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In the Garden

Keeping a journal



Examples of a garden journal with sketches and handwritingA FRIEND OF A FRIEND JUST CONTACTED ME about a book she's working on. It's about "visual journals." I'll let her explain.

"My book," Jennifer New writes, "which is being published by Princeton Architectural Press, is a compilation of contemporary journal keepers who have visual elements to their books: drawings, collage, detritus that's been glued or stuck in the pages, photos, etc. The books need not be beautiful; in fact, I'm very interested in journals that serve as a tool to their makers, helping to track a project, or process a problem. I'm trying to include as wide an array of journal keepers as possible: songwriters, archaeologists, chefs, dreamers, travelers, people dealing with illness, etc. I'd very much like to include a gardener. I have some notion of seed packets competing with dirt smudges and grids of vegetable plots."

Well, you get the idea. Most gardeners do attempt a garden journal at one time or another. One year I gave myself the task of writing a page or two about the garden every week. At first I didn't know if I would have the stamina to keep it up for an entire year; I had better things to do with my time, including working in the garden. But to my astonishment, no matter how busy my life became, I reserved an hour or so each week to sit down and record the happenings in my garden. As the months wore on, I began to appreciate the time I set aside to muse over my successes and failures, to observe the changing of the seasons, and to plan the next week's or month's work in the garden.

I started out recording the daily farm report in my journal: "Planted lettuce seeds. Radishes up. Mulched the flower beds." Soon, however, the entries began to span several pages, spinning epic tales of battles against predators, devastating backyard famines and triumphs against all odds. And like any other kind of journal, mine became filled with the details of my life: the illness and death of my 20-year-old cat, the coming and going of friends and family and those all-too-frequent, harried entries: "Too busy to even look outside this weekend. The garden's a mess. Weeds have taken over."

That journal lasted only a year, and I've started a few others since then. None of them have been worthy of the kind of a book that Jennifer plans to put together, but I told her I would pass on the information to my readers. Surely one of you keeps the kind of garden journal she's looking for. If you do, me or write in care of the Journal at 145 G St., Suite A, Arcata 95521.

PHOTO AT TOP: This example of a garden journal is the work of ROSE WELSH, a prolific journal keeper. She is on her third volume of journals, having started in 1992 when her family's new home in a McKinleyville subdivision was surrounded by a naked lot. A graphic artist, Welsh intersperses her own color drawings and writings with magazine clippings, photos, poetry -- and an occasional seed packet. She writes about her observations, philosophy, setbacks and challenges all relating to the progress of her garden and occasionally, the life of her own family.


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