Thursday, July 18, 2013

Meant for More

What better way is there to develop virtue than to spend one's time on a hot, cloudless day than carefully scouting out a shade-free area, shoveling bags full of laceratingly sharp wood over a pit full of decaying animal crap, whilst digging through parched, naked earth, indiscriminately yanking unwanted living things from the soil, and futilely swatting at the innumerable armies of blood-sucking vermin attracted to the gallons of sweat oozing profusely from your sunburned, bruised, and (now) bloody skin?

Ah, gardening.

Two of these zucchini plants have been eaten from within.

Our garden has thus far been a source of exercise, food, fresh air, excitement, anticipation, wonder, pleasure, and most recently, total frustration and defeat followed by good, hard spiritual lessons.
We lost two zucchini plants so far due to the dreaded squash vine borer, or SVB. The others are only a matter of time. All of the patience, all of the waiting for the fruits to mature, all of the careful tending and fertilizing have been eaten away from within, right at the core - literally. We got some zukes before the plants succumbed, sure. But the yield was far less than what we expected, or hoped for, or really even got last year from our one zucchini plant.
All of the SVB remedies seem to fight nature and
put human dominance in the limelight.

In figuring this out and doing some research this week, we discovered several ways to treat and prevent the infestation. One way is to wait for the bugs to show up and then poison them. A second is to inject microscopic parasites into the hollow vine tubes to seek and destroy the caterpillars. Another is to take some fairly severe preventative measures in the form of covering plants with specialized cloth. Still others suggest the "slice and dice" method of cutting the hollow vines open, manually destroying the burrowing caterpillars, and then attempting to repair the vines.
All of these seem to miss the point in my opinion, for one reason or another.

They miss the point in that they try to either fight or fix nature.
Ya see, our recent SVB problem has allowed me to look at the bigger picture of gardening. It's not always about just growing food. Yes, that is the main purpose, obviously.

But nothing exists in a vacuum.
And you can't isolate effects from purpose.

The effect of planting so many squashes so near to each other is that it sent a shock wave of good vibes to all of the SVBs in a half-mile radius. I should have added a stack of clean plates and "Take what you want, but eat all you take" sign. The squashes were planted in a vacuum.
Now, after the damage is done, I've come to realize that squashes benefit most when they live in community with other plants, like garlic, marigolds, cloves, mints, and other strongly scented herbs and flowers. The other plants provide beneficial scents and chemical protections, overpowering the detectors of various pests and keeping the zucchini vines safe. The zuke, in turn, provides something back to each one - large, spiky leaves to deter small mammals, and large flowers to attract pollinating bees.
Furthermore, the SVB is really only active for two months out the year - June and July. So spacing our squashings outside of this window should provide some extra armor against this nasty lil' bugger.

God had already designed a solution from the beginning.
But isn't this always how He works?

Even among us humans, God gives some gifts and abilities to others, and different gifts and abilities to others, and still a greater variety to still more, and so on:
For as in one body we have many members, but all the members have not the same office: So we being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
And having different gifts, according to the grace that is given us, either prophecy, to be used according to the rule of faith; Or ministry, in ministering; or he that teacheth, in doctrine; He that exhorteth, in exhorting; he that giveth, with simplicity; he that ruleth, with carefulness; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.
Let love be without dissimulation. Hating that which is evil, cleaving to that which is good. Loving one another with the charity of brotherhood, with honour preventing one another. In carefulness not slothful. In spirit fervent. Serving the Lord. Rejoicing in hope. Patient in tribulation. Instant in prayer. Communicating to the necessities of the saints. Pursuing hospitality. Bless them that persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that rejoice; weep with them that weep.
Being of one mind one towards another. Not minding high things, but consenting to the humble. Be not wise in your own conceits. (Romans 12:4-16)
Different countries. Different languages. Different people. Different gifts.
One Church.
Every individual in the Church brings something unique for the benefit of all. Likewise, every plant in a garden brings something unique to the benefit of the whole garden. A garden full of squash is like a Church full of ministers: lots of fruit potential, but open to being quickly eaten at the core by a lack of strong herbs (teachethers of doctrine) to keep away the predators. Mixing them together keeps everything stronger.
The heavens shew forth the glory of God, and the firmament declareth the work of his hands. (Psalm 18:2)
The is the glory of God - that His creation unites with His will.
And the glory which thou hast given me, I have given to them; that they may be one, as we also are one. (John 17:22)
Jesus is obviously speaking about the Church here, but really, through Christ ALL things (even zucchini!) are made. God desires ALL things to be one, to work how He intended them to work, to function in communion for the benefit of all.
And yes, God designed the SVB, too, but not to infest a garden planted in vacuum. Or maybe that's exactly why - to get the garden into a more holistic whole, relying more on faith and less on our ability to control nature's outcomes. Or maybe it was to have them keep the zucchini in balance - it grows and produces so rapidly that I could see it becoming an invasive species if allowed to go to seed and sprout unchecked.

Only He knows.

But I suppose the whole point of this is not some long-winded way to say that I now get the concepts of companion planting. I do - believe me. I've already got the gears turning for layouts and charts and plans for next season.
The bigger picture is that I now have a clearer understanding of how God works in nature. He didn't design anything to work in a vacuum. We need others in the Church like zucchini needs garlic and nasturtiums. Our individual gifts enhance the whole.

So there's one spiritual lesson I learned from gardening this year. Now, on to that whole patience thing.....

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