Friday, March 15, 2024

Pruning to flourish...


What a wet season this has been. For the past few months we have had seemingly endless rain, and with that comes soil which never dries out, grass and weeds that grow skyward overnight, and our summer heat combined with constantly high humidity just drains the body's energy so that even simple outdoor tasks are exhausting...but they must be done. 

The upside of all this rain is how wonderful it's been for many of our trees, shrubs, and established plants - though admittedly a few have rotted in the sodden soil. We live on a water table, on the outskirts of town close to the city's dam, with a river just 250 metres from our door, so even in dry months if you dig down twelve inches you will inevitably hit water - and this is why (at the moment) our soil is so saturated from all the rain that it can't dry out. Hanging the washing on the line involves sinking into mud, even on the few sunny days we've enjoyed this week. 

It's been ages since I shared photos around the garden, so this morning I thought it might be nice to give you an update. Last month I wrote about our pulling back a bit and choosing not to grow vegetables this winter (for those who many not have read previously, in the tropics we grow 'normal' summer crops in winter because it's too hot and humid in summer) as we are completely exhausted from years of working non-stop through every season on our quarter acre - with not much reward, but having spent thousands of dollars on soil that just didn't make a difference to the heavy clay we cannot be rid of living on a water table. We have tried 'everything' on our soil, to the point of buying tons of good soil...but it just washes away or sinks down into the clay during wet season to make more clay. Having two very high raised beds is a help with growing herbs and greens, but it has not helped with vegetables at all. 

Our dreams outweighed our abilities and resources when we bought this house in late 2018 - both in the garden, and in life too as it turns out. This year we needed to simplify. 

On with the garden and a lesson I'm learning...

Our four year old Poinciana tree now covers more that half the area of our main yard...

...throwing so much shade that some of our plants struggled to see sun on the rare sunshin-y days, and remained soggy bottomed most of summer. 

It covers part of the clothesline now, and until I pruned some of it earlier this week, it covered the large raised bed at the back of the house and touched the roof. It has even grown so far over our neighbours yard that their dogs lay by the fence under its shade to shelter from the sun. 

The roses, which normally love the speckled sun/shade in summer here, have struggled with all the wet this season and became host to way more diseases and bugs than I'd ever seen on them before. Just as with the tree, I pruned them all right back this week, apart from two, which had a couple of nice long stems that just needed care, so I left those stems and just pruned the rest of the plant. 
The Elder tree had gotten so out of control that it and the Poinciana were almost entwined high in the sky, so that too was pruned rather heavily. The rain had given us a lot of elderberries from the tree this summer, and loads extra for the birds, and for that we were grateful - but it still needs to be kept at manageable size.

Using the long pruning shears yesterday, it occurred to me that it's not just things in the garden that need pruning. We prune roses, fruit trees and other greenery in the garden by removing stems, old branches, spent blooms and overgrowth in order to revitalise the plants, encouraging them to flourish in a new season - and just like plants in our garden, our lives are a series of new seasons, one after the other through the passing of years, and in order to flourish and refresh our souls, perhaps we may need a little pruning too. 

Part of our pruning was deciding not to add anything new to the garden this year, and possibly next, but to look after what was already here. We made the decision not to grow any vegetables either. The effort, expense, and consistent failure of doing this year after year had become such a burden - physically and mentally - that we had to admit it was too much, and we needed to let it go. It was a dream we had for so very long, but hanging on to that dream was not God's plan, just ours, and once we surrendered this dream, we felt the burden lifting. 

The surprising thing though, is the fact that we still grow a lot, and that's the fruit of our labour - the established fruit trees, many which won't fruit for a couple more years; twenty different herbs, and every one of them can be used medicinally as well as for food/flavouring; berries (blueberry, blackberry, elderberry, mulberry); fruit (banana, Burdekin plum, pineapple, fig, pomegranate, dragonfruit, barbados cherry, lime, lemon, fingerlime); as well as Spring onions, sweet potato, radishes, rocket and lettuce. 

Our good raised bed is in the best spot for both summer and winter (as long as the Poinciana is pruned). We emptied two low raised beds from the front yard into it a month ago because the soil was rich with organic matter and worms,  (we won't have any raised beds, or the big brown climbing fence in the front yard anymore, just fruit trees, shade trees and a macadamia tree) and I've planted out flowers, rocket, herbs and spring onions already. Later today I'll fill in the spaces with lettuce, and plant dill under one of the trees. 

This makes our garden far more manageable. I have even emptied pots that were scattered here and there, to eliminate the time it takes me to water everything in the long dry season which will begin in April sometime. In fact pots dry out faster than garden beds, so some days (when its not raining) I need to water all the pots twice, and standing for hours in that scorching sun is no fun at my age - especially when I have a home inside to care for and a family to help. By choosing what we want to grow - things that are not badly affected by tropical and garden bugs - and ditching excess work, plants and dreams we held on to for so long, we are freeing our bodies and minds to once again have enjoyment in our garden. And really, that's SO important for everything we do around our homes. 

If you're not enjoying your home, ask yourself why. Write down everything you do - whether it be in the garden, or in the house - and pray. What do you need to let go of, what needs pruning, what things take up precious time that could be better spent on other tasks or relationships. 

Be honest with yourself - are you getting grumpy from the overload of life? Have you committed to too many things? Have you been trying to keep up with someone else's life choices? Do you have a dream that needs to be relinquished? 

Until we clear away the things which have crowded out our mental and physical space, we can't imagine what a simpler life is able to offer. 

The past couple of months our family have had quite a few health issues to manage, and the more I pursued simplicity and let go of excess in my own life, the more time I had to step forward and help them. 

I am back to loving the garden, and learning what's wise to grow and what is wiser to buy. I am spending time watching the birds again, and each day praying before removing one more thing from my garden, my home, or my life. 
It's important to bring every decision back to the Word. Our example is dear Jesus, who had no place to lay His head, yet promised us we should never worry about what we are to eat or what we are to wear...for the Lord provides when there is a need. 
I no longer want to fill my home or garden with all the lovely things, because no matter how lovely they are, they require more time to maintain than I can ever give. So I'm continuing to prune away...bit by bit, each drawer, each cupboard, each potted plant, each garden bed, each book, each coffee mug, my email inbox, saved photos, ingredients...not getting rid of everything, but the things that hold no real value, need, purpose, or demand too much from me in general. 

How will you pursue simplicity in your life, dear one? Perhaps you already have and are way ahead of me? How lovely if you have. Any tips to share with all of us reading here?


I decided to catch up with things I have promised this year, so next week there will be three separate blog posts to share * the tutorial from here, * the steps for making my bacon/egg/cheese pies, * and the recipe book at last!

God bless you and keep you safe, give you wisdom to make the right choices for your unique life, shine a light on the way forward if you are stuck, provide for your needs according to His riches in glory, bring godly friendships your way if you are lonely, and enlarge your understanding of His Word as you seek truth in the pages of your Bible. May He put on your heart those who need prayer, and may He put you on the heart of others when your own life has need, and I pray His loving presence will be felt always as you go about your day and lay down to rest at night. 

And let the peace of God rule in your hearts....


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Lin said...

Lovely to see the garden again and that tree is amazing! But yes, these things need to be kept in check. And you are still managing to produce so much fruit and herbs. Not all soil is suited to everything and you have found the things that work in yours. Well I definitely need to go through my photographs! - far too many. Have a lovely weekend. xx

Donna P. said...

I enjoyed reading your blog this morning very much. We have also been "going through things" in our RV. Knowing that this will be our home for quite a bit while we travel, we have bagged items we no longer use and head to the thrift store. Our pantry is not as loaded as I'm trying to use what we have, making things from scratch instead of buying a whole lot of items. I'm also recovering parts of the furniture that has become worn. Furniture in RVs tend to fade and tear easily - they're not made to be homes, so they wear down quickly. I've also donated much of my fabric stash to those who will be making quilts for donations. Little things like that but in the long run will make our lives easier. Blessings!

Allie said...

Amazing - I'm in a pruning season myself - internally, as I don't have a garden, lol. What a timely post for me! Wow that tree has grown, truly astounding, your garden looks beautiful and much more manageable. Love you!

kiwimeskreations said...

What a lovely spot you have there, and isn't it wonderful when we put things before the Lord and lay down what has become burdensome.
I have had to prune, as I have gone from a three bedroomed home, to a small rental, to a two roomed 'granny flat' attached to my daughter's home - it has been painful at times, but overall a good exercise - there is still more to divest :) I do all the (vegetable) gardening for the family, (all in raised beds, which makes life so much easier) and there are a few flowers to plant out shortly, SIL does any heavy work in the garden that I can't manage, and it's been good for the pride to learn to ask for help!
I am so glad I have 'found' you

gail said...

Thank you for a really good reminder,Jennifer. I’m doing just as you are and letting go of what’s not needed. Each time we take a box of goodies to our local thrift store I feel a little of that weight lifting.
Blessings Gail.

Mary-Louise Parker said...

Dear Jennifer, Thank you! A lovely post! I totally agree with you! Pruning away things we no longer need. Like you as we get older we have to do things that make life easier and simpler. We can't take things to Heaven. Some Refugees have benefited from some of our clear outs and it makes us so Grateful and thankful for what we have! I need to go through more things! Just back from a lovely 2 daybreak from the wilds of Donegal, my Husband and 2 dogs. Much love Mary-Lou

Kim @ Purring Cottage said...

Once again, sister, we are in the same place as I, too, have been trying to think through what I should invest my time in. Even though I'm a fairly recent empty-nester and feel like I have all the time in the world to do my dream of more homesteading, I sometimes feel rather scattered and rushing and I don't want to feel that way. So a time of rethinking needs to happen, particularly before our growing season starts. Thanks for confirming. Also, I love that prayer with which you closed your post. Beautiful!

Anonymous said...

I hear you about the effort of gardening. We quit long ago because critters of all sizes came to eat from the garden before we had a chance! Same with my favorite flower, the tulip. They were just a salad bar for the bunnies and deer.
Kathleen - kakingsbury at verizon dot net

Joanne said...

Hi Jennifer,
That Poinciana tree sure has grown ! You moved in in 2018 ! Time flies :) You have really learned and shared a lot here at Elefantz over the years. Thank you.
Cleaning and sorting is also part of living and learning as we get older and wiser. Amazing what we thought was so needed is actually not necessay at all. It's all part of living. I'm grateful I can make decision making about materialistic things myself. That book shelf keeps calling :)
Our garden is looking great for this time of year.
take care,

Patty McDonald said...

Another fantastic post!! Hubby and I moved to our 2 1/2 acres in 1976. We had dreams of living off the land and, with hit and misses, we mostly did. Age catches up with everyone and because of hubby's health issues we moved last year....downsized. We are blessed with a large yard but, as you say, we need to know 'when and where to prune'. It's easy to fall into old habits of what we think we need and what we must have. My priorities are God, taking care of hubby with love and patience, and our family. Sounds simple but filling our lives with 'other things' does intrude on the priorities.
Jennifer, I stitched your 'Joy in the ordinary' tea towel for 6 ladies that were at a quilting retreat I hosted....I also crochet the edge like yours. There is a commercial airing here in So. Ca. that has been saying the opposite of 'ordinary' is 'beautiful'. It was a perfect time to give this gift and remind each lady that we need to have joy in the ordinary because ordinary is a big part of all our lives and, yes, there is beauty in the ordinary! God bless you and each lovely lady reading your blog.

Mary B said...

Once again, thank you for a beautiful post. Your prayer was very relevant to me. It's exactly where I am and what I needed to read. I've made a copy of it so I can read it on a regular basis. I too, am in the process of removing things that don't have importance in my life any longer.

Thank you!
Mary in Florida

Ondrea said...

Your garden is still so lovely providing shade and some food with pretty blooms appearing here and there. There is always something that needs doing outdoors and inside but a bit here and a bit there soon gets the job done. The weather is challenging up there but you have managed to cope very well. Slowly but surely is the key. X

Doreen NH said...

I was sitting here on in the NE USA where we received 18" of snow! My poor spring bulbs are probably in shock. I just wanted to say thank you for your faith filled blog post. It does help to know that we all struggle with something similar. I started 'decluttering' in January and I am still working on it slowly but surely. Thank you for sharing your faith and wisdom on this Palm Sunday. May God bless you and yours.

Carla said...

You are always so pleasant and inspiring!
Didn't you guys also have chickens at one point?