Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Good Shepherd and Other Verses

He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. Isaiah 40:11

"Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning ." Psalm 30:5

This is one of my special verses and none the less apt for Good Friday and Holy Saturday. Even as we go about our daily tasks, we are chastened by the awareness of our burden of guilt, of the awareness of our sin in every endeavor, even when our intentions are good. We read the drama of Holy Week with dread, as if we aren't certain how the story will end. We are those disciples: unaware, ignorant, shallow, unimaginative. We may not be sensitive to our failing day in and day out, but we are on Good Friday.

What bliss, what joy, what light hearts we experience on Easter morn! We are children of the King and we find an innocent pleasure in every detail of His glorious creation. With those memories in mind, give thanks for the joys of the morning... through the eyes of happy children and the Words we have received from our Father Himself...

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Nothing Contrary Here!

Mary, Mary, quite contrary
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockleshells
And pretty maids all in a row.

That was then....graceful but finicky cottage blossoms, ephemeral but lovely to celebrate in rhyme.... never mind the dark historical back story....

But this is NOW...

Mary, Mary, don't be contrary
Choose a flower that will give us a show!
Whether Bada Boom or Nightlife, 
Cocktail or Harmony,
We know these begonias will grow!

The 21st century gardener's version of pretty maids all in a row.. upon row.. upon row.  
When all else fails...including imagination...we wind up with a greenhouse of marching bronze leaved begonias. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

On the Front Lines of the Season

Today's project requires a drive from home to Jefferson City, accompanied by 550 plus of our most fragrant and tender friends in the back of the Explorer, thirty or so flats of Matrix Mix and Matrix Ocean pansies. Their blooms are three inches across and, if you'll forgive my fancy, their "faces" seem to be frank and open and unswerving as the break of day. They spent the night exhaling in the car, greeting us with a warm breath of fragrance and humidity in the morning.
We drove in driving rain for three hours. It drained away before our destination, but my spirits drooped when I saw geese swimming on the pooled waters on the Missouri River bottom outside Jeff.

On the surface, the flower beds looked pretty good!
But reality set in as soon as my spade bit into the ground. Every hole for a plant became a...

..... pansy pond.....
Now I'm a long ways from my college soils classes, but even a wee bit of gardening experience, much less the decades I've accumulated, tells me these are not ideal planting conditions. Saturation, compaction, collapse of soil structure? Let me count the ways.....
And...oh yeah, I planted them all anyway. Every passerby told me what a nasty day it was to plant,but I didn't choose the day; it chose me.
Like they always say, you fight with the army you have. May my pansy volunteers overcome the odds against them, flutter their brave spring flowers against the elements, and cheer all that pass through...

Monday, March 31, 2014

Out Like a Lion

Trying not to dislodge today's detritus from my hair until it is time to take a bath and send it down the drain.

It was that kind of day.

The kind of day that brings to life the tales of our ancestors about the hard life on the Great Plains and how the wind  made settlers go mad.  Not just one day, but a month of days. Swarming warming gusts from the South turning on a thin dime to thrust the self same dust against your turned cheek.  Doors taking on a manic mind of their own slamming and straining wildly open  and shut in an attempt to clobber anyone or thing passing through.  The damage is cumulative; the eyes fill; the ears numb; the mind....snaps.

This is what today's south gale sounds like inside a 100' greenhouse covered with a 24'sheet of doubled polyethylene. The rolling and popping would be refreshing if I were looking up a freshening mainsail catching the breeze.  I have far less faith in the durability of this plastic through sustained force.  You cannot hear yourself think.

And this is what the battering, flapping, banging sounds like outdoors.  This is what whittles progress to a nubbin, what shortens working days, and makes one long for sundown to bring outside labor mercifully to a halt.  Exhausted, one wonders why on earth anyone would put a greenhouse atop a hill in this country.

And.  When the wind shifts and the horizon dims and every little particle is shifted from its rest to pummel the landscape and facing the wind blasts you physically.  Your land becomes desolate in your eyes and today a wasteland.

That is March leaving as a lion.  I fervently pray for this land, this countryside, for gentle April to drench us all and bring relief from and forgetfulness of ferocious March.

WedApr 2

Rain / Thunder
Rain / Thunder

ThuApr 3


Most Wonderful Time of the Year II...Batter UP!

Full disclosure.

Expect no paeans.  No phrases smooth as the chalk at home plate before the first batter, nothing as carefully groomed as the pitcher's mound before the first pitch, nothing as memorable as a call by Jack Buck or Vin Scully.

You won't get your prescription filled for predictions, statistics, or sabremetrics. 

There will be no unforgettable phrasesology: no channeling George Will or the estimable Dr. Krauthammer or any of the other lovers of the game with the gift of gab.
 I cannot top Ebby LaLoosh: "A good friend of mine used to say, "This is a very simple game. You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains." Think about that for a while."

There will only be a quiet rejoicing in the return of the diamond and the greensward, the crack of bats and pop of the mitts, the grace and extravagance of  slides, stabs, leaps, and pivots. 

There will be races, gimmicks, towels, scorecards, and pennants.... 


win or lose, 

rain or shine...

Annie Savoy, 'Walt Whitman once said, "I see great things in baseball. It's our game, the American game. It will repair our losses and be a blessing to us." You could look it up.'

And all the people said.....


Sunday, March 16, 2014

March-ing, March-ing

If this is Wednesday..
...then it must be VanDewetering and Ball Tagawa. And all this before noon.
This is Matt's workload. For one week. This week. Three thousand flats in seven days. One hundred and eight thousand little plants to pick up, put down, tag, water in. It is not quite as big as the national debt, but unlike our fiscal situation, it must be dealt with. This week. It's March.
Just last week, there was room to roam. Just last week, Josh could put up the Little Tykes play house and watch movies inside on his dad's Kindle. Just last week we could leave extra hanging baskets to sit on the ground and grow and put off deciding where we would hang them. Today I thread 75 feet of three quarter inch hose between the lines, but from here on out, we won't rely on my agility; it will be up to the irrigator to keep the seedlings moist.

In greenhouse after greenhouse, the flats ooze toward the door as inexorably as the tide coming in. The great green stream flows from trays of plugs or cuttings plush as carpet, to be counted by 15s, by 18s, by 36s, as the ranks of tags line up across the floor. 

One of the mysteries hidden deep within the psyche of a seed is what makes it "know"when the calendar page turns to March.  Critical growth energy is achieved; tomato seeds that languished for at least a week in the seed room in February sudden shake off their languor and leap from the soil in 5 days or less in the exact same environment.  In February it is three weeks to transplant size; by April, it will be two.  Tomatoes seeded April 1 will be headed to Midwestern gardens before Mother's Day.  The essence of spring condenses, compresses, then uncontrollably erupts in the greenhouse in March after the equinox.

 Tiny, but tough, the little vegetables pack a fragrant punch as we move them from plug tray to pot.  A lucky few are patted in gently by Abbie one day after school.

 The back of the number 10 house presents a prospect of geraniums as far as the eye can see.

 Even though we are anxious for color and applaud their enthusiastic growth,

it is time to fill the pots with good roots.  Blooms now use valuable energy that should be directed to foliage and roots.  There is ample time to grow a good show for April sales. My hands are sticky and orange and smell of the faintly rosy aroma of geraniums as I gather my bouquet of early bloomers.

Not every day is rosy.  Our mechanical aides de camp break down. A broken chain on the bale breaker under the laws of nature occurs when the machine is full of soil mix. Parts are in Tennessee, so Ryan jury rigs a new link while Lee and I scoop pots to the aroma of welded metal and hot peat moss.  It is a warm day with low low humidity; ladies that would ordinarily be transplanting grab a hose and lemonade is made of lemons.

And here it is....the first fruits of the harvest, the first flower sales of Spring 2014.  A Monday afternoon with calm air and mellow weather allows us to load three cartloads of pansies in the trailer for delivery.  

It doesn't happen that often in March.  But like the geese flying overhead these chilly mornings, it is a harbinger....

of all the multitudes to come.

Is it spring yet?