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March 22nd

Last night when I got home from an evening meeting, my coat was so wet from walking across the parking lot that Dave hung it in the laundry room to dry rather than put it in the closet.  Wet weather is an inconvenience for some of us, but for farmers and gardeners too much water is as bad as not enough water.  Agriculture has been described as the biggest gamble of all.  We who grow food are dependent on the whims of weather—I know weather doesn’t really have whims but it is alliterative.

My favorite books growing up were the “Little House” series by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Those books describe a family in Minnesota and South Dakota trying to survive as farmers in a climate that was very harsh.  The last book of the series is called, “The First Four Years” and in it Laura describes the first four years of her marriage to Alonzo.  Every year their crops failed because of one natural disaster after another.  Through no fault of their own they had to leave the homestead in South Dakota and seek a new way of life. 

Family size farms continue to disappear from our landscape.  We all lose as they disappear because they provide a needed diversity of crops and from them we can learn better stewardship of the land.  As we pray in thanksgiving for our daily bread, we give thanks for farmers who grow the wheat! (and rye, and oats, and flax, et cetera) Amen.

March 21st

Yesterday afternoon it was not raining and so I was able to get my shovel and go out to the garden plot and dig.  I dug up some dead raspberries and lots of weeds.  The soil is spaded and now needs to have some compost raked in and it will be ready to plant.  In the past I have always planted and cared for flowers and I have often had a few cherry tomato plants, raspberries and some herbs, but this is the biggest garden I have ever attempted.  For a while I felt like a kindergartner writing in the “Mother’s Day cookbook”—get a big bowl and mix flour and eggs and cook it for 20 seconds at 600 degrees.  I have this interesting mix of childhood memories of my parents’ gardening, but I am not sure why they always did what they did.

For example—the rows had to be straight.  I mean measured out with a yardstick with someone holding a string so the furrow would be exactly the same distance form the rows on either side.  Did the vegetables care?  And the squash, cucumbers and pumpkins had to planted in hills not rows.  They got to run wild at one end of the garden while all the lettuce, carrots and beets stayed in their careful rows.  By the time I came along my parents had been gardening together for a long time—they knew from experience what worked in their gardens and what did not.

I am thankful for a place to experiment at this stage in my life.  There is forgiveness in God’s garden when the rows aren’t straight—in fact I am learning about square foot gardening where there are no rows at all.  I am excited about actually getting some plants in the ground.  Welcome Spring!  Welcome sun!

March 18th

Stuff has been keeping me inside all day!  Right now it isn’t raining, but it really isn’t warm either.  Yes, I am a fair-weather gardener.  But I keep thinking of all those who have gardened before me.  They inspire me, not just with the huge gardens they had, but also with the creative ways they used the produce.  My parents were busy canning, freezing, baking and always generously sharing the fruits and vegetables of their labors with others.  I had my Dad’s frozen blueberries in the freezer long after he was gone.  It was a sad, but happy last batch of blueberry pancakes. 

The promise of Easter is that life goes on and that we and those we love will be transformed.  Saint Paul in First Corinthians 15 does a great job of helping us to think about resurrection.  I love that he uses seeds and fruits to help us understand the power of God in our lives.

Blessings on your Lenten meditations!


March 17th

I promised to talk about my worms a couple of days ago.  A few of them have survived the cold winter and they have once more begun to turn our vegetable type table waste and some cardboard into fertile worm castings to be used as natural soil enhancers.  The worms are good pets as they do not need to be walked and cleaning up after them is great for the flowers and fruits.  Sadly they do not like to be petted and there friends in the worm box often include spiders and potato bugs.  All in all they have been a great investment of time for us.  They make me feel like I am doing one of those “small steps” that will make our planet-God’s Garden- healthier.  Plans for worm boxes of all sizes are on the internet.  If you would like to visit ours come on by.

I had hoped that more people would add their own thoughts, feelings, memories, hints, failures and successes with gardening on this blog.  This was meant to be conversation not soliloquy.  What’s up with you?

March 16th

I finished reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver and finally found the passage for which I had been looking.  It was a quote which gave me hope!  She writes, “Small, stepwise changes in personal habits aren’t trivial.  Ultimately they will, or won’t, add up to having been the thing that mattered.”*  Much of this book made me feel like I could never garden or shop or preserve food as ethically as this family did for a year.  Talk about guilt producing!  But this one sentence reminds me that the only changes that we can sustain in our lives are the small, daily things we do each day.  Whether it is more exercise, eating healthier, reading the Bible or any other habit we wish to learn, we do it in small steps and then the action begins part of our daily life. 

This book describes a family who ate locally for a year, growing their own food, both plant and animal, buying only items produced within 100 miles of their home (except coffee, olive oil, spices), or going without.  This is a huge change from how most of us eat, but I am inspired to make some small steps towards supporting local farmers.  And I am inspired to grow some of my own food, in my own garden.

*Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.  Copyright 2007 by Barbara Kingsolver, Steven L. Hopp, and Camille Kingsolver.  HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022.


Sixth Day of Lent

“There in God’s Garden stands the tree of Wisdom, whose leaves hold forth the healing of the nations.”  Kiraly Imre von Pecselyi wrote these words sometimes in the early 1600’s.  Erik Routley translated them into English in 1976,  and in 1987 K. Lee Scott put them to music in hymn #342.  In this brief sentence we are taken from the Garden of Eden through the entire Bible to the book of Revelations. 

The tree of Wisdom which was temptation to Adam and Eve has been transformed by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus into life and healing for all nations.  The story of God with us is full of grace from the beginning into eternity. 

Locally the plum trees are starting to bloom; many other trees and bushes have buds swelling with new life.  A few more days of sun and blooms and little green leaves will begin to appear.  Because we also have evergreens in abundance in our yard, I am not sure I always appreciate the emergence of new life every spring.  In this spring reverie about God’s Garden I am committed to paying better attention to all the life forms given to us.  The trees are the biggest and the most noticeable with their bright colors, but I am also on the look out for tiny forms of life as well. 

Tomorrow I will talk about my worms, one of God’s lovely lower forms of life.  Amen.


Fifth Day of Lent

Yesterday was Sunday, and because Sundays do not count in the 40 days of Lent scheme, I did not blog.  What I did do in church yesterday was to help our children plant tomato and squash seeds.  They were not excited about eating squash, but planted them anyway.  We poked the tiny seeds down in the soil in peat pots and then watered them with water from the baptismal font.  I moved the pots to the window sill in my office where it is often sunny.  Now we wait for enough sun to help the seeds sprout.  The question for today, will there be anything for the children to see next Sunday?  Or will the waiting continue? 

Sometimes the waiting is the hardest part of our lives.  Waiting nine months for the birth of a baby is joyous but full of questions.  Waiting while a loved one has surgery is always better if there is another person to wait with you.  Waiting in line to renew a driver’s license or to mail a package can be an opportunity to revel in the variety of humankind God has placed in God’s garden.  Waiting for the death of a loved one is the worst—we wait for the end hoping it will come soon and end the pain, but really we would wait longer if we could because we know that at the end of our waiting there is sorrow that will take its own time to heal.

Today let us pray for all who wait.  We pray for those who wait for babies, for news of loved ones from Japan, for those in surgery and for those on hospice care and their families.  We can also pray for hospice caregivers—volunteers, nurses, chaplains, social workers—as they care for the waiting ones.  Amen.             

Fourth Day of Lent

I was not able to work outside much yesterday.  Even when the rain stopped, the garden plot was pretty soggy.  So I pulled a few more weeds and then went back inside to plot what other than potatoes I might plant this year.  On the way back inside I checked some of my flower beds to see how my tulips and daffodils are doing.  The squirrels have had a great time digging them up, but some are beginning to sprout. 

Squirrels and mud instead of dirt make me think that planting seeds directly in the ground is not my best bet for a productive garden.  So today I will buy some of those little peat pots in which my parents used to start their tomatoes.  Our bedroom window was the sunniest place in the house and so every winter, we girls had the joy of watching little plants sprout and grow.

For my small garden this year I will also buy herb plants that are already growing strong.  They will be safe from root rot and the pesky squirrels!  Good news—the rhubarb is growing strong!  It is a cherished gift from those who gardened in this plot before me.


Third Day of Lent

One of my hopes from all of this digging in the dirt is that we will have fresh vegetables to eat and to share with others.  In past years I have raised a few cherry tomatoes and grown raspberries.  That’s not enough to impact how I shop for food or prepare meals.  This year I hope to grow much more of our own food and I am also hoping to buy more foods produced locally.

“Eating ethically” is one of my goals.  I am humbly reading a number of books this Lent, knowing that others have already thought about the “food chain” and are ready to teach me.  One book that I am finally reading is called Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver.  Her family changed their eating habits for a year, eating locally produced food.  Graham Kerr, the Galloping Gourmet, has a new book out about eating locally—I have lots of folks from whom to learn.

I think best when I am digging or weeding in the garden or flower beds.  I am hoping for good digging weather today and if not I will “dig” into Kingsolver’s book.

Second Day of Lent

I am still thinking about dirt this morning.  Back in January we had an amazing warm Sunday afternoon and so I went out to the former garden plot to see what would have to be done to resurrect it into a producing garden.  I took my pruners and a rake and a shovel and over a couple of hours filled the yard waste bin (one of the big ones) completely full of dead branches, leaves, moss, pine and fir cones, and weeds.

When I got down to the dirt, I was thrilled to find it dark and rich looking.  As it sat at rest the soil had been enriched by all of the compost that had been allowed to just sit there and soak in.  I flashed back to a brief memory of helping to pick potatoes at a relative’s farm near Denver.  The warm dark earth smell was the same.  One of my crops this year will be potatoes!  I think I have just the right dirt to grow potatoes. 

An added bonus—I love to eat potatoes.  Baked, mashed, in potato salad, even potato soup sounds delicious when made with my own crop!

Dirt, earth, soil, all are the dust of which we are made.  If we are dust, then we have the opportunity to grow new things in our life.  Our lives, like my abandoned garden plot can be resurrected.  We can choose life.  We can do something different that brings life to others.  Bless us and our dirt.  Amen.

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