One of the best things about having a backyard veggie patch and fruit trees is how much they teach me. When I'm back there, my toes in the grass and the sun on my face, there is no technology to distract me. No one pleads with me to do things they can perfectly well do for themselves. There's nothing in the way of listening to my own thoughts (you parents of young ones know what I'm talking about). It's just me and the plants, slowly and quietly changing and trying to improve every day.
There's a lot to learn while watching the beans grow and the zucchini plants blossom. Here are three life lessons my garden has given me:
1. All Things Come in Their Own Time
You can't rush what grows in the garden. It requires patience and time to reach its potential. A careful eye and a little experience will tell you if carrots are ready to be yanked from the soil or if tomatoes need another couple days to ripen on the vine. On the flip side, you also can't deny something its readiness when it comes earlier than expected. For example, the warm, dry weather this year means I am picking apples in July. Granted we have an early ripening variety, but it's typically the first week of August before I'm canning my first batches of garlic rosemary apple jelly and cinnamon brown sugar applesauce, and filling the freezer with apple oat crumbles. The truth is the garden responds to the conditions in the air and in the soil, whatever they may be, just as we must learn to thrive as best we can with whatever life blows our way and plants at our feet.
You can't always get what you want and money doesn't grow on trees, but plenty of really great stuff in life does start out on a branch. Peaches, pears, apples, apricots, nectarines and plums arranged neatly at a roadside stand or growing in your own backyard are as beautiful as life itself, and sometimes the cherry on top of a good day is quite literally a cherry on top. All these beautiful things bring us together, whether we go fruit picking with friends, chat with the seller at a roadside stand or preserve jars of dill pickles with a neighbour. All of that makes life richer, feeding our bellies and our hearts at the same time. Trees also bring us nuts, olives, bananas, lemons, limes, oranges, coconuts, figs and so much more. Yup, if it starts on a tree it can improve your life.
3. If We Don't Change We Don't Grow
There's no denying that change can be difficult, especially big changes like the one I am working on. After nearly nine years at home with my kids, I am planning to return to work outside the home this fall once my youngest son starts school. It's a big change, and not one that comes without a little anxiety, but the garden reminds me that change isn't only natural, it's actually healthy and can bring new things that I didn't even see coming. Just as a bean seed changes into a sprout, then into a stalk, then it flowers and produces fruit, people too can blossom through change. And just as the roots of the bean plant when left behind can add important nutrients to the soil over winter, we too leave our lasting marks on the world behind us as we change and move forward. Change is always coming our way, but we get to choose how we want to handle it.
What life lessons has your garden taught you?