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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Goat Berries and Bleeding Espresso: What's cheese got to do with it?

Patricia Youngquist uses words and images to tell stories about her passions. Based in New York, she currently is authoring a series of nature books on birds of the city. Now in Apple’s iBooks store @

I will address the relevance of the two photographs at the top of this blog post, but, first, please allow me to digress: 

It was April 18th 2011 (exactly two months ago), and the herbs, plants, shrubs, and trees which I grow in my rooftop garden had just been unwrapped two days prior, from the garden winterizing that I had done with Juan V, in December of 2010. 

I was low on inspiration in terms of writing about any of the things that I grow in my rooftop garden.

Normally, this would not be a hardship, because it is fairly easy for me to write about almost anything, but I had sought the advice of a career coach, who had informed me that my blog readers would be confused if I strayed off topic to discuss things other than gardening, or to write about  my work as a photo-artist, photo-work which often leads to images that I ultimately produce to include in my "correspondence" collection, which has  selections of invitations that enhance any occasion, as well as my event program covers that preserve a moment in time, and, my greeting cards that are about more than communication — all of which I sell via the store-front of my web-site.

As you know, dear reader, the topics of gardening (especially urban gardening) and photo-artistry are my blog's "mainstays". However, as I've said before, I am a dot-connector by nature, and therefore, I also give others (such as you, my dear readers), credit for connecting dots, which sometimes leads me to blog about other topics. 

Therefore, I was very disheartened by the career coach, because I am not a "category person",  as I stated in a previous post, in which I touched on this still-sensitive-to-me subject. I pointed out to the career coach that in the"About" box in my blog, I've stated,"On this blog, I discuss how my gardening experience inspires and informs the images I create for my unusual line of invitations, event program covers, and all occasion greeting cards; as well as my impressionistic photo-art. (For details see Sometimes I reflect on current events, or discuss what people that currently influence me are doing (as well as people who have had an influence on me from their place in history). My 1st blog entry was 12.31.09, where I laid out my plan for this blog. Now, January 29th 2011, after 108 posts, I've changed the layout, and I warn you that I like long sentences, because when they stay on point (as I hope I do), they take you on a journey. I like to plant ideas, as well as seeds, with good care, and nurture them as they grow." 

However, in spite of my efforts to explain to the career coach about my methods of working, or to discuss what I was trying to achieve, I had the feeling that he was not listening to me. 

Our sessions were done via the telephone, and, if truth be told, I "shoulda" gone with my gut instinct from the get go, which was to not work with someone in a consulting situation who only worked via the telephone. I do not find phone exchanges to be a fruitful way of communicating when it comes to sensitive subjects, and advancing a career is something I consider highly sensitive. Although I am legally blind, I still like visual cues, and, yes, I realize that folks use SKYPYE for that, however, I am a personal-touch kind-of-girl, and, for me, SKYPE, would not suffice. In any event, SKYPE was not an option in the career coaching scenario that I participated in earlier this year.

One of the main reasons that I felt the coach was not listening is that on one occasion, he was eating while we spoke on the phone, an action I despise during scheduled telephone conversations — especially paid telephone appointments. 

Still, I thought he had the answers to what I could do to advance my projects, and, one of his "answers" was  for me to check out the blog of a woman who "made money from her blog" and who "had a lot of followers"; so, therefore, I went to her blog (wishing he had liked my blog as much as he liked hers), and I found it to be very slick. 

The blog that he referred me to is authored by a graphic artist, and it is filled with her photographs — mostly of times she spent in Paris — and I noticed that she had occasional blog entries about cheese. In these entries, she would post a photograph of various cheeses — arranged on a cheese board — and then remark how she, her husband, her sons and her friends had or had not enjoyed the "cheese of the week", and, I found myself wondering why my coach had felt this blogger could stray off topic to mention her like/dislike of a certain cheese, yet, find yours truly's blog postings which occasionally stray from the mainstays to be a hinder to any readership I might have. 

Furthermore, I thought of contacting his beloved blogger with a "cheese challenge", because, dear reader, if anyone knows cheese, it is yours truly. It's my standard joke that I've even been tempted to "fight" a mouse for  a given piece of cheese (attached to a mousetrap), when the mouse in question reaches for it. I've eaten cheese in lieu of meat since I was at least six years old, and I've worked in a somewhat famous New York City based shop that sold cheeses (as I indicated in a previous post which you may review by clicking here).

Meanwhile, as of today's post, I have not contacted the graphic-artist and occasional cheese critic blogger with my proposal for a "cheese challenge blog post scenario", but I did, on April 18th 2011, when I was dry in terms of "on-topic" inspiration, write a blog post on cheese, and titled it, Ardith Mae and the Special Secret Service of Goat Cheese, which you may refer to by clicking here. In my writing of that post, I realize I could not be like the graphic-artist and occasional cheese critic blogger, when it came to "cheese posting", because, a), I do not photograph still-life (such as cheese on a board) with much success, and, b), I rarely make it home from wherever I buy my cheese without taking a bite out of it en-route, which would not make a pretty picture. 

My solution to this cheese challenge posting idea was to write about cheese makers (because I am always interested in how people came to do certain things in life). Consequently, in my research for my blog entry on Ardith Mae's goat cheeses, I not only was intrigued by the folks who started the company, but I was intrigued by the adorable goats that were responsible for the "goods" that went into the cheeses that Ardith Mae produced.

One thing led to another, as so often is the case with research, and so whilst researching the origins of the adage"got your goat", to include in my Ardith Mae posting, I came across a lovely blog known as Goat Berries; not only did I admire the logo, layout, and heartfelt content, but I admired the blogger's finesse. 

Ultimately, I let the blogger (Michelle Fabio) know my reactions to her blog, and, I was very humbled at the fact that Ms. Fabio subsequently put a link to my blog (under her links menu) on her Goat Berries home-page which she calls "other places to graze".

I am long overdue in acknowledging Ms. Michele Fabio in a blog post, however, you may have noticed, dear reader, that on April 22nd 2011, I put a link to Goat Berries (which will also take you to Ms. Fabio's other blog called Bleeding If you have not seen this, dear reader, I want to let you know that the link can be found in the links menu on the left hand side of my blog below my labels.

All this being said, you may find yourself asking, what do the photographs at the top of today's blog entry (which you can see are images of a scrumptious looking chunk of cheese and of a watering can respectively) have to do with the narrative of this particular post? 

You may even be saying that you can understand a photograph of a watering can on an urban gardener's blog, but what's cheese got to do with it?

The scrumptious looking cheese is something to salivate at, and, it is even better to indulge in. Moreover, the folks who make this cheese are very interesting (as is the back story behind their mission), but, for now, all I will say about the cheese is this: it is made by a New Jersey cheese-making family, and that it is a cow's milk cheese, and also that its story was to be a part of my cheese challenge to the beloved blogger of the career coach. I gave up on my cheese challenge idea, but by no means have I given up on giving a shout out to the interesting people who produce this cheese, and, so, FYI,  I will be blogging about these cheese makers and their cheeses next Saturday, June 25th, after I interview them to clarify a few questions that I still have about their endeavor. 

The reason that I've included a mention of this cheese in today's post is due to the fact that it was in the pursuit about things related to cheese, that I came upon Ms. Fabio's writings in the first place, and the remainder of today's post has to do with a recent blog entry of Ms. Fabio's.

In a post that Ms. Fabio made on Bleeding Espresso, on June 13th 2011, she discussed issues related to her need to provide water in the "orto" where her "goats, chickens, and several fruit trees live", and she wrote about her feelings regarding this "chore" of watering. Perhaps it was serendipitous that I read her post when I did, as I had planned to dedicate this Saturday's posting to my never ending gardening "obligation"of watering. (Hence, the image of my watering can which can be seen in the image below the photograph of the wonderful cheese that you can read about next week.)

Not only is today June 18th 2011, my two month anniversary of discovering Goat Berries and Bleeding Espresso, but it has been twelve days since National Garden Exercise Day celebrated its year anniversaryNational Garden Exercise Day, is a day that State Garden Clubs, and thousands of "Aerobic Gardeners across America", deemed as a day to encourage people to substitute the phrase "yard work" with "yard exercise"  with the goal of having gardeners think of their garden-work as a way to achieve physical fitness  through something "fun" like exercising, instead of as a "chore". The"image" of "exercise" versus "chore", would not work for me, because, even though I get some exercise, by cycling as a stoker on a tandem bike (which I truly appreciate) at least once a week, I don't really enjoy exercise per se. Besides, I live in a fifth floor walk-up, where I walk up and down seventy steps many times a day. (I never counted the steps, but years ago, when my mother visited New York, she counted the stairs she was climbing to reach my apartment).

In any event, whether one wants to call gardening "yard work" or "yard exercise", I forgot about this so-called aerobic gardening awareness day this past June 6th, because, as you may know, dear reader, June 6th, is D-Day.  Consequently, I was thinking about the meaning of that, instead of toying with the idea of doing jumping-jacks in my garden, for as you know, dear reader, I am most sensitive to issues of war, as I've indicated in previous blog entries concerning Veteran's Day, Memorial Day, and issues related to the Vietnam war.

However, ever since learning of the subject of changing the term "yard work" to "yard exercise" in  an effort to take the emphasis off the word chore, I have realized that I never think of tending to my garden as a chore, with the exception of watering it. Hence, my amusement when I read Ms. Fabio's June 13th 2011 post on Bleeding Espresso, where her description of her watering experiences made me feel like I have a kindred spirit, albeit across the Atlantic, for Ms. Fabio lives in Italy. You see, I have a garden on my terrace, which means it is a container garden, and, dear reader, if you know anything about container gardens, you know that containers have a tendency to dry out herbs, plants, vines, trees, and shrubs — especially if the containers are terra-cotta, which is a beautiful material to have in one's garden.

In my case, I grow over sixty things (in varying sizes) in my garden, and each one has very specific watering needs. I am often asked by a number of folks if I have a watering system (which means do I have vats that are timed to go on and off at given times in my garden), and when I tell them that I, with my single medium sized watering can (the watering can in the photograph below the photograph of the delicious-looking cheese), am the watering system for my garden, they wonder aloud why I don't devise some type of way to have a faucet installed outside so I could attach an outdoor hose to it. For one thing, I am only a renter, and any construction related to installing a hose would be filled with a chore much worse than watering — procuring landlord permission as well as New York City permits.

Meanwhile, a number of years ago, I did try to quicken my watering process with  a different type of hose, and I invested in a low-cost "portable hose" — the kind that had the ability to stretch, and stretch, and stretch, by having a coil unravel from where it was attached to a sink. 

However, the "path" from my kitchen sink to my outdoor terrace garden involves going through my only living area which means the hose would have to pass along the electrical cords that hook up to my Apple Router, G-Drive, i-Mac, Mac Book Pro, Canon Prixma Printer and H.P. Laser Printer — all of which are sitting on top of a huge arts-and-crafts working table, which I use as a desk, and, if that hose ever slipped from the sink, my equipment, which I use to try and earn a livelihood, would be ruined; so, after a few close calls, I gave my hose to Juan V for one of his clients, and I went back to using a medium-sized watering can. I stress the words medium-sized, because, in my early years as a gardener, I had fairly large watering cans in an effort to make less trips from the kitchen sink or bathtub to my great outdoors. 

This meant that the cans were heavy. Unfortunately, I had a tendency to tilt the cans to make them easier to carry, which often resulted in water being slopped onto my floor, an incident that prompted my tendency to use truck-driver language, as well as my need to use lots of beach towels to sop up the water —  before it made its way to the cords that I have for my equipment. In those early days of my gardening endeavor, whenever I watered, I would find myself counting the number of plants that I'd done and how many I had left to water. 

This was an exercise in misery, because it robbed me of the very joy of tending to my garden. I found that when I was not counting things that had been watered, or counting things that still needed watering, I was thinking about all the things I had to do. Sometimes, I'd be so caught up in my ruminating that I would almost miss seeing a brand new bud and even a brand new flower or a butterfly.

I have finally learned to embrace watering by hand because such attentiveness allows me to detect garden nuances that I would miss with a watering system. I am not sure what brought on this change in my attitude towards watering, because I certainly love everything that I grow — maybe after all these years my motherly instincts are finally kicking in. Then again, maybe it's that I have transplanted some of my thirsty friends from their terra-cotta homes into Viducci containers and that are made from isi-fiber so the things that I grow don't dry out as much as they did in their terra-cotta homes (plus they look elegant as you can see from a few of my plants which are thriving in those great digs).

Patricia Youngquist uses words and images to tell stories about her passions. Based in New York, she currently is authoring a series of nature books on birds of the city. Now in Apple’s iBooks store @

The Autumn Clematis discussed in several blog entries, including ones that you can refer  to by clicking here, and also here seems more than content to share its Viducci box-planter with my strawberry plants, as evidenced by its flourishing as it reaches for the lattice behind it before hopping on the trivets which Juan V placed on the brick wall this past May.

My Actinida kolomikta and Actimida (Kiwi Vines), featured in my first garden movie (The Kiwi Vine Speaks Fifteen Minutes of Fame almost . . . ) have always enjoyed their Viducci home, flourishing beyond my expectations, a fact I've written about in a number of blog entries which you can refer to by going to the labels on the left-hand side of my blog and clicking on Actinida kolomikta and Actimida. 

When I first planted my Actinida kolomikta and Actimida, I trained them to travel north around the railing, now I've freed up the other "route" and it is quickly traveling north and south simultaneously, and, it will soon be turning the corner and heading to the western side of the railing, as indicated in the collage of the  Actinida kolomikta and Actimida posted below:

Patricia Youngquist uses words and images to tell stories about her passions. Based in New York, she currently is authoring a series of nature books on birds of the city. Now in Apple’s iBooks store @

The 24" by 30" Viducci container that houses my Actinida kolomikta and Actimida, is something I wheeled home on a quasi-luggage cart walking  from West Forty-Fourth Street to my home in the upper-west side. (The same way I got the Autumn Clematis's container to my garden ). This is a walk that is nearly forty blocks before I reach my home and, once there, I carried the container up five flights of stairs — perhaps that's what the garden-chore- versus garden-aerobics  folks mean by "garden exercise."

However, if  my Actinida kolomikta and Actimida and my Autumn Clematis keep growing at the pace they are now, I'll be able to shimmy up the vines as opposed to taking the stairs!

Both my Actinida kolomikta and Actimida and my Autumn Clematis have lived in their isi-fiber homes since their first day in my garden, however, my Continus Coggygria (Smoke Bush), started out in a terra-cotta pot (seen at the left side of the collage posted below)  where it lived for three and a half years, before moving into Viducci digs  (seen at the right side of the collage posted below). If you'd like to read about this fantastic shrub, I have several postings and you can find them in the label menu, at the left-hand side under the heading  Continus Coggygria (Smoke Bush).

Patricia Youngquist uses words and images to tell stories about her passions. Based in New York, she currently is authoring a series of nature books on birds of the city. Now in Apple’s iBooks store @

My Physocarpus opulifolius (Coppertina Tree), also thrives in its iso-fiber, and it even boasted about this fact — in its own words —  in a blog posting on Cinco De Mayo which you can read by clicking here. The other things that I grow in fiber-glass are my "Chelsea" Larch Tree and my H.F. Young Clematis (which has been featured in many posts including ones that you can refer to by clicking here and here) that shares its home with Dragon's Blood Sedum . This means that only six things that I grow live in iso-fiber; the remaining others (nearly sixty) live in terra-cotta. the material that has a tendency to dry out plants, leaving them thirsty. This fact, coupled with the fact that my garden is on a terrace hemmed in by New York City's condos and brownstones, means that there is a lot of heat in my garden — another thing that makes what I grow thirsty, requiring the act of watering to be done two or three times a day in New York City's blistering summers.

I am often asked after a heavy rain if I am relieved that I don't have to water my garden. The funny thing about rain is that not only does it pour down on "the just and unjust" but it does not always fall into iso-fiber or terra-cotta containers. Therefore, even after a big rainfall in my terrace garden such as the one pictured below, the result often requires that I water by hand, in the aftermath.

Patricia Youngquist uses words and images to tell stories about her passions. Based in New York, she currently is authoring a series of nature books on birds of the city. Now in Apple’s iBooks store @

Patricia Youngquist uses words and images to tell stories about her passions. Based in New York, she currently is authoring a series of nature books on birds of the city. Now in Apple’s iBooks store @

However, I am not yet like the old-woman who lived in a shoe that had so many children that she didn't know what to do, while I am a getting-old woman living in a shoe-box style studio apartment with so many plants in my terrace garden, I do know what to do — water them by hand, which permits me to notice all their nuances and to contemplate on the miracle of their non-stop changes and beauty. Using a medium sized can that has the holes in the spout arranged in an evenly distributed manner helps give the things I grow in my garden the drinks they need, and they never disappoint me with their on-going changes.

Patricia Youngquist uses words and images to tell stories about her passions. Based in New York, she currently is authoring a series of nature books on birds of the city. Now in Apple’s iBooks store @

Besides, now upon reading Ms. Fabio's post, Practicing Mindfulness and Saying No to Multitasking, I not only relish staying in the moments of watering, I've also been able to stay in the moment of learning Final Cut, a professional program that I've been wanting to use to create my next garden movie, The Butterfly and The Kiwi Vine, as a sequel to The Kiwi Vine Speaks Fifteen Minutes of Fame almost — who knows maybe my Kiwi Vine character will have the notoriety of Harry Potter!

Meanwhile, before that happens, I'll try and stay in the moment, for now, at least when I am watering my terrace garden, I feel in the company of Ms. Fabio, who a mere six hours away in Italy is doing her watering, a "freakin' chore" turned into a chance to be in the moment for both of us, but then I shouldn't be surprised at this, given the fact that it all began with the love of cheese and a search for facts about it, so check me out on Saturday when I post about an inspiring cheese farming family producing amazing taste treats like the one pictured in the photograph at the top of this blog entry, and the one I will leave you with as a tease for you, dear reader, to  return next week (although you can always catch me on Tuesday, Thursdays, as well as days that are holidays or occasions where I am making special announcements).

ADDENDUM: I no longer actively produce event program covers, invitations and the types of greeting cards described on my website but arrangements might be able to be made under certain circumstances.

My focus is on the Words In Our Beak book series (pictured below)whose stories are told from the point of view of Cam, a female cardinal.  

As of May 22 2018, I have rendered some images from these books into greeting cards and they are available on Fine Art America, please click here for more info.

Re my book seriesWords In Our Beak’s goal is to open readers to a simple understanding of the winged world and their environment. Set in my rooftop urban garden in New York City. Words In Our Beak is directed to children and adults who are curious about birds, and want to learn about them from a unique perspective. The books include hundreds of images of flora and fauna, links to movies, as well as to informative narratives that have been created by the author.

At this moment, May 2018, both volumes one and two are in hardcover format (as seen below) and are available wherever  books are sold.

*Here's the  purchase info for the Words In Our Beak book series:

Volume One: ISBN: 9780996378529:
Book Seller Info:
Barnes & Noble On-Line:
book culture On Columbus:

Volume Two: ISBN: 9780996378536
Book Seller Info:
Barnes & Noble On-Line:


  1. Really, really lovely -- and your terrace is *amazing*! I'm sorry you had such a bad experience with that career coach...sounds like he didn't know much about blogging *or* how to make his clients feel "tended to" ;)

  2. Thanks for taking the time to read my blog entry, Michelle. And thanks too, for your kind words about my garden, and my writing. As for the career coach, even though the experience with him was not helpful, if I had not felt rebellious of his ideas, I might not have found your blogs, which as I am sure you realize by now, I truly enjoy. You are an excellent writer and offer substantial content. Too bad I didn't know of you when I traveled to Italy but then I wasn't near the toe. . . Ciao for now.


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