Putting the BLOOM Back in Bloomfield

When we found this property one of my first thoughts was “Butterfly garden!” Not that it had one, but that it desperately needs one. I immediately envisioned a wild, natural habitat for butterflies, bees and birds flowing along the entire southern fence line.

The expansive green meadow is begging for color, the sloping terrain ideal for a meandering path surrounded by native flora and visiting fauna. I see flowers and grasses growing 3′ high swaying gently in the afternoon breeze and a healthy helping of milkweed to attract and support my beloved monarchs. Neighbors walking by will be surrounded by fluttering butterflies and people driving through town will say to themselves, “I see why they call this place Bloomfield!”

View of the to-be wildflower meadow from the big barn, looking east

As it turns out, this property used to be covered with flowers. The previous owners had a floral shop and grew their own supplies right here. We’ve heard stories and seen a few grainy photos and since cutting back the blackberries and clearing dead brush we’ve been surprised to see long lost calla lilies pop up near the barn, statice poking it’s way up across the meadow.

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Historically flowers have not been my specialty. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that not long ago I declared to Jon that I had no interest in growing flowers, that if I was going to use all that water and work so hard to build healthy soil it should be used to produce food, not just pretty decorations. Ha! It didn’t take me long to realize that those pretty “decorations” actually were food. They were feeding our bees and butterflies, hoverflies and wasps, hummingbirds and phoebes, all of whom were helping to pollinate my beloved vegetables! The little flying beasties are not only charming and entertaining, they are vital to a healthy and productive vegetable garden. 

Loamy, wormy soil!

And speaking of vital to a healthy garden, one thing is certainly different here in west county. Check out this soil, I’ve never seen anything like it! A month ago this was hard-packed dirt but several inches of rain have turned it into a gorgeous, squishy loam filled with hardworking earth-movers. These are nothing like the skinny little red guys in my worm bin, these suckers are gigantic!

Giant earth-movers!

With no solid plan of attack I decided to just dig in. There’s a procedure in permaculture that involves turning lawn into garden beds by digging out several inches of sod and flipping it over, leaving exposed soil for planting and smothering the plant matter underneath which, in turn, decomposes and feeds the soil. Genius, right? I’m sure there’s more to it, but I can be fantastically impetuous and also incredibly lazy and find that when I’m feeling impetuous I’d better just get going because the lazy is bound to kick in before too long.

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Armed with my trusty shovel, I started on the left and dug a hunk of earth up then flipped it as carefully as possible over to the right, smothering the weeds and grasses as I went (or so I like to pretend). I continued for about an hour…

The beginning of a meandering meadow

… thinking to myself how nice it would be to have a tractor. I reminded myself to focus and enjoy the beauty, the nature, the “zen” of it all. I kept digging and flipping, apologizing to worms every step of the way as I unintentionally but unavoidably sliced and diced them with the shovel.

Roxy, Eenie and Miney came to help, pecking at little bugs and sprouts, slurping up those fat, yummy worms like spaghetti. I kept at it and after three days I had about 80′ of meandering dirt. Over the next few days it dried and settled a bit and I was able to rake it sort of smooth and remove some of the larger weeds. It doesn’t look too bad, and just 100′ to go! And then of course clearing all the way over to the fence.

I’m considering filling the trenched southern edge with something – decomposed granite and rocks maybe? – to create a conduit for the water that runs down from the barn gutter. This could potentially water my garden while preventing erosion and giant mud puddles. Maybe even feature a little duck pond at the end?

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Soon I’ll get back out there with my shovel and my worm apologies and continue digging, creating the border of my butterfly garden. Once the border is dug, flipped, raked and weeded I’ll sprinkle a huge assortment of seeds – clover, lupine, poppy, sunflower, cosmos, zinnia, hairy vetch (prettier than it sounds), peas (for nitrogen), milkweed – you name it I’ve got it, and it’s going in. I figure something is bound to come up and hopefully some of the weeds will lose out to flowers.

But today it is pouring rain, so instead of digging we are practicing the Danish art of hygge (loosely and inadequately translated as “coziness”) inside our warm home, dressed in our fuzzies, listening to jazz and sipping hot choccies with Bailey’s. If it is raining, snowing, or even just a little bit chilly where you are I highly recommend you do the same. I promise, you’ll thank me later.

~~~~~~~~~~~ END POST ~~~~~~~~~~~

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9 Comments Add yours

  1. Barbara Dutra says:

    I think worms can survive being cut in half – then there are just 2 of them! (Don’t quote me on this, pls. – just something I recall from my fishing days in N. Wisconsin).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sheri Fox says:

      That’s what we thought too but a friend we had dinner with said he didn’t think that applied to earthworms. I’m going to assume it does though, makes me feel better 🙂

      Like

  2. Pat Sherwood says:

    Your ambition and inspiration is commendable! I love your ideas and that you put them into action. I am sadly no longer like that at my age and health status. But I love experiencing your adventures! thanks.

    Like

    1. Sheri Fox says:

      Well think of it this way, you get to enjoy all the fun vicariously without all the pain! Thank goodness we got our jacuzzi up and running. Seriously, this farming thing is no joke, and I’m not as young as I used to be either 😉

      Like

  3. Anonymous says:

    Sheri, You are inspiring! Not only are you helping encourage me as I find, clean, and replant the old flower beds on my 105 yr. “fruit farm” in Grass Valley, but if someone will teach me how to start it, I want to do a blog too!

    Like

    1. Sheri Fox says:

      Hey Lilli, how fun to hear from you!! I bet you’re having a grand old time discovering things on your land. How fun! So much work though, right LOL? It makes me very happy to hear I’m inspiring you 🙂 That’s probably the main reason I write this stuff down and share it (also so I don’t forget). Starting a blog is easy-peasy, just go to wordpress.com, choose a name and a theme and write a post. Seriously, that simple. Message me anytime with questions. Hopefully soon I’ll get a chance to come see your place! I might be in GV next month to attend an equine-assisted workshop at my friend Tara’s Wind Horse Sanctuary ~ xoxo sheri

      Like

  4. Kathy Sturr says:

    Oh my, what a lovely lovely vision!!! If I were you I would take those moving boxes and throw them over the grass to the fence line and throw your grass clippings from mowing the other side over the boxes – maybe even add some chicken poop – and mulch. In a couple of months you will have the most awesome beautiful bed and great soil! It really beats “sod busting” (what I call it). Just dig the edge to define the bed so you can mow a nice edge. I’m not sure where Annie’s Annuals is except that she/they are in California and I would spend my life savings there if I lived in CA – online with delivery. I would also plan a special vacation just to visit her place and tour her gardens – seeds, plants, natives, annuals, perennials … I know you’re already drooling so I’ll stop!

    Like

  5. Sheri Fox says:

    Excellent suggestion, and I have spent HOURS removing tape and stickers from every box I could. I had hoped to sheet mulch the space but it is huge, approx 1500’sq, and even I don’t have that many boxes! Plus the 20-30 mph winds make it hard to keep them down. I am doing it, chicken poop and all, in two areas for 3 Sisters gardens. I can manage 9×9 squares LOL! For the rest I’m considering mulch though I’m not sure if I should sow seeds now and mulch over them or wait a month and scrape the mulch back? It’s complicated too because we can’t drive into the meadow right now to drop the mulch so it’s a loooong trek (we just did one truckload) all the way from the driveway, one wheelbarrow at a time. I should probably do as Jon says and do one small plot at a time… but that’s just not my style. Gotta make it dramatic! I’ll look up Annie’s, haven’t heard of it but maybe it’s close enough for a visit. THANK YOU!!

    Like

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