Living Seasonally

The crisp crunch of leaves in the early rays of dawn, the rise of a brown trout as it’s dorsal fin crests the water, the infectious laughter of children as they careen down the sledding hill and the explosion of flavor from a cherry tomato popped into the mouth while tending the Summer garden.

Seasons come and go, and return once again in the dance of life.  “For everything there is a season…” as King Solomon once said.

While in the big picture, seasons of life refers to being a child, raising children and finally meeting ones Maker; I would like to speak about living seasonally within the context of a rotation of life throughout a year.  I share this with you as a concept of the good life, not as a template for you to necessarily follow – rather as a principle for you to interpret in the context of your own life.

My rotation starts on April 1st, April Fools Day, as I stand in a near-freezing WNY stream trying to trick a trout or two.  The afternoon is then given over to starting seeds for the coming year’s vegetable garden.  This inauguration of Spring begins the season of Fishing/Gardening, which will then dominate my “leisure time” throughout the coming months until October rolls around.

As September draws to a close, the season of Harvesting/Hunting begins.  The garden is preserved through freezing, dehydrating and root cellaring.  My beard begins to grow from a goatee to a full beard fit for bowhunting.  My leisure time is consumed by walking through the woods and climbing trees.  As the temperature drops below freezing, we slaughter and butcher a steer, a hog and whatever deer I was able to harvest.  By Christmas, our 3 deep freezers, pantry and root cellar is full to bursting (we raise about 30% of our fruits/vegetables and butcher about 90% of our own meat).  There is a wonderful sense of contentment that comes from having plenty from the works of our own hands…and a sense of the sacred act of eating and sharing a meal with friends.

As Winter locks us in, my heated woodshop becomes my place of creativity and respite.  Planes get sharpened, shavings are made and furniture is the by-product.  This past year, cutting boards, tea shelf, a canoe and a cherry homework table were on the list.  As the snow piles up outside, I listen to jazz, drink coffee and pile up sawdust.  Nothing is wasted: off-cuts become kindling for the wood fire, plane shavings become tinder for same and sawdust gets layered with kitchen scraps in 5-gallon buckets in the corner of the shop for next year’s garden.

Each year I cut a better dovetail, grow a better garden and walk more silently through the woods.  The balance of the familiar and constant change, of inside and out of doors, of growing and harvesting and of constant purpose for my “leisure time” brings joy, balance, health and a sense of constant discovery.

Is it easier to live life vicariously?  Where money is the only thing you make, spend and save?  Where your free time is consumed on a couch with a bag of chips?

NO!

Each day would be easier, but life itself would be far more difficult.  The meaninglessness of being bored while being constantly entertained is a much more trying life to live.  The tug of a trout, the thrill of the hunt, the taste of truly fresh food and daily using furniture I have made myself is a far more fulfilling life!Salmon_edit

Provision not Windfall: Tax Return Season

English: Basket of fresh picked Gravenstein ap...

English: Basket of fresh picked Gravenstein apples, British Columbia, Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“What are you going to do with your tax refund this year?”

For a whole segment of our population, tax season means extra income.  This is why I feel that this could be a timely post.  A windfall originally meant a tree, or fruit from a tree, that got blown down unexpectedly…hence, “wind fall”.  This would mean extra firewood, lumber or fruit with a minimal amount of extra work (the tree/fruit was already down, you just had to pick it up).

Now imagine the opposite reality – driving along in your automobile, when all of a sudden it won’t shift into third gear.  Your transmission is shot and, depending upon your vehicle, you are in need of $1500 +/-.

Two possible scenarios:

1. windfall leads to splurge.  breakdown leads to debt.  debt leads to stress and possible doubt.

2. windfall leads to saving.  breakdown is paid out of savings.  savings leads to thankfulness and faith.

In the olden days, a ton of apples on the ground all at the same time would lead to fresh apples to eat for a few days, apple butter, applesauce, dried apples and any number of other possible preservation techniques that would mean apples all year long.  Today the apples would rot.

Unfortunately, the same also tends to be true about tax return money.  Last year a friend of mine went to go buy a flat screen tv at Wal-Mart.  They came back without one…there were none to be had.  Wal-Mart had sold out.  When they asked the sales associate, their response was, “tax return season.”

What if God really is providing all of your needs…ahead of time.  Wouldn’t that be considerate?  Wouldn’t that be just like the God who first foretold Christ’s sacrificial death while speaking to Eve in the Garden of Eden.  Wouldn’t life be more joy-filled and blessed if you realized God’s provision of your needs instead of indulging in the latest eye candy.

“Go the ant you sluggard and be wise…”

Ways to Save

Español: Mantequilla de maní

Español: Mantequilla de maní (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1. Turn waste streams into revenue streams.  This is the hidden profit that is already there, you just have to take advantage of it.  This could be something as simple as upcycling (finding a new use for an old product – my personal favorite is old peanut butter containters as hardware storage in my workshop) to something as complicated as a new product line.  Take all your kitchen waste, place it in a worm bin – presto worm tea, a terrific foliar fertilizer for your gardens – and it’s organic and free.

2. Buy quality whenever possible.  A word of warning: expensive does not necessarily mean quality – it could simply be the name that you are paying for.  Research actual customer reviews of the products you are looking to purchase – this honest feedback will tell you far more about the product than their glossy brochures.  This also does not mean that you should always buy new either.  New to you can be the best bang for your buck, and it’s better for the environment as well.

3. Take care of your stuff, and it will take care of you.  A proverbial saying that brings “A stitch in time saves nine” to mind.  Paint your house – it’s cheaper than replacing all the siding.  Change the oil in your vehicle – it’s cheaper than replacing the engine.  Vacuum your carpets – it’s cheaper than replacing them (dirt plus traffic = sandpaper).

4. Coupons…but only what you were going to buy anyway.  You are not saving any money at all if you buy things you don’t need.  You are in fact, wasting money.

5. Deep freezer.  This is an upfront investment that will pay you back year after year.  Food is far cheaper when it is in season locally.  Buy it in bulk and freeze it.  This is also true of buying your beef from a farmer.  You will wind up paying ground beef prices for the entire animal.  Filet Mignon for the price of ground beef…sign me up!  But you have to have a way of preserving 450 pounds of meat at a time.

6. Friends are better than funds.  This one is worthy of its own separate post, but suffice it to say here that a community of friends will own more collectively than any individual in the group will.  You have a canoe.  I have a power-washer.  We have a canoe and a power washer.  Share.  It was true in kindergarten and it remains true today.  He who hoards has no friends.  He who shares has both stuff and friends to enjoy it with.  Trust me.  Life is better this way.

7. Grow it.  The single scarcest commodity on the face of the earth is time.  One seed of corn costs about a penny.  Three ears of corn will set you back at least a dollar.  The difference is time.  Live your life according to the seasons.  There is a season to plant and a season to harvest.  This not only applies to food, but to all of life.  Think retirement account.  Invest early and let time do its work, while you do yours.

8. Pay up front, not down the road.  This is a corollary to point #7.  If you pay up front – you save the interest.  Go into debt, and you pay for someone else’s planning ahead.  Cash is King!  If you can’t afford it, you don’t need it.  Save up the cash, then purchase the product.

9. “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”  ‘Nuff said.

What are some of your favorite ways to save?

Hate Kale?

imageHere’s a great way to consume and enjoy this healthy food:Spread a layer of fresh Kale on a cookie sheet, sprinkle with olive oil and sea salt and bake at 350 for about 15-20 minutes. Eat like chips.  Pretty good as far as vegetable chips go, and by far my favorite way to eat kale so far (juicing makes a thick, green gunk, in a salad is bitter and tough and cooked in a soup it has an unpleasantly coarse texture).

Work Space

English: A study table

English: A study table (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In my office, I am surrounded by books and ways of communicating (a 64 GB Blackberry Tablet, An Ancient Dell Inspiron 9300 Laptop, a land-line telephone, A Brand New Blackberry Z10 cellphone, a desk to write on, another desk to type at and three chairs – one for me and two for those whom God wants me to communicate with).  I walk into this room and sermons are crafted, blogs are written, emails sent and received, lives changed.

In my wood shop, I am surrounded by materials and tools (table saw, joiner, planer, miter saw, myriads of hand tools, sawhorses and a workbench).  I walk into this room and furnishings are crafted, broken items repaired, dreams built, lives changed.

In my garden, I am surrounded by soil and plants (cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, basil, oregano, potatoes, carrots, garlic, beans, peas, etc.).  I walk into this space and weeds are removed, vines are trellised, Japanese beetles are killed, food is harvested, lives changed.

In my home, I am surrounded by things and life (Ashley – my wife, Rebekah, Joshua, Caleb and Elizabeth – our children, guests, friends, drop-ins in need and Nick – our dog).  I walk into this place and love is shared, children disciplined, games played, meals consumed, guests entertained, tears shed, lives changed.

My work spaces.  Lives changed when I walk in and abide.

God walks into my life.  His office, His shop, His garden, His home.  He is surrounded by my thoughts and yearnings (to be what He wants me to be, to be significant, to be rich, to be famous, to be powerful…to be His)  He walks into His space and weeds are removed, love is shared, broken items are repaired, sermons preached the first time, my life…changed.

Is God allowed space to work in your life?  Are you being changed by Him and changing others for Him?

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalms 139: 23-24 NIV)

The Principle of the Farmer

Lettuce!

Lettuce! (Photo credit: hummingcrow)

“Buttercrunch Lettuce.  (36) 5-2/12”

That’s what is written on the side of the planting flat of the first plants to poke through the soil.  I have 36 seeds of Buttercrunch Lettuce planted, and they should reach maturity sometime between May 2nd and May 12th.  I started the seeds in a compost and peat moss mix of my own a little over a week ago.  This brings me to today’s topic – the Principle of the Farmer.  In short, “you can’t procrastinate a harvest.”

Out culture is a culture of immediacy and convenience.  These things are so often spoken of, that it makes no impact on the average person who hears it.  In fact, these traits are seen as progress, and therefore desirable.  A great example of this is an ordinary pizza delivery.  Call up the local Pizza Palace and your order will be piping hot and in your hands in under 30 minutes – or it’s free.  Now imagine growing a pizza garden: Garlic cloves planted the previous Columbus day (think middle of October) starts it off, but you will also need to plant wheat, basil, parsley, oregano, tomatoes, onions and peppers.  Mozzarella can be made from the butterfat of raw milk within a day, but the pepperoni would have to have have time to season.  You can’t forget the shocking, threshing, winnowing and grinding of the wheat into flour, or the process involved in making tomatoes into sauce…but you get the idea.

When all of these steps are considered, a pizza delivery in under 30 minutes is quite a feat.

Within this culture of convenience, we have become a people of procrastination.  No longer is the seasonality of life impressed upon us in an unavoidable and visceral way.  No longer do we grow up realizing that we must sow seeds long before we can enjoy a harvest.  No longer do we walk into our pantries and see a year-long supply of food in its myriad colors and containers, with its attendant sense of well-being and need for rationing.

Growth takes time.  In a garden, in a business, in a relationship and even in our walk with the LORD; but time does no good if you haven’t planted a seed.

What are you wanting to realize in your life?  To harvest from your time?  Don’t expect it to magically happen.  Plant a seed.

“A sluggard does not plow in season; so at harvest time he looks but finds nothing.” (Proverbs 20:4 NIV)

Waste Not

English: A picture of compost soil

English: A picture of compost soil (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Life cycles.  Birth, growth, maturity, fruitfulness, senescence, death, decay.  These are normally seen as joy followed by mourning.  Who doesn’t celebrate with that first green shoot poking through the soil, or the anticipation of a strong, young plant that is beginning to bud?  Not to mention the joy and enjoyment of fruitfulness – the point of the plant (as many would see it).   Likewise, there is always a sense of loss as a specific plant has finished yielding its fruit, and begins to wilt and fall to the ground and die.

The gardener, however, sees things a little bit differently.  That single plant was a part of something far greater, far older and far more significant.  The gardener knows that the compost they lovingly put in the garden prior to transplanting the young, vibrant plant came from other plants and fruit that had lived, grown and died – only to give new life to the next generation.  I guess a gardener who relies upon petroleum based fertilizers, and seed packets purchased from a local grocery/hardware/home improvement center – has little visceral understanding of this truth; but if you save your own seeds from the previous generation, and keep an active compost pile from all the “waste” from your garden and kitchen, you know that life lives on.

Nothing is more healthy and life-giving than composted life.  No purchased seed packet enables you to hand-select the best of the best of each generations’ fruitfulness to pass on to the next.  Nothing supplies the needs of the young like the “waste” of the old.

Plants live and die, and in their death – they give new life to those that follow them.  You can do the same.  Honor those who have gone before, listen to the stories of their successes and failures and learn from their best and brightest moments – as well as their lessons learned the hard way.  Build into the generations that are coming along behind you, help them out as they are getting started.  Your trash might just be their treasure.

If a garden teaches you anything, it should be that nothing is wasted, nothing is useless.  All life is life-giving.

“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed.  But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (-Jesus, John 12:24 NIV)