When we moved to Santa Domenica, I was fresh off the farm, with over 30 years of gardening experience. When I was 20, I was absolutely fascinated and otherwise transfixed by the miracle of little seedlings coming through the soil in my flats under the lights. When we finally built our greenhouse, I still was--even though the numbers of flats went from 10 to 100 at the peak of our production. When we moved here permanently, since I was burnt out a bit from all the work, I knew I would be satisfied with plants on the terraces and aspired to an entry like the one above (with even more plants). We watched our neighbors garden and thought maybe they'd need help, but mostly they have things under control. Here is a typical town garden:
Most are based on fruit trees such as fig, lemon, pomegranate, and orange. There are grape vines, of course. In between the trees, many people plant other useful plants such as tomatoes, onion, garlic, and artichokes. I loved looking but I was not jealous. One night our friends Nunzia and Arturo called me from a garden I knew to be owned by an expat from Ireland. I waved hello. They were picking oranges for their store. I though nothing more about it until another friend asked Doug if we would be interested in tending the garden a bit for the use of the fruit. Below are some pictures so you can get the general gist of its condition:
What turned my head? Compost. I hate buying soil for my plants and I know from experience that those plastic compost containers are not only ugly but marginal at best. At first all I could envision was that I'd have a place for a real compost pile. To make a long story short, we agreed to take it on and Doug bought some tools. We spent a day trimming and cleaning up debris so that a person could walk through the garden with no trouble. Just one day out there and the whole village was wondering if we bought the garden and our friends already knew we agreed to work in there before we told them. The serendipity of it all is unique to our life here.
I enjoyed that day. It was sunny and warm and the gardening chores were automatic and unstressful. What has become stressful is the fear that we will become too attached to it. The garden is for sale along with a house in town. So far I have decided that it is worth the risk--for the sake of compost and a few calm hours out there in the sun.