Michelle Simkins specializes in nature writing, spiritual writing, speculative fiction, and hand-crafted talismans, spirit dolls, and other magical art.

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In the Garden: Good Bones

Spring seems to be officially underway here in my corner of Oregon, and I’ve started getting outside and working in the yard. As most of you know, we bought this house last fall, and the quarter acre lot is my favorite thing about it. I have so many plans for this little piece of land, and it’s exciting to be able to get started after so many months of observation and plotting. Since I’ve had a lot of requests for updates on the process, I thought I’d start a series of In The Garden posts. And what good are photos of my progress if you don’t have any before pics? So let me take you on a little tour of my yard, which doesn’t really feel like a garden yet, but which I think has good bones.


Here is the view when you step out the front door. I think it’s quite pretty, with the mossy stones. By the way, all the photos in this post were taken in early October of last year. We don't have leaves like that right now!



The next few photos show views of the house and yard from the street side. You can see there’s an awful lot of grass in the front yard. Personally I’m not a fan of lawns. I’ll talk more about why later, but for now just see this recent post from Yes! Magazine for a good summary.



You can also see that there’s a lot of bare soil up by the house, with just a few shrubs stuck in. I’m even less of a fan of bare soil. Over time I hope to cover all soil and eliminate as much lawn as possible. But I’ll just take it one step at a time. My long-term goals include lots of soil building activities and converting the whole property into a “Climate Victory Garden”. You’ll hear more about this later too!



Next you can see the patio on the South side of the house, and our makeshift fence to restrict the area accessible to our geriatric dogs. They do best when not allowed to roam too far, and I do best when I’m not stepping in dog poo while carting a wheelbarrow full of plants.



And here is the back yard: just look at all the dusty, dry, bare soil. Since this photo was taken, many weeds have appeared in all the bare places, which leads me to believe a lot of weed killer was applied before we bought the house. The paltry number of worms in the soil seems to confirm my suspicions, as do all the dead leaves on the rhododendrons. They’re recovering now, some of them more quickly than others. I’m hoping to plant a lot of native woodland plants in the shade of these big trees.



This next photo shows the northeast corner of the back yard, where it looks like someone once attempted to have a raised bed of some kind. It’s covered in purple deadnettle now. If the light is good enough in summer, I think I’ll plant herbs that take up a lot of space, like mugwort and motherwort, in this corner.



And here is one of my favorite things: a big, beautiful grape arbor on the north side of the house. I plan to sit out here in the shade drinking iced tea and reading novels this summer.



So there you have it, the bones of my garden. I can’t wait to tell you all about the work I do here, and share more photos as the garden evolves. And I’d love to see pics of your green spaces: Leave a comment if you have some to share.

Michelle Simkins

writer . maker . seer

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