At 26 I bought this home ~ we were way over our heads from the beginning, financially, & that nearly killed us more than a few times, but we jumped on a project dream home that was in total shambles. Neither of us knew how to repair a thing, but here was an overgrown, shingled, two-building property on 1/3 an acre with an organic garden & trees, in a city where homes are teeny tiny, on even tinier lots. To this day random people come off the street to find out how we made this space, this verdant urban*stead. Recently an elder woman stopped to tell me she wanted this home, way back when, & it's shade is her sanctum, a destination for her walks. The truth is, no one wanted it, because it had 28 pages of problems that weren't up to code. The former owners loved this place, a nest built from their own hands (thus the code problems), so it was packed with beautiful things like raised veggie planters, & hand-carved wooden details, along with creepy things, like a great-grandmother's collection of 200 cheap bells in the trees, thousands of antique baking tins on the walls, & 6 generations of family photos. The wife was determined to keep new owners away, but she couldn't afford to stay.
Our realtor was trying to show three clean, spare, & classic mid-century modern homes on the block, but we made an a-line to this house. "Oh," she said quickly, & embarrassed. "You don't want to see that piece of junk!" This piece of junk, over $100k less than those perfect tiny homes, was exactly the place we had been creating for ourselves, for over two years. We had books upon books of filled with magazine images of this someday-space, a bit of woods in the city, with both clapboards AND shingles, room for our wake boarding boat & a future RV. Space for a big family. A patio covered in creeping fig, with succulents in every size & a fish pond. This place, where we would birth our next three boys. This little farm, that would eventually house our goats, chickens & a lap turkey that sings & sleeps on our patio couch.
I held the woman's hand & invited her to walk me thru the care of her beloved plant babies. This was for her - I actually had a black thumb, but I wanted her to know I would love her little patch of land. They did their best to remove everything, but it still took 6 more trips to the dump before all the junk was gone. We stripped the house of many aging, handmade details that made it chaotic & frenetic inside, until downstairs was just one big, epic family room. Finally I pushed a crystal into the Earth & made a promise to this place, that I would honor it by learning how to make it happy. It's taken years, & for the first decade I just bought plants that I didn't know how to water. The baby animals I'd bring home would eventually make sublime organic soil, so I'm proud of that! Our organic farmlette works a bit like farming in Japan - you have a small crop or two or three that you grow in the yard, & maybe on another patch in the hills somewhere, & your neighbors grow their crops, & you share. So often I'll come home to a basket of kale & cucumbers, with a cardboard box of garden scraps for the birds. It's enough now to feed our family a few days a week & that's the best feeling. I'm still in the learning curve. Sometimes it's really about buying a few pretty things to get started.
When I actually began planting, it was with miniature cacti & succulents, which practically take care of themselves. I found these simple bowls & dishes in many sizes at Cost Plus Imports, & grabbed the plants at the local plant sale. I also order them wholesale, because sometimes you just need to get some packages in the mail. I learned how to skip seed planting (which can be so intimidating!) by buying baby plants (seedlings!) at the hardware store & popping them right into bags of potting soil. Pretty plant markers made an instant garden. Dry leaves covered the plastic & no one knows we cheated.
Now that I've seen what happens with a bit of water, this brass watering lance is practically a magic wand, my go-to peace when afternoons get hectic. This is my creative calm.
What's yours? Comment below to win our Lunar Planting Guide! We'll pick a random winner on August 6th!
Maya Hackett Curious. Grateful. Delighted. Pollinator. Moves towards life, beauty, magic. Head on Earth, listening for what's needed. Home birthing, urban*steading, unschooled mom of four. Fashion stylist, publisher. Legacy Architect. Often sleeps at sea, for clarity + support. Gratefully collects minute bits of grace, spins it out as community caramel. With blessed help of thousands, On Purpose.