Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, The last of life, for which the first was made: Our times are in His hand Who saith "A whole I planned, Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!" - From "Rabbi Ben Ezra" by Robert Browning

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Mixed Blessings

The rain has been falling almost continuous for weeks. Considering, however, the fact that I live in a state that has been experiencing severe drought for some years now, I can't complain. But I will say that the blessing of rain brings with it a fair share of problems as well. Take, for instance, the following problems:
  • It won't stay dry long enough for us to mow the grass.
  • There isn't enough time for me to work in the yard or garden between rains and other obligations.
  • We've got slugs for the first time ever!
  • The humidity is uncomfortably high.

But, as I said, there are blessings:
  • Everything is growing at high speed right now!
  • I don't have to be standing out there with a hose trying to figure out how much water to give everything.
  • The bird baths are staying full
  • The car is staying washed!
There was a brief, non-raining (but still wet) period yesterday, but the sun was too intense and the humidity too high to be out in it for very long. Although the weather report called for more thunderstorms today and through the rest of the week, it was actually dry and comfortable enough to get outside and work on my container garden for a little while today.

I had to do some major rearranging of containers to move old plants out and new ones in.

By tomorrow I will have harvested all the remaining lettuce, though some roots are resprouting and I might leave them out to see what they produce. I do have 3 trays of young leaf lettuce, endive, and head lettuce, and a tray of spinach that I never transplanted. I like clipping the tender young leaves and adding them to the salads I prepare each night. It seems to me to be decadent to have baby lettuce leaves in our salads.

I've planted 3 bush cucumbers in large pots, and put them in the best sunny spot on the deck.

I've also planted 6 sweet potatoes in 2 very large pots, and put them in a sunny spot as well. I really hope we get some sweet potatoes from them, even if they are small.

I've got 2 Sweet 100s tomato plants on the deck, as well as 3 patio varieties of tomato.

I've got 2 banana pepper plants that are 3 feet tall now and filling up with large peppers. They both need to be staked to stay upright. John's working on that for me. There are 2 banana pepper plants John brought me back in March. They wintered over in the greenhouse, and John wanted to see if they'd do anything. I didn't think they would, but to my surprise, they are loaded with small to medium sized banana peppers.

I'm going to give up on the radishes. I planted about 100 in two shoe boxes, and they've never bulbed. I couldn't get bulbs last fall or the spring or fall before that either. I'm learning from other gardeners that this is a common problem. I understand from one gardening friend that this never happens with French Breakfast radishes, so I'm going to try some of those in the fall if I can find them. My radishes aren't a total loss. I've learned that the young tops are delicious in a salad.

I have a large tray with 6 strawberry plants that are now flourishing. There are nice sized strawberries everywhere, still green, but one has turned a beautiful deep red, and I'm waiting for just the right moment of ripeness to pick it and give it to my husband.

This is the first year I have grown Swiss Chard, and I wanted it in containers on the deck where I could watch it. I transplanted 2 in the early spring, and they're tall and beautiful now. I've learned that they will do fine all summer, and I can harvest them a few leaves at a time for meals here and there. They will do well until the very cold weather in winter.

That's it for the veggies in the container garden. Everything else is flowers. I've never tried growing them before, and it's nice to see them flourishing without much assistance from me.
I can't remember all their names, but they are lovely, and I am enjoying them. I often forget they are on the deck, and when I step out the door and see them there in all their color, I am always surprised and pleased.

I've got more than 20herbs now. Most of them are on a table near the deck. It can't hold all of them, so I'll be trying to find a place on the deck for as many as will fit. Some still need to be transplanted into pots. The rain has delayed that project too.

I like having a garden bed out in the back yard, but I also love having a few veggies, flowers, and herbs on the front deck where I can get to them quickly for a small, needed harvest, or a brief visit with nature.

Monday, May 25, 2009

So Much For Age: The Man, The Project, The Story

My father turned 82 years old on May 16.

This week, Dad finished building his first greenhouse! It’s an 8’x12’ wood structure, with a thick (?mm) polyethylene cover.

This year he's growing a variety of tomatoes, bell peppers, and cucumbers. He might add more. Later, he plans to add a raised bed cold frame area in front of the greenhouse.

I'm so full of pride, I'm bursting! Just 3 months ago I gave Dad some information and books with greenhouse designs to look at. Dad designed his own greenhouse and built it himself (between the many rainy days) - in 3 months! He wouldn't let me or my husband or anyone help him.

My dad, Gentry Wright, has always been a "DIY" kind of guy. He didn't know that though until he did his first home project some 45 years ago, when my mother started nagging him for a picture window. After a few months of nagging, my dad finally put a sledge hammer through the wall. That was the day he learned he had the DIY gift. He put in a picture window all by himself! Following that, in various places we lived, there were rabbit pens, chicken coops, horse stalls, pig pens, fences, more fences, storage sheds, doorways, sliding glass doors, bathrooms, kitchens, decks, more decks, enclosed porches, a sunroom, a bedroom, a living room, and now, a greenhouse!

My dad, a humble, unassuming guy, enjoys staying busy, knows how to work with his hands, and loves to make my mama happy!

And my Dad grows the best tomatoes I've ever seen!

To Honor Those Who Are Worthy of Honor

Today is Memorial Day. I'm not about to use this space for a diatribe on the political views of war and soldiering - mine or anyone else's. This isn't a day for discourse. This is a day of recognition. Today, all of us should be honoring the men and women who have served our country in the Armed Forces. Whatever our opinions or experiences with war, we should be able to give freely this one day our gratitude to all those individuals who madethe choice to fight for freedom. Whatever else we think it may be about, war, for America, is always about freedom.

Today, along with all Americans who have fought for freedom and justice around the world, I honor:

My Father: Gentry Wright

Dad joined the Army at the end of WWII, and served overseas in the occupation of Germany. He brought home a British bride. Later, he served in Korea, and did two tours in Viet Nam, serving in Military Intelligence under General William Westmoreland. Dad finally told me a couple of years ago what it is he did in Viet Nam. Once he did, I realized it was so secret, I could never tell anyone. After 21 years of service, Dad took a medical discharge in 1970, and retired to North Carolina to farm and fish. Dad has always shared many funny stories about his military experience, but stays quiet about the darker days of war. This week, at the age of 82, he finished building a greenhouse that he designed himself.

My Brother: Keith Wright

Eligible for the draft in 1968, my brother joined the Army right out of high school. Not willing to carry a gun, Keith served honorably in the medical corp, rescuing friends and fellow soldiers from the battlefield while under fire. Keith served in Viet Nam at the same time my father was there on his second tour. He did his time and came home. He never talked much about his experiences, but I know they remain with him, as they do with our father.

My Husband: John H. Alderman III

John served 10 years in the Navy, during the Cold War era. His training was extensive, as he served on nuclear submarines in missions still considered highly classified. When one of the submarines he was serving aboard hit an underwater mountain, John was credited with saving the lives of his shipmates by getting the boat operational and to the surface with the aid of the only 4 other men aboard who were free enough of injury to help. John's ingenuity and ability saved the Navy billions of dollars and his actions saved not only his shipmates, but the lives of millions of Americans. John wanted to make a career of the Navy, but left to care for his marriage and his family.

My Father-In-Law: John H. Alderman, Jr.

I never had the opportunity to meet my father-in-law. I love and respect him just the same. He served six years in the Pacific in World War II as Adjunct to Gen West in the Southern Occupational Forces in Japan under General Douglas MacArthur. As a private aboard the transport ship heading overseas, he served as head cook, commanding officers under his charge. He crawled through foxholes, fought in the Battle of Manilla, survived being run over by a tank, and five potentially fatal diseases. He saw, in hand-to-hand combat things you and I would never want to know about. While serving in the Philippines my father-in-law died and was pronounced dead. Five doctors signed his death certificate. A few short hours before his scheduled burial, he woke, removed himself from his body bag, and walked out of the morgue tent. He returned home, married, raised a son (my husband), and a daughter, and established the homestead John and I now call 5 Acre Farm.

My Son-In-Law: John H. Alderman IV

John takes his citizenship quite seriously, and believes all Americans should do the same. He is serving a distinguished career in the National Guard, currently at the rank of Major. He served honorably in Iraq with his men, whose lives he holds as dearly as his own, and is currently serving as an International Public Affairs Officer for the National Guard and Liaison between the military and locals.

My Friend: Name Withheld

I cannot give my friend's name. His work in the military has always been of a sensitive and highly classified nature. He served a distinguished career and retired last year. He now holds down the homefront so his wife can pursue her dreams and career goals.

Thank You All

My simple heartfelt thanks belong to these men, and to the millions of men and women like them, who have protected my rights and my life, and those of my family and my countrymen each day of their service. May God bless and keep you all this Memorial Day, and every day for the rest of your lives.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

It's Raining, It's Pouring, and I'm Really Getting Grumpy

John and I have had a few appointments away from home this week, but not as many as usual. You'd think this would have been a good week to work in the garden, but no; it's been raining all week (more like the last month), everything from downpours to drizzle, to misty little rains. Actually, this rain has been nearly continuous since early spring. Quite a change, as I've been accustomed to a short season of rain before the Georgia drought settled in.

Anyway, even this morning I had to go out in a drizzly rain to feed the chickens. And because we can't mow wet grass, the grass in the yard has grown to more than knee-high. As a child, I was not one to go out and play in the rain. As an adult, I am still not inclined to do so. Like this morning, I go out into the rain when I have to. Otherwise, I can admire the rain from the safety of indoors, or a covered patio.

So I haven't been able to spend much time in the garden - not more than enough for a walk-through inspection. Here's what I know about my garden right now:
  • I really need to get tomato cages up. I've got a few up, but there are still plenty of tomato plants starting to sprawl across the ground.
  • The watermelon plants seem to be growing very slowly.
  • The cantaloupe and pumpkin are growing thick and reaching out tentatively to spread.
  • Strong winds broke off one or two of the pepper plants, but they are still growing.
  • Some of the cucumber vines are starting to climb up the old windmill I set up for them, but they have a long way to go.
  • To my amazement, the broccoli plants in my container garden are finally having a decent show of heads.
  • I have two banana pepper plants in containers that have grown three feet tall and need support; but they have some beautiful big peppers on them.
  • A third banana pepper is stunted and drowning in a pot without drainage.
  • My container garden on the front deck is crowded.
It's this last point that has been getting to me the most in the last few weeks. Every time I have stepped out onto the deck to work in my container garden, it starts to rain. Then, it stops shortly after I give up and go back inside. By then, however, I am into some other project indoors and don't think about going back outside.

Yesterday I was trying to transplant some herb plants I'd bought the day before. I managed to transplant two before a misty little drop here and there became a drizzly downpour. I was determined to keep working in spite of the rain, and managed to also transplant three bush cucumber plants into large containers. At that point, I needed more room on the deck. I stepped around to the side of the deck to remove a large planter with two broccoli in it. I debated calling on John for help several times before I decided I could do it myself. It was just one turn and two steps to the spot where I wanted to put the container.

What I didn't notice, once I had the huge, heavy pot in my arms, was the stair railing. John took down the stairs last year to keep the dogs off the deck and out of the plants, but he didn't take down the railing, which was hiding in the tall grass. I tripped over that and some timbers he'd left on the ground, and went down with the big pot still in my arms. I hit my thigh on some wood in the grass, my neck on the railing, and my face on the edge of the table my herbs are on. My gardening efforts were quite suddenly over for the day.

I went inside, drenched and hurting, and climbed into a warm shower. There is some swelling around my left eye, but no bruising. The back, left side of my neck is very sore and showing a long narrow bruise, and my left thigh is sore.

On a brighter note, on Friday, John had the wonderful idea for us to go on a date! We drove over to Lawrenceville to the $1.99 movie theater to see Nicholas Cage in "Knowing." We've never been to that theater and thought it would be a nice inexpensive treat. (Laughing now, you'll know why later!)

We didn't call ahead to check the movie time until we were already on the road and on our way. We discovered that we were way too early for the movie - three hours too early. So we decided to have an early dinner. Along the way, however, we spotted a plant nursery, and John pulled in. Unplanned free time is a dangerous thing sometimes.

My senses were overwhelmed by the beauty I encountered. Heavenly scents! Stunning color! Textures! The delicate flower shapes! The various shades of green! And I couldn't afford any of it! Well, not until I stepped back outside and saw the wide variety of herbs in 4.5 inch pots for $3.95 each. I still couldn't afford them, but at that price, I could not afford to pass them up. So I decided on 10 herbs, making sure all had culinary uses:

Ginger Mint
Golden Oregano
Winter Savory
Lemon Verbena
Red Creeping Thyme
Purple Basil
Archer's Gold Thyme

I already have:
Lemon Thyme
Sweet Basil
Curly Parsley
Flat Leaf Parsley

It was really nice to see the variety of herbs at the nursery we visited. I didn't think I could find that significant a variety locally, and was very pleased. If anyone in Georgia is interested, the place is:

Still Lake Nursery
745 Scenic Hwy
Lawrenceville, GA 30045

We ate at Burger King in Snellville, and then hustled over the theater. We enjoyed the movie, but discussed the ending extensively. It was interesting, but (I thought) weak.

The whole evening cost us about $60.00 (insert laughter here). Not cheap at all, but we brought more home than empty drink cups this time!

Monday, May 18, 2009

When the Rains Came

Georgia has been experiencing severe drought conditions since 2006. The entire state has suffered, and restrictions have been severe. But this year, in time for summer, restrictions are lifting, and the lakes are rising - almost back to normal. The drought seems to be over.

The rains have been frequent this spring. I have been enjoying them. Many have been gentle, soaking rains that have lasted, sometimes, for days at a time. They've been good for the earth, good for the garden, and good for my aching soul. They have often been like a gentle embrace, sometimes expected, sometimes a surprise, whispering kind encouragements in my ear, assurances of better days to come. I have relished each visit of rain, and sometimes wept quietly when they ended.

Recently, the gentle rains have subsided, and sudden downpours with thunder and lightning have taken their place. Quick bursts, hard and heavy, almost angry, seem to be screaming something I cannot hear amidst the noise, and perhaps, encouraging me to hide my own screams in the noise. Not always, but sometimes, they leave me pensive when they are gone, with a small knot in my stomach.

Two nights ago, while I slept, another storm passed through. It was short and heavy. All of my plants are strong enough to take the heavy rain now, but my container garden struggled in the muscling wind that accompanied the rain. Two of my pepper plants, which are 3 feet each and fruiting, fell over. I'm grateful they did not break, but they both require support now. A medium size container of marigolds fell on one of my container tomato plants. The marigolds were smashed and may or may not recover. The tomato plant lost a branch, but at least it was a non-producing branch. I haven't found any other damage, and I am grateful there doesn't seem to be more.

Nature can often find ways to embrace us, to comfort us, and to offer us respite from the cares of the world. But just as often, it can hold us at arm's length, warning us, scolding us, or chasing us into a hiding place to cower until it has finished a hard work. The latter is more difficult to accept than the former; but both experiences have something positive to offer us if we're paying attention.

When the Rains Came
When the rain's came.
I looked to heaven.
When they washed away my dreams
I cried all night
In my heart I knew you'd be there
Cause I felt the love
and then I saw the light

Through the hard time's through the bad time's

You always came and sang to make things right
Now I don't worry about tomorrow
Cause I felt the love
and then I saw the light
From the darkness comes a doorway
When the sun's up in the blue and burning bright
I'll be dreaming about that morning
Cause I felt the love
and then I saw the light
yes I felt the love
and then I saw the light

When the rain's came.
I looked to heaven.
When they washed away my dreams
I cried all night
But,In my heart I knew you'd be there
Cause I felt the love
and then I saw the light
Yes I felt the love
and then I saw the light
Yes I felt the love
and then I saw the light

- Beth Rowley

Friday, May 15, 2009

Dance As If You're Falling On Your Face

Well, I got absolutely nothing done yesterday. I'd pushed hard the day before, getting a lot done, and had no energy left for yesterday. But this morning, however, I was up and out early once more. I moved the chicken kite to a new area, fed the chickens, and sat for a few minutes watching the birds do their morning stretching and dancing. Then it was off to the garden.

This morning I planted 14 yellow squash (straightneck and crookneck), 2 okra, and a horde of peppers! I didn't get the chance to count, but I thought there were at least 24 jalapenos, 2 giant jalapenos, 3 red hot cherry peppers, 3 pimiento, 12 sweet banana, and 18 green bell. I also planted 2 Japenese vining cucumbers at the base of an 8 foot tall garden windmill. The next time out, I'll add several pickling cukes I've grown from seed. It will be great to watch them climb that windmill.

Everything was going really well this morning. My energy level seemed fine, the temperature was comfortable, there was a cool breeze, and the sun wasn't too intense. So I wanted to keep working. I took two short breaks to make sure I didn't over-do it, sitting in the rocker sipping a cold drink while I watched the chickens and petted the dogs who were gathered around my feet.

After my second break, just before I was going to finish planting the peppers, I decided to clean up some of the trash that had accumulated in and around the garden. You know, those plastic collars around peat pots and the multi-plant trays, empty soil and mulch bags, and other stuff (I've got to get a trash can out there). John had left a number of very long pvc pipes on the driveway near the garden gate. He's going to cut them into lengths and use them as tomato stakes. They'd been there for a couple of days, but they hadn't been in my way before this morning.

Well, wouldn't you know it, while trying to step over them, my short legs didn't reach and I ended up standing on them. Because they are round, and not flat, my "standing" s udde nly became a dance as they rolled and I tried to stay upright. It was an ugly dance, but it didn't last long. I was on my face, on the pavement in a heartbeat. I got up with two scraped knees, a scraped elbow, and a tearful sense of defeat. I really thought I was going to get the rest of the veggies planted this morning.

I went in the house and John cleaned me up. I was upset, and it came out in anger. I spent the next 30 minutes screaming inappropriately about the pipes and the trash, and the unfinished work, etc. I hate that about myself. I got my temper under control a long, long time ago; but the "perfect storm" of my hormones rushing to the edge of the menopausal cliff like lemmings, unearthed in me a new level of uncontrolability several years ago, and my generously patient husband was frequently the target of my upset.

Actually, my tirade this morning was nothing compared to what I could have done two years ago. So maybe that's a sign that the storm is almost over.

I returned to the garden and finished planting the peppers, but my knees, which don't do kneeling well anyway, were hurting too much to do anything more. I'll have to finish planting the rest of the veggies another day.

Overall, I'm very happy with how the garden is coming, and I hope we will have a large, healthy harvest. I'm looking forward to canning lots of jalapenos for John, enjoying stuffed bell peppers (a rare treat usually), freezing and drying lots of squash, pickling jars and jars of cucumbers, eating-freezing-and-canning tons of tomatoes, and slicing open ice cold watermelon and cantaloupe when summer reaches it's hottest point in August.

Once my anger subsided, I quickly apologized to John for my outburst. Good husband that he is, he had already forgiven me. My knees will heal long before my heart heals and I forgive myself for letting my temper get away from me once again, however. For the past several years, my hormones seem to have more control of me than I do, and I don't like that.

Angry and irritable is not who I am. It's not who I've spent my life becoming; but this someone I sometimes don't know, this angry me, that snaps so quickly and so brutally at the one person who loves me so dearly... I hope she will be gone soon. I hope the person I once loved being will have a chance to return and finish out the last of my days on this earth, held in the loving, secure embrace of my husband, whom I do dearly love. I hope she will return and bring back the peace I used to know, and the joy I always felt in living each day in the grace and blessedness of knowing Christ, the center and source of my sole reason for being.

We're off to a local, popular fish camp tonight to have dinner with my mom and dad. John has eaten there since childhood, and has gone on and on about it since we wed. Tonight will be the first time for me and my folks. I hear they specialize in catfish, and my dad can certainly enjoy a plateful of catfish! My mom will want shrimp, I'm sure. Me? I think I'm in the mood for oysters! Ooooh!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Early to Bed, Early to Rise

Paramenopause is a pain in the b..... well (ladies), you know. But combine it with diabetes and polycystic ovarian syndrome, and I am trying to go uphill against the wind. I've always been forward-moving, highly organized, and detail-oriented (I can catch details others never see!). However, these days, my concentration and focus are frequently lagging, and my energy level can vary significantly; lately, it's been running quite low. As much as I want to be outside in my garden, I struggle to motivate myself to get there, even knowing I will feel better if I make myself go, and work in the dirt. Though I was quick to purchase plants early in the season, however, I am falling behind at getting them into the garden.

Aside from the fact that the garden bed wasn't ready for planting until mid-April, it hasn't helped that my see-saw energy level has been competing with many rainy days for time in the garden. We've had more rain this spring than we've had in 3-5 years total. Living in a state that has been in an official drought for 7 years or so now, I am grateful for the rain, but it can be equally, a gardener's blessing and bane.

Once the garden was ready for planting, my first priority was to get the tomato plants into the ground. John and I together accomplished that one clear morning two weeks ago. No sooner had we finished planting and watering however, than it started raining!
At this point, all of the tomatoes are doing very well, growing steadily, and even bearing small green fruit. If all goes well, we should get a nice tomato harvest this year. I certainly hope so, considering we've planted 35 tomato plants!

This morning was my next opportunity to get out in the garden. I haven't been sleeping well at night, being mostly wakeful after 4 a.m. So on this day I decided to go ahead and get up instead of rolling around in the bed for several more hours. I had an 11 a.m. medical appointment, and I thought I'd see what I could accomplish before it was time to go.

It was just after 6 a.m. when I rose, dressed, and carried kitchen scraps and feed to the chickens. I removed their night covering and they scrambled into the daylight, pouncing joyfully on the feed when I tossed it all in. I watched them for a little while (a delightful passtime I have adopted), and then decided to work in the garden.

I decided a few days ago that I needed to get the melons in the ground next. I'd had a false start yesterday, when I suddenly lost energy before I could get the melons planted, and had to retreat to the house to lie down. So this morning, while the morning was still cool, and the sun had not yet risen over the trees at the bottom of 5 Acre Farm, and I felt okay, I tried again.

On my hands and knees, crawling through the dirt from one end of the 32' garden to the other, I managed to plant nine Watermelon, three Cantaloupe, and two Buttercup Squash Pumpkin plants! I felt good as I began the task, and I still felt good when it was done.

It was 8:30 a.m. by then, so I went inside, woke John, and got into the shower to clean up. We made it to my appointment on time, then spent the afternoon running errands. We got home around 6:00 p.m., and I threw a quick dinner together while John fed the chickens, the dogs, and the pig. Then we rushed out for a gathering at the church we recently began visiting.
It's been a good day. A day I am grateful for. A day in which I can say I did something productive for a change. I hope tomorrow can be another good day.

I've got a lot of peppers to plant next.

And oh, yes, it rained again today. It started just before we left for my appointment, and it has drizzled on and off all day and into the night where a steady, light downfall, gently hitting the roof and tin awning, will soon be lulling me to sleep.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Up, Up, and Away...

John finished the chicken kite this week.

I don't know why John calls it a "kite." He said something about it looking like lightweight stick kites he used to make when he was a kid. They were triangular, and there was something about the way the air flowed through them, to lift them into the sky. I guess I can see that in the chicken kite.

John's inventive nature attaches itself to every project around the farm. He looks at something, and he just has to improve upon it. It frustrates me sometimes, because what should be a quick project becomes a lengthy one; but more often than not, the results of John's efforts are far superior to acceptable standards. The chicken kite is no exception.

All the chicken tractors we have looked at are relatively small, and made of wood and wire. They are only big enough for a half-dozen chickens at the most. Some are larger, but not by much. One woman I know has complained that the plywood on hers is warping badly. She's on
ly had it a few months, and already, major changes are required.

Chicken tractors are supposed to be portable. Most have two wheels on one side, and are picked up on the other side like a wheelbarrow, then moved. A common complaint however, is that they are much too heavy for one person to move. Most have too-small wheels. One I saw had large, but heavy wheels. Some of them are attractive, but what good is a portable pen that is too heavy to move?

John's chicken kite is large compared to others we've seen. It's triangular shaped, approximately 10' long, and 4' wide at the base. It's relatively lightweight, and moves easily without wheels. It's pretty spacious too. Right now, there are 15 chickens in the kite, and they have plenty of room to scratch the earth, stretch their wings, and chase each other around.

I wasn't sure about John's design for this chicken kite when he started. I wanted his assurance that it would be aesthetically pleasing. Even as he built it, I wasn't sure it would be. But John's chicken kite is more attractive than any of the chicken tractors I've seen. I absolutely love it!

John's going to build a second kite for the younger chicks which will be ready to move outdoors in a few weeks. This kite won't take nearly as long as the first one did (I hope), but I know John will be making improvements on the design.

I'm anxious to post pictures of the kite and our chickens, but I think John's got a great idea here that folks will want to copy, and I think he should be able to sell the design, or kite kits if he chooses to do so. So I've encouraged John to patent his kite. That's why I'm not posting pics of it yet. Once the patent is established, I'll post pictures with great excitement.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Timing Is Everything

So far, each year, our gardening efforts have proven better than the year before, in spite of the constant challenges John and I face medically and financially, and our necessary commitments away from home. However, I remain continually frustrated by delays that prevent almost every project from being done in a timely manner.

If I had to look back and choose a moment when the delays first began to happen, I would say it was 4 years ago when John built a pantry for me in a nook in the kitchen. We tore out the carpet, then I scraped the cottage cheese ceiling and painted it and the walls. Then John was to put shelves on three sides of this area - about 3'x4'. The project took 3 months! It was so frustrating for me, waiting and waiting for something to be done that should have only taken a weekend. The delay was caused by a combination of things: John's desire to make it perfect, inadequate work space (we had to set up a place and break it down each time he worked on the pantry), John's job taking him away from home for days at a time, and his health (bouts of exhaustion, and lethargy brought on by a variety of drugs. We didn't know at the time just how bad his health was. We didn't know that until this year.
The next project delay was the well. The pump died close to the end of the summer growing season 4 years ago. We had to carry water from the house to the bottom of our five acres in trash cans. There was no way we could afford the thousands of dollars it would have cost to have professionals fix the problem, but John assured me he was qualified to do the job. He absolutely is, but again, between bad health bouts and attempts to earn a living, the project of fixing the well has stretched into years, and still remains unfinished, primarily, however, due to a lack of finances. So every couple of days during the growing season, for the last 3 years, we haul water to the garden in trash cans, in the back of John's work van. Last year John did manage to pull the pump up the 575 foot well shaft. It took a long time a few feet at a time. This year we think we can afford the new pump. When we get it, I don't know how long it will take to get it installed and working. This year, the delays continue. Winters are almost always mild in our part of Georgia, so I wasn't surprised when the weather turned warm in late January, and continued into February. At the garden center I found tender young plants ready to purchase, and thought the Burpee Company was suggesting that it wasn't too early to get my gardening started. So I bought at least 18 each of Romaine and head lettuce, broccoli, and cauliflower, and a hundred sets each of red and white onions. I knew it was too early to put them in the ground, but I thought I could at least get my container garden started. It was February 28. The next day, March 1, it snowed. Temperatures dropped quickly after that, and it was weeks before I could pot my plants.

In the meantime, soon after the snow melted, we took the plunge and bought baby chicks. The last of John's chickens had aged out and died three years ago, and this year we could finally afford to get more. I rigged a playpen in the laundry room, and we set the chicks up in that while John set to building a tractor, or "kite" as he prefers to call it. Well, he started researching tractor designs. None seemed adequate. We'd heard too many complaints about traditional tractors being too heavy to move easily, and all the designs seemed too small for the number of chickens we would have. It was a few weeks before John was able to come up with a design we both agreed on. He started building it, and along the way had to adjust the design and change/undo some of the things he'd already done. Again, however, other projects were pulling him away and slowing completion. The chicks are more than eight weeks old now, and the playpen is cramped; but John believes he'll have it finished today. I sure hope so.

One of the projects further dividing John's time was our new kitchen garden. The space is about 32' x 22', and we've been working on it since last fall. It should have been cleared, tilled, and amended by November, but John's health was not good, and he wouldn't let me work on the garden without him. We discovered in November that John had previously experienced a mild heart attack, and that he needed surgery to implant stints. He had the surgery just prior to Christmas, and then winter was upon us.

After the surgery, John's health began to show improvement. A diagnosis of sleep apnea and the acquisition of a CPAP has helped improved John's energy level and ability to concentrate. His drugs have been adjusted, and he is doing much better now.

We didn't work on the garden again until March, after the snow, and by then, to me, we were already far behind. Cutting, clearing, burning, tilling, going for and loading mulch, and then manure, then spreading each and working it into the soil, then tilling again... it seemed to take forever. And for the first time in several years of drought, it kept raining this spring, with only a clear day here and there to work outside. In late April, we finally got our tomato plants in the new bed, but we still have a number of other plants waiting for breaks in the rain to allow for planting time. And still other things keep dividing up our time.

I've tried to concentrate on my container garden through all of this. The lettuce have flourished, and are now ready for harvest. Early patio tomatoes are thriving, and a container of Sweet 100s is full of tiny green fruit. I also have several pepper plants that are growing nicely (one even has two small one-inch peppers on it), and several tomato and cucumber plants sprouting nicely from seed. I'm also growing a number of herbs this year; rosemary, lemon thyme, dill, lavender, sweet basil, oregano, flat leaf parsley, curly parsley, and coriander.

My broccoli and cauliflower never got transplanted into the garden in time. The plants are large and lush, but only one broccoli has sprouted, tiny little heads rushing to seed. A first attempt at arugula also bolted quickly to seed, and the one leaf I tasted was terribly bitter. My radishes aren't ready yet, but I'm prepared for them to never bulb. They haven't in the last two years, but I have learned that the young tops are a delicious addition to salads. So at least the radishes aren't a complete loss.

I never even got the chance to plant potatoes, which I specifically wanted to do this year; and our springs are so warm, I always miss the chance to plant early peas. Then there are the onions. I can't express how much I want to grow my own onions this year. I had 200 sets, but the garden bed was never ready in time, and although I potted a few, I didn't have nearly enough pots for them all. So the rest were a loss before they were even begun.

Delays seem inevitable in life. Some we can control, some we can't. I am definitely frustrated by the number of delays John and I have experienced in recent years, in our efforts to make 5 Acre Farm a working, productive farm that can meet our needs and supply a little extra for our extended family. I am frustrated by the limitations of our health and finances, which contribute to the delays, and add to my frustration. Realizing the limitations that John and I have in controlling the delays we face, however, I try to take a deep breath (often) and move forward at whatever pace I can find and manage.

Mario Andretti said, "Circumstances may cause interruptions and delays, but never lose sight of your goal." John and I do have our eyes fixed on the goal. We pray it is still within reach in spite of delays and obstacles.

Saint Francis De Sales said, "Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections, but instantly set about remedying them - every day begin the task anew." I suppose that's what I've done sometimes, lost patience with myself, and lost courage that the task could be done.

John and I keep saying we wish we were 20 years younger, 10 even. We've waited a lifetime to have a chance for something as good as 5 Acre Farm, but our bodies can't keep up with the dream. That's frustrating, and it's the worst kind of delay. That's difficult to accept. But we're working on it. We're taking things one day at a time and doing what we can each day. It's not about control. It's about patience. And it's about trusting God, to do all He wants to do in us, for us, and through us while we are here at 5 Acre Farm, and while we are on this earth.

John and I are people of faith. We turn to God and His word for guidance and comfort. So we appreciate the verses in James, chapter one, which say, the trying of your faith worketh patience, but let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

Right now, John and I have our dreams, and we have 5 Acre Farm. We have a modest income, and each day, we have a certain amount of health. We also have faith that God has put us here at this time to do what we can. That is enough for us. His timing for all of this is everything.