My parsley? Not a chance.

caterpillar abundance-0507How many black swallowtail caterpillars can you see eating my parsley? I already farmed out three to friends whose kids wanted to watch the transformation. I don’t really feel like sacrificing my parsley, but I don’t feel like ending this either.

caterpillar abundance-0497Here’s a slightly different angle. Both of these images were taken with my Nikon Coolpix S560. I decided to see what I could do with the macro lens and the tripod. The ones that follow were taken with my Nikon D70 with the Tamron macro lens.

caterpillar abundance (2 of 4)

tiny guy

caterpillar abundance (3 of 4)

getting fat on my parsley

caterpillar abundance (4 of 4)

any which way

hand held so a little soft

hand held so a little soft

Trailing Verbena and Crown of Thorns


These flowers are blooming on my back deck. I mounted the Nikon D200 (equipped with the 50 mm lens) on a tripod and set the ISO at 800. The top photo of the trailing verbena was shot at 1/500 of a second at f/2.2. Do you like the blurring of the flower petals? The bottom one was shot at 1/30 of a second at f/8.
The crown of thorns (on the right) was shot at 1/15 of a second at f/8. I bought this plant because I needed a two-petal flower for my upcoming book, Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature (Boyds Mills Press 2010). To my great delight, it is thriving on my deck. I love the contrast of the leaves with the stems and thorns. I love the flowers, too. After I showed her a preview of my book, a friend told me she has had her mother’s crown of thorns for more than 20 years and it continues to thrive.

Tomatoes From My Garden

tomatoesWe have tomatoes! Actually these are the second decent sized picking. The first batch never made it into the house. Richard was perturbed because he only got to hear about them. I decided to photograph this batch. I am still not happy with my little point-and-shoot, but I guess I can’t expect it to do what my DSLR does. Once again, I have selected a bowl made by N for the display. He’s a cool cat!

Growing Patterns Revisions

growing-patterns-revisionsHere is one of the busier pages of the Growing Patterns manuscript. My editor and I are trying to solve a problem. As part of my school and library visit program, I share the close-to-final mansucript for Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator. I want students to see that the process of writing (and re-writing) keeps on going right up until the book is printed. I took a picture of this page to let you see our notes back and forth in the Word tracking feature. In this latest back-and-forth between Andy and me, he’s asked for some more photographs. In the book, Richard and I use close-up macro photographs and Andy wants to include some photographs that show the entire objects, too. I’ve sent him some options.

We’re also trying to make sure that readers understand that a particular set of photographs is actually three copies of the same image. We’ve done some digital manipulation to highlight a pattern. Some people who have looked at the dummy have thought the three images were of three different examples of the same object. I think we’re getting close to a solution. One of the things that is helping during this revision is that I am still doing school and library visits with Wolfsnail so I have been reading drafts of Growing Patterns to the kids I meet. I get such good feedback by watching their faces and hearing their questions.

Richard and I got a nice (and unexpected) mention today on a blog I read regularly, I.N.K.: Interesting Nonfiction for Kids. Here is one section of an exchange between author Loreen Leedy and her contact at Holiday House, discussing today’s market for nonfiction in children’s publishing.

“What innovations in presenting nonfiction have been significant in recent years? (Photos vs. illustration, length of book, graphic design, etc.)
Technical advances have been changing nonfiction for some time, particularly in the area of illustration and graphic design. From pop-ups like Encyclopedia Prehistorica Dinosaurs by
Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart to new manufacturing techniques that allow the use of “scanimation” in Gallop! by Rufus Butler Seder to ever more amazing techniques in taking photographs and reproducing them such as in Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator by Sarah and Richard Campbell, nonfiction is constantly becoming more sophisticated, more innovative, and more novel.”

wolfgeisel51ndxykykl_sl500_aa240_Wolfsnail Update: Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator is showing up on all kinds of summer reading lists — including the Chicago Public Schools‘  list for grades 3-4. Wolfsnail was also featured on a podcast produced by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center. Here’s this year’s podcast archive. Click to hear Episode 48. The Wolfsnail booktalk begins about 7 minutes in and lasts about 2 minutes.

Gardening Update: I picked my first cucumber today! I absolutely love cucumbers. It was delicious and there are at least a dozen more on the vine. I didn’t have time to take a photo. I gobbled the cucumber up in a lunchtime salad. I also picked three zucchini and a handful of beans and snap peas. It is so very hot out there (97 degrees today) that I don’t know how the plants can stand it. They’re drinking lots of water. I hope the tomatoes ripen soon.

Bean Harvest

garden-and-paintingThis is my second picking of string beans. The first harvest was slightly smaller. (We planted eight plants.) I picked some today that were a little small because I want to promote more growth. We steamed the few we got yesterday with some purple string beans (an heirloom variety) I bought from the Farmer’s Market. Yummy! From our garden so far, we’ve had lettuce, spinach, green beans, and a few snap peas I ate straight off the vine. We’ve been eating really well from the Farmer’s Market — fresh limas, new potatoes, cilantro, eggplant, cucumbers, tomatoes, blackberries, and fresh eggs. I even tried Kohrabi and Swiss Chard. I liked them both, but they weren’t big hits with the family.

garden-and-painting1Besides yardwork, the other big job the boys have this summer is tackling some painting jobs. Richard got them all started on Sunday scraping paint from the wood siding on the front of the house. They’ll be scraping and cleaning all week, ready for caulking and priming on the weekend. Needless to say this is not a popular job around here, but somebody’s got to do it and three people in particular have a lot of time on their hands. The front of the house looks very strange without the shutters.

I have the Growing Patterns manuscript back with the changes from copy editing. I’m going through them carefully and doing re-writes where appropriate. It’s exciting to be working on the book again. I am also making final arrangements for next month’s trip to Chicago for the American Library Association conference.

Mail from Maine

A lovely package came in the mail from Great Salt Bay Community School. The students in first and second grades we met during our school visit wrote us letters, drew pictures, made cards, and made flip books. It made us so happy to get them. This drawing is by Ellie and she wrote: “Thank you for reading Wolf Snail. What made you want to be an author?” Well, Ellie, the first answer is that  I love, love, love to read and sometimes when I am reading, I think ‘Wow! I want to be able to do that.” The second answer is that I like to write. I do all kinds of writing — letters, like the one you wrote to me; newspaper articles; and journals. The third answer is because I love to make things. Writing and illustrating books gives me the chance to make a wonderful thing that people can read.

The flip books are wonderfully colorful! Here’s one page, made by JoJo. As you can see, it asks “What protects a wolfsnail? Flip up the flap and you’ll see: “Its shell.” The questions in these books ran the gamut — including “Where do wolfsnails live? what do wolfsnails eat? What part of the wolfsnail comes out first? How do wolfsnails walk? How many feet does the wolfsnail have? Does it eat worms? How does a wolfsnail find its food?”
I love seeing what teachers and students do with Wolfsnail — to extend the learning process. Please keep sending us letters, cards and books. We love them!

My new website went live yesterday. Let me know what you think.

Gardening Update
We harvested our spinach yesterday and made a delicious salad. Overnight, the central stems had shot up and were looking like they were going to flower. I thought I had waited too long and that the spinach would be bitter. Not at all!

After consulting our friendly nursery manager, we pulled the broccoli and cabbage. Though they grew like gangbusters, she said they likely wouldn’t produce nice heads. We got them in too late. I salvaged four small bunches of cabbage and two tiny buds of broccoli. Richard put them in a minestrone soup. I can’t wait to eat it.

Gardening, Working on the Website

Notice the new look? Richard and I are in the process of making a new website. We are using a new type of software that should make updating the website almost as easy as updating the blog. We’re both enjoying learning this new way of working. We’ve added a few new bells and whistles — like rotating images in the header at the top. I spent time this morning in the garden. (Do you remember what this cabbage looked like a few months ago?) I tied two trellises and started weaving our tomatoes, beans, melons and peas into the netting. I pulled some broccoli plants that we think we got in too late to make room for more peppers and eggplant. The broccoli had gotten so tall, it was blocking sunlight to some of our pepper transplants. I kept two broccoli plants and several cabbages. The cabbages look like they’re heading up. The heat may get them before they’re really big, but I plan on eating baby cabbage anyway. Does anyone out there know if you can eat broccoli leaves? How would you prepare them?



snow pea

snow pea

summer squash

summer squash



square foot gardening

square foot gardening

Practice, practice, practice


I’ll be in Boyds Mills, Pennsylvania, this week at Writing From Nature, a workshop presented by the Highlights Foundation. I will be presenting a session titled “Photographs + Stories = Winning Nonfiction.” Two years ago, when I was in the throes of writing and photographing Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator, I attended the workshop and found it invaluable. When I am not presenting, I’ll be writing, journaling, taking photographs, and learning from other faculty and participants. I’m confident that if I keep on showing up with a curious mind and eye, I’ll find another book in our beautiful, natural world.


I’ll be taking the Nikon D200, which is the camera Richard typically uses. We got the Nikon D70 first and I had become accustomed to it by the time we got the D200. I haven’t really wanted to muddy the waters by trying to learn a new set of controls. However, I’m grabbing this opportunity to get to know the D200 better. It is the only camera I’ll be bringing along. I re-read (re-skimmed) the manual this afternoon and then took it out for a spin in the yard. I wanted to get a feel for the controls. So far, so good. As you can see, I decided to take some pictures of our nascent garden. You can see the progress of the cabbage. Here’s how it started. We got the cabbage in the ground late so I’m not sure it will form a head — though the curvature of this leaf suggests it might.
Our first edible harvest was green onions. We grew these from onion sets; we needed to thin the original planting so we ate them as green onions. Yum!

Just in case we needed evidence of the persistence of grass, here it is. We placed weed blocking fabric under the soil in our raised beds, but the grass is still poking through — especially on the edges. We’ll have to weed.sarah-d200-9479
This is our double-deep bed; it has onions, beets, and carrots in the first three rows. The final row has a tomato and a melon, which we hope will grow up the trellis. With the cage on top, this reminds me of a coffin.
I set the camera on the rail to take this shot. I like the lines.


I was experimenting, again, with this shot. I used the bracketing feature on the D200 to take 7 frames with 7 different exposures. Richard used photomatix software to create one image from the 7. Images like this are called high dynamic range images or HDR. It has a kind of other worldly affect.

More Gardening


This is what the garden looks like now. We’ve got three raised beds. We put out onion sets and the cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower plants we had grown indoors. We’re late getting the cold stuff out, but we’ll see how it goes. We also filled our seed starter with lettuces, spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, basil, and more. This is a wonderful experiment. We hope to be eating out of it soon.

Growing seedlings


The cabbage and broccoli seedlings are up — high enough to really see this time. Perhaps you can read the tag; this is a cabbage seedling. It’ll be interesting to watch a head of cabbage emerge from this tiny plant. I have been turning the seedling tray each day to keep them growing relatively straight. They really like to lean toward the sun.
I took this using available (late afternoon) light with my Nikon D70 and the Tamron 90 mm lens. I didn’t use a tripod. (1/160 sec. at f/ 3.5) After capturing this shot of a single seedling, I decided to try to get a good one of a whole line of them.


I used my standard lens this time. (1/40 sec. at f/4.5)