Last year I wrote a little bit about our gardens. Mainly I wanted to write about the resurrection and the garden was my opportunity.
This year I want to take you on a garden tour. Mostly because I’m excited about our garden and whenever I’m revved up about something I want to share it. So if you love gardening, I hope you’ll enjoy this tour from a novice with a lot of starter pep.
Also, gardens are metaphors for just about everything. So if I resort to a little philosophizing, you’ll have to forgive me.
Eliza is my garden partner in crime. We can’t be trusted at the garden store together. She’s a natural gardener with a great memory for plants and instincts for nurturing. I depend on her. Here she is, about to trek down to the garden.
This year we have one big garden. Last year we had two small gardens and also planted some sweet corn in a small section of the big garden. This year we went for broke and decided to break all the rules by tilling up a garden much too big for us (rule one: start small), that’s far away from our house (rule two: make your garden right next to your house).
I like to think of it as our destination garden. We visit everyday for a little (or a lot of) work and enjoyment. The walk down to the garden is usually enjoyable and romantic: walking under the big oaks, crossing the creek, peering into the woods and spotting an occasional deer.
It’s the walk back up to the house that is devoid of romance. Huffing and puffing, pushing a wheelbarrow full of tools, burning calves, lungs gasping, with Titus on my back. It’s a weird kind of painful fun.
The history of this garden is one of love and neglect. Apparently a couple owners back, this garden was put in by a lady who loved gardening, with a great fence to keep deer out. The owner who had the place before us didn’t use it at all, so it had seen at least three or more years of neglect when we got it.
Now we’re bringing it back to life and trying to make it a pleasant place to be. Last year, with just the corn planted and most of it still untilled, it was highly unpleasant. It was oppressively buggy and weedy. The weeds were insurmountable, even in the section we tilled. It was a losing battle of stinging nettle, thistles and tall grasses.
This year, we are taming it, civilizing it, naming it. It’s Our Garden. Eliza made a wreath out of buckthorn and sign with birch bark–we’ve claimed it as our own.
To the right, as you enter, are the raised beds. I used these last year with great success and wanted to use them again. I’ve got zucchini, lettuces, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, purple basil, lavender and carrots in here. We’ll see how they do.
Around the raised bed are stepping stones that were left in the garden by a previous owner. We uncovered them all over the place, cleaned them off and are glad to have them. Between the stones and the fence I’ve planted gladiola bulbs in the hopes of adding beauty and having flowers to cut and bring inside.
Straight ahead from the entrance is a bench that I concocted out of tree stumps and an old railroad tie I found in the woods. With the garden being far from the house, I realized that a place to sit is a must have. I want to be able to enjoy the garden without having to run inside to rest.
Just beyond the bench is the strawberry patch, fenced in by old dead logs I scavenged in the woods.
Between the strawberry patch and the fence are two small raspberry bushes that our neighbors gave us. They are fantastic gardeners and very generous. I can’t wait to see these happy fellas get going.
Across from the strawberry patch are the tomato and pepper plants. I tried my hand at making some rustic trellises, again, scavenging from the woods. Most fun I’ve had in a long time.
Past the tomatoes are the peas, beans and cukes. Plus a couple rows of carrots here and there and an artichoke plant. After that, you’ll run into two plots occupied by friends. Since the garden was so big, I offered plots to those who expressed interest. Gardens are better with friends. No doubt about it. To have fruit and friendship grow is quite a gift.
Beyond their plots we planted a couple rows of potatoes, marked by sticks, so we don’t forget where they are.
Back on the other side of the garden is an asparagus trench that we planted 50 crowns in. It looks like dirt currently. Hopefully this is a case of The Best Is Yet to Come. Next to that is Eliza’s Spot. It’s a stump and stump table that she put together.
She makes sure we stay hydrated and brings yummy lemonade and a basket of snacks for us.
I’m so often struck these days how gardening and parenting are the same. Especially gardening out in a big wild garden like the one we’ve taken over. It takes so much more faith and hope and work than container gardening–just like parenting. There’s nothing contained about parenting. It’s a wild mess of hope and time and effort and failure and screaming undeserved successes.
Like this pumpkin patch above. Last year my pumpkin plants seemed to do wonderfully. Big blooms everywhere, large healthy plants. But lo and behold, two measly pumpkins. Compare that to the rather anemic looking cucumber plant that just kept giving the cukes all summer long. As in life, things are not always as they seem. On the very far end of the garden, we will plant sweet corn. I’m waiting just a tidge longer before I plant. I need to till up the area again and then I’ll go for it.
One thing I’ve learned is that in order to protect tiny pepper plants like this, you must have paths.
These little boots have to learn to stay on the path and only on the path.
If they come off the path, things get hurt. Isn’t that what I’m teaching them all day, in every situation? Stay on the path. Follow the signs. Love the commands. Love the One who gives them.
Gardening makes me happy. It gives me rich food for thought and good work for my hands and treasured relationships to grow with my family and friends. It’s no wonder the Lord used the metaphor over and over. Teach me your ways, O Lord!
The aspect of The Things That Aren’t As They Seem just hits me over and over. It’s that beauty can be gnarly reclaimed dead stuff. It’s that alive things can be full of death, like thistles. It’s that where we see no growth, incredible roots are growing and preparing to bear fruit. It’s that sin can look shockingly like a strawberry patch and that fruit can be hidden for a time, like the potatoes growing underground.
But every plant and person is known by their fruit. You can only pretend for a time, until someone gets close enough to know the truth. When I reach out to inspect the “strawberry patch” and instead get a hand full of nettles, the truth is evident and my hand burns. When I think a plant is anemic and the stem looks broken and possibly dead, all it takes is close inspection to realize that it may be weak, but there are tiny buds on the ends. We will always bear the fruit of who we really are. Stinging nettles or nourishing food. Words of death or words of life. Hate or love. We produce what we are. And we’ve been bought, redeemed, named, called, made new, so let us bear fruit in keeping with our blood bought repentance.
I don’t know what will come up out of this ground. But I know we’ve claimed it and made it ours. We’ve planted in hope. We’ve labored in love. We can’t be put off by failure. This year’s errors will be next year’s victories. There’s endless more work to do, yet here we are, the very people to do it. Thanks for taking the tour of Our Garden and enduring a little pontificating on the side.
Enjoyable read, Ab. I’m glad I had you to get out-of-doors with so many years ago and experience the joy of being outside. I too, find that gardening is something I can get lost in because of the fun in the labor and harvest. I can’t wait to see what comes of yours this year, it looks magical.
We had lots of practice making work fun by being together. Anything is bearable with a friend like you around. Miss you and am praying for all that’s happening in your neck of the woods!
What a surprise trek with you in your garden! I love gardening, too, and agree that things are not always as they seem. What a marvelous garden metaphor. So glad to hear that Titus is making progress (maybe eating spinach would benefit each of us(?)). Here’s to many pleasant moments in your garden.