Lessons in the Garden

Well, it was another bust season for Thirsty Goose Farm, at least in the way of gardening.  Through a series of disasters and mistakes completely different from last year’s misfortunes, we would starve to death if not for the fact other farmers actually grow food. My vineyard and beekeeping mentor busted out in belly laughter when I gave him this year’s synopsis; squash bugs annihilated the squash, wind storms knocked out the corn, birds chomped the grapes, June bugs chawed the fruit trees, a flash flood swept in just as tomatoes were ripening and split them all open, Peter rabbit mowed down hundreds of peanut and sweet potato plants and grasshoppers finished off the rest.  (We had a great green bean crop but lost them all when the freezer died.)  This tragedy of a farm grows my awe and respect for farmers- so I guess I can honestly say we did manage to grow something (besides an amazing crop of Bermuda grass).

But the flowers were beautiful.  Actually, the entire garden and orchard were mesmerizingly gorgeous and all our guests and neighbors were in awe of the artistry and color.  No one could tell it wasn’t very productive, nor did they know the hundreds of hours of weeding required to make it look like this.  Hey- we did manage to grow amazing sunflowers and harvested two feed sacks full of seeds, so at least the birds will feast while I study and scheme for next year’s procession of produce persecution.

drying our sunflower harvest

  As I’ve wandered our property licking my wounds and scratching my head (yes, I can do both at the same time-I’m talented like that) this little question continuously whispers: What did you learn?

  I learned I don’t ever want to work like this again for so little return.  Why was I weeding for hours on end in ninety-five-degree heat?  That was foolishness.   It wasn’t until the end of summer that I stopped long enough to research and realized what I was fighting.  Experienced farmers graciously informed me that I won’t ever defeat Bermuda grass (not without gallons of poison that I refuse to contaminate my land with) and all that back crippling labor was in vain.  What I needed was a different plan, not stubborn determination.   I learned I need more wisdom and less toil.  (This lesson becomes easier to absorb as one’s stamina wanes and joints ache; there is a reason the older crowd has more reason).

wasted my summer pulling this grass

I learned how crucial it is to examine efforts and ensure they match priorities.  And priorities need to line up with the desired goal.  I was distracted by weeds.  I should have been spraying my trees with natural inputs in order to strengthen them for years to come.  If my goal was food and long term sustainability, I should have been turning compost and feeding my soil- but I was so bothered by that grass I couldn’t stop pulling it, hour after sweaty hour. There is only so much time and energy to be spent; am I stewarding mine wisely?

I learned the beauty of small things.  Why do we naturally want to go big?!  It seems we always want to turn a gift, ministry or hobby into a business, as if going big and chasing money or making a name is the best use of a talent.  I have so many friends who can attest to the stress and disappointment of this temptation.  For myself, it’s been the challenge and thrill of proving I could do it.  This can look good on the outside, but it isn’t fully healthy underneath the mulch.  Besides being zealous for the wrong reasons, starting small is just wisdom; the losses are less devastating.  And there is always loss in a worthwhile endeavor.

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.  I Cor 3: 6-9

I learned how important it is to grow what comes natural in your region.  No one can grow everything- soils and climates need to be regarded.  This region has a short list of specific crops that do well, it takes a great deal of effort (and a bit of foolishness in some cases) to grow outside of that tradition.  In the same way, God created you and me with certain gifts and abilities- it’s wisdom with work with them and not spend all our efforts trying to cultivate something else.

The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. Genesis 1:12

Finally, I learned that I don’t want a pretty life- I want a life that produces fruit able to sustain the multitudes of people hungry for God’s love.  I want to grow more than bird seed. This kind of life may not be as orderly, weed free and flowery as my garden was this year, but it’s not about impressing people and appeasing my pride, it’s about working with the Master Gardener!

As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”  Matt 13:23

walking with God in the garden in the cool of the evening

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