Sunday, May 24, 2009

A Very Beautiful - 3 Willow Lane

It is wonderful after coming home from 10 days of meditation to a yard that is perfectly mowed (roommates, you are great) and to a superb looking garden! This spring has been very busy for us Willow Laners. We did weeding, uprooting, digging, planting (all James), and even set up a fence to prevent animals from getting our vegetables. I did a lot of thinking at Vipassana and have a very ambitious goal for the property; to have it become a model green home and an educational facility for future UMass students. More will be explained about this later, but I am now hoping to receive grant money to improve the energy efficiency (through insulation, air sealing and weatherization - which is what the YouthBuild Holyoke students are learning!).

Here are some pictures of the yard and garden:

This is a nice picture of the house before the gardening took place. Notice the gigantic shrub to the very right of the house, which looks more like a Christmas tree with the top half sliced off. That was the most difficult sucker to get out...took nearly a week of trimming, digging, chopping, and hauling out with a cumalong.


The shrub is no more! We hauled out everything in that "garden" and truly transformed it into a garden. This has been a very rewarding experience.

This is the yard I came home to today. Absolutely beautiful.

Craig and I set up this chicken-wire fence in the hour prior to me leaving for Vipassana. I will have a blog entry about my experience in the next day or two. It was an accomplished feeling to leave on, putting me in great spirits.

A closer view of the fence and some of our growing vegetables!


Goal #2 is to transform the entire front yard into a permaculture garden. That means no more grass...none at all. Some of you may think that sounds crazy. But give it a minute of thinking before reacting to that statement.
Now that you've thought about it (observe, instead of reacting... something I picked up at Vipassana), having a front yard full of grass is the norm, right? And what do we have to do just about every week to that front yard? Mow it. And then it looks nice, right? But it continues to grow, and we continue to mow...and this process of battling nature happens over and over because we don't know anything different. If we want a nice looking yard, we have to win this constant struggle against grass. What else can we do?


Permaculture, which means permanent agriculture, is what I will be learning about during the month of July. I will be spending three weeks at an eco-village in Shutesbury, MA called Sirius Community. I will learn the art of permaculture and what it is all about; working with, as opposed to against, nature. Everyone and everything benefits from this. Plants thrive, the soil stays healthy, CO2 is absorbed and oxygen produced, and food is provided for humans and animals alike. It is one of the most sustainable practices there is; growing your own food.

Permaculture involves planting vegetables, trees and plants intelligently. This means that Plant A is intentionally adjacent to Plant B for multiple reasons. Plant A might take nitrogen out of the soil, meaning that if you have a garden or entire field full of this crop (think monoculture.. one-crop agriculture farms), the soil gets exhausted and no longer can be used for growing any plants needing lots of nitrogen. Polyculture - many different species of plants in a small area - has several advantages over its counterpart. Biodiversity, not exhausting the land, less disease, less insect infestation, and minimal maintenance if done correctly.

If all goes to plan, 3 Willow lane will become a model example of how permaculture and edible forest gardening can be utilized for both human and nature benefit. Working with nature, as opposed to against nature... ponder that.


  1. Great post Ryan, and I can't help but be proud of you (this is for your heart not your ego). It is all about feeling that good feeling inside at the end of the day. I don't care what you do- even if it is about not killing a bug. If you go to sleep at night and know you have had a day that you feel good about- then it is a-ok. You are awesome so keep on doing what you are doing.

    Love, Mom

  2. I'm so glad to hear that you are planning to turn your lawn into a permaculture garden. You've probably seen the Bill Mollison video, In Danger of Falling Food. If not, it is well worth the time of anyone considering permaculture gardening or of anyone who doesn't know what it is.

    I learned about you on Twitter, and I'm listing your blog as one I'm following so I can keep up with your posts. Looking forward to more of your story.

  3. Thanks for the posts, Mom and Grace. It's nice to see the blog being seen by others who don't know me personally - that is encouragement enough to keep blogging throughout this time of self-purification.