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June 10th, 2009

TESSERA/ TESSERAE

This morning’s air is fresh at 79 degrees and breezes stir the branches, indicating stronger than normal air movement. Where I write I am protected by a four foot arc-of-a- wall that is about thirty feet long. The wall is akin to an arm draped over shoulders by a sturdy friend, encircling and shielding the embraced one. It invokes feelings of comfort and privacy with an invitation to be outside in this maturing orchard, to be part of the garden rather than outside of it.

Plastered & Painted the Straw Bale Wall Sits on a Good Foundation to Keep its 'Feet' Dry

Plastered & Painted the Straw Bale Wall Sits on a Good Foundation to Keep its 'Feet' Dry

Rosa Altissimo Trained on Cement Reinforcement Mesh Follows the Arc of the Recycled Satellite Dish

Rosa Altissimo Trained on Cement Reinforcement Mesh Follows the Arc of the Recycled Satellite Dish

The rich blue and pale purple of the wall echoes the color of the distant mountains, underscoring the wild beauty beyond this garden: this is the clair voyer, the clear view of classic European gardens where the personal is clearly and deliberately connected to the broader landscape.

This is the tessera, the mosaic piece within the whole: the tesserae.

This is the pattern upon which I envision the resilient world of our future, the self-sufficient communities embedded in their big, open spaces. Each garden a productive blend of native plants, food for ourselves, teas, medicinal and culinary herbs as well as plants that feed the soil: the legumes. Space determines the extent of self-sufficiency.  

Farms, too will be developed this way. Like the farm of my childhood and youth that wove the wild and cultivated together for almost a thousand years, we will see the value of integration and human scale again. The future will be about working together, a new model or perhaps it would be more true to say, an old model reworked so that the effort and resources are shared and communities desire involvement. Farming and gardening will become a way of life rather than a job, a deeper expression of ourselves and our values.

Upside Down the 10 Foot Satellite Dish Makes a Wonderful Dome Shelter

Upside Down the 10 Foot Satellite Dish Makes a Wonderful Dome Shelter

Overhead my neighbors’ garbage forms a protective mesh dome, through which leafy branches and the sky are visible. This once-dinosaur of a satellite dish, now flipped upside down, forms a perfect ten-foot-wide, arched ceiling for this gazebo. With its metal mounting brackets removed it is an easy to handle, light weight two-part form, now mounted on three inch rusted metal poles. The metal poles were found on this property ten years ago, the previous owners’ unused resource.

This is a place where I come and observe the activities of the wild in this garden. It is a place for solitude as well as a gathering place for tea with friends.

When I sit quietly here the ducks, which are part of this integrated system, happily ignore me, and I can delight in their conversation and movement. They are the counterbalance to insect populations that could devastate my crops, and they are highly entertaining.

 During the Day a Small Flock of Ducks Wander the Garden Managing Insect Populations

During the Day a Small Flock of Ducks Wander the Garden Managing Insect Populations

A Gravel Path Leading to the Gazebo Also harvests Rain Water: it is 2.5 Feet Deep

A Gravel Path Leading to the Gazebo Also harvests Rain Water: it is 2.5 Feet Deep

A hedge planted on the West side of this sitting place is maturing. The land here slopes sharply in the direction of the dessicating Spring winds. It is the role of the hedge to reduce the wind effect, to minimize moisture loss in the orchard and growing beds as well as to provide habitat for small birds, and to be a source of seeds and pollen. Wild birds are as integral to this garden as are the domestic ducks. I have watched grackles fight over tomato horn worms and curved bill thrashers eat cabbage caterpillars until the plants were cleared of them.

Coming into its fifth year the Pineapple quinces’ natural growth pattern of multiple trunks lends itself well to this wind reducing hedge. Soon, perhaps this year, the West sun will be held back by its shade and the gazebo will be a place to sit in afternoons as well as mornings.

Under the Quince a Mixed Planting of Native Species, Culinary Herbs & Medicinal Plants

Under the Quince a Mixed Planting of Native Species, Culinary Herbs & Medicinal Plants

At its feet salvia chaemadroides, iris, thyme, oregano, and echinacea grow densely amongst small boulders that serve as summers’ mulch and as winters’ thermal mass.

Hollyhocks, taller than me, are alive with butterflies and many kinds of bees: European honey bees and probably some Africanized populations; many species of tiny native solitary bees and bumblebees, giant, round and yellow-striped.

As in all of Nature systems are layered, they are nested one within the other like the traditional nesting dolls of Russia. The self-sufficient systems that we create must imitate those millennia-old natural systems so that they too are productive and resilient. The beauty of each tessera we create that cycles its ‘waste’ into a resource, needs less and less external inputs as it matures, as it gives us more it needs less from us: it saves us expenditures of money and time.

Hollyhocks Grow Easily Here. They Provide Food for Pollinators, Biomass for the Garden, Shade & Delight

Hollyhocks Grow Easily Here. They Provide Food for Pollinators, Biomass for the Garden, Shade & Delight

Connecting these systems of our self-expression to the whole, the tesserae, through the integration of native plants for beauty, micro-flora and habitat, forms a deep relationship with place that integrates rather than separates. This is the vision of the Tessera/Tesserae, the mosaic of parts creating wholeness within and without, linking us to ourselves, to where we live, to community and to the land. It is within this deep resonance that we find ourselves at home and it is through these rich and beneficial relationships that resilience is formed and strengthened over time, keeping us safe and nurtured. This is where we belong, our safe haven.

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