What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘meadow’? I have been asking people that question and consistently the answers include: ‘children running and laughing,’ ‘grass waving,’ ‘a few flowers sprinkled about,’ and then, ‘you don’t see many of those any more.’ It seems that a meadow is a sensory experience – hearing happiness, seeing movement and color, feeling the breeze, smelling the fresh air, touching the grass. Meadows also appear to be something that are sorely missed.
Last winter a family came to me and said that they would like to have a meadow on the hill behind their house. The 5+ acre hill had always been a grass field that was hayed and baled two to three times a year for livestock feed or mushroom compost fodder. An additional ¾ acre was an active construction road for a guest cottage being built on their property. I was aware of some Milkweed in the field but other than that I wasn’t sure what was growing up there. The challenge was how to define their idea of meadow, capture the sensory experience of a meadow, manage such a large area, and hold to a relatively tight first-year budget.
A landscape designer had provided a preliminary design that, when budgeted, proved to be very expensive to implement. I suggested we use elements of it, develop a new plan that met the goals of the family, and, in Year 1, install a low-cost, test meadow to see how it looked and felt on the property. If the test was successful, then we could implement a more complete meadow plan starting in Year 2.
The next four posts will be the story of the first year of the meadow.