In 1996, I was a young mother of two toddlers and a freelance graphic designer working from my house. There were times when I would have my 10 yr old niece, Lauren come take care of them while I worked in the den. This usually only worked when the kids thought Mommy left the house – which I would pretend to do and then sneak in the side door and hope one of the dogs didn’t give me away. Otherwise, they would come banging on the door – MOMMY!!! Most of the time, once they had been read to and tucked into bed, I would then “go to work” down in the den from 7pm to 2am. These were some of my most sleep deprived years of my life.
I was fortunate enough to work on a couple of projects with my sister-in-law who had a small publishing company called High Tide Press. One in particular was the work I did on the book series The Zone Garden: A Surefire Guide to Gardening in Your Zone by Charlotte M. Frieze. I’m credited with “keeping the hard drives spinning” since I was in charge of laying out all the books on my computer.
At the time, I didn’t realize how much I would learn simply by laying out and editing information about gardening. Through all my work, I was learning all about “Knowing your Site”, “Raised Beds”, “Pests and Intruders” and so much more. My sister-in-law was insistent on making a book that would be a comprehensive resource for gardeners. Remember, this was before the internet and Google. Separating out the zones into three books, the publishers were giving gardeners a resource book that was directly related to gardening in their specific zone that wasn’t a huge over-weighted volume with more information that actually needed. I find that many times, I will be reading a gardening article and find it’s written for a different zone than my zone. We now are getting familiar with gardening in zone 5b, a change from my CT zone 6b.
Who knew at the time that my graphic design career working on a gardening book would one day come full circle to my career today in helping people learn about growing their own healthy nutritious food and living a more sustainable lifestyle. All my jobs throughout my life, although very different from one another, had something to do with the other, but not in the traditional sense. My first job in radio gave me valuable design experience since our stations’ never had a budget, I was the in-house one person
ad agency promotions director. I designed ads, promotions, logos, bumper stickers, bus stop signs -I even had a billboard on I95 in Norwalk, CT, a high traffic area outside NYC. I developed my portfolio and networked like crazy, eventually allowing me enough clients to leave the radio business and freelance and be a stay at home mom. My time as a freelance graphic designer eventually turned into a full-time job when the kids were in full time school. At first,I was simply designing the corporate material for my brother’s start-up company, but then I ended up working there and for him, as a research analyst for the next 15 years. Initially I covered media stocks and the food and beverage sector which grew into researching water and agribusiness sectors. After years of reading about the state of our country’s water and agriculture coupled with a mid-life epiphany, thanks to Dennis Hopper (a story for another time), I decided to help others learn how to grow their own food and live more sustainable lifestyles. That’s when Mark and I started Homegrown Harvest. We wanted to show people that starting your own garden and growing some of your own food could be simple and rewarding nutritionally, as well as in so many other ways including financially, physically and psychologically.
As I look back through the pages of the books that I helped come to fruition, I see where I subconsciously learned about organic gardening back in 1996. I used the book as a reference guide in my own garden as my children grew and I juggled a full time career and single parenting. Eventually I became an accredited organic land care manager through CT NOFA in 2011 when I had made the decision to help others learn how to grow their own.
I have always told my kids that they will most likely have more than one career in their lifetime. I’ve worked in sales and promotion in the radio business. I was a freelance graphic designer. I was a research analyst for a hedge fund. I am an organic land care professional. I am a woodworker who manufactures cedar raised garden bed kits. I am an entrepreneur. I am an artist and a writer. I am a creator.
We’re in zone 5b but at the top and surrounded by zone 5a!
Wish us luck!
Although The Zone Garden Series was an important part of my salad days of garden training –sorry, I couldn’t resist — the first book which I truly learned most about gardening initially was from the book, The Contained Garden: A complete illustrated guide to growing plants, flowers, fruits and vegetables outdoors in pots. This book spoke to me since back in mid-eighties when I first bought the book, I was a young twenty-something living in a small New York City apartment trying to bring as much greenery in my concrete jungle life. Growing up in the city, my mother would fill the few sunny windows we had in our apartment with tons of plants. It didn’t matter that we were only on the third floor at least we faced southwest corner-facing apartment would fill with enough light to grow plenty of greenery. So I, too followed in her footsteps, eventually filling my own windows and patios with plants, flowers and herbs when I could.
My mother has always also been into researching. It didn’t matter what she was researching — although her bible was The Merck Manual – the hardback 10 pound leather bound version of WedMd.com before the internet. A book only registered nurses and doctors could have at one point. My mother only had hers because of her mother, a registered nurse. Hmm…I became a research analyst – weird how things work out sometimes.
Anyway, in that vein, and since I have always loved to own books, I have amassed quite the library over the years. I’ve listed the copyright dates where I could find them, I thought it interesting that they span the years from 1979, when I was a freshman in high school to 2014, just around the time I started to switch to reading my Kindle more often and started to buy less and less physical books. Here a list of books about gardening that are physically in my library. In a future blog post I will give a list of gardening/homesteading related books that are on my Kindle or a list of books I have on canning, but that’s for another day. Until then, enjoy spring and get out there and garden!