The Promise of Spring

Daylight Savings Time slipped in last weekend and a week filled with rainy days followed.

I love rainy days – but a week of them? I’ve had my fill, thanks.

Sunny skies and dry ground – that’s what I’m looking for.

It’s time to reconnect with the earth and enjoy the changes that all the birds are tweeting about.

In other words – it’s time to get out the garden fork and turn over the garden soil.  Time to get my hands dirty.  Time to work my stiff muscles and build back what I lost during Winter’s idle days.  Time to plan the gardens and purchase seeds.

It’s time to face the future and embrace now.

Spring grass is growing.  Wild onions and blue hyacinths, henbit and chickweed will choke the yard – and the mower – if action is not taken soon.  As much as I dislike the thought of cranking the mower before late April, I have plans to begin early this year.

Early – as in this week.

The hedges will receive their first shearing this week, too.  Best to get it done before the poison ivy leafs out.

Gardens begun, grass cut, hedges trimmed….  That’s what’s planned outdoors for this upcoming week.

And, I’m looking forward to every scratch, blister, and sore muscle that will result. 😉

Of course, I’ll need my days to be longer than they were this past week.  I’ve not yet figured out how to stretch 24 hours into 36.  (If I could just figure out a way to live without sleeping or eating – oh the things I could accomplish.)

Heading into this week – head up, looking for opportunity, big plans, high hopes.

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Seeds of Hope

The day was rainy, the air was warm and it smelled of the promise of spring.  But, the forecast warned of frigid cold, of lows near 0 and highs of barely 20.

My thoughts, of late, have turned more and more toward the gardens and work that awaits me when weather clears and time permits. I’ve not touched either garden since I pulled the last tomato, purple pod pea, and cut the last okra before the first hard freeze turned everything brown.

There is much work to be done before Spring planting and I was feeling that familiar itch to dig in the soil.

Warm days and the scent of damp earth stirs something in me that’s basic and natural. I find it hard to confine my thoughts and self to the four walls that surround me when all that’s in me screams to be beyond them.

Winter – it’s either too wet to work the ground or it’s too cold.  (OR, it’s the Holiday Season and there’s NO TIME.) But, Winter lasts only 3 months and those few months are best spent planning and preparing for Spring’s arrival.

With rain falling and frigid weather coming, the Rare Seeds catalog pulled from our mailbox couldn’t have come at a better time.  I couldn’t work outside, but I could surely work inside – planning and dreaming of an heirloom garden filled with delicious and healthy non GMO vegetables.

Though in my possession only a few hours, the seed catalog is dogeared and marked up.

Winter winds may howl and the ground freeze and heave, but the seed of hope has sprouted within me and I think beyond what is – to what can be.

October Blue(s)

Beautiful blue skies are the backdrop for October’s blaze of autumn foliage.  Anyone who spends much time outdoors knows the color October Blue.

But, what about October blues?

There’s a certain sadness associated with October.  Summer’s final blush faded with September and we say “Goodbye” to what was and prepare for what it’s coming.

As I type this, I’m able to look out the window and into my backyard.  Okra plants stand 12 feet tall with yellow hibiscus blooms crowning their tops, and at their feet summer peas sport white blossoms, both busy with the task of producing delicious Summer produce.

The problem is, Summer is no more.  And, after today, Summer’s heat will be gone as well.  Today, the temp is forecast to rise to 90 (perfect okra and purple pod pea weather) and tonight rain will fall as the first COLD front of the season moves in.

In the extended forecast, there are no 90 degree days…not even 80 degree days.  Saturday will see a rise of perhaps 65 and by Sunday morning the temp is forecast to be 42.

What will happen to the garden when chilled to 42 degrees?  It depends, of course, on the warmth of the next few days and nights, but I expect the plants to slow production drastically.

In the next few weeks, the garden will be pulled up, turned under and laid to rest.

Summer is gone and Winter is coming.  It’s time to bid farewell to warm weather chores, say our goodbyes to Summer’s ease and bounty, accept the coming darkness as each day grows shorter than the one before, and face the future with thanksgiving for what was and anticipation for what will be

I’ll admit – I feel a twinge of October blues nagging me today.  I’m not ready to turn loose.  I don’t want to move forward into the year.  I’m so not ready for cold weather.  I’m not looking forward to being cooped up inside. And, I don’t want to pull out sweaters and jackets or turn on the heat.

I like it fine the way it’s been…the way it is now.  I don’t want it to change.  Can’t we just bypass Winter this year and slip from Autumn into Spring?

Ah, wishful thinking is often foolish thinking.

And, wrapping my October blues about me and bemoaning the loss of what was and grouching about what will be doesn’t warm my heart or bring me comfort.  October blues change nothing but my mood – from sunny to cloudy with a chance of rain.

October blues – be gone.  I don’t want you.  You depress me, you deprive me, you distract me.

Seasons change.  That’s life.

Letting go of the old and embracing the new is the only way to live.  And, live is what I want to do.  And, I’ll do it without October blues, thank you.

Yep, gonna get me a good strong dose of October blue today while the sun shines and enjoy the wonder of today as I face forward and free myself of the past and open my hands to each new day ahead.

Change is coming.

No…change is here.  Slow down long enough to appreciate it but don’t hang onto what was.  Reach out for what’s next.

Live hard into it.

Here Yesterday, Gone Today

Imagine my surprise when I went to God’s Garden in my back yard to pick the ripe  tomatoes I’d seen there yesterday and found NO ripe tomatoes.

And, no bell peppers at all -not even small ones.

I stood stunned and confused.

Not 24 hours prior, I had gazed on at least 6 fully ripe tomatoes and easily as many peppers.

A flash of anger moved quickly over me.  I felt violated.  Someone had invaded the sanctity of my back yard and stolen from me.

I looked out over the rest of the garden.  Everything else looked as it should.

As my gaze shifted back to the tomato and pepper plants, I slowly walked toward them.  As I grew closer I searched in vain for any sign of red.

Even the tomato that had grown IN the fence was gone.  I had tried on several occasions to pop it out of the chain link fence, but it was lodged in there…had become one with the fence.

It was gone without any sign that it had ever been there.

My thoughts turned to a post I’d written several days ago – When Bounty Becomes a Burden.

I’ll admit, I felt reprimanded and deeply humbled.

Just because it is doesn’t mean it always will be.

Be thankful for what you have – even for the excess.  When God blesses, your cup runs over.

And, that’s a good thing.

When Bounty Becomes a Burden

What do you do when bounty becomes a burden?

The way I see it, you have two choices.

  1. Make room for it.
  2. Give it away.

God has truly blessed the gardens this year.  Tomatoes, green beans, peas, squash, peppers, okra….  Oh my…what a bounty!

With our small freezers full and only a few empty canning jars left (in my pantry and on the store shelves) it’s decision time.

I told Hubby this morning that I’ve tomatoes, peppers, beans and peas to put up and no place to put them.  Oh, and okra, too – but that’s not a problem (I’ll just fry it and eat it…all).

And, a peek at the garden after last night’s rain tells me I’ve more to pick today before the sun goes down.

What DO you do when bounty seems a burden?

Don’t you love problems like this?

I’ve given away surplus to family and friends, but I would really like to put up the peas and green beans that Mom, Daughter and I shelled and snapped.  But where? How?  My little chest freezer is full to the brim and my refrigerator’s freezer is as well.

Ah ha!  A quick inventory of the little chest freezer revealed a surprise.

Last summer, I filled a corner measuring 12″x 10″ with bags of cubed pumpkin, honeydew, and cantaloupe.  With that removed I have ample space for the veggies I have on hand and for those waiting to be picked.

What of the pumpkin and melons?

The pumpkin I’ll cook and use in breakfast muffins for Hubby.  The melon cubes have been pureed in my blender – what a delightful, healthy and delicious dessert it made for my lunch today – and placed in a gallon freezer bag that found its way back into the freezer (taking up only 1/2 of an inch of space, easily placed atop everything in the freezer).  All I’ll need to do is break off a corner, slip it back into the blender and voila – a frosty, cold sensation for a hot summer day!

Bounty should never become a burden.  With a little planning and forethought bounty blesses us and others.

And, that’s how it should be.

God is busy teaching us lessons, providing opportunities to grow, helping us think outside the box, encouraging us to move beyond ourselves and our notions of what’s possible (and what’s not).  God’s blessings should never become burdens.  When they do, it’s time for us to step back and ask ourselves…where am I off track and what do I need to change/do?

Don’t stress the good stuff. Spread it around.

Not Without a Fight

Over all, this summer has been a dry one.  Cooler than normal temperatures have helped, somewhat, but I can’t help but wonder if the weather pattern that’s brought the cooler temps has contributed to our lack of rainfall as well.

It’s as though there’s a dome sitting over us and anything that tracks our way splits and goes around us.

The long range forecast shows a return to temperatures near normal for this time of the year, but no real promise of needed rainfall.  That means it’s going to be HOT and dry…not just dry.

Four days ago, the grass crunched underfoot. Today, I see brown patches where the grass has died, revealing the dirt beneath.  Add hot weather to the lack of rainfall and trees are beginning to show distress.

God’s Gardens 1 and 2 are suffering as well.

In an attempt to keep things growing, I water when they indicate thirst. I know that once the beans and peas stop blooming, it will be difficult to jump start them into producing again.

And, so, I water.

At the time the gardens should be in their prime, they struggle – not due to anything of their own making, but rather due to circumstances beyond their control.

And, beyond mine.

It’s frustrating.

The song from the Disney movie “Frozen” plays in my head…”Let it Go, let it go!

But, I don’t want to let it go.  I’m not ready to see it die.  I don’t want it to whither, cease production…die.  I want it…alive….  Too much time and work went into getting it where it is and there’s too much hope for what it can yet be to just let it go…pull it up…walk away.

They are God’s gardens and I am their keepers.  When God doesn’t send the nourishing rains, then I offer all I have.  City water does little more than keep it alive, but at least it’s alive.

And, if it’s alive, there’s hope.

Some say let it go…let it die…pull it up.

I say, no – not without a fight.

…not without a fight.

We should be 2 full months from the first possibility of frost.  And, the next cool front will surely bring several days of rain….

I planted.  And, now I’m watering.  It’s God who will give the increase.  And, when God deems the gardens done, I’ll turn them under, bed them down with a blanket of leaves, give thanks for all the benefits God’s Gardens gave this year, and walk away.

But, it’s not going down without a fight. 😉

That should be our attitude when disappointment comes our way and we struggle when we could be / should be at our best position for productivity. When circumstances say, “you’re going down!” our reply should be, “not without a fight!”

Throbbing Thumb

I don’t wear gardening gloves.  They get in my way.  I want to feel what I’m touching, get my hands dirty….  If I get blisters on my hands, I prefer it be due to hard work and not from an ill fitting glove.  And, if I’m handling briars, thorned limbs or spiny veggies, I greatly dislike having to stop what I’m doing to unhook my glove from the points of said barbs.

Better the glove than the fingers, some would say.  But, I’m not some…I’m me.

And, yes, I’ve received some injuries that I wouldn’t have had I been wearing gardening gloves. And, I have the scars to remind me. Nuff said.

Still, I prefer to go sans gloves.

And, as I see it, for good reason. I’ve also prevented some awful injuries because I wasn’t wearing gloves.  When you’re snipping branches and can’t see what you’re snipping and going only by feel…it’s good to have bare fingers and not gloved fingers.  Gloved fingers won’t feel the snips until it’s too late.

Just saying.

Anyway, as a result of my sans gloves way of gardening, I sit here with a throbbing thumb. Every time it dances on the space bar I’m reminded that I prefer to garden sans gloves.

(How many times did I hit the space bar in the above paragraph?)

A few days ago, while picking cucumbers and okra from the garden, I grabbed one of the afore mentioned veggies (both contain needle like spikes) in my bare hands as I’ve done hundreds of times and introduced three of those needle like spikes into the pad of my right thumb.

Throb…throb…throb…throb.

I could see them but I couldn’t get them out.  My skin is tough and leathery and once in, things have a tendency to remain in until they work themselves out.

Throb…throb…throb….

Yesterday, as I sat to type I noticed my right thumb felt a bit “odd” as it banged the space bar on my laptop.  A quick examination revealed redness and a swollen knot.  By evening, the swollen knot had become puss-filled with a dark center (yep that dark center is the little needle like spike).

Before I went to bed, I coated it with a dab of ichthammol ointment and wrapped the tarry, smelly stuff in three bandages. (Ichthammol is a drawing salve – today’s over the counter preparation is not as strong as what was available 60 years ago, but sufficiently strong to produce results.)

This morning the knot strains against the bandage and throbs in time with my heart.  In a few hours, I’ll release my damaged thumb from its bandage and wash off the black stuff. And, depending on what I find, I’ll either apply more ichthammol ointment and wrap it again, or I’ll sterilize a needle and make a way through my tough skin for the spike to retreat as pressure beneath it builds and pushes it upward and out.

As I look out toward the garden, I know it’s time to pick okra and cucumbers again.  For only a moment I consider slipping on Hubby’s work gloves for the task of picking them…for only a moment.

Part of the joy of gardening (for me) is to feel – skin on skin. I love the textures, the feel, the lumps and bumps, the smoothness and roughness, the fuzziness, slipperyness, wet coolness or dry warmth of each fruit that I handle.  From touch I can tell the size, ripeness, health, maturity, and pickability of each thing that my hand grasps. My fingers see what my eyes cannot.  Touching – it’s all a part of the experience.  And, I want to experience it all.

Even if that means the occasional thorn in the flesh. 😉

Rain and Renewal

Throughout the morning, as opportunity presented itself, I checked the radar to see how close the red and yellow blobs were and if they were still tracking in our direction. There was nothing I could do to direct the rain our way other than pray.  And, as much as I wanted rain and our gardens needed it…doing so felt selfish.

Would it rain?  Yes.  It would rain…was raining elsewhere.  Would it rain here? Only God knew the answer to that question.

And, I was okay with that.

As I surveyed God’s Garden #2 from my back porch, I noticed the okra had wilted. The sun was hot on my skin.  A quick glance at the sunny sky above told me all I needed to know. There was an immediate need and I had a temporary fix, so I turned on the water (just a trickle) and placed the hose at the feet of the okra. Every 15 minutes I went outside and moved the hose 6 inches down the row.

Within 5 minutes of receiving the life-giving liquid, the okra had perked up.  (It was amazing to watch.)

And, by the time I had placed the hose at the base of the last okra plant (hours had passed), the sky showed promise of a better solution.

It wasn’t until late afternoon that rain arrived.  And, when it arrived it lingered long enough to break the dry spell.

The huge blob of red and yellow that I’d tracked all morning on radar slipped South of us.  That was okay. Sovereign God knew best where to send the rainfall…knew where it was needed most, and when.

And, God knew what I and the gardens needed most, and when, as well.

Sometimes all we can do is what we can do while we wait for God to act on our behalf.

The important thing to remember while we wait is to give thanks always for God’s many blessings.

Yes, there blessings even in dry spells.  There are always reasons to give thanks.  And, having a thankful heart provokes a can do attitude and a positive outlook on life.

And, a positive outlook on life changes everything.

Believe me, I went from parched to overflowing and nary a drop of rain had fallen.  From deep within a well of Living Water bubbled up and watered my withered soul, restored my faith in God, and renewed my spirit as it changed my attitude and outlook.

Dry Spell

For over 500 consecutive days, Suzansays saw a new post appear.

And, then…nothing for five days.

I hit a dry spell, I suppose.

It wasn’t that I suddenly lost interest in writing. No…that wouldn’t be accurate to say.  And, it wasn’t because I didn’t have anything to say.

I just hit a dry spell.

Life took an unusual turn and I had an unexpected response to that turn. I was thrown off schedule and off kilter. Everything seemed out of sync.

My dry spell began seven days ago, when rain loomed large in our forecast.  The ground was dry and the gardens thirsty – ample rain was on the way…enough to saturate the ground deeply…thoroughly…satisfyingly.

I prepared for it and for the possibility of hail and wind (also forecast).  I picked the garden clean, thinking it would be a couple of days before the ground firmed and dried enough to venture into it.

I hoped for rain…prayed for it…prepared for its arrival.  I needed the rain as much as the ground did.

But, rain did not fall.  An hour south of us is where it fell for two days.  I looked lustily at the radar, desiring it to move farther north.

It didn’t.

While I was grateful that they received rain, I was disappointed we (meaning I) didn’t and set out to water the gardens and hope for rain each time a cloud obscured the sun.

Six days ago, as rain promised us fell to our south, Hubby headed out in the wee hours and slipped Southeast along the interstate.  Two days of meetings determined his direction. And, after meetings ended, he would slip East to spend a couple of days with his mom.

After less than 3 hours of sleep, (to bed after midnight and up again at 3) my body craved more and I slipped back to bed and slept off and on until nearly 9 the morning of his departure.

Early mornings are my writing times and with early morning gone and morning at the mid point, there was no time to think of anything other than heading to work.  And, beyond work, my day’s normal schedule stretched before me.

With Hubby gone, my evenings were filled with gardening (and watering) and preserving foods gathered from the gardens.

And, early mornings were spent catching up on sleep I lost working late into each night.

The days grew hot and hotter, climbing to a wilting 95 degrees F.  Everything suffered from the lack of moisture.  Birdbaths filled at the end of one day were emptied by the end of the next.  The garden, in its prime, showed signs of shutting down production.  The peas, if given sufficient rainfall, could rebound and produce one more crop – but the rain didn’t fall when needed.  And, city water does little other than keep things alive.  It just can’t provide that trigger that induces new life like rain can.

It was frustrating and in some ways heartbreaking.  So much work had been poured into the gardens….

I felt as dry as the garden…as parched as the soil.

I’d hit a dry spot.  It seemed nothing I did helped and so for 5 days I moved into and through my odd schedule thirsting to write, but with thoughts too dry to utter a word here on Suzansays I did the only thing I could.

I waited for the dry spell to end.

And, when it didn’t end, I declared it ended.

This morning I woke early with intent – the first time in 6 days – said “goodbye” to Daughter as she headed to work, checked the forecast and radar, and slipped into Suzansays to break the dry spell and begin anew.

As I look out of the window before me, the sun casts morning shadows in the garden and a breeze stirs the tops of the okra.  The forecast is for rain…perhaps a lot of rain…maybe storms.  The radar is lit with colors this morning – all Northwest of us.

I am reminded of a verse which delivers far more than the forecast or radar can promise. And, it gives hope that God has not forgotten – for God loves and cares for all.

Don’t resist violence! If you are slapped on one cheek, turn the other too. 40 If you are ordered to court, and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat too. 41 If the military demand that you carry their gear for a mile, carry it two. 42 Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.  43 “There is a saying, ‘Love your friends and hate your enemies.’ 44 But I say: Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way you will be acting as true sons of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust too. 46 If you love only those who love you, what good is that? Even scoundrels do that much. 47 If you are friendly only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even the heathen do that. 48 But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Jesus – Matthew 5)

Wasp – Friend or Foe?

Before you swat that wasp or spray that wasp nest, consider this fact:

Wasps are extremely beneficial to humans. Nearly every pest insect on Earth is preyed upon by a wasp species, either for food or as a host for its parasitic larvae.

If you’re a gardener, you are familiar with wasps in your garden among your plants.

The gardens at my house and at mom’s are God’s gardens.  I planted and I tend to routine things like weeding and harvesting, but it’s God who truly cares for them and it’s God that gives the increase.

Natural gardening is balanced gardening.  That means it’s a bug eat bug world.

When I see wasps in my garden I know they are at work – picking off pests.  It’s the same with ladybugs.  They are God’s way of keeping balance.

Last week, I pulled up the broccoli.  It had stopped producing heads (as broccoli tends to do in hot weather) and the leaves had become pockmarked by the caterpillars of cabbage butterflies.  Up to this point, insects had not been an issue in either garden and it seemed that this infestation had happened overnight.

That’s the way it is with insect pests.  We don’t see them until we see the damage.

As I held one of the plants in my hand, I discovered small caterpillars at the base and wondered if I should destroy them.  Instead of taking the time to do so, I tossed the plants into a pile.

Within minutes, wasps had moved in and were carrying off the caterpillars.  It was amazing to watch.

Daily, I encounter wasps as we work in the garden together.  Sometimes, they encounter me. I give them the respect they deserve and ask the same from them. They watch me and I watch them.  We watch out for each other – live peacefully together, in harmony with one another.

Twice this summer I’ve been stung (most recent was yesterday). Both times I was minding my own business and a wasp made me her business.

One time only have I killed a wasp this summer and that was to protect us from a wasp gone rogue.

As a child, I came to love a poem by Christina Rossetti.  It helped shape my view of the world.

Hurt No Living Thing

Hurt no living thing:
Ladybird, nor butterfly,
Nor moth with dusty wing,
Nor cricket chirping cheerily,
Nor grasshopper so light of leap,
Nor dancing gnat, nor beetle fat,
Nor harmless worms that creep.