An evolving product of curiosity & a beautiful celebration of diversity!
Wondering what in the world a Forest Garden is? Check out this informative 3 minute National Geographic short film that gives a great introduction!
Our Forest Garden has been a project-in-the-making for 6 years now. When we first purchased our land in 2012 from John’s Aunt, the back two acres were full of about 45 mature Black Walnut & Silver Maple trees, with pristinely mowed grass underneath. Yeah, we mowed that all once and said ‘Heck no!’ to that again! So, we kept mowing the middle open area, then let the rest go wild & mowed fun paths through.
As our children grew taller & wilder, so too did our ‘West Woods’, as we called it then. We ran races through her winding trails, took nightly walks to enjoy the beauty, watched in wonder as we discovered our first Luna Moth, & as each of us started noticing new plants popping up throughout, our questions started rising as well.
Each Spring, as old growth would emerge, we would greet the familiar plants that had taught us the previous year with excitement & gratitude. And each Spring, we would walk the trails with wonder, looking to see what new arrivals the birds had dropped in for us this go around….
Our woods were quickly becoming a source for not just beauty & insect identification, but snacking, adventure, education, & so much more. While waiting patiently for our plump Black Raspberries to arrive one year, we wondered what else we could use the expanding brambles for. So Henry & Amanda Jo stripped the long canes & taught themselves how to weave a pretty great basket that we still use & treasure today. When Nettles finally arrived to our neck of the woods, we rejoiced to find out how tasty & calming a cup of Nettle tea can be for the tummy. One year, when Autumn was waning & we felt sorry for our piggies, who no longer had fresh greens to munch, we collected baskets full of Acorns from our beloved woods to share with our snorting & grateful friends, down in the barn.
And when we wanted to do a bit of landscaping & add some decorative borders around our home along the Hastas, Amanda Jo thinned out our ever-growing Autumn Olive patch by hand, with an axe & made beautiful Wattle fencing out of the branches. And as we cut them back, we collected the berries to make a delicious jam like no other we’d had before! Then we started to think, ‘Well, wouldn’t the asparagus from the garden grow nicely in the West Woods along the fence?’ And ‘We love the Wild Leeks so much from Grandma’s woods, why don’t we put this on the North facing hill in the West Woods so we can have them closer & can teach others what they look like easier?’ And ‘Those Wild Oyster Mushrooms were amazing we found out there this year, let’s try & grow Shitake Mushrooms on a log next year!’ And ‘Wow, I want to grow PawPaws so badly, but I keep reading about how hard it is to mimic the conditions they like to grow in, why don’t we add them to the West Woods?’ And while roadside hunting for Elderberries, we thought ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if these were right out back?’
And this is the story of how our headache of a mowing job became the quiet lanes to reflect & whisper our wishes in to, the open air to let our dreams soar in, and the only & best classroom our children have ever had, known as The Forest Garden.
As of 2019, this is the list of plants we eat or use medicinally in our Forest Garden.
In 2020, after watching over, slowly adding, experimenting, & learning from the 2 acre area for six years, we are ready to thoughtfully add hundreds of plants; Large & Dwarf Trees, Shrubs, Herbs, Root Crops, Ground Cover Crops, & Climbers throughout.
Our Forest Garden has been such a gift to our family-an evolving space to explore our curiosities & a beautiful celebration of the strength in diversity! We are extremely excited to pass down the knowledge & share the gift of enjoyment amongst nature to others in our community further. In April 2020, AJ & John are expanding their Wild School to offer a course every Friday that shows children a glimpse into the possibilities that our future with food can hold. With AJ’s specialized & intimate knowledge of the plants, both their tenacious spirits & love for teaching children, the Forest Gardening course is a revolutionary experience that’s sure to set in motion & reinforce a love of land for children in our community, that will carry on through their years.