Thursday, August 25, 2011


(Written on July 22nd)

I have dirt under my nails. I promise, I did try to clean them. But there's still some left. And contrary to what you may think, I actually rather like that fact. You see, it has been many moons since last I had the pleasure of very dirty hands and feet, and it has done me wonders to enter, once again, the marvelous world of gardening.

I had forgotten the thrill of sticking a shovel into the ground and jumping up on it to force it deeper into the ground. (And no, you don't have to jump on it. It's just more fun that way.) I had forgotten how good it feels to hold a living plant in your hands and transplant it into the hole you just made. I had forgotten the fun of hacking away violently at weeds, and of pulling out clumps of grass and shaking the extra sand off. (It doesn't quite deserve the title of dirt...) I had forgotten the wonder of transforming an weedy area of ground into something more orderly and beautiful. I had forgotten that wonderful capable, pioneer-lady-ish feeling.

I was sweaty. I was dirty. My back hurt. My arms grew tired. My hair was a mess.

And you know what? I felt happier and more whole than I have in veritable ages.

There is something incredible about gardening (and just about hard work in general.) I felt closer to God; like I was doing something He created me to do, something He loves. And I was. He himself planted the very first garden!
8And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.

9And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Genesis 2:8-9

Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. Genesis 2:15
A few days ago I was having what I call a "Crying Talk" with my mama... I was saying how I feel (and have felt, to some degree, since I was probably... 12 or so) "stuck in my head", like I am not engaged enough with the world around me. And I didn't know what to do.

But after working in the garden... something changed. I think it has to do with physically demanding work... with closer communion with God... and with prayer. (Mine and others.) Last night I felt more thoroughly, truly joyful than I have in what seems like a long time... and my mind felt much freer and open: more easily engaged with the people and things around me. For so many reasons, it was incredibly fulfilling: a real blessing.

For one, I was being obedient, to both of my fathers--earthly and heavenly. For another, I was doing something I had been "nagging" myself about, something that I had needed to do for a long time. I was doing something significant: something that challenged me, something that benefited our family. I was doing one of the things I've been designed to do. And I would've missed the sunset if I wasn't out there working!!

Here is how it happened:

Early yesterday morning, when my dad was leaving for work, we were outside together and he mentioned that it would be nice to have a little garden where we were currently growing a lovely, tangled crop of weeds.

{Confession: normally when we have such talks, we all think it's a great idea, and then [it seems] no one ever does anything about it. Except maybe Hannah.}

Later on in the day, I was praying and feeling... I don't know, somewhat depressed and introspective. And I had one of those awesome prayers in which it's actually a conversation.

I said: I don't want to focus on me anymore!! I want to focus on You and know you more.

He said: Walk in my ways, and then you will know Me.

And I said: How?

And He said: Love. And specifically, love your papa by working on the school/office/craft/miscellaneous room and the garden.

(As usual, those aren't exact quotes, and no, I didn't hear an audible voice. Why do we always feel we must clarify that it wasn't audible??)

So I did. I got up and walked into the "cave" (our "affectionate" term for the office) and spent roughly an hour tidying it up. (Now the path is wider!) That felt really good, and I started cheering up just from that.

Next I walked outside into the front yard and examined the plants we had that still needed planting: a blackberry bush, an elderberry plant, a magnolia tree, a Cassava/tapioca plant, a Mystery Plant, mystery flowers, and peppers. (Yes, I know, lots. I have procrastinated planting them for a long time. :P)

I thought I should at least figure out where to plant them, since I really didn't want them to die (most of them were given to us for helping out at a pioneer days.), so took a few of them in hand, and went to scout out the yard. I quickly found places for the magnolia, blackberry and elderberry, and planted them all. I was enjoying myself and my energy was up-- I was on a "roll"--so I figured I had better keep going while everything was out and I was excited about it.

I thought it would be challenging to dig out the large, flat, round stepping stones that were in the area I was going to transform, but it ended up being quite easy. Especially when my strong little brothers came to the rescue. ;) (Namely William and Matthew.) We laughed as we watched them roll when we put them on the ground. :D

Hacking weeds out of the ground with a hoe is very fun. And tiring. William and Matthew helped me some, which was very nice of them. :) They also helped with getting the grass and weeds out of the dirt once I had loosened them.

Soon, however, they tired of this amusement, and decided to move on to bigger things: digging a hole. Of course. Isn't that what all little boys do?

I continued working for quite a while, getting all the grass and weeds cleared away and softening up the ground

The hole was becoming quite impressive by this time, and I pondered whether or not I should halt excavation-- decided against it. They are boys. They dig holes. It's good for them. And furthermore, holes are not permanent. We can fill them back up: We have the technology. ;)

The next step was to make a path. I happen to be the daughter of a tile installer, and we have plenty of path material around... I found some nice reddish pavers, and set about making a path.

By this time, the hole had become a future underground house. "Like in Prince Caspian!", they told me, eyes shining.

I've never made a path like that before... and I don't think anyone else has ever done it the way I did. :D I'm afraid I am not a very professional path maker: I just came up with a pattern out of my head and started digging with my hands and flattening the ground a little at a time, adding another row of pavers when the ground seemed ready, and whacking them against some other concrete in order to break them when I needed a smaller piece.

The boys learned that they couldn't dig an underground house. "You'll get to the water", said Emily. (You only need dig 15'-30' to get water in Florida... less in some places. :P) The boys pondered this for a bit...

It actually turned out pretty decently, to my surprise. Though several of them did break when I walked across it. Wimps. :P I'll have to fix that tomorrow.

"Okay, then let's make a well!!", said William. I have very visionary little brothers, it would appear. :D

For some odd reason, the mosquitoes decided that my left elbow was The Most Delicious Thing, and I felt as though I incurred at least 17 bites. However, I was Busy, and didn't have time to bother about paltry annoyances such as mosquitoes. Though I did kill at least one... I am not very merciful towards the creatures. Hannah kindly brought me some tea tree oil after watching me absentmindedly attempt to slap one, which helped with the itching. :P

Matthew was in the hole, and they were concerned about whether or not he could get out. He could. But it was a struggle. Emily made "a ladder"-- a few holes on one side. It was actually deep enough to come up to Matthew's chest, and both the boys could fit in together!

By this time it was dark, so I tidied things up and set a few potted plants where I thought they might work... I also put a solar light from the back yard near the path.

"Jump in, jump in!", they said, as I stood on the edge. I did. Bad idea. :P I jolted my side awfully... but I lived, and the hole was very cool.

We went in, and washed up... I was really dirty/sandy, as were the boys. :D

And thus ended our gardening adventures.

(At least, the ones we had last night-- I had more this morning

and will have more in the next few days. :))

P.S. (From a few days later) Further progress:

Josiah kindly saved me from those thin pavers and showed me some pretty, thick ones--and helped me make the path. :D This one does not break when you walk on it!! He also helped me mulch it. :) Emily swept the dirt into the cracks between the pavers... and then got inspired and weeded her little garden too. :D

Lesson: just get started and work enthusiastically on a project, and people will join you eventually. Works ever so much better than trying to drag people out to help. :P

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