Monday, May 21, 2018

Walking on the Wild Side

On the suggestion of a friend, I watched a wonderful film on Netflix called Dare to be Wild. Captivated isn’t an understatement for how the film made me feel. 

I grew up in my grandmother’s 2 flat, with a backyard that was entirely concreted in. Fence to fence, save a 3’ wide strip about 20’ long where my mother put a vegetable garden. My grandmother kept hybrid roses along the gravel alley side of the house, and our neighbor’s side yard, which was only the width of a 2’ sidewalk from our house, was planted in Lily of the Valley. It was a delight to my senses each spring when they began to bloom. Up in my bedroom which faced the side yard full of these heaven-scented flowers, I could catch their scent if the wind blew just right. 

My saving grace from the concrete jungle that our town was becoming; camp! 

Many times a year, I got to escape to camp, thanks to Girl Scouts and two enthusiastic parents who co-led our troop with the parents of my best friend all through grade school. 

I loved wandering the woods of St. Charles, IL, in all of the seasons, at that camp. Camp Wildrose it was called. In the very cold weather, we’d hunker down in one of the big cabin-like buildings with a huge fireplace on air mattresses covering the huge open floor space. In the warmer weather, we’d camp out in platform tents on cots covered in mosquito netting – sides rolled up so the breeze would keep the damp, cold air from settling inside overnight. A phenomenon I awed at. But it allowed one to witness the sunrise as it sparkled through the trees' canopy every morning we were there. 

“People travel the world over to visit untouched places of natural beauty yet modern gardens pay little heed to the simplicity and beauty of these environments.  ….those special places we must preserve and protect, each in his own way before they are lost forever.
Mary Reynolds on her application to the Chelsea Flower Show in 2002.

 At least once a year, I got to attend a 2 week camp up in Wisconsin. Home of the giant mosquito. But a little oil of citronella (yes, even back then we used essential oils to combat the pests), and I could hike for hours. I never tired of the woods and the prairies and cried whenever it was time to leave for the city. 

Perhaps this imprint on me as such a young girl is what brought me back to where I am today. In love with the land I am lucky enough to have stumbled upon and purchased over a decade ago. While I bought it for very different reasons than I now use it for today, it didn’t take long for the magic of the place to begin placing its hold on me. 

While watching Dare to be Wild, I couldn’t hide my emotions as Mary, the main character upon whom this docudrama is based, revealed her reason for wanting to submit her wilds-cape garden design into the prestigious competition in England. I knew just how she must have felt about preserving places and protecting them from destruction, and restoring those that had been destroyed. 

Permaculture is much the same philosophy. Working with Nature, what is native, what is low maintenance, and what fills us with a special feeling of being connected.

At one time I used to install small commercial landscape flower beds. Talk about boring. Seasonal color change out is a money maker, for sure, but that’s about it. 

Nature doesn’t grow in a monoculture, she is a watercolor artist with a full pallet with which to paint. The photograph on my cell phone’s screen saver is proof positive of that. Yellow, brown, pink, and all shades within, green, of course, and splashes of white and more, create such a beautiful scene a landscape designer could likely not recreate. 

But I try. Each spring I push the first cutting of the front “lawn” back a little further to encourage more of the wildflowers to go to seed. One of these days, I just may not have to mow all summer. That’s my hope anyway. 

And re-planting trees where surely they once lived is something I do a little of each year. I plant native trees and fruit-trees for our edible forest, too. And I rarely cut down the saplings that pop up around the place. Trees don’t live forever, and something has to be growing to take the place of the majestic Post Oaks, native pear and juniper trees, and even the sprawling mesquite, when their final days come. More oaks are taking root this year than ever before – and I wonder if the squirrels got lazy, or if the trees know something I do not. 

At any rate, this film left me even more inspired to do my best to restore what has been lost and preserve what remains.  Even though I am not a garden designer in the caliber of Mary Reynolds, I only wish I could draw what is in my head, I have a painting or two in the house that remind me of times gone by to follow as examples.  A big part of my heart is to share with others the love for wild places before they are all cemented or black topped over.
We can’t necessarily change the whole world ourselves, but we can make changes in our own back yard. 
It would seem Mary and I have more than a love for wild spaces in common....

“I’ve come to think that the only solution to sustainable gardening and landscaping is for everyone to grow their own food, especially in urban areas,” she says. “It’s the most reasonable and healthy way of working with land.”

To cultivate a garden that can feed a family of four, Reynolds explains, takes about 10 years of work.

“That’s a daunting number of years, but to repair the damage between people and the earth, we need to interact with soil on an individual basis. That means going back to growing food sustainably and creating a sustainable flow of natural energy,” she says. “If we are to take back the land from industrial farming and agribusiness, that’s what we need to do.” Read more of the interview here….


Eat Your Food - Naturally!