Monday, November 6, 2017

Doing Double Duty

Chapter 5

It wasn't long before I found that my furnishings in the garden were doing double duty.  I began planting in them, and soon discovered they were best used in other ways.  Having raised areas to mix dirt for individual planters, was very helpful.  I could mix small amounts of dirt to match the needs of different plants. I could gather things onto the tables which had similar light and watering needs that kept me from over or under-watering, for instance.  And some small containers that were often dragged over by the hose, were better off when not sitting on the ground.  Some needed the bright sun and extra heat being off the ground afforded.  I was finding functions for things I didn't even know I needed them for.  Plus, I could handle the smaller bits of dirt, for now.
This Lenten Rose was very pot bound.  It had died back so much in the summer heat.

But as time drew near, and Jimmy and I couldn't keep up, we talked almost daily about who to hire to get the garden even to a state of organization, much less planted.  I had over a dozen things which were root bound in planters.  I considered their light and moisture needs, and realized, they were one of the first things this upcoming season which I must get into the ground and out of planters.  As it turned out, I realized they had similar needs, and some were winter blooming and some were early spring blooming.  And it became clear they could easily be planted together. 

I had Columbine and Bleeding Heart, Sweet William and Lenten Rose all needing a home.

One day as we entered the VA medical center in Murfreesboro, where Jimmy often goes for his medical needs, I noticed the new plantings around their huge trees out front.  It appeared to be a new initiative, because I had never noticed pretty plants there before.  What drew my attention, was that it was very cold and the plants were in full bloom.  As I got close enough to be able to see them clearly, I was amazed how full of blooms they were. They were Helebores, otherwise known as Lenten Rose.  That is what I had at home! Part of my plants needing to get planted were exactly these same flowers.

They had brought in new soil around the base of these trees,  and had mounded it away from the base of the tree. I knew that bringing up dirt onto the bark of an established tree could kill it, so each time we passed these beds I looked more closely to see exactly how they had made these beds work.  You need to know that, before this point, nothing had lived in these beds at the roots of these big trees.  What they were doing in this spot now was not only working, it was thriving.  I decided to do exactly the same at home. If their Lenten Rose, Sweet William and Columbine, and Bleeding Hearts were doing well together, then mine could as well.

 I gathered the planters into one spot at the base of my own big oak with it's roots sprawling across the ground, and considered just how far away I needed the mound of dirt, and voila, it was going to work. I would clear an existing pathway between the  tree and the mound, just as they had done, and mound it as high as it would mound, to account for the settling of the dirt.  Except it was just another place where I needed a huge mound of dirt.  Good healthy planting DIRT.

I had come to expect now that I could only hope to put dirt into the front of the first bed by the rocks, into the oval water troughs, and possibly make this mound and refill my initial raised planter. Jimmy and I decided that since there were certain things we didn't need to include in the summer budget because I could reuse them from the past, and if I didn't put new plastic on the greenhouse, need a new heater, or have the expense of planters, I actually could use that budget for dirt.  So I relented when Jimmy insisted I go buy 10 bags early in the spring when they were on sale.  We watched and waited for the sales and I figured out how I could manage these huge bags without hurting my back. I emptied old planters into the back of the first bed where I had been composting. Mixing the used dirt with composted materials might revitalized it a bit.  But it would certainly help fill in the base to one of the holes. I didn't need the dirt to be nutritious at 4 feet deep, only in the upper 2 feet where the roots to plants would be.  So I began to fill in the base of the other beds with anything that would not be detrimental to the health of the bed later, but could fill space. 

As I cleared the garden and finished the cleanup I had neglected since fall, the whole area began to look so much better.  But it was time.  To make a choice.

 One of my favorite scriptures says -
"Choose life."  It is another of the themes of scripture to make choices, and this verse in particular says so clearly that we should choose life over death, which is seemingly in antithesis to the choice Jesus made for us.  That is a spiritual discussion that could require several chapters in itself, but suffice it to say here, that I knew clearly that choosing life for my garden, where I intended to pray and grow in grace, was totally appropriate. And Christ's own example of dying to self and rising after death in order to give us eternal new life, is a specific parallel to planting a seed and watching it rise to new life and to give life to those who might eat it.  And that is a provision beyond what he gives to humans.  So much of the creation depends on plant life. 

Deuteronomy 30:19 " I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live."

Our Collection of Lenten Rose needed more ground,
and I needed the planters for the Rex Begonias in the Greenhouse

The verse is given to Israel, and is full of so much wisdom including that God sets forth blessing and cursing.  It actually means that if we follow the path set forth to meet with God's design for life we are blessed, and if we don't, we are putting ourselves in harms way.  Not that God orchestrates the harm, but that he established a way things would multiply and be blessed, to give life, and if we try to make it happen some other way, within our own thinking, it just won't easily work out.  In most cases it will actually fail. No where like in a garden is that so obviously true.  I cannot succeed putting plants which love sun in the shade, nor shade lovers in the sun.  I cannot succeed putting plants which love a low PH in high PH soil, etc.  Plants will not grow if they don't have water,  but will die if they have too much. Everything about a garden upholds this scripture's premise, and can be used to teach the Choose Life premise.

So the choices Jimmy and I would make for our garden must bless someone's life, in our minds.  If we chose to hire someone to help move all this dirt we were expecting, that person must benefit to move forward in life.  If I didn't hire a professional, would I get someone who was passionate about my garden enough to want to do it right. Or would I be left with a lot of work which didn't produce a viable garden.  If so, would it be worth paying someone just for the sake of giving them some well needed funds. I have hire persons who wouldn't listen to my needs to do something in my garden a certain way. And Jimmy, being impatient would back them. Just get it done would be his attitude, and I would be left to let things fall into a crack to be addressed later.

I knew several people who might give a few hours to help me, but none who could be as dedicated as I needed them to be, so would we need to hire several people?  The questions kept rolling around in my head. Who, like my furniture, could do double duty? Who had the time, energy, dedication, strength, and wisdom to do what I needed them to do.  The answer was to either hire a professional whom I didn't need to train, but was willing to do it properly, or train someone, who would make it a regular job for the summer.

Well, hiring the pro, had it's own set of problems; the amount of pay they would expect, the amount of hours they could spend, the mindset they had toward benefiting  them for the future in what they were willing to plant, and the fact that they didn't quite fit the "someone who needed the money outside of their job" realm. We wouldn't be actually giving a pro an extra blessing.  Unless they came an hour or two after work, and I wasn't sure that would work out.  Most jobs don't want their people doing outside work in their own field. It's a conflict of interest thing. 

So we thought of college students who might be happy to have only a few scattered hours outside of their summer jobs, to benefit them for things like car payments, and gas money.  That seemed to fit, but who would we ask?

And there was the question, how much can we budget for this person we hire?  As time went on, and we planned our summer, we figured out that we could not go on vacation, and that would free up some money. We already knew we had some of our summer garden budget free, due to not having those specific expenses as in years before. It certainly wasn't enough to buy enough dirt, so we still  wondered how God would provide the dirt, even if we hired someone. It came down to making the decision. We must choose life for the garden, and somehow plant the seed, and make sure that it benefited someone scripturally, and lastly commit to getting dirt, because we were committing to pay someone to help us move it. It was just that simple. 

One day, Jimmy said, just call Dakota, (our grandson) and see if he wants some extra money. I would rather pay him, and know it would help him out for school.  I said, if not, he might have a friend who needs some help. It couldn't hurt to ask.  So we did. 

Now Dakota isn't a hard work kind of guy. He loves his computers.  He often helped us out when he and his Mom lived in our basement when he was little, and he often cleaned our gutters, or helped remove limbs from the yard.  He helped paint walls as a kid. But, his hard work time had been relegated to helping his Mom and Steve keeping up their own home.  His spare time was all he had to spend time with his girlfriend. He never pouted about hard work, and his real job for the summer was hard work. But he wouldn't choose a physical job over a desk job, for his future.  So we didn't think he would be very interested in an extremely hard and also very dirty job, like working for us all summer. Besides, isn't being out of school and being young supposed to be when you have a little fun? But he had said a time or two  that he and a couple of friends might could help us unload some dirt for gas money. So at the very least, we should take that opportunity for help. We decided to pay them what we would have paid a landscaper by the hour. Or what we thought we might pay.

Jimmy's mind was churning around the budget, and it occurred to him, we wanted to help Dakota out for school, so we might have to choose between garden and helping Dakota for anything over the  money we had already carved out.  So I had almost totally ruled out paying a professional, and maybe even having a garden. Because, helping Dakota finish his college, was something we determined years earlier we didn't want to fail at. We had not been able to help our own children much at all. They sacrificed a lot of youthful pleasures, to accomplish their own college educations.  So we had begun when he was just a baby to put money into a bank account so it would grow and be there for college.

The old fashioned way to grow your future nest egg, used to be, to put money in the bank and watch it grow.  Well that was a bust. Interest on a savings account is good for nothing even over 20 years especially with the last couple of decades of economic busts. And though we had a couple of opportunities to invest it elsewhere, I hadn't learned the value of casting your bread upon the water style investing when he was young. We missed valuable earnings opportunities by letting it just sit in a bank.  More like the seed the farmer sowed that landed in the edges of the field which produced so little in the scriptural stories Jesus and his disciples shared.  That's what our money had done.  So now we still had a dedication to help his mother help Dakota get a college education, and the time was now. NO more time to wait on investments, or so we thought. But there was one amount of money, and we needed it to do double duty.  Help Dakota with school, or help me get my garden completed.  We couldn't do both. Or so we thought.

The choice was simple. WE would help Dakota with school. The garden could wait.....

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Give and It Shall Be Given Unto You

Chapter 4

My Blog title refers to the scripture

Luke 6:38 Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again. KJV 

This verse goes hand in hand with the one I referenced in Chapter 1, that if you cast your bread upon the water, it will return to you. God's principle, said in many different ways through out the Word, is the same. Giving something, including money away, means there will be something of equal or greater value come back to you.  And sometimes we don't see how it is metered out, and I for one, sadly jump first to think it means extra money.  Either something that cuts into your budget until you can't afford to buy food, or the strict giving of tithes to a church, or some other sacrificial donation.  It can mean those things. I have known times God blessed when we were faithful in those things.  Sometimes giving when I didn't know where the food would come from, but being obedient anyway.  But, often it isn't quite that simple.  But is far less impractical.  Often it fits exactly within the budget, or the balance of things we already have, money and other things included.

It is often said of gardeners that they don't grow too much food and have to give it away, as much as they grow too much food because they hope to be able to give some of it away.  Once you understand the multiplicity of growing things, you almost feel guilty for throwing trimmings in the compost, because if you stick them in the dirt, they often root and make more.  Is it worth the time, if you don't need it? It is if you can give it away, but not if it takes away from being reasonable.  So yesterday as I put the summer bounty into the "white house" before the upcoming freeze,  it really bothered me to toss the trimmings. They were so healthy, I know they would have rooted.  But I would need a bigger greenhouse and more DIRT to make it feasible.  Sometimes you must be wise.  So their value was to toss them into the compost.  Guess what, they will break down into DIRT, and will bless me with their nutrients next year, to grow the things I really do need. And besides....their will be more trimmings by Spring. It's that principle at work in a practical sense.

One of the first things I did when I needed dirt though was make compost. With my free lumber, one of the things Jimmy helped me build was my two bin composter. But it was only enough dirt in the end to fill a few planters when combined with potting soil.  Far from enough to fill the raised beds.
Screens in the bottom allow me to filter broken down
compost into fine dirt, but it is work. Hours of work.  But in one season, from
kitchen scraps alone, I was able to fill 2 outdoor size garbage pails,
reserved for dirt only.
Before I could even build my raised beds there was sooo much to do. So I looked around and prayed, "I am assuming, Lord, that you want me to get ready for your blessing, so I am going to put in the work, to prepare this place for all that dirt. And when it's done, I am going to start looking for DIRT.  I am going be a Noah here, and build it, solely on faith, expecting DIRT TO COME. Just like he expected rain to come.  And you need to let me know if I am out of line here.  If I am acting on my own volition. I can only believe that you wouldn't give me so much other stuff free, dump it in my lap, when I didn't even know I wanted or needed it, if you didn't have an end plan. To provide.  So here is what I did:
I liked the neatness of the pine straw border, and how it kept the weeds out.
1. A neighbor had large pine trees whose needles and cones destroyed any chance they had of having grass, and were tracked into their home any time they came from the yard.  Slowly, the winds broke them and made them a danger, much like our trees, but taking them down would cost a fortune.  So every year, she had her sons rake the pine straw and give it to neighbors for mulching.  I was on the list.  It just so happened that this year, they gave it away and there were over 20 wheelbarrows more she didn't know what to do with.  Little did they know I was wondering how I could get my hands on a whole lot of wheel barrow loads of pine straw, to put around my central flower bed, where the vines grew.  In order to prevent the vines from escaping the bed out into the yard, I had pulled up all the vines I could that had tendrils outside the border and put down roots.  It was a huge job and I couldn't do it every year.  So I had a thought. IF I could put down a thick layer of pine straw, the long vines couldn't root through it, and I could pull them up or cut them off easily each year until I could get it all under control.  So, you guessed it.  Her son brought over wheel barrow after wheelbarrow of pine straw and it completely surrounded my whole bed a pathway width wide! And about 4'' thick!  And it worked. No more vines growing past the borders of the central bed.
2. If you've read the first 3 chapters you know the story of the tree people. If not, suffice it to say that a number of trees removed from my yard left me with both large stumps which I already discussed I used to make a border along my back raised bed. But they also left a large pile of small logs.  I supposed we would use them for firewood, but Jimmy saved some and said the rest would rot before we could ever burn so much.  By now you must know me.  I was ready to use what the Lord gave me. Use what you have, and you will understand your real blessings.  It's how God has always dealt with me. He always tells my heart to look around and see what I have, and use it first!  I don't know if I got my Mom's sense of frugality, or I was just the penny pincher Jimmy says I am, or if I really know a blessing when I see it. But Jimmy is constantly wanting to throw something away that I am claiming I want to use in some way. 
In order to not be a hoarder, I try really hard to use stuff.  Sometimes, the law of multiplication blessing comes in, and I actually have more of what I was using up, than when I started. LOL  But, I started lining the logs up along the back side of my bed thinking there would never be enough to go all the way around.  Yet, just like everything else so far, there was more than enough.  They completely bordered the pine straw, and I had enough to also section it off so the rain wouldn't wash it away, every few feet.  Of course the Lord knew I needed the logs to keep the rain from washing it down hill. Of course! An added benefit of the pine and logs, was it kept the bottoms of my planters clean.  Rain didn't splash up on them and make them look nasty.
The only problem with compost is it continues to compost.
It was great to build up and fill in initially, but
eventually you have to add DIRT!
3. I found 4 concrete blocks up til now, which I was able to  use to raise the black oval feed trough onto to get the height I wanted. I raised it up so I could fill in to that level with dirt, making a deep mound around it.  I discussed in another chapter the benefits of planting into a hill, and why I wanted this mound to be high,  but now I also need a larger compost area than my wooden bins.  So I began putting all my compost materials behind the area of the trough. then to keep materials from washing down into the ditch, I had no materials like rock to line the top of the bank.  Resolution - line up more of the wood scraps the tree people left behind.  We put every piece of cardboard we brought into the house there. It was great to cover the exposed food scraps to keep animals from disturbing it.  I found it to be more of a problem than I had expected, so I was thankful for cardboard.  But it also held in moisture. However, it broke down slowly, so turning the pile was a little difficult sometimes.  A two-edged sword, you might say.
It worked, and the materials were filling in the back of the bed a little along while I awaited my DIRT.  You can't plant into compost alone. It is too strong and not of proper nutrition for plants to grow and produce fruit.  Like the mulch from the ground up pine tree limbs and the pine straw, when used improperly, compost can kill rather than feed plants.  Pine straw can kill plants too, unless you use it around things which love acids.  So when I put it around my border like a path, it was intended to kill stuff, like weeds and vine roots and grass seeds.  But seeds of things  you put into your compost...they will germinate with NO weeds, not ever.   And anything I wanted to not die around my large bed with the pine straw had to be planted in containers. Nothing goes it with bulbs or rhizomes either. Not into compost, but bulbs do well in the pine straw, usually.

4. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. II Tim. 3:16-17.

I love this verse. How curious that the image includes having furnishings to be able to do a good job. If God provides, he provides furniture too. So many people say, "I am not asking for anything, I am just thanking God for what I have."  Well, I thank God for what I have too, because, like I said earlier, he often says to my heart to look at what I have when I first find a need.  Sometimes a little creativity gets you a long way with what you have. And starting by thanking him for what I have, is a great element of praise, and a good beginning.  But this scripture comes from God through the Heart of Timothy, a very practical man. He indicates that to be completely able to do good works, we consider God's instruction, correction in our previous thinking, and principles for getting the best results within God's will.  It's like bringing in the furniture after building or renovating a home. The d├ęcor is the finishing touch, and makes our house a home.  Furnishings make things complete.

I use the word Prinked, which the dictionary defines as meaning - "dressed for show, preened"- as the Logo on many of the things I do. My pictures for instance are under the Prinked Logo.  It is a nod to the truth in this scripture that God allows the talent to bring things to completion, and consider the aesthetics and  beauty of it before considering it complete. In most things that God told the Israelites to make, to be a part of their worship services, he inspired the artisans to make it beautiful. Not because God is vain, or desires our wealth be tied up in the place of worship for glory's sake, although it might glorify him. Just to be present in a place where the amazing things he provided in the world, like silver and Gold are on  It is because, in order to be like-minded to God, we must consider that when he called this world complete, he had made it an incredibly beautiful and well furnished place to live. `

It was no wonder therefore, that God allowed that I might have furniture in my garden, to make it complete.  I needed furnishings to protect my back, to have table height space to work, to put a little dirt in for planting, rather than dealing with huge bags, and to just plain make it satisfy my need for the artistic in order to be happy.  So next thing, I used the wood Jimmy collected and designed some furniture.  I love little vineyetts and groupings of color and repurposed things like you see in magazine pages.  So I envisioned making a piece of furniture to be the center of several little groupings. I found I liked them all together, and so I have a little outdoor room instead.  Painted in several colors as if layers of paint had unevenly worn away. There were many little dollar store finds to match the colors that I could plant into, with little expense.  These and a slowly growing collection of galvanized look planters all at remarkable deals. And some are very large.  For instance I found galvanized wash tub size, the big ones for $9 each.  Big enough to plant Squash, Peppers, Zucchini, and Eggplant in.  But again with the DIRT.  I know God has to figure out something great to fill all these things with Dirt.  What will my garden be with everything, prepared and no dirt?

I continued to prepare, drew up drawings, cleaned planters, replanted all the bulbs, and set up the block wall parts of the two beds  for which I still needed stone ends to make them complete.  I bought and put concrete block down to lift the other two feed troughs, and moved the the compost bin using it instead to organize and hold my dozens of gardening  pots.  Jimmy made a Pergola to train the Trumpet Vine onto, and one more raised bed which we placed where the compost bin had been at the back of the lot.  Slowly, we furnished our garden. And when it was complete....

 Well I was about to learn a valuable lesson on how you can give, and it will be given unto you. Even Dirt. Even if I had to follow God's lead to make it an investment expense, and even if it was so much dirt, that it took Almost 2 weeks to unload it all.  Yeah, that much DIRT.

Like any promise of God I was now ready and waiting to believe...Only the DIRT came between the furnished Garden and the promise of Abundant bloom...

Isaiah 35:2 It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing: the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon, they shall see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God.

A Small Pile of Rocks

Chapter 3

I am not sure my son-in-law knew I was searching for sources for rock, but once again, God was directing the plan.  They had an old pond which was no longer holding water, and the rocks around it made mowing difficult, so since it was just by the deck, the weediness around it was a bit unsightly, and difficult to manage. They decided to remove the rock and for what ever reason, they called to ask if we would like the rock. It was already loaded onto their truck and my grandson was there to help unload it. Oh Yes! I wanted any rock I could get. 

They off-loaded the rock by tossing it into a pile at the end of the drive by the back yard.  It stayed there for a bit while I tried to figure out where best to use it.  Each piece of rock was not heavy. Except for a few pieces, I could pick up pieces and toss them with one hand.  So moving the pile didn't seem daunting to me.  Each time I went out to survey how much rock I had, I was a little surprised at how they had made such a pleasing shape by just tossing the rock off the truck.  It occurred to me, that so many rock walls around old home sites in the mountains, were always of this small rock stacked along a fence line, or by the road.  It often looked, when you found it running through pastures, just like my pile of rock, as if it were just tossed into a long running pile.  Not stacked with deliberation, just tossed to look like my little pile.
I filled in behind the piled rock with clippings where I cleaned up the garden,
Compost from my composter, some cardboard,
dirt from planters, leaves and small twigs. I finally topped it out with some
store bought dirt.

Where the rock ended I piled wood from the downed trees to make an area
where I could compost larger amounts of materials.

We had several lengths of this scalloped border left from years ago,
which I discovered under the vines.  The mulch on the ground was dumped
from the chip trucks which had chipped up the debris from our trees and
our neighbors' over the next few weeks.  They kept their promise to
bring it back for us to use as mulch. They warned it would kill plants if used
as regular mulch. But that was good for me, because I was making paths
with it, and I wanted the weeds and grass in my paths completely gone.  One more item I could never have paid for.

I decided that if I was going to begin to raise a mound out by the ditch, where the Tree people had removed the old Hackberry tree, I first had to have something to hold back the dirt at the base of the mound.  And since I didn't have enough rock yet, maybe I could just pile rock on one end, and use the larger pieces of tree trunk they'd left behind, scattered along the bank, to hold the remainder of the pile, until I could get more rock. Hopefully, a few years later, when the wood rotted into the dirt. 

So, I set out one day to begin moving the pile to the back of the lot.  I determined to just try to toss it and see if I could make that same natural looking curve which the guys had inadvertently made, when they tossed it off the truck. So I made the base a little wider than it would be at the top, and tossing it onto the line I had drawn with the shovel to provide a shape to follow, I brought pile after pile of rock in a wheelbarrow to the site, and just tossed it into place.  In no time at all, I had moved it all, and was surprised that it had done exactly as I hoped. There was the nicely formed shape that curved around forming the end of my mound wall.

I rolled the large tree trunk logs over and piled them around so they also formed the remainder of the wall.  I cleaned the weeds and vine which I didn't want to reappear in the future raised bed, then began shoveling some compost I already had prepared against the back of the rock. I set one of the large feed troughs on the stump of the hack berry tree, and wondered how long it would be before I found myself rebuilding the whole pile when the trunk rotted away.  It was then that I knew, I didn't want to do this over in a few years, so I realized I would need block or something else to raise the feed trough and still allow for drainage. But there it was. The shape walled in for the first mounded planting bed.  It was in full sun, and large enough to include some veggies into the future plantings.

A couple of years earlier I had sold a lot of old Milk crates which we had used many years earlier for the boys to put toys in, stacked on a wall as a shelving unit. It was sort of in style at the time.  I still had one of them, and I bemoaned not having the ones I had sold. Made of the same material as the feed troughs, I thought how good they would have been to stack now and lift the trough to the the level I now wanted them. But alas, that wasn't an option.  So I began looking for them as we passed yard-sales.  It was a start, and I was quite proud to have gotten underway.

We went to garden centers and priced rock.  Hundreds of dollars, and our truck wasn't rated to haul the weight of most piles. I was beginning to think my "free stuff" luck had run out.  So I budgeted a certain amount of money, about $50, to find something I could use to form parts of  the walls to the other two beds, which I needed to prepare. Then I would begin, collecting rock from roadsides, and creek banks here and there, bringing a piece home here and there to fill in the ends, just as I had built my paths in the past. This was my thinking.

  It took a lot of time, but it was fun to discover a rock here and there, where we went birding etc,. from places where it didn't cause wash damage to the environment. And odd rock here and one there. I would just be patient. Because I had to. Buying these expensive landscape materials just wasn't in the budget at the time. 
Odd rock I had brought home from many places,
and all those vines!

One day we dropped by Southeastern Salvage and they had stacks of large wall block on flats.  I wasn't certain I was reading the sign correctly, so I had Jimmy drive by the stacks before we pulled away.  The large blocks were less than $2 each.  My mind begin spinning in its usual mechanical imaginings, as I tried to figure how I could use my $50 budget to buy enough wall block to make a base for two more large areas for mounds.

 One would be where they took down the pine, and one where they took down the dead cherry tree, which had been damaged by the house fire. For days I was out with my measuring tape, measuring and re-measuring the areas, length, width, depth, curve...I figured out exactly how many blocks I could buy with my budget.  I came up with a plan. I would build only the front and back of one bed with the block and only the back wall of the bed on the other bed. Then, using the same block, in a smaller size, which we already had around a pond we planned to remove, I would form the front wall. of the second bed nearest to where the pond wall stood.  Then, so the 3 beds wouldn't look too Although disjointed, since from different materials, I would pile rock in the ends.

Where the Pine tree had been I made two curved lines of double
stacked wall block . Inside was a very pine smelling
dirt into which I could not plant.  I planned to stack rock at each end to match the rock
wall along the raised garden in progress at the ditch. Everything looks so bare and unfinished.

For an entire year, I gathered materials and Jimmy became annoyed that I let them lay there, unused while I tried to prepare the areas a little at a time.  Pulling vines, I had a root snap, causing me to fall hard to the ground, hurting my back. I couldn't get back up for a bit, and this being my second fall, it slowed me down to a crawl.  After the fall, my garden sat there, with piles of materials collected, and I couldn't move it. Over time, I didn't hurt so badly, so I determined to at least stack the wall block. I realized I could roll them, move them with a dolly, and use fulcrums to lift and move them.  So after several afternoons,  I had the skeleton of 3 raised beds. After, one more fall, and rehab, life became one big realization that my dream might never become a reality, if I had to do it alone.

By the end of the season, I seriously needed to plant some shade loving plants, which I had thus far preserved in planters, while I reworked the garden.  They weren't going to wait much longer; they needed out of planters and to be in ground, or they would die in the winter cold.  Too much root, not enough dirt would cause them to freeze.  Those overgrown vines had become my biggest worry.  I dug them up a few feet at a time, not pulling on them to chance another fall. The going was so slow, because I was determined to get all the roots. I certainly didn't want them to be a problem again later.  I used a hedge trimmer to cut them off, so I could see where the stems entered the ground. I then dug with a hoe into the dirt to loosen the earth and pull them away. My back would only let me do a few square feet before I hurt too badly to do more.  So once I got about half of the area around the largest of my shade beds done, Jimmy hired a neighbor to clean out the rest. They did in one afternoon an area that had take me half the summer.

Vinca, Ivy and a ground cover from my Mom's were tightly tangled together.
In Spring my bulbs made their way through the tangle, and I could identify where they were.
So as I removed vines, I also had to dig up bulbs and store them for replanting.

 So I cut my bear Grass, surrounding that bed to the ground, with the hedge trimmers, composted the cuttings, and pulled the remaining vines that had rooted into the border, as much as I was able.  Finally, I had a clean slate, a reasonable plan, some of my materials in place, and plants to plant ready in the greenhouse and in planters about the yard.  So what was missing?  All those tons of dirt I was going to need to plant into all the work. And still, God had not sent me free dirt.

The rocks had been free, and the wall bricks had fallen into my budget. I had been able to work through my injuries to an extent, including a bite from a Brown Recluse Spider - and now it was time to finish it.  Sooooo, I guess I had to believe that investing in dirt was exactly what God wanted me to do.  I was willing to believe he would provide, but if he wasn't going to give me free dirt, where was this free money coming from to buy tons of dirt, and how would I ever move it all with my back?

 I felt like I had that winter to wait on the Lord, so I simply prayed, "Lord you have moved this thing along so far, and have given me a reason to get up and get going, each day excited to see what the day would hold.  So I am fully expecting you to show me your plan for making tons of dirt and a planted garden come in to being next spring. I actually will be in anticipation to see what you are going to do. I thank you in advance, and pray for your blessing, and healing. And for help......"

Then when I walked the garden space I stared at the small pile of rocks which began the whole process, and realized, how far I had come from a pile of brush piled in my neighbors yard, to a garden area, the plants in the greenhouse and in planters about the yard, and the foundation for a new beginning come spring.  Everything was ready, I could not wait to see what God was going to do!.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Free or Not To Be Free?

Chapter 2
In my last post, I began the story of my 2017 Summer Garden.  But the story began at least a few years earlier, when my very shade loving garden was taken away by the loss of one large pine tree.
The electric power company had come to fulfill a promise they made in the winter before to take down tree limbs threatening our power lines along the creek/ditch at the back of our lot.  Over the years the ditch had eroded into the back yard, leaving many roots of what was formerly planted by previous owners as a hedge. It was full of berries, good for birds, but gangly if not trimmed every year.  But, also, wild bushes and weeds had taken hold, especially along the length of our part of the creek, and of the house below us.  Some invasive trees that propagated from seeds and from their roots, had sent up new versions of themselves everywhere. They were invading my yard having grown on both sides of the bank, until they reached the wires running the length of the ditch.   Several old trees existing from before we bought the property, also had limbs hanging over the wires, and were a huge weight upon them in snow and ice.

I knew the power company was coming, but not when.  And I never understood that they had rights to our property up to 15 feet on either side of the wires.  They could destroy anything they so desired within that footage if they needed to get to those wires. But I never saw them on other people's property. Just mine.  And then I realized they didn't mess with yards which had fences.  It was the one thing they could not destroy to get to their wires.  So since mine didn't have a fence, it was their preferred entry to the ditch.  They brought huge trucks and drove them up our driveway and pushed over anything in their way to reach the wires for repairs, etc.  Since a transformer was also on the pole directly behind my house, although across the narrow ditch, they accessed it from my house as well. 

In the early years, since my trees were a threat, I usually didn't mind that they pulled into the yard. Until the year they decided to do whatever they please, and turned my life around. We returned one night, late, after dark, to a note on our front door, which read that someone would call us about the brush in the back yard, and having it removed.  Not knowing what to expect, we couldn't wait til dawn to investigate, fearing a tree had fallen. We took flashlights and shined them into the yard from our second story deck.  We gasped as we scanned the space, which was notably empty in the area where our pine tree once stood.  All that was there now - a tall thin tree with absolutely no limbs.
My perfectly straight tree, not leaning.

The limbs lay in a huge pile in our neighbor's yard. We loved that tree, because it was a great draw for woodpeckers of every kind.  We were so proud of our ability to sit on the deck and watch all kinds, including sapsuckers, pecking along it's bark. Nevermore...

The following days were a blur of negotiations and restitution seeking. And we mourned the loss of our pine tree, which the arbor company hired by the electric company, insisted was leaning over their lines. Well, since I take pictures constantly of my changing gardens, I had pics of  that very site including the tree, because I had just completed a small cleanup and replanting of the shade garden beneath it.  I had piled pine cones at it's base from another kind of pine for mulch.

And planted a small shade loving Hosta all around its base. I had separated and spread my Aguga, hoping its small blue blooms would cover the area in the center by spring.

  And I had pruned a wild white rose bush Jimmy had planted, and replanted daffodils in 3 spots on the end of the bed.  There also was a trumpet vine I wished to train onto an arch the following year.  I took pictures, thinking at the time, that this would be a self-sustaining garden that would require little maintenance the following year.  Now it lay buried beneath saw dust, and limbs, and had been trampled into the mud from rains earlier in the day.  At dawn I just stood and cried, and was anxious for days to get to some of it, get it uncovered and see what could be rescued.

Newly planted Hostas, Celosia, and Ajuga were crushed.

After, calling in EPB people who could make restitution, we finally agreed that they could give us coupons to buy new sun loving plants to replace my shade loving plants, which were exposed to the point of killing them.  They wanted to leave the stripped pine for us to deal with, and we were adamant they take it completely down now. I refused to leave it up to die and fall on children playing in the ditch.  Or to leave it to our expense.  We proved that the tree wasn't dying as they said it was. Only lower limbs had died back as that kind of tree was prone to do when surrounded by other trees. We proved it wasn't leaning as they claimed by my pictures, and we knew that they owed us more. They just wanted a place for their truck..I am sure.

 Jimmy suggested the tree was valued at about $6,000, off the top of his head, but we later discovered that had we sold it for pulp wood, it actually was worth about that much.  A tall straight pine could actually be used for pole wood or even straight lumber.  So they asked what would make us happy that wasn't money.  We took advantage of the offer, and had bad trees removed, and bad limbs pruned away from trees elsewhere in the back yard. We also demanded they remove the stump.  This giant clean up would have cost us about $4,000, so we were ahead, OK with the agreement. But there we were  with a back yard that had been ravaged by the work they did to clean up all the trees, and the work they did to remove limbs and trees along the ditch.  They had destroyed all the work I had done for years to make my back yard into a shade garden.

Over the years some things in the yard had gotten away from us, since our jobs zapped our time and energy, we seldom had time to care for ivy gardens and other vining things. The vines had threatened 3 of our trees, by growing up the bark, and strangling their roots. We had been helpless up to this point to reverse the damage.  One of the trees, which was near where we had also run new sewage lines, had sustained root damage as well. It slowly, over several years, dropped limbs, becoming totally overgrown by ivy.  I worried often about children being in the yard, afraid of the limbs falling, and killing someone.  Then one day, just as I entered the house after having been in the greenhouse, a ground shaking jar, and a loud explosive sounding bump, sent me running back out the door. As I feared, I saw the tree had fallen toward the house. The cable lines had caught it, breaking out the top of the tree. The result was the top folded back onto itself, thereby totally keeping it from hitting the house.  It had missed falling on me, passing by it from the greenhouse, by about a half minute.  I was profoundly moved at the fact that I was actually alive, and could have been dead had I hesitated in the greenhouse even a tiny bit. 

Thankful this tree no longer was a threat, we had begun to plan to have work done on the other trees.  But what had happened, was the Lord took it into his own hands, and brought in the "tree people" to take care of our problem. Initially angry, then hurt and mourning, we finally realized how blessed we had been, and were thankful.  Jimmy chopped the ivy roots and pulled it away from our one surviving tree, and we hired one of the people from the arborists cleaning the ditch, to remove all limbs affecting our own power and cable lines going to the house. We then took a step back to wonder what on earth would we do now, to make our back yard a decent place again?  The answer was take advantage of the sun.  After struggling for years to add color to the shade, now the sun would do exactly that if we were willing to put in the work.  I never dreamed how much work it would be.

As we shopped  around to see who would honor our coupons from the EPB, and decide what plants to best use them on, we discovered the coupons would never pay for enough plants to replace what we lost. And what we would buy required a new kind of environment.  Better soil being primary and basic.  The change over from shade to sun garden and the rescue of our remaining trees had all been a gift from God. And I  suppose I had come to expect that the whole process should be provided by God himself. It was he who set us on this journey, I argued. Jimmy was ready to spend money to just get something done. I felt we needed the money  elsewhere.  So the question became, do we wait for everything to be free, or  spend money? 

I won't tell the story here, but the house next door was a huge part of the free thinking thing as well. It had burned years earlier, and stood empty, drawing animals like rats and raccoons all the while.  At the time of our tree fiasco, a builder was restoring it to be flipped.  A city inspector had required that all burned wood had to be removed from the inside of the house.  If only a small end of it was charred, out it must go.  Jimmy  saw several long planks in the dumpster one day, and asked if he could rescue the remaining unburned wood from the planks.  They were proud to have the extra dumpster space and as long as he promised not to injure himself on the protruding nails etc, he was allowed to get it. But someone wisely realized how improbable it was that he wouldn't get hurt climbing into a dumpster, so to limit their liability, they began tossing the wood they removed out the window toward our house. Jimmy  collected it and began removing nails, and sawing  off the burned  ends. Our stack of lumber grew, and once Jimmy got as  much as he thought he would need, was ready to not collect more.  But when another pile was lying there next day, he questioned me to know if I had any use for more wood.  Free wood, to do anything I wanted? You  bet I did. I wanted to make outdoor furniture! It might not last as long as  treated lumber, but it would not have chemicals and would last a few years at least.  I certainly wanted it.

It set me up. however, to expect that God was making this whole garden thing an entirely free enterprise.  But as I explained in  my last blog, he had other plans. Plans that I learn that he provided in abundance, but he also was going to require we understand the value of some well placed investments, of not only time, but also money.  A large part of the dirt was not going to be free.  But I hadn't yet understood why. Why the dirt? I expected to have to put some money into plants, but they were something we sort of incorporated into our budget for years.  Why was dirt an important thing to have to pay for?  Well, that will be Chapter 3, won't it?

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Feed Troughs For My Birthday!

Chapter 1
It is more than a year since my last post.  My husband's health and mine, has kept us pretty busy going to doctors and learning about the medicines we take.  What actually can cause you more difficulty than help you get well, and all that necessary knowledge stuff.  It seems that society has turned our whole world into a big well of health related waters, in which I feel like I am drowning.  And it is bringing our age related issue to the front and center of everything in our lives.  Such is the  reality of getting older I suppose. This isn't exactly  how I wanted to open this blog, but it does lead into what being in the Garden has meant to me this year. Because this year my garden got sick. And now it is getting old.

Fall weather is approaching, with nippy evenings and fairly cold nights.  It is warning me that I have only a little time to get the things that are important to me, to save them from freezing, into the Greenhouse.
My Grandson prefers to call it the White House, because when I put on new plastic, it is white, not green. As a little fellow, he didn't understand the concept of keeping the plants alive as being "green." A word whose concept has really changed in the last 20 years.  Now, there is so much talk about "keeping the planet green," a concept which often seems to eliminate God in the process altogether. I fear for my grandchildren and their concept of God, of his control of this world, and his directives about a real garden.  I cannot think of my garden without being reminded of those concepts, and I fear they may never know of them.

The greenhouse in the background

But this summer, I had the greatest opportunity to spend time with my oldest Grandson in the garden, and share with him a little about what God and Garden mean to me.

The plan for my garden had become overwhelming, because my health has begun to push me into perpetual "slow" mode. After several falls, and rehab, my back issues made it difficult to move things around the way I once could. It's sort of the total motivation for including elevated beds into my garden plan in the first place.  I began with a dream of how it could look, after sitting and pondering the amount of space I had, for hours sometime. And after drawing up sketches of unfinished ideas, I actually thought most of it was a pipe-dream. So I wouldn't finish the sketches. I couldn't imagine how it could all come to pass.

At this moment, I am profoundly and deeply thankful to the Father for taking the desires of my heart, which I could scarcely get my own head around, and making them a reality.  But it required some help. Human hands, and a good strong back.  It's just like God to provide for the need, though. It's one of the ways I know there is a God.  He takes the things hidden deep within your heart and blesses them. In fact, I often wonder if the Holy Spirit isn't the author of them - the good dreams of being prosperous in some way. Of challenging us to plant something which we hope will grow.  Whether it will be an actual plant, or just a vision - a dream of planting the seed to a business or adventure, or any other way that the metaphor can relate to life. Jesus used the seed planting stories to describe so many life issues, and he always encouraged us to put faith into the planting of any seed, so that faith itself becomes what God uses to bless the planting of it.

Before I wax too deep, and mar the floor, let me return to my story. My husband and I knew this year as the winter broke into spring, that we needed some help to just get dirt into the beds I had prepared the year before.  He had bought me most of the tools I needed to make my raised beds a reality. And he did that on faith in my dream, never really knowing how I could use the crazy tools I wanted to buy.

We were in the local feed and hardware store one day, and I saw large oval troughs intended to provide a sturdy long lasting, element resisting means of feeding cattle and horses.  They were black and made of  some kind of plastic.  Not children's toy pool's plastic, but rather, the stuff that never wears out, and when it's way past it's use, you can't destroy it.  The kind which, once upon a time, faded from bright joyful colors to sad worn grays; so sad that your children didn't even want to touch those toys anymore...evidenced by the way the kids tossed them into a corner of the yard, where they sat in the children's junk yard until you figured how to haul them away. Haul them, feeling guilty that they would never break down in the land fill. That kind of plastic.  But somehow, I figured these large black troughs actually provided a wonderful use for such plastics once recycled, and it was not going to fade in color at all. I liked that about them.

Not so pretty yet.
These troughs came in a variety of sizes, some as large as about 5x4 feet long and wide,  and over 2 feet deep. Some looked like they were the size to feed baby goats and other small animals.  But to me, they looked like instant raised bed gardens.  Deep ones, like you might could grow potatoes in. Checking to see if they had drain holes, which, I assumed they must have, were to clean out old water,  and I was relieved to find them, and to think I didn't have to drill into that dense plastic, to make them work.  But how would I ever get enough dirt to fill even one of them?  That would be costly. Maybe I could slowly make composted dirt over time, but that would take a couple of years to be viable soil.  So I walked away from these magic instant solutions just dreaming of how I might use them. How I could make my gardens gain space, by implementing the organization fact that I swear by. "Never see the space you have as just floor space, always keep looking up." In other words, you gain space as you see your space as 3 dimensional.

  For example, a 10 x 10 plot of ground space doubles, and then some, as you make it into a mound of dirt rather than a flat square of dirt. Many plants also appreciate the drainage factor and ability to get extra sun to all of it's leaves if you plant on a hill.  My grandfather preferred to plant his garden on a hill for the many advantages it provided, not to mention  that it made themselves very strong to climb that hill, to be able to plant into it.  But I dreamed of something more small scale than my grandparents' gardens. Something to make the most use of my limited back yard square footage.

2 black bins, upside down, and one filled with water bottles for drainage, waiting for me to wait on God....

3 areas I wanted  to use for planting, could become much more useful, if they became large mounds.  And since it is a principle employed in many botanical, or decorative city gardens, through which I love to stroll, I knew how professionals and trained horticulturists took advantage of this bit of info. I had even traveled to Georgia to the Gardens of Helen to take pictures of such gardens, where dirt piled up and banks walled up became masses of flowers, which enhance the beauty of this little tourist town.  I had spent several days walking the streets, taking picture after picture of how they used the land. I knew I was only a learner, but the wheels turned in my imagination, every time I visited these compact and high impact gardens.

So with a head full of possibilities, I was still in dreaming stage. While I  was watching the sunlight move through my garden during the day, to know if I could grow sun loving flowers, and also a few veggies I thought about a plant plan.  As I read the messages on the plant stakes in garden sections of our local stores, I realized that many living things, ask only for about 6 hours of full sun.  Some actually preferred partial sun, or a max of 4 hours of light.  I already had a number of shade lovers, which needed to be planted in the ground, and as I took pictures of my own garden, a light plan began to form.  The garden itself began to show me where things had to be planted.  And I discovered that my dream could become a reality, if I only had tons more dirt. Literally, tons. But to hold up that dirt, there had to be walls, for even the feeding troughs were only a fraction of the size I needed to make the beds work.  I also needed rock and interlocking wall block.

Now as I dreamed, I realized how much money, Helen had put into their gardens.  Even dirt  would be hundreds of dollars.  Now the 2 $65.00 troughs which I initially thought would be my greatest expense, seemed minimal as I added it up.  When I shared my vision with my husband, he caught the dream, much to my surprise.  So on my birthday, I was given two of the largest feed troughs, and two of the smaller ones.  A round one and an oval one.  Wow! Now it seemed that making the raised mounds was something I had to do, not just dream of.  My husband, however said, his dream was to use one of the smaller troughs as a tiny pond with a bubbler or fountain, which left me exactly 3 to form a plan around. 

The more he saw me trying to figure out the least expensive way to produce dirt from compost, and the compost piles shrank as they decayed, making the process very slow, he insisted I buy some packaged dirt. So after we brought home 10 or more of the largest bags they sell, when on sale, - several times - without making a dent in the plan, we realized that the expense was not reasonable.  I literally ended the year with my black bins turned upside down. Even the first raised bed I built from reclaimed lumber and flashing, needed new dirt to refill it next year for planting, before I could even think of filling the troughs, much less building mounds. 
First raised bed from Recycled lumber and flashing

Jimmy couldn't imagine what I was dreaming. What husband can get into our minds?  And no amount of trying to explain allowed him to imagine the huge amount of dirt and rock I needed. All I could do was pray: "God you seem to be the author of my imaginings, so I am praying for dirt."  I really want it to be free, like the wood you gave us for the outdoor furniture or the mulch you provided for the pathways. I will know you are in it, if it's free".  But free dirt was not in God's plan.

I waited and waited on free dirt.  We researched buying dirt from landscape providers, and determined how much our old truck could haul in one load.  We tried to estimate how many loads it would take to fill the mounds up to the level I desired. And then I broke the news to my anxious spouse, that before I could buy dirt, I had a lot of foundation work to do. It required rock and block, on which I also didn't want to spend a fortune.

I set my anchor on verses like this one which just happens to be on the BibleGateway site this morning as I write this.
Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.
Psalm 27:14 NIV

 I waited and  prayed, far longer than my husband was willing. But when I started showing him the hundreds of dollars it would take to just move forward and buy stuff, and explained that my guilt for putting other needs aside for a mere dream, seemed too frivolous for me, he allowed me to just dream for a bit. I was willing to wait for God's plan to play out, so Jimmy relinquished, although he continued to want me to just go buy the dirt and pile it up.  I had visions of rain washing dirt down our driveway for years to come, like money cast upon running waters, slowly floating away. 

But the dirt floating away vision made me think of the scripture, which says cast your bread upon the waters, and after many days it will return to you.

vs 1  Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days. From the classic 11th Chapter of Ecclesiastes, which also speaks of planting seed:

vs.6  In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.

As I thought of that verse, I realized that sometimes we must risk practical things for yield. It seems to make no sense to throw bread on water and expect if it's carried downstream that you will own it once more, after a time. What value? I had pondered that verse before, and I knew it meant to place your trust for sustenance upon the Lord, who was paralleled symbolically by water.  Water being the life's blood of all life, even in the eyes of the earliest primitive men, long before Ecclesiastes.  Water also symbolized power, and life cycles, the simple needs of life, and an ever-moving entitiy, able to be present in 3 forms. So God dealt with my heart. Maybe it was not frivolous to cast money into this endeavor, risking it on something as practical as dirt, if planting into it could provide a yield. And even if I didn't know exactly how good the yield, or the kind of yield, it seemed that dirt would be good for years to come.  A foundation for many more gardens over the years. A preparation for a good future garden.

I suddenly saw God's plan differently.  And understood these verses in a way I never would have otherwise.  But I never even came close to imagining the Summer story that was about to unfold, because of a whole lot of dirt!  I could write a book on  what happened in my garden this year,  and I just might. Starting with this chapter of how I got feed troughs for my birthday and soon was contemplating investing in Dirt.

I am so blessed to have lived the story. I praise God for one glorious summer and a dream to build a garden.  Thank you precious Lord.