A Word on Thinning

I love the idea of a garden. I get excited about watching plants grow, finding new blooms and picking fresh vegetables. I am so thankful that my father-in-law helped us move into our new home here in Del Rio, TX. He is a master gardener in my opinion. He has a huge, ambitious garden at home and when he saw what we had to work with here there was no stopping him (thank goodness!). Thanks to his efforts, we have tomatoes, onions, green peppers, squash, 2 kinds of cucumbers, green beans and even cantaloupe all starting to grow. We also have sunflowers, zinnias, some mint and basil (though the parsley, thyme and chives that I planted after he left didn’t sprout, we will try again this week).

It’s amazing! The kids are so excited to help. They like to water and John is starting to notice the differences in the different plants. I love how our homeschool “classroom” has just gained a whole new learning environment right in our own backyard.

There is a part of gardening I’m not a huge fan of. Thinning. Thinning is the process where you select the best plants and pull the rest so that those chosen few have the opportunity to flourish to the best of their ability. I look down at our little row of green pepper plants, 15 at least, so full of promise and have to choose at most probably 4 plants that will make it to maturity.

Sometimes the choice is a little easier. This one is smaller than the others, or this one’s leaves are yellowing. But what do you do when you have two or three plants all clustered together and still growing fine. You know that if left alone, eventually the group as a whole will stunt because there isn’t enough space or nutrients to sustain them all. But how do you choose which one to keep!?! It’s a bit silly, I know. Getting all emotionally worked up over a couple plants.

It’s a little like life. At a certain point we need to make choices, we have to thin our lives, so that 1. we don’t go insane, but also 2. so that we can allow ourselves to flourish. When I first started this post I was thinking specifically about our kids and recognizing the fact that though I would love for them to do everything, I also don’t want them to be overwhelmed and overcommitted. Scouts, baseball, piano, swim lessons, gymnastics, dance, soccer, playgroups, storytime, not to mention homeschool. So many wonderful things! We have to make choices, for our sanity and happiness and most especially for theirs.

I am finding that I also need to make some choices, do some thinning as it were, in my own life. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day. Reading, writing, trying to become a better seamstress, cross stitch, baking, crochet, a new desire to learn embroidery, cooking, researching, knitting, and oh wait, I have a husband and 4 children and a home to maintain. So many wonderful things! I can’t do them all at once, I have to make choices.

I think I’ve come up with a system. Recently I shared about how maintaining a planner has greatly improved my organization, both for our family and maintaining our home. It’s going really really well by the way. I’ll have to do a follow-up post sometime in the near future. I think I’m going to put it to work in this area as well. First, I am going to choose three things that are priorities, things that I want to be doing and thinking about all the time.

  1. Reading
  2. Writing
  3. Researching (I have this crazy notion I’m supposed to be working on a book/study/something longer than a series of blog posts. Topic TBD almost, it’s narrowed down to a few ideas, I’ll keep you posted)

Then, on a rotating basis of weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly I haven’t decided yet, I will rotate my crafting. I’m leaning towards bi-weekly. Long enough to get some good work done but not so long that it will be hard to pull away to transition to something else. This is usually how I work anyway. I obsess over one thing for a while, then get tired and move on to something else. Now I’m going to harness that tendency and focus it instead of just flitting from one thing to another like I used to do.

Here’s to hoping, organizing and thinning!

As we enter Holy Week this week, this seems an appropriate topic. What in our life is taking too much of our time? What are we spending too much time thinking about or worrying about? What needs reordering, what should we be prioritizing?

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

What’s on the inside

We have a small lemon tree in our back yard. As soon as we found out we would be stationed in such an incredible climate, I knew I wanted to have some kind of fruit-bearing tree in our back yard. After much deliberation, I decided on a lemon tree. I love the flavor and there are so many things you can make. From simple lemon water to lemon curt. Sunshine pies and lemon tarts. It all makes me happy!

The catch with growing your own fruit, in case you didn’t think of this already, is that the fruit has to actually grow. Not only does it have to grow, the tree has to have matured enough to even produce the fruit. Once the tree is old enough, you have to wait for the proper season for the fruit to ripen.

I was so excited for the first harvest, which took forever. The tree was a bit confused about what season it was in. Lemons ripen in the winter. It flowered for the first time in late winter and by March had a solitary lemon growing. I had to wait nearly a year for that single lemon to ripen. When it finally did, the tree had re-flowered and I had a whole host of lemons waiting for me. It was delicious!

Apparently the tree was so excited about this first harvest it decided to give a second a go, (mature lemon trees, especially in this climate, are capable of multiple harvests). Unfortunately, my lemon tree is not quite that mature. So, here I am again, this time with at least 15 lemons half-grown and green as grass (which I should clarify, green as grass in the Midwest, grass is pretty brown around here presently).

I promise they are lemons
I promise they are lemons

Both last year and this year, I had so many people question me on these frozen-in-time lemons. “Maybe it’s just a lime tree.” “Are you sure it’s actually a lemon tree?” Even after a harvest of lemons, still I’m getting the questions. Just the other day, one of the neighbor boys was over and asked about the tree and why the fruit wasn’t growing. When I explained that it was a lemon tree, he looked at me like I was pulling his leg, chuckled a bit, and headed home.

All of this got me thinking about outside vs. inside and what kinds of judgments we make based on appearances. Part of our broken nature since the first sin of Adam and Eve is our tendency to judge one another. Before Adam and Eve ate the fruit, they walked freely in the garden, without judgment, jealousy or suspicion of one another. After their sin, they covered themselves, ashamed of their nakedness and I would infer also because, fearful of judgment from the other. Continue reading “What’s on the inside”

The Weed-Wacker Teaches Me to be a Steward

The yard is Ben’s job. He’s the lawnmower guy, weed wacker expert, and general yard king. He was able to take our yard which was mainly weeds, rocks, and dirt – basically low on grass and high on skinned knees. He tore it up and loved it back to life. We have a great backyard now where our kids can play safely and our dog can run around, free to bark at any shadows that may threaten the realm (he is an 18 pound dog that believes he is capable of taking down a German Shepherd).

But, when Ben is gone, the yard falls to me. I’ll freely admit, and Ben knows this, I am not as attentive as he is to the yard. I always mean well when he is away. I promise to keep up with the watering. I swear that this time I really will mow more than once while he is gone for a long trip or deployment. This time, this time I will gather enough courage to use the weed wacker.

I don’t know what it is about the weed wacker that scares me. Probably the noise. It’s not a tool I spent any time with growing up. The yard was not on my list of chores. I can garden and weed by hand quite well. But hand me the power tool and I freeze up a bit. Ben has shown me how to use it and he is so patient with me. But I still avoid it.

How do I mow the lawn then, you may ask, if I am hesitant around a weed wacker? We have a push mower. No noise, no gasoline, no tugging or revving. You just push it from one place to another and the grass is mowed. Easy peasy. Why can’t they make weed wacker’s like that?

Ben was about about to come home, just a couple days away. After all my promises, you would think that the yard would be in great shape. Of course, it wasn’t. Actually, it was terrible. I should have taken a picture to show you just how bad it was. The weeds were high, to the point that when I tried to mow with the push mower they just would lay down and then pop back up. I knew that the only way to beat them back was with the weed wacker (and hind sight telling me that if I had actually kept my promises they never would have gotten out of hand in the first place.)

But I am a procrastinator. It’s one of my fault that I’ll own. I can find an excuse to get around anything I don’t want to do. Some people choose to do the unpleasant or difficult task first to get it done and out of the way when they are energized and motivated. More often than not (I am working on this and am getting better….slowly), i channel all that energy into many other productive things, convincing myself that these are just as important and should be taken care of first. Then, by the time all the other projects are done, I have no time, energy or opportunity to do what I really had to do.

And so there I was, just me and the weed wacker and a window of opportunity. Clare had just fallen asleep and since she usually only sleeps for 20-30 minutes during the day – she’s a terrible napper – I knew it was a small window.  I managed to convince John and Rosie to play in the backyard. I was so focused on those tall weeds that I actually did a lot of things out of order. I didn’t pick up after Max (another one of those neglected tasks since the kids had been playing mainly out front with some new neighbor friends). And crime above all, I didn’t actually mow before starting to use the weed wacker! I know, for all you lawn people, this is a rather ridiculous proposition. But like I said, I was so driven to conquer my task that logic was kind of on the back burner.

I got the weed wacker started. I even remembered which way all the stuff was going to shoot out and tried to stay going in the right direction. Of course, this couldn’t be simple and easy. Less than five minutes in a 5 inch length of wire shot out of the bottom – the weed wacker had reached the end of its cord. Excellent. If I was uncomfortable with a weed wacker to the point of avoiding it at most costs, I certainly had no idea how to change out the cord. I am almost thankful that I knew I had such a short window to get this task done. It meant I didn’t have time to stamp my feet and come up with reasons to not figure out this hiccup. Instead, I flipped it over and figured it out. Thankfully, my ever thoughtful and prepared husband had a new cord waiting in the yard closet.

The task did get done and what a wonderful feeling to look out over the yard and see that it wasn’t a forest of weeds anymore. I always have a feeling of accomplishment and pride when I manage to finish a task that I was not looking forward to doing, especially when it is something around the house.

So, you may be wondering why I’m telling you about my trials with the weed wacker. As I was wacking those weeds, I was thinking about my husband’s love of the yard. It made me think about how God charged Adam to cultivate, till and care for the earth. We were designed with the care of the earth in mind. I was somewhat ashamed at my lack of drive to take care of our yard. I know that God isn’t calling me to forsake my kids dinner so that I can individually pick each weed out of our lawn, there are priorities in our lives. But, maybe the yard – and by extension our home (cleaning is another cause for procrastination for me. I’m probably procrastinating cleaning something as I write this and am doing it again as you read it), should occupy more space in my priority list.

Everything given to us is a gift from God and we are supposed to take care of it. We are stewards, we are not owners. A steward manages the owners property or goods. She is accountable for how she uses them and is rewarded for a job well done. I have been given this beautiful family, a beautiful home with a fantastic backyard and a loving husband. I am responsible for helping each flourish and will be held accountable for how well I serve them. My reward is the smile on my kids faces when I was done with the weed wacker. They weren’t necessarily smiles because I had conquered the weed wacker (John had his hands over his ears the whole time because of the noise), but I’ll choose to think they were anyway.