Thursday, September 29, 2005

Working At Home?

It's been 9 months now of working full-time "at home." This was one of my most anticipated aspects of being my own boss. I have to say that during the winter months, it was great not having to get dressed and go out in the mud, freezing rains, ill winds, and occasional snow. Being inside in comfy fleece with a nice cup of tea or cocoa, a space heater, and the cat on my lap was marvelous.

What I didn't anticipate was that come spring and summer, I'd be so seldom at home! I can do a lot of my interviewing and story research over the phone and online, but some articles just have to be covered in person. In this past week for instance: I went to the USDA to see their trial fields of new pepper plants and listen to their scientists talk on other new innovations; I attended the Eastern Performance Trials for new spring annuals at River Farm; and, interviewed various area gardeners at their homes.

There goes my grand plans to spend every warm morning in the garden and every afternoon at my computer working. If I'm home now it is a mad dash to get phone calls returned and things done inbetween daytime appointments and evening events such as garden club meetings.

My weekends are even more packed than my weekdays with one area garden-related event after another. Often I'm calling live to WMET AM1600 Garden Gurus radio show (you can listen live or go to the archive at http://1160wmet.com/) to report from those events. I also try to squeeze in some time to visit with family and friends, attend church, and basic garden/house maintenance so that I don't get the county coming by to condemn my place! OK it hasn't gotten close to that point yet, but I can see that a few weeks/months of neglect could easily start it on that path.

Now that it is autumn, I'm hoping my schedule will loosen up again and I'll get a few more spare hours to focus on updating the web site or recruiting more advertising.

So how do I like working at home? When I'm there, I love it!

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Drought and Circumstance

I'm hoping that the second I post this message there will be a three-day rainstorm but I'm doubting we'll even get the sprinkle we were promised in tomorrow's forecast.

For the past 6 weeks, most of the DC area has had barely .01 inches of rain. We had a good drenching on Monday, but not enough. I've just checked with the USDA and we are officially in the "moderate drought" category.

For the first time in two years, I had to top off my pond because the water level was getting low. I've run through my rain barrel water supply and now have taken to bringing two large buckets in the shower with me every day to them use on my container plantings and a few in-ground annuals. The rest of the garden I'm trying to hold out on. I rarely pull out the hose and if I do, I feel tremendous guilt -- as if dollar bills are pouring out not water. Plus, it doesn't feel like I'm even making a dent in the plants' water needs.

Luckily, most of my plantings are fairly established and I've not put in too much new this year. I did lose a "Little Joe" (Joe Pye Weed) that I planted last month. I had such high hopes for it too! The leaves and acorns seem to be dropping from my oaks and other trees a bit earlier than in previous years.

What is looking just fine and dandy in the drought? My sedums, the ground ivy (!), annual vinca, lavenders, forsythia bushes, most of the roses, russian sage, and sunflowers. The real shakedown will be next year when we see what comes back and thrives.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Our Nursery Survey

The Washington Gardener Nursery Survey lasts only a few more days.
Let us know what you think of DC area garden centers/nurseries. Go to: http://survey.perseus.com/be45804.htm. The survey period ends October 1.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Busy Weekend Socializing

Saturday I was at the GreenFest volunteering and then sitting in on some talks and visiting the exhibits. The fest is mostly environmental issues but overlaps a lot of other good causes and groups such as fair trade, simple living trends, urban forestry, etc. I got several great story ideas and contacts on subjects such as herbal medicine. I stayed so long I missed out on the BookFest and Peace Rally on the Mall. I guess I'm just going to have to come to terms with the fact that I cannot attend EVERYTHING.

After that I was off to my friends' wedding. Karen and Mark had a beautiful ceremony that was full of music and laughter. This couple is a jazz drummer and a classically trained opera singer (though she does not do that for a living). I'm looking forward to the little musical genius(es) they give birth to and raise! Here is their official wedding Web site.

Sunday was the Washington Gardener party. It went well and had a great mix of magazine contributors, friends, family, and neighbors. The surprise of the afternoon was my four-year-old niece, Savannah, who turned into quite the party hostess. She is normally a very shy and timid child among strangers, but she was the one who insisted on giving everyone the garden/house tour -- pointing out the mouse hole under the bird feeder, the fish in the pond, the cat hiding in an upstairs closet, and all the other 'highlights.' Meanwhile, her two-year-old sister, Lexi, turned from wild child to wallflower. I guess you can never tell what mix of elements will draw a child out or make them retreat.

It was great to see guests making both personal and professional connections. I think I will make this party an annual event -- though maybe a bit earlier in the season when the garden is at its best.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Making Connections

Yesterday I went to the AHS River Farm site to attend the Eastern Performance Trials for new annual plants to debut on the market next spring, a woman commented to me: "Garden writer?! That is quite a narrow and unusual specialty"

Actually, it's not. There are literally 1,000s of garden writers out there and many, many more who are aspiring to be. Some are life-long gardeners itching to become writers. Others, like me, are from journalism and writing backgrounds looking to focus on a hobby they love.

There are probably as many different stories or ways of getting into garden writing as there are garden writers. I know many with day jobs that would give you no clue as to their ambitions from lawyers to grocery clerks.

My biggest advice to those looking to get into the field is to join the Garden Writers Association at www.gardenwriters.org. (And please tell them "Kathy Jentz of Washington Gardener" referred you!) This is a great bunch of folks and I've only been a member for a year and can say with complete satisfaction the dues are worth it. Aside from being a professional tax deduction, GWA membership and activities allow me to meet the most amazing personalities, pick their brains, and learn from their experiences. I'm really looking forward to the next year of membership and being able to attend big annual conference.

I come from an association background -- interned and worked at 5 different trade and professional associations in the DC area -- and I deeply believe in joining your professional association for whatever field your in.

Right now I'm weighing a decision whether to require that all of the Washington Gardener magazine writers be GWA members as well. It would show a level of commitment and professionalism to garden writing that would set them apart. Maybe something to introduce for 2006 on my writer's guidelines.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Who Doesn't Love Freebies?

Last night I went to a neighborhood ice cream store opening party and got a FREE yummy taste of some coconut gelato. It got me to thinking of the way people behave around freebies and the etiquette of the exchange.

For the magazine I decided a nice "freebie" would be to have a custom blend of Eastern Wildflower seed packs imprinted with a nice message on the front: "May all your weeds be wildflowers" and our logo plus subscription information on the back. Mostly I give them out at local garden events I have a booth at such as the Baltimore FlowerMart or the Leesburg Flower Fest. This past weekend I did a booth at the Brookside Gardens Children's Day and gave out seeds to kids who participated in a seed matching game I made up.

So far I've given out hundreds of packs and maybe gotten 2 subscriptions out of those. (I track my subscription sources pretty closely but sometimes if a sub arrives in the mail with no card or ad, it is tough to tell where it came from -- could be the radio guest spos, web site, or other sources.) Will I be repeating this next year? I'm not sure.

I believe in Karma and sending out positive energy into the world. On the otherhand, some of the behavior and grabiness of the seed receipients has started to turn me off. Not everyone is badly behaved, a few even ask to pay for the seeds, but the few rotten apples just make me sad for all of humanity.

Like the lady who came back and grabbed handfuls of packs "for her mother and sister." I was to stunned to react but wanted to say,"Why don't you just open my purse and help yourself to me wallet as well."

I've considered making a sign that says: "Please take ONE." However, the implication is that everyone SHOULD take one and really I'd rather save them for those who actually come up, show interest in the magazine, and at least engage in a bit of conversation before departing with their "freebie."

My favorite seed grabber so far was an older gentleman who swooped past me, grabbed some seed packs, walked away briskly, then stopped as he read the pack, turned around, marched back, threw them on the table, and said with utter contempt and disdain, "These are MIXED seeds!" Okay, then...

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Task Accomplished! and on to Ad Sales

Amazingly all the mulch is off my driveway - I've remulched some beds but mostly just moved the pile from the drive to a back corner compost pile - this took over 50 trips of my hauler. It took all yesterday and today. Every muscle aches and I've got bruises and blisters all over. But, it is done!

On to other party prep tasks such as baking brownies, weeding, and cleaning out the house. Nothing like having scores of people come to your home and garden to get those long put off chores done!

In between that, I'm really behind on magazine business. I was supposed to have the 2006 Editorial Calendar done last month and after I do that then I can update the web site and ad kits. Just not enough hours in the day.

Did I mention that I'm far from breaking even in the money department? Not unusual for a new business (started last January 1), but still something foreign and worrisome for me. Truthfully, I thought the advertising would just come rolling in. For me it is a total no-brainer: If you want to reach the garden community of greater DC area, you'll take an ad. But so far, the few paid ads I've gotten were like having to pull my own wisdom teeth out - painful and intimidating. Though after taking the ads, all have been satisified, if not rapturous over the response.

I've already gone through 3 independent ad sales people, none of them has delivered a single ad and all turned out to be total flakes. They made me the most angry in that they set me behind months in the process where I thought something was actually happening.

Anyway, I have contracted now with Bill S. for national ad sales and I'm on my own for local ad sales right now. Wish me luck! And if you have any ad leads, drop me a line!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Never Ending Mulch Pile

Okay so my eyes have always been bigger than my tummy. I've always take the big piece of cake and not been able to finish it - which should've warned me that ordering 7 cubic yards of leaf mulch from the near Takoma Park city services was a big mistake. I'd done it before and gotten the mulch dispersed somehow by the end of the summer. But this time it seems like the more I load into my handy hauler and spread, the more the pile grows!!! Will it ever get done and out of my driveway before my party on Sunday? Stay tuned...

BTW, if you don't know how much 7 cubic yards is - picture a dump truck packed full of mulch backing up to your driveway and dropping its load. When it first arrived it was bigger than my gazebo, now it is down to about the size of a compact car.

Mulch sculpting anyone?

Monday, September 19, 2005

My First Post

I have been meaning to start this blog for months now - finally doing it at the expense of several other tasks - but, hey, I get to have that great "cross it off my list" moment! :-)

What I SHOULD be doing right now is getting my garden ready for a party I'm hosting this Sunday. It will be for friends, family, and anyone who has contributed in any way to the magazine this year.

What magazine? Why this one:

This cover is from the very first issue, March/April. Currently I'm working on the November/December issue. To subscribe: it is just $18 a year and you can do so at our web site. The magazine is specifically aimed at Washington DC, MD & VA gardeners. However, we do have subscribers outside the area as we describe what to plant and do for zones 6/7 and that applies to many other areas throughout the country as well.

I want this blog to be about the process of doing the magazine AND about gardening. I think it will be of interest to area gardeners, to garden writers/editors, to publishers launching a new publication, and to those aspiring to be in any of those categories. If I wander off on pet peeves and other unrelated topic - don't be surprised :-).

My guess is I'll be updating it at least weekly depending on how my schedule and travels are at the time. My goal of course is to do it 3-4 times per week. Let's see how it goes! Thank you for reading & Happy Gardening!

- Kathy Jentz

Editor/Publisher

Washington Gardener