Friday, April 27, 2012

My Life: The Garden Experiments

My first attempt at a garden ended poorly. My tomatoes got blossom end rot, my squash became a home for bugs, and between the neighbor kids, my own child, and myself, all the peppers got smashed or dug up. It was a sad ending to an adventure that started in my living room with a shelf full of seedlings that I carried in and out of the house for almost two months.

My husband was grateful when I decided not to grow my seedlings in the living room the next year. We have limited space and despite my best efforts, I did end up spilling a few pots of dirt on the carpet during the course of the experience. I wanted my next garden to yield a harvest, so I experiment with composting, which more or less helped, but what really changed things was a book.

And here it is, highly recommended and officially tried out by me:
The Vegetable Gardener's Bible
We are living with my parents while my husband finishes school and they watched my disappointing first attempt at gardening. Last spring, my mother came home with this book. So began the new garden plan and my self-taught gardening attempt number two.

First I made a map. Can you believe that this book even tells you what plants are good to plant by each other and what plants are not? I designed my garden with this all in mind, (too scale) got my plants, and enlisted my father to run the tiller. I think I ought to write it THE TILLER because this is the tiller to beat all tillers. Orange and white, it sits in the back yard; a monstrous thing that quite literally terrifies me. It's big and heavy and I don't have any idea how old it is, only that it appears in all my gardening memories.

Then came the shoveling (Done by my hubby, thank you very much!), the creation of separate garden squares, the watering system ups and downs, the search for paper and straw for the walkways, the fight with the bugs, the unexpected arrival of powdery mildew (In Utah? Yes. I swear that's what it was,) the wind that collapsed my tower of cumbers and sunflowers, the carrots that got washed into the peas before they sprouted and grew, and the eventual overload of one too many pumpkins (I was so sure those other two plants were going to be butternut squash.)

It was great fun, and compared to the first year, a bountiful harvest. I fully intend to do it again this summer, with a few modifications; number one being no zucchini plants. . . .

Here are some photos of my last year's garden based on the system Mr. Edward Smith describes in his book. Genius!

 Here is the garden, a few weeks in.

Here are the pumpkins who disguised themselves as butternut squash.

 And here is the corn. Mmm. 

 Here is the same garden late in the season. I might have got the plants a little crowded. 

As you can see, a battle ensued with the encroaching weeds. In the end, the garden won out. Ignore the unexpected fourth pumpkin plant that sprouted outside the garden and grew down the paths between the corn. I couldn't bring myself to pull it. It was too cute.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Widow's Mite

I've decided to give each week of the month a theme for my blog. This week, the third of the month, is now officially dedicated to women who inspire me. I've yet to come up with a catchy phrase. Maybe you have some ideas? Women's Week? Wonder Women? Blah. Okay, I'll keep thinking. Meanwhile, here is today's post.

Senior Citizens in New Ulm, Minnesota, Making a Quilt...


In our church building there is a small room just off the foyer. Inside there are shelves from floor to ceiling piled high with fabric. There are patterns, boxes, sewing machines and quilting frames. It seems almost out of place when you look outside the door and see the spotless hallways. No other room in the church is so full, so seemly chaotic. This is the stake humanitarian room.

Every week on Tuesday, sisters arrive at the church. They set up quilting tables and pin down quilt backs made from old sheets. They roll white batting over the sheets and unfold patch-worked tops made from fabric gleaned from women all over the stake. When I look at those tops, it's like a bit of my grandmothers have been plucked from the past and put in front of me. Sisters consult over what color yarn to use, a blue to match this, a pink to match that. Then they begin to tie.

There is something haphazard about the work. One woman, the one organizing the efforts, told how the tops are cut and sewn, bits from here or there. The colors don't always match, the fabric is sometimes taken from old curtains, office scrubs, or jeans. She shops DI for sheets for the backs. They get the strangest donations, things that seem like they just shouldn't work.

A few weeks ago, this woman stood over a sewing machine, matching fabric to make a quilt top the right length. She told us how sometimes she looks at the tops and thinks, "Wow, that's a combination of colors I would never have chose." I knew what she meant. I've seen some pretty different quilts there.

Then she said something that touched me. No matter how strange she thinks they look, once they are tied, they always beautiful. "It's because of all the love that goes into them," she said.

When I get the chance to go to the church to help, I am amazed by the sisters who go every week. When they talk about what they accomplish, I see miracles. A small strip of fabric, left over, but just the right size for something else. A sheet back ends up being the exact same color maroon as the blocks on the top. They somehow manage to find everything they need.

When I stand in that overcrowded humanitarian room, I see the hand of God at work. That crazy, unexpected storage place is a sweet testament to the women who saw how the widow's mites of our stake could be used by the Lord. To them, even the smallest donations matter and, somehow, it all turns out beautiful.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Stars I Shall Find

Orion Nebula: Peering into the Orion Nebula

In high school we sang a song that used the poem "There Will be Rest" by Sarah Teasedale as it's lyrics. Its a beautiful poem, but the part that is on my mind goes:

"I will make this world of my devising
     Out of a dream in my lonely mind.
I shall find the crystal of peace, above me
     Stars I shall find."

When I hear this poem in my mind, I see seeds of my own goals, dreams I've harbored in my mind. But when I look closer, everything they have become are gifts from a loving Father in Heaven. He is the source of peace and love, the place above me and my own ideas for my life. He leads me to all the stars that I find. And they are more than anything of my devising.

I opened my inbox today and found my thirtieth Relief Society story. For weeks I've been sitting in this torturous place between "I'm halfway there" and "I'll never get them." I still have twenty more to go, but I opened that story and it was this precious moment, a simple story, beautifully told about a woman more than forty years ago. 

I heard the words again in my mind, "Stars I shall find," and I cannot doubt that the Lord is putting these stories in my life for a reason. They inspire me. My search for them stretches me. My love for my Savior and my amazement at the way the Lord uses us to reach his children increases. God is real. He is working in our lives. 

"Believe in God, believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend." 
Mosiah 4:9