A Man, A Plan, & Some Barren Land
The whole crazy adventure started one hot day in the Spring while I was at the flea market. The actual idea has been in my head for years. My cousin Wendell and I were very close as kids. We enjoyed spending the night at each others houses and playing ball together. My aunt had a nice garden and a lot of land. She grew tons of tomatoes and we would enjoy them on bacon and tomato sandwiches for lunch! When the ball would invariably go up into the tomato plants we were warned to be very careful. Growing those tomatoes was serious business and nobody wanted careless kids wrecking them! Wendell also cracked me up by calling them “maters” and eating them right off of the vine as someone would eat an apple.
There is something about eating a tomato that is home grown! They seem to taste just a little better! For the grower it seems there would be a couple of benefits! First they don’t have to be reliant on others for their tomatoes! Secondly and almost as important there is a certain pride in growing something and sharing them with others! I can see where it can become a productive and entertaining hobby!
My dad enjoyed growing vegetables in his garden. He would grow cucumbers, tomatoes, and peppers as I remember. He was very proud to take me back in his garden when I came by and show me his plants! The love of gardening was not passed down to me. My sister enjoys it but it was never something I had the desire to do. A few years ago my friend Keith had some cherry tomatoes growing in the flower box of the building he was renting for his business. When I came by he would load me up with a bag of cherry tomatoes to take home and put in my salad. I really enjoyed those cherry tomatoes and his plants seemed to produce even more than both of us could use! One day he suggested I try planting some in my yard. I took some home and made the attempt. There were two problems. Number one I didn’t know what I was doing and number two our yard had dirt as hard as a rock. In that state of circumstances nothing was going to grow there so my feeble attempt as a tomato gardener was a failure.
So we fast forward now to my trip this spring to the flea market. I wasn’t at all looking for gardening work, but there was a lady that had tomato plants at such a steal I thought why not? I was also thinking that these were plants. That already gave me a head start! It had to be much better than just planting seeds. In my mind I would just go home, plant them in the ground, give them a little water and wait for the results! I asked her a few questions and she was very positive. She made me feel like even someone as naive about gardening as I was could be successful! I ended up buying three tomato plants from her and brought them home in their pots. One plant was for cherry tomatoes, one was called Fourth of July, and the last one was called Big Boy.
When I realized that this might be a little bigger project than what I originally thought I gave my sister a call. She knew the effort that would need to be involved and brought her Mantas tiller over. I was thinking an area at the side of the house might be a place to plant, or an area in front of the deck in the back. She thought the deck area was the best choice. It was a spot where they would get sunlight most of the time but there would be a shade time also, which she thought wouldn’t hurt them at all.
It was an extremely hot day and I was turning over the land with a shovel. Already this little project was feeling like a lot more work than I wanted. My dry hard land made me feel like nothing could possibly grow there. We had some success with the Mantas but even that thing seemed to want to rebel. When we got the thing to work it was like trying to hold down a tiger. It was literally bouncing off of the hard ground needing 2 men and a boy to hold it. After a couple of rounds the thing decided it didn’t want to work anymore. While my sister made the appropriate phone call to the company that manufactured it, I stayed out in the heat working with the thing. Once in a while it would show some life and jump into action for a few seconds. Long enough for me to grab the thing with both hands and try to wrestle it onto the gardening area. After a few seconds of the match the thing would just die out again almost like it was saying “I have no desire to plow through rocks and roots!” Yes, a nearby tree had some roots running right into my garden spot. Some of them were removed, but a few were there to stay.
With the tiller out of action we went to the local Lowe’s store and bought some potting soil. I also went to my neighbor Tom’s house to borrow a pitch fork. I have always found that if I needed any kind of yard tool Tom always had it and was happy to lend it out. However Tom was not available when I came by and his wife said that a pitch fork was one thing he didn’t have. As we were working with the tools that we had over the next few minutes Tom showed up with the fork. He identified it as a garden fork and said a pitch fork was used for bailing hay. Made perfect sense and it was exactly what was needed. After several minutes of work in the hot sun my sister had come back from her calls to the Mantas manufacturer. They would be sending her the oil that they left out of the package. It was the lubrication that the machine needed so it wouldn’t freeze up as it apparently did with us.
After several minutes more of taking out as much roots as we could we spread 3 bags of the soil we had purchased. Spreading that good soil out gave me hope that maybe we could grow something at last! My sister brought over two more tomato plants and we planted those also! Five plants went into the ground that day! Now as they say it was up to nature to take it’s course. That and me to remember to water the plants!
After maybe 3 weeks I noticed a couple of tiny tomatoes blooming on one of the vines. Each day I went out to water the plants I’d look at the new little tomatoes and studied their progress. One day maybe a week later I noticed that the two blooming little green tomatoes were gone. Apparently they were the victim of a squirrels hunger. That little incident left me upset! That squirrel took away the fruit of our labor that my little plant had produced! We have wild life running around in our back yard besides squirrels. Several times we have had deers back there. Sometimes we see rabbits hopping about. I put some cones in place to hold the plants up. Later we put some netting around the plants in an effort to keep the wild life from a quick meal. Two of the plants have tomato blooms on them as I write this! There is still time this year to realize the dream of bringing in tomatoes for my salad!
This experience with the tomato plants and my extremely small little garden has lessons we all can learn from. My initial experience of throwing seeds into the ground and hoping for success is how many of us are in our walk with God. By not preparing the ground and working our new life it dies. As we tried to prepare the new ground we found tree roots. Those can be associated with the devil who had his roots within us. Only by getting rid of those roots are we able to give our new plants a chance to become rooted and grow. It was important that we bring in some new soil for my plants. This new soil gave the plants an environment where they could grow healthy. Much like when a new Christian gets associated with new friends who will lead them down the straight and narrow way! The plants root is like God the Father, who we need to get deeply rooted into. Only when we are rooted in him do we have a chance to survive the perils of this world. The sunlight represents God the Son Jesus, who is the light of the world and his light is nourishment to our soul. Without the sunshine the plant will die, much like without Jesus we are lost as he is the bridge to the Father by his death on the cross. The water that I give the plants daily is representative of the Holy Spirit in our lives revitalizing us with a fresh anointing! Comforting us and letting us know we are cared for! The last factor in the equation is me. How much care will I put into those plants as I monitor their progress? The squirrel or other destructive animals would be represented by the devil discouraging us and stealing our joy! Taking away the fruit in our life and leaving us bitter and empty. Putting a net up to Protect my plants from harmful enemies like squirrels and rabbits is like when we pray and ask God’s protection over our lives. “Deliver us from evil” in the Lord’s prayer comes to mind. Galatians 6:9 states “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” The doing good can be associated with all of the little things I can do and God can do through me to make those tomato plants grow and become fruitful!
I’m thinking about the used to be barren land in front of my deck. It was barren for years until a new plan was born. My land didn’t have a lot of gardening history. It had become dry and barren much like peoples lives can become. But with the caring work of God and the dedication to follow him, things will not stay the same. Sooner or later others will look at the life of a person which was dry and barren and won’t believe their eyes. For that land will have a fresh growing garden, with fruit overflowing in blessings for all to enjoy!