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OMOI talks Yardwork

OMOI talks Yardwork


Potting mixes ready for spring planting.
A hand painted birdie hangs in the porch, waiting for spring to arrive
Daffodils cheerily marking the path in early spring.
Supplies for early spring gardening set out on the porch table.
OMOI owner Liz Sieber gets her yardwork supplies ready.

A concept that I have been thinking about bringing into OMOI several times, in the springtime in particular, is yard work. The reason why I call it yard work and not gardening is because we live in Pennsylvania, and I feel like there's really so much more work that goes into keeping your space and your home clean. It never seems as simple as getting a few pots out and planting some things and they just come up nice. We're in Philadelphia, we're in the Northeast, there's tons of trees and leaves, there's lots of bugs!

I have really gotten into the process of doing yard work now. It feels more like a ritual, where I'm going in cleaning off the property, cleaning out the space from its hibernation season. I'm taking all the dead leaves that we missed from the fall, uncovering the ground bit by bit. For instance, I had a really nice experience the other week where I knew it was going to rain, and so I wanted to rake an area of the yard. As soon as I took all the brown leaves off I uncovered all these crocuses that would've stayed hidden otherwise. The following day, the blue little crocus bulbs were up, the daffodils were up. It inspired something in me, and so now I'm going around the yard little by little and clearing sections out and trying to make my way around the house.

This is the first time I've ever really been motivated to do that. When I was growing up I was conscripted into doing a lot of yard work. I didn't want to do it, but I had to help out with the chores. Back then I wondered, why do my parents enjoy this? Like why do they choose to do this? Now I think I'm at an age where I'm starting to understand the hands-on appeal, how this is physical activity, but you get something out of it. It feels good to pack up the bags of leaves and debris, taking them out to the curb and then having a fresh and green space when we're done.

Running the store all these years, I didn't always have the time to enjoy yardwork. So as that's become a bigger part of my life, I've wanted to incorporate it into the selection at OMOI. Because even though many of our customers living in Philly might only have a small front garden or just a concrete backyard or a window sill or something, there's still plenty of opportunity to take part in yard work.

For this reason, I really liked the Niwaki tools out of the UK. They're an English company with an interest in traditional techniques from Japan. I think what the UK and Japan and Philadelphia have in common is that we're living in these rather compact spaces. Our storage areas can be small or nonexistent, and a lot of people don't have separate garages or sheds. You know, we have to lug this stuff up from our basement or under the crawlspace behind the stairs, or tuck it in a visible corner of the apartment. So Niwaki appealed to me in that they're easy to store, easy to see, and very high quality. They're not aesthetic imitations of tools that fall apart as soon as you get into heavier duty work. I think that Niwaki has some blade makers on their team that are experienced in working with different types of carbon steel. And not only the blades but the handle attachments themselves are well thought-out—they're comfortable to use.

Yardwork supplies are gathered and ready to work.
Walking up the hillside to where the most work needs to get done this round.
The tarp and tools are spread out and Liz gets to work.
Niwaki's bright leaf pan does wonders in the yard.
Niwaki designs their Japanese-inflected garden tools for ease of use and visibility.

Since I have been doing so much more yard work, it's been a lot of fun kind of organically learning what each of the tools are really good for. Their Hori Hori trowel surprised me. Honestly, I bought it because it was a slow seller at the store, and I thought, well I'll use it. It has since become one of my favorite tools. I can dig stuff out quickly, and it cuts right into any lingering roots (like the whole darn thing comes up). In the video you can see how I'm pulling up these grasses—I've never liked them and the cat eats them—they come up so quickly with the Hori Hori. It's very pleasing.

When I first saw Niwaki's orange leaf pan at one of our regular trade shows, I was thinking—oh my gosh this is what I have been looking for my whole entire life. It fits right into my leaf bag. And even if you're not doing heavy leaf raking, it's still a really dandy thing, cause even when I lived down in South Philly, I could fill that whole bin just picking up junk that's flying down the street one afternoon or digging out the weeds that would come up from between the concrete walls of our back patio.

Liz uses her Niwaki HORI HORI trowel to make quick work of tough weeds.
Liz appreciating the uses of her Niwaki garden tools.
Liz's cat Parker feeling camera shy even with her fave cat grass out for munching.
Liz tries to alleviate her cat Parker's shyness with some encouraging talk.
Liz's cat Parker is over the fussing and wants to go back inside.

After a long day of yard work, the most rewarding part is being able to sit back and enjoy everything you've done. Lately I've been drinking green tea, which has been really refreshing. It's easier on my body than a cup of coffee, which is what I have been drinking for so long. In particular I've been enjoying the Morihata Asatsuyu tea, because it's a little less bitter than some other green teas that I've tried before. I enjoy the process of making it as well—I feel fancy that I'm using tea leaves and not just a tea bag. I pour one serving and usually get two cups of tea out of it, and that's enough to give me some energy back for the afternoon after working all day.

Where we worked today is right outside my porch, and that's where I often look forward to being able to turn on some music, make a cup of tea, and sit back with my journal. I like to be able to look out onto the space as I write. I'll start mapping out things, like where have I already worked (so that I can check those things off the list right away), what part of the houses haven't I worked around, will I be able to treat myself to any new plants, where do I have to clean spiders out of, and so on.

I've been planning using my TRAVELER'S notebook, of course. What I appreciate is that I'm able to plan in that book, building a personal almanac individualized to my own house and my own spaces that I like to work in. I'll sit and sketch and begin to feel revitalized with the work that's been done and positive about the work that is yet to come.

Thank you for visiting my house and take care.

Liz's home decorated with cool antiques that her family has collected over the years.
A view of the living room mantle, where the stereo lives just off to the side.
The wooden rooster that once belonged to Liz's grandmother!
Pennsylvania Dutch and other PA woodcrafts decorate the nooks of Liz's home inside.
The dining room table with a puzzle in progress and antique family heirlooms all around.
Well loved antique wood pairs well with Fog Linen Work kitchen cloths and favorite mugs in Liz's kitchen.
Liz prepares some afternoon tea, this time with Morihata's Asatsuyu sencha.
Liz journals in her TRAVELER'S notebook after a day's work in the yard.
OMOI founder Liz Sieber enjoys a quite moment journaling in her TRAVELER'S notebook on a rainy early spring day.
The blue crocuses appear after a day doing yardwork in early spring.
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