Newest Chapter in the Book of Life

With great excitement, today is the first day in a new adventure in my life. I’m headed back to school full-time!

back to school

I am attending the Santa Rosa JC to earn certificates in garden design and landscape management, with the goal of becoming a landscape designer. In theory it should take about a year, but I’ll likely go longer because I’m interested in so many classes. I plan on also becoming certified in permaculture next summer though OAEC. Once I have my design certificate, my goal is to start my own design business focusing on permaculture based homestead gardens and native and wildlife friendly gardens. I will not install lawns.

For the first time in a long time, I am very optimistic about my future. I have had lots of business ideas, but never knew how to achieve them or where to go next. For the past 5 years or so, I have been really floundering on what my path is, and I’m feeling very excited and committed to this goal I’ve set down.

I’ve had a variety of career goals throughout my short life. When I was very little, I wanted to be a mermaid. Clearly, that didn’t pan out so I then wanted to be librarian, the a fashion designer, then a journalist, an interior designer, a park ranger, and a geologist. Finally, sometime in mid-high school, I set my heart on becoming a naturalist, and completed college with that goal. I got a BA from UCSC in Environmental Studies, with focuses in both environmental interpretation and restoration ecology, and minor in Earth Sciences.

UCSC graduation, 2006
UCSC graduation, 2006

Immediately after graduating, I took an internship as a naturalist at an outdoor school in San Luis Obispo. I loved it. I spent my days outside teaching kids about nature. Once that was finished, I thought I wanted to be a teacher, so I moved to Tahoe and worked as a teacher’s aid. That only lasted a few months before I realized I hated being inside all day and the bureaucracy of the school system and lack-of creativity present in classrooms when lessons were dictated by standardized testing. When I moved to Sonoma County, I worked again as a naturalist, which I loved, but I couldn’t pay the bills and didn’t want to have the nomadic lifestyle that being an outdoor school teacher required.

squid dissection
on “hill hike”, teaching about different ecosystems and geology

Since then, I tried many things. I worked for a large corporation doing outreach and education on recycling programs. I worked with local government and created an implementation program regarding the mandatory commercial recycling ordinance. I did event coordination for a non-profit focused on local economy. I learned about herbs and alternative medicine while working at an acupuncture clinic. I’ve been a substitute teacher, done retail, counter help, food service, and managed a restaurant. I tried being a stay-at-home wife but was unhappy, and wanted to BE something and contribute to the larger population.

Last year, knowing that I needed direction and help, I started seeing a career counselor/life coach. She helped me determine that in order to be happy and satisfied with my work, there were 5 qualities that needed to be met: active in nature, new experiences, play/creativity, communication/sharing info, and protection/care. We brainstormed lots of different career jobs and felt that landscape designing would be a great fit. I also see this as a great opportunity to spread the homesteading and sustainable living gospel. If I can get even one person to grow their own food, or convert a lawn into a bee friendly garden, I’ll consider that I’ve made a difference in the world.


I’ve always liked designing things. As a kid, I’d put together my own fashion catalogues- hands sketches of outfits on folded stapled pieces of paper. I’d do mockups of rooms from magazine cut-outs. I’ve also always liked plants. As a teenager, I pretended I didn’t care much as my mom drug me around nurseries and garden tours, but really I enjoyed seeing how people created outdoor spaces and the variety and uniqueness of each plant. I loved helping working in the garden ever since I was a little kid. Why I didn’t consider garden design earlier is really quite surprising. Perhaps I didn’t realize it was actually a thing that people hired other people to help them with, I just assumed it came naturally to everyone.

helping in the garden, circa 1999
helping in the garden, circa 1999
tomato harvest, circa 2001. A big accomplishment considering foggy Aptos weather.
tomato harvest, circa 2001. A big accomplishment considering foggy Aptos weather.

Now that you know what I’m doing, it is likely that these semi-regular postings will become much less regular, as I’m in class 5 days a week. I’m taking a drafting class, intro to art and design, horticultural science, pruning, and a botany based class. Somehow I’ll need to fit in all the normal cooking, cleaning, garden-upkeep and homestead building, in addition to class and studying. Feel free to follow me on instagram to keep up with my adventures, and best wishes until next time!


3 thoughts on “Newest Chapter in the Book of Life

  1. A little late to comment, but way to go, Melissa! Can’t wait to see what you have for us when you emerge from the piles of books. My best to you (and I’m a teesy bit jealous).

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