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?

Garden With a Little Help From My Friends

This is a continuation of my gardening journey, so if you haven’t read my first post titled “Yoga. Like a Garden.“, do that first!

Last, I left you with our plans of ploughing the cleared land with the help of Robin and Maylene, collecting what felt like way too much cardboard (which was actually not nearly enough in the end), and getting our water retention system installed!

On October 31st, Emily and I woke up early, as excited about the plans we had made with Robin and Maylene to plough the land as some of the little kids out there must have been for the evening’s upcoming candy booty! We made steel cut oats for breakfast with canned saskatoon berries and peaches, topped with homemade yogurt and cinnamon. Yum. After breakfast we headed down to the local Farmer’s Market to buy some things for our lunch. We walked right to the Loveland Acres stand where Robin and Maylene stood looking quite bundled and cozy in their plaid fleece jackets. We chatted for a bit then bought some really nice produce from them including a bunch of beets, celeriac root, and leeks. Maylene also threw in some winter radishes for free, they had and amazing taste and a lovely red and white colour inside. We also bought some apple strudel and sourdough bread from Inspired Breads, a local bakery.

We ran home with our market booty and quickly chopped up the leeks, celeriac root, and a butternut squash we already had at home. We placed it all into our pressure cooker for 20 minutes with some chicken stock, pureed and seasoned it, and there you have it, fresh soup from the market!

The plan was to meet Robin and Maylene up at Sue’s house at around 12:30, so we packed up the pressure cooker with the hot soup still inside, bagged up the bread and apple strudels, then we hopped in our truck and scooted on over. They were there when we arrived, ready to unload their small tractor and plough attachment. This thing may look like a rototiller but it is indeed just a very small tractor. It’s got some serious power and when they hooked up the Ground Blaster attachment I couldn’t help but crack a huge smile! The best part is that this thing all fit in the back of their truck, so convenient, though it did take all four of us to lift the machine down!

Since Maylene and Robin had a long morning working the Farmer’s Market, we set up a table outside for lunch before we began working for the afternoon. Emily’s aunt made a pot of tea, and the five of us all sat outside in the Saturday sunlight and enjoyed our soup and fresh bread, with apple strudels for dessert!

Now came the work, Robin and I walked down to the plot of land and I pointed out where the edges of our garden plot would be. He started up the machine then ran a strip down the very middle of the plot, he then began making lines running the machine back and forth on either side of that initial middle line, a smart technique. As Robin ran the machine, Maylene, Emily and I followed him round and round picking up rocks as they got unearthed by the Ground Blaster. I could see how hard it was to run the machine, it definitely took some upper body strength to control it as it hit the larger rocks and roots.

It took us a few hours to get the entire area ploughed, the afternoon sunlight was beginning to dim and our bodies were growing tired. This part of the process had come to an end!

The next step was coming back to form the raised garden beds, plant some garlic and lay out what we thought would be too much cardboard, but turned out to be not nearly enough.

You can follow my teaching journey online and buy passes or subscriptions to my content, this is all on my website at www.matthewcarteryoga.com.

See you in the next chapter of the journey!

-Matthew Carter

Matthew Carter Yoga & Fitness

Founded in 2020 by Matthew Carter.

Questions about the yoga classes Matthew offers?