Welcome back to SOLO at SIXTY!
“Father, plant something new in my life, a sprig of hope that will set me on my new course. Help me to live in the present, spending my emotional energies ON THIS MOMENT rather than squandering them in regrets about the past or anxieties about the future.” Always know that Grace will continue to rain down on you and that will take the little sprig of hope and turn it into a beautiful tree of life. My prayer for you today. (from my dear girlfriend last year)
I have a little garden! My new maintenance-free neighborhood may take care of my lawn and snow, but this 8×10 patch is all mine. I have green beans, okra, tomatoes and cucumbers. There are 8 plots – I am #7.
I have loved gardening for over 30 years, since our first house in Winston-Salem, when our wonderful, older, next door neighbor Ralph helped me till up a big area at the back of our lot and plant a garden. Ralph had a huge garden. Since this was my first garden, he taught me how, when, and what to plant, and when to pick. He also taught me how to can green beans and tomatoes. Sidebar on Ralph: One day, I looked out my kitchen window and there was Ralph shaking out this huge net. I went out and said “Ralph, whatcha doing?” To which he replied in his great Southern drawl, “Testing my minner net.” “Huh? What’s a minner net for?” “To catch minners.” (Minnows – Ralph was also a fisherman.) “Ohhh ok. Good luck!” I loved Ralph and his wife Nancy. They were like a second set of parents to me. Now their hound dog, Duke, was another story. His name did not sit well with me.
“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” Audrey Hepburn
I harvested a TON of green beans, squash, cucumbers, okra, peppers and many other veggies from that first garden. It always seemed that the night before we were going on vacation (back when I only went to the beach for one week in the summer!), my “crop” was in and I was up all night canning beans and tomatoes, which we would then eat throughout the winter. I love green beans – my favorite vegetable (and zero points for you Weight Watcher Peeps!). My kids grew up eating whatever came out of my garden. My dear son in law won’t let a green bean pass his lips but he loves okra. And when my godson (from Maryland) was a little boy, he always loved “Aunt Les’s green beans” (he was not Southern then, though he became Southernized when he went to Wake Forest.)
Once we moved out of that first house, I did not have a garden for 10 years. Then, after 5 years in Charlottesville, my sister and brother-in-law gave me a raised-bed garden for Christmas. They came over in the spring, built the raised bed on the side of my house, put in great soil and got it ready for me to plant. Once my garden started coming up, word spread through the local deer population that there was a buffet at the Madigans! Shut that buffet down the next day with a fence!
“Learn to embrace the storms in your life…for without rain nothing would grow.”
I loved the time I spent working in my gardens, picking beans, suckering tomato plants, watering, and just being outside. It was very soothing. I would cook a dutch oven full of green beans on Sundays that we would eat all week long. Of course I cooked them the good ole Southern way – several hours with some oil and salt, unlike my mom who fried fat back and put that in her beans (shudder!). It always cracked up my “northern” neighbors who were used to crunchy green beans that cooked in minutes – what’s with that? I remember sitting in church on Sunday morning as a child, my poor mother worrying every time the alarm would go off at the fire station next to our church, afraid it was our house on fire because she had left a big pot of green beans on the stove cooking all morning so they would be ready for Sunday lunch. Ya’ll did Sunday lunch, right? Roast beef or fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, rolls, sweet tea, and pie.
“The heart is like a garden. It can grow compassion or fear, resentment or love. What seeds will you plant there?” Buddha
Last weekend I experimented with Cauliflower Rice from, you guessed it – Trader Joe’s. I sauteed some onion, red and purple bell peppers, and grey zucchini from the Farmer’s Market. I had a handful of green beans fresh out of my garden, but I did not have a long time (aka hours) to cook my beans. I have a confession (forgive me Father, for I might have sinned against my Southern roots) – I chopped up my green beans and sauteed them for about 10 minutes with the other veggies and the cauliflower rice, seasoned them with TJ’s Everything Bagel Seasoning, and it was FANTASTIC! And my UNsouthern green beans were great and crunchy. Does that mean I am becoming UNsouthern?!? OH Lawd help me!
“Don’t worry, just breathe. If it’s meant to be, it will find its way.” Holly Kellums
Being outside in nature is such a great way to nourish your soul. If you cannot be by the ocean (where I am this week!) then just be outside. Two weeks ago, my daughter and I went on a “Big Woods Walk” at James Madison’s Montpelier, where she works. They have miles of free hiking trails up there! Montpelier’s horticulturist led us through the woods and I learned so much about the trees and nature around Montpelier. Do you have any idea how good breathing the air in a forest is for you? Even 5 minutes being in a forest lowers your blood pressure and your stress, boosts your immune system, and improves your mood. We hiked for 2 hours – I felt like a Million $$’s!
Before I end, I must remind y’all about the Christmas movies showing this week on the Hallmark Channel! I am watching one (no surprise there!) as I write this blog. It all ends this weekend. Don’t miss out!
And go find a forest or just go outside. It will improve your health and your outlook!
See you next week,