Archive for the ‘gardens’ Category

Our last ministry tour with Missions of Hope was a visit to their secondary schools. Both the boy’s and girl’s schools were located in rural areas outside Nairobi, and were a good 20 minute drive apart (definitely no sneaking into the dorms of the opposite sex at these schools!).

We visited the girl’s school first. The facilities were quite simple–in fact, the buildings reminded me a little of the structures in Mathare (although minus the squalor). Small rooms, attached in long rows, covered by the corrugated tin roofs that turned each classroom into an oven during the heat of the day. The dorms were in a nicer building, with about a dozen girls in a room, each with a bunk bed and trunk for her belongings.

As we toured the grounds, though, I was totally amazed by the projects we saw. A beautiful garden, filled with vegetables and fruit trees, providing much of the food consumed by the girls and staff each day. There was a large tilapia pond, brimming with the delicious fish. And here’s the best part: water from the fish farm circulated through the hydroponics center in the greenhouse next door. The fish waste fertilized the veggies, creating super-healthy food without the need of soil!

And the students were learning all about these food-producing systems while enjoying the immediate benefits!

20130723-111935.jpg (teacher in the hydroponics hut)

We happened to be there on a Sunday, so we all gathered in the large church building in the girl’s compound (the boys and girls each have their own church building and separate services each week). After an hour of rousing, interactive worship, we heard a sermon by a visiting muzungu preacher (which kind of relieved us, since we knew he’d only preach about 20 minutes, compared to the typical 2 hour sermons delivered by our African brethren). Just when we though church was over, the girls came to the front–one class at a time–and treated us to worship dances, special music and heart-wrenching skits (when was the last time you saw domestic violence and child trafficking acted out in church?).

20130723-111616.jpg (more…)


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I am enjoying gardening this year, even though I haven’t blogged about it much.

First off, the weather was so awful this spring that I wondered if anything would survive at the community garden plot!  My beans and beets rotted in the ground and my tomatoes were threatening suicide.  But prayer, warmer temps, fish fertilizer and two attempts at re-seeding finally paid off.

My garden grows quite well, thank you!

I run to the garden every other day, to water, hoe, thin and weed.  I’ve met a few of my fellow gardeners.  Most are lovely folks,  grounded in the things of the earth.  I’ve decided, however, that the guy whose plot is next to mine might be a few beans short of a bushel.

I met him the day I put my first seeds and starts in the ground–way back in April.  He and his grandson worked together, breaking up chunks of hard clay soil.  He told me he’d never gardened before and thanked me for the bit of advice I offered him.

I didn’t see him again until June.  Only his corn was poking up above the lumpy dirt and I watched him dig trenches around the two rows he’d planted.

“Corn needs trench irrigation,” he informed me, grunting as he dug.  “An old farmer told me that.”

He was at the garden again this week, turning his healthy crop of weeds under with a spade.  He had all three hoses stretched to his plot, filling up the trenches he’d dug around all of his crops.

I asked to use one of the hoses and attached my sprinkler wand to the one closest to my plot.  As I watered, he looked on in disapproval.

“You  need to irrigate your corn from below,” he reminded me.  “Otherwise water will get in the stalks and they’ll rot.”

Growing up in Kansas, I was pretty sure the farmers in my family “irrigated” their corn with rain.  And I couldn’t figure out why he was so insistent I was doing it wrong when my corn was twice as tall as his!

“So, where’d you hear that?” I asked.

“Oh, I’ve been farming all my life,” he answered as he shoved the spade into the ground . . .

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I’m having such a blast harvesting from my gardens these days! I still can’t believe I didn’t discover gardening sooner.

But it dawned on me recently that my lack of interest in growing my own edibles probably stems from my ambivalence about food in general.

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with food since childhood. Early on, I equated being fed well with being well-loved. I remember spending summers with my great-grandma Thurow in western Kansas. She’d greet me at the door with her big, bosomy hugs and then lead me to the magical drawer where homemade cookies, candy and other treats were amply supplied just for me! There’d be hand-rolled egg noodles drying on a table in the sun, German kolaches baking in the oven and Grandma’s fried chicken sizzling in the skillet.

And did I mention the cherry tree in the front yard? I knew that if I climbed those branches and picked long enough, grandma Thurow would make me my very own cherry pie, that I could eat for breakfast if I wanted!

But eating for love backfired on me when I entered my teens as an awkward, chubby, bespectacled basket-case. Food went from being my best friend to my worst enemy. Eating disorders soon developed and plagued me into the early years of marriage. I was able to break free from the death grip of bulimia when I found I was pregnant with our first child, but an unhealthy attitude toward food persisted.

Food was my obsession–I clipped recipes and stashed them all over the house like a squirrel hording nuts. I went on eating binges and then atoned with exercise and diet. I was always thinking about the next meal–and then the next diet. And I felt terrible about myself if I didn’t get my hour-long workout in each day.

I lived to eat . . . but it wasn’t much of a life.

But all that changed the summer of 1991, when we lived in Anchorage, AK. I wish I could tell you what book I read or program I tried that changed me–but that’s not how it happened. All I know is that I got so hungry for God that summer that I lost interest in filling my stomach. My appetite for the things of the Spirit replaced my unhealthy craving for food.

I began to eat to live . . . and what an amazing difference that made!

That’s not to say that I don’t get hungry or enjoy eating, because I do. Put a piece of carrot cake in front of me and I melt. But now I’ll only eat it if I’m hungry–and will stop when I’m full. Well, most the time, anyway 🙂

Food just doesn’t interest me much these days–and as a result, neither does cooking. Not even the most delectable concoctions whipped up on the Food Channel can coax me into the kitchen. In my opinion, cooking is time-consuming, messy, and offers a very fleeting pay-off. I’d much rather be hiking or blogging or puttering in my garden . . .

Which brings me to the dilemma of what to do with the bountiful harvest my garden is producing? I’m not sure if gardening will restore my interest in cooking, but I am enjoying the process of preserving what I’ve grown and gathered in:

I’ve made two batches of raspberry and blackberry freezer jam, blanched, vacuum-packed and frozen green beans, frozen blueberries for smoothies and muffins and put most everything else into salads, soups or stir-frys. I’m excited to try a recipe I just found for making herbed sun-dried tomatoes. And one of these days I’ll get brave enough to can salsa with my bumper crop of tomatoes and ring-of-fire peppers. Ole’! And when Danielle loans me her food processor (I have a pathetically stocked kitchen, except for the expresso machine), I will make a most excellent pesto which will be frozen in ice cube trays until I figure out what to do with the stuff.

Baby steps, I know, but a good start for an anti-foodie like me. Right now, I’m enjoying the way food looks as much as it tastes. Beets are beautiful, beans elegant and slender, tomatoes have an amazing array of shape, size and color. Peppers are mysterious, slyly changing colors to reveal what hotties they are–or not! Strawberries seem to blush a deeper ripe before my eyes . . .

But maybe with the help of my friends, family and Rachel Ray I can expand my culinary horizons. Or at least I can grow the yummy ingredients they need for their recipes . . .

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I tend another garden at a plot graciously provided by a church up the street. A few months back, a handful of hopeful gardeners put up fencing around the plot, tilled up our little bits of earth in our appointed spots, planted our seeds and starts and watered and waited.

Yesterday it was more like I waited and watered.

While the community garden was well-designed in most aspects, we’ve had water issues from the get-go. I hear rumors of some kind of underground irrigation going in, but for now all we have is a series of hoses connected together to transport our water from its source–a faucet right in front of the church office–to our garden, which is several hundred feet up a grassy incline.

This patchwork hose has been an adequate solution until recently. Since it runs across the church parking lot, the hose takes a lot of abuse from passing cars, and our current hose sports a small geyser when the water’s turned on. Not only does this voluminous spray soak the parking lot, it reduces the water flow from the end of the hose chain to an annoying trickle.

This was the case when I arrived at the community garden last night. Blessed woman that I am, I have two plots to water. One in the upper left quadrant, the other just a few plots below on the left. I quickly realized that the wee trickle from the hose would not be sufficient for both plots–if I wanted to get this chore finished before I leave for Alaska on Friday.

But I came up with a plan–I placed the hose in strategic spots where it gave the surrounding veggies a good soak, then trotted down the hill to a pond not far from the garden and filled a 5 gallon bucket with water to lug back up to the second plot. After dumping the sludgy, tadpole-filled liquid on my thirsty beets and corn, I raced uphill to the first plot and repositioned the hose between the tomato and pepper plants. I repeated this process at least a dozen times until my vegetables were sufficiently watered (my apologies to all the tadpoles who gave their lives in the process–but you will make good fertilizer). It took me over an hour to accomplish what I normally finish in 15 minutes!

As I lugged the heavy water bucket up the hill, I remembered some of the stories the somali girls told Danielle about life in a refugee camp. Their dad made a garden, they said. The girls described how they watered the garden with drinking cups filled to the brim. If they did not make these long, oft-repeated trips in the searing heat to water their plants, the crops would die and there would be no food. Once, the girls told Danielle about a pet kitten their dad had given them. When food got scarce, however, the kitten starved to death, becoming part of the inevitable food chain.

I’ve found myself becoming a bit irritated with the somali girls lately, and my sweaty exercise in manual watering was a good reminder of where they’ve been. I’ve learned from experience not to place a cupcake-filled platter in front of them. Each girl will devour five apiece, then stuff a few more in their pockets for later. I’ve watched the younger girls take mouldering, mushy apples from my fruit bowl and try to hide them in a coat pocket as they go out the door.

Even though they now live in a land of plenty (comparatively speaking), they still aren’t certain there will be food to eat tomorrow.

On my fourth hike up the hill, I decided to always have my fruit bowl filled with fresh produce when the girls come . . .

Musing about Africa and water and life made me think of Stephen as I carried another bucket and emptied it out on the cucumbers and canteloupe. I injured myself during this haul, scraping my big toe on a rock and making it bleed. I barely dodged two angry bees and got so thirsty I momentarily considered drinking out of the presumed lead-saturated hose.

And in my minor discomfort, I wondered about the conditions Stephen faced as he trekked miles through the jungles to take the Living Water to those dying of thirst. Oppressive heat, lions, snakes, bugs, the LRA, lack of food and water, lack of sleep . . . any one of those would cause me to turn back home. And yet this young Sudanese man, compelled by the love of Christ, forsakes all comfort and safety on a regular basis to share God’s love with strangers.

I prayed for my future son-in-law as I made my journey to the watering hole and then back up the hill one last time. And I asked the Lord to help me ever be mindful of his sacrifice and discomfort as he follows the One who had no place to lay his head.

My garden watered, I hobbled–covered with dirt, sweat and blood–to my little red car and headed wearily for home. Upon my arrival, I made myself an iced latte and then took a shower before checking my email in my nice, air-conditioned house.

The grime washed away, but my garden revelations stayed with me–and even prompted me to make a donation to a wonderful ministry in Sudan, called “Make Way Partners.” Check out their website–God is doing amazing things in North Africa.

I love that the Lord used a thirsty garden plot in Oregon to turn my heart to Africa!

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Tub ‘O Grub

So, in the short space of a week, I gutted our old broken hot tub, drilled holes through the shell for drainage, sucked all the water left in the jets and hoses, moved the monstrous thing, prepped it for planting and filled it with dirt!
Gutting and moving the hot tub proved to be the most challenging steps. But Greg and I removed everything but the hoses in just a few hours time. Then Greg figured out how to move the thing using 2″ PVC pipes and a lever (and Josh and Krispin). We were amazed at how easily the tub rolled into its final resting place–the sunny side of our back deck. Now we understand a smidge better how the pyramids were built!
The next day, I prepped the tub for the dirt. I filled the bottom area with emtpy buckets, planters, and other plastic containers and then covered it with wire mesh garden fencing. Then I laid strips of landscape cloth over it all, duct-taping it in place.
Then the dirt arrived–thanks to the Abrahamson family and NW Organic Farms. It took two truck loads to fill the thing–with rich, composted soil mixed with organic manure. Yumm!
It’s not too pretty to look at yet, but I think the Tub ‘O Grub will be an object of beauty in a few months. I’m building a “waddle” fence around the edge of the garden area. Then I’ll plant trailing edibles around the perimeter so they will eventually cover the black landscape fabric and sides of the hot tub–which I shall paint red on the next sunny day.
I will upload pics as I plant. I can’t believe how much fun this is–and that I waited 52 years to try growing the food I eat!

Guess you could call me a “late bloomer”!

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I can’t stop thinking about gardens.

Community gardens, to be specific.
I don’t know why–I have no gardening experience. Our property would not support a garden. And I’ve murdered every houseplant I’ve ever owned.

But still, I’m fascinated by the concept . . .

And I’ve noticed it’s not just me. The guy who fixed my water-heater yesterday stopped in to say that he’d decided to convert a portion of his small farm into a community garden.

“I want to help folks at church and in the neighborhood be better prepared for the lean days ahead,” Harry explained.

I just discovered that the Vineyard church in Boise, ID, runs a community garden dubbed the Garden-O-Feedin. Here’s a snippet from their blog (http://www.letstendthegarden.org/):

The vision of the garden is to supplement, with healthy organically grown vegetables, the pantries of those in need. Two benevolent farmers markets are held each week, Wednesdays and Saturdays under the garden arbor.

In 2007 the garden produced and gave away over 20,000 lbs. of produce, feeding approximately 1281 families, representing around 4108 individuals. Not only does the garden feed those in need, this year we’ve started holding classes to educate it’s volunteers and the community about gardenings value to the enviornment and the many differen’t ways to enjoy meals with garden produce.Wise water usage,organic methods of soil and crop development, pest control, composting and the benefits of mulching are some of the classes planned for next season.

I love it! I wonder if there’s anything like this in the Portland area?

The village we visit each summer has a community garden. Spread out along the banks of the Yukon, the garden is one of the most scenic spots in the village and I love to hang out there and chat as the locals plant and weed and swap the latest gossip. Even brother Bob, the Franciscan lay priest who organized the community garden, lets down his guard a bit when he’s digging in the dirt. He’s not always friendly to visiting evangelicals, but he’ll lean over the fence and visit for a bit, rubbing sweat from his brow with his grimy hands.

Even though I’ve not yet experienced it, there’s something about a community garden that seems, well, communal. To sow and to reap together sounds almost spiritual to me. And then to enjoy the fruits of your labor and share the bounty with the hungry in Christ’s name–I can’t think of a better example of communion.

We are having dinner with friends this week who started an organic, family-run farm this past year. They had no prior experience, but stepped out in bold faith and the Lord has blessed their endeavor. I’m excited to see what they’ve accomplished–who knows, maybe they’ll even let me hang out and plant a seed or two this spring.

So, I’m not sure where this is heading. But the Lord has planted some interesting seeds in my heart . . .

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