Bark Butter and other Small Joys

Flowers—and other growing things—like water. It’s amazing how much more they cooperate with being beautiful when they get some. So this morning I get up early to water the flowers and my tiny vegetable garden. There is a new raised bed in the back yard, waiting for me to fill. Yesterday, my father-in-law brought me a load of soil and we spent the afternoon shoveling and mixing and dreaming that empty bed full. All night long I slept on images of earth and roots and good things to eat.

This morning, I comb my hands through the loose soil—locating any stones or sticks or large clods of dirt. I break up the lumps of dirt, letting the soil stain my fingers; letting the smell of earth fill my lungs. I find some broken pieces of pottery, a bit of a tin can, and some unidentifiable plastic. Already it’s the kind of day that has a drop of sweat trickling down the small of my back. There’s a Cardinal in the maple tree making a fuss, asking me to please leave so she might visit the feeder in peace.

I pick some green onions and look over the wilted lettuce. It will need pulled up in the next couple days if it is to be worth anything. At that thought I feel my heart make room for squash and cucumbers.

I need to cut the dried blooms off the lilac, but already it’s getting too hot for that. I pull a few weeds around the bee balm; shake my head at how quickly they grow. The feeder needs filled so mamma Cardinal can have some breakfast so I go back inside and get the sunflower seeds. I pull out a container of bark butter—a recipe one of my patients told me about—and carefully place the block in the suet pocket.

My boys are sleeping in. Teddy is finished with school for the year and I can almost feel the contentment of his breathing through the walls. Jeffrey still has three days next week.

“NO ONE goes to school on the last day, mom,” he said to me yesterday. And he had that look on his face that I have seen on my own in pictures of a young me. Monday will be Step-up Day—the day all the eighth graders go to the high school to see what they are in for next year. I shake my head again. How quickly they grow.

Later, Jeff and I will go to the nursery to pick out some more pepper plants and blue lake pole beans. And who knows what else. This is the happy: being together, moving slow through the day, tending the earth.

How about you? What does Sabbath look like for you?

Bark Butter Recipe

2 cups of crisco
2 cups of peanut butter (I used crunchy, but it doesn’t matter)
4 cups cornmeal
2 cups rolled oats
2 cups bird seed or sunflower seeds (I put some overripe berries in too)
1 tsp. of honey

Stir it all together. I then pressed mine into small Tupperware containers to shape them into a size similar to the store bought suet cakes. Then I just pop them into the suet pockets of my feeder and let the birds enjoy!


  1. says

    Thanks for letting us peak into your morning. My favorite thing to do for Sabbath is to take a tupperware full of watermelon and pack it with bottled water in a little cooler. I put my beach chair, sunglasses, headphones, journal, and Bible into a big bag. Then, I jump into my car and start driving east. I make a quick stop at Subway on my way toward a beach park. I find a quiet corner facing the ocean and spend a few hours looking at the waves, listening to worship music, reading, writing, and listening….

  2. Caryn Jenkins Christensen says

    yes, or co-creating with God perhaps… Every time we plant a seed and watch it grow.

  3. bluecottonmemory says

    I think the boys and I will do that – want to take care of those cardinals and robins in my yard:) My 4th boy, he will be going to high school next year, too – and it seems just yesterday he was itty bitty! Mornings like you describe are beautiful gifts from the Father – where I feel Him most. I need to stop by and pick up some ingredients today:) Wishing you a beautiful week!

  4. says

    Sounds like my husband’s kind of Saturday, working out in the garden and mixing perspiration into the earth. Thanks for the Bark Butter recipe! Our suet is empty, but I have a feeling it won’t be that way long.

    Grace and peace to you in the Lord Jesus, friend.

  5. says

    Christina, some of the recipes I read said you are to rub the mixture onto the bark of trees and the birds will flock. But my patient who told me about it initially advised me to make blocks much like the suet blocks one finds in the stores. The birds do, indeed, seem to love it! Especially my red-bellied woodpecker 🙂

  6. says

    I suppose there’s nothing stopping us from trying both. We don’t have a feeder near my office window, but the big live oak is there… Thanks for the additional idea!

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