Monday, May 30, 2011

Raging Insecurity

From Austin Yard  


Last month my yard was on the Inside Austin Garden Tour, sponsored by the Travis County Master Gardeners Association.  The theme was water-wise gardening and my place was chosen for my rainwater harvesting system and water run-off capture ditching system.  To me it is a huge honor to be chosen by fellow Master Gardeners and a great chance for me to share knowledge with the public.

But oh, the agony.

I’ve known for a year that I was going to be in the tour.  At first my panic manifested as absolute paralysis.  I knew I had to get busy doing something, but I had no idea what it was.  To my eyes my garden was raw and incomplete, not something people would pay money to see.  My yard lacks purposeful design; it has no restive place to view, any serenity or whimsy on display, no awe-inspiring vision.  I had to fix that.

I ended up putting in a granite paver walkway and stepping-stones with thyme planted in between.  I built a granite block planter and had Ed add some trellises.  I purchased some new plants for the landscape.  My vegetable garden became a little neater and I tried to vary the plantings so it was more pleasing to look at.  Weeds were dispatched, trees were pruned, and compost was turned.  But there was only so much I could do without bankrupting us.  My job became very intense and I wasn’t getting home until 7pm most nights.  I was exhausted on weekends from this schedule and had a hard time mustering energy to garden.  It got to the point where I just had to be Zen.  It is what it is I chanted to myself.

Then one week out the garden tour was featured on Central Texas Gardener, a local PBS show about gardening.  They showed pictures of each of the gardens and gave a brief synopsis.  I had seen one of the gardens before and knew what a lush landscape it was.  It was one of the reasons for my initial panic because being included on the tour with that yard was going to provide a huge contrast.  But as the show progressed and photos of the garden displayed, I began to sink.

They were beautiful, serene, whimsical, restful, and artistic.  They looked professionally landscaped and were stuffed with plants.  I turned away and cried.  And cried.  Then cried some more.  Then I found Ed and cried again.  Raging, tumbling, crashing torrents of insecurity drowned me.   As I looked up from my pity-party in the basement of my despair, my little voice said to me, “it’s not a contest.”  Then it said, “You have much to teach.”  And a lot to learn.

It’s about the journey.  The choices were mine; the labor was mostly mine (and Ed’s!).  I had help with the design but it was from my idea, I just needed help with the right native plant selection.  I bought the plants, installed them, watered and fussed over them.  It was me that dug those ditches, hauled the bark, and muscled the pavers.  While what I’m doing is not unique, it is most decidedly different in a neighborhood of St Augustine lawns and back yards of nothing.  I’m producing wildlife habitat in front and vegetables in back.  My yard is alive.

And so am I, despite the tour.  People were very kind and interested in what I am doing.  I helped them with their own dilemmas and had many, many awesome teaching moments.  Visitors ate their first green bean off the vine.  Ate a sugar snap pea.  Sampled the blackberries.  Pulled an onion.  They ran their hands through the herbs and the copper canyon daisies.  They admired the Gulf Fritillary caterpillars mowing down my passion vine and one or two got a glimpse of the Anole lizard patrolling the potatoes.  I showed them my crimson clover cover crop on my fruit berm and the under sowing of cowpeas to keep the nitrogen cycle going all summer.

So now how do I feel?  Better.  I love my yard.  It personifies who I am.  Maybe not a showpiece but you are guaranteed a good meal, some great stories, and a great wildlife show to boot.  I can live with that.