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. Erin says:

    I’m looking forward to the book, and thanks for sticking with us for the winter; the dream of getting my hands dirty again in spring is the source of my sanity when winter takes hold.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Erin. We can work on conjuring thoughts of sanity together, definitely. In a way I can’t believe the months of deep-freeze lie just ahead. At least the catalogs will start arriving later next month and we can dream with color pictures to accompany us. Hope to see you again soon, and thank you.

  2. Jayne says:

    You will surely keep the devoted following you’ve collected, as we Northeastern gardeners hunker down for the raw cold days ahead. I know you will keep our spirits high , even as we sit by the fire thumbing through the old tired garden books we love. I am looking forward to the new book! WIll you have a book tour?

  3. coryy says:

    I had a horrible year–I spent months this spring eking out time from mom-land to weed and prep and build raised beds, and a day before planting (memorial day weekend), fell and broke my pelvis and elbow! I look out at what happens to a 30x 100 ft perennial garden when it reverts to pasture with shrubs hidden in there somewhere…and my 60 x60 intensive raised bed garden, that often this summer I just wished my husband could have just tilled under with the tractor so i wouldn’t have to look at it—and i try to calm myself down and think happy thoughts about all those weeds being tamped down by heavy snows, and a fresh start!!! It’s unseasonably warm here and i will hurt myself if i go try to clean up what took a whole summer to go wild….Please keep posting! I know that in March I get to start sowing my veggies in the basement and clearing the snow off the paths…Without your beautiful, informative blog to distract me until then I may just give up and move my kids back to the city (just kidding, but a year like the one i just had makes loft living sound downright tempting). I look forward to a cozy cuppa joe and the time to explore and plan anew, with your bright ideas to lead the way.

  4. Linda From NC says:

    Congratulations on your new book. I’m really looking forward to reading about such an important time in your life. In 2007 my husband and I sold everything (except the plants I dug up and brought with me), and moved to NC. We left behind what most people would consider a very stable living with a good income etc., but we weren’t as happy as we knew we could be. Some friends and family thought, and still think we’re nuts for doing it, but we really have found everything we’ve always hoped for. Sometimes, flying by the seat of your pants can be be the greatest journey of your life! Good luck to you, and thank-you for all of your gardening inspiration!

  5. Kathy says:

    Just the other day while going over my garden books I came across the Anne Raver NYT article which introduced me to your blog and I have been hooked ever since. I’ve “grown” so much as a gardener, you will really expanded my gardening world. I’m reluctantly putting my garden to bed so keep those winter blogs coming. Include Bergen County on your book tour. Mittens On!

  6. bavaria says:

    In 1946, Vita Sackville-West began writing her garden columns for the ‘Observer’, and I was thoroughly entranced reading her lovely words. When I happened to find your blog one day, those same feelings surfaced again. Your writing is intelligent, charming, humorous, and a complete delight. I’m looking forward to your wonderful book, and more columns this winter. Thank you Margaret!

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Bavaria. Well, that’s a pretty nice compliment. Wow. I think I can retire now. :) (Promise not to; I will be here as I said.) But thanks. See you soon.

  7. dirtgirl says:

    I’ve found you much as Bavaria has. I do not post much because even after so many years in my much loved dirt, I still see myself as more student than teacher. But you are part of my everyday rhythm. I thank you for your deep contribution, and I applaud your bravery in going back to your heart’s true ambition. I look forward to the new book with a happy heart. What a joy it will be to purchase when I feel I *know* you a bit, at least the grubby hands part, one of the most honest and true parts of so many of us, I’d think. Today I’m sifting rich dark soil, and it dawned on me that the compost pile from which I work is over 20 years old! That thought, the continuity of it just makes me smile today.

    I wish you rich dark soil, and contented continuity. And again, many thanks.

    Love the little nest, the beauty and wonder is ever apparent is it not?

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Anne. We gardeners can always use some good cooking advice, so you are more than welcome. :) Thanks for the visit and the good words, and see you soon again.

  8. Helen says:

    I hardly know what new words of appreciation to bring to you here … so just let me herald your winter garden blogging .. I shout ‘YES’ to it. Have signed up to your newsletter too, and love your photos and the news of your book and generally EVERYTHING you have to share to brighten my day and enrich my gardening world (when I am away from the office or my car travelling around offices being my CEO role when I really long to dig the allotment). Good on you. Helen

  9. dirtgirl says:

    To Coryy, I could have written your post, just a different set of circumstances…I was laid low for over two years, saw our gardens go to 6 ft tall weeds, my husband could not care for them and me as well…so he took care of me, then we took care of the weeds, slowly, together. We’re still digging out, and finally moving forward. Coryy, the other end brings a deeper love, deeper appreciation for the renewal and new beginnings that gardening allows us to witness and participate in each year. And a fresh appreciation for health in general. All will be well with you, and better. Trust.

    Margaret, if this is not appropriate, please delete with assuredness of no ill feelings here. The message just so mirrored my own situation of just a short while ago. I had to respond.

  10. Nancy says:

    A wonderful accomplishment to hand in the book! Your kindness in sharing your garden and yourself with all of us, in such a thoughtful, literate manner, is so welcome and helpful. I am looking forward to the winter, not for its weather, exactly, but for the opportunity to think and plan about next year’s garden without the pressure of its changes coming at me fast and furious. Contemplation of the garden-to-be and the joy of birds! What could be better?

  11. Brian G. says:

    This morning I planted the last of the bulbs and the perennials still hanging around in pots and tomorrow I will be back at my dear old desk (magazine publishing, no less). I don’t complain about my job out loud much because so many have had such a terrible year without work of any kind but I must confess I envy your leap. It’s hard, these days, out here in corporate America but I’m sure you have days when it’s hard up there at Margaret, inc., as well. Congratulations on the book (I’ll buy it, full price, too!) and PLEASE keep inspiring us just by doing what you do.

  12. Debbie Moyes says:

    I have enjoyed your blog and thoughts and your extremely lovely & thoughtful photos……. I am sure the winter will be enjoyable as well.
    I very much enjoyed the once a week cooking/recipe group thing! (I can’t remember what you called it!) It was fun to get to know the other sites and I loved many of the recipes.
    I live near the Chicago Botanic Garden and in their classes they include things “related” to gardening, like sun prints and natural dyeing. I am a quilter and find pleasure in dyeing fabric and then hand appliqueing flowers in the cold of winter! It’s a wonderful time of year for other handcrafts (that require clean hands ;-D).
    Thanks so much! Debbie

  13. Tammy says:

    I have been reading your blog for about a year now (can it possibly have been that long?). Just wanted to say thank you for sharing your beautiful garden with us. Not to mention, your knowledge, wit, humor and all the beautiful photos. Congratulations on your book!!! Can’t wait to read it!!

  14. I know how you feel about the blog; protective, nurturing and proud. I just started mine several months ago as I curled up like that wooly bear in my newly emptied nest. I had waited until the time was right and I knew I could post with quality and consistence, but still I wish I’d started sooner. This blogging business is fun! Best of luck with the book. Maybe I will brave that someday myself.

  15. chris says:

    we bought a 6 acres spread in northern columbia county a couple of years ago, and we have been working very hard to make it our special family home. i have been spending an inordinate (thinks my wife) amount of time clearing brush in a one acre woodland corner of our property. i love the feeling of just hanging out in the woods, and i wanted to know these woods intimately, know each tree well, and be free and easy moving around there without offering a pint of blood to the bramble gods. i didn’t really think though why i wanted this so much, and was working so hard to achieve it. then it suddenly occurred to me, that my favorite place growing up on lung island was the part of our property dominated by a huge copper beech and a sycamore. i loved walking around under the trees, looking at the interplay of the limbs, light and sky, and seeing my dogs lap up the rainwater sitting in the crooks of the copper beech base. i finally realized that i have been working this property to recreate my special woods place, long gone now. in a way, that is what this blog has been for me to; not so much a resource for plant-specific information, although handy as this can be, but more so a shared invitation to each of us to find our own special woods/garden place, whether once again or for the very first time.

  16. Turling says:

    Enjoy stopping by and am looking forward to your book with great anticipation. Those of us who haven’t quite mustered the bravery to make the jump get to live vicariously through others.

    On a note about the blog, please do not shut down too much over the winter. Many of us continue to garden through the winter. In my little spot of California, now is the time to get things into the ground and we do 90% of our plantings over the next few months. With the summers usually in triple digits, there isn’t much to do but water….both plant and man.

  17. Dorita says:

    Brava darling Margaret! I cannot wait to read your book. Hoping there may be a few stories of nights of wine and french fries in it. Miss you lots, though I feel as if hear from you each day when I check in on your blog. XXX, Dorita

  18. Wendy says:

    I’m already stock-piling the seed catalogs and jotting down notes for next year; am ready when you are! And your book sounds like a great read; can’t wait.

  19. Anne P. says:

    Margaret, You have been an inspiration to me as both a gardener and as someone who wishes to find my way out of the business world and into the writing world. I came close to attending the WordCamp conf. this weekend but decided to set up my blog first and take this next year to do it. I congratulate you on all you’ve accomplished so effectively YOUR first year in transition by doing and sharing what you love.

  20. Margaret, I am looking forward to reading your book. We have just moved fulltime to Pawling, NY, and out of the City. When I go on my walkabout each morning I think how I can’t wait for spring. But you’re right that gardening is year round and I know I will find plenty of gardening things to do indoors this winter. We are building a greenhouse and I can fill you in on the progress there if you are interested. –Dorian Winslow, Womanswork president/owner

  21. bebe says:

    Hi Margaret,
    Looking forward to reading your book, as I, like you, will be leaving a high-paying job for a more modest life in the world of plants. Scared , yet feeling a great need for change…

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Dorian. Pawling is just an hour and a bit down the road; I know it well. Good for you. No greenhouse here at my place; too much work (and on my hillside I don’t think there’s one more level spot left for a building anyhow). See you soon again.

      Welcome, Bebe. “Scared, yet feeling a great need for change” is about the sum of it, indeed. Plants make great companions, and I have never regretted moving in among them. See you soon.

  22. Annemarie says:

    I can truly relate to your bear experiences. I live in northern New Hampshire. We have bear visits with great regularity. S/He has taken out more bird feeders than I’d care to admit. AND we put them up late, taking them down early as well.
    He LOVES to get into the garbage. We have a garbage box that holds 4 large garbage bins. It’s wooden and VERY heavy. He takes that old bin and flips it like a pancake. Fortunately, we have figured out a simple technique for keeping the box closed and he can’t get into the garbage to make a mess…but it is a huge chore to “right” the box again.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Annemarie. We can’t put the trash out here until 10 minutes before the weekly pickup guy comes; too tempting. Such powerful animals! I hope we see you soon again (if not the bear) and thanks for your nice words.

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