Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Harvest Undeserved

Today's harvest

Beginning last April, I maintained a vegetable garden. I spent time throughout the summer weeding, watering, and fertilizing. With abundant daily harvests, I froze some of the bounty and gave some away, yet still had enough to preserve jars of pickles, jalapenos, and salsa.

The pleasure was not only in the harvest, but also in the tending. Hours might pass while I pruned tomato plants or spaded in more compost. Pulling out deep-rooted, pernicious Bermuda grass was especially satisfying. 

About mid August my work schedule stepped up, and evenings as well as days were consumed with interviews and reports. Garden maintenance suffered. High winds knocked down the 5’ tomato cages, and I couldn’t replant them properly. So by late September, the garden was not only weed-ridden, but the once-tall tomato plants were twisted askew with unpruned tomato stems and shoots growing through the wire cages at all angles. It was depressing. I quit spending time on it entirely and simply went out to harvest every week. Or two. Or three.

Today the garden caught my eye. I examined the tomato vines, an inseparable, crazy tangle, and spied ripe tomatoes and numerous blooms. I looked at the parsley, basil, thyme, and rosemary. Is it possible these plants reseeded and matured again? For there, undaunted by the crowding Bermuda, grew healthy herbs. Parting the weeds, I saw red and green jalapenos and sweet peppers cheerfully hanging from sturdy stems, as if I’d been taking care of them all along.

In spite of my lack of attention, my good plants have carried on. As I harvested peppers and tomatoes, I felt grateful to a God who continues to be good to me even if I am neglectful; and who continues to bless, even though I am undeserving.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Hauling Hay

Since summer began, we here in Oklahoma have had thirty-five days of searing temperatures over 100 degrees. Our pasture grass first thinned, then browned, and is now crunchy and scorched. Without green pasture, the horses have been eating hay since early June.

But hay is hard to come by in these here parts. Farmers say their hay fields yielded only a third of what they cut last year. Demand is high and prices have soared. The farmers we bought from last year were sold out by the time we called in our order.

Fortunately, earlier this year our son-in-law had purchased property in Stilwell that included a hay meadow. When we learned he was baling his hay, we asked to buy 12 bales.

I think since we let him marry our daughter, he felt obligated to sell to us without inflating the price.

 On Saturday, we left before dawn for the 80-mile drive to Stilwell in order to meet Tom and his eldest, Wil, at the farm to haul some bales home.  

 Tom and Wil attach the hayfork to the tractor. 

Tom loads a round bale onto the tractor. 

Are you thinking, “There’s no way that big round bale will fit into that horse trailer”?

 Well, think again. Not only one, but two bales fit.

Are you thinking, “There’s no way that big round bale will fit into the bed of that pick-up”?

It fits.

Two more bales load onto Tom’s utility trailer.

The tractor gets put back to bed.

Pancho, Tom, and Wil secure tarps over the hay for the long drive home.


Tarnation. The spare was flat, too. It turns out the stem was brittle and had popped off. Tom drove into the next town to get it fixed. This good-looking cowboy relaxes until his dad returns.

In no time at all, the tire was replaced.

Pancho and I drove to town to fix the stems of the remaining tires, which were all brittle and about to come off, so said the repairman. While there, a man approached us and asked where we bought our hay, calling it "a prize." Another man patted the bale respectfully as he walked by the trailer. I felt like we'd won the lottery.

Once home, the horses helped themselves before we even turned off the truck. They are happy now. 

Thank you, Daughter Karen, for marrying a man who has a hay meadow. Thank you, Tom, for selling to us cheap. And though we are very grateful, may we take this opportunity to remind you that because she is so incredible and wonderful, um, you probably still owe us. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Garden Progress

One of my goals this year was to rework the vegetable garden. We didn't like the original design we created two years ago. Last year, since we didn't garden at all, the raised beds were an eyesore. 

 So we began the process of tear-down.

We torched the dead weeds and grass,

 expanded the borders with concrete blocks, 

 and hauled in a load of dirt, along with bucket after bucket of composted horse manure. I did lots of spading, roto-tilling, and weeding. I planted seeds and plants during tax time -- mid-April. 

 Today, it looks like this.

 I have two cucumber plants -- and one great cucumber so far.

Several types of peppers.

 Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. And also oregano, chives, cilantro, and basil. 

 Neat pathways.

 Onions, scallions, and shallots.

 Radishes. No one in my family likes radishes all that much, but I have to plant them for the short-term gratification. I have started eating radish sandwiches:  good brown bread, sweet butter, thinly sliced, cold radishes, and fleur-de-sol. . . yum. If you'd like to try one, I have some lovely radishes I could give you.

Tomatoes! BIG tomatoes! 

Plenty of tomatoes! 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Snuffling, Slobbering, Shedding

My Saturday list of things-to-do was long. I made coffee while mentally preparing for the hard work of getting my husband to help me spading through and weeding out the old garden. It would be challenging since we're expanding the garden area this year.

I sat down with my coffee and opened my email to see a notice from a friend of a friend on Facebook Marketplace:  "FOR SALE:  Handsome 6 month old bulldog. We're a missionary family of 6 traveling in a travel trailer and he just needs more space." It had been posted the day before.

I looked at the pictures and tears sprang into my eyes while my heart went thumpity-thump. "I could buy him today," I thought. I had been saving money to take Jack, our 1 1/2 year old Paint, to the vet to be gelded. "Springfield, Missouri, is what, three hours away?" I wondered. "We could drive there and back today and still be home by early afternoon."

My husband emerged from the bedroom and I didn't even say good morning. "Pancho, come here. You have to see this!" He looked at the pictures and suggested I call the owners to see if they'd already sold him.

They hadn't. So ended the Saturday To-Do list.

So here's the new baby.

He looks a lot like Buster Brown, our faithful friend of 9 years who died last year.

For two years now, an adopted Boston Terrier has lived with us.  His name was Buster, also, when we adopted him, so until Buster Brown died, we had two dogs named Buster. People used to ask me, "Do they both come running when you call them?" But no, once they figured out they had the same name, when I called, "Buster!" they thought, "She probably meant the other one." And neither of them came.

The missionary family who raised him from an infant named him "Big Boss," and affectionately called him Bosster.

Bosster. Buster. We tried to call him Boss or Bosster on our drive home from Springfield, but kept accidentally calling him Buster. Pancho said, "His dad's name is "Brightbull's Blaze of Glory," and he has that blaze of white across his back, so we should just call him Buster Blaze."

So it is.

An affectionate dog, Buster Blaze has taken to all of us very well, even Jack. Jack says, "Hey Bud, thanks for saving me from The Operation of Doom."

"Yeah, pal," says Buster Blaze. "You owe me."

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Forgiving and Being Forgiven

My sister and I play an ongoing game which began about fifteen years ago. I have come to think of it as The Worst Sister game. Each round ends when one of us calls the other in confession and exclaims, “Ha! I win!” The prize is the Most Horrible Person award. It’s kind of a sick game, really, I know, and we probably need professional help. (That much is certain, my husband is thinking.)

The one rule is that we can’t win intentionally, or by being our worst selves:  losing our tempers, saying ugly things, acting out in anger or frustration. No, the Most Horrible Person prize can be awarded only when failure has sneaked up and surprised us with mistakes, misunderstandings or memory lapses at which we are shocked and suddenly panicked. “What? Oh no! How did that happen!?”

Through the years, the “Ha! I win!” moments have come after missed appointments that were significant, gifts, actions, or motives that were misunderstood by others, advice given that went wrong, and forgotten special events.

I am the current holder of the award, the most recent winner. My round of play was so terrifying, so horrendous, that my sister’s response on the phone after my painful retelling was a quiet, “Oooh. I would never do that.”

Well, no, she didn’t really say that. Those are the words I heard in my head as I confessed to her the situation, my shame so great. She would never do what I did; I would never do what I did; no one would intentionally do what I did!

So, ha, my dear and only sister. I win.

My misdeed was a forgotten appointment, an important one. It could have had tragic and long-lasting consequences. Thankfully, it didn’t. But my unintentional failure troubled and offended someone important to me.

Of course I begged forgiveness. She would forgive me, but said she needed a little time. No doubt. Perfectly understandable. I felt humiliated and incredulous at my forgetfulness. I fell into a tailspin of uncertainty about remembering anything. I purchased and devoured a book titled, Why We Make Mistakes, searching for explanations and insight and help for the future. I furiously updated all calendars, computer alarms, phone alarms, and alarm clocks for even the most insignificant events and appointments.

I realized, then, after I fixed anything I could fix, that what I wanted and needed most was something entirely out of my control:  her forgiveness. And more:  her forgiveness and our reconciliation.

It took me some time to forgive myself. I relived the event of That Day again and again, but the reality would not be undone no matter how many alternate scenarios my mind constructed. That event, though, could not control my life or summarize who I was. My options were to see myself as a failure, or to see the event as a failure.

In only a few days, she came to me with forgiveness in her eyes, healing the wound of my shortcomings with an ointment of affirmation, affection, and confidence in me. She asked gently, “Would you be willing to try this again next Monday?” And I welcomed the bright grace of her restoration.

Thomas Merton said, “We do not really know how to forgive until we know what it is to be forgiven. Therefore we should be glad that we can be forgiven by others. It is our forgiveness of one another that makes the love of Jesus manifest in our lives, for in forgiving one another we act as He has acted towards us.”

Though I am the consistent winner of the Most Horrible Person award in The Worst Sister game, I have repeatedly been the recipient of a different and altogether valuable prize:  forgiveness. Whether I receive it for my unintentional failures or for my worst behaviors, being forgiven replaces stagnant regret with a wellspring of charity and gratitude that bubbles up, clean, glad, bright, alive, spilling out and washing onto the souls of those involved in their own dark Worst Person games, wounded and defeated by their own set of failures. Experiencing forgiveness, both given and received, is experiencing the Divine.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Great Deal for Gardeners

Lately, what I know is horse poop.

I heard you snicker, but I’m being serious here. Now that we own two horses, if I don’t regularly remove the fertilizer from the field, the aesthetic of the pasture suffers. So I muck not only the horse barn, but the entire pasture, as well. It looks tidier, and I have learned that there are other benefits of manure management.

I have no recollection of ever considering this subject previous to horse ownership. It would have fallen into my neural file folder titled “To Avoid.”  But I have discovered it has elemental and organic characteristics that I appreciate.

I remove at least eight large muck buckets full of manure per week. That’s upwards of 300 lbs. every seven days. It isn’t malodorous. It doesn’t stick to your shoes or boots. It crumbles underfoot. Mixed with summer’s grass clippings, fall’s dry leaves, and hay, it quickly decomposes into a nutrient rich material that improves soil structure, texture, aeration, and water retention. In the past, I paid good money to gardening centers for large bags of this same material to enrich my flower and vegetable gardens.

On eBay today, one can purchase field aged, shredded horse manure from Colorado as a “superior substrate” for growing mushrooms. A 10 lb. bag costs $25.00 and ships for $16.94.

So have I got a deal for you:  I will sell you 10 lbs. of Oklahoma specially composted organic horse manure for only $20.00 (shipping $16.94). If you’re local to the Northeastern Oklahoma area, you can just come by and pick it up to save the shipping fees. I’ll reduce the price if you buy larger quantities, and I might help you shovel it into bags.

So come on by. You won’t find me growing mushrooms, though. I’m too busy managing the manure.

“Motivated Seller - price is negotiable. Make me an offer!”