Friday, May 16, 2014

A Long Winter

As many of you may be aware of who live in the United States it has been a long cold winter.  Even today on May 16th there is word of some snow in Chicago.  Strange but apparently true. As we celebrated the Memorial of St. Isidore, the Patron Saint of farmers this week, I thought it might be timely to share some experiences from our garden.

Now I must tell you we live on a very small piece of land in a town so garden space is precious.  Two years ago our family tried to grow parsnips for the first time in one of our raised beds.  The seeds were planted in the spring.  All summer and fall we waited and watched as these tiny seedlings barely grew. As fall harvest came we looked at these tiny little plants and realized for some reason they had not made any parsnips.  It was generally a great disappointment.  Not wanting to pull out living plants at the end of the season we left them in the ground.  The next spring we noticed some very thick green shoots that looked much like a carrot green but thicker.  I wasn't sure what it was for a while.  By the time I realized that indeed these were some of the parsnips from the previous summer the plants had "bolted" a term referring to the plant sending up a shoot to form seeds.  The children pulled out the plant to reveal a tiny parsnip too tiny to eat. I was disappointed but in reading a very old gardening book written by a gardener from our area, it explained that if a plant makes it through a winter it will indeed produce fruit but harvest quickly as it will go to seed very fast.  It has been through so much it quickly tries to ensure the next generation before harsh weather kills it.  With this piece of knowledge I was poised for the following year.  We left the remaining parsnips that had gone to seed and left them alone.  In the fall the whole bed looked like snow with parsnip seeds through the whole bed.  There were also some random little parsnip plants as well. With record cold this year I wondered if any of the plants would live through the winter.  As the snow melted one of the first things to emerge were 5 strong shoots.  There was no mistaking them this year.  A few parsnips had made it.  

As my hands are too weak now for gardening due to a disability with my joints I called our son Asher who is in first grade.  He came over and with all his might he pulled.  One of the medium sized parsnips on the table came out.  We were intrigued by the many extensions that came out of the parsnip.  The one he had pulled out had three distinct roots all attached at the top.  He began to try to pull another one out but could not.  Later our 13 year old daughter Alina and my husband set to work to remove the others.  It was comical to see them sinking their hands deep into the ground trying to get under each root.  Pulling very hard they came to light. These larger parsnips were even more unusual looking then Asher's first one.  This was all new to us.  We wondered how these strange looking parsnips would taste.  With a roast chicken these roots were cut up.  The roots were so big we needed a second glass dish to cook the remaining ones.  As our family sat down to dinner we all could not believe how sweet these parsnips were.  My husband said he thought they were the sweetest parsnips he had ever tasted.  A couple of things struck me about these parsnips.  
Through the severe weather of the winter with extreme cold and harsh conditions a few things happened.  The parsnips lost their "normal" appearance and were deformed.  This deformation allowed them to extend like many tiny fingers into the soil so removing them was a difficult task indeed.  As weather broke and fair weather came they were the strongest looking parsnips I have seen with thick healthy shoots.  Their mission was not to sit around and enjoy the weather but to pass on what they had to future generations...quickly.  Upon removing them despite their disfigured appearance they were tender and sweet.  

The effect of "suffering" or trials on these plants seemed much the same as the effect suffering has on us when we unify it with the suffering of Our Lord.  We may less and less resemble our old selves but to Our Lord these sufferings produce sweetness in our soul when endured with love.   Our ability to sustain and survive further trials increases and when the sun comes out our leaves are thick and lush.  We care less and less for the material things of this world.  Instead we have our eyes looking upward and also have a desire to pass on such faith to our children and the next generation.  It is beautiful that Our Lord who spoke often of farming in the Gospels, helps us understand many things through nature around us and toiling with the land.  These lessons are particularly helpful for our children who love to work in the garden and who in a special way seem to understand many of these things easily.

You may also like the following posts:
Finding Answers to Our Spiritual Questions in the Garden.

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