Michele Minehart

words & yoga

Category: farmers (page 1 of 2)

From Seed

We’ve always had at least a small patch of dirt to grow our tomatoes, our peppers, maybe a green bean or two. Last year we added cucumbers because JJ was determined to make a good clausen pickle – and he got very close. We’ve experimented with greens and broccoli, here and there. So, we’re not garden newbies.

Our new-to-us, for-nearly-one-year house came with a massive garden space. The plot had already been dug a few years ago, though when we moved in, it remained vacant. Last year we had to rely on farmer’s markets for anything fresh, and it would be an understatement to say that JJ’s disappointment in BLT season was massive.

So, this year we’re upping our game. Not only are we filling that vacant spot in the backyard, we’re starting it ourselves. That’s right. We’re growing from seed. And not just any ol’ seed packet from 3 years ago. We ordered heirloom packets from Baker Creek. We don’t mess around, no, we don’t mess around, nuh-uh. We purchased a few starter pots and a grow light, because we lack a good western-facing window.

JJ's garden mapping. He even researched which plants grow best together.

JJ’s garden mapping. He even researched which plants grow best together.

We had the kids fill the little pots with the fluffy organic soil and I carefully doled out a few seeds per pot, and marked them with painters tape on the cup, because we lacked foresight to buy those little stick-things, and – let’s face it – the odds of those being removed and used as a weapon runs pretty high in this house.

And then, we waited. And waited. Finally our onions (yes, onions! He thought he was getting starts, but no) gave us tiny slivers of green poking through the dirt. And then the tomatoes! We moved from the hotpad-prepped table to the light table. We even have alarms going off each morning and evening to remind us to water and move the pots around.

This growing stuff is serious business. We’re leaving overnight and have a little bit of concern about our sprouts. We check them regularly, and every time we see a new little stem, we celebrate. Right now, it’s a tad unfathomable what it will be like to pick a tomato that came from a plant that started as this teeny-tiny seed. There’s a certain amount of miracle, not only in our ability to keep these things alive, but in their inherit ability to grow and produce and to feed.

JJ said last night, “and just think about next year, after we collect the seeds from our own harvest and save them, and then start them again next year.” I think it’s akin what grandparenting might be like – watching this thing you grew, produce again and again.  You’re not at all in control, yet, without you, this life would cease to exist as we know it. We’re not the source. We can’t even “make” anything grow. Yet we’re vital to the entire process.

Of course, someone else, somewhere else, is growing perfectly “fine” little cherry tomatoes and banana peppers. We could always just let them do it. We can continue to go to the store and buy our imported romas, twice the size of the normal (because we Americans like everything “bigger and better”) and be on our merry little way.  Leaving it to the professionals is always an option.

When we continue to outsource, we don’t have to rearrange our lives. We don’t have to water and weed and pluck. And, for sure, you’re able to steer clear of the heartache of a bad season, a diseased favorite purple pepper, or the frustrations of a bug infestation. We can absolutely bypass the work of growth by buying it ready made. This is always an option.

So why do it?  And, as with gardening, so with life. Marriage, children, starting – or even working – a business. Why toil, strain and love?

I. Don’t. Know.

Except to say that in the process of growing something else, we reap a new kind of nourishment, one reserved for those who dig in wholeheartedly. This cannot be described with words, only by eating a tomato fresh from your garden. Or watching your child hit his first home run. Or standing beside your spouse as she accepts her Citizen of the Year award. Or hearing from a customer how you made her wedding the most beautiful day of her life. Or delivering yet another healthy baby. Or finding a donor to fund a cause that will change lives. Or helping someone find a home that will keep their family safe and warm, a respite from the world. Or helping a child write their first “book.”

There’s no reason to put in the hard work, other than the fact that hard work – whether it be with plants or people – blossoms and feeds you. It’s beautiful.

Obviously, I’m not mandating that every single person in the world must buy packets of seeds and set watering timers. This is simply our most recent peek into blessings of putting in the hard work. It helps me to answer the “why.” Why we don’t watch a ton of TV. Why we opt to bake bread instead of letting McDonalds fry it for us. Why we rearrange schedules so we can be with friends. Why we move to a small town for a lesser-paying job in exchange for nearby family.

We do hard things because they are good. Perhaps even better than easy things. Hard things give us a new sense of life and the enjoyment of it. There’s a certain beauty at discovering the connection between your soul and the rest of the universe. With a little love and attention, we can be a part of the process of creation, not just the consumption.

“Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24)

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God, the Terrible Farmer

I grew up in Farm Country with a Farm Family. I was potty trained behind tractor tires and spent Easter Sundays with shredded chicken sandwiches in the back of a pickup truck. I climbed in empty orange wagons for fun. Our family retired the Internationals when I was 16, but I have some familiarity around farmground.

Which gives me the authority to tell you: Jesus was a terrible farmer.

In two editions of his life story, we hear him tell about this farmer, representative of God, who sowed seed. Some fell on the road (and the evil snatched it up, we hear later), some in the thorny patch (choked by the cares of the world), some in the rocks (which withered when the sun came out) and then some in the “good soil” which reaped a healthy crop.

Anyone with a Life Application Bible immediately jumps to “how to become good soil” so the Word of God takes root and is fruitful. Well done.

Except.

If my dad’s good friends, all farmers, were to follow around this God Farmer, they would do so with satchels over their shoulders and dustpans in their hands to pick up all the seed God is wasting. I can hear the expletives escaping from Don’s mouth already, how only an idiot tosses perfectly good seed every which way.

God would make a terrible farmer. He doesn’t even know where to plant the seed. It goes in the field, God. Where it has a chance to grow

Jesus offers us this parable for reasons that extend beyond an encouragement to “be better soil.” This is paradigm-shifting stuff. He’s moving us from commands – not to plant more than one kind of crop in the same field – to tossing around the seed all willy-nilly.

I see your eyes shifting slightly to the left, the way that they do when you wonder where I’m going with such an idea.

Because everyone was quite confused (Wingfield Farms wasn’t the first to figure out seed grows best in fertile soil), Jesus tells those closest to him “the seed is the Word of God.”

Fast forward to all the other little tales Jesus tells. Something about a treasure chest  in the middle of a field and a pearl at a flea market… that’s funny. God’s treasures seem to be sown about in the most unlikely and unexpected of places. Nay, dare I say it, in the most unlikely and unexpected of people. Maybe the most unexpected experiences, moments and relationships.

In this life we have a few options. We can believe that corn goes in corn fields and beans go in bean fields, forever and ever amen. And we’ll find what we expect. We also might get a tad upset when a random weed creeps in, disrupting our work of perfection.

I believe Jesus invites us to a life of discovering God everywhere. The places you would least expect. In the Bible it was in a bush, in the belly of a whale, under the clear blue sky, and under an unpredictable plant. In the hick-town of Nazareth.

If God shows up there, who is to say he won’t show up in the football locker room? During the spelling bee. At the board meeting. In the simple act of teaching a child to tie her shoes. In baking for a family who grieves. You could say “God is in the small things.” Or, perhaps more accurately, there are no small things. There are no insignificant things. There are no insignificant people, places or moments in life.

God sows his seed all over this creation. His gift is the process of discovering it.

I’ve mentioned Sarah Bessey before, and my passionate love affair with her book Out of Sorts. I feel like we’re kindred spirits when it comes to this issue; she writes that God is in the work of our every day, normal lives. Of course, God is in the church work, the groups and studies, as we might expect. Church can be a bean field, filled with beans. Good soil. But please, dear friend, don’t limit God to that. Don’t put up a fence row and go on believing you’ve done sorted out all the details. Please don’t believe you’ve found all of God under that little steeple.

Our God is much bigger than where things are supposed to go and supposed to happen. He’s throwing Himself into everything. Perhaps it doesn’t always take root. Perhaps evil will steal a bit away. But He keeps throwing his seed around. He throws it around like he will never run out.

I want to live my life like that. With that kind of generosity; that kind of hope. May we live like God has planted Himself anywhere.

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Dead Leaves & Hidden Fruit

JJ has been less than impressed with my contribution to the family garden this summer. I blame it on our constant comings and goings, but the fact remains I nary picked up a hose this summer nor reached into the dirt to pull a weed or 5. Now, as the tomato harvest overwhelms us, I’m left to pay up.

tomato plant

Image credit: CC Benjamin Chun

The first time I went into our patch of plants, I realized part of the problem lied in our poor spacial skills. Our plants live very close to one another and, because of it, the leaves on the bottom part of the plant die quickly. I remembered my friend Dan Who Knows Everything had said that those leaves actually inhibit growth – if they’re not taking in sun to nourish the plant, then they’re taking nutrients away from budding fruit. If memory serves me correctly, he used to trim the bottom leaves from his plants as they were growing to increase productivity.

Last week I made an appointment with a pair of scissors and that garden. I hacked away at all the deadness beneath the surface. And lo! What did I behold? More fruit. There were tomatoes in there I couldn’t see through the brush. And now with the plants a little lighter on the bottom, our harvest is multiplying. I’m actually not sure what we’ll do with all the tomatoes other than offer them as a parting gift to anyone within a 50 foot radius of our front door. Perhaps I’ll take them out to the bus stop and give them to small children on their way to school. They enjoy that, don’t they? Fresh, raw vegetables as a treat?

Gardening is my spiritual metaphor so often – I know, it’s largely overdone. I reflected as I snipped and snapped through the tomato forest, I wonder where I need to trim things up in my life. What is taking all that sunlight and energy my body and life is making and rerouting it away from nourishing good fruit? What dead leaves remain that hide the good things already growing so that no eye can behold them, let alone enjoy them?

[box] But what happens when you live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard – things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. (Galatians 5:22-23)[/box]

Am I not showing the fruit of affection for my kids? Serenity with my work? Compassion for those not like me? Perhaps it’s not because I’m not growing fruit. Perhaps it’s because the dead weight in my life keeps them from my line of vision. I often hear people say, “I need to grow more patience.” I’m not convinced you do. I think it’s probably growing – at least budding – in there. Ask, instead, what might be getting in the way? Are we too stressed by a busy schedule to enjoy moments of joy? Are we overwhelmed with financial worries that we cannot slumber in peace?

Don’t be as concerned with the fruit: spend some time pruning the plant.

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