Monday, January 27, 2014

Planning a Facelift

I could say that I'm growing rather tired of all the lessons I get about the value of patience. They seem to come pretty frequently. I could say that, but it would be a bit untruthful. The lessons are by no means annoying. In fact, I think I find them comforting. Perhaps they suggest that I could eventually learn to be patient. Perhaps.

I've learned another one of these lessons recently. You see, had I been more patient in the early months of owning this house, the Secret Garden probably would not have been in a persistent state of being "not quite right." It has always seemed cluttered, maybe even that it's lacking a specific identity. That's been bothering me quite a bit for the last few months.

Bit of a messy corner

And another messy corner

A generally unsuccessful corner

You get the point...

Many of the gardening books I've read have cautioned would-be gardeners who have moved to a new home to wait a while, get a sense of the place, let ideas percolate, and then begin the creation of a garden. Some have even suggested that one wait a year or two. Every time I read something like that, I thought the author was very right and wise, and then I walked straight into my garden and did the exact opposite. The results have been pretty disappointing. The upside is that I've been letting things percolate at the same time, and now, a little over 3 years of being in this house, a real Secret Garden plan is falling into place.

That plan begins with destruction. We've been clearing things out. Some plants have been ruthlessly cut down and pulled out, and others have been relocated to new areas of the yard.

A small portion of what has been removed so far

A relatively cleaner slate
Over the years, I've noticed that visitors to the garden walk rather awkwardly down the paver path. I think the limited number of pavers have made them feel like getting to the swing involves a game of hopscotch. So we're doubling down on the pavers. But that's just one of many changes to take place in the garden in the coming weeks.

An easier path to follow

In such a confined space, the garden needs a lot of structure, I think, so that's what I'm going for in the designs. I haven't finished drawing them up, but here's where I am so far.

Entrance gate to the right. I'm rather short on plants
in the plan at present.

I hope to finish the reconstruction of the garden in about a month. As ever, I'm very cost-conscious, so as I give you updates on what I've accomplished from week to week, I'll also give an accounting of my various projects.

I hope you'll find the renovation process satisfying to watch. And, please, I beg you, be patient with me as I create the new space. I hear patience is one of the best things to cultivate.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Great Garden Cover Up

I've been keeping a secret. It's not a secret that could make any real impact on the world, really. Some of my family and friends already have some inkling of what's been going on around here. The honest truth is that I've been growing things...edible things.

I've taken photos with every intention of writing blog posts and telling you all about what's been going on in the garden, but to be completely honest, I have felt guilty. My mom's shower froze in Ohio last week, for goodness sake. My sister-in-law has been enduring shocking below-freezing temperatures, too. My former exchange student, who spent the Christmas and New Year holidays with us, visited friends in Michigan, and let's just say that had I been the one going through what she experienced, I'd be a little cranky right now. When she wasn't enduring canceled trains and flights, she was coping with significantly delayed trains and flights. I covered my plants for two nights. And, in the interest of full disclosure, I wasn't covering kale or leeks, which are known for their ability to endure the cold. I was covering tomatoes and pineapples.

In short, I've felt a bit like a phony.

Preparing for the cold

There are a lot of people who like to flaunt the mild Florida temperatures to others who are suffering in colder climes. In my mind, they're a bit like people who talk smack about their football teams. It's a language I've never understood. Recently, I mistakenly replied to a message to all family members, in which I merely cheered for my home state's football team. I received the most incredibly rude response from one person, which has led me to decide that I simply won't communicate my desire to see a particular football team win anymore. I see no cause to beat someone's hope or joy into submission, but it seems I may be in the minority. Though I'm fluent in German, "Schadenfreude" has no meaning to me. And so I've remained silent about what's been happening in my garden.

But then it occurred to me today that summer in Florida is very much like winter nearly everywhere else (and vice versa). In summer, I can't grow anything but jalapeƱos, if I'm lucky. Yet I derive the greatest pleasure in seeing the ebullient posts from others who are celebrating their first tomatoes of the season in July when I fear I may wither from the heat. The fact that any of us can drop something akin to a speck of dirt into the soil and ultimately find sustenance from it is nothing short of a miracle to me, and it's something to be celebrated, no matter the time of year. I wish that every one of us could, regardless of space, attempt to grow a little something that we could harvest and share with family or friends and experience the great pride and deep honor that comes with knowing that we've been part of a miracle. Perhaps it's a good New Year's resolution to try. So now I'm ready to confess.

I had a delicious salad that came solely from my garden the other day.

A bowl full of everything from my garden!
I made preserves of salsa and tomato chutney. I had a delicious lunch of my tomatoes and thyme in a cream sauce, served with buckwheat crepes. I ate a stir-fry that was mostly comprised of my snow peas.

Snow pea stir-fry
I've been eating miracles.

I'm preserving the fruits of my labor this winter, preparing for the harsh Florida summer ahead. I hope it gives all of you in colder areas something to look forward to, a beacon of hope for delicious things to come.