Under the old crabapple Late May 2018. Make room for death in the garden, and watch the life that springs up around it.

Someone chopped down a tree and began the task of making firewood. That task was abandoned in favor of a more pressing task, and a forgotten round of tree trunk began to dry, then wet in the rain, then dry again. One day someone pulled it into the shade of the old crabapple to sit on for a sunny afternoon, until it was forgotten and left to decay once again.

“Dead” things make their way into the understory by all means. The spent leaves of last season’s growth blanket the forest garden each fall. Dead wood from spring pruning is returned to the soil, and entire trees are cut and laid to rest in place to make room for others. Several years ago when there were no plants in this field, I spent that spring spreading seed and placing totem rocks and dead wood in the grow beds across the farm. I could tell you I did this to create microclimates for plant diversity. Or I could tell you that I did this to create habitat for tiny creatures that would make their home in the garden, helping to spur diversity and invite pest predators. Or perhaps I could tell you that I did this to invite in a sacred energy into an otherwise ecologically devastated empty field. But the truth is, I can’t tell you why I did it, I just felt compelled to. It felt as natural as the wind. It is within these moments of unmarred inspiration, devoid of judgement and excess scrutiny, that the veil between good and bad, life and death, is lifted, and the necessity of all of it becomes self evident.

Dead things in the garden invite a myriad of species in the form of insects, bacteria, and fungi to perform their special alchemy; a slow turning of death into the substrate of life. And then suddenly, a forgotten round of wood, fruits a dryad saddle mushroom in the shade of the old crabapple.

Other plants pictured: Wild Alpine strawberry, horseradish, lemon balm