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!

How to Keep the Deer Away

Keeping deer away, it said.

The notecard my mother-in-law left me last week.

Laura, after things dry off after a rain, mix a solution of ¾ parts water & ¼ part milk in a spray bottle. Spray all your garden plants. If you don’t have a spray bottle, just take your fingers and sprinkle the plants—must do this after every rain. It will keep the deer away.

My tenderettes had turned up nibbled down to the nub one morning. I called my mother and father-in-law. They are my gardening consultants.

It’s the deer, she said. They love beans!

She left me the card while I was at work one day. I don’t know why, but I didn’t do it.

The next day, I noticed that the tops of some of my tomato plants had been nibbled. And my hydrangea. I’m doomed to never see that thing bloom.

I still didn’t sprinkle the milk. I don’t know why. I just didn’t do it.

The next morning, I was incredulous.

Those boogers ate my tobasco peppers! I told my husband.

Sprinkle the milk, he said.

Well, I didn’t think they would eat hot peppers!

The milk, he said, emphatically.

I didn’t. Do. It.

The next morning, I was enjoying a cup of coffee at the kitchen table. The birds were frolicking happily at my feeder and I was lost in the flutter of wing and flash of gold. Then, on my periphery, something moved in the meadow. Something large and brown.

Slowly, I stood up from the table. The birds startled away in a poof of feathers.

It was a doe.

Breathlessly, I watched her move toward the fence, edging ever closer to my garden. I was ready to make a big ruckus. I could put a scare on a doe like nobody’s business. And then the little fawn appeared.

I sat back down.

She nosed her little muzzle up against the fence.

Perhaps that dear little creature needs those beans more than I, my clouded thoughts wondered.

The thieving duo disappeared into the thick underbrush of the meadow and I began thinking of vine-ripened tomatoes. Of homemade salsa and the snap of fresh-picked beans.

I sprinkled the milk.

While I was doing so, I wondered to myself…what took me so long?

Does that ever happen to you? You know you should do something, but you just don’t? You know it will make your life better, richer, more beautiful…but you don’t.

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. (Romans 7:15-20)
Some seasons, that sin nature just beats me. And I’m not talking about sprinkling milk here. Some days, are dark days where I question and doubt, some days my words tear down instead of building up, some days I’m eaten up with negativity and ugly, some days…I do what I do not want to do. Some days, that sin nature comes soft with downy white spots on its back and a pretty pink nose pressed up against my fence.

There is a simple solution. That sprinkling again. When I remember the sprinkling of my baptism…it keeps me from being nibble down to the nub.

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord.—Romans 7: 24-25

 With Jen and the Soli Deo Gloria sisters today: