Thursday, April 7, 2011

Discovering the Secret Garden

As you come up our driveway, it's unavoidable to ignore the amount of overgrowth our five acres bare.  Ivy crawls up and around massive oaks, ground-cover that's supposed to flower and sit nicely just above the topsoil mounds up in two-foot piles and overtaking nearby redbuds, gnarled mounds of vines speckle part of the hillside, waiting to be noticed...  Anywhere you look on this land, as gorgeous as it is, you will see something in dire need of attention, especially as spring wakes up everything that grows out of the earth.

We spent some time with a neighbor who has lived here for several decades and knows the stories of most of the original owners in our area, and he gave us a history lesson on our land that I ate up.  Apparently, our little cabin has two previous owners.  The last owners (obviously) cared less about this property.  They did no upkeep on the land (or the house) besides paying someone to weed-whack the hillside once a year.  The first owners, however, absolutely poured themselves into this homestead.  They originally built what is now this cabin as their two-car garage and they were going to build a nice, big house somewhere else on the property.  As they saved up for that house, they made this garage into a home, had three little girls, and ended up falling in love with their little house and decided to make it their permanent dwelling.  And the land?  It was simply immaculate.  The woman was a nurse, but when she was home, you could always find her outside, gardening.  The man worked for the telephone company.  He was thrifty and had vision for cast-offs, so he fenced up the pastures with sections of old telephone poles and turned telephone company boxes into beautiful, circular planters.  The barns were almost completely made with massive, solid-wood planks that the phone company had no more use for.  As the man grew older, our neighbor said he entered his, "second childhood" and he would decorate this little house to the nines at Christmastime.  He'd ask all his neighbors eagerly, "Are you decorating for Christmas this year?"  The man eventually left this world and his wife grew too old to care for her beautiful garden, and she spent the rest of her days in a nursing home.

The tale had such a happy beginning, but what a sad ending.  Why didn't one of the daughters decide to make this place her own?  Why did the following owners let it go so down hill?  Was is because it had already been left to overgrowth for too long before they bought it that they couldn't see the vision?  Now it rests in our hands, and the story will continue.

After hearing about this place's past, and as I looked closer to it's detail, knowing there was serious devotion at one point, I began to see what this place once was, and what needed to be done.  I started imagining all sorts of stories about our new surroundings.

This spot was someone's secret garden.

Can you believe that ivy enveloping the oak?!

It's hard to tell, but there is rosemary growing to the right, and to the left, there is a little path that winds up to a huge patch of some sort of bulb that haven't been separated in too long, and I doubt they will flower this year, but I'm guessing they're irises.

This place (I imagine) was the woman's favorite breakfast spot.

There is a little rock path from the house that leads straight to this landing, and there was a circular table with five chairs, one for each family member, and they would enjoy breakfasts there on a glorious spring day like today.  I can smell the freshly brewed coffee hit the dewey, spring air and hear echos of laughter  woven through quiet, morning-time conversations.

This barn (why it isn't painted red, I don't know) sheltered three horses, one for each daughter, I suppose.

And these randomly planted lavender bushes weren't actually random at all.

They used to form a perfect half circle around a cluster of roses.  Only one rose bush is still living.

I noticed right where I dreamed of planting a small vineyard, there were several mounds of vines...

... That happened to be grapes!  I felt even more of a connection with that first couple who probably planted these forty years ago.  I spent all of Saturday afternoon trying to untangle and prune the vines that already started bulging.  I'm praying they survived such a late-season hacking, because now they look like this:

That pile to the right isn't a vine... it's the aftermath.

So, here we go.  The beginning of uncovering the secret garden.  This place will once again be cared for, and it will all come back to life.  I look forward to taking you on little garden tours as we continue to discover, prune, plant, and grow.


  1. Wow, you do have some pretty land! I love that you found out a little bit of history about it. We're trying to find out a little more about the people who lived on our land once upon a time, The Hendersons. I know there were several houses on the entire piece, you can still see some evidence. Other than that and how they passes, we're clueless.

    Oh, and don't quote me on this, but I'm thinking the productivity of grape vines slows a good deal when they're older. BUT, my dad's that are around 25 years old (or older) had almost stopped producing until I whacked them down to about 2 feet above ground. They're back in great action now! Good luck!

  2. how fun! i love the stories! how amazing to discovery the history of your place.

  3. What a gorgeous property. I love that you got the history of the original owners. What a great project to be able to restore it!

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  5. Love this post! I can totally relate. Our homestead is 100 years old and we have heard stories (from the neighbors) of all the owners over the years. Like you, there were the good ones and the bad. There is something so special about returning the place to it's former glory, it makes me so happy. :)

  6. Very nice. So beautiful.

    I just found your blog a few days ago and I'm really enjoying it. I was wondering (not sure if you mentioned this anywhere else) where you are living right now, and where that trailer that you lived in was?

    Hubby and I are new to the West Coast, and we live in Southern California right now. Eventually I'd like to raise our family in a place more open and rural. So I've been curious if these pictures are somewhere north in CA? If you are comfortable sharing, I'd really be curious! Thanks.

  7. How neat to learn the history of your land! That's very special. I'm actually reading "The Secret Garden" right now, so I love that you have secret gardens... how sweet. It's my dream to someday have land where I (and more importantly, my children) can enjoy their own little secret gardens...

  8. Beautiful! Brings tears to my eyes. I know that the land is happy that it once again has someone that loves it and truly cares for it. The land will love you back by providing you with food and shelter for your animals and family.

    Thank you for your story. I love following along and look forward to your future posts!

  9. I love finding the history and surprises in our land too! We're still cleaning fence lines and discovering hidden treasures after 12 years.

  10. I love this! It's nice to know that this formerly cherished place will be taken care of again.

  11. I don't know why, but this one nearly brought me to tears. I feel how glad Jesus must be that someone is there caring for that land. How precious!

  12. What a beautiful sanctuary - Breathtaking!

  13. Wow this place is still gorgeous you will make it come back to life. It is sad but new beginnings for someone else's dream that is how we ended up on our dream farm. Our journey was long and hard but well worth it. Good luck. B

  14. You have a wonderful way of telling a story. I certainly hope you share with us all the steps as you rediscover this secret garden.

  15. Lovely! The stone and horse shelter... so serene.

  16. That's lovely. Our property has nothing on it so I get to start from scratch.

  17. You have beautiful land! It is one of my dreams to own a few acres. And I love hearing the stories of homes, it makes them feel so much more 'homey' to me :)

  18. How awesome! I love it!
    Makes me daydream about a secret garden of my own and someone finding it one day. :-)

  19. We are reclaiming a homestead that was a family's home for 50 years. Sadly, the last ten or more it has been woefully neglected. We learn history bit by bit here as well. We've got a lot of work to do, but we're in it for the long haul. It's amazing all we've done in just a few months. I try to remembering that when I look around and feel overwhelmed by all there is to do! It didn't get this way overnight and it won't shine again overnight, but it will eventually!

  20. It's such an amazing experience, isn't it? I'm happy to know you're out there, having similar discoveries. What fun!


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