Sunday, August 23, 2009

Dominion Over the Back Yard

We didn't plant melon this year, but we bought some from a local fruit stand that was quite delicious. So delicious that we didn't throw the guts away like usual. My first batch of honey rock melon seeds is fermenting away in a big mason jar on my countertop. Fermenting removes chaff from fleshy fruit seeds like melon, tomatoes, cucumbers, etc., before they can be dried and stored for next year's garden.

Gardening is far more than sticking a plant in the ground and watching it grow. With a little effort in the right places, we won't have to spend another dime at a nursery. It's still a little too early to harvest seed pods from our annuals, and since we planted a little late our harvest is coming in late, so all we have are melon seeds. Still we spent the weekend in the yard weeding gardens & flowerbeds, spreading compost, re-staking tomatoes, moving a couple perennials from one bed to another, and tending our "new" mulberry bush.

The mulberry bush started out as a tree. Well, not exactly--this tree was just taking over our and our neighbor's back yards. Mulberries can grow up to 75 feet high, and this one was going for it. So earlier this year my husband and our neighbor cut the huge mulberry tree down to a stump. The mulberry isn't giving up. This stump shot out dozens of new branches, and suddenly we had a mulberry bush. Today we pulled it in with twine and pruned it into a nice hedge. It should retain the shape after about a year of being trained, but it will need careful tending so that it doesn't take over the backyards again.

God created man in his image...[He] blessed them, saying: "...have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth."

The more time I spend in my garden, the more I realize that less meddling with the plants is best. Dominion, after all, can be approached in two very distinct ways. I read something in one of my new gardening books titled Food Not Lawns that says it best: "...when you're asking the question Should I prune my grapes? try to see yourself as the willing servant to the garden, not the master."

The willing servant. Not the master.

My pink tea roses are a good example. Two years ago they were doing terribly. It's no surprise, though. "The master" was just torturing the poor things. I moved them three times and pruned off the new growth. They had three blooms. No kidding, three. Last year I had to prune them again just to get them into a normal shape. I also moved them, but only once, into a sunnier spot. They had more than three blooms, but it was still pretty sparse.

This year I tossed the master aside and instead approached my tea roses as the willing servant. I pruned off only three dead branches. I gave them a heaping shovel of compost. That was it, other than watering them. My tea roses doubled in size, producing dozens of beautiful pink blooms. Serving my roses gave me more results than trying to master them.

Back to the mulberry...just last night we were talking with our neighbor about what to do with that bush. Ultimately we were making a we act like the master and rip the sucker out, or be the willing servant and train it into a hedge? As you've already read, servant won out. The funniest part of this story is that we weren't even right about the kind of plant we had. We thought it was an elderberry bush gone completely insane. It was only just an hour before I started writing this post, when researching complimentary plants for the elderberry, did I discover our little mulberry bush's real identity. (nope, never saw an elderberry bush before, either.)

I also discovered that mulberries have no shelf life, so really the only way to ever enjoy fresh mulberries are picked right from the tree. What a shame if we'd have dug it up! Mulberries also make delicious juice, syrups, jams & preserves that you can't find in stores without paying out the nose. Every part of this plant is usable either as food or medicine, and mulberries produce a huge yield of berries, even from a relatively small bush.

Next spring I'll take a couple of clippings and start some new mulberry bushes. Maybe I'll plant a couple of rose bushes around them too, and in a few short years we'll have us a little mulberry hedge grove.

I think I'm going to like having dominion over my back yard as the willing servant.


Eddie Ray said...

Now that I think about it, all's we had to do was ask Juhan what kind of berry it was.
Where did I get Elderberry from????????
Maybe from an old song running around in my head.I believe all this holds true for people.
We as humans have no right to try to "Master"
over anybody.Step back,don't be hasty, and those around us especially those we love the most will grow in body and spirit.

Joe Strain said...

Reminds me of the following:

We must understand then, that even though God does not always give us what we want, He always gives us what we need for our salvation.
-- St. Augustine

Gina said...

Very true, Eddie Ray. How often do we cause chaos for others when we're trying to force our order on them? Instead of being the master and forcing others to live around your habits, no matter how superior you may think they are, it's always the better plan to make room for those around you, and let them manage their lives themselves. Otherwise even the people you love the most simply ccan't function.

Gina said...

Joe----how true. Thank you for reading! It's amazing how often St. Augustine runs through the mind whenever we talk faith. His insight is universal---of course because His God, the Lord almighty, is universal.

Anonymous said...

Gina, wonderful article. I love when you compare tending your GREAT gardens/yard to scripture....maybe some day others will actually have that "light bulb" turn on over their heads about the TRUE meaning when using the word "dominion". it is NOT a self-serving word. it is a word of "taking care of", "tending to with love", and "service for others than ourselves".......... Oh, by-the-way. THANKS !!!! Now I am going to have that stupid "POP GOES THE WEASEL", (mullberry bush) song repeating in my head ALL day long.. ha ha... all my love, Janet

Gina said...

Hi Janet! Sometimes the only time I really can hear the voice of God is when I'm in the gardens. Everything I read in scripture seems to make sense there.

Regarding the song---join the club, sister, I've had it in my head ever since I found out that it was a mublerry bush! HAHAAAHAHA!!!

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