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

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.

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