Monday, September 17, 2012

Churning the Earth: Digging for Weeds, Seeds, and Sources

Greetings, friends, historians, gardeners, and passers-by!

I am happy to report that a lot has happened following my introductory blogpost. Thanks to the hard work and gracious sacrifice of free time from several volunteers, not least of which Dr. Theresa Gross-Diaz of Loyola's History Department, the Medieval Garden is truly starting to shape up in some very noticeable ways. Visitors walking along the lake-shore path will notice a significant portion of overgrowth has been removed (after hours upon hours of effort!), and the garden is starting to look like an actual garden once more!

This fearsome fellow is the gargoyle who protects the garden. Previous to this shot he had been utterly consumed by an equally fearsome outbreak of fennel. Now he he stands proudly over newly-planted pansies and scares away the weak-hearted. Legend has it that the gargoyle curses those who defile his garden with thousands of dollars in student loans.

Rest assured, a week ago this was nothing but a patch of ground thistles and Creeping Charlie (no relation!). After a vigorous weeding, the only creep left was me. Can't win 'em all.
The weeding in particular was aided by a recent graduate of Loyola, Stefan. Stefan, when still an undergraduate, had actually created the original iteration of the Medieval Garden as part of the History Internship program my freshman year. I was very thankful that he could spend some time and effort helping me continue his original project.

The harvest is great but the laborers are few.

Oregano to spice up our garden.

A bee enjoys the fruit of our labors.

I pose for a photo-op with the sole melon of our melon patch. I think I'll call him Harvey.

We have planted what will probably be our first (and last) crop for the year: a good amount of Swiss chard, kale, radishes, beets, turnips, coriander (which will grow into cilantro), as well as the carrots, green onions, and the indomitable chives that had grown in the garden despite the infestation. If we are lucky, we will be able to harvest these plants later in the fall, and perhaps sell them in the Loyola Farmer's Market (we're still working on that!).

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Garden: Beginning the Reclamation

I began my work restoring Loyola University's Medieval Garden on a warm Friday afternoon. The breeze was slight, giving the sun free reign to beat down on my brow. The lack of wind also gave the myriad flies buzzing around the garden ample opportunity to feast on my legs and arms, sorely testing my patience and resolve.

During that feasting of the flies, I was constantly (and painfully) reminded of a small blurb recounting the medieval equivalent of bug-spray:

"Whoever will pound wormwood with vinegar and anoint himself therewith, he does not dread gnats or flies."     
-Macer, Wermode; found on Wyrtig, a fantastic medieval gardening website.

I can tell you now that I am heavily weighing the option of planting some wormwood on site for future encounters. 

I was soon joined by Dr. Theresa Gross-Diaz, co-director of the university's Medieval Studies program, and  the driving force behind the garden's creation my freshman year at LUC. Soon after, a random student passing by, named Alan, offered to join us as well. Considering the scope of my undertaking, I was (and am) glad for any help I receive. With the help of Dr. Gross-Diaz and the student volunteer Alan, the first patch of garden had been taken back from the excess onslaught of overgrowth afflicting it.