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Day 17 – The Backyard Parables & Book Giveaway

“I hope that people will think about the garden’s harvest as more than ripe tomatoes and cutting flowers…To me the ‘other’ part of the harvest… The garden’s life lessons, its parables—about control (or lack of it), about letting go, about the cycles and the giant web of interconnected life—are the really juicy stuff.

Be sure to pluck some of that goodness, too!”

~ Margaret Roach

Today’s post in the 31 Days of Living Homegrown is a about connecting to our garden and we have a special guest.

Margaret Roach is visiting here as one of the stops on the Blog Tour for her new book, The Backyard Parables – Lessons on gardening, and life. The book just came out a few days ago and I was lucky enough to get a copy in advance for this “tour” and I will be giving away a copy (Not mine! I’m keeping mine!).

The day Margaret’s new book arrived, I started a fire in the fireplace, pulled my favorite chair over and started reading. I read for hours (a luxury I rarely have) and I enjoyed picking up the book several more times over the course of the weekend until I finished the last delicious page. 

Why I am a Gushing Fan:

You first need to know that Margaret is one of my all time favorite writers…garden or otherwise. I have been a gushing fan (I swear I am not a stalker!) of her blog, A Way to Garden almost since the beginning. Today, that blog is considered one of the all time best garden blogs…EVER. And it is. There, and in her books, Margaret writes about gardening with both your head and heart or in her words, “horticultural how-to and ‘woo-woo’.” And as if THAT  isn’t enough, her garden photographs are gorgeous.

Margaret is one of those writers who has this incredible ability to transport you to her garden through words.

I have never set foot in her Hudson Valley, New York garden and yet, I feel as if I have strolled through her little circular garden near the door and meandered (clockwise, as she intended) around the house. And I have enjoyed (along with her other readers) the colors, scents and sounds (Cue the frogs) of every season she has experienced there since her blog began in 2008.

But her writing goes beyond the beautiful, descriptive prose.

She teaches.

Margaret’s garden writing teaches about life, patience, perseverance, of letting go and more.

When counseling us on how to really see our gardens, she tell us that we,  “must learn to see with your heart; the eyes won’t do in the hardest months.”

Like many people, I first learned of Margaret when she was the garden editor at Martha Stewart Living Magazine and later, the editorial director of the parent company. But I most fell in love with the work she did “in retirement” in her garden because she shared all her trials, successes, heartaches and most importantly, her lessons along the way. Her first book, A Way to Garden became the gateway to her website writing and her last book, And I Shall Have Some Peace There, shared her journey from the corporate to the natural world.

Both books tell the story of how the garden saved her.

The Backyard Parables

The Backyard Parables is the latest work of her continued journey and in it, she shares more lessons learned. But as always, she weaves solid garden information and advice throughout.

I especially loved the section on Seed Shopping Rules because her advice is so spot on! Here is a video on the Seed Shopping Rules if you want to have a look:

The basic premise of the “Rules” is this:

As we thumb through seed catalogs to pick next year’s crop, we need to accept that we just can’t have it all! To get a reality grip on all our “wants”, Margaret wisely advises that first we consider our abilities in conjunction with our “needs”. She gently recommends that we should really grow “what is scarce or precious”. She then gives a systematic set of rules for how to do that. But of course, she (like most of us) always throws in a few extra seeds that just “don’t meet the requirements at all, since no one is looking.” Ha!

There are also a few tips within the book for preserving the harvest and Margaret includes a recipe for Refrigerator Pickles – which to this day remains the most popular post on her website. You gotta love someone who will share a treasured pickle recipe!


When you read someone like Margaret Roach, you can’t help but wonder…Who (or what books) most influenced her craft? When I asked Margaret this question during our interview, she said that the books that most got her going were from three different veins:

“Some were about about self-sufficiency (most of all “Living the Good Life,” by Helen and Scott Nearing, which first came out the year I was born, but I read in my mid-20s). From that ethic come my love of growing and putting up food, which I have done for decades.

Some influential voices delivered practical gardening how-to, but in a kindly, never-condescending manner. Prime example here: James Underwood Crockett’s “Crockett’s Victory Garden,” published 1977—which is when I was also reading “Living the Good Life” for the first time, I should note.  I still use it today.

And some were opinionated and even odd, often funny. Best example here: “Green Thoughts” by Eleanor Perenyi (first published in 1981). She just told it to you her way. I loved her voice, and her wide-ranging interests in so many topics.

So I think if we fuse those traits—part-Nearing hippie, part Crockett practical/helpful, part Perenyi quirky/funny/curious about many things, I think you get me. (Or at least I hope you do.) I only wish I were one-one-hundredth as influential as any of them!”

Ummm…Margaret?  I think you influence more than you realize.

What Margaret Hopes You “Get” From The Book:

“Most of all, what I hope is this: that people will think about the garden’s harvest as more than ripe tomatoes and cutting flowers—that they will think of gardening as more than outdoor decorating.

To me the “other” part of the harvest I get every time I step outside is the sweetest part—even when it’s dealt in the form of disappointment, or loss. The garden’s life lessons, its parables—about control (or lack of it), about letting go, about the cycles and the giant web of interconnected life—are the really juicy stuff. Be sure to pluck some of that goodness, too!”

That we will, Margaret. That we will. Thank you for taking the time to share with us here and for the use of your lovely photographs.

The Giveaway:

The giveaway is officially closed as of midnight, January 22. But I am not closing the comments in case anyone else just wants to share or comment in the future. Congratulations to Ashley R. I know you will enjoy the book!

Thanks for all the incredible comments! It was so fun to read what everyone has learned from their garden!

To win a free copy of the book, The Backyard Parables, you need only leave one comment below sharing a little tidbit of what your garden has taught you. One word answers are fine! If you are stumped or shy, then simply comment saying “I’m still learning” and I will count that.

The giveaway closes at Midnight (PST) on January 22, 2013. At that time, I will randomly choose a winner and send out the book. Sorry, but the winner must reside within the United States.

Good Luck!

This post is part of the 31 Days of Living Homegrown. Sign up for my newsletter (weekly or monthly) so you don’t miss any of the inspiration and resources I will be sharing for living local, fresh and homegrown!

Disclaimer: In order to do this book review, I received an advanced copy of this book with no expectations on what I would or would not write. All opinions stated here are my own.


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About the Author:

Theresa Loe is the founder of Living Homegrown® and the Canning Academy®. For 9 years, Theresa was the Co-Executive Producer & Canning Expert on the national PBS gardening series, Growing A Greener World®. Theresa homesteads on just 1/10th of an acre in Los Angeles with her husband, two sons and several disorderly but totally adorable chickens. Learn more about Living Homegrown here and about the Canning Academy here.