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.

Ranch Wife Musings | The Best Rain

It slowly, sweetly rained for the better part of 36 hours, filling every bucket and pan and tub that was out in the yard, making the corral blessedly muddy and every little slope a running stream. Each and every step was a splash and splatter of water and mud and the pups endlessly tracked into the kitchen, and further into the house if I wasn’t quick enough. It was the best rain. The kind that comes when we need it most. The best.

The longer the winter, the sweeter the spring. The harder the work, the better the rest. The hotter the day, the greater the refreshment of the evening coolness. The longer the loneliness, the sweeter “I love you.”

The greater the need, the greater the relief when the need is met.

So rain, any rain when it is needed desperately, is the best rain. And the longer it comes, the better it gets. I love to see it streaming down the windowpanes, a sight we haven’t seen in so long, running in rivulets down the driveway and making ruts and mud and such a mess, such a wonderful, beautiful mess! It came slow enough that the thirsty ground was able to drink it almost all up, and any that is left will put water in our dams.

I see relief in the landscape, the animals, the trees and grasses and other plants. The calves looked happier, playing in the rain rather than choking on dust. Cheerful little ducks bounce around in the puddles along our driveway. Cows are glad not to be walking a mile to get to water, and the dogs are just always happy. In a matter of 24 hours, the grass was greener, taller, thicker, and it seems that the alfalfa began to spring up in that short time as well. The fruit trees and the perennial garden look better and better, and the ponderosas are rich and dark, with none of the sickly, yellowish cast they had in the later part of the winter. I can’t wait to see what everything looks like in a week, after we get a little heat and sun on the watered ground!

The rain tapered off yesterday, but we have still had periods of mist and light showers, and the dampness is refreshing and glorious. An answer to so many prayers.

Yes, indeed. It was the best rain.

Ranch Wife Musings | A Life Brim-Full of Life

And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. (Genesis 2:8-9, 15) And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:28-28)

Of all the occupations that exist, the only broad category that existed prior to the Fall was that of the cultivator, the farmer, the gardener. It was the original work God created for Adam and his wife to do, to be keepers of God’s Garden, stewards of His Creation, keepers of the fields and the trees, the livestock and other animals. They were to carefully and responsibly manage the world that God had made. To take care of it. To tend it. To cultivate it. To nurture it. And even after the Fall, this mandate was to continue to be carried out by everyone, but it is especially seen today in those who live and and work as the cultivators, the growers, the caretakers.

It is National Agriculture Day, and most people will zero in pretty quickly on the farming and ranching side of agriculture, and may have a pretty specific idea that comes to mind without thinking of just how gloriously broad this category is, encompassing or touching so many of our most basic needs! Where does your bread come from? The milk in your fridge? Meat? Eggs? Pet foods? Medicines and herbs? Wood to build homes, or wood to heat? In some way, shape, or form, agriculture is involved.

But this isn’t purely utilitarian. So much of the flavor and beauty of living has at its root in the growing and cultivating of life. Trees and shrubs for landscaping. Cut flowers for bouquets. Succulent fruits, nourishing vegetables. Cotton and linen and wool to make textiles for beautifying our homes, all rely on agriculture. Beauty is cultivated, and the abundance of life is made even more abundant.

In so many cases with farms and ranches and the working of livestock, it is generational work, one in which the oldest generation is teaching the youngest generation, where knowledge and skills and values and morals are being handed down, where the family unit truly is the center of the endeavor. It makes me think of God’s command to His people, all the way back in Deuteronomy, the command to “Honor your father and your mother….that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” (Deuteronomy 5:16) One of the great joys living in the agricultural community is seeing families working with families, spouses working with spouses, and being able to live and experience that myself.

And this life! It is the satisfaction of taking a seed and watching it grow and bringing it to harvest. It is the joy of delivering fresher-than-fresh eggs to a neighbor, or serving a loaf of homemade bread to a friend. It is the heart-warming delight of watching a mother cow get her new calf to stand and nurse. It is the pain of seeing death. The uncertainty of dry dams and wildly fluctuating cattle prices. The trust that God will provide. It is a life of working alongside loved ones, to fellowship and break bread, where family upon family from the broader community come together, where names are known from one part of the state to another, simply by virtue of being a part of this community, the ranching community. It is a life and a livelihood richer and sweeter than I could have imagined before God married me to a rancher and into one of the kindest families I’ve ever met, into one of the strongest communities I’ve ever seen. This life is a constant reminder that all that we have is from God, and He has given us the job of stewarding it well. Taking what is and making the most of it, making it more, making it feed our families, our communities.

It is a life brimming full of life.

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!

In the Garden | Winter Sowing

I am so excited to be trying something new! A random Facebook group popped up last week called “Winter Sowers” and after reading a bit about this method of seed starting, I decided I had to give it a try!

It is a common sense method of early (early early!) seed starting that utilizes the natural freeze-thaw cycles to germinate seeds. Essentially, plant seeds in closed containers, creating what amounts to mini greenhouses, in the middle of winter and the seeds will germinate when they are ready. Especially considering how many perennials can be sown in the fall and will germinate in the spring, this method makes a lot of sense. If all goes well, and from what I can tell people have a lot of success with this method, you have exceptionally hardy young plants to eventually transplant to your garden. Why have I never heard of this before? In western South Dakota, we have a short growing season (we’ve been known to have frosts as late as June and as early as August), and very changeable weather, so anything I can do to jump start my gardening is a plus!

So far I have started a number of perennials – lavender, coreopsis, lupine, some wildflower mixes, coneflowers, black eyed Susans – and some greens and veggies – asparagus, kale, spring onions, spinach, arugula, and chives. I planted in a variety of containers and will take notes, containers ranging from Ziploc bags with holes cut in the bottoms, paper pots, old lettuce containers, and seed pots leftover from greenhouse plants last year. After a kerfuffle with the animals, the winter-sown seeds are safely inside the woven-wire fences we put around our trees. I may start others as I accumulate more containers (and inevitably accumulate more seeds).

Check out the Winter Sowers Facebook page if you want details and extensive how-tos! I’m excited to see how this goes!

Weekly Photo Roundup | Feb. 19 – 25