lessons learned: take rest

I wrote this one several years ago, and as I sit here this morning engaged in some time of self care, I thought I would re-read it.  The one piece I would lift up from this post is the commitment to being proactive rather than reactive.  Rest and self care should be a part of our regular routines, even scheduled if need be.  Rest shouldn’t wait until our bodies are so tired or sick that it is prescribed for better physical or emotional health.   Take care of you~cameron

Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.  ~Ovid

Last night, I was reading an article on biodynamic farming (I know–light reading on a Friday night!).  It happened to mention the importance of letting the land be fallow for a year after 6 years of harvest and defined “fallow” as farmland that is plowed but unsown for the seventh year so it can restore its fertility.  As I lay in my bed struggling to keep my eyes open, I thought, “Boy, I could use a year of rest!  How do I make that happen?”

Recently, in my Just Be women’s group, I facilitated a conversation on our bodies as God’s gardens.  We talked about the benefits of eating healthy foods, drinking water, being active/outdoors and getting enough sleep.  Seems that these four basic human needs are often overlooked when we get busy or overwhelmed.  What we often forget is that these four practices are actually what prevent us from becoming sick in mind, body, or spirit during challenging times.

Having the body clock of a night owl, I usually struggle with the “getting enough sleep” piece.  If I could hop in the bed around midnight or so then sleep til 8 or 9, I’d be great.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t work so well when you have a teen who has to get to school by 7:15am.  I’ve learned that if I don’t start off the week getting at least 7 hours of sleep per night, I am not worth a dime at work or home by Thursday.

What farming has taught me is that a field’s being fallow doesn’t mean it isn’t doing anything, to the contrary.  At many levels, it is actually “working” to renew itself so it can be prepared for the next season in its life journey.   It needs the opportunity of rest to actually strengthen itself for what lies ahead–another period of sowing, growing, and harvesting.

In our “just do it” society, we forget to “just be” and just rest.  We deplete ourselves of the basic human needs so important to our wellbeing then wonder why we fall apart in exhaustion and illness.  As gardeners, farmers, homesteaders, or even as the gardens of the Creator, I encourage us all to acknowledge and appreciate those times of rest, renewal and care.  It will serve us well as we grow into the next season and cycle of growth on our life’s journey.

prayer and preparation for Earth Day

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
— e.e. cummings, North America

As I have been meditating on Earth Day this week, I have reflect on all that will be celebrated today–green living, sustainability, local farming, a return to simple.  I realize that one highlight of Earth Day is to remind us of practices that can save our dear Mother–some practices that have been created in response to ways that we have abused and neglected her.  So while this day is a day of celebrating, it also saddens me to think of how we lost our way and in turn, poisoned our waters, exhausted our resources, and polluted our air.

But I find hope.


I find hope in the family farms, CSAs, and urban farmers who are committed to a simpler and more sustainable way of life.  I find hope in the paradigm shift in big business that promotes greener practices.  I find hope in the public awareness as it grows broader in its understanding of how we can nurture Earth as she was intended to nurture us.

On a very personal level, I find hope right here in my own backyard.  When I step outside to find a snail slithering slowly on my cucumber trellis or a tiny tomato sprout peeking through the dirt, I am filled with wonder.  When I experience the colors of autumn leaves or the blossoming of spring flowers, I am blessed.  This connection with creation fills me not only with a sense of awe but also commits me to a sense of responsibility, for it is I who cares for our Mother  just as the Creator cares for me.

may 1 snail in dirt

On this Earth Day, I encourage you to adopt practices that support sustainability and simple living, but also just get outside.  Get outside and celebrate the very reason for Earth Day–the natural, the infinite, the yes.

sugar snap peas: Nature’s candy

This year, I planted my sugar snaps along a privacy fence with some homemade tomato cages I unhooked to create long latices for them to climb.  A teen girl and I sowed the seed a few weeks ago, and they’re already several inches high.  This weekend, I’ll be planting the second round of seeds–want to make sure we keep those sweet things coming for as long as we can!  Am reposting this one with some tips and ideas for sugar snaps. ~cameron

A few years ago, I started a batch of sugar snap peas on our deck and in front on the triangular trellis.  By late May, we had fat sugar snaps dangling from the vine.  I was so excited that I came running in and made my daughter come outside.  She humored me, but when she saw the green pods on the vine, she refused.  She reminded me that she didn’t like sugar snaps.  I encouraged her to try just one, and when she did,  her eyes lit up.  She looked at me and gushed, “These taste nothing like those things from the grocery store!”  She then proceeded to gobble up every pod that was ready for the picking.

sugar snaps 2

Sugar snap peas are a good choice for beginner gardeners.  They grow quickly so kids get fast results.  They prefer cooler weather so they give you something to look forward to as you wait for the tomatoes and squashes.  They’ll climb just about anything thin enough to wrap their tendrils around.  Most importantly, they are simply sweet and delicious!

So some tips for sugar snaps:

  • Plant in early-mid Spring–where I live, I can put them in the ground early-mid March.
  • They will need something to climb, but make sure it is thin, like wire, string, or twine.
  • They will be sweeter if you let them “puff up” rather than eat them when they are flatter.  Don’t let them go too long though, or they become dry instead of tender.
  • Since the seeds are hard, they will need water regularly at first or to be soaked to encourage sprouting.

How to eat sugar snap peas:

  • Straight off the vine
  • Sauteed in some sesame oil with garlic and a splash of tamari
  • With a summer dip–I like plain Greek yogurt, dill, salt, pepper, minced onion and garlic
  • Chopped in half and tossed in a spring salad with a light vinaigrette
  • Marinated in a citrus vinaigrette

Sugar snaps are so flavorful and sweet, they are ideal for kids.  My two godsons came over to tromp around my farm last summer, and in spite of a fort, an art project, and a homemade creek, their fondest memory of that day was eating my sugar snaps then planting their own.  Needless to say, those were the first seeds I checked on my order form this year.

gentle gardeners and creation care~a meditation for Earth Day

As Earth Day approaches, I have been revisiting some of my blog posts on creation care.  I wrote this one a couple of years ago and thought I’d press it again today.  take care~cameron

For much of the last century, religious institutions have missed–or ignored–our responsibility as stewards of the creation and to the Creator.  However, people of faith have long relished the grimy pleasures of gardening.  The process of nurturing life brings contentment and a sense of wholeness in the accomplishment.  We instinctively understand that we were designed to be gentle gardeners.  We just haven’t realized the entire planet is our garden.

~Michael Abbate, Gardening Eden:  How Creation Care Will Change Your Faith, Your Life, and our World

A couple of weeks ago, I was blessed to attend a regional conference sponsored by RAFI (http://rafiusa.org/come-to-the-table/) on farming, food, and faith.  Since that time, I have been pondering my calling as a front yard farmer and “ecovangelist” and renewing my connection with creation as Spring comes to Growing Grace Farm.

With Winter bringing disappointment, rain, and home projects, my time and energy had moved away from gardening and farming, and I can tell I’ve been feeling it in my spirit.  I don’t know about you, but there is something life-giving that grows within me when I tend to the earth–even if it’s only within the context of a small yard farm.  It is bigger than me and compels me to want to be a better person.

veggies in bowl

Last night as my daughter and I watched the movie Rent, I caught hold of a line that planted itself inside of me.  One character eloquently noted, “The opposite of war isn’t peace, it’s creation.”   Because I love the art of language, I didn’t let that one pass by–I stopped the movie and meditated on it for a moment.  When I thought about it, I realized he was right.  War brings with it destruction.  When we see photos of war-torn countries, we witness people, the environment, and communities devastated and lacking in resources, wanting for life.

Perhaps that is why gardening and farming have become so critical to my being.  They are the means by which I can put my faith into action and create–create a healthy and sustainable environment, create connections with God that nurture and heal.

gardener hand

My prayer is that in some way, each one of us will become “gentle gardeners,” engaging in creation not only for the sake of the Earth but also for the wellbeing of our faith.