A gift of love from the garden!

The photo above has been used in my postings in the past. It just so happens that it has become a bit of a personal symbol of the gifts coming from a well-tended garden. Note: My garden is not always tidy, see my Gardens Gone Wild post on July 28, 2011. This iconic strawberry, shaped like a heart and offered to my wife Kathy as first taste of spring in 2010 turned out to be a well received gesture. She said thank you but deferred to me. She said, ” You take the first bite.” it seems that my gift was acknowledged and she gained pleasure from returning an enhanced gift to me. Now don’t be cynical as you read this. Giving a gift back can be something special, something beyond my Mother’s creative re-gifting penchant. (sorry Mom). I invest a lot of time and effort in order to see my garden grow and sharing the bounty is one of greatest pleasures. This paragraph leads me into the title of the post.

I recently read a book that my brother had recommended, ” The Dirty Life” by Kristin Kimball. This is a realistic and blunt look at what it takes to immerse yourself into the sustainable farming lifestyle. While reading the book I ran across a quote that resonated with me. I found it to be very profound.

“Why is farming like a relationship? Because you do not reap what you sow! That’s a lie. You reap what you sow, hill, cultivate, fertilize, harvest and store.”

I find that for my garden to be successful it takes a lot more than just putting a seed into the ground and later picking a crop. To be successful it requires a significant investment in the “now” as well as looking down the road to keep it all together. It is also very interesting the feedback a garden plot can give you when you don’t invest the effort, time and resources to make it successful. My relationship with my best friend, my lover, my wife is much like the relationship I have with my garden…..I certainly get feedback when my efforts and investment slacks off. The rewards are immense when providing the proper investment. So let me break it down further.

We are always “sowing” seeds, both the seeds we intend and those that were unintended. I don’t have to look any further than the couple of Red Sails lettuces that are growing and thriving under my potting bench. How did they get there? I havent a clue. My planting intentions were for the lettuces to be bunched in neat little rows in the DESIGNATED bed. Intentions are a wonderful thing when executed well. But, as illustrated above, I can on occasion drop an unintended seed or two or three….. In the relationship world it can be a slip of the tongue, a passing comment that landed with a thud or a look that was not received well. On the other side, I need to understand that my life long partner can also drop an unintended seed! I will have to admit that I have responded in the wrong way to the errant seed. Sometimes even letting it take root a become larger than it should have.  Her intentions, I should realize, always have the best of intentions – rather than letting the seed take root I should seek to understand! Note to self, ask more questions and engage in more dialog!!!!

Now when it comes to “hilling” in the garden, my potatoes come to mind. Without hilling I can get a small harvest, but if I continually hill up around my potato plants the returns are significantly multiplied. I have heard the term that love is evergreen. Well, I disagree with that statement. I will agree that love can be evergreen, but it takes a bunch of work….and the work never ends. The returns, with the continual efforts will bear an abundant harvest. Note to self: do more “hilling”.

Now the “cultivating” term in the quote. I did a little internet search and hit on this description from eHow.com.

“An important step in garden maintenance is to cultivate the soil. Cultivating a garden involves removing weeds and rearranging the crust of the soil to promote nutrition, as well as water and air penetration to plants. You can cultivate the soil using different tools, working every two weeks………”

I think this definition can describe a relationship as well. There are always those unwanted and unpleasant things that crop up…we see them, recognize them and remove them before they take over, like weeds and those unintended “seeds”.   Rearranging the crust reminds me to change it up….add somethng different once in a while and look for the beneficial impact. Respond appropriately so the relationship has all it needs to grow and flourish. Tools, we have lots of tools out there for our gardening and relationship building efforts. But I have begun to realize that some are under-utilized – such as the tool of “two-way” communication. Boy, oh boy, that tool has been underutilized by this gardener! …. Note to self: God gave you two ears and one mouth – was that a hint? That last piece of the eHow definition – every two weeks….just ignore that. Cultivation in a relationship is an everyday and ongoing activity.

Now to fertilize does not mean adding or spreading BS! I sometimes have a propensity for spreading BS and unfortunately the humor many times lost on my other half…sorry hun, I thought it was funny at the time. What I should be doing is adding handfuls of soft touches, kind words, a sprinkle of hugs and many more thank you’s to nurture the relationship. Note to self: less BS – that my be hard to do but I will work on it.
The “harvest” part is something I like!!!!!! Man, oh man, that is the good stuff. It leaves me with a twinkle in the eye, a bounce in my step and one of those grins that can’t be wiped off.  That said – both parties need to share in the harvest. Am I providing a shared harvest? I need to ask myself that question a little more often. I was out-of-town this past week and Kathy let me know how much she was enjoying the fresh strawberries every morning. I asked about the asparagus and she had not noticed any. I told her that there a couple of spears poking their heads up through the leaf mulch before I left. The next day she told me how much she enjoyed the strawberries and the steamed asparagus & eggs she had for breakfast that morning. I made me feel so good to hear that she was enjoying the physical bounty of the garden, but it also got me thinking about,  “what does she harvest from the relationship?” – is she getting all that she needs? Note to self: see note above – ask and listen a little/lot more.
The concept of “storing” the returns is pretty powerful. This is an interesting concept in the framework of a relationship. What does it mean to me? I think this aspect of a relationship can be expressed in the memories that we have created. We have built a huge inventory of memories but it is interesting, at least for me, the dominant memories are those that are positive, warm, make me smile and make me feel good inside. Now, we have had our rocky moments and we will probably have a few more, but they don’t seem to occupy much memory space on my “hard drive”. The mechanism or ability to store the best allows me and hopefully both of us, to aways draw upon a stored harvest of our best memories  created in the tending of the “relationship garden”.
I hope my philosophical waxing, the seeds, land as intended…….
Expect a few more posts over the next couple of weeks. My client commitments will allow me to spend more time in the garden. Activities will include; dirt on my hands, the potatoes will be hilled, the carrots will be thinned, the beds will be cultivated, a little harvesting and maybe Kathy will let me store the ugly and mis-shaped berries as jam! Oh yes & ditto for the relationship.