Keyhole Gardening

There’s always something new and interesting to learn about in the gardening world. I thought I’d share this interesting post about keyhole gardening today. I’ve never heard of this idea which was developed in Africa to conserve water and resources. Wouldn’t this be a great addition to a home or school garden?


Keyhole gardening is considered an “African survival strategy” in a land of scarce resources and unforgiving climate.  According to reports from the BBC, 3 keyhole gardens can feed an African family of 10 for an entire year. 

A humanitarian aid organization in southern Africa developed this particular sustainable gardening method.  The design originates in permaculture which is a branch of ecological design & engineering that develops sustainable human settlements & self-maintained agricultural systems modeled from natural ecosystems. 

          A keyhole garden is the “ultimate raised-bed planter.” It consists of a circular shape w/ a 6 foot diameter & stands about waist-high.  A notched-in section like a pie-shaped wedge allows access to the plants.  It can be constructed from local recycled materials & incorporates a central composting basket into which food scraps/organic wastes are placed.  The garden is also watered through this basket.  It uses far less water than conventional gardens &…

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The Cake Boss!!

Last night my oldest daughter and I enjoyed a fun evening at Buddy Valestro’s live holiday show in Lowell, Massachusetts.   Also known as the Cake Boss on TLC, Buddy was just as fun and engaging in person as he is on TV. He told lots of stories about his family and the bakery, decorated cakes for the holidays and really engaged the audience with chances to participate.  This was the first show on his tour so they were fine tuning some of the technical aspects and had some video difficulty.  Buddy just rolled with it as best he could and it added to the fun. I’m sure he’ll have all of that worked out asap!

Here are some photos, taken with Michael’s point and shoot camera… not perfect, but you’ll get a sense of our experience..

Buddy’s hands are always in motion, just like on tv…

His little boy, Buddy Junior was with him.  He zipped around the stage all night, what a cutie!!

Helping Dad answer a question.

The set (is that the correct word for the stage?) felt like we were right in Hoboken, NJ.

There was a big screen so that we could see the details and tons of audience participation… these kids were cute!

It was a great mother/daughter night out with my favorite baker.. If you enjoy baking and the Cake Boss show, go see Buddy if he’s in a city near you. You won’t be disappointed!


I’ve been feeling kind of stuck for the past several days. There’s so much going on in the world and in my world right now that I just don’t know what to say. It feels wrong to write about things like drying out beans or next years pumpkin crop or the fun that we have here in Salem. I love all of that, it’s where my heart and head usually are, but lately my thoughts have been elsewhere.  I guess the thing to do is just jump back in like nothing has happened, like people haven’t lost their homes and lives to the ocean and wind and cold. Like the small  battles that we’re fighting here in our house right now are all just fine, no big deal.  One of the things that I love about blogging is how much of a vacation it is for me. I want The Salem Garden to be a  vacation minute for everyone who takes the time to stop by.  I love the sense of community, the people all over the world who connect and comment and share.  Who’d have ever thought we could do this fifteen or twenty years ago? So, today I will make a list of posts for the week, and tomorrow I will post about beans.  But when I’m posting about beans I’ll be praying for those in need and for those who have lost everything or who are having difficulty. That’s not what The Salem Garden is about right now, but it is what I’m praying and thinking about, every day, especially when I’m in the garden.

The Day After Sandy, the Day Before Halloween..

Today feels like such a weird day. The storm has mostly moved west of here so we are in cleanup mode in Salem. That’s good, because tomorrow is Halloween, our most celebrated day of the year. We made it through the storm in good shape. There were power outages, although not to us, our lights just flickered a few times. Lots of trees and branches came down and people lost siding, boats and things that weren’t secured well. Overall there is a strong sense of relief. I can’t feel it yet myself. I keep looking at photos of the devastation in the mid-Atlantic states and feeling a huge sense of loss. That’s where I grew up and where most of our family and so many friends still live.  The damage is overwhelming and the story is just starting to be told. It leaves me feeling uneasy, unsettled and not able to celebrate anything other than our good fortune this time.

Here are some photos that Michael took at work yesterday. He posted the last one on facebook last night with the caption “a bird’s eye view of Sandy”… That made me smile for a minute  😉

September 11th

This memorial to the victims of 9/11 was created by our Fire Department. The steel beam is from the World Trade Center. It’s always lovingly tended to and I’m sure that people from all over the world stop and visit when their here in Salem.  The weather  today is just like it was eleven years ago, 73 and sunny, one of those perfect New England days. It brings me right back to 2001. Everyone has a story from that day. Some are very personal and some more removed, but we will all never forget.

Green in the Middle, A Salem Public Schools Garden Program

This week I was invited to visit the “Green in the Middle” garden at the Nathaniel Bowditch School, here in Salem.  The garden began as part of a garden club at the school’s former location on Federal Street. Now it’s the work of a group of middle school students and teachers who participate in an after school program during the fall and spring and a morning summer program. The participants plan, maintain and enjoy this amazing space and in the process learn about subjects in the STEM areas (science, technology, engineering and math).

Over the past three years the students have designed and installed many great features like this spiral stone path and the bench around the Silk tree.

There are raised beds full of flowers, herbs and vegetables! It’s beautifully done!

Many aspects of gardening are being explored.

From a simple, perfect hibiscus flower…

to a variety of heirloom tomatoes that are grown from seed in the greenhouse.

A great pumpkin plant is creeping across the yard…

and a gourd is tucked in, with morning glories for company.

I found swiss chard with cucumbers about to climb over them. This is a great idea for my garden next year!

The corn is coming right along.

I also found some beautiful pepper plants. Notice the army of watering cans in the background? Lots of work is underway here!

Colorful cement blocks decorated by students define the butterfly garden.

and beautiful decorations are everywhere!

After my visit I spoke with my friend Deborah Trammell, one of the teachers who works with the program. She described some of the educational opportunities that the garden offers this way:

 “The students designed, mapped, built, planted, studied and wrote about the garden. Some of the highlights are our composter (around the corner), increase in number of raised beds, butterfly garden against wall, spiral pathway. Many of our plants are started by seed in our greenhouse. We have many heirloom varieties of tomatoes. We have made lots of food from our plants,made bird houses, seed paper,planters …soaps, sachets, linen sprays which we have sold to raise money to donate, learned about pollinators and organic gardening, mapping, construction, fundraising and hard physical work…and so many other things” 

I’d love to see more programs like this. As a parent I have a huge appreciation of the value of gardening with children. It was exciting to visit this beautiful Salem garden where everything the garden teaches is shared and encouraged. I really believe that the world would be a better place if every child could learn from a garden!


I’ve always been fascinated by this interesting, crazy sculpture garden down on the waterfront. Here’s a great post by another Salem blogger at Connect Shore.
Enjoy! Michele

Connect Shore

There’s excess in America, and you can call it what you like: consumer culture, throw-away culture, single serve mentality, just about any such phrase will do. In the end it boils down to nothing but depressing statistics about pounds of textile waste and plastics and worse which won’t degrade for a million years. Those are ugly incontrovertible facts, and alas, no reinterpretation of those statistics is beautiful. However, there are people out there who function a little like magicians, turning these statistics into something full of wonder. This magician artist takes what is obviously one thing and transforms it into something else.

This is the growing field of Recycled Art.

In Salem, there’s a little known secret spot on the road to the Ferry which I like to call the Sculpture Garden.  Inside a gated and slightly unkempt backyard is a menagerie of welded behemoths, dragons, curiosities.  It’s possible to…

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