Category Archives: Pond

Our Prayer Garden

I have to admit that writing this post has been very challenging for me. As I thought about what our prayer garden is and what it represents my thoughts ran deep, and at times it seems like the answers to what it is, why it exists and how it came to be have turned into questions that that I can not definitively answer. As I struggle to convey the information about our prayer garden I can only pray that God will give me the words I need and that they will perhaps be a blessing to someone who reads them.

Flowers offer more praise to God than man ever shall. ~ Ninian Riley

What Is A Prayer Garden?

When I typed that question into my internet browser this  was but one of the definitions that showed up. I selected it because it does seem fitting.

It said: “Used as a quiet place to relax and recharge, a meditation or prayer garden is a place of peace and tranquility. It’s personal space with no right or wrong design elements. A prayer garden can be a small, private corner of a larger garden, or an entire section of your landscaping may be designed around a theme of thoughtful serenity. Planting perennials helps to avoid stress from constant garden maintenance chores, and including beautiful accents — natural or manmade – helps you focus on positivity.”

What Is Our Prayer Garden? 

It could be called a flower garden or and herb garden because of the vast array of both flowers and herbs that we grow there. It could be called a rock garden because many rocks were used in it’s construction. It could be called a pollinator garden because bees, butterflies and many other pollinating insects are attracted to the various flowers when in bloom. It could be called a memorial garden since we have planted flowers in memory of my mother, my husband’s mother and my Aunt Shirley. It could also be called a friendship garden since many of the plants have been given to me, some by my children, others by my sisters and some that were added this year were sent by a lady who my husband met this year while working at his landscaping job, and when the plants in the garden need to be thinned I often dig the roots and pass them on the family, friends or neighbors who will give them a new home. Our prayer garden is all of these things combined.

 

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Walking up the driveway

It is the center piece of our farm from which everything else seems to radiate. It is bordered to the west by the pond and the east by the driveway with the barn standing on the other side of the drive. The windmill stands directly to the north of the prayer garden, only a few feet outside the garden edge, and the apiary is just a short distance from there. It is not visible from the road so when in bloom it can be a glorious view as you round the bend in the driveway and are greeted buy the colorful display.

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A View of Our Farm From the Road

Honestly while it is this “center piece” that we refer to as the prayer garden, it is the entire farm that evokes feelings of peace and serenity and elicits the desire to pray – to commune with God. While it may seem contradictory, we find that even while working on the farm we are often able to recharge.

In Our Beginning

When we first bought our farm, the property had been unused (by humans) for many years. The previous owner had planned to build a house there so he had done some excavating, put in somewhat of a driveway and the well, but it seemed that it had been at least few years since those things had been done. What I’m trying to say is that things were growing wild. We spent a lot of time exploring, discovering and deciding.

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We wanted to be good stewards of the piece of earth that God had given to us, so there were many decisions to be made. We wanted to make the land useful, that we may grow our food and raise livestock, while utilizing all of what the land could offer and preserving much of it’s natural beauty. Through exploring the land we discovered that God had given us much more than we had prayed for.

One of our early priorities was having access to water.  There was a well on the property but at that time there was no pump to retrieve the water – it was simply a capped well. Since there was no electricity on the property, and that was not a priority, we purchased a hand pump suitable for deep wells and then had the company that drilled the well come out to install the pipes that were needed to hook up the hand pump.

Another thing we needed to do was to protect the well head. It was in an open area and we feared it was at risk of being hit and damaged by some type of vehicle. We purchased a galvanized metal ring and placed it around the outside of the well head then filled the rest of the ring with white stone. It then seemed to be a good area for a flower garden so in the fall we planted tulip bulbs.

The pictures below are what it looked like one spring day in 2012.

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The following day when I arrived at the farm the deer had eaten all of the blossoms off of the tulips and all that remained were stems and leaves. I wanted to cry.

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In the fall of 2012 we decided to have a pond dug. My husband and I have done the majority of the landscaping and building on the farm. Only twice have we called in professionals to do work which was beyond our abilities. The first was digging the pond. The second was building the barn last June.

102_0680While it was necessary to have excavators do the digging, the design of the pond was ours. We spent hours talking about the layout, measuring, staking, then cording off the area that was to be dug out. They needed to stay a certain distance from the tree line on the west side of the property and a certain distance from the well. They were given explicit instructions and my husband was on-site most of the time the work was being done to assure that our expectations were met.

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The above photo was taken in the spring of 2013.

After the pond was dug my husband and I worked together to landscape the area. He brought in top soil with the tractor bucket and we raked it out. We used rocks that we found on the farm to build a retaining wall to prevent soil erosion. I can’t remember exactly what plants we put in at that time but I know they included lavender, salvia and thyme (all deer resistant plants by the way). We then purchased mulch and spread it.

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The large rock was one that was unearthed when the pond was being dug. My husband and I found it appealing so we decided to display it in the garden.

We ordered the windmill that spring. It was a bit pricey but would serve dual purposes. The first would be to pump life sustaining oxygen into the pond. The second was for watering plants during dry spells; so along with the windmill we purchased a pump that would pump water out of the pond. You can read about our off grid irrigation process here. After the windmill arrived my husband and I worked together to assemble it. We then invited family over for a windmill raising party.

Over the past few years the garden has continued to evolve. Many new plants have been added and most of what we have planted there has flourished.  I sometimes find it necessary to remove plants as well.

The photos below were taken over the past two years.

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Why A Prayer Garden?

Now that I have covered the “what is our prayer garden” and told you how it came to be I will address the Why. This is where I was most challenged when putting together this post.

I am not sure when the idea of a prayer garden first came to me or where I even first heard the term. It was likely something that I read about online because that is how we get a lot of information nowadays. I do remember that it was around the time when we were working on landscaping the garden area that I decided that making garden stepping stones was a craft I might enjoy. I experimented with making a couple that I gave away and one that I made that I wanted to place in our garden. 102_0942

On the stone I made for our garden I imprinted one of my favorite Bible verses. For we walk by faith, not by sight. 2 Cor 5:7. I have found this verse meaningful for many years but even more so after our experience with buying our farm and the blessings we received by waiting on God’s timing. I place the stone in the garden as a continual reminder of how God is always working behind the scenes and if we follow His lead we will be blessed. I think it was around this time that I decided to call this our prayer garden.

I have grown to see the prayer garden as an offering to God – a way to honor and glorify Him, so I was struck when I read the quote at the beginning of this post. These words – Flowers offer more praise to God than man ever shall, were spoken by my Great, Great, Great, Great, Great, Great Grandfather, Ninian Riley, who lived from 1725 – 1814. It was while contemplating this post that I received an email from lady named Kathy Strawn, a third cousin that I have never met, and the family historian. She sent some documents that she had created regarding family history and one of the documents contained the above quote.

Upon reading those words I felt an immediate, yet somewhat eerie, connection to this ancestor who lived so long ago. I wondered where did they come from? Where were they documented? Kathy had referenced the Diary of Nancy (Riley) Clarke Salt as the source and an internet search led me to this site where I was able to read Nancy’s diary. Indeed within the pages Nancy explained that as a hobby her grandfather, Ninian, enjoyed tending to flowers a she attributed that quote to him.

This information led me to some questions: is this just coincidence, finding that my distant ancestor had a love of flowers like I do and that his words that were documented more than 1 1/2  centuries ago would so accurately define my feelings? or is there something more – some type of divine inspiration perhaps? These are questions that will certainly not be answered in this lifetime.

While writing this post it also occurred to me that God would likely be pleased with a garden that was built and maintained in His honor. I draw this assumption from the realization that in Genesis 2:8 “The Lord had planted a garden in the East, in Eden; and it was there that he put the man.” God Himself was a gardener and thought the garden to be a fitting place for His greatest creation – man.

I think I will conclude this post by answering a question that may have been on your mind throughout your time reading this – “Do you pray in the garden?” you ask.

Yes, I do pray in the garden, but not as you might imagine. It is when I am on my hands and knees in the dirt, working the soil or pulling weeds, that I feel God’s presence and  am moved to converse with him. I offer prayers of thanksgiving and pray for those in need. I pray for friends and family and if you come to mind I will likely say a prayer for you as well.

I know this post was longer than most of my posts and if you have read to the end I am grateful.

Thank you and God Bless.

 

 

 

 

At Least We Didn’t Get Skunked

Term “skunked” is sometimes used to define an overwhelming defeat.

If you read my post from last Thursday I am sure you remember that I was quite discouraged about all the rain that we have been having and concerned that we, like most of the farmers in the area, had not been able to get any planting done.

After a dry Friday, but with more rain in the forecast for Sunday night and the week to follow, my husband decided it was now or never – he must try to get some planting done. He hooked the rototiller to the tractor and was able to till up a portion of the garden. YEA!!!! Then while he worked on planting some cabbage and tomato plants I worked on cutting grass.  What a relief it is to at least have the planting started.

The term “skunked” is also used to describe going fishing and catching nothing.

Feeling good about what we accomplished Saturday, and wanting to used some of the worms he collected while planting in the wet soil, we decided to do some fishing in the evening. We took our poles and the worm bucket out in the boat and loaded worms on our hooks. I dropped my hook in the water and seconds later had my first bite. It ended up being a 4 inch perch (although my husband remembered to bring the tape measure I neglected to bring my camera).

He caught the next fish – a 10 inch bass. It was not our intention to have bass in our pond. We originally stocked it with perch, a few walleye, a few catfish, a few pike and lots of minnows. We intentionally did not include bass. They showed up anyway. How does that happen??? Apparently water birds like ducks, geese and herons can get fish eggs stuck to their feet in one body of water and deposit them in another. Well we have had plenty of ducks, geese and herons visit so that explains it.  After seeing the bass my husband said we probably needed to get more pike as they are predators that would help keep the bass population under control. We had originally only put a few pike in there and hadn’t caught one in several years.

As we continued fishing we caught a quite a few 2-3 inch perch, then we each caught a 9 inch perch. We released them this time, but one day the are going to make a nice dinner. I got the last worm of the night (a very large night crawler). Since we didn’t want it to get nibbled away by small fry my husband peddled the boat around the deeper waters. Suddenly I got a bite. I could tell it was a large fish so I let it play on the line a little and waited for it to relax a bit before reeling it in some. When it got close enough I could see that it was neither a perch or a bass. It also wasn’t a catfish. When it got close enough my husband grabbed the line as I held the fishing pole. As he lifted the fish out of the water “it’s a pike he announced”. Just as he did the fish wiggled and got off the hook. Splash! back into the water it went. We didn’t get to measure it but is was significantly larger than the 10 inch bass he caught. Now we know that the predator fish in there.

Skunked? Not even close! Our Saturday was full of wins!

The term “skunked” can also be used to describe getting sprayed by a skunk.

Sunday morning as my husband and I arrived a the farm we noticed something strange near the pond. The colors were such that, despite never seeing a skunk close up in the daylight before, I knew immediately what it was.

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We had never seen skunks on the farm before, but a couple of years ago Trooper had a smelly encounter with one in the field next door.

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This momma seemed to be as surprised to see us as we were to see her.

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We stayed in our vehicle and watched as she tried to round up her three little ones then hurried them out of sight.

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I suspect our saving grace that morning was that we didn’t have Trooper with us.

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Trooper is a watch dog and would be certain announce to us that he saw something that didn’t belong there. He would do this by barking loudly and incessantly. His barking quite possibly would have made this momma feel threatened. Even if momma and baby had scampered off, Trooper, despite his prior experiences with skunks, would have certainly went looking in their direction once he got out of the van.

Though they are incredibly cute skunks might not be an animal we want inhabiting our farm. Beyond the threat of an encounter with a curious watch dog who doesn’t learn from past experiences, skunks could pose a threat to our chickens. They may not prey on our full grown birds but chicks and eggs may be at risk. Since skunks are generally nocturnal animals and our chickens are closed in a secure coop each night the risk may be low.

Skunks are also know to dine on bees – potentially even honey bees. Again since skunks are nocturnal and honey bees retreat to their hive at night the risk again is somewhat low. As a precaution against wild critters my husband places a brick on top of each bee hive so the critter would first have knock the brick off then knock the top off before being able to get into the hive.

Fortunately the skunks should have a more than adequate food supply on our farm without having to bother our chickens, eggs or bees. There may even be some benefits to having them around according the following excerpt from https://www.nativeanimalrescue.org/got-skunks/ . “Despite their smelly reputation, skunks are beneficial to people. They are opportunistic feeders with about 70% of their diet being insects, such as grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, and wasps. They eat a huge number of agricultural pests, such as army worms, potato beetles and squash bugs. One of their favorite foods is grubs, which they dig up from the soil. A hungry skunk can save people lots of money in terms of the amount of pesticides they might use if the skunk was not at work all night. Skunks will also eat spiders, snails, earthworms, carrion, berries, nuts, roots, small rodents and garbage. An easy source of food will quickly become their favorite, so avoid leaving dog and cat food out at night, which will draw skunks and other unwanted wildlife to your home. Skunks are shy, nocturnal creatures and would rather avoid you than spray you.”

After reading this it is my hope that we can have a peaceful coexistence with these critters – and again we didn’t get skunked.

Possible “Daisy” Sighting

Several years ago in the spring I got a phone call from my niece. She said her children had found a turtle in their yard and were concerned about  finding it a good home. She told them they couldn’t keep it and wanted to know if they could bring it over and put it in our pond. Since it was a harmless painted turtle we said “yes”.

When they arrived we discovered that it was a baby turtle – no bigger than a fifty cent piece and very cute. We walked to the beach and before releasing the turtle into the pond the kids were asked what they wanted to name it. They decided to call it Daisy.

Every since then when the kids visit the farm they always ask if we have seen Daisy, and of course they keep an eye out for her when they are in or near the pond.. We usually see turtles of varying sizes throughout the summer months but really have no way of telling which one might be Daisy.

Yesterday as my husband and I were walking in the field he spotted a turtle, in fact I think he almost stepped on it because the grass was so tall. We decided to reduce it’s risk of getting stepped on or run over by a lawn mower or tractor and put it in the pond.

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I really don’t know how fast painted turtles grow but I would guess that this one may be several years old. Perhaps it is Daisy.

 

 

A Dip In The Pond

Our weather has not been warm enough for me to even think about going for a swim yet. In fact it will take a few consecutive days with temperatures in the 80’s Fahrenheit to warm the water to my liking.

Trooper on the other hand found the water most refreshing. Every year he is the first one in.

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He also enjoyed some time laying in the shade.

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I did get some yard work done this week while soaking up some vitamin D (sunshine) and starting on my tan. 🙂

My dip in the pond will just have to wait.

Staycation and My Favorite Things About Summer

I am really not in to trendy words, or a trendy lifestyle for that matter, but I think the word staycation really does describe our summer recreation. In 2012 when my husband said he would like to vacation somewhere “where we could just sit on the beach with our dogs and relax,” I chuckled, “they don’t allow dogs on public beaches, honey. Why don’t we put in a pond with a beach,” I suggested.

We knew it would be costly to have a pond dug, but we agreed that the money we saved on vacations away from home would easily pay for the pond in a few years.

The farm has many other features that you might find at a campground in the country. We have a campsite/ picnic area with a fire pit for cooking or just sitting around a campfire in the evening. We have both field and wooded areas with paths for walking or riding the 4 wheeler. There are hundreds of species of wildlife that live on or visit the farm and it is a peaceful and relaxing atmosphere. Thus we find it perfect for our staycation or summer recreation.

Our staycation is different than most as we do not have a week or two off from a job and cram all of these activities into that time period. Instead our recreational activities are interspersed throughout the day(s). It might be taking time out for an afternoon swim, spending an evening sitting around a campfire or inviting friends or family over for a day of fun. What I really love about our method of (v)(st)acation is that I don’t have to stress about it. We don’t have to make travel plans. We don’t have to do things according to schedule. We don’t have to pack what we think we will need for our time away. We don’t have to find people to take over our responsibilities at home (dogs and chickens) while we are away, and one of the most important parts for me is that I can sleep in my own bed at night.

With all that being said I wanted to share some of my favorite things about summer. They are not listed in any particular order; it is the combination of these things that make our summer enjoyable.

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Gardening – Planting, weeding, water, – there is something therapeutic about having our hands and knees in the dirt. The results of gardening are also very rewarding (see flowers and fresh produce below).

Riding the 4 Wheeler – A slow scenic tour around the farm, wielding my way though the winding paths through the woods or opening it up on the straight away, this is just pure fun!!!

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Swimming in the Pond – The best way to cool off in the heat of the day.

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Wildlife – The sights and sounds of wildlife create an environment that is peaceful and serene. While I am certainly not the best photographer I love trying to get photos of the wildlife. You can see more of the wildlife on our farm here.

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Flowers – No doubt they beautify their environment but there is so much more. You have probably heard the phrase “stop and smell the roses'”, well roses are not the only flower that deserve this recognition. By stopping and smelling, I have discovered that Canadian Thistle flowers have a sort of sweet scent and the Purple Irises have a spicy scent. This year I discovered that milk weed flowers have a pleasantly fresh fragrance.

While the flower may first draw my attention I will probably observe closely to see what type of foragers it may attract, and if I am not familiar with the plants I will likely try to identify it along with it’s potential usefulness.

Fresh Produce – We are currently picking and enjoying many fresh vegetables, among them are green beans, potatoes, Swiss chard, beets, carrots, celery and tomatoes. The flavors and textures of fresh picked produce simply can not be found in a grocery store. Even if you haven’t grown your own garden I encourage you to find fresh locally grown produce to enjoy this summer. Shop at a farmers market or a roadside farm stand and support your local farmer.

Campfires – Dinner always tastes better when cooked over a wood fire, and sitting around a campfire in the evening, listening to the frogs sing, and watching the moon and stars appear in the sky is far more entertaining than anything you may find on TV.

Visitors – This could be the elderly neighbors who dropped by Friday night for a tour of the barn and gardens; it could be the kids and grandkids coming to celebrate a holiday or a group as large as the family reunion we hosted last weekend. Regardless it is always a pleasure to share the farm with company.

Going Barefoot – Even though I put these in no particular order I did save my favorite for last. I love to take off my footwear and walk barefoot in the grass or on the beach.  According to this article there are many health benefits to going barefoot. I personally don’t care whether they are scientifically proven or not. Walking barefoot in the soft grass or digging my toes into the sand on the beach just feels good. While it feels good physically on the feet and has the potential to relieve other aches and pains, the emotional benefits are probably the greatest. I find walking barefoot to relieve stress – even more than that when I walk barefoot I feel young and carefree. It’s amazing that taking your shoes off can also take a load off your mind.

Now it’s your turn my friend. What are your favorite things about summer? How do you make time for them? When was the last time you stopped and smelled the roses or kicked off your shoes and connected with the earth? If it’s been awhile – I challenge you to make some time to do it this week. You won’t regret it.

Happy Summer! 🙂