If memory serves (the older I get, the less accurately it does), I met Margaret Roach online three years back, when she emailed me to introduce herself and her (then) new blog, A Way to Garden. Of course, I recognized her at once as the garden editor of Martha Stewart Living magazines (and later editorial director of several departments). Like many gardeners, I rarely took a second glance at the magazine, but was often compelled to pick up the spring special gardening editions through Margaret’s years as its editor.
I have to admit that I was initially surprised to hear from her and even more surprised by how charming, warm, funny, intelligent, sincere, corny, and down to earth she is. Why I was surprised at all is the result of poor judgement and a ridiculous class-based bias on my part. If you have ever read Margaret’s first book, “A Way to Garden” then you will already know these things about her. She won me over utterly and completely from the very start. So much about our lives (and gardening lives) is vastly different, and yet we have an awful lot in common.
Probably the most surprising thing I learned about Margaret and the detail that still tickles me most is that she is a 100%, all-around badass. Oh yes, perhaps not the best word — and I hope she doesn’t stop speaking to me over this– but even now, a few years and several meandering emails later, when I think of Margaret, “rebellious” is the first word that comes to mind. It takes a lot of guts to leave a high paying, uber “successful” career, and move out to the country alone to pursue a personal passion. Margaret doesn’t pander, follow the rules, or march to anyone else’s beat. Not anymore. She made a radical life change, is continuing to live it, and has chronicled the very personal details of the first year of this experience in her recently published “drop-out memoir”, “And I Shall Have Some Peace There: Trading in the Fast Lane for My Own Dirt Road.” I won’t give anything away, but the story is a compelling and revealing one. Margaret doesn’t hold back on the difficult parts or steep it in an unrealistically saccharine glaze. She tells it with her whole heart including a cast of unexpected characters (Jack the demon cat and the frog boys to name a few), beautiful prose, and a lot of that corny humour that makes her so especially charming.
Margaret and I recently decided to interview each other and offer our respective books up as a giveaway on our sites. The following is my interview with Margaret. You can read her interview with me on her website. Below that are instructions for entering to win one of four sets of books.
First up I need to clarify the meaning of the last post. A lot of people thought I was talking about gardening hardship, when I was actually talking about work deadlines. I was REALLY tired and not too with it when I wrote that post. Please excuse my lack of clarity.
Hardening off (back and forth forever) is certainly a pain in the butt, especially now that the kitchen floor is covered in trays and we can barely open the fridge door. However, my complaints were about NOT being able to garden rather than being overwrought by the work I have before me. Sitting at my desk and plugging away at a computer when there is a backyard out there that needs to be transformed into a garden is a certain kind of torture.
All I want to be do is garden!
But this is life as an adult so moving on….
It rained a lot this weekend, but I was out there anyway. It was my first weekend off (sort-of. Not really. But mostly.) since Xmas and I decided ahead of time that I was going to take full advantage rain or shine.
We got very wet and I’m suffering for it now, but at least the garden is starting to look like slightly more than an anthropological dig or an uprooted burial site on a television crime drama. Now it looks like a mud wrestling pit!
Here’s what the yard looked like just before we moved in.
Here it is, this morning, it all of it’s “glory.”
Homage to Thalassa Cruso: Starting from Scratch from Michael Weishan on Vimeo.
Lately I’ve been thinking about my gardening past: how I got into gardening and the first books, magazines, writers, and television hosts that inspired me. Coincidentally, just yesterday I learned about Thalassa Cruso, the” Julia Child of Horticulture.”
I’ve decided that she just might be my new gardening hero.
Through the late 1960′s Ms. Cruso wrote and starred in a PBS television show called “Making Things Grow.” She is described in the New York Times as a “… witty and acerbic Englishwoman…” and an, “Everygardener, a true amateur who drew her advice from personal experience rather than formal horticultural training.”
Sounds like a plantswoman after my own heart. Now, how do I get my hands on a copy of this series?
Just a reminder that the House of Hope Drive is on until Saturday when I’ll be drawing a name for the prize. We’re currently up to $1, 130, which is crazy INCREDIBLE! Thanks so much for contributing!
My friend Celia, who lives in Dominica, is going to be visiting the House of Hope on December 21st. She is going to bring the total donation number to them and take a few pictures to send back to us.
I don’t know what the weather is like where you are, but I could use a little colour right now. I took this photo last year while visiting the gardens of two of the women responsible for the House of Hope.
A few more pictures after the jump….
About a month ago we looked at a house with a yard and about 10 minutes after the viewing I tweeted that this was the next place I wanted to live. I could envision our life there and it looked rather nice.
We didn’t get the house. Or that yard. That yard. Yard…. Sweet, sweet yard. A nicely-sized (for Toronto) empty yard with a ramshackle shed. Sounds terrible, I know. But to me….
We proceeded to mope around with a major case of the sads for a month.
And then, out of the blue, we got it! One day I will tell the story (it’s a doozy), but I don’t think it is appropriate right now. What I can say for now is that I have the keys and we are moving in. Just like that. Pretty much overnight. We are still in shock. I figure we’ll be moved in and living there for a while before the shock of it wears off.
It’s a bit late in the season and I don’t have time to jump into gardening before winter sets in. It’s too bad, but then again, it will give me time to familiarize myself with how light moves through the space, and more time to plan. And you never know, there just might be some bulbs and surprise plants lurking underneath the surface. Either that or dead bodies. The yard is the lumpiest I have ever seen!
Our hypothesis is that the yard was once used as a vegetable garden but was then neglected for years. The grass probably just seeded itself over time. Either that or I am going to find some gnarly things when I stick my shovel into the ground next spring.
I’d love to show you more but I have to get back to packing asap. In the meantime, I leave you with one more photo of one of the few plants currently living in the yard that I plan to keep. It’s a little pear tree that the former occupants put in recently.
Oh and I’ve given the yard a name: Orto. I believe this approximately translates to kitchen garden in Italian. Please correct me if I am wrong.
p.s. Sorry about the quality of the images. I took them with my camera phone. Real photos soonish.