I am on my way to becoming a medieval monk

Remember that mud-pit of a backyard from last summer? The transformation is finally finished! (Well, it’s mostly finished anyway. Gardens are too full of life and growth and change to ever be really “finished”.) At long last my little corner of earth is beautiful and full of both vegetables and flowers. I have enjoyed it all summer long. Here is the story:

When we moved into the house two summers ago, it looked like this:

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Then with a little help (ok, it was a lot if help!) we cleared out the broken deck and rotting trees:

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We had a stone patio installed:

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This spring I found simple (premade! cedar! not too expensive!) garden boxes. Since I have been saying for a few years now that when I grow up I want to be a medieval monk, I designed them to form a cross (this was common in monastery gardens). All of the grass and mud was covered with wood mulch. At the center will one day be a circular garden with a small fountain symbolizing baptism.

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I filled these boxes with all manner of vegetables–beans, zucchini, tomatoes, swiss chard, a few kinds of lettuce, red cabbage, onions, leeks, hot peppers, carrots, beets and kale. I tucked in a few stevia plants, green basil and some lemongrass. I also added a few flowers to invite pollinators–nastursium, scarlet runner beans and what I thought were marigolds but aren’t exactly (more on that in another post). Here is how it looked near the beginning of the summer:

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And here is how it looked later in the summer:

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There was one more small patch of yard not yet accounted for. After much family discussion and some soul searching on my part, we installed a small rectangle of grass (I then bought a second-hand reel mower. No stinky lawn mower for me!) At first it was just the dog who loved it, but after acquiring some lawn furniture (courtesy of another family updating their yard) even I have come to appreciate the space it offers for rest and play. Notice the yellow spots on the lawn. I refuse to obsess about keeping it green and perfect:

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On the perimeter of the yard, I added a few more vegetables and herbs–tomatoes, cucumbers, tomatillos, borage, and basil. I also began what I hope will eventually be perennial beds–daisies, hosta, and deep red hollyhocks, which any monastery garden needs (they were originally called “holy hocks”):

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On the other side, I started with a few peony and iris from the last house that a friend had faithfully kept in her own garden for the last two years and I received a beautiful gift of plants from N., a woman in my congregation: purple lamium, forget-me-not, columbine, yarrow, yellow daylilies, and two kinds of sedum. I added lavender and a sorry-looking clematis that was 70% off at the garden centre. A few annuals here and there filled in the gaps:

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Finally, in the little bed by the house that was created when the patio was installed, I started a kitchen garden with thyme, chives, tarragon, and parsley along with more swiss chard, stevia, lettuce and three special heirloom blue leeks. Some yellow (sort of) marigolds and blue striped morning glory added blooms later in the season:

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In a summer when I was not doing much in the way of travel or vacation, this new space became a wonderful haven. Not only that, but we hosted friends for relaxed outdoor suppers and harvested produce in spring, summer and now into the autumn. There are a few changes I will make next year, like how much kale to plant (if you come for a visit to my house, be warned. You will go home with a large bouquet of it!) but I am content with my suburban backyard. There may still be a few glitches in my dream of becoming a medieval monk (gender and time travel being only two) but I know that sometimes dreams are like that. They may not turn out exactly like we first imagined, but can still be amazing.

So for now I am simply going to enjoy my backyard transformation, maybe with a glass of beer. That’s something a medieval monk would do, right?

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2 Responses to I am on my way to becoming a medieval monk

  1. Ah, love this…so much my own heart! I will send you some pics of what I have done in my yard over the years….it is the place I love to be (and have been all day today, on my day off!) Bliss…and blessing abound here. Thank you for sharing – love what you have done. And as for the monk bit: I’m with you, sister! We could start our own order?

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