Tag Archives: Personal

The Joys and Trials of Gardening


Spring came back, and went mad. After a long winter’s nap, she woke up ready to party hardy.  I’ve battled to keep up as it suddenly seems everything needs doing. Today my back is grumbling and I’m suffering from my annual carpel tunnel flare up.  And still seeking the perfect wrist wrap, one that offers support while allowing some flexibility. I can’t do anything with those wraps that imprison my hand and wrist in unyielding plastic like armor.  I like the Smart Glove but have to wash and dry it often to tighten it back up.  Maybe after two years I need a new one.  Even the simple ace hand and wrist support is helpful.  My best help is ibuprofen.  And the only individuals who want to assist me are quite small, or dogs. Not as helpful as you might think, but that’s the crowd I roll with.

Back to the garden.

“Gardening requires lots of water – most of it in the form of perspiration.”  ~Lou Erickson

“Gardening is a matter of your enthusiasm holding up until your back gets used to it.”  ~Author Unknown

“Gardening is about enjoying the smell of things growing in the soil, getting dirty without feeling guilty, and generally taking the time to soak up a little peace and serenity.”  ~Lindley Karstens, noproblemgarden.com

My Solution to World Peace


This will come as no surprise to those of you who follow my blog, but I strongly feel and emphatically declare the world would be a far better place if everyone had a garden.  I’m convinced when people are growing things, they’re much less prone to destructive behavior.  Granted, violent extremists (and serial killers) seem beyond redemption, but the rest of humanity would gain immeasurably from a connection with the earth.  To cultivate a garden is to commune with the essence of life and the source of all creation.

“The best place to seek God is in a garden.  You can dig for him there. ” ~George Bernard Shaw

I urge planting herbs, vegetables, fruits and flowers in an outdoor plot–convert a patch of lawn if need be–or as part of a community garden. This is a particularly good idea because it brings together people of all ages, from the very young to the elderly, and provides wonderful learning opportunities for children while tapping into the storehouse of knowledge many older people have.   The interaction between those joined in the common purpose of producing food and beautifying their neighborhood helps cultivate the people along with the plants.

Above pic from the site How To Start A Community Garden.

Our church has a communal garden with small plots for those who ask for them.  Folks garden side by side, sharing trials and triumphs and learning together.  More churches could do this if they tilled up part of their yard and put in vegetable plots  instead of only grass.

Sacrilegious?  I don’t think so.

Back to the garden, think sustainable methods, like making compost, and practice organic gardening.   Encourage beneficial insects, butterflies, and song birds to make their home in your yard.  You’d be amazed how many you can attract just by planting a patch of sunflowers and zinnias.

Anything that rots and hasn’t been sprayed with herbicide or pesticide can be used as mulch, although it’s best to compost the material first.  Old hay or straw make good mulch without needing to break down before using.   Different parts of the country have various natural material that can be used.  Organic matter feeds the soil and encourage earthworms.   Remember, as I tell my children and now grandchildren, happy worms make happy dirt.  Worms are the gardener‘s friend.  Non-hybrid, heirloom seed can be saved for next year and shared with others, and old-time flowers can be divided and spread around.

If digging in the earth isn’t an option for you, try growing plants in pots on a patio, deck, rooftop, sunny windowsill, or under fluorescent lights.  These can be fairly inexpensive to set up.   I used to have a stand with long fluorescent lights suspended over it about 6-10 inches above the foliage.   Raise the lights as the plants grow.  You’ll need warm and cool fluorescent bulbs for good plant growth, but not the more costly ‘grow lights.’  Although they’re good too.

“No two gardens are the same.  No two days are the same in one garden.”  ~Hugh Johnson

A film I really enjoyed about how gardening can reform and transform prisoners is Greenfingers with Clive Owen.  The movie is based on a true story which makes it even better, and it’s a love story, another plus, and the fabulous Helen Mirren co-stars.  I also really like actor David Kelly.  He’s wonderful.  The gardens featured  are gorgeous and I never tire of looking at Clive.   This is a feel good movie.

“Green fingers are the extension of a verdant heart. ” ~Russell Page

For Those Who Live In Or Long For The Country~


Gardening requires lots of water – most of it in the form of perspiration.  ~Lou Erickson

Weather means more when you have a garden.  There’s nothing like listening to a shower and thinking how it is soaking in around your green beans.  ~Marcelene Cox

There can be no other occupation like gardening in which, if you were to creep up behind someone at their work, you would find them smiling.  ~Mirabel Osler

Gardening is a matter of your enthusiasm holding up until your back gets used to it.  ~Author Unknown

The best place to seek God is in a garden.  You can dig for him there.  ~George Bernard Shaw

The greatest gift of the garden is the restoration of the five senses.  ~Hanna Rion

I used to visit and revisit it a dozen times a day, and stand in deep contemplation over my vegetable progeny with a love that nobody could share or conceive of who had never taken part in the process of creation.  It was one of the most bewitching sights in the world to observe a hill of beans thrusting aside the soil, or a rose of early peas just peeping forth sufficiently to trace a line of delicate green.  ~Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mosses from and Old Manse

Gardening is about enjoying the smell of things growing in the soil, getting dirty without feeling guilty, and generally taking the time to soak up a little peace and serenity.  ~Lindley Karstens, noproblemgarden.com

No two gardens are the same.  No two days are the same in one garden.  ~Hugh Johnson

I think that if ever a mortal heard the voice of God it would be in a garden at the cool of the day.  ~F. Frankfort Moore, A Garden of Peace

Last night, there came a frost, which has done great damage to my garden…. It is sad that Nature will play such tricks on us poor mortals, inviting us with sunny smiles to confide in her, and then, when we are entirely within her power, striking us to the heart.  ~Nathaniel Hawthorne, The American Notebooks

I have never had so many good ideas day after day as when I worked in the garden.  ~John Erskine

As much as I converse with sages and heroes, they have very little of my love and admiration. I long for rural and domestic scene, for the warbling of birds and the prattling of my children.  ~ John Adams

“The quality of mercy is not strained,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath; it is twice blessed;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes…”
~ Shakespeare

The problem with cities is that people don’t learn what really matters. Don’t really feel or know the rhythms of the earth. When we are separated from that vital center place, we grow lost. Sadly, most people will never know what they are lost from, or where they can be found. ~ Beth

I looked out the window and the swallows are back, skimming over the pond. They weren’t there this morning. Not a single one. Now they are, and a flush of rose suffuses the trees on the hill above the meadow. I love the tender new leaves.

Our meadow is as lush as I’ve ever seen it. Thick grass, reaching past my knees, spreads in a green swathe from fence row to fence row and sparkles with bright gold dandelions and buttercups. The elusive meadowlark, my favorite songbird, trills sweetly from secret places hidden in the green. Rarely, I catch a magical flash of yellow as it flies, just before it tucks down again. Sandy brown killdeer dart around the edges of the pond on their long legs, sounding that wild funny cry peculiar to them.

The green-blue water that fills the banks of the pond now had dried to a painful parched puddle last summer. Migrating mallards and ruddy ducks ripple over the surface, bobbing bottoms up, and fill the air with busy gossipy quacks, content and happy creatures. Not so the plump gray and white barnyard geese. Their honking clash and chatter punctuates life on the farm, more or less, depending on their current level of hysteria.

Some of the geese have been here time out of mind, waddling about with their broken useless wings, reminding me of nervous old ladies who can’t find their glasses and are forever misplacing their grandchildren. More than once we’ve had to rescue a frantic gosling inadvertently left behind by its addled elders in a hole wallowed by the cows. Silly, silly geese. I scold the dogs when they’re tempted to chase and annoy them. Too easy, and it doesn’t seem fair.

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In my garden, I have a sea of herbs and flowers continually changing with the season. Some perennials are lost each winter and new ones are planted by Elise and me, others by the birds. I’ve a wild aster that blooms in late spring, covered with small white flowers. It’s very pretty really, although hard to contain. I like white flowers glowing at dusk while all else fades.

Several plants reign supreme because of Elise. ‘Magic flowers,’ yellow evening primrose, have taken over a generous quadrant at the edge of the vegetable garden. She rushes me out at twilight to view the wonder as they pop open, charged with fragrance. Hummingbird moths swoop in like little fairies to feed on the blossoms.

She doesn’t like the bats that also come. I love the nighthawks. Dill is also taking over because black swallowtail butterflies lay their eggs on its leaves and hatch into little caterpillars which she watches closely, puts some into jars and feeds until they make a chrysalis, then one day they emerge with wet crumpled wings and she releases them to the sky. I feel a bit like those uncertain butterflies, taking those first tentative flights.

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*Pic of wash day at a neighbor’s farm.

*My garden in a sunbeam

*Pics of our farm and the valley

*Evening Primrose

*Spring in the Shenandoah Valley

Springtime Gardening in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia


Spring can be very wintry here, with snow lying on the ground sometimes until Easter and a brisk wind blowing from the North. But the sun shines brighter, when it shines, and the geese begin to fuss, a sure harbinger of spring. Squawky geese are always the first sign, even before the pussy willow blooms, or whatever it is that pussy willows do.

This annual sign of spring makes me think of other spring observances. March is usually the first month when gardeners can really get their hands into the earth and plant something, like those first rows of peas, often put in with cold fingers right before a rain. The rains are so close that there may only be a day or two when the soil is workable before it’s too wet again. Veteran gardeners watch the sky and feel the earth, wrinkled pea seed in readiness, and when it’s all systems go, there’s a mad scramble for the garden as the gray clouds roll in.

A bit of lettuce, spinach and radish seeds are scattered in short rows, then back to the house for a hot cup of tea and the toasting of numbed extremities by the wood stove, the contentment of a spring rite observed. There’s something of a one-upmanship among country folk about who gets their peas in the earliest. “Got your peas in yet?” is apt to be a seemingly casual conversation opener, but only for the one who has, of course.

Spring is also the time of year when I regard the cows with a deep wariness. Inevitably, the cows will get out. I never know exactly when they’ll time their visit, but their attraction for newly planted gardens and flower beds is their annual spring rite. Around here, in the spring, cows are the enemy. They particularly like a newly planted garden just after a spring shower, because they can really sink their hooves in and churn up the earth. A freshly re-seeded lawn will do in a pinch, even shrubbery if all else fails. We have a side of the house called ‘Cow corner’ where the bushes appear to have been strangely pruned by a mad gardener.

I once threw myself in front of a stampeding young heifer as she made her way for my very newly planted raspberries. I was in the midst of planting them when she and several others escaped from the calf pen my husband was cleaning. He had left the gate unbolted for a second–that second cows live for. Yelling “No!” I hurled myself in her path. He came running just in time to see me prepared to be martyred for my cause.

The heifer, a coward at heart, veered at the last moment and leapt off the small wall at one end of the garden. I heard some discussion later about the price tag value of the raspberries compared to the cow had she broken her leg. I’m relieved to add that she didn’t, and there was some concern for my safety had I disappeared under her charge.

I’ve watched in horror as bovines of all ages have frisked their way through tender young snapdragons, newly emerging peas and dozens of other cherished plantings. Later in the season when the weeds get thick and the weather grows hot and dry, I begin to lose my earlier enthusiasm for my garden and so do the cows. They prefer to make their pilgrimages while the earth is fresh and new and the plants are carefully chosen and special. Don’t we all?

Have any gardening stories of your own? Please post them under the comments section!

Pics are of our farm, and my daughter’s soft coated Wheaton terrier Grady when he encountered his first cow.