Thursday, April 18, 2013

Our Donkeys Get Their 15 Minutes of Fame

Our miniature donkeys, Riley, Peso, and Cisco, are enjoying a rush of publicity this month. They were the subject of my Slow Lane essay in the Spring 2013 issue of Country Gardens magazine. Then the New York Post did a story about gardening magazines and the donkeys were mentioned there too. Here's what the article said:

"City slickers looking to populate their new rural spreads may want to know: What exactly are donkeys for? “They pay attention,” Country Gardens explains. These big-eared sentinels are eternally suspicious of everything from stray coyotes to cars rolling into the driveway. Nor do they enjoy the company of cats and dogs. “They stand in the barnyard with their ears facing forward and their eyes sharpened into little judgmental slits,” the mag says, somehow managing to make donkeys sound like a must-have accessory in the process."

Well, donkeys are a must-have accessory! At least on our farm.

Riley, Peso, and Cisco are probably contacting a agent right now. And they will, no doubt, insist on playing themselves in the movie.

Here's the whole article in the New York Post. My column is in Country Gardens, on the newsstand now.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Our Secret Pet

Today we put our 15-year-old cat Boots to sleep.

If you ever spent time at our house, you’d be surprised to know that we had Boots. Because Boots was not a mingler. She didn’t like strangers. In fact, she didn’t even like us.

But she loved our son Graham. We got Boots when Graham was in grade school. She was slotted to be a farm cat, but Graham saw her, picked her up, and carried her into the house. And that was that.

Our other cats Carter and Millie didn’t give her a sniff. And because we have a large house, Boots took a floor (the basement) and lived there in her own company.

That’s where she and Graham bonded. The TV and video games were in the basement. And Graham spent long hours playing war and world-domination games with this little tortoise-shell kitten in his lap. We used to call him Dr. Evil.

Boots loved Graham. He could call her name and she’d come running like a dog and jump up onto his knee. If we called Boots she never came. Graham could hold Boots cradled like a baby. No one else could even pick her up.

Boots slept on Graham’s bed sitting on a pillow next to his head, staring at him all night. It was creepy.

After Graham left for college, Boots moved into our room, slept on our bed, but she never let us pick her up. She was a one-man cat and her man was gone. We were just pale placeholders until Graham came home. And when he did, he’d call her name and she’d come bounding out from under some bed, joyously meowing.

Boots was like a ghost. Sometimes guests would see her scuttle by. It’s weird sharing a house with an animal that is wholly uninterested in you. She just wandered where she wanted, away from public or private view, for 15 years. And now she’s gone. And it’s hard to say how she’ll be missed. But she will. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

My Slow Lane column: The Cave Tree

I got to spent a couple weeks with Tristan and Graham, ages 6 and 4 respectively, recently.

I did this by writing a column about them at those ages. I love to write for lots of reasons (for one, it pays the mortgage). But the larger, more enduring reason, is to capture and crystalize in words a small event or moment of my life, and the lives of my family and pets, that has resonance.

Finding my two young boys standing up inside a rotted tree was one such moment. It was funny. And scary. And funny again, once they crawled out. Thus is the topic of my Slow Lane column. The Early Spring issue of Country Gardens magazine is on the newsstand now. Check it out.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Save a Living Piece of Art

If you’re a gardener, you know the work what goes into creating a garden: Planning, planting, pruning, replanting, and weeding. It’s a true labor of love.

But even if you’ve never picked up a trowel or planted a seed, you can see that a beautiful garden is a work of art.

So it’s hard to understand why anyone would choose to destroy a great work of art. Would anyone destroy Monet’s paintings? Or allow the Louvre be demolished?

Of course, not. But a beautiful public garden in Bastad, Sweden, called the Norrviken Garden, is under threat of total destruction. I visited this garden several years ago and found it to be one of the most beautiful gardens in Europe (I also saw my first banana slug there!). Built in the early 1900s, this public garden was chosen as the most beautiful park in Sweden in 2006 and the second most beautiful park in Europe.

But now this elegant, fully-grown, century-old garden is going to be destroyed to make way for a large hotel, roads, parking areas, and a number of residential buildings.

BUT THERE IS A CHANCE TO SAVE THIS GARDEN. The Norrviken Garden Society, a non-profit association, is working to save the garden. You can help too, by signing a petition to stop the destruction of this garden. I just signed it and it was really easy--you don't even have to know Swedish ;-)

To read more about the petition, click here.

This is what social media is all about: You can live on a farm in Iowa and help save a garden in Sweden. Let's do it!  

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Sky-High Garden

The High Line garden on Manhattan's West Side is an amazing example of the transformative power of gardening. An abandoned railway track, suspending above gritty city streets, was planned and planted to become a heavenly haven for flowers, grasses, birds, butterflies, and wandering admirers. I wrote an article about this sky-high garden in the September 2012 issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine, called "Garden in the Sky." Check it out on page 92!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Roving Donkeys and Book Reviews

Peso and Riley back at home

We were out of town last weekend when we got a text from our animal sitter Nancy. She was on her way to do chores at our place when she met our trio of donkeys on the road. Apparently Riley, Cisco, and Peso decided to explore the world when they observed a dip in the barbed wire over the stream (which has totally dried up). This offered them an escape route up a steep hill and onto the gravel road.

Donkeys aren't usually so spontaneous. 

But having successfully ditched the horses (who are too tall to limbo under the barbed wire), the three headed north. I'm not sure what the travel plans were, but luckily Nancy intercepted the donkeys and walked them home. 

Doug fixed the fence this morning. We think. But if you see a trio of miniature donkeys wandering by, send me a note.

Also, So Much Sky was reviewed in a couple of nice places in July.

Kirkus Reviews said the book was "well written" and that "there’s a lot to be enjoyed and a lot to be learned from Weir-Jimerson, a Master Gardener and apt tamer of land, child and beast." 

I'm sure my kids will love that assessment of my talents, although I did sort of feel like a lion tamer when the boys were toddlers... On the Kirkus site, you can now also purchase the book through independent book stores.
The Midwest Book Review's Small Press Book Watch said this: "Far from modern civilization, one can gain a different grasp on the world. "So Much Sky" is a collection of essays and memoir from Karen Weir-Jimerson as she reflects on her life on three acres in Iowa, living with her husband their wide array of animals and livestock. Writing on gardening, rural life, and perhaps just life in general, "So Much Sky" is a fine and much recommended pick for essay collections, highly recommended."

Monday, July 23, 2012

Fresh Snips of Flavor

A quick-snip of lemon thyme
Sizzling summer heat poses no problem for my herbs. They love it. I have a bevy of tangled containers on my back patio filled with my favorites. I mad-dash from the back door, snip up a fistful of flavor, then whisk back into the cool kitchen to make dinner. What's my hasty harvest? Lemon thyme (lemony and thyme-y). Basil (of course!). And flat-leafed parsley. I learned about this underused herb from my friend Renee Shepherd (owner of Renee's Garden) when I interviewed her for a story for Better Homes and Gardens magazine. She uses the flavor-filled 'Gigante' Italian parsley leaves in salads. Just snips them in. I've been trying this too--just adding fresh herb leaves mixed up with my spinach and arugula. Just do a quick toss of olive oil, sweet balsamic vinegar, and grated fresh garlic to whip up an herby summer salad. Renee has been in the gardening biz for a long time (selling heirloom and gourmet seed varieties). And she's on top of all the cool new cooking trends. Check out the article in Better Homes and Gardens, the August 2011 issue, page 90. You'll find tips for freezing your herb harvest. Do it now. You'll thank yourself for your brilliant insight in January.