Lessons From My Crooked Garden

Almost 2 years ago we moved from a country club cul-de-sac to these 7 acres.  I think maybe we had moved the first box in when I decided to name it the “Ranchito.”  For a girl from the east coast of Florida I thought that was a great, little name.  People name things in Texas!  And I’m no Spanish expert but doesn’t “ito” on the end of anything mean “little?”  Our “Little Ranch.” Cute!  Maybe we could get a sign for over the gate?  Maybe we could get a brand! (Texans also make “brands” up for things.  I’m still not sure what they are but it means something is legit).  Let me just tell you that my hubby was not a fan!  He is a true-blue Texan through and through and “this is not a ranch! We don’t even have cows!  It is not cute.”  But, what can I say, it stuck.  The Ranchito it is.

I have made so many discoveries in the last couple of years on the Ranchito.  Some have been less than lovely… For example, don’t walk barefoot outside in the middle of the night to call the dogs when you are allergic to scorpion stings.  Also, giant bull snakes can act like rattlesnakes to scare you to death but they are “good snakes” so “don’t kill them” because they keep the actual rattlesnakes away. (Listen, a 6ft. snake in my front yard is a 6ft. snake in my front yard.  Or in the back of my hubby’s truck headless.)  But, in the spirit of “Laying it down for Lent” I will not utter a complaint because, really I have loved it all.

One of the very best discoveries I have made is A GARDEN!  The woman who lived here before me had a garden!  A real one… with a fence, a watering system, and a compost pile.  How exciting!

So, last year I planted my first garden and here are a few of the lessons I learned, in gardening and in life:

  1. It’s okay to stand on some shoulders. 
    How silly it would have been for me to decide that I wanted to plant a garden and ignored the one that was already laid in front of me.  How much more work it would have made for me (please read “hubby”) to find a new spot and start from scratch digging a new plot, building a new fence, and engineering a new way to water?  Of course that is not what we did.  We had a lot of clearing and tilling and weeding to do, but we were not trying to reinvent the wheel, you know?  We used what had been put before us and worked hard to make it better.  It’s okay to stand on some shoulders.  I think in modern American culture we have lifted the traits of individualism and independence so very high that we forget this sometimes.  If you have a legacy, step into it.  If someone before you paved the way for you, walk on.  Just walk a little farther. Every trail we do not have to blaze ourselves.  We live in a time where we have access to so many resources.  There are so many beautiful, brave, wise sets of shoulder to climb atop. Pull some weeds and honor their work before you.
  2. Everything is better in community.
    When the plot was ready to go I decided to ask some friends for help.  After all, this is a large garden and we could share in the harvest.  So, we split up all over the nurseries around town and bought lots of little, tiny veggie plants and met back up at the Ranchito (sorry, Babe).  We then proceeded to blast “90’s Country” on Pandora, pour a little sangria, and plant a garden like serious gardeners. (Not really).  There were kids and dogs everywhere, and a crew of dirty, hot, laughing, friends who had no idea what we were doing.  But it was a good day.  And in the end, there was in fact a garden planted.  Here’s the thing, that day could have tedious and exhausting alone.  It wasn’t.  It was a blast! Life is hard.  That is not a complaint that is truth.  Life can be tedious and exhausting. Days can be isolating and lonely.  But when we reach past ourselves and ask for help or just ask for a little company those same days can be full of laughter and community.  Be messy together.  Get hot and dirty.  Sing off key. Admit that you don’t know what you are doing.  And then share in the harvest.
  3. Veggies grown in crooked rows taste just as good.
    When my hubby came home and inspected our very serious work he said, “Your rows are crooked,” just like any good perfectionist would.  Were they?  I hadn’t noticed (please refer back to sangria).  Maybe they were a little crooked.  And do you know what else?  We had no idea what plants we were supposed to plant together and which ones we weren’t.  We didn’t know how big those pumpkin vines would grow and that eventually they would overshadow the squash.


We didn’t know that some things need to be in blocks rather than rows for pollination.  We didn’t know how to hill some seeds and trench others.  We just went for it, crooked rows and all.  Let me tell you something, that garden was a huge success!  We did not buy a vegetable from June until September.  I had more zucchini and squash than I could give away. We had enough okra for all our families!  And when fall came, I had cute little pumpkins to decorate with- from my own garden. Did some plants die? Yes.  Did I have a problem with critters?  Yes.  Did I get one stinking tomato from all those tomato plants?  No.  But there was a huge yield, especially for a first time gardener.  This is what I am saying, veggies planted in crooked rows taste just as good.  Everything does not have to be perfect to be life giving.  Our days, relationships, efforts do not have to be completely aligned to produce a harvest in our life and in the lives of others. Sometimes we just have to go for it and work hard and have faith that there will be fruit (or veggies as the case may be).  Don’t let your lack of knowledge, experience, or expertise paralyze you from what the Lord is calling you into.  Pour a sangria, blast some Clay Walker, and plant some crooked rows.

 I have learned so much since last year.  I have read books and started seeds indoors early.  I have planned and plotted so that this year my veggies will be next to the right companions, and receive the right amount of sunlight and water.  I know a little about composting and cross-pollination. Will my garden be better this year, more successful?  Perhaps.  But fried okra is fried okra y’all, crooked row or not. Cheers!


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