One gardener's observations, discoveries and random thoughts whilst simultaneously worshipping and dallying in a Cape Cod garden. "A garden," said Ralph Waldo Emerson, "is like those pernicious machineries which catch a man's coatskirt or his hand, and draw in his arm, his leg and his whole body to irresistable destruction."

Lilac Safari


And lilacs now in the dooryard bloom.

This is a lucky year for me, in that I seem to be simply surrounded with the beautiful things.  There are several large plantings of them here on the property and they appear in most other yards in the neighborhood.  Now and then I walk through one of these magical pockets of sweet fragrance and it’s almost like my feet leave the ground – they want to make me do all kinds of old-fashioned things, like Sigh and Swoon.


I’d enjoyed my delightful reintroduction (for this year) to them during the recent trip to Connecticut and was quite happy to find that they were coming on strong when I returned home to the Cape.  For the first time in years, there’s an ample supply just outside the door to make sure my home could be perfumed heavily with the cut blossoms.  I was thinking of snipping some when the Downses invited me to join them on a lilac safari to a nearby abandoned farm, and so off we went with clippers and sacks in hand.

They had mentioned this place a few times before as an interesting place to walk and it turns out I had seen some of it from a distance,  but I had never explored there before.   My ample and active imagination had painted a picture of something from the early 20th century or earlier, but this farm was probably new in the 50s or 60s, I’d say…and fairly long abandoned now, at that.  Well, sort of.

The place is sort of a wreck, but several years ago, was inhabited for a summer by members of some sort of culty-type group, who’d arranged with the property owner to stay there in exchange for fixing the place up a bit.   That’s how the story is told to me, anyway.   There’s lots of art, wall murals and such all over the place, and it seems that’s when all that came to pass.

But the place has also been trashed, it seems, by local kids…and also just by time and weather.  It’s even possible that someone has lived, or has very recently, been living there, maybe even still.   There’s certainly no lack of homeless people on the Cape, sadly, so I guess it wouldn’t be that much of a surprise.   And there are probably much worse places to end up, I suppose.


Largely the area is a mess of ruins, but I suppose the remaining buildings offer enough shelter, at least this time of year.  There’s lots of trash and rusty bits of metal and rotting wood and broken glass and such around, but also some pretty clear pathways.


I got the initial impression that much of whatever treasure the site may once have hold has long since been salvaged, though I wonder what a closer examination of the sight might reveal.   However, on the face of things, it seemed largely a sort of junkyard place, with a pick-up truck with a badly smashed windshield…and this burned down remainder of a Winnebago.

A place like this always fascinates me, the way the things of Man begin to decay and go back into the land, as the Green rises up around it, reclaiming everything.   In a spot like this, its easy to let one’s mind play through a variety of post-apocolyptic survival fantasies.  Of course it also takes my mind no time to think about how I might start to tidy the place up or reclaim the space.   Of course, I see everything as a potential location for a new garden bed.  It’s my gift, I suppose.

It was pretty cool to explore around a bit, although it was sometimes a little creepy, too.


I can see where a place like this might be a godsend to someone who was homeless, or, my writer’s mind posits, someone who was on the run or in hiding or something.  The art one finds everywhere one looks might even make a ruinous spot like this sort of comforting and attractive to someone in such a situation as one of those.  Still, this wouldn’t necessarily be the easiest place to make a life, I bet.  The farm is located on a meadow at the edge of one of the marshes nearby, and is surely smack in the middle of Coyote Territory.


Perhaps this explains the evidence we found of the torch in the former office.  There was also a big black kettle that appeared as though someone had maybe been using it for cooking or something.  And a slightly unsettling bit of neon green graffiti that suggested maybe the person or persons who had been living there had had their stuff pilfered by others.  But even that didn’t seem all that recent, what with other graffiti scrawled over the top of it.

Still, I found some chairs set up at the edge of a pond in a cosy arrangement that suggested it was visited by someone regularly, although that certainly wasn’t evidence of anyone in residence currently.  And of course, its quite likely that it’s simply a sort of clubhouse place for local kids.  There was also evidence of what looked to be a bike ramp for jumps or something.  Possibly all these suspicions are true to some extent.


But I also thought it was a little odd to find two pots of pansies that looked relatively well-cared for (ie, not in need of deadheading, which pansies almost always are...) sitting out there in the middle of nowhere (you can see them to the left in the photo with the whale mural, but for some reason I didn’t think to snap a closer photo).   That sort of reinforces the slightly unsettling notion that someone might’ve been hiding when we visited.   Sort of comforting to have visited with other people, really, when you think about it.

Despite it all, it was also a very cool place to visit, with all the artwork adorning the ruin of the place.  It was sort of fascinating to pick my way through and snap a few photos as I let my eyes wander and wonder about the place, imagining what it’s history might have been…what story is continuing to play out there now.






I sort of thought there would be more lilacs there (or other recognizable plantings or their remains – I don’t know just what sort of a farm it was, actually) but there was just a relatively small cluster of two or three bushes, a bit tall and sparsely-branched, but there were certainly enough blossoms for us to fill a pair of grocery sacks and leave plenty behind, so someone else might enjoy the discovery of that unexpected cloud of sweet fragrance.



With a thought or two for those whose circumstances might be less fortunate than our own, we took our perfumed treasures and headed home to seek out any variety of vases – large and small – to fill with cuttings to adorn as many rooms in our house as possible with these lovely purple flowerheads.


At first, their perfume was sort of fainter than I’d hoped, but by next morning, the Nest was delightfully scented, the indoor cuttings enhancing the more diluted fragrance which was just beginning to waft its way through open windows from the bushes in the yard outside.

Delicious.  Delightful.  De-lovely.


Comments on: "Lilac Safari" (5)

  1. Salina Inzaghi said:

    i’m not much of a gardener…never had “green hands”
    i’ve always been more of a baker
    stumbled upon your blog that was linked to some other blog (cant really recall how i came upon your blog)
    but i’m happy to say i’m delighted i found your blog
    your stories and your pictures of your beautiful garden really is a sight for sore eyes & a soothing balm to a heavy heart.

    thank you, friend
    God bless :)

    Welcome, Salina! And thank you for your kind words – they are very nice to hear! Come visit again soon!

  2. Oh I love places like that! And that it is so covered in art just makes it all the more compelling. I can picture myself being all hippy-dippy in a place like that.

    It also reminds me vaguely of the set for the old show Green Acres. Just this morning Superman and I were singing that theme song or our children, who wondered what in the heck had happened to their poor deluded parents. ;)

    “This afternoon, the roles of Eva Gabor and Eddy Albert will be played by Java and Superman. Please enjoy the presentation.” Ha ha…so happy to hear that there’s singing at your place, and nothing from an opera, at that!

    It’s definitely a place one could be happily hippy-dippy…and yes, with the lack of the occasional wall, it does actually seem a little reminiscent of The Douglas Farm. ; )

  3. Heather said:

    Wow, what a funky place. Great pics. And fabulous lilacs. I was about 5 days too early at my parents’ house, but you could tell they were getting ready to explode in bloom. Mom says they had more blossoms this year than any other she can remember….

    I think I was explaining away the abundance by being new to a more lilac-centric neighborhood, but perhaps it is a bumper crop season for them this year. Either way, not a peep of a hint of a smidge of a complaint here. I couldn’t be happier!

  4. I look at a place like that and imagine all of the untold stories hidden within. They are just fascinating. Thanks for taking us along!

  5. rethoryke said:

    What a cool space… You might be interested in the Ruins of Philadelphia blog, that features some fascinating abandoned spaces and things-that-once-were.

    My pink lilacs are starting now; for some reason the really dark purple Canadian one blooms much earlier in the season.

    I’ll post some peony pics soon.

    I see one of the irises you sent last summer is showing some bud-branching. Details shortly!

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