Say “YES” to Other’s Surplus

“No two gardens are the same. No two days are the same in one garden.” –Hugh Johnson

As a gardener, I am not a picky one. I try new varieties of plants each year. However, I stick with vegetables my family will eat. I am not one that will use up valuable space for ones that we don’t like. We have had problems in the past with moles in the yard and our soil is also rather rocky with layers of slate not too far under the ground. I would think that it would not be conducive to making any decent amount of carrots or potatoes, so I don’t plant any root vegetables.

My own garden has encountered difficulties this season. Started out cold and wet, then turned into extreme heat and dry. My health didn’t allow me to tend to it as much as it needed. My sprinkler broke. My schedule just got busy. However, not everyone had these difficulties. Just 15 to 20 minutes down the road either direction, the weather was much more garden friendly.

As a mom of two growing boys and me with food allergies, I am not one to say no to friends when they offer free food from their gardens. Fresh vegetables not from the store is trustworthy, more flavorful, and last longer. I am able to freeze items and can items up for a later time. So when I am offered a bag of peppers, box of tomatoes, or even corn from a farmer’s auction, I say YES!! Bring it to me or I can come get it! It may take me a day or so to prepare, cook, and preserve the bounty but it is so worth it weeks and months to come.

God will always provide food for you to eat. Tell him of your worries and trust him. Matthew 6:25.  “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?”

Hope for Weeding Experience

“One of the worst mistakes you can make as a gardener is to think you’re in charge.” –Janet Gillespie

This summer has been one with a lot of window daydreaming. I had an asthma flare-up. Simple, basic activities of normal life would leave me exhausted and out of breath. We are not sure as to what aggravated my asthma. It could have been a bacterial infection or even the thunderstorms that came through the previous weekend. In storms with strong wind, pollen can be stirred up and broken into tiny particles. Those particles can get lodged into the tiny bronchioles in the lungs. So for almost a month, my outdoor activities were limited. Add heat and humidity into the mix meant going outside only at a necessity.

God took over the tending of my garden. The plants have grown but so have the weeds. I finally got some energy back for a little maintenance in the garden. Twenty minutes later, energy gone for a while. Sitting on a step stool and pulling weeds by hand from one row. No using the cultivator to quickly rid the pathways of weeds.

Now my garden has a different issue NO RAIN! It has been over a month (same time as I got sick, mid-June) since we have had measurable rainfall. So I have been using my sprinkler every few days to water the garden. In the afternoon the dry dirt cracks reappear. It isn’t the same as a good day (or night) of rain. I have some produce on the plants yeah!- waiting for more from the flower blooms.

I am not in charge of plant growth, God is. I can help provide extra water. I can help provide extra food, by means of fertilizer. However, He is the one who provides the plants with the ability to grow and produce. We just need to sit back sometimes and have faith that He will.

(Side note, I wrote this last week but this week was Vacation Bible School at my church & I was the director of it. No time to post this.)

Mistakes are to be Learning Adventures- Not Disappointments

“Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy.” — Psalm 126:5

I remember being told once that I wasn’t learning if I didn’t make mistakes. Well, my learning adventures with gardening have been abundant. I have learned, that for me, container gardening is great for herbs but not so much for tomatoes, cucumbers, or peppers (if I wanted a large harvest). I have learned I need to start with quality seeds. I tried buying plants for a few years. The harvest wasn’t as abundant as I had hoped. So I decided to try growing plants from seeds. Mistakes I made were to watering too much, not having the soil warm enough, not having quality seed starting soil, and not enough light. However, after more research and trial & error, I have been able to grow plants from seeds. In fact, this year I was impatient for the seeds to germinate, so I planted more. To my surprise I ended up with more plants that I had space in my garden!

Mistakes can also add to later frustration. Like when I didn’t test the pH values of the soil and had to use more fertilizer to get good growth. The wrong balance in fertilizer can also give your plants more leaf growth instead of fruit development. Too much nitrogen can do this. So when I planted my tomatoes, the next year after pole beans (which give nitrogen back to the soil), I had more leaves than tomatoes.

If you view mistakes in life (as well as gardening) as learning adventures, you will grow as a person. Sometimes you may need to make notes to not repeat the mistakes – that’s okay. God tells us life isn’t perfect, no person on earth is. You will encounter trials. You will make mistakes. Just remember that God is always with you no matter what. He will provide you a harvest in some fashion, regardless of your mistakes. You and you efforts are never a disappointment in his eyes. Keep trying.

My Rare Allergy Increases the Amount of Plants

“Gardening is medicine that does not need a prescription… and has no limit on dosage.” –Unknown

I bet that title got your attention and you are wondering how an allergy of mine can increase the amount of plants in my garden. Well, I am allergic to the spice called pepper. It now can be found in a ton of foods, sauces, and even powdered mixtures. I no longer have the convenience of eating out a most restaurants or picking up already made foods from the store. I can’t eat a lot of items on a buffet or pick up a pizza for dinner. I can’t even pick up a bottle of barbecue sauce to go on chicken for a quick meal or have ranch dressing unless I mix it from scratch. I joke with family that I would have more available food choices if I was gluten intolerant (thankfully I am not).

So with fixing practically everything from scratch, I need a lot of whole foods or minimally processed ones. I have learned to make my own pizza sauce and pasta sauce. Which taste so much better than jarred versions!  I have started really enjoying fried bell peppers. By the way, bell peppers are a different plant species from the pepper plants that are spicy or used to make black pepper. I enjoy my food a lot more than I use to by seasoning it from individual spices instead of mixes (which is huge seeing as eating was always just another chore to do when it hurt to eat with Crohn’s disease for so many years).

My garden has grown from 14 tomato plants to 50 tomato plants in 3 years! This was the first year I has success with growing them from seeds. I even gave away about a dozen of them. I cook with tomatoes, process them into sauces, can them up for later use, and even freeze some. My bell peppers or sweet peppers has also grown from 4 plants to 28! I freeze them and cook with them all year long. I can’t wait to see what amount of harvest God will bless me with this year.

 

Unusual Presents to Bring Joy Over Time

“Take time to do what makes your soul happy.”–Unknown

What comes to your mind when you think of presents? Is it for a birthday, Christmas, special occasion, or just because? Well, my birthday was last week. I turned 39 and am not ashamed to tell my age. It means I have experienced life for 39 years. It means I have survived numerous surgeries including eye, exploratory to removal of intestinal blockage, blood clot on wrist, ovarian cysts removal, 2 c-sections, and thyroid removal twice (2 lobes separately). It means I have endured and managed Crohn’s Disease for 21 years (probably more before the diagnosis). It means I have endured and managed an asthma diagnosis and severe allergies for 13 years. It means I have endured and conquered thyroid cancer for almost 5 years! I have had great loss of my older brother by two years being killed when I was 20 years old. Of my grandparents struggling with Alzheimer’s and dementia which eventually brought on their deaths. However, I have had great gains in life too. I met my soul mate in high school. He has held my hand through it all. God knew I was going to need extra support and love in my life early on. I have 2 great sons that bring me joy and yard flowers on a regular basis. I have a big house and yard that lends space to my green thumb adventures.

Presents have never been a big deal for me. While growing up, the birthday person got to choose what we had to eat for supper. We had cake and a few gifts afterward. The gifts were usually some clothing, some school or art supplies, and a special item based on own interest. This is the same way we celebrate birthdays today with my boys. Surprises never have suited well with me. My friends threw me a surprise party for my 18th birthday and I fainted! So on my 30th birthday, my dear husband organized a ‘staggering drop in’ party where folks would show up at different times– all without me knowing it. Anyway, it was also a gardening party. I never have been a girly girl or have desires for material items. Giving me hand tools, gardening gloves, gardening totes, and plants were suggestions for gifts. My good friend, Chris, had another idea. DIRT ….bags of garden dirt. Ironically, he had just bought some for his yard and had extras. His wife told him not to bring them inside but to keep them in the trunk. ‘Dirt isn’t a present you give a 30-year-old lady’ she thought. Boy was she wrong and Chris was right (of course he knew cause he is more like a brother to me). Those bags of dirt were my favorite gifts of that day.

Bouquets of flowers wilt and die over time. Expensive jewelry doesn’t appeal to me (I have an allergy to gold). Clothing should be tried on first. So typical presents have little appeal. However, plants are alive and help purify the air. Flowers for the yard beautify the space as well as feed insects. Dirt can bring nutrients to plants. Gardening tools help me maintain my plants and make it easier doing so. All of these presents bring joy to me time after time again. Presence can also be more of a present. Simply being outside with me as I work in the garden brings joy. Going for a walk and talking about everything and nothing brings joy.  Being able to appreciate God’s gifts to bring beauty to the surroundings brings joy. Being able to enjoy and share the harvest God has provided brings joy. Simplicity of presents bring joy time after time.

Expert on Living and Gardening Not Found

“God almighty first planted a garden. And indeed, it is the purest of human pleasures.” -Francis Bacon

Am I am expert on life or gardening? Not at all. I am just an ordinary woman trying to have extraordinary adventures as God guides me through his pathway for my life. As I contemplated starting this blog for weeks, questions of doubt kept popping up. I don’t have a background in writing, philosophy, or religion. I don’t have any formal training in gardening. So why is this idea always on my mind.

Passion. Pure and simple. Why not share my experiences on how much being ‘in touch’ with dirt has changed and enhanced my well being. I love recording the progress of what I am growing in my green garden notebook. I enjoy taking pictures of how things change over time for the better or worse. Which plants did well enough to duplicate next year? What new process can I try out next season or next year to enhance the results.

God didn’t give me simple living. I have challenges every day. But that doesn’t stop me from exploring the beautiful nature God provided for us. As my husband has noticed and said over the years, “When you are not feeling well, put your hands in dirt, and you will soon be feeling better.”