The day we left our old cottage in Cambria, California, was one of the most difficult times of my life.
How was I, a country girl, going to live in a real town with traffic lights, the constant drone of cars, strangers all around me, and a tiny garden? Would I ever see the Pleiades in the night sky? Would I ever have birds visiting me? Would I ever feel at home here when I was used to the wide open spaces at "Seekhaven," my shelter for the past 23 years?
I half heartedly dug into the thick, clay soil at our “new” 1920s Spanish Revival cottage. "Look!" I said to my patient husband, "Even the soil is lousy here. I'm not a city girl." He looked at me and said, "Make this your own paradise. In Cambria, you had the woods surrounding you, but here, YOU can make nature happen."
He was right. I've spent years writing and lecturing about bringing nature into your own piece of the earth, but when faced with city-life I was chickening out. I needed to suck it up and dig in.
I started right outside my new studio. As I sat at my drafting table and painted, all I could see was the bleakness of the back wall of the garage and a scraggly lawn. This little patch is just a few steps from our kitchen, and it would be the perfect place to start the transformation.
First, we bought a tall wall fountain and centered it on the empty garage wall. (Water is the most crucial thing to include for attracting birds and other wildlife). Next, Jeff dug out the lawn and laid out yellow plastic construction tape to delineate where we wanted beds. Even looking out my window and seeing this made me feel more at home.
Instead of rock or wooden borders we decided to visit a stone yard and pick out some thin ledge rock for the edging of the paths and beds.
Jeff hauled a couple of tons of rock and laid them, and then topped the pathway areas with plastic screening to exclude weeds and about a two inch layer of decomposed granite.
I spent days amending the soil, making sure the weeds were banished, and planting. Within a month of constructing and planting the new space, we had this wonderful little garden established. The beds are outlined with my signature fraises des bois planted by my grandchildren.
This is "little town farm," my petite potager. I harvest edible flowers, herbs, vegetables, and an abundance of mini-strawberries and salad greens throughout the year. Look closely and you may see my first robin visiting the wall fountain. I finally feel like I am home again.