I am an Army brat. This upbringing has shaped the adult that I am, and I have found that it influences almost everything I do. I was born 50 years ago in Neubruecke, Germany, went to elementary school in Livorno, Italy, graduated from high school in Heidelberg, Germany, and lived the in-between times in Georgia, California, New Jersey, and Virginia. Living overseas as much as we did, I missed out on a lot of the pop-culture stuff of the 60’s and 70’s … but I learned to swim in the Mediterranean and I still have a huge appreciation for German beer.
I make friends easily, and I value friendships above most everything else. I love wading through a crowd of strangers, listening to their stories and sharing time with as many people as I can.
Really blurry photo of my husband and me, with our '74 Nova SS, in 1980.
My husband and I met in January, 1980. We were engaged two months later, and we married in July of 1980. Most of our best decisions are ones that we made on impulse … the decision to marry so quickly was one of our best. It’s been 30 years now, and I love sharing every day of my life with him.
Wedding Day -- July 1980.
We have three grown daughters, one of which still lives at home, and we are raising our 6-year-old grandson. I have always loved looking at life through the eyes of my children. Children have a unique perspective on the world, and the honesty to share their view with whoever will listen.
My favorite photo of our girls ... taken in 1989.
All of us, at our youngest daughter's high school graduation.
Me, with our grandson Drew.
Our home is a brick Gothic Revival farmhouse, built in 1848, located north of Fredericksburg in the rural community of Hartwood. We have nine acres, with pastures and outbuildings and a barn, and it has been my full-time job since 2002. We bought it knowing that it would need a complete renovation … we just didn’t know that it would take 5 full years of work to finish it enough to be able to move in. We have lived here for a little over two years now, and there are still many projects left to finish. In fact, there’s not one room in the house that I can say is complete. But it’s our house, my dream house, and I am grateful to wake up here every morning.
The view of our house from the road.
Family history research has been a hobby for me since my mid-teens. Because we moved so much when I was growing up, I never lived near any of my extended family. One way to learn who I was and where I came from was to research my ancestors. I have most of the lines from family and my husband's family traced back at least into the early 1800's. I used my genealogy research experience to finish the documentation and history of our house (begun by a prior owner), and our property was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.
My dad and mom, brother and sister with their spouses, my husband and me, and all of our kids -- yes, they're all daughters.
When I'm asked what I do for a living, my answer is always "professional volunteer". I went to college to become a teacher, but I decided that being a mom was my best and most rewarding career choice. Some of my volunteer jobs were a Girl Scout leader, a Master Gardener, vice president of the local chapter of ReBuilding Together, president of a homeowner's association, and greyhound adoption representative. I belong to two garden clubs, three local rose societies, and the American Rose Society. Friends and I created a non-profit charity that raises money to help fund research to find effective treatment (and hopefully an eventual cure) for canine cancer. Shameless plug alert: visit www.GreyhoundsRock.org to learn more, or make to a donation.
Here we are with our dogs on a cold morning in Dewey Beach, Delaware.
I have always loved to build things. My mother tells me that I was the first girl to ever take Shop Class in the Fort Benning, Georgia, school system. Apparently, the administration thought it would be more appropriate for girls to learn cooking and sewing. I already knew how to sew (and knit and crochet), and I experimented with cooking. I wanted to use tools and build stuff with the boys. I started working on home-improvement projects shortly after we bought our first house. My husband traveled for his job, and I was on my own a lot. I had to learn to do things myself, or the things wouldn’t get done.
I'm talking roses with the Master Gardeners at an event at Chatham Manor.
Whenever people ask me how they can start learning to use tools, I always suggest that they start with a drill. You have to work at it to hurt yourself with a drill, I would tell them. I may rethink this advice, since I put a screwdriver bit through my thumbnail while building the propagation bench in my greenhouse this summer. Note to self: Always predrill for screws when working with oak. Power tools are the first thing my husband thinks of when it’s time to buy me presents. One of my favorites was the year he bought the framing nailer for me for my birthday.
Me and my pitiful arrangement, decorating the Governor's Mansion for Christmas.
I am a remodeler. There’s not a whole lot that I can’t do, when it comes to building or designing things, and I rarely leave things the way I find them. I have torn down walls, replaced floors, built buildings and additions, designed garden structures, all in an effort to make each of our homes (and the homes of unsuspecting friends) into more personal spaces. This property is one HUGE remodeling project, and we are trying to take it in smaller increments when we can.
If you look carefully, you can see that the downspout needs repair and the porch is held up by 4 x 4's.
I have always been a gardener. I remember planting a potato in a pot on our balcony when I was a child in Italy. That potato grew really well, and I was disappointed when it withered and died a few months later … and when I dumped it, I was amazed to find the pot was completely full of new potatoes!
This is the garage I designed to replace a rotten machine shed.
I collect roses … lots of roses. I have over 800 varieties of roses so far, in the gardens throughout our little farm. 500 of them are in the ground, and 300 are in pots until I get more gardens designed and prepared. My favorites are the old-fashioned roses that our grandmother’s grandmothers grew in their gardens. I also love ‘found roses’ … ones that grow neglected in cemeteries or at the sites of old houses. I take cuttings from these roses when I can, so they can be preserved in my gardens here. Our previous houses were all in wooded subdivisions, so I didn’t have much sunshine to work with when designing gardens. This place is sunny, the farm soil is unbelievable to work with, and it is tailor-made for growing roses.
A view of the Rose Field.
In 2009, after two years of preparation, I opened my nursery, Hartwood Roses, so I could share these roses with others. I love to walk the gardens with visitors, answering questions and introducing them to the roses. One of my goals is to teach people that roses aren’t nearly as hard to grow as we’ve been led to believe. I plan to keep the small, boutique atmosphere of the nursery, with special emphasis on the preservation of rare and unusual roses. Because I’m small, I can do more to make everyone’s experience with Hartwood Roses as personal as possible. I never want this place to feel like someone’s ‘business’.
The sign out front.
I also collect stuff … usually cast-off stuff that other people don’t want. I have collected things from flea markets, thrift shops, the curb, the dump, the Classifieds, yard sales, and just about everywhere else. I rehab what needs repair, clean up what doesn’t, and I use my ‘treasures’ to make our home and property cozy and uniquely “us”. It’s gotten to the point where we have a bit too much stuff, so we will have to edit and rearrange … and probably pass some of our stuff on to new homes.
Scrounging in one of the outbuildings.
I originally thought that this blog would be exclusively about my experiences in the garden. After some consideration, I decided that it would be a more accurate reflection of myself if I brought in all of my other interests. One of my favorite people is Thomas Jefferson … I love his spirit of experimentation, and I try to emulate the way that he wasn’t defined by only one facet of his personality.
Going to a car show with my '66 Mustang,
Thank you for stopping by and spending time with me on my blog. I am always very grateful to the people who take time from their day to read what I have to say … and I’m humbled by the comments left here by such knowledgable and creative people. I appreciate these kind words more than you know.