Unusually Clever People

Some of my favorite garden-blog posts aren’t about gardening at all

Two of my favorite garden-blog posts of late happen to be by two of my favorite people, both of whom have become friends through this amazing medium that you're looking at.  One of them even lives near me – though far enough away to justify a sleep-over (and boy, can she cook!).   Layanee2

First up, Rhode Island blogger Layanee DeMerchant offers good photography and writing about gardening on Legends and Gardens as a matter of course, but I highly recommend her off-topic travel features.  The post about her family's Labor Day Weekend at Seboomook Lake, Maine, with its daring (for a garden-blog) interior shots, put me right there.  Please can I drop by and join Tucker on the front porch to gaze out over the lake?

Layanee

Now down here in Maryland, you may already be aware that Robin Ripley has gone whole-chicken!  I've seen the hens and T. Boone Chickens in person but prefer seeing them through Robin's camera lens, always. A Bounty of Eggs, with this well styled glamour shot, will catch you up if you're new to Robin's chicken adventures but really, the whole chicken category is a treat.

Eggs-sm

Should Gardenbloggers Go Rogue?

So now let's get to the hot topic – garden-blog posts about something else.  (Eek!)  See, I have to confess that I enjoy off-topic posts MORE than posts about actual gardens, and I'm wondering why.  With Layanee and Robin here it could be because I know them, or maybe something else.  Maybe between the gardens I take care of and the gardens of all my clients, I'm burnt out on gEdna-collage2arden stories?  Yeah, I bet that's it.

And how about you?  What do you think of these off-topic posts (and many more from Craig Cramer over at Ellis Hollow, which I also love).  Anybody else taking the road less posted about?

Posted by on November 16, 2009 at 4:17 am, in the category Unusually Clever People.
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24 responses to “Some of my favorite garden-blog posts aren’t about gardening at all”

  1. Robin Ripley says:

    Thanks for the nice shout-out, Susan. Like you, I like some off-topic stories because they give me a more thorough glimpse of the lives of my favorite gardeners. Although it sometimes seems like it, life isn’t ALL about gardening, is it?

    My blog may sometimes look like a chicken blog rather than a garden blog. Sometimes it looks like a food blog. But it always looks like my life.

    BTW, I need an invitation up to Layanee’s. What do you say, Layanee. When are we going to make it happen?

    Robin

  2. Diana says:

    Great thought-provoking post. I like reading about chickens and trips afar and dogs and cats and even mishaps! Makes our blogs ‘real’ when we share a broader slice of our lives. There’s still plenty of garden there!

  3. greg draiss says:

    An occasional off topic post on a garden blog is okay. But most subscribers tune in for garden stories. You could quickly lose an audience if you become other than you stated mantra.

    The TROLL

  4. Layanee says:

    A big ‘Thank you’ Susan for that link and your comments concerning this fan of you and Rant and garden blogs in general. I really don’t often go ‘off topic’ but like Robin, I do appreciate learning a bit more about the bloggers whose blogs I read so it seems natural to sometimes include ‘life topics’. I do agree with The TROLL (makes me laugh) that we do all read gardening blogs for the garden experiences of others but I so love hearing about Robin’s chickens and other blogger’s special times. You are so invited to the Maine camp but be advised it is eight hours from RI, has at least thirty miles of bad road before you reach the one mile of four wheel drive only and, it has an outhouse. A nice one but with a very cold seat! LOL
    Robin: Standing invitation, June is best though.

  5. naomi says:

    I check in every day to this and a few other blogs. I get my garden, ceramics, food, and even a cloud fix. We humans have varied interests; I like those blogs (like this one) which stray occasionally and introduce me to new things. I like it when a potter considers books or a cook gets philosophical or a gardener goes indoors. (Of course, the cloud of the month is just as good each day.) Good blog; thanks for all the info.

  6. Interesting writing will always be interesting writing.

  7. Jean says:

    I love off-topic posts, providing they’re interesting. And they usually are. I like getting to know a blogger through those posts (although I’m fortunate to have actually met and drank with both Layanee and Robin!). As others have said, there’s more to life than the garden.

  8. Genevieve says:

    I’ve noticed that posts that aren’t about gardening get the most attention from other gardeners and pros, but I’ve also noticed that people coming in from search engines, and non-pros appreciate the gardening posts most.

    It comes down to this – who are you trying to reach? Are you targeting pros and passionate gardeners who may get burnt on gardening content and would like a change, or are you trying to help new gardeners, home gardeners, and people who don’t yet know most of what they need to know?

    For me, I read gardening stuff to improve as a pro, so Garden Rant’s about the only garden blog I read that isn’t how-to or inspiration.

    If I want to read something not about gardening, I don’t want something peripheral to gardening – I want to read about something else entirely.

    Zen Habits, Dooce, Mildly Creative, Baking Bites, Perez Hilton, Seth Godin.

    That’s my two cents!

  9. Liisa says:

    I subscribe to a whole host of blogs that cover my range of hobbies: gardening, crocheting, and cooking. I end up feeling more connected to the bloggers who include off-topic posts, because then I get to “know” them as well-rounded people. Crocheting tends to link up with sheep and alpaca farming or with artistic uses for recycling. Gardening and cooking are natural match-ups and both can be linked with discussions of recycling, environmentalism, as well as culturally specific types of gardening.

    Honestly, if — as the TROLL implies — you lose some “audience” by going off-topic, but you become closer to us as a whole… well, I think you Garden Rant ladies can judge for yourselves whether quantity or quality is more important.

  10. Erin says:

    I love posts about gardening from about March to September and then, well, my mind goes elsewhere ( http://theimpatientgardener.blogspot.com/2009/10/i-have-seasonal-attention-deficit.html)

    I recently started posting about things other than gardening in my blog. Mostly they are about the house … work we’re doing on it, or projects I’m undertaking. I feel a lot freer now. I’m not sure if anyone is interested in the stuff, but I know I love when gardening blogs go off topic, so I can’t be alone.

  11. Teri says:

    I find gardeners (particularly the lovely ladies on here and their friends) have a certain perspective on life in general that adds a lot of interest to the off topic posts that are chosen for here. I can’t quite places it the perspective but its definitely different then other walks of life provide.

    So so long as the writing itself is well done I say on with the off topic posts! They are a big portion of the draw to this blog for me.

  12. Michele Owens says:

    I think everybody here agrees that gardening is important, not the irrelevant little hobby that gardening magazines often make it out to be.

    Gardening is part of life, an essential human experience. So of course, garden bloggers–the good ones–are going to talk about other subjects while they’re talking about gardening: politics, hens, food, environmental issues, miniature cows, literature.

    None of us are blogging–or commenting–in order to make a big subject small. We’re helping people see that is a big subject.

  13. Kat says:

    I love off topic posts by my favorite garden bloggers. As Helen mentioned above, good writing is good writing. I find I follow writers more for the interesting way they describe their subject than the subjects themselves. It’s all good in my book.

  14. I do love the off topic posts. Often they are about what is in our hearts and not just what is in our gardens. Your faves are my faves too Susan.~~Dee

  15. I enjoy reading off topic posts, especiallly if they are amusing. I do occasionally go off topic to post about books, animals, the environment or art, but I don’t post about my life as it makes my husband uncomfortable.

  16. Rosella says:

    I love to read about topics other than gardens! I love my garden, and I like to see others’ gardens and read about their adventures but my interests are broader than that, and I frequent many different places.

    That said, I just went to Robin’s blog and fell in love with her chickens. Robin–have you given any thought to being a surrogate chicken-mother? Could I have my own hen in your flock, since I live in the chicken-hating Arlington County? Maybe there’s a whole field out here — surrogate hens. Why not?

    And those adorable white chickens with the crazy hats look like 1950’s fashion models in Paris hats.

  17. I’ve only just found you but on the subject of going rouge and taking on less blogged about topics there are two schools of thought.

    The first says that, yes, introduce topics that relate in some way or that readers are likely to be interested in still. The idea being that you cover a broader range of topics. Generally the aim is to recognise that people have stuck with you because of what you have been writing about so switching from motor cars to needle craft is not a winner.

    The second says blog about whatever you feel but keep non topical posts to 20%. This is sometimes called the 80:20 rule. The idea here is that we humans are not a one topic being but readers are coming to see you for your main topic but will not be aggravated by the odd other topic.

    Combine both for a delightful mix – variety is the spice of life.

    Personally I think chicken keeping, travel and ecology all are natural bed fellows for the topic of gardening. On the other hand don’t forget who you came to the dance with.

  18. vicki says:

    My favorite blogs are the ones that mix it up…so I vote Yes! on the variety, the mix, the real life of it all.

    Craig has a wonderful blog of mixed content.
    I’ll check out the other links you shared here.

  19. Lynn says:

    Craig was one of the first garden blogs (& gardening neighbors) I found, before I knew there was a garden blog realm. I love his music posts and peeks into what’s going on beyond his garden, so I’m in the mixed-use-camp-with-dogs, too :)

  20. Going rogue…love it. Since gardening is one big metaphor, those of us enchanted and bedazzled by gardening see one aspect or another of it in just about everything…check out my blog “Plant Life” (http://www.valeaston.com/) for posts on novels with a gardening theme, and today (9/16) a post on background music to your gardening life…
    Val Easton

  21. Les says:

    I grow weary if the only topics I see on a blog are about gardening. Just how many macros of flowers can you look at? I really prefer a mix of topics that give me a glimpse of other geographies and landscapes, and what other people’s lives are like.

  22. Lisa, Ontario says:

    On blogs I have no problem with going off topic. In my magazines it drives me nuts. I buy a Gardening Magazine for gardening, period. I don’t want recipes. Ditto for my decorating magazines, I don’t want recipes. However, a blog having a recipe or two to correspond with a particular plant, fine. Chicken blurbs, great.

  23. luise h. says:

    To me a garden blog encompasses a lot of different topics anyway.And you Ladies cover them all very well.Thank you.

  24. Robin Ripley says:

    Hi Rosella,

    Surrogate chicken mom? That sounds a lot like–chicken mom!

    But I have an idea. You can SPONSOR a chicken, kind of like sponsoring a child. You send me the money for the chicken feed and care and my chicken will send you a letter every three months telling you how she’s doing in school. What do you say?

    (Bad county for not allowing chickens. You know, there’s a whole movement of underground chicken owners.)

    Robin

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