I've been a Substack reader for more than a year now, as some of my most trusted independent voices have migrated to the writer-friendly platform. There I've subscribed to their weekly missives, which I can opt to read either via the Substack mobile app or as an email newsletter, like the one I send to Brunette Gardens readers. The experience has been overwhelmingly positive. There are no ads to vie for my attention, and the writers can relax and go about the business of writing, following their own innate sense of what we readers want. Read more →


It's been a long, hot summer here in the Midwest, but even hotter is our big permaculture giveaway. We gifted seven permaculture books and 3 decks of permaculture playing cards to 10 lucky Brunette Gardens readers. Our winners range across the U.S., gardening in a variety of climates, and they're an illustrious lot! We're thrilled to know we had a hand in fostering this community of enthusiastic, knowledgable plant people. Read more →


We're about halfway through our loot, our booty, our SWAG, as shown above. As mentioned previously, we started out at the beginning of the summer with all this: Read more →


If you're a fellow St. Louisan, you're probably still trying to dry your webbed feet. If not, you likely saw it on the news: Last week's rainfall broke a more than 100-year record, causing flash floods across the region. The previous high-water mark dated to 1915, when remnants of a hurricane off Galveston, TX, dumped 6.85 inches here in the Lou. That record was obliterated last week, with totals of 8.64 inches recorded at Lambert Airport. Read more →


This is our third year growing carrots, and we're happy to report the vibrant root veg has earned a permanent place in our home garden. Why? So. Many. Reasons. Read more →


I enjoyed a moment in the Shutterbee spotlight in the latest issue of the group's bulletin. They're talking about the plug I gave to the bee research program in that national Wild Ones magazine article on the garden. I was only too happy to do it, as Shutterbee has enabled me to connect in meaningful ways with the life our garden supports, and it's also been a valuable source of lifelong learning for me. While my school days are long in the past, my mind continues to stay curious and crave new information. Shutterbee really fits the bill; some days I happily fall asleep with images of bees in my mind. Read more →


What if you could plant a root in the ground, kind of ignore it, and get tasty spears of green goodness from it for years afterward? Well, you can. Asparagus is a perennial vegetable, which means it comes back every year on its own. Once established, an asparagus bed will send up fresh, nutrient-packed shoots with very little work on your part. It's the ideal situation for a lazy gardener! Read more →


During one of our Wild Ones garden tours in June, we demonstrated our solar oven, the Sun Oven. But since the tour was only about an hour or so long, folks didn't get to see the finished product, a cooked pot of rice. So I thought I'd show the results here. Read more →


This is our third year trying earnestly to grow as much food as we can, and it's been our best year yet. Anthony and I have both made a metric ton of mistakes, but we've learned from them. We experiment, measure the results, and change the approach if needed. Now, three years into this food garden thing, we're really starting to get somewhere. Case in point: We've been eating food from the garden nearly every day since the beginning of April 2022. I keep a food journal, and in it I note whether each meal included food from the garden. So 'G' if one meal contained garden food, 2G for two, and 3G if all three meals contained garden produce. Most days since April have clocked in at 2 and 3G's. Speaking of G's, if this spring had a garden star, it would be the greens.  Read more →


Last month we hosted a Wild Ones membership tour, with around 50-70 people total visiting our garden across two tour dates. They asked a lot of great questions, and many of those questions centered around our decision to go lawn-free throughout the entire backyard, which comprises the majority of our 1/4-acre. Since going lawn-free is central to our design, and it's part of the reason we achieved platinum status in the St. Louis Audubon Society's Bring Conservation Home program in just three years, many were intrigued. I think it's worthy of a treatment here on the blog, so I'll run through a list of Frequently Asked Questions about lawn-free living. Read more →


Our garden was featured in the summer 2022 issue of the national publication Wild Ones Journal. Wild Ones features a member garden in each issue, and we were honored to be chosen for this summer's issue. Editor Barbara A. Schmitz interviewed both Anthony and me over the phone, and I provided photos to illustrate the piece. It was a real treat to talk with Barbara, who asked good questions and gave the garden its due, in spades. Read more →


If it's been as hot in your neck of the woods this week as it has been in ours, the last thing you want to think about right now is wool. But from a budget standpoint, that's exactly what you should be thinking about, as summer is a great time to take advantage of deep discounts on cozy items made with this fabric, from base layers ("underwear" if you're in the Midwest) to socks to neck gaiters ("mufflers") like the one shown above.  Read more →


I'm so full of enthusiasm for the two beautiful herbs above that I hardly know how to start talking about them. They tick just about every box on the list! What are they?  American mountain mint, or Pycnanthemum pilosum (above left) Anise hyssop, or Agastache foeniculum (above right) Regular readers of this blog know I've talked previously about "stacked functions," which is a permaculture term for a plant with multiple (or stacked) uses, ranging from replenishing your garden soil to serving as your next meal. Both mint and hyssop excel in this area. But even if you're not into that permie stuff, you should know that these plants are the gifts that keep on giving... and giving. Let me break it down for you. Read more →


You know that bittersweet feeling you have when you get to the end of your favorite novel, and you're reluctant to leave the beloved world of the novel behind as it ends, but you're satisfied for the experience? I felt the same way when I finished Paige Embry's Our Native Bees. Read more →


We're excited to announce a sweep of giveaways planned for this summer. The drawings kick off on the first day of summer, June 21, and continue in July and August, with the last to be held in September. What are we giving away? A whole bag of permaculture goodies! Read more →


Here in St. Louis, folks often quote Mark Twain as having once opined:  If you don't like the weather in Missouri, just wait a few minutes. Read more →


Last fall we were treated to a long 'Indian summer,' with temps in the 70s to low 80s (that's balmy and beautiful for those of you on celsius) throughout September and October. Weather like that is perfect for painting projects because the paint goes on smoothly and dries quickly, and you're not miserable working in the heat or cold. Besides that cool blue dining room redo, we also tackled the front and back entrance door exteriors, in addition to a row of gingerbread ball finials lining the top of our front porch.  Read more →


Last spring I shared with you one sexy idea that yielded something even sexier: measurable cost savings on our utility bill during last year's snowpocalypse. Simply wrapping your pipes with something like mini pool noodles could help you fight climate change without breaking your bank or requiring major dietary changes. Now I'm back with another hot plan to save the world, and this time I mean jeans. Read more →


In October the weather finally cooled off enough to open up the windows and tackle a huge painting project that had been on our to-do list for a while: the dining room.  Read more →


An odd thing happened to me this year: I got the Christmas spirit. No, I wasn't visited by ghosts in the middle of the night. I'm actually not sure why it happened. Lisa thinks it's because our son is staying with us this holiday season before he ships off to Navy bootcamp. That might be it. It might also be that I've just reached the age where any reason to feel warm and snuggly is a good enough reason. Read more →


This year marked the first time we've reached for three full harvests throughout the growing season: early spring, peak summer, and late fall. Read more →


One of my favorite seasonal tasks when autumn arrives is to rake leaves. In mid-November, thanks to a wild windstorm here in the Pacific Northwest that left us without power for 30 hours, the final batches of leaves descended from the two giant maple trees holding court in our front yard. Read more →


Sharing the wonders of nature and a love of gardening with children is easy with Usborne Books & More. A division of Educational Development Corporation that also includes Kane Miller books, Usborne Books & More is a line of titles made available through independent consultants directly to consumers. They are not sold in stores, but through these small business owners. I am one of these small business owners. I became a consultant because I am passionate about spreading literacy to as many families as I can, but also because I truly love these books. My family are avid nature lovers, and I was looking for books that could keep my two young girls engaged and spark in them a love of nature and learning. An Usborne title Peek Inside The Garden got us started on our journey. It is now available in this boxed set with other wonderful titles of the same series. From there it was easy for us to continue building on what our girls had already learned from this first title to so many more available through Usborne Books & More. Here are just a few current titles the children in your life will grow to love. Read more →


If you're like me, you've been checking out of the whole black-Friday-mad-rush thing since waaaay before COVID. While I do like to make sure I buy local from independent retailers, and I'm lucky enough to have a whole quaint downtown suite of them within walking distance, on the day after Thanksgiving, I do all of my shopping online. Read more →


This is a rhubarb custard pie, baking inside our Sun Oven. So yes. The answer is yes, you can bake a pie in a solar oven! Here's how. Read more →


I fell hard for the bees last year when I joined a citizen-science program called Shutterbee. So I signed up again this year, and... I think my crush has grown into a full-blown obsession! Read more →


We received our third conservation award this summer - this time from the organization Wild Ones, which promotes native plant gardening. They've designated our yard a Native Plant Butterfly Garden. We're now part of a network of gardens providing needed habitat for butterflies across the United States.  Read more →


Last time we mentioned solar cooking, we introduced you to the sun-sational (that pun can't help itself) Sun Oven and showed you how we used it to cook a pot of rice. This time I'm all about the meat, which turns out to be a great thing to cook the solar way. Read more →


Yeah, that's my superhero hunk, AKA the other half of Brunette Gardens... But what's that shiny thing there in the left corner? It's not kryptonite... it's a Sun Oven! Read more →


Halloween took its first fatal hit for me in the 1980s, when gossip about razor blades in apples gave my parents alarm. However, this was simply a continuation of a string of urban myths that started in the 1950s and continued through subsequent decades. The myths themselves derived from cases of homicide in which the murderer tried to cover up his crime by claiming poison came from trick-or-treat candy, or drug 'accidents' perpetrated by children who got into their parents' stash, the adults attempting to deflect blame on stranger's candy. You can read more about this over at the Halloween Love blog. Read more →


The desire to forget is very human. Something bad happens, and we want to get through it and move on, forgetting it ever occurred. This can even be a healthy inclination, if we keep from getting stalled out, bogged down by grief or pain. But there's a lot to be said for remembrance and acknowledgment as well. If we forget the past, especially if we forget wrongs done to us personally or to our people, forgetting can actually be dangerous.  Read more →


When we began growing annual vegetables last year, we came to the task with at least some experience, but we certainly had a lot to learn. Still, I'm amazed by how much food we're getting already out of our little 1/4-acre homestead habitat. Read more →


We purchase most of our meat directly from farms, a practice we began in 2015, when we lived in Chehalis, a small town in Washington state. Back then our beef came from the Olson farm, just outside of town. Here in Missouri, we had to source meat anew, so we hit the local farmer's market and found two excellent locals: Eckenfels Farms and Farrar Out Farm. Read more →


Let me introduce you to what we around the farmhouse like to call "the leather spider." Now, Chaco has typically been pretty hard on any toy I've ever brought into the house, usually breaking them the same day they arrive. It's rare that any make it past a few days of play. But I don't actually blame Chaco for this; he's just doing what cats do. The problem is, like too many things these days, most cat toys are cheaply made out of cheap materials. They ain't built to last.  Read more →


We made an unsuccessful attempt to germinate Walla Walla sweets in 2020 - Anthony grew up in 'the city so nice, they named it twice' - but that arid landscape is quite different than our steamy Midwestern climate. I cast around for an onion variety that would work much better here, and you can imagine my excitement when I stumbled upon a variety of perennial onions. Most vegetables, and most onions as well, are annuals, meaning you have to replant them as seeds each year to get a new crop. But perennial onions, also called potato or multiplier onions, are the gift that keeps on giving. You can keep some of the bulbs, replant them each year, and they'll multiply into neat little bunches of more bulbs! Read more →


"Take one down, pass it around..." OK, so we didn't exactly begin with 99 bulbs of garlic, but 65 is a lot of garlic bulbs to have on hand. Our basement smells like a pizzeria! We harvested this bumper crop just before the 4th of July: 65 bulbs of 'Silver rose' garlic, a soft-necked variety*, which we had put into the ground on October 31 (ooo, Halloween!). The order had been for 60 cloves to plant, so how we ended up with 65 bulbs at the end is unclear. Maybe there were a few extra in the order? At any rate, we had 100 percent return on our investment in those 60 cloves. Read more →


There's nothing so hopeful as an early spring flower, defiantly emerging out of the deadened winter landscape and signaling a renewal of green. Here in the St. Louis area, that usually means daffodils. These cheery trumpets sound in early March to lift our collective spirits and zing us with the energy of the season of growth. Read more →


We're excited to share that our garden has been designated as a Monarch Waystation by the non-profit Monarch Watch. Read more →


Last year we got a very late start on our vegetable gardening, so we didn't enjoy much of a cool season, outside of some arugula and a heaping supply of chervil. But this year, I was determined to plan things better. Armed with this extremely helpful vegetable planting calendar from Gateway Greening, I updated my sowing schedule, shifting everything earlier. Read more →


Let me tell you a weird story about our cat. We had some problems with water seeping through our basement walls. When this happens, the water is muddy. Even if you clean it up, it leaves a very fine silt behind. One place that ended up having a pretty thick layer was behind the furnace. It was out of the way and hard to get to, so it just sort of built up. We fixed our gutters and created a water garden in the backyard. Our roof runoff fills some drums, and then when they overflow, it runs out to the water garden, as does a French drain to draw water away from the basement. After we did that, we haven't had any problems with water in the basement. But that silt just set back there getting dryer and dryer. One day I realized I had not needed to clean the cat's litter box in a while. He seemed OK. He wasn't lethargic. I thought, "Maybe that silly cat is pooping somewhere other than in his litter." I looked and looked and looked and finally found a nice pile of poop behind the furnace in that lovely soft silt. Well, I guess you can't really blame the cat. The silt is a soft as down, and the furnace makes that spot nice and warm. But still I had to clean up the cat poop and then clean up the silt. The cat went back to his liter box and all was well. Read more →


Anthony and I attended the St. Louis Native Plant Tour for the first time this year. It was a masked, socially-distanced, outdoor (of course) affair in early June, with a wide range of gardens to view. A joint offering by both the St. Louis Audubon Society and Wild Ones St. Louis, this year's tour included nine residential gardens located across the St. Louis metropolitan area, on the Missouri side of the Mississippi River. We made it to six of the nine. Read more →


Back in the fall of 2018, we signed up for the St. Louis Audubon Society's Bring Conservation Home (BCH) program. A couple of "habitat advisors" came out to survey our garden, and they provided us with a list of recommendations for making it more wildlife- and pollinator-friendly. It was a long list, too: Our one-quarter acre was comprised of nothing but invasive plant species run amok, a huge expanse of turf grass, and a smattering of exotic ornamentals that did little to feed native insects and critters. Everyone agreed there was much work to be done. Read more →


If you love the thrill of the hunt that comes with thrifting and yard sales but aren’t visiting any estate sales, you are missing out on an opportunity for amazing vintage finds. Estate sales are like yard sales, but instead of just browsing items they’ve set out on their driveway, you’re perusing through the entire property. They’re usually held for a number of unfortunate reasons. Sometimes the sellers have a need to downsize, or the owners may have passed away. Be that as it may, estate sales provide a unique opportunity for people to walk through a home and find really interesting, affordable goods. Lucky for you, we’ve got some great tips to make sure you go through your first estate sale like a seasoned pro.  Read more →


Now that I've explained how to make your own sourdough culture, argued for why baking this way is totally the move, and showed you how to bake a basic bread loaf, it's time for the coup de grace: pizza dough. Read more →


Now that I've explained how to start your own sourdough culture, capturing wild yeast from the air, and argued for why this method of bread making is the best for your health and wellbeing, I'll show you how to make a basic sourdough loaf. Read more →


After a much longer hiatus than I anticipated, I'm finally back to follow up on my last post on how to create a sourdough starter. This time, I want to argue for why you should bake with homemade sourdough cultures. Read more →


A sourdough starter is a thing of beauty and seeming magic. All it takes is a bowl of water and flour, and you can 'catch' wild yeast from the atmosphere, claiming it as your own to use in everything from a simple loaf of bread to pancakes and pizza dough. Read more →


I want to wish a happy Mother's Day to everyone out there who mothers, in all the senses of the word. As someone who has not herself had any biological children, I know there are many opportunities in our world to mother, as I have had with my stepson, Zander. I've been in his life for half of it, and I like to think I've been a good influence on him. Stepmothers and other caretakers often get short shrift when it comes to the cult of motherhood, so let's not forget all the "mothers" in our lives today.  Read more →


Claire Schosser writes Living Low in the Lou, a blog chronicling her and her husband Mike's journey of reduced energy consumption and self-sufficiency. She opted for early retirement back in the mid-1990s (with Mike following in 2001) by reducing their expenses through living simply, growing much of their own food, and forgoing many of the shiny new conveniences that the rest of us take as givens. For those outside the area, "the Lou" is a popular nickname for St. Louis, Missouri. The Schosser/Gaillard homestead is located on a one-acre plot in suburban St. Louis and includes many mature, productive nut and fruit trees, an extensive annual garden, an herb garden, and a glassed-in front porch that functions as a greenhouse. Read more →


Claire Schosser writes Living Low in the Lou, a blog chronicling her and her husband Mike's journey of reduced energy consumption and self-sufficiency. She opted for early retirement back in the mid-1990s (with Mike following in 2001) by reducing their expenses through living simply, growing much of their own food, and forgoing many of the shiny new conveniences that the rest of us take as givens. For those outside the area, "the Lou" is a popular nickname for St. Louis, Missouri. The Schosser/Gaillard homestead is located on a one-acre plot in suburban St. Louis and includes many mature, productive nut and fruit trees, an extensive annual garden, an herb garden, and a glassed-in front porch that functions as a greenhouse. Read more →