Short & Sweet: Dragonflies and Cottonwood is a blog about living and gardening in the Pacific Northwest, including my sewing, upcycling, crafting, and travel adventures, woven around family, food and fun! It’s also a writer’s platform for my published works. So visit often, give comments freely, and enjoy yourself.
The Longer Version: Dragonflies and cottonwood remind me of warm summer days near the river; the sweet smell of cottonwood and ripe blackberries float in the air while dragonflies flitter around.
I’ve had a strong desire to write for most of my life. I grew up in a large family; oldest of seven children. My parents, at this writing have been together 58 years. I was raised in Vancouver, Washington until the age of five, when we moved to 80 acres northwest of Battle Ground, WA.
I have lots of great memories of my childhood on the farm. While riding my horse Tamarack as a teen, we spooked a bobcat up a tree. That scared both of us!
I had a bicycle with big, fat tires and pedal brakes and I loved to ride the old cow paths on the property. We had a Royal Ann cherry tree in our front yard that had a couple of branches that served as a seat with back support and I used to sit in the cherry tree on a warm afternoon and read Bobbsy Twins and Nancy Drew mysteries. Dad built a ‘beaver dam’ behind the house and we had lots of fun building a raft and floating in the water. It usually looked like a scene from Huck Finn, with more than one kid on the raft, poking a stick in the mud to move it around.
I milked our cow “Blacky” before and after school. In her prime I could fill a 2.5 gallon bucket twice with the milk she provided. We churned butter from the cream. I remember Mom making chocolate cake from scratch and having a dessert of warm chocolate cake with ice cold cream poured over it. Yum! (This is not something I could do anymore!)
My 11th grade English teacher, Mr. Rotschy introduced me to creative writing. I really enjoyed the challenge of writing clearly and concisely about a subject. Years later, after being published with my ‘Gardner’s Corner’ column in a local newspaper, Mr. Rotschy told me he enjoyed my articles and only wished he had been a part of developing my writing skills, but that he thought he remembered me taking beginning French from him in high school. Then and there, I set him straight. I have never taken French and yes… he had a big part in teaching me the basics of what became my writing career. Thank you!
In 1975 I married my husband Michael. He is the love of my life. Together we have tackled the challenges of a busy life raising a family. Today we are blessed to have three adult sons, two wonderful daughter-in-laws and three adorable granddaughters.
My writing career began in the mid-1980′s when I came up with an idea for a garden column that was easily read, featuring a subject like lawn care or rhododendrons. Gardener’s Corner was published in The Reflector Newspaper in Battle Ground, WA. and in the Enterprise Courier, in Oregon City, OR. An agricultural newspaper, The Capital Press, Salem, Oregon, already had a garden writer and asked if I was interested in doing business profiles. For the next five years I interviewed growers in the Oregon Nursery Industry and other farmers who grew a niche crop or raised exotic animals. I got to hold a newborn miniature horse in my arms. I photographed miniature Zebu cattle and water buffalo without leaving the country. I got to go in the ‘back door’ of area nurseries and see their crops and ask all kinds of questions. I met a lot of very nice people and learned many different things.
Also, during that time, I took some horticulture classes at Clark College in Vancouver, WA. Under the instruction of Dr. Herb Orange, I toured more nurseries and asked more questions about the industry. On a field trip to Sunset Ridge Nursery, Ridgefield, I met Shorty Allen. Mr. Allen grafted and grew Japanese maple trees. I’d found my niche’ and a friend for life. He taught me how to graft. We had similar interests and enjoyed being around the trees and in the greenhouse. He passed away a few years ago, but not before I featured him in the Capital Press.
As a result of nursery interviews and a love of plants, ‘Five Star Nursery’ was born in 1988. I raised fuschia baskets for two years while my Japanese maple seedlings grew. Then I raised Japanese maples exclusively for the next 23 years, closing the nursery in 2011. At the peak of production my son Shaun and I grafted 8000 Japanese maple liners each year and shipped them to wholesale nurseries as far away as Pittsford, New York. We had two 100′ cold frames and a 20×36 heated grafting house.
Life moves on. My boys have lives of their own and don’t live at home anymore. I still have a 20 x 40′ greenhouse and a 20 x 40′ shade house for playing in. This years experiment was to grow a garden in the floor of the greenhouse. So far, it has worked out great! Tomatoes are over 4 feet tall and I’ve harvested cucumbers, green beans and some terrific lettuce.
I have a worm bin that my four year old granddaughter loves to look at but won’t touch. I collect coffee grounds for the worm bin and for the garden from any coffee shop I stop at. I love to sew and quilt. I love to read.
Writing my first fiction book was sidelined in 2014, when my husband was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. We are attempting to reverse his diabetes with diet and I am blogging a book about our journey, with the hope that we could help other diabetics.
All of my published work thus far has been non-fiction. I hope to share some of my writing here on my blog.