a note of thanks, news, and my winter plans

nest-with-woolly-bearTHIS WEEK’S EMAIL NEWSLETTER (WHAT? NOT ON MY LIST?) WAS MORE letter than news (though I suppose there is some news; more on that in a moment). With crusty, 20-something-degree serious frosts upon us and the garden almost put to bed, it seemed like a good time to say thank you all for your visits, comments, and endless pieces of great gardening and life advice along the way so far in 2009. It also seemed like the right time to ask how we should spend the winter–together, I hope.

The philosophy of A Way to Garden–and my philosophy in 25-plus years of digging holes–is that the garden is a 365-day companion, and that the season never really ends. With that in mind I will continue posting (though, like last winter, on a slightly lighter schedule than in April through October) and also sending newsletters in the hopes that you, too, like to keep talking and thinking plants no matter what the weather has in store. (Register to receive them by clicking here.)

I have been stockpiling photos of hot perennials and woody things we haven’t covered yet; taking notes on such topics as which varieties of chard and kale were best of the several I grew; prepping more FAQ pages on key how-to topics; researching how those of us in the East can fend off a repeat of tomato troubles next year, if that’s possible. And more–more of the usual stuff and unusual stuff I plan to keep producing even if it snows from tomorrow until Easter. (Bite my tongue.)

I hope you will tuck in, too, for the duration, like the woolly bear caterpillar in that discarded bird’s nest up top.

work table
And now my news: I handed in the first draft of my next book, due out in about a year, on Thursday afternoon. It was the longest piece of writing I’d ever attempted (more than 70,000 words so far, likely to grow as we edit it), and also the most personal. It’s a book about dropping out, at midlife and in peak career; about trying not to be afraid about lost prestige or about money–or about snakes and electric storms and whatever else rattles my cage.

It is a story about starting to realize a dream I’d had for more than 20 years but always been to afraid to try–to live in my rural garden fulltime, and return to the personal creativity that got lost in my executive years in publishing. It’s a book about letting nature be the guide, finally, and listening to its signals; about looking for (and finding) some peace.

This garden blog–A Way to Garden dot com–was the first thing I “created” in the aftermath of my old life. It is the most precious “possession” of my “new” life–largely, because of how welcome and connected all of you make me feel each day, even as I sit alone in Nowheresville at my old table (above) littered with all my writing stuff, pondering.

I cannot thank you enough for holding my hand, albeit digitally/virtually, these many months. So put on your mittens and let’s keep the connection going; what do you say? If there are topics you want to read more about, shout them out in comments or email–I’m listening. I will be here. As will Jack the Demon Cat, (looking surprisingly domesticated on his favorite new windowsill below).

jack on window 2

  1. Tara Dillard says:

    Not long after you lectured in Atlanta, yes-I was in your loving audience those zillion years ago, you were promoted.

    And I felt sad for my profession, garden design & the gardening world. Your voice, a true gardener, would be gobbled-up into corporate culture. You did fabulous there, congrats, but it was-what-it-was.

    Now, you’re back in the gardening world with YOUR voice and aren’t we lucky!!!

    Less money, prestige, bag-lady fears around the corner about security in your current choices? Ha, I’ve been living with all of that for decades, having chosen garden design to make my living. Guess what? America is in terrible economic times and I’m having a fabulous year.

    SHUTTING DOWN a bit for winter? No, no, no. Impossible. Please take on garden design and its winter views.

    Can’t wait for your new book. And your work this winter.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  2. Gaye Marie says:

    This news of your new book is spectacular! Congratulations!

    Over the past year, as I have gardened, and taken time to breathe in the fresh (or manure-y) air of our gardens, I have learned so much from you and your readers who take time to comment. Living and growing things at our home in New Mexico – there’s no stopping for winter! Just a light “coat” to cover the beds.

    So thank you – THANK YOU, Margaret, for somehow finding the energy to have written a book (!!!!) and to stay with us week by week – as we all follow this amazing passion to grow things!! I can hardly wait for your book to hit the shelves. PLEASE try to include us, here in New Mexico, on your book tour – if you can take the time away from your garden next year.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Gaye Marie. New Mexico is one of the most spectacular places on Earth – actually, the American desert in all its variations always undoes me. The light; the unfamiliar vegetation. Amazing. Thank you for your support and kind words, and NM here I come. :)

      Welcome, Angela. You are very kind, and yes, it is a lot of work. I am blessed with an old friend, Susan, who helps part-time for many years, and who has been amazing while I was finishing the book and losing my mind to just keep us focused on the cleanup, too, and not lose track. See you soon again!

  3. Angela Muller says:

    Dear Margaret:

    I am new to the world of gardening. I love beautiful, productive gardens, but cannot honestly say I have the patience or passion to create one. What I do have is a passion for wonderful writing, creative ideas and personal courage and you have those qualities in spades. I will look forward to your book as I look forward to your newsletters. Congratulations and good luck!

  4. Elaine says:

    Cheers to you for having the courage and the grace to quit at the top of your game and for listening to your inner voice and following your passion. I am so looking forward to reading your book and would like to thank you for giving us your voice here – a place where we can come to and always, always get good advice, beautiful photos, and lots of inspiration. Thank you, Margaret.

  5. Lynn says:

    Margaret, even though I do not garden (city high-rise dweller) I live vicariously thorough you. Keep blogging, please! After a visit to your site, I almost feel as though I’ve been digging in the dirt…

  6. Donna says:

    Your blog has been an inspiration to me for the past two years. You have provided fabulous gardening tips, introduced me to Andre and given me the courage to do the “Woo Woo” in my own personal voice. Gardening is soul work as well as physical work and offers wonderful metaphors for a host of other endeavors. In my case, it combines with the practice and study of diplomacy. Somehow, the blending works for me. My Cape Card garden has been selected for the art in garden tour next summer and an academic article on new diplomacy will soon be published in the Johns Hopkins University SAIS Review. Thank you for modeling courage and authenticity in the second half of life. I look forward to your book.

  7. Taylor says:

    Margaret: Congrats! Look forward to your new book. Please keep us posted on date of publication. I look forward to reading your blog during the winter. It seems like planning/replanning time. Best wishes from a local neighbor (Copake) here in “Nowheresville~”

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Taylor, fellow citizen of Nowheresville. (I call it that with the most affectionate intention, of course, knowing it’s actually the Center of the Universe.) And yes, planning time lies just ahead. I am making lists already and things are barely cleaned up yet from the last round. :)

  8. Mary Ahern says:

    I have had the opportunity to reinvent myself from the corporate swirl and have written about it a few times in my blog. It is a frightening and exhilarating experience that most people applaud since they for many reasons, don’t, can’t or won’t attempt.

    It takes so much preparatory time to make the change and it is even more difficult when your first ideas don’t work and you have to zig-zag all over again.

    Not for the faint-hearted. But the rewards are beyond comprehension.

    Congrats to your bravery Margaret!


  9. Andrea from NC says:

    Congrats Margaret! Like Rosella in Virginia, I hope you’ll include the Chapel Hill/Raleigh/Durham NC area in your book tour. I want to shake your hand (well, probably a hug cuz that’s just who I am). Isn’t Life a wonderful, creative adventure? Always changing, just like the seasons in the garden.

  10. Rosella says:

    Congratulations on getting the first draft of your book to the publishers, and I am sure that all the revisions and reworkings will go smoothly; I will be looking forward to its appearance next year, and hope that you will include my area (northern Virginia) on the book tour. Lots of enthusiastic Zone 7 gardeners around here!

    Your courage in deciding to make this midlife career change is inspirational — and how much your readers have gained! I visit the blog every day–so much good practical advice there, so well organized, and with so many beautiful pictures. My first thought now about a garden problem is “Oh, I’ll see what Margaret says!” Now, if you and Mrs. Andre can give me advice on how to rein in an over-enthusiastic helpful husband (he got loose with the leafblower yesterday and blew all my carefully hoarded star magnolia leaves out into the street), I would be even more appreciative.

  11. Rosella says:

    p.s. He wasn’t really littering with the leaves, just putting them there for the county leaf vacuum machine. Now I have to go out and blow them back.

  12. Rosella says:

    p.s. He wasn’t really littering with the leaves, just leaving them in the gutter for the county leaf vacuum machine. It sucks them up, takes them away and composts them, and in spring I can, for the amazing sum of $17, order a 5 cubic yard truckload. But I want to do it myself.

  13. Deirdre says:

    I’m not going anywhere. I’ll be here waiting for your posts all winter. If I’m feeling cruel, I’ll tell you about my winter flowers.

    Congrats on the first draft.

  14. catjane says:

    Congratulations on your new book; and speaking of books, I always try to have a few on hand for winter reading.

    If you (all) haven’t read “Our Life in Gardens” by Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd, you’re in for a real treat.

  15. benjia morgenstern says:

    I started a Horticultural Book Club at the Miami Beach Botanical gardens..We read fiction ( ie: Beverly Nichols,Peter Matthiessen) but mostly non-fiction..Barbara Kingsolver, Aldo Leopard, John McPhee,Jamaica Kincaid, Stanley Kunitz…on and on…) I highly recommend starting one..Winter seems to be good time up in your zone.
    I too loved Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd’s book. But I am especially looking forward to YOUR new book. We will definately read it! benjia ( a snow bird:CT. and Miami)

  16. Barbara H. says:

    What wonderful news! And what a lot you have accomplished this year, even though it just flew on by as I waved from the window. I can’t wait to buy your book and hope you will include NE Alabama (Gadsden area) on your book tour. Or maybe Birmingham? I retired at 59, on the cusp of 60, to move from the city to 3 country acres so I can help care for an aging parent. Once I found your blog, I felt truly nurtured as I made the adjustment from a 50×100′ city lot. Thank you for all you do for us.

  17. sorrygardener says:

    Congratulations, Margaret. I can’t wait to read your book. You’re simply a class act through and through. I’ve been following you most of the year and your integrity, generosity, and drive always inspire me. You’re a pretty good gardener, too.

    Looking forward to spending the winter with you, even if the ground is frozen.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Sorrygardener. You are very sweet, and believe me, if I could do something about the little issue of frozen ground, I would. :) We will have a good winter, and the relative downtime gives me the hours I need to create lots of things I have on my “ideas” list that I simply haven’t gotten to yet. (I should turn off my motor sometimes, but so far, no luck with that.) See you soon again, and thanks much.

      Welcome, Joan. The garden is a good place, maybe one of the best places, to pour that kind of energy; I know how that works. I came to gardening when my mother got ill (when I was in my 20s) and it has been my solace since through many kinds of times. Thanks for your good words, and don’t be a stranger.

      Welcome, Benjia. A book club sounds like just the thing for winter here, you are right. Thanks for the suggestion. I am between bouts of reading right now, trying to get back in the swing, so thanks for the timely reminder. See you soon.

  18. Joan from Minnesota says:

    Thank YOU, for all the inspiration and courage you’ve given me this past gardening season. With a change in work status (from a paycheck every 2 weeks to intermittant consulting) last February, I poured my energy into the garden. And what an amazing result – I’m still trying to cook and freeze all the squash following weeks of Tomato Junk and pesto. I love your practical advice, your humor, and most of all the perspective about life/garden/balance. Bravo!

  19. Jan says:

    I can’t wait to read your book. I’m on my own 50-something reinvention process so I’m eager to hear all about your journey. I love your blog and it’s inspiring to see and hear about all you do.

  20. Annie Haven says:

    reading your blog and perusing the comments I feel a connection with all and find I to have parked my fears between the lines of your words. This has been a year! Although our Southern California Winters don’t keep use from farming/gardening, they do get cold, so I’ll dawn my gloves and continue to visit. Look forward to your book, the Holiday Season and a Happy New Year. Thank you again for the wonderful words through 2009

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Annie, and thank you for the enthusiasm. Yes, glove weather ahead…here we go, but at least all together. See you soon.

      @All of you: What amazing comments and emails I have been getting today. It will take me a little time to digest it all, but know that I really thank you. More later…

  21. Mary Ann says:

    I am looking forward to your new book. And thank you for sharing the year in your garden with all of us. As we move toward the quiet days of winter, I do believe most of us garden crazed folks spend them plotting and scheming and dreaming of next season. We may not be outside tossing dirt and plants, but we are busy preparing for “next year.” We will be along for the ride with you.

    BTW, what’s the book on the corner of your desk? “Certainty?” or something? I have the Sibley’s bird book. Love it!

  22. Hi Margaret – Thanks must go to you for the superlative work you’re doing here. It’s brave to quit what seems like a sure thing, but something that doesn’t speak to your soul. Congratulations on the book – when we close a door, God does open a window. I’ll be along for the ride wherever it takes you via the miracle of RSS. :)

  23. Joan says:

    So looking forward to your book. In Colorado gardening is a bit of a challenge and at times I longingly envy the wonderful plants you can grow where you have humidity and soil…but I do have the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, so I guess it isn’t all bad here :)

  24. VAgardengirl says:

    Gracious, I can’t imagine a day without you! I’ll be here for sure.

    I think the winter months provide me the only time to “catch up” to the quiet moments of gardening that I enjoy so much. Reviewing my gardening errors and planning the corrections by graphing and editing my design for the next year are vital to me. The true beauty of the garden, for me, is that the learning process never fails!

    Best wishes for continued success. I look forward to your new book.


  25. Margaret says:

    Welcome, Mary Ann. The book is Pema Chodron’s “Comfortable With Uncertainty,” a favorite series of little readings from an America Buddhist nun. On the other score, yes, may the plotting and scheming begin. And thanks for the support.

    Welcome, Joan. Your view is pretty unbeatable, agreed, but no, I do not envy the xeric conditions…though I know some great gardeners there in spite of the challenges. Thanks for the positive thoughts.

    Welcome, VAgardengirl. You are so right: lessons continue as long as the gardening experiments do. Thanks for your kind wishes.

    Hope to see you all again soon.

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