Mother Knows Best

Rachel, July 3, 2022

When I first arrived at Living Energy Farm just over three years ago, the first thing I noticed were the Black-eyed Susans blooming all over the property. Black-eyed Susan was one of the first plants I connected deeply with, several seasons earlier, spending hours lying beside them, gazing up at them and the unique beetles I saw nowhere else, and exclaiming each time I walked by their beautiful faces. When I discovered that all of the pathways, fields, gardens and orchards at LEF were dotted with giant clusters of Rudbeckia, I knew I had come to the right place.

Well before then, I already felt drawn to Magnolia and the vision spun around it, and as soon as I set eyes on this piece of land, I began dreaming of the potential of each feature of the landscape. Yet I couldn’t help but notice that there wasn’t a single Black-eyed Susan to be found. As Chenchira and I prepared to co-create a home here in the months before I moved in, one of our first small acts was to plant a few of these beloved flowers in the yard, but they quickly withered away. We planted a new bed of them again later that summer, but deer or rabbits kept chomping down the flower stalks, and it took a few months before a handful of vibrant flowers emerged. Now in their second year, they have expanded their cluster, and yet the blooms remain few and rather bedraggled. The newest bed, transplanted this spring from a friend’s over-exuberant plants, has not yet managed to flower.

But seemingly overnight, maybe a week ago, up popped two Rudbeckia, right on either side of the deck. Out of the compacted, neglected soil left from excavating and grading around the house, on their own accord, two huge, unique, stunning blooms, each balanced on a single, lanky stalk.

UPDATE (7/30): After a month, a whole cheery cluster now greets visitors!

How many times this year have I wandered around the yard, trying to intuit what wanted to grow where; carefully dug and planted, watered and mulched; and been humbled yet again by how the land, with its own wild creativity, achieves effortlessly and abundantly what I attempt (not always successfully) to introduce in one small spot.

One vivid example is how, just before a rainy spell in March, I seeded a little patch of violas. I carefully scanned the planted area for the next few weeks, without high expectations, and literally jumped for joy when I suddenly spotted a few. Actually more than a few, far more than I ever dreamed of, or could claim credit for planting. A whole yard teeming with wild violets, I realized after a moment, some of them the classic purple, some of them white.

While examining the ground each day in search of the flowers I had planted, I noticed that the omnipresent creeping charlie, a ground ivy that establishes its dominance by poisoning the soil and we had vilified as a harmful bully, was clearly the crowd favorite for honey bees, nourishing them throughout the spring. Once it was finally mowed down, clover sprung up in its place.

Meanwhile, my hours out in the sun, striving to provide for pollinators and other beneficial insects, contributed a few small strips of sweet allysum, a prolific bed of mint (starting from a few plants that also miraculously emerged from the excavated sub-soil beside the house), and two tiny caraway survivors. The land rounded out these meager offerings with yarrow, spiderwort, phlox, and a riot of dandelions popping up at every turn.

Perhaps it is no coincidence, as I prepare to leave for four months at Spikenard Honeybee Sanctuary, that these two Black-eyed beauties have appeared at last. I choose to see them as an affirmation from the land that my efforts and intention are seen and valued, and this place is truly becoming home. And a reminder of how blessed I am to have the earth as mother, teacher, and partner in manifesting. I’ve obviously still got a whole lot to learn from her!

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