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. Beth Sylvest says:

    Margaret, I am very touched by your story, mustering the courage the leave the known and venture into the unknown. I enjoy your gardening vignettes and look forward to reading your book. I, like so many other women, need to reconnect to what is so crucial to our well being, and that takes courage.

  2. Maria says:

    Any more tidbits about bears and how to keep them at bay would be greatly appreciated! I am moving to an area surrounded by 1600 acres of Nature Conservancy land and they have told me there are 900 tagged bear living in the area. They told me not to put out feeders or have a compost pile, both of which I cannot live without! I thought Nature Conservancy was trying to scare me away . . . maybe not!

  3. Bobbie says:

    Margaret, I too left a 25 yr art director career to follow my heart. I know paint and am happier and healthier by doing so. It sounds like that’s true for you also. Congrat’s on the book, looking forward to reading it. Do what you love, the rest will fall into place.

  4. Carole C. says:

    I’m so looking forward to your new book since I love your first book and refer to it often. Your blog has inspired me to try some new approaches to gardening and the links have added to my gardening knowledge. I keep peeking at the plants I am attempting to overwinter in my basement. About the bear-several years ago I stopped filling my bird feeders after being advised by a conservation officer that they attract bears who will always remember where they founds those goodies-we’ve had black bears in the Berkshires quite often. Good luck!

  5. Margaret says:

    Welcome, Maria. What I have found in many thousands of acres of state forest here (plus thousands of acres of dairy farm…so a lot of less-developed land) is that normally you are fine from deep freeze to thaw with feeders. This year, it got very cold in October, but has now warmed up…hence the bear are busy again. I should have waited.

    As for compost, I have every form of hungry animal here, and also have had a 40-foot-long pile for 24 years. No worry, as long as you toss a shovelful of soil (or finished compost) on top of each addition of food scraps. Never leave food scraps exposed/uncovered. Also easy: keep an old shovel out by the heap (which I prefer as an open pile so it’s easy to do this with) and dig a pocket in the older material and insert then cover the new stuff. Easy. And that will reduce its appeal to many animals. It does here.

    It’s the bird feeders that are the trouble (December through March they are fine), and any uncovered scraps.

  6. Linda P says:

    Congradulations on finishing your book. It will be a great tale I’m sure and very eye opening. You have had great success doing what you love as it shows and it will only get better since you are so greatly connected. Even though you live in a rural area you still are lucky to have people around you that are interesting. There are great nurseries and people around that are so creative which helps to make a difference. I left Ny 7 years ago after 30 years in fashion and antiques , a more active life style, different finances. then after moving, a divorce and stuck out in suburbia much closer to the city than you but light years away from your area in the types of people around. I started a large garden, I am repairing the 18th c house that has endless work, and joined garden clubs here and am voluntering . My life is different and it was hard giving up aspects of city life, but the changes are good my daughter and I as I’m not as interested in what you describe as the prestige. I have nothing to prove to anyone at this point. The difference for me is that if you are surrounded by people of not a like nature it makes it more difficult to transition. Maybe your book will help me as I am still working and earning in feilds that are not doing well now.
    The big picture and future will be what you make it , and so far you are doing a great job, your blog sight is very enjoyable and filled with really great information.

  7. Jeff says:

    Very bad idea for Winter gardening:

    A Way To Hydro Grow

    “This month we will be creating barriers to keep hippies out of the green house. I’ve created faux Phish concert posters and posted them in concentric rings around the neighboring village.”

    “Next week, I’ll be previewing a feminized sativa/indica strain called Murple Widow. Please send chips and fruit punch. Dill Havarti would be good, too”

    No offense.

    I look forward to the book.

  8. Keira says:

    Hi Margaret,

    Learned about your site through Apt Therapy and really enjoy your pictures and commentary.

    I saw the word “covel” above (in the compost comment) and thought it was an old gardening term I didn’t know, but looked it up on http://www.dictionary.com and it’s not there. Did you mean to say “shovel”? ; )

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Keira. Yes, I am afraid I skipped typing class one too many times and still (after 35 years in media) still hunt and peck (and a little too fast for accuracy). Thanks for the fix. See you soon again, and glad AT sent you!

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Mary. I hope your adventures up the coast a bit are likewise going beautifully. Thanks for the encouragement, and maybe we will see you over the holiday period or before long?

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