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.

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