Much of the time that I am outside, I take ideas as they come to me. I rarely charge out with a specific goal in mind. Instead I wander around, taking account of what needs attention. Sometimes I will get to work right away on the first of the things I noticed, but more often I find myself sidetracked by some more aesthetic interest like building a nice sitting area or trimming brush. I’ve slowly built the gardens around my paths so that my movement around the yard is natural, fluid and pleasing to me. I don’t force myself to walk down rows to tend to my crops and I’m making a point to grow flowers and unique plants that catch my attention as I pass through certain areas.
I find that this slow way of working has given me a lot of creativity. I don’t have to get to work right away on a new idea, but instead I let it simmer while I spend days and weeks tinkering with it in my mind. When I’m ready to get to work, work gets done quickly because I’ve spent time cultivating my plans.
An idea emerged a month ago while I was chopping down tallow trees to practice with the axe and saw. I wanted to carve the wood up and see what I could do with it. By the time I felled one of the trees, the only thing I wanted to do was saw off its limbs and stick it back in the ground.
This type of idea tickles my sense of humor. I was suddenly inspired to create an entire forest of logs that I had chopped down, de-limbed and then planted back in the ground. (As an aside, a few weeks later I discovered that this same idea was applied in ancient “wood henges”.) I ended up digging a hole for the first tree that I felled and I planted it where it has been for long enough now that I’ve come to regard it with familiarity— no longer finding it odd or amusing that this twisted tree trunk stands fifteen feet high in the middle of my yard with no apparent purpose.
Yesterday I brought out the antique post-hole digger to add to my tallow log forest. There are now five logs standing erect to separate my garden from my pathway. . I went along in between each of the logs and stuck little privet twigs in the ground to suggest that this was something similar to a fence. Its visual effect is fun for me, but I’ve already seen that my dog has no respect for it as a fence and walks right through the garden anyway. It serves almost entirely as a means to entertain myself. I take myself less seriously when I work on what I deem to be rather meaningless art.
Another example of my silly garden art is this willow sculpture that looks a bit like a snowshoe or a badmitton racket.
I’ve justified this work because it was inspired by more practical ideas. The willow racket was born from my curiosity about willow twigs for basketry and weaving. I wanted to see how long it would last and how well it would hold up outside. It was only after I started the project that I discovered just how much joy and freedom can be drawn out of this kind of artistic play.
As for the logs, I have a bird feeder and a bird house on two of them and I’m hoping to see some mushrooms spring out of the wood (these trees grow a variety of mushrooms, as we saw last winter). Also, this will give me a chance to test the wood and its ability to resist decay while buried in the ground. I’ve wanted to learn more about this since Jess (from Bogalousa Stinks) brought up using tallow trees for fence posts and it’s something I’d like to do if the posts would last for longer than a few years.
The more I think about it, the more uses I can come up with for these posts. For as long as they last they can also support annual vines. If they prove to last longer than a few years, I may train muscadines and perennial fruit-bearing vines on them. Since the posts are right outside my kitchen window, I think flowering vines are in order for this year—something for the hummingbirds and butterflies.
Playing in the garden is more fun than working in the garden, if you can separate the two activities. Even what I might regard as silly before I do it, and while I do it, seems to open up a mood of creativity and a new perspective in viewing the space that we have available for work. The type of work that comes out of play is not as one dimensional as strictly goal-oriented labor, the latter of which might ruin one’s interest in the garden altogether. There is my gardening philosophy.