Homegrown Broccoli

This is my first time to grow broccoli – the first time to ever see it growing and experience firsthand what it does and how it does it.

The third week in July, I purchased broccoli and brussels sprout seeds, extended the garden, and planted the seeds. Within 7 days it looked like every broccoli seed I’d planted sprouted.

I thought of thinning the plants by plucking the sprouts and enjoying them on a salad, but I opted rather to let nature take its course and watch the strong prevail over the weak.

Within a few weeks, I noticed 15 plants had increased in size enough to overshadow the smaller weaker plants.

By the first of November, the only broccoli plants visible were these 15 – tall, strong, vibrant, and growing.

Here we are now, near the end of November…a full 4 months since planting.

Broccoli heads are fully formed on the top of several stalks. These will be harvested, steamed and immensely enjoyed.  The smaller heads will be allowed to grow, and those plants not yet showing heads will be given time to produce.

Ever since I first saw the little broccoli heads form I’ve had to slap my hands to keep from picking one and popping it into my mouth. There’s nothing like home grown goodness and I’ve never tasted homegrown broccoli.

But, once it’s picked, it’s picked.  It won’t grow any bigger.  And, bigger is what I want when it comes to broccoli heads.

Patience is a virtue and waiting is rewarded.

But, waiting too long causes waste and disappointment.

You see, broccoli will bloom.  That’s why broccoli creates heads.  The heads are clusters of immature buds.  Wait too long and those buds blossom into small yellow flowers.

Gardening is all about time. You can’t rush things and you can’t delay.  Everything in its time.


Missed Blessings

Thirteen large cucumbers – that’s how many I picked from our few vines in one picking.

Not a great amount…no…it’s not.

Unless you consider that two days prior I had scoured the vines and picked at least that many, if not more.

Two of the full sized cucumbers most recently picked were hanging (my vines are caged and grow upward) in full and plain view. How did I manage to miss them when I picked cucumbers two days before?

It seemed that each time I bent to look under a leaf, there was another cucumber.

I was amazed!  Still am.  I can’t figure it out.  Sure, cucumbers grow fast when they have ample rainfall. But, not that fast. Besides, we’d not had that much rain.

And, yes, before you ask, I had on my glasses when I picked cucumbers the day I missed so many.

And, yes, there were a few that I allowed to remain on the vines because they were smaller than I wanted.  But, 13?  No way!

It’s just not possible!

It’s not possible that I missed 2 large cucumbers when I picked 13, either, but I did.

Somehow, someway, during the 2 hours I spent cutting grass, two small cucumbers ballooned in size – one to over 6 inches and the other to over 5.

I don’t know what called me back to check the cucumber vines, but I obeyed the urge and there in the dwindling light found the two I’d twice overlooked.

Perhaps it was the change in lighting.  Cucumbers are camouflaged and can hang hidden amongst the leaves and shadows.  With the change in the sun’s angle changing the location of shadows and lit places, it’s possible that what was hidden before became visible.

It pays to take a second look later.  Seeing things in a new light can enlighten us to new things and open doors we thought nailed shut.

In light of the changes we all go through daily, let’s be willing to look a second time. Hidden blessings are worth searching for.  Let’s not be so quick to close the book on possibilities and pass judgment on what appears to be in the current light of day.

Shadows shift and blessings hidden are revealed when we look at things in a new light.

Of Green Beans and Okra

‘Tis the season for skeeters and fig-eaters, back-to-school sales and cheers from Moms.

Oh, and don’t forget green beans and okra!

Abundant rain and ample sun produced an amazing harvest of green beans and okra.  One day’s picking yielded 4 quarts of snapped beans and 2 of sliced okra for the freezer.

I knew green beans would need to be picked soon – it had been almost a week – but when I pulled back the leaves and looked at what hid beneath, I sucked air…and uttered a soft, “WOW! Thanks, God!”

Green beans are not my favorite veggie, but I’ll eat them.  Okra, however, is my fav, esp if it’s fried.  I love to keep it fried and frozen…and eat it like popcorn…by the handful.


If all goes well and hail doesn’t rain down on it, or wind lay it low, we are just entering okra’s most productive season.  It’s just now head high and before a freeze kills it, will probably top out at 10 ft. That’s almost 5 more feet of potential okra pods per plant.

This is my first time ever to grow green beans.  I think a spot will be reserved in the garden for them next year, even if they aren’t my favorite veg.

Each day in the garden is like Easter all over…under every leaf lies a hidden treasure.

  • a tomato
  • a pod of okra
  • a squash
  • a cucumber
  • peas
  • a green bean
  • a watermelon
  • a flower
  • a butterfly
  • a stinkbug
  • ladybug

And, soon among those listed can be found brussel sprouts, broccoli and snow peas!

Whoo hoo!  Can’t wait!

My freezer’s empty (except for the few bags of goodies mentioned above) and my belly’s hungry for home grown goodness.

God has been gracious in growing a tremendous garden this year.  I’m amazed by the bounty He has provided.

Thank you, God, for this food.  Bless it, Father. May it nourish us and strengthen us and empower us to do Your work, in the name of Jesus.

A Mess of Peas

I cast a weary eye at the garden.

It seems the work never ends.

If there’s not grass to hoe, there are veggies to pick.

If nothing’s ripe, something needs to be

  • tied up
  • pulled up
  • covered up
  • planted
  • watered,
  • composted, or
  • killed.

Summer stretches before me – half gone. The garden will continue to produce until the first killing frost.

That’s over 3 months away.

3 months plus of daily, constant, insistent work that doesn’t end with the first freeze.

No, gardening is a year-long venture…a day to day experience in

  • choices
  • planning
  • preparation
  • labor
  • planting
  • life
  • preservation
  • growth
  • health
  • cultivation
  • production
  • giving
  • harvest
  • dying
  • death
  • recycling
  • restoration
  • healing
  • peace
  • serenity

The look on Mom’s face – as she sits on her porch swing, bowl of shelled peas in her lap, empty pods beside her and a container of sun-warmed freshly picked pink eye purplehull peas within reach – and her comment, “we’ve got enough for a mess of peas,” is enough to send me back into the garden day after day after day.

I’m planning the next stage of the garden.

  • A compost pile grows daily with yard and garden refuse.
  • Broccoli and brussel sprouts went into the ground this week. Rain is forecast this weekend.
  • The second planting of peas, cucumbers and squash is up and growing well.
  • Little green striped globes dot the watermelon vines and the sunflower stalks turn to follow the sun’s path – their tops soon to be graced with a giant sunflower.
  • Tomato plants are loaded with green fruit.
  • Yellow leaves dot the peas.
  • Tiny green beans, an inch long and oh so thin, promise a mess in due time.

In due time we will reap a harvest if we don’t give up.

That’s what it’s all about.

Knowing My Limit

After an extremely long and hard day of yard work at Mom’s house, I sat my dirty, sweaty self on the swing on her patio.  Mom had overseen the last hour of my work and was ready for a little chat time before I heading up the hill toward home and Hubby.

She said several things.

  • The yard looks nice.
  • You are just like your daddy.
  • Now all we need is a little rain.
  • Did you put away the hoe?
  • I believe you got more work done today that your dad ever did in one day.
  • Your dad had more sense and knew when to quit!

I should have seen it coming.

But, I didn’t.

My body was exhausted and my mind was tired – and in some ways my day was just beginning. When I left her house and arrived at mine, Hubby and I would walk for an hour, then I would cook a late dinner and work on whatever had come into my work email since I’d last checked it that morning before heading to her house.

I had no control over what was said to me, but I did have control over my reaction.

Mom had worried all day that I would over do out in the bright sunshine, 90+ degree weather and extremely high humidity.  It was hot.  Sweat literally ran from me, dripping off my eyebrows and chin, running down my legs and leaving trails in the dust that covered me.  Dehydration was a concern and so was heat exhaustion.

She had lost my dad a year ago…and here I was out working in the sun like a crazy woman. She worried that she would find me passed out in the yard.

I understood her concern.

  • She cared for me.
  • She was concerned for me and my health – and for herself as well.
  • She was frightened by what could happen to me.
  • She was not experienced in working in that type heat.
  • She was not physically capable of doing the work.
  • She was relieved I was finished and okay.
  • She wanted to warn me to take care of myself.

I assured her that I had remained hydrated and had rested in the shade.  I also told her that I knew my limits and though I had pushed them, I’d not overstepped them.

Her response?

“Yeah, your limit is when you drop.”

She had a point.

When I arrived at Mom’s house, I had a to-do list of all that I intended to accomplish before leaving.  And, I worked single-mindedly, with that goal in mind.

I do tend to go at things “like a house a’ fire” and work until I’m about to drop. Then, I rest for 5 minutes and go again.

That’s the only way I know to get it all done.  It’s what Dad taught – by example.

I reminded Mom that she had spoken those same words to Dad in summers past.

Her reply?

“Yeah, and you see where he is now!”

Okay, point taken.

First Fruits

For several days, I watched fruit grow under the huge leaves of the zucchini plants in the garden.  Recent rains and summer weather had worked its magic and all I had to do was wait.

I’m not a patient person.

Waiting is hard for me.

But I did wait.  And, my waiting was rewarded.

When I waded into the waist high garden, I did so with determination and with focus.  Somewhere under the huge leaves hid treasures and I would have them.

Yes, I would – fresh…raw…on my salad…YUM!

The first plant yielded nothing but huge yellow flowers.  That’s okay, there were 11 more to look under.

With a shout of victory, I held a green zucchini high and silently thanked the Grower of them.

Down the row I went, pulling aside the itchy leaves, reaching between the prickly stems, carefully slicing the fruit from the stalk.

At the row’s end, I counted 3 yellow gooseneck and 5 zucchini squash gathered!

I was exuberant!

And, I was humbled.

These first fruits seemed holy.  I had not grown them.  Sure, I had prepared the bed and planted the seeds.  But, I wasn’t the one who instructed the seed on what to do and how.  I wasn’t the one who gave it life and empowered it to transform water and sunlight into life-giving fruit.

As I held the first fruits in my hand, I felt I should drop to my knees and worship the One who had.

What does one do with first fruits?

I decided to share half and keep the other half for my use.

As I reverently washed the squash and tenderly sliced it, I was thankful for the gift from the Grower.  And, as I placed the first bite in my mouth, I offered, “thanks again” before munching and crunching its goodness.

Gardening is, for me, a spiritual experience.

Before I could even leave the garden, I glanced at the knee-high okra and wished for a few tender pods to grill. Immediately, a passage in the Bible came to mind that warns of discontent and of desiring things we don’t have. Here I was, arms filled with blessings and my heart craved something else.

Contentment comes when we focus on the blessings we have and refuse to dwell on what we don’t have…wish we had…think we should have.

Disappointment Wilts Hope

Early in the season, I purchased a large, robust (and blooming) potted tomato plant.

My intent was obvious: obtain a ripe tomato as soon as possible.  The plant was labeled “for container or garden” and was one of the Better Boy varieties of tomatoes.

I also purchased several seedling tomato plants.

In total I planted 13 tomatoes into the garden plot.

The large plant settled into the ground and appeared to be doing well.  Quite well, in fact.  It wasn’t long before I noticed little tomatoes on it.  The small plants struggled to gain roots – and I noticed several had been clipped to only two inches tall by the incisors of some tomato eating rodent…rabbit or squirrel.

I was careful to water the tomato plants, filling milk jugs that had been placed into the ground between the plants (bottom removed) to deliver water to the roots and not just to the base of the plants.

The garden looked healthy.  Things were growing according to schedule.

I could already taste those ripe tomatoes.

One morning I went out to check the garden after a night of heavy rain and was dismayed to find the large tomato plant appeared wilted.

Odd, especially considering the amount of rain we had received.  It had looked fine the evening prior and showed no signs of anything amiss.

I pressed down on the ground around the plant and it felt solid and firm.

As the day progressed and the sun bore down hot upon it, the tomato plant withered more.

In the days that followed, I did everything I could think of to break the wilt cycle.  Nothing worked. My hope wilted along with the plant.

And, now, a full week later I have made the decision to remove the still wilted plant from the garden and dispose of it as well as the dirt around the roots.  The green tomatoes (almost half the size of my hand) show black rot on the bottoms.

It’s with sadness and disappointment that I bid the favored plant farewell.

And, it is with renewed awareness that it is not I who controls what produces and when.  That belongs to Another.  I am simply the gardener, not the grower.

Sunburn and Mosquito Bites

Gardeners garden for various reasons.

  • pleasure
  • exercise
  • hobby
  • food
  • money
  • experience
  • love
  • boredom
  • relaxation
  • enjoyment
  • stimulation
  • wellbeing
  • health

I garden because I enjoy everything about it.

Well…almost everything.

I could do without the painful sunburn and itchy mosquito bites.

Especially since both could have been prevented by the simple act of wearing a long sleeved shirt (instead of a spaghetti strap tank) and sweat pants instead of shorts.

Yes, I could have applied sunscreen and sprayed myself with bug deterrent, but I’m chemical sensitive and have to be careful what I put on my skin.

At my age, you’d think I’d take better care of my skin and not expose it to the sun as freely as I did – or allow mosquitoes to nosh on me and swill my life flow. (Especially after the report of West Nile positive mosquitoes.)

But, I wanted a little sun on my back and shoulders so I chose to expose myself a bit more than usual – after all, it was mostly cloudy…most of the time.  Plus, I was certain I would be finished before West Nile mosquitoes became active.

Well, I received an abundance of sunshine and my tender skin is screaming about it right now.  At least my vitamin D level should be high enough…. But, the damage I received, coupled with numerous serious sunburns in my childhood, elevates my already high possibility of developing skin cancer.

And, the numerous itchy whelps that dot my arms and legs remind me to be more careful – West Nile is not something I want to play around with.

Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.

So.  What’s my takeaway from this?  What’s my positive in all this negative?

  • I probably increased my vitamin D level.
  • Refrigerated 100% Aloe gel soothes sunburn pain and mosquito bites momentarily.
  • The time span from 24  to 48 hours after are the most painful for sunburns – and itchy for mosquito bites.
  • Knowing what to do and not doing it is foolish.
  • Bad sunburns happen even on cloudy days.
  • Tender white skin burns quickly and deeply – cover up.
  • A bad sunburn gives flu-like symptoms.
  • Gardeners wear long sleeves and pants for a reason.
  • Foolish decisions can impact us the remainder of our lives.
  • A gentle pat on the back can be excruciatingly painful, so can a well-meaning hug.
  • Pain makes me grouchy.
  • The garden is finished.
  • I feel good about my labor.
  • I’m learning to take “I told you so” better, and actually may begin to listen and take the advice offered.
  • Throwing caution to the wind is like spitting in the wind.  You’ve gotta make sure the wind is at your back and not in your face.
  • Keep my shirt on – who’s going to see my tanned back anyway? It’s not my back Hubby notices and he’s certainly not going to say, “I just love your tanned back.”
  • Lessons learned the hard way tend to make a lasting impression – just hope this lesson doesn’t scar me.
  • Sunshine on my shoulder makes me happy – sunburn on my back can make me cry.
  • Everything I do reminds me of my error – my “sin” is ever before me…or in this case, behind me.
  • It’s possible to sleep on your badly sunburned back.  (I’d advise you wait until the aloe gel dries – otherwise you will awake to find your extremely painful back firmly GLUED to the sheet beneath you.)
  • Given opportunity, the sun will burn and mosquitoes will bite. I know this from past experience. My responsibility to my body = not provide opportunity for either.
  • Learning from past experience and making changes is wise. Ignoring past lessons learned and expecting a different outcome without taking different action is foolish.
  • This body is the only one I have and I’m going to need it until the day I breathe my last breath.  I’d better take better care of her so she can take care of me.

The garden is finished.  But, there’s one more thing to plant in the space between the garden and the fence – “tired” potatoes (sweet and white).

I’ve never heard of anyone being sunburned during a thunderstorm, so if my sunburn can stand a shirt touching it, I think I’ll wait until the rain begins before I head out to set up and set out my “tired” potatoes.

And, don’t even talk to me about being struck by lightning – la la la la la la, I’m not listening to you….

So Busy

Today is my 150th post.

It’s also the last day of May.

And, it’s Friday.

So, tomorrow will be my 151st post, the first day of June, and Saturday.

Is it possible I’ve written that many posts? Where did May go?? What happened to the week???

In other words, where has the time gone????


Am I so busy that I push through each day without being thankful for it and the opportunities it brings me?

I hope not. But, I fear that may well be the case.

What inspiration did I receive yesterday while working in the garden?

  • dry ground is hard ground
  • hard ground is hard to work
  • chopped grass dies quickly in the hot sun
  • exposed roots = death
  • dirt clods can contain “treasures”
  • overworked muscles burn
  • exposed skin sunburns
  • a breeze is welcome, a wind is not
  • weeds can be tiny
  • it’s easiest to remove weeds when they are small
  • shallow roots = vulnerable plant
  • shallow breathing + physical labor = dizziness
  • the body can do far more than we realize
  • tired does not = exhausted
  • rest is as important as work
  • food tastes better when you’re hungry
  • one cannot tell what’s in the dirt by looking at the surface
  • a shovel full of dirt = a shovel full of dirt
  • dry dirt sustains no life – not even bugs/worms
  • wandering clouds are welcome on sunny days
  • a cup of cold water refreshes
  • a dirty cut becomes infected
  • you’re never too dirty (or smelly) to spend time with your granddaughter
  • if you work hard enough and long enough, you will get the job done
  • there’s great satisfaction in a job well done

The last day of May – wow.  We’ve gone through all of the Spring Winters and are moving toward the first day of Summer.  I can hardly believe the year is almost half gone.

But, when I look back to January 1 and see all that I’ve accomplished…all that’s occurred in the past 5 months I’m surprised it’s only May 31.

As I sit and type this, I have great satisfaction knowing the garden is completed – everything is planted. The addition of the 20×6 ft section is now planted with giant sunflowers, green beans and watermelons.  All I need to do now is sit back and wait for the rain the radar shows is heading our way soon.

Rain!?!? Oh, no!! I’m supposed to cut a neighbor’s yard today (they are out of town until Sunday). Is it too early to cut grass at 7 a.m.?  I’d better post this, put on my work shoes and pull out the mower.  The forecast shows rain probability until MONDAY – YIKES!!!

Am I so busy that I push through each day without being thankful for it and the opportunities it brings me? Probably so.

Yesterday as I left Mom’s house after working in the garden all day (except for when I was holding my granddaughter), she said, “I wish sometime you would come and spend all day with me and NOT work.”

I’d better schedule that in….


Take a deep, cleansing breath. Hold it. Now, slowly release it.

Take another.  Hold it a little longer than before.  Slowly exhale.

Do it again.  Inhale.  Hold it.  Slowly exhale.

Did you feel your shoulder muscles relax? Did your mind respond to the increased oxygen level in your blood stream?  Do you feel more alert?

Inspiration does that for you.

Whether it’s breathing in new air or taking in new ideas, inspiration awakens us to new possibilities.

How often do you pause, take a deep cleansing breath and allow inspiration to fill you, heal you, propel you forward?

Where do you seek inspiration?

  • quiet walk
  • meditation
  • Scripture
  • online
  • pinterest
  • prayer
  • work
  • gardening
  • driving
  • exercise
  • hobbies
  • friends
  • books
  • family
  • nature
  • ?

We inspire so we don’t expire.

Once again, draw air deeply into your lungs – expand them as fully as possible.  Come on, you can take in a little more. No shallow inspiration allowed this time. We commonly use only a small portion of our lungs when we inspire – fill them deeply…expand them.

Hold it.

Now, exhale fully.

Did your fingertips tingle?

Imagine what inspiration does for your mind and your emotions.

Where will you seek inspiration today?

Me?  I’m heading outside to work in the garden.

My niece suggested I add beans and watermelons to our family garden – and mentioned Granddad sometimes planted giant sunflowers, too.  So, yesterday I added 6×20 feet to the garden. Today the soil will be prepared, rows created and (hopefully) before rain arrives seeds will be planted.

There will be ample time for inspiration – physical as well as mental – as I work my body, accomplish my task and open my mind to see, to hear, to understand…to be awakened by inspiration.

Out with the bad, in with the good.  Breathe deeply. Open yourself to possibilities. Relax. Draw in new thoughts, new ideas. Welcome the rejuvenation that inspiration brings.

Now, exhale…pass it on – go be an inspiration to someone else.