I think I’ve mentioned all the best ones.

Jobs I’ve Held (April A ~ Z Challenge)

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This is limited to jobs I have done with the expectation of getting paid or making a profit, so I won’t list “mother” or “home-maker” with all of the jobs those titles require. Still, it’s a long list, so I’ll get right to it:

  • Babysitter. I started babysitting outside of my own home when I was thirteen years old, and continued it through high school. I picked it up again when I was a young mother, as a way to earn a little money while caring for my own children.
  • Certified Nurse Aide. I took the training as a senior in high school, and went on to work briefly at both the local hospital and the convalescent home.
  • Die-Operator. I lasted less than one week at this factory job, and never regretted quitting.
  • Dime Store Clerk. This was another short-term job that seemed sensible when we were broke and the bill-collectors were calling, but less practical when the realities of paying for child care and spending long hours away from a new baby were factored in.
  • Tutor. I worked as a tutor in a few different capacities: for children in foster care, through the Department of Social Services, and as a student at Mott Community College, where any students could earn money by tutoring others in classes they had finished successfully.
  • Waitress. My first waitress job was at the Shamrock Bar and Restaurant on Beaver Island. I started working there when we first moved here, in 1978. Before I retired my apron, I worked 21 years for the Shamrock, mostly as their morning server. On the island, Ialso served at Stoney Acre Grill, the Old Rectory Restaurant, and the Beaver Island Lodge. In periods of time off-island, I served at two different Big Boy Restaurants, and at the upscale Pretzel Bell Restaurant in East Lansing.
  • Gallery Owner, Operator. For a couple years, I ran Lapeer Gallery and Frame, which involved a lot of work with slight reward. I did matting and framing, cleaning, customer service, artist reach-out, ordering, and advertising. I also changed the displays and hosted a wine and cheese artist’s opening each month.
  • Art Teacher. I have taught art to all grade levels, in many different capacities. Sometimes it’s a one-day workshop; other times it’s a weeks-long or year-long engagement. Teaching several classes each semester in Community Education helped to support me and my family while I was studying at Michigan State University.
  • Art Store Clerk. This was also during my time at MSU, and the store was conveniently located in the Art Center, where most of my classes were held.
  • Housekeeper/Launderer. I have had several short term or interim jobs in one or both of these fields. The longest was the four years I did laundry at the Beaver Island Lodge.
  • Specialty Shop Owner, Manager. In partnership with my sister, Sheila, I opened the Seven Sisters shop, which featured “earth-friendly products for kitchen, garden and bath.”
  • Phragmites Coordinator. In this position, I did fund-raising and awareness-raising. I shared information between the two townships on Beaver Island, as well as the residents and visitors, regarding treatment and control of invasive phragmites.
  • Owner, writer and editor for the Beaver Beacon. This was the third and most recent of my own failed businesses. It’s still painful to talk about: all the mistakes I made, all the money I lost…what seemed like a wonderful opportunity with a world of possibilities turned quickly into an impossible burden. I’m just glad it’s over.
  • Hardware Store Clerk. In October, I will have held this position for eighteen years. It was never my life’s dream, but it has been fulfilling, nonetheless. That’s a good thing because, unless that lottery win happens (must make a point to buy a ticket!), it looks like this will be my job for life!
  • Artist. Last, but not least. The job I do for love. And for my enrichment and my sanity. The job I would do even if I never made a dime. But, in fact, it does return a little money to me each year. Probably not more than what I spend in materials…but enough so that I can include it here.

This may not be a complete list…but at this time, it’s all that I can remember.

Ideas (April A ~ Z Challenge)

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I’m full of ideas, big and small, possible and impossible, trivial and important. You could say I’m an idea person. If I took action as readily as I came up with ideas, oh, my! Here are a few of them:

  • A carriage house. About the same size and shape as my own house, and sitting a little to the south and west of my house, on the other side of the driveway. Half of the ground floor would be a one-car garage (for my one car); the other half would be my artist’s studio. The second floor of this story-and-a-half structure would be a small apartment. I could live in the apartment while my house was being (finally, for once and for all!) finished. Then, I could decide to live in the house or stay in the apartment. I could rent out whichever one I wasn’t living in. This idea would involve more funds than I have now, or anticipate having, ever (unless I win the lottery, which, damn, I have to remember to buy an occasional ticket, to keep that dream alive!), but what a great idea!
  • A quilt, made solely of the little printed silk tags found in the back collar of clothing. I actually have a little collection of these, in preparation for this project. With what I have so far, the quilt would be less than 6 inches square!
  • I have the idea that I am going to have to change my way of speaking to the dogs. I’m used to saying “good girl” as I give Darla or Rosa Parks a rub behind the ears or a treat. It seems to me, then, that when I offer Blackie Chan the same attention, with a “good boy” for him, that his face reflects a little disappointment. “Am I not a good girl?” his expression seems to ask me, “have I done something wrong?” Now that we have this new little boy in the family, I should really come up with a sex-neutral compliment. I’m practicing with “good doggies,” but it’s hard to break a habit…
  • I’ve been working on an idea – in my mind, only – for several years now, that involves re-working mounds of old drawings and paintings on paper into large, rounded, closed basket-forms. I imagine them hanging from the ceiling, with bits of their history visible in the woven bands.
  • An exercise room. Where I could lay on the floor for yoga or pilates, sit -ups or weight-lifting without dogs, or the fur they leave behind. I love my dogs, but really. Darla thinks, whenever I drop to the floor, that I have done that simply to receive a hundred dog kisses to my face. Rosa thinks I have done it to give her another surface to climb on. Both of them shed their fur so readily, that I am assured of getting up with my clothes covered in it.
  • A neutral home, with changing displays to celebrate the seasons. Candles, pillows, artwork and other incidentals would brighten the space and acknowledge holidays and the passage of time.
  • A series of encaustic works that would encapsulate and display items found through the course of each day. From scraps of paper to dried leaves to butterfly wings, I’m sure something beautiful could come of whatever the day offers.
  • A bead board ceiling in my downstairs, and the same bead board lining the walls and ceiling of my little office cubby.

This is just a sampling, mind you, of the ideas that occupy my thoughts. I think my next idea should involve bringing other ideas to fruition!

Home (April A ~ Z Challenge)

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First, my title was “Homes,” and my intent was to list the many homes I have lived in. The first one, that I grew up in, was my home for eighteen years. Then, in the fourteen years of my marriage, we moved more than eighteen times. Sometimes just down the road, or from an upstairs apartment down to the ground level, but a move nonetheless. Since my divorce, I’ve been less in transit, but could still add a few locations to that long list.

Up before dawn the other day, I left the house earlier than usual for my morning walk. I left Rosa Parks home, sound asleep with her nose tucked under the covers. Usually, because Rosa Parks lags far behind, I turn back before the other dogs are ready. This would give them a chance to go as far as they’d like.

Darla starts out strong, usually with a soft toy in her mouth. Soon, she loses interest in the road, and starts exploring the sights and smells in the woods on either side. I try to watch for her toy when she drops it; we’ve lost several stuffed animals off the Fox Lake Road! She keeps an eye on me, and joins me off and on throughout the distance.

Blackie Chan walks like he’s on a mission. Though he’s a small dog, just 15 pounds, he’s fast. I have to practically run to keep up with him! Though he occasionally pauses to leave his mark on a snowbank or a pile of leaves, he is mostly undeterred. Eyes front, a steady pace and a posture of expectancy and determination. That day, we walked one mile, then two. Still, he didn’t want to turn when I wanted to turn. Where does he think he’s going? Home!

As soon as the thought crossed my mind, I knew it was true. Though he has found his place in my house, and usually seems quite happy, I bet he thinks it’s just temporary. Though he had a long car ride, a short airplane ride and then another ride in a car to get from my daughter’s house to mine, I bet he thinks his own warm house and his own family is right around the next bend.

Of course he misses Jeremy and Kate, who have taken care of him since he was born. Naturally he misses my grandchildren, who have given him so much love. My heart breaks for him. Still, I have to turn him around, to head back the way we came. If what he has in mind is some kind of “Incredible Journey” type trek, I’m just not up for it! All the way back down the road, I thought about what it is that makes a home.

For me, there are particular things that come with me when I travel, that are unpacked first when I move, and that I know will make a strange or new place feel familiar:

  • Composition book. It is where I write each morning, about whatever crosses my mind.
  • Bullet journal. This is where I keep track of my “day-to-day,” plus phone numbers, recipes, directions, bits of inspiration…I am never without it.
  • Sketch book. Just in case.
  • Books. I usually over-pack books, but get nervous at the idea of not having just the right reading material when I want it.
  • Art. Obviously not just for travel, but when my daughters and I were forced to move from our home into a motel room one winter, and we had only one day and one car to move everything we needed, we chose art over many other more practical options.
  • Houseplants. When moving into a new place, familiar houseplants help to make it seem more cozy.

That’s what it takes to make me feel at home. For Blackie Chan, he has his own crate with his special blanket inside. He has the pillow he’s chosen as his own, and he knows his own food dish. Beyond that, it’s just going to take time…and love.

Gardening Books (April A ~ Z Challenge)

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In the kitchen, on the very bottom shelf, below the shelves lined with cookbooks, jars of grains and beans, and baskets filled with powders and tonics for dog or human, I have a shelf of garden books. Some are instructional. From planning, preparing the soil, and planting, to dealing with weeds, bugs and other blights, to harvesting, cooking and preserving, there are many lessons to be had. Others books are biographies of gardens or gardeners. And some are simply appreciative essays.

There are several water-spotted volumes that are carried outside with me in the spring, along with hand trowels, seeds and twine. Others get their best use in January, when the cold winds are howling, and I need their encouragement and inspiration. For one reason or another, these are some of my favorite garden books:

  • An Island Garden, by Celia Thaxter. First published in 1894, this beautiful facsimile edition was a gift to me, from a dear friend who understood my love of gardening. From the old-fashioned but still so relevant gardening pleasures and problems to the lovely watercolor illustrations, this book is a joy.
  • Seasons at Seven Gates Farm, by the editors at Country Living. Also a gift, I received this book from my cousin, Pam. It is filled to the brim with wonderful photographs and inspiration!
  • Creating a Cottage Garden, by Sue Phillips. This was one of the first garden books I bought for myself, having found it “remaindered” on the sale table at the book store. It is both practical and beautiful, with glorious images of established cottage gardens.
  • Onward and Upward in the Garden, by Katherine S. White. I bought this book because E.B. White is one of my favorite writers. Katherine was his wife, and he wrote the introduction for this volume. It turns out, I enjoy her writing, too. This book of thoughtful essays is a wonderful companion to E.B. White’s writings from and about his saltwater farm in Maine. Like his essays, these can be read and enjoyed over and over.
  • Designing the New Kitchen Garden, by Jennifer R. Bartley. Oh, if time were not a consideration and money were no object, the inspiration -found in the beautiful photos in this book – would be my guide!
  • Carrots Love Tomatoes, by Louise Riotte. This practical book on companion planting gets more wear than any other book on my shelf. Especially when planting closely, or in raised beds, the influence one plant has on another’s growth is important.
  • The No-Work Garden Book, by Ruth Stout. As the years go by, and my aching back and painful joints become a greater factor in my ability to garden, Ruth Stout’s methods seem more important than ever. A free-thinker who was an early supporter of the modern organic gardening movement (and who, I’m told, was known to garden sometimes in the nude), Stout entertains with humor and lots of good advice.

Whatever I need in the way of gardening, whether inspiration, encouragement or instruction, I can usually find it within the pages of these books!