Garden progress: fruit trees

Ripe choke cherries

Lots of choke cherries

The other day when I was out in the garden, I took a walk around the yard and checked on the trees. I found that the chokecherry trees are producing this year and the birds have not eaten all of them off yet. This morning James picked the tree that is fully ripe, hopefully we will get to the others before the birds do.

 

apples

plums

The apple tree has lots of apples, unusual to have two years in a row of good produce around here. The apples are pretty small this year, and I suppose that is because it was so dry early on. I am not sure if that really makes a difference, but it seems to be this year because the plums are also really small. The good news about the plums is that so far we have not seen any of the webs indicating that little worm in the fruit. I would appreciate getting enough of a crop to make some jelly. The hard part will be that they won’t ripen until after school starts and I am in the middle of that long-term substituting situation. Well it will be good to be busy and to be paid.

Not much else to mention here. We had our first meal from the garden today. I made some stir fry that included the peas that were picked a few days ago. We also put half of a zucchini into it, and James and Paulina ate that part of the stir fry. I dislike how soft and soggy zucchini gets when cooked in stir-fry. I ate the other half of the zucchini grilled with Cajun spice on it, oh yummy!! We had fresh peaches and fresh strawberries for dessert. I don’t think that I will need to nibble on chips this evening, hurrah!! Today is my last day of lounging around. Tomorrow starts my serious effort to drop 5-10 pounds before I have to squeeze into dress clothes five days a week. Yikes this could be a major challenge. Hope you are enjoying the rest of the summer.

Message July 30

The scriptures were: Romans 8:26-39 and Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52. It was another week of parables about planting, so my title was, “Another Sowing Parable.”

Before we get started, I need to apologize for failing to tell you last Sunday that I was planning to be out of town all week. I went with James, this year, to the coaches’ clinic in Bismarck. There was a session on a new piece of technology and he wanted me there to get the information on it. It was good, and there were lots of interesting sessions, but I hope that I will not have to go away overnight again this summer. I am good with staying home and getting things done around here and around home.

Our sessions included information about coaching ethics and philosophy and not just specific techniques, which was interesting for a change. One of our final presenters, a coach from Billings, MT, who did three of the four last hours, gave us his dilemma of walking into a team with absolutely no discipline. It seemed that for many years prior to his coming to West Billings High School, no one cared about the track team, as in no one—not administration, not parents and especially not students or even the track athletes.

After he took the job, he found out that they really were at the bottom of the proverbial sports’ totem pole in their school. The first thing he learned was that they didn’t have a budget, so no equipment purchases and don’t think about purchasing any other sort of things like meals for the meets. He fixed that with a fund raiser. On one of the first bus rides to a meet one of the athletes asked who would be next year’s coach. It was then he learned that before him no one coached there for more than one year, and because of it the athletes did whatever they wanted. In fact, everyone kept telling him not to get worked up because it was “just track.” I don’t think the schools of Eureka or Herreid would understand that idea. We have never been like that.

His point was that discipline and expectations are very important to building a program that will be successful, and then that success carries itself. He decided early on in his time there that he wasn’t going to be there for only one year, and that he wanted to build something that the student athletes were going to buy into and something they would work as hard at as he would.

He was asked to speak at the clinic because he has had a team win the Montana State AA title for 7 of the 12 years that he has been there. And on the other years, they were pretty much second or third. I forgot to write down how many times they have been 2nd or 3rd.

I think his belief that children need discipline and need to buy into a program has done wonders for their teams. Lately, the more news I watch and the more I pay attention to certain local politics, the more I realize how important discipline and following some sort of rules would be good for all of us. Enough said on that.

The reading that we had in Romans today, at least the ending part, might seem familiar to us. I am sort of hoping that it becomes less and less familiar to us, but … Those words are found in our bulletins when we have a funeral. The last verses of Romans 8 are the final part of that affirmation of faith that we read together following our funeral messages, before the final song and benediction. As a public affirmation, we read these words and if we believe, really believe what we are reading, we are telling everyone around us that we have bought into the message that Jesus brought to earth from God, which is that we are loved and accepted and wanted. We have importance. We are children of God and nothing will keep us away from his love, his acceptance, his family.

But what about the words we keep reading in the 13th chapter of Matthew? What about those parables about sowing and plants growing and good seed and bad seed? What about that idea that on the last day, the weeds will be torn from the good grain and sent to the fire to be burned. One of the commentaries that I read last week said that was a much easier concept for the people of our frontier to grasp than it is for us. If any of you have read the stories of Laura Ingalls Wilder, you might remember the book called, The Long Winter. In it we read how they were out of fuel in the middle of that winter during a horrible blizzard, and they went to the barn and kept twisting hay and putting it into the wood burning stove to keep themselves from freezing. Having some extra weeds around to burn would have been a great luxury in those days.

So who are these weeds and who are these seeds that grow up to be the good crop? How does this difference happen? In today’s gospel lesson the parable is about a useless seed, a little tiny mustard seed that in the days of Jesus had no purpose, yet it grows up to be something of great importance that houses many of the birds of the air. It seems to be telling us that even what we think is nothing can become something. It seems to be saying that the least of these are important. Could it be telling us that we too are important? Could it be saying that even if we feel mostly inadequate, we are somebody in the eyes of God? Maybe we are supposed to connect them to other Bible stories of how the last will become first and the first will become last? Perhaps that is something for us to study in our age of importance and entitlement.

But what about the rest of the parables, those little incidental phrases near the end of this passage? The themes of those seem to be that the kingdom of heaven is a treasure that is worth more than anything else we could ever have or ever want. Jesus is telling us that no matter what we have or want to have on this earth, nothing can ever compare to what we can have in the kingdom of heaven, in God’s kingdom. And the underlying message of that is sort of the opposite, the converse. It is the idea that we should strive for what we gain in the kingdom of heaven, not what we gain in this kingdom. In other words, what we do here—on this earth—should be in an effort to build up mansions in the great beyond, not mansions on this earth where things don’t last. We need to be buying into the kingdom of heaven, not the kingdom on earth. Sort of gives you a different perspective on saving for retirement. Perhaps this is a different kind of 401K.

And what about the things we talked about a few weeks ago when I said, and I saw some of you agreeing, that we need to be about more than just sitting around waiting for the day when we join the kingdom of heaven?  Yes, we do need to be about more as a congregation and as individual Christians; we need to be active in spreading the gospel and loving our neighbors and caring for the world around us, “A Just World for All” and all of that stuff, but just doing that doesn’t make or break it in terms of getting us to the kingdom of God. We can’t ‘good works’ our way in, we can’t buy our way in, we can’t sing or teach or preach our way in, we all know that.

Paul in Romans 8:38-39 says there is nothing, nothing at all that can keep us apart from the love of God. Then how is it that there still are weeds that get pulled away from the good crops and thrown into the final fire? The fact is, there is nothing outside of ourselves that can keep us from God. It is what is on the inside that determines where we go on the day of dividing. It is what we believe, where our faith lies that makes the difference for us when our time here is over. All God asks is that we believe, that we believe in him, in his Son and accept the Holy Spirit into our lives to guide us and help us through all that we face. Will we be perfect at all times, of course not, we are human. But by following the words of Jesus, who says, “we are to love God with all our heart and love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves.” If we do that then when our day comes, nothing will be able to keep us from that love that God offers us, which means on that day, that wonderful day; we will see Christ in Paradise.  And, as long as we can buy into that faith—that wonderful faith in Christ, I don’t think there is anything we can’t accomplish. Amen!

Garden Progress: weeding and trimming

Cucumbers crawling

Today was a morning in the garden. By the time I got up, James was already working on the weeds along the peas and then the cucumbers. Later I picked the peas and worked on training the cucumbers up the fence, which is what you see to the right. Most of the weeds that James had to deal with were what we call creeping jenny. It is a vine with white morning-glory shaped flowers, but all much smaller. The vine is quite fine, but as tenacious as can be, and it has almost a wire-like quality to the way it goes about choking other plants. It seems not matter how deep you go on that plant, you cannot get all of the roots. James is also adamant that it is disposed of rather than tossed on a pile of other weeds. He thinks just having the dead plant in an area will start a new growth. I have to laugh at him sometimes.

Two pumpkins growing

I made it outside about an hour after him, and went to work on that invasive pumpkin plant. The problem is that I let three plants grow thinking that they were all different, when in fact they were all pumpkins. I found that there were a few pumpkins already growing, so I followed their vine back to the root and I was really careful, and a little lucky, about keeping those intact. At one point I was afraid that I had pulled out the wrong root, but fortunately not the case. I ended up leaving the other two plants just to be safe. I did cut as much as I could off what was left. It was necessary to get some of it out of the tomato cages. The vine that has three pumpkins growing on it actually loops through one of the cages, and it might be interesting before the harvest is over. I will have to keep on top of the trimming because I know that plant will try to grow more. Hopefully with this trimming we will get five nice sized pumpkins for a change instead of 25 dinks.

Pepper area

Besides the pumpkins, I did as much weeding as I could along the peppers and that row of red onions to their south side. I also tried to free the yellow onions that are north of the peppers, but that was a feat that will not happen in one day or especially one morning that was already partially used. I ended up pulling out another pail of cosmos. Not sure where this batch will end up. I might need to dig a new spot in the yard just for them. I look back at some of the pictures that I took earlier this summer and found out those cosmos were not there the first time we weeded. They came and grew up while we were in Baltimore, literally during those six days they sprouted and took over. Good Grief!!

James took the wheelbarrow to the garden when he started weeding this morning. By the time I got there, he had it nearly full. It only took a few of the pumpkin vines to fill it, and then he dumped it. When he returned, I had the rest of the discarded vines stacked to start the next load. By the time I was finished with the pepper/onion rows we had the second load full. It is to the point that we no longer count how much is clean, but we gauge our work by how many loads of weeds we remove.

Tomato

James also went around the tomato cans and cages and pulled out the weeds there. He mulches the tomatoes pretty heavily each year, so there are never many weeds in those. We need to do a better job of rotating those around the entire garden in the future. We are finding that the mulching has really improved the soil and so the more times the tomatoes are planted in a space, the better that soil is. I guess we fertilize them pretty well too. Our next issue will be to clean out the area around the zucchini and then that south area where I planted the zinnias and where there is a second batch of snow peas. I am not sure how soon we will get to that. The rest of today I will be working on the message for tomorrow and after that, we will need to get going on cleaning the house for company next weekend. James has a birthday coming up and the girls want to be here. It is also nearing out 35th wedding anniversary and we might need to do something fun for that. Not sure, I think James and I have had enough traveling for the summer, so maybe just a few hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill. Ha!! Right in the middle of those two days, Ana will turn three. I think that is what we will celebrate.

So, what are your plans for the rest of the summer???

Garden Progress: First zucchini

I picked the first zucchini today after we unpacked from coming home from the North Dakota Coaches Convention. I wanted to post more about being at the convention, but did not have a functioning laptop with me at the place. I did manage that one post from the iPad, but it is just not that easy to type from that thing. Sitting down to a real keyboard after a week without one is like, well I am guessing sort of like being able to finally touch a full sized instrument after being away from one for a time. But this is off base so I will more on.

James and I stayed through the final four sessions this morning then grabbed a few things here and there as we were heading out of town. There is a great sale at the fabric store and I was able to purchase some outdoor material to recover a pad for our old swing at a really cheap price. I picked up 4 yards of material originally priced at $20.o0 per yard. The discount was 60% off with another 20% from a coupon I had gotten on my phone (wonderful young woman behind the counter cutting for me earlier this week, signed me up for the coupons via text). The bolt had an extra 16″ which they were going to have to set aside as a remnant and I could get that for 50% off the discounted price. Wow. Total bill was something like $28.  I will let you know how that project turns out, if I even get to it, which I hope that I do and soon.

The garden, this was supposed to be about the garden. Paulina left yesterday to go to Devil’s Lake to visit her friend Katie, who will be her next year’s roommate. She promised that she watered before she left, but did text me to say that the pumpkin was out of control and would need some clipping. This was a volunteer plant that is now trying to take over on the tomatoes. It is bad enough that there won’t be any beans or peppers to speak of because of the volunteer cosmos, I do not need to lose the tomato crop too. I think I will cut most everything of that vine except two pumpkins in the morning.

I also found several raspberries again, but now understand the importance of cutting the plants off in their first year. I may have to mark which ones are the old plants so that when they come back next spring, I know to cut off the new ones right away. Someone told me that trimming them encourages better growth and fuller production. I am willing to try anything to make those things produce, since I am not so great with the strawberries.

Well, I have left a few pictures of what I found in the garden this evening. The peas need to be picked and the cucumbers need to be trained up the fence. All work for the morning I would say. It is fairly warm out there and I am about zoned out from being away from my own house and bed and cats for four days. I am beginning to think that I have spent more time away from my home and bed than in it this year. Time to stay home and get some things accomplished. I was thinking that when school starts and James goes back to work, I will get much done. Ha, ha!! I will be in school this fall on a long term maternity leave sub job. It will be nice to have a reason to get out of bed in the morning, but it will also mean a little better time management. Oh well, enjoy the rest of July!!

Room with a view?

James and I are at the North Dakota high school coaches convention and this is the view from our hotel room. Not sure if you would call it much of a view, but this is what it is. They are all currently at the big “social” and I opted to leave after supper. I am not a drinker and was not super impressed when the pitcher of beer was parked in front of me. In the first place the smell does nothing positive to my sinuses and my personal diagnosis is an allergy to the junk. If I were smart I would hope in the car and head to the fabric shop to buy more of the outdoor material that is on sale. We need to recover the cushion on the old swing. Last night I found some great material to cover the spools that we plan to use as tables. It was 60% off then we got a coupon for another 20% off the total. I think I ended up with 3.8 yards for just a bit more than the regular price of one yard. Yah! So I realized that someone needs to measure that cushion and send me the size before I can buy the material. I guess I will be making a call to that someone later this evening. So how are you spending your last week of July?

Laundry woes

Today was not the best day to do laundry at our place. I prefer doing laundry on Monday but sometimes it just doesn’t work out all that well. I should have known by the haze to the south that something was up. So the first load that I did was the sheets and towels. I hung them up then went to the garden to pull out as many weeds as I could.

I freed the zucchini and tried with the beans but ended up giving up on them. There is no hope with the growth of the cosmos. I also pulled a few weeds near the peas growing on the south fence. Afterwards I did what I could to unwind the pumpkin vines from the tomato cages. One might be interesting before the summer is over.

By the time I was finished in the garden the rain started. It looked like it might pass so I decided to leave everything on the line. Then it started to blow like crazy. When Paulina came home she found one of the sheets on the ground. So, I ended up going out and taking everything in. By then I had another load finished and now it meant there would be a back up to the dryer. I threw the towels and the clean sheet in the dryer, the other needed to be re washed.

As we sat down to eat the dryer started to have a fit. We tried to ignore it, but it squealed one last time then died. Paulina was afraid to look in the room. She thought there might be smoke. In the meantime the sun came out so I took everything back out on the line. Guess what, the next batch of rain hit. Grrrr!

Before that, we took the dead dryer to the garage and brought the other one in. It was good we never sold that set after we came back from Linton. Of course there was a glitch with that too. James had to switch out the cords before we could plug it in. I was about done at that time.

It all would not have been so bad except I had a real struggle trying to get the bulletin finished. I finally finished up around 5 pm. I hope the next laundry day is boring. I personally think the dryer missed its partner. That Maytag set was together for 35 years as James and I got it from I said parents for our wedding in 1982.

Twins time

I have a couple of pictures of the twins to share. This morning as we were getting ready to head for church I sapped a shot of them dressed up and sitting in their car seats. Last night when Jessica was a little over tired she suggested that she might just sleep in. We told her it would be fine, but I did say that everyone in church would be disappointed if they knew she and the twins were here but didn’t come. Well I was right, they were all so excited to have them there, and they were so good.

After we got home, Jessica changed both of them and I got to feed them. We all ate then sent Jessica to bed for a nap so we could have Marshall and Lily all to ourselves. James took Lily and Marshall and I went upstairs to watch cheesy Christmas movies on Hallmark. They both slept but funny thing was that neither one cooperated when we tried to put them down. I guess they were taking advantage of their grandparents as long as possible. This last picture was taken by Jessica before they left. Hope it isn’t so long till we see them again.

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