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In Print, Edible Columbia

February 2, 2018

Hey! Look who has a garden column in Edible Columbia magazine. Feels great to be writing for an Edible Communities publication again. This issue is chock full of info on  local organizations making serious change: Slow Food, Grow Food Carolina, SC Dept of Ag, Midlands Food Alliance, Sustainable Midlands, Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, and one new to me I’m really excited about, SC Farm to Institution, bringing onsite gardens and learning happen in schools, preschools, and beyond. Great stories introduce a tobacco-turned-cotton farmer turning his crop into locally produced upscale shirts, and a mobile grocer serving food deserts. Shell Royster’s succulent food photos accompany a bunch of recipes I want to try. There is truly so much happening with farms and food in this state!


My piece sings the praises of Clemson cooperative extension and soil testing, local garden centers, planting calculators, and getting on the stick because spring is about here!

Pick up a free copy at Rosewood Market, Whole Foods, Vino Garage/Curiosity Coffee, City Roots, and more around Cola and Lexington.IMG_8639



November 8, 2017

It’s been a year minus a day since that horrible night when it dawned on millions of us that a lying, bombastic, ignorant, narcissistic sexual predator was elected U.S. president and not in fact the first ever woman. I share my continued anger, dismay, and embarrassment over the turn of events in our country with many close to me and across the nation.

But today is a celebration, a rebuke of the toxic policies and attitudes the current administration is unleashing via the first midterm election. Vi Lyles is Charlotte, NC’s new mayor, the first African American woman to hold that office. Danica Roem is Virginia’s first openly transgender state legislator and unseated the bigot who wrote the bathroom bill. Progressive candidates, some written off by pundits as impossible projects, stood up to the wave of negative hateful denigrating politics to run for office and won! Here’s the list.

After near daily news of environmental protections being torn down, public education support being eroded, women’s rights being violated, immigrants demonized, children’s health insurance being revoked, rampant government corruption, and on and on, this is a day of hope. Election Day 2018 is coming and let this be a preview of America rejecting prosperity for the few at the cost of everyone else, of embracing our communities, finding strength in our differences, and becoming neighborhoods and a nation that truly reflects our highest ideals.

On the home front we’re waiting impatiently on construction, putting out small fires that supersede more fun planning like the future garden. But the Meyer Lemon Tree That Would Not Die gives us a glimpse of future harvests: seven lovely lemons we’re a bit afraid to cut into. What to make? Lemonade feels like poetic sustenance after such a bitter year.

If you’re in the Midlands of SC and interested in growing dwarf citrus, call Ben at Simply Citrus Nursery. He has beautiful stock and freely shares growing info–and frost-protecting blankets.

The Dearth

September 21, 2017

A day before the official beginning of fall in South Carolina, it’s inching up to 91 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s also the start of a typically dry stretch of months, which came as a shock a year ago as our first fall here progressed. It had been a brutally hot summer. Even the locals said so, with record heat and weeks straight above 95.  You’d swear the humidity is topical though it is not. It is however a conveyor that turns 95, a tolerable temperature in the desert, into a skull-splitting pit-drenching burden of sweat for the pedestrian, and that’s just on the block and a half walk to school. We left Chicago at the end of June, not one day sooner than we had to, soaking up the new bright green and free downtown concerts of the city’s sweetest month.

They mean it there about Urbs in Horto. From the marquee Lurie and Chicago Botanic Gardens to the pocket prairie on 47th, wildflower fields along the lakeshore, rich city plantings, the kitchen garden at the church on our corner, the never ending project of the community garden, and our little patch of balcony and shade, the City in a Garden made the brute force change from rural to urban into something I could recognize. It never felt like home, but at least there were gardens.

Some record of this change is on Instagram. Blogging just hasn’t happened. I blame needing reading glasses and too small a screen, but the truth is, due to housing issues, there hasn’t been much to garden. Before we left Chi I met Amanda of Kiss My Aster at her talk at Lurie Garden’s plant sale. She’s super fun. Since my friend Craig’s Ellis Hollow blog is how I’d heard about her, I mentioned my own fallow blog. Microblog! she said, as a revival strategy. A year and a half later I’m already way too windy.

Here is the plant that is blooming outside the house we are renting. It looks cleome-ey but I don’t know what it is. There is also kudzu and a weedwhacker. Also a pecan tree raining down shit from several web worm colonies. In the maybe 4 months (or 12?) we will be in our own house, and there will be gardens. Awaiting in pots are two dwarf citrus trees, two gifted climbing roses, three native azaleas, four strange ferns, a prickly pear, a mangave, a found agave, and various sedums. In the ground on the property where we don’t currently live are a dwarf vitex, dwarf bay tree, yellow vining jessamine I had to have, and plants brought from Chi: anise hyssop (seeding madly), my son’s preschool-grown chives, Echinacea grown from seed collected in the 47th St overpass, and Amsonia grown from Lurie Garden seeds.

Plans have yet to be made for how it will all come together. A house needs to happen first. We have a dearth of plantable ground, and will perversely enjoy the dearth of humidity (fingers crossed the hurricanes stay out at sea). We’ve gained an amazing community of caring friends. I can’t wait to host them in our garden space someday, and tell some Carolina garden and travel stories here along the way. Stay tuned!


A guide to weeds

June 14, 2016

While working and volunteering at our community garden, which was overrun by bindweed, ragweed, redroot pigweed and other unwanted plants, it became clear pretty fast that many of us didn’t know what those plants growing on the edges, some in beds, some in plots, were. Some got pulled that shouldn’t have (I am guilty of mistaking horseradish for dock. oops.) while others started out looking innocent but turned into giant tap-rooted behemoths you couldn’t kill with a blowtorch. It took a few frustrating events to realize we needed a weed guide devoted to our block on the south side, and another year to make it happen.


It isn’t Weeds of North America by a stretch, and relies heavily on university extensions and other authorities, but it helped the gardeners at the 62nd Street Community Garden discern what we needed to eradicate, like bindweed, ragweed, and redroot pigweed, to name a few, what we wanted to preserve in dedicated areas (milkweed), and what not to waste time on, like plantain. Maybe you can use it, too.



Tulip time relics

May 14, 2015

It’s tulip time in Chicago.The daffy parrot tulips are full on, so it’s late tulip time. Looking for something in my photo library just now, I stumbled on this picture of silly tulips that used to pop up smack in the middle of the way back of the yard in Slaterville. Someone’s long ago flash of color in a grown-over flower bed I guess.
I kind of loved them, these loud and blowsy bulbs, mowed around them, let the leaves grow and die out on their own. Along with the blue and white violets and tiny grape hyacinths sprinkling out around them into the green, they were like our own spring ephemerals. Riotous and special.
No telling who planted them or how far back. Had the little house next door that had been lifted off its foundation and rolled over there once stood here? Was this the corner of a shed once, with no footprint left save this little strip of spring?

Now that we’re gone, too, I wonder what has taken hold from my old garden, which roots will outlast new owners with brown thumbs, lawn mowers, digging dogs, dry summers, and deer. I wonder if the planter of the red and yellow tulips ever looks back. Because I sure miss that patch of green, dammit.

A Christmas Wish (with Kermit)

December 20, 2014

My Mom & Dad love Christmas. They made our home so beautiful, it was like a fantasy to me. Decorating our tree with glossy painted wooden ornaments collected over 3 tours in Germany, kid-crafted styrofoam balls with school pictures tacked on, my Dad’s paper & fuzzy bearded Santa made when he was about 5, and the funny angel on top was the big event, but floating through the many weeks was the music. Holy music, Jingle Bells, their choir songs played at the piano, and John Denver and the Muppets. (We are an unabashedly John Denver-loving home.)

As I play Chrstmas tunes for my little boy, songs bubble up on Padora from those Christmas specials we all waited for and watched together with glee (and played on records over and over), happy-sad tears come to my eyes and I can’t explain to him why. He doesn’t understand homesickness yet, and hasn’t sang “Silent Night” 1200 times yet, either.

I miss you, Mom & Dad, but in the yearning is the feeling and the anchor and the faith you gave me, burning bright. We love making traditions for Pete that I hope he’ll still treasure 42 years from now.

On the best of days, this really is the time of year when “everyone seems like a part of everyone’s family,” but at the heart of it is my own. I love Christmas and I love you!

The secret life of Rust Belt beekeepers

April 29, 2014

Now that I have a brood box (base part of a beehive) in my basement, and am avidly looking for a safe spot in the city to install it and move in some bees, I’m especially excited to read about community apiaries in places like Pittsburgh. Chicago is bee-friendly, and I’m hopeful we can get our hive a spot in a community garden soon.


Deep in the defunct industrial zones and backyards of Buffalo, N.Y., there’s a buzz developing — quite literally, in the form of secret beehives. Across the city, a small network of under-the-radar beekeepers has formed. They keep hives in backyards, vacant lots, and even on garage roofs.

“Two years ago, I was just kind of wandering around one of the smaller, cottage neighborhoods that we have here, and I noticed one woman with all this bee art covering her garage,” says Alexandra Farrington, a beekeeper in Buffalo. “I asked her if she kept bees. First she asked if I was a cop, and then she said, ‘Well, if you promise not to tell … yeah, I’ve got a few hives on the roof of my garage.’”

While Buffalo has no laws explicitly banning the practice of beekeeping, many neighbors view the critters as a public nuisance. Keepers worry that enough complaints might add up to local legislation that would…

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