Tag Archives: gardening

Press On

“One of the worst results of being a slave and forced to do things is that when there is no one to force you anymore you find you have almost lost the power of forcing yourself.” C.S. Lewis, The Horse and His Boy

Izzy and I spent the morning in the garden – again. While we pulled weeds, thinned carrots, tossed those treats to obliging hens, horses, the steer and the pups the temperature warmed up considerably.

While spraying the crates of freshly picked veggies, we enjoyed splashing in the cool water. We’d planned a power walk to the river and back after we’d finished with the garden work, but after the stretching, bending and pulling in the heat the idea didn’t seem quite so grand.

We toyed with relaxing over tea and the no-bake cookies Izzy had made the day before instead of the walk. As we laid the vegetables to dry my mind began wandering back to the chapters I’d read the night before. She broke the silence saying, “You ready for your weigh in?” It was two days away.

I gave her the kind of look one prefers to the volumes I could have said, took a refreshing, deep breath, and instead of stepping into the house took the dog leashes from the hook by the door. “C’mon Pups,” I said. She said, “Let’s do this.”

Good call.

“We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy,” Colossians 1:11 (NLT)

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Not Odd

While collecting cucumbers, we overlooked many odd-looking, smaller, rounder ones until they were mostly orange-yellow. Izzy and I assumed they would be unpalatable and immediately let the hens enjoy them.

Rummaging through the twisted maze of vines the following day, I targeted the rounder, ripe, green cukes. I also found a few remaining yellow-orange ones. Some were longer, more like slicers but with a twisted tip – like a fuzzy, bumpy little tail. I also picked some that had just begun to turn yellow-ish.

Once indoors I sliced one of each shape and color and arranged them on a plate for a taste test. A dirty duty, I know…

Though the yellower skins were distinctively harder, to my surprise those cukes tasted fuller, actually sweeter than the green cucumbers.

Soon the phone rang. After the lengthy conversation I was anxious to finish my project and get to work. Even so, I went a step further peeling a slice of each kind of cucumber. Then, feeling pressed for time I sat at the table and continued my Bible reading.

“My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” James 2:2-4 (NIV)

Hmmm… Lifting my fork as I pondered I noticed that, aside from diameter and thickness, no slice or seed was distinguishable from another. They tasted, well, like cucumbers without much variance. Certain there was more, I continued perusing the sidebars:

“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Galatians 3:26-29 (NIV)

I chewed on this thought while putting the remaining slices in a pitcher of ice water.

Though they all looked quite different from the outside and came from separate vines, each of the plants came from the same bag of seeds. I suspect their only difference are the amounts of water and sunlight they get, some being closer to the treeline.

Yet they were all exactly the same on the inside.

What a wonderful world this is. How much better when we focus upon one anothers’ similitudes rather than our differences.

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:2,3 (NIV)

 

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Sweet Harvest

 As the garden grows into full production we are all putting in even more hours than before. This week we not only contend with broken sprinkler pipes, (so hoses again) and weeds, but we now must harvest daily for peak ripeness and to maintain maximum production.

Comically, we all work on different schedules, so for about a week we assumed much, but none of us actually knew what the others were doing. Izzy was giving away surplus at work and the livestock was enjoying some overgrowth.

And then I slowed down one morning this week. Yeah, you’d think I’d have learned to do that more often by now…

Unbeknownst to me Izzy and Cole had been harvesting in the cool of the morning before they leave for their jobs in town – while I’m either keying away or snoozing in my cottage. An hour or so later I’ll unknowingly check the same sections of the garden and then harvest what they didn’t get to. But that particular morning when I put the house dogs back in I noticed their harvest in a crate. Doof!

All this time I was bringing the day’s collection into the fridge in my cottage thinking Izzy knows to check there every day.

Error.

Ordinarily, over the weekend and some evenings we girls touch bases or simply chat over a relaxing beverage.  I suspect their week away at the Lake put a hitch in our giddy-up so we miss a keystroke here and there.

I had to notice the crate in the main house kitchen to realize we’d do well to tweak our system again.

Done.

Eventually this scenario brought to mind one with the apostle Paul and the new believers in Corinth. First, duh – everyone was a new believer in Paul’s day. Similarly this is our first co-op garden experience. We usually talk about what we want to do next and what we’re learning from our agri-expert friends. For a few days we seemed to have dropped our communication signal.

We’re caught up from the vacation now.

“I (Some of us) planted the seed, Apollos (the rest of us) watered it (and weeded), but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.”  1 Corinthinans 3:6 – 9 (NIV – added paraphrase mine 😉 )

 

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Heating Up

Where we are, near the Columbia and Snake Rivers it’s easy to forget the desert surrounds us – until July through September when temperatures rise. Even in our well-tilled and watered garden the ground becomes dry and hard by mid-day.

But come evening, as the sun begins to slip behind the trees in the west and sprinklers kick on in the pastures, the air cools quickly again. Dogs run happily through the lots kicking up dust clouds behind them for our last stroll of the day.

And unexpected beauty frequently surprises me.

Just about dusk every day, I pause and thank God for this life.

“Justice will rule in the wilderness and righteousness in the fertile field. And this righteousness will bring peace. Yes, it will bring quietness and confidence forever. My people will live in safety, quietly at home. They will be at rest.” Isaiah 32:16-18 (NLT)

 

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Gad-Zukes!

I’m amazed how I felt a little discouraged as this week began. I considered what the garden is actually producing compared to the labor we put into it six days a week. We were all feeling disappointed that we see lots of tiny, little buds, but no cucumbers in particular.

 

Even so, on her “day off” Izzy and I were out there on our knees, enjoying the cool of the morning and pulling weeds.

Imagine my surprise when she blurted out, “CUCUMBERS!”  And then, “Growing in the spaghetti squash. We’ve got cucumbers!”

Sure enough, before I could get over to shoot what to us is phenomenal, Iz had picked four nice-sized cucumbers and found more growing among the astoundingly prolific spaghetti squash. Remarkably only buds are on all the other vines down the rest of the row.

Later, as I packed bags of lettuce to share with friends at our Bible Study meeting, I thought about how the week turned around.

Firstly, I’m glad this week I’m not the only silly soul. And I’m glad to know I’m not the only human that tends to focus upon our understandings, expectations and agendas and we sometimes miss something else God may be doing.

 

For another example, last year I was disappointed that no home groups from my local church meet near our neighborhood anymore. That disappointment is now a sharp contrast to how I look forward to Friday evenings – every week.

Regardless how tired I may be, Former Neighbor Andee texts me from her new home barely ten minutes away to tell me she’s on her way, to start heading down my driveway. She knows what it takes for me to leave the cottage. I’m not proud that usually I’ve splatted against a wall by five and try to talk myself out of going – nearly every week. But every week I climb into Andee’s truck and I’m astounded at all I learn about our study topic and our friends, the people in our group.

This week more than anything else, I’m grateful for God’s eternal perspective. I appreciate the blessed assurance that He likely enjoys much of our silliness between the blessings. And He knows the cucumbers are worth the wait.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9 (NIV)

 

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Pressing Back

As this week began, even with the four of us working at it, I felt the pressure keeping up with our super-sized vegetable garden. The weeds were seriously battling for the ground that served the livestock well in previous years.

Often I’d spend enough time bent over the rows that moving the rest of the day was a challenge. Even so I’m glad for it. Taking a little time out with ice packs each day began as physical therapy. As often happens I soon turned to prayer and in no time rose again refreshed and determined to keep up the good work.

“Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” 1 Peter 5:7 (NLT)

About mid-week Cole took advantage of a western breeze. He mounted a tank on the ATV and drove it around the garden side of the fence, spraying the outward perimeter as he went.

Surprisingly, the only casualty was one sprinkler head at the north end and the conductor holding the hot wire above it. We replaced them quickly so the sun didn’t burn the entire north end of the crop. Two days later we can barely see where the balloon-like tires rode over the cantaloupe vines.

With a couple of days of light cloud cover we took a break from weeding to bring in the first loads of fire wood. Staying warm this winter should be much easier with a new log splitter due to arrive any time now.

With all that we still found time to relax a minute, count our blessings and gear up for fireworks later on this week.

And the lessons continue.

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)

 

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Love Long Distance

Despite the unusual few weeks leading up to this past weekend I had an exceptionally nice two days – which was welcome after a rough week.

Typical for this time of year, schedules must be juggled. Sometimes we must reschedule my “Grand Dates” (regularly scheduled time where my grand kids – all long distances away – bring me up to speed with the previous week). For the past two, maybe three weeks everyone I usually talk with at least every other week was unavailable to Skype, Duo, talk or text.

With the days getting longer and warmer I sorely missed our times together. I stayed busy with our gang, the pups, the pastures and the gardens. Still, I wondered how my grands fared without my input, encouragement and advice – or if they even missed visiting with me. I prayed long into the SansGrands silence.

On Saturday Izzy and I rescued our patio tomato plants from curling leaves, moving them to The Garden. Knowing the move wasn’t ideal timing, we assured our precious nearly orange tomato-lings to hang in there, they’ll feel far better despite the shock of moving.

Okay, so maybe my empathy wasn’t as much for our tomatoes. The day’s gardening finished, I returned to where I’d left off in my Bible:

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” Romans 8:35 (NIV)

The relationships I share with these amazing young humans are strong and endure occasional separations – no matter how they may feel sometimes. Still, I consider how anxious I get when my time with God gets shoved down the priority ladder. I’m a grown up (mostly) and yet I feel the burn every time my prayer time is rescheduled – or dropped.

After praying again, God’s assurance that the grands shall continue feeling the love comforted me.

I was no sooner into other chores when my phone rang. A couple of hours later two sisters and I caught up with one another. Then FirstBorn called. While waiting in a backed-up toll booth line he realized how long it had been since our last talk. We mostly prattled and reminisced some as he drove from Wadsworth to Milwaukee. By my bedtime I felt far better connected than I had in weeks.

On Sunday SecondSon’s Firstborn called. He reiterated every exciting detail of the last two ball games – that sent his team to state. And his sister, FiveYearOld, could hardly wait to describe a new growing thing she discovered in astoundingly accurate detail.

Maybe it’s just me – the ways God uses the garden and my family to bless me is amazing. Though I could hardly wait between their calls, He assures me it’s all gonna be just fine.

“And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.”

1 John 2:28 (NIV)

 

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Town and Country

I’m astounded at how fast weeds can take over a row in the vegetable garden. Seriously. Each week the four of us (mostly) will get almost across the whole garden only to see that where we began is nearly overgrown again.

This week Izzy and I were weeding together. The two of us working wordlessly got me to wondering. Typically we’d have already critiqued that morning’s news, sports and upcoming events in the time we’d been silently pulling weeds – for the second time that morning. I asked her, “Are you working something out of your craw?

Her polite but vague answer confirmed what I’d imagined.


A few minutes later I chuckled aloud, but to myself.

“Share,” was all she said.

“Well, I always knew when a sister was upset (usually over a relationship) by the way she cleaned the house like Mr. Clean was coming for dinner. Living in town girls work it out by cleaning house. Country girls work it in the garden.”

Minutes later she responded, “I wonder if we actually get right to the grit of things faster in the garden. Besides, unlike people there is no doubt these weeds must be jerked.”

Ain’t it the truth?

“Listen, open your ears, harness your desire to speak, and don’t get worked up into a rage so easily, my brothers and sisters. Human anger is a futile exercise that will never produce God’s kind of justice in this world.” James 1:19, 20 (The Voice)

Images courtesy Pixabay

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Surprised By Joy

“Walking and talking are two very great pleasures, but it is a mistake to combine them. Our own noise blots out the sounds and silences of the outdoor world; … The only friend to walk with is one who so exactly shares your taste for each mood of the countryside that a glance, a halt, or at most a nudge, is enough to assure us that the pleasure is shared.”
― C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life

Rather than walking, I spend much of my time these days gardening, in the absence of real, present time human company. Friends’ encouraging and informative words visit me as I labor, but for the most part I listen to the livestock and the earth.

They actually resound all that I or anyone I know needs to hear.

 

“Let your roots grow down into him [Jesus], and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” Colossians 2:7 (NLT)

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Pastoral Peace

By late winter I began to look forward to warm weather and grass growing in the pastures. With some of my joints achy from the cold, tossing hay every morning and evening seemed less a pleasant stroll and more of a chore.

Being the steer’s first spring alone we weren’t sure what to expect from his grazing. Soon enough the grass was as tall as the sprinkler pipes. We are blessed with friends and neighbors who are glad to let their horses graze in our pastures and get the growth under control.

We learned very soon that, GeldingOne manages his stress from the move by running. In the tall grass he broke off three sprinklers in those first 48 hours. One pipe broke underground which complicated watering the seedling vegetable garden as well as the pasture.

The quickest solution:

    • Shut off and drain the irrigation sprinklers to repair them.
    • Cut the tall grass so the horse can see the pipes.
    • Run water to garden with hoses.

Then SouthernNeighbors lent us GeldingTwo.

GeldingTwo likes being the pasture boss and compliant GeldingOne is now calm and content with his new buddy and the steer. The pastoral peace restored, knowing their horses are in my loving care the two geldings’ humans can concentrate more on working their properties. If all goes as planned, Cole won’t need to mow again for months. Win-win-win.

For now, until Cole can repair the shattered pipe, Izzy and I haul hoses and lawn sprinklers around the vegetable garden and water tanks. Every. Single. Day. It’s time consuming and more than once I’ve been tempted to complain check Cole about his priorities. Fortunately, before inserting my foot into my mouth, as I walk the property back to my cottage I see everything from a different perspective and hold my peace.

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. Romans 8:18 (NIV)”

But there’s more: Being around the gentle, nickering giants lifts my spirits and calms any anxieties that often tag along with me. The sounds of tails swooshing nearby, hooves touching ground (in case there’s an apple or carrot in a pocket) soothes me like little else does. Sure, I’m moving hoses and horses, chopping cheat grass, pulling tack weeds and thistle, but I’m also keeping my back, hips and knees in good working order – and who needs to count steps anymore…

Before I’m done watering the veggies I have a clear vision of where we must thin plants, hoe or pull weeds. As with most things in life, one hand washes the other. But God uses growing food and tending the livestock as a family to fuel my soul like nothing else ever.

Annnd the life lessons continue.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Romans 8:28 (NIV)

Images not captioned courtesy Pixabay

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