Garden Notes: Velveteen (or One Way to be Really Real)

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Saturday night shimmered with the first fireflies. They beamed at us from high in the Maple tree, announcing summer with each winking light. It has been hot, more like July than May. And now June comes calling with her promise of fresh-mowed lawns and swimming pools. It feels like I blinked and missed spring.

Last night, I picked the last of the kale from my garden. I took the kitchen shears and snipped the leaves down to the quick. Then, I separated out the stems, meticulously pinching each sharp-smelling leaf from it’s purpled anchor. I left a pile of stems and discarded, yellowed leaves for the bunnies over by the fence. Don’t ask me why I would feed those thieving rodents. They ate most of my first kale crop. In the past, I’ve had trouble with deer, trouble with goats, and trouble with a red-bellied woodpecker, but the rabbits have never discovered how to hop up into my raised beds until this year. And those rascals are picky! They feasted on kale but left all my lettuces untouched. But yesterday, as we peered out the bay window while nibbling dinner, a tiny baby bunny peeked out from underneath my lilac bush. My heart melted. Velveteen, I thought, remembering my favorite children’s tale. That tiny face reminded me to love better, to be real.

I only wonder if baby bunnies like kale stems. We shall see. I have other plantlets to worry over now. The pole beans I planted under the greens are already vining up toward the sun, and my cucumbers and summer squash have poked through their seedy beginnings to lift helicopter faces through the soil. I’ve planted about half the tomato and pepper plants for the season, but must wait until I clear out the remaining lettuce to finish the planting.

Have I mentioned how gardening helps me slow down? The mental health benefits of gardening have long been documented. Researchers have linked gardening with everything from reduced stress to reduced belly fat, but for me? Tending this little patch of earth is a way of loving. With each leaflet I free from this loamy bed, I step out of myself and into the beginnings of nourishing. Not just my family, but my soul. When I think of the first garden, I get lost in the wonder of it all—this big magic of growing things, seed planting, pruning, and praying over a patch of soil.

Gardening is a way of changing the world.

And I’ve always wanted to be a world changer. When I grow and eat my own food, share it with others … this is a way of bringing the Kingdom into the here and now. The Holy comes close as I tend this little patch of earth I’ve been given.

That’s really real. Velveteen.

Playdates with God: Kale Chips

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I still have one little patch of kale in my garden, believe it or not. The rest of the bed has been put to sleep, covered in a blanket of leaves, but my kale loves these cooler temperatures. Sunday morning I awakened early to make Teddy some biscuits and bacon (did I mention Teddy is home?) and discovered the magic of the first morning snow. It didn’t amount to much, but it made a lovely entrance into Thanksgiving week. In the midst of that gentle snow shower, I picked some kale to sauté in with my morning egg scramble. Late November and we’re still eating fresh greens. Ain’t that something?

In the afternoon I made some kale chips to snack on while the boys are home this week. Kale is one of those so-called “super-foods,” packed with so much healthy goodness it feels wrong to call these little goodies “chips.” Even my boys love them, and they can be slightly addictive. They are a bit labor intensive, but well worth the effort! Here’s how I make my kale chips.

You will need:

A bunch of kale, cleaned and dried (a lot of recipes say to cut out the stem and tear the leaves into small pieces, but I like to keep mine whole, sometimes folding the leaf over to make a thicker chip).

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kosher salt
cracked pepper
other seasoning you like (sometimes I use a cajun spice or garlic powder for something different)
olive oil

Preaheat oven to 275 degrees. In a large bowl, toss the kale with olive oil until coated.

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Place the leaves in a single layer on baking sheets (sometimes I’ve used parchment paper, which absorbs the extra olive oil and makes things neater, but its not necessary).

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Sprinkle with salt and pepper or other seasoning. Bake for twenty minutes or until crisp. Allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight container. Enjoy!

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These little buggers are delicate, that’s why I sometimes fold them over to make them thicker. But I love the fragile crisp. Teddy says that’s why they’re addictive, because they’re so light you can’t stop eating them. How about you? What are your favorite homemade snacks to enjoy during the holidays?

Every Monday I share one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find God and know joy. Click on the button below to add your link. I try to visit a few of your stories every week, so if you are a new visitor, be sure to let me know in the comments so I can welcome you. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us.

 

Laura Boggess

Playdates with God: How to Save [Savor] Summer Memories

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The soil keeps giving back and tomatoes flood every counter of my kitchen. Each morning, when I walk Bonnie around the house, we visit the garden. My shirt becomes a basket—I hold up the hem, filled to the brim with romas, with one hand and maneuver the leash with the other.

Life doesn’t stop to wait for the harvest, not in this suburban household. So I must figure out ways to preserve and can in between all the busy-ness of getting ready for a new school year, sending Teddy off to college, extra hours at work, and fading daylight.

Summer is singing its last songs. In the evenings, when Jeff and I do our porch sit, the fireflies dwindle in number. Last night, as we sat in the fading light, hundreds of Starlings flocked to a nearby Poplar tree. When they flew overhead, I heard the sound of the wind rushing under their wings, and I forgave them for robbing my feeders on so many days.

Yesterday, as I stood at the sink washing tomatoes, I thought about my grandmother again. Did she ever wish she only had herself to worry about? Did thoughts of her nine children weigh heavy each moment? I weigh worry against love right there at my kitchen sink and love wins every time. How empty life would be if I only had myself to think of.

We must not wish these moments away. So I roast tomatoes, peel garlic, sauté the onions and put it all together. Then I can all that goodness and put it away to be enjoyed in the cold months.

A memory of summer.

Every Monday I share one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find God and know joy. Click on the button below to add your link. I try to visit a few of your stories every week, so if you are a new visitor, be sure to let me know in the comments so I can welcome you. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us.

Laura Boggess

Garden Notes: Nurture

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When I returned from the College Summit Workshop, I was amazed at how much my garden had grown in just four days. I spent Monday afternoon stringing and canning beans, letting the slow snap of the pods soothe my mind and welcome me back into the routine of home. My tomatoes are struggling this year, due to all the rain, but I still have been able to start my mid-summer diet—tomatoes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (and some in-between). This morning, I diced one of my salad varieties into petite bites and stirred the red bits into a pan-scrambled egg. Is there a better way to start the day?

Our first night at the College Summit Workshop was spent in training. All the writing coaches gathered in one room and our coordinator took us through the same free-writing exercises we would be asking our students to do over the next three days. After writing for ten minutes, we took turns reading our scribblings to one another, while the others took notes; just as our students would do. This simple activity allowed us to share our stories, to learn about the hearts and passions of each person there. I learned—by the way a voice would change as it held certain words—about the greatest loves these strangers carried. By the end of the night it felt like we knew each other better than some life-long friends.

I learned some things about myself through words shared and the lens of writing. Some things, I guess, we never leave behind. But, perhaps, the broken ways, the hard memories, the things we try to prune away, perhaps these are the very things that become the soil bed for rich growth.

Sometimes I think I love gardening because it proves to me that I can care for something other than myself—that I do have the ability to nurture and cultivate. All those years taking care of myself when no one else would—they have a way of turning the gaze inward. Survival of the fittest, right?

When my boys were born, the desire to nourish and teach and give was so strong the pain of it would overtake me at times. Now that they are older, they try to shake free of the bumpers I’ve put in place for their lives. They want to make their own way. At least in part.

But the garden never shrugs off my hands. My eggplants are beautiful and the summer squash are late but they are coming. I will have late cucumbers too, my planting was distracted by a boy’s graduation this year. Every morning I visit the garden. In the cool of the evening I tend to her needs.

And she will give back in countless ways.

Garden Notes: Wild Woman

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Last night during the evening constitutional around the yard with Bonnie, when we rounded the garden I noticed a tiny eggplant pushing out of the womb of its blossom-mother. I bent to peer in closer and my eyes were rewarded by not one, but two little eggplant babies straining forth into the light! It was love at first sight. I’ve never grown eggplant before but there is something so soulful in the deep purple hue of their skin.

First thing this morning, I donned my robe to head out and take some photos of the new babies. My camera lens kept fogging up; the moisture in the air so heavy, even at eight a.m. I couldn’t find the right light and in the middle of the shoot, a surprise downpour chased me back indoors.

But I am still thinking about how that lavender blossom gave birth to the plump plum of the eggplant fruit and the beauty of it can bring me to tears if I let it.

I’ve been having trouble writing down the words lately. There are too many changes going on around here and my heart is struggling to keep up. When I have trouble with writing, I read, read, read. When we were on holiday at the ocean a few weeks ago, I started re-reading an old favorite of mine, Women Who Run With the Wolves. The first time I read this book I was a new bride, so young and sweet. I read with different eyes these days (but I’m still sweet, I like to think).

The author is a Jungian analyst and a storyteller. Her life’s work has been collecting multicultural stories, myths, fairy tales, folk tales and using them in her work with women to help them re-connect with their natural, creative selves. The way the book is arranged, she shares a story and then goes through the analysis with the reader.

I’m reading very slowly this time around, taking notes and praying through. As I read during our vacation, the three males in my life kept teasing me about my “wild woman” coming out. The author describes the “wild woman” not as something untame and dangerous, but as our natural self—before the demands of culture shaped our natures into something unrecognizable.

“[T]he word wild here is not used in its modern pejorative sense, meaning out of control, but in its original sense, which means to live a natural life, one in which the criatura, creature, has innate integrity and healthy boundaries. These words, wild and woman, cause women to remember who they are and what they are about. They create a metaphor to describe the force which funds all females. They personify a force that women cannot live without.”

And so I have been reading the stories and putting myself in the place of various characters. As I read, read, read—burying myself in words—it feels like I am being fortified for some important work—and then, I remind myself that life is important work. And this thought makes me grateful for the dam that has stopped the flow of words.

I will listen for a time, remember, re-familiarize myself with my inside voice.

It feels like rather being born of a lavender blossom; growing a deep, soulful skin. Beauty birthing beauty.