Deep Bed Mulching…Check!

Even though it ended with me completely drenched from the rain, I am thrilled to have deep-bed mulched almost all of my section of the back garden this afternoon.  It was a lot of work, because I waited too late in the season to do it (which meant having to mow or pull the weeds I’d allowed to get out of control).  And, to be honest, I was slightly tempted to mow the whole thing and just till it under.  BUT, it took me two years to convince Dave to leave a section of dirt for me to try my “hippie” approach for enriching the soil, reducing weeds and retaining moisture.  We’ve had remarkable success in this test area in the two years since I started it, but Farmer Dave is still reluctant to let go of time on the tractor for the rest of our garden space…and I completely understand.  I like driving our old John Deere 2010, too!
Today, I basically unrolled a huge round bale of hay that has been decaying at the edge of our woods for a number of years.  I then spread the rotting hay over the area that I had just mowed.  In some areas, I put down sections of newspapers under the hay, too, providing an additional barrier against the thistles that I’d allowed to establish.
In the past, I’ve mulched with grass clippings, soiled hay from our chicken coop and truckloads of dead leaves.  It’s a lot of work on the day we mulch it, but the energy it takes to maintain is almost nothing for the majority of the growing season.  Our plants stay moist in dry weather and don’t become overrun with weeds when the rains hang on.
For most of the rest of our gardens, I mulch in between rows after planting as opposed to covering the entire space each year.  This is still greatly beneficial, but driving that heavy tractor over it at the beginning and end of every season seems to undo some of the weed barrier and soil aeration that the deep bed mulching allows.
I ran out of hay before I could totally finish, but I know that, with all of the rain we’ve had, there will be plenty of grass clippings this week to fill in the gap.  It really feels good to have such a big job done!

Time to Plant

Ahhhh…planting season already.

Sometimes, in my brain, it sounds more like, “Awww…planting season…already”.

Other times, it resembles more of an, “Aaaaaaack!  Planting season!!  Already!”

Regardless of my current personal feelings on the situation, it is, indeed, time to plant in the State of Indiana.

Sigh.

We began putting in cool-weather crops a couple of weeks ago.  We followed up with a second planting of many of them today–beets, sugar snaps, radishes, leafy greens.  We also planted candy onions, kale, turnips, parsnips and kohlrabi.  A rainbow of seed potatoes were put in a week ago, and our rhubarb is coming up nicely.  The broccoli plants my husband started will be ready for the dirt in a week or so.  We should be able to sample our first little harvest of this season’s asparagus tonight.

I struggle to comprehend that it is once again time to plant the produce that it seems like I just finished putting up for winter.  I seem to have lost an entire month…or two.

Lately, I am increasingly aware of how quickly each day passes.  Weeks that used to seem to meander along are now gone in what seems like moments.  I am trying to hold on to the routine, the mundane, the essence of what our life here at home has always seemed to be while still embracing the changes that teenage children bring.

I’ll be honest:  I miss my little ones.  I miss their simplicity and wonder and snuggles.  I miss bedtime stories and tickle times and three meals together each and every day.  I don’t resent the changes that have come with having older children, and I do not wish things were different, but I genuinely miss those days of sticky fingers and blowing bubbles and three sweet kids being scrubbed in the tub.

I am so thankful that I was able to spend my days at home with them.  I wouldn’t change that for the world.  However, if I could do it all over again, I would choose to be even more present in the moment.  I would choose even more long, lazy walks, even more times together bundled up in the snow, more times looking into their eyes and telling them who God has created them to be.  I’d let go of more of the lesser things and hold more tightly to the greater.  I’d play more.  Cherish more.  Ask more.  Pretend more.

Listen more.

I’d commit to less outside of their world and do more in it.

I have never felt like I sacrificed myself when I chose to stay home with my kids.  Instead, I feel like I have been impacted in such a life-altering, faith-building, comfort-zone-stretching way that I am better for my investment in their lives.  They have softened me and challenged me and clarified for me in a way nothing else ever could.  I am seeing glimpses of the harvest in my children, and I am pleased and humbled.  They each shine in their own beautiful way even as they continue to learn and grow and navigate this garden of life.

I am so thankful that I took the time to sow when the soil was ready.  Lord, help me to tend to their fertile hearts with the fruits of Your Spirit.

 

 

Thing One and Thing Two

Let’s talk turkey.

Our little farm has adopted two poults who needed a new home.  They are Bronze domestics, and have been named Thing One and Thing Two.  I have been told that they are both females.  We shall soon see.IMG_6186

Since we acquired them last Tuesday, they have been tucked away in my basement under a light.  With the warmer temperatures today, I thought it was time to move them out to the garage.  They will still have the light as needed, but they can be without when the sun is shining on their little crate.  They seem to be pleased with their new digs…and my basement already smells much better.

A friend from college came to visit with her three little ones this week.  She cannot get over the fact that I plan to care for these two only until I can eat them.  I asked her if she realized that someone cared for her food, too, until she got around to eating it.  She replied emphatically, “Yes!!  But in a FACTORY somewhere!!”  She smiled at the irony of her remark.  All real food has to be grown by someone.  I kind of like the personal nature of knowing my food before it gets to my plate.  To each his own, I guess.

Anyway, I’ve never raised this breed of turkey before, so this will be a learning curve for me.  I’ll keep you posted on any lessons I learn or excitement that comes our way.

Remembering Mr. Stamper

 

fallcreek I wasn’t sure what to think the first time I laid eyes on my new neighbor.  He had ridden across his property on his lawn mower, making a beeline for our little family.  I guessed him to be in his 70s, and he was wearing an old ball cap, worn out jeans and a tee shirt.  I was hot and tired.  I had just half-dragged and half-carried three (yes, three) children through the waist-high grass, briars and poison ivy while my husband waxed eloquent on his plans for our future home.  In his excitement, Dave walked about thirty steps in front me…blissfully solo…while I attempted to maneuver our young brood through the various hazards.  To make matters worse, I had just spotted my first tick crawling across our one-year-old’s neck.  Ugh

Enter Gene Stamper.  There was no guessing that this man was ready for a conversation.  He drove straight toward us, close enough that I was beginning to contemplate my escape route.  Fortunately, he didn’t drive very fast…and he eventually stopped about eight feet from us.  He began talking before he turned off the mower.

After a brief hi and howdy, he asked if we’d bought the property.  Dave told him we had.  After a somewhat lengthy pause in which Mr. Stamper removed his hat and scratched his head, he told us that he guessed that was all right with him…as long as we didn’t “build no [blankety-blank] Walmart”. 

From that day forward, every encounter with Mr. Stamper further endeared him to my family and to me.  Not only was his wife as sweet as she could be, but he had a certain…ornery charm…about him that grabbed hold of our hearts and made visits with him a true treat.  He was as genuine as a person could possibly be.  There was never any pretense, never any attempt to impress anyone else.  He loved my kids like a grandpa should, taking the time to share their interests and tell them stories about his childhood and his service in the Korean War.  He treated them with respect, taking pleasure in their conversation and teaching them how to sharpen mower blades or inflate bicycle tires.  He removed the deck of an old lawn mower so the kids could learn to drive on it when they were little.  He never tried to buy their affection, like many adults seem wont to do.  He just enjoyed them for who they are.  No strings attached.

Since our first introduction, Mr. Stamper called me “Theresa”…which I guess is a close second to my actual name, “Trista”.  For the first couple of years, his wife corrected him, without success.  He alternately called my daughter, Grace, by her actual name and by “Jessica” before simplifying things and eventually referring to her almost exclusively as “babe”.  He Round-Upped my shrubs and mowed over my flowers.  He fed suckers, sticks and all, to my dogs and invited them into his house, with muddy feet, for treats.  Over the years, his dogs have occasionally attacked my chickens, tormented my cats, bayed outside my window in the middle of the night and even forced their way into my house out of fear of a thunderstorm.  Mr. Stamper taught my kids words that they didn’t necessarily need to know, and he ran over a young tree or two on his mower.  He helped himself to whatever was growing in our gardens and orchards, greatly enjoying the harvest.  Most recently and with a twinkle in his eye, he offered to find a good-cookin’, good-lookin’, hard-workin’ wife for my son…who is thirteen.

I don’t know how many times I sat in my living room or on my front porch only to look up and see Mr. Stamper driving his mower across our property.  Oftentimes, a visiting friend would show surprise and comment about the “older gentlemen” driving through our orchard, yard, back acreage, etc.  I would smile and say that it was our favorite neighbor, Mr. Stamper, and I often followed up with a good story.  Here’s one of my favorites:

The fall after we moved into our new house, we were working diligently on seeding the yard.  It was a big job that required a good bit of time watering on my part.  I tried to make it fun by squirting the kids with the hose—or even letting them squirt me—but it was still tedious.  One morning I was singing—loudly—to entertain myself.  A couple of the kids were singing right along with me while they were playing on the front porch.  I don’t know how he caught us by surprise, but all of a sudden I heard a man’s deep voice right behind me.  I screamed bloody murder and jumped a foot off the ground, showering both Mr. Stamper and myself with very cold well water. I can’t, in good conscience, quote him word for word, but he did earnestly swear to never, ever, ever again catch me unawares.  From that day on, he came on his mower so I could hear him coming.  He was a man of his word.  His ears probably rang for two weeks from that scream.

Almost two weeks ago, Mr. Stamper lost his battle with cancer.  We knew it was coming, but it still seems like maybe, just maybe, it didn’t happen.  I worked outside all afternoon on Sunday, and there were times I stopped and actually listened for his lawn mower to tell me of his whereabouts.  I can’t make sense of that in my head, but I sure can feel that empty hope in my heart.

Mr. Stamper was a committed husband, loving father and proud grandfather.  I’ve known his family for 11 years now, and I still can’t keep all of his nieces and nephews straight.  He loved them all and cherished their visits.  He was a sergeant in the Korean War and fought hard to keep other men alive.  He made friends everywhere he went, always willing to learn something new and share some of what he’d learned.

As a parent, I believe that one of the greatest gifts anyone can give me is to value my children.  That’s what Gene did.  He enjoyed them for who they are and offered them what he could of his own life.  He left them a legacy of respect, patriotism, acceptance, hard work, laughter, and, yes, a little bit of mischief.

When people acted surprised by Mr. Stamper’s boldness in helping himself to our farm fare, I would always say that he was welcome to whatever we had.  He didn’t ask for anything from our family.  He just gave of himself.  That was worth whatever he could eat in tomatoes and peaches.

How we will miss that beautiful, ornery old man.

 

Sunday Sunshine

 

rows

I just put my first seeds of the season in the ground.  Beets, Swiss chard, sugar snap peas, spinach.  Dave planted some leaf lettuce a few days ago, so we can look forward to that before long.  I could eat a bowlful of all of it right now.  Fresh garden fare sounds so good!  Even though we only eat a few every year, my son and I also planted some radishes in memory of our good friend, Mr. Stamper.  We always made sure he got the first of our radish crop.  He would’ve loved to be out tooling around on his mower on a day like today.   

I pulled weeds, dug thistles and transplanted some forgotten shoots of garlic and a few overlooked onions.  The weather was perfect and I didn’t even ask for the kids’ help for the first couple of hours that I spent cleaning out raised beds.  I let them play in the treehouse, love on the dogs and sing silly songs at the tops of their lungs.  With three teenagers in the house, these days of childhood are fleeting.  I want to soak it all in like my bare faced soaked in the warmth of today’s spring sun.  I love these times with my family.

My brother told me he’d be eating asparagus out of his patch tomorrow.  When I checked mine, I saw absolutely nothing that made me optimistic about our own harvest in the near future.  This is a tally mark in his garden “win” column, which already puts me behind this season.  I’m going to have to make up time and get the jump on him somewhere else.  My rhubarb looks like it’ll be ready for a crisp later this week, but I don’t think my brother will count rhubarb as something worth harvesting. 

Eventually, Dave called the girls over to help him dig trenches for more asparagus roots; they should be in and ready to plant in a week or two.  I enlisted my son’s help in planting seeds and mulching between rows.  We’re using hay from a rotten bale for mulch.  We tried it last year and were pleased with the results.  A little bit of extra work on the front end sure saves a lot of weeding and watering in the heat of the summer months.  We learn something new every year.  More often than not, our greatest lessons come from our failures.  It’s nice to learn from a success from time to time.

Rain is in the forecast tomorrow—a lot of it, too.  On top of all of the rain we got last week, I guess I may be mudding in the remainder of my spring crops later in the week.  Maybe things will dry out by Wednesday or Thursday.  Either way, the bug has bitten, and I am compelled to be working in the dirt.

I’ve had a rough several months.  I’ve felt rubbed raw by life.  Invisible.  Vulnerable.  Dispensable.  There are a lot of reasons for this, some valid and some not so much.  And, to be honest, life goes on.  Today, out in the sunshine and the soil, I considered my purpose.  I was reminded of the cycle of life and that there is work involved in living well.  Even the smallest, most insignificant seed can flourish when fed well, watered faithfully and showered in light.  That’s what I want to keep choosing for myself and for my family—the things that will help us flourish.

 

Sick Days

Today is the first day in twenty-three days that no one in my family has run a fever or exhibited some new symptom of illness.

Hallelujah!

We are not normally a sick group, but February has been hard on us.  Lingering colds, influenza, stomach yuck.  It’s been a long month.  Due to influenza, my son ran a 102-103 degree fever for seven days.  As soon as the fevers went away, his viral-related asthma kicked in.  For days, he was not able to talk without an ensuing coughing fit.  This morning, for the first time in over a week, I heard him laugh his true, unfaltering laugh.  The cough eventually followed, but there was enough of a delay that he was able to finish his laugh.  I am so thankful.

Over the past few weeks, those of us who are feeling okay have divided up the chores of those who are not.  This has been a fluid thing–one in which we all rotate doing what must be done and try to overlook what can be ignored.  Every day, after the animals have been fed and the breakfast things have been put away, we disinfect the house.  We wash blankets and hand towels and sheets that have lined the couches.  We sanitize light switches and doorknobs and handles and faucets.  I don’t know that it has helped, but I need to do something.

We have canceled plans, mandated rest, drank water, popped pills, choked down apple cider vinegar, smeared vapor rub, mandated more rest, administered essential oils, guzzled vats of bone broth, taken mega-milligrams of Vitamin C and mandated more rest.

We have watched documentaries on a variety of animals, Nellie Bly and The Dust Bowl.  We have listened to most of the Chronicles of Narnia on CD.  We have watched musicals, westerns, fairy tales, action films and episodes of Little House on the Prairie.  We have watched more television in these four weeks than we have in the past six months.

Oh, wait.  One of my children just came and showed me a developing rash.

So much for no new symptoms.

As much of a hassle as this month has been for me, and as disappointing at it has been for us to miss out on so many highly-anticipated engagements, I am thankful.  I am thankful that this has been one cruddy, inconvenient month and not a series of life-threatening crises.  I’m thankful that these illnesses are light and momentary–that we have the modern conveniences to make them bearable–even moderately pleasant.  I am thankful for hot running water and fresh citrus fruits and indoor laundry facilities and television and easy, inexpensive access to fever-reducing medications.

One time, just before my son turned four, we noticed a squishy spot on his skull.  It was a delayed result from a fall he’d had a couple of days earlier.  After a long day of tests, scans and waiting at a local hospital, we were told to take him to a well-known children’s hospital about an hour away.  We were able to drive him ourselves, and we arrived at about 11:30 that night.  The staff was ready for us, so we followed the nurse through the darkened waiting room to get to the exam room.  As worried as I was about my now-sleeping son, I was overcome with gratitude that night.  As we quietly walked past child after chronically ill child, a lump formed in my throat.  These little ones with their bald heads, wheelchairs, IVs and oxygen tanks were regulars.  I could see it in the lines on their parents’ faces and in the resignation in the children’s eyes.  My son, with his one-time head injury was the doctor’s priority when these little ones were fighting for their lives on a day-by-day basis.  For some strange reason, I felt guilty about that.  To be honest, I sometimes still do.

Life is truly a matter of perspective.  Sometimes, I let the fatigue and frustration creep in and steal my optimism and start to eat away at my joy.  Sometimes, I feel like giving up and just giving in to whatever mood is on the horizon.  Then I remember to give thanks.  Oftentimes, gratitude makes the difference between joy and despair in our lives.

Our feelings will almost always follow our focus. 

Enough

008Do you ever feel like you are just not enough?  Not interesting enough or attractive enough?  Maybe not liked enough or capable enough or maybe you feel like you aren’t even fill-in-the-blank enough?

Bottom line is…you feel like you aren’t worth enough.

Enough for what?  For his attention or her approval?  Their respect or that promotion?  Her appreciation?  His time?  Their stamp of approval on your very existence?

Let me share with you a little secret:  They don’t get to decide.

You do.

You get to decide whether you want to buy the lie or cash in on the Truth.  No other opinion should matter.  This is what you have been promised.  The sacrifice has already been made.  The verdict is in.  Look it up if you don’t believe me.

God says you are…

…His child and co-heir in eternity (Romans 8:16).

…His masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10).

…His dwelling place (Psalm 46:4).

…a new creation (II Corinthians 5:17).

…blessed with every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3).

…an overcomer (Revelation 12:10-11).

…the light of the world (Matthew 5:14).

…more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37).

…chosen and precious (I Peter 2:4).

…royal and holy (I Peter 2:4).

…full of treasure (II Corinthians 4:7).

…free (II Corinthians 3:17).

…His (II Corinthians 1:21-22).

It’s time to make a choice.  Wallow in the lies or bask in His Truth.  Cower like a captive or fly in His freedom.

You are enough.