Tuesday, May 20, 2014

secret gardens

If I mention a "secret garden" to you, what images are conjured up by this? The children's book by Frances Hodgson Burnett? For me, there's inherent beauty in the concept. Secret garden. Flowers, birds, privacy. Benches, bees drawing pollen from anything that blooms, berries growing randomly -- it is, to me, is such a heavenly image that I really cannot improve upon it.

But apart from this idyllic little picture, I can think of other gardens that are indeed secret. Two come to mind, right here at the farmette. And this became obvious to us this morning.

The first one was described as such not by me, but by someone who stopped by early to pick up something I was selling on Craigslist (I have an ongoing catalogue of used items there).

But let me back up and mention this: it is another beautiful day -- perhaps the first day that closely approximates summer.


Chickens clamor to get out so as to enjoy the morning. And, Ed and I have a lovely breakfast on the porch.


...though it's interrupted by a phone call from my Craigslist shopper. She pulls up shortly after 9 and our courtyard takes her breath away. True, the crab apples are blooming, the lilacs are just starting to flower -- all that helps. But what really caught her by surprise is the fact that when you drive by the farmette, you see none of our courtyard. You see the farmhouse, with a front entrance that's crumbling and in need of repair. You see large maples, a scraggly lawn. If you stare hard, you'll pick out a few lilies of the valley hugging the building. That's it. The magic of our growing spaces is hidden. You don't see any of it until you come to the end of our driveway. And then, boom! Quite unexpectedly, you step into a secret garden.



Very few of the flowers are blooming now, but it almost doesn't matter. The greens are fresh, the clumps of perennials so full of hope.


(the secret entrance: we ignore the front door and use this instead)

Our shopper tells us that if nothing comes of her purchase, it will still have been worth her while just to pause for a minute in this hidden, bird-filled secret space.

The other place that justly deserves this label is our vegetable patch -- the one at the far western part of the new orchard. It's where we will plant our tomatoes, our corn, cucumbers, peas and grapes. The chickens know it's there, but they never venture out to it. It's too far, too open, and today -- too sunny. And so while they rest inside the garage and then inside the barn, Ed and I go out and begin planting our tomatoes.


It is, in fact, grueling work in the heat of the day. Lots of bending, shoveling, moving about -- but I don't want to stop because I know that by evening, the day will be cooler and the chickens will be more curious. And if I complain about them free ranging in my flower beds, I can say with confidence that we would both be groaning very loudly if the hens hit our tomatoes with their sharp beaks and dinosaur claws.



Halfway into the task of putting the tomatoes in (50 more to go!), I have to stop. We leave our secret garden and take a refreshment break. Grape juice with lemon fizzy water -- the best thirst quencher on the planet! And watermelon! (The chickens love the leftovers.)


And I look outside and it is so still and peaceful now. And so lush! As if winter belonged to another planet. Never here, in this space of the most delicate flowers and shady trees.


In the afternoon, we return to the tomatoes. The heat keeps the chickens away again and we finish the job without their interruptions: 94 plants, in the ground. (We promise ourselves to cut back next year; let's aim for fewer than 50, shall we?)

It's evening now. I'm sitting on the porch writing this while Ed is putting away the paraphernalia of our garden work. This hour is a gift -- it's rarely so warm late into a May evening. You worry a little: will it last? Will it bring on the bugs? But mostly you sit back, breathe deeply and do nothing at all.