The Beginner’s Mind Garden

When my partner and I began this project it was just a dream, but a dream that we’ve shared together for many years. With our farming experience this past summer we felt that we knew enough to finally embark upon this larger gardening adventure together, that being said we definitely don’t know all we need to yet, so right now is a great time to live with the intention of having a ‘beginner’s mind’.

the open-minded skeptic/witness

I’ve often taught a yoga class with the intention and it has helped me grow tremendously as a teacher and as a student of yoga. Moving through life with a beginner’s mind is to be an open-minded skeptic. I love this definition of beginner’s mind. Terence McKenna, one of my favorite thinkers, uses it to describe a good state of mind to have while taking psilocybin mushrooms. He says “Rationalism in confrontation with the weird edges is what’s always worked for me. In other words, if you’re a true believer, if you have some pre-packaged philosophy, then you’re going to miss a great deal because you’re pre-programmed to ignore what doesn’t fit into your model. And it doesn’t matter what your model is. But if you’re simply the open-minded skeptic/witness, and then if you push at the edges of the phenomenal world, you know, go to the highest mountains, the oldest cities, the deepest deserts, the most remote jungles, and just simply put yourself in these circumstances, the cosmic giggle can get at you. — this thing can rise out of the depths, and communicate if it chooses, shape your life, for sure, blow your mind.” (source: here).

Be the open-minded skeptic/witness. To quote another, the zen master Shunryo Suzuki, also known as Suzuki Roshi says “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”.

The garden me and my partner are planting is the prime example of needing these mental states of mind to help us progress successfully. We need to witness what happens with the garden and respond to it, to bare witness to the multitude of differing needs of each of the plants. We also need to remain open minded so that we do not box ourselves in (literally and metaphorically speaking ;))

the garden

In the last blog post on the garden adventure we had just finished ploughing the soil, collecting a ton of cardboard, and having a blast with Maylene and Robin from Loveland Acres, let’s continue!

Now that the soil was loosened we could start forming our raised beds, a technique that Maylene and Robin have suggested we use to help with organization, yield, and ensure the additions we make to it can be modular. For example, if all of your garden beds are the same height, width, and length then you can use your caterpillar greenhouses or agricultural fleece on any row. You can also rotate the crops around the garden easily knowing that your structures and your pieces of plastic/reemay will fit anywhere you need them to be.

the raised beds

So the day after ploughing the soil Emily and I returned with two landscaping rakes. The soil was still soft and loamy and it was fairly easy work to form the beds. I couldn’t imagine doing this in the Spring, when it’s mucky and dense in the soil. We ended up with 7 garden beds that turned out to be 60 ft long each, and one last bed, the 8th, that could only be 50 ft long because of soil density in that area of the land. Forming these beds took us about 4 hours, and after we had finished it all, we were pretty tired and ready for the couch.

the cardboard

Now that the garden beds were formed, things were really starting to look good! The next step we had initially planned was to cover the beds with cardboard. I explain this lasagna gardening technique in my first gardening blog post, here. I had spent quite a lot of time dumpster diving for cardboard during the month of October, but I didn’t gather quite enough, in fact I only had gathered enough to cover half of the garden. The idea with lasagna gardening is to create nice rich soil bed, but after the plough came through the land we all realized that the soil was already VERY nice and VERY rich looking, and luckily fairly deep before turning to clay. It was time to shift gears.

We also planted garlic in the top most bed of the garden! Garlic needs to sit in the soil over the winter, so, we literally just got it in the ground in time, perhaps it little bit too late, but here’s hoping!

the poly

This brings us to our next learning experience, the forecast called for snow very soon, and we need those beds covered before it comes down. Covering the beds is a really important part of keeping the weed pressure down in the Spring while things are getting established, it also helps melt the snow quickly so that you can plant sooner in the season. I hopped in our truck and headed down to grab a roll of black and white poly. The roll was 100 ft long and 10 ft wide, in the end we needed two rolls to cover up the garden beds. The cardboard conveniently ended up moving from the lower half of the garden where we had placed, it to now covering up all the paths that go between the rows. It actually worked out to be quite amazing!

We cut the two rolls of poly into 8 pieces, each measuring 5 ft by 50 ft, and decided that this would be the new length of all our garden beds. We chopped off the end 5 feet of each garden bed down to accommodate getting the most for our money out of the plastic. If we had of stuck with 60 ft long beds we would have needed another whole roll of the poly, and it isn’t cheap at $95.00 per roll. Plus there are only two of us maintaining this garden, so let’s be real, eight 50 ft beds are enough!

the snow

The same evening that we finished placing all the poly and cardboard down it started to snow, and it came down quite a lot!

Now for planning and dreaming during the winter months. Time for sketching up garden beds on paper with a cup of tea, and a blanket by the fire. I can’t wait for what will come next year, and I am open-minded to merely witnessing what presents itself, with a healthy dose of skepticism.

-Matthew Carter

Matthew Carter Yoga & Fitness

Founded in 2020 by Matthew Carter.

Questions about the yoga classes Matthew offers?

Yoga. Like a Garden.

My partner Emily and I recently moved to Salmon Arm, BC in the pursuit of a place to grow our own garden. While bunking at Emily’s aunts place we were offered the use of a lovely piece of land from her landlord Sue. Sue owns about an acre in the Salmon Arm area where she and Barb (Emily’s Aunt) live and Sue just happens to be a Master Organic Gardener! At the end of August 2020 Sue hired an excavator to come to her property to begin the initial work of clearing the bush off of a large section of her land. For 3 days the excavator dug up small trees, brush, rocks and some small boulders. I watched as it happened imagining the months of grueling work that would take to do by hand. Think of all the people in the world that still have no choice but to work the soil to ensure they can make it through the harsh seasons to come. Hands sore from swinging the mattock through the dense soil and using it to cut through the tangle of roots. Moving massive rocks by hand or with tree trunks as giant levers. If one was lucky enough perhaps even using animals yoked to their ploughs to turn the soil. I’ll bet their bodies were sore from the work, but I also know from experience that hard work can make the body more resilient, if you do it correctly.

I had never felt as strong as I did after those months I spent on the farm, it uses your whole body. But it also can leave you quite sore from all of the stooping low to sow the seeds, then stooping low again to weed around them by hand to protect their gentle structures from the fast moving weeds. Then doing this week after week. I happen to be lucky enough to not have to rely entirely on my garden to stay alive, that being said, I still hope things work out in the most magnificent of ways, because I really like pesto ;).

After the excavator had finished up with the required work we began to move onto the land by foot to remove as much of the leftover sticks and rocks as we could. About a month later we returned to the location to clip down any plants that had started to grow, and then the next step was to get the soil turned using a plough. We think this will help to halt the growth of the roots and shoots from the old brush potentially growing back over the winter and spring months. Removing the unwanted materials from the area felt necessary to be able to nurture the new growth that we intended on bringing it next spring. This is so similar to the times I have found myself on my yoga mat, needing to do a little bit of personal weeding. In life there are times where you need to clear out the old and make room for the new, just like Rumi says in a line one of my favorite poems titled The Guest House, “they may be clearing you out for some new delight.” I imagined the land screamed out wondering, ‘who is this “unexpected visitor”?’ I long to tell it of what we have in store for it, or perhaps the land longs to tell us of what it has in store for us.

After cleaning up the area of debris we staked out the perimeter of the garden which was to be 40 ft by 60 ft. The resulting rectangle was… almost a rectangle, close enough. Straight lines are boring anyways;). The stakes, however, did provide a helpful visual of just how large our intended garden area is going to be next spring.

One of the things with a large garden is that you need a large amount of water to keep your plants from withering during the hot times of the year, and with the potential of the water restrictions that are often placed on this area, we just couldn’t risk that happening. We decided to install a water collection and retention system by using an massive up-cycled plastic drum that was previously used to hold coconut oil on an industrial scale. It’s hard to tell in the pictures below, but this thing is massive! After picking up the plastic drum from a local salvager I washed it extremely using a pressure washer and soapy water. This step was absolutely disgusting, I won’t shy around it. The smell of the old rancid oil in the drum…. gag. Once washed out and squeaky clean, we plopped it down on four cinder blocks beside Sue’s house. Previously, I had leveled off a 5×5 ft spot on the hill just about the garden, work that I truly love doing. Leveling dirt is so satisfying! Next Sue hired someone to rig up one of her eavestroughs to the top of the drum and voila, gravity fed water retention system installed! Sometimes our yoga practice can be like this for our lives, helping to build a container to hold some of the goodness of life, a container you can draw from when you’re feeling dry, when times are tough.

During the whole month of October I had used some of my time each week to jump into the cardboard dumpster at the local Fold Parts Department and load it all into our pickup truck, Goldie (featured in the background of one of the photos above!). We were gathering cardboard for a technique known as lasagna gardening, a layering technique used to build a healthy base for you garden. Once I had gone through the process of gathering all of the cardboard Emily and I drove it up to Sue’s place and unloaded it. The only step that remained was to remove all of the plastic tape and sticker labels on the cardboard, because who wants that in their organic garden lasagna! Stickers taste gross, just ask Charlie.

The next part of the story requires a little bit of context. When my partner and I first moved to Salmon Arm, BC we attended a meeting in late August held by the Young Agrarians where we met an amazingly generous and unique couple who were running a small first year farm they call Loveland Acres. Maylene and Robin toured the group through their farm on what the Young Agrarians call a Land Social. Attendees were shown the greenhouse, the movable caterpillar greenhouse, their irrigation system, general farm operations and layout. After the tour we were invited to ask any questions we had, then we were served an amazing locally catered dinner by the representative from the Young Agrarians. This whole event was totally free, they only want to spread the awareness of farming, land sharing, and community development on a grassroots level. After meeting Maylene and Robin we began seeing them around town at the farmers markets where my partner was selling her soap from her business One Batch Soap. We began talking a bit more and eventually we worked up the courage to ask Maylene and Robin to help us turn the soil we had just finished prepping. They agreed and are we have now planned to have them come down to Sue’s land with their tractor during the first week of November of 2020 to plough through our freshly prepared land. That’s Robin and Maylene in the photos below!

This garden is requiring community to be completed. Without Sue, Barb, the Young Agrarians, Maylene & Robin, the Ford Parts Department ;), Emily & I all working together, it would never be happening. This is how I often feel about the practice of Yoga, it really helps to have a community of people beside you as you move through your practice. Sure you can do it alone but to know that someone else is there alongside you, breathing with you, dedicated to the time on their mat is powerful. Though they are not next to you they are still with you, perhaps having a hard time in Warrior 2, or an emotional time in Pigeon Pose, or anything else they may feel, this is community. It makes us more compassionate humans to share space with and commune with others, and yoga is a great way of doing just that, even if it does have to be via Zoom these days due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

I am so grateful for the opportunity to learn from everyone who is a part of this garden project, it is teaching me so much and giving me the opportunity to see how mindfulness can come into every aspect of life. More garden posts sure to come in the spring!

-Matthew Carter

Emily and Matthew looking out over their new garden.

Matthew Carter Yoga & Fitness

Founded in 2020 by Matthew Carter.

Questions about the yoga classes Matthew offers?