The Books of March

04.03.18 A monthly reading list and recommendations

Savings Account

03.23.18 I let a plant stay and collected its seeds

03.14.18 Rocks

The wall, year two

I started stacking stones again. My retaining wall project began last year, on March 25, by demolishing the existing rockery with my dad. A week later it continued when I rented a truck and picked up three yards of gravel with my friend Matt. And the real fun began when six tons of stones were delivered to the front yard, on May 9. I hit pause on the work in late July, to build stairs that run through the wall, and all drystack work ceased over the winter. But this week, thanks to a few spring-like days, I reaquainted myself with the quartzite.

My pace has already picked up considerably. Over the winter, I read a couple books from mastercraftsman Dan Snow and I’ve had plenty of time to dwell on a quote from In the Company of Stone:

Stone is picked up and placed: no exchanges, no returns, and no regrets. Giving each stone a second chance to find its home doubles the building time. Three chances make a job take three times as long as it needs to. The first stone you decide to use may not be the best of the three, if three were allowed, but as long as it is structurally acceptable, it stays. The place to make improvements over a potential mistake is with the next stone. Progress is made by recognizing faults and using the knowledge of them to make the next choice a better one.

Progress as mantra. I’m not wasting as much time, and I’m shaking my perfectionist urges. Now I’m optimistic that the main 50′ section of the wall will be done this spring.

03.13.18 Rant

Very beautiful and very wonderful

Lately, I’ve been thinking about making a garden publication. In large part because too many existing major publications1 bother me for the same reason. I usually frame it like this, to friends: “The covers are always so beautiful — ‘beauty’ this and ‘beauty’ that. And flowers. Look at all these flowers. Look at all these beautiful flowers in this untouched garden.” And if not that, then the magazines are all-in on urban farming. Not that there’s anything wrong with urban farming, it just seems like there are but two options: a glorious garden or chickens. Look at this beautiful chicken.

I could go on, but the new issue of Garden Design arrived yesterday and it does a marvelous job of exemplifying the kind of meaningless, saccharine covers that make me want to go outside and barf. Featuring…

  • Beauty & Wonder (just add it)
  • Perfectly Modern (pots)
  • The Joy of (kitchen gardening)
  • Simple Steps to a Gorgeous Garden (duh)

Also, please don’t forget to take refuge and to rejuvenate. As well as grow the fabulous and plant the fanciful. It’s a sublime life, starting at $12.95. What could be better?

  1. In particular, the quarterly Pacific Horticulture is exempt from this rant. It’s closest I’ve seen to an ideal garden publication. It’s on the thin side, but it doesn’t publish false hope or dangle ideas that are only obtainable with one million dollars. ↩︎

03.07.18 Articles

Plants that grow without me

“Dad has 1,200 acres,” Mr. Grant said. “He takes forests and turns them into pastures. And I buy pastures and turn them into forest.”

Following yesterday’s post about forests in Iceland, this is a story set in Texas. This New York Times profile of Greg Grant’s homestead fits into the growing conversation about returning property to natural states: “I went to horticulture school to learn to grow things,” he said. “And now what I grow is plants that grow without me.”

NYT “Every Plant Has a Story. You Just Need to Dig”