May 212014


I have a recent personal story in our garden that I want to share with you.

Before I get started on the other happenings around the farm… Strawberries!!!  The strawberries are just beginning to ripen! Big smiles and eager expectations! We are beginning to contact a few customers on our strawberry list this week to set up u-pick dates! The strawberries are jumping about two weeks ahead of my original estimated harvest date!

It is literally a major miracle that we even have strawberries this year. The Lord’s hand of protection is all that saved this year’s main season crop. Two weeks ago on Friday, May 2nd, we had a freeze…yes, freeze not just a frost, a freeze.

I went out to check on the berries because the thermometer had dropped to the mid thirties during the predawn hours. I figured there might be a bit of scattered frost and it would be necessary to rinse this off before the sun came up to save the strawberry blossoms that were open. Dragging a couple hundred feet of hose/tubing down to Dad’s strawberry patch I hooked up the hose and opened the hydrant expectantly waiting for the water to start flowing. Spitting and sputtering the hose plugged up with icy slush. Ummm…that’s an indication of freezing temperatures not just frost! The second hose I tried spit and sputtered then cleared of ice. Whew!

After washing the frost off I came back just a few minutes later to find the water on the leaves had turned to ice! Not a good thing! Frosts can damage strawberry crops when in full bloom but a freeze…that means a total crop failure for sure. Not knowing what else to do I rinsed the plants in all three strawberry patches and then began rinsing them again as the sun began shining.

There were a lot of individuals praying for the strawberries and I thank each one. The Lord answered the prayers and saved the harvest. Yes, we lost a few berries but the main season harvest was spared by the Lord. Praise His name! The following verses come to mind:

“The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.”
Lamentations 3:22-23

We have had a few small rains now for which I am very thankful! They’ve settled the blowing dust and helped the garden a lot. However, overall the hot, dry, windy weather we experienced until this past week quickly brought us into drought conditions. I have been irrigating but it is not the same as when the Lord sends a good soaking rain. The early strawberries were looking like they were going to be extremely small but thankfully the Lord sent a half inch rain and a week of cool weather which has helped them swell a little. They are still smaller than average but Lord willing we will get another rain soon to help finish swelling them.

During the cool spell the Lord provided lots of good help (a couple of volunteers plus Granddad and G-Jean) to take advantage of the beautiful cool weather to transplant! In two days the Lord helped us transplant and water all of our tomatoes, peppers (jalapeno and bell), basil, cilantro and nearly all the parsley.

I already had the straw down the center of the tomato patch and the irrigation tape run so we didn’t have to try getting everything done after the plants were in the ground. While transplanting the thought came to mind I should not mulch them yet, but being in a hurry I brushed it aside and thought it was more practical to pull the mulch around the tomatoes as we went. Now, looking back I am sure the “thought” I had of not pulling the mulch around the tomatoes was the Lord warning me I should not mulch them yet. Note the wisdom of Proverbs 3:5 & 6:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.”
By taking time to listen to the Lord and following His instruction even when we don’t understand it can save us a lot of grief. God says:
“’For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord.
‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.'” Isaiah 55:8,9

The morning of May 16th, about a month later than our average last frost date, “blackberry winter” dropped by (when the wild blackberries are in full bloom we usually get a cool spell) and the early morning temperatures plummeted. Going out in the predawn morning I found frost on everything we had mulched including the strawberries. Once again I rinsed everything off and it must have been really close to freezing because a few leaves had the water freeze again although most didn’t.

The tomato patch was the last place I went to rinse the frost off. My heart sank as I saw plant after plant limp, wilted and blackened. Only part of the taller, thick stemmed plants that had their tops several inches above the mulch were able to survive the heavy frost which settled over the mulched areas.

Mulch acts as a insulator from the cold in the winter and heat of the summer. Due to mulch’s insulating properties it prevents the soil’s warmth from radiating back up to the plants during cool spells thus allowing the damp cold air to begin forming frost. All the other areas we had crops but had not mulched were untouched by the frost. I know that if I would have listened to the Lord’s leading and not mulched most likely the tomatoes would not have been affected.

Especially in discouraging times like these it is of the greatest importance to know where you have placed your hope and faith. When you can claim promises from God’s word because you are His child it is comforting and encouraging. Consider the following verse from Romans which I claim as a promise in my own life:

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:32

Even when I fall short and don’t listen to His voice, even then, God is still my loving heavenly Father who cares for me. Yes, I may reap consequences for my actions but that simply means He is a just God and is very merciful in not giving me what I really deserve. Whatever may happen in life I can rest assured that the Lord already knows what I will choose and what the outcome will be:

“Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.” Psalm 139:16

Job showed a great deal of endurance through trials that he didn’t even “deserve” but the Lord allowed satan to test him in. When Job’s wife told him to curse God Job responded, “‘…Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?’ In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” Job 2:10

Can we do the same as Job and endure the trials that come our way (especially as in my case when I merely experienced the consequences of not following the Lord’s leading) and not speak against the Lord. When times really get tough can we say as Job when all the disasters came upon him,

“He said,
‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked I shall return there.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.
Blessed be the name of the Lord.’
Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.” Job 1:21,22

“’Though He slay me,
I will hope in Him. …'” Job 13:15a

Or what about the prophet Habakkuk? Can we join him in rejoicing in the Lord through adversity?

“Though the fig tree should not blossom
And there be no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive should fail
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock should be cut off from the fold
And there be no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will exult in the Lord,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.” Habakkuk 3:17-18

It is likely too late to replant tomatoes for summer harvest so I’m praying about what to do. I may plant again for fall harvest or try a fast growing and heat resistant variety which may produce this summer yet. We’ll see how the Lord leads.

Cool season hoop house greens don’t appreciate hot weather so our week of 85-95 degree weather started taking a toll on them. Lord willing we will be able to continue harvesting these crops for another week but they will soon be slowing down.

The broccoli, cabbage, beans, cucumbers, squash, pepper plants and other crops are all coming along nicely now! I’m thankful we received another small shower recently which really gave them all a big boost!

Most of our potatoes have really taken off and grown well this season! It won’t be much longer before we can start harvesting some new potatoes!

Thus far I’m thankful my new wheel hoe “toy” has been doing a beautiful job at keeping the isles cultivated between the rows.

I better go for now. May you have a blessed week!

Farmer Joshua and the Mitchell crew

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