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!”
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.
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.
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!
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.
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…
… 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?
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.
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