My Future in an Edible, Sustainable Ecosystem

Now that I have a home, and land, albeit a relatively small amount, I will be fulfilling a dream. Many years ago, I decided grass was stupid and that I wouldn’t have it. I thought there had to be a way to make a yard both beautiful and edible. I wanted the things I eat to be able to be grabbed off the plant or from the ground.

Some background (could be skipped): The first time I had access to a yard as an adult, I lived with a boyfriend who loved grass and didn’t really understand the appeal of having a wild, not manicured yard. I liked that there were at least different type of grasses on the property, but I still thought it was ridiculous to have to mow a lawn. Anyway, right outside the back door, I put in raspberries, blackberries, stacked some logs and planted strawberries, loads of herbs and some vegetables as underbrush to blueberry bushes. I lined the side of the property with fruit-bearing trees.
The first year it didn’t look all that good and was slow at producing. The next year though- oh! I had moved out but still visited on occasion. The veggies were a mess in a bad way, but the berries that came off those brambles, the blueberries that were finally producing, the strawberry patch, the thyme and oregano! It was so productive and things seemed to work well together. Not that it couldn’t use a little removal of invaders, but still, the wacky, unmanicured spot that looks like a weedfest to some, was absolutely glorious to my eyes. That boyfriend didn’t really harvest them, not grasping the fact that he had free food growing back there. I was flabbergasted by this and would harvest when I came, but eventually I stopped visiting. What a waste (except for the birds and chipmunks!).

It was a long time until I had access to a yard again. But now, it’s mine, and I have free range with no one’s criticisms able to actually hold me back. Drew supports it and has left it in my hands. In the years since that first yard, I discovered that my ideas had a name that already existed and much research had already been done. Much like polyamory and other “liberal” ideas I’d formed (the ideas that weren’t encouraged in smallish town Texas where I grew up), I had to be a little revolutionary and against the grain before I would discover that there were entire groups out there with the same ideas.

This one is called permaculture, with its roots in agroecology. The idea that food and beautiful things can grow sustainably, in tandem with each other, with only gentle oversight, is not crazy.

So, I have a yard that’s a mess as it hasn’t been tended in a year. Fortunately, the former owner had a fondness for berries, cherries, and plums. So, there are already some lovely fruit trees. I’ve cut back a few things so I can get around, but mostly, this year is for watching. I’m learning what’s already there and what should stay or can be switched out with something a little more pragmatic for my purposes. I’m finding what I need to trim back to allow other things to grow and getting to choose what will be worth the work and what should be removed all together.

As I learn and develop, I’ll be posting about the progress, successes and failures, things I’ve learned and built and so forth. Comments and suggestions are welcomed.

 

In the top left, there is a view from the driveway (including some of the wreckage pulled out of the kitchen – another story) that shows privacy hedges, etc. Top right is a view from one of the foot paths. Bottom left is a view from the pond. Bottom right is a view from the porch (and that was after a trimming).

 

Here is a rambling description of the space so far:

Along the privacy hedges, I cut back a bit and I planted blueberry bushes and started a tiered strawberry patch like I did before. At noon and after, they get sunlight, just as in the last yard I tended. I’m letting the mint that was already there running wild continue to do so. Same with the lambs quarter, chives, and wood sorrel. The wood sorrel delights me as it engages my imagination and I can eat it.

I’ve already learned that there are certain things I can and should trim back to encourage growth and flowering. These will be good to bring in birds and pollinators. By next year (or later this year), I would like to have built a honey bee box and a bat box which will both contribute to a thriving ecosystem. The bees will also provide me honey and the bats will help keep down the mosquito population.

There is plenty of starting compost and plenty of things to work it down into rich soil.

The ground cover is a combination of ivy, periwinkle, other vining mysteries, and lovely little things who’s name I don’t know. The little lovelies seem harmless. The periwinkle and ivy, and other mysteries, however, are likely going to be narrowed down to very small patches and replaced with shade-growing edibles.

There is a fallen branch of branches just outside the hedges that might be ours, and the groundskeepers of the cemetery mow around it, so I decided to use it. In four places, I grew butternut squash and they’re doing wonderfully and will vine up the grand branches.

Brambles line much of our property offering raspberries in the earlier summer months. Cherries are beginning to ripen late in the season which is awesome. There are grape vines that are practically taking over, suffocating much of the life. Many I’ve pulled out but near the mailbox, I see that they’re fruiting so those ones will stay.

I’m excited about the lilac, roses, and butterfly bushes in the middle of the yard. They may be more ornamental (although technically edible), but trimmed back a little, they’ll be glorious for all the life that will be drawn to them and the beauty they’ll provide.

I discovered some more stepping stones and a wood box that had been overrun by running plants and hadn’t been seen before. I’m not sure what should be done as I don’t know what all the plants growing there are yet. Whatever they are, they’re growing in profusion.

Hidden in the back is a pond that needs some cleaning and has a pump running. It’s surrounded by nice, big rocks and overhanging it is a hardy plum tree. Quite a pretty sight. Beyond that is a path through brambles and such to part of the cemetery.

There is a huge oak tree in one corner that I considered taking down but changed my mind as it can easily be a source of protection for creatures and is a nice tree. All I’ll do is take down the many dead branches that will be used for other projects or as firewood. We also have a maple tree growing right outside the back door (which is our primary door). It offers a ton of shade to the house. It’s a Norway, unfortunately, so the sap isn’t useful. Nonetheless, I look forward to using their blossoms next spring.

There are some hibiscus, thistles, and other flowers that are still unidentified.  So much can grow on this small fraction of an acre. And I haven’t even begun to analyze what’s across the road on the other side of our strange home.

There is so much to learn about this little wilderness I now have to tend.

 

Photos: there will be more to show a better perspective of the yard. The shots were quickly taken but my willpower was defeated by mosquitoes.
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