Lessons from the garden

Many years ago I came across Ruth Stout’s “No Work Garden Book.” Ruth was an advocate of a permanent deep mulch system of gardening. She never tilled or hoed her garden. She just added more mulch. Her method worked for her. She grew her own food until she was well into her 90’s. She said if your garden took more than a couple of hours a day, including harvesting and cleaning the produce, you were working too hard.

Most of the time, gardening is more work than Ms. Stout’s method. Even though I have modified her mulching method, I still find gardening to be hard work and exercise. Lately, I have exercised by pulling a hose around to water my plants since mother nature has not done so in a while. I don’t mind. I’d rather garden than work out in a gym.
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Gardening not only provides food for my body, but food for my soul. Much of the physical work of the garden does not require a great deal of concentration. I can listen to the birds and watch the bees flitting from flower to flower. I can let my mind wander.

While looking under the huge leaves of the zucchini plant, I couldn’t help but think about the abundant generosity of creation. I have learned over the years that two zucchini plants is more than enough. A couple of dime sized seeds, in just a matter of a few months, grow more squashes than my family can consume. The fruits that get too big for my tastes are chopped in half and fed to the chickens who think they are just right. I have been known to leave zucchini in friends’ cars if they are foolish enough to have left the doors unlocked.

Beans hang in clusters on my ten foot row. I picked them all and three or four days later, I picked them again. I’m still picking and they’re still blooming. The pocket gopher is eating my carrots, but still leaving enough for me. I fear the upcoming tomato harvest. The plants have begun to look like something from a horror movie. Perhaps they are plotting a garden takeover.

The earth is an amazing system of renewal, recycling, and rebirth. Nothing is used up. It is only transformed and perhaps moved to another spot. We don’t destroy the carbon in oil and coal when we burn it. We just turn it into carbon dioxide. When we use water, mostly we get it dirty and make it unusable or send it somewhere else. It doesn’t disappear.

In spite of the earth’s generosity, we have mistakenly acted as though her resources were infinite. We’ve neglected to put things back. We have changed oil to plastics and then we have dumped them into the oceans where they float around forever. We have burned carbon for energy and acted as if we did not have to deal with the resulting pollutants. We have misused creation’s abundance.

Not only do we misuse the gifts we have been given, we have not shared them. While the earth’s resources are finite if they are misused, they are infinite if they are recycled, reused and renewed. Creation is abundant. Still, we live most of our lives with an attitude that everything is in scarce supply. Most of us feel as though never have enough, even if our efforts have been rewarded with enough zucchini to feed a county.

Wars are fought over perceived scarce resources. Hoarding has become a serious problem. Some fearful folks hoard food. Some stash away valuable art. Others hoard money and wealth.

Fear of not having enough to meet our own basic needs is a feeling difficult to overcome. It is a challenge to believe the story of Jesus’ feeding thousands with a couple loaves of bread and a few fish and having baskets full left over. We don’t really believe we will ever have enough food, wealth, or property. If we have more than enough, then we fear that thieves will break in and take it away.

My garden teaches me that we can have enough and more to share. Of course, just as we have short circuited the recycling of resources by natural cycles, there is greed and carelessness that short-circuit generosity and sharing. That doesn’t mean, however, that we need to be trapped on the tread mill run on the power of fear and stinginess. Many people are finding that ridiculous generosity leads to a fuller, more abundant life and frees us to be better friends, better neighbors and better citizens. Perhaps we might even find that being generous opens us up to receive others’ generosity and we all can live more abundant lives.

Life is better if we are generous like a zucchini plant.

Copyright © 2014 Janet Jacobson and Sustaining the Northern Plain


One thought on “Lessons from the garden

  1. monetarychange

    Wonderful, how you have put this!

    Many think that accumulating food, valuable objects and money, would bring them closer to being on the ‘safe’ side.

    In fact, however, it is sharing as much as we can with the people we love and trust, which helps us to become part of a community that will protect and support us in times when we think to have lost everything.

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