Living Outside the Box: Gardening in an Overgrown Eden

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secret overgrown garden on the green divas
With a little TLC, the land has started to take on new form—
still wild, but with purpose.

For as long as I can remember, my entire being has craved the out-of-doors. Growing up in a fishing town in New England, I enjoyed a life spent very much outside; if I was not in school or at church, I was climbing trees, scaling rocks, riding my bike, playing in dirt, or swimming across the bay with a friend. With all the demands and responsibilities of adulthood, it’s all to easy to withdraw from outdoor work and play—even for those of us who grew up wild.

Lavender from the yard.

Lavender from the yard.

Other than living further from the ocean, I’ve managed to incorporate many of my childhood adventures into my “grown up” life in the Garden State. I’ve discovered waterfalls with swimming holes, and miles upon miles of wilderness to explore on two wheels or two feet.  But over the course of the last decade, as I’ve hopped from a small 400-square-foot condo on main street to dwellings of various sizes and functions, the desire to root down in one place where I can have daily contact with the land, to disappear into the woods from my own back door like I did as a child, has only grown.

Even when living in tight spaces, I’ve been fortunate to have access to community gardens, compost bins, farmer’s markets, and ample biking and hiking trails. All the while I’ve been dreaming of more dirt to play in, more land to wander. Not land I must drive to enjoy—land I live on. I want to feel a connection to the space around my four walls, and for the physical earth outside my door to be just as much a part of my home as the structure.

A beautiful bloom.

A beautiful bloom.

After several particularly bumpy years with housing, last fall I landed smack-dab on three wild acres in a converted hunting lodge in a historic district, abutting 77 acres of preserves. (WHAT?!) There’s a stream running just west of the property off a dirt road. And at about any point in time, day or night, you can hear the call of a dozen creatures. I’m just miles from major roadways and mass transit, yet blissfully removed from the hustle and bustle while home. When we first moved in, My Person and I spent days exploring the property and nearby mountain. We’d just stare in awe; this was the most beautiful place we’d ever seen. But it was going to take a lot  of work. A good friend dubbed it: an Overgrown Eden.

Though we’re currently renting the homestead, we didn’t hesitate to make it our own. We begin each day with a walk on the property sipping a hot beverage, our free hand watering or weeding as we go. It’s become a morning ritual. As we’ve dug into this space, the intentions of the original owner have become clearer. Under what was a pile of tangled weeds emerges a stone wall, and next to it, buds new life. Amidst a pile of rotting wood, a birdhouse. With a little TLC, the land has started to take on new form—still wild, but with purpose.

Purple on purple.

Purple on purple.

Shades of purple appeared majestically this spring: Irises, Bluebells, Spiderwort, Cone Flower, Sage, Lavender, Fleabane, Beardtongue, Clematis, Peonies, and Wisteria. (Is it a coincidence that my favorite color is purple?). Every time I walk out my door there’s a new discovery and I begin to imagine what could be: more vegetable gardens, chickens, bees, goats?…

Tasks generally considered stressful, which people pay to have done, are now my outlet, and something I look forward to every day.  To my surprise, I find I’d rather be yanking weeds, hauling stones, and planting seeds than on a day trip to Manhattan or exploring the other side of the world. The land piques my curiosity and sense of adventure. Home replenishes my reserves to get through the work week.

Most of us still find ourselves in office jobs, boxes where we spend our days indoors, in front of little

A re-built stone firepit.

A re-built stone firepit.

electronic boxes. We spend even more time in little boxes-on-wheels getting to and from said job and other activities. No matter how meaningful the cause or rewarding our engagement with modern society, it tears away that little core part. And so, the last thing I want to do in my free time is to plop myself in or in front of a box. I’m happiest when I’m living outside the box, with dirt under my nails. When I can put my energy into creating something that produces food, smells, and beauty. I’m digging this new life, and my Overgrown Eden.


Here’s the latest episode of The Green Divas Radio Show for more on green and healthy living… 

About the author / 

Green Diva Cara'

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