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.

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.

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. 😉

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)

Faith and Gardening

The Bible defines faith in this way:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.  Hebrews 11:1

This past Saturday, I put faith into practice.  I planted God’s Garden #2.

Seeds that were dry…hard…dead went into an equally dry and barren ground.

Faith says that from these dry seeds life will spring forth.

And, not just life, but life-giving life.  These seeds will bear fruit that will sustain life.

Amazing, isn’t it?!?!

Here’s something even more amazing.

And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (John 12:23, 24)

Planting Peas

God’s garden #2 (in my backyard) is dug and ready for planting.

English peas will be the first thing to go into the ground and that was to happen today.

It’s St. Patrick’s Day and peas are supposed to be in the ground by the 17th of March. Yep, that’s what they say.

Some say potatoes should be planted today as well, but I think I’ll hold off a little while.  I have, however, placed sweet potatoes atop water filled jars to sprout in preparation for planting.

After several warm Spring-like days that caused my sap to rise along with that of Tulip Magnolia and Bradford Pear trees, we were zapped with a cold front that dipped temperatures to freezing and spread a thin layer of frozen precipitation atop everything.

Brrr….

I know peas grow best during cooler days, but I’m not about to get out and plant those little English Pea seeds in 40 degree weather.  Tomorrow things will warm up. Tomorrow will be just fine for planting peas.

Tomorrow.

It’s only a day away.

What can happen in a day’s time…?

Hmm…I know from recent experience that much can happen. Kinda wish I’d planted them Saturday.  Just saying….

Into the Light

This is what I wrote to a friend yesterday morning:

I have my eye more on what’s taking place outside my window than what’s on the window of my computer this morning!  The sun is shining for the first day in what feels like ages and I can’t wait to get out and work in my garden.  Planning to plant English Peas first of next week!  And, Broccoli.  And, Kale.  And… 🙂

It was 9 a.m., the sun was shining bright, the sky was clear, the temperature was 44 and I was antsy to get outside and enjoy the day.

I am an outdoors person – I love nature and all things natural.  Creation thrills me and opens me to God in ways little else can.  I see God’s touch in everything.

Today is even more beautiful than yesterday.  I’ve a full day planned outside.

That means it will be a day spent praising God from whom all blessings flow.  And, praising my Creator for all I see, hear, feel, experience as I get down and dirty in the soil from which I came and the dust to which I shall one day return.

Excuse me…the Light calls and I must answer.

Spring-like

This week has been a welcome break. Warm, Spring-like weather has awakened the gardener in me and I’ve spent as much time outside as possible.

Tuesday I began the task of pulling aside the cardboard and turning over the damp soil under it.  As I did so, I pulled out roots and grass and broke up clumps.

Wiggly worms of all sizes were exposed to light as the cardboard came off.  I imagined them blinking their non-existent eyes as their world suddenly went from darkness to sunlit.

In some places the cardboard and newspaper was little more than compost. This I incorporated into the soil – a welcome amendment.

The cardboard that resisted the touch of earth, rain and the nibble of earthworms became a walkway between rows – the ground underneath will not be turned until the garden is prepped for next season.

Three hours I worked in the warm sun.  The dirt, cool and sweet smelling, yielded itself easily to the touch and pull of the garden fork. My right hand became my work hand as she busied herself plucking grass and roots from the damp overturned soil.  Before long she was dirt encrusted and heavy.

My old work shoes (yes, I still have them) became heavy from the load of dirt the soles carried. Three times I took them off and knocked the dirt from them.

As I worked, I felt muscles come alive that had grown stiff and shriveled. Alive – that’s how I felt…what I felt.

After three hours of work, I stepped back and surveyed my garden.  11/12’s of it was still covered with untouched cardboard. A 12 x 12 plot had been dug and a cardboard path marked its center.

A fat robin sat atop the fence and eyed the freshly turned soil.  I admonished her to leave my earthworms alone (I’d carefully covered each with soil) and that she was to eat only “bad” bugs. She hopped from her perch and plucked a grub from the soil and gulped it down.

I’ve a lot yet to do. Perhaps I bit off more than I can chew with the size of this backyard garden.

No, this is the middle of February. There’s plenty of time (if sunny days outnumber rainy and occasional warm days thaw the ground). I can do this.

I know God will give me the strength and the ability.

After all, His eye is on the Robin and I know He watches me.

What will I make of it?

Today.

I have a choice.

I can lean hard into the possibilities that this day presents and work as opportunity allows.

Or, I can sit back, take it easy, rest body and mind, put things off until another day and hope for the best.

In truth, my mind and body need recovery time.  There was much emotional/mental and physical hardship that occurred while away from home.  For 14 days there was a constant demand for output and little opportunity to regroup, to rest…to recover.

Sleep is what my body and mind crave.  But, after sleeping 8 hours I wake exhausted. My body halts between bedroom door and hallway, uncertain whether to move forward or fall back. My mind feels like lukewarm gray mush that struggles to remember what’s said and what I intend to do next.

Hubby struggles as well. His grief compounds and accents his mental and physical fatigue.

The mind must heal and the body must recover if life is to be forward facing and energies focused on what’s next.

Forward facing with focus on what comes next is imperative. There are still hard decisions to be made and much work to be done to close out what was and open doors to the possibilities that lie ahead.

Possibilities.

I have a choice.

Opportunity.

I have today.

What will I make of it?

Will I listen to my body and mind? They beg to shut down and rest.

No.  I will take both outside into the sunlight and I will take the garden fork in hand and work the soil…breaking it up…turning it over…opening the door to possibilities….

All winter I’ve looked forward to the day when the weather would permit me to begin work on the garden I’ll have in my own backyard. Cardboard has covered half the yard for many months now and most of the grass beneath it has died.

Today. I will embrace it…all of it.  And, I will work my body until she aches and can do no more.  And, as my body works my mind can rest and take time to regroup and recover.

Today abounds in possibilities and opportunities.

What will you make of it?