A perennial, paternal harvest

It arrived via Fed Ex today. Shinny and ready to use. She was so excited. She couldn’t wait to fill it.

Not an iPod ready to be filled with apps.

Much better, in her mind–a watering can ready to tend to her beloved gardens and fruit trees.

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As I watched her shower her blueberries, I realized how proud Dad would be.

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He’s 400 miles away and hates to travel, so I doubt he’ll ever amble across the acres with her and inspect her fruits and vegetables. But he would love to.

I don’t think of summer without thinking of my father in his gardens.

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He was the one who first sprouted in her a love of playing in the dirt, planting seeds, and tending to her gardening efforts daily, consistently, responsibly.

Each new summer he thought they were just growing that year’s crop together. Crisp beans they’d pop off the vines in the hot August sun and tender squash they’d watch mature until a late September afternoon. But he was sewing so much more. And his efforts are still blooming, 400 miles north, a decade after he first taught her the value of soil packed under her fingernails and the promise of each new blossom discovered on tender stems.

Both harvests are invaluable. There was the annual, physical yield. The sunbaked, golden peppers they held in their hands together and the plump green bean pods they tossed into overflowing buckets among the narrow, even rows. And then there are the perennial, almost ethereal returns. The joys of being an intricate part of God’s springtime, life-giving miracles. Those joys he planted deep in her. This year, being separated from him with our recent move, she saw that love take root and bloom on its own, on her novel New England landscape. His love for creating the perfect growing conditions. His tenderness for a wilted, brown shoot that needed extra special care. His marvel at God’s miraculous provision for us through simple seeds. His childlike joy over emerging sprouts and buds. He’s passed them on to her now, and this year’s harvest will be stronger and more glorious than ever before. It will be one that nourishes her for a lifetime.

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“Don’t waste your energy striving for perishable food. Work for the food that sticks with you, food that nourishes your lasting life, food the Son of Man provides. He and what he does are guaranteed by God the Father to last.” John 6:27MSG

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A FEW THINGS WE’VE LEARNED in our first month of New England gardening:

The weeds and insect and mammal pests are numerous on a rural farm.

To help deter the weeds, she’s spread grass clippings over the rows of her gardens.

To help deter the deer, she planted small peppermint plants in each bed. While we love the smell when our leg brushes the aromatic plants, deer despise it enough that it truly keeps them at bay. (We were pleasantly surprised to learn that ants, aphids, and cabbage worms also dislike the wonderful aroma.)

To attract insect-devouring birds, we created our garden beds near existing mature trees and installed a few bird houses at various heights as well. Next we’re adding a birdbath. It’s easy enough to fill it with fresh water daily when we’re tending the garden,  and it’s the least we can do for our bird friends who help us with insect removal.

Since frogs and toads feed on just about any creature smaller than them (insects, snails, and slugs), to the tune of 20,000 pests per year, they’re also great to have around.

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To attract helpful gardening companions, like our new friend, a gray tree frog, we just placed a cracked pottery bowl upside down in one of our beds and added a shallow dish of water. Instant toad house. Of course, you can also buy a fancy one, if you’d like.

We’ll share more of our gardening lessons (and surely failures) over the season. But for now, for lots more great organic pest control ideas, we liked this page.

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Be sure to follow along right here, on SoulyRested.com, for more nature study resources! (Just enter your email and click the “FollowThisBlog” in the right-hand column. A few times a month I’ll share tips on Keeping It Simple from my New England homestead.) It’s super easy, and then you won’t miss any of the fun nature study resources that I’ll be sharing here in the months ahead. And—to be unveiled soon—a complete nature study resource for even the least science-oriented parent (or grandparent) ever. Really.

As soon as you follow along on SoulyRested.com (by clicking “FollowThisBlog” in the right-hand column), you can snag a 7-page, detailed, FREE printable that will get you started on an unbelievably easy, unlimitedly rewarding journey of nature study with a child. Start by researching a plant in your own vegetable garden, if you’d like.

Even the least science-oriented parent (or grandparent) ever can dive right in.

And love it.

Really.

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Dreams Taking Root

I assured her many times.

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She did not need to water her newly planted fruits today. Buckets of rainfall had provided a deserved respite from her arduous chore.

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She had carried watering cans, carted hoses and sprinklers, and inspected her plantings every day for two weeks.

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Having mini orchards to call her own had been a dream of hers for a decade, but our previous home in mid-atlantic suburbia, on less than a fifth of an acre, allowed no room for her vision. Our new home was placed on the front corner of 14 acres that lazily stretch uphill from a long, rich-soiled river front. Within only a day of arriving, she and I were turning over rich brown dirt, moving lush green sod, and planting her dreams.

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We still had a barn full of moving boxes; dark, worn, antique floors to refinish; and uneven plaster to sand and paint in every room of our early-19th-century cape cod. But her dreams were taking root and being tended to. So, although the interior of our home told a chaotic story, we were settling in just fine.

“He waters the mountains from his upper chambers; the land is satisfied by the fruit of his work.” Psalm 104:13

Cookie, the crooner

She’s always loved frogs. Even a decade ago.

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But now that she’s “all grown up” (at 11), she is even more intrigued by them. She spots them in camouflaged niches, transports them around the yard (and, yes, around the house), doesn’t mind when they leave some wet traces of their fear on her palm, talks to them softly, and even—if they’re extra special—gives them a comfy home, serves them delicious crawling delicacies that she collects under rocks, and calls them by a name she has christened them with.

Given her years of amphibian expertise, I was surprised to hear that a sedate, little, bumpy guy went unnoticed by her trained eye for many minutes. He was squatted low and calmly resting, perched on the outdoor shower stall while she rinsed chlorine out of her locks from swimming. (The fact that she was brave enough to conquer the tepid water on an overcast New Hampshire day is a feat worthy of note.) Once she spotted him, she was mesmerized that her new friend was so content. He didn’t fret that a spider had spun a wisp of translucent silk across his brow.

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He didn’t mind Hayley’s camera lens circling around him, and he barely seemed to care when she cradled him in her hands. He definitely had a laid-back, rural New England attitude. The mid-atlantic frogs she was accustomed to were always hyper and flighty, especially if Bixby gave them a close canine inspection.

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But nothing phased this placid ectotherm.

So we learned our new friend is a gray tree frog. (Fellow New Hampshirites, try this site to learn more about critters in your yard: NH Fish and Game.) And he’s quite a crooner. I had noticed an unusual song around our property for days; how surprised I was to realize the chirpy melodies were not those of a bird. They were coming from a plump, sedate, lump-covered little guy now known as “Cookie.” (After, of course, our favorite Frog and Toad children’s story.)

I’m thankful to rediscover nature’s excitement and appreciate the beauty and sounds of our new home through my daughter’s perspective.

“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world.” -Rachel Carson