My yard has become my sanctuary but that wasn’t always the case. My yard used to look horrible. It felt horrible. It had bad juju. Every time I walked outside intending to sit and enjoy my coffee in the morning, I’d look around, feel disgusted about the shape it was in, and turn to go back inside and sip my brew in the kitchen with my back to the window.
After tolerating the horrible yard for over 17 years, we recently had our yard gutted and redone. The design was created by a local landscape designer I found via another neighbor. She took my wishes and inspiration (Chanticleer Gardens), and turned my yard of daytime nightmares into beautiful dreams.
Part of the plan included a raised bed garden just for me to putter around in. I have wanted to putter in a garden for ages but the soil in our area is so bad it frequently requires jackhammers. I don’t know about you, but my muscles can’t compete against soil that requires a jackhammer. And there was no space in my backyard for a garden to go. It was filled with useless Palm trees and other nearly dead plants. The only plants that thrived in my yard were ones that came from my neighbors’ yards–the grapes, the jasmine, and some beautiful purple vine I still don’t know the name of. It was torture because I used to have a green thumb until I moved to California.
My raised bed garden isn’t huge but I quickly filled it up with vegetables and herbs I could use to create food. For example, I planted a ton of basil because I love homemade pesto. I also planted tomatoes, green onions, and cilantro so that I could make salsa and homemade tomato sauce. Cilantro is one of my favorite herbs–I could put it on anything and enjoy its taste. I’d never had cilantro until I moved to California because my mom didn’t like it–I discovered it completely by accident.
I had such dreams for my garden and then reality hit me. My gardener installed wire mesh to keep out the bunnies. The bunnies are taking over our valley because the coyotes appear to have moved onto somewhere new. I no longer hear them at night howling and yipping as they hunt. Coyotes could have a bunny buffet if they’d only come back. The gardener found some wire that matched my fence, and although it looks fine, inconspicuous, and it appears to be doing its job of keeping the bunnies out and my plants safe, it’s also having an unintended consequence in that it’s keeping my cat inside the yard. Billy used to leave the yard every single day and prowl on the hill below my house.
On Mother’s Day, I was sitting outside, enjoying my coffee, watching the birds wash themselves in my blue burbling urn, and I decided to check on my plants. I took my coffee over to my little plot of raised land, and I noticed new mounds of dirt that I had not created. I continued to look adoringly at my tomato plants, and then I saw it. Lying there on top of the soil, near a tomato plant was a giant load from my cat. It looked like the perfect poop emoji on an iPhone. My heart sank. I knew right then what those other mounds were–my cat, Billy, is using my raised bed planter as a litterbox. I almost cried out of frustration and disappointment–my gardening dream, literally, flushed down the toilet. There is no way that I’m making or eating anything infused with cat poop.
But even with this setback, I will not be deterred from gardening. My future plan is to add another row of wood around the top of the raised bed so that the walls are too tall for Billy to jump. He’s an old cat so his high jumping days are over. In the meantime, I will welcome container gardening into my life, and be content to make a cup of salsa or tomato sauce at a time.
As I write this, I’m sitting outside (although I admit it’s a bit chilly), drinking my coffee, and looking up every once in a while to see the visiting birds splashing in the urn, and making plans for my future.