This winter has been a long one, and besides that, adjusting to life after graduate school with a new job hasn’t been that easy. So, for a change of scenery, I went into the Catoctin Mountains with my husband and some friends to forage for morels. Someone had spotted some recently, and there was a place in the Gambrill State Park area that had had a forest fire in the fall where we were hoping to find some mushrooms growing. Mainly, we were excited for a good hike—and the misty, foggy weather did not disappoint.
After a bit of off-trail walking, we found the location of the forest fire, a burnt blemish carved out onto the hillside. It still smelled faintly of coals. We walked along the fire’s path, where it crept along, inch by inch, destroying a plot no larger than a few acres. As we looked closer, we saw it wasn’t destroyed. The most striking thing for me was seeing how the forest had already started to regenerate itself in this place.
In just a few short months, barely out of the dark stretch of winter in the ash-covered soil, there they were: delicate, green ferns! Seeing those little green fronds unfurling really made it start to feel like springtime. Here, in this place where a fire had swept through, the forest was already reclaiming itself, one inch at a time. And I thought, I can do one inch at a time. Though we did not find any morels on this adventure, we all left lighter on our footsteps.
We started by reclaiming our yard. Let me explain: we bought our first house last October and moved in just in time to settle in to a cozy winter, daydreaming about all of the wonderful things we would be able to do to our beautiful yard when the snow melted. Well, this yard has been a project.
The previous owners neglected it quite a bit, so everything is overgrown and there are giant mutant vines everywhere (seriously, everywhere) about to take over our house. But with every passing day, I’ve stepped out even for a half hour at a time and sprayed, cut, pruned, pulled, and bagged. It’s been a practice in mindfulness. Like seeing the spot in the mountains from the forest fire, it’s been a good reminder of how much can be accomplished just one little inch at a time.
As soon as I was (really) sure the last frost had hit us, I got antsy to get some food growing in our yard. We drove around town and picked up various pots and lugged around soil and bought plants and more plants so I could have a little herb garden by the steps to the screened in porch. This spot gets tons of sunlight during the day, and it’s pretty easy access from the kitchen, so I am stoked. I have: lemon thyme, sweet marjoram, fernleaf dill, chives, curly parsley, cilantro, Greek oregano, Thai basil, sweet basil, rosemary, chocolate mint, spearmint, and strawberries (I know—not an herb, but still—they look so cute tucked into my herb corner!).
And now, my very handy husband has built us a raised vegetable garden bed and is planning to build a brick one to match our screened in porch later this summer. He planned and designed the whole garden bed. After building the structure, he lined the bottom, covered it with rocks for drainage, and filled the whole thing with a mixture of potting soil, manure, and peat moss. It did not smell pretty, but hopefully our dear little plant will have tons of nutrients.
For the vegetable garden, we planted: many hot peppers (we like this spicy around here), sweet peppers, onions, celery, red cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cucumbers, lots of tomato varieties, zucchini, and we are still planning on adding some greens (romaine? Red leaf lettuce? Kale?) and sugar snap peas to the mix. The tomatoes and other vines are planted along the two sides that won’t block sunlight because when these wee things get a bit bigger, we’ll put some trellises in there for them.
I’m already worried about protecting everything with netting, though—there are so many squirrels and birds in our neighborhood! I would not say that we are total novices, since we had a balcony garden at our old apartment (herbs, tomatoes, and peppers) and used to have a bigger vegetable patch at his winery—but I can’t quite say that we’re not amateurs. If anyone has any gardening tips, I would definitely like to hear them!
While I wait for our fruits and veggies to grow and our herbs to get big enough for clipping, I’ll be tackling these mutant vines in our yard and reminding myself that progress is achieved one thing (one inch) at a time.