Meme – Seven things you didn’t know about me

Garden writer and blogger Yvonne Cunnington Country Gardener nominated  Gardening With Confidence garden blog for a blogger’s Meme award. Thank you Yvonne.

I met Yvonne on twitter.  Yvonne is @CountryGardener and I am @HelenYoest.   We tweeted somewhat regularly.  Then one day, during a Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day, Yvonne revealed her meadow garden.  Oh my gosh, I knew right then, this photographer, writer and gardener was someone I needed to know better.  Her meadow got my attention!  I’ve been a loyal reader ever since…albeit a lurker.

There were conditions to with this Meme award. In order to participate I needed to:


1. I prefer to be out of doors.  Maybe this isn’t a huge surprise.  But every job I have held, since my first job at 11 renting rafts and umbrellas to tourists at the beach, was outside.  I don’t do office work well.  I like to be out in the open.  Even my career path as an environmental engineer was as a field engineer.  And an illustrious one at that.  You know those tall smoke stacks at factories – some 200 – 300 feet tall?  Yep, I use to climb those smoke stacks to collect air emission samples.   Years of sun exposure did not treat me well.  When you see me you might think I’m 55.  Well, I’m not.  Not yet anyway!

2. It never occurred to me that I could per sue a career in horticulture.  I didn’t even know it was available.  What I did know was that I liked everything in nature.  I was enthralled with the air, the water, the flowers, the trees, the insects, the animals – if it was in my environment, I wanted a piece of it.   I even had a horticulture business (mow, blow, and go lawn care)  in high school and during college, yet it never occurred to me to investigate horticulture as a degree.   BTW, the pay to mow a lawn then wasn’t nearly as much as it is today.  And yes, I still mow my own grass!

I also knew I wanted to write.  In the end, I choose environmental engineering with gardening as a hobby; and I decided to use this hobby as an outlet to write (although I wrote hundreds of papers as an engineer, it never satisfied my creative side.)   Horticulture was always in me.  Even when I chose a graduate school, I chose Brunel University in London, England.  I wanted to spend my spare time visiting great European  gardens.  I did.   It was always about the gardens.

I believed then as I do now, that imagination is key to any success.  If I can imagine it, I can build it.  I believed that with the skills of an engineer, I could tackle any problem.  Today as I garden my wildlife habitat, those skills come in handy.  I am a wildlife habitat gardener ergo, I am a sustainable gardeners.  My half acre plot of land is as much a system as it as a garden.  When I look at it, it does me proud.  As a side note, where I worked in my corporate job, I wrote a monthly gardening column for our newsletter.

3. As an environmental engineer, I worked all over the world.  In 1989, I spent 6 weeks in Pakistan.  My area of expertise was burning hazardous wastes in hazardous waste incinerators and cement kilns.    That’s me, second to the left, holding an assault rifle with the border patrol.  This is only photo op, but yes, I have held a heavy war machine in my arms.  My team and this group and I were gung-ho  about this photo.  Looking back, with all that has happened in the world, I wonder where these Pakistanis are today.

Outside the plant where I was working, refugee camps abound with Afghanistan refugees (from the war with Russia.)  Tents in neat rows were lined up outside our compound.  At one point our compound came under seige.  I had a gun to my head with our captors wanting to know why we Americans were burning our hazardous waste in their country.  Well. we weren’t.  We were there contracted by USAID to rid over-aged pesticides their county had.  These barrels of pesticides were rusting through the 55 gallon drums, going into the aquifers.   We were there to rid a potential problem, actually, to keep the problem for getting worse.  I came home safe and sound, no worse for the wear.  In fact, I was totally unfazed by the whole chain of events.  I can’t say I would have handled it as well today.  Probably because of my children.helen_pakistan_90.gif

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx4. My husband and I have three wonderful children.  Lara Rose, Lily Ana and Michale Aster.

2009 NYC 077My kids were diagnosed with early onset wonder lust, just like their mama.  We are ready to go anytime, anywhere.

5. I had a good relationship with both my parents.  I love my mother and loved my father dearly, but growing up I felt closer to my father.  He gave me 3 things.  More than 3, but three are with me all the time:  1)  Wonder lust.  I have a love of travel – there is no place I don’t want to go, period.  2)  Coffee.  My father woke early and started his day with coffee – quiet and alone.  I was jealous of this relationship.  I knew when I grew up, I too would drink coffee, in the mornings, quiet and alone.  3)  Gardening.  We gardened together, mostly veggies.

When my father died of cancer in 1991, I was devastated.  While I loved my mother, it seemed like a greater loss to loose my dad.  It wasn’t until years later that I realized God gave me a gift – the gift of time to better know my mom.   My dad passed with me loving him, knowing him, understanding him, accepting him, caring for him.  I couldn’t say the same about my mother.  Now I can.  If she had died in 1991 instead of my father, I would never have had the opportunity to know her like I do today.   I cherish our time together.  I moved her here from Norfolk, Virginia 4.5 years ago to an assisted care living facility.  My kids and I get to visit often.

Babcias 80th 003

6. The car and truck I drive will give you no indication of  my love for muscle cars.  I actually like cars in general.  The design, the engineering, the style, the colors even.  On our drive to school in the mornings, my son and I discuss the merits of various cars.  When we see a new model for the first time on the road, it brings on big excitement.  But nothing like it does when we see a vintage Vette, GTO or Mustang.

7. I’m driven to inspire gardeners to garden for wildlife, with sustainable practices and to garden year round (we can do that in Raleigh.)  I believe I have a passion that was meant to help others.  Helping others understand the environment and the impact gardening has on it.  That’s what I do now and have been doing professionally since 2001…and for decades before.


This was difficult.  I read a lot of blogs.  Many of my choices were already tagged and I have many more to tag, but here, I’m limited to seven.

A Tidewater Gardener This is Les Parks blog.  I like Les and his topics, photographs, style.  I think you will too.

Bumblebee Blog This is the blog of Robin Ripley.  Robin also has a garden blog with the Examiner.  This chick likes to tell tales  of her chickens, too.

Compost Confidential This is the blog of Joe Lamp’l of joegardener.  Joe is the nicest blogger I know.  No offense to other nice bloggers, but this guy is just plan nice – all the time.  An offers good sustainable advice too.

Defining Your Home Garden This is the blog of Cameron.  When I want to know about deer, I go to Cameron.

Grumpy Gardener – Southern Living Magazine This is the blog of a grumpy gardener.  But don’t let his grumpiness fool you.  Steve Bender is a great communicator; he is funny, smart as all get out, and dedicated to his craft.

In The Garden – This is actually a group blog and  should not be included, but I’m tagging Tina Ramsey on this.  I like Tina.  She is a good friend to many bloggers, has interesting things to share, and would be the first person I’d pick to be on my garden coaching team.

Sustainable Gardening Blog – This is the blog of Susan Harris.  We share a lot of interest in sustainablility.  Susan also started to movement for us Garden Coaches.  She clearly defined what it is I do.  Thanks, Susan.

Helen Yoest

Gardening With Confidence



  1. tina said

    Wow! I had no idea you climbed smoke stacks and lived in Pakistan! So exciting! I actually did this meme way back in early last year. Nothing anywhere as interesting as what you’ve done but it is a fun meme!

  2. Janet said

    Great getting to know more about you Helen. Glad you accepted the Meme. We used to have a GTO– was going to be my husband’s project after retirement. Isabel had other ideas.
    Wonderful insight about your mom and dad. Good lesson.

  3. kk said

    You forgot to mention your affinity to surf and turf and Calilfornia surfer dudes.

  4. Thanks Tina and Janet! I actually learned a lot about me writing it. H.

  5. Yes kk, this is true…but somethings are better left unsaid ;~}

    • Helen,

      You have set a high bar here. This was funny and touching and fascinating. I can’t wait to meet you in Raleigh.

      I’ve done this meme a couple of times, but it has been a while. I will put on my thinking cap to see if there is anything interesting left about me!


  6. TC said

    “I like Tina. He is a good friend to many bloggers…” I’m pretty sure Tina is actually a she. ;~P

    You had a gun to your head?? Geesh. And I thought being on a Submarine in the Navy was hazardous duty. (They say driving a school bus is also hazardous.)

  7. Joe Lamp'l said

    Well I must say, this was one of the most enjoyable blog reads I’ve had in a long time. How fun to get to know things about Helen that you just can’t say in 140 characters on Twitter. Now that I know all of these cool things, it sounds like we’re in for some late nights of great conversation when I see you in Raleigh in a few short weeks. I’m so looking forward to that. I know you’ve been working hard to show off your town and I can’t wait to see it.
    And by the way, thanks so much Helen for your very kind words about me.
    See you soon!

  8. P.S. kk, did you know that at sometime during the day, I will sit down at my computer and eat a can of sardines in olive oil – right from the can? See, some thinks are better left unsaid. H.

  9. Hey TC, that is why I have a love-love relationship with my editors! H.

  10. Joe you really are the best. I can’t wait to meet you! H.

  11. Wow, Helen. I’m so impressed with the interesting and adventurous life you have led. I’m sorry that I won’t be in Raleigh soon to meet you at GWA, but I hope that we will meet in person another time. Thanks for taking this on.

  12. Grumpy Gardener said

    Thanks, Helen, for once again revealing your unfailing taste and sense of discernment. Here is another thing most people don’t know about Helen — she has vestigial wings.

  13. My point exactly, Steve. I can’t tell if you are digging me or dissing me. I still don’t know ;~}

  14. A conundrum. I don’t usually participate in meme (is that ME, ME) as in a raising your hand at the back of a classroom hoping to be picked to answer a question?

    Nonetheless, rules are made to be broken once in awhile, so I humbly accept this meme with thanks. What convinced me to participate? It had to do with the seven things about you that are so similar to me (travel, toting guns, gardening, and a love of good cars).

    I’ll work on my meme. But, I do agree that selecting SEVEN other blogs is going to be the biggest challenge.


  15. Okay — my blog post is done. It’s posted. I’ve told the other bloggers. I’m letting you know. I think that’s everything on the “to do” list. Now– it’s glorious outside, so I won’t be back until dark!


  16. Les said

    Wow – I am somewhat humbled by your experiences, or maybe my lack of them. You have had quite a ride. My favorite part was what you said about your parents. It takes a big person to even admit (especially publicly) to having a favorite, but your words of resolution concerning your feelings for your mother set everything right.

    I am flattered that you chose me, but I will refer you to a post I wrote last July when Christopher in the mountains of your own state tagged me. I know it is not the same as playing again, but all the important information is there. Here is the link:

    Playing Tag (from July 2008)

    When you have time I would like to know more about your time on Chincoteague.


  17. Hi Helen, This was very nice…I enjoying learning all of these great things about you! I came over from Cameron’s. I was tagged for this a few wks ago…guess I’d better ‘get on it’ soon!

  18. Janet, I hope the GTO can happen one day for your husband. Think of the hurricane as a set back. Hl

  19. Yvonne, thanks for asking!!!!! H.

  20. Thanks for stopping by Jan. I see your comments on C. blog. Yes, it was fun. I learned a lot about me too! H.

  21. Oh how boring Helen! Couldn’t you do more with your life and be more confident? Seriously, you rock. I sure didn’t know you had wings–did you know you had wings?

    Your wit and ease of conversation is admirable.

  22. Now Anna, you know me better than that…I’m more likely to show some horns from time to time than to head heavenwards…not yet anyway.. It just goes to show, that if you suck up the that grumpy, he elevates your status in life. lol. H.

  23. Really impressed with the way you broke this challenge down and organized it so clearly into parts to make the whole challenge/rules so easy to understand. Definitely an engineer!!!

    I’m just in awe of your experiences in Pakistan – that picture is stellar!! – and the idea of you climbing up those smokestacks. Well, my feet are still tingling thinking about you doing that. (or ANYBODY doing that!!)

    Great the way you kept moving towards your destiny of working outdoors, and creating garden systems. Wonderful blend of all your strengths and experiences. Would love to see your garden some day.

  24. Racquel said

    I knew the minute I met you Helen that you were an interesting and well rounded person. Isn’t it funny how when one door closes another opens…the same thing happened to me. I lost my father (who was way to young at 59) several years ago and I found my Mother who had been missing from my life for many years. 🙂

  25. Hey Sarah,
    I’m so looking forward to meeting you at Garden Writers. When you are in Raleigh, I hope you can stop by. My garden is on the way from downtown to the airport (or vice versa)…either way, you have to pass my house. H.

  26. Hey Racquel,

    I am looking forward to reading yours Racquel. Funny how life is. Yes, 59 is way too young. Glad your mom is back in your life. H.

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