Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Preparing for Harvest -- time of Advent

This is advent, a time of waiting, a time of preparing.  It’s been over 2000 years since the birth of our savior yet we still set aside time to contemplate the coming of holiness born into our world—no longer something other, but a baby that demanded touch and care.

I am in awe of the invitation to ‘handle God in the body of a child.’ I am in awe of the invitation to eat with the child grown into the man. I am in awe at the patience of God. Year after year He re-invites us to all the humanness of Jesus, our savior.

Christmas is a yearly reminder of the greatest gift of all, of the unexpected ways of God, and the hope of just as unlikely a rescue in our own circumstances. Christmas is the beginning of the story of God’s love lived within humanity. 

I’m praying you have moments of overwhelming wonder at so great a love.

How does this relate to Garden Revelations?

I began thinking about winter as a time of waiting—a time of preparing the earth for the coming seed-sowing and harvest. The parallels seemed so right, but gardening seems of such small importance next to the birth of Jesus. 

Join me as we follow the thought through. 

In winter we prepare our soil and we wait. 
Winter garden -- waiting
            We prepare our hearts to re-receive the gift of Jesus.
In the winter we plan for the seeds and plants for our garden
            We wait and hope for the seeds of understanding from the Holy Spirit.

Same garden--Summer arrival --squash, corn & tomatoes
In the winter we dream of the harvest, forgetting time and energy limitations.

We dream of perfection, forgetting the tough love needed in the weeding process.
But as we prepare, we know so much depends on the weather. God alone controls the weather. Will adequate rain come? Will late freezes destroy? Will winds and hail wreak havoc? Will life circumstances allow us the time to care for what we plant? Only God knows the answers.
            In the joy and hope and love we anticipate the garden to come, accepting the peace and security that we and everything we attempt is in God’s hands.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Vegetable Planting Chart

The following chart is a combinations of charts borrowed from the TX Extention agency and a variety of other information added. 

The amount of seeds or plants suggested seems to be much larger than you would need if the seeds are the standard germination. It could be that they are allowing for over planting by at least twice or three times what you need so that you can later thin the plants and not waste time re-planting where there are gaps.

Also, I plant my rows in the minimum distance. Use the larger distance if you till to control weeds. I mulch to control weeds. I also plant double rows like beds.

This is a good start.

Vegetable seeds or plants per 100 feet Distance between rows (in.) Distance between plants (in.) Height of crop (feet) Spring planting relative to frost-free date  Fall planting weeks before first freeze date Days to Harvest Length of Harvest -days Yield per 100 feet  Optimum Soil tempera-ture  for planting  Family 
Asparagus 1oz seed --66 plants 36-48 18 5 before 4-6 weeks  not recom-mentded  730 days - (2nd year) 60 30 lb 65-80° Lily
Beans, Lima pole  1/4 lb seed  36-48 12-18 6 after 1-4 weeks  14-16 weeks 75-85 40 50 lb shelled 65-85° Leguminosae
Beans, Lima-bush  1/2 lb seed 30-36 3-4 1.5 after 1-4 weeks  8-10 weeks 65-80 14 25 lb shelled 65-85° Leguminosae
Beans, Shelling 1/2 lb seeds 30-36 4-6 2 after 1-4 weeks  not recom-mentded  90-120 N/A 100 lb 65-85° Leguminosae
Beans, snap-bush 1/2 lb seed 30-36 3-4 1.5 after 1-4 weeks  8-10 weeks 45-60 14 120 lb 60-85° Leguminosae
Beans, snap--pole 1/2 lb seed 36-48 4-6 6 after 1-4 weeks  14-16 weeks 60-70 30 150 lb 65-85° Leguminosae
Beets 1 oz seed 14-25 2 1.5 before 4-6 weeks  8-10 weeks  50-60 30 150 lb 50-75° Goosefoot
Broccoli 1/4 oz seed 24-36 14-24 3 before 4-6 weeks  10-16 weeks 60-80 40 100 lb 55-75° Brasica 
brussels Sprouts 1-4 oz seed 21-36 14-24 2 before 4-6 weeks  10-14 weeks 90-100 21 75 lb 55-75° Brasica 
Cabbaage  1/4 oz seed 24-36 14-24 1.5 before 4-6 weeks  10-16 weeks 60-90 40 150 lb 55-75° Brasica 
Cabbage-chinese 1/4 oz seed 18-30 7-12 1.5 before 4-6 weeks  12-14 weeks 65-70 21 80 heads 55-75° Brasica 
Carrot 1/2 oz seed 14-24 2 1 before 4-6 weeks  12-14 weeks 70-80 21 100 lb 55-80° Umbelliferae 
Cauliflower 1/4 oz seed 24-36 14-24 3 not recom-mended  10-16 weeks 70-90 14 100 lb 55-75° Brasica 
Chard, Swiss 2 oz seed 18-30 6 1.5 before 2-6 weeks 12-16 weeks  45-55 40 75 lb 50-75° Goose-foot
Collard 1/4 oz seed 18--36 6-12- 2 before 2-6 weeks 8-12 weeks 50-80 60 100 lb 55-75° Brasica 
Corn--sweet 3-4 oz seeds  24-36 9-12 6 after 1-6 weeks 12-14 weeks 70-90 10 10 doz 60-85° Umbelliferae 
Cucumber  1/2 oz seed 48-72 8-12 1 after 1-6 weeks 10-12 weeks 50-70 30 120 lb 65-90° Cucurbita 
Eggplant  1/2 oz seed 30-26 18-24 3 after 2-6 weeks  12-16 weeks  80-90 90 100 lb 75-90° nightshade
Garlic 1 lb 14-26 2-4 1 not recom-mended  4-6 weeks 140-150 N/A 40 lb N/A Fall  planting Lily
Kale 1/8 oz 18-36 4-6 1 before 4-6 weeks  4-6 weeks 50-80 60 100 lb 55-75° Brasica 
Kohlrabi 1/4 oz seed 14-24 4-6 1.5 before 2-6 weeks 12-16 weeks  55-75 14 75 lb 55-75° Brasica 
Lettuce  1/4-oz seed 18-24 2-3 1 before 6 weeks after -2 wk 8-10 weeks 30-80 21 50 lb  40-70° Compositae 
Muskmelon/ Cantaloupe 1/2 oz seed 60-96 24-36 or 3 to a hill  1 after 1-6 weeks 14-16 weeks  85-100 30 100 melons 70-85° Cucurbita 
Mustard 1/4 oz seed  14-24 6-12 1 1/2 after 1-6 weeks 10-16 weeks 30-40 30 100 lb 40-75° Brasica
Okra 2 oz seed 36-42 12-24 6 after 2-6 weeks 12-16 weeks  55-65 90 100 lb 70-90° Malva 
Onion  (seed) 1 oz seed 14-24 2-3 1 1/2 before 6-8 weeks  8-10 weeks 90-120 N/A 100 lb 55-75° Lily
Onion (plants) 400-600 plants  14-24 2-3 1 1/2 before 4-10 weeks not recom-mentded  80-120 N/A 100 lb N/A  Lily
Parsley 1/4 oz seed 14-24 2-4 1/2 before 1-6 weeks  6-16 weeks  70-90 90-365 30 lb 50-75° Umbelliferae 
Peas - Southern 1/2 lb seed 24-36 4-6 2 1/2 after 2-10 weeks 10-12 weeks 60-70 30 40 lb 40-75° Leguminosae
Peas--English 1 lb seed 18-36 1 2 before 2-8 weeks 2-12 weeks 55-90 7 20 lb 40-75° Leguminosae
Pepper 1/8 oz seed 30-36 18-24 3 after 1-8 weeks  12-16 weeks  60-90 90 60 lb 70-90° Nightshade
Potato - Irish 6-10 lb seed potatoes 30-36 10-15 2 before 4-6 weeks  14-16 weeks 75-100 N/A 100 lb N/A  nightshade
Potato - sweet 75-100 plants  36-48 12-16 1 after 2-8 weeks  not recom-mentded  100-130 N/A 100 lb 55-70° Convolvul
Pumpkin 1/2 oz seed 60-96 36-48 1 after 1-4 weeks  12-14 weeks  75-100 N/A 100 lb 65-80° Cucurbita 
Radish 1 oz seed 14-24 1 1/2 before- 6 weeks after 4 weeks 1-8 weeks  25-40 N/A 100 bunches  45-80° Brasica 
Spinach 1 oz seed 14-24 3-4 1 before 1-8 weeks 2-16 weeks 40-60 40 3 bushels  45-70° Goosefoot
Squash - summer 1 oz seed 36-60 18-36 3 after 1-4 weeks  12-15 weeks 50-60 40 150 lb 65-85° Cucurbita 
Squash - winter 1/2 oz seed 60-96 24-48 1 after 1-4 weeks  12-14 weeks 85-100 N/A 100 lb 65-85° Cucurbita 
Tomato, determinate 1-/8 oz seed or 25-30 plants  36-48 36-48 3-5 after 1-8 weeks 12-14 weeks 70-90 40 100 lb 70-90° nightshade
Tomato, in-determinate 1/8 oz seed or 12-16 plants 36-72 6-8 4-6 after 1-8 weeks 12-14 weeks 60-90 60 150-200 lb 70-90° nightshade
Turnip - greens 1/2 oz seed 14-24 2-3 1 1/2 before 2-6 weeks 2-12 weeks 30 40 50-100 lb 55-75° Brasica
Turnip - roots 1/2 oz seed 14-24 2-3 1 1/2 before 2-6 weeks 2-12 weeks 30-60 30 50-100 lb 55-75° Brasica
Watermelon 1 oz seed 72-96 36-72 1 after 1-6 weeks 14-16 weeks  80-100 30 40 melons 70-85° Cucurbita 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

How Long?

Each day, with the heat so early stealing the joy of being in the garden, my mind has turned to plans for the next season.  I’m reading and re-reading gardening books like a woman needy and alone might read novels of romance and rescue.

When the rains return, I will plant my garden in a new design; I will plant with the idea of beauty as well as produce; I will try new seed varieties. I daydream.

When the rains return…
            And I yearn for the beauty and bounty of the past.

I would grow squash just for their beauty.

An overview of years past

Raised bed last year

sweet potatoes mingle with the squash and basil goes to seed
How long, Lord? How long until the rain comes, until Your promises of Joel 2 is our reality.

I wondered who and why people in the scripture asked, “How long?” It’s a common question found in 25 books. God asks the question of us, and we ask of Him. 

But surprisingly to me, God asks us, “How long?” as often as we ask Him.
How long will you refuse to humble yourself, to believe in Me in spite of the miracles I perform, to keep My commands? How long will you treat Me with contempt, will you waver between two opinions, will you turn My glory into shame? How long will you love delusions and seek false gods?

Jesus asks, “Unbelieving generation, how long will I stay with you?”

When Jeremiah asked God how long will the land lie parched, and the grass in every field be withered? …”

God answered, “If you have run with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses?”  Jer. 12:4-6

In other words, “If you can’t trust me now, what are you going to do when things get worse?”

I don’t know if our weather, our economy, or our political chaos will worsen.  

What I do know is that I must plant my heart deep in the response, “I trust You beyond my understanding, my Savior, my Redeemer, and my Provider.”

And I return to my books and my daydreams of taking care of my little plot of land better with more beauty and more produce.

One of my favorite books is “The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times by Carol Deppe. She describes every detail of gardening with an obvious love for the earth and the plants and a respect for both nature and the gardener.
The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times                                        
She begins by elaborating on our uncertain times, from climate change or economic necessity, to health or time restraints. Then she moves quickly into the 33 Golden Rules of Gardening. These include support, experiment, and notice everything, giving us such inviting detail that every rule becomes a means to a satisfying experience.

The chapter, Labor and Exercise is about designing and organizing our gardening to encourage healthful exercise while at the same time minimizing total work, meaning unnecessary, inefficient, ‘unfun’ work, and the probability of injury.

Soil and Fertility offers not only the usual discussion about using legumes to fix
 nitrogen in the soil, but times when that doesn’t make sense. She offers many alternatives and lists ways to avoid wasting fertility. One subtitle is On Not Buying, with help on evaluating exactly what you need.

When reading her descriptions of the right potato or squash or bean, you’re mouth is watering for those tastes. Did you know there are pop-beans not only popcorn?

This book gives beginning gardeners a strong foundation and seasoned gardeners will relish it for all the extras they will glean.

Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties: The Gardener's & Farmer's Guide to Plant Breeding & Seed SavingBreed Your Own Vegetable Varieties: The Gardener's & Farmer's Guide to Plant Breeding & Seed Saving is another book I'm anxious to read by Carol Deppe.  

Friday, August 5, 2011

When God Gives You Rinds, Make Pickles!

My volunteer watermelon vines produced wonderful fruit with a variety of different sizes. One was 29.8 lbs.  I just call it a “30 pounder.”

  Even this heat-loving plant didn’t produce as many melons as I would have expected. Since they volunteered from last year’s volunteers, I have no idea what kind they are. When I opened them I was disappointed at how thick the white rind was.

It would have been perfect if I wanted to make “Watermelon Rind Pickles.” I didn’t consider it with the first harvest. Now I might.: 

Pickled Watermelon Rind
1 6-lb watermelon
6 c water
2 Tbs sea salt, divided
1 tsp pickling spice
3 1/3-inch slices fresh ginger
2 whole clove
2 whole allspice
1 3-inch cinnamon stick
1 1/4 c sugar
1 c white vinegar
Peel outer green layer from watermelon rind.
Cut rind into 1/2-inch pieces. Bring water and 5 tsp. salt to boil in large saucepan.
Add rind. Reduce heat and simmer 15 min. or until crisp-tender.
Drain rind and place in large bowl.
Tie up spices in cheesecloth and place in a saucepan.
Add 1 tsp salt, sugar and vinegar; bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves.
Pour hot vinegar mixture over rinds. Cool to room temp. Cover and chill 12 hours.
Strain liquid from rind mixture and bring to a boil.
Return rind pieces and spice bag to room-temp bowl and pour boiled liquid over them
Chill at least 8 hours before serving.
Refrigerate up to 2 weeks.----from Joanne Cheshier

I’m chagrined to realize how I’ve evaluated this gift from God.
I did nothing to make them grow except identify the vine and not pull it up. I’ve gotten five watermelons staggered so that we can eat and share before the next one must be harvested. And I’m bemoaning the size of the rind?!

I think I need to re-read my Bible, especially the part about learning to be content in all circumstances. (Philippians 4:11) 

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Cowpen Daisy

a bouquet to enjoy
Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot." NIV

My sense of beauty is wilder than most. If something flowers, I want it to live. Only if it rudely pushes in, taking over space already promised to something else do I sorrowfully admit it might be a weed.

When water is in abundance, I often allow a bit of intrusion. The usurper’s beauty gives it privileges mere grasses never obtain.  

It’s a luxury I’ve taken for granted, like the rain.

With nine months of drought and stage five water conservation, I carefully measure where and what I water. Under my fruit trees where I laid the soaker hose, a beautiful patch of Golden Crownbeard, also known as ‘Cowpen Daisy,’ sprang up.

Golden Crownbeard
With such few wildflowers, I wondered, “Do I leave them? A mass of yellow daisies dancing in the breeze makes me smile. Maybe they are shading the ground and conserving water. Crownbeards only need water about once a month to survive. Does that mean they don’t drink it if it is there?
Vibrant green Crownbeard

 Probably not. Their normal color is a gray-green. Where I watered they are bright green. Reluctantly, I admit I remember more about these shaggy daisies. They shade out native vegetation and produce chemicals toxic to most other plants.  

Instead of feeling joy and satisfaction as I look at this growing mass of green, I feel guilt. With resigned heart I pull the flora. It is still a ground cover except where it stood, it now lays.
The deed is half done—mulch instead of life—I don’t know if I can do the rest.
Mulched Golden Crownbeard
But it is mulch adding and giving life, conserving instead of using water and nutrients. With that thought, I can finish the task tomorrow or the maybe the next day.

The consolation: Each plant self-pollinates and makes about 350 seeds waiting for a chance to sprout at a better time and place.

For instance, if these weeds were isolated to a neglected spot where there was a need to block out other vegetation and yet offer a great show of yellow blossoms, it would be perfect. But they are destructive left to grow under my fruit trees.

In times of need, sacrificing some pleasures sustains life.

Lord, give us wisdom and discernment in the way we use Your gifts. 

Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region by Region
Beautifully illustrated with
sections for each Texas region

A Field Guide to Southwestern and Texas Wildflowers (Peterson Field Guide)

A Field Guide to Southwestern and Texas Wildflowers (Peterson Field Guide)
Easy to use field guide with
some colored illustrations as well
as line drawings. Categorized
 by color of blossom.

Nut Grass

newly emerged nut grass

“How do you get rid of nut grass?” the caller asked the radio gardening show host.

“You have to go all the way to hell to get rid of those suckers.” He answered.

And goodness, I think it is true. I dig and pull and think everything is clean only to find new blades sticking through the earth a few days later.

Connected by wiry runners--all coming up together
This morning I was working my dry sandy ground and thinking this is the time to pull weeds because they all come up. At least, so many come up together it gives the illusion you are getting them all.

Nut grass with wiry runners
My mind wondered to times of hunger and need for survival. I’ve always thought if God gives us lots of something there must be a use for it. The Native Americans used the ‘nut’ of the root like we use coffee beans. It looks like a knot between the different runners so I wondered how they cleaned it. I smiled as I thought B12 is found in soil. They had no problem getting theirs.

I observed the root system as I pulled out half a dozen sprouts connected by their underground runners.

top root--wiry, middle root--rope like, bottom root- brittle
Where the earth is bone dry, the roots are like wire, strong and holding tight to the next sprout. Even if that next ‘sprout’ looks dead, the root continues to the next and the next until there is some sign of life. Wherever there is a tiny bit of life, it reaches out to the next, sharing its supply of moisture and nutrients, holding on, and surviving together.

Closer to the vegetables, where there is more moisture, the roots became more rope like. They are more likely to break connection.

Where the water was more abundant, the connecting roots were almost brittle, traveling just as far, but with far less energy put into creating a strong grasp. When you pull or dig the grass, you are likely to hear a distinct snap. You know another healthy plant is left behind to plague you in a few days when it shows itself.

In God’s plan, when the need is greater, the ties are tougher. They may not be obvious on the surface, but where survival of their kind depends on it, they hold on.

It is God’s plan for us, also. We see it when love works as God planned it. We hold on tight when there is greatest need, when there is illness, or relational crisis, or financial disaster, or even spiritual dryness. We hold on and share the hope and promises of the Spirit. We hold on and let sustaining life flow from one dead-looking heart to the next. How can we know what life is lying dormant or from what direction the outpouring of water will come to quench our own thirst when we’re in want?

Heavenly Father, we are all in need of water for our earth. In this drought stricken area, we cry out to You for rain. Less visible, but no less life-giving, we need the rain of Your Holy Spirit. Refresh our human spirit. In the name of Jesus, by the Holy Spirit, refresh us, Father. Amen.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Does God Miss Me?

"...I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness."  Jeremiah 31:3

Surprise visitor in my strawberries
The dark rabbit appeared sometime in the spring. Several times I caught a glimpse of her and thought she was a neighbor’s cat.

One day, seeing it nibbling in my strawberry patch, I looked through my binoculars to see if that cat really was eating my plants. There sat a luscious brown—almost black—rabbit!
tentative rabbit
No wonder we weren’t getting any strawberries!

But it was so beautiful; I went out with my camera to capture some images.   She—who knows if it’s a ‘she’ or ‘he’—ran a safe distance, then stopped.

As the days passed, she seemed to come out of hiding when I was in the garden, as if she liked being close to someone. One day she hopped over and smelled my shovel, then my feet.

patient rabbit with kids
We’ve become friends. After I discovered she likes apples, I carry a thinly sliced one with me each morning. Eventually, she makes her way over and eats it from my hand.

At daybreak she meets me, except the day after four grandkids followed her all over the garden. She didn’t show herself for a few days then. After our Chihuahua surprised her by our back screened-in porch and went crazy barking, she didn’t return for a while. 
Lilah, our Chihuahua

Once in a while, for no known reason, she’s absent. I miss her presence, her ‘drunken sailor’ hopping over to where I’m working. After I’ve finished for the day, I keep looking out the back door, wondering if she’s come late.

As I realized how much I look forward to seeing her each day, how disappointed I am to have a sliced apple but no rabbit to eat her share, I sucked in a deep breath of understanding.
Rabbit keeping me company

Does God delight when I move closer to Him? Does He miss me when I don’t come to sit in His presence? Has He prepared something for me and I’m not available to share it with Him?

Does God, with all His wisdom, love, fore-knowing, and plans for good, long for me with intensity I can’t even comprehend?

Lord God, thank You for the marvelous rabbit. Thank You for the gift of a glimpse of Your longing for me. Amen

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Weeding Life

After The Closer Walk Christian Bookstore closing, three weeks with grandkids and other family and friends, I am beginning to focus on future hopes and plans. 

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting." Psalm 139:23-24

Trying to imagine a structure for a life free from the boundaries of store hours, I wrote in my journal:
 Immediate goals:
My overgrown garden
Weed garden,
weed house,
weed spiritual habits,
weed eating habits.

Even in a time of no water, somehow weeds grow. It is always a gift to play in the dirt but oh, how dry the dirt is! As I began untangling watermelon vines from grass, lambs quarter, grass burrs and morning glory vines, I realized I was so far behind, if we’d had rain, it would have been hopeless.

Weeds come out easily in the powder of my sandy soil, the roots shed the dirt and the top soil remains. Yet, I know some roots remain, eluding my shovel. Those delicate wild Morning Glory vines that wind around anything close have roots that extend twenty feet or more as does Johnson grass and probably countless others. So is it an illusion to think I am weeding? I am simply clearing the obvious, like treating the symptoms. When the rains return I’ll see pesky heads pop up as if taunting the spade they escaped.

When rain comes and the earth drinks its full of heaven’s bounty will I give the time and diligence needed to keep the intruders at bay?

 As I continue to dig, it’s the same question I ask God about my heart?
If there are roots of weeds left in my garden, are their roots of weeds left in my heart?

How often have I repented of the weeds exposed during dry spells. “Father, I take You for granted. Father I don’t spend time with you. Father, I tell You what to do instead of listening. I want my own way more than Yours. I don’t trust in Your goodness. On and on. Forgive me.”

Weeded garden
I am absolutely sincere in my desire to rout everything in opposition to God’s purposes. Waiting for the quenching of God’s presence and moving of His spirit in my life, I make promises. Can I keep them?

The soil of my soul looks clean, well turned, and ready for seed-blessings. Are there still roots of rebellion lurking underneath, waiting to sprout in new and vigorous growth?

Lord, God, when the blessings overflow, help me remember the time of weeding and be ever vigilant to surrender my heart to Your weeding.