Posted in 1 Garden

Bumper Crop after Pruning Last Year – of course!

photo 2 copyLast year, I hosted a couple of Pruning Workshops with arborist Cheyenne Thomas.

I had to confess that, even though I never claim to be a gardener, per se – but rather a designer of homes and yards in which gardens will play a huge role – I had not been able to get over my dread of pruning the living branches of my trees.

Cheyenne explained why we needed to get over our reluctance:  Because throughout human history, we’ve selected plants, in large part, by their vigor (as well as taste and other qualities), and our continued practice has created plants essentially too vigorous for their own good.

So, to help them, we need to limit how many branches are allowed to grow.

It turns out I am not the only one with this hesitation!  All of us suffered as we took the saws to the living flesh of the trees, but we did it.

IMG_2664And this year, ALL my trees are giving me bumper crops of fruit and nuts – even on this challenging granite lot!

My apricot tree was so loaded with baby fruit, I called Cheyenne to ask whether some of them should be removed, as I’d heard.

He said Yes.  And again I was faced with the difficulty of removing living flesh from my tree again!  But I did it. 

IMG_2814Cheyenne suggested I take off enough fruit to leave one apricot approximately every three inches, so I did.  Here’s one of my branches, and all the removed fruits on the ground beneath.

If your trees are overloaded, you can leave the bumper crop, and you’ll have small fruit and more pits and skin to deal with.  If you thin your fruit, you’ll have fewer but larger ones.

I’ll show you what we get in a few weeks….

Happy days in the garden.

Posted in 1 Garden

A Garden Gate Archway

IMG_2813One of the romantic images I’ve had, perhaps since childhood, has been an arch of greenery over a garden gate.  And finally I have one – that grows well in this desert climate, and on this rocky lot.

What do you have nostalgia or romantic feelings for?  Can you create it in your environment?

Give it to yourself!

Here’s a photo of a cascade of roses on the inside:


Here’s a description of the rose from Wikipedia (

Rosa banksiae, common names Lady Banks’ Rose, Tombstone Roses or justBanks’ rose, is a species of flowering plant in the rose family, native to central and western China, in the provinces of Gansu, Guizhou, Henan, Hubei, Jiangsu, Sichuan and Yunnan, at altitudes of 500–2,200 m (1,640–7,218 ft).

Posted in 1 Garden

Earth Day solar cooking tomorrow – and there’s a sale on!

Hi Friends,

I’m getting ready to demonstrate solar cooking for four hours tomorrow, 10 – 2, at Silver City’s Earth Day celebration at Gough Park.  (There’ll be music and lots of fun stuff!)

I’ll cook quinoa with beets and rice – almost the same dish shown here, except with rice – either grain will turn beautiful red from the beets, and so will the carrots!

solar cook b
Earth Day, 2004

When that’s done, I’ll pop in an apple crisp.

And when that’s finished, I may show off “sauteéing” – without stirring – or maybe demonstrate toasting nuts or seeds to perfection – again, with no stirring!


The company has given us distributors another special to offer:

a set of three baking/dehydrating racks will come free – with an oven



And I recently got my new PayPal cell-phone slider so I can take credit card purchases for paypalthe first time!

And I’ll have a brand-new oven with me, unopened in the box, with the free rack set, so if you’re interested you can take it home tomorrow!  Otherwise, ovens – sent here or anywhere in the continental US – will arrive at your door within a week.

You can order an oven or ask questions here on my site, or by phone (575-534-0123), or by email (

Hope to see you soon!  Come by and visit!

Posted in 1 Garden, 2 Home

Sun Ovens really calling these days

solar cook bAlmost every day recently, we’ve put something in the Sun Oven.

One day, it was beans, for soup, to cook them without adding their strong odor to the house – !

sweet potatoesOne day it was sweet potatoes.

rice dinnerAnother day, left-overs – a no-brainer!  They cook quickly, without drying out – because one of the beauties of Sun Ovens is that they hold in the moisture, so reheated food doesn’t stick.

And one day I used the drying racks to make biscotti of a cake I thought we wouldn’t eat quickly enough!

With the weather so nice, I thought others “on the fence” about the purchase might also be inspired to finally get their Sun Oven, so I spent the day updating my purchasing page, with all my favorite accessories.

And I also spent some time with PayPal, making sure that I’ve made the process as easy as possible for you.

Fresh_Tom_in_GSO.jpegIf you’re inspired, I sure recommend these wonderful items!  (And there’s a special one right now – a baking/dehydrating rack set will come free with your new oven.)

smile SO WSI offered free workshops for years before ever deciding to become a distributor – I believe in them that much.

  • They save you money.
  • They save energy and therefore the planet’s resources.
  • They make you go outside – ! – to notice the weather, the clouds, and birds!
  • They inspire you to live right in so many ways and to understand how easy passive solar energy can be to create – for cooking, heating water, and even heating your house.

Here’s an essay I wrote a few years back, published in numerous places, about the inspiration gained from solar ovens:

chicken beautifulGet inspired!

Posted in 1 Garden

A few garden thoughts

It’s good to remember to get outside in the late day to catch sights we might miss otherwise.  Some of my favorites are:

The cherry tree backlit by the late day sun…


…and the first Evening Primrose of the season!

The tabby cat, Peaches, doesn’t care. She only has eyes for catnip.


These hardly little flowers spread wonderfully, and some years used to come up in profusion (when the rains were just right) and cover the desert floor when I lived in Cochise County, Arizona – so I have a special affection for them.

And oh-my-goodness!  Look how this little volunteer has grown in just 5 days – March 30 – April 4!  (We think it’s another apricot tree.  I wrote about it in a previous post.)


Wow!  That’s impressive for just five days.


IMG_2691And the scroungy-looking dandelions at my feet are exactly that – I scrounge the outer leaves for the chickens, and leave a few to keep the plants going.  Good thing I took an extra walk today, to keep the girls happy and well fed.

Finally, in the sun room, we brought in a volunteer tomato last fall – maybe sprouted from the compost? maybe from a bird dropping? in any case, we know it’s hardy, coming up in un-amended soil – and surrounded it with bottles of water for thermal mass to keep it warm on the coldest of nights, and it’s produced a half-dozen tomatoes for us already!  And twenty or more small fruits are growing.  That’s a comfrey next to it, with the tomato tumbling over it!  As soon as the nights stay in the 40s, we’ll bring them both out, along with the 3 basil plants that provided us pesto all winter!IMG_2694


I’m a lazy gardener, I admit, but having planned for that reality, planting easy-to-grow varieties, lots of herbs, trees, wildflowers, and taking advantage of volunteers, there’s a lot going on here, with a minimum of work.

Even though I’ve done very little promoting of my design work, I’m always delighted when people ask me to help them figure out their yards – as occurred again today.

It’s a wonderful thing to work out a design that serves many functions (aesthetics, food, medicine, activities, finances, ecology, and more) and is considered not only in two dimensions (like a map), but also the third dimension (vertically) and the fourth (through time)!  I love it.

Posted in 1 Garden

Surprises in the Garden

Every spring, I’m surprised by the resilience of nature!

May we all be so.  (Especially me, as I try to cope with a heart that seems to have taken just a little too much.  Keep me in your prayers.)

Here’s what has delighted or surprised me:  First, the apricot tree.

IMG_2664I’ve tried to always make it clear that I’m a hardscape designer, and only hope to become a better gardener.  So I had this aversion to pruning my trees and wanted them to just be “natural.”  Or maybe that was my excuse for being lazy and not learning.  Silly me.  

Well, last fall, I hosting an arborist to come teach a couple of workshops on pruning – and learned, not only some do’s and don’t’s but the Big Why:  Because throughout human history, we’ve been selecting seed from the most vigorous plants, and sometimes they can overdo it and actually become weak because of their own vigor.  (Or at least that was how I received the information – correct me, anyone?)

So this wonderful apricot tree – which has never borne fruit before – came on with at least hundreds of fruits this spring!

And so has the almond. IMG_2639 And the little cherry.IMG_2638

Beneath the cherry is a broken pottery garden.  Others have such a thing?

I heard of one ten years ago, and realized I like that idea as a place to take pretty things that no longer function in the house, but certainly don’t feel right in the trash:  those coffee cups with a design you love so dearly, but they leak because of a crack, and you already have enough of those converted to pencil holders!  These others, more severely broken, have a nice home here, against the wall of stone.

(The circular “stone” with swirl of tile and mirrors was a gift from an old friend, Orna Izakson – thanks Orna.  It’s supposed to deter birds from the fruit, but is just pretty.)  IMG_2626IMG_2625

The snake sculpture is a passed-along gift from a friend – of two rattlesnakes copulating, which I’ve seen once!  Magnificent.  And the pottery with the apparent “face” was made by my sister when she took art in grad school.  I’ve had it for decades and a week ago, I broke it in way too many pieces to repair.  Now I see it anew – because of its new location.

IMG_2631This little volunteer (can you see it at the end of the bench) we think may be another apricot tree – not where we would have ever had thought to plant it – but where we think it might actually have a chance, south of the mesquite tree in the front yard.  It’s seed might have made it through the compost pile.

Since mesquites have lo-o-o-ong tap roots, it might break up the granite floor of this yard and give the baby apricot a chance to go deep also.  And the mesquite’s canopy is light enough that the babe should get enough light there.

We’ll see how it goes, and report over the years.

IMG_2672Wishing you delight in your garden this spring.  Regardless of how much energy you might have, the garden always seems to give, give, give, if we give just a little.  (We chose places for wildflowers last week, and are watering twice a day now, looking forward to their blooms!)

IMG_2666 IMG_2665

Oh, yeah, and the chem-trails.

I know some people still insist they’re only jet contrails, but they haven’t paid attention.  A few years ago, we had a famous “milky rain”!  My glass table looked like someone had poured watery milk on it – and so did everyone’s windshield in town.  Samples were sent to the health department, but there was some other critical issue that “came up” about the time we expected a report, and there’s been no follow-through – as we fight to keep our Gila River from being diverted.  So much to keep up with!  And lots of stuff just slips on by….

Keep loving, despite it all.