Saturday, July 25, 2015


"Why do humans garden?" is a question I am asking myself since three members of the local Milo Baker Native Plant Society came to see MuRefuge as a possibility for inclusion in a 2016 native gardens tour. No word from any of them . . . nada. The lack of communication from these individuals and the organization has set the stage for an inner inquiry about the process of gardening in general. 

I grew up with a family garden that was grown to provide food for us not only fresh but preserved as well. My mom gardened as her mother did. 

My Grandma Haynes in her garden in Wesley, Iowa,
on July 26, 1967. The pole behind her held a very large martin house.
Her birthday was February 17, 1883 and she passed January 02, 1968.
So my gardening is informed by this history which is not a surprise. As those of you who have read the very first blog post know the gardening process here at MuRefuge expanded to include healing of not only myself but of the land as well. 

When I began stamping in the '90's,
this is one of the first I purchased.
I still use it on cards I make and
the reminder is still poingnant.
When the house was built on this three quarters of an acre, the dirt was scraped away leaving not very healthy soil. My very early childhood was less than idyllic and my early adult life was fueled by adrenaline. So arriving at MuRefuge very ill with an autoimmune disease uncurable by Western medicine and the land in a degraded and abused state, my "gardening practice" became one of restoration. In that process I found myself aware of energy flow . . . of my own, of the land and of the other BEings about.

The garden evolved as did my healing, both becoming alive and vibrant. Many of the original plants brought to MuRefuge did not survive. The plants taught me what wanted to grow here and others demonstrated a desire to live here but in a different spot, microclimate if you will. So I became aware of the microclimates of this very small piece of land through a cellular process aka body based. I learned the effects of wind, water and soil composition. I learned of the naturalizing process food plants go through: if you bring seeds from a distance land those plants through their seeds will acclimate.Pimento peppers which originate from a much hotter climate than here where the marine influence provides a cooler one was my first teacher in this realm of learning. Year after year I harvested the earliest ripening pimento pepper and saved the seeds to plant the following year. This remains my practice so we now have lush delicious thick walled sweet pepper to enjoy cooked and uncooked in a variety of dishes as well as preserved for enjoyable Winter eating. When my mom visited one time in the past when these luscious fruits were ripe, she ate so many she actually became ill developing a severe case of diarrhea.

Native plants abound here at MuRefuge. Most of the species were chosen to provide food for all the other BEings who also call this place home. The many different varieties of manzanita flower continuously over the cooler months, providing nectar for the Anna hummingbirds who are year round residents.

The "hedgerow" along the South property line is planted in the wettest part of MuRefuge's land.The various bushes provide berries for the berry eating birds. My favorite is the Twinberry bush which is a native honeysuckle. The tubular double flower provides nectar for hummingbirds and the berries provides food, too.

 The Blue birds love the black ripe berries. 
We have watched a mother Blue bird pluck a ripe berry
and feed it to her open mouthed offspring.
The vegetation planted here at MuRefuge and now flourishing provides an energetic web that one who is sensitive to qi can feel as one walks through the garden. As I have had many tours here at MuRefuge, I am continually amazed by the various responses from those who visit. It is obvious to me that some experience the healing web, aka wild matrix of qi. The three women who visited from the Native Plant Society did not seem to be aware of the web or perhaps did not find it healing or maybe they were looking for a garden with something other than what MuRefuge offered? Mu Refuge is a wild garden by design with not much tidiness nor beauty if one views it from the traditional horticultural perspective arising out of the historical European gardens by those who have studied this gardening style or contain human DNA from those ancestors.

Gardening is a personal activity informed as I alluded to earlier in regards to my gardening roots. Reading two awesome gardening books has offered me an opportunity to see into the lives of two exordinary women each living in not only different centuries but different parts of this country as well. Here is a bit about each of these two books.

The photograph taken by Gilbert L. Wilson of Sioux Woman,
Buffalo Bird Woman's daughter-in-law, is on the cover of
Buffalo Bird Woman's Garden: Agriculture of the Hidatsa Indians.
Anthropologist Gilbert L. Wilson, in meticulous detail, transcribed
the knowledge Buffalo Bird Woman, born in 1839, generously gave to him.
From the introduction by Jeffery R. Hanson: "Following an annual round, Buffalo Bird woman describes field care and preparation, planting, harvesting  processing, and storing of vegetables. In addition, she provides recipes for cooking traditional Hidatsa dishes and recounts songs and ceremonies that were essential to a good harvest. Here first person narrative provides today's gardener with a guide to an agricultural method free from fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides." There are illustrative drawings and photographs.
For me this book was powerful and instructive about living simply and how hard those Hidatsa, a Siouana linguistic tribe located in now North Dakota along the upper Missouri RIver, women worked growing food in a place near Minot, where we all know it can get very cold in the Winter (and hot, I might add, in the Summer). This area is now a huge reservoir. Buffalo Bird Woman shares her tribe's origin stories (Hidatsa means "willows") including those of the corn, squash and beans seeds. And from a different perspective, these seeds from lands way South in Mexico, and perhaps further in South American, were brought North and naturalized by a process similar to what I have done with the pimento peppers here at MuRefuge.

Carol Deppe has been gardening in Corvallis, Oregon, since 1979.
She has a BS in zoology from the University of Florida and a PhD in
biology from Harvard University. She is an "Oregon plant breeder" who
"specializes in developing public domain crops for organic growing
conditions, sustainable agriculture, and human survival."

I must first say I loved this book, especially since she raises ducks for egg production and for pest control as do I. And I was struck by the similarity of how her book is organized in much the same way as Buffalo Bird Woman's. Of course, much of the updated information and knowledge is informed by science: what we now know about plants' habits, for example, and about cross pollination, and about plants needs of healthy soil and crop rotation. Her gardening stories are precious and her sharing of resources immensely useful.

As we go about our gardening, in whatever manner we do so, may we


  1. A treasured comment from Palm Springs: "Cathie,
    I have tried to enter my comments on you blog site several times but have had no luck.
    You have an amazing garden and I know how hard you have worked on it for so many years. Its a real labor of love.
    If you dont get on the tour, its their loss!
    Your blog is incredibly informative. Thank you for continuing to learn, garden, and love what you do.

  2. Email from Katie: "Hi Cathie,

    Sorry that they haven't gotten back to you. They may have lost their funding or changed their plan. You never know with nonprofits.

    I enjoyed your story about your gardening history, thanks for sharing it!


  3. Wonderful post and evocative of our link with land and all living things.