Monthly Archives: February 2010

Wild and Windy Night

With power outages around Essex County, and kids home from school, I headed over to Good Harbor Beach after the storm to photograph the surging waves. One of my favorite-homes-to-admire, located along the backshore drive, suffered tremendous damage to their property. Prior to renovations, it was a charming, albeit tiny, pink clapboard home nestled amongst a grove of pine trees and sited atop a granite outcropping along the shoreline. With renovations completed, it is presently a lovely New England shingle-style home. I call it the yin yang house for several reasons– with the whispering pines juxtaposed against the constant roar of the crashing Atlantic surf, and because the shingles are stained seashell pink, which contrasts handsomely against the weathered granite boulders that form the foundation and walls of the first floor. They lost many of their beautiful pines that comprised the grove, which also afforded them privacy along Atlantic Road. There were at least half a dozen thirty- to forty-foot trees, upturned by their roots, and laying on the ground and across the road. At this time of year, with snow melting and torrential downpours, the ground is heavily saturated with moisture and trees are particularly vulnerable to being pulled out of the ground by powerful wind gusts. Fortunately, it appears as though the house suffered very little damage–all the trees fell towards the roadway and not towards the house

I find fascinating homes that are situated in close proximity to the ocean, surviving savage storms year in and year out. Case in point–the house at the tip of Sherman’s Point in the old postcard is the same house in the photo that follows. While our house shuddered and shook, I lay cozy under a stack of comforters and quilts, and found reassuring the fact that our home was built in 1851 and that we are tucked half a block up from the inner harbor. We sustained only very minor damage compared to what many suffered. Part of the granite retaining wall that supports our fence fell and now the fence is tilting, and one of the pair of the Dragon Lady holly trees is partially uprooted, but that was easily remedied with large stakes and twine. We gently, but firmly, guided the rootball back into the hole and pressed the soil around the roots. The tree is along a narrow path close to the house, so we were unable to wire stakes around the perimeter. Instead, we used two six-foot lengths of hardwood stakes and twine. Some were without power for days, roofs were blown off buildings, and the streets littered with downed trees and branches. I know I will be looking at the trees on our property and that of my clients with a sharper eye for pruning for safety’s sake.

Renee’s Garden Shirley Poppies

Please join me at the The Rhode Island Spring Flower and Garden Show, which is held in Providence, in partnership with the Rhode Island Horticultural Society. I am having a book signing for Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! at a wonderful bookstore there, Other Tiger, tomorrow at 1:00, Saturday, February 20th. Renee from Renee’s Garden sent along packets of her beautiful Shirley Poppy seeds. I write quite a bit about Shirleys in Oh Garden and we will be giving away Renee’s seeds with the purchase of my book. I can’t wait for this event and early spring preview!!

“Flower treasures for the eye and heart.” -Renee Shepherd

Renee's Garden Shirley Poppies

Alex and Liv at House of Blues

House of Blues

Thursday night my husband’s band, Big City Rockers, a new version of their old band, The Atlantics, played at House of Blues on Landsdowne Street to an enthusiastic crowd of old and new fans. WFNX organized the event and it was great to hear hits like Pop Shivers and Lonely Hearts. Congratulations Big City Rockers! xo

Haiti Projects Interview with Sarah Hackett Part Five

To learn more about Haiti Projects and how to help, please visit the website at

Haiti Projects is a model grassroots program designed to help the rural community of Fond des Blancs, Haiti lift themselves out of poverty, through the education initiative, the library, the artisan cooperative, and the family planning clinic.

Haiti Projects Interview with Sarah Hackett Part Four

Haiti Projects Mission Statement

The mission of Haiti projects is to lift the families of Fond des Blancs out of extreme poverty. Our goals are to empower the community to become self-sustaining:

By training its members to develop marketable skills that generate revenue that goes back into the community.

By providing emplyment and educational opportunities that open minds to unlimited possibility.

By empowering women to have control over their own fertility.

When you empower women financially, you raise up a family, which in turn raises a whole village.

Haiti Projects Interview with Founder Sarah Hackett Part Three

Excerpts from a recent study of Haiti Projects (conducted in December 2009)  provides evidence of the powerful impact the Women’s Cooperative has had on the lives of its workers, their families, and their villages:

“I have been able to feed my children and start building a house for my family.” – Women’s Cooperative embroiderer

“I can feed my children and send them to school, now. They have a library where they can borrow books.” – Women’s Cooperative seamstress

Haiti Projects with Founder Sarah Hackett Part One on YouTube

Part one interview with Sarah Hackett, founder of Haiti Projects, Inc., a non-profit charitable corporation. The goal of Haiti Projects is to help people help themselves through the education initiative, the library, the family health clinic, and by providing employment for women through the artisan cooperative. Raise a woman. Raise a family. Raise a village.

Squirrel P’Nutkin

What was that cacophony of scritching and scratching coming from behind the bed? Several years ago we found a mouse stuck in one of the clothing trunks stored there, but this was impossibly loud. What now, a super-sized mouse? While gingerly poking around the trunks, I realized the noise was coming from inside the wall. I peered out the bedroom window, and to my dismay, met the eyes of an eastern gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) as he cautiously appraised me from the electric wire that connects the telephone pole to our home. The squirrel quickly scurried back into the perfect silver dollar-sized hole he had gnawed in the right front corner soffit. The unusual sounds we had been hearing for the past several days were the squirrel zooming back and forth along the length of the soffit, gnawing, tearing, shredding, and generally having a grand time building a nest and making himself a home. Continue reading

Sarah writes upon her return from Haiti

Dear Friends,

From the safety of Miami I am sending you a message of appreciation to you who have shown such an outpouring of love and concern for my well being in Haiti.

I hasten to tell you that I am well and have recovered, at least outwardly, from the anguish of leaving Haiti. I thought that, all things considered, it was prudent to grasp the offer to be evacuated quickly when I had the chance.

I am glad to be back in the USA where we are privileged beyond measure. However, it is a powerful culture shock filled with sadness. Continue reading

Sarah’s Emails from Haiti

So many have called and written in regard to our friend Sarah Hackett and the non-profit organization she founded, Haiti Projects. For friends who do not personally know Sarah, she is a woman of great vision and courage (and in her mid-80s!). Sarah is presently in Haiti, living in the rural mountainous area called Fond des Blancs, which is about 65 miles southwest from the epicenter of the earthquake. Sarah and the staff at Haiti Projects have survived, however they are very badly shaken and overwhelmed by yet another horrific tragedy that has befallen their country, family, and friends. Read Sarah’s emails, from Haiti, further below.

The goal of Sarah’s Haiti Projects is to help people help themselves. To do so, Haiti Projects developed five “arms” of self-help projects:

1) Cooperative d’Artisanat: A sewing and knitting cooperative that provides work and much needed cash for women.

2) Education Initiative: A tuition program to help poor families send their children to school.

3) Family Health Clinic: A clinic that offers planning services to those who wish to control their family’s size.

4) Library: A community library to encourage reading skills among local citizens.

5) RATRAP: (Rassemblement Travailleurs Paysan): A micro-lending program to help farmers borrow money for tools and raising animals.

My involvement with Haiti Projects began several years ago when Sarah hired me to design new linens and garments for the artisan co-operative. I was planning to travel to Haiti on January 29th through the 7th to work with the tailor and help with production of the new designs. And I was also traveling on assignment for a feature story about Sarah and Haiti Projects for Cape Ann Magazine. Of course all that is temporarily on hold. Many have asked what can they do to help. I urge you to go the Haiti Projects website at to learn more about this truly worthwhile organization. Donations* can be made through paypal (look for the Donate icon on the contact page of the website) or sent to:

Haiti Projects Inc.

31 Leonard Street

Gloucester, MA 01930 USA

Please give not only for the immediate crisis, but in order to support the long-term goals of Haiti Project’s mission. Any amount is helpful and greatly appreciated. Thank you on behalf of Sarah and Haiti Projects for your concern and help. I will forward any future emails from Sarah.

Sarah’s email from the first night after the earthquake: “It was quite an event. Never experienced anything like it before. I was walking down to my house and had not gone very far when the whole earth began to shake. All the motorcycles fell over, the gate shook and the ground just kept moving like jelly. We all threw ourselves on the ground and there were smaller tremors. Tison gave me a ride on his motorcycle to my house. There have been three after shocks. Everyone is shaken. The center of the damage seems to be in Port au Prince. We are fine here lots of aftershocks but the group (that was coming from Port au Prince) has just arrived safely, for which we are grateful. We hear that Port au Prince is terrible. The phones are not working but the Internet is. So while it is, I write to assure you all that I am safe and well. Love, Sarah”

Sarah, the following day: “I am fine just still jittery. The artisanat is closed. Please say that when people ask what they can do, tell them to call their congressperson and tell them to get aid here right away. All they have to do is imagine if their house fell down in Boston and they just got out with the clothes on their back, what would such people need? Everything and right away!!!! We are quite cut off here as the phones don’t work but two people on motorcycles got through today so tomorrow a car is going to try. In the afternoon tomorrow there is a funeral for our driver’s 3 year old who was crushed in the rubble when the house collapsed in Port au Prince. And as I write the 8 students that St Boniface houses in a student house in Port au Prince have just arrived just with the clothes on their backs, having escaped as the house was collapsing. We here in the backcountry have not suffered except for the continuous news of loss and for the feelings of helplessness. Mostly we have the jitters still even after 24 hours and that is because the aftershocks have been frightening—strong and continuous. They say there have been as many as 40. Still a few. Sarah”

*Haiti Projects is a 501-(C)-(3) and all donations are tax deductible.