necessities and guilty pleasures for the gardener

So we covered this topic for homesteaders (click here for Part 1 and Part 2), and now that I’m spending my free time outside, I thought we’d give the gardeners their due!  Here are a few gifts and gadgets I love to use when gardening.

1.  A good hat–seriously!  There’s nothing worse than sunburned skin.  Personally, I prefer a baseball cap and have 2 that I’ve worn thin bec/ they are too comfy to give up.  Any head piece that covers your face will do.

2. A great pair of gardening gloves–I will admit, I am a glove junkie.  I have a standard pair that will breathe but also protect my hands, but I also have some heavy duty ones dipped in a coating for those berry thorns or splintered logs. three-piece-garden -and-beach-set/ three-piece-garden -and-beach-set/

3.  A child-sized rake–I am all about the rake I bought my daughter when she was 6.  It gets in and around plants and bushes without tearing them up like big rakes do.  Plus, it spreads mulch and dirt with ease.

4. A child-sized metal shovel–again, the size is perfect for bulbs, small plants and little jobs.  Less likely to tear up plants that are close by.

5.  A hoe and garden rake–any tool with prongs on it is a necessity in my shed.  AND, when it falls apart, you can upcycle it to hold smaller tools.

6.  Speaking of smaller tools–I have a great multi-task shovel that my mom found me.  It has a serrated edge on one side, measuring lines on the shovel itself, a weed thingamajig on the end that does wonders with dandelions, and a handle that just won’t quit.  Look for one–it is well worth the money.

7.  A basket or bucket–I use various sizes to collect veggies and fruit, to hold onto pesky weeds and trimmings, to carry water too and from the rain jugs, etc.

you say "yard cart," I say "wheelbarrow"

you say “yard cart,” I say “wheelbarrow”

8.  A sturdy wheelbarrow–when I was growing up, we had a green metal one with three wheels that Dad would rollus around in then take us down to the garden.  Now I have a plastic 4-wheeler one that I can push more easily with my shoulder, but I love it (almost as much as my next item. . .)

9.  A good haulin’ car–I’ve had 4 Subarus and have put them through the paces with mulch runs, bags of dirt, dogs, plants, split logs, and a number of other things.  I had a hardware guy argue with me one time about the number of bags of mulch and dirt my car could hold.  Finally, I just stopped talking and started loading.  He literally stood there with his mouth wide open as I threw in the last of the load.  I smiled, thanked him, then backed out as he stood there like a deer in the headlights.

10.  A comfy pair of overalls and/or shorts–for me, overalls are too hot in summer so I have to go to some cargo shorts.Anything I wear in the yard has to have enough pockets for spare objects, handfuls of birdseed, and my ipod.

11.  A good pair of gardening boots/clogs and outdoor sandals–again, rubber boots are great for messy jobs and cooler weather but send me into some hot flashin’ in the summer.  Love my daughter’s hand me down Merrell sandals.  Oh yeah, many a running shoe from my closet has been upcycled as well.

I am sure I will think of many more so be prepared for a follow up post in the next few days.  I always welcome your feedback so send me your comments, and I’ll check out back and see if it’s in the shed here.  If not, I’ll be off to get one right away!

lessons learned: pullin’ weeds

I am always amazed how words work their way into my life at just the right time.  I stumbled upon this one by chance and thought I’d repost.

You must weed your mind as you would weed your garden.  ~Terri Guillemet

He who hunts for flowers will finds flowers; and he who loves weeds will find weeds.  ~Henry Ward Beecher

It’s been a week of weed pullin’ around here.  With all of the cool rain followed by warm sun, the plants on the farm have grown higher and faster than their normal pace.dandelion

If I stand on my front porch, I can survey the little space I call my suburban farm.  Closest to the house are the perennial and native plant beds that I have cultivated for the 15 years we’ve lived here.  Beyond that, I can observe the onions and leeks, strawberries and berry bushes.  As the hill slopes towards the woods, the sunniest spot holds the place where tomatoes and peppers and herbs will thrive in hot summer heat.  Rounding out the shadier edges are the pea plants and greens, too delicate for long hours of sun.

From my front porch, all’s right with the world. Venturing to each bed, however, presents a different story.  Looking more closely, I find dandelions bullying the columbine and chickweed muscling in on the kale sprouts.  Everywhere I turn, I find unnecessary plants growing beside, on, and over my summer goodies.  Ugh!  Is an organic farmer’s work ever done?

This week, I had a few weeds of my own pop up in my  spiritual life.  Spiritual weeds, you ask?  Yes!  I define “spiritual weeds” as those words, actions or events that choke us and deprive of us of the nourishment we need for our souls.  Like dandelions or crabgrass, spiritual weeds aren’t necessarily intentional–their seeds just happen to land in our lives then take root and grow.  Then there are the plants that appear when we least expect them–an invader sneaking into our lives when we least expect it and sowing weeds here there and everywhere.

Before we know it, we are surrounded, and maybe even overwhelmed by, negativity, apathy, and bitterness.  We struggle to push past their broad leaves and and invasive roots so that we can return to our spiritual center.

Granted, we will always have weeds in our lives.  It’s part of creation, but this week, mine seemed to take hold and dig in.  So what did I do?  I started pullin’.

Pullin’ weeds requires a bit of intentionality and grace.  To complete the task, you’ve got to have the right tools but also be very careful.  Go in there fast and furious, and you end up sacrificing some of the good plants along the way.  I find that if I step back from the situation, assess the issue, then proceed with caution, I can usually extract the culprit without damaging any of the resources that support my spirit.

It’s better to pull a weed when it’s young rather than letting it mature and hoping it will go away on all its own.  I find that if I manage the situation proactively, then I don’t have to get the situation under control reactively.

Finally, pullin’ weeds doesn’t have to happen if you don’t plant yourself near the weeds in the first place.  As my good friend used to say, “Why go borrowin’ trouble?”  Oh yes, the weeds will always be there, but we don’t necessarily have to sow our spirit among them.

As for me this week, I gave a little yank here and a big tug there.  I gently tended to the things that would help me continue to grow, and I found myself a little more at peace.

gentle gardeners and creation care

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 ( 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.

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 contemplated 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.veggies in bowl

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.

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.

dirty hands, peaceful heart

My hands are small, I know
But they’re not yours, they are my own

~Jewel, “Hands”

Raising a teenage daughter comes with it many interesting gifts and graces, and I am also learning to appreciate (to be read: “tolerate”) the feedback she likes to offer about my wardrobe and such.  Typically, anything I do or wear is “embarrassing,” and I figure if I evoke that emotion in my teen, then I’m doing something right.

Although she is not consumed by makeup, the girl does love her nail polish.  It is as much of an accessory to her as her jewelry.  I, on the other hand, am just happy if I can keep my nails short and clean–”the better to garden with, my dear” I tell her.gardener hand

After she asked me to consider painting my nails last night, I sat and inspected my fingers.  These are the hands of a woman who clearly spends time outside.  There are scrapes on the back of my right hand where I reached in between some blackberry vines to grab weeds and came out a little scathed.  My thumb has a cut on the knuckle from a rock I was rearranging in the lettuce spiral.  My nails are short, my cuticles are dry, and my skin is freckled.  None of which I would trade for anything in the world, given how I’ve come to earn these hands.

These hands can reach into a fresh soil without any worries of chipping nail polish. These hands can build a vertical garden without concern of a broken nail.  These are hands with stories to tell and food to share.  These hands can plant, hammer, rake, hoe, dig, and harvest–these hands make me happy.

So the next time my teen stares at my hands as if they are simply pitiful, I’ll just smile, hoping that one day she’ll trade in her finely lacquered nails for a bit of dirt or at least a very cool pair of gardening gloves!