A Gooseberry Compote Kind of Day

It feels strange to be writing about gardens on such an important day in our nation’s history. But then again, while important things are roiling our nation, we must still take the days one at a time, do what we can for our cause, and tend to the things closest to us. So, I’m going to continue on, blogging about the garden, and thinking about growing things. In one way, just making the transition from listening to the news, to thinking about things in my garden, gives me a sense of peace. Maybe it can do that for you too. Today I want to talk about Gooseberries! Gooseberries are ubiquitous up here in my Sequoia backyard. In fact, I have several fruiting bushes in my front yard right now. The

Our Candelabra Tree

Once in a while you come across something in nature that is so extraordinary, that you just have to stop and stare, and then want to share. Did you see this? Can you believe it? How did that happen? How is that possible? Let me share something exactly like this with you – a Candelabra Tree, here in the Sequoia National Forest. On the west side of the Mineral King Canyon on the Eagle Lake trail, to the left after the bridge over Tufa Falls, is a Candelabra Tree. Take a close look at the picture above. This conifer has survived over hundreds of years, evolving in a way to maximize its sunshine, making sure that it can catch as many rays as possible, for each of the separate trunks, but also fo

Ten Seconds of Calm

Here in my Sequoia Backyard, I am surrounded by nature, not unlike my backyard garden, but different. I find that being near growing things calms me. Feeling excited about the little cosmos that just sprouted, seeing a wildflower that surprised me, listening to the bird on the telephone wires above my backyard -- all these things bring me back to my center. Sometimes I just close my eyes, and drink in the sounds, or stay very still and gaze at one particular little creature, or bloom. And then I take a deep breath. Filling my lungs with air, whether it's mountain air, or backyard atmosphere, inflates my spirit, and feeds my brain. Slow down, Jill. Focus on the growing things. Be grateful. Th

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

I giggled when I saw this little guy earnestly toddle across the outdoor table at the Silver City Store. Robert and I were visiting our mountain cabin, and we sat at the store for a diet coke and a piece of home made pie. (So nutritious!) I immediately pulled out my phone hoping to get a picture of him – and I got more than a picture...wait until you see the video! It’s almost like you were there with me. He’s a 2 inch long fuzzy caterpillar, with the most distinctive little buttons on his back in gradients from orange to white that wiggle when his little legs scurry across the table. There’s also one bright white dot near his bum, that wags as he walks. And he has little white perfectly sy

Gardening for Good: The Los Angeles Leadership Academy School Gardens

Yesterday I visited a school garden managed by two generous, and expert gardeners, Andrea Baynes and Deena Goldstone, who 10 years ago committed to the East Los Angeles community of Lincoln Heights, and now devote time each week to tending school gardens, and developing curriculum and instruction for the Los Angeles Leadership Primary Academy located there. http://www.laleadership.org/ The Los Angeles Leadership Academy is a Public Charter School, serving students TK- 12 on two separate campuses. What a treat it was to tour the garden with them. Their enthusiasm for the garden and for their students was so lovely to witness. Even in these trying times, when students are not at the school, an

DIY Indoor Gardening!

Guest Post by Jennifer The String of Pearls plant was the first indoor beauty I became transfixed with after quarantine began. In March, when Home Depot was one of the only essential businesses open, I wandered into the nursery section and quickly acquired a pothos, a jade plant, and an African violet. I was soon scouring the internet for plant-care tips, and this fatefully led me to the Reddit thead that began to feed my addiction: r/houseplants. Perusing this thread, I was amazed at the rare, delicate, strange, and sometimes actually glowing plants posted by enthusiasts…they were so different from the well-known plants that stock most big box stores. I chuckled at the pileas, I marveled at

A Walk Down Main Street

In Silver City, where we have our cabin in the Sequoia National Park, one of our favorite things to do – is take a walk down Main Street. Main Street is really not a street, as you will see in the video, but rather an unpaved road, which meanders down hill to a bend, then sharply turns right for another bit, where community cabins flank the road on each side. The forest is all around us. We generally take a walk either earlier in the morning to say hello to anybody who is in town (we know everybody because there’s only 29 cabins!), or after dinner to get a little exercise after a filling meal. As we wander down the road, we invite neighbors to our campfire, or hear about the latest Silver Ci

White Chief Meadow

White Chief Meadow is a popular hiking destination for visitors to Mineral King in Sequoia National Park. Robert and I have hiked there many times. But never in our 64th year. If you don’t know our story, Robert and I met in the first grade at the neighborhood Catholic grammar school, and we have been in each other’s lives ever since. Going “steady” in the 7th grade, sock-hops in high school, and formals in college – we’ve been life long partners. During our childhood summers, Robert’s family would spend time at his cabin in Mineral King, and my mom, dad and I would retreat to Crestline, near Lake Arrowhead in the San Bernardino Mountains, where my father built a cabin. It wasn’t until we we

Little Cabin the Woods

So this is our little cabin the woods. It is such a lovely retreat from the daily chaos that we endure. It’s so quiet. So quiet that you can hear the “dawn chorus” just before sunrise when all the birds come out to sing. So quiet, that it feels cleansing just to be silent, and drink it in, expelling all the worry and heaviness that has collected over our absence. This is what we anticipate for the long winter months when we cannot visit. The ability to live by the rhythm of the sun, allowing ourselves to navigate the day without an agenda, and worried only where we shall go on our next walk, and why we haven’t yet seen a deer this visit. It feels absolutely calming to push all other cares o

Our Sequoia Backyard

Robert and I have a small cabin in the Sequoia National Park, in a community called Silver City. In fact, our backyard is your backyard too – because our cabin looks out onto the National Park -- which belongs to all of us! Silver City was first populated by miners, during a late gold rush in the 1800's. Today it is a mountain resort where anyone can visit and enjoy the beauty of Sequoia National Park. However, Silver City feels like home to us because Robert's family has a long, history with this beautiful place. In the early 1930’s, Robert’s family used to drive cattle up the mountain road to Silver City (elevation 7,000 feet) where the herd would graze on the lush summer grasses, fed by t

Indoor Gardening!

My oldest daughter has recently become an indoor gardener, and when we visited last week for a quarantine dinner, I snuck inside so I could give you a tour of her indoor garden. She's got my green thumb, but she's also a keen researcher. So, her garden benefits from internet searches about frequency of water, type of light, and ways to propagate. She's learned a great deal in the short time that she's been keeping plants insider her apartment. I think she's a great example of persistence in gardening too -- because even thought she doesn't have a lot of space, she perseveres, finds corners and shelves, and wall sconces to display her little plants. And they give her great joy, watching them

Backyard Wildlife

Gardens are not just about growing things, they are also about seeing things. The more time that I spend in my garden, the more I realize that it’s the little things that give me the greatest joy. The smallest sprout, a new leaf, little and not so little buggies. This summer my youngest daughter spent a month in our guest house, and woke every morning to the garden vista outside her window. And of course that vista included all the growing things that I have so lovingly planted, but it also include much of the wildlife that inhabits suburban backyards in Los Angeles. When one thinks of big cities, one doesn’t necessarily think of flowers or butterflies, but rather tall steel buildings, and m

Nighttime Sanctuary

In these turbulent times the garden is more than just a place to till and weed. It does keep the hands busy, but it also provides moments of solace, and reflection that are so necessary to help us balance our equilibrium. Being near to nature is a comfort, and finding joy in the small things, the birds, bees and sunflower sprouts helps us to keep perspective about the chaos that swirls around us. My backyard provides this kind of sanctuary even in the nighttime, and I thought you would like to see how Robert and I spend some of our quarantine nights in our little backyard. We have several garden features that come alive at night, and we often enjoy spending time in the quiet of the evening,

Artichokes in One Minute!

This video is only if you are interested in what's below all those long, straggly green bushy leaves of a summer artichoke! It will only take a minute - and you might be surprised at what I find! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ewMLV0IQnqE

Persistence in the Garden

I just had to make a video of the garden border that leads to my front door. The walkway to my house is a meandering brick pathway flanked by a garden border that I plant each season with colors appropriate for the time of the year. During this summer, it's been a challenge, though. I've planted, replanted, ordered delivery from Armstrong Nursery, begged my daughter to go to Home Depot for a flower infusion, watered every day, watered every other day, sprayed with organic insecticide, used snail bait, talked to the little green things, transplanted them...you name it - I've tried it! With the brutal heat, the complexities of the pandemic, and my insistence that I HAD to have a bright color b

The "Dog Days" of Summer

We are heading into the “dog days of summer,” as my father used to call them, and I have a few thoughts about that as I gaze at my garden out of my kitchen window. It’s simply too hot outside to do any gardening, so I’m inside in the cool, waiting until the evening when I can get my hands into the soil. The “dog days of summer” remind me of popsicles, and public pools, A & W Root Beer, and trips to the Laurel Plaza mall in North Hollywood, where my dad would take me to “ride the escalators” in May Company because it was just too darn hot to do anything else. But today I started to think, what exactly ARE the dog days of summer, and where in the world did that phrase come from. You’ll be surp

Baking Bread in Quarantine!

A first for me! Baking bread! My tomato garden has been so generous this year that I was looking for recipes where I could use some of them. I came across this recipe for tomato bread from the Daring Gourmet website https://www.daringgourmet.com/fresh-roasted-tomato-and-herb-bread/ and tried my hand in the kitchen with yeast, the dough hook, and kneading -- all of which were new for me. I'm here to say that it was a lovely experience, a little more work than I anticipated, but very worth it, and very satisfying too. After I harvested the tomatoes, and herbs (basil, thyme, & sage) I headed into the kitchen to begin the bread making odyssey. I consider myself a pretty good everyday cook - but

Patio Dining with My Daughter!

My oldest daughter (I have 3!) invited her father and me over for dinner to her apartment last night and we had such lovely time. You can see how spoiled we were by the cheese display and decorations that awaited us when we arrived. We wore our masks, sat 6 feet apart, and chatted away through a delicious dinner of pineapple shrimp fried rice, brown sugar carrots, and fresh watermelon. My daughter and her partner also have the gardening bug and their indoor AND outdoor gardens are robust, with lots of beautiful specimens, some experiments, and loads of cuttings. I was delighted that she allowed me to take some video of her gardens (which I will share soon!), because I know that many of my re

Quarantine Dining

I love to entertain. Fancy dinners, lovely china, my mom's crystal. It's all so delightful. But, in fact, elegant home dining has rather gone out of fashion these days. So when guests come to my house for dinner, they are often surprised by the candle centerpiece, and the silver utensils. In fact, you can buy whole sets of lovely fine china on Ebay for pennies these days! I've tried to pass on this love of table setting to my daughters, but I'm not sure how successful I've been. Even today when I ask them to help me set the table for guests, I can never be sure where the forks will end up! And I guess, it doesn't really matter. The days of formality, and high brow dining have gone the way of

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