Wordless Wednesday: Provision

Wild Raspberries

I come around
a leafy bend
only to discover
red. Tart red,
bursting red
guarded ever so
cleverly by thorns.

As the scratches on my arms will attest, I reached for this beautiful provision despite the risks. And these three containers were my reward.

Photo by L.L. Barkat.

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Winter Stores

Dry Mint

My land has so many gifts. Day after day, they greet me. Violet leaves and mint, oregano and basil. Summer is generous beyond comprehension.

This year I've decided to store up these gifts. When I trim back the mint, I put it on a tray in the sun. It dries into furled, fragrant dark green curls that look a bit like seashells. In fact, each day I harvest something... rose petals or raspberry leaves... and use the energy of summer's sun to save up surprises for winter teas and soups.

Storing up for the future. I am learning. And this past weekend, it came home to me that this is a way of being, of sustenance, that I want to encourage in all areas of my life.

See, a dear friend of mine passed away. Suddenly. Unexpectedly. I am stricken, to the depths of my soul. I feel like I am falling into nothingness.

Even so... for a time, when I sat with my God-family Sunday morning, and the vocabulary of faith that has been stored up began to flow... in song, in prayer, in the ritual of communion, in the sharing of scripture... I felt like I was being borne up in someone's arms. It occurred to me that this did not come out of nowhere, but that it drew on a strength that has been built up over time.

To everything there is a season. A time to plant. And a time to harvest. A time to reach into the storehouse.

Dried Mint photo by L.L. Barkat.


L.L.'s Instructions

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The Back Yard News, Vol 1, No. 1

Afternoon Sun

Afternoon Sun photo, by Sonia.

This is a new column, produced by Sara and Sonia, with occasional contributions from their friends.

In fiction...

"The Surprise", story and illustration by Sara.

Cardinal and Catbird

One morning, Sir Cardinal woke up and complained loudly, "Hey, Cat, stop meowing! You woke me up!"

The cat just walked away, ignoring the cardinal.

"What? Not you?" said Sir Cardinal. "Then who?"

Suddenly, a catbird flew out from behind Sir Cardinal's nest, leaving a cloud of feathers.

"Yikes! Ha! It was only you!"

The catbird circled over Sir Cardinal, squawking, "April Fools!"

(Editor's note. Cardinals are here in April, but catbirds aren't. Poetic license!)

Rose of Sharon

In arts and entertainment...

By Sonia. Rose of Sharon photo also by Sonia.

You can take forsythia and if you hold it at the spot that attaches to the branch and let go, it will twirl down like a helicopter. But the four petals have to be fully open.

You can take wild onions and make jewelry from them. You can do the same with chives. Just loop them into circles and weave another piece over and under, around the circle to hold it in place. In this way, you can make rings, crowns, bracelets or necklaces.

In the garden...

Observations and illustration by Sara.

Blue Posies

Currently in bloom:

bee balm, daisies (waning), oxalis, nasturtium, pansies, and butterfly bush

Currently producing:

blueberries, raspberries, basil, chives, sage, rosemary, sorrel, red russian kale, fennel, cucumbers, garlic, snap peas, and oregano

Bee Balm


By Sara. Bee balm photo also by Sara.

I wonder if the catbird will attract any cats?

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Wordless Wednesday: Unexpected

Oxalis Lunch

In the morning, I weed the garden, then realize I have received the gift of an unexpected lunch. Oxalis. Shamrocks, if you will. I pluck the leaves and put them in a bowl, dot them with the simple yellow flowers... add shredded coconut, a dash of sugar, lime juice, light sesame oil, salt, sliced cucumbers and dark purple plum slices. Creation's bounty awakes on my tongue.

Oxalis photo by L.L. Barkat.

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Saving the Farm

Jumbled Garden

About 80 percent of U.S. consumers prefer to support sustainable farming, but their tax dollars actually work against the small farms that are more likely to use such techniques. That's what I learned from Steven L. Hopp, in a sidebar in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

What's up with that?

It’s because of the Farm Bill, which subsidizes based on volume and crop type. So three-quarters of subsidies go to 10 percent of growers (the big guys), effectively supporting soy and corn crops and making it hard for small farms to stay afloat (including farms in poor countries across the globe...believe it or not, our policies influence "plenty or want" for vulnerable people beyond our borders).

farmaid.org tells us more.

And, like Bread for the World is currently requesting, we can call our representatives and senators BY JULY 17, to have a say in how the new Farm Bill is settled.

They suggest these simple messages to our legislators…

- reform commodity policies that hurt small farmers in the U.S. and abroad
- invest in rural development

How to Find Your Senators and Representatives

To call about the Farm Bill, dial 1-800-826-3688. Connects you to Capitol switchboard. Ask for your representative's office to leave a message with staff. Call your senators too.

Jumbled Garden (red russian kale amidst garlic and clover) photo by L.L. Barkat.

Green Inventions Invitation: If you write a post related to this post and Link It Back Here, let me know and I'll link to yours.

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Formerly Known As Delicious

Fresh Herb Sandwich

Above: homemade bread topped with melted cheddar and fresh garden stuff... chopped red russian baby kale, chives, garlic seed-head, and basil. Drizzled with olive oil. Sprinkled with salt and pepper. Totally out of this world.

As a child, I loved to go to my grandmother's house. She grew vegetables in army quantities... potatoes, zucchini, carrots, tomatoes, peas, green beans. Her land also swelled with fruit... cherries, mulberries, gooseberries, raspberries, strawberries, currants, blackberries, plums, pears. I knew what a real vegetable tasted like. I understood fruit beyond canned cocktail.

In Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver discusses a generation of children — our children — whose life expectancy will be shorter than the previous generation's. And it's largely due to what we're feeding them.

Some of it is our own fault. We live with the mantra of "convenience", sacrificing homemade meals to the gods of busyness. And some of it is a more subtle problem. The fruits and veggies, especially those taken out of season, just don't taste like they used to. Why should we expect our kids to want them?

I like the way Kingsolver explains the loss of deliciousness...

"How did supermarket vegetables lose their palatability, with so many people right there watching? The Case of the Murdered Flavor was a contract killing, as it turns out, and long-distance travel lies at the heart of the plot." (p.48) This plot centers largely on the breeding of "indestructible vegetables...creations that still looked decent after a road trip." Forget about the whole issue of being picked green or sitting for weeks before landing on our plates.

Maybe the place to start is to hand our children a hoe and a seed packet, then later a watering can, and finally a morning of harvest. Whether we let them wield a knife in the kitchen, to help serve it up, will be according to our level of bravery.

I can say that this has worked in part for me. We're still trying to cultivate tomato love. But squash and cucumbers are in the bag. Not the grocery bag mind you. Just the one that my kids label, "I'll eat this, because it's home-grown delicious."

"Fresh Herb Sandwich Above Sara's First Nine Patch Square." Photo, by L.L. Barkat.

Green Inventions Invitation: if you write a related post and LINK back here, let me know and I'll link to yours.


L.L.'s Tomato Abstinence

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Wordless Wednesday: Tea Leaves

Summer Tea Leaves

In the morning, as the sun is still making its way over the pine, I take my scissors and trim the fabric of my landscape... wild strawberry, dandelion, and violet leaves... raspberry leaves, oregano, mint... and, oops, an unripe blueberry... it all goes into the tea water... green, lush, free it steeps and fills the kitchen with a light fragrance... and I drink the beauty of the day.

Summer Tea Leaves photo, by L.L. Barkat.

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