Last Week was Busy in the Croft

Just a few pictures from this week:

We’ll be harvesting the leaves and roots of this plant to be dried for later use.

Grainmaster grain mill

We hope to use this attachment to our Champion juicer to grind our dent corn when it’s dried and ready for harvesting.

None of the things we canned were grown in our garden. The okra was given to us by a friend. The blueberries were frozen. And the potatoes were given out for free at a truck stop just down from our house. We were sent home with 144 pounds of potatoes! We still have MANY quarts to go!

Herbs drying: chicory leaves, sage, oregano and strawberry leaves
Leaves after drying

We’re drying some of these for use later as spices and some as a blend of healthy herbs that can be added to dishes to increase the health benefits.

Jicama is a plant that grows a tuber underground that is a very tasty starch. The good thing about this starch is that it doesn’t spike blood sugar, so it’s pretty healthy. The thing you must remember though, is that the leaves, stems and flowers of the plant are poisonous.

Bread

That’s it, I think. We did try a loaf of bread in our bread maker. My mother-in-law sent it early for our July anniversary. It looks pretty, but didn’t taste the greatest. We’re still working on our bread recipe to find something we like.

We made a few goofs with our canning too. It seems like preserving our garden harvest is much like the gardening itself – lots of trial and error.

Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might…

Ecclesiastes 9:10

No worries. We’re not discouraged. We’ll just keep trying until we get it right.

Alesha Kay

Information Gathering

We started gardening, in earnest, in February of 2021. Because we’ve been doing this just a little over a year, now, we are still learning so many things.

We learning that radishes aren’t a food we enjoy, ginger grows really well in our soil mixture, oregano is happy, happy when crowd-grown in a 5-gallon bucket, and we love fresh black eyed peas.

We also find ourselves researching different plants, trees and vegetables that we’ve never heard of until this last year: chayote, cassava, jicama, strawberry tree, chaya, cucuzzi gourd, and Spanish hog plum.

Jicama

This month, I’ve looked up “how to harvest echinacea”, “how to clean jars for canning”, “190* Celsius to Fahrenheit”, “how to can potatoes” and “how does chicory grow”, just to name a few.

Chicory on a trellis

It’s so great to have search engines and web sites to find the information that we need on any given subject. It’s fast and easy to find almost anything on the interwebz these days.

You know, life has a lot of unknowns, too. Every day of our life, we experience situations, emotions and troubles that we’ve never dealt with before.

Wouldn’t it be great to have a search engine to find all the answers we need for every question in life?!

We do have that Source of answers! It’s the Bible!

But you have to know that it works a little differently than Google.

You can’t just run to the index to figure out how to deal with a back-stabbing friend. And the word “vaping” doesn’t appear in the King James Bible. And where do we go to read instructions on budgeting or construction?

[9] Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me.
[10] But thou, O LORD, be merciful unto me, and raise me up, that I may requite them.

Psalm 41:9-10

Interestingly enough, the Bible does speak to these subjects. But sometimes it’s hard to nail down the exact verse that you need.

All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.

I Corinthians 6:12

That’s why it’s so important to just read the Word. Every day, multiple times a day, spend time just soaking up the words that God left here for us.

For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?

Luke 14:28

And don’t just read. Pray! Ask the indwelling Holy Spirit to lead you to the right verses and open your eyes to the answers that the Lord has for you.

The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.

Proverbs 22:7

And lastly, don’t give up! Keep reading. Keep studying. Keep digging into the Words of God, looking for your answers.

The Bible isn’t a search engine, as we think of it today. But it does have the answer to every question we have in this life.

When you don’t know, read until the Lord gives you the answer.

Finding out everything I need to know,

Alesha Kay

Life and Death in the Garden

Hebrews 11:13-16

Right now, our entire croft is a sea of green. Everything is growing and the garden is full of life and beauty. This is the prime time for growth here in Florida, when the rainy season begins and all the plants start to do really well.

Cuccuzi Edible Gourd

However, if you know how to read the subtle signs, you’ll also see that the heat is beginning to get the best of some of the plants, they are getting brown leaf-edges and their leaves are curling in response to the near-100* temperatures that they’re enduring. In the deep South, death often comes right on the heels of life in the croft.

Purple Hull Peas and Moon and Stars Melons

We see this process even in the early spring as we start sowing seeds. We drop each little seed down into the soil and wait for it to die. It literally cracks wide open in death as life emerges from the seed pod.

Life to Death to Life to Death.

This is the cycle of the garden croft. It is unavoidable.

As I’ve watched this cycle run its course in our organic garden these last several months, I’ve noticed something.

The closer a plant is to dying, the harder it works. It puts out more fruit. It goes to seed. It does everything it can to duplicate itself before its season of growing is finished.

Echinacea blooms

Maybe you feel like your season of blooming is over. You’re weary of the passing of the seasons and you feel it’s time for other plants to take over and flourish in your area.

If that’s the case, I encourage you to do everything you can to duplicate yourself. Witness. Share the Word. Give your testimony. Talk about God’s work in your life. Invite people to church with you. Help someone who is struggling to see how God met your need. Write down your memoirs. Tell your friends your story of how God rescued you from sin.

Even an aging plant has a purpose in the garden. It’s how the seeds are created for the new life that is to come.

Painted Mountain Corn in a mulch of oak leaves

And, come to think of it, even in death, a plant can continue to benefit the garden. Most crofters today use dead plant material in their compost bins, or they just chop and drop the dying plant material right there in the bed to continue to nurture the soil as it decomposes.

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.
And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.
But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.

Hebrews 11:13-16

Our entire Christian life – from second birth to death – has a purpose larger than ourselves. The beauty and life that we bring, the fruit we bear, the seeds we sow, the testimony of our life for Christ continues long after we are gone.

The souls we led to Christ go on to bring other people to Him. The stories of our testimony encourage and comfort others.

Your life in the garden is vital. Make sure yours tells the story of your great Saviour.

Alive in the Croft,

Alesha Kay

Let’s Talk Dirt

Dirt is an important subject for the crofter. While most seeds can sprout with just water and light as a catalyst, it takes more than that to encourage good growth for the plant and its roots.

A plant needs to be in good dirt. Or better said, in good soil. There’s actually a great deal of controversy today over the use of the terms “dirt” and “soil”. One is deemed to be “dead” and the other “living.”

So, what makes good “soil”?

Basically, it’s the individual components that make up a good soil.

The term “organic” is used for the part of soil that comes from living things. Those living things are bacteria (single-celled microbes), fungi (spore-producing organisms), protozoa (single-celled animals) and nematodes (worms).

The three main nutrients in soil are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). Together they make up the trio known as NPK. These are the numbers that you see on bags of fertilizer, such as 10-10-10. Those numbers tell you how much nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are in that fertilizer. And always in that order, just so you know. 😉

But there are so many other nutrients in good soil, as well. Just in much smaller ratios. These include iron, manganese, zinc, copper, boron and molybdenum.

Air and water are equally important to soil. Soil must be soft enough that the organisms living in it can move around freely. When they do that, they break up the soil, allowing air and water to move through it.

In the Gospels we find Jesus using a parable about a sower (gardener). He talks about what happens when the seed lands in good soil.

But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.

Luke 8:15

I think we can break down the good soil of a heart just like the good soil in a garden:

We must have the “organic” life in our heart, too; and that comes from salvation. That moment when we yield our heart to Jesus and accept His payment for our sins. That is when we come alive!

Then we must have the teaching of Scripture in order to grow well. The doctrines and stories of the Bible give us all the “nutrients” our heart and mind need in order to live well.

We rely on the “air” of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, to guide us day by day. In all area of our lives, He is intertwined, and He breathes into us the answers that we need for everyday living.

Lastly, we must have the daily washing of the Water of the Word (the Bible) in order to grow as a Christian. Without it, our souls will shrivel up in anger, bitterness, selfishness, greed and lust. Only by daily cleansing can we grow to be like Christ.

Our amazing Master Gardener set all of these things into play when He planted that first garden in Eden. He knew that man would sin, and that not only would the soil be cursed, but also that OUR SOULS would die.

So He provided the perfect combination of forgiveness and salvation by His death, burial and resurrection.

Now, I’m wondering, have you had that spark of LIFE in your soul? If not, why not? Life can only be lived well when we are ALIVE in Christ!

If you have any questions about how to find that new life in Christ, just let me know. I’d be happy to help.

In His Life,

Alesha Kay

The Master Gardener’s Provision for the Croft

When God planted the garden of Eden, He provided something that is still very important to every garden today. He provided a source of water.

And a river went out of Eden to water the garden…

Genesis 2:10

God provided a constant source of water for everything planted there in Eden. Water is crucial for all garden life.

  • Water nourishes the cells of the plants in the garden. Plants are 80-90% water. They need water – quite literally – to hold them up. Without it, they would just lay on the soil, where they’d be susceptible to disease and rot and pests.
  • Water helps plants regulate their temperature. They tend to remain too hot or too cold for too long without water.
  • Water carries nutrients from the soil to the plants. All those microorganisms and elemental nutrients that are needed to grow the plant are carried to it by the water coursing through the soil.
  • Water can remove contaminants and pests. Blasting detrimental bugs off a garden plant is one of the best ways to get rid of them.
  • Water is necessary for photosynthesis. Plants use water, combined with the light from the sun to create the energy they need to grow and reproduce.

Scripture tells us that Water is crucial for all spiritual life, too.

For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater:
So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

Isaiah 55:10-11

The Word of God is our source of spiritual Water:

  • God’s Word nourishes us. It helps us remain upright in character and morality.
  • Reading our Bibles keeps us from being too hot – critical of others – and too cold – uncaring about others.
  • Studying the Scriptures brings us instruction, guidance, good doctrine and direction – the “nutrients” that will help us to grow as Christians.
  • The Word of the Lord washes out harmful thoughts, sinful desires and selfish tendencies that will harm us and keep us from becoming the Christian God wants us to be.
  • We must have the Words of the Bible flowing through our hearts and minds to grow as a Christ-follower and lead others to Him.

The gardening experts tell us the best time to water the garden is in the morning, before the heat of the day exhausts the plants and before the pests wake up to do their damage in the croft.

It’s a good practice to get the Word of God washing through your heart every morning. Before the day begins to rush forward, before the demands of others begin to pluck on our nerves – this is when we should be soaking our souls in His Bible, gaining the spiritual nutrients we need for the day ahead.

How well are you watering the Garden of your Heart?

If you’re feeling a bit weak or parched, attacked or stagnant, get your feet wet in the Water of His Word today.

Crofting for Him,

Alesha Kay

Traits of the Master Gardener

Genesis 2:8-9

I love to think of God planting that first garden in Eden. Can’t you just imagine Him bending down, kneeling in the dirt, touching each little seedling as He planted it, talking to it, speaking life to it as He put it into the soil.

When I imagine this scenario, I never see God’s face in my mind’s eye, but I do see His legs and torso. He’s always wearing denim overalls in my imagination! It amuses me that I see the Lord God this way, but only when I think of Him in the Garden.

Overalls in the Garden

I can imagine Him humming a little tune as He walked through the rows, touching a leaf here and there, noticing a tiny little pepper popping up or encouraging a butterfly in its work of moving pollen from flower to flower.

It astounds me that the Lord didn’t just speak Eden into existence. He could have. That’s how He accomplished much of Creation during those 6 days. I think it would have been “easier”. We all know, either from experience or from hearing others talk, how much work it is to plant a garden!

And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.
And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Genesis 2:8-9, KJV

But verse 8 says “the LORD God planted a garden…” Amazing, right? He actually planned and planted each tiny seedling, plant, tree, vegetable and fruit in that garden. Can you imagine how beautiful it must have been?

When we think of God as a Gardener, it brings to mind those strengths we commonly attribute to gardeners, farmers and growers. A gardener has a plan. He or she sows seeds in specific places for maximum growth. They wait patiently for plants to sprout, grow and produce. Gardeners are nurturers. They pay close attention to each little plant making sure it has everything it needs to grow well. They prune, water, fertilize and support.

It’s easy to see the parallels of how the Lord takes care of us.

  • He has a plan for our lives.
  • He puts us in the places that will grow us best.
  • He watches over us, sometimes protecting us from harm, but sometimes allowing the sun or rain to beat down harshly, knowing we need the storm to make us grow strong.
  • God is patient with us.
  • He nourishes us with His blessings.
  • He rejoices over us.
  • He prunes us of the things that will harm us.
  • He provides the water of the His Word for our nourishment.

How is the Lord, our Master Gardener, working in your life today?

Spend time listing and thanking Him for His goodness to you. You’ll be amazed how it encourages your heart to recognize how much He cares for you.

In Him,

Alesha Kay

Introducing Obtaining Mercy Croft

Tropical fruits, figs and corn

After a year of planting, digging, watering and pruning, Doug and I have decided that gardening is just one big experiment. And since it seems that we really enjoy the scientific method, with all it’s trials, successes and errors, we thought we’d name this laboratory of ours.

Introducing Obtaining Mercy Croft!

CROFT: a fenced piece of land used for small-scale food production, usually near a house

We’ve planted, without exaggeration, over 125 different fruits and vegetables since last spring. Many of them didn’t do well, some did better than we expected. Some we planted in our sandy backyard and others we potted up into containers, buckets and half-barrels.

Southern peas, okra and peppers

We’ve discovered things we don’t like to eat and some lovely things we were surprised that we liked.

Cape Gooseberries (Ground Cherries)

And we’ve been amazed at all the beauty to be seen in the garden.

The most astonishing thing, I think, that we’ve learned in the garden is that the garden teaches us so many spiritual truths. We’re constantly learning something about soil or seeds or pruning or watering that exactly mirrors a truth that can be found in Scripture.

And that is going to be our new focus here on the blog.

Along with more regular updates on Isaac and on the garden, you will see more posts of a devotional nature, sharing some tidbit of truth that we’ve gleaned from the Croft.

And…you won’t just be hearing from me, as you have for so many years now, but you’ll also be hearing from Doug.

I know you will enjoy the truths that he has to share!

So…a few changes. Nothing drastic. But we’re excited about our new focus!

We hope you’ll join us as we study our Master Gardener and the things He teaches us here at Obtaining Mercy Croft.

Doug and Alesha