Where’s Susan?

Signing advance orders for Bless the Birds at Collected Works Bookstore.

I meant to write a post last month, but between the launch of my new memoir, Bless the Birds: Living With Love in a Time of Dying, and driving a few thousand miles for a couple of new projects, the weeks whizzed by with me barely keeping up. (You can imagine me running as fast as possible just to stay in place, like the Red Queen in Lewis Carroll’s fantasy novel, Through the Looking Glass.)

Where have I been? Mid-April found me on the road to the Guy’s farm, where I spent ten days designing and installing a pollinator garden on the south side of the farmhouse. No small garden, this: it’s approximately 400 square feet in size, bigger than most tiny houses!

The new pollinator garden in progress.

I’ve been preparing the ground for the better part of a year, doing my best to kill the bindweed and other invasive weeds, and to rejuvenate some existing perennials, including two bunches of peonies, that had been buried under overgrown plants from a previous and long-neglected garden.

The old garden featured plants not adapted to the hot, south-facing site, and not providing much in the way of habitat and food for pollinators and songbirds. The idea of the new garden is rely heavily on native plants to attract native bees, butterflies, and other pollinators, and provide drought-resistant beauty from spring through fall while requiring much less water.

Before planting, I worked on the “hardscape,” the elements of the garden that don’t require watering or pruning or other tending: rocks. The Guy drove the tractor down the lane to his lower gate, and we worked together to load the bucket with uber-local rocks (sandstone and basalt cleared from his hayfields). Two bucket-loads later, I went to work creating a wide rock border between the garden and the lawn area, and then placing rocks within the garden to delineate planting areas and provide topographic relief.

And then came the plants, some of which had been waiting in pots all winter, plus about 60 baby plants I had brought with me from horticulturist David Salman’s Waterwise Garden nursery in Santa Fe, and another two dozen ordered from High Country Gardens online.

Some of the plants for the new garden, on their way to the farm.

All of that work plus farm-chores took the better part of a week, and when I had planted everything I had, we took a day off to go to a nursery in Grand Junction to look for a few native shrubs to add height to the garden. We came back with several, including two Ribes odoratum, clove-scented currant, which are wonderfully fragrant and very attractive to native pollinators.

So attractive, in fact, that within an hour of planting the first one, a Hunt’s bumblebee queen buzzed over to feed on and pollinate its flowers. Her near-instant arrival illustrated nicely what we in the native-plant landscaping world like to say: plant them and they will come!

Hunt’s bumblebee queen sipping nectar from newly-planted clove-scented currant.

When the garden project was as finished as it’s going to get this spring, I headed back to Santa Fe for two weeks of book promotion, including my launch event, a frank and wide-ranging conversation with memoirist Kati Standefer, whose debut, Lightning Flowers, has been lauded by Oprah, Terry Gross of Fresh Air, and the New York Times book review. (And yes, it’s that good!)

Our conversation via Zoom was hosted by our wonderful local bookstore, Collected Works in Santa Fe, and co-sponsored by Women’s International Study Center, where I was a fellow in 2016. If you missed what was an amazing heart-to-heart exchange on living on the edge of death, you can watch the event here.

The beautiful event poster designed by Cecile Lipworth, Collected Works’ event manager.

If you’ve not read Bless the Birds yet, or Kati’s Lighting Flowers, you can buy signed copies of both by calling or emailing Collected Works. I’m happy to personalize your book if you let the folks at Collected Works know.

The next event in my year-long series of conversations with authors whose work I admire is June 9th, 6 pm (RMT) with Sharman Apt Russell, on her new book, Within Our Grasp, a look the global problem of childhood malnutrition and how empowering women can make a huge difference. That conversation will be hosted by Women’s International Study Center. Registration information on the Events page soon.

Immediately after the book launch conversation, I hopped into Rojita, my trusty bright red Toyota Tacoma pickup, and headed north to Wyoming to lay the groundwork for my summer work in Yellowstone National Park and at Ring Lake Ranch. Four days later, I drove back home again to Santa Fe via a night with the Guy at his farm, which means I put 1,900 miles on Rojita’s odometer and my body in–gulp!–six days. Crazy, but necessary.

Now I’m home at Casa Alegria, packing and organizing. My trailer, Cabanita, is being serviced, and when she’s ready in a week or ten days, I’ll hitch her up to Rojita, and off we’ll go (slowly) for weeding in Yellowstone, and working at Ring Lake Ranch. But first, I’m taking a few days to just be right here, in place!

4 thoughts on “Where’s Susan?

    • Susan Tweit says:

      Diana, It was a really exciting moment to hear her buzz in! The only other natives in bloom that early in the immediate area would have been three-leaf sumac, a shrub with tiny butter-colored flowers in clusters. The clove-scented currant has a very persistent scent, which is what I expect “called” the queen Hunt’s bumblebee in. She must have been newly emerged, because once she has hatched the first generation of her seasonal colony, she doesn’t leave the nest; those workers feed her and tend the next generation of young.

  • Hi Susan: Lovely to read what you are currently doing — such important work and writing. Glad to know you have been both safe and productive during this difficult year. –Matilda

    • Susan Tweit says:

      Matilda, Thank you so much! I am glad to hear from you, and I know you have been keeping Rosie and women’s stories of their lives alive in these difficult times. Thank you! Bless the Birds is out and finding grateful readers, which is wonderful, as you know. Blessings to you!

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