Spending Time with The Master Gardener

This day, a misty, rainy day of messy weather, was the second day of learning for me and a few others. My sweet friend graciously drove us into the heart of the city to an arboretum classroom where we participated in a Gardening Study School sponsored by the National Garden Clubs, Inc.

It is always fun to learn, don’t you agree? To peek into a new topic, explore something new and mind-stretching, is something I enjoy immensely. I am one who has always craved immersing myself in discovery. In my school days, I was that one who left her locker lonely while all of the books filled my arms instead. Cradling textbook, fiction and biography, my favorite moments were spent in a quiet spot devouring words and still it is a thing that I love.

After fortifying both body and brain with bagels, fruit and coffee, we all settled into the planned course.

As we dug deep into the topics, notebooks filled with quickly scrawled tidbits for us to remember and our world expanded.

I think I love gardening, although I spend less time there than I would like, because of its testimony. Let me explain.

As learned speakers shared their lessons and I scribbled furiously the words I wanted to take home, my mind wandered. Down a familiar path, I went–A path to THE CREATOR.

Topics of light, humidity, annuals, perennials, they all boasted of His handiwork. As garden design was discussed, I was reminded that we are image-bearers, us the creation of His creating. As we imitate, we bring honor and testify of our Maker and Designer.

The studious learning about the cellular structure, the perfect balance of water and wind and soil and sun, all bring glory to THE SON!!!

At the end of day one, we turned in test packets to measure our retention and then gathered our small band and moved outdoors. Seasoned hands pointed as gentle-voiced guides led us through magnificent gardens adorning the property. Years of planning, plotting and planting was evidenced and appreciated by our merry gang. Walking among flower-strewn paths, inviting benches, and gurgling pond, we were awed by the efforts of knowledgeable and tireless  laborers.

As we stood under shades of great branches, the breeze whispered His name. Hues spoke of His artistry.  Mighty grasses and tiny blooms reminded me of His strength and attention to detail. As birds flitted through filtered light, I saw His provision.

Day two, no less eager to breathe in more, and  in spite of the early alarm clock, my friend and I trekked eagerly through the city’s traffic patterns and settled in. Again breakfasted, we started our morning with another expert.

Digging deep into the topic of environment, weather, seasons, it was evident of God’s perfect harmony. Plants, cultivars, nutrients, all of the topics came and were detailed to describe the ways of His spoken world. As we dug deep into the soils, my soul was deeply satisfied by this One who spoke it all into being. In absolute balance and beauty, we see Him all around us. How else would we be able to attempt the botany and biology of growth, if not for being handiwork of His? Us, a glimpse of His greatness, a minute reflection of His brilliance, how else would scientist/gardeners attempt such as cultivars, farming, feeding hungry?

With the close of our last day, another testing and then images were shared in videos.  As I watched and listened, I learned–learned how ecology and entomology and environment shouted Him again.  The attention to design, detail, distinctions and character of each little bug, butterfly, bee, they all attest to His attention to the least and the lowly, the loved.

I know the classes were meant to share science, but for me, the spiritual was far greater. I am so blessed to have been able to attend this. I can hardly wait to work in my garden tomorrow and say a prayer of gratitude.

As I came home and meditated on all that I had learned, and spent some quiet time in the Word, I came across several more verses pertaining to the garden theme. I will share a few below. (Also, any of the photography and artwork above is available as prints and cards for your enjoyment).

“The tree you saw, which grew and became strong, so that its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth, whose leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in which  was food for all, under which beasts of the field found shade, and in whose branches the birds of the heavens lived. ” Daniel 4:20-21

“I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees.” Ecc 2:5

“The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” Mt. 13:31

“O you who dwell in the gardens, with companions listening for your voice, let me hear it.” Song of Solomon 8:13

“Let my beloved come to his garden, and eat its choicest fruits. “SoS 4:16b

“He is a lush plant before the sun, and his shoots spread over his garden.” Job8:16

“And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.” Gen 1:29

“And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.” Gen. 1:11-12

Send me some of your favorite garden tips, photos and inspiring thoughts below or on my social media spots. I would love to hear from you!

Blessings,

Pamela

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STATE FAIR

Recently, Hubs and I spent a day at the Maryland State Fair. It was a day of perfection as far as the weather was concerned.

Our travel mugs were full, an audio book babbled over the traffic noises and a stop at an exotic wood store made the travel time worthwhile.

As always, we enjoyed our fair date.

As we have grown past the teens of yesteryear, we no longer hit the rides, but instead are content to grab a jug of iced tea and stroll the exhibit aisles.

I especially enjoyed seeing the beautiful hooked rugs displayed by guild members. I am in awe at the workmanship in each piece. It is great to see the ribboned pieces finished and hanging, after so many months of watching fellow hookers labor intensively over them.  Maybe one day, I will even enter one of my own.

Hubs, a photography hobbyist, loved  seeing the photos.  Such a variety of  subjects. Farm animals, puppies playing, fuzzy lambs, bashful babies, delicate flowers and magnificent sunsets graced the framework.  I am glad I was not a judge. With so much talent, I would have run out of ribbons if I had to choose!

Isn’t it amazing to see a carefully preserved snowflake, enlarged to show its uniqueness? How about the emotion provoked by the image of a tiny newborn? Can’t you almost taste the saltiness of the ocean when you gaze into the waves?  There is such artistry behind the lens.

Move with us down rows of long-labored-over creations. These pieces hold so much history in their carefully crafted stitches. Hours upon hours were required to turn simple threads and linens into delicate needleworks.  Afghans showed neat rows of rhythmic stitches and lacy tatting edged fine cotton. Feel the love and hope knitted into small booties and blankets for swaddling.

Do you smell the cedar, see the grain of butternut and feel the smoothness of the polished walnut? Imagine the skilled hands that carefully carved, sawed and sanded the wooden objects that line the shelves? Shorebirds carved to perch on branches, hinged boxes awaiting treasures, and sturdy furniture pieces were exhibited  by master woodcrafters.

Next comes the culinary artists display. Hear the laughter of children as they helped mom turn dough into shaped and iced cookies. Touch the cool silk of flour as experienced fingers work on latticed pies. Can you smell the dill and vinegar when you see the stately pickles jarred ? And look at the size of the pumpkins harvested along with ruby tomatoes, husky corn cobs and prize-winning melons! Can you feel the warm sun and soft mounds of dirt underfoot as you admire the shelves of produce?

Amazing quilts, florals  skillfully arranged, paintings… so much to see!

Next, we headed out to meet the animals, all groomed and tethered, waiting to be shown. Goats, chicks, sheep, pigs, bunnies, alpacas, cows–waited patiently for us to camera them.

I wonder if they realized these portraits would become subjects for future projects, adorning rugs, felted into shapes and carved into figurines?

I will have to say the highlight this year was getting to witness the birth of a baby calf. As we happened by a large crowd, we slipped in to see what was drawing the focus of so many people. A beautiful example of motherhood, a mama labored over bringing her baby into a world of onlookers. She swayed restlessly, obvious concern for her baby’s safe entrance slowing her progress, and finally required support from the compassionate veterinary staff.  As the mother bathed her newborn with her long tongue strokes, the hushed crowd slipped away to let her nurture the new babe. What a sweet reminder of God’s gift of life and  His creation. True Perfection!!!

Of course, a late afternoon lunch was next on the agenda. Fair food, who can resist it?  Shying away from such luxuries as funnel cake, cotton candy, deep fried concoctions and kettle corn, we opted for samplings of shaved lamb and smoked pork to accompany sides of fried green tomatoes and Maryland’s sweet corn. We were not disappointed. Yum !!!

Tummy’s full and feet ready to brake, we spent the next few hours volunteering in the guild’s booth where we distributed information and demonstrated the art of hooking rugs.  It is always so much fun to see the enthusiasm  as beginners pulled loops for the first time.  Children were especially eager to attempt it and a few adults tested their skills, also.  Hooks and kits were sold to the ambitious ones. I hope to see their finished pieces someday displayed, too.

The day was full. The sounds of laughter, the  aromas of food, hay and barnyard life, witnessing new life, all made a happy memory.

Actually, the whole day was perfect.

Are you one who loves an annual trip to a county or state fair? What is your favorite part? Do you love the thrill of the rides, the unique menus, the celebration of winning exhibits and well groomed animals? Do the happy sounds, lights and motions against an evening sky thrill you ? Comment below and tell me what you enjoy most.

Until later,

Blessings,

Pamela

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Carving History

I am a woodcarver.

Wow!!! I didn’t think I would ever say those words. But a few days ago, Hubs and I loaded up our knives, (Yes, I even owned one with my initials burned into the handle), and headed out for  another adventure.  We drove a few hours and across a couple of state lines into the Pocono Mountains  to a lovely lodge retreat. A rustic log structure ringed with stately blue spruces watered by a mountain lake-majestic!  I had packed all of my necessary items, you know, my knitting, a beading kit, rug hooking frame, toothbrush, etc. Leaving home with no intention of carving wood, I was looking forward to our lakeview accommodations to catch up on some serious sleep and entertaining myself while the Hubs pursued his passion to carve chunks of wood into heirlooms.

As we approached our destination, dear Hubs suggested that I consider taking a class or two also. He informed me that the beginner classes promised to be helpful and brief.  After much discussion of my feeling awkward  and  lack of training, I left the idea to ponder.

You see,  a little over two decades ago, my dad, husband, and young sons began carving, attending classes and churning out some amazing pieces. At the time, this busy mom was happy to send the aforementioned sons off in the care of their older generations and chill  while they were being creative. I always admired their pieces and the whole process fascinated me. But I had plenty to do and was content to leave it to them.

I did attempt a small dog figure once with my daddy, but my lack of confidence at handling the super sharp knives and a novice skill level caused me to assume that this ability had skipped a generation.

Maybe because of a desire to do something special with my wonderful Hubs, along with Daddy’s recent passing away, plus my appreciation for the beautifully carved pieces that I have long admired, I changed my mind. Once we arrived, Hubs and  I signed up for a class for the very first night and one at every time slot available to us in our limited time there.

The first evening we were introduced to all of the instructors with a sample of their work. It was enough to convince me that it was something we could enjoy together, even if I had much to learn.

Our first class was together, which gave me courage. Sitting beside my beloved, I put on protective armor. A cut-resistant glove shielded one hand and a leather thumb guard protected my left hand.  Yep, I am a lefty! I watched as one instructor wrapped his thumb round and round with a long cushioning strip of masking tape. Later, I would learn an important trio of cuts, one of which, would make this padding prove useful.

Daring to be different, I chose a roughed out piece of mahogany wood rather than the softer bass wood that Hubs said would be easier to carve.  “No worries”, I thought. It would result in a comfort bird in my favorite color.  The first thing I learned about carving is that some types of wood yield easier to the blade that others. Because of my deep fear of slicing off a digit, or taking off more than was needed to achieve a cute little bird from the stick held in my gloved hand, I made only a small pile of chips that first night. But I was extremely happy. I loved the idea of making this little comfort bird. The teacher said the completed piece was very soothing to hold and stroke. It becomes smoother and more tinted by the oils in one’s hand. A very tactile piece, he gives them to elderly patients and those who can enjoy them to relieve stress.  (As a note, I came home and just finished my third one so far). I loved sitting beside my sweet soulmate and sharing this moment in time together. I loved knowing that he had faith in my abilities and encouraged me to try something new and step out once again from my comfort zone. I loved the idea that maybe it hadn’t skipped me after all. I loved the sweet memories  of mom and me watching men we loved, carving together around vacation campfires. And I loved knowing that I was doing something that my dad loved to do and this connection I felt to him.

The next day, Hubs and I parted ways after a fortifying breakfast of eggs, bacon and coffee, me to the beginner class, and him to a much more advanced class matching his skill level.

While he carved a tall caricature of a sailor, I learned the reasons for stop cuts into the wood, the benefit of the guard when making long sweeping cuts toward my leathered thumb, the added strength of pushing the knife with my gloved thumb. My mentor gave lengthy descriptions of the types, colors and grains of various woods and the importance of safety before we practiced our newly acquired skill set. He then encouraged us, evaluated our progress and presented each of us with a certificate and the words, “You now are a Woodcarver!”

Making new friends, I spent a few hours sitting under a camper awning and learning their stories while we beginners chipped wood onto the ground as if we were seasoned like the rest.  Of course, people are my real passion, art just a way to connect us, so I treasure the new names and faces that I can weave into my own story.

Connecting with Hubs, we talked of our day’s learning over dinner and then moved to a Santa ornament class together. Fortunately for me, his previous carving lessons and a patient and talented teacher sent me away with an almost completed holiday piece and lots more joy.

Our final day sent us in different directions once again. He started a comical  but well dressed bunny figurine, while I bravely started a small Santa statue.

Sitting beside a retired Pastor and across from another new acquaintance, we each worked on different pieces but shared similar stories of faith, family and life experiences as we worked. More names and sweet faces into my life tapestry. What fun!

Due to a demanding work schedule and forced to leave earlier than most, we packed up our freshly-made treasures, new names and exchanged contact information, a few supplies for practicing, and left with joyful hearts and hopes of attending annually to reconnect with our new friends.

What a great journey !!

Tell me your story. Are you a carver, collector, or admirer of this artistic expression? Comment below or on my social media links. Please feel free to share this post and subscribe to receive updates.  Come back later to see more of our finished pieces after we apply a little paint.  I am also digging up some family photos and will tell you more of my dad’s carving legacy.

Thanks Hubs, Floyd, Mary, Jack, Arland, and all the rest for inspiring me,  (and of course, Daddy).

Until next time,

Blessings,

Pamela

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