Updated: Sep 26, 2018
Chronicles & Confessions of the Veggie Patch
An unfolding adventure tale of amateur vegetable gardening, peasant style.
-With detailed steps for establishing your own organic vegetable garden.
Series Post 9
"A farmer went out to sow his seed..."
“How do you know it’s done?” Max asked, ready to take a photo of me bringing forth a carrot from the earth. So far, I was still just chunking dirt away from the stem… or what I believed to be the stem.
“Well, it’s well past the 70 days…so, they should be done,” I replied. But the deeper down I dug, I wondered if the whitish stem that was no thicker than my little finger was actually the carrot itself? It did have tiny little roots sticking out of it that I was digging into. I stopped. “Maybe this is the carrot.”
“Is that what carrots look like? How do we know?” Max asked.
I shook my head. “I don’t know.”
(Confession #12: I still don’t know if that’s the carrot, but I’m leaning toward ‘yes.’ I have no idea how carrots are formed.)
A tutorial on harvesting carrots had informed me that taking hold of the carrots “hair” and pulling was not going to harvest a carrot but rather give you with a handful of leaves. Another source had mentioned that the carrots were ready when the “shoulders” were ½ inch. I assumed that meant the distance on either side of the carrot top from the “hair.” So, I was gently digging down till I would come to the “shoulders,” but there were none. Just that endless stem.
I began covering it back up.
“What are you doing?” Max asked.
“I guess I’m giving them more time,” I said. “I don’t think they’re done.”
But they should have been done. Their “hair” was lush and beautiful. Their maximum time had been up last week-ish. So, what had happened? Maybe the same thing that was happening to everything else…
The eight total cucumbers we had harvested so far were curled into the shape of “C”’s and were shriveled on one end. The cucumber vine had been dying away for some time now (though Dad says that normal), so the plant is probably done producing already. The banana pepper plants produced only eight peppers, and the bell peppers only three. Even though I have been harvesting peppers to promote growth of more, I wonder if the yield is worth our while? Our three onion sets produced… three onions. Actually, they are the most beautiful vegetables we have grown. They are plump and juicy and look just perfect. (Confession#13-) But we didn’t understand when we bought the plants that we were literally only planting three onions. What’s the point of that?
Finally, the spindly tomato plants have fruit beginning to turn red but not plump. Two of the plants are producing cherry-size tomatoes, but (Confession #14-) we can’t remember if we planted cherry tomatoes. They might just be that small. But the gigantic Roma tomato plants have lots of green fruit. Creepily, some of it keeps being eaten away by (we assume) tomato worms. (Not that I’ve seen one or ever want to.) And a village of fungi was also growing undetected under the plants in the moist shade. (We removed it when I read that tomato plants are vulnerable to “fungal” diseases!)
(In case you were wondering, the lettuce plants went to seed weeks ago, and I eventually took them out of the garden box because they were so scary-looking.)
So, even though I thought I would be writing a fun, exciting post today about how to harvest vegetables, that is not what this post is about. (If you were wondering about harvesting though, I’ve been simply typing into Google, “how to harvest ____”, watching a few videos, taking my basket and kitchen shears, and the fun begins!)
This post is about my visit with the Sower. Here’s what happened…
Since it was obvious that our investment in the plants and seeds was going to at least break even but we were out our cost for soil, I had to figure out what had gone wrong.
My plants had been in the location of my yard with most access to sunlight. They were watered regularly and with care. They did not have any obvious diseases or pest issues (until the tomato worm only recently). They had been given fertilized potting soil and additional fertilizer at times to combat specific concerns. They had been pruned when necessary, unhealthy leaves removed and ripened yield picked. They had been given the largest containers I could get my hands on with drainage holes we had drilled ourselves. They had as much space between plants as I could give them. They had been given grass clippings and straw for additional mulch. (It turns out compost takes longer to make than anticipated.)
At first, everything had started growing beautifully. I had really thought this gardening thing was proved easy and worth the initial expense, but now I was discouraged. What happened?!
Enter God in overalls and His Daddy-presence. He looks like He’s been out in the fields all day, sun-kissed and earth-streaked. He sits down, because I’m ready to listen again, especially now that I’ve messed something up and don’t know how to fix it. His eyes are soft. After a moment, he speaks tenderly, but His words sting.
“Do you trust me?” He asks.
I freeze. “Yes, Lord, of course I trust you,” I say, trying harder now to pinpoint what I have missed because I can see it’s important.
“Do you, really?”
Oh great, one of those questions.
I analyze the situation in my mind. The Roma tomato plants in the box garden are gigantic monsters whereas the plants from the same tray that are in smaller, separate containers continue to struggle. They look nothing like the healthy, bushy monsters. I recall that Max and I did not at first intend to have additional containers and spent most of our time preparing the soil just in the box. The smaller containers only have commercial potting soil, and that’s it. Furthermore, Mom already has radishes, and she only planted her garden a few weeks ago. And my sister’s accidental pumpkin patch is doing great in the corner of their yard without them doing anything.
“I think I understand,” I say, ready to voice my conclusions. “It’s the soil. It has always seemed like the sun is killing many of my plants, but that’s been confusing because I know they need all that sun. All the conditions are right, except the soil. In the Parable of the Sower, it was the condition of the soil that caused the seeds to be plentiful or not. So, I should have ‘trusted’ you that you made the earth exactly the right way. I shouldn’t have tried to re-create those perfect conditions myself in containers. Next year, I’ll plant a garden in the ground instead. Oh, I also understand the spiritual connection about the heart needing to have good soil or it won’t be fruitful, either.”
That was kind of easy, I think.
The Sower gives a small smile but says nothing. Satisfied with myself, I start to walk away, but I get the vibe He is still waiting.
I reluctantly turn back. “Alright, what is it? There’s something more, I can tell,” I say.
He just sits there, and I slowly walk all the way back over to Him. It’s already late, and I want to get the blog post written tonight, so I’m feeling antsy. I rack my brain, hoping I can hurry things along.
But He’s not letting me off the hook easily. “You’re close,” He tells me. “Does everything you said make sense?”
I sigh and think it through. “Oh,” I finally say. “What about the people in cities who can’t plant in the ground and have to use containers? Even though planting in the ground might be ideal because it utilizes the natural systems You have in place, container gardening is not impossible or discouraged.”
“But the lesson is still about soil.”
He really isn’t giving me anything to go on, so I look up the Bible passage about the Sower and quickly scan it.
“So, maybe it’s the principal?” I ask. I explore my initial thought a bit deeper. “Container gardening was not the problem. The problem was that I was trying to cut corners. I wanted to do things my own way instead the tested and proven ways, the right ways, which take more time. But I ended up spending a lot of money on soil and over-complicating things just because I was trying to avoid harder, longer work. If I had taken my time and done things right, the soil could have been better, because You did bless me with land to use.”
God looks loving as ever, but He has a neutral tone. “Well, that’s something.”
Alright... So, I just need to hammer out the spiritual implication for this and I should be done here.
I briefly consider studying the passage deeper by reading commentary. I shake off the thought.
Not this time. I already know this passage well enough. That’s not necessary and will take too long. I can get this.
“Spiritually speaking,” I say, “having good soil in my heart is not just about having a heart that is open to You. There’s more to making the soil good. There can be no cutting corners, getting off easy or doing things our own way. The soil of our hearts can only be prepared and cultivated in the ways you say. So unless we are spending quality time with You in Your Word, any seeds sown in our hearts will not bear fruit in abundance. We’ll miss the bigger pictures, the deeper truths, and the opportunities to be used by You – to bear lots of fruit. That’s it, isn’t it?”
“That’s right,” He says flatly.
What is going on?
His telling eyes suddenly meet mine and there is a pang of understanding in my heart.
Oh. Duh! Who am I to think I can just quickly gloss over this and glean all God wants to say? No cutting corners!
I drop all notions of a quick devotional time. I resign myself to reading commentary. God smiles and His demeanor changes.
When I pull it up online, I notice how lengthy the commentary is and cringe. But after a few minutes of reading, the familiar peace and presence of God eases into my being, and I am enraptured. I stop caring about the length of reading or the time I will put in to studying the passage. I only care about what I can get from it, from the Lord, and I don’t want to miss a thing.
“There, now we can talk,” says Daddy, and I realize I have come to sit down at His feet, captivated, expectant and deeply content.
“Now then,” Daddy goes on, “when I told that Parable of the Sower, I was speaking to a crowd along the seaside. Although some of them were more receptive to my words than others, it was still a time of sowing into good soil. Something you have never noticed about this account before is that it took place in the afternoon. I had already been speaking to a crowd earlier that morning. While I had tried to minister to the earlier crowd, my enemies opposed my words. Those I called friends interrupted and disturbed me. I felt the rejection and discouragement. What I want you to understand is that I still went on with my work. And later that day by the seaside, I was not met with the same discouragements. Daughter, those who have courage and zeal to break through the difficulties that come with service to me sometimes find that those same difficulties are not so apt to happen again as they feared.”
It is as though His last words are made of fire. They blaze down into my soul opening old wounds and divinely cauterizing them at the same time. His eyes are direct, His face is kind, and I am astonished.
He continues, calling me out plainly though I already know His meaning. “You have taken a back seat in doing what I called you to do in ministry because you are afraid of the same rejection and discouragement that you experienced with your last ministry. It has already been a year since that ministry ended, and you still believe that not all ministry is worth the time, sacrifice, and especially the pain. Resist these fears, and they will flee. For I am telling you again to complete the work I have given you.”
I am shocked. For a moment, I don’t say anything. I can hardly believe He has brought this up. What does this have to do with gardening? Had He wanted me to spend deeper time with Him tonight just so He could tell me this? Before I can contemplate any more, He is speaking again into the silence.
“Do you trust me?”
I am stricken, but then relieved. If the Lord says I need to go back to leading a ministry, and to trust Him, it will be alright.
I bow my head. “Yes, Lord. I trust you,” I whisper.
“Good. Now let me unpack this passage for you,” He says, returning to the parable. “A human heart is like soil. As it is with the earth, some ground never brings forth fruit while good ground brings it forth in plenty. The reception of the seed depends on the receiver. I want you to note that if I have dispensed a gift to one of my children, I expect that gift to be used, improved upon, to produce fruit. But I will take such gifts and graces away from a child who makes no right use of them. Their leaves shall wither, their gifts decay.”
I think of the way I have shied away from ministry over the last year and shudder. My head is still down. I can’t look at Him.
“The soil of those hearts has become full of thorns,” He says. “The thorns represent the cares of this world, the worries, the fears that eat up the vigor of the soul, which should be spent on my work. Instead, these children of mine have been distracted and diverted. Children like this commonly neglect the one thing that is necessary.”
The one thing that is necessary. How many times has God reminded me of this in my life? The only thing that is needed is to sit at Jesus’ feet.
I think of how neglectful I have been of my time with Him. Even in the seasons when I am reading His Word daily, I sometimes rush through as I had tried to do tonight. I do not sit at His feet and truly listen. In those moments, my heart does not desire to know Him more, and I am missing out. I am not cultivating my heart to receive the seeds He wants to plant in me.
He seems to sense my feelings of shame and adds, “But soil is always capable of improvement and so of bearing good fruit.”
I pick up my head. He is smiling warmly, of course.
“I am glad you are here,” He tells me. “I’ve missed these talks.”
“I’m so sorry, Lord. Please forgive me,” I say. And just as I do, the shame I felt suddenly disperses and is no more.
He gives me another tender gaze and continues. “Now, not all good soil will produce a hundred-fold. Some will produce sixty-fold, some only thirty-fold. Yet, just as you desire that your own vegetable plants produce a higher yield, and you will seek to improve upon your soil for that purpose, my children should also aim at the highest degree to bring forth a hundred-fold for me.”
I feel a strong urge to try harder in my spiritual walk. Though I imagine that I already fall so short of producing “thirty-fold” as it is, I want to be able to produce a hundred-fold.
A jolt of reality hits me. I probably never will…
But Daddy is staring again. He knows my thoughts. “If the ground be good, and the fruit right, the heart honest, and the life at peace with me, those who bring forth but thirty-fold are graciously accepted just the same. What do you think about that?”
“I am grateful,” I say, and I mean it.
“What else do you think?”
I ponder. After a while, I sigh. “My little vegetable garden did produce, and it’s not finished yet," I tell Him. "Though it’s yielding just a little, and the fruit is not formed quite right, everything tastes right. So, the soil wasn’t all bad. Things can be improved upon for the future. But I didn’t fail at all. I gave it my best. It’s just like the thirty-fold. Those vegetables still count. There is no reason to be discouraged or to think it was a waste of time and money. I learned a lot.”
Daddy is nodding. I feel a lot better about my poor, little plants. It’s comforting to think He confirms that I did okay in the end, too. But it’s not the end. He suddenly throws out a shocker… “Daughter,” He says, “Your small vegetable garden is your previous ministry. I wanted to teach you about what happened, and this is the way you were listening."
I swallow. Really?!
“Yes,” He says. “Like your garden, your ministry began with excitement and anticipation. You planted seeds and watered them, cared for and protected them. You did all you could to ensure they had everything they needed. It was like a healthy garden growing daily and about to burst into colorful bloom. But when the fruit started to appear, you knew something was amiss. No matter what you did, the plants struggled. They faced threats of many kinds, and even the sun meant to warm and nourish them seemed to scorch and burn them. When it was all over, you wondered what you had done wrong and decided in your heart that it had not been worth it after all. You considered it a failure and determined to do it differently next time. Only there hasn’t been a next time. You allowed the discouragement to keep you from trying again. You believed that you are not a good gardener, and you left the work up to others. You chose to assist them instead, forgetting that I have called you be a gardener yourself.
“You may not believe that the minimal, misshapen fruit which your previous ministry produced was worth it, but I want you to trust me. Did your lettuce plants not feed you fresh nutrition for a time as did my Word during the life of that ministry? Did three golden onions not grow gloriously well just as I rose up three strong leaders from among your group who remain close and are serving me together? You expected more than three and were disheartened. But these three have made me proud and have given me great joy.