The delight of glorious soil. On Big Sur the soil is volcanic, the landscape looks like solid rock, but at Esalen the south-sloping fields right on the edge of the cliffs have a fine tilth which is almost impossibly fertile.
The ranch was acquired one hundred years ago, but for decades now has been a vegetable and flower garden providing three-quarters of the food for the community.
The compost heaps are amazing in themselves – long stacks under cardboard at the edges of the cliffs, sprouting opportunist potatoes. Everything is composted, and returned to the soil within twelve weeks.
Does it make a difference when a garden is loved? Here there are often flowers planted at the end of rows, or a left-over corner is exuberant with evening primrose or marigold.
Complementary planting is practiced, but the principle seems more quirky than that – a handsome plant I mistook for angelica was a four-foot high carrot gone to seed! An entire long row was a riot of sweet peas, planted to thank a benefactor.
Beds of dahlias bursting with health,
Himalayan poppies that escaped and tumbled down a cliff to the water, heavenly drifts of honeysuckle under bedroom windows.
Raised beds of scented-leaved geraniums, formal planting of succulents I have never seen before under the redwoods off the eating deck.
Long, dilapidated greenhouses full of seedlings.
Since I have been working each time I came, I haven’t yet volunteered to work in the gardens, but I know it would feed my soul. Next time?