Making A Mess
We have a giant garden. We actually have three, make that four, no five places where vegetables or herbs are growing. I’ve posted glorious pictures of the produce and declared how resourceful we are -- our own backyard grocery.
As I write these words, everyone else in the family is sitting at the kitchen table stringing gallons of green beans, debating over what in the world we are going to do with all of the squash and growing giddy with excitement that we finally have enough okra to pickle. The window sill is lined with almost ripe tomatoes, and the cucumbers are coming in steadily.
We spent all of spring waiting and watching tiny starts push their way up out of the soil and lost sleep rushing to their aid when frost threatened their tender leaves. We planned out rows, neat little rows. We snatched away any and all weeds before the even had a chance to bully our plants.
It is now mid July. Our gardens are officially wild jungles. The squash plant has dinosaur leaves shoulder high with tiny hairs that make our skin crazy itch. The beans are so far over our heads that there's three feet of beans we can’t even reach. The term "mess of beans" is no joke! And the beans we can reach are home to thousands (literally) of Japanese beetles that dive bomb our faces and ears and hair and shirts. And Mexican beetle larvae chew away at the leaves the Japanese beetles haven’t already demolished for breakfast.
The tomato plants sprawl and are so heavy with fruit and leaves that tying them up is useless, so they reach more fingers out into more space. The pumpkin plant that voluntarily appeared in the midst of it all has three giant beautiful pumpkins growing from 100 feet of sprawling vine that is now taking over the yard. The okra took four months to get to knee high and in one week, I’m ducking underneath it’s leaves to harvest the okra.
It’s a wild mess. A mess of weeds and plant. We can’t tell where one ends and the other begins. It’s useless to weed, it’s useless to control, so we duck and climb and itch and laugh and hunt through green on green for red tomatoes and hope we’ve found all the zucchini, which we won’t, until it is as long as a baseball bat.
You can’t even tell we actually created neat rows, or that there was planning and purpose involved in the first stages. There are no more tender shoots. Only deep green tough leaves that can withstand July’s hottest days.
Our gardens do not belong in a magazine. There is nothing neat and tidy about them. They are not cute. They are wild.
But, they are fruitful. We are filling our bellies and our freezers and sharing with friends and strangers fresh chemical free produce that has only travelled between garden and table. Our children participate in all of the work and the eating and the processing. It is our life. Our messy, fruitful life.
We often want what we do to look picturesque. To stay flawless. To have neat and tidy rows. But sometimes that isn’t what brings out the most fruit. Yes, Chip and Joanna Gaines have managed both of these well and I’m sure it can be done.
But this is a reminder, to myself most of all, that our lives, even the mess I feel like I am making can produce a bounty of harvest! The work we put in might not always end up producing exactly what we had in mind, but it is producing. But, if I had not stayed up late or been up before the sun to protect the tiny shoots, I would not have the produce. So now, as I look at the wild untamed garden, I need to remember, we did the work early and although we can’t keep the weeds back, the plants are strong enough to ignore their existence. They are the ones overcoming. When I look at my children, work, marriage, my place in this wide world, faith, friendships, struggles, successes -- I’m messy. But my life is full to the brim -- a giant jungle of delight and health and love and underneath all those giant leaves I can find fruit, even baseball size fruit.