Guest Post: Genius Tips for Making Small Yards Big on Functionality by Tim Smith of

Today’s guest post is somewhat off-topic as it is not directly related to tea. However, the creative people at offered to prepare a guest post for a topic of my choice, and I was happy to take them up on the offer. has many beautiful and creative ideas on ways to improve the looks of any aspect of your home’s indoor and outdoor space.

My home is located about two miles outside of downtown Pittsburgh, and the yard is smaller in size, about 1,500 square feet. When searching the internet for inspiration on how to best arrange my yard to get the most out of limited space, I more frequently found impractical articles intended for larger outdoor spaces. So I took this opportunity with Modernize to request an article about how to get the most beauty and use out of my small yard.

Modernize had one of their writers, Tim Smith, research and prepare the following suggestions for homeowners such as myself with limited outdoor space. Looking at some of the ideas below, I can definitely imagine a more pleasant and beautiful space to share tea with friends and family.

Now, please give Mr. Tim Smith some well-deserved attention, and visit the Modernize website for more home beautification ideas. Thank you, Tim Smith and Modernize, for your contributions to The Tea Journeyman blog.


Genius Tips for Making Small Yards Big on Functionality

By Tim Smith


Have a postage stamp yard when you have dreams of an acreage? Fear not: We’ve compiled ideas from around the world to help show you that you can still pull off big ideas even if you’re working with a small space.


1. Japan as Inspiration

Japan Garden

Asian Landscape by Los Angeles Architects & Building Designers Whipple Russell Architects

Japan has some of the world’s most beautiful gardens, many in the small spaces demanded by crowded cities like Tokyo.

While they are short on space, that doesn’t prevent their owners from enjoying their grounds for generations. Much of the Japanese outdoor garden art is based on Zen Buddhism, which traveled to Japan from China.

Just a corner devoted to these art forms will bring beauty and peace to even the tiniest yard. There is no reason why these zen gardens need to take up more than a corner between two fences. It will provide a unique focal point in what might have been an overlooked area of a tiny yard.

Consider learning the arts of zen gardening, including sand gardens, bonsai trees and rock gardens.


2. Gardening Anywhere

Hanging Garden

Contemporary Landscape by Sausalito Landscape Architects & Landscape Designers Shades Of Green Landscape Architecture

The trick to gardening in a small space is to plant within and plant up. Everyone has vertical space; the problem is that we see space in horizontals.

If you have a fence or a wall, use vertical scaffolding to keep flowers, fruits or vegetables in place. There are also vertical tower planting containers that use a non-dirt planting medium that can bring gardening to any place in a small yard.


3. City Rooftops

Roof Garden

Contemporary Garage And Shed by San Francisco Architects & Building Designers Feldman Architecture, Inc.

Many city dwellers have rooftops that are strong enough to withstand use for gardening and other backyard translations. Be certain that the building owner agrees to this use. There may be issues with zoning, permitting and insurance.

If allowed, a veritable fairy garden can take shape. Lighting for night use, gardens and even water features can combine with seating for the entire building. It can be a great place for friends and neighbors to hang out.


4. Ditch the Grass

No Grass

Contemporary Deck by Sydney Landscape Contractors On Common Ground Landscapes

Grass within a very small space is far more difficult to care for than with a regular lawn. How do you cut it? It is usually too small for a mower and too large for scissors.

In this example, this interesting seating area over decking covers the ground, preventing grass and weeds. A few weekends with a hammer gives a permanent solution along with a sophisticated look and real practicality.


5. Create an Intimate Seating Area

Intimate Seating

Contemporary Patio by Amsterdam Landscape Architects & Landscape Designers Boekel Tuinen

Even the smallest yard can accommodate an intimate seating area. This yard has permanent benches amid beautiful plantings both in containers and in the ground.

For more design inspiration and other tips and tricks, please visit


A Welcome Surprise From A Great Author

Of the dozen or so tea related books that I have purchased over the past year, the Tea Dictionary by James Norwood Pratt is the book that has brought out the most excitement from me. Many tea enthusiasts, consultants, and professionals endorse this particular work by Mr. Pratt. I am very excited to have received my copy in the mail today.

Tea Dictionary by James Norwood Pratt
Tea Dictionary by James Norwood Pratt

The weight of this book is unexpected. It measures 8.5″ long by 5.5″ high, but weights just under two pounds (1 lb, 13.5 oz)! Like a child receiving a new present, I anxiously opened the mailer and unwrapped the book to look inside. This is what I found…

Inscription from James Norwood Pratt
Inscription from James Norwood Pratt

After seeing this, I was glad to have ordered this book directly from Mr. Pratt’s website, instead of ordering from Amazon like I usually would. I am confident that the information contained in this book justifies the cost, and this inscription just made it worth so much more to me.

Thank you, Mr. Pratt, for the inscription. I look forward to learning from your knowledge and experience. Cheers!

See Adware or Pop-ups? Email me!

Dear Readers,

One of my acquaintances notified me that he has had problems with adware showing up on this site in the past day or so. I have checked the site from at least four different computers, and have not seen any adware or had any problems, so I am hoping that this is an isolated issue.

However, if you have such an issue, please email me and let me know so that I may find the source of the problem, should one exist. Please contact me through the About the Tea Journeyman page, or comment on this or any post that has adware showing up.

Thank you for your assistance.

Taste Training : Roses and Lavender

What better way to train the tongue and brain to pick up on specific flavor notes in tea than to drink tisanes that are restricted to each individual flower, spice, herb, etc? Considering that I have about twenty various herbs, flowers, fruit peels, and other tea blending ingredients on my shelves, I decided to do individual tastings on each non-tea product in order to better polish my taste memory.

I just received some fresh rose petals and buds, and fresh lavender flowers for my herbs supplier, so why not start with the freshest ingredients on my shelves. Obviously, there is not much to review on these products. The rose tisane smelled and tasted like roses, and likewise with the lavender. The one character to note is the feel of each tisane. The rose tisane had a medium body with a smooth, supple feel to the liquid. The lavender also had a medium body, but had a pungent, mouth filling feel. I can guarantee that I will never miss the taste of lavender after this experiment. I also know for blending purposes that it will be very easy to overpower a tea or tisane blend by not being careful and conservative with the amount of lavender that is used.

Here are the photos that I took while experimenting with these tisanes.

Rose Buds and Petals
Rose Buds and Petals
Rose Tisane Liquor
Rose Tisane Liquor
Lavender Flowers
Lavender Flowers
Lavender Tisane Liquor
Lavender Tisane Liquor

I did enjoy the color of the lavender liquor. It had an interesting reddish-purple tint. The lighting that I had to use for these photos was not ideal, thus the reflections. I have quite a few boxes of tea samples being delivered in the next week or so, so I am not sure when my next post in this series will be available. This type of experimentation and tasting is vital in developing one’s tasting ability, so there will be plenty of these posts in the future.

As I Turn 30 Years Old … A Reflection on my 20’s

This is a non-tea related post in most ways. However, I feel this day and tomorrow are life changing days. My ability to clearly communicate thoughts and ideas through writing is superior to my verbal skills (in my opinion), so I intend to use this blog this one time for personal reflection on the past decade of my life.

Tonight is the last night of my third decade on this planet. Tomorrow, I will be thirty years old. It is amazing to look back at the last ten years, and amazing to see how dreams and goals change over that time. Ten years ago, I was a typical soon to be twenty year old, somewhat confused in what I wanted to do with my life. I was in between colleges, in between relationships, constantly trying to find the path to fulfillment. In those days, I looked in all of the wrong places for fulfillment. Luckily for me, out of all of the bad decisions I made, I was able to find a path out of that life.

While completing my bachelor degree in Accounting, I constantly followed the advice of the published salary outlooks for soon to be college grads. With accounting being on the higher end of the salary outlooks, and math and analysis being my strengths, I decided to go with that, just wanting to make as much money as possible as quickly as I could. I look back at what a foolish decision that was, to chase the idea of quick money, and not chase a dream of personal fulfillment through loving what I do, even if I do not get rich doing it.

I graduated college with decent grades, moved back and forth from home searching for new and exciting opportunities that never lived up to the expectations. In January and February of 2008, I was completely lost. I was sitting at a desk doing nothing fulfilling. I was out drinking way too much with friends. My relationship had fallen apart, ending an engagement. I felt like I had nothing.

My older brother then came to me, asking for my help in starting a business with him in Asheville, North Carolina. I jumped on the opportunity, despite being offered another job in Pittsburgh that had some promise for upward movement in the future. I worked 60 to 70 hours a week for months with my brother, just to have the chance to somewhat control my own fate and move away from Pittsburgh. Then we opened a second location in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Things were getting exciting again.

Well, the excitement for the business did not last long. The economy had bottomed out right at this time, and Myrtle Beach had it’s lowest number of vacationers in years. The business was not doing well. However, all that time, effort, and stress was about to pay off in non-monetary ways.

I had hired two great people from Moldova, who had come to the U.S. as part of a summer work program. While training the one person, I saw a beautiful young woman walk past my space in the mall. My worker saw that I had noticed this woman, and asked if I wanted to meet her. Thinking he meant at a later time, I excitedly said yes. Well, he ran down the hallway of the mall after this girl. Feeling a bit caught off guard, I did my best to be personable and respectful to her. My employee and this woman spoke Romanian to one another, which I knew nothing of. I just looked at them, smiled, shook my head as if I had some idea of what was going on, and tried to be polite.

This moment is the single moment that began me on the path that I currently am following. After only a month and a half of knowing this woman, we decided to take a huge risk with one another. Two weeks later, I married my wife, Alina, in the Horry County courthouse in South Carolina. We knew each other for two months before getting married. We just celebrated our five year anniversary one month ago today.

Wow, has Alina helped me over these years, and not without pain in doing so. Over these five years, my alcohol bar in my gameroom has been fully converted to a tea bar, and all by my choice, not any demand of my wife. Aside from helping me overcome many bad habits, Alina introduced me to loose leaf tea. Since that time, she has remained a rational tea drinker, while I have become a complete tea enthusiast. She has also remained a loyal companion, despite my many flaws.

As I look back on my 20’s, I see much time that was wasted on foolish activities and meaningless endeavors. I also see that pivotal moment in 2008, when my life took an entirely different and unexpected path. With the birth of my son, Alex, in 2011, my life has taken on even more meaning. As I watch him develop in every way, including becoming a tea drinker himself (he loves oolong), I cannot imagine ever going back to those selfish days that dominated the first twenty seven years of my life.

Now, I am approaching the age of thirty. I am only hours away, and yet I feel more confident and more excited for the next ten years. I have a beautiful family. I am becoming an expert of a topic that I have a true passion for (tea), and the founder and soon to be official co-owner of a tea company, Hē Chá Tea. I am highly confident that this company will be successful, but even if it is not, it has been a wonderful experience in learning the tea industry. I am confident that I am walking the path to be a part of an industry that I want to be a part of. I am confident that the next ten years with my family will be better than the first five. I am prepared to be the better person that everyone, including myself, needs me to be.

What a feeling this is, to look ahead and see the clouds of confusion thinning, and the light of fulfillment shining through. Not the fulfillment through tangible possessions, but the fulfillment through the intangible. Family, passion, wisdom, and tea.

May the next ten years allow me to reach my fullest potential. May they give me the wisdom and patience and love to be the best husband and father that I may be. May they give me the intelligence, humility, respect, and opportunities to succeed through my passion. May they give me the willpower to always continue my self-improvement. Finally, may they give me the ability to always find the time to be at peace, and be grateful for all of the blessings that have guided me to where I am today.

If you gotten this far, then thank you for reading my personal reflection on the past ten years. This post has been my official turning of the page from my 20’s to my 30’s. And now … back to TEA!