Our Snowy Grand Canyon Day

It looks like we have a theme here. When we started to plan our trip to Arizona we thought that the entire state would be much warmer than New England, however as we learned in Sedona, it’s snowy in northern Arizona in the winter. The altitude at the south rim of the Grand Canyon is 6500 feet above sea level, higher than Mount Washington which at 6288 is the highest peak in the Northeastern US. Who knew? We do now!

To make our way to the Grand Canyon from Sedona, we drove through a winter wonderland of snow.

IMG_0226Oak Creek Canyon

After leaving our hotel we turned toward Sedona by mistake on our way out to the highway. We were thoroughly enjoying the scenery and didn’t realize our mistake until we reached the town of Sedona. The drive back to route 17 toward Flagstaff was about 15 miles, so, rather than backtracking we took the scenic route through Oak Creek Canyon and we were so glad that we did. It was breathtaking, and while we didn’t use it, we had four wheel drive if we needed it.

Anyway, two and a half hours after leaving Sedona we made it to Grand Canyon!

IMG_0230… looking over the south rim of the Grand Canyon!

This moment had been on my bucket list for years. I have very fond memories of seeing it with my family as a child and I’d always wanted for Michael and our kids to experience it, so I was kind of overwhelmed. I barely looked at the view myself because I was having a great time watching their reactions.

IMG_0238Good thing I took lots of pictures! The views are amazing from every possible vantage point. In case you missed it, I posted photos of nothing but views of the Grand Canyon on Wordless Wednesday last week. You can see them here.


Just above is the exterior of the main visitor center at Grand Canyon Village in the south rim. I didn’t take photos inside but it was beautiful with engaging exhibits about many different aspects of the history, wildlife and geology of the canyon.

The south rim and north rim of the canyon are very different. While it’s less than twenty miles straight across, the trip to the north rim from the south rim is over 200 miles each way. The north rim is closed in the winter and sounds much less developed then the main viewing area of the south rim, which has a village that includes ten hotels, several visitor centers and museums, restaurants and a post office.

DSC04998After seeing the canyon and looking around the visitor center, we had lunch at the El Tovar Hotel. This is one of a few remaining Fred Harvey Hotels and it’s an interesting stop. It was built to be one of the most elegant hotels in the west in the early 1900s. Fred Harvey was a British immigrant who built many restaurants and several grand hotels on the rail lines and on Route 66. El Tovar was designed by well known architect Mary Colter who also designed grand hotels in Winslow, AZ and several other cities across the southwest. We’ll run into Fred and Mary again soon in Winslow. We grew quite fond of them and appreciated their very cozy and elegant design style!


One of the wonderful aspects of traveling in the winter is the lack of crowds. While the lodge and dining room were pleasantly busy, we were seated right away. IMG_0250The El Tovar dining room was lovely. At $400/night per room, we weren’t staying there, but lunch was as reasonably priced as many of the other stops on our trip. The food was good, not spectacular, but very good, and the service was great. After a few days on the road white linen tablecloths and napkins were a treat.

IMG_0254These beautiful stained glass chandeliers were too.

IMG_0261I would have loved to have gone up to see the mezzanine… the view of the canyon must be awesome up there!

IMG_0263The front porch looks like an inviting place to sit on a warmer day.

The hotel had the look, feel and smell (in a good way) of a huge log cabin. It should probably be a post of it’s own.

This is a garden blog, not a hotel blog, but hmm….


IMG_0287This photo (complete with window reflection) was taken inside the Yavapai Geology Museum. This was our “homeschooling for ten days” moment of the day.. I should probably call it the “un-schooling” moment because I worked very hard to let the kids experience it on their own terms without intervening too much, so that they would really get it, and they did.  The geological miracle of the canyon is crystal clear after spending a half hour there. I should have taken more photos but I was busy looking around and learning.

We also visited the Hopi Lodge, which is a recreated Hopi house thats used as a gift shop. The visitor center right behind Hopi Lodge had an interesting exhibit about life as a resident of Grand Canyon Village. Apparently a few thousand people live there in a housing complex that’s tucked away out of view. There’s even a school and a health clinic. I think that it would be an interesting place to live as a park service family.

DSC04961Here’s our official Grand Canyon family portrait.

Before I close I’ll summarize a little bit about the logistics of our visit to the Grand Canyon.

  1. The literature says “stay in the park”… my mom intuition said “stay where it’s less expensive and there’s an indoor pool.” So, we did that… the Grand Canyon Holiday Inn Express worked well for us. It was clean, cozy and included a very extensive continental breakfast. Other family restaurants were within walking distance.
  2. Don’t be afraid of winter, just dress for it, then embrace the experience!
  3. We had one beautiful afternoon to spend there, which was pushing it a bit, but it was enough time. We weren’t hiking into the canyon and some of the roads were closed due to snow so we enjoyed our experience immensely and then felt ready to move on. I think that the time frame needed to see everything varies with each visitor and their interests and abilities.
  4. At any time of the year be sure to monitor the weather conditions before you go. We stayed in Sedona for an extra night because the roads were still snowy and the canyon was full of clouds. The NPS website (click here) has an accurate forecast, park alerts and a webcam that you can check to make sure your visit will be the best it can be
  5. Even if you’re not concerned about the weather, the NPS website is a great starting point for planning your visit to the Grand Canyon.
  6. Enjoy every minute!

Coming Soon: Winslow Arizona and starting onion seeds!

Stay warm!



The Seed Order Is Underway!

I’m working on the next post about our trip, but I thought I shouldn’t stray too far away from the garden. The Grand Canyon was pretty snow covered, so, not much garden activity to report. When I move on to Winslow that will change in a big way! Still wintery, but definitely some gardens to share at that stop.

In the meantime, here’s what’s happening here in Salem this morning:IMG_0753Yes! The seed order is underway!

I’m anxious to get this done because it’s almost time to start the onions and a few other things that need a lot of time to get stronger and can hang in there in the natural light of my office while I use the grow lights for other plants.

I like to use sticky notes to organize my order. This year I had these cute color coded stickies on hand so I’m actually marking the possibilities by color… green is a yes, light green a probably, pink a maybe and orange needs some research. I just texted Michael a picture of this and said “I think we need more beds”… no response back… I wonder why? Lol

This is the Pinetree Seed Catalog which is the company that I used last year. I like Pinetree because their based in Maine, so it tends to be geared toward the New England climate. Another big plus is that they sell seed in smaller quantities at a much lower price. This gives me the chance to grow close to the specific mount of produce that we’ll actually use with more variety, so my garden is more interesting and there’s less waste of plant material and money. I had a nice high germination rate last year as well. I didn’t keep track formally but I’d estimate it at about 90%. I’m looking at other catalogs but I tend to come back to this one.


It’s also time to start saving yogurt cups, plastic cups and clear containers that make good mini greenhouses. I love these yogurt containers because their nice and sturdy and just the right size for many of the plants that are best for us.

I really, truly can’t wait to get things growing again!

Have you started your seed order yet? What are you thinking about growing?

Hope your enjoying this beautiful Saturday!




First Stop-Snowy Sedona!

We “just got back” from our family trip to Arizona and as I tried to figure out what to share here on The Salem Garden I decided to talk about it one stop at a time. We were a family of seven out on the open road, just like the old days! It was fun to travel with young adult children and our baby is almost eleven so she was able to keep up with everything everyone else wanted to do.  There were views and gardens, wildlife, great food and lots and lots (and lots) of quality family time.

We landed in Phoenix at dusk, picked up our SUV and drove two hours north to Sedona in the dark, hitting some pretty slick snow and ice on the way.

We weren’t really thinking too much about encountering snow and ice in Arizona before we left Boston. Fortunately we were prepared with winter clothes but I don’t think we were truly in the winter mindset. We learned quickly that Arizona has winter too, especially northern Arizona.

After a quick night of rest we woke up in the morning to this…


…absolutely incredible, classic Arizona! The snow clouds were still lingering but it was amazing!

My New England kids thought we had landed on the moon!

IMG_0105Yes, there was snow, but it seemed different on a cactus…

IMG_0103or frosting a red mountain.

IMG_0169We couldn’t get over the beauty of this place. This is the view of the town of Sedona looking down from the Airport Mesa.

DSC04861Even the most commercial area of downtown Sedona was surrounded by mountains.

One of the things that makes Sedona special are vortexes of energy. It’s kind of hard to explain, but it’s believed to be a place where energy that’s released from the earth provides healing and strength. There are very specific spots called vortexes where the energy is concentrated.

DSC04868We hiked to the Cathedral Rock Vortex.

My middle daughter and I felt the energy… she and I are very open to energy of all kinds.

Even though they didn’t admit it, I think the rest of the family did too.

IMG_0163The energy radiated from the earth and we looked up at this…

IMG_0140The scenery was so stunning that it was very easy and yet difficult to capture in photographs.

IMG_0210Here’s the view from our hotel.

A note about the hotel (actually motel) … we stayed at the Wildflower Inn and found it to be simple, clean and very affordable. A continental breakfast was included and you could sit and enjoy this beautiful view. While Sedona is known for it’s spas and luxurious places to stay, we feel that we had the full Sedona experience without paying lots of money for our hotel.

At this point in the trip we were busy with things like teaching the children to look at each of us as Michael and I both took their picture simultaneously, everywhere we went…

IMG_0130Look at Dad… please…IMG_0131Now look at Mom… smile and say “Arizona”!

They’ll get it eventually, you’ll see…

To wrap up this post… the big things about Sedona are:

  1. The view is beautiful at all times. I’ve never seen anyplace quite like it.
  2. The energy is different… it’s positive and healing and strong.
  3. The vibe is incredibly positive. It’s hard to explain but we felt it everywhere we went.
  4. It’s a wonderful first stop on a tour of Arizona.

I’m ready to retire to Sedona… I think the kids are too.

We’re still working on our canoe/lake/East Coast Dad…

Next Stop, the Grand Canyon, via Oak Creek Canyon… it was a wild ride~



The Healing Power of Horticulture


Hi there!

We’re back from our wonderful trip to Arizona and I’m sorting through more than 1,000 photos and trying to decide what to share and when. It’s a little bit overwhelming but you should see some gardens and beautiful views very soon! This trip was absolutely epic! I’m ready to retire to Arizona tomorrow… not that I don’t love Salem, but the warm, dry winter climate was very easy to get used to!

In the meantime I came across this great article in a publication from Dubai that describes ten ways that horticulture helps people overcome difficulty and live in a more mentally and physically balanced way. This is what I believe, preach and live for. It’s heartening to see people all over the world recognizing gardening as the healing agent that it is. Just click on the title below to link right to the article.

Enjoy!  Michele

The healing power of horticulture: 10 ways gardening can positively influence mental health




Our 2015 Garden Year

The year is almost over and I thought that it would be fun to do a bit of  reflection on our garden year. I considered limiting this post to simple photos without words, but I started to fuss about whether to include just the immediate garden or the garden, yard and basement or garden related activities that didn’t necessarily happen here. In the end I thought that there’s too much to say and so I’m just going to talk!

January started out pretty typically with dustings of snow and the ground freezing… pretty much what we expect here in New England.

And then it started to snow…IMG_7935

And it didn’t stop snowing for many weeks…IMG_8054

It went a little crazy going into February…IMG_8159

Fortunately around this time the seed order arrived!
seed order

And the orchid bloomed beautifully…IMG_8136

And we did puzzles, lots of puzzles…IMG_8152

By March we had snow farms in Salem.  The snow had to go somewhere!

Michael and I had some much needed respite at the Boston Garden Show.It really felt like spring had sprung.

And then, just when we thought we’d never see them, the first crocus leaves appeared…IMG_8431

In April,  seeds started to germinate under the grow lights in the basement…

And lettuce could be planted! This was kind of a late start for lettuce. I’d have planted it in March if the ground had started to defrost.IMG_8530

The snowdrops finally appeared!IMG_8533

By May the seedlings were ready to be transplanted, but we had to hold off because it was still unseasonably cold.

Our new chicks were adolescents by now, ready to take on the world!IMG_8613

And toward the end of the month the iris bloomed.IMG_8913

By June the onion sets had been planted and were really taking off. The tomatoes tried to, but it was cold and not too sunny…

The lettuce was ecstatic. Lettuce loves cold and not too sunny…IMG_9031

The perennials seemed to follow their normal routines despite the temperatures.IMG_9153

In July the onions were  thriving…

Along with purple opal basil that had seemed to disappear right after I originally planted it in early June. You never know…IMG_9244

As August began the tomatoes still struggled…
And we went on a week long vacation to a place that was packed with Rose of Sharon, hydrangea and arbors. IMG_9275

Finally, in September the tomatoes came in..IMG_9511


And were ready to be stored away for the winter…IMG_9705

The zinnias took over the area in front of the fence.IMG_9495

And the peppers were popping!IMG_9510

I remember saying that this was the year of the onion for us. I planted them from seed in March and they exceeded my expectations. We ate all of these white onions and have moved on to the red variety. I may plant a third type this spring.
In October this tomato came in weighing about three pounds and resembling a pumpkin. It was so hard to cut this one up!
The zinnias still danced…IMG_9603

while the leaves in our woods turned color.IMG_9729

In November I saved bean seeds for next year..

And harvested the last crop of carrots for Thanksgiving dinner.IMG_9841

The frost came and overtook the swiss chard.IMG_9826

But not for long, it came back a few days later!IMG_9829

December was so warm that the herbs continued to thrive..

The dill and Christmas lights coexisted happily together. dill

And the broccoli that had bolted earlier in the year produced florets for  soup! IMG_9964

Finally,  a hellebore landed on my table. IMG_0016

Which left me wondering about it’s future. Can I plant this outside? It seems like I should wait until spring. What do you say hellebore growers? This is a new one, full of promise if it survives the winter in my house!

2015 was a very hard year for me personally. We lost my mom to cancer in late August (hence the absence of photos and posts this summer). She loved to garden and enjoyed ours whenever she visited. I like to think that she’s nearby and will be out there with us as the years go on.

New seeds catalogs have started to arrive already. It will be fun to see what the new year brings to The Salem Garden.

There’s interesting possibilities on the horizon.

I’d like to thank all of you for visiting here often, enjoying the garden love with me, and for sharing your gardens and gardening experiences with me and my readers.

Here’s to a happy, healthy 2016 in the garden!

Lots of love, Michele


No Trash At All?

The videos seem to be taking over, but here’s another one that’s too good to miss. I just  shared it on my facebook page, then decided that it had to reach a wider audience. This one is about a town in Japan with the goal of producing no trash at all. The residents sort their trash into 36 different categories and claim to have become used to doing it! Imagine the improvements that would be made to our environment if this became the norm? Just some more food for thought on this late fall/early fall/springish kind of day!

Enjoy!   Michele

Homesteading in LA: A Food Tank Video

This video about Jules Derves and his family homestead is truly inspiring… imagine growing most of your own food on 1/5 of an acre in Los Angeles!  They’re blessed with a year round growing season and appear to be great food preservers, along with sharing and selling their produce locally. We’re working on extending our season, which I believe has more possibility than we might think, especially when the weather is unseasonably warm. I should have planted another crop of lettuce  six or eight weeks ago! Anyway,  I hope that you enjoy this video and are as inspired as I was.  Michele