Thursday, August 12, 2010

August in the Knitty Gritty Garden

The Knitty Gritty Homestead, from my front step.

One of my favourite books ever is "Thornyhold" by Mary Stewart. Here is a summary, copied from Amazon, edited by me, and pasted here:
This old-fashioned gothic romance is as good as they get. When Gilly's witch aunt leaves Thornyhold to her, a house in the middle of the woods, Gilly finds that she has inherited far more than she realized. Along with the house comes a cat, a still room filled with herbs (and a missing recipe book), an attic chamber with carrier pigeons (who have secret messages), and an attractive neighbor whose young son offers the sacred and unique blessing of friendship. But Thornyhold possesses far more than even these simple offerings. The place itself seems to invoke otherworldly gifts as well: Gilly cultivates the abilities to heal and to foresee the future once she makes Thornyhold her home.

I read it in a former life, when I was single, living in a country one-room schoolhouse, and indulging my every whim (e.g. I read this book in one sitting, into the wee hours, sustaining myself with tea, dill pickles, and crackers)...playing the piano and mandolin, watching the stars from the front step, creating gardens where school children played a century ago, napping and dreaming and wondering about what the future would bring.

I think of this book often as I work to reclaim the gardens established here by the former owner. Mint and violets wrestle for dominance, while lilies bloom randomly, interspersed with hydrangeas, raspberry canes, and hollyhocks. Thyme, sage, comfrey, oregano, and cicely elbow their way through tall invaders, and hold their ground. If there was a plan in place when it was all planted, it has yet to reveal itself to me.

I love to get down on my hands and knees and clear little areas of weeds...I half expect a fairy to come out of the dense undergrowth to scold me for tearing up her tiny garden patch. I am patient with the gardens here, grateful for what is growing, and always dreaming of what it will all look like 10 years from now, once I've managed to move things around a bit.

For now, things just bloom as they bloom. I'm thrilled with what greets me every day:

Herds of conflowers...

A rogue sunflower beside our winter bird-feeder.

Hydrangeas, all ostentatious in their debutante gowns.

Hollyhocks as high as an elephant's eye.

And of course, best of all, the patrons of this botanical restaurant...monarchs, hummingbirds, and bees.

I'm off to pack for our first family camping trip this weekend, and am wishing I'd hunted down this book for a re-read! Instead, I'll be working on my Tea Leaves Cardigan, and enjoying every moment with my kids. Have a great one.


  1. Your blog is a joy to read. When I grow up, I want to be like you.....your writing is fantasic and I foresee a self-published photo/posts book in the future. Have a wonderful weekend!

  2. So very beautiful! Have a great weekend, I'll have to find that book, it sounds great.

  3. Your garden is wonderful to see.
    Have a great time camping.

  4. You're kidding me!! Thornyhold is my favorite book too!! And no one has EVER heard of it when I say so!! Every time I read it I promise myself that someday I will have a cottage with a messy garden and a stillroom. My copy is falling apart and I'm in danger of losing the first chapter or so. I really must hunt down a new copy. Lovely photos by the way!

  5. I'm a book nut, so I'll be hunting down this title! One of my all-time favourite books for young adults is called A Handful of Time by Kit Pearson. It has magical aspects to it as well, with a central character who is able to go back in time. I give it as a gift to all tweens and teens I know, but it's a wonderful read for adults as well.

  6. I stumbled upon your blog via a Google Reader recommendation. I love it!! Hello fellow Canadian!

    I just wanted to point out, however, that your monarch isn't a monarch but a viceroy. I made this mistake myself lately because I'm on the lookout for monarchs here and was all excited when I thought I saw one, but it wasn't :( Still, the viceroy, a monarch mimic, is quite pretty!!

  7. I wish things weren't dried up and dead around here. Your pictures are gorgeous. I do get to start planting for fall soon though...two more months and things will be tolerable again!


  8. Beautiful life you've stumbled into!!! Life is amazing isn't it?


  9. Thanks for the book recommendation, this sounds like exactly my cup of tea! I have been directed to your blog by a mutual friend and I'm certainly glad of it! We are looking at making a big lifestyle change and there is the potential for us to buy a hobby farm. It's a big change but I am becomming very excited and seeing your blog makes me hope that I could possibly survive! Thanks for the inspiration.

  10. The grounds are gorgeous. I love the tangles of gardens, how they speak to the unruly abandon of nature. Such a happy land you have to homestead :-)

  11. What beautiful pictures..... someday I want exactly what you have.... loveliness! Have a wonderful camping trip :)

  12. so beautiful. your front porch view is just breath-taking. hubby and i were just saying how much we'd love to have land one day...we do love where we are, but it would be GREAT to have a place to stretch our bones and have a view like that! thank you for sharing it...i just love it all..:)



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