Tag Archives: nature

10 Reasons Why I Have a Garden

I have a garden. It is not the best garden, but it is mine. Contrary to the belief of my neighbors, I am not actually striving to have the biggest and best garden in the world, just a good one. My garden is not just for growing food. Whenever I dedicate time, money, and effort to anything in my life, I need to justify it. I don’t have much time, and I have even less money. So how can I justify dedicating my entire front yard to a garden? I believe I have ten legitimate reasons for my garden lifestyle.

1. To glorify God – Glorifying God is my chief end (WSC Q. 1). “Whether we eat or we drink, we do it all to the glory of God” (I Corinthians 10:31). The first context God placed man in was a garden. I will resist a full sermon on that, but simply to say that it is quite natural and fitting for man to be in a garden. There is no direct command in Scripture requiring each person to have a garden, but I believe there are many benefits to being part of the process of cultivating food from the ground. First, we get to witness, participate in and marvel at a God-designed process of life. If you ever wanted to be a part of something “cultural,” cultivating land and food is the oldest cultural experience. Exercise your dominion! Secondly, we see first hand how our daily bread really does come from the Lord in the natural world he created. Supermarkets and food courts have blocked our vision of where food comes from. I knew a 10-yr-old boy who thought the ears of corn were pulled from the ground like carrots. Thirdly, having a garden helps us hear Jesus’ parables with better clarity. Rather than having a preacher explain to us the various horticultural and agricultural particulars, we could simply know what Jesus meant like His initial audience. We would know first-hand the particulars of the Parable of the Good Soil. Perhaps we would reflect on that parable and others while we were pulling our weeds and pruning our grapevines.

2. To grow food – Currently my garden does not produce enough food for my family to live on, but I am working on it. With hard work and dedication, we can produce tons of food per year on a quarter-acre lot. I invite to you check out the Dervaes family to see what they do with less than than a quarter acre. I am not particularly concerned about GMO’s (genetically modified O’s), but I prefer to eat food that is cultivated for taste rather than visual appeal for grocery store display. I have eaten one-too-many tasteless (and sour) plum-sized grapes. I also prefer not to eat food that was sprayed with poison. The FDA and I disagree with the definition of “safe.” Who likes pealing of the little sticker of an apple anyway?

3. To send a message to the food companies, governments, and anyone else who wants to limit my right to enjoy God’s green earth and feed my family – My thoughts on our current food industry are as vast as the current food industry, but for now, let me affirm that I am a capitalist who believes that everyone should have food. I believe in making food for money and selling at whatever rate you want. But something bad happens when the food companies are in bed with the government, creating an over-regulated industry in which smaller farmers cannot compete. For more on all of that check out Joel Salatin’s book Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal. Capitalistic farming is good, but after you inject it with the dual hormone of American grown greed and pragmatism supplemented with government regulations that altogether create immunity against small farmers, you end up with a monstrous and dangerous food industry that is nearly impossible to reform.

I am not an alarmist, but it makes no sense that people have no food in tough economic times (or any other times), when all you need is right under your feet as soon as you step out of your front door. We have been groomed to think that food must come from somewhere else requiring big machines and generations of farming experience. Let’s think outside the frozen food box.

Just to be sure, I don’t think it is a moral imperative that everyone should have a garden. I understand that many people are free to choose to invest their time doing other things. Enjoy. Just don’t complain if there is no food in the fridge as you watch TV. “But I live in an apartment,” some will say, “I don’t have a yard.” Then resort to using pots or find or create a community garden. Perhaps condo and apartment developers will start incorporating garden space next to the community pool if there was a demand for it. If you live in one of those prefabricated developed neighborhood with an HOA, your options are severely limited. Either work on revising the covenant laws or work on moving.

4. To get rid of my lawn –
I have never enjoyed mowing a yard. Maybe you do. I don’t. How much money do we spend on them? How much time and money wasted going to the gas station, buying the weed and seed stuff, yanking on that pull-chord on the lawn mower, for what? An over-sized welcome mat? A green monster that gobbles up my time and money? You can have it. I’ll keep my green monster in left field at Fenway. Go Boston!

5. To get the kids outside – To get the kids outside!

6. To get mom and dad outside –
There are mental/emotional and physical benefits to being outside working a garden. Mental benefits are immediately felt after a drive home in rush hour traffic after a long day at work. Killing garden pests never felt so rewarding. The physical benefits are obvious. You get your daily source of vitamin D from the sun; your get some exercise from moving around, bending down, picking up, and pulling weeds, not to mention eating healthy food is always good for you. Would it be a stretch to say that taking time early in the morning and praying while in the garden has spiritual benefits? Jesus prayed in the garden. Enough said.

7. To create family unity – Working on a garden with each family member taking responsibility for a particular task demands team work. For instance, my daughter has rabbits in the back yard. Since she will not allow me to eat them, those bunnies must produce something for me in order to justify their existence. Their rent is offered in the form of little round morsels of fertilizer. My daughter’s job is to make sure those offerings are taken from the back yard and placed in the garden in the front yard. Currently we are working on a new fence. Each member of the family has a hand in the construction of it. Building the fence ourselves saved money rather than buying it prefabricated from one of the home improvement stores. I found a local lumber yard, and we used the first cuts of cypress logs (I know, there are conservation issues concerning cypress trees). Rather than have the pros install it for us, we did it ourselves reinforcing our dependence on each other as we work as a team.

Ryan making fence

Ryan measuring out the pickets

Tabitha making fence

Tabitha staging the pickets

Uriah making fence

Uriah securing a recycled post from an old dock

Unity is again reinforced when we sit down to eat at dinner time eating the fruit of our labors. Each cucumber and green bean has a memory of us working together behind it.

8. To save money – It pains me to buy zucchini in the store (not matter how inexpensive) knowing that it could have grown in my yard. I will admit that it takes money to buy the tools, seeds, garden bed material, and fencing, etc. But in the end, real money could be saved by growing your own food. But even IF I could never get to that point, the first seven reasons are enough to justify spending the time and money. Buying tomatoes in the store doesn’t help my children understand important life principles. Buying green beans at the corner fruit stand never would have provided me the opportunity to teach my children how to build a fence.

9. To help me understand life and ministry – Jesus used agricultural knowledge to springboard into His parables. The reason He did that is quite simple. The Lord of all creation has built-in principles that apply to the natural order of things as well as the spiritual realm. When I survey the progress of my garden, I try to take those observations and apply them to my life in general and my various ministerial responsibilities at church. When I see a suffering plant not bearing fruit, I assess that it is suffering from poor soil, not enough water or sunlight. I take that observation and ask questions about areas of my own life. Are there areas in my own life that need more fortification? Am I spending too much time and energy on something that is taking me away from other things, e.g., should I be preparing for my Hebrew exegesis paper right now or writing a blog about my gardening fascination? Was something planted too early before proper structures were in place to bear the fruit? Do I, personally, have time to water it all by hand or is there some sort of irrigation system that can be delegated to handle the task?

These are my nine reasons to justify my garden. I will let you think of the tenth. One more thing since some folks have asked… Why devote the entire front yard to a garden? The answer is not too complicated – just three reasons. As I mentioned above, I don’t care for lawns; get ride of the grass – all of it. Also, the front yard is where the sun is. I have a pretty shady back yard. The size is the other question. Why so big? My garden is approximately 30′ x 40′ with another section on the other side of the driveway, which is 10′ x 30′. Small hobby gardens take time and the payout is not worth it to me. I have resolved that if we are going to do a garden, then let’s do a garden. I am not interested in a little token patch of space for a few maters and cukes. I can’t put all my hopes for fruit into a few plants that may not produce. I need to reap a harvest, not just grow some stuff for fun.

Not out of the Woods Yet… Part 3

Walking Contradiction
Without an intellectual or moral leg to stand on, I began to question my stance as an environmentalist. Lest you think that it was a systematic examination of my inconsistent life views, I can guarantee that that was certainly not the case. My mind was in no condition for that kind of thinking. But somehow I realized that I was a walking contradiction. I actually did love the people I knew whether family, neighbors, and co-workers. I had no desire for them to be eradicated from this beautiful planet. The people I hated were faceless strangers from a distance — people I didn’t know, the other people who are not environmentalists. I realized that everyone else was basically like me with their own dreams and fears. Perhaps they had their own inner struggles looking for a reason to get out of bed every morning. Maybe they saw the hopelessness of this world, too. This does not mean that I was overtaken with selflessness and charity for my fellow man, I was just finding it hard to point the finger at everyone else. I finally was overtaken with guilt. I, just like everyone else, was part of the problem. I was a co-causer of everything bad in this world.

The Ugly Truth
I came to terms with the ugly truth that there was no hope for this world or anyone in it. The natural world is quickly diminishing and injustice will ultimately go unanswered. People, like me, are born into pain and misery, but to what end? Is this all there was? All this beauty in the universe, all to be forgotten when the human race goes extinct, erased by time. All those billions of people to be forever forgotten, swallowed by insignificance. This would have been a fine time for me to read C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, but that was not in the Lord’s providence for me at that time.

Out of the Woods
Through the means of a humble Christian man willing to share the gospel with me, I finally did come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. And by coming to faith, my guilt was removed. No longer did I have to justify my existence on this planet; God put me here. This is his world, and I am his son. Now I can rejoice and give him thanks for the beautiful sunsets and autumn moons. No longer do I want people to get off the planet. To the contrary, I want them to see the New Heavens and the New Earth, and more than that, I want them to know the God who made it all.

Now that I know the Creator, Artist, and Redeemer, I can truly appreciate his works that he has marvelously displayed in nature and on the cross. No longer am I lost in the vast wilderness of darkness dazzled by the empty charms of naturalism, losing the forest for the trees. My myopic view of the universe has been cured. I once was lost and blind, but now I see the good, the true, and the beautiful. By the grace of God, I am finally out of the woods and dwell safely in his sanctuary.

Not out of the Woods Yet… Part 2

New Perspectives
Atheist or not, I must admit that Mrs. Mulford was my favorite teacher. I will never forget the day she gave me a pile of old Smithsonian magazines. I cherished them for years. I plowed through them again and again hoping to see something I may have missed in my initial scourings. I saw things I never saw before and read about things I didn’t even care about, but as long as it was in there, I felt compelled to read about it. As by design of the creators of that publication, it served as my window to the world. But not all windows have the best view. Naturalism has its dark side.

Saving the World
By the time I was nineteen years old, I was ripe for the activist phase of life. I had a cause and a passion. What little money I had from my unemployment checks went to saving the world. I bought a small parcel of land and I adopted a manatee. To save the ozone layer, I bought a bike instead of a car. To save the elephants, I handed out leaflets to people who could care less, but hey, I was doing something, right? One mailing list led to another, and WWF and Greenpeace finally found me. Alas, the true priests of the temple who were trying to save the sanctuary solicited my help. I wrote my check, spread the word, and hoped for change. It was now or never to save the world, or so I thought.

But my crusade was short lived. I looked around at a dying world, and I realized that nobody was in control down here. Everyday tens of thousands of acres of rain forests were being destroyed and government beaurocrats and the average Joe on the street didn’t seem to care that the the Earth’s oxygen maker in Brazil was disappearing. I began to see the futility of it all. Angst filled my soul as I began to realize that my vision of green utopia was not going to be realized. There were simply too many people, or at least that is what I kept reading in the endless tide of literature that rolled in. How can you change billions of people’s minds in time before the whole world is paved with asphalt and concrete jungles?

The Real Inconvenient Truth
Population control organizations began to contact me through mailings. Strategies were laid out in fine detail on how to work with local governments all the way up to the UN lobbying for strict ordinances and laws that essentially would keep people from owning land and worse yet, procreating. My favorite bumper sticker of the day was “You! Out of the gene pool!” But now, people were actually organizing and doing what I only fantasized about–diminishing the population.

I soon began to recognize the hypocracy of it all. Each mailing from these “save the world” organizations was made of paper–you know, that stuff made of dead trees. The bike I was riding was made in a bike factory. The steel in the bike frame was most likely forged on a steel foundry. The shoes I wore were made of both man-mad synthetic products and leather (skin from a defenseless bovine living in squalor conditions). As I thought it through, I realized that I was one of those Homo sapiens ignoramuses that I hated so much. I was guilty of existence. My hatred for people began to feel unnatural. But how could this be? Didn’t we all evolve? Are we doing what comes natural?

There were a number of events in my life that challenged my convictions. One unforgettable moment was when I was having lunch with some ladies with whom I worked (by this point the unemployment benefits ran out. I had to get a job). They were all older ladies, married, perhaps some were grandmothers. As we sat at our lunch table, someone mentioned a recent plane crash that killed everyone on board. Taking the opportunity to express my ignorance, I quipped, “Good, there are too many people anyway.” (I was speaking from the pagan notion of Gaia, where the Earth was simply fighting back after all her years of abuse.) But there was one woman who wouldn’t let me get away with such stupidity. She arrested me with her eyes and pleaded, “Oh no, dear, you mustn’t say such things. You are so young. Please, don’t think that way. That is not a good way to be.” Her response was riveting, driven more by pity than anger. Although firm and unrelenting, the lashing my soul received that day was delivered with gentleness and love without condemnation. Within moments, the other ladies chimed in giving their full support to her plea. I was out numbered. I went down swinging, but they were right, and I knew it. There I sat, alone in my shame.

To be continued…

Not out of the Woods Yet… Part 1

I love the woods. I spent much of my childhood exploring them, catching snakes, salamanders, toads, frogs, turtles, and poison ivy. The woods were my sanctuary as a child–an escape from the troubles of home and neighborhood politics. Exploring strange new worlds under rotting logs or in small streams was an endless source of wonder for me. Even the watching of a carcass of a dead skunk or raccoon decay provided a certain level of excitement.

During my teenage years, I was a Discovery Channel junkie. At any given time of the day, I could be found watching some nature documentary by naturalists such as David Attenborough or the original man from Down Under, Harry Butler. But like with any other addiction, there are always side effects. Endless hours of exposure to environmentalism and naturalism created in me a disdain for the human race–a deep angst that only intensified as the years rolled in. The effects were quite predictable, and looking back on it now, I would say calculated.

With every program you were given a steady dose of the beauty of nature’s wonders and the ingenuity of evolution’s marvels. But then came the rest of the story. Along with the awe-inspiring beauty of nature came the hard ugly truth. You were rudely awakened to the reality of the countless animal species that have become endangered, driven to the point of extinction due to poaching, habitat loss, or some other man-made intrusion. Whole forests were relentlessly being slashed and burned to make room for human development. Water supplies were contaminated by human waste of all kinds from raw sewerage, strip-mining run-off, to industrial pollution.

All of this senseless destruction because of one common cause: humans! I hated them. Where did they come from? What is their purpose? So vile, so alien! Whoever did not share my concern for the planet was loathed like a roach. They came in all shapes and sizes. Some were in the shape of the big greedy developers who destroyed precious habitats and ecosystems for mere monetary gain. Some were perverts in the East searching for the ultimate aphrodisiac found in the horn of the rhino. Some were elephant poachers looking for a quick cash from the ivory market. Some were tribesmen cattle-herders encroaching on lion country. In my own little corner of the shrinking world, it was a congregation of Christians who cut down my sanctuary in the woods to build theirs. It was the new Burger King that destroyed two acres of blackberry bushes on the adjacent property leaving me without sustenance during my summertime excursions. From my perspective, whoever or whatever threatened the animals and their environment was an enemy in my universe. There were obviously too many Homo sapiens ignoramuses trampling around this little blue gem called Earth.

Succumbing to the influence of the naturalistic worldview, I denounced my religious affiliation. So when I was fifteen years old, I broke the news to my mother that I was no longer a Catholic. Not understanding the reason for my apostasy, she pleaded with me to simply have faith. I had no idea what that meant (quite literally, I did not even know the most basic definition of the word even in a non-religious sense). She told that I could not be an atheist, of which I assured her that I was not. I believed that God existed; I simply did not believe the Bible and that Jesus was his Son. Ancient religions with all their trappings no longer appealed to me with my newly enlightened mind, albeit devoid of a working definition of the word ‘faith.’

But the real challenge to my faith (or lack of) came from my art teacher that very same year. She asked the class to name our favorite artist and favorite piece of art. As others were celebrating Van Gogh and his Starry Night or Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, I was cooking up an answer to top them all. With all sincerity, variegated with a wee bit of self-righteousness and manufactured piety, I publicly declared that “God was the greatest artist and the Earth was his greatest masterpiece.” There, I said it. My first confession of faith: There was One Great God and Artist and I was his prophet.

From the first day of class, our working definition of art was “making something from nothing.” According to that definition, I simply had the best answer. I expected my teacher would be overwhelmed by my profundity and insight–perhaps something akin to A Christmas Story, when young Ralphie’s teacher, Miss Shields, gave him the only A+ in the class for his essay on his much-coveted Red Ryder carbine-action, two hundred shot Range Model air rifle. Like Ralphie, I, too, was awoken to the sad reality that my teacher did not hold my delicate convictions. With all dismissivness, she simply retorted, “Well, that’s if you believe in God.” She moved on to the next student. I had no defense, but I knew I was somehow right. Safe to say that she didn’t get a fruitcake for Christmas from me that year.

To be continued…