Spotlight: Chelle

By Sharon Brown (Sharon) on September 13, 2010

Sometimes we meet others who touch our hearts with their words, and we are fortunate to have them become a part of our lives. That's the way I feel about Chelle, a very sweet and talented young woman from northern Indiana. I'd like you to meet her, too.

Cubits has grown so quickly I can't remember when I first met Chelle. It was her words that grabbed me, and then she began posting beautiful pictures of her gardens. They grabbed me, too.

My summer was not going well with all the heat and drought surrounding me. I found myself looking for Chelle's posts every morni2010-09-10/Sharran/ec3d06ng, because it seemed that's the only place I found beautiful blooms along with soothing words. She never let me down. I soon realized she was a very young woman, and could hardly believe someone so young would have such gorgeous gardens. I just had to know more about her. She very graciously consented to this interview, and I can't wait for you to get to know her, too.

Chelle, please tell us about growing up in Indiana...

Chelle:  My childhood years were spent in an Indiana town consisting of about 10,000 residents. This was back in the days when it was still considered safe for town kids to walk anywhere and everywhere. I walked five blocks to school every day, in all weather conditions, and I believe this helped to condition me for the first career move of my life. Ha, ha!

When I reached the lofty age of nine years I began my working life. My mom and I walked downtown and I interviewed with the circulation manager of the local newspaper and was accepted, (with2010-09-10/Sharran/bdc206 the assurance being made that I'd have my mother's guidance) as a "foot-route" newspaper carrier. What a thrill that was for me at the time!

A few years later I had proven myself as a dependable carrier and was hired on with another local paper. At one time I had three different "routes", (different newspapers) that I delivered. Two I could combine, and one was a special Sunday edition. Man, were those ever heavy!

In those first few years of trudging around town with a couple of heavy, newspaper filled canvas bags slung over my neck I found what would turn out to be my best friend, ever.

One snowy and bitterly cold January day in an alley down the street I saw him! He looked at me with that joy in his eyes of two souls well met. He was a very thin and mangy mixed breed collie-ish looking dog. He was my dog! I kn2010-09-10/Sharran/1336a2ew it the instant our eyes met.

Mom said we needed to try to find his owners before I became too attached to him; what she didn't understand was total attachment and commitment had already happened - for both of us, "Blackie" and I. We were totally attuned to each other, and for three weeks I caught him up on events in my life, shared all of my secret hiding places (with the exception of the treetops) - and all of my secret fears.

About three weeks later my worst fear was realized. My friend and I were walking down the street delivering the papers together and enjoying a vocally one-sided conversation when all of a sudden "Blackie" came to attention. He stopped momentarily in his tracks - then his tail began to wag so hard that his whole body shook and twisted with glee - and then he was off and running! I had a moment of real confusion and utter shock when he ran up to, and jumped up on (!) a man walking toward us - and then, with a sinking heart, I knew. This was the man who was going to take a lonely, heartbroken young girl's best friend away!

2010-09-10/Sharran/19cc6aThe young man introduced himself to me and we chatted a bit. I was trying to keep up my tough kid look and reply in a cordial and polite manner, but the tears streaming down my face kept getting in the way.

He said my pal's real name was "Mike", and he was about a year and a half old, and that he'd been looking for him to bring him home. I was shattered. Just to make sure my mom approved of him taking Mike away we walked across the street to my house and she had the foresight to ask where he was being taken. Their house was only a block away, I might be able to visit!

They kept him tied for awhile in an effort to keep him there. His house was on my newspaper route so I'd see him everyday, tied outside where he should have been miserable, but was always so happy to see me that he'd do spins on his rope, grinning and "talking" the whole time. Seeing him there, in those conditions and having to say goodbye again every day soon began to take a toll on me. I just couldn't take it anymore! I adjusted the route I took to avoid that house, always hoping Mike wouldn't see me as I crossed the road. I had to make a clean break, the heartache was tearing me apart.

Finally, after several weeks, I thought it was over. Then 2010-09-10/Sharran/bc56ebhe learned that he could chew through his rope, wriggle free of his collar and every other possible means of escape. He was always at our house. More heartbreak, as I would have to return him again, and yet again.

One day I had had enough! I walked him back for the last time and said that I was through! If the dog wanted to be with me, he should be allowed to and I asked them to think hard about doing just that.

Two days later I answered a knock at our front door. It was the young man, and he had Mike with him! I knew my best friend was home to stay, at last!

My best friend helped me throughout the rest of my childhood years. I even trained him to gently carry papers up to a subscriber's front porch when the weather was wet and place them in the driest spot. Smart guy!

He'd pull a wagon load of newspapers if I needed him to, he'd carry a newspaper delivery bag across his back on "small paper" days, leaving my arms free to practice my aim, or to just pick up a colorful leaf or an interesting pebble. Occasionally the two of us would be featured in the very same paper we delivered, with write-ups and photos of us working our route.

At night, when it was bed-time we'd share all the best hap2010-09-10/Sharran/3a40e9penings of the day, me speaking softly, and he with his oh-so-intelligent brown eyes gazing raptly into my own. I slept firmly in the knowledge that he would protect me and keep me from harm throughout the night, and for the remainder of his life he always did.

sb:  See what I meant about Chelle's words? What a beautiful story of a little girl and her best friend. Every little girl needs a friend like that. How great, Chelle, that you and Mike were featured in the very newspaper you delivered. Please, tell us more, I'm anxious to know how your interest in gardening started. 


Chelle:  My first real memories and experiences with gardening came from a visit with my Great Grandmother Etta. Grandma Etta lived in a small, immaculately kept house with hand-made doilies on the furniture and there always seemed to be something simmering in the kitchen. Those mouth-watering scents were magical to a young girl growing up in a single parent household where of necessity, meals were quick fix affairs.

One evening I happened to follow her outside the back door after di2010-09-10/Sharran/1f9e69nner, and saw my dear, sweet, diminutive Grandma stabbing the ground with a huge, rusty old knife! My eyes must have been as big-a-round as the dinner plates we'd just dined on. I don't know who was the most startled, Grandma or me! I didn't know it at the time, (because I ran away (!) ) but Great Grandma was composting, in a fashion. She was simply digging a hole in her flower bed in which to place her fruit rinds and vegetable peelings. It wasn't until many years later that I finally came to realize what she was doing that night. At the time, and for a few years after the incident, I took my naps at Grandma's house with one eye open!

Grandma Etta had a small, beautifully maintained yard just brimming with blooms every summer! All of the turf pathways were kept smoothly trimmed with an old-fashioned reel mower, which she herself pushed, and the blades of which she sharpened herself after every use! She was a very self-reliant woman in a day and age when that wasn't the norm. While attempting to supply information for this article I have discovered a big secret about myself that I hadn't even been aware of - I am very much like my Great Grandma Etta.

sb:  I think it's wonderful that you had strong women in your life to encourage you. I had that, too, and their influence has never left me. Tell us about your gardens, Chelle.


Chelle:  My gardens are a nat2010-09-10/Sharran/1ef406ural world unto themselves. Brimming so full of butterflies, bees and other animal life that I always need to watch my step. It wasn't always this way. One year (1998) in particular, is always in the back of my mind. I had read, and been caught up in the newest gardening craze - if it moves and it's on your plants apply pesticide! Tears begin to form behind my eyes and my throat gets tight just recalling how horribly dead my gardens seemed that year. Nothing prospered, disease ran rampant, and the bad bugs ruled, completely uncontrolled and unstoppable. Spider mites in particular were everywhere. I'd also hung up Japanese beetle traps, which of course drew all of the beetles in the vicinity into my gardens. There seemed to be thousands of them, consuming everything in sight!

Funny how when you're at your lowest point something happens to give you the oomphf to keep on trying. Twelve years ago I was just about ready to throw away my rake and my trowel when my Mother presented me with a beautifully illustrated, designed, and composed book titled "Natural Landscaping", written by Sally Roth. I've always been an avid reader of books. Each book, (with the possible exception of some novels) I've been presented with, or purchased, is to me worth its weight in gold. This one was one of the best! Although I've read scores of gardening books since, this one book2010-09-10/Sharran/e2b550 completely changed my viewpoint of gardens and gardening!

Here are some of my favorite excerpts from the book -

"Over the next few years, my garden evolved from a traditional semi-formal showpiece to a place of wilder, natural beauty. Because I used Mother Nature's plantings as a guide, my garden quickly became an inviting habitat for birds, butterflies, toads, incredible insects, and a host of other fascinating creatures."

"I still had plenty of beauty and flowers, but now my garden was filled with life."

A garden filled not only with beauty, but brimming with life - exactly what I wanted, needed and have now created for myself, my family and all of the many creatures that pass through, or make their homes in my gardens! A single success, yes, but a monumental one for me. I am completely content with the way my gardens have evolved. They may not be weed-free, they may not ever make it into the glossy centerfold of a gardening magazine, but they do support life - and a peaceful sense of well-being.

In keeping with these thoughts, I attempt to maintain my gardens in a healthy state. I am an organic gardener who produces huge amounts of home-made compost every year, employing both hot composting methods, and sheet composting methods. I tend approximately seventeen small g2010-09-10/Sharran/815124arden areas year round. The only months I'm not doing something in the gardens is perhaps January and February. I was presented with the gift of a small greenhouse last summer which I employ in the winter, (unheated) as a protective place to store my few non-hardy plants. I also use it to start seeds in the spring and as a winter-time mood lifter, (for me). In the fall I'll start a compost pile in it and occasionally, on a sunny winter day you'll be able to find me out there sitting in a comfy chair, absorbing the scents of summer emanating from that lovely pile of goodness, that itself sits patiently waiting to nurture next year's gardens.

sb:  I think you just described winter bliss. Someday you might look up from that comfy chair and I'll be right there beside you. Tell us a little more about your family.2010-09-10/Sharran/fb74d4

Chelle:  I live in northern Indiana with Ryan, my wonderful partner of ten years and the father of our four year-old son KC, who is the greatest miracle ever to touch our lives! My parents live next door! How wonderful is that!?! On-site sitter service provided by a very loving, and extremely doting set of Grandparents. *BIG Grin!*

We live on a lovely piece of property that we call Hidden Valley Lake. Hidden Valley Lake is comprised of 10 acres including a small private lake, and is bordered on two sides by partially wooded State Park land, with the other two borders being farm fields. We keep some hobby livestock here - some chickens, peafowl, and a horse, Mindy.


2010-09-10/Sharran/2d308fsb:  I know a little about another hobby of yours, one that brightened many of my hot dry mornings this summer. Will you share it with us?

Chelle:  Other than gardening, photography is my favorite hobby. I've won an award or two in years past, but haven't done much with it after my son came along. It has been just recently that I've begun to use some photography skills again. My eyes *see* the shot the same as ever, but the equipment and technology that goes along with it has completely changed. It's going to take some time to feel entirely comfortable behind a camera again. You can view some examples of my recent photography in my Plant Haven cubit.


May Blooms

June Blooms

July Blooms


sb:  What beautiful pictures, Chelle. Thank you so much. Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?

Chelle:  I'm so appreciative of the opportuni2010-09-10/Sharran/701d04ty to be involved with, especially as the proprietress of my own cubits. Thank you Dave and Trish for sharing this wonderful journey, for supplying us with the tools necessary for success, and for sharing the knowledge of how to put those tools to work for all of us! 

Fellow Cubiteers-
I've never had the good fortune of meeting such astounding numbers of helpful, supportive people anywhere else! Thank you, each and every one of you who've devoted a portion of your valuable time to share hints, tips and strategies with others. It's very much appreciated! smily


sb:  We very much appreciate you, too, Chelle. What a lovely interview! I think I smiled all the way through it. If you'd like to talk with Chelle, I know she'd be delighted to hear from you in the threads following this article. You can also visit the links above to see more of her beautiful photographs.

Please remember to click on the photos to enlarge them and as you scroll across them, you'll see their descriptions. 

Thank you so much for the delightful interview, Chelle, and thank you again, folks, for joining us on Spotlight this week. 

Related articles:
gardening, gardens, photography, writers

About Sharon Brown
I am a retired Art and Humanities teacher living in western Kentucky. I love writing and art with equal measure, but I also have a passion for nature and plants.

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Comments and discussion:
Subject Thread Starter Last Reply Replies
A day late but... arejay59 May 26, 2011 1:55 PM 4
I Could Tell You Are Special nap Sep 22, 2010 10:09 AM 35
Love the article! Seray Sep 21, 2010 6:28 PM 3
Your story comes to life kareoke Sep 21, 2010 7:15 AM 5
Hey, girlfriend!!! Ridesredmule Sep 20, 2010 9:10 AM 66
Charming article, Beautiful photos Bubbles Sep 17, 2010 7:09 AM 5
Lovely pictures ge1836 Sep 15, 2010 6:59 PM 5
Untitled VictorianLady Sep 15, 2010 4:28 PM 13
Thank you so much! chelle Sep 15, 2010 1:56 PM 7

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