garden patch spirituality

And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden...
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it 
~ Genesis 2:8 & 15 ~

I don't know much about life, and I can't claim to be an expert on anything, really. But I do know that it feels good to keep a garden. It feels good to get down on my knees and work with my hands in the dirt. It feels good to plant, to tend, and then to yield a harvest. 

I planted my 6th garden this summer. After 6 years of gardening I am learning a few things, mostly through trial and error, and asking my grandparents for advice. But the more I garden the more I am learning that growing vegetables is really just a byproduct.  The real value, for me, is in the time spent in quiet, peaceful labor. As I work in my garden, God is working in me and revealing truths to my heart. 

It feels good to foster life. I believe we are hard wired to choose life. I'm not trying to get political here.  There is a political side to this, but just forget that for a moment and think about what it feels like to see the destruction of life. Whether it be a house plant that has withered, a bird that has crashed into your sliding glass door, or a human being who has passed away, it hurts to see a loss of life. Conversely, the first blooms of spring, green grass after a hard rain, a new baby welcomed into the world; life feels so good! And in gardening, you are laboring to bring about life.

Weeds grow faster than seeds. And if we don't get out there and pull weeds on a regular basis they are going to completely choke out those little sprouting seeds. In the same way our souls need constant examination, otherwise it is so easy for sin to take root and take over our lives.

Don't leave room for the weeds.  Sometimes it's not enough to just pull the weeds out, leaving big empty patches of dirt. Those weeds will be back before you know it. Instead, when you pull up weeds, put something good and life-giving in their place. It's not enough to get rid of a sinful habit, you have to put a virtue in it's place or that habit will just come back.

Sometimes you need to thin things out. There is such thing as too much of a good thing.  If your carrots and beets are crowded in their rows you're going to end up with very small and scraggly carrots and beets. Don't try to cram too much into one space. Pare down, spread out, focus your energy and resources on a less things, but on growing those things really well.

Gratification is not instant. In this day and age instant gratification is everywhere. But it's good to have to wait for a reward. Waiting cultivates patience, and patience cultivates character. The rains will come, the sun will shine, and little by little leaves will grow and flowers will turn into fruit. And when it does it tastes that much sweeter for the time and labor you have put into it.

I hope all of your gardens are producing beautiful fruit. 


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// S I M P L E S U M M E R, S I M P L E F O O D: tomato edition //

The days are getting shorter, the nights are getting cooler, the signs that summer is quickly drawing to a close are all around us.  And so I'm wrapping up this series of simple summer foods with one of my very favorite summer foods: tomatoes.  Not just any tomatoes. Fresh from the garden tomatoes.

We planted our 5th garden this summer. We do a lot of the usual veggies, snap peas, lettuce, beets, zucchini, but our crowning jewel is tomatoes. We usually do about a dozen tomato plants, and each a different heirloom variety, with maybe 1 or 2 big boys thrown in there for a little extra yield. Every year we find ourselves literally up to our shoulders in tomatoes.

The end of summer stands out as one of my favorite times of the year because of all the great tomato inspired meals we eat. And in case you are wondering what to do with all your gardening loot I thought I'd share some of my favorite tomato recipes with you.

1. Golden Tomato Sauce. I have mentioned this here before. It's from one of my favorite food blogs, 101 cookbooks. If you looking for things to do with your garden veggies, check out what Heidi has to offer.

I have made this sauce with all sorts of tomatoes, red, yellow, and whatever else we've grown.  It adapts very easily to all type of tomatoes.  But it's the very very best with Roman Candle tomatoes.

I also like to top my pasta with some feta and spicy Italian sausage. (But don't tell Heidi, she's a vegetarian!)

2. BLT's. I think everyone knows what that stands for: bacon, lettuce, and tomato.  So I'll just mention a couple tips and variations.  Bread choice: hands down, my favorite bread to use for these is sourdough.  We toast it and then spread some mayo on. If you'd like to be a little healthier (try to balance out the bacon, and the mayo that I've added) use kale instead of lettuce.  We found we actually prefer out BLT's with kale, making them BKT's. It might catch on!

3. Bruschetta: Another a classic that you probably know how to make. 2 large tomatoes, 2 cloves of garlic, a handful of fresh basil, chop it up, drizzle in some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper it,  and served on toasted baguette slices.

My one tip for this dish: peel the tomatoes first.  Here's how you do that. Bring a medium size pot of water to boil.  With a very sharp knife, cut a few X shaped marks across the surface of your tomatoes. When the water is boiling carefully put the tomatoes in for about 30 seconds; the skin will begin to peel back where you cut the X. Use a slotted spoon to fish the tomatoes out, let them cool a little and then simple pull the peels off. Removing the peels just makes the texture of the bruschetta even better. It's not essential, but I like to do it.

4. Caprese: Baguette slices toasted and arranged on a plate, topped with slices of tomatoes and fresh mozzarella, and torn up fresh basil. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Super simple, super delicious, every time.

5. Summer Pasta. I posted this recipe about a month ago. You can see it here.  It's basically caprese with pasta instead of bread. It's also basically one of my favorite summer meals.

6. Salsa: I'm sure that my friend Jacqui, the Mexican Domestic Goddess, could give you a very authentic salsa recipe. But until then, this is how a gringo makes it:

For a very large batch:
3 large tomatoes chopped into very small pieces
1/2 red onion, diced
2 serano peppers, seeded and diced
1 large bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped
a generous amount of salt and pepper.

This is the base, from here you can add as many extra things as you like, bell peppers, corn, black beans, mango, whatever strikes your fancy. Just chop it up and throw it all in a bowl.

7. Tomato Gallette: I found a recipe for a squash gallette on my other favorite food blog, Smitten Kitchen. At the time I didn't have any squash, and I had tons of tomatoes. So I used tomatoes instead. It turned out great! I also used feta cheese instead of fontina, and I left out the sage, because I don't really care for sage.

8. A Note On Freezing. When I really find myself with a surplus of tomatoes I freeze them.  I used to make sauce and freeze that, but then when I'd thaw it and use it, it never tasted very good. Then I heard somewhere that freezing tomatoes after they've been cooked can ruin the flavor, and it's best to freeze them fresh, and before any seasoning has been added.  So that's what I do.

Cut the tomatoes in half and use your finger to scoop out the seeds. Then cut them into small pieces and put them in a doubled freezer bag.  Last summer I froze enough tomatoes for about 5 batches of tomato sauce.  It was so nice in the middle of (our super awful) winter to be able to pull some of my home grown tomatoes out of the freezer and make something that reminds me so much of

//S A T U R D A Y M O R N I N G//

It's Saturday morning. The birds start their songs around 4:30. I know this because I'm awake nursing my baby at this time, and they're out there chirping and squawking, waiting for the sun to rise. Lying awake, wedged between my husband and my baby, listening to the birds; this is one of the moments of motherhood that are so sweet. This is a moment I want to remember.

Johnny slept until 8:00 this morning.  Truly a miracle because he has been waking up around 5:00 this past week.  It's been a week of bad sleep all around. He's cutting 3 teeth right now, so that's probably part of it.  He also wants to walk like nobody's business, so that could be a contributing factor as well. Maybe the early sunrise is making him wake up early. Maybe we need to get some heavier shades. But I love the early sunrise in the spring and summer and I hate the idea of manufacturing a winter-like darkness when we've finally left that behind us.

Anyway, Johnny slept til 8:00 and Alex and I rejoiced. The only problem was that I had set the timer on the coffee pot to 7:00. So the coffee was not as fresh as it could have been. Having a timer on the coffee pot is about as close as I will ever get to having a butler. It's good, but it's not the real thing.

This week has been beautiful! It rained all day almost nonstop on Monday. Tuesday the sun came out and -boom- everything was green and amazing.  I feel like someone experiencing spring for the very first time. I think it's in part because of our never-ending soul-sucking winter, and in part because I spent most of last spring and summer inside, on the couch, with my newborn.  My friend Jacqui over at Mexican Domestic Goddess, and I had had our babies on May 30 and June 1 last year. We agree that we kind of skipped summer last year. So this year I intend on being outside as much as possible.

We got the garden in last weekend. Lettuce, arugula, beets, cucumbers, summer squash, sugar snap peas, peppers, carrots, and 10 heirloom tomato plants. This is our fifth garden. I'm no master gardener yet, but I've learned a few things along the way.

1) Plant what you know you will eat. Bush beans are easy to grow and high yielding. We did them in our first two gardens for these reason, but we never ate them so they just went bad. Lesson learned.

2) Plant close together.  The more veggies there are, the less room weeds have to take over.

3) Tomato plants don't need much water.  If the leaves looked wilted in the afternoon, then they need some water.

4) Start a new row of arugula every few weeks and you'll have greens for the entire summer.

But there is one score I need a little help on.  Rabbits.  We have a fence around our veggie patch to keep them out, but I can't seem to keep them away from my flowers in the front.  I've tried a peppermint oil based spray that work great last year but this year isn't doing much. I also sprinkled cayenne pepper everywhere, but that's not stopping them either.  Any suggestions? We can't get a cat, I'm allergic.