Fire Pits: Part One

It is probably fitting that following a post on leaving wild corners in your garden I would be drawn to a recent post I saw on author Helen Yoest’s blog Gardening with Confidence regarding her organic creation of what she calls her Fire Garden. I found I kept thinking of her post and had the occasion to inquire about a possible guest post after she most generously reviewed my book Plant Whatever Brings You Joy! We have some things in common other than writing about our gardens. She’s a Pisces lady living in North Carolina who owns a Border Collie! As many of you know, so much of the first draft of my book was written while I lived in Asheville, North Carolina. And thus today I bring you this lovely guest post written with Helen’s permission, which I intend to follow with yet another on fire pits, as I am now inspired to have one myself due to Helen’s original post. Let me know what you think!

Love and garden blessings,
Kathryn xoxo

The Fire Garden by Helen Yoest

I’ve often wondered if the childhood memory of the image of my Polish grandfather sitting out back of his Riverside, NJ home, near the grapevine by the shed, that had a coffee grinder on the far wall, touched me to the point of reliving any outdoor scene where food was involved. I can clearly picture him sitting in a chair, legs crossed, just staring at the ground. He was in his eighties. To him, it was a matter of just being outside. Not cooking out. Not kicking a ball with the kids. Not gardening, even, but enjoying the outdoor space just by sitting under the canopy of a shade tree.

Since my grandfather’s time, I’ve associated this type of behavior with people from countries other than America. Of course Americans sit outside, but not like in the manner of people from other countries. We tend to have a distinct indoor and outdoor flair. While we like to bring the outdoors in, for the most part, we aren’t as comfortable bringing the indoors out.

Some of my favorite movie scenes are of Europeans eating outside. A table would be pulled from the kitchen with a simple tablecloth to cover it, slightly off kilter, and everyday china and crystal on the table top. A rug might even be brought out along with candles and music and books and wine. If the weather was right, time was spent outdoors. It didn’t even have to be during the evening, it could be any meal, any time. In my book, this is living.
When we built the back porch, I envisioned every meal to be taken outside. It turns out I am the only one in the family that really likes to do this. It’s lonely out there.

Years later, something interesting happened. As the time came to take down the kids’ playground and later put up the chicken coop, I noticed something that I never expected. The Crape Myrtles I planted to frame that area had matured to a fine state, as did the red Maple. This development caught me off guard.

I planned the placement of those trees with other perspectives in mind, not for the sake of the playground, but from the view of the back porch. So when I stepped in the footprint of the former play set, I realized there was a new space. I’m not sure I could have planned it so well, and I’m also not sure I would have thought I needed to.

The new space is in the ell of the chicken coop and the garden house, and it’s shaded by the mature trees. It now sports three chairs and a fire pit. Only three chairs because that is what I had on hand. See, I didn’t go out and buy anything for this new space. I just pulled from other areas of the garden. If friends come over and I need more chairs, I can bring those from the inside of the house. This space is completely private. I knew it was a special place the first time I saw it all coming together.

Recently a garden photographer from Scotland was visiting. The first night we had dinner and conversation on the back porch. The next night, we had dinner on the porch, but then we took our conversation to the fire. The evening was magical. There is no other way to describe it. A fire adds so much mystery to a room, a space, an area.

My pit is crude, nothing fancy like Americans like to do, making something for the outside to look like something we have on the inside. Instead, it’s just made from a makeshift large copper tray sitting on top of some found rock. It is nothing short of perfection to me.

Now I’m one of those people who sits outside, with my legs crossed looking down at the ground or the fire or the chickens or whatever else I fancy. It’s not an event. It’s just a place to pass time, no different than sitting in a favorite arm chair or couch to read or watch a movie. Instead, I sit outside because I prefer to read and watch my life instead of someone else’s. And my beloved Border Collie, Pepper, is always with me.
From Septembers through May, on Sundays, my day in the garden, you’ll find me with a fire going. Join me sometime. I’ll make the time to sit with you in this special place so you can see first hand the magic of finding solace in the most unexpected places.


BONUS!! Helen has just generously offered to give a copy of her newest book, Plants with Benefits to one of my readers! Her book has been mentioned or featured almost everywhere, from the New York Times, to Birds and Blooms, The Weather Channel, and yes, was even tweeted by Dr. Ruth! Just leave a comment below and I will put your name in a hat and on Friday the 23rd I will pull the name of the winner and be sure you get a copy! :)

Leave Wild, Undisturbed Corners in Your Garden

There is an irony that Plant Whatever Brings You Joy: Blessed Wisdom from the Garden must ultimately carry a caveat, being that as a conscious gardener we learn that our immediate landscapes, the ones we play with, plant things in and recreate, are not, as we thought, blank canvases to reconstruct to our own liking. Not really. They are pieces of something, a larger something of which we are all a part. And that as loving stewards of that reality we are rather obliged to consider what came before, as in the last several millions of years, and to consider that carefully as we make our mark upon whatever lands we now call “ours”, which, ultimately, they are not. For as we all know, and hate to consider, whatever we do will, as the sand paintings of the Tibetan monks, will slip away into another form, our dear selves included.
Meanwhile, in Plant Whatever Brings You Joy: Blessed Wisdom from the Garden, I did write about at very least leaving corners of undisturbed spaces in our gardens, honoring the unknown, so let’s begin there, shall we?

When I was 17 and living with my family on the western banks of Puerto Rico, in a passionate moment, I wrote the following poem:

I still take pleasure in knowing this came from me at such a tender age. One could say it is rife with teenage angst, the longing of a young girl for her own space, her own ideas, her own life away from parental eyes and ears and minds and expectations. No doubt it was in part the result of being steeped in a tropical paradise, lying under huge full moons, browned by the Caribbean sun, lulled by the unstoppable crashing of large blue waves on the nearby shore, enchanted by riding horseback on the beaches, cast into a foreign culture so radically different from my New England high school!

More likely, however, another thread in my internal process is reflected in Rumi’s oft-quoted:

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

For all the delving we do, for all the Inner Child work, the Shadow work, the poking around, the self discovery, there will always be, as Einstein told us, the inevitability of mystery. Sheer mystery. Try as we will, we cannot know everything. There will be more on the other side, when the veil of illusion is lifted, when we are at last home in the comfort of all that is. If Wordsworth was correct, that our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting, what must death be?

I am told that in Scotland and Ireland the old farmers always leave wild and undisturbed corners in their gardens, where they sow nothing, out of respect for The Little People, to give them a place to be. What wild undisturbed corners do you leave within you or within your partner, your children, your parents, your closest friends? What is left respectfully and quietly for passive cultivation, for privacy, for the imagination, for discovery, for serendipity, for faith, for secrecy, for grace, for reverence, for the untapped, for the future, for the unknowable and the unknown?

Happy New Year, darling and beloved readers of this blog. May 2015 bring each of you abundance, beauty, good health and many new wonderful chapters in your lives!

Love and blessings,
Kathryn xoxo

Book News: Many thanks to those of you who purchased copies of Plant Whatever Brings You Joy as gifts for your loved ones. So appreciated!

Winter Butternut Squash Soup!


Most likely because neither my mother nor grandmother, as I recall, ever baked or in any way prepared a winter squash for our family, it’s taken me quite awhile to familiarize myself with the many varieties–and then to learn what I can do with them! I’m imagining if I set my mind to it I could write an entire book about winter squashes and their infinite possibilities. What is more likely, and what appears to be happening, is that each fall and winter, as the squashes come into their splendid season–just in time for the winter holidays, how convenient, and no accident, I’m sure, given the organic nature of the tie between our winter celebrations and our Harvesting, I appear to be learning each year about yet another, and adding to my kitchen repertoire–and then sharing that with all of you. So, welcome. This year it’s the butternut squash, which, pretty sure, I have never ever cooked before now. Really. I’m sure I’m not alone in this unfamiliarity with all my options. So here we go. Butternut squash soup, which might be my all time favorite, though if I review my past discoveries it just might be that I say that every year. For now, it’s my yummy scrumptious fave and I am going to share this wonderful recipe I just discovered, and tweaked–as I nearly always tweak. 😉

Winter Butternut Squash Soup

You will need:

*a butternut squash
*butter and olive oil
*two medium onions or one large one
*brown sugar
*chicken or vegetable stock, depending on your orientation
*milk or (if you are so inclined) cream
*salt and pepper to taste

Wash and dry the outer skin of your butternut squash. Cut in half or quarters, oil slightly with olive oil, place in a baking pan and place in a 375°F. oven for an hour or until the squash is tender to the tines of a fork. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Quarter your onions and cut into thin strips. Sauté onion in a combination of olive oil and butter until somewhat carmelized which is going to take a minimum of fifteen minutes. Keep stirring while this is happening. Look at that yummy goodness! By now your kitchen is going to smell delicious and you are going to get hungry!


Now remove the outer skin of your cooled squash and cut pulp into large pieces.

Place in Cuisinart or blender.


Once blended add onions. Blend. And then add one cup of chicken or vegetable stock. Blend moderately.

Pour this mixture into a saucepan over a low heat.


Season with salt and pepper. Add to this one cup of milk (or cream) and a second cup of your stock. You are now going to add into this mixture one teaspoon of curry. Blending would be easier if you were to put a bit of the soup mixture into a small cup or bowl into which you stir the curry and then return that to the soup. Lastly at this point you may also add a tablespoon of brown sugar, but I am recommending to add a bit at a time, and stop when you find the flavor to your liking. I used two teaspoons and found it be an interesting and unexpectedly satisfactory addition.

Serve this hot soup with your favorite bread for a wonderfully hearty meal!

I bet this becomes one of your favorite go-to recipes this winter! Enjoy!

Love and kitchen blessings,
Kathryn xoxo

Book News: Planning Christmas presents already? (I am!) Is there someone on your Christmas list who would welcome a copy of Plant Whatever Brings You Joy: Blessed Wisdom from the Garden under their tree? Plenty of time to order from your local bookstore or from Amazon or Barnes and Noble online! Both paperback and Kindle/Nook options available! Or please consider a copy for yourself–reading one of the 52 stories each week next year, and taking notes in your journal of what each lesson means to you! #innerwork
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