Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Some semi-serious thoughts on blog evolution

At an informal round-table at the garden bloggers' meet-up in Buffa10 this summer, Pam Penick (Digging) asked everyone what his/her most popular post was. Most of the responses, as you might surmise, were about  particular plants or garden design.

My response was, "Cutting corrugated sheet metal."

And it's true. My counter service regularly reports one or two hits a day (sometimes more if it is a weekend) on my posts about cutting and attaching the corrugated sheet metal for my shed roof.

Now, I am nothing if not quick on the draw, and from the evidence of these data, it occurs to me--not for the first time--that though there is an almost unlimited font of general information on "how-to-ness" on the interwebs, there is something of a dirth of info on the particulars, particularly if the particulars involve some stickiness of doing.

To wit, you might have run across this eHow-to-DIY article: "Build a shed! Attach a corrugated sheet metal roof! Move on to your next project!"

And so what happens? Some poor chump like me builds a shed, gets to the part where she/he is about to attach the corrugated sheet metal to the roof and thinks, "Whuuuuuh? How do I cut this crazy stuff?"

Here is something that might surprise you, though, as it did me: I very nearly didn't publish those posts. I mean after all, this is a gardening/cycling blog, not a how-to blog, and my regular readers might be put off by such nonsense.

Let's skip to something else that happened at Buffa10: I noticed that garden bloggers talk a lot about plants.

No, I mean a LOT.

Case in point: One of the stops on our many garden tours was a test garden for a Nationally Known Plant Purveyor. Bloggers piled out of the buses and much "oohing" and "ahhing" commenced, with people wandering to and fro exclaiming over "this new version of X, and "that new, bigger, better, version of Y," and "here's a plant I hadn't thought of using before in my clients' gardens," and so on, and so on.

Ok, those blue flowers are pretty enough, and you can tell everyone else thought so by all the orange flags (we were supposed to mark what we liked). Me? I kept looking around for something interesting, like a bench, or an arbor, or maybe a flagstone path. In a word: structure.

Later, we went to a fancy nursery for lunch. Here are a few of photos I took of the experience:
A custom shed for sale.

A clever window latch design in the shed.

Some tidy shelves in the shed.

Not a shrub or flower pic to be found.

And so one evening while we were all sitting around talking, something occurred to me. I'm not so much a plant person as a garden design person. More to the point, I am a structures person. It gave me pause to realize this, but you regular readers of "The Bike Garden" are probably not surprised by this revelation at all. I don't have a lot of posts about plants themselves, but I've got posts out the wazoo about building things for the garden. Part of the reason is that there are plant people out there, most of whom I am unfit to tie the garden boots of--or something like that--and why should I write a species account for Nickolodea nickolodean when someone else has not only already done it, they have done it better than I ever could dream of doing it.

The same is also true of their garden designing chops, to which I can't hold a candle. To mix metaphors.

But the truth is, I write so many posts about building things because, well, I really like to build things. I've long suspected that this is true, but I guess I haven't fully embraced it as a Big Part of Who I Am.

Until now. Moreover, I am willing to accept that it is and probably will continue to be a big part of these pages. And maybe that's OK for a garden blog.

Here's why I bring all this up: There's jack-squat happening in my garden right now. The squirrels have eaten everything that is not ornamental, and everything that is ornamental is looking pretty stunned and tattered as we stagger out of August. So I'm not all that busy out in the garden.

OK, I am not doing anything at all out there. Nada.

It doesn't mean I'll never do anything out there again; it just means I have nothing to report at this time. And, as I've pointed out, it doesn't make any sense for me to write up something garden-ish just for the sake of writing about gardens. It isn't as if I'm doing nothing at all, though. For one, I am working on building a blanket chest to hold my quilts. I've hesitated to write too much about it, however, since I don't want to drive away my regular readers, who come here expecting to see something about gardens, or bikes, or cartoon chickens, or some combination thereof. But the problem with that plan is that it leaves me with nothing about which to write. And so my posting drops off...

Ah, Conundrum. Why do you torment me so?

I've been thinking about this for a couple of weeks, and I've decided not to worry about it. Right now, I'm woodworking, and so most of my posts are going to be about that. I hope those of you who wander by these pages are not going to be too disappointed by it. Sooner or later, my gaze will turn once more to gardening shores. I may even combine the two again shortly, as there's this mini-greenhouse/cold frame that I'm toying with in my head. And certainly, Pearl and Henrietta will be sauntering through here on a semi-regular basis. This little evolution in the blog is just that, a natural outgrowth. Who knows, maybe I'm even moving into a niche for "garden blogs for people who want to build things for their gardens," and thereby providing aid and comfort to those people looking for info on the sticky bits of "how-to."

Additional snappy shed shelves.

See you in the funny papers.


  1. I have lots of blogs I visit that talk about gardening. I visit your blog on a regular basis because I love the stuff you build. :)

  2. I love your blog posts about building stuff, whether for the garden or for something else. I love to build things, but just haven't had the time, the tools, or anyone to teach me. I'm still thinking about your "outdoor office/writing area" or whatever you called it and want to build one of my own someday. Keep 'em coming! Please!

  3. I LOVE that you build things and tell us all about it!! Please continue, in great detail!

    It's empowering to see a woman do these things. And obviously, lots of people want to learn about it since your hits on the subject are high. Go for it!

  4. It's stuff like your woodworking that makes garden blogs so interesting and different from magazines. (Truth to tell, I prefer to read about your building projects than to read about cooking and recipes.) It's your blog; write about what moves you to write, write about what you're doing it. It's wonderful.

  5. Ha, so funny - I just posted last night about my lack of posting. I guess August is a true blogging slump month. But I do enjoy whatever you post about so, as folks who left comments on my recent post said: don't worry about it.

    And how did I ever miss that beautiful shed at that nursery? It would have incited lots of envy on my part, that's for sure.

  6. The joy of blogging is that it IS so very personal and subjective. This is your blog and whatever intrigues you and rocks your socks is what you'll write about with most passion. And you do, and we enjoy it. I, on the other hand, am not particularly handy and don't have time or ability right now to be that way. No building of walls or walkways for me when I can hardly walk across the yard. So I write about plants, but I love, love, LOVE reading what you're building or noticing or wondering about, the same as I love reading the blogs of those who are fascinated by and know a lot about design, and others who do mixed gardening, and so on. Mostly, I enjoy good writing, and you have that in spades. You could write about lint and I'd be greatly amused. So there. :-)

  7. Lindy--Thanks! I always appreciate your feedback in the comments when I post about building things. Keeps me going, even though I often think, "Surely no one is interested in this but me..."

    Carol--You, my friend are one of the garden writers whose boots laces I am not worthy of tying! So thanks for the encouragement.

    Clare--One of the reasons I do keep posting on it is because it does seem to speak to women about getting out there and doing some of these things. So it's nice to know that my sense of that is correct.

    Barbara--You, too, are one of the people I admire for her garden knowledge, so I take that as high praise, indeed!

    Jean--What can I say? I think you and I are are own the same wavelength in so many ways...

    Jodi--You are one of the the very best at gardens, gardening, and writing about both, so I find your words very encouraging and flattering. I'm not sure I'll be writing about lint any time soon, though. ;-)

  8. Woodworking's fine with me - it's part of who you are and I like reading about you and what you're up to, not just the garden-y bits.

    But then I wander off-topic willy nilly too.

    And I'm the daughter of a carpenter who associates 'dad' with the smell of wood shavings in his apron when he came home from work :)

  9. PS my most popular post of all time is a recipe for a particular jam.

    I often soul search about whether I need to change direction completely because everyone seems much more interested in my jam making ability rather than anything I have to say on gardens or vegetable growing.

  10. Susan, I have another thought on this subject - the title of your blog is "The Bike Garden". Well . . . you don't post about bikes either (or rarely:). LOL

    I remain steadfast in my interest in all you are building.

    BTW - the fact that your writing ability is excellent has a lot to do with my continuing to follow your blog.

  11. Thanks for the link love. You know, my most popular posts have to do with stock tanks and bottle trees, not plants, so there ya go.

    I've actually bookmarked your post about cutting corrugated metal, so I can fully understand why that's such a popular post. It was very informative.

    I think there's a lot of room in this garden blogging scene, and I'm glad that you're into the hardscaping and building aspect of it. While I'm not so into wood-working as you, I love your posts about making things for the garden, whether that be bike paths, sheds, or wine patios. Rock on!

  12. VP--Your comment about your dad made me smile. I have a lot of respect for carpenters, as you can well imagine. And thanks for the comment about your jam post, too. Maybe we all visit this question of switching directions from time to time. But I appreciate most knowing that people don't mind *not* hearing about gardens all the time. :-)

    Pam--Those are great posts of yours; I know I checked out the stock tank ones a few times myself, and have added a stock tank planter in my own garden as a result. I think you're right, though, that there is a lot of room for different stuff in the garden blogosphere. I've just been thinking more about it lately, and where TBG fits in the picture, and the answer seems to be on the hardscaping end of it more than the plants end. Thanks for your comment!

    You and VP continue to be two of my mentors, whether you realize it or not.

  13. I am glad that you embrace your entire person. Although I garden and am in the business, my favorite blog reads are not always garden related. I really enjoy being taken to some place I have not been and will most likely not be able to see. I also enjoy looking over the shoulder of other people's lives and interests. I am also a sucker for a good photograph, no matter the topic. After I read your post I went to mine to see what the most popular was. It turns out that the most hits I got were for a contest I held to celebrate my blog anniverary. I guess incentives beyond good writing and nice photos pay off.

  14. nice revelation eh? Glad you can see it as good an not be traumatized :) Personally I love reading your structures slant on it all and am particularly facinated with your workbench project :) Thanks for sharing.


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