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  • Kate Swisher

The Be(e)ginning

I'm starting as locally as I can: my backyard. I grew up in Marin County, California - just north of San Francisco. It is beautiful here, and in the summer, full of life. European honeybees swarm around the hive, the flowers and my mom. They buzz around her gloved fingers which are buried in dirt. She is tending the garden.


It is late July. I ask her what exactly she is doing. "Planting perennials. These ones are pollinator attractor plants," she says matter of factly. She plants native and non-native species to feed both the European honeybees buzzing around her and the local pollinators such as the Anna's Hummingbird, hoverflies, carpenter bees, and Monarch butterflies to name a few. Spend one minute with my mom and you'll know how much she cares for beneficial critters. You might even call her a master gardener. If you saw our garden, you'd surely believe it!


We grow herbs: thyme, basil, mint, parsley, cilantro, oregano, rosemary, lavender, tarragon, dill, and sage. Fruit: apples, lemons, pears, zucchini, strawberries, blueberries, peppers, persimmons, tomatoes, cantaloupe, and apricots. Vegetables: snap peas, green beans, cauliflower, kale, lettuce, beets, rhubarb, parsnips, chard, spinach, and artichoke. Plants that attract beneficial insects: cosmos, zinnias, wild pansies, lantana. . .the list goes on. And last but not least, California native flora: milkweed, poppies, lupin, monkey flower, buckwheat, yarrow, manzanita, wild lilac (ceanothus), California fuchsia, penstemon, primrose, phacelia, verbena, asters. . .you get the point.


But why am I rambling on about my mom and her garden? I just graduated college with a degree in English. My focus was creative-nonfiction. Creative non-fiction is a form of creative writing that can take on many forms but the underlying thread in all creative non-fiction is that it starts from a true place. This summer I've been working at a bookstore, as you would expect an English major to do, tutoring students in reading and writing, and watching my mom in the garden. Naturally, as writers do, I began to observe her more closely. As the days went on, my mom deep in the soil, and me deep in my journal, I felt more and more drawn to gardening and growing myself.


In this blog, I will capture my learning process as I dive into gardening and farming. This Fall I will work on an organic garden in Oregon. My first task, however, is to get to know my own backyard. Next, I will learn beekeeping (apiculture) with Bonnie, a local bee expert.


I will document what I learn every week, interweaving literature that inspires me along the way. There is a page on my website with the books I plan to start with. I will quote these books in my blogs. Feel free to read along with me!


Finally, I will talk about hands-on, place based education. My eventual goal in life is not to be a blogger, but an educator. I want to be a teacher who knows about native lands and habitats. Learning is holistic which is basically is to say that a writer is as much as a scientist as a scientist is a writer. It does not matter what I or you studied most. We both observe, we both describe with precise detail, and we both are full of wonder.


Join me on my adventure this Fall. I can't wait to learn and grow alongside you.


*I want to raise awareness that my backyard is on Miwok land and that all the places I will go this Fall are on land appropriated from others. I will keep this in mind when writing my blog, including indigenous stories and perspectives in my writing.




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