Where each day's colors blend to become "My Stained Glass Life"

Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

Fruit of Your Labor

Okay, I have a confession to make, and I’m going to make myself sound dumb.  But oh, well, we all have these moments!  I’m just not too proud to share mine.

One of my favorite times of the year is the beginning of June.  May rolls around, and I am anxious for it to end.  Why?  Because the beginning of June brings STRAWBERRY PICKING!  This is one of my all-time favorite things to do!  I started going strawberry picking with my mom in my teens.  It was always a big event, but I didn’t fully appreciate it until I reached adulthood!  The first year I was married, I decided I was going to be a grown-up and venture out on my own strawberry picking excursion!  I was ill-prepared for what I was getting myself into!  I went on a 90 degree day at about noon.  I went without sunscreen or bug spray.  And I went by myself.  Since then, I have learned that I broke all of the rules of strawberry picking.

There is a reason my mom dragged us out into the fields before 8 a.m.  It’s because by 10 a.m. it is scorching out there!  Rule no. 1!

I have an allergic reaction to mosquito bites, resulting in big, ugly red welts that are extremely painful and itchy!  In case you’ve never gone strawberry picking before, mosquitos love to live in the midst of those berries, where it’s all warm and damp, surrounded by layers of hay on the ground.  Mosquito paradise.  Rule no. 2!

While some people may enjoy the solitude of berry picking on their own, I believe it must be a group venture!  Go with your mom, sister, kids, or hubby!  Over the years, my kids and hubby have been my group, with a sister/mom thrown in for good measure.  It is so much more enjoyable to endure the back-breaking labor of berry picking with your loved ones!  You get to watch your kids gobble up the berries as fast as they pick them.  Your husband will appreciate that strawberry jam on a winter morning so much more if he has picked the berries with you.  But more than that, it’s the experience of doing it together.  It builds memories like no other.  Rule no. 3!

My first year of berry picking was a learning experience.  I made one or two batches of jam, sweating over the stove, hating every moment of it.  But something drew me back every year.  I think it is the satisfaction of hearing that lid POP on the fresh jars of jam on the kitchen counter as I sweat over the next batch!  Every year, the stockpile of jam grows!  And when I have filled up all of my jars with jam, I freeze the rest for strawberry shortcake in the dead of winter!

And so yesterday, my husband was a little annoyed with me when I announced that the ‘berry hotline’ said that berries were ready to be picked.  He clearly had other plans for the day, and he also despises the fact that I love to fly by the seat of my pants.  Plans?  What are those?  Plans are made to be broken.  But loving me means that when the berries are ready, we go!  The berry hotline clearly stated that due to a frost late in the season, berries were less than ideal and few in quantity.  After being almost jamless last year because of a bad berry crop, I refused to let it happen again!  So, we were ready and out of the house at a speed I generally do not move at 8:00 on a Sunday morning!

Unfortunately, I threw my back out 2 weeks ago and am still babying it along.  I decided we would just buy the pre-picked and head back home.  But Lulu Grace had other plans!  She was GOING to pick berries.  So we headed out into the field, and Jon and Lulu picked away!  Lulu resisted the urge to eat the berries for awhile, but by the end of the excursion she was in berry heaven – juice running down her chin, berry stains on her shirt!  I tried to pick, but my back squealed in pain after about 5 minutes!  So I had the joy of standing on the edge of the field and watching from the sidelines for a change.  It was fascinating to watch people work.  An older man with one arm helping his wife, very diligent in their task.  Two young families with 4 children under the age of 3, trying to keep their little ones from trampling the berry plants.  A woman who clearly had not been berry picking before, or she never would have worn the pants she had on (the worst plumber butt I have ever witnessed).  A couple on the heavier side, standing up every 5 minutes to soothe their aching backs and knees.  A mom and her teenage daughter working in silence side by side.  Each of them building their own memories.

Lulu insisted on picking a whole flat of berries, which I made into jam last night!  We had toast with fresh strawberry jam for breakfast.  As I was spreading the jam this morning, the verse from Psalms 128:2 popped into my head.  “You will eat the fruit of your labor.  Blessings and prosperity will be yours.”

So here’s my confession.  I paused from the busyness of life for long enough to fully understand the meaning of the verse.  Not that I didn’t understand what it meant before, but I actually realized how by fully living each moment and appreciating all that we are given each day, life has a depth and meaning that we can easily just stumble past as we live our lives.  Work is just work, unless you are able to find the joy behind it – sweaty brow, aching back, mosquito bites, and all!

We were blessed by our berry picking experience in more ways than I can count.  We had a wonderful morning together.  Lulu will carry those memories with her always, the way I have, of working side by side with her mom and dad.  Lulu got to visit with some newborn calves, even daring to let them suck on her little fingers! We carry that memory of what a warm, juicy berry tastes like fresh out of the field.  I thoroughly enjoyed people watching and gained a new perspective on the whole experience.  And we will all relive that experience with every bite of jam we eat over the next year.   In the end, the labor of picking berries and making jam is nothing compared to the blessings that pour from the experience and the feeling of richness and prosperity that comes with opening a ruby red jar of jam on a cold winter morning!

Berry picking season has just begun.  You should go today…

Trash to Treasure

It’s a beautiful April morning, and I should really be outside working on some spring clean-up and outdoor chores.  I’m lacking motivation, however.  Maybe it has something to do with the 2 a.m. wake-up call from Lulu Grace, who came down with a stomach bug.  Nothing like washing sheets and her comforter in the middle of the night, let alone bathing a pukey rugrat!  So here I sit with my morning coffee, organizing my thoughts, and hoping that if I think long enough about yardwork it will be done through the power of my mind.  Kind of like in Sleeping Beauty, where the mops and brooms dance around the house by themselves.

I actually love flowers, the outdoors (minus the bugs), and the feeling of satisfaction that a long day of work brings.  I am a notorious starter of projects.  It’s the end I have trouble with!  As my husband will adamantly attest to, I am always so excited to begin gardening in May, but by the time June hits I just want to be at the beach!

So I am trying to become a more effective and efficient gardner this year.  It may have taken 40 years, but I am finally beginning to understand the benefits of perennials!  🙂  I began planning about six weeks ago.  My planning includes developing a theme for my yard.  Can you guess?  Yep, our theme is going to be ‘Trash to Treasure.’  Over the coming weeks, I will post updates and photos of work completed as we go along.

I am going to break the yard down into zones.  Each zone has to have a purpose if I am going to be spending my time on gardening in it!  As much as I LOVE to plant, I HATE to weed.  So we will have a play zone, a water zone, a meditation zone, and a food zone.

This area is traditionally where we grow veggies and herbs.  We also grow sunflowers here.  It’s always a fun area, where Lulu Grace and I splash in the kiddie pool, Queenie catches some rays, and we play with our beloved chocolate lab, Junior.  So this will be our play zone and food zone combined.

Our water zone is our Lulu Pond, which I created when I was pregnant with Lulu Grace.  April and Queenie helped me dig the hole.  It was a lot of fun and has brought us a lot of joy over the years.  We watch the birds take their baths here, host frogs all summer long, and love to sit on the front porch and listen to the fountain.  Yes, putting the fountain in is one more of those chores that I need to get done today!

I think this is the area that I want to use for a meditation zone.  Lulu Grace calls this her tree house and hides under its long, overhanging branches throughout the summer.  When the leaves fill in, it casts a green glow to this splendid little hideaway, where you can watch a whole insect world come to life.  It is a great place to just sit and watch the world go by.

Unfortunately, I peeked outside and there are no rakes or shovels dancing around my yard.  I guess that means it’s time to get moving, but that’s okay.  After laying out my plans, I am suddenly feeling motivated.  Thanks for the push.