This last year, 2015, as life got busier and busier, with our kids getting older and wanting to do more things in town and as my business grew, I found I had less physical time and mental energy to put into establishing and controlling our place. There were times when I would be heading out my drive trying not to look at either side. Where my friends saw fruit trees and gorgeousness, I saw weeds and work. I struggled at making myself see what we had done, not just what needed to be done.
As a landscape designer, I had put in the bones of the garden. The shape was all there. I had dug in close to 100m of brick edging along the garden borders. But we were feeling like perhaps this was requiring more work than we wanted to put in. Some people are happy to do that and thrive on it, but not all. I still love the River Cottage series and am all inspired to try stuff when I watch DIY shows, but now I have a better knowledge of myself and my capabilities. I am now content to give it a go in a downsized version.
On the flip side, that place of ours out in the country has been the place I have loved living in the most in my entire life. When we first moved to the country I was really concerned that I wouldn’t like it. I was raised in Auckland. What if I hated the isolation?
It turns out, I loved it.
I loved sitting on my deck, with my coffee, in the quiet, with the hills in the distance. There was a circle of trees in front on the hills that would block the hills in summer but come winter be a gorgeous skeleton of branches showing the mountain range behind. There was an iconic red barn. The space was fantastic.
The lack of space is one thing I have found difficult this year, in our new accommodation but I am trying to embrace the cosiness. One of my daughters said she prefers this more enclosed feel than the wide open spaces we had last year (I’m talking about our lounge here). I sort of can see what she sees. There is a different feel when the space is more condensed. I have mentioned in earlier Facebook posts that my small courtyard space that came with where I’m living now was vastly different to the expanse of air in the country. I was really surprised with how much I enjoy this cocoon of a backyard. I can see the delight in a small private courtyard. Any outdoor space has the potential to be
So, what would I have done differently?
Start with an overall plan right from the beginning. Be aware that changes are necessary but attempt to do things right first time (e.g. Chicken fencing, took us 3-4 times before we bit the bullet and put in final long term fencing with proper gate).
Know my capabilities. Easier said than done. Know what you can handle, but then if you find you’ve overreached, you can always pull back. It’s not ideal, but I took out a number of gardens, when I realised the weeding alone was going to take me out.
(I was talking to a client recently, discussing her gardens and she was concerned about having more hedging than she could maintain. Our solution was to keep the hedging to a minimum and when the gardens have all been installed and established, if she feels she can maintain more, she knows where would go.)
As life would have it, towards the end of last year, circumstances changed in my husband’s job and we ended up selling that place in the country and moving into a block house in a very small section.
I’m finding this small, enclosed courtyard quite a revelation. I would have never thought that I would enjoy this sized area. I have always loved open spaces but have a new appreciation for small spaces. As your family grows, your needs do too, and having a large lawn is not the necessity it once was. Although, having a shady, private oasis for me to sit with a book and a coffee is a MUST!!
I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments and whether you have had or still do have this dream of living off the land.
All the best,