Looking towards the outside world.
I love where I live. My home is situated at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac of ten houses. I have neighbours on both sides and across the road an old saw mill which is completely screened by a couple of hundred trees. Back in the day when this area was opened up, cedar and silky oak trees were logged and brought down the mountain on timber wagons pulled by teams of oxen. They came to the saw mill close to my house where the logs were dragged across the land and launched from a natural outcrop in the creek in my backyard. They floated downstream to the coast and put on clipper ships which sailed to England and India.
We bought our home in 1993 but didn't move here till 1997. Our soil tests at that time showed this was "virgin land" which had never been lived on or cultivated. The creek is our back border and it still flows but there are no other signs of the history of the land, the men, the oxen or the timber wagons.
We decided very early on that we wanted to get the full value of our land by improving the soil and growing food. We bought heirloom chickens, installed water tanks, erected fences and started gardening. We produced fruit, vegetables, nuts, eggs and loofahs from 1998 until 2021 when Hanno became ill. I literally walked out of the garden in October 2021 to tend to Hanno, leaving the tools as they were, and didn't go back until early this year.
The garden when I walked out in October 2021. When I went back earlier this year, it was completely dead.
Hanno did the digging, weeded garden beds, made compost, looked after the chickens, planted seedlings and left the gardens fallow from late November to March ever year. It was too hot to garden, there were too many bugs and as it was our wet season, nature took care of the watering. We were excited to plan our new season in January and February every year and started working back in the garden in early March. Doing this allowed us to rest over summer, eat the freshest organic produce, produce much of what we needed and share a lot of it with our family, friends and neighbours.
My part of the gardening took place every afternoon from 2.00 - 4.00 pm when shade covered the garden. I pruned, weeded, moved plants, staked, watered and harvested to my heart's content. I preserved a lot of that produce by making jams, sauces, tonics, cordials, relishes and pickles. We cut down on the cost of our food shopping and made ourselves happy by being productive and working outside in the fresh air.
Here is part of the potted garden I created out the front.
I decided recently that the potted garden I made in the front garden wasn't enough. I wanted what I once had - the opportunity to sit in a joyous space, breathe fresh air, watch the wildlife and think about the ghosts - both men and horses, who moved massive tree trunks across this land. I wanted to see my house from a different perspective; I wanted to see the outside as well as the inside. So at the beginning of this week, after I'd had the garden dug over and compost added, I started planting flowers in two garden beds. In a small separate garden that used to be an old sand pit, I'm growing the herbs I eat, chillies and two tomato bushes. I grow comfrey next to the compost and use it to make organic fertiliser. It doesn't look like much at the moment but like every garden it will grow into something entirely different with a little help from me and Mother Nature.
Roses have been moved back to where they used to be and are growing well. Roses are as tough as old boots and they only die if you don't water them. There's a standard dark red Munstead Wood, a standard pale pink-white rose called Seduction, a climber called Pinkie, two pink Cecile Brunner mini climbers, the pink Montville Rose, a pale yellow hybrid tea rose called Elina, pink climber Dorothy Perkins and I have The Fairy rose which I'll plant in a pot and have on the side of the garden. I also have English lavender, salvias, gaura, penstemon, foxgloves, yarrow, several daisies, chrysanthemums, Queen Anne's lace, snapdragons, buddleja - butter fly bush, society garlic and a small lemon tree in a pot. There are a couple of other plants there that I'll remember as soon as I post this but I hope you get the general idea. I'll continue planting until I can no longer see the garden bed. Shane came down to help me with the final planting which was all in the middle of the beds. I get very dizzy when I step on uneven ground so I was very grateful when he said he would come and help.
The plants are a large part of the garden but it's the physical space I love the most; it feels different in there. I have a place to sit in the shade and I can see the entire backyard as well as an air corridor that starts around 500 meters away in the bush and flows into our backyard. Male Willy Wagtails use it to show off, swooping and gliding in front of the female birds, and it's the corridor insects use when they start hatching in the bush and move into suburbia annoying us gardeners.
The love of gardening seems to grow stronger in me every year. It helps me think about life and how I fit in, it brings back memories and helps me think about what's next. But it's also about the beautiful flowers and delicious produce that can be grown. And I'm happy to say that it's there for all of us if we have land or pots to grow in and the desire to work hard.