One of the great things about living on two acres is there is room to grow a garden, tend a mini fruit orchard and raise animals. Our family knows from personal experience that eggs don’t come from cartons at the grocery store and apples often have worm holes. When we are personally acquainted with the natural world, we learn perfection in nature or ourselves is more a process that a product. We can cut out the worm hole and still enjoy the rest of the apple. We can accept our humanness and still be happy.
Growing a garden certainly teaches us that we literally reap what we sew. Though we never get corn where we planted potatoes; we sometimes do get volunteers from previous plantings and some very interesting combinations of present plantings. We have harvested squashes and melons that have cross-pollinated forming totally unique varieties like canta-watermelons or crookneck zucchinis. Buried seeds from a previous year will sometimes grow into a new seedling without being purposely planted again. If we keep planting and working with hope our lives will often produce a harvest we did not expect. The magic and mystery is that we never know for sure what unexpected gift is coming.
There is another part of the law of the harvest no one talks about. We can labor very hard tilling, planting, weeding and watering but sometimes a sudden frost or storm will destroy all our hard work. This turn of events often requires that we hang on until we can plant again next spring. Sometimes children walk into forbidden paths, illness strikes or the people we love die. Eventually we reap what we sew– but sometimes it takes more time than we thought to see the return on our investment.
Our mini farm has also taught us about the law of the jungle or survival of the fittest. The birds in our neighborhood know the exact morning we plan to pick our cherries. The night before, these birds swarm our tree, strip it of every single piece of fruit and leave piles of pink poop under our deck railing to taunt us. Sometimes we’ve been tempted to eat green cherries just to get our share. Finally we decided to call our crop a free will offering. Likewise, when people steal from us, we can eat bitter fruit and become sour like them or consider our bounty a gift - and move on.
Gophers tunnel into our garden and devour the root vegetables. My husband sets traps but they keep coming. Raccoons strip the leaves off our corn and devour every kernel on the cob before it makes it to our barbeque. Foxes and stray dogs think our pigeons, rabbits and ducks make a tasty supper. There are predators out there. Bad things happen to good people and hearts are broken by tragedy or betrayal. We don’t always get what we deserve but we are invited to learn from both the bitter and the sweet, trusting that God will someday make sense of it all.
Nature and life is not always a boundless harvest; sometimes it hails and destroys our crop or death comes too soon. Life is hard; yet life is also sweet. In the end it is not the gardener with the flawless garden who wins but the one who has overcome the most without giving up hope. Who we become is our ultimate harvest.