My Gardening Insecurities & a Spring Garden Tour 2019

May 5, 2019 | Door County, Essential oils, Gardening, Potager, Potager 101, The Parisienne Farmhouse | 13 comments

‘Scuse me whilst I dig the dirt out from under my fingernails…

I just looked down and realized how horrid they actually look. It’s definitely NOT manicure season.

‘Tis the season of compost, and calluses,
Of worms and worn wooden handles,
The season of a happy heart and an exhausted body,
Says I.

Spring Garden Tour 2019

Spring Garden Tour 2019

It’s finally Spring here in Door County. (It was as though the Lord was waiting for Sister Bay to finally take down their Christmas Decoration… ahem!). Sûr le RocherCountry House and Gardens is in FULL swing.

Homeschool starts a little earlier in the day so we can fit it all in and studies have shifted once again to animal husbandry, permaculture and all the goodness in between. Hard work never hurt anyone, children included. When they sit down to their meals, they know how that food got to their plate and that is a good thing.

I digress.

Spring Garden Tour 2019

I stand at my bedroom window and look out to a great expanse.

Just fourteen months ago this space was overgrown with more wild oregano than the mind can fathom. Weed trees and invasive honeysuckle, half-dead mangy ash trees and equally as half-dead birch and white pine and the horrid juniper that thrives on any unattended land on this part of the island.  Vacant for five years these majestic acres needed someone to love them.

That someone is us.

Last year we expressed our love by pushing back the mangy outskirts of the forest, and we dig multiple begs for our potager (a French-style kitchen garden)

We harvested stone from crumbed rock walls and dug every rock out of the ground that our shovels hit. (There are TWO reasons we call it “On the Rock”, Sûr le Rocher… as Christians, our house is built on the rock of Christ and literally… we’re sitting on a giant rock.) .  I built rock walls with fervor and Joel rototilled and rototilled and rototilled to great over 13 different beds.

(You can see more before pics of the house and property here)

Spring Garden Tour 2019

We laid landscape fabric and poured pea gravel over it to create a courtyard full of European charm, we cut down trees that shaded our dreams. I dug up wild lupine and overgrown lavender from a garden that was here years ago. We built a rustic, charming “deer fence” out of all our scraps. We worked NON stop for eight weeks and then settled into to enjoy the fruits of our labour… and…


(See a video of all our hard work that first year here)

Stunted growth. Nibbled plants. Shade where we didn’t expect it.  With the strategic placement of my camera lens, I could make it look good but the reality was I felt like a total failure after all that gruelling work.

Spring Garden Tour 2019

Can you tell giving myself grace is not my forté?

For heaven’s sake, any normal person would have simply acknowledged that it was the first year of gardening in this new space and what could I expect?

But instead, I raged, I defy you Door Country soil! You just met your match!

Monty Don, a gardener after my own heart, says that there is not one moment that is ever wasted in amending one’s soil. And so I amended. Chicken manure, goat droppings, leaves, composted cow manure from a farm down the road. Wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow… load after load.

Spring Garden Tour 2019

This spring we awoke to wiggle worms, black, gorgeous soil and joy. Though nothing is growing yet, it appears… (dare I even type this???) … it appears that we have begun to improve this notoriously horrible terroir.

Amend, amend, amend. I will continue to do so for YEARS! I have quite a compost system in place… I’ll have to share that with you someday.

So, we’ve got worms. Now what?

Now, it’s time for me to set my insecurities aside. After years of a rental garden and then the “failure” of last years garden I have begun to doubt myself. Who was that woman who could plan a layered garden, full of colour from April to November, in her sleep? Who was she, who could companion plant, access disease problem, keep bugs and bay organically….

Have I lost my skillz?

Tests like Meyers-Briggs label me as a type A. (quelle surprise) Gallup calls me an “Activator”. Action and forward motion are EVERYTHING to me. I never look back. But I’m going to pause for a sec and look back. A rare activity for me, indeed, but I’m going to pause and look back at the “Ang of Potagers Past” and remember that gardening is a part of my SOUL. I haven’t forgotten how. Patience must be my resolve and diligence, my routine.

Look back, just for a moment with me, won’t you?


Whew. OK. That’s out of my system.

Onward and upward. After all, tomorrow is another day.

It’s going to be a fabulous growing season. I look out at the very blank palette and I can see the future. I see all my David Austen’s in full bloom, I see vines and espaliered fruit trees, benches tucked into cosy corners of my potager and a cottage garden that would bring a smile to the mouths of Tasha and Beatrix. It takes ten years to create a mature garden. This is year two and whatever happens, it’s going to be beautiful!

Spring Garden Tour 2019





PS: Here’s how I survive the aches and pains of gardening season AND garden organically with my fav essential oils.


  1. Becca

    Last year was a seed year. You were planting the seed of your dream. Plant it forward. ;0)
    Blessings on this year’s garden!

    • Diane

      Oh my, how I feel your triumph and challenges! We retired to East Texas zone 8b from Maryland 6b. I had no idea what I was in for….sugar sand with nar a rock or worm to behold! I’ve had 2 tractor trailer loads of mushroom compost hauled in (thank Yahweh for the Monterey Mushroom Farm 90 minutes away) and 2 loads of hardwood mulch. Did I even mention we bought a 25 acre pine tree farm?! I’m learning how to embrace shade gardens and chase what little bit of sun I have with containers. My favorite teacher is Charles Dowding and I quote him often, “compost!”! I was giddy this being my second year of gardening here, to find worms in my new soil and I don’t mean the thousands I’m farming in the garage! I too have multiple and diverse composting bins established and could most definitely be called, “the queen of compost”! I’m embracing my new life and climate with VERY short winters and rejoicing in my newly acquired addiction to succulents and container citrus trees! Keep up your hard work and remember you are not alone! My prayer daily is, “bless the work of my hands”.

  2. Mandy Friend

    Okay, what roses were those at the suburb house?! And where do you get rocks for the borders?

  3. Karen

    I love Door County and vacation there occasionally. I’m waiting for the opportunity to go out to Washington Island to see and smell the Lavender fields, and to dine at The White Gull Inn. Just wondering if you have those dreaded Asian Beetles that other parts of WI have and what you do about them? David Austin Roses! Yummy, yummy! All your hard work has paid off. Beautiful!

  4. Dewena

    When I discovered your blog in 2012 I was amazed at your beautiful potager and in love with your darling children and so encouraged by your spiritual goals for your family. And then to see the hard work you all put into Half way farm kept me imploring the Lord to give you a farm of your own. I remember the post where Aiden brought home a wheelbarrow full of boxwood to his mom! What a guy! I know I’m one of many who are pulling for you all and each week looking forward to the next video of your Door County adventure. Thank you for all the beauty and inspiration,


    • Lilli Ann Snow

      Oh, how I love every single step you have made and continue making in the dreams come true of your life. You inspire me beyond measure, and that inspiration bears sweet fruit you have planted, yet never see. Thank you for all you give to this beautiful world.

      • Parisienne Farmgirl

        Pollyantha… The Fairy. I miss them. I’ve brought them everywhere but they didn’t survive this last move.

  5. Teresa

    I feel your frustration. I have been working on a French backyard for two years, alone….as my darlin hubby does not like any type of yard work….but my grown son helps me! We live in Georgia and it is nothing but clay…hard clay…whoa nellie!!
    I lost a few hydrangeas during the winter…so I just replaced them this past week, added more hostas, peonies, society garlic( for the purple blooms. Hope to get the pea gravel in this summer….it will probably kill me…I am not young!! But it is a work in progress, so taking it a little at a time. It will be a beautiful white, blue and purple French garden one day. It is a small backyard, but at my age, it is all I need. Yours is already a masterpiece!!! Cannot wait to see it progress!!! Be inspired!!!

  6. kelly cataldo

    Love your garden your building ….going to be beautiful!

  7. Jen

    I live in Central Utah and Mother Nature here can throw 4 seasons at you in one day~!
    I know gardening frustrations. We have been freezing near every night this month. Strangest May on record (=
    Oh, I love Monty Don…
    Whenever I get discouraged, I go with him on a visit to “Babylonstoren.” You must check it out on Youtube. Oh, it will inspire you when you’re frustrated. Or, take a trip to one of Gertrude Jekyll’s gardens, or pull out the Tasha Tudor books and read them from cover to cover in an evening. Keep the faith and amend, amend, amend that soil. I use a lot of alfalfa mulch here. No, it won’t grow hay. I put it down by the tons to keep the weeds at bay and amend our poor soil. Rained on hay is ideal if you ever get rained on alfalfa.
    I have faith your gardens will be glorious quicker than you think…
    We’re also in the midst of a house remodel, in fact, a complete 1800’s old homestead remodel – Oy vey’… Nothing else to say.
    Keep the Faith…

  8. Frank Quevedo

    I’m anti-social media. Nonetheless I found ( Gardening, my fav pastime) your protege page. Magnificent! Great gardening shines through your photos. So they must greatly please the senses when viewed naturally, live.


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