Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Handiwork...or The Old Fashioned Way

Happy last week of April...a time of year that truly deserves special appellation on the calendar for those of us in the "seasonal"professions. Barring the types of abominations that bookend a bell curve of weather expectations, events like snow, a hard freeze, seven inches of rain...you get the idea.....this is the week machinery of all configurations typically crowds the fields and highways. With the first of May peeking out from under the next calendar page, trees in full flower and the whine of mowers a constant accompaniment, gardeners throw caution to the winds and clog the parking lots of garden centers and nurseries like bees in a hive.
But at the greenhouse, the mechanical helping hands that sped the job of transplanting and filling flats sit idle as the tide of spring brings a transition from planting and growing to picking up the flats of flowers, vegetables, and choosing the finished hanging baskets and mixed planters for customers in four states. There is always an element of art in the growing of plants; there are rules of thumb and seasons of experience we rely upon. But when push comes to shove, we cannot grow plants from our devices or our instruments or our rules and records, or even necessarily follow our hard won experience; we have to get out amongst 'em, feel what they feel, pick them up, turn them over. It's detail, it's habit, it's time consuming....and absolutely essential.
So much of this enterprise is handwork. Watering in is rule 1,
but tagging is a close second. A perfectly beautiful flat of flowers will be left behind like Cinderella from the ball without a tag.....and no one wants to guess whether that vine in the corner will grow to bear a 20 # pumpkin....or 2 dozen zucchini!

Whether our customers order one flat of this and two flats of that..or 256 flats of marigolds and 243 flats of mixed zinnias, they are all picked up and carried by hand, two by two, the most ancient and elemental means of transport. It is piecework and not the stuff of glory...and it is the grand accomplishment of every single day. Flat by flat, basket by basket, truck by truck,until the greenhouses get too hot to bear and the whiteboard calendar is bare.

I am reading a book about work right now, believe it or not, a book that deals with work from a Biblical viewpoint, work as a vocation, a calling. I am comforted and encouraged by this interpretation when I do the most menial of tasks during the day: bagging the trash, emptying the dishwasher, putting away the laundry.

 Even though these chores are replayed daily, hourly in households world wide and require no especial talent, still, it would be universally acknowledged that the world is a better place when work like this is done. According to Martin Luther, these homely commonplace jobs are as beautiful in the sight of the Almighty as any other service rendered to His glory.
 With this insight, the work of the farmer , the gardener, the carpenter, the truck driver, the plumber, the welder, all become holy offerings when performed with our whole energy and effort. The outcome may not suit us; there won't be a standing ovation; we may consider our work menial or pedestrian or ephemeral....but our goals should be our best...no less.
These are the thoughts I ponder as I fill the carts with petunias and marigolds, snapdragons and salvia. Common annuals, beautiful and fresh as spring this day on April, but gone with the season like the proverbial lilies of the field. Some days my job seems trivial compared to the weighty burdens of the mighty, but I trust it is an offering to grow beautiful plants using the raw materials God has provided and the blessing of day by day work, no matter how humble.

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