The first year of Spiral Elixir Garden has been a beautiful initiation into living on this land. We bought 3 and a quarter acres in the Sierra Nevada foothills. We live on the top of a hill with Oaks, Mazanita, Toyon, Ghost Pine, Ponderosa Pine, and many wild flowers and herbs. This acreage has no perimeter fencing. Fortunately it had a small area at the very top outside the back door from the dining room off the side covered deck, that was fenced and gated with deer fencing. This allowed us to start with this area you see above. The before picture is Mid Summer 2016, “after” is Mid Summer 2017.
Past to Present
If you’ve followed along @spiralelixir on Instagram the past 2 years you’d have known we moved from a higher elevation (now at 1,300 ft.). Our journey with gardening first began in 2008 though. We bought our first home in San Diego in 2008, and I blogged about it a lot. In 2014, we moved to the Tahoe National Forest to a rental home at 2,600 ft. elevation. We didn’t have much freedom to change the yard or landscape, but we found a very small area with wire fencing around it, that we made into our turtle’s habitat, and small garden. We were able to grow a lot of lemon balm, some sage, tulsi, corn, mint, strawberries, calendula, potatoes, lettuce, tomatoes, cilantro, brown onion, white sage and tobacco. There were amazing giant Pines, Cedars, and Madrones. Our first year of Spiral Elixir Garden didn’t truly happen until Spring 2017.
For links to these noteworthy earlier years, scroll to the bottom of this post.
First Year of Spiral Elixir Garden
Fast forward from our journey to buying our first home in San Diego (2008), to us selling that home in 2016, and then buying the one we have now. Seems like too much to even try to explain, but I can certainly try. First of all, one reason we left San Diego, was to have more land. Then we left the dense pine woods to more open oak forest to have more sunlight. We have a lot of open land now with direct and partial shaded areas with fertile soil. It’s ideal for growing a variety of plants, and is home to much wildlife, which we are protecting. We are in zone 9a, and have an average of 240 sunny days per year. We get an average of 53 inches of rain and 8 inches of snow each year. After years of drought in California, we actually got a lot more rain than usual this first year of living here. This helped the first year of Spiral Elixir Garden get off to a great start.
Water is Life
I probably should mention that we’re 13 miles from the Yuba River and have a fresh water creek running through our property. Last year the creek went dry in late September, and quickly refilled after the first rains in October. So it’s basically full all year. We have an artesian well, and the natural spring water tastes amazing! Free healthy water is something we are very grateful for.
Since we moved here in the summer of 2016, you’d think we got right to things in the garden, but really there was a lot more we had to handle first. My husband was dispatched within a few days of us moving in. He worked for 2-3 weeks at a time going back and forth between wildfires in northern and central California from the end of June until the beginning of November. Hence, I was parenting on my own, & unpacking, in hot arid weather. Especially relevant, was that I did way too much on my own and ended up exacerbating a serious spinal issue I had that left me stiff and barely able to move one day. Thankfully, after finding an amazing chiropractor and going to treatments a few times a week and then tapering off to once every few months now, I feel much better. As much as I had wanted to get started with our garden right away, we didn’t actually get to work until this past spring. Fall and winter were cold and rainy (above average rainfall), therefore this garden is technically very new!
What a Difference a Year Makes
Like I said, it’s really been less than a year that the new plants have actually been growing. It took a while to amend the soil and clear rubbish from the acreage that was left by the previous owners. We have spent most of our time here unpacking and getting settled. We also cleared out old broken things around the property, and have been dealing with a huge fallen tree. The wood will be burned to keep us warm this winter. I started planning our garden before we even moved here, but once we found our home the plans changed a bit. I saw the lay of the land and realized what it was I was capable of tending to.
It’s one thing to have a garden, another to have a farm.
We’re not trying to grow enough to sell to our community, like a farm. If we have enough for our family and overflow, that’d be great though. I use some of my medicinal herbs for occasional medicinal support for clients or my small community if there is extra. However, it’s not my intention to grow these plants for profit. I do it for the love of the land, the planet, the pollinators and all life. We care deeply about the earth and use sustainable practices that are eco-conscious. My husband is a Conservationist and certified Trail-Builder, Tree Feller and Wildland Fire Fighter. He is a Journeyman Carpenter too, and use to run his own landscape business as well. We make a great team! He is always helping with technical issues, building things, using heavy machinery, and is as strong as an ox. He knows a lot about plants and growing as well. This man can literally do anything! I’m super lucky.
Using Re-Purposed Materials
Since our very beginning in San Diego, we’ve always used as much recycled or repurposed materials as possible. We haven’t bought much for the First Year of Spiral Elixir Garden. Only some: soil, compost tea, a water hose nozzle, seeds, starts, a couple of biodegradable seed trays, and maybe 5 pots. Everything else we either found, were given, or we brought with us from San Diego or Nevada City. We lucked out on the two lower garden beds being there, already fenced to keep the deer out. Due to the inconvenience and impracticality of the way it was constructed, we will be changing it though. I’ll talk about plans for the future in a few paragraphs. Keep reading!
So much… I’m in awe. There was already so much here to begin with.
Here is a short list of what was growing before we moved in.
Trees/Shrubs: Oak, Ghost Pine, Ponderosa Pine, Buckeye, Apple, Peach, Mimosa, Toyon, Manzanita, Blackberries, Grasses, and more…
Plants: Lily of the Nile, Miner’s Lettuce, Gum Weed, Ground Iris, Dandelion, Cat’s Ear, Rosemary, Chamomile, Rose Campion, California Thistle, Aloe, Yucca, Hedge Parsley, Shepard’s Purse, Lupine, Fairy Lantern’s, St. John’s Wort, Rose Clover, Winter Vetch, Broadleaf Filaree, Purple Dead Nettle, Western Blue Flax, Plantain, Crimson Columbine, Western Blue Iris, Honeysuckle, Mariposa Lily, Brodiaea, Hot Lips, Cypress, Hollyhock, Orchid Rock Rose, Milkweed, Rose, Goddess Bamboo, Cala Lily, Daffodils, a variety of ground covers, succulents, and more…
Here is a short list of what we have growing from ALL organic seeds (and some starts) from our local nursery, friends and family:
Borage, “Juliet Paste” Tomatoes, Lemon Balm, Lemon Verbena, Mariposa Violet, Petunias, Gerber Daisies, Leeks, Cilantro, Oregano, Thyme, Bee’s Bliss Sage, Geranium, Calendula, Marjoram, Sweet Peppers, Cayenne Peppers, Serrano Peppers, Orchids, Fire Stick, Bee Balm, Cosmos, Snap Dragons, White Yarrow, Star Jasmine, Yerba Buena, Roses, Holy Basil “Tulsi”, Grapes, Burdock, Pumpkins, Zohar, Soraya, & Russian Mammoth Sunflowers, Helichrysum, and more…
Cherokee Popcorn, “Moon & Stars” Heirloom Watermelon, “Eversweet” & “Sequioa” Strawberries, “Russian Mammoth” Sunflowers, Oak Leaf Lettuce & Red Chard, Crimson Clover, Sweet Sultan, Mexican Sunflower, Tri-Color Daisy, Thoroughwax, Sweet William, Mexican Lupine, Love-In-A-Mist, Blanket Flower, Calendula, Shasta Daisy, Lance-Leafed Coreopsis, Indian Blanket, Prairie Aster, Sunset Flower, Bachelor Button, Cosmos, Yellow Prairie Coneflower, Gloriosa Daisy, Moss Verbena, Sweet Alyssum, Plains Coreopsis, White Yarrow, Queen Anne’s Lace, Four O’Clock, Hollyhock, Zinnia, Nasturtium, Purple Coneflower, Giant Imperial Larkspur, Scarlet Sage, Purple Prairie Clover, Godetia, Rose Mallow, Lemon Mint, Milkweed, Foxglove, Jasmine Tobacco, New England Aster, Perennial Lupine, Coneflower, Blanketflower, Blue Flax, Black-Eyed Susan, Prairie Coneflower, Gayfeather, Rocky Mountain Penstemom, Standing Cypress, Missouri Primrose, Showy Evening Primrose, Grey-Headed Coneflower, Sweet Black-Eyed Susan, Ox-Eye Sunflower, Bee Balm and Stiff Golden Rod.
Black Sage, Salvia Oficionalas “Nana”, Cypress, Scallions, Foxgloves, Blue Chalkstick, Prickly Pear, Dianthus, Creeping Phlox, Wallflowers, “Ghostly Princess” Lavender, “Grosso” Lavender, Lithodora, Nasturtiums, Cat Mint, a variety of succulents, and more…
Plans for the Future of Spiral Elixir Garden
We are in no rush. We are committed to caring for our land in the best ways we can and know that every year will be different. One thing about living like we do, is we learn as we go and appreciate all of the process. Spiral Elixir Garden is not something separate from our life, it is a beautiful part of it, so it’s going to grow as we do. In addition to our garden we have plans for a perimeter fence as well. That is going to be a big project but will be happening fairly soon. We will make it so the deer can still come in the yard, but will also have another internal fenced area specifically for the garden as well. Also on the horizon is possibly getting some pygmy goats. We will be keeping them as pets, and they will help chew down the grasses that grow wild (that ticks cling to, and that fell wildfires). We have a lot of wood chopping to do! The oak tree that fell is still in the front yard, and we need to stack it in the back near our door where we have our firewood. My husband is going to rebuild the firewood shed too. We will be moving the original bird feeders this week to ensure mice or rats that eat the fallen seeds, aren’t attracting rattlesnakes too close to the house where the children and dogs play. We are considering bee-keeping, and so much more that I’ll continue to share as well…
One Big Surprise
My husband and I celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary this past June. He had planned to give me something special but a few things didn’t quite work out timing-wise. Therefore, it’s going to happen this month instead (it’s a process, but we’re getting close). I know some may judge us for this, because of course “if” we lived a different way maybe we wouldn’t need it, but… he’s getting me a truck! (I say “us” but he says it’ll be mine and he’ll drive my Subaru.) We actually really need a truck to fit our family and do what we plan to do on our acreage. We live off a dirt road first of all. Most of all though, we plan to buy fencing materials, move rocks, fallen tree firewood, lumber, and goats, etc. We have been squeezing into my Subaru with our two big dogs and luggage to visit family in San Diego. It’s not working so well. Our kids are getting bigger and the trucks these days are getting wiser. I compared feul economy on my 2005 car with that of the newer trucks and they’re basically the same. That made me feel better, since a lot of people frown on trucks for being gas guzzlers (myself included). I don’t drive much any way! So, no worries folks. We are mindful of our carbon footstep, and reduce, reuse, and recycle every day. We make so many conscious choices to live sustainably, and have thought about this decision in-depth. Consequently, after we get the truck we’ll be able to get started on our projects and expand the garden! So much to look forward to.
To steward the land and listen. To stand in silent reverence bare feet to the earth sweat on our brow, dirt on our hands, bees buzzing around, innocent wild eyes in the woods watching… The beauty of the path we walk is that it all unfolds as it should and the choice is ours how to react or take action to every moment. The truth is, we don’t have a set plan or a blue print. We simply plan to be present and live here how we enjoy living. Close to nature, nurturing the life around us. Our home and the acreage it dwells on will always be a place full of love and creative potential. For any visitors, we hope they find deeper inhales and wide eyed-exuberance as the symptoms of first impressions. For those who feel drawn to stay for a while, or that happen to be my client and request some type of plant medicine, I will compassionately craft what ever I can to meet their needs in support of their transformational process. My children will grow with continued respect for the whole, with a deep awareness of gratitude for all that there is, and all that we learn as we journey forward together.
Links to some of my other posts about our previous gardens:
- Urban Farming: Part One
- Urban Farming Part Two: Faerie Realm
- Tobacco and Black Jaguar Medicine
- Urban Farming Part 3: Saving Seeds
- Meeting Faith in the Garden
- Jasmine Dreams
- Growing Pumpkins
More pictures and a free eBook below…
An Added Bonus…
During the first year of Spiral Elixir Garden I also published my first book, Astrology of Herbs and Tarot: Correspondences for Healing. I continue to make handmade deerskin pouches that are made with sustainable and ethical hides (never bought by commercial sellers) mostly just scraps from people who don’t need them that would otherwise be throwing them away, or by people who give them to me from my connections with Native Elder Medicine People at Trade Posts or that are my dear friends. Spiral Elixir Garden inspires all of my work, even the Astrology work I do and Spiritual Counseling. Everything I think to write and share is initiated or supported at some time during my process with clients, in this garden, or while gazing out my window at it from my desk. For more info about what I do, please visit my “Greetings” & “Intention” pages, or “Services“. For Feedback from clients visit >here<. To check out my other services and Shop go >here<. Thanks again!
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