a story to tell

After I arrived home from work tonight, I journeyed my away around the gardens.  It is amazing how an early afternoon shower then warm sun can perk up the plants and stimulate new growth.  As I made my away around each bed, I reflected joyfully on the stories of various flowers, vegetables and fruit–why I had chosen them, what they meant to me, why I cultivated them.  It offered me more than a trip down memory lane–it connected me back to creation and back to my spirit.

summer.2016.daylily closeup in sun

Day lilies–growing up, my parents planted these down the long driveway from the large pine tree we used to climb all the way to the garden made of glass bricks from my great grandfather’s home.  And while many folks call them “plain” or “common,” I never cease to be amazed by their rich fiery palette.

summer.2016.early blueberries

I had never intended to cultivate blueberries, but a sale rack at a local hardware store several years ago got me started on this fruit.  Now, these go into my best-selling blueberry lemon lavender jam, but I leave a few on the bushes for the birds who come looking for a sweet treat now and again.

summer.2016.first tomato

Doesn’t matter that I plant these yearly, I am always excited by the first tomato as it reminds me that summer is not far behind.

summer.2016.garlic harvested

My love affair with growing garlic began by chance a few years ago when I buried a few cloves in the ground in November.  I watched green shoots withstand winter snow and spring frost only to keel over dead in May.  Upon pulling the wilted greens out of the ground, I found I had bulbs of garlic in hand.  Since then, I plant garlic annually and continue to stand in awe each Spring harvest when I witness the magic of a single clove transformed into a full head.

summer.2016.lacinato kale

I have tried and tried to grow Lacinato kale (or dinosaur kale) for three years.  Yes, three years.  And this year, wow!  I have found the right spot, the right sun, and the right soil.  There is something to be said about the joy found in succeeding at growing a vegetable that has never made it past sprout stage.

summer.2016.lupine

When I became pregnant, I began searching for children’s books to accompany my already full library that I’d established as a preschool teacher.  In an antique store on a back shelf, I found the book Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney. While it’s not an antique, it quickly became of the my daughter’s favorite books as a child.  I have longed to grow lupine for just that reason, and after many attempts, succeeded by accident this past year with the luck of a butterfly seed mix.  Lupine takes 2 years to flower–yes, that will be a “Lesson Learned” post at a later date!

summer.2016.marigolds

I have never, I mean never, liked marigolds until this year.  And with age, I guess, comes wisdom and an acquired taste.  I have come to appreciate their potential for protecting tomatoes and their cheery warm blossoms.

summer.2016.sugar snap peas

Oh, sugar snaps, where to begin?!  My childhood was spent in our own backyard garden eating these off the vine.  These veggies inspired me to start a garden for my child, and sure enough, after a bit of coaxing, she came outside one day, tried one, and announced, “These are nothing like the ones in the store!  They’re delicious.”  And so began my love affair with organic gardening, homesteading, and creation care.

wintering

I’ve put the gardens to bed

and shored up the chicken coop.

I’ve stored the tools and stacked the pots behind the shed.

I’ve left the last of the coneflower dead heads reaching toward the sky,

in case finch and chickadee grow tired of the wild seed mix from the local hardware store.

I peer out across this tiny farm then turn slowly and head towards the house.

As I walk up the stairs, I begin to peel off layers of warmth,

first the gloves, then the scarf then the hat.

I set them to rest on the pew bench at the top of the stairs.

I put on my favorite warm socks and curl up on the couch

with my robin’s egg blue blanket that took two seasons to knit.

I am wintering.

I am resting in the comfort of my spirit.

I am reconnecting with my soul.

I am working my way back to self care.

I am wintering.

And come Spring, I’ll be ready to tend to the gardens and to the fruits of your spirit again.

lessons learned: country girls and laying hens

This morning, I trudged out in the dark to the chicken coop. I was up earlier than usual so I could get my daughter to school, and I was not yet coherent.  (Believe me, there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t lift up thanks for her having a car and a driver’s license.)

I did remember, however, that we’d had such a busy evening last night that I had forgotten to check the egg drawer.  After feeding the girls, I turned the corner and pulled open the drawer to find 2 eggs!

eggsExcitedly, I ran up the driveway, into the house, and over to my daughter’s room.  “We have green eggs!  Daisy is laying green eggs!”  With a half-smile dripping with sarcasm, my aspiring urbanite halfheartedly said, “Yay.” No matter, I embraced my little gift with tenderness and ran upstairs to text Brie.

Brie is the younger sister of my daughter’s boyfriend.  Unlike her brother and my daughter, Brie is all things country–cowboy boots, horses, and nature.  So last winter when she asked if I’d teacher her to raise chicks, I gave it some intentional thought and prayer.

You see, the first round of chickens we had a few years ago were very dear to me.  In many ways they symbolized a noteworthy transition in my life, not only from “gardens” to “farm” but also from dream to reality.  I loved those three girls dearly.

Then the October of their first year with us, I came home to find a raccoon scurrying up the drive.  Needless to say, they had not met a peaceful ending, and I mourned that loss for quite some time.  While the coop sat in our side yard inviting me to consider others for its home, I couldn’t bear the thought of going through that experience again.

Then Brie came along.  A young girl teetering on the edge of tweendom, and she wanted to raise chicks.  The minute she planted the seed, many excuses filled my head and heart. Did I have time?  Did I want another responsibility?  How could we do it this time with dogs in our home?

In the end though, I realized that all the reasons I gave myself were just means of protecting myself from the possibility of sadness and loss again. What I came to appreciate in this self-reflection was that I had grown in my awareness of the circle of life and of myself.

And so, by April 3, we had baby chicks.

The last several months have been delightful as I’ve observed not only Brie, but also my daughter and her boyfriend take ownership of these new feathered friends.  In turn, the hens have come to trust us, in spite of two yapping dogs, and they will follow us around the yard or allow strangers to feed them close at hand.

But there is something about the first egg from Scout and the first egg from Daisy that have stopped me in my tracks to lift up a bit of thanksgiving–not only for being a part of this little bit of creation but also for a tween “country girl” who dared to dream.