Tuesday, May 5, 2009
No Man's Land: Keeping a Piece Wild
I had gotten my earliest plant and gardening wisdom from my Grandmother, and for that I am grateful to her. She is also what some would call very 'superstitious' (or as I like to think of it, smart enough to heed old lore!), and I am pretty sure that I got that trait from her as well. There were various practices in the garden that were taboo to stray from, and while I know many were very sensible (in the material sense), others were definitely carried out for more esoteric reasons.
One of these practices was to keep a piece of her property wild, and let the plants and other wild ones do with it as they willed. This was the place for the 'Dandy Wee Folk' to stay in as long as they wished, and to hopefully protect the land around them.
At the time when I was a child, her property was a modest suburban lot, so this space set aside for this purpose was quite small. In a yard enclosed in zealously manicured cedar hedges, you found a humble but flourishing garden, and in the far South corner this little wild space nestled between a couple of old trees.
Discreet, just like my Grandmother.
I admittedly found some of her practices odd, but this was one that I had respected to the letter, and I made sure not to disturb that space and its residents (or the bread and bowls of milk sometimes left there by my Grandmother).
In my research travels I have come across similar traditions where farmers and gardeners would set aside some land and leave it be in the hopes of appeasing 'evil' spirits and Genii Loci. In England these parcels of land are often called Jack's Land, in Scotland Guideman's Field and Cloutie's Croft, and in Wales The Devil's Offering (Gardener's Magic and Folklore by Margaret Baker).
I wholeheartedly believe that at the core of superstitions, there is a practical reason for them existing, and one does not have to believe in Faeries to see how this practice is a good thing!
This is a practice that has been adopted by Permaculture, which is reflected in design zone 5:
ZONE 5 — A wild area. There is no human intervention in zone 5 apart from the observation of natural eco-systems and cycles. Here is where the most important lessons of the first permaculture principle of working with, rather than against, nature are learned.
Click on this link to find out more about the design zones in Permaculture.
In a world full of human sprawl and the destruction of wild spaces, the least we can do is set aside pieces of land just for Nature.