Here are the bones for the Veggie Garden.
As previously written, the people from whom we bought our house had allowed this side yard to grow wild for about twenty years, so it was dense with reedy shrubs and scrub oak. We had a crew come in and take everything down to the ground. Once the woody weeds were shredded to mulch, the remaining stump, rock and glacial till was pretty much leveled. Then what?, was the question. I did not have a lot of money for landscaping. This was not land that could support a lawn.
Setting up raised beds was inspired by my neighbor, who has a truly fabulous sprawling property with rare trees, stone walls, a lavish koi pond, and in the back, near me, a veggie garden with perfectly squared raised beds on a white floor of pea stone, and vinyl coated mesh wire fence on cedar posts. It has a stone threshold, a swinging gate, strategically placed sprinklers, and everything else anyone would want in a gentleman’s garden.
In my copycat version, I made trapezoid beds to conceal the trouble I have with squaring corners. I fashioned 12 foot long raised beds and arranged them to radiate out from the middle. The middle was a 12 foot high tower topped with a glass ball I called the Green Eyed Dragon. If you look closely, you can see a string hanging down, suspending a brass arrow. When the pendulum swung, it left a pattern in the sand. In this photo, the boxes were filled with ‘dirt’ from the fellow who shredded the weeds into mulch. I learned my neighbor filled his beds with compost from Sunnynook Farm, so I added a second layer of 12×2’s and filled it with Sunnynook’s special mix.
This radiating trapezoid garden scheme was immensely satisfying. I raised lots of hearty veggies. Spot kept predators at bay. And while Spot and I worked in the garden, the church bells rang the hour, and as they rang, I marked the shadow of the green ball. Over time, a sun clock emerged. The garden felt like a great time piece, marking the rhythms of life.
Rough hewn pine is cheap, and easy to work with, but rots quickly. The tower stayed up for several years and then came down in a storm. Although I really loved it, I never replaced it. Even now, I am wondering, why not rebuild that great tower? I really did love it. But replacing it does not seem quite right.
This question about why I have not rebuilt the old Green Dragon reminds me that the work I do in the garden is powered by inspiration. If the affirmation to go ahead is not in my bones, I hold off. Some people call that intuition, and I believe that we all have it. There is a queer feeling of thinking an answer is probably correct before knowing the reason why the answer is correct. It is something I wish I understood better, and working in my garden gives me a chance to polish the notion.
So, what intrigues me most about why I am not rebuilding the Green Dragon is the intelligence at work. I ask myself, what are the underlying reasons for this feeling? I know they will eventually show themselves. But where are they now? Why cannot I not know the reasons now? I am blocked, walled off from information already in my mind. This baffles me.
It causes me to wonder if walls actually help me see more clearly. Perhaps I can only focus when my sight is limited. As the Mistress of the Dakotas, I control the walls in the garden. By creating blocks, I create rooms, private places, paths, thresholds and vistas. I frame, magnify, and enhance what grows. Is this the broken light of the rainbow? Rooms inside a house, or the house on the prairie?
So, circling back here, I trust there is some divine wisdom at work in the way I can know an answer while the reasons for the answer are blocked from my awareness. Blocks are critical to living, loving and learning. Yet, seeing beyond them interests me. How can I do it? For me, I stay close to the teachings of Christ. I have faith, hope and love, and the help of the Holy Spirit.
But I digress. The Green Dragon was wonderful. It came down in a storm, as the photo below shows.
The glass ball did not break. It is in the garden still. All that was left was the square box of sand. After the crash, I experimented by creating different centers. At one point, on a weekend when I had guests coming for Easter, I spread out seashells, stuck sticks in the sand, stacked a couple of glass bowls and topped them with a chambered nautilus. A mermaid sat of the ledge. I have no idea what it is supposed to be. Play is always good, and not all of what you make is worth keeping.
A few years ago, the local antique store called because they knew I admired a marble statue in their store. A big sale was ongoing, and they asked if I would buy the statue at a 50% discount, for an amount of money I could not possibly afford. I declined. They called again the next day to ask if I would by at 75% off. The third day, they called to ask if I could take it at just 10% of the original ticket price. I felt embarrassed to say no, but I still felt this was far more extravagant than my household budget allowed. I said, well, can you deliver it? And they said they would be right over. I could hardly believe I had purchased a beautiful, antique marble statue.
I identify her as Persephone, because I was once called Persephone by a Jungian therapist. She is a breathtaking work of art chiseled from Carrara marble, and veined with raised gray lines that show her age. A barely noticeable scar around her neck indicates she once lost her head. But who among us hasn’t? That day she was delivered, the store closed its doors, and vanished.
I thought she was well suited to center the garden, being the goddess of the seasons, and the reason for Springtime. She never looked quite right on the sandbox. She looked to stark. So I began to dream about a space where she would be properly framed. I am still creating it, but presently, it is immensely satisfying.
After Persephone was moved about 100 feet away, T.J., on the backhoe, managed to move a giant stump across the yard, balance it upside down, and center it in the garden boxes. Also, he built a three foot high berm from the corner of the Casita out into the yard, bisecting the veggie garden and the Persephone Garden. It is behind this backhoe, so does not appear in the photo. Eventually, the berm is planted with plumb trees, forming a visual barrier making the Persephone garden very private, and the veggie garden even more productive.
Why an upside down tree stump? On the other side of the house a clump of trees came down in a storm, and the great round roots struck me as beautiful. Three trees, one oak and two maples, had grown together as one. In the photo below, three stumps can be seen.
The massive root was round and flat, like a great table. Time, rain, and a power nozzle blasted away dirt, and an endless network of veins could be studied and admired. Fungus grew in brilliant yellow, regal purple, blood red, and every other color. In places the tentacles clutched rocks, like jewelry.
A visitor suggested that what was needed was a limit. Decide on a diameter, and then cut away everything smaller. I handed him a sharp narrow saw, and he went to work, cutting out all roots less than a quarter inch wide. The effect was stunning. From that moment, the bejeweled root, just gray and brown until the colors of the universe showed out in the fungus, was a work of art.
Unfortunately, it took hours, he got blistered and sweaty, and never returned to the garden again, for fear of being drawn into my my imagination. Lesson learned.
But I am getting ahead of things. First we decided that the veggie garden was not the proper place for Persephone, and moved her a hundred yards away with an intention to build a venue just for her. And then, not having a center, and having a tree stump I loved, we placed the tree stump at the center. TJ skillfully placed the massive stump I loved in the middle of the veggie garden, and my Dad called it the Milking Stool, which I thought was very strange. He said, it had three legs like a stool, and it appeared to be milking the universe of its good energy, creating a vortex for good energy. How brilliant, I thought.
Above is the view into the veggie garden from the glider under the grape arbor. It looks weedier than I recall, perhaps because weeds tend to dominate photos. I was very happy with this version of my veggie garden. I liked the Milking Stool for its massive feeling, its dark color, and for the juxtaposition. Roots are everything in a garden, yet seldom seen.
From there, two things happened. One, I got to building a place for Persephone, and decided I had to have to milking stool as the center for that garden. And Two, I saw the garden pond at Blithewold, and knew at once could build something like it, and that a pond would be the very best center for my veggie garden.