The land that my house sits on is communicating with me.
I first became aware of this three summers ago when a persistent image of a front yard vegetable and flower garden came to me every time I sat in meditation. It wasn’t until I agreed to this demand that I was able to settle into my practice without these insistent thoughts. After that, design and logistic ideas for my garden began to come to me as I descended into the stillness of meditation. The only challenging decision I was faced with was whether to chop down the large crab apple tree in the front corner of my lot in order to get enough sunlight. I loved that tree, particularly when it went into full fuschia bloom in the spring. Upon connecting to it more than once with my heart-wrenching dilemma, I understood that it was graciously sacrificing itself. Its trunk and large branches would become the borders around the vegetable patches and its smaller branches and leaves would be mulched for the pathways. The back yard, by the way, was out of the question as there were several large trees creating a lovely but too shady area for the plants I had in mind.
Once the tree was cut down I worked, over the course of the next the fall, sheet mulching the lawn which made up about half of the area. Layers of cardboard, manure, top soil and straw were laid down directly over the grass, as I had been taught in a permaculture course years before. I cut out many Euonymus and cedar bushes as they were growing in some of the prize areas and besides taking up space, weren’t of much use. I wanted to make room for plants that are edible, beautiful, medicinal, and/or balancing for the soil, other plants or insects, not to mention hardy and drought resistant. After transplanting perennials to the perimeter of the area, I laid down the paths and outlined the gardens. The land would rest over the winter and be ready for planting in the spring.
Over the past three years much of what I have learned about vegetables, herbs, flowers and weeds has come from intuition and observation. I do refer to the internet and books regularly but usually that’s as a result of an inner nudge. Maybe I notice that a plant isn’t doing as well as I’d hoped so I might look up the remedy. Or I’m particularly drawn to a plant that has shown up on its own and I might research its benefits and how to use it in health and beauty concoctions. I always let some weeds grow on the land as they no doubt serve to attract beneficial insects, and balance out the garden in ways that I feel but don’t completely comprehend. I find that when I become curious about a particular weed that I don’t know yet, life answers my ‘question’ in short order often through a friend or writing that I come across.
Around the same time as the front yard was transformed, I felt inclined to let the back yard lay fallow. For three years, I just left it alone. No mowing, or weeding. Anytime I even thought of mowing it my energy mysteriously dropped! After years of efforting to maintain grass the land apparently needed to rest. By the second year many new plants were showing up and it began to look wild and beautiful to my eyes.
Last fall, I woke up one morning and heard ‘make paths’. And so I did. A friend who owns a tree care business dropped off a truck load of mulch for no charge. I used my old living room curtains as a first layer to discourage weeds. The paths have made it easier to walk through the yard, and the squirrels and birds seem to appreciate them too! This spring I heard ‘get your fruit trees’. The next day I drove 2 hours to Alma to adopt some trees from a Mennonite farmer that I resonated with and had bookmarked on my computer the year before. I came home with two apple tress, a peach tree, a couple of blueberry bushes and a couple of northern kiwi vines. They’ve been planted and are doing well. My backyard neighbor has cut down the old poplar tree that was creating a lot of afternoon shade in my backyard, and the ice storm took several large branches from my big maple. Somehow Life has provided my fruit trees with the sunshine that they need.
One of my favorite surprises this year is the stunning Giant Thistle that showed up beside my back porch right in front of my kitchen window where I can see it often. It’s now an incredible seven feet tall and forming dozens if not hundreds of flowers. The first one bloomed yesterday and just about every time I look at it a bee is happily resting right in its centre. I feel that this thistle is a totem for this time in my life, although I haven’t completely understood its message yet.
Also four mullein plants (planted by nature!) are growing in a diagonal across my front yard. A couple of weeks ago, something told me to check the significance of the flowers. I found out through the internet that “Mullein flower tincture works very well in guiding and providing focus and grounding to those who feel they have lost their way or can’t see their path.” I had been speaking to a dear friend the day before who expressed this very concern. One of the first things I look forward to doing at dawn is to walk barefoot in my garden and gather the mullein flowers that have blossomed overnight and then add them to the rest that are soaking in vodka. The tincture will be ready to take in about a month. Of course I will give a bottle to my friend.
I feel honored to have been given the stewardship of this little piece of the Earth. I sense that I’ll be integrating its generous, honest and humble teachings for a long time.
Here are some of the things I’ve learned from my land…
- Life is abundant and indomitable.
- Observe Nature before you impose your ideas on it.
- A garden can yield rewards with very little work.
- Land and plants that you take care of want to give back: through healing subtle energies, beauty, food, and more.
- Insects, birds, and animals (even the neighbors cat!) are drawn to and of course add to natural places.
- Slow down, be still, and listen… Nature will whisper in your ear.
“One of the first and universally acknowledged preconditions for happiness is living in close contact with nature. Living under the open sky, in the light of the sun, in the fresh air; interacting with the Earth, plants and animals. Being deprived of these experiences has always been seen as a huge misfortune. ” Leo Tolstoy, What I believe
Love to you,