This past weekend I headed up to the coast house with my partner and our roommate for an overnight. The plan was to take measurements in my studio-to-be so I could figure out what I was taking in the way of furniture. I also wanted to get the old garden behind the garage covered over with tarps to kill off the weeds and other plants that had taken residence over several years of neglect. My goal is to be able to start planting in there by the start of June, but if that’s going to happen I’d need to get started on overhauling the space now.
What I seem to have forgotten in the week between the two visits to the house is that the garden had been unattended long enough that several small trees were growing there. So it wouldn’t be a matter of just throwing down tarps and calling it good. No, we’d have to go in and remove the trees, as well as tamp down other plants so they could be covered, along with uprooting a bit of English ivy that had somehow managed to take root in one corner (it’s nasty, pernicious stuff that will take over if you aren’t careful).
I see the killing of plants as a weighty matter in the same way I view the killing of animals. In either case I am taking away a being’s place in this world. And because we’ve been conditioned to see trees as extra-special (compared to, say, dandelions) it somehow feels more difficult to fell a tree than pull out invasive ivy. So before my partners in gardening came down from the house to help, I said my apologies to every one of the plants in that space. I think I said an extra apology to the trees, though.
However, the land isn’t hurting for trees, not in the least. In fact, they need thinning, particularly where they’ve intruded onto the dunes, and where a lack of fire and old growth has made the forest grow thicker than is healthy. And in the long run what I’m doing will be more beneficial to the world in other ways. By growing even more of my own food (I’m also keeping the community garden plot in Portland and my roommate has signed on as a co-gardener) I can cut down on reliance on monocropped produce from the stores, particularly since I can’t always afford the organic option. It’s a good reminder of why I need to be close to the land. And it’s great exercise.
We were all reminded of that last bit as we started in on the preparation of the plot behind the garage. I chopped down seven young fir trees and an alder that was threatening to take down the fence using a pair of clippers and a hand axe. S., my partner (and ever the historical swordsman) helped with the alder using a reproduction Civil War-era Bowie knife (more of a small sword than a pocket knife). J., our roommate, went after the overflow of grass with much gusto, and by the time all was said and done we were tired and sweaty, but the tarps were down and weighted with whatever heavy items we could find (to include, perhaps macabrely, the fir trees I had cut down).
I figure I’ll leave the tarps for a month or so, then rake up whatever’s underneath into a compost pile, turn the soil and remove whatever roots I find. The tree stumps will be a bit more of a challenge but I can work around them if need be. I want to send in a soil sample, too, to see what condition it’s in–obviously it’s been supporting a variety of life, so it’s not sterile. But I’m curious, particularly since the garden is a raised bed and the soil was likely brought in by truck.
I’ll be moving my studio out to the house next week, but I already feel a little more at home knowing I have a garden in the works.
Want to help my garden grow–and help me survive a crazy month full of moving, taxes and other expenditures? Consider buying one of my books, or purchasing artwork from my Etsy shop, or even request a totem card reading!