Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Looking Out the Kitchen Window

            Pretend you’re standing with me in my kitchen right now.  (Ignore the piles of dirty dishes and the crumbs under the cabinets that the boys are somehow blind to every time they sweep.)  We’re at the back of our almost-100-year-old two-story, creamy-yellow house.  Unfortunately, the kitchen walls are a horrible bright yellow (which I intend to paint as soon as we can afford to take care of some necessary repairs first), but there is a window over the sink where I stand every day doing dishes and staring out into our backyard.
            I love my backyard.  There’s no place I’d rather be than in my backyard with my family.  (I’d love it even more if my backyard was surrounded by more open land, instead of neighbors’ houses and garages and a popular road.)  The house has many, many problems with it, but the backyard makes up for most of them.  At least for me.  The first summer we were here (we’ve been here a total of 6 summers now), we spent so much time in the yard that very little got done in the house.  But it’s been worth it because I’ve been able to accomplish so much outside, putting in gardens that I had dreamed about for 11 years. 

            The yard was basically bare when we moved in, except for an old pool that was filled with thick, brown sludge and two dead raccoons.  We took that down the first spring.  And there is a cement patio right in the middle of the yard where we put a table set.  Over the years, we’ve had to cut a lot of trees down - misplaced ones, dead ones, dying ones, and one giant pine that led the squirrels right up to our roof where they built a nest. 
            I even cut down a 25-foot-ish tree myself with a tiny, little hand saw because it would shade the garden that we were putting in.  So it had to come down that first fall.  And I knew my husband wouldn’t cut it down, so I did it one day.  While he was at work.  After he told me not to. 


            [It takes much longer than you’d think.  And I’ve paid for it ever since with shoulder problems.  Oh well, live and learn.  But personally, I think it's best to do this kind of stuff when the men are gone because then they can't say anything about it.  And I think they are secretly happy that you took care of it because then they don't have to.  Just a theory.  I've gotten more done on the days my hubby is out of town than I do when he's here . . . just because he can't stop me!  Moo-haa-haa!  (That's our "evil genius" cow laugh!)] 

             But now, on our not-quite-half-acre of land, there is a rose bed, a perennial flower/rose bed, a couple wildflower beds, a butterfly garden, patches of herbs, a blueberry bed, a long strip of rhubarb, an asparagus patch, raspberry beds, strawberry beds, a patch of gooseberries and currants, a juneberry bush, 2 honeyberry bushes, 2 Nanking cherry shrubs, 2 Hansen’s bush cherry shrubs (which haven’t produced yet because I moved them a couple years ago and it set them back), and a huge vegetable garden with raised beds that I have recently begun sharing with a neighbor. 
            It’s been quite a project, but nothing makes me happier than tinkering in the garden with my husband while the kids play close by.  (Except for the fact that I get insanely tense when they get too close to the plants or when they throw their football into my blueberry bed.  Every muscle in my body tenses.  Isn’t that just wrong?  I had so wanted this to be a wonderful family project, yet I can’t bring myself to even let them breathe on the plants without close supervision.  I’m working on that!  I really want them to become comfortable in a garden and familiar with raising plants.  Maybe this year?  But I say that every year.)
            Anyway, so here we are standing in the kitchen.  (You have to pretend that it’s summer because right now it’s actually winter and everything’s dead.  But there’s no snow, so it all just looks pathetic.)  Looking directly out the window, there is a wildflower bed, a rose/perennial flower garden, and some birdfeeders and birdhouses in the middle of the yard by the patio where we have a table, chairs, a grill, and a yard-swing.  There is also a young crabapple tree that I planted about 5 years ago which is growing up nicely and shading the yard swing.

This is the wildflower bed (top picture) and the rose/perennial bed (bottom picture)
as it is right now (not very pretty):
But here are some shots of the rose bed (walking around it counter-clockwise) from a few years ago: 

(It will look different this year because I lost some roses and moved some plants.  The fence that you see used to surround the pool.  We decided to leave it as a backbone for the rose garden.) 

           All summer and fall while I do dishes, I watch the goldfinches, chickadees, and sparrows (the dandelions of the bird kingdom) flitting to and fro all through these flower beds.  Chirping, eating seeds, and flying back to their nests up in the trees.  (The newly-built chickadee nest fell out of the crabapple tree within months.  Sad.  I was so looking forward to them using that nest this coming summer.)  Cardinals, blue jays, cow birds, nuthatches, and red-wing blackbirds have also raided the birdfeeders.  A woodpecker even tried a couple times.   
            The robins bounce around the vegetable beds, looking for worms in the freshly turned dirt.  Butterflies float all over the butterfly bushes.  (At least they did before the really dry summer we had in 2012 which decimated their population.  We planted the butterfly garden specifically to help them survive and to draw them in again.)  And dragonflies zoom in very specific, straight lines over head.  (I love dragonflies!)
            And my favorite - hummingbirds come to visit the zinnias sporadically.  I refuse to put up a hummingbird feeder because that artificially-colored, pesticide-sprayed (most likely!) sugar water can’t be good for them.  So I use real plants, and I thank God every time one shows up.  (I wouldn’t be as adverse toward using organic sugar with no coloring, though.  But it’s still not “natural enough” for me.)  To me, catching a glimpse of a hummingbird is like catching a glimpse of God’s glory.  It’s so fleeting and unpredictable, and you have to grab it when it comes.  It’s like a whisper.  And you have to just pause and listen.  They’re little miracles.
            We’ve also been delighted over the years to catch glimpses of falcons, hawks, wood ducks, orioles, blue-gray gnatcatchers, yellow-rumped warblers, kinglets, a snipe (didn’t even know those things really existed), turkey vultures (uuuugly!), and my son saw a bald eagle, which is very uncommon in our area.  And right now, because it’s winter, I’ve been enjoying the sparrows and juncos that have hung around.  It might be bitterly cold, but there those tiny birds are, huddled around the birdfeeder.  This yard has been a real blessing.
            I have to admit, I didn’t always care much for birds.  They were always just . . . there.  Uneventful.  Ordinary.  But as part of a homeschooling project, we built a birdfeeder and birdhouse.  And I have been hooked ever since.  Because there is almost nothing more satisfying than seeing something you’ve done add more life to your yard. 

            And that’s why I love gardening so much.  I am taking the wonderful plants that God has created and I’m mixing them together until I find a beautiful combination that delights the senses, that provides blessings throughout the year, that draws God’s little critters in, and that just sings of His glory!  It is my hope that my garden makes any visitor realize that we have a wonderful Creator!
            Hidden among the plants are a few stepping stones that testify about the God who made this beautiful world. 

             I want it to be known that God made all these wonderful plants; I just gave them a place to live. 
            May all visitors to my garden see what an amazing, good, creative God we serve.  May they linger there for a while, feeling close to Him and enjoying His fingerprints on every plant and animal they see.  May they slow down and breathe! 

(This is a repost from my other blog,  With a few updates.)

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