In my latest book, Yard Art and Handmade Places: Extraordinary Expressions of Home, I take a look at the ways ordinary people organize and shape the space around their house to express identity and belonging. More than a mere catalog of eccentric gardens or a collection of folk art pieces, this book includes the stories of some extraordinary "place-makers" who beautifully and lovingly show us how the garden can be a powerful gesture of hospitality and sociality. By seeing all the ways people use their yards or gardens to create particularly exuberant statements about themselves, their history or background, and even religious beliefs, we learn that the larger meaning binding all these places together is what they have to say about the relationship of the owner to his or her homeland.
Some of the yards in my book can be described as extravagant "imaginary environments", while others are more modest gardens. Some people tell us what it's like to remain in landscapes that have been exploited and degraded, and still others explain their quest to revive and restore a version of paradise in abandoned, ruined land. Some yards were products of an urban environment, and others, like windbreaks on the High Plains, are large-scale rural landscape projects.