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Gardening delights over generations

Women Walking Together in Faith

By Liz Koop
Mar 13, 2013 | Volume 17, Number 6

With spring just around the corner, most of us are looking forward to seeing the last of the snow disappear as we savour warmer temperatures, longer days and shorter nights, and search for those first green shoots of crocuses, daffodils and tulips to emerge from wintry gardens.

As a child I was always interested in nature and science, and loved the experiments that involved putting bean seeds in a glass jar with a wet paper towel and charting how they germinated and sprouted. Also, sowing vegetable seeds in the family garden and helping to keep them weed-free were jobs that I enjoyed, and the rewards were delicious.

Gardening is still one of my favourite pastimes. During the winter months I spend hours dreaming about what I’ll do differently this year, what new plants I’ll try to grow, which ones I’ll transplant or get rid of, what I can do to produce the best foliage and fruit given the soil I’ve got. And one thing I’ve found out over the years while living on a grape farm in the Niagara Region is that the clay loam that is ideal for growing grapes is not conducive to growing flowers or vegetables. But after almost 30 years of hauling in triple-mix top soil and adding compost, mulch and fertilizer, the soil in my flower beds and vegetable garden has become a joy to work in.

I often imagine that God looks upon us as his garden. We are as varied and unique as the flowers and plants of this world and, like them, have all been created with our unique characteristics, talents and abilities for a purpose. As the Master Gardener, God cares for us. He tends and nourishes us, waters and feeds us, so that we can produce lovely flowers and sweet fruit out of the various soils of our lives to the best of our ability. I wonder, what is the fruit that God desires us to produce personally or collectively within Mennonite Women Canada this summer and fall?

A verse that comes to mind is Galatians 5:22: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

That sounds like a delightful harvest to me!

A family history of gardening

Growing up I remember my maternal grandmother, Oma Regier, having wonderful wide flowerbeds around all sides of her house, which she tended with love and care. In her younger years, she and my grandfather pioneered in Alberta’s Peace River area after emigrating from Ukraine in 1924.

I know that most of the food they ate during their almost 20 years on the homestead was produced by the labour of their hands. When I got married, Oma graciously let me dig up some flowers to start my own flowerbed, albeit they didn’t thrive as well in the soil I had as they had at her house. Perhaps that is why the Parable of the Sower in Mark 4: 1-20 has always reso-nated with me in a special way.

My mother, having raised 10 children, was a gardener out of necessity. I don’t remember a lot of flowers, but do remember rows of carrots, peas, beans, corn, swiss chard, lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers. At one point she was well known in the neighbourhood for her bushel baskets of pickling cucumbers that she sold to customers. We children helped out a lot and learned how to plant, fertilize, weed, hoe and pick the various vegetables. It was a family endeavour and, even though we griped and groaned, we all learned many valuable gardening lessons from her, which I’m sure she learned from her mother.

I feel honoured that some of those gardener’s delights have been passed down to me.

So this spring, as part of the Vineland Women’s Ministry project, I look forward to planning a perennial plant exchange/giveaway on our church parking lot in May or June. And as I collect whatever plants people have dug out of their gardens to share with others in the church and in the community, I hope to pass on some of this love of gardening as we share each other’s stories.

Liz Koop is the president of Mennonite Women Canada.

The author’s grandparents’ Peace River, Alta., homestead (circa 1940s) featuring a garden full of poppy flowers.


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