Dirty Work

My goal is to create one flower bed a year. Some goals fizzle. We bought this home four years ago, but only one garden graces our property. Life, literally, interrupted my plans the year I gave birth to a sweet little girl. Then, last spring, we bought a new septic system. Heavy equipment squishing around the yard wasn’t conducive to planting. This year is different. My waist bends, and the plumbing works. So I’m adding another garden. Most people start in the front, but not me.

Massive magnolia trees fill our front yard. A few bushes cling to life. Monkey grass spreads around the porch. And a shovel doesn’t go more than two inches into the ground without hitting roots. The roots that destroyed our plumbing. The roots that cracked the foundation. The roots that suck up all the water. Our front yard remains barren. Until we get dirt for raised landscaping, I’m working in the backyard. It’s easier to restrain the dog than break my back and shovel.

Jameson Middleton, A Mother with her Daughters in the Kitchen Garden, 1883

I forgot how messy gardening is. Dirt is in my hair, under my fingernails, and on my clothes. I forgot how hard gardening is. The sod is shoveled scoop by scoop. My children help, but they want to plant the seeds without the work. They want to enjoy the harvest without the wait.

When Angel wrote of her desire for a clean house, I encouraged her,

We are preparing the soil in our children’s hearts. Pushing a plow and pulling weeds tends to make a mess.

Seeds of truth cannot take root and grow, unless our children’s hearts are pliable and sustentative. Scattering seeds upon impenetrable ground has little effect. With diligence, the ground is cultivated. With patience, the seeds sprout. The work we do sometimes seems invisible, but roots stretch beneath the surface giving life. Let’s continue preparing for the harvest, even though it involves daily scrubbing.

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. heather
    Mar 21, 2008 @ 06:57:32

    Gardens are a very slow project in our house–partly because I kill things that don’t tell me their needs (except babies, I can do babies.) However my husband occasionally laments the sad condition of our house and especially our furniture–I have to remind him that kids are messy and we have three and two adults here ALL DAY. I figure that each mess they make is a sign that they learned something–all of them have reasons behind them and goals and when I ask I will be barraged with all the reasons the mess occurred.

  2. Mandi
    Mar 21, 2008 @ 08:43:58

    Beautiful Renae! ( :
    God often reminds me of a great illustration I read in a book called ‘The Complete Green Letters’ by Miles Stanford. The author tells of a college president who was asked by a student if there was a shorter class than the one prescribed that he could take. The president replied “Oh yes, but then it depends on what you want to be. When God wants to make a mighty oak he takes an hundred years when He wants to make a squash He takes 6 months!!” The author explained that sometimes in one month we can grow more than we did in the previous three years combined. He said that trees go through tremendous growth stages only three months out of the year and the rest of the year that new growth needs to solidify or it will be useless.

  3. Andrea
    Mar 21, 2008 @ 12:01:10

    I used to tell the kids (when they were wee) that we were tucking the seeds in under the dirt to sleep. they knew by then they had to sleep to grow (I’m a resourceful parent at bedtime) so that helped a little. Fast-growing crops like snap or sugar peas helped a lot too – both the kids, as peas grow pretty darn fast and they are good for snacking and the ground (pea plants have nitrogen on their roots).

    Some days I miss when we grew most of our own food, but I know I forget about the work, the aches and all the BUGS. point me back to this comment in July because we’re putting in a big garden if the snow ever melts here.

  4. Renae
    Mar 21, 2008 @ 22:10:24

    Heather,
    Yes, babies usually let you know that they need something. Plants just wilt. I have a hard time with all the bugs and molds here, but my stubbornness keeps me trying. Plus, the kids enjoy digging and watering. If nothing grows, we’ll at least learn from the process. :)

    My husband hardly notices the condition of the house. In many ways that is a good thing. ;) My little girls are the biggest mess makers, but I love their ingenuity. Combining toys to create new scenarios is their favorite activity.

    Mandi,
    What a great quote! Thanks for sharing it. Nature teaches us so many things if we study it. And I’ve seen growth spurts at different times in my children. When that happens, I want to keep pushing them, but I think you are right. Sometimes it is better to let them “solidify” in their new maturity.

    Andrea,
    That is such a sweet way to explain the growth process. We did plant some strawberry plants, so that helps. Everyone sowed their little plot. Then Sunshine thought she should plant some more. She dumped out two seed packets before I realized she was patting them into the ground. We may have beets and spinach everywhere. :)

    It would be nice to raise our own food. I wish we had a larger area for a garden, but for now I’m planting vegetables along with the flowers. And I’m wishing you a fruitful, soon-to-come spring!

  5. Emily
    Mar 22, 2008 @ 23:46:08

    Definately good advice to Angel. The roots are what matters, and I’m not one to be afraid of a little dirt under my fingernails….sounds like you aren’t either~

  6. Melinda
    Mar 23, 2008 @ 19:08:43

    I love that analogy between children’s hearts and the soil. I feel the same way and I am so much more aware of this with Aspen than I was with my older kids.

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