Monday, November 12, 2012

in clover: remembering Patsy

Last night, when Michael went out just after dark to shut the chicken coop, he found our Dominique hen, Patsy, dead in the nesting box.  We have no idea what happened.  Earlier in the day she seemed fine.  Michael and I worked in the garden in the afternoon and she was out and about as usual.  

Needless to say, we were all quite sad last night.  Circle of life and all....we get it...but this is our first experience of losing a chicken friend.

Dominiques are quite striking in appearance....their feathers are black and white and are irregularly striped or "barred."  They have a red comb.  They are calm and personable. 

This is my favorite photo of Patsy, the Dominique hen.  

Our Patsy was a good layer and we easily recognized her egg.  She laid the smallest egg of the bunch and hers were the nearest to pink in color.  When she began laying, I was quite concerned for her because the shells of her eggs were thinner and more brittle than the others and they were rough in texture, like sandpaper.  But, time went by and she seemed healthy and happy, so I quit worrying, mostly. 

We weren't really sure what to expect when we began our chicken keeping experience.  The work has been minimal, thanks to the deep litter method of hen house keeping.  (Here's a link to a short, informative article on the deep litter method.) I had no idea the chickens would be so entertaining or how much I would enjoy hearing them cluck to one another.  I had no idea the sense of life and energy they would bring to my garden. 

But what I was most completely unprepared for was the level of responsibility I feel for their well being.  It has at times made me quite anxious.  I've sat with this, asking myself why I feel more anxiety and fear for my hens than I do for my dog and my cats.  I think it's because hens are so completely vulnerable. 

Chickens have many predators to worry about.....racoons, foxes, hawks, dogs....and bless their hearts, they have no claws or teeth to use to defend themselves.  They can barely fly and while they are quite speedy when you are trying to catch them, they aren't speedy like a cat or a rabbit.  They can't see well in the dark so a night attack could result in the demise of an entire hen house!  More than once I have woken in the night, sat straight up in bed and shrieked loudly, worried that we forgot to secure the coop.

I am grateful that by all appearances, Patsy died peacefully.  

Patsy may or may not be in these photos taken when we went to visit our friend's chicks....we received six chickens from this group of chicks.  

A very young Patsy....trying out the roosting bar in her new home: 


 With a young friend, who charmed Patsy by feeding her blueberries....

And this is the last photo I took of Patsy...this summer, as she joined her friend Loretta Lynn in the hen favored left side nesting box: 

Last night, after I told little c that Patsy had died, she drew this photo and penned this little obituary.  June Carter is actually c's proclaimed "favorite hen" but maybe that made c feel a little guilty for having a favorite...who knows?  

Like little c, I am glad we have "pichers of her" to help us remember our friend, the little Dominique hen, Patsy Cline.  She was a good girl.  We will miss her.

 peace and all good, 


Monday, September 17, 2012

in clover: playdate

I decided recently to have a play date with my dining room.  I think of it as my "puttering meditation."  It's fun to experiment with linens and dishes and glassware to create what I see other bloggers calling a "tablescape."  (So many "new" words these days!)

If I named this tablescape, I guess I'd call it "french country meets retro american" ...that's an old French wire market basket in the center, filled as if the hostess had just returned from Market Day mixed with vintage and new Fiestaware pottery.  I paired the fiesta with 1960's blue pressed glass goblets (a hand me down from my mom that she will likely now threaten to take back!) and linens with a polka dot and spiral motif. The place mats are more traditional and the napkins are a bit more modern.  Sometimes the mix works and sometimes it doesn't.  I try mixing things up until I like what I see.  This mix is special to me...I think because my attraction to the two styles, retro american and french country both represent different periods of my life.  I love this integration of the two. 

I tried replacing the market basket with an old galvanized metal scoop or dipper.  I also swapped the place mats and pottery out.  I love how the scoop looks as a centerpiece filled with lemons! 

 The scoop is listed on ebay but I kind of hope it doesn't sell.  (Update:  It sold!) 

Next I tried a black and white theme featuring an old European enamel flour bin filled with a topiary as a centerpiece...

Here's the flour bin filled with lemons, accompanied by Michael's grandmother's chicken salt and pepper shakers. Got them for my birthday last year!  Love them.  I think this tablescape needed a bit more work though...maybe a burlap feedsack runner?

This was a spring table I put together for Easter.  I use the same things over and over...just changing a few elements...that really is necessary when you are a cottage dweller.  Space is at a premium so things must be able to be used in many different ways. Sometimes my life feels the same...time is at a premium so the ways I choose to spend it really need to do double or even triple duty!

I did not expect those napkins to go with the paisley place mats but when I tried them together, I liked the combo. Sometimes my life is like this...I don't expect elements to go together but unexpectedly, they do!  When I am playing with my creativity, it is helpful to have "beginner's mind" instead of "expert mind."  I never know if something will work until I try. 

I've read that if you desire to foster creative impulses, it is important to allow yourself time to play.  Often, when we attempt to be creative, we put a tremendous amount of pressure on ourselves because we are focused on the outcome.  It is important, if your goal is to foster creativity,  to allow yourself "play time" with no attachment to a child. 

When is the last time you had a play date with yourself?  You might consider treating yourself to a trip to your junk store  or art supply store soon....or just stay home and play with the toys you already have.  

All work and no play....

You might be surprised how restorative a play date with yourself can be.  I always am.

peace and all good, 


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

in clover: paint by number

With my vision impaired, I have not been getting out of the house much at all.  I was getting a little stir crazy so I emailed a friend and suggested a "lunch and junk" outing.  She took me up on my offer which was nice because she had to do all the work!  She's such a good sport.  Once, she rode in my van with her head stuck through a hole in an old screen  door I bought for $1.  That was the only way we could get home.  That's a good, good friend!

We had so much fun!  Driving around the countryside of Central Ky on a pretty day was a pleasure indeed and when we landed at a genuine estate sale,  I was delighted to find a few things I just could not live without.  Here's a photo of my haul, right after we unloaded her truck: 

I was particularly captivated by this pair of 1960's paint by number paintings in faux bamboo frames. I debated and debated...are they cool?  or tacky?  cool?  tacky?  I really don't care for parrots...I don't think....but I LOVED the colors and really liked the bamboo and exotic flowers.  And whoever painted these, from a dime store kit, did a really great job!

When I bought the three dozen or so canning jars, the nice man threw in the unusual square galvanized tub.   These jars give me a good start on next year's pickles and jam. 

My friend spotted the vintage Minolta camera and steered me towards it.  I have a thing for vintage cameras and telephones.  I find them irresistible.  Maybe because they both facilitate communication? Maybe I wanted the camera because it looked like the one I coveted for years...the one my dad toted over his shoulder in the seventies...not sure...I imagine that's a question I could tackle in my journal soon! 

I am very glad I decided not to pass on these two funny little chicken pillows (on the right) for the breakfast nook.  They seemed like the perfect companions for the yellow hooked pillow I bought from Garnet Hill last year: 

So enthralled was I by my retro paint by numbers art, that I set out to find a spot for those parrots right away.  They looked great against the yellow walls of our living room so I decided to try a swap.  Over our sofa, we have a large French iron mirror flanked by vintage French sconces and two Victorian era iron heating grate covers: 

Love these iron grates but they do lack color....

 I decided the parrots deserved a chance.

Yep, that'll work! The parrots bring new energy to the space and I smile every time I see them. 

It's fun to have a little make-over, estate sale style! Plus, I got to hang out with my friend.  All that's left is to find a place for those white iron grates.  

In spiritual direction, we are taught to pay attention.  We are taught to continually ask ourselves what feels life-giving...and what feels life-taking.   

As I type, I find myself wondering if it's wise to post these might snicker at my idea of "art"...or you might think that my time could have  been used more productively...that I could have been doing something more important or "real."    

Maybe.  It might be silly...inconsequential...genuinely a waste of time.  It may not be productive or bring kudos...but looking for treasure among junk and puttering about my house fills me with a sense of life.

If Spirit whispers to me....make your home with cast off 1960's dime store art, a 50 cent pair of imperfectly sewn calico chickens and a junky old galvanized washtub...who am I to argue?  

Resisting the movement of Spirit never seems to have gotten me anywhere, except stuck.  That doesn't mean that following what is life-giving is always easy...sometimes it can feel darned uncomfortable. (Think "spiritual director" rather than "ordained minister.")  It can feel vulnerable.

But, in the end, choosing to go with the flow has always been the best choice.   Especially when you can go along with a friend who'll stick her head through an old screen door, just to keep you company.

peace and all good, 


Thursday, September 6, 2012

in clover: re-vision

I can't see.  

I have contracted a stubborn virus that has temporarily injured my eyes and significantly impaired my vision.   I cannot wear the contact lenses that I have worn nearly every day of my life since ninth grade.  My distance vision with glasses is ok but not great...kind of like opening your eyes under water...but I can't see a thing up close with my glasses on, so to read or use the computer I must remove the , which means everything else is a blur.  Needless to say, the idea of vision has been the focus of my contemplative life lately.

Many of the old things I sell are at their "vintage chic-est" when re-purposed for something other than their intended use....a cast iron gutter hopper as a wall sconce....a rusty wire basket as a moss lined enamel farm bucket as a wine bucket for a party...galvanized wash tub as raised garden bed...old iron grate as art...all re-purposed or RE-Visioned.  It's fun to re-vision vintage items.  LOTS of fun! 

Spending quite a few hours in the dark, reflecting, I am even more mindful that just like the old things that I always seem to find their way to me, I can re-vision the everyday happenings of my life, recognizing them as the important spiritual learnings I believe they are.  I can look for the Sacred in the ordinary,  moments of my life...even the uncomfortable ones.  Or maybe that should be, especially the uncomfortable ones.   I've tried to stay open to Spirit.   I've asked myself what this dis-ease has to teach me?  Is there something I don't want to see?  Is there something I need to see?  I don't have any answers yet but I will keep sitting with it.

Meanwhile, since I haven't gone out into the light of day much at all, I've been busy re-visioning the things that have been languishing in my basement since I closed my shop. It's nice and dark in the basement!  :)

One of the items I listed on ebay this week is a vintage french fishing creel.   I wanted to include some inspiring photos in my listing so I tried to come up with creative ways to use the creel.  First, I photographed it in the garden....

Then I tried it in the breakfast nook with some faux lavender...

And then I tried it in my ever so tiny downstairs half bath.  I filled it with vintage looking dishtowels.  My towels are not vintage but are precious, as they were embroidered by Michael's mom and grandmother.  I think I liked the basket best here.

And speaking of re-visioning...when you are a cottage dweller, as we are, you need to make the most of every inch of space.  Michael and I both enjoy photography but wall space for displaying our efforts is limited, so we turned a wall in this tiny half bath into our version of an art gallery...

The squarish basket in the corner is an English fishing basket....much different style than the French one and I believe would not be referred to as a proper "creel."  The French basket is designed to be slung around the body.  The square English basket also has a carrying strap but it is designed to be a little stool for sitting, while you fish.  Charming.   I tucked this smallish one in the corner to hold spare tp rolls. 

So that's what I've been doing lately....sitting in the temporary loss of sight led me to a space just perfect for re-visioning.  The movement of Spirit never ceases to amaze me.

peace and all good, 


Sunday, September 2, 2012

in clover: interest in pinterest?

If you haven't yet given pinterest a try, it's a lot of fun.  I've had an account for some time now but am really just now getting into it.  

I "pin" party ideas, things I'd like to make some day, recipes, ideas for upcycling vintage items and inspirational images. What do you pin?  

You can follow me, if you want! Just click the button below.

Follow Me on Pinterest

When I had my brick and mortar antique shop, I used to keep three ring binders full of pages and images torn from magazine articles.  I could show clients inventive ways they might use some of the pieces I had for sale and I also enjoyed the inspiration for myself.

Pinterest is like a virtual version of my three ring binders!  I had a friend who kept a similar binder filled with ideas for her home.  She carried it with her when she shopped.  Now she has the same information with her always...on her Ipad and her smart phone, via pinterest. 

If you decide to give it a whirl, I wish you Happy pinning!

If you like to use Facebook, please "like" the in clover face book page.  I post articles, quotes and other little tidbits there daily. You can click here:

In Clover on Facebook 

The ways we store information sure has changed dramatically in the last five years...we "pin" digital images instead of ripping pages from magazines, we often text instead of placing a phone call, we share photos on Facebook instead of printing them and putting them in's a strange and fascinating new world.  But in the end, I think we all are still looking for the same thing...connection and a little inspiration!  Pinterest and Facebook provide plenty.  I enjoy my participation in the communities I find on these sites.  How about you?

peace and all good, Lisa

Monday, August 27, 2012

in clover: everything old is new again...

My dad commented, "Back to the future!" 

After much soul searching and internal debate, I have decided to return to ebay as a seller, keeping the id Michael and I created in 1998.  I seem to recall that it was Michael's suggestion to call me "lextique" we struggled to hastily establish my new ebay account.  My friend was having some success on the new and novel site, selling vintage items over the internet. It had a weird name, ebay, and we didn't have a clue how it worked but we thought we'd give it a try.

My first ebay sale was a first edition Tasha Tudor children's book.  I bought it for $1 at a local thrift shop.  I had no ebay feedback and no photo in my listing.  It took Michael and me the entire weekend to figure out how to list that one item. It was NOT pretty!  After all that work,  I quickly became bored with the listing when after several days, it still had no bids.  And then, in the last minutes of the auction, a exciting flurry of bidding took place...eventually driving the price to $56! 

I was hooked.  The scanner I bought so that I could include photos in my auction listings  was rapidly replaced by a digital camera, capable of holding up to a dozen photos at a was all quite high tech!  I listed auctions until  very late at night and almost every lunch break from my bank job was spent in line at the post office.  For years, I had longed to quit that corporate job for something more creative. 

I took up selling vintage items while still in college.  When Michael and I met for our very first date, he was a bit shocked to see my entire car piled high with all sorts of "junk" destined for the booth I had just rented at a new antique mall. He was game, though, once we married, to help me scour yard sales, thrift stores and flea markets for fabulous finds we could use in our own home and bargains we could sell at a local antique mall or fair.   

When Big C was an infant, we teamed up with my father and uncle who had begun importing antique furniture from England...sight unseen! Both Michael and I were working 50 hours a week or more at our "real" jobs so with the birth of Big C, we had little time for antiquing.  When my Dad told me I could consign a few pieces of the English furniture in Lexington, we jumped at the chance to rent space in a new antique mall.  This time we had quality furniture to go with our well priced yard sale finds. Maybe I could quit my job....

Sales were up and down and the best we seemed to do over time was break even. Although I wished I could quit my "real" job, I knew that the business as such was not genuinely viable.  

And then I sold that book....and I began to imagine the possibilities.  That one ebay sale changed everything.   I loved my ebay clients.  I still get Christmas cards from some of them. I mailed things all over the country and sometimes I mailed things across the big pond right back to the country they came from.   I sold items to celebrities (like a member of the band Matchbox 20) and to folks who lived just across town.  Aside from my young family, being an Ebay seller became ithe focus in my life.   

I quit my job and sold happily on ebay full-time for ten years.  I took charge of selecting the inventory we imported from England and added French pieces as well. I managed the W. Ky store from afar and sold my wares at numerous antique venues in Central Ky, eventually opening my own brick and mortar store here. 

Ebay grew and grew until it became less of the community I loved and more of a hassle. With the addition of thousands and thousands of new sellers, fraud became an issue.  The economy began to suffer and sales in general began to wane.  The events of September 11th forever altered the import business, making it much more difficult and expensive to bring containers to the US. Big C was very busy with sports and I hated to miss even one game and then Little c was born with health issues. Michael took a traveling job. Eventually it just all became too much.  I closed the doors to the brick and mortar stores and allowed my ebay id to go dormant. 

For years people have been asking what I'm going to do with all that inventory...tucked away in storage....I've never really had an answer.  When I started this blog, I thought I might set up a shop on Etsy, in the vintage category.  But I never did anything about it.   

And then one day this summer,  the universe began whispering in my ear. "Put your toe in the water..." 

So I looked into Etsy again but learning from scratch seemed very daunting.  Old dog / new tricks, and all...

So the universe whispered, "Why don't you dance with the one that brung you?"

I worked through a bunch of reasons why I should not.  I was actually kind of mad at ebay....for changing.   But after arguing with myself, eventually I arrived at, "well, why not?"

This poem, from Rumi, kept coming to me:

Keep walking, though there’s no place to get to.
Don’t try to see through the distances.
That’s not for human beings.
Move within, but don’t move the way fear makes you move.
Today, like every other day, we wake up empty & frightened.
Don’t open the door to the study and begin reading.
Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.
-- Rumi

Well, why not? 

Here's a few of the items I chose to begin with.  If you'd like to see all my listings, just click here: 
a french fishing creel....

several pieces of french enamelware....
a french wire market basket....

old english gardening tools...

a french ag award placque...

Same as it never was....

Although my devoted ebay clients have given up following me by now, my (perfect!) feedback picked right up where I left off.  A few hours spent getting up to speed on listing practices, image hosting, USPS fee schedules and bringing my PayPal account up to date and just like that, I'd shaken a good deal of  rustiness off. 

And while my inventory remains the same, I am not the same.  Becoming more contemplative in life is sure to change me as an ebayer.

I hope there is more balance in my life...last time around Ebay often took time, my energy...the buyers, rather than my family,  received my patience....sometimes I was so stressed that I was ugly and angry with Michael who was only trying to help me.  I hope that is different, this time around. 

This time around I'd like to be mindful of the process rather than only excited about the result.  I'd like to remember why I chose each of these old things, to relish cleaning and polishing slow down and enjoy being creative while photographing them and while writing the words that describe them.  

This time around I'd like to keep the excitement but lose the fear.  There was always some amount of fear....fear of making a mistake....and lots of fear of the future.  What if I don't make a profit this month?  This year?  What will happen?

I'd like to let that go.

Apparently even ebay selling can be my spiritual practice.  Who knew? Everything old is indeed new, again.    

Back to the future! 

peace and all good, 


Monday, August 20, 2012

in clover: in a jam

Since my first experience pickling cucumbers two years ago, I have wanted to try my hand at canning jam.  When blackberry season came to the Bluegrass, Michael and I seized the opportunity to make an early morning drive out to Boyd Orchards.  

We drove our 1986 Porsche 944.  My Dad handed this car down to us.  Michael has spent the last two years working on rebuilding the front of the engine and fixing many (MANY!) other issues.  All his hard work has finally paid off.  It runs great!  It was fun to drive on the country roads and even more fun to watch Michael enjoy his accomplishment. I'm really proud of him.  

Boyd’s orchard store is a feast for the eyes and the nose!  Every where you look there is fresh everything.  The day we visited, there was plenty of two of my favorites....peaches.....

and blackberries. 

To make and can the jam, I followed the simple recipe in the classic Ball Home Canning book.  I used the pectin method.  

I have a glass topped stove so Michael bought me a stainless water bath canner made especially for glass topped stoves.  To cook the jam, I used my fabulous Paderno saute pan (Christmas gift from my mother and her husband last year....LOVE it!).  

The recipe was simple and easy to follow.  One jar did not seal properly so I put it in the refrigerator for us to enjoy right away.  It didn’t last long!  

 The jam as it cooked (above).

Jars loaded in the canner (above.)

I did make one mistake.  I sent my dad a short video of the canner “bubbling” on the stove because he shared with me his memories of my grandmother’s canner “bubbling and rumbling on her stove.”  When he called to ask me about my jam experience, he asked if I skimmed the foam off the cooked jam.  I had because the recipe told me to do so.  When I told him that I poured the foam down the sink drain, he let out a loud groan!  I had discarded, according to him, the BEST part!  He said the foam is kind of like cotton candy, only grainier, and that my grandmother always gave it to him as a treat.  She was careful, he told me, to also “accidentally” include some of the cooked jam as well.  Ah well.  I will have to have a “do over” next year. 

Boo, with cooling jars.

I enjoyed a nice outing with Michael, supported a local business, the kitchen smelled great, my kids enjoyed snitching blackberries off the counter and I have a nice little stash of homemade blackberry jam....and I have scratched another experience off my “really want to try this” list.

I have been thinking (a lot) about eating more mindfully.  When I began buying organic and higher quality local food for my family, the price forced me to be a bit more mindful.  It is much easier for me to waste orange juice that cost me $3 a gallon than it is to waste orange juice that costs me $6 for a half gallon.  (What I had forgotten was how much better it REAL orange juice tastes!)  To offset the expense, we drink more water.  We should have been doing that anyway.  

One thing is for sure....when I make food from "scratch" like this jam,  I am far more likely to savor it more. 
peace and all good, 


Monday, August 13, 2012

in clover: giving

As I feared in June, my garden this year is indeed a failure.  The only thing doing well is the basil and I am grateful for that.  The dill I nursed through the early spring... that looked so beautiful going into June...turned yellow, then brown, and finally withered away.  Michael had to buy a big bundle of dill at the Farmer’s Market for the one batch of dill pickles we’ve put up this year. 

Cucumber beetles took the dozen plants I had hoped would yield enough small cucs for at least one batch of gherkins this year.  I’ve harvested exactly two peppers.  Perhaps most disappointing is the lack of tomatoes, especially the cherry tomatoes.  I love cherry tomatoes.  My favorite is a variety called “Sweet Baby Girl.”   Cherry tomato plants are usually heavy producers so I limited myself to two plants.  Unfortunately I’ve harvested just a few handfuls...mostly from one plant. 

Michael and I sat in the garden one evening, sipping wine (me) and bourbon (him) , and discussed the irony of our nineteen years of gardening together.  It appears that the more we know (and the harder we try), the less success we have.  Our most successful garden was the one we planted at our former home, as newly weds.  We knew absolutely nothing.  We planted at least one of everything and our harvest was astounding.  When we moved to our current home , we decided there was not room for a vegetable garden.

And then, a few years ago, we decided to try again. I scratched out a tiny garden patch between our blacktop driveway and our neighbor’s privacy fence.  That garden didn’t stand a chance.  We got a late start....we did not amend the soil...heck, we didn’t even really dig deep enough. It was full of weeds and rocks and dirt clods and little pieces of blacktop.  The plants left to us at the gardening center were picked over more than once and I let them dry out in their pots several times before getting them in the ground.  And yet we had a big harvest.  I froze bags and bags of diced peppers and large batches of basil tomato soup. 

The next year Michael built a lovely raised bed along the driveway and we filled it with a compost and soil mix from a highly recommended local place.  We bought the best plants and I researched the best planting methods and for two years running....nada....failure.  Of course, we had drought and high temps this year and last year the compost was too hot.  There’s always next year......

Gardening can be quite humbling. 

A few weeks ago, Michael and I took a day trip to Bardstown, Ky.  We had a wonderful dinner with good friends in the evening after visiting the Trappist monastery, Gethsemane, in the morning.  At Gethsemane, I bought two wedges of cheese made right there by the monks. 

When we returned home, I found an egg carton sitting on our front porch.  At first I thought it was empty.  Neighbors sometimes save egg cartons for us.  But when I picked it up, I realized the carton was filled with something which I assumed was eggs.    I wondered who in the world would give us eggs?  I mean, we have six hens in the backyard! 

When I opened the carton I found not eggs but.....

lovely cherry tomatoes!  My friend had left me an egg carton filled with exactly what I desired but did not have....lovely sweet, red, homegrown cherry tomatoes.  I was thrilled. 

I ate a few right then and there.  The rest I used in a simple frittata....nothing but our fresh eggs, some salt and pepper, those lovely tomatoes, and the monk made cheese we bought at Gethsemane.  There were exactly NO leftovers from supper that night. 

My friend doesn’t have a large garden but she shared the bounty of what she had with me. 

In return, I filled the egg carton with what I did have, despite the failed garden,....a dozen eggs! 

She sent me a note and said that it must be “magic” that turned her cherry tomatoes in fresh eggs.  I think she’s right.  It really is magic when you share what you’ve got with others.   Often, one act of sharing inspires another.

I am convinced that sometimes we do not share because we fear that what we have to share is not “enough.”  But the truth is that often, we have no idea what our sharing will mean to someone else. 

For one friend’s birthday, I tucked into her birthday card a miniature book.  l liked the book and I thought she would like it.  But I had no idea that several weeks later she would call and say that the tiny book “changed her life.”  We never know how our sharing will affect someone else. 

Today, I resolve to be less fearful about sharing.  Today, I give thanks for friends and neighbors and family who share so much with me...big things like grace and love and support and small things like cherry tomatoes. 

peace and all good,


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

in clover: no guarantees

Tonight, a first.  My ChristCare group, Cultivating Mindfulness, is meeting at my home rather than at church.  Our topic:  The Spirituality of Gardening.  I teamed up with a friend to present this topic to another group at church in early May and it was well received.  At the time, my garden was ready to be earlyMay, my garden was chock full of unlimited potential.  

But now that it's mid June and my garden doesn't look so great. In fact, for the second year running, my garden is really struggling.  What seemed like a great idea in May...."Hey, why don't you all come to my house?!  We can sit in the garden while we talk about the spirituality of gardening"....well, now it seems like the worst idea ever. 

I'm pretty sure they are expecting a thriving garden and I don't have one.  There's no way to fake this, even if I had the time and inclination.  I could have changed the location but I didn't act on that soon enough. 

The only save I can think of is to tell the truth.  I learned so much from last years problems and failures.  I was sure I had the formula for a fabulous garden.  This year's garden was SURE to be A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.   In past years I HAVE had lovely, thriving gardens....loads of produce, armloads of flowers.  This year, I don't.  I don't know why.  It just is.

Honestly, is there really any better lesson to learn about spirituality from gardening than this? Not sure....

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

in clover: a volunteer in the garden

Last spring, Michael and I added a long, narrow raised garden bed along the unused (and weedy) strip between our black top driveway and our neighbors privacy fence.  Michael picked up a truckload of compost from a reputable company and I looked forward to planting neat rows of tomatoes, cucumbers and squash in our newly claimed space.  When it arrived, it smelled terrible!  I called the company to be sure we had purchased seasoned compost and the woman on the other end of the phone assured me that we had.  I'm sure she believed it was ready but in reality, it was not. 

This is an excerpt from a blog post I wrote in June of last year:
... Unfortunately, in six weeks time there has been very little growth and blooms wither almost immediately, instead of setting fruit. I don't think we were intentionally given hot compost but I do think we got soil that was not ready for use.  Next time I will listen to my inner voice and trust my instincts.

Now that the compost has had a year to cure, I have no qualms about planting in the raised beds this year.  But before I could make even a hurried trip to the gardening center to pick up tomatoes and cucs, I noticed something was all ready growing.  I was tempted to pluck out the "weed" but instead, I left it alone.  Before long I could see that this was not a weed.  Before long, the plant looked like this: 

I texted the photo to a knowledgeable veggie growing friend..."Is this a zucchini?"  I asked.  "Not sure.  Definitely some sort of squash" came the reply text.  

A volunteer! 

In gardening and botanical terminology, a volunteer is a plant that grows on its own, rather than being deliberately planted by a farmer or gardener. Volunteers often grow from seeds that float in on the wind, are dropped by birds, or are inadvertently mixed into compost. Unlike weeds, which are unwanted plants, a volunteer may be encouraged once it appears, being watered, fertilized, or otherwise cared for. (Wikipedia).

I watched this squash vine grow and grow and grow with no attention from's by far the largest and healthiest looking plant in my garden.  Today it looks like this: 

I never intended on growing a sprawling squash of any sort in the raised bed. It really needs somewhere to grow.  Yesterday I constructed a makeshift bamboo trellis.   The curly tendrils of the plant have all ready latched on to the bamboo overnight...

And this morning I was greeted by these gorgeous blooms...

I am still not sure what kind of squash this is...the most reliable way I can think of to know is to simply wait and see.  

In the early spring months, I begin planning my garden.  I start with pencil and paper.  I sketch diagrams and make lists. I consult experts. I make every effort to get the right plant in the right spot.  And I tend to choose plants I have grown before. Less room for error.  

I also tend to approach life in this same way.  Lots of planning and list making and sticking to what I know.   

Last weekend, I completed my second year of training as a spiritual director with Sycamore Spirituality Center.  By this time next year, I will "be" a spiritual director.  A few days ago someone asked me how I got started in spiritual direction.  It's a long and meandering story...full of unexpected turns and lots of synchronicity. 

At the time, I had plotted and planned to enter seminary.  I was ready to train for a new vocation and I definitely felt a call.  I didn't want to preach because public speaking of any sort made me sick to my stomach.  But I hoped I could serve a church in other ways...or hospital chaplain seemed like it would be a good fit. I was enjoying my volunteer work at UK Children's Hospital. 

I applied and was accepted and began breaking the news to friends and family.  But by the time I was actually ready to begin, I was no longer sure I was on the right path. Finally I confided in a friend who is also a minister.  I remember what I tearfully asked her.  "What else can I do?  If I know God is making a call on my life and I don't believe it includes the seminary path, what do I do? I really don't know.  Do other paths even exist???"  

She asked, "Have you considered spiritual direction?"  

My reaction to her words was pretty much the same as my reaction when I first discovered the mystery squash growing in the garden this spring.  

"What the hell is that?"    

A volunteer.  

A volunteer grows on it's own rather than being deliberately planted...often grows from seeds that float on the wind...

As I approach the end of my training, my questioning mind has bombarded me with questions about the future...will anyone consider spiritual direction to be "real" work?  Will anyone actually want me to be their spiritual director?  Will I work with directees one on one? Or will I do group work? Or both?  Where? And how will I get started?  Will I earn enough to help with Big C's college expenses? 

I've tried to tackle these questions with a pen and a notebook....I've consulted experts....sketched diagrams and made lists.  I've plotted and I've planned. 

But finally I've decided (for the moment, at least) that like the mystery squash in the garden,  I must simply wait and see what fruit this particular volunteer bears.  In the meanwhile I can only focus on tending the plant. 

Mother Earth News says this about volunteer plant, which the writer calls "a garden bonus" : 

Produce from volunteer plants is often bigger and tastier than are intentionally cultivated crops. After all, the plants have sprouted where they want to grow, as opposed to where you want them to. 

That gives me hope.  

Peace and all good, 



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