Five Lessons From the Garden

Although it still feels like summer here in East Tennessee, the garden seems to think it is fall. It has been in the 90’s this week, and it is the first week of October. I think everyone is ready for some cooler weather…and some rain.

My husband let our corn dry on the stalk, and he picked it last night for hominy making. He also picked the remnant of green beans for seed and hopefully for soup beans. The garden is pretty much done. (It’s been rather dry here…so it’s been done for a few weeks now.)

I was just reflecting on the summer and our growing season, and I realized that I have learned a few valuable lessons from the garden. Here are a few that come to mind.

1. Don’t pick the seed cucumbers.

What in the world do I mean by this? Well, I made a rookie mistake in the garden earlier this summer. We had planted some heirloom Cades Cove White Cucumbers, and despite a weird early blight on all our squash and cucumber plants, some still managed to push through and produce. But not many. I was busily and hurriedly picking cucumbers one morning because if we missed a day of picking, there would be wasted cucumbers because they grow so fast.

I made sure to get all of the special white cucumbers, even a larger looking one, because I didn’t want to miss any.

When my husband got home from work, he noticed I picked the white cucumbers, and then went on to fuss a little because I picked the cucumber he was letting go for seed. Oops.

When you want to save seed, especially heirloom seed!, you want to let the vegetable get pretty big, so the seeds will be…well, big. I accidentally almost ruined a seed saving opportunity. Thank goodness the early blight didn’t completely kill the plants just yet, and we saved the seed out of another good looking big cucumber.

I would have hated to single handed-ly ruin next years white cucumber seed.

2. Don’t count your salsa jars before the tomatoes hatch.

This is a sad one. We set out sixty-some-odd tomato plants this year. I may be a little strange, but one of my favorite things to preserve is tomatoes. So we made sure we had plenty! I love canning at least fifty quarts of whole tomatoes, several spaghetti sauce jars, and especially different types of salsa. I even did homemade Ro-tel a few years ago. I love canning tomatoes. I love not having to buy them from the store even more!

I had a good start on canning the tomatoes. I didn’t let them pile up too awful bad, and I was canning whole tomatoes left and right. Then, I started to notice the tomatoes that were coming in the house was not big bright red and juicy like they were a week before. Not too long after, my husband said the plants were dying.

I was pretty upset that our crop of tomatoes, much like the squash, got hit by some kind of blight. It was very unfortunate.

I didn’t get any salsa canned. But that’s the way life goes on a farm. I’m sorry to have to buy it, because home canned is so much better!

3. Deer and tater bugs want to destroy it all.

Last year, my husband heard that if you put human hair around the border of the garden, the deer will stay away. (His mother cuts hair at her own beauty salon…so that’s how we came by hair…in case you were wondering!) It worked for a while. It was a good solution, but maybe the deer got used to it, and they were caught trying to eat whatever they could.

This year, he heard that putting Irish Spring soap up around the borders would keep the deer out. So he tied Irish Spring and Ivory soap bars up on poles around the garden! It may have looked a little funny, but it worked! A few deer tracks were spotted, but they didn’t get in and destroy anything, thank goodness!

Another ridiculous pest in the garden is potato bugs. They appear out of nowhere, and they can’t be stopped.

Method #1 was trying a homemade bug repellent, made out of hot pepper, onion, and vinegar, but it didn’t work.

Method #2 was having little boys squish all the bugs they could find. That would work in theory, but as soon as they squashed one, two would show up.

Method #3 was the last resort, but the only way to save the tater crop. He had to spray with insecticide.

My organic gardening ideals were sort of really hurt…but my husband assured me it was for the best. (I prayed and told myself even though they were sprayed, it’s still much less toxic than what they’ve got at the grocery store.) So the lesson was, sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do for a good turnout in the long run.

4. The garden doesn’t cooperate with my schedule.

This summer was a whirlwind of busyness. I hate to say that, because I don’t want my life to be characterized by being too busy all the time! But it was a blur. We had a lot of things to do. By the time August came around and it was time to start school, I was ready for a break from running around so much.

The garden keeps us at home more than most families. All season, my husband would get off work and come home and work in the garden.

Our routine was pretty nice, thinking back on it. If I was busy throughout the morning, we were always home in the evening. As I was fixing dinner, he would take the older boys to the garden with him, and work until supper.

After supper, they would head back out and stay until dark. Sometimes I went too, but having a baby and cleaning up supper dishes kept me at the house.

We had to miss activities because we had to pick the garden.

My husband couldn’t relax until he got the tilling done, or the hoeing, or the picking.

It just had to be done.

The garden definitely ruled the activity planning.

I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

5. Gardens are reminders of greater truths.

Every year, when the ground is plowed, the seeds planted, and the produce grows…I am first reminded of this: “And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.”” Genesis 1:29, and “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” Genesis 2:15.

After Creation, God took Adam and put him in a perfect garden to tend to. I can only imagine the beauty of that place. It is nice to think that man’s first job was to garden. But…

“Cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:17b-19

After the Fall, when sin entered the world, even gardening became cursed. Something that was perfectly holy and beautiful at first is now cursed. All because of sin.

Our world is not perfect and the results of the fall, the curse, are everywhere.

I just picture my hardworking husband sweating buckets into the soil and it is exactly as God said. We have to toil to make our food.

That sounds pretty grim.

But, even when God cursed the ground, he gave us a glimmer of hope. He promised a Deliverer would come to one day fix what was messed up by sin.

I won’t keep ya’ll guessing…the Deliverer is Jesus!

Jesus took our curse on the cross. He took on the punishment that we deserved for our sin. Our fallen bodies and fallen gardens will not be made completely whole now…

But through redemption in Jesus we have a promise that one day, there will be a new heaven and a new earth. Saints will have new bodies and I bet the gardens that we will keep will be unlike anything we can imagine. No blights and no tater bugs.

It’s a wonderful mystery to think about. The world was turned upside down after the fall in the garden of Eden. Jesus will one day turn it all right again.

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