This might seem like a strange title for a post at the end of May, but until a few days ago, the wind still had a cold wintry bite.
I live in a wet, windswept corner of the Scottish Highlands where we are used to grey skies, rain and above all, cold weather. Temperatures of less than 10 C in July are not uncommon.
Spring can be cold, with frost in May or even June. Sometimes the excess rain can be a problem, with potatoes put into the ground in dry, sunny days in April, rotting in flooded soil after a wet spell in May. In the past, people built the soil up into long ridges (feannagan or lazy beds) and added sand and seaweed to improve drainage. Nowadays, we still do much the same thing although they are smaller and we just call them raised beds.
My hobby is growing vegetables and it’s always a toss-up. Do I plant earlier and give the plants more time to grow? We only have a very short growing season with winter gales returning from September. Or do I hold off and plant later in May when we can usually be sure of milder weather.
This year, I was a bit over-enthusiastic. We had a cold but sunny winter and a similar, although slightly less bitter, spring. After a run of sunny days in April, I was chafing at the bit. I wanted to get planting. Surely the sun would have warmed up the soil.
I had ordered some Jerusalem artichoke roots, and they were already sprouting shoots. In the first week of April, I got the kids to dig some holes and we planted them.
Jerusalem artichokes grow from roots, a bit like potatoes although they look more like a ginger root. You can eat the root, but they have a reputation for causing flatulence. The reason I’m growing them is that they form a tall, flowering plant which makes a good wind break (I mean wind as in weather …)
I planted the Jerusalem artichokes near my vegetable beds and then tried to be patient. Two weeks passed, with no sign of the new shoots, but it was early yet.
Three weeks went by and there was still no sign of the Jerusalem artichokes, but I wasn’t too concerned. I busied myself planting peas, beetroot, potatoes and carrots.
After four weeks had passed, I began to get worried. When it got to five or six weeks, I gave up altogether on my roots. They must have rotted in the soil.
The pea seeds also seemed to have rotted. Out of thirty seeds planted, only two to three had come up. Likewise there was no sign of the carrot or beetroot seedlings. Meanwhile the plants I’d started indoors and put out in April were huddled under a net, their growth slowed by a biting east wind.
Planting requires a mixture of skill and judgement. Is the seed fresh? Have I added enough feed to the soil? Is the ground warm enough? In the end, though, it requires an act of faith to put a dead-looking seed in the soil in the hope that it will sprout into green life.
This year, I felt like I’d got the planting wrong. It just seemed like another thing in a long list of things which had gone wrong in my life, despite my best effort.
However, all was not lost. I’d simply not had enough patience. A few days ago, I saw the first Jerusalem artichoke shoots poking above the soil. It had taken more than six weeks, but they were there. The beetroot shoots have come up, as well as some of the peas. I’ll fill in the gaps with the peas I started indoors.
Only one carrot seedling was in sight. Just to make sure of getting carrots, I started planting more seed, and in the process uncovered a few seedlings. Oops, I should have been more patient.
Signs of spring
When I look at the seedlings in the vegetable patch, I feel as if God is chuckling at me for having so little patience and faith that anything would grow.
I need to have more patience in my own life, too. The last year has been incredibly difficult with one of my kids getting ill and having to give up any kind of work. However, even though there has been no rapid, dramatic change for the better, there are still signs of spring.
Sometimes I am like one of the green seedlings put out too early and exposed to the wind. Because I’ve been bitten by the wind, I’m afraid to grow and try new things even though the weather has taken a turn for the better.
Maybe, too, our lives are a bit like the Jerusalem artichoke roots. Even though we can’t see what’s going on, perhaps God is getting things ready and making things grow.
I just need to have more patience.