Monthly Archives: May 2014

The Game of Thrones Garden

Little Finger 100 dpi 001 (2)

 

In April I received a small seed order from Baker Creek. Now, I like carrots fresh from the garden as much as anybody but I wasn’t thinking about food when I ordered “Little Finger Carrot” seeds. I ordered them because I thought the idea of a Game of Thrones garden was funny. I’d heard of a Shakespeare Garden (where you grow the herbs and flowers he mentions in sonnets and plays)—and other theme gardens. In fact, Barbara Damrosch has a book about them and it includes medieval gardens, secret gardens, butterfly, moon . . . you get the picture. My family has been obsessed with “GoT” so I thought I’d pursue this idea.

 

Dragon Tongue Beans from the Hudson Valley Seed Library

Dragon Tongue Beans from the Hudson Valley Seed Library

 

I really wasn’t serious about making a GoT garden—at least not this year, but I needed a dose of humor. On April 27th I put up a Facebook event “Game of Thrones Garden Contest” on my Greenwoman Magazine page. People could post what they would plant in the garden and whoever got the most “likes” would receive a copy of the latest issue of Greenwoman Magazine. I didn’t get a lot of participants (maybe many were thinking, “What the ?”), but the ones who did participate were very much into it. One of the first entries was “Winter is Coming Kale.” Clever! I thought. Someone posted this amazing seed package for dragon gourds:

 

Dragon Gourd

I found out you could buy them on Amazon. (But now they’re out of them.) Others came up with interesting but perplexing entries, such as “Cersei and Jaime Incestuous Heirloom Tomatoes.” I’m guessing this one would require cross breeding of siblings from a “parent” tomato plant? Jessy Randall also entered “White Walker White Asparagus” which is creepy as hell.

 

White Walker White Asparagus by Jessy Randall

Another friend posted, “I’d choose ‘Wall’ flowers but my garden’s not cold enough.” Simple, yet brilliant!

My favorite entry was “King of the North Peppers.”

 

Another beautifully designed seed package from Hudson Valley Seed Library.

Another beautifully designed seed package from Hudson Valley Seed Library. Isn’t this perfect for a GoT garden? (All the tabs fold to make the back of the package.)

I also loved “John Snow Peas.”

Someone else suggested “Winter is Coming Strawberry Spinach.” I’d never heard of a strawberry spinach plant. Was this for real?

strawberry spinach plant park seed

 

Yeah, it is. It’s an herb, Native American, and apparently one of the “best kept secrets in the plant world.” (Hyperbole?) It’s available here from Park Seed. Those aren’t really strawberries, but they are berries (obviously) and the leaves are supposed to taste good in salads. And it’s pretty.

I also saw a blue shrimp plant when someone posted “Imp of Blue Shrimp.”

Blue Shrimp Plant - picture is from eBay where seeds are for sale.

Blue Shrimp Plant – picture is from eBay where seeds are for sale.

And, finally (of course!) someone mentioned dragon blood tree, Dracaena cinnabari.

 
By Rod Waddington from Kergunyah, Australia [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Rod Waddington from Kergunyah, Australia, via Wikimedia Commons

While many got multiple “likes” for many entries, one Facebook friend outscored everyone, David King with his “Winter is Coming Kale” (kale is big right now, you know).

It was fun to learn that David King is the founder and first Chair of the Seed Library of Los Angeles! (SLOLA) Upon winning, he humbly brought up the fact that he had an advantage because he was among the first to enter.

David is one fascinating green man. Here’s a few lines from his bio:

David King is the founder and first Chair of the Seed Library of Los Angeles. From the beginning the mission of the Library centered upon the idea of clean, wholesome, non-GMO food for every one in the Los Angeles region, especially the under-served and compromised communities. With the ideas that food, uncontaminated with pesticides and questionable technologies, is a right of all people and seeds belong to humanity, he called for a meeting of like-minded people on December 4th, 2010 and from there, the Seed Library of Los Angeles was born.

I also learned David started gardening at age five with his grandpa in Kansas, and that he’s an educator (UCLA Extension classes), author, writer, gardener, speaker and activist. Needless to say I wanted to send him more than one magazine, so I sent off two boxes of magazines (and a few copies of Zera and the Green Man) for him to share with other garden lovers.

Once more I find that silly ideas can lead to amazing adventures.

—Sandra Knauf

P. S. Have you ever tried a theme garden? And if you started a Game of Thrones garden, what would you grow there?

 

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Fifty Shades of Green

The cover is a take on the Fifty Shades of Gray title, with the hose signifying . . . well, you'll just have to use your imagination there.

Our mock-up for the cover is a take on the Fifty Shades of Grey cover, with the hose signifying    . . . well, whatever your imagination wants it to signify.

 

It started last year after reading a Facebook post. Someone shared an article about how Fifty Shades of Grey author E. L. James made more money that year than any author on the planet.

Yes, the planet.

That was hard for me to believe. So I read the article. It was true. Then I thought, well, damn, I guess I have to read the book now. See what the fuss is about.

I think everyone’s heard of it. It’s a book that features a lot of sex between a handsome (but psychologically damaged) billionaire and a plucky and pretty college student. The title comes from his declaration, “I’m fifty shades of f**ed up, Ana.” And from the fact that his surname’s Grey.  The 21-year-old college student starts the story, and the relationship, as a virgin. Their names are swooningly romantic, the prince-and-princess-like Christian and Anastasia. 

So I downloaded the book from the library, read most of it, and realized two things. One, contrary to popular opinion among writers, the writing’s not bad. The prose is not dazzling, nor original, but it’s solid, and the protagonist is believable.

My problems with the story were the single theme (a troubled romance), and that there were no other plot lines. I also didn’t find Christian compelling or interesting (poor suffering, handsome billionaire just doesn’t resonate with me).

The second thing I noticed was that the sensationalism came from the abundant and explicit kinky sex that Christian persuades Ana to participate in. By kinky, I mean light BDSM, which I learned stood for bondage/discipline, submission/dominance, and sadism/masochism. Ana has mixed feelings about all this, but overall she enjoys it. She sets some sensible boundaries, so nothing is that dangerous or demeaning—in her opinion, anyway.

50shadesofgrey (2)

So there you go! Oh yes, it’s also a fan fiction from another disturbing (to me, anyway) 21st century relationship story written for teens, Twilight.

What was funny to me was the stories I’d hear about Fifty Shades. One seventy-year-old friend told me her book group read it and the ladies, all around her age, loved it. Diane, no prude, refused to read it. (Good for you, I thought.) My daughter Zora, who was in Ireland in school last year said the book was very popular on campus. Many students were talking about it, and someone told of a monk they knew who was seen reading it on the bus; even his curiosity got the better of him!

Such are fads.

I did have one connection with the book before I read it. I was in the store last Valentine’s Day when I spotted the cookbook parody Fifty Shades of Chicken. I looked through it, found it hilarious (it has recipes for Mustard-Spanked Chicken and Dripping Thighs) and bought it for my husband. If you haven’t seen the steamy trailer for that, feast your eyes here. And you’ll get a good idea of the prose in Fifty Shades of Grey.

What ultimately bothered me about Fifty Shades of Grey were the stereotypes: pure-hearted girl, smart and brave but dirt-poor financially in comparison to her love interest, mooning and swooning over her societal “better.”

She is in a powerless position in comparison to him, yet the overall message is that her love will save him!

There’s not even a twist with the whole BDSM thing . . . she’s, get this, the “submissive” in the relationship! Excuse me while I throw up. This is how far we’ve gotten? I mean, I know biology is biology, and love is love, but still . . . is there no progress?

I bitched about the book to a friend, saying something along the lines of, “I would like to write a parody of this book where the tables are turned. Where it’s an older woman who is the powerful billionaire and the guy’s the virginal college student, and she gets to tie him up and spank him! But I also want a gardening theme. Hmm. Okay, I’ve got it. She’s this powerful woman who is helping save the environment through her scientific work, yet she likes to do naughty stuff in her garden.”

My dear friend, whose imagination knows no bounds but is acquainted with bondage, immediately came up with some ideas for my new story. This is from a letter she wrote:

“Now you have my sick imagination working with your wicked theme. . . .The plethora of garden implements and tools certainly adds to the spice. ‘I remember a particularly effective lover who made me pick out my own switch from the garden bushes for my spanking.’ Yes, there is a lot of S&M potential in the garden but we could camp it up and add liberal dashes of sarcasm. Forcing a lover to wear stilettos when she was turning the compost. Creative uses for garden hoses. Making the lover into a ‘weeding slave’ who must stay on his hands and knees for hours doing your dirty work (now I might really advertise for that one!)”

Of course I was beyond delighted with Rebekah’s ideas. This idea could be fun! Yet, the more I thought about it, the more limiting I realized a parody of the book would be. Having no personal experience in . . . whatever that acronym is, I read up on the subject. Let me say I have no qualms with those who are into this kind of lifestyle, but it’s not for me. In fact, The Story of O left me cold. I find no thrills in pain (though, yes, I know about the role endorphins play, I get it). I find no swoons in that kind of vulnerability. Perhaps I have slavery in my genetic background as the thought of being handcuffed and under someone else’s mercy, even a lover . . . just . . . no. I wondered, is it just me or do privileged white people get into this stuff more?  (I just looked it up. Yes, indeed, that seems to be the case, but again, it’s “complicated.” I skimmed this scholarly article on the subject, if you’re interested.)

What does intrigue about the Fifty Shades phenomenon is the playful aspect. Readers testing boundaries. Readers liking to experiment with their literature.

I started to think of my idea for a book. I loved the idea of getting down (however you may interpret that) in the garden. Now that is sexy. And the garden as a place for lovemaking, really, it’s so perfect. Isn’t that where it all started?

But then, one story wouldn’t be enough. And why limit love to bondage, or one couple in particular?

I began to think about an anthology.

This was something I knew would be fun, but at the same time, I was reluctant to take on another project. The magazine and my young adult novel, both of which I cared deeply about, were taking all of my time. How could I add something else? On the other hand, I desperately needed a diversion. Something more frivolous and fun (and sexy!) where I’d get to work with other writers. This could be perfect. I had been wanting to work on another fiction book for two years, with two other writers, but hadn’t had the time to devote to it. This project could fill that need.

But would anyone connect to the idea?

Some of you may be thinking—are you kidding? All I can say to that is when you’re an author and publisher you are filled with self-doubt on a daily basis.

I asked some friends and they all thought the idea was hilarious.

I continued with the plan and in early April got a website up and a call for submissions listed on Duotrope. The incomparable Elisabeth Kinsey agreed to be editor. (If you don’t know Elisabeth’s work, you are missing out. She’s written six brilliant “Sex in the Garden” essays for Greenwoman Magazine. She is perfect for this project.) I wrote a few other friends who are writers and asked them to spread the word. Several of them (all extraordinary writers) said they wanted to participate!

As we talked, a few of us even thought of pseudonyms we might use. Rebekah said she’d always wanted to use a name she’d heard on an episode of Will & Grace, when Megan Mullally (who plays Karen) blurts out a fake name during a bowling outing with strangers.

Anastasia Beaverhouse.

I will leave you time for laughing before I tell you the one I came up with.

Mimsey Quimblossom. I liked the “mmm” sounds.

(And it got worse from there.)

So there has already been frivolity and the submissions are pouring in! The first two were from dear Rebekah, and they are astonishing. One is sweet, one is the funniest story I have read about sex. In the last few weeks I have received stories from people I didn’t know—well written, intelligent, captivating, lusty, garden-y stories. The project is well underway. I am really looking forward to sharing this book with you!

I wanted to tell you about it today as some of you may be writers and you may wish to delve into this subject matter. Isn’t it a well-known issue with writers that some have trouble writing about sex? Well, now’s your chance! It’s about a month before the submission deadline, June 15th. The book will be published in July on Amazon Createspace. It will also be available as a digital download.

If you’re interested in submitting a story, get the details here on the website.

So mark your calendars and tell your friends. This book will be this summer’s must-read.

—Sandra

 

 

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Attention Garden Writers!

If you're a garden writer, you can have a 1/4 page ad in Vols. 1-6 for a great price!
If you’re a garden writer, or if you have a business that discerning gardeners would love, you can have a 1/4 page ad in Vols. 1-6 for a great price!

 

Hello readers, writers, artists, and entrepreneurs!

I’m far of the “regular post” track today because I wanted to share something special with you. I am currently in the process of re-vamping all of my magazine issues and reissuing them as paperback books, Greenwoman Magazine Volumes 1-6, on Amazon. Not only does going through Amazon Createspace save me printing costs, and Amazon takes care of the shipping work and costs (which as some of you know is considerable!), but it’ll enable Greenwoman to be available worldwide. I have one issue on Amazon now, the last one, issue #6, and everyone loved the new format!

Another benefit is that anyone who is featured in the magazine (I’ve interviewed Joel Salatin and Amy Stewart, among others) will have a link to the magazine come up on their Amazon page.

It’s great marketing for all of us!

What I am looking for now is gardening authors or those who have a business who may want to put a quarter-page ad for their book/s in these revamped issues – which will ALL be coming out next month in June.

I’m only charging $200 for a quarter page black and white ad – it’s a great deal. And I know once I have all these magazines available (which I am reissuing as books) business will take off even more.

I will market the new publications on my newsletter (700 subscribers and growing), several websites, and this blog.

If you know someone who would appreciate a long term low-cost ad for their gardening/artistic/sustainable living endeavor – please have them contact me today. I will be accepting ads only through the end of May.

Thanks for your time, I appreciate it!

Sandra Knauf

Editor and publisher, Greenwoman Magazine

http://www.greenwomanmagazine.com

http://www.zeraandthegreenman.com

http://www.greenwomanpublishing.com

P.S. If you haven’t seen the magazine, you can get a free download of Issue #5 by signing up for the newsletter (see column to the right). You can see what is in all of the issues by going to our website.

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Making Like Monet

Claud Monet, Water Lilies, photographed by Harvey Schlencker  [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Claude Monet, Water Lilies, photographed by Harvey Schlencker [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

It’s my pleasure this week to introduce the work of Diane Halsted. Diane taught writing and literature at several colleges and universities for thirty years. Now she teaches the writing of poetry, creative nonfiction, and memoir, when she’s not gardening, traveling, or riding her horse.

Diane wrote me some time ago and shared several of her poems, including the one I’m featuring today on water lilies. Surely a water lily pond is one of the sweetest simple pleasures in a gardener’s life. It doesn’t matter the size of your pond, either; we started with a clawfoot tub, and “moved up” to a small insert surrounded by sandstone pavers. The joy of it all is growth and life, dragonflies and goldfish, and the thrill one gets each spring as the pond comes back to blooming, robust life.

* * *

MAKING LIKE MONET

Into a new garden fountain
she scattered pebbles so water plants,
gauzy hyacinths and loud lilies
on huge pads could root and grow,
forcing their green way
to the surface. She worked,
brush and palate in hand, mimicking
Monet, each day divining new images,
imagining greater beauty.
In her wicker chair, sipping tea
and nibbling madeleines, she sought
to capture the daily difference
of shape and shadow shifting
across her small world while ellipses
of days move toward the equinox,
summer fades to fall.
Claude Monet, Nympheas, c. 1897

Claude Monet, Nympheas, c. 1897, Wikimedia Commons

* * *
Diane Halsted

Diane Halsted

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diane shares the following about her garden:

My garden is one-third of an acre on the central coast of California which means I have no winter respite and often have winter surprises. This year the banksiae roses bloomed full force in January with the daffodils and crocuses. The acers barely lost their leaves before nubs of new sprouted on branches.My garden has pieces of many other gardens, both in memory plants in recollection of favorites from my mother’s or grandmother’s gardens (such as the quince and the banksiaes) and donations from numerous friends’ gardens that live on in mine. In addition, my fiancé for life and I commemorated anniversaries with a redbud and a dogwood, with a Marilyn Monroe rose, a Cecile Brunner, and others.

The watchword for my garden is patience. Always give anything green a fighting chance. Years ago I was given a lily bulb while visiting the Faulkner garden in Mississippi. I planted it in my garden, marking its underground location, and waited. And waited. I finally gave up: how could I expect a Mississippi bulb to flourish in California. And then, years after I planted it, up came the distinctive lily import. I’ve had to be similarly patient with anemones, which now I have everywhere. Likewise with hellebores which seem to perform depending on weather more than on location.Visitors to my garden assume my thumb is green. I am the daughter of an Earthworm, I always say (My mother was a member of a garden club in Berkeley by that name.) but if I had a nickel for everything I’ve killed, I’d be one rich woman.
* * *
A Faulkner lily! A Cecile Brunner rose! Daughter of an Earthworm. I must say I was as enchanted reading about her gardening experiences as I was with her lovely poetry.
—Sandra Knauf

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Greenwoman Innovation: An Interview with a UCCS Student

Quote from Zera and the Green Man (drawing by Mike Beenenga). All posters are by Lisa Repka.

Original drawing by Mike Beenenga. Poster design by Lisa Repka.

These last few months I’ve had the pleasure of working with a team of students from the local university (UCCS). They are among the first in UCCS’s new Bachelor of Innovation Program. The students major in several disciplines but all have Innovation Core classes in common—27 credits geared toward innovation and entrepreneurship. Part of that core includes opportunities for students to work with a business on a project during a semester. I signed up (as I could use plenty of help on my usually-one-person publishing venture) and was accepted!

We decided to focus on trying to market my new novel, Zera and the Green Man, through social media and the internet, using methods that were, basically, no cost. The four students I’ve been working with Jordan Yee, Courtney Hammock, Lohitha Aayyanar, and Lisa Repka. All but Courtney are computer science majors (Courtney is a marketing major).

The team’s work spanned a variety of tasks—from working on SEO (Search Engine Optimization) on all the websites, raising Google rankings, and installing and interpreting Google Analytics, to working on promoting the book through social media, including Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter. They also participated in a Sustainability Fair, made posters of the book, helped me with writing scripts for a series of commercials, and the list goes on.

I learned a lot from these bright students and they learned from me, too. I was impressed with most of their work, but I have to say that the one thing that really stood out for me was the artwork that Lisa Repka created for Zera and the Green Man‘s Pinterest pins. We thought it’d be great to have some artwork with quotes from the book to share that would hopefully be eye-catching and thought-provoking. Without much input from me, Lisa did just that—times ten!

Since it’s only a few days before the end of the semester and I don’t have the time to do a post on each of the members of the Innovation Team, as I would like to, I decided to interview Lisa for this post and show some of the work she’s created.

Lisa Repka - her first "selfie" - at Manitou Springs Arcade Photo Booth!

Lisa Repka – her first “selfie” – at Manitou Springs Arcade’s Photo Booth!


Lisa’s 21 years old and is in her third year of college at UCCS. She lives in the dorm, which she says is much quieter than living with her two younger siblings (both sisters) at home.

Flora’s Forum: You told me earlier that you came to Colorado from California. What part of California and when did you get here? What did you like/dislike about your change of home?

 Lisa Repka: I came to Colorado from the Silicon Valley back in 2005. At first it was hard to get used to the snow (the most I remember it snowing for in San Jose was for 5 minutes), but after shoveling so many snowstorms I’ve gotten used to it. I’m still perplexed by the sudden weather changes, however. The mountains are pretty cool, too.

Flora’s Forum: What made you choose to enroll in the Bachelor of Innovation Program?

 Lisa Repka: It sounded interesting to me. I liked how it united the fields of business and computer science, which have both become hugely important in the workplace, and how it encouraged creative thought and teamwork. With knowledge of a lot of different fields, I feel it can help me make changes to the world through innovation. I am passionate for a lot of different fields so it felt like a loss to choose a single topic of interest and stick with it. It also allowed me to take some classes I enjoyed under the Communication Core that I wouldn’t have normally considered taking, such as creative writing and computer music. It acknowledges that it is important to discover multiple subjects and to think from different perspectives.

Zera Pin - Zinnias

Flora’s Forum: You’re a computer science major but you revealed at our first meeting that you had an interest in publishing. Do you still, after seeing some of the difficulties in today’s market? Especially with self-publishing? If so, what area of publishing are you interested in?

Lisa Repka: I don’t think there’s anything in the world that can discourage me from wanting to publish a novel, but it does worry me about what it will take me to get any work out there—mentally and financially. My expectations are certainly changed. I see now that self-published authors, especially those just starting out, could dedicate all of their time to promoting their book and it still may not reach a point of national bestseller that many of us dream about. It comes down to research and commitment, and to marketing to the right audience in the right way, and there doesn’t seem to be a clear path to success that works for everyone. From what I learned, I see that the platforms for selling and marketing books are still rapidly changing, and so are the audiences on these social networking sites. I really need to continue to watch the trends of online publishing very closely from now on. One day I want to publish some urban fantasy and science fiction work. I see that the path to get to a successful book might become frustrating at times, but overall I don’t feel discouraged.

Flora’s Forum: I’m relieved to hear that! What type of books do you like to read? And what were your favorite books from childhood?

 Lisa Repka: I’ve been slowly becoming more of a visual person when it comes to books due to having so little free time (yay graphic novels!), but I always enjoy a good fantasy story. I love to be immersed in the rich worlds that people create, and I love to experience it along with complex characters. I have a very fond memory of reading children’s encyclopedias to look at outer space images and types of trees. I remember wearing out those books with those plastic transparent pages with flowers on them after so many reads. At one point I loved to look at the types of trees so much I started collecting pine cones.

Zera Pin - Plants They Supply

 Flora’s Forum: You decided to work on Pinterest and Twitter in this project and you created these marvelous images with quotes from Zera and the Green Man. Do you have an arts background? Can you describe the process on creating these images? (In case others might want to do the same!)

 Lisa Repka: After I picked out a quote I found inspiring, I would begin with a solid background and add a few layers with some Photoshop layer effects to create subtle borders or gradients to make it slightly more interesting. As the focus was on the text, I had to try not to get too carried away and overdress the images. I tried to keep them very minimalist, but to have bright colors (except then the tone was very anxious, and then I used black). I wanted not only the text to be noticeable, but the mood and theme. And most of all I wanted them to add a little fun to a Pinterest or Twitter page. The hardest part about making them was choosing which font out of hundreds was the best to use. That alone could take 15 minutes.

Zera Pin - Three Nights Ago the Guardian Visited

Flora’s Forum: What are your hobbies/interests/obsessions? 

Lisa Repka: I definitely enjoy art as a hobby, especially painting and mixed media work. I am particularly enthusiastic about painting flowers. I just love working with bright colors, and flowers seem the most fit for that.

Spring Flowers by Lisa Repka

Spring Flowers by Lisa Repka

Flora’s Forum: Does anyone in your family garden? (Had to ask!)

 Lisa Repka: Unfortunately, no one does any gardening. I don’t think they’d be very good at it, either, given that the few trees in my backward have been browning for years.

 Flora’s Forum: In your work on Twitter you tweet a lot of great information and quotes about our food supply these days. Before you started this project, were you aware of GMOs and the issues that surround them? 

 Lisa Repka: I had known that produce was being genetically modified but I used to think it was to make food healthier or to make it last longer. I had no idea that pesticides were being added to the DNA of foods we eat. It really opened my eyes to be more mindful of what’s in our food. I am also quite surprised how little testing has been done on these GMOs, especially in the wake of many studies that strongly suggest that GMOs can be harmful for both the environment and human body. I am glad to see so many social networking movements taking action to label GMOs.

Green Man image by Mike Beenenga; poster design by Lisa Repka

Green Man by Mike Beenenga; poster design by Lisa Repka

 Flora’s Forum: What are your dreams for the future? 

Lisa Repka: I haven’t thought about my immediate future, but one day I would love to work in computer animation. I’ve always been fond of animation as an intersection between art and storytelling, and with a computer fascinating things can happen. It even has very practical uses from making everything from flight simulators to educational games. And if it’s not already, maybe it can be used to promote a greener world. With innovation added to the mix, a lot of new ideas are possible.

California Poppies by Lisa Repka

California Poppies by Lisa Repka

 

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