On rocks and walks with grandchildren

It’s been a while since I wrote anything on my blog. I must confess that I take writing in spells. I’ll get on a kick and spend all my extra time on reading historical fiction novels to the detriment of writing.  I’ve also been busy with just different things, mostly with the holidays and all the preparation that goes with that so I didn’t take the time to write. 

The winter months usually are a pretty much down time for the garden and yard. With our climate, we don’t plant anything in the garden until late February or early March.  I was very busy from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve “peddling” my collards. I guess I have more of my daddy, the grocer, in me than I ever realized. After a long career in public education, I retired 3 years ago to enjoy more gardening and farming.  I happened upon growing collards two years ago. I had never planted collards and really had never eaten them. I love turnip greens and as long as my father-in-law was alive either he or I always planted a turnip patch so I didn’t eat collards much. But two years ago I decided to plant 10 plants just to see if I could grow them and how they would do.  And did they do well! I ended up giving most of those original 10 plants away and taking a big “mess” to our church’s annual Thanksgiving meal, where they were a hit. So last year, I decided to plant a big crop of collards to much success and another larger crop this year. I don’t make much money off them….just a little “walking around money” as my late father-in-law would say.  But I get a lot of satisfaction out of working with Harry (my husband) to plant them, weed and tend to them, and then provide our friends with locally grown beautiful bunches of collards. I planted 64 plants the first year and 72 the second year and sold all but about 5 bunches, which I cooked and used myself. I could probably sell twice that many if I wanted to. I’m not sure I want to get too big!  There is a large farm production facility in the midlands called W.P. Rawl and Sons that grows most of the collards that are consumed on the east coast. I’m not giving them competition!  

W.P. Rawl and Sons

We had a great Christmas with the family and following Christmas Day, we had our two oldest grandchildren for several days. The weather was beautiful and we spent a lot of time outdoors. One of our favorite things to do and a favorite of the grandkids, is to load up in our Mule and ride all over the pasture. We look at the cows and rub heads and discuss animal husbandtry. We’ll ride down to the lake and see what wildlife we can see…….always different depending on the time of the year and the weather.  On one of our rides in the pasture, we visited a little beaver pond and discovered the slicked place on the bank where the beavers had been sliding into the water. We didn’t see any beavers but we knew they had been there. We saw a majestic Great Blue Heron who nests and lives in the shallow end of our lake. He or she is a beautiful specimen of this bird. I can’t get close enough to get a really good picture as he/she is very shy and will watch us approach in the Mule and then gracefully fly off in the direction of the beaver pond. There is a little island near the end of the lake and I believe that the bird must nest there. I’ll keep check on him/her and see if I can discover a nest. 

Great Blue Heron

While on this outing with the grandchildren, we took them to visit the old homeplace that is on the farm. This old homeplace is at least 175 years old, having been home to tenant farmers, renters, and Harry’s mom and dad after their marriage. Harry lived there until he was 7 years old. It is a simple old farmhouse, set up on rocks with 4 rooms downstairs and 2 rooms upstairs. As Harry walked around the old house, now starting to deteriorate, he showed the kids the little block building that was used to take showers and wash clothes.  The house didn’t have running water except in the kitchen. Harry shared with the kids how he and his sister would run from the house to the washhouse to bathe and then run back covered in a quilt to get beside the stove in the kitchen. Our granddaughter, who is very interested in science and nature, was very intrigued with the concept of the “outhouse” and what happened to the human waste that was contained in the ground beneath the outhouse. Harry explained that his father would put lime in the “hole” to kill the odor and insects. Our granddaughter was not as grossed out as I thought she would be. Later we  laughed at the thought that she would go to her suburban school north of Atlanta and share her newfound information with her classmates! Kids these days and many adults have no concept of life in the “good old days”!  

We walked around the house and as Harry shared childhood memories of growing up here, I was touched by the attentiveness of the kids and the questions they asked.  Later, Harry and I talked about the importance of sharing our memories and lives with the grandchildren. We pass on who we are, our values, our beliefs, our DNA, our historical memories in these talks and walks with our family. We impart a sense of belonging and a sense of place and family pride by passing on stories and memories. What a special opportunity!

It was on the walk on this particular day that Harry showed me my special Christmas present. Santa had written a letter for me in a card that said I would have to wait a couple of days to see my present. After reading all the clues, I was sure it was a new MULE that we had been talking about with extra seats to haul the grandkids around in.  To my surprise and delight it was another huge ROCK! I’ve written before about my love of rocks and how he helped me build a rock wall with huge rocks from the farm. When we were excavating the rocks for the wall, there was one huge rock in the ground that I could tell was very long and flat. Try as he might, Harry’s little Bobcat was not big enough to get that rock out of the ground so I had to be satisfied with the rocks he was able to get.  We worked on the wall and I was happy. Earlier in the fall, he bought a new “toy”, a Bobcat excavator. Some men spend money on fancy bass boats, fast cars, specialized golf clubs, season tickets–not my husband. He spends his money on farm equipment. This excavator has been very handy to help with a lot of projects that the Bobcat couldn’t do. I don’t begrudge the expense at all. So with the help of this new toy, Harry was able to excavate this gigantic rock and move it up to a spot in the pasture to show me. He wanted me to decide where to put it before bringing it to the house. Moving such a hefty rock is not as easy as it sounds, even with the excavator.    I decided to put it in the yard near the garden close to a Maple tree. It will become a new place to sit and pray and enjoy nature. It’s big enough to serve as a table for an impromptu picnic or a gathering of grandkids to sit. As I have said before, some women love 2 carat rocks for their fingers and there is nothing wrong with that. My loving husband knows the way to my heart is with a 2 ton, billion years old rock! 

Here’s the letter from Santa:

Hello Ms. Catherine……First let me say Merry Christmas to you and all the family. I need to explain why your present is not under the tree. Don’t fret, I didn’t forget but in this modern age Santa’s sleigh is just not the best option to save the day in this case. My elves were no help as not one of them can drive and your present would not fit in the sleigh. So PopPop has agreed to help Santa on this one and I’ll deal with him later. So let’s see if you can guess what your present is…

  1. It’s built like a tank–it won’t be pushed around.
  2. It has a lifetime warranty (PopPop took care of the paperwork for you)
  3. It is in pristine condition
  4. It does not need any work–just a little TLC.

As you know, Santa’s time is very limited so PopPop will need you to go with him to pick up your present. PS, don’t expect another one of these next Christmas!

A Christmas Poem for 2019

Christmas 2019

The 2019 Christmas season is here— holiday signs and sights abound.  

Sales brochures and email ads fill our mailboxes. 

Decorated houses and stores are lit up all around. 

Folks merrily  greet us and stores advertise  “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas”—60% OFF!

Flashy  banners read,  “Get Your Christmas trees HERE!”

Church signs proclaim,  “Jesus is the Reason for the Season”.

Most everyone seems happy and excited for the biggest holiday weeks of the year. 

But for some, all the shopping, cleaning, baking, and parties are  just a prelude to the shedding of tears. 

For them, the Christmas season brings sadness and grief.  

Their family circle has been broken. Their pain seems to have no relief.

An empty chair and gifts that will not be exchanged may challenge even the strongest person’s belief.

Christmas carols and traditional smells are but a constant reminder of good times gone by.

Loved ones will gather around the Christmas tree and speak of those gone on to Heaven as they silently cry.

“Glory to God!  Peace on Earth,” the angels proclaimed.

Jesus was born in a manger to save us all!

He has prepared a place for us with him in Heaven for all those who have heeded His call.

He reigns there now—  our loved ones  know!  

That they are rejoicing with Him in Heaven now makes our sadness seem small. 

They are home for Christmas even as our earthly loved ones travel from near and far to celebrate the season guided by that holy star. 

Amidst the sadness and pain, let us rejoice that Jesus came during this season, our souls to claim!

He was born in a lowly stable, grew to be reviled and cursed.

Satan tempted and laughed at Jesus  and attempted his worst.

But  our Lord  prevailed, His precious blood shed for us,  

Making it possible for our lives to be declared just.

And while we here on earth must be content with an  image of a babe in a manger filled with hay. 

A Savior crowned with thorns on the saddest of days……….

We rejoice in knowing our loved ones are celebrating Christmas in Heaven with a victorious Jesus, they now know all His mysterious ways.

They are even now singing God’s praises with the same angels who announced his birth to a lost and dying earth. 

So let’s celebrate this Christmas season with grateful hearts and minds.

As we go through the festivities, let all we do reflect Jesus’ love. 

We’ll remember precious  ones who have gone on to glory, there to enjoy all the  treasures of Heaven above! 

Let’s celebrate our Savior’s birth with joy in our hearts and a love that binds.

Secure in our faith that we will be united someday with our loved ones for all time. 

On Zinnias and Butterflies

This Labor Day (2019) was relatively cool ( low 80’s and low humidity) for September in the south. I’ve been laid up most of the summer with a hairline fracture in my foot and so yard work has been woefully neglected.  But the boot is off and I am back at it. I took advantage of the pretty day to begin the arduous task of weeding and pulling up spent flowers. I armed myself with sunscreen (always!), my protective sun hat (don’t want those wrinkles!), my work boots (to offer extra protection from fire ants), bug spray (because there are always mosquitoes) and my work gloves (have to protect that manicure!)  I loaded up the MULE with clippers and my trusty go-to tool, the 3 pronged digger. I could not do yard work without it. So armed to the teeth, I started out my morning at the area near the road that goes by our house. I have yarrow, daylilies, and volunteer Four O’clock around the mailbox. I also have an accursed infestation of fire ants, so I worked around them as best I could and applied fire ant granules to the ground.  I’ll have to come back and finish there after the fire ants have been eradicated or they decide to go deep in the ground. After I cleaned up around the mailbox as best I could, I moved across the road to a fairly good-sized bed of zinnias, iris, daylilies, and Mexican Sunflowers (Tithonia diversifolia ).  My plan was to pull up all the dead zinnias and Mexican Sunflowers and prepare the bed for fall and winter.  I have not done a good job of “deadheading” the blooms in that bed due to my inactivity with the broken foot. Things have  “gotten away” from me in all the annual beds. I love cut zinnias in the summer and enjoy them in arrangements in our home, as well as providing them for Sunday services in our church. However, this summer, I was only able to do flowers for one Sunday and then my accident happened.  So, I proposed to clean the bed up and make it neat, if not beautiful. This time of year is always somewhat melancholy as far as the yard goes, for me, at least. The end of summer means the flowers are not at their best and they are starting to live out their life span. It signals the end of summer and the beginning of fall and the long dormant season of winter–as far as fresh flowers go, that is.  

Closeup of a beautiful Mexican Sunflower
Zinnias and Mexican Sunflowers in June
Mexican Sunflowers in September

As I started pulling up zinnias while on the lookout for fire ants, I noticed that butterflies were working away at the remaining zinnia and Mexican Sunflower blooms.  While I was working across the road, I had heard the distinct chirping of little birds in that flower bed. Upon closer inspection, I saw a chickadee and goldfinch eating the seeds in the head of a zinnia. I noticed that all the seedheads in the Mexican Sunflowers that were through blooming had also been eaten.  

I made a decision not to  pull up all the flowers in the bed as planned.  It was not an easy decision in one respect because I am a neatness freak and the thoughts of a really untidy flower bed at the road in front of our house drove me crazy. I plant the flower bed next to the road with happy zinnias and annuals because I like to think I am providing enjoyment for the folks who drive up and down our road during summer. At the same time, I don’t want a messy flower bed.  So deciding to leave it was hard. On the other hand, I knew that I was doing a good thing for the butterflies and the birds and they were more important than what anyone might think about a Not Southern Living  flower bed. 

What a pitiful site!

As I gazed over that messy flower bed, dozens of Aphrodite Fritillary and Tiger Swallowtail butterflies were working as hard as they could. As I observed the butterflies and listened for birds, I was reminded of the scripture from our Sunday School lesson this past Sunday.  It was from Matthew 6:24-36 and the subject was trusting God and not worrying about things we can’t control or worrying about tomorrow. I’ve always loved these verses: “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?” In our Sunday School lesson, we talked about how worrying about tomorrow and all the things that can cause us stress is really a case of NOT trusting God enough. Worry leads to anxiety. Anxiety leads to doubt. Doubt leads to a lack of faith. Another great point that was brought out in our Sunday School lesson is that Jesus spoke these words to people who, in many cases, had no idea where their next meal was coming from!  The Jesus who spoke those words is the same Jesus who is God—-The God who spoke the world into existence, created us, and holds the universe together. So when HE says not to worry………..well, we shouldn’t worry about anything! 

As I stood in the morning sun, watching the butterflies at work and hearing the bird calls all around me, I realized that God’s provision for us was being played out in front of me. I wasn’t conscious of it at the time when I decided not to strip the bed of the flowers and dead plants. But as I stood there, it became clear that God was using ME to provide for the birds and butterflies. God didn’t specify where the birds of the field would get their sustenance. He just said they would be taken care of. The birds and butterflies weren’t aware of the theological revelation going on in my head. They were just flitting around from one bloom to another enjoying the bountiful feast that God had allowed me the strength and resources to provide for them. 

I ended up discarding some of the hopelessly dead zinnias whose seed-heads had been eaten clean.  Then I pruned and deadheaded the Mexican Sunflowers in hopes that some rain and a few more weeks of good weather will provide meals for the butterflies and birds well into fall.  

Note the seed heads that have been stripped

As I loaded up the Mule with the material I had removed, several butterflies hitched a ride on the plants and went with me to the pasture where there is a ditch where we discard our yard waste. I couldn’t help but think how trusting those butterflies were to follow along, having no idea where the trip would lead and what tomorrow would hold.  How much more trusting should I be of our heavenly Father? 

An old memory that popped up on Facebook

This memory popped up on my Facebook page today and was written well before I started blogging. It is sad because our sweet dog, Bama, who was still in his prime when this post was made, has since crossed the Rainbow Bridge. We miss that little white dog so much! And all the critters in the yard know he is gone. The squirrels have become emboldened and cavort around the pecan trees like they were in a Mardi Gras parade. The cows push into the fence to get to the green grass on the other side of the fence because they sense he is not there to chase them away.

Life on the farm Saturday morning….A couple of days ago, Harry mentioned that he saw a big, “fresh” black snake skin in the equipment shed. He is not crazy about snakes but I have managed on the years to convince him to leave black snakes alone. Of course, that means the bluebird houses are always at risk, but I have tried to snake proof all of them.
We have a pair of Mockingbirds that nest in the yard every year and they are on their second family of babies. They are friendly and not overly aggressive, unlike some Kamikazee types who attack without warning when you come close to their nest or even walk in the yard! This pair is friendly and loves to forage for food around the garden. Today I heard them going CRAZY. Bama was also going CRAZY. We discovered the owner of the big, fresh black snakeskin headed toward the Yellow Bell bush where the Mockingbird babies were peacefully sleeping. Bama is not afraid to tackle animals much bigger than he is, but even he wasn’t having anything to do with the snake. The two birds were tag-teaming their attacks on the snake while he lay coiled with head in the attack pose, looking all the world like an Indian snake charmer’s cobra.
Enter Harry. We decide that we are not going to kill the snake. There is too much violence in the world…..So he decides he will relocate the snake to the farthest hay barn away from the birds where there is sure to be a plentiful food supply waiting. 
Of course, Harry is not going to pick the snake up so he decides to herd the snake with a shovel and the Mule. The snake very handily heads to the side of the equipment shed, finds the seam in the wall where he came from in the first place and proceeds to go back into the equipment shed. 
The Mockingbirds are cautious but they are back to feeding the babies. I, on the other hand, have myself parked by the window, watching the side of the barn in case Mr. Snake decides mealtime isn’t finished.

The Mockingbird babies innocent like lambs before the slaughter!
Faithful Bama protects his yard!
This is pretty-good sized snake!

Summer Time and the June Bugs Are Flying!

It is July 2 and hotter than the proverbial firecracker on the Fourth of July. Nothing surprising about this kind of weather in the rolling hills of northern South Carolina in July. We have all heard it said, more often in recent years, “Wonder how they stood it back in the day with no AC?. I remember how WE stood it when I was a girl living in our new home in Inman in the late 1950’s. We had an attic fan that ran at night and pulled in what cool air there was and we had box fans sitting in the windows with the blades fixed so air was sucked into the house. I guess when you didn’t know any better, you thought that was cool and for the most part, except for the really hot days, it sufficed. I know we are all spoiled now and our “constitutions” can’t take the heat after being acclimated to AC all the time. As I write, I am sitting in my sunroom with the blinds drawn against the heat (and to save on the Duke Energy power bill!) with a ceiling fan blowing blissfully cool air over my head. I’m staying right here until later tonight when I’ll venture back out to the garden and yard.

The garden is in full growing mode now. The beets and carrots are all harvested. I ate beets until I thought my skin would turn purple but they were so good! I made about 15 pint jars of pickled beets, canned and ready to have this winter in salads or with a nice big plate of white beans, cornbread, slaw, and fried potatoes! They will be so good and welcomed later on. I shared the carrots with our neighbors across the road, five sweet little Ukrainian children, who helped me plant the carrots. We have put in a second crop of carrots but are waiting until late August to do more beets. I HAD beautiful cabbages and was checking on them daily to make sure there were no worms or bugs on them. I avoid using sprays and pesticides if at all possible and have been known to hand-pick bugs and worms off plants. One day, I checked and the cabbages looked wonderful. The next day I had an infestation of worms that had just gone to town overnight. I was able to dust with a biological dust and curtail the damage somewhat but my planned first attempt at making homemade sauerkraut with the beautiful cabbage went right down the tubes. “Protein” is good but not when it comes from cabbage worms!

When my grandchildren were here in late May, we planted Mammoth Russian Sunflowers. These seeds will get to be 12-14 feet tall ( I did say Mammoth!) and be 2 feet across sometimes. They are really growing tall and I can’t wait for the grandkids to see them when they come to visit. Last year we planted them and I tried to harvest and dry the seeds. I spent days with gloves and a stiff brush, trying to loosen the seeds and keep them for the birds in winter. I am not doing that again! It was too much work for the results and the seeds didn’t last because they still had moisture in them, even though I thought they were dry, and they mildewed in the tub I had stored them in. I’ll just leave the sunflowers where they are and let the birds do all the work!

The tomatoes are in and I am loving not having to cook. In summer, we live off tomato sandwiches or BLT’s (my favorite) It is so nice not to have to worry about what’s for dinner when you can just walk out to the garden, pick out a ripe German Queen tomato, a slice of which will cover the piece of bread, slather it with Duke’s Mayonnaise, salt and pepper, and let the fun begin!

One of my bucket list things to do when I retired was to have a raspberry, blueberry, and blackberry patch of my own. I remember with such fondness, the jellies and jam my mother and her sisters would make every summer. So I am proud of the nice row of blackberries and raspberries I have on the border of our garden. The blackberries are about 5 years old now and this year, they have really come into their own. They are tall, thick and loaded with plump thumb-sized berries. The blackberry vines are a very popular place. Earlier this year, a small song sparrow (not the English Sparrow kind) make the sweetest little nest in the top of the vines. The nest had 4 little blue eggs and I watched it religiously. I don’t know what happened to the mother bird but she disappeared. I checked one day and the babies had hatched but had all died very soon after hatching. I am afraid to think that one of my cats got the mother, but that is probably what happened. Next to build a nest in the very top of the vines was the Mockingbird who sits on top of the hay barn and watches all the goings on around him. That family ended up not nesting there. Perhaps the father bird was smart and recognized that his family would be disturbed if he settled there. I was relieved to see it because I know who annoyingly protective Mockingbirds are of their nests and young. I wasn’t relishing wearing a motorcycle helmet to the garden every time I needed to pick berries!

Speaking of the berries, the blackberry harvest is bountiful this year and I have about 6 gallons of berries frozen ready to make into jam and jelly once the weather cools off and I don’t worry about heating up the whole house with my jelly-making. However, the June bugs have descended upon the blackberries and it is not pretty. They have tag-teamed with the Japanese beetles. The June bugs eat the berries, messing up a perfectly good berry before moving on the next one, while the Japanese beetles eat the foliage and leaves of the new canes that are growing which will bear next year’s fruit. I have tried to avoid dusting or spraying the berries because I don’t want to harm the bees that are nearby, pollinating the butter peas and cantaloupes, but I am going to have to if I want to have any blackberries to give away or sell. So this evening when all the bugs have settled in for the night, we will use a sprayer to spray the blackberries and hope that the bees and other helpful insects are long gone to bed. I know that someone will read this and be full of suggestions on how to get rid of the Japanese beetles and June bugs organically but trust me, if there was another way, I would do it. My oldest son, Jesse, will remember how I sent him out with a bucket of used diesel oil to hand-pick the beetles off my roses and Crepe Myrtles, drowning the little boogers to death. He was into insects and all that and at age 8, it was fun. So we will spray the blackberries but I can’t spray the raspberries. The Japanese beetles are eating away at them too, but they have a new crop of blooms that are currently being pollinated by all sorts of bees and I don’t dare dust them. Once the blooms are pollinated, maybe, but not now. Even the birds don’t like to eat those two bugs! They are nasty and have a hard outer shell and nothing to redeem themselves that I have found.

Speaking of the perils of being a berry grower, I had tried to have blueberry bushes in the garden but was unsuccessful after spending quite a lot of money on bushes for several years. I decided that the soil in the garden, while great for vegetables, wasn’t ideal for blueberries but I was determined to have them. Blueberries are among the giants of antioxidant berries and I try to eat them as often as I can so I wanted my own supply. Last year, we planted 5 bushes near our house, around the “pump house” like they were shrubbery. In fact, they do make nice shrubs because of their appearance. I must have hit “paydirt” with this placement because this year my bushes were loaded with beautiful plump berries. I watched the bushes daily to see how the berries were progressing, disciplining myself not to pluck one berry before its time. I gazed lovingly at my berries one evening before going inside, thinking that tomorrow would be the day! I envisioned blueberries in my yogurt, blueberry muffins, and blueberry poundcake! Later, I would make blueberry jam! Isn’t there an old saying, ‘don’t count your chickens before they hatch?’ Well, in this case, I counted my blueberries before they got picked! The next morning, I walked out to the blueberry bushes, plastic Strawberry Hill (our local strawberry grower who uses white plastic buckets) bucket on my arm, ready to pick my blueberries. The bushes were bare. Stripped of all semblance of a blueberry. Not one leaf was on the ground. Not one branch was disturbed. The mulch around the bushes was pristine. Immediately, I thought the worst. The neighbor children had helped themselves to my blueberries! But as soon as the thought entered my mind, I asked for forgiveness, knowing good and well they wouldn’t have done that, and if they had, they would have left signs, kids that they are. I stewed and steamed for two or three days, lamenting my loss on Facebook. A good ole’ boy that I went to high school with sent me a message and asked hadn’t I posted recently about the lovely family of wild turkeys I had seen in the yard and field near the house. I replied that he was correct. He said, “There’s your blueberry thieves! Those turkeys got your blueberries. I have seen them strip a bush bare and not leave a leaf disturbed.”

Thinking about all the ups and downs of gardening and farming……the bugs, the birds, the heat, the lack of or too much rain, the weeds, and all that we have to contend with I’m reminded of Genesis 1:29 and our friends Adam and Eve. It wasn’t like that in the Garden of Eden. Adam had only to tend to his garden and love it and take care of it. He and Eve had all they wanted and more. We, on the other hand, have to toil, dig, spray, sweat, weed, plow, irrigate, and exterminate in order to have a decent garden. Even with all our modern conveniences such as tillers, tractors, fertilizers, chemicals and all the rest, it is still hard. Of course it is. God said it would be! Just as gardening is hard because of the sin of Adam and Eve, our lives are filled with with ups and downs, droughts and floods, bugs and weeds, and even some turkeys to contend with along the way! But I am glad that God doesn’t change and His love for me–weeds and all–is constant!

Until the next time!

Settled into a Summer Routine

This post was written in early May and I was so busy with all the things I had going on, that I never posted it. So much has happened in the yard and garden since this was written!

I haven’t written much lately. April was a hard month. I lost my dear older brother the first week of April and I was in a “sad” funk for several weeks. I am the youngest of four children, two brothers and one sister. I was the baby of the family, a later-in-life surprise for my parents and my older teenage brothers and sister. I’ll blog about that someday. But I am feeling better now and I have come to terms with the loss of another loved one. My brother has gone on to Heaven to join our parents, our oldest brother, and a whole host of loved ones and friends who wait there for us.

My sister Martha , double first cousins Steve and Carolyn, and first cousins Mary Frances and Ben.

April and May are always busy yard gardening months and vegetable garden months. For my husband’s part, about the first of May, depending on the kind of spring we had, marks the beginning of hay season. He will bale several large fields of grass that he puts into big round bales weighing around 800 pounds each. He will “square” around 1500 bales of hay in little rectangular bales.

Square bales

He stores all this hay in two large barns, one for the round and one for the square. He stays busy from early morning to dark for about a month and is totally at the mercy of Mother Nature. It takes about 3 days to properly bale a field of hay in our climate. One day to cut, one day to cure and “ted” or fluff so it dries out and cures, and one day to bale. Sometimes if he is really lucky, he can ted and fluff in the midday and bale in the afternoon if it is really hot and humidity is low. He watches the weather forecast religiously and tries to time his cutting accordingly, but Mother Nature is capricious and delights in dropping a shower of rain on a field when no rain was forecasted. Sometimes it is possible to salvage a field of hay if it didn’t get too wet and dries out immediately , although it becomes hay for the cows and not to sell to our hay customers.

Tedding the hay

We had several weeks of rain in late March and early April so we were a little late getting some things planted in the vegetable garden. I wanted to plant English peas but I wasn’t able to get them planted this year. We did get our onions, beets, and cabbage planted in time for them to do well before our scorching hot days set in. We usually plant most of the seeds around Good Friday, which was late this year. Old farmers set great store by planting on Good Friday. I did a quick little search about why we plant on Good Friday. Seems it is a mainly Southern tradition and has it’s origins in Ireland having to do with planting potatoes. Since many of our Southern families can trace their roots back to Ireland, including mine, that may be true. My husband holds to it because he believes that after Easter, the chances of a killing frost are lessened and thus it is fine to put out tender plants like tomatoes. In my experience, it just all depends on our capricious Southern weather. In any event, we planted a good bit of the garden on Good Friday but waited until the second week of May to plant the okra. We plant lots of okra. We have many friends who love it but don’t have room to grow it and don’t like to pick it. So we plant extra and sell it to our friends. Okra is a cousin to the cotton plant and really thrives in hot soil and hot weather. Seeing that it was brought here by African slaves, it makes sense that okra does well in the heat and high humidity of our summers. I can’t pick okra myself, even if I am armed with a long-sleeved shirt and gloves. I had a long regimen of chemotherapy for breast cancer in 2006-2007. The after-effects are that I react severely to any kind of bite such as flea, mosquito, or fire ant. Not to the extent that I am in medical danger, but the itching and swelling is severe. I react the same way to touching squash plants and okra plants. So my sweet husband ends up harvesting all the squash and okra in the garden because apparently he is not bothered by it all.

Okra with tomatoes in the background

Harry built a new planting bed for me this year and I planted beets and carrots in it. I find that beets and carrots are sometimes hard to get a good stand to germinate but this year the conditions must have been perfect because it looks like every seed I planted came up. So, I have spent several hours thinning the beets and carrots. I will be able to begin harvesting the beets around June 1 and take out some of the smaller ones to pickle whole and let the others have more space to grow. We love pickled beets cold with our salads and with vegetables and they are nourishing and low calorie as well.

I’m rambling a bit, I know, but I’m trying to relate all that has gone on around the farm this spring. So we got the garden planted. This year we planted: beets, carrots, cabbage, Texas Sweet onions, Blue Lake Green beans, yellow and red bell peppers, Marconi pepper, crooked neck and straight-neck squash, purple-hull crowder peas, Clemson spineless okra, Athena and Ambrosia cantaloupe, Mammoth sunflowers, along with the established asparagus, raspberries, and blackberries. The tomatoes are my husband’s domain. He is very particular about his tomatoes! I think that must be a thing with many gardeners and consumers of tomatoes. He prefers a German Queen heirloom tomato for slicing and eating on our tomato sandwiches. There is nothing like it on white bread with Duke’s mayonnaise.

Nothing like it!

We also plant several Whopper and Big Boy varieties but the German Queen and German Johnson varieties are our favorites for eating. Last year I planted a row of Roma tomatoes and made copious jars of homemade spaghetti sauce. I have plenty left so we didn’t plant Romas this year.

Most of my yard gardening consists of grooming and weeding the perennial beds, just waiting for each plant to bloom in its own time. I’m waiting on the day lilies to bloom now. The hydrangeas are just starting to look pretty. I have a decent-sized rose bed and they have finished that first wonderful spring blooming season and now are in the period where they need fertilizer, lots of water, spraying for bugs and fungus and TLC to produce blooms again. I love zinnias and I start working about mid-April to plant several beds of them. I buy the seeds new every year and prefer the large “State Fair” type blooms. I dump all the seeds in a bowl and mix them up well and then plant. That way I have a beautiful array of different colors in each bed. I love to cut zinnias and use them in arrangements. One of my joys is being able to place flowers in our church often during the summer or take a simple arrangement to a shut in or someone in the hospital. I’ll have an arrangement in a week or two of day lilies, Queen Ann’s lace, hydrangeas, and yarrow to put in church.

Another activity I enjoy is maintaining our bluebird trail on the farm. I have had a love affair with bluebirds since around 1972 when they were placed on the endangered list due to pesticide use and the disappearance of natural places for them to nest. I saw my first bluebird here on the farm in 1972 and immediately put out a nesting box. I didn’t have any birds nest for several years but I didn’t give up. Now we have about 25 boxes spread all over the farm. I clean and repair them in the fall. The birds will winter in a box, many birds at a time getting in one box in order to share heat and stay warm. Usually around January or February, depending on how cold it is, the bluebirds will start to stake out the boxes and claim them for their homes. It is so comical to see the male bluebird enticing a female to check out the nice home he has picked out for her. They nest usually in late April and May and the first families are starting to hatch. I checked on all the boxes this past Saturday. Sometimes it is a sad experience. Life is not always good to the birds. In several boxes, it was apparent that English Sparrows, an annoying nuisance bird with no redeemable qualities in my book, have destroyed the bluebird eggs and built their nest right over the neat nest the bluebirds built. I hate to say it, but I know that one of my cats got the baby birds in a nest near the barn. Not this year so far, but last summer, I was checking the boxes and saw what I thought was a baby bird sticking its head out the entrance hole. Imagine my surprise when I got close enough to open the box and see a fully grown Black snake in the box. All the eggs were gone, no doubt consumed by the snake. So, my winter project is to take all the boxes from the wooden posts where they are now, and put them on iron pipes in the ground that will make it impossible for cats and snakes to climb. As it is, several of the boxes had swallows, chickadees, and Phoebees nesting in addition to the bluebirds.

I am pretty much a pragmatist about the life and death scenarios played out on the farm on a daily basis. The cats are good mousers and we don’t have mice in the barns. The black snakes probably help out there too, and we don’t kill them. The hawk will take a mourning dove from my bird feeder about once a week. The coyotes will steal a cat or small dog if they get a chance.

As I have been working outside each morning, I have heard the distictive call of a Red-tailed hawk. I took a little trip down to the woods near our farm pond and just sat and watched until the hawk flew into its nest high in the top of a huge oak tree. If you don’t really know what you are looking at, you will never think that that loose arrangement of sticks could be a nest, but it is.

Lily of the Valley

One of my favorite flowers is the Lily of the Valley. My mother had some and shared some “pips” with me. The Lily of the Valley that grows in our southern gardens puts up a delicate twin leaf with the wonderfully fragrant flower shooting up in a tall stem. The plant grows new plants by sending out shoots or pips underground and new plants spring up in the new season. I planted my main bed of Lily in the Valley in the wrong place many years ago. I planted the shared plants in my rose garden because it seemed a good idea at the time. Now, I have to dig up and move Lily of the Valley plants every spring to keep them from competing with the roses. I have moved some to a wooded spot near the azaleas and they seem to fit in there quite well but they have not grown and thrived like the ones in the rose bed. Oh well, I think I will let them alone. Clearly, they are happy and doing well. I shouldn’t mess up something that gives such delight.

Interestingly enough, the plant is poisonous if ingested and can kill pets. However, it is used for heart problems including heart failure and irregular heartbeat. It is also used for urinary tract infections , kidney stones, weak contractions in labor, epilepsy, fluid retention (edema), strokes and resulting paralysis, eye infections (conjunctivitis), and leprosy. I’m sure Lily of the Valley was used in this way before all the medicines and medical advances we have were available but it is also good to remember that so many of our modern medicines have their origins in native plants. Man has just learned to reproduce the medicinal chemistry that makes the usefulness of these plants in a laboratory. Another interesting fact I learned about the plant in a google search was that it grows wild in Europe and was thought to have grown where the tears of Mary, the mother of Jesus, fell to the ground when He was crucified.

I love the Lily of the Valley plant for several reasons. Of course, the simple beauty of the little perfectly bell-shaped flower, so delicate and lacy, would be enough. But oh no! Nature has adorned this simple little flower with the most beautiful fragrance in the world. I adore that fragrance. I buy room fresheners, drawer liners, soap, hand lotion, you name it! I just love it. Crabtree and Evelyn makes so many things that are scented with Lily of the Valley. I should buy stock in C&E! As I write this, I smell the wonderful fragrance that is wafting through the house from the small vase of Lily of the Valley in the kitchen.

Another reason I love the plant is because my silver pattern is Lily of the Valley by Gorham. I was born in 1950 and Lily of the Valley was re-introduced that year by Gorham Silversmiths. Now I didn’t choose that silver pattern. It was chosen for me by my aunt, Auntie Gail, or as she called herself “Miss Gail White”. Auntie Gail never married and she loved her nieces and nephews deeply, extravagantly, and completely. We were her children! She was the consummate gift-giver. Her gifts were always unique, chosen specifically with the recipient’s interests in mind, and most always with an educational or economical slant to them. When her nieces were born, Auntie Gail started each with her own silver pattern. On birthdays, Christmas, and other special occasions, we knew that we would get a piece of our silver. By the time Harry and I married, I had a complete service for eight, including serving pieces. Mama completed the service by adding the beautiful cake server which we used to cut the cake at our wedding.

Butter knife Lily of the Valley by Gorham

The Lily of the Valley flower, its scent, its simple design also remind me of Jesus. There is the hymn that we sing often, “He’s the Lily of the Valley, the bright and morning sun”. I did some research into this aspect of Jesus being called the Lily of the Valley and found some suggestions as to why He would be called this in the song. Jesus never actually refers to himself as the Lily of the Valley, however there are many verses in the New Testament about the lilies of the field.

Jesus was a sacrifice, an offering to redeem us from our sins and we are told that God loves the fragrance of a perfect sacrifice. Jesus was that perfect sacrifice. White signifies purity, Jesus is pure and wears robes of white. The Lily of the Valley is the whitest flower on earth. The Lily of the Valley was known for its medicinal value. Jesus is the great healer, the great physician, who removes all blemishes and imperfections from us.

During this Holy Week, we reflect more intentionally about the suffering of our Lord. We follow the days as He took the last meal with the disciples, prayed alone and in agony in the garden, went to the Cross, and rose triumphantly on Easter morning. As I look for more beautiful Lily of the Valley blooms to pick and perfume my house over the next few days, I will be reminded of and thank the perfect “Lily of the Valley” for all He has done for me.

So much to do in the yard and garden

I haven’t had much time to blog this spring. I’ve been to busy just living life, enjoying retirement, spending time with grandchildren, and serving on several committees at church. The committees at church are interesting and fun. One committee is for our church’s 200 anniversary celebration in 2020. Our committee is planning activities to celebrate the occasion and one dear soul is writing a history of the church that is really a history of the New Prospect community. I have learned so much about this area and our history in the church. I’m also helping with my high school graduating class reunion and it’s a big one–50 years since we graduated in 1969. What an interesting time we grew up and graduated in. Funny how when you are living it, you don’t realize that you are a part of a very significant era in our history–the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights movement, Free love, the Pill, school desegregation, The Beatles and the British music invasion, space exploration…..I could go on. Watching specials on PBS about the 60’s is so funny and sometimes unnerving. We didn’t know what we didn’t know!

So this spring has been busy but we have managed to work in the garden. We haven’t had many “projects” this year. Last spring was a big year with the rock wall, the compost bin, and other projects. This spring, Harry did build me another raised bed. He worked for several hours in the shed during bad weather to get the frame built. I wanted it to be 12 feet long and 3 feet wide so that I could harvest whatever I planted there with ease. So, we got the bed placed and then we concentrated on the dirt! Proper dirt is so important. This year, I wanted to plant carrots and beets in the bed. Our red clay soil is good for some things but for beets and carrots–root crops, it does not do as well as a good organic soil. So Harry put a layer of good “cow dirt” that he had been bringing along from the loafing shed that had aged for about a year as the base. Then I added Black Cow and mushroom compost to the bed. I planted beets and carrots and then lightly watered them in. Apparently, the dirt combination worked because it looks like EVERY seed I planted has come up! Now I get to thin the plants so I will have a good healthy crop. We planted lettuce, cabbage, and Texas Sweet onions and they are all doing well. We have had several good rains and some good weather. I have a horseradish plant that my Ukrainian neighbor gave me. It will need to be about 3 years old, Ivan said, before it is ready to have its tubers harvested. It has its own dedicated bed since he said that it can be invasive if not corralled. Ivan says that it grows wild in Russia and the Ukraine. I’m not exactly sure what I will do with fresh horseradish.

Beets and carrots in the new 2019 bed.

Beginning of zinnia bed

This week is Good Friday and all the old timers swear by planting their garden on Good Friday. We don’t hold to that always because if Easter is early, then we have the likelihood of cold weather and freezes so we always hold off on the garden seeds until around the first of April. The cabbage and onions can go in earlier. I missed getting my English peas in this year. The weather just didn’t cooperate for me to plant them. On Good Friday, we will plant Purple Hull Crowder peas. We don’t usually plant our okra until the first or second week in May. Okra is a relative of cotton and “likes” hot days and warm nights and loves for the ground to be warm. We plan to plant more okra than usual this year. We found that many friends and neighbors were more than happy to pay for our extra okra straight from the garden so we plan to accommodate them this year! Okra is one of those vegetables that not everyone has room in their garden to grow and many people do not like to harvest it. It can be very itchy and stingy to pick and handle. I am not able to pick okra at all. Just being near it makes me break out in large whelps that itch. Even arming myself with one of Harry’s old knee high socks doesn’t do the trick anymore. Fortunately, it doesn’t bother him so he is more than happy to cut the okra as long as I will fry him a big cast iron frying pan full!

The raspberries and blackberries are looking wonderful. I have one area of raspberries that we added last year. I have filled in some gaps in that bed with volunteers that come up. Raspberries are easy to spread and share. They pop up everywhere and can be invasive if you don’t control them.

Raspberries looking very good!

The asparagus bed is doing well. It is now 5 years old and well-established. In fall, after all the fronds have turned brown, I cut them down and put a cover of pulverized straw on the bed. Harry has a large hay shed where he keeps square bales of hay. The floor is covered with hay that gets driven over and walked over. It is perfect to use as mulch since it has not seeds that will sprout and be a nuisance. In spring, once the asparagus starts to emerge, I just pull the straw back and toss it in the compost bin. The year I put a thin layer of mushroom compost on the bed. This should feed the asparagus roots that will spread underground and make more spears next season.

I have planted 3 beds of zinnias and sunflowers. I really like to get the zinnias in by the first week of April so that I can have flowers by mid-June. This year, I planted some the last week of March. We would love to use garden flowers for some of the decorations for our 200th anniversary celebration at church since we believe that our ancestors would have used whatever was growing wild or in the yard as floral decorations. My experience this year will be to see if I can have zinnias blooming by June 7. Fingers crossed.

I have been spending some time this week with the rose bushes. I have about 20 bushes, not that big of a rose garden, but enough to provide plenty of blooms and beautiful fragrances. I am not a purist organic gardener, but I do try to avoid pesticides and herbicides when I can. So, early spring brings those pesky little green aphids that suck the life out of roses. I’m careful not to mess with the ladybugs who LOVE aphids but I will squash the aphids with my fingers when I can. I have removed all the mulch from the roses and will till the ground this week with a little Mantis tiller that will do a great job of stirring the ground without tearing up any roots. Then I’ll get a good load of well-decayed horse manure and put on the roses topped by mulch.

Next up will be the planter boxes and hanging baskets. I usually try to do that around Mother’s Day. Happy gardening!

Rocks!

I have a thing for rocks—river rocks, field rocks, mountain rocks, doesn’t matter. I love rocks.  That is a good thing because around the farm, we have a lot of rocks.  Where our house and farm are was once cotton fields and peach orchards.  It was farmed for about 150 years before we established our home here, and there are rock piles all over the farm.  At the corner of our yard under a big oak tree, was a huge pile of rocks that I systematically moved and made a border for my flowerbeds.  Harry’s dad wasn’t impressed with that since he recalled picking up a lot of those rocks as a boy.  Anyway, I have a love affair with rocks.  I am forever picking them up in the field or as I walk if I see one I like, I will tote it home and place it the rock border somewhere. I guess I get it honestly.  My mother had a thing for rocks and had them as borders in her flower garden on the Reidville Road in Spartanburg, SC (John White Boulevard to you youngsters).  The house we lived in had a beautiful natural field stone fireplace with wonderful rocks with quartz and mica mixed in.  I have often wondered what happened to the rocks in that fireplace when the house was torn down. That house was where the front entrance to Hatcher Gardens is located now and was torn down a good many years ago. For my mother’s sake, I hope they took the rocks and did something nice with them.   Mama and Daddy moved to Inman, SC,  in 1957 and Mama moved her rocks as well.  I remember how proud she was of a bank at the new house where she transplanted her prized irises.  Interspersed among the iris, where these beautiful rocks she had moved from Spartanburg.   When Mama died, my sister and I divided up Mama’s rocks.  Yes, it is true. When the silver and china was divided up and we had closed up the house, all that was left was Mama’s rocks. There was one very special rock that was a large whitish rock that had wonderful quartz crystals all through it and what looks like fossils.  I got that rock!  It has a place of honor in a flowerbed near my front door. I call the flower bed the Evelyn …………..flower bed in memory of mama.
HAD a humongous quince bush that just had gotten out of control. It had huge sprouts everywhere and was hiding a flowerbed with daylilies in it.  Harry helped me prune it way back last year, but that only encouraged it to grow wilder.  One of those pretty days we had back in January, Harry asked sweetly if I would let him dig that bush up.  (It has thorns on it and looks “snaky”—his words—so I knew it was doomed if I said yes.)   I said he could dig the bush up because I had been thinking about putting a rock wall along the bank where the bush was.  “If you will let me build a rock wall there, you can dig it up.” I said.  I expected opposition but unbelievably, that was all it took.A few minutes later he was back with the Bobcat and the bush was history, although a few diehard sprouts still live and bloomed this spring.  They can stay.  I will whack them back with the chainsaw periodically just to let them know who is boss.
On Monday, Harry asked me if I was ready to build my rock wall.  I answered that I was but I didn’t have the rocks yet. I had planned on going to another rock pile in the pasture and loading up rocks in my spare time in the MULE and working on the wall as I had time.   I planned on reading up how to build a natural field stone rock wall on YouTube and build myself a rock wall!  I am feeling pretty good about this DIY stuff.  He said, “I thought we would get some of those big rocks down in the field above the lake and use them.  We can pretty much build a retaining wall with several of them and you won’t have to worry about stacking them or using mortar.”  
Be still my leaping heart!  The big rocks down in the field!   I have been coveting these “big rocks down in the field above the lake” for 47 years. (That’s how long I have lived here on the farm).  These rocks are huge fieldstones that were once the foundation stones for a cabin or house that sat down in the field more than a 125 years ago.  They are big and well shaped for foundation stones.  I had wanted those rocks up in the yard forever. Every time we would be out walking or riding in the pasture, I would make a detour to look at those rocks and wistfully remark that I would love to have them in the yard somewhere to no avail.  And now I am going to have them!    Rock junky that I am, I have hit the mother lode!  It took us two trips with the bucket on the Bobcat but three large rocks were moved and ready to be placed in my rock wall.  However, these rocks weren’t enough to cover the whole bank.Harry told me that there was another place on the farm he had checked out that had some huge rocks we could also use.  He had checked it out and found these rocks he could get for me?  That sweet man had looked over the farm for rocks. He had been planning to build this wall for me ever since I let him annihilate the quince bush and he had been looking for rocks to use.  Just another way he shows he loves me. Forget roses and perfume!  Give me rocks!  Not the sparkly kind on my finger but the kind covered in lichen!   So off to the back 40 we go to another area where fieldstones had been thrown and piled up over the years.  Here, though, were also some huge boulders that made my heart just almost leap out of my chest!  I never knew these rocks were even on the place!   They were stupendous! I have no idea how they got there.  I do not believe a man with a mule could have moved them.  They may have been there naturally.  It took three trips with the Bobcat to haul these rocks to the yard.  All in all, we brought nine gigantic rocks home Monday. There are still three left to get. Once we got them home, Harry worked like a magician with the bucket and forks on the Bobcat to get them in place.  These things won’t budge by hand!   Rain has interrupted our project and we will have to wait until it dries out to finish backfilling the wall and finishing the look I want.  Just a few more days and my rock wall will be finished. 

The Prayer Rock–Backstory Part One

Recently, I posted a blurb on Facebook about the prayer rock that Harry moved into a new place for me. I thought I would share the backstory of how I got the prayer rock and some of the experiences I have had there over the years.  This will be a little more biographical than just gardening. Be forewarned.
I think it must have been in the late 1980’s that Harry bought a new Massey Ferguson tractor that had a big front-end loader on it. This works like a bucket and can be moved up and down to move material.  I don’t know why we were riding around in the pasture on the tractor; maybe so he could “play” with the new loader and show me his skills.  The far border of our farm property is a stream.  It is not a very bold stream and is spring-fed in several places, but in one particular place there was a natural waterfall and many large rocks along the bank.  I am pretty sure that some of these large rocks are part of some of the same boulders that we used to make my rock retaining wall and all might have originated from the same geological event at some time in the long past.  Anyway, Harry saw a large flat rock and said he thought that if he could get it with the bucket, it would make a nice seat or focal point for my garden area.  Even then, he knew the way to my heart was with rocks!  So, after much maneuvering and manipulation with the bucket, the large flat rock and several others were transported to the house.  We set up the rock seat near the edge of the woods that border our yard and there it sat for many years.  It was only recently that it got a new place in the garden.
It didn’t start out as a “prayer rock”, only a nice flat rock that was nice to sit upon and reflect. But it is hard for me to be outside in nature, listening to the birds, smelling the fragrant flowers, looking at the blue sky and the mountains in the distance without my thoughts and my adoration turning to God.  And so, over the years, the rock became for me, a place where I could sit and commune with God. But there have been times when instead of communing, I cried out in pain, sadness, bewilderment, and faith. 
My mother went going through a battle with cancer, which ultimately took her life and over the approximately three years she was sick, I found many occasions to sit on the rock and pray for her healing, her comfort, and at last, her deliverance.  During those long days, I would sit on the rock and ask God to guide me and help me to be a good daughter to her and do everything I could to honor her and help her last days be as happy and free from worry as could be.  Mama showed us all how a Christian approaches death with faithfulness and grace.  I like to think that that the faith that sustained me through that time came, in part from sitting on the prayer rock and talking it through with God.
Fast forward several years, and I was serving as principal at New Prospect Elementary School.  I had been principal there for 8 years, and during that last that year, I had become burdened and convinced in my heart that my effectiveness and leadership were waning.  I have an educational administrative theory that the longer a person remains as a principal in the same school, sometimes it becomes harder to make the tough decisions that have to be made. Over time, you become close to the people in the school, you live through many life experiences with them, and you become friends and family. That makes it hard to lead and even harder to have those tough conversations with friends and even harder with family.  But as the leader of a school, you have to be able to do this if the organization is to continue to thrive and goals met. So that is where I was in early spring 1999.  It may not be true for every administrator but for me, I was becoming increasingly aware that I needed to make a change. However, I did not want to leave District One.  I remember sitting on the prayer rock one cold day in early spring when I got home from school and having a very frank conversation with God.  “God, you know that I am not feeling good about my leadership at New Prospect. And you also know that I am not applying for jobs, I don’t ever want to leave District One, and I am really at a loss.  So, I’m giving it all to you.  If you want me to be principal at New Prospect, then you give me some assurance that I am doing the right thing and I am going to give it all and be the best one I can possibly be.  But, if you don’t want me to be principal there, then you are going to have to take care of it because I am giving it to you!”  It was certainly an audacious way to talk to God, but I think He appreciates our honesty and our frankness with Him. I gave it to Him, and quite honestly, forgot about it.
Over the next few months, I dove deep into planning for the next three to five years of things I wanted the school to accomplish and the direction I wanted us to go.  I wanted the school to be a Palmetto’s Finest winner.  I went so far as to say we should be a National Blue Ribbon School! I met with teachers and enlisted their help with where I thought the school should go and how we would get there. I felt confident, renewed, and ready to face the next few years at New Prospect.  Apparently, God wanted me to stay right there! 
Then, something happened that I could never have anticipated and even today it remains one of those singular life events that will always be a bad memory.  A disgruntled employee accused me of something that could ultimately cost my position and bring much discredit to the school.  Over a period of about 10 days, while we were dealing with the allegations, I spent many an hour sitting on the prayer rock in anguish with God. I couldn’t believe that this was happening.  I am basically a very trusting person, and it is hard for me to recognize when people are just bad, evil, and manipulative.  I couldn’t believe that an employee would be so vindictive as to accuse me of a crime.I distinctly remember sitting on the prayer rock and crying out to God. “God! I know I said if you didn’t want me to be principal of New Prospect, you would have to take care of it…but I never meant that I wanted to go to jail!”  I can laugh about that now, but I wasn’t laughing then.
I was able to weather that particular episode, but that is not the point of sharing this experience.  Many times we offer up prayers to God and then try to answer the prayer ourselves.  I had forgotten about the prayer and challenge I gave to Him.   God does hear our prayers and He answers them in His own time, and often in ways that we could never dream of.  If I have learned anything in the experiences I have had in my Christian walk, it is that we can’t fathom how God works so that is why we just have to trust Him.  His ways are not our ways and we can’t even imagine how He makes provisions for us. Remember, I said to God while sitting on the prayer rock…”God if you don’t want me to be principal of New Prospect, you take care of it.  I’m giving it to you.”  Certainly, that was the last thing on my mind as I struggled with the allegations of that former employee.
The middle of May arrived and I was deep into planning for the next year, testing, and end of year activities.  Sadly, the mother of one of our teachers passed away quite unexpectedly.  The Superintendent and I were going to another city to visit with the family.  I remarked that I had read where a longstanding principal in another good Spartanburg County school district had resigned to go to a place I considered less desirable to work.  “I could possibly see myself leaving New Prospect to go to District ______maybe, but down there?  I don’t think I could do that.”  He looked over at me and said, “Well do you see yourself leaving New Prospect to go to Mabry?”   Well, suffice it to say that knocked me for a loop and it was one of the rare times I was left speechless. As far as I knew, there wasn’t a vacancy at Mabry. Then I heard a still small voice speaking in my right ear. Really, that is what happened.  “Cathy, you gave it to me.”   That was all.  “Cathy, you gave it to me.”  Then and there, I knew that God had heard my prayers, and even though I thought that He had forgotten that bold challenge I had issued to Him, He had not.   I knew that the Superintendent didn’t say things like that without meaning it.  I knew what he was asking. And there was no stalling for time or asking for time to talk it over with anyone. I knew that God had spoken and that He was in the midst of this conversation.  I looked at the Superintendent and replied, “Well, I have always said that I would do whatever God and ________   _______ asked me to do.” His response to me, which we still laugh about it today, was, “ I don’t know about God, but this is__________ talking!”   On June 14, 1999, I was named principal at Mabry Junior High School.
Psalm 62:7On God my salvation and my glory rest; The rock of my strength, my refuge is in God.

Psalm 62:2He only is my rock and my salvation, My stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken.