The stumps are aging and showing signs of relenting to the inevitable wear of rain and sun which will bring them to their eventual slow death. In time they will become a part of the rich topsoil that our hill continues to produce, year after year, as the acorns fall and the leaves decompose. A gentle mist has settled over us on this cool morning, a thick moisture after a strong storm moved through last evening.
The garden we have now, which did not exist a week ago, got a good drink from the storm, assuming it didn’t wash away. There are not many flat areas for planting a garden on our little acre of heaven. Where our house sits, as well as a few other places near the house, are all that exists as far as horizontal ground is concerned. If a basketball were to be placed on the ground and released, chances are it would be several hundred feet away in seconds, destined for the road below.
The new garden I’m speaking of came from the unrelenting determination of my wife Katrina. When she gets something in her mind, driven by a purpose, she will stop at nothing. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve told her that we don’t have a place to plant a garden I’d probably be able to buy her a piece of flat ground somewhere else. Katrina doesn’t take no for an answer.
Evidently Katrina did not get her fill of gardening when she was a kid, but I sure did. I can remember those hot summer days as we worked the garden, sitting around the wheelbarrow as we shelled peas and shucked corn. I reckon there’s something to be said for teaching children that God is the provider of the harvest, and I’m grateful that our parents taught us just that. Most kids today think that the corn or beans that come in a can from the store are made in some factory just like all of the rest of the prepackaged processed foods we buy.
Needless to say, after years of telling me she wanted a garden, and after years of telling her that we live on the side of a hill, Katrina finally threw my theory out the window and got busy. Last Saturday, armed with the hoe she had purchased a few days earlier, she began working on her garden on a small flat spot near our driveway, a place that was nothing but hard red clay, piled there several years agoduring our house excavation.
Oblivious to what had been going on, I had begun to wonder where Katrina had gotten off to. I went outside looking for her, and to my surprise, there she was scratching away at the ground like a squirrel on concrete.
Now I might not be the sharpest crayon in the box, but I’m smart enough to know that when Katrina is determined enough to ignore my advice and get to work, I’d better get my tools and get out there alongside her. She doesn’t have to say another word to me. She just gets out there, gets busy, and sends out those inaudible signals that say “Ok, buddy. If you’re not going to help me, then I’ll do it myself.” I’m a sucker for it every time.
After I got busy working I realized right quick that the shovel I was using was not going to cut it for breaking up this ground. I soon traded in my shovel for a pick axe, and as I swung it relentlessly, breaking up the hard red clay, I pictured my dad cruising along on his tractor breaking up the dirt with ease. Had it not been for the hillside terrain I believe a clay pot manufacturer would have located here years earlier.
It didn’t take long before Katrina headed into the house to take care of the kids, leaving me with my overzealous excitement to break this ground up properly. Sometime later she returned as I was bringing the pick swinging to a close, now that I had completed my aerobic workout for the day. I left her with raking the clods of earth out evenly as I moved several feet away into the woods to begin excavating for topsoil. As she raked, I delivered several wheelbarrow loads of fresh topsoil from the woods, thus completing my gardening for the day.
As Katrina continued spreading the dark soil for the garden and readying the rows for seeds, I moved on to something else entirely. I got our leaf rake and began cleaning off our trail we have through the woods. We had been using the same trail through the woods for some time now, but it had become leaf covered again after the passing of fall and winter. We all loved walking in the woods, but hated the idea of it being too overgrown, so I got busy cleaning off our trail once again.
The kids soon discovered what I was doing, and as they followed our clean trail I was creating in the woods, they abandoned Mommy the gardener who was still working feverishly at the trailhead garden spot. As the kids and I got quite a ways into the woods with the trail, they seemed to have forgotten about the garden and became more excited about the trail. I had told them a couple of times that they should go back and see how the garden was coming along, but they followed me nonetheless.
Soon Mommy’s familiar voice yelled “It’s ready!” and the kids dropped me like a hot potato to go and plant their seeds which they had selected earlier in the week when they were at the store hoe shopping. I was left to fend off the winding vines of poison ivy in the forest as they headed back to the vegetable garden. As I soon brought my trail work to a close, the team of gardeners completed theirs as well. They came down the trail to have a look at my work, and we all emerged from the woods to have a look at their rows of potential produce. Finished at last!
I don’t suppose that this garden will deliver a bumper crop of anything that will save us many trips to the store, but the kids will always remember their experience of watching those tiny seeds they planted in the earth come alive. Who knows? Before it’s all said and done we may just abandon our house on the hill and our postage stamp garden and settle into somewhere that’s flat and fertile, but until then, this will be home sweet home for us.
Written by David Steen, with God Smiling, May 1, 2010