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The new path in the side garden

1. Sketch, phase 1.. Done on the iPad in Paper then Skitch.

[I'm stickying this because it shows keen new functionality for the blog: Slide shows. --lambert]

These are the sketches and pictures from last summer's new side garden path project. With design help from a fellow permaculturalist, I did one of the best things I've ever done for myself, ever, and alas I didn't arrive at the concept until early August, so I missed all but a month-and-half's season of sitting in my garden. Next year! So click through for slide show....

I've been procrastinated on posting this for days, so I think I'm just going to write something imperfect and hit submit!

First, this post demonstrates how slide shows work, yet another feature of the new site. I'm hopeful this will be useful for people want to write posts that involve steps or sequences: Like recipes, or building hen houses, or the life cycle of a flower, or a demonstration, or the phases of the moon... Whatever! There is probably an art to this, but I don't know it. So others can improve the state of the art! The limitation here is that all the slides will be automagically scaled (yay) and cropped from the bottom. So make sure anything that readers have to see in the slideshow isn't at the bottom! You can make slides at the Slideshow tab. Captions can be added to each slide, and you can re-order the slideshow by dragging. You can also replace images if you don't like them.

So, I had three basic goals: I wanted to make my garden open to the world (but not too open), and I wanted to build a path that was pleasant to walk on, and had a playful look. In all these goals, I succeeded beyond my wildest dreams; this project was one of the best things I've done for myself, ever! It was also fun to do; the iPad did play a part, not only in my documentation, but in the design phase, through sketching. (I also now belatedly realize that I achieved the goal I set for myself in January: I turned the area in this plan labeled "Expansion" into these playful paths.)

Open but not too open: In Phase 1, I built the path from the street into the garden, but not in a straight line like a sidewalk. It's pleasurable to stand at the threshold and look; but because the path is narrowed on either side by "flower boxes" (actually, parallel pieces of firewood with soil between, seeded with wildflowers), and because the path curves, it's a bit more pleasurable to stand and observe than it is to walk down; the path is a being in itself, not something to walk down on the way to something else. The upshot is that a lot of people walking by on the street said "Hello" to me, but very few of them entered the space, which is exactly what I wanted and what I was comfortable with.

Pleasant to walk on: The paths are made of stone dust (with a liner beneath), and marble scraps are embedded in the stone dust. Stone dust gets warm, and its a real pleasure to walk on in bare feet, and the change in texture from rough dust to smooth marble is also a real pleasure. (In the original design, I wanted to embed some sort of herbal ground cover in the path, which when stepped on would give off scent, but I couldn't figure out which herb to use and it was late in the season anyhow.)

Playful: I wanted a lot of playful shapes to catch the eye. The curvy paths do that; the wildflowers that I seeded did that; I left various objects about, like a bee box from my father's hives, and I had fun arranging the marble scraps, too. Also, the whole concept is playful, since as it turns out, I could run a power cord from the house to the garden, and who builds a garden so they can use their computer in it, anyhow?

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So all in all, this was a wonderful project, and I only wish I'd been able to execute it in May or June, instead of August, so I had a whole summer to sit in my garden, eat my own vegetables, and blog. The whole experience combines pleasure for all the senses: The sight of the garden, the smell of flowers, the sound of birds and insects, the touch of the stone dust, the taste of (say) cantaloupe or morning coffee... And of course the total engagement of the intellect and heart and spirit while blogging. It doesn't get better....

As a bonus, the sun turns out to move, and as it does, the reflections on the computer screen become unpleasant, forcing me to get up and move to a shadier spot. This solves the problem that sitting, sitting, sitting at the computer is very bad for the body.

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insanelysane's picture
Submitted by insanelysane on

A fine project that will get better with time. Time always improves a garden. The wild flowers will bloom and re-seed and come up in unexpected places and the trees that shade will grow and the shade patterns will change. Nothing is so fulfilling as the creation of a garden. I really enjoyed this slide show and it may have given me a bit of inspiration to get out and do a bit of path building myself.

Submitted by lambert on

Leaving aside the planning, the actual labor took me a day, tops. And everything but the liner and the stone dust I had lying about: Wood, marble scraps, bricks, stones, and so on.

NWLuna's picture
Submitted by NWLuna on

jealous So you didn't have to de-turf lawn to make your path?

Ah, I thought I recognized a bee package box there in #9!

Useful design to encourage people to slow and stop, but not to enter (and possibly bug you when you're in the middle of writing). Good surface under bare feet. Spot to sit at a table. All the amenities.

This is inspiring. I need to do a hard-surfaced path for our side yard. It gets quite muddy during the rainy season, and we have a looong rainy season. Must start my plan.