“Inch by inch, row by row …”

 Carol A. Hand

 Inch by inch, row by row
Gonna to make this garden grow …
Please bless these seeds I sow
Please keep them safe below
‘Til the rain come tumbling down
(Pete Seeger)

I have been thinking about how important blogging has become to me. When I posted my first essay on June 18, 2013, it was only because of a partnership I had with a friend who knew more about technology that I did. Anyone who visits this blog now can probably see that, despite a little over a year of blogging experience, I still have many technological challenges to overcome yet. The few improvements are due largely to my new blogging partner, Cheryl.

I remember that the only one who liked my first post was my blogging partner at the time, Susan Sutphin at intersistere. Much to my surprise, someone pressed the “like” icon for my third post, and then honored me with recognition for my fourth post. Over time, we became virtual friends. Without his support, encouragement, and recognition, I am sure I would have given up many times. I know he has done the same for many other bloggers. When he announced that he was taking a hiatus from blogging for a little while, it felt a bit like the sun going out. Since then, I have been contemplating how to express how important his posts have been for me, and how crucial his support for other bloggers has been in building a network that feels like an authentic community based on honesty, creativity, inclusiveness, and critical thinking.

Because he often remembers to ask how my garden is doing, it occurred to me that the work he has done in the blogosphere is similar to gardening, and Pete Seeger provides the metaphor – “inch by inch, row by row… Jeff Nguyen, this is my way to say chi miigwetch for continuing to be part of all of our lives (Ojibwe thank you very much). As I look at the before and after pictures for my garden, I am reminded of where I began as a blogger and where I am at present. It’s still a work in progress, but you gave me the hope and support to continue.


Inch by inch…

I moved to Duluth in late October of 2011 to a house I bought sight-unseen. My daughter picked it out, although I had seen the following pictures that were posted on the internet.


Photo Credit: Mesina Realty Photo September 2011


Photo Credit: Mesina Realty Photo September 2011

I wondered about the log cabin and the windmill and the strange metal “tree” in front of the deck with its ringed branches holding flower pots filled with plastic flowers. I guess we all have different ideas of beauty. And then there was the aged greenhouse frame surrounded by raspberry bushes and little trees, and the rotting weeping willow that showed daylight halfway up its mighty trunk. Cutting trees is not something I do lightly. Yet, as I watched children walking past everyday on their way to and from the elementary school on one side and the high school on the other, I realized I would need to do something to make their passage safer.


Photo Credit: February 13, 2012

So the dying tree came down, leaving its partner to weather the winds and storms on its own. The next spring, I cleared the brush the old fashioned way, shovel by shovel, inch by inch, and painted the greenhouse frame – still a work in progress.

garden August 2013 (1)

Photo Credit: August 13, 2013


Photo Credit: August 11, 2014

Of course there are always challenges – critters that have been displaced by urban development, and brutal winters.

polar vortex 2014

Photo Credit: The Polar Vortex Winter – February of 2014

 A deer just ate my tomatoes

Photo Credit: A Deer Just Ate my Tomatoes – May 15, 2014

Yet gardens, like blogging, provide opportunities to help others develop knowledge, skills, and a belief in their ability to honor life and create something beautiful. This is the newest project that my granddaughter, Ava, helped to create out of salvaged lumber from the old fence that was replaced as a deer repellant.


Photo Credit: Ava’s Garden – August 11, 2014

Inch by inch, the garden is continuing to grow, and post by post the blogging adventure is continuing to grow as well. I wish to thank everyone who has stopped by our modest blog to share your wisdom, kindness, and insights. And again I wish to say chi miigwetch, Jeff for helping build a community that is working to create the peace and unity your work represents.

37 thoughts on ““Inch by inch, row by row …”

  1. Carol, your garden metaphor is perfect for “growing” a blog. As I was reading your second section (after the beautiful tribute to Jeff…who will hopefully return after a while) I was thinking that sometimes a garden is not just what we plant, it’s also about what we allow to sprout. In my own garden in the Pacific Northwest often a wisteria, a rowen or even a tomato will suddenly appear of its own accord. In the past I might have yanked them out because they weren’t a part of my big plan. Now, I often leave them alone to see what develops and the result is often so remarkable. A gift from the wind or from a small animal, an insect, perhaps, for which I give thanks. In this way our blogs may grow, too. You are open, inclusive and inspiring. Thank you.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you for your kind comments, Susan, and for your lovely additions — the unplanned plants that are “a gift from the wind or from a small animal, and insect, perhaps…” My gardens tend to be overcrowded because I really don’t like to pull up or prune plants.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Such a pleasant read on this very lazy feeling labor day. I’ve been working every day, for weeks now, trying to start a new online business. But, today, the holiday is just seeping into me and I’m really enjoying listening to the silence and the light breeze, and not working on my business. This was a beautiful tribute for Jeff and for the garden you have grown. I’m so happy you began blogging and happy that he encouraged you to keep on in your early days. The best to both of you.


    1. I’m glad to hear you that you are enjoying a peaceful day, and I’m grateful for all of your support along the way as well, Skywalker. (I would love to hear more about your new venture!)


    2. Yes, I too, would like to hear about your online business venture. 🙂 If you have a link, I’d be happy to share it at DM (if it’s ok with you).


  3. “Inch by inch, row by row…”, what a perfect description for the struggle we face on a daily basis to be true to ourselves and to our communities. I wish I could fully express how much your kind words mean to me. Of course, you forgot to mention all of the support and encouragement you have offered me, often just when I needed it most. It’s interesting that both of our backgrounds are in social work and education.

    You’re a gifted writer and teacher and we are all fortunate to have you on our side in the struggle. I love your garden, by the way. Now my wife wants a rabbit first to prep the soil for the chickens. 🙂 I will return to blogging as soon as I can. We have to keep bending that moral arc of the universe thingy towards justice. Peace to you always, Carol.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Jeff, I wish you peace, too. I know you have so many more stories and poems to write and will share them when the time is right. In the meantime, I look forward to photos of your rabbit and chickens – maybe you’ll even find a churkendoose.


  4. Carol, I’m so happy to be part of your blogging community. You have become one of my serious treasures. I’m so glad you continued to blog though you thought without Jeff the light would go out. What I see is that he was the spark that enabled your light to shine on the rest of us. And for that I thank him! I love the transformation to your home. It’s beautiful!


  5. Hi Carol, this is such a lovely tribute to Jeff, and one which he so deeply deserves. I too connected with many people through his kindness. Your garden, the value of nurture, and the beauty and creativity which flows so abundantly, is a lovely metaphor for blogging! I love the photo of the deer, even if s/he did munch on the tomatoes. Lovely post!


    1. It’s good to hear from you, Nicci! It felt important to me to acknowledge the work Jeff has done to support individuals while also building an inclusive network of bloggers committed to social justice. His work brought us together from other sides of the globe, and I’m grateful for that.

      As I typed “other side of the globe”, I found myself wondering if it’s winter in South Africa, and what it’s like there during different seasons. I never thought to ask before.

      I do love to create gardens – keeping them orderly, however, is something I know I will not be able to manage. Partly, it’s because I really do want to figure out how to surround myself with plants but still leave enough space for my little dog to run and play. My most recent project is salvaging and cleaning the boards from the old fence to use to create a small garden area around the inside perimeter of the fence. I guess this blog has become a bit like my gardens that have to grow as they will.

      The deer was a mother waiting for someone to rescue her baby, although no one realized it at the time. Her fawn fell into one of the holes my neighbor dug for his backyard fence. When he pulled the fawn out a day of so later, the mother came bounding over to collect her baby and they both ran off across the street. Who would believe this is a busy, crowded residential area with herds of deer that roam the streets and alleys?

      Thank you for your comments and kind words 🙂


      1. Hi Carol,

        Spring has just started in South Africa, but we’re in Cape Town, so there is not a winter like you have in your photos…no snow (except maybe on some distant mountains). Cape Town has a lovely climate, a little bit of rain in winter, but not usually too cold, and beautiful summers. We also live in a village suburb with lots of students and fireplaces, so it’s very warm and atmospheric during winter time.

        Your garden sounds lovely, and I think the most beautiful gardens grow as they will. My husband always says that nature doesn’t follow the rules of garden design, planting in clusters or neat rows. Our garden is fragrant and lovely, but created by a man with a big heart, who sometimes rescues the plants other people have thrown out, and nurtures them back to health. He loves them, and for a long time, our bathroom was a plant hospital too.

        It’s lovely to see photos of your garden, and see what is happening. And what a lovely project to share with your granddaughter.


    1. This was such a gift to your students! Thank you for sharing this and for taking the time to comment. I appreciate reading about the devotion and care you provide for your mother. It’s also an inspiration, like the song you shared with your students.


      1. Thanks so much. I haven’t been posting…too upset getting Mom through this bout with Ulcerative Colitis. We see doctor again on Monday and will discuss what’s going on. She’s a trouper, though, it’s me that’s having a very difficult time!!!!!!


    1. Yes, Peter. Jeff reached out to all of us and helped us feel we had something valuable to contribute and built a diverse family committed to social justice. I can understand the need to set that responsibility aside for a while, but I know I will miss his astute and fiery posts and heart-rending poetry.

      I really prefer living in a fixer-upper on the poor side of town. It motivates me to create something beautiful for people who may not have many opportunities to see it otherwise.


  6. As always, you hit right on the core…beautiful song/poem from mr Seeger and awesome post of yours…I also have so much gratitude for Jeff and for you…still trying to build community with our “gardens” but the most important piece is the change we may inspire…


    1. It’s so good to hear from you, Silvia! Thank you so much for your kind and thoughtful comments.

      I hope all is going well with your new ventures. What you’re doing is so crucial, yet I’m sure it isn’t easy or comfortable. I love to read about your work – it is inspiring! I am grateful to Jeff for bringing us together 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you for this wonderful tribute to Jeff Nguyen who so kindly visited my blog when I was very new at it and uncertain about my abilities. I am grateful to you as well for welcoming me into your world. Lovely place you have. It sure looks comfy.


    1. Thank you, Joan. I’m grateful that Jeff helped me find your blog. The work you do on behalf of innocent people who have been wrongly convicted is so important! And thank you for your kind words about my amateurish attempts to learn how to garden 🙂


  8. The best thing about a hard winter is that it kills all the pests. Except for perennials, raising food in the tropics is a major challenge. Here in New Plymouth, we sometimes have frost-less winters. In the summers that follow, pests chew up everything in sight.


    1. I always thought it would be so much easier to raise food in the tropics! Hard winters like the last two here probably did keep insect populations in check, but they also meant really short growing seasons. This year, we rarely had days over 75 degrees and so very few days when it didn’t rain – not the gentle kind, but hard, pounding rain. Yet, having a fence that kept deer out has made a huge difference. I have actually been able to freeze broccoli and lots of green beans already, and there are still more to pick.


  9. Carola,
    So nice to see photos of your garden and the beautiful results of your work. Thank you for posting them and your wonderful tribute to Jeff. Thanks also for your contributions to my appreciation of the importance of the small and threatened beings with whom we share our space.


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