Thursday, January 6, 2011


We're still trying to find our groove. It's only our second post so we hope you'll cut us some slack on this one. We thought about what we'd do for our second act. We decided on an extension of our first post because we're still trying to figure out how to get through winter. Like being back in fifth grade staring out the window while Mrs. Zarbinski droned on and on about how Betsy Ross sewed stars on a field of red and white stripes we found ourselves daydreaming about warmer times. Rick's daydreams seemed to send him back to digging holes in rich black dirt so his winter dreams lead us to talking about gardening. Unfortunately his dreams were not mine and that lead us to trying out, "He Said/He Said". We kinda cheated on this first attempt but from now on we'll stick to the rules. We'll establish a topic, write our thoughts and then neither of us can look at the others entry until it's out there for everyone to see. Sometimes our responses will be mirror images and other times they may be like a Mary Matalin - James Carville debate. We encourage anyone out there to feed us topics. Let's have at it.


I love to garden.  Nothing makes me feel more creative and spiritually fulfilled than watching something I’ve planted pop out of the ground and come to life. But here’s the thing, I’m not great at it. To describe me as mediocre would be kind.  That has never stopped me though, my tenacity and stubbornness has always won out over my mediocre skill set.  And I don’t let this mediocrity hinder my dreams either. I go for creating the kind of garden that one could find in a magazine or on a movie set.  And that brings me to the potager.  You know those beautiful, well-laid kitchen gardens the French have just steps away from their kitchen doors. Walk out, snip, snip and dinner is practically done and in that oh so delicious French way!  

Need another reference?  Meryl Streep’s gorgeous and functional garden in “It’s Complicated”  Now there my dears is a perfect potager.  

So this winter I am going to plan a classic French potager for our shop “Pleasant Living”, but instead of being in the back I’m putting it right out front for all the neighbors to see.  Come on, its way better than putting the refrigerator or washing machine on the front porch. We’ll post pix but if you’re in the hood pleeze stop buy!


Rick was always the gardener. Even though I received my masters from the University of Wisconsin in Landscape Architecture I can’t tell the difference between a live tree and dead one in winter. There’s a lot of winter here in Wisconsin so I’m in the dark a lot of the time trying to identify living elements of nature. Couple this with my allergy to Mayflies or No-See-Ums and you have the quintessential non-gardener. When we had our house in the country Rick would spend his winters huddled up in front of the fire, seed catalogues scattered at his feet and his garden planning notebook draped over the quilt he had wrapped around his lap. His pencil would furiously flick through the pages of Whiteflower Farms Seed Catalogue pausing on a new perennial he thought would work perfectly in the white garden and then he’d scratch out its name in the margins of his notebook.

I, on the other hand, would watch this note taking with a hefty dose of dread knowing the outcome of these notes would mean hours of physical punishment for me in addition to the oozing welts inflicted by an army of little stinging bugs. I knew after all this preparation I would have no way out of helping turning his notes into botanical reality. So each spring I’d parade myself out to the garden dragging my best friend, Jim, along and begin the process of sifting dirt, breaking up clods of clay and harvesting the stone crop we managed to grow over the winter months. It’s a fact that in the upper Catskills the earth is actually able to grow a crop of new rocks over a cold winter season. In the more recent years I’ve used the month of January to scour Ebay in hopes of a finding a beekeeper’s outfit to protect myself from the bugs but up until now I’ve not met with any success.
This spring will bring a whole new set of gardening requirements as I’ve watched Rick make special trips to the mailbox, fingers crossed hoping for the new spring plant catalogues to arrive. The fire is burning, the notebook has been revived with a new set of graph paper and all his pencils are sharpened in preparation for a new set of regional gardening challenges. I hear a potager is in the offing.

Hunters vs. Wellingtons

The argument wasn’t really an argument at all but it was my contention that Emmy’s purple boots and Rick’s garden green ones were not Wellingtons. They were Hunter boots. For me, Wellingtons had become the bootery equivalent of Kleenex, a now generic name to describe any knee high rubber boot. So when one guest spotted Emmy’s purple Hunters splayed out on the entry floor and oohed and aahed over the Wellies, I arrogantly corrected her telling her they weren’t Wellingtons but Hunters. She graciously deferred to me saying she had always thought they were one in the same.
Immediately after our guests had closed the front door behind them I was off to Google looking up Wellingtons vs  Hunters, an education ensued.

I was wrong right from the beginning. Wellingtons were first made at the request of the Duke of Wellington. The look caught on and the Duke’s shoemaker became the Manolo Blahnik of the early eighteen hundreds. With the vulcanization of rubber in the mid-eighteen hundreds the boot went from leather to a close fitting molded rubber model manufactured by the North British Rubber Company. To make a long story short, the North British Rubber Company became the Hunter Boot Ltd and ever since the Wellington and Hunter names have been synonymous. Now there are an abundance of copycat boots out there, many referring to themselves as Wellies, but the truth is our guest was right and the only true Wellingtons are made by Hunter.

Cloche (klohsh)

A transparent bell-shaped glass cover for protecting plants from the cold weather. Cloche, the sound of the word engenders warmth. It has a motherly protective quality. It’s impossible to speak the word with any harshness. It doesn’t allow the tongue to form syllables of anger, instead it forces the lips forward like in a kiss. I wish I could turn it from a noun to a verb, to cloche and then I’d cloche our world from the harsh realities of our time.


Winter Hydrangea by Susan Johann
Represented by Pleasant Living
917 608-2384

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