I’ve been a big fan of Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company since the very beginnings of this blog. (I love looking back to that first year I started gardening, when all of the seeds I owned could fit into two vintage cigar boxes. Quite a difference from the multiple ammo cans I now keep them in!)
I devoured their seed catalog every winter, dog-earing pages of vegetables I wanted to try and marking colorful varieties that caught my eye. Long before Garden Betty was ever a brand, years before I even published a book, the fine folks at Baker Creek were behind me 100 percent. To say they were the first supporters of my blog (when I was an enthused but novice gardener) is not far from the truth — and for that, I’ll always be thankful.
When owner Jere Gettle and manager Paul Wallace popped by my garden for a visit a few years ago, I was even more enthralled by the work they were doing to promote pure food. Selling seeds is only one part of their business; supporting sustainable farming, championing the non-GMO movement, speaking out against the patenting of seeds, fighting corporate control of our food system, and preserving heirloom varieties from some 75 countries round out the core of Baker Creek’s mission.
After speaking at the Spring Planting Festival last year, I had an opportunity to wander their pioneer village, tour the farm and get a glimpse of the seed-packing operation, all set against the rolling green hills of the Missouri Ozarks. (And only minutes from the home of Laura Ingalls Wilder, one of my favorite childhood authors.)
If you’ve ever been curious about the day-to-day of Baker Creek, you’re in for a visual treat!
In 2015, I wrote a total of 20 Five Things Friday posts. The biweekly series started in 2013 as a way to share the random collection of thoughts and tidbits from my life that don’t warrant a whole blog entry, and also serve as a reminder to myself that no matter how hard things may be (or how mundane the day to day may seem), there’s always something to smile about. Even if it’s a small thing. Because sometimes, those are the best things. (You can read the very first Five Things Friday here.)
I didn’t put too much thought into how significant the series would eventually become, but through the years, I’ve heard from countless readers that this little post was a favorite on the blog, a highlight in their inboxes or newsreaders every other week. And truthfully, it threw me off a bit. But then I realized… there is pure joy in simple pleasures, which is what I always try to convey in my posts.
I’m so happy to know it’s something you look forward to, and hope it helps you look back on all your blessings as you leap ahead into the New Year.
Without further ado… here were the five big things that made my year!
When I think of all the people I’ve met, the places I’ve seen, and the blessings I’ve had, this year did not feel real at all. As soon as the clock ticked over to 2015 just 364 short days ago, it’s been nonstop with the 3 Bs: book release, book tour, and (soon-to-be) baby!
Had you asked me last New Year’s Eve how I thought this year might turn out, I never could have foreseen just how incredible of a journey it’s been. Despite a slower pace on the blog because of my travel schedule (a total of 80 posts and 686 images uploaded — not bad considering I was on the road for a good part of the year), Garden Betty reached almost half a million pageviews in a single month, and for the first time since its inception five years ago — a stat that shocks and amazes me.
This is the first day in over a week that I’ve actually opened my laptop, and I must say it’s been a really lovely holiday break. Will and I spent Christmas with his family in Northern California, and I hope I’m not alone in saying a break from our holiday break is now in order!
We had a lively week filled with family activities — Christmas Eve with all the cousins, Christmas Day with our immediate family, a day-after dinner with my siblings-in-law, then a holiday block party at my mother-in-law’s house on Mount Tamalpais. That’s six full days of decorating, wrapping, unwrapping, prepping, cooking, eating, drinking, and more eating with dozens of friends and family I only get to see a couple times a year… and I am wiped. out. In the most heartwarming way!
I love a good party, and I especially love a good party punch. In summer, I typically stir up a sparkly bowl of sangria and in winter, I’m all about cozying up to a hot cocktail (like this festive cranberry-apple cider). Mulled wine often makes an appearance at my holiday parties and I never serve it the same way twice.
That’s the beauty of mulled wine — you can’t really go wrong as long as it’s sweetened, spiced, and heated. It’s a forgiving drink and open to experimentation, depending on what kind of spices you have in your kitchen. Sometimes I’ll make mulled wine like a hot sangria, with added chunks of apples or pears thrown in.
The five little things that made my week…
1. This is what the last week has looked like in my house: a roaring fire in the woodstove, with a tea kettle (staying warm for mugs of tea) and a simmer pot (brimming with rosemary and cinnamon) heating on top.
Above: Western Pleasure Guest Ranch in Sandpoint, Idaho.
Maybe it’s the city girl in me, but I’ve always had a thing for classic red barns.
I find them so romantic. I love my barns old, creaky, and weather-worn. Every time we pass them out in the countryside, I always imagine myself as a muck boot-wearing farm gal… pitching hay, chasing piglets, grooming llamas, milking goats. I think the only thing that keeps me from setting up shop is the fact that I’m not an early riser at all. I’d end up milking my goats at noon and midnight!
While barns can be painted any color at the whimsy of the owner, we most often associate red with traditional wooden barns. The icon of rural Americana is found all over the country, most especially in the Northeast and Midwest. But how did the red barn come to be, and why do so many farmers still choose the color red?
I love my UPS man… and not because it’s the season when packages start arriving at my door with more frequency.
Truth be told, I see packages at my door several times a week some months. I love hearing the thump of boxes on my doormat, the occasional shout of “UPS!” before the delivery driver hops back in his truck, and the subsequent ding! on my phone as a text comes in to tell me a package has been delivered. Even an Amazon Prime box filled with cleaning supplies feels like Christmas.
So when it comes to subscription boxes, I’ve really had to reign in my obsession with having things shipped to me. I love to discover new products and especially products with a handmade, small-batch, or artisanal feel to them — products I can’t find at my local shops.
Say the words “scenic byway” and you’re likely to think of some of America’s most iconic roads: the historic Route 66 that crosses two-thirds of the country, or the dramatic Highway 1 that meanders down the central coast of California.
But in many states, there are smaller, lesser known byways that comprise the National Scenic Byways Program, a collection of American roads that have been preserved and recognized for their scenic, historical, archaeological, cultural, natural, or recreational resources (the six “intrinsic qualities” that the program is based on).
You haven’t heard of most of them — in fact, few have federal distinction even though they’re funded by the program. States can establish their own scenic byways, and in the Green Mountain State of Vermont (the sixth smallest and second least populous in the country), there are 10 such byways that travel through some of the most stunning views in New England.