I started this post with the idea of showing you a few of the recycled items I’ve repurposed in my back garden – junk pile gardening I thought we could call it. That was about three months ago now and my idea went pear shaped when I realised the extent of the mess going on in my back yard. There was no editing it out, there was no disguising it and then the need to keep things real around here got the better of me.
So here’s what I might have shown you had I stuck to the plan
Here’s what I wouldn’t have shown you.
Spot the difference?
Now if you have a garden you’ll know one thing – if you turn your back on it for five minutes it gets away on you and any longer than that it goes completely mad. Weeds take over, things fall apart, the rabbits dig holes, the dogs chew stuff up and in the blink of an eye the grass is suddenly up to your knees and the bush growing against the back fence has taken over a third of the yard.
Its not the first time its got away on me.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked out, looked around and asked myself
- How in heck did it get so bad so quickly?
- Who on earth lets there garden get in such a state? I do apparently. Me along with one husband, two kids, three chooks, a couple of dogs, two rabbits, a guinea pig, a lizard and a pumpkin plant thats hell bent on growing under the fence from my neighbours yard and taking over mine.
- And thirdly how for the love will I ever ever pull it straight again. And do I have the energy? There’s no team of gardeners waiting in the wings, there’s no week off work to throw myself at it, there’s no budget put aside.
So, after the initial shock and the “I should be ashamed of myself” type statements theres nothing else for it but to do what I always do and that’s start where I am with what I have.
On that day it was about thirty minutes focused attention on one small corner of the yard, – yes start small on something easy I say – and it happens every time that I’m always, always, ALWAYS !!!! amazed at what you can get done in a shortest space of time. And then you come back and do it again the next day or the next week or whatever you’ve got and you keep coming back to it and the shocking mess transforms itself into something not quite so shocking at all in the end.
I still go back to these words
– – – small steps will often keep us going when we run out of steam with the grand gestures. Leeana Tankersley
Sometimes small steps are the only thing you can do when time and money, energy and ability and plain old priorities count the “grand gestures” out for the time being
– – – and sometimes taking one small step can seem like the grandest gesture of all.
Here’s what I did that first day in a small area between the far end of my back verandah and the side fence. It was the least of my worries compared to the rest of the garden but it was a nice easy place to start.
We had some old fence palings that Ken had cut up for firewood but I thought them better suited to garden edging.
A bit more of a clean up, two bags of $3 wood chip, a good sweep and hose down and it’s looking not too bad. So nice to see my little paved area again too.
Doing one small area made me feel less overwhelmed and reminded me again of the value every single time of taking simple small steps. Small steps will get you on your way and nudge you closer to the transformation your looking for while grand plans and total makeovers are crying in the corner.
Heres what I love about small steps
- there the ones I can do
- they cost next to nothing
- they don’t take long,
- you can just use what you have
- they keep the creativity flowing
- they make me feel better, like I can do a thing or two
- one step sheds light on the next step
- they add up
- they keep me moving forward
- they get me further than I ever think they will
When you’ve lost the plot, feel stuck, in a funk, hemmed in, powerless to change, far from where you want to be. Take one small step (and the tiniest step will do), do something, start something, then take the next step and then the next one. Remember this gem.
Three months on where does that leave me with my runaway garden.
Making incremental progress and celebrating tiny victories thats where.
Twenty minutes here, an hour there, sometimes two hours on a Saturday afternoon but mostly less. It’s been slow but steady progress.
I’ve been putting off showing you though because I wanted to have some totally amazing AFTER photos to show you so we could all have a “tadah” moment. Maybe a few of them. Well we may still have the odd one but this is me and we are a continual work in progress around here so what your far more likely to find are:
- truly shocker before shots
- in progress along the way shots
- a whole lot better but not perfect shots
- and a few “I’m happy with this for now“ till the grass starts to grow again” shots.
So the main area I worked on is along the back fence and dealing with the hugely overgrown bush in the corner. I planted it so I’ve no one else to blame.
Now I was sure I’d need some sort of brush cutter or front hoe or back hoe or whatever – something big and forceful that had a motor that could rip it out and chew it up. Well none of those were available on the Saturday afternoon I had a mind to tackle it.
But I did have these.
It took about an hour and a half and by the time I had cut away everything I could with these little snippers, which was very therapeutic and satisfying I might add, there wasn’t that much left of it at all. I could see the corner of my yard that I hadn’t seen in years, I could see the state of our decrepit fence and I found a pumpkin ready to be picked.
At that point Ken arrived like the Cavalry with the chain saw and a ladder to do the final cuts that I couldn’t do with the snippers. That didn’t bode well. A chainsaw, a ladder, a husband with a bung foot and a sense of balance not as good as it used to be – I could see it all unfolding, the nasty accident, the tourniquet, the ambulance. Ladder was removed and big strapping son came out – yes covered shoes, gloves, protective eye wear – and saved the day. A few cuts with the chainsaw and it was done.
Remains of the unwieldy shrub were now sitting on top of the trampoline and in other piles all over the yard and gradually over the following weeks as the greenery died off I had a series of lovely Saturday afternoon yard fires. All the dead and dying plants were removed from the fence line slowly along with the old pergola frame and all the old fence palings revealing the fence behind – sturdy and in one piece even if none too glamorous.
We are talking two months later now cause it took a while to get through that mountains of offcuts but then a bit of a clean with the broom and two coats of charcoal paint later and she’s looking not too bad.
These from after I mowed what’s left of the lawns
And after a bit of rearranging of pots and benches and prettying up.
I reused the old bricks I found laying along the fence line to cap the raised corner garden bed we hadn’t been able to get to for years.
And the the old pergola posts were reused here to make a little garden bed
And you can see below I used the top beam of the old pergola to make a totally unnecessary but very grand entrance to our humble little chook yard. The two side posts were already there, we just had to even then up and add the top “trim”. I even moved my two sandstone urns to in front of the posts so my “arbour” looks even grander now.
A quick before pic – doesn’t show the posts but they’re left and right of where I’m standing.
So maybe it did turn out to be a post about junk pile gardening after all.
I share it with you – even the ugly bits – because this is my right now life and these are the small steps I can take right now to do something within the limits I have. The principle applies to any area of life not just crazy gardens and my hope as always is that it might encourage you in your “right now” life with your small steps.
I’ll be sharing a few more Before and Afters – the slow progress kind – from the other areas of the garden on Instagram over the next few weeks so take a peek there if you like. I’ve miles to go so there may be a few.
I’ll leave you with this. I recently ordered a book on writing. There was something about the title Bird by Bird that grabbed me – here’s where the author got that title
Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.’
We can all do that xx