The Violet Fern

A Colorful Tale of a Garden in the Making

Welcome to the Carnival Ride


Well, I realize it’s been over a month (!!!) since I have posted … some crazy ride. October, already, and whereas I usually looked to the Fall with dread for the dead, I now look forward to my next ride to Cedar Key, FL. Becoming one of the migrating instead of one of the observers of migration has completely changed my life. Speaking of which, the Grackles, the Red-wings, the Hummingbirds – all gone – hasta la vista baby! (or as us gardeners like to say hosta la vista!). The bitch is back, though – Wicked Wind of the West – oh yeah, she’s moving right in and the leaves are beginning to change, and the weeds are making seeds and more weeds and being spread around – such LOVE.

So, since it has been so long I thought I’d catch up with you. Let’s look at some of the highlights and what’s ahead on my crazy carnival ride.

The nights are getting cooler, Halloween and Thanksgiving are looming and and it’s just about freezer pesto time! I am still Vegan, and probably will be for life.

This is how I “Veganize” my freezer pesto:

I am not one for measuring and I have a small mini food processor but it makes a big enough batch for two small jars of pesto. I just keep making batches until I run out of basil. In spite of my neglect, I have a good patch of basil this year. The purple has such an intense and insanely delicious taste.


Recipe per batch.

I soak about a cup of raw cashews in water and then throw it all into the food processor.

I add about two to three cloves of garlic. (I had a successful garlic harvest, too. Here it is drying in my shed.)


Squeeze in the juice of about half a lemon.

Add about a 1/4 good quality EVOO (I pour and count to four)

Add about 2 Tbs nutritional yeast

Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Mix to perfection (add a little water if too thick)

Place into small glass jars and freeze

Surprisingly tricky, a lot of candy is Vegan but I am not a candy girl and have taken to shutting off all the lights, making myself scarce instead of scary, and sitting out Halloween in some dark bar. Scrooge-like I know, but hey, it keeps me from eating and serving candy – a food (???) I do not feel good about. I would rather hand out seeds! I am hoping to catch the Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Clayton Opera House for a little bit of scare, though.

Thanksgiving I hope to adopt a turkey again, rather than eat one, through Farm Sanctuary. In fact I am conducting a fundraiser to raise farm animal awareness if you are at all interested you can donate – even the tiniest amount – HERE. I am passionate about this lifestyle change and feel Fantastic with a capital “F.” Feel free to ask me any questions about adopting a plant-based/Vegan lifestyle. I am way too happy to share.

We (my husband, I, and my furry compadre Mojo) have taken to traveling Thanksgiving day – the traffic is minimal and I now prefer to celebrate what I dub “Food Fest.” Looking forward to stopping, with a very empty stomach, in Asheville NC on my ride down to Cedar Key where there are more breweries per capita than any other U.S. city and LOTS of art galleries, and crazy good Vegan eateries. Two of my favorites are the Laughing Seed Cafe and Plant. You can bet I will be indulging (in lieu of Thanksgiving and traditional holiday gluttony) in both of these fine establishments.


View from the Blueridge Mountain Parkway in/near Asheville NC

Next stop Tiki Bar in Cedar Key! My favorite, Low Key Hideaway. Now that’s grateful celebrating folks!

I still have not found time to reconnect with my garden but this afternoon I plan to reintroduce myself.


Doesn’t Mojo look like a little ghost out there in the garden? Boo!

Thank you to all who gave me great advice on how to manage my garden. It is certainly appreciated and I cannot wait to get into action soon. I did manage to machete some of the vines growing into the Spruce tree and Maple. Tweaked my back a bit doing it – ladder yoga with pruners – but nothing I can’t recover from and there’s no stopping me. I have to redesign my garden for minimal maintenance and you can continue to follow along to see how I do it. I just don’t have the stamina to garden at Thousand Islands Park days and then come home and weed some more or tend to my own garden all weekend when I would rather be … drumroll, this is the BIGGEST attraction on this ride … at the LAKE!

My unbelievably lucky husband and I came across a 5 acre lakefront property on one of the Indian River Lakes here in Northern NY. It has been our dream to own a lakefront property and I thought we were quite a few years away from that, but our dream is happening now! We plan to build as we go, and as the cash flows, an off the grid cabin that is a role model of lakefront preservation. Since we do not have children, and dependent upon the interest of my nieces, we plan to donate the cabin for learning/education to the Indian River Lakes Conservancy when we have passed on. The conservancy already owns an island on the lake with hiking trails. Our goal is to not tax the lake in any way. For now we camp it. Our first night there we heard quite a few coyotes (!!!), owls, and there are two nesting pairs of loons on the lake.


Our campsite

The lake doesn’t allow jet skis or any motors over 10 horse even if you are a resident of the lake. We ourselves invested in two used kayaks – hello my new favorite pastime!

The Blue Bomber (hers) and the Red Rocket (his)

The Blue Bomber (hers) and the Red Rocket (his)

It is W-I-L-D and I absolutely love it there. There will not be a garden per say. I probably will plant some opportune natives (along with some native plants that I’ll be ripping out of the Violet Fern garden so they can roam large and in charge across all that space), but there will not be any mowing of grass or lawn, or weeding. Of course, I will have to plant a tree or two in spite of the forest only because I love trees. Here are a few photos of my new found paradise on Grass Lake.



This looks almost like a deliberate moss rock table garden doesn’t it? But I found it on the property just as is.


In spite of working like a dog through the dog days of Summer – I literally sweat buckets, I did manage to get some camping in a couple weeks ago with my sister (who also is adopting a Vegan lifestyle) before closing on our lakefront property. We had such a great time making Vegan camp food. Here is our camp breakfast of chickpea flour omlettes and hash browns before hiking up Bear Mountain (sorry, I ate half of it before remembering to take a photo!).


We camped at Cranberry Lake in the Adirondacks – a campground I highly recommend if you want to camp lakeside without property taxes. It is a well maintained, scenic campground with lakeside sites and the trailhead up to Bear Mountain right within the facility.


Our campsite #47 at Cranberry Lake

The hike is moderate (maybe even difficult to some), but the view is a great pay off.


I love to celebrate Autumn (Donna at Garden’s Eye View!) by camping out in the woods where one can feel, taste and breathe in the change of the seasons. It is my favorite season to camp.

I also managed to squeeze in an online workshop on building a freelance illustration business this summer. I would like to freelance illustrate more in the future. Less physical and also something I really enjoy. In an effort to become more adept I have embarked upon a self imposed 100 day challenge where I complete one illustration/drawing a day. Today is Day 33. Originally I wanted to draw plants or something from the garden but I am discovering that I really enjoy drawing food, too! I post my illustration on instagram daily. If you are not on instagram you can also receive an update now and then on my Facebook artist page. Here is a summary of my first 30 days of the challenge:


This winter I plan to work on a personal project and that is an adult coloring book with pictures themed around the beautiful St. Lawrence River. This fall and winter I will also be reorganizing. November I will be reorganizing, purging, moving my horrendous office into a larger room of the house.


Look for changes to the Violet Fern blog. Down in Cedar Key where I can actually stop and think, I will be reorganizing my blog and artist web site into one. One day I hope to open the Violet Fern Garden complete with art studio to the public. The new organization will begin to set the stage for that to happen.

So, the name of this carnival ride? Spinning wheel! Whoopie!

Author: Kathy Sturr

Artist, master gardener, plant-based chef. Florida's Nature Coast / Indian River Lakes, NY

16 thoughts on “Welcome to the Carnival Ride

  1. all sounds exciting.
    Hmm must think about planting basil.
    I do have a lemon tree.

  2. Awesome garden! I have always wanted to camp at cranberry lake- every pic I see always looks so beautiful!

  3. Wow, Kathy, you do have a lot going on! I love your lakefront campsite. It reminds me of one of my favorite Maine camping spots. Just looking at your photos, I could feel my muscles relaxing. 🙂 Enjoy your warm Florida winter.

    • Thank you Jean. The closer I get to the lake the more relaxed I become. What I really crave is the silence. Village living can be a bit noisy. I have a few wind chimes to refocus my ears from the sounds of concentrated peoples but the silence of the lake – the brush of the leaves in the wind, the lapping waves – ahhhh.

  4. Wow, you have been busy! So much going on. Where do you get the energy? 🙂
    Love the lake site – looks idyllic.

    • Oh Eliza, energy? If you could only see me hugging my dark brew of Jim’s Wicked X coffee this morning … actually I do seem to have more energy on my Vegan diet, but today I am weary. We hauled lumber through the woods yesterday. We are trying to build a shed before winter so we can store tools and stuff at camp. Any excuse to be out at the lake!

  5. Hi Kathy + bye Kathy as you wander soon to your other home away from home in Florida…where do I begin? Wow! Your property is amazing and what an adventure for you and your husband. Your art work looks lovely and I can hardly wait to see your new blog as you develop all of it and make the connections:-)
    I have been away from blogging for two months almost, so I can identify with your not posting…not posting either much anymore-lol…just busy helping my daughter and spending time outside. We are having such nice weather here and it may get up into the 80’s next week-a bit too warm for me!
    I look forward to your changes in the future, I am reworking mine this fall:-) Fun to see what we all do next summer! Have a great time in Florida

    • Oh, don’t say bye Robbie! I will still be blogging from Florida … I never did make it to the limestone crater garden I plant to feature and I just learned of an awesome butterfly haven in Gainesville I plan to visit. I’m sure I will be back at Kanapaha Gardens, too. I will be transforming the Violet Fern garden over the next couple of years to easier maintenance. Actually consolidating the Potager to less space and putting in a backyard patio to sit in and enjoy the garden more. I will also feature cool happenings at the Lake! I’ve seen native Turtleheads, Button Bush, Cardinal Flower and so many many many Ferns and Mosses so far. I have to learn about it all! There are actually two ponds on the property, too! I love it there and here and afar – love it all! Don’t think I haven’t noticed you haven’t been blogging either! Ha ha.

      • lol:-) I just “squeezed” some white turtle heads + cardinals in my backyard this summer. The turtle heads are hosts for some small butterflies:-) It must be lovely to see all that in nature on a great lot as you have! Can’t wait to read and hear all about your adventures….love your artwork too:-)

  6. Kathy, congratulations on your new land and cabin. Living on the lake is a fine thing to do. I love that you will be off grid. No wonder you’re too tired to garden in two places. I take care of my church’s garden, and it wears me out too. I’ll watch with interest how you make your garden easier to care for.~~Dee

    • Thank you Dee. I am very excited about the Lake! I am researching native ground covers which I plan to plant under all my trees – lower than the tall stuff that’s taking over which I will be ripping out – hard to do, but I have come to the decision it is necessary! I am also consolidating the Potager into less space and putting in a patio – I like to sit “back in the garden” sometimes vs. where I live on the back porch … it’ll be nice to have some open empty space to sit in. That’s as far as I’ve gotten in my plans.

  7. Kathy I love your ideas for your blog and studio….and I would love to talk about a less maintenance garden with you….I need this too. Your new property looks stunning and how wonderful to find that rock garden waiting for you….and oh my look at our drawings…so gifted. Maybe one day we could collaborate on a children’s book or two. I would love to talk with you about that too perhaps!

    • Thank you Donna. I would be honored to work with you Donna on a children’s book! I am so so excited about our lakeside property. I don’t plan to “garden” anything – maybe just plug in a native wild flower or two or three … and let them be. I am really trying to “phase into” an illustration career. I have been working with someone to develop a permanent art trail in our area and I plan to be one of the stops. Maybe my dream of opening my garden/studio to the public is close! But boy, does my garden need some work/redesign! There is a great article in my English Garden magazine on reworking an established garden. I think I will take some of the ideas and post about it to help me sort out some sort of plan.

Thank you for joining me in the making of my garden!

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