Parting Thoughts

Gardening in Public

Posted 30 April 2013

For 22 years, we lived on a 5-acre property a few miles west of Sebastopol. It’s a beautiful property, which we enjoyed tremendously. But we were ready to move to town to have a lot less to maintain and do a lot less driving.

It’s been five months now since we moved. It’s great walking to work, walking to a restaurant or the market, and spending days without using my car.

Town vs. Country Living

The things that do and don’t bother me about living in town aren’t quite what I expected.

I hate noise, and I thought that the racket from cars and neighbors was going to drive me nuts. So far, it hasn’t—though we’ve mostly been in the windows-closed season.

I certainly don’t miss maintaining the well, filter system, storage tank, and septic system. Public utilities are a wonderful thing.

But Oh, the Views

One of the things I miss most about our old house is that every room had big windows with beautiful forest and garden views. I grew accustomed to this splendor and am still struggling with getting used to seeing fences, the street, and other houses instead of forest.

We also have a much smaller, simpler garden at our new house. After a bit of a rough start, I have come to enjoy the new garden.

We had perhaps half an acre of gardens at our country property, all of which we installed and redid more than once. We had koi, water lilies, lawns, fruit trees, and perennial borders. I miss the gardens, but I’m delighted not to be backflushing pond filters, maintaining a vast drip irrigation system, and being dependent on paid help just to minimally keep up with the garden’s needs.

I’ve also found that the smaller garden is easier to stay connected with and feels more personal.

Connecting the New House to the Garden

Our new house has a reasonably private backyard with a nice assortment of trees, as well as an extensive native plant border on the street side of the fence. The house itself, however, was entirely cut off from the yard—the only path to the yard was through the garage or down the driveway, and all the windows facing the yard were small.


One of the first things we did when moving in was to put a sliding door in the master bedroom, connecting it to the yard. It was transformative. The yard needed a lot of work, but it’s been fun to reshape and plant it this spring. And I once again have a nice view out the window, even if it’s not a forest.

Gardening in Public

The whole idea of having a front yard, and facing a street with people and cars going by and neighbors all around, is something of a shock. I’m still getting used to the fact that not every car that drives by is coming to our house.

A few weeks ago, I mowed the front lawn for the first time, and weeded some of the front garden. After all, I now have an image to maintain for the neighborhood!

Gardening in public feels odd, after 22 years of gardening in our totally private space.

It is not without its compensations. As people walk by, it becomes a social experience—something that could only have happened at our country property if someone was very seriously lost.