Jesse Gates Edible Forest Work Days

My church is helping transform an empty lot into an edible forest.

Here is some background information:

“The Jesse Gates Edible Forest at Wells Church came into being when two dreams met at the corner of Bailey Avenue and Idlewild Street in Jackson. In 2009, Wells Church acquired the property, concerned that the vacant house might become a source of trouble. Our dream was to replace the building with a garden that could be enjoyed by the neighborhood.

Children attending Galloway Elementary School walk past the house twice a day, and middle-schoolers stand in the front yard every morning waiting for the bus. Having that old vacant house right there didn’t seem like a good idea. We tore down the house and planted a lawn to provide some “green space” while we considered ideas for turning the lot into an appealing garden.

Then, we heard about the Mississippi Urban Forest Council, an organization aimed at promoting quality urban and community forestry in Mississippi. One of their goals was the establishment of a model “edible forest” to encourage the development of local orchards and vegetable sites and community gardens as one way to improve the health and welfare of Mississippians.

With help from the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce, our dream of a welcoming garden and the council’s dream of a model “edible forest” came together at the corner of Bailey and Idlewild. And the work began.

The mission of the project includes providing a model for growing local sources of fruits and vegetables, encouraging individual healthy eating and providing alternative sources of income by growing local produce.

The “Edible Forest” includes 26 fruit trees and multiple herbs and vegetables. It will be managed by local volunteers.

Part of the project includes community and citizen education regarding which edible plants can be grown locally for fresh produce. If you would like to be included in this information please send your email to the Mississippi Urban Forest Council at

Shortly after work on the project began, we tragically lost one of our own young persons, Jesse Allen Gates, a talented musician and artist. Our Council and Board voted unanimously to dedicate this Edible Forest in his memory.

We invite you to drop by and visit the Jesse Gates Edible Forest at Wells Church, then contact the Mississippi Urban Forest Council for advice on how to develop one for your community.”

Richard and I are helping to document the transformation. We are getting help from lots of people, including the students who participate in after school programs at Operation Shoestring.

Here are some photographs we took at two work days:

Why My iPhone Is Bad For My Photography

I am almost never without my iPhone. When I get the urge to take a picture, I pull it out and snap. This is bad for my photography because I tend to get crappy photographs and they are very low resolution compared to my Nikons.

lettuce sprouts

lettuce germinating taken with my iPhone

Here’s a good example. I should have taken the one-minute walk back to the house to retrieve a real camera. I could even have put on the macro lens. Then, I would have had a chance of getting these dicots in all their beauty. And, since they are the first seedlings in my garden this year, they deserve a real photograph.
raised beds

These are my raised beds. Richard and the boys built them three years ago. We had a great year the first year and a so-so year the second. I am hoping for another good year. I am using good seeds and starting most of them inside. Last year, we had a big flash flood that washed out the middle bed and took the wind out of my sails.
rain barrell

So far, all the water I’ve used has come from my rain barrel. I expect my water needs will exceed this supply, eventually, but right now it’s nice to be using rainwater.

One caveat on the iPhone photography thing. It has saved my butt a few times when the real camera I had along didn’t work for some reason — usually a dead battery. I had to use it to get photographs of classmates at a recent funeral and the kids’ MathCounts team.

Sarah with blue bottle

in Wisconsin

Guest on Read, Write, Howl
My writer friend Robyn Hood Black did an interview with me that appeared on her blog. She pulled a few obscure facts out of me that tickled some of my other writer friends. This photograph is a clue.

The photograph below is another clue.

I am looking forward to seeing my writer friends this weekend in Atlanta at the SpringMingle’11, the spring conference of the Southern Breeze region of SCBWI.

girls at store

In Mississippi at the old store

Mississippi Library Association Author Award 2010

I had a wonderful time on Thursday at the Mississippi Library Association annual conference in Vicksburg.
Sarah C Campbell MLA Author Award Youth 2010
I was honored Thursday night by the Mississippi Library Association. For Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator, I won the 2010 Youth Award. I am pictured here with Chris Myers Asch, the recipient of the 2010 Nonfiction Award, and Lynn Shurden (between me and Asch), chair of the Authors Awards Committee. The other two women pictured are also members of the awards committee, (from left) Ann ?, and Donna Fite. Deborah Johnson won the 2010 Fiction Award for her book, The Air Between Us. She was signing books and not available for the photograph.

This is the first time the MLA has given a Youth Award and I was delighted to be the first recipient. During the award speech and also during a session earlier in the day, I gave a short preview of my newest project, which unlike Wolfsnail and Growing Patterns, comes out of my childhood. It was fun to see Gloria Liggans, my school librarian from 4th through 9th grades, and many other librarian friends I have made since I started writing books for children.

Irene LathamMy friend Irene Latham gave the luncheon speech for the MLA conference, telling the story behind publication of her book, Leaving Gee’s Bend, published by Putnam.

The story included everything a story must, including ever-more-difficult obstacles. She shared photographs from Gee’s Bend in the 1930s, photographs of quilts made by Gee’s Bend Quilters, and a Ludelphia doll that was made for her by a school librarian.

Irene’s next novel is a contemporary one, titled Don’t Feed the Boy, which is forthcoming from Roaring Brook Press.

It was nice to have Irene join Richard and me at the awards dinner.

Irene Latham and Sarah C Campbell

We cooked a bit of a celebratory dinner the next night, using a brand new cooking pot called a tagine. We made a lamb tagine (the meal is named after the cooking pot), masala dosas, and a spinach salad. I am no good at food photography, but these will give you an idea of what we ate and how we made it.


Emile Henry Tagine

Tagine base

Tagine base

lamb tagine

Lamb Tagine from Mark Bittman's cookbook



masala filling for dosa

Masala filling for Dosa

Swallowtail caterpillars and a review

Most of our parsley has been trying to go to seed for the last month and I’ve just given up and let it go. We noticed a swallowtail butterfly on it a few days ago, and then we noticed lots of leafless stems. The caterpillars have arrived. We decided to get up early this morning to take photographs of the swallowtail caterpillars at different stages. First, I’ll show you the most recognizable.
Swallowtail Caterpillar
Now, this is the smallest one we could find today.
tiny swallowtail caterpillar
Now, for the in between.
midsized swallowtail
I also hunted for eggs, but didn’t find any. It looks like we were too late for this group. Maybe there will be another group. … Please. While we were looking, Richard spotted this guy.
bug  mantis or stickbug

I learned today that Joan Broerman, the founder of the Southern Breeze chapter of SCBWI, reviewed Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature on her Book Log blog. “Lavish photographs by both Campbells and easy to follow diagrams support the brief but clear text so even the most math resistant reader will be drawn in, totally unaware of how much he or she is learning,” Joan wrote. You can read the entire review here. Thank you, Joan.

Gestalt Gardener and Lemuria Signing

It was a big weekend for Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature. On Friday, I started the day as a guest on The Gestalt Gardener, a radio show on Mississippi Public Broadcasting hosted by Felder Rushing. We talked about the book and getting kids excited about the natural world, math, and gardening. I am a longtime listener to Felder’s show so I was familiar with its rhythms; Felder fielded about 8 calls and we fit our conversation in around them. The show was re-broadcast the next morning, which coincided with our signing at Lemuria. Many of our guests at the signing told us they had heard the show. I thank Felder and Ezra Wall, the show’s producer, for having me.

Lots of friends, old and new, came out for the signing, which began during Lemuria’s regular Saturday story hour. (Thank you, Patty, for taking photographs.) One attendee, named Kimberly, brought along an observation she wrote after spending some time talking about Fibonacci numbers and pinecones with her grandmother. (Her grandmother had heard the Gestalt Gardener show.)

Kimberly's news

signing for Madeleine

grandmother who heard the show

signing for Alex and Benjamin

Anna and Jane

Anna and Jane

mom and sons

Kimberly and Bailey and Grandpa and Grandma

Reonna, a budding photographer from Davis, and her mom and sister

talking with Anna about a sand dollar

Wow! Look at my Amaryllis

blooming amaryllis

I promised I would post a photograph of this amaryllis blooming so here it is. In a post back in December, I showed what it looked like when it had just been planted. I love the bold color and bodacious blossom. Wow!

Richard and I added compost to our raised beds two weeks ago, and yesterday, we planted seeds. We planted lettuce, spinach, kale, swiss chard, beets, and leeks. Richard got a rain barrel for Christmas so some of our watering will be collected rainwater. We have plans to add a few raised beds this year. The zucchini and yellow squash need their own boxes.

Christmas Cactus

Christmas Cactus

Christmas Cactus

A wise person (also known as my Dad) left a comment yesterday. He suggested I change the subject from the countdown, sensing it was becoming an ordeal. He was right. I decided to take a picture of my Christmas cactus. It is making me happy with its exuberant blossoms. My cousin, Tim, brought this with him four years ago when he came to bring our uncle some furniture and household items to replace those he lost in his New Orleans home after Hurricane Katrina. It was a welcome bright sight then and now. The plant spent the summer outside and nearly doubled in size.

amaryllis at the start

amaryllis at the start

Mom and I planted our amaryllis bulbs this week. The others haven’t shown us any green yet. I’ll be posting updates through the cold days ahead. We’ve got some apple blossoms, amigos, and some sort of peacock, I think.

I have some new work to do. I got revision comments back on a magazine piece slated for August 2010. Among other suggested fixes, I need to bring the reading level down. That’s always tricky. I’ll take a stab at it and then ask for help from my critique buddy.

I am also psyching myself up to submit a piece to a literary magazine for the adult market. Yikes!

Color on a rainy day

pitcher plant

pitcher plant

It’s my birthday and my 250th blog post so I decided I needed some pretty pictures to brighten a dreary day. My yard is very, very green because of all the rain. When I got back from walking the dog I noticed dozens of mushrooms across the front lawn. I don’t know the names of any of them. I will have to learn how to identify mushrooms. If you look very closely, you can see one has a spider crawling across it. I was shooting with our brand-spanking-new Nikon D700, but I was too lazy to put on the macro lens.

It’s not as if I need an excuse to take photographs of flowers, but I spent a very nice hour or so yesterday reading and enjoying The Metamorphosis of Flowers by Marie Perennou and Claude Nuridsany. It was inspiring. My parents lent me the book. (Aside from being glad to have them in town, it is fabulous to have their library in town as well.) Perennou and Nuridsany are the authors of Microcosmos, the book that inspired the movie. Lovely, lovely photographs and beautiful writing.

very gelatinous

very gelatinous

looks like a nut

looks like a nut

see the spider?

see the spider?

magnolia seed pod

magnolia seed pod

okra blossom

okra blossom





Abundant Harvest

day's harvest-0516
Today marks my most varied (and abundant) harvest from the garden: a cantaloupe, an eggplant, an okra, a cucumber, and two kinds of tomatoes. Yum! The okra, eggplant, and tomatoes went into a side dish for lunch. How far we’ve come from the first seedlings .

day's harvest
Today’s other news is that Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature is very nearly finished. I never think I’ll ever get to this point with a book, but I almost can’t bear to look at it one more time. (My editor reported dashing across to the other building on the Boyds Mills campus to write final changes into a final proof.) I know this feeling will pass. It is beautiful and I’m grateful for everyone who has helped it get to this point. Now, it’s time for it to be a book. Already. The seed for this book started germinating in February 2008 at an SCBWI/Southern Breeze conference.

They Are Gone!

caterpillar abundance (1 of 1)

The caterpillars took their leave.

I helped the first bunch find new homes. Two went to neighborhood kids. Six went to an elementary school librarian who planned to take them to friends and several classrooms.

We had six left. Munching happliy. We were planning to take pictures images of their transformation. When we went out to walk this evening, however, the remaining caterpillars had disappeared. Poof!

Richard suggests they left because their food supply had been depleted. Maybe. Maybe they noticed that their buddies had been removed. We’ll have to get back in touch with some of our adopters to see if we can get photographs of the chrysalis and adult stages.