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.
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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!