I must begin with a confession: my yard is a mess. It has not always been so; in fact, not many years ago, my yard teemed with flowers spilling over the edges of garden paths, herbs and vegetables unfurled in intricate geometric patterns in a culinary potager, antique roses perfumed arbors, and two ponds burbled and cooed as Sarasa Comets flashed their scales in the sun and frogs languished on lilies. Then I had children.
(Yes, those are dishes in the background, tucked among limbs and dried leaves.) Seamus smiles from what should be the path to the playground. The two piles of brush flanking the entrance to the playground were intended to become berms for ornamental plantings. Thankfully, plans and people change, and these piles will instead be mulched and the space used for muscadines and blueberries. Seamus would much rather something tasty than pretty.
My husband and I clung to the remnants of our landscape, but the garden we had created succumbed to the pressures of our lives. The cottage garden degenerated into a tangle of unchecked fertility. However, that's just as well because we are no longer cottage garden people. The children--those wonderful, inquisitive little boys--have changed us. I am no longer satisfied by mere beauty. How could I be when each day I am able to see the world--at least a bit of it--through their eyes?
In losing the garden, though, I lost something else. Even when our yard (and lives) was at its most overwhelmed, I would slip into the yard--in baking light or in the quiet dark--and smear dirt on my face and neck. I've since learned contact with the soil prompts the release of serotonin and elevates mood for an extended time, but in those moments I was only searching for myself, my fingers scrabbling in the soil, digging up my heart and spreading it like war paint to combat the numbness and invisibility into which I was sinking.
Now, though, that is not enough. Streaks of war paint are not enough. I cannot deny the primal drive to plant, to harvest, to be myself. Thus, I am digging in my toes, my shovel, my pen. I am turning my overgrown yard into a food forest.
As we labor over this transformation, doing our best to follow the principles of permaculture, I will post our plans, progress, frustrations, and flops with unflinching honesty. (Actually, I am flinching a bit about the dishes in the yard.)