Planting time

by | Nov 15, 2015 | Seasons Newsletter, Uncategorized | 17 comments

Have you done any planting yet? 

I spent a long weekend on my block of land recently, with my hands in the soil. After pulling out armfuls of onion weed, I began to wake the garden up with a thorough digging. My spade unearthed one fat worm after another, and as I held it poised in mid-air, the worms slowly turned and wriggled down into the ground again.  On the third day I was ready to plant.

As I sat with my hands in the dirt, mixing in lime and sheep pellets, a feeling of great happiness overcame me. From across the valley I could hear the call of the pipiwharauroa, the shining cuckoo, a song that rose and fell with infinite grace. Closer, through the waving heads of manuka, riroriro, the grey warbler, trilled its carefree tunes.

As I tucked beans, lettuces, courgettes, and the first tomato into the soil, I knew this was exactly where I was meant to be: sitting on the earth in spring-time, planting.

Planting hope

Sometimes, planting seeds and seedlings represents a triumph of hope over experience. During the past months my carrots, lettuces and kale have been nibbled to death by some creature. What could it be? A possum? A rabbit? Slugs and snails?

I don’t know if the new seedlings will survive the unknown predator. All I could do was to set a possum trap, pour beer into a slug trap, and surround each tender plant with a ring of crushed eggshells.

Foolish, perhaps, to plant after losing so many, but I can’t resist. Not to plant in spring feels as impossible as not to harvest in autumn. Since childhood, growing a garden has been an essential way of life and a way of joining the rhythm of the seasons.

I’m wondering if you are a gardener and if planting is important to you? I’m wondering how you foster your connection to the earth.



Why am I wondering this?

Because I’m remembering a time when something happened that jolted me, and showed me the pain of not being able to place my hands in the soil.

In 1969 and 1970 I lived in Paris. In the second year, after our son was born, we moved to a converted garage at the back of the house of M. and Mme Bisson. There was no garden, but we had a pot on the window sill with a cheerful little green plant in it.

One day the pot fell out the window and the soil spilled out. Immediately I looked around for some more. That’s when I realized that there was no soil.

Our surroundings were covered in concrete. So were the streets: cobbles or tarseal. As for the green areas in the parks, I’d been chased off them by men in uniforms ever since I’d arrived in Paris. There was no earth to walk on, no soil to fill the pot.

That’s when I realized the pain of being sealed off from the earth. I’d grown up believing that some things—like mint, parsley and lemons—would always be a few steps away. In Paris these things, and even soil as well, had to be bought in a shop as a commodity.

In the wave of homesickness and earth-longing that engulfed me, I dreamed of returning to our small block of coastal land back in New Zealand. Remaining in the urban environment of Paris felt untenable.



When finally I returned with our baby son, (alone, but that’s another story) I went to live on that land, and stayed there for the next four years. That’s when I started the garden. In those days I grew rows of sweet corn, beans galore and fine pumpkins. I dug in chicken manure from the local farm, and seaweed from the beach. When the water tank ran low, I brought buckets of water up from the stream below.

The land became a place of healing and nurture. The sense of connection began to deepen from that time and has continued to the present. Sitting there with my hands in the soil still makes my heart sing.

 In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.
Margaret Atwood

Would you like to deepen your connection?

How is your connection with nature? Has it become veiled, shadowed by grief over what is happening to the earth?

Would you like to find ways of fostering a connection that will sustain you through all seasons and events? If so, you may want to know more about the new online course I’ll be offering in 2016.

Sacred Earth has been designed specifically to bring your relationship to nature into a place of power and partnership.

If you would like to find out more, then click here and read the page I’ve created.


This post is from the Seasons Newsletter. If you’d like to receive the full Seasons Newsletter by email, you may sign up on the Home Page of this website and receive a free audio gift.


  1. Chris Johannis

    Hi Juliet, Thanks so much for your comments about your connection with the earth. I relate very much to the importance of having a vege garden and planting during this time. I was born and raised in Christchurch where we had a massive vege garden. In fact that was where all our veges came from. So having a garden here in Auckland helps me connect to my homeland. Also, I adore looking over the balcony and seeing my lovely lettuce, spinach, silverbeet, beans, tomatoes and herbs – as well enjoying their divine flavours and goodness. Looking at your new course for next year – I could very well be interested 🙂 Warmly, Chris

    • Juliet Batten

      Chris, how fortunate to have grown up with a massive vege garden — and now to have one at home in Auckland. You would be very attuned to the Sacred Earth course. Thank you.

      • Chris Johannis

        Thank you Juliet for your encouragement. Regards, Chris

  2. Jenny Lala

    There is something quite magical that moves from the soil to one’s hands and into one’s soul as we work – it is powerful, it is healing and it is patient. I have had a large garden for some time now, it has been my sanity many a time, though I worry about not being able to keep up as I age. I understand the loss of the ‘ground connection’ too, as I spent some years in a high rise apartment in Hong Kong.
    Your workshop sounds interesting, though I cannot bring myself to join Facebook in any form. I do enjoy your newsletters, and am grateful for your insights.

    • Juliet Batten

      Jenny, thanks for these lovely words about gardening. Oh, a high rise in Hong Kong, how you must have missed the earth! I’m sorry to hear that Facebook is an unsurmountable obstacle for you. I’m so glad to hear that you enjoy the newsletters; it’s nice to have this feedback.

  3. Ruth

    Lovely writing. I especially like the way you “dig up” some of these old memories. Looking forward to the other story! and yes, I shall plant this week!

    • Juliet Batten

      Ruth, thank you for your comment. ‘Digging up’ memories – yes indeed, along with the earth worms! Wishing you happy planting.

  4. minnie biggs

    Planting, yes! And transplanting. Baby lettuce with 2 leaves even as I reluctantly dig up their parents, metre high stalks, with budding seed heads, enough seed already saved. the lower leaves bitter but still ok for salads. The joy of spotting rocket tiniest 2 leaves self sown, wondering how to fertilise that tired ground as I do not dig over the beds except in parts. Seaweed solution and manure tea. And sightings of cherry tomatoes springing up, need to be moved to better position with the odd stake. These gifts that keep on giving, Beyond price. Beyond the bought equivalent. Thanks, God!

    • Juliet Batten

      Minnie, it sounds as if your garden is regenerating itself, with your tender help. How satisfying to be tending another generation of plants: gifts that keep on giving indeed. Thank you.

  5. Christine Carr

    This year has been a difficult one, with 2 operations. However, the garden is a truly healing place for me, now that I can get into it again and also tend my pot plants. I am allowed to plant my own patch and have a thriving herb garden, 1 well-planted shade garden and a second long shade garden in process.

    • Juliet Batten

      Christine, it must be so satisfying to be off crutches and back into the garden. Plenty to do there!

  6. Penny M Geddis

    Oh Juliet, I have never been a gardener but recently, thanks to having almost no income, I’ve begun to harvest the parsley, coriander and rosemary that we planted, and our spinach is starting to grow well. It is wonderful how when you have nothing, nature still provides. And in that I feel blessed!

    • Juliet Batten

      Penny, how wonderful that necessity has started you gardening! Herbs and spinach sound like a good start. Thank you for posting.

  7. Dana Leigh Lyons

    Oh, Juliet, what a powerful, beautiful post. I found myself tearing up on reading it this morning.

    Your past “pain of being sealed off from the earth”…and the “wave of homesickness and earth-longing that engulfed” you hold much, much resonance for me at present. And reading of your return to the land as a place of healing and nurture filled me with joy and deep longing.

    Most of all, I am moved and inspired by your steadfast hope. And your deep knowing that our connection with the earth can never die.

    My partner and I are planting seeds now, and sometimes the odds seem impossible. But I will picture you this next while…pouring beer into a slug trap, lovingly surrounding each plant with a ring of crushed eggshells, and insisting on doing what needs to be done–small step by small step–during this season of coming change.

    • Juliet Batten

      Dana, thank you so much for receiving my post so fully! How wonderful that you are planting seeds now. I’ve been planting the seeds of some heritage tomatoes, which are orange. Evidently they are more nutrient-rich. And also heritage beans. There is an Institute here in New Zealand which has been collecting the old strains and sending out the seeds to anyone who asks. Today I’m off to the land again to check my plants. May your seeds grow well, even against the odds.

  8. Jane Valencia

    Juliet, thank you so much for bringing me into your garden and valley! And thank you for sharing about your experience in Paris, and realizing you were sealed off from the soil, It truly sent chills through me. Your Sacred Earth online course looks absolutely beautiful and powerful Such an honor to witness you doing this work of deep connection and partnership with nature — we may be spurred by our grief at what’s happening and a painful longing to make a difference — but the joyful work we can have in partnership with nature is absolutely incredible. As you know :). Blessings to you!

    • Juliet Batten

      Jane, it certainly was chilling to be cut off from the soil in Paris. You model that partnership with nature so beautifully, and you are right, it is joyful, and we can be ‘spurred by our grief’. Thank you for your understanding, and the words you have left here.


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