Our Garden in the Woods

garden in the woods

I recently read Peter Mayle’s Encore Provence, and I loved his reason for not having a garden:

It would be fighting nature, and nature always wins. It has more stamina and it never stops for lunch.

Peter Mayle is a wise man. His quote reminds me of a friend of mine who said one spring:

I love this time of year! The new plants are spouting and growing…before they get eaten by the deer and beaten down by the hail.

And that was down here in town, where the elevation is only 7200 feet.

So I suppose some people would call our garden in the woods, at an elevation of 8800 feet, an exercise in foolishness. The picture above shows me walking down the path to the garden. The figures slightly to the left of center are Kaitlin and (probably) Andy looking at the garden.

rototilling the soil
lush garden

In fact, it was a fun adventure and we were successful for a while. We carefully hauled down sacks and sacks of sterilized manure each year and rototilled them into the soil. And we did produce some lush cold-weather crops…crops that needed more warmth didn’t do as well. We harvested most of our tomatoes after the first snow flurries, while they were still green.

Unfortunately just growing crops isn’t enough.

Animals Don’t Understand Sharing

There are a lot more animals than humans up there. Now we didn’t mind sharing. We thought it was cute when we saw a pile of pea pods, neatly stripped of the peas, under the leafy protection of Kaitlin’s pumpkin plant. We didn’t even mind the ground squirrel chattering at us when we stayed in “his” garden too long. But he eventually ignored us and came in to harvest even though we were there. (We tried two different fences, but they couldn’t keep him out.) It did bother us when we were admiring our handiwork and saw a wheat stalk topple over in front of our eyes, And the last straw was when we watched a bean plant disappear into the soil, to be replaced by a gopher hole.

Andy’s solution was to set traps and kill the animals, but I didn’t care about the produce as much as watching the plants grow. And killing animals does not make my little corner of the world a friendlier place.

The Greenhouse

inside greenhouse
greenhouse partially underground
inside greenhouse

Andy had always dreamed of having a greenhouse, so we decided to spend the money and have one built. The garden was about 30 feet by 50 feet, and the greenhouse is 25 feet by 75 feet… big enough to do some good.

The walls are cinderblock and the roof glass. The left wall in the picture of the inside is about 7 feet high, the one on the right 9 feet high.

The second snapshot shows how the higher wall is nestled into the slope of the land to conserve heat.

We asked the contractor to save all the precious soil we had laboriously built up, but he forgot. It ended up buried under the concrete porch. So we built up more soil by growing “green manure”, crops that nurture the soil when rototilled in. It didn’t take long before we producing good crops again.

We had several years of bountiful harvests before the drought hit and our well couldn’t produce enough water for the plants. My husband has great hopes that the drought will eventually end, but I’m relaxed either way. I’m glad we did it, but I’m happy to move on.

A Waste of Time?
Was our garden in the woods a waste of time and money? Were we foolish to do it? Not in my book. For me growing a garden is like raising a child, I do it for the joy of being involved and watching things grow. I do it for the process, not for the end result. When we bought the land we knew it could be devastated by forest fires at any time. The fact is, we’re been lucky to have had that many good years up there. We managed to have some good harvests, but even more important we had a great shared adventure and have years of precious memories.

What About You?
Have you ever done something that other people might have thought foolish or that didn’t turn out the way you had hoped? How do you feel about it? Are you more focused on productivity and achievement than in enjoying the adventure of life? Do you think the two approaches are incompatible?

Thanks to kazari, Brad, Jody, rummuser, Lori, Diane and bikehikebabe for commenting on last week’s post.
This entry was posted in Following the Path, Living Fully, Taking Risks. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Our Garden in the Woods

  1. Tracey says:

    I liked your comment about a garden being like a child. Only last week I went to a psychic who asked me about my new garden bed (created just weeks before). Since I am not a gardener, and only planted a vegie patch because it felt *right*, I was surprised that she picked up on this. She said the reason I needed to do this, despite my very un-green thumbs was because nurturing the garden and vegies was akin to spiritually nurturing myself. As I watched the plants grow, I was growing spiritually. So your anology fits well with me too.

    As for the two approaches to life (productivity/achievement versus the adventures), I don’t think they’re incompatible at all. In fact, I think the real magic about achieving is that you get more (or at least, as much) out of the journey than the destination.

    Great post!

    Traceys last blog post..Get Ducked, Karma!

  2. Jean says:

    🙂 Amen to that! There’s so much emphasis now-a-days on productivity and goals that I think many people miss the connection.

  3. Evan says:

    It is possible to enjoy doing with no excess or strain. The most prouductive can be enjoying the doing. So I think the goal of the productivity approach is compatible with enjoying the adventure. But the attitude of doing only for the result and not for the sake of the doing itself are not compatible.

    When I’ve contemplated things that others find foolish (and there have been many – I’m widely regarded as eccentric) I’ve usually decided I need to do it for me. So far I’ve always been glad. My regrets are about the ones I didn’t do.

    Evans last blog post..Eight Steps for Working with a Deep Difference in an Important Relationship #1

  4. rummuser says:

    Oh, yes indeed. I am still considered an odd ball for the way our garden has evolved. To start with, I refused to have a lawn and instead used paving stones with gaps in which grass grows. This enables us to cast bird seed so that birds can feed off the ground. Less maintenance problems and hardly any water. Next, the theme is, as many different plants along the borders as possible. So, instead of a garden, we have a mini jungle. I shall publish a photograph too now that you have given me the inspiration for a post. Thank you.

    rummusers last blog post..Marriage Violence and Divorce.

  5. Jean says:

    I agree. The main thing is not to get so obsessed with the future goal that one forgets that life is in the here and now. I’ve come across a lot of blogs urging us not to be “mediocre”. Somehow they seem to be saying ordinary life isn’t enough, we have to push ourselves to be outstanding. That’s not my style. It sounds like it’s not yours either. 🙂

    I’m looking forward to seeing the picture of your garden.

  6. Diane says:

    Hi Jean,
    I just planted some new seeds and they are just sprouting up right now. I think I enjoy the process most. Watching them mature and then harvesting the produce. I enjoy the end result. So I guess its both too. And I feel the same about the analogy of children in regards to plants. I have some plants that are older than my children. A gopher just ate 5 of my precious white roses that I have enjoyed for years. So sad.

  7. Jean says:

    We sympathize with you about the gophers. I wish I could find that picture of Andy looking at the gopher hole that our bean plant disappeared down. I still remember the expression on his face.

    Gophers have gotten some of our fruit trees, too. Andy buried hardware cloth at least two feet deep around the replacements. That has helped a lot.

  8. Marc says:

    You are always so thoughtful and gentle…when I stop in and read I leave a little more peaceful.I will think of the woods differently now. I do love nature, but never quite thought of it as a garden….or being preferable to a domestic garden.

    Marcs last blog post..Would you wear these Fall makeup trends? ?

  9. Jean says:

    🙂 Thank you for the kind words. They made my day.

  10. tammy says:

    why do men always want to “kill” things?
    we go into the animals’ world and because they don’t change their ways, to co-ordinate with our specific desires, we get rid of them… kill them.
    i’m glad you built a greenhouse instead. and later, when the drought caused you to have to re-think it all, you had the best attitude. you are a lady who walks her talk! and that is admirable. so admirable. i love your gentle spirit.
    tammy j

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