The Monastery is a great place for modeling how to live within our means and then exploring and discovering the range of possibilities within those means. So “limits” become invitations to creativity.
Within recent years especially, we realize that we live in drought conditions much of the time. What used to be described as a Mediterranean climate in northern California is now much closer to a desert climate. How do we respond to these drier conditions from the exciting place of “What are the possibilities here?“
Well, it still does rain. How can we capture and hold it more effectively? Install gutters to channel it and tanks to store it, and suddenly we have thousands of gallons for the many months when the rain is not falling. Put swales (deep ripples filled with debris) in the garden to slow the rainwater and sink it into the ground so it doesn’t run off. The plants just below those swales have access to water a little longer.
Much of the garden still bakes in the summer, though, so now, look outside the bounds of the garden and rediscover -- wow! There’s that whole big hill down there. How long will water falling on that hillside take to percolate all the way down? How long will the lower levels stay damp? Probably pretty long, especially since the slope is south-facing, meaning it slopes toward the winter sun and away from the summer sun. Let’s give it a try: plant a few small plots to complement the upper garden and extend the spring-summer possibilities.
And while doing so, enjoy the continuity with the Monastery’s past, as this hillside is where the earliest monks created the first garden. The grassed-over remains of those beds create rises and dips that assist in slowing the progress of water downhill.
That early garden was an experiment. The current garden is an experiment. The new downhill plots will be an experiment, and who knows what possibilities they will suggest as we work with them? As the Guide often says, no reason ever to be bored – even, maybe especially, in the midst of drought.