Ranch Wife Musings | Tend Your Own Garden

As spring has emerged, it has been a delight to watch leaf after leaf poke up from the ground and begin to grow. Day by day, I can see changes as my perennials have doubled in size, and it is sheer joy to see plants that I tended faithfully last summer grow with even greater vigor this year, spreading out and sending up new shoots! My one lupine seedling that survived the summer heat is now a huge plant, and I can’t wait to see what the flowers are like when it blooms this year!


But what would happen if, instead of delighting in my own garden, I compare what I have to my neighbor’s? What if, instead of seeing the beauty in what I’ve successfully grown, I resent what my neighbor can grow that I cannot, or what she has spent years cultivating that I only planted last year? Do this for long enough or with great enough intensity, and your own garden with all its beauty and its potential, will wilt and die. 

Isn’t life like that? What we have at any given time is usually what we’ve cultivated over the last months or years of our lives. Sometimes what we try to cultivate just doesn’t grow, or it doesn’t flourish and we finally realize it’s time to uproot that thing and put our efforts elsewhere. Then, sometimes, we look at our neighbor and the life she is living and we imagine that our life should look just like that. We’re angry that it doesn’t and we begin to resent her. But the crazy thing is, so often what she has that we are resenting isn’t even what we tried to grow, if we’re honest with ourselves! I’m sure all of us have been there. 

Jealousy kills. It’s like spraying herbicide onto your neighbor’s garden out of spite, and killing your own garden with the drift instead. We need to learn to rejoice in the life that we’ve been given, the garden that God is allowing us to cultivate. Quit staring at your neighbor’s garden, quit envying what she has that you don’t have. Quit comparing, and quit telling yourself that you deserve her life. God has given you a beautiful life!

Tend your own garden. And find joy in the beauty that’s there.

Photo Roundup | April 16 – May 13

The last few weeks of pictures (okay, month) got away from me! Spring work is going strong and we have just been busy! A good sort of busy. A lot of what we’ve been doing hasn’t been super conducive to carrying a camera around either, so maybe the photo crop has been a little slim week-to-week.

The end of April wrapped up with getting our pairs worked, which is fun work especially if the weather is beautiful, which it was. The calves look great. Between that project, and getting ready for our branding, and helping neighbors with theirs, and gardening projects, and the random sorts of projects that crop up when dealing with livestock, we haven’t had a lot of downtime. The chicks down in the brooder kindergarten in the barn are getting huge, not really chicks anymore and soon ready to join the big girls in the coop. The big girls are laying eggs like crazy. Last week, we finished my greenhouse (I’ll write more about that later!), and I got tomatoes, peppers, greens, and herbs going in it. They have already grown a lot, and seeds have germinated so much quicker than I expected. I’m optimistic about this gardening year!

This past month went by with a lot of “lasts.” The last heifers calved. The last cows calved. The last pairs were worked out of the calving pasture into the branding pasture. The last square bale was fed. The last frosty morning came and went (so far, knock on wood). The last panel was gathered up from around the calving shed and moved to the branding pasture. The last piano lessons were taught for the semester.

We also had lots of firsts. The first rainstorm. (And the next, and the next!) The first pasqueflowers, and then the first of the rest of the wildflowers, and the obligatory wildflower hunting. The first brandings. The first days working calves. The first nights with the windows thrown open. The first true gardening days. My first assignment as a contributing writer for Down Country Roads, a local magazine.

These firsts and lasts are the end of one season and the beginning of another, as calving season and summer are bridged by the excitement of the branding season, the camaraderie of working with family and neighbors, the fresh and early mornings and the warm middays, seeing the sun rise earlier and earlier and watching the sun set later and later. And with all the moisture we have had, we are actually excited for summer! The daily rhythm is punctuated by plenty to keep things interesting, plenty of the things that add spice and savor and sweetness and a little bit of chaos.

It’s a beautiful life. It really is.

| Ordinary Joys |

“The whole world is a series of miracles, but we’re so used to them we call them ordinary things.”

Hans Christian Andersen

It is so easy, at the change in seasons, to start worrying about what’s coming rather than watching the unfurling miracle of each season as it comes. Will we get enough rain? Will the pastures grow? Will the grasshoppers invade? Will the drought break? Will the garden produce? And on and on. And then I look out at my small perennial garden and have to smile. It was 20-something degrees this morning, there was ice on the water by Trixie’s doghouse and by the hydrant in the yard, yet the perennial garden was entirely undamaged, thriving, in fact. These lupines I planted from seed last summer have come up wonderfully and I absolutely cannot wait to see what the flowers look like in a few months time! They don’t bloom their first year, so this will be a treat.

The big picture is great to look at, as long as we remember Who is in control of that big picture. But sometimes we can get so caught up in the big picture that we miss the wonderful pieces that make it up. Like flowers coming up in the springtime, surviving a harsh winter, a resiliently-thriving testament to God’s workings in things big and small.

Weekly Photo Roundup | April 9 – 15

The greenup has begun! All the moisture from the series of snowstorms has worked its wonders on the landscape, putting water in dry dams, brightening up the trees, and giving the first wash of green to the pastures. It was a week that felt slow in comparison to the past few weeks, as calving is wrapping up and winter is winding down and the weather was wonderfully warm, at least relatively speaking. We had our first taste of spring cow work, with an afternoon of preg checking some fall calvers for a neighbor and vaccinating our own replacement heifers. I started some spring cleaning outdoors and indoors, and got my hands dirty in the garden, including getting some bare-root things in the ground. It is so fun to see the perennials starting to come up! The chickens enjoyed their free time more than usual, with green grass to pick at and the first of the bugs.

Spring is here! What a wonderful feeling.

Good for the Soul

What a world of difference a week makes! Barely more than a week ago, we were contending with perhaps the parting onslaught of winter, snow amounts we haven’t seen in a long time; we were cold and wet and muddy, feeding animals that were less than comfortable and covered in a glaze of ice and glistening icicles. We were bracing for the aftermath, hoping and praying the toll on the little calves wouldn’t be too high. The wind howled, snow fell from a heavy sky and swept skyward again in the gusts. Eyes were blinded by the unbroken sheen of windswept white. We staggered around, floundering through drifts to do chores and feed animals, then tumbling inside to warm up chilled hands and toes and face.

This week, it is a whole different world. A hopeful one. Almost overnight, the first frost of green touched the hills, the first green we have seen in months and months of staring at dismally dry pastures in a parched part of the country. Every day the green is deeper, richer, and more. Calves sprawl in the sunlight on warm ground, no longer fighting mud and snow, or race wildly around in a frenzy of fun. Their mamas graze contentedly on the fresh grass, no longer clamoring for hay to fill hungry bellies.

Dams that were dry now have water in them, and the sky is the blue that only comes in the springtime. The wind is gentle, the bite of winter a thing of the past. The bluebirds are back, and the clear, sweet voice of the meadowlark soars high above the rest of spring’s many songs. While we were checking cows, I heard a familiar and strange call, one of those sounds that goes straight to my heart, and searched the sky – Sandhill cranes were making their way north from the sandy dunes of Nebraska, in a shifting V of flight. And yesterday the killdeer were pantamiming along the driveway. Spring is here at last.

My garden is beginning to awaken, with the promise of color and delight and beauty. Lupine and catmint and lavender and chives, verbena and painted daisies and hollyhocks, yarrow and purple coneflowers, all are emerging eagerly from the warming earth and spreading joyful leaves. The green shoots are so good to see, and the thriving of things that survived the winter!

The line between inside and out is deliciously blurred, with windows thrown open, beckoning the spring into the house, sleeping with the wind stirring the curtain by my pillow. Evening jaunts down to lock up the chickens can be done without piling on coveralls and heavy coat, and the first sunburns of the year have marked the welcome change of the seasons. What a glorious free feeling, to have set aside heavy muckboots and heavy coats in favor of lighter, to be unencumbered, moving easily and unhindered!

What a difference from last week, or the week before. What a wonderful difference. It is a spring that is good for the soul.

In the Garden | March Garden Prep

How in the world is it March already? Spring is just around the corner. As bittersweet as it is in the fall to put the garden to bed, there really only ends up being a couple of months before the feed stores are stocking their seeds, seed catalogs get eagerly leafed through, leftover seeds are sorted and organized, new seeds are purchased, and all the plans get made to make this coming garden season the best one yet. It really is fun. And it is hard to beat leafing through the seed catalogs on a wintery, blustery day!

Based on last year’s experiment (really, every year is its own experiment), I’ll focus on my salsa garden, cucumbers, and winter squashes. My salsa garden was a bit of a bust last year due to grasshoppers, the heat, and the fact that my husband unknowingly sprayed my tomato bed with Milestone three years ago. Needless to say, I’ll be planting tomatoes somewhere else and getting a jump start on them with some early planting indoors. Mortgage Lifter, Black Krim, and Romas will be the key features! I’m planning on growing them all in pots in my hoop house, to extend our growing season a bit.

I already got a start on peppers, which take awhile to germinate. Anaheim, poblano, Hungarian wax peppers, and bell peppers are all sown in paper pots and sitting on heat mats in the bathroom. There’s a good chance these will also be pot-grown in the hoop house. Somehow I forgot about jalapenos, so those will be added at a future date!

We acquired some old railroad ties from a horse corral my grandpa built 40 years ago, and have those slated for a few projects, including raised beds for flowers. As we have decent weather to work outdoors, the raised beds will get built and be ready to go for spring planting. Zinnias and cosmos as well as sunflowers will be some of the cutting flowers – it should be beautiful.

On warm days when the soil is soft, I’ll be continuing to prep my garden beds, cleaning out last year’s old plants, turning the soil, wetting it down, and eventually covering the beds with plastic to help kill off weed seeds and further break down the compost I’ve already churned in. The root veggies – carrots, beets, and turnips – will need good, soft soil to grow in, so working the soil ahead of time will help.

Even though we’re a ways from planting outdoors, there is a lot that can be done to beat those winter blues and keep spring coming! If you have any new varieties of veggie you’re excited to try, share in the comments!