Ramblings of a Gardener.

I can’t tell you how many failures I’ve had trying to garden.
If you asked about planting something, I could tell you why you should not even try.
I’ve tried potatoes in a raised bed with straw. 
The dogs laid on them and crushed them.
I’ve planted corn.
The cows waited until they were just perfect, and jumped the fence and trampled all of them.
I’ve planted 50 foot rows of green beans, to return after one weekend to nothing —a gopher ate the entire row.
I’ve had perfect onions, only to find they were just the tops; gophers like them too
I’ve had my rose bush used as Homeplate and my lilac tree was third base.
I’ve dug an entire garden space and never found one earthworm. What can I do with that kind of dirt?

When the boys were small, I gave up on pretty things and just planted necessities—beans, tomatoes and squash were staples, because that was what would grow—sometimes.
Chickens pecked at the  “almost-ripe” tomatoes.
Squash was good until July.
Never mind cucumbers—they were bitter beyond eating, no matter what we tried.
But always God blessed.
Not always what I wished, but surprises came. 
Like the crop of potatoes we tried when my son suggested it.
Or the radishes the boys begged to plant, but no one could eat that many all at once.

The times in the garden with my boys were times they learned trust in God. Maybe they didn’t realize it, but that seed doesn’t look like the plant, yet we plant and care for it, and God makes it grow—just like He said He would.
And when we planted a bean seed, we expected a bean plant to grow—isn't that God being faithful to what He has said. He's dependable. Reliable. And good.
The boys spent a lot of time in the garden.
Planting was fun, but weeding was needed too.
And so was harvesting.
We expect a harvest, even with all the trials and experiments, we expect to get SOMETHING!
That's God keeping His promises.
There’s nothing quite like eating peas off the vine.
Or I’d catch them munching down a ripe tomato when they should have been weeding.
Or snapping or cutting those millions of beans so I could freeze them.
I tried to picked the beans. Otherwise, if the boys were sloppy, we’d have tough beans from those they’d missed. 
Teaching them the responsibility to care for what God has given to us.
From our bounty, God  enabled us to give to others, either in meals, or in produce.
He doesn't want His blessings hoarded or selfishly squandered. Enjoyed and shared.
But there was pleasure in picking beans first thing in the morning, listening to the boys milk and care for the animals, and preparing my mind for the day.

Much of gardening is quiet. 
I hear the birds, mostly we had insects, and stayed alert with eyes and ears for rattlesnakes that might rest under the beans.
But I heard more than the birds and bugs.
I can hear God speak.
Encouraging me to spend a bit more time with this son as he’s struggling, or correcting an attitude in my own heart that’s become a habit.
Gardening gives time to reflect.
Gardening makes me slow down.
Gardening encourages me to listen.

You can’t make the seed sprout or the plant grow.
You must wait.
And when you wait, you can worry about the harvest or trust God for that harvest. That choice is yours.
You can’t make spring come any faster by planting your seeds too early, either.
You end up with a hassle—what do you do with all these plants inside?
Gardening is not on your time.
Ever try to hurry a seed to sprout?
It can’t be done. 
It’s timetable is programed by God.
So gardening develops in its caretakers a patience that doesn’t come anywhere else.
Farmers learn that patience of wait.
But with that wait, there's hope and dream and mostly prayer, because much of gardening and growing is out of our hands.
But in God's hands.
It's His goodness we must trust.
Why is it so hard to trust then?

When the boys were small, I stuck to what I had to plant–remember my rose bush as home plate and my lilac as third? 
One year the boys built a mud run through my corn patch.
I had to decide to have plants or boys. 
I could have flowers and yell at my boys all the time, or enjoy their play and skip the flowers.
That went for house plants, too.
Give those up.
But part of gardening is waiting. 
There’s seasons to planting; like there’s seasons to life.
I’ve waited many years, but now I can grow flowers with no boys using them as home plate. 
I’d rather have home plate. 
But I'll be thankful for this season.
I’m enjoying flowers.

After this move, I’ve had to relearn so much.
Like don’t water in the evenings, everything will mold; water in the morning.
This dirt definitely is different from California’s dirt. 
You can make a two foot hole in 15 minutes, instead of taking all day, alternately between soaking and digging because the dirt isn't like concrete.
And the earthworms! They’re as big as snakes! Or maybe they are snakes?

But snails are here, too. 
When I baited them with beer, my dogs rushed to drink the bait. No slugs killed there.
And mold. Nothing dries here, even towels. They just mold.
And wind and clouds without rain. (Do I or do I not water?)
The wind dries out your plants. (I should have watered.)
But I’ve been told, if you start to water, you will always have to water. (How does your plants know you are watering and not the clouds?)
In California, you would work in 100’ weather all day, but here, the humidity makes it impossible.
Gardening is an experiment in progress.
What succeeded last year, may not even work this year—weather’s different, don’t you know?

Gardening is God’s gift. Allowing us to reshape what we have to something of beauty.
I loved to see our tall rows of corn reaching toward the sun. 
I felt pride in seeing our five-gallon buckets of tomatoes we’d pick every other day. And the quarts of tomato sauce made from them.
So many factors that can make a harvest or break it.
Some years we picked tomatoes for a Thanksgiving salad.
Other years, we were finished by October.
Funny how we can derive such pride in gifts from God.
After all, it’s He that blesses.

Here in Oklahoma, our town seems impoverished.
Houses are run down. 
Even the mowers for the post office leave clumps of chewed up grass in rows after they mow. And they don’t edge, but allow the grass to grow over the curbs.
I drove around neighborhoods looking for what plants grow here. Even the “rich” houses were sparse in landscaping.
Largely vacant of color.
How expensive was it to plant something?
Was it too hard to try?
Had they just given up?
What didn't I knew that they knew?
Or were people too busy?
Maybe they just gave up after so many times with changing weather.

What do you do with this dirt?
My yard moves, like waves, when I walk on it.
Mole tunnels? No holes gave any evidence.
But we did find grubs—lots of them.
Anything I plant I amend the soil—extensively.
That part of gardening—experimenting—and failing seems to be my portion lately.

When winter came, I went to Lowes for inspiration. 
Their garden department was empty.
How could no plants for sale?
The winter was made more desolate by their barren shelves.
Like having no hope.
But gardening is believing in tomorrow and the hope of the future— God’s promise of the seed.
I looked at seed and plant catalogs.

Last year Jeremiah and I built a riverbed to channel rain to the road from our back yard. We pulled out poison ivy everywhere (we itched for three months.)
Our neighbor donated his rocks and we picked up gravel from our backyard.
My sister and a friend donated plants.
In the fall, my sister gave me credit for flower bulbs.
I planted 1000.
I struggled to wait for them.
When winter and spring fought to see which would win, temperatures rose to 70’s but then fell back to 30’s, I hoped my bulbs wouldn’t die.
But God is faithful.
Spring did come. Just like He said the seasons would always be.
The flowers brought encouragement to my weary soul.

Our house has almost no back yard.
Our front yard raps around the side of the house, but all is open to traffic and viewing.
I don’t like to use the word “hate”, but I do. (Working on being content, but that is slow to come.)
Everyone sees what I do.
Gardening is a sacred thing.
A time for me to think, to pray, to … not be on display—especially as I experiment with what works.
And I do a lot of failing as I experiment.
That’s the melancholy part of me that makes me think everyone’s watching, they probably aren’t….except they stop.
Even a teenager walking by told me, “That’s beautiful.”
A driver slowed down, and yelled out his window, “Do that to the entire yard.”
I thanked them.
But it’s God.
God gives the increase.
God makes it grow.

I can just plant. Pull weeds.
Pray. Hope. Dream.
But it’s God Who makes the things of beauty.

We all crave beauty, don’t we?
In this dark world where people struggle with hopelessness, people need hope.
Not just that spring is coming, but that beauty exists and it’s worth pursuing.
Gardens bring that hope to people. 

Not just to those who pull the weeds and plant the seed, but to all who see the beauty.
It’s a glimpse into God’s character.
He’s made those flowers after all.
And He wants us to reflect Him—in all His beauty.

I’d like to think my yard shows to people His glory and faithfulness, because that’s what it does for me.

Displaying all 4 comments

Thank you Sonya for sharing!
It's so true. I can relate so well with moving out here, relearning it and to be content with the little things. I am still learning at becoming a gardener, to not give up but to try again. I see God's goodness in it all and yet He still reaches out and shows He is still faithful and merciful to us. I finally got to see all my sunflowers really take off. Last year they all died with aphids. I tried new soil and now their all blooming so well. God gives, and takes away. We are to say blessed be your name!

This is one of my favorites because I have watched all of it. The thing I can say you bloom where you are planted. You were planted here and I see blooms.

Beautiful statements, rich and true. All the right (painful) questions stated or implied, like "At what point do people give up on beauty?" And that is what we are all striving for: a return to, revival of, renewal of, restoration of beauty.

I write about what you---
women, wives and moms---
about your family, faith and future.
I write about what's hard, what helps and what heals.
I show you how it's done. And not done.
I hold your hand as you find what matters to the Savior.
And let go of those things that mattered to you, but not to Him.
I write about what Him.
               Sonya Contreras

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Author of Biblical fiction, married to my best friend, and challenged by eight sons’ growing pains as I write about what matters.

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