Raspberries!

Surviving Raspberries.JPG

Last fall I was given the opportunity to get free raspberry plants from a gal in our church. So I took my spade, 5 gallon buckets and headed over to her place to dig some out. They had a huge patch that they wanted to get rid of as she said they just didn’t use them anymore.

As I wouldn’t know a sugarplum (reference to “Twas The Night Before Christmas” for those who are wondering.) if I fell over one……the visions dancing in my head were of raspberry jam, raspberry smoothies, raspberries on ice cream……..yeah raspberries for many things!

I dug up quite a few canes that afternoon and headed home with my prize.  I put them in a bucket of water like google told me to do; and then my husband spaded up 2 areas for me to plant them. (Out logic was maybe one place they would grow better than the other.) We put them in the ground, put fencing around them to keep out rabbits and watered them some more.

The canes didn’t do anything last year as we put them in quite late in the season. This year when we went to check on them after the snow had melted; we were jolted by the discovery that the rabbits had indeed found them. They had not only found them; they had chewed the canes down to nubs in several places.

I was certain there would be no raspberries coming to my freezer from these plants, no jars of jam and no raspberries on ice cream.  It made me kind of cranky at those rabbits……..actually, it made me real cranky at those rabbits.  You would think, living by the river like we do, there would be plenty for them to chew on without sampling my new raspberry canes!

Just the other day my husband came to the house and told me he thought some of the canes were alive. So we headed out to the two areas where we had planted them and Surprise!!!!! there are canes with leaves on them!  I was so excited to see that some had survived the late planting, winter season and pillaging by renegade rabbits.

I am always amazed at the tenacity of plants. It seems they can hang on through anything. They may be slightly (or a lot) battered by storms and/or pests (yes, I mean rabbits…sorry to my rabbit-loving husband) but a lot of them always seem to pull through and thrive.  There might be a life lesson in there somewhere…..hang on through the storms….better times are coming.

We also got our potatoes in the ground today so I am feeling really fulfilled. We usually try get them in sometime during the Good Friday/Easter weekend. We usually plant the Yukon Gold as we have found them to be very good keepers through the winter and we love the flavor of them when made into mashed potatoes.

Spring is such a great time of rebirth and the greening up of plants. I love the feeling that the earth is coming back to life. I realize that life has always been there, just quietly waiting to be warmed back to life after the cold winter. It brings such hope for those warm summer days, fruitful gardens and full pantries in the fall.

May you have a chance to dig in the dirt, experience the green grass under your feet and enjoy all the “surprise” plants that come back to bless you. May you find hope in the rebirth that is spring and may you be as tenacious as transplants.

“I believe in process.
I believe in four seasons.
I believe that winter’s tough, but spring’s coming.
I believe that there’s a growing season.
And I think that you realize that in life, you grow.
You get better.”
–Steve Southerland


 

Security Under a Corn Tunnel

Tenacious Rhubarb.JPG

I was really surprised today when I looked out my patio door. I could see rhubarb growing underneath it’s “cages”. I had not expected those plants to be that large already. It did not seem that long ago that my husband suggested I put some corn tunnels over them as they were just starting to break through the soil.

Rhubarb is a tenacious perennial; but I think the “girls” out-tenacious the rhubarb.  Before we put the protective corn tunnels over them the girls would spend hours just scratching and digging for whatever they could find in the dirt around those plants. It was getting to the point that the poor plants were losing the battle against the chickens.

I have found that if I want to have any rhubarb to freeze for muffins or use to make jam I had best protect them till the leaves are really big. A few years ago my husband brought me some corn tunnels to use to protect them.

I should probably explain what a corn tunnel is for those of you who have never dealt with storing ear corn in a corn crib. When you put ear corn (field corn that is picked and not combined) in a crib you put these wire tunnels along the bottom of the crib to help with aerating the crib so the corn will dry on the cob and not rot and turn to compost.

We have found these corn tunnels work great for a lot of garden plants and flowers that you want to protect from rabbits and chickens and who knows what else. Once your plants are mature enough you can remove the protective tunnels and let them thrive on their own.

I think there are times in our lives when we are like those new shoots coming out of the ground in the early spring time. We need “corn tunnels” to help protect, shield, and give us security from the things that would scratch and dig at us before we are ready to handle that kind of treatment.

In these last few weeks of recuperating I have felt like those rhubarb plants with their corn tunnel protection. I have been shielded, nurtured and protected by so many friends and family. It is truly a humbling experience; but oh so very appreciated!

I have observed others during their times of needing that same kind of help and it is wonderful to see people close in around them to take care and nurture. I have also found that it is such a blessing to part of the nurturing crowd.  It does take a conscious effort to do that and I find you cannot blindly ignore those hurting around you.

In this week before Easter I would encourage you to be the security……. be the corn tunnel for those put in your path. Be the one to step up and nurture them, give a word of encouragement, and be the blessing to someone else.  I have a feeling you will be greatly blessed in return.

Let each of you look not only to his own interests,
but also to the interests of others.
Philippians 2:4

Read more: http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/bible-verse-about-helping-others-21-top-scriptures/#ixzz4dtpppWYn

 

“When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully,
everyone is blessed.”

Maya Angelou

 

 

 

Promises of Spring

Flax

The last couple weeks in our area have been dreary, gray, chilly and wet. Today we finally broke out of that pattern and ended up with temps in the 50’s, sun and beautiful weather. It was the perfect day to wander around outside and just suck up some of the wonderful, warm sunshine.

A part of the afternoon was spent, head bent down, searching to see if any little purple violets have decided to make an appearance. I didn’t find any of those, but I did head back for the camera because when I strolled past my flower garden (which at times can also be known as a weed garden) I noticed the little green shoots of my flax plant trying to break through.

I began to dig through some of last years growth and the old leaves and discovered that the sedum, iris, and a few other things were also beginning to pop through the dark wet soil. It did my heart good to see these small promises of spring. It also did my heart good to just be outside and absorb the smells of spring, the sound of birds and the feel of warm sunshine.

I love this time of year…..it is so full of promise. After a long winter (which has it’s own beauty) it is like a revival to see the green shoots of plants and grasses make their way from their winter’s sleep. I am filled with hope when I see those green shoots coming up through the debris of last years plants……hope that life continues even when things looks dreary and dead. Hope of the promise of new life that chooses it’s own time to reveal itself.

My husband pointed out a pair of cardinals that were dancing through the bare trees. Unfortunately, I did not have my camera on hand at that point! The brilliant red was such a contrast to the brown of the bare branches. It reinforced the idea that life has so much beauty so close to what appears to be dead, brittle and ugly.

In looking closer at the branches of a tree in the backyard I discovered that the leaf buds are starting to swell with new life…..another promise in the process of being fulfilled.

Promise of Life

Life, like the swelling buds on the tree is full of hope if you just take the time to search. Sometimes the search is harder than others to find that small grain of hope and life. Sometimes, it seems to take more than one lifetime to see and feel that hope that brings a sweet breath of freshness into your soul.

Hope and Life, like the seasons, are on their own timetable…..they will not be hurried or wished into being. They will arrive at their appointed time and the older I get the more I am finding out……that timetable is perfect. I am also finding out that life without hope is stark and meaningless.  Maybe that is why all the little promises of Spring speak to my heart and soul.  It is a tangible reminder that life wins, hope springs eternal and God is good.

 

For behold, the winter is past;
the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.
Song of Solomon 2:11-12 ESV

 

First Snow

First Snow.JPG

For days the weatherman has been warning us that we had a change coming in our weather.  I was totally satisfied with the unseasonable 60 degree days; so this was one time I kind of wish he had not been right. It seems the older I get, the colder I get….(except for those hot flash times and that is another whole story.)

When I woke up during the night I could hear the wind howling, though it was too dark to see what was really happening out there. It sounded like some mythical creature roaring around the corners and snarling as it went. It was an angry sounding wind.

It was fairly typical for an Iowa snowstorm….strong winds, sideways snow. The storm was enough of a hazard to close most area schools and cancel lots of activities. The local radio announcers were kept busy updating those announcements most of the morning.

I have a feeling that how we view the first winter snowstorm of the season totally depends on our age. My facebook feed was full of pictures of kids and grandkids sledding, making snowmen and just generally doing what kids do out in the snow.

Kids seem to be able to find a magical quality to  snowy days. Maybe they are just more adaptable to change.  Maybe they are just more optimistic? Or maybe they just choose to find the joy in a cold snowy place. Perhaps we need some life lessons from children?

I will admit this snow was ideal for packing and making those snowmen and if I were younger, many years younger, I would have also been out there for some snow fun. Instead, I found myself, grudgingly putting on my winter coat, pulling on my insulated boots and trudging out to do my chicken chores.

I was less than impressed by the gusty winds that threw cold wet snow in my face as I rounded the corner of the garage.  The girls were not impressed by the weather either. They stayed close to the coop most of the day.

When I finally went out later in the afternoon to snap a few pictures I saw the snow in a different light. For some reason looking through a camera lens gives an entirely different perspective. Maybe it is because it narrows your focus down to a smaller space? It is always easier to take things in smaller pieces.

I found that the view towards the river, while blustery, had a unique beauty to it that only shows itself with a winter landscape. The blowing snow gave everything a softer, hazy look. The snow softened the rough, ragged look of the harvested corn in the bottom field.

The bottom field.JPG

Looking through my camera lens did bring back some of the magic that snow brings…..not to the degree of a child…..but some. Finding my honeysuckle vine, still blooming, while full of snow, brought a smile to my face.

blooming-through-the-snow

I took the bloom as a sign of hope. Hope that though the winter weather has just started, it will not last forever. Hope that during the coming cold, dark days that make up winter,the perennials are waiting under the snow for the warming spring rains.

Hope is what keeps us going. Hope fuels our joy. And hope does really spring eternal. I wish you the joy that is Hope. I wish you joy while you prepare for the Thanksgiving season. And may the days that seem cold and dreary be transformed with a child-like wonder.

“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently?
And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt;
and perhaps it says,
“Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.”

Lewis Carroll,
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

Pre-Winter Preparations

Ready for Winter.JPG

In the midst of an irksome election season, there is joy to be found in the regular seasonal tasks that need to be done on a farm….. at least on our farm.  The past days have been perfect for catching up and getting the pre-winter things done.

My husband and I have planted raspberry bushes (thanks to a friend who was getting rid of her bushes). We have cut and stacked more fire wood to use for the woodstove this winter. The   garage door installation has been finished! (Yay for us!!). And today was spent in putting away gravity flow wagons and harvest equipment and cleaning my chicken coop.

Putting away the equipment sounds like a small matter of just parking the wagons in the shed and good to go…….not so.  My husband has a very particular way he parks his equipment in the machine shed.  The space is limited so it is like putting a gigantic puzzle together, using a tractor to put the pieces in place.

Wagons are parked with only inches to spare between them. The planter is placed “just so”….that way the baler can fit in the space between the planter tongue and the gravity flows. I love jigsaw puzzles, but this is like a puzzle on steroids!

When we finally had the equipment parked to the proper specifications, it was time to move on to one of my seasonal tasks…….chicken coop cleaning!  It is an incredibly dusty job; but I love how the finished product looks and smells. The eggs look so nice nestled in the clean pine shavings that get put in the nesting boxes.

Henfruit.JPG

To clean the coop one of the first things that we need to do is remove the chicken roost. My husband made an amazing roost for the girls a few years ago.  It is the perfect size and easy for us to remove for cleaning.

Once the roost is out, my job is to scoop the old bedding and chicken manure onto my wheelbarrow.  This is where the dusty part comes in. The old bedding is dry and the dust fluffs up everywhere as you scoop it up. My husband then spreads it on the garden as fertilizer.  This is a definite win-win for the girls and the garden.

The fun part is putting in the bags of new bedding.  Once it is all spread over the floor; the pine shavings look so fluffy and clean and smell even better.  It doesn’t even smell like chickens!

The girls are never very impressed when we do this cleaning job. I am never sure if they think we are throwing out something valuable or if they just do not like change. I can understand their fear of change.

Change can be hard. Sometimes it is easier to stay exactly where and how we are….even if it is like my girl’s dirty chicken coop. Even when life is less than perfect, there is a comfort in the old familiar places. They are places we know and are our “normal”.

If you are like me, you tend to drag your feet when God has something different planned for you. You know, that to make that change; it might involve a lot of heavy lifting, dust and scooping out of the old “stuff”. You also know that His is a much better plan than you can imagine and that in the long run you will be grateful for what He has done.

I am reminded of this fact when I clean the coop.  When I see how great it looks and smells when we are done; I am reminded that when God makes changes in my life….it is good and I am blessed.  I wonder why this is a lesson I seem to have to relearn over and over again….and then learn again…..

 

Don’t worry about anything; instead,
pray about everything.
Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.

Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.
Philippians 4:6-8 (NLT)

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/irksome/

 

 

Potting Plants and Sorting Potatoes

Potato Sorting Time.JPG

Potato Sorting Time

 

Fall is a funny type of season.  It seems to be made up of the concept, “hurry up and wait”.  The rainy gray days are the wait days.  Harvest progress grinds to a halt as the fields become too damp to be in them and the crop gets too tough to run through a combine.

Today turned out to be a beautiful sunny day……a hurry up day. My husband hurried to haul wagon loads of corn to the elevator in town. He hurried to make sure there were empty wagons waiting for the neighbor who combines our corn. The trip to town is 20 miles round trip and driving time alone takes a bit of time. He has a lot of time to ponder life during those miles. Though, by the time the day is done, he tells me he is sick of driving the same 10 mile stretch…….and I believe him!

This afternoon I decided I had better hurry and get some seasonal chores taken care of. The potatoes that had been dug out last week had dried nicely and it was time to sort through them. Some looked like they had been bludgeoned with the pitchfork rather than dug up with that pitchfork (Perhaps we should invest in an actual potato fork?).  Those potatoes had stab holes and were missing pieces.  They got stored in a separate pail to be used quickly before they go bad.

The rest of the potatoes were sorted by size and bagged in burlap sacks. It will be a wonderful thing this winter when the snow is flying and I can just go to the basement to get some potatoes for a meal.

It was also time to dig some of the more tender plants out of the ground and put them into pots. The gerber daisies are not a perennial around here and need to be potted up and put indoors so they can survive, bloom and be enjoyed next summer. I had, had them covered up the last weeks due to nights of frost. I was surprised to see one was still blooming cheerfully under it’s blanket. It was a really nice leftover piece of summer.

last-of-the-summer-blooms

There were also calla lilies bulbs and star of hope bulbs that needed to be dug up. After raking the leaves off them I discovered the ground was really damp. This was not going to be a tidy task today.  (It will definitely be time to haul out the fingernail scrubber.)

I took the large geranium pots out of the garage, where they had been stored so they would not freeze. They had gotten pretty gangly while in there and definitely needed a “haircut”. After potting plants, cutting plants and cleaning dirt off of bulbs I loaded all the pots of flowers into the trunk of my car. It was very satisfying to check these items off the seasonal to-do list I have tucked away in the back of my brain.

I am very fortunate that my folks have a plumbing shop in town with huge south facing windows.  My dad has benches that are perfect for potted plants. It is a treat to drive past the shop in the wintertime and see the bright splash of blooming flowers in those windows. I am at a loss as to what I will do with my plants, in the winter, once dad decides to sell that shop!

All these tasks are a part of the changing seasons and the visible sign of passing time. I am finding that the older I get, these tasks take me longer than they used to…..and I am okay with that.

I find I also cherish these things more than I used to. Maybe that is why it is okay that it all takes me longer….It gives me more time to cherish life. When I am digging up bulbs and potting plants it reminds me that though this season of growth is done and the cold winter is coming, God is faithful and Spring will arrive again at the appointed time.

There is a promise in the bulbs that are stored for the winter and the plants that are moved indoors….the promise of life, of renewal, of hope. Perhaps that is why I love flowers so much…they speak of faithfulness and perseverance. They speak without using words, but they speak. They tell me God loves us, not because we have earned it. They tell me He loves us just because He does and that no matter how cold and wintry it gets….Spring will come again.

“God does not love us because we are valuable.
We are valuable because God loves us.”

Fulton Sheen

And why take ye thought for raiment?
Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow;
they toil not, neither do they spin.
Matthew 6:28

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/bludgeon/

 

 

 

Potatoes, Weeds and Other Ponderings

 

grass-burrToday was the day that the remainder of the potatoes have been dug out of the garden.  We heard that the forecast said possible rain coming in the next day or so. It was decided that we should probably take that forecast to heart as we cannot count on the days staying as beautiful and mild as they have been.

We have been pretty spoiled with our weather lately. It is great but it makes putting off outdoor tasks, way too easy. We do have to remember we live in the midwest and winter will arrive at some point. So…….today my husband decreed it was potato digging day.

Digging potatoes is always kind of exciting in an odd way.  You plant those “eyes” in the early spring, hoe them, water them (sometimes you water them and sometimes you just wait for God to do that job.), you put grass around them to keep the weeds down and then you wait.  And you wait. You pull some weeds. You pray for rain. You wait some more. You pull a few more weeds.  The plants die (which is a relief because then you figure you can quit weeding!). And finally it is time to dig them up and see what actually grew under there.

I mowed the potatoes last week. Yes, that is right.  I mowed and bagged the area the potatoes were in.  Once the plants die and you quit pulling weeds; you discover a sad fact.  That sad fact is that the weeds do not die at the same time as the potato plants. Those weeds can get quite large and the entire area looks very unsightly and in general…..just a mess. So I mowed and bagged them so we would be able to locate where the potato plants actually were.

I discovered today that it is not the big weeds that get to be the problem.  There are some little grassy weeds that I am sure were dreamt up by the devil himself. Those little weeds are grass burrs.  (I did not know what they were called till today when I googled them.) I am not sure who named those things but, to just call them grass burrs does not do justice to how diabolical they actually are.

The little burr type seed head things are painful.  They are tiny and are round spiny little balls of agony when they stick into your skin.  They like to hook onto the edges of your jeans or stick in your socks and then when you cross your ankles later it is like having someone stick a bunch of needles into your flesh. I really, really hate those things!

I found out as we were digging potatoes just how nasty they were. Many times when I reached down to pick up a spud, unbeknownst to me, there would be one of those little buggers hiding underneath the spud. By the time we were done digging all the hills; my fingers were tingling from all the little “sticks” I had suffered from those burrs.

I think this weed is a lot like “stuff” in life.  It is not always the big things that take us down and cause pain.  Sometimes it is just the accumulation of too many tiny, little hurts and frustrations that finally get to us. It is the things that hide in the odd places and catch us unawares that cause us pain and get us to react in a way that we normally would not.

I guess I am going to have to keep pulling weeds in my garden and in my life.  Even when the potatoes look dead, I need to remember they are still living beneath the ground and still growing. I am finding out there is never really a time to just let the weeds go…..there is never a time to quit weeding, watering and praying. If I do quit, I find it will eventually come back to make life difficult.

Weeds are pulled up by the roots to clear the fields for the growing grain.
Why should not mental weeds be pulled up by the roots also,
and the mind cleared for growth?
~Horace Fletcher
Menticulture, 1895

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/tiny/