Garden2Blog 2015: Part One

Last Monday I packed my bags and hesitatingly waved goodbye to my family to fly out to Little Rock, where I would join an all-star team of bloggers for the fifth annual Garden2Blog event at P. Allen Smith's beautiful Moss Mountain Farm. I needed the company of friends, the inspiration and to feel once again connected to my career path now that I share my office with a one-year old. The trip, I found, was well worth it.

I had attended the last two events as well, but this one stood out to me as the best one yet, mostly for the relaxed atmosphere. Since many of us had already seen the farm and met each other, we were able to delve into more meaningful conversations with bloggers and sponsors alike. To me, it was the people that made this trip so memorable.

Then again, maybe it was me. I was probably just happy to participate in conversations with like-minded adults since I usually work from home - asking my toddler things like "do I smell a poop?" or "ba-ba-ba banana!" - while trying to write and illustrate. I may have unwittingly slipped a bit of my parentese into our dinner conversations, but at least I could rest assured that I was surrounded by veterans who had also been there. "Do I smell a poop?" I'd ask, and another blogger would smile knowingly and mention that, after all, we were downwind from the farm and its myriad aromas.

My conversation skills were so rusty that the minute I arrived at the Little Rock airport, I could scarcely even hold a conversation with my friends who were waiting just for me. Clearly a cocktail was in order, so we headed to our four-star hotel, The Capital, and set up camp in the bar for some adult beverages and dinner. Unfortunately I'm a lightweight, and only managed to drink about a quarter of my $14 lemon basil martini before getting so tipsy that I'm absolutely sure that I talked my friend Christina Salwitz' ears off.

On the bright side, Christina happily finished the martini for me and I later emulated the recipe at home for a tiny fraction of the cost, albeit with less citrus vodka. After staggering back up to the hotel room, I shook off the dizziness and got back to work on the essay that I had been writing all day at airports and on flights. Maybe that drunk feeling was just the pressure changes from my flight - playing tricks on my inner ears and knocking my balance out of whack. Is that where the term 'flighty' comes from?

The next day I was back in my groove and chatting it up with my pals at Bonnie Plants about the drawing techniques that I used on my bug illustrations for their Homegrown app... on second thought, I think I just talked about the new things my toddler was doing this week. Boy were they patient.

Jenny Peterson and I fall behind the crowd to take some pictures of herbs

Michael Nolan catching up with an old friend
'Miss Big Fig' in all her glory

Once we got on the bus, the party moved to Moss Mountain Farm, where we quickly toured the farm and garden until getting corralled back into the bus for a tour of Little Rock. Most of us had already seen the place a couple of times anyways, I suppose, but I really do wish that we had more time to enjoy the gardens.

Nonetheless, there were new things to be seen in Little Rock, which is quickly becoming my favorite 'big city' for its small-town charm and focus on nature and the arts. Okay, I also wish I had more time to tour Little Rock too, particularly a nature center and science museum that I noticed last year. I suppose we'll have to go as a family some time to enjoy everything at our own pace!

The rain garden outside the Arkansas Arts Center
The LEED Certified Heifer Foundation campus
The Heifer Village had rain gardens and permeable pavers, which don't always mix.
Among our scheduled visits were an Arkansas Arts Center, the Heifer Village, the original Garden Home and the new bioswales and rain gardens being built downtown.

The highlight of my day, however, was finally getting to read the humorous essay that I spent the last couple of days writing. The Tales from the South radio episode hasn't gone up online yet, but here's a video that my friend Barbara Wise recorded if you'd like to watch! If I hadn't overcome my temporary lapse into shyness earlier in the day, I certainly did by the time I was done reading my story with Jenny Peterson and P. Allen Smith. I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to write and read a piece of humorous memoir for my friends and public radio listeners around the world.

Check back to read about my next day at Garden2Blog!

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