Monday, 27 May 2013

How's your Irish?

10:30pm and still a lot of light left in the sky
You can never say that my life is boring just lately. On the one hand I have been able to relate to a post on the Ploughs and stars project blog, where the author is pictured lying in the field exhausted, just resting his aching back and gazing up at the sky and on the other hand I needed to rest my aching brain, after translating from Irish English to Latvian English. Our neighbours who own a wood products company were a little nervous at the prospect of a meeting with an Irishman about some business and discussing everything in English. I usually take the phone calls, as it is always pretty difficult to speak another language over the phone with no visual clues as to whether you are being understood or not and usually face to face meetings are easier. No disrespect to the Irish, but they do love a good "crack" (translation talk) and at quite a pace too.  I think it is quite a while since I have had to keep up with talking in English at quite that speed, even though I did have a lovely chat with an Irish lady, a friend of my daughter's, whilst in Australia. I'm not really sure if the meeting was successful or not, our neighbours will have a lot to discuss, but at least the actual meeting went smoothly enough and I think the translation went well.

I haven't really been lying in the fields, but it is tempting. The problem is I am always afraid of the multiple varieties of insect life we have in our grassland to actually just lie down in it and that is from previous experience. Ian has continued to cut down a lot of the grass to try and reduce the problems of the flying biting ones that we have a lot of in the early summer and the hope is that it will make life more pleasant for the alpacas this year. We have already started with the mosquitoes, but fortunately they are more of an evening insect and hot weather or windy weather keeps them at bay and makes for a more pleasant time. Everything is growing at such a pace now and of course the grass is no sooner cut than it looks like it might need doing again. I have got quite a bit more gardening done as well as managing to end up with sunburn on my lower back - note to self, where a longer t-shirt of put suncream on there. I also took advantage of a couple of rainy days to work in the greenhouse, a job that has become almost impossible on the sunnier days, consequently all our tomatoes are now in and most of the melons. We are trying two new varieties of melons this year, to see how they fare - Lada and Vidzeme.

That rather thick custard is an absurdly yellow colour, not
from food colourings but due to the eggs our chickens lay.
We have had bright yellow cakes and intensely yellow
boiled eggs too, all because our chickens get access to grass
We have eaten well this last week, asparagus has been featuring widely in the diet - don't worry not too often, especially with its rather embarrassing consequences. One evening I prepared an asparagus, onion leaves, and pea-top omelette, served on a bed of lettuce that had grown from seeds leftover from feeding chickens with gone to seed lettuces and carrots that had been stored over winter. The only items not grown ourselves was the salt and oil and even the oil was a cold-pressed rapeseed oil from Latvia. Other treats were the scotch pancakes served with dandelion syrup that I made last week. That syrup worked rather well, so well in fact that Ian helped me pick a bucketful of dandelion flowers so that I can make some more of it. It is a long time since I have had any maple syrup, but that is what comes to mind when I taste the dandelion syrup. We have had dried apple slices, as we tried out the solar dryer that Ian made last year and that failed due to the lack of sun, or solars as we keep saying. This year a day in the solar drier and the apple has been just about successfully dried. We have so many eggs that we are having difficulty keeping up, but I'm guessing we will have plenty of help soon as our new chicks are ready for hatching out in about 10 days time and about that time we start with the influx of family visitors. We candled the eggs (shone a really bright light through them to see if there is life) and found that three definitely have not been fertilised and two are suspect, but the rest seem to be developing well. So keep watching this space for lots of cute chick pictures soon.

Our eggs in the incubator
I have had to balance the gardening with my uni work though, as I have a few rather close deadlines for things that need completing. One of them is a study plan, that has taken far too long to sort out, but it is now acceptable and ready for sending off. I also have an academic paper to write for a conference that had to be fitted into two pages and not the normal length of a paper which seems to be around 12 pages. It is my first attempt at writing one of these and there were a few new things to learn along the way, such as having to look up "corresponding" in the dictionary for a new version of the word, as in a person who deals with written communication. I had just never used the word that way. When I told Ian, he looked at me in surprise that I didn't know that. Okay I know you have correspondents who write articles for newspapers but corresponding to me was always used in terms of something matching something else, like someone's views corresponding with someone else's views. I am quite pleased that it didn't take too long to write and didn't require a lot of amendments. That is always helpful. There are times I can completely miss the point and fortunately this wasn't one of them.

The prodigal returned, looking a little dishevelled
I forgot to mention our cat went missing for a couple of days last week, she returned on the night we were shearing Herkules our alpaca. I don't know why she gets wanderlust, but it seems to be a regular thing with her. Last year she disappeared about three times, sometimes up to a week at a time. That was usually after a telling off or after she was given tablets which seem to traumatise her. This year, there didn't seem to be any reason at all, unless she was doing a thorough sweep of our forest for tics - she is an absolute tic magnet. Hopefully though the tic medicine will soon sort her out and keep the wee beasties at bay.

It is often said that "there is nothing new under the sun," in fact it is a saying from the time of Solomon, so it has been around a looooong looooong time. The quote below could have been taken from yesterday's paper, the subject matter is so relevant, although perhaps nowadays it is not just Continental farm-produce but worldwide produce.
The fact, however, that Continental and other farm-produce of all kinds can be sold in our own markets at less than would be its cost of production in this country, while the quality is often superior, goes far to prove that there is something in their knowledge of the subject and that it is not all the result of cheap labour or a better climate. "Stephen's Book of the Farm"(1888)
Ian has been reading this book in his downtimes in the caravan and finding it fascinating. The book was used in the programme Victorian Farm as a reference book for most of their activities. It helps to know what some of the more primitive implements were used in the smaller scale farms and how some things were harvested or stored in a less technological age. Sometimes it is good to revisit the past and see if there is anything that has been forgotten about that might actually be relevant for today, it is also good to find out the things that are best forgotten about for good. Not all old practices were bad and not all old practices were good.

Still waiting to go out in the garden, more squash plants.
Let's hope they fare better than one lot, which is being
inundated with snails.
Well I have nearly finished waffling on, but just want to finish off by one of the low points of this week. Having flown all the way to Australia, we had been hoping for a nice lot of points put on our Eurobonus airmiles card, but no! Between Scandinavian airlines, Singapore airlines and Star Alliance the partnership they operate under we find we are not going to get the points. When you book you are allocated a booking class and for some reason the ones we were booked onto, was for booking class Y that does not accrue any points. The problem I have with it, is no one books to get a particular class of ticket, you just book the cheapest on the day, whatever that might be. It seems therefore an utter lottery as to whether the flights are due to get points or not. It doesn't exactly make me feel inclined to be loyal to either airline either now. I think I will be looking at other loyalty cards then, as I will be doing a lot of travelling over the next four years.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Help needed!

Oh yes! That's me in shorts and my
Australian hat. I didn't buy the hat in
Australia, I bought it in Colorado. As
for the shorts, they won't be appearing
much for a while, not because we are
expecting cool weather, but the
mosquitoes have decided it is summer too
Well if anyone fancies a week or two doing lots of exercise, we have a few jobs that you can help with. We are well into the busy period now, so many things have been done and still a lot more to do. Once all the seeds are planted, small plants planted up, then it is just weeding ........ continuously until the end of the season. Actually there is usually a bit of a lull before the harvesting starts and then there is quite a bit of time spent preparing vegetables for storage, but that is still to come. This week we saw high temperatures, more akin to summer than late spring, 25C - 30C (77F-86F). It is a bit of a shock after such a long winter and, as I mentioned last week, everything seems to be hurrying along to summer, including the weather. We've had several thunderstorms already, accompanied by our electric going off for up to several hours. Not what we really want when we have eggs in the incubator. At least the storms have brought some needed rain and so the grass is starting to grow quite quickly now - good news for our alpacas. The trees have also continued in their race towards summer, in only approximately two weeks the trees have gone from virtually bare sticks to full leaf, the change has been quite staggering.

How about that for a lawn then! 
It is not just grass that is growing of course, the ground elder and dandelions too. The dandelions look so pretty as they colour up the landscape with swathes of yellow, but not exactly what we want to see when we are trying to improve the grassland. Ian has been doing mega lawn cutting marathon to try and keep the yellow peril down and I have tried making dandelion honey with the flowers, since we don't have any bee honey at the moment. I thought if this works like the internet article said it would then it would be cheaper than buying any. As it turned out, it made a passable syrup anyway, I needed to boil it a bit more obviously, but I haven't really been at home enough to do that. I found the idea for the dandelion honey when I was confronted with a meal that was decorated with dandelion flowers and I wanted to know if they really were edible or just for decoration. I know the leaves and the roots are fine, but wasn't sure about the flowers. Fortunately the cafe I was in had Wifi and I had my computer with me and so I did a quick search before eating.

Herkules had decided to sit down on
the job, so most of the shearing was
done on the floor.
Keeping the grass cut is not just for improving the grassland to get rid of ground elder, dandelions, wild raspberries and nettles but also to keep the fly population down that bother our alpacas so much. This is especially important as we shear them. Some friends of ours came around from the nearby camp to help us today and lend us their shears, so we had some idea of what to do. Mind you, our helper has only sheared one sheep before, but at least he knew more than we did. Between him and Ian they did a pretty good job and Herkules, our first victim... errr volunteer didn't look as bad as some people's first attempts at shearing, judging from the stories. I think we worked quite well as a team (I said we needed help), there was a young guy who is really strong and he made sure Herkules was pinned down and Ian and our friend took turns in the shearing, mainly our friend, but Ian did have a go. He also got his nails clipped while he was down on the ground. I sorted the fleece out into two sorts, the really good fleece and the rest. It should be sorted out into more than that, but I wasn't sure the cutting would be quite good enough this time around to make a second quality cut. It will probably have plenty of other uses, either as a stuffing for toys or duvets or something like that. Herkules isn't our best quality animal and so it will be interesting to see what the fleece is like off our other two animals.

Here what are you doing in there?
And can we come in, it's raining
In preparation for the shearing we had to clean out the alpaca hut. We use the deep bed system, which basically means that hay is continually piled up on top of hay and only cleaned out once a year. It is nowhere near as bad as it sounds as straw or hay is quite absorbent and as long as there is plenty of fresh hay on the top it doesn't smell bad either. It is also more hygienic than you might think. Ian has reduced the poop pile in the middle from time to time so they aren't standing on a mound, but apart from that this is the first time we have cleaned them out properly since they came back in July. It was a job we were dreading, but in the end it wasn't as bad as we had feared and we had got the job done by the end of the morning. Mind you, the alpacas were hovering, partly because they are always very curious about what we are doing and have to stand have a good gawp and because of the heat, they wanted to be in the cool of the shelter. Who said that alpacas like to be outside all the time? They haven't met ours, they go into the shelter if it rains, if it is too sunny and if it is too cold. Sensible creatures really.

Finishing off
Like I said, it is our busy period and so Ian has sown the buckwheat crop, as it doesn't look like we will have a frost in the foreseeable future and I have sown broad beans, lettuce, radish, squashes, more pepper plants, apple, pear, ash tree, plum and some sweetcorn. The tree seeds are just to see what comes, we love to experiment. The sweetcorn I have planted both under cover and out in the open, since the temperatures have risen so much, but I have planted them quite deep. I have risked putting some squashes outside as the forecast is not for particularly cold nights and I have put them under fleece anyway to protect them from the fierce heat. Even our chickens are busy at the moment as they are regularly laying 6 eggs a day between them, we even think our broiler hen, who we have nicknamed big bird as she is even bigger than the cockerel is laying too. I did wonder if she was getting to fat, but that doesn't appear to be the case.
Now who's a pretty boy then!

Don't you dare laugh! 
On my journey home on the bus. A small taste of Estonia
As I mentioned last week I was in Tartu for my studies. Monday I did a presentation, that I thought went well and the fact later on in the week I was asked to lecture to some MSc students seemed to confirm that. Unfortunately there was no way I could really go up just for one lecture this week, but  I mentioned that I will not have any problems in the autumn semester and the lecturer who asked me was happy with that. I had a meeting with my supervisors on the Tuesday and finally managed to clarify what I'm doing now, so the study plan should be finished this week, rather late but since I don't seem to be doing anything normally then that is fine. Wednesday, I took THE exam! Statistics! I made some really stupid mistakes on the exam, but fortunately did enough to get through. I also finished the statistics assignment and I'm just waiting to see if that was enough to pass or not. To cap the week for my studies, I managed to book on for a conference in Italy and I booked the flights too. It all seems a bit surreal, one moment I'm planting seeds, helping with sorting wool from alpacas and the next planning to jet of to Italy for a conference.

Another view from the bus. It was a glorious day
I sent off my passport this week to be renewed. It isn't due until December, but this is the time I will be doing least travelling and so needed to do it now. I was rather disgruntled though to find that even though it costs £72.50 in the UK, I have to pay £126 and a courier fee of £19.86. I am not sure why being outside the country should make a difference as it still has to go back to the UK to be processed. I can understand the extra courier fee but not the extra £53.50. I wonder how they manage to justify the extra expense? I kind of understood when it was processed abroad, but not now it is all sent to the UK anyway, it just seems very wrong.

On our way home from the land
I was quite relieved to hear this week that the EU can make sensible proposals if they want to. There was some concern that all seeds, regardless of origin would have to be subject to stringent standards. This could have affected small companies that sells seeds, the local seed swap or the larger seed swap organisations that aim to improve the availability of heritage seeds or open pollinated varieties. I realise that biosecurity is an issue, both from the harm that can happen when doling out diseased seed but also to unwanted additions to DNA. The fact is that it is not often that small swaps of seeds are going to lead to big problems with disease or large escapes of resistant crops, it is big business where that happens most often. In fact is is the small seed swappers who keep heirloom varieties or landrace varieties (plants specific to an area and well adapted to that area) alive, these are the sort of seeds that are dropped by large scale commercial growers. If we lose these small varieties we have an even bigger biosecurity problem because it reduces the gene pool we have access to whenever a disease threatens to wipe out certain types of plants or trees.
More help needed. Can anyone identify these flowers for
us. It is a vine with lemony scented leaves.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Spring is here... or is it summer?

The leafy lanes of Tartu. This is taken on
the hill near the centre of Tartu where
the ruins of a Cathedral lie and the vague
outline behind the statue is the outline
of those ruins
What a difference a week makes. It is almost as if spring is racing into summer. One week the trees are all bare, the next they are covered in rapidly expanding leaves. Normally we see a more gradual change, but this year, the late winter has meant there are some trees playing catch up and all seem to be developing at once. I'm back up in Tartu again this week and it has been so nice to walk along the paths that are not covered in ice and, despite the thunderstorm this morning, the temperature is rather pleasant. The last time I was up in Tartu, I was constantly afraid of going outside, in case I slipped on the ice again and hurt my arm even more. My field of vision was reduced to the path in front of me and it took an intense level of concentration to walk on them. This week I have been able to saunter along, taking in the peacefulness of leafy lanes. Watching the guys out on the grass doing push ups and laughing to myself at the fact they had started off so fast but were now struggling to keep going, still they managed more than I could do, perhaps I shouldn't have been laughing to myself. It must have been a club of some sort out training, but I didn't manage to work out what kind of sport they might be training for.

I'm not quite sure what this bridge is here for, but it is on
the same hill as the ruins. There looks to be an observation
point on the top of the mound, but what is viewable from
up there I don't know as the trees have grown up so much
around it. There was also a young couple up there and so
I didn't want to interrupt.
Last week was a week for planting, interspersed with revising for the dratted statistics or attempting the assignment. Ian managed to get the gardens rotavated and the flatter plot ridged up, which meant that we could get the potatoes in and we finished off the last two bags of onion sets too. One plot is on a slope and requires short ridges across the slope to catch the water and stop run off of nutrients and so that plot needs ridges putting in by hand, not as easy as using the ridger on the two wheeled tractor, but doable. At least the soil is not heavy clay and even after a shower the night before it was still easy to work. The plot that could be ridged was much easier to do and we just made holes with my spade, which is smaller, and pop the potatoes in. We won't hoe them up, but put straw around them as they grow to reduce the weeds. The British way of putting them in, maybe more productive, but is so much harder to do and in a wet year would mean the potatoes are sat in water, this way they are sat in the ridges and water can pool underneath them and we still get a reasonable amount of potatoes out of them at the end of the year.

Freedom! The alpacas have been given an even bigger area
to eat from now that the grass is growing well. The area
they had last week, only lasted about two days, before they
had eaten most of it down. They look so white against
the green grass!
Many of our tomatoes are planted in the greenhouse now, but still covered in fleece to protect them from the strong sunlight and any danger of low temperatures. In a few weeks time I will take the fleece off and start tying them up to the metal wires we have running along the length of the greenhouse for support. It is exciting to see the young plants bursting their way through from the trays I planted up and, before I left for Tartu, there were cabbages, chinese cabbage, calabrese, pumpking nut squashes and sweet meat squashes, amongst others, all starting to poke through. Ian also planted up one of our ploughed areas with oats, whilst I continued planting up carrots and beetroot outside. It has been dry since the snow melted and the ground needed a shower to encourage more grass growth and seeds to germinate and we have had that now. By next week I will probably be moaning about the weeds.

We don't have many problems getting them put away now,
they just follow Ian into the shed whenever, he has their
evening feed in hand. He doesn't even herd them in.
I had an interesting time this morning meeting with fellow doctoral students, all a little further on than me, even if it is just a semester. It makes a change from sowing seeds anyway. I was so pleased to hear another student was also struggling with the statistics course, as I at least felt it wasn't just me, not so good for her though. I also found out that doing the course in Estonian wasn't any easier, even though the slides for the lectures are all in Estonian. The task for today was to give a presentation about me and the aims of my research. Being a little older than most students meant my introduction was perhaps a tad longer than most, but folks enjoyed it and there were questions not just about the topic of my research, but also about the alpacas we are raising. My fellow statistics sufferer said it had always been a dream of hers to have some land and alpacas. Maybe we can sell her some in the future.

The carpet of wood anemones look wonderful
On a completely different note, one of the things I have found I am getting quite good at is spotting what I have found out are called Spambots. They are comments that people/companies put on blogs to encourage others to click through onto their webpages. It is obviously too much hassle for them to actually personalise their comment on the blog and so they tend to be fairly vague in their wording, with phrases that are so general they can apply to many different blogs. The trick to working out whether a comment is a spambot, is there is no reference to the blog post at all, not in any direct way anyway.  usually check a comment that I'm suspicious of by copying it into google and seeing what comes up. If the same comment comes up all over the place, then I definitely delete it. If you want to know what I mean and see some of the types of comments that are posted all over the blogosphere here is a site with a list of them. It makes quite entertaining reading.
Ian grading the road with our friend's grader he welded
together. It has helped a lot to flatten out the ruts and bumps
on the road and where the wild boar have been. The areas
have also been raked and seeded with a hay mix of seeds
Updated broken link

Monday, 6 May 2013

The Spring flood!

Spring has sprung. The alpacas in the distance (the white
specks on the opposite side) have been let out of their
paddock to feed on green grass. Unfortunately we still have
bare earth from the winter damage too.
Whoosh and now it's spring! Well that's what it feels like. We left Latvia with a half metre of snow, or thereabouts and temperatures of -18C and when we return the snow is gone, although there are the odd spots where snow has been heaped up in shadowy areas and they still linger, but that is all. It was quite disorientating, all the landmarks we were used to over the winter had disappeared, all the high banks at the side of the road had melted away and there was even a blush of green around the fields. We've had lovely weather since we arrived back, but it is still cool due to a cool wind, but it has meant we can get on with some of the many jobs we need to do to be able to feed ourselves and the animals over the next year.

The voles were busy over winter too. Those
channels through our little blackcurrant
bush cuttings are the remnants of the vole
runs. Hopefully our cats have been doing
their job, as I haven't seen many of the little
critters around.
We said we would hit the ground running and we have, fortunately our flood is more the flood of work that needs doing and not the real floods that parts of Latvia have suffered due to the rapid Spring thaw. On the first day after our return we headed out to the land and stayed out there until about 8pm, so we took all our meals with us. I also took my computer, as I still have my statistics to revise for and an assignment to finish. So in between revising, I planted onions and peas, unwrapped the young trees in the orchard from their winter plastic coats, sorted out the herb bed and flattened molehills of which there were many in the orchard plot. That was the first day.

A combination of damage from clearing snow, trying to
drive on muddy roadways and laying the cable at the
end of last year. Hopefully by the time Ian has graded this
lot and a spot of rain on it at the weekend, we will have a
green and pleasant land once again and not a muddy mess
I am so grateful for spending time making the beds from rotted wood chippings two years ago as they are so easy to deal with - no digging over at all, just remove the weeds and rake over a bit. I did add some alpaca manure at the end of last year to the beds as wood chippings alone are not enough to feed the plants, but apart from that I haven't put a lot of work into them. It does mean I managed to sow onions, parsnips, peas, carrots, beetroot, spinach and salad leaves outside with no bother this week. It is a good job that the beds don't need digging over much anyway as my arm still aches, although it is much better than it was. It aches because I am doing more and more with it, and it protests. My guts are still not right either after that course of antibiotics I had a few weeks ago and I had to resort to the medicine cabinet yet again this week (not that you really wanted to know that, but that's my life at the moment).

First area ploughed
Ian's been busy too and he has two areas ploughed with the two wheeled tractor - much better on slightly wet soil than getting the big tractor out. They are ready now, one for buckwheat and one for an oat clover mix. The oats didn't do well in the wet last year and lodged (fell over) and got a disease called rust (because it looks like rust spots on it) but the clover is still there and some will be turned in and some allowed to continue growing. We are going to plough strips into the clover, as we don't need the whole field for peas, beans, squash and marigolds. Just in case you are wondering, the marigolds are for the chickens to give nice golden yolks and can be used in food for us as well. Ian has also borrowed a grader from a friend, to level the damage done by the wild boar in the autumn of last year. Normally he would use a chain harrow on the fields after winter to level small damage and molehills, but the damage this year was too extensive and needs a more robust piece of equipment.

We managed to fit in a quick visit to the local Spring market this week, so we got some lovely local cheese and two sacks of seed potatoes. One lot of our potatoes we don't want to use again for seed due to the possibility of blight, so starting with a fresh batch seemed the best move. The other batch are full of small potatoes that have sprouted and we will chuck them on the ground and cover with straw, if they come they come, if they don't they don't. Well that's the theory anyway.

One of the difficulties we have of living here is not speaking the language, but it is not always a problem and we are not the only ones that struggle. I saw a local I knew and stopped for a chat, he's actually German and doesn't speak much Latvian, so our conversation was conducted in German and English, but somehow we managed to understand each other. Shows how communication can happen despite the barriers. He now knows we were in the UK and Australia visiting grandchildren and I now know he saw our neighbour driving our car around.

The mess we call the greenhouse, before we
took out the caravan and chicken arks. All
the fleece hanging down is because of the
cats, who have treated the fleece as a
challenge, to see how far they can walk
across it before falling through it. That was
up there to give a bit of shade in the summer
and prevent a little heat loss in the winter!
The post holiday blues, caught me out though and I was feeling a little overwhelmed on our return. The statistics still looms large and I have still to fix a date to take the exam. I have got as far as fixing the week, but not the actual day. The gardening jobs are also stacking up, and we needed to move the caravan and chickens out of the greenhouse, so that is available for planting up with tomato plants which are busy taking over our living room. It took a walk and a song to get me set right again, or at least the title of a song. Adele's song "I set fire to the rain" seemed to shake the lethargy. It is such a ridiculous concept really, but I have felt in someways that we've done that before, done things against the odds and things have turned out okay. If we've done it before, then we can do it again. We feel God has given us this path to walk and if he has, then he doesn't do that without providing the skills and the wherewithal to do it. And if we stray from the path? Well I also trust God to let us know.
Ian backing up to the greenhouse

Caravan on its way out after nearly 7 months of being cooped
up inside

Summer position

Sometimes we expect life to be conducted at 100mph and sometimes it just feels like that is what it is doing, whether we like it or not. But life isn't like that all the time, or it shouldn't be. Life is full of ebbs and flows, season of activity and seasons of dormancy where nothing seems to be actively growing, something that Mark Pixley in his blog talks about. Living life at full pelt will lead to burnout and that is something I'm very conscious of, I've seen it happen far too many times for my liking. Some people can hack it, but from my observations they can only do that by screening out other things and in so doing don't absorb the stress. I wonder if they miss out on other things though, well that's not for me to know. I think one of the antidotes to living life at full pelt is to have a garden, especially a vegetable garden. It is in the garden that you can begin to appreciate the ebb and flow of the seasons. It is in tending the garden that you can see the point of removing some of the good things in life to let other things grow and develop better and at the end of the year, when the frosts come, there is not much to do apart from tidy up and dream of next years crops and pour over seed magazines, the ebbing of the year. I'm not the only one who thinks it is good to reconnect with a garden, as Nancy Sleeth says

"Oh, if every church and school had a garden, how different this world might be! Caring for a garden provides something that cannot be purchased at the grocery store: the satisfaction of eating food planted, tended, and harvested with our own hands. A garden cultivates gratitude, reminding us that every ounce of food that passes our lips ultimately comes from God. And as any experienced gardener will attest, a garden keeps us humble — constantly aware that the enemy, entropy, is very much alive."

Seems like as good a reason as any!