garden Politics

Native Soil

Why am I showing you a picture of dirt? 

I’m showing you this dirt because I made it. It’s important to me. It’s no ordinary dirt. This dirt has a story to tell.

As I’ve shared before, our family is on a journey transforming our yard, from something chemically controlled and non-native to something organic and more respectful to where we live.

So what’s that got to do with dirt? Specifically the dirt in this picture? 


The J.R. Organics Farm Tour

Three and a half years ago I got a CSA membership with J.R. Organics for Christmas. We’ve stuck with it and we’re glad we have.


Garden Update

This is our 3rd spring with a garden. Our skills are definitely improving. Here’s a quick rundown of how it’s going.

  1. Carrots – We tried a different, more exotic variety this year. They didn’t do anything. It’s time to tear up that spot and plant some beans.
  2. Chards – This is our first time with swiss chard, a regular in our CSA box, and it’s gone great. Once it matures you just start cutting the outsides off that you want to eat and it keeps going. It’s starting to slow down a bit as the weather warms up, I think they are likely going to be done soon.
  3. Beets – Another first time planting. We learned a lot about separating them this year. We planted them in a great big bunch, which made for amazing greenery but relatively small fruit. So we picked the big ones and replanted the little ones. So far, so good.
  4. Green beans – They never took off this year. No idea why, but it was a weird spring, too. So no  telling if it was us or the weather or the soil.
  5. Peas – Third year trying english peas and third year of failing. We have no idea what’s going wrong!
  6. Celery – Huge success with celery. Wow! It got huge, was delicious, and is currently going to seed. We’ll store the seeds for next winter and try planting them.
  7. Strawberries – One of the great things about strawberries is that they just keep going and going. We’re getting a pint or so every day right now, which Jackson manages to claim for himself.
  8. Onions – First time with onions and they turned out great! We harvested half of them this week and we’ll pull the other half soon. Big, pretty red onions. We’ve also been planting green onions and other things with roots that are leftovers from our CSA box… so awesome that it just starts growing again.
  9. Sweet corn – We planted sweet corn about 5-6 weeks ago and the stalks are already up to my waste. So fun to see them thriving, I spotted the first husk today.
  10. Tomatoes – Our neighbor gave us a large patch in our shared way back yard and we filled it up with tomato plants. I just came in from weeding and taping them up, big old bumped crop is coming! From a distance it doesn’t look like much. But when you get inside the gate you can see these plants are thriving out there in the sun. Drip irrigation and full sun is perfect for tomato plants. They are now bushy enough where I’m no longer worried about the summer sun burning them up.
  11. Herbs – We cut our herbs all the way back this winter and they are back with a vengeance right now. Unlimited mint, rosemary, and oregano.

How is your garden going? 


Gardening technique is kinda like life



August Garden Tour & Today’s Harvest

A few minutes ago Kristen and I picked a ton of tomatoes, check out. 32 full-sized tomatoes and about 1.5 lbs of yellow cherries.

Can’t wait for those watermelons!

family garden

JR Organics Farm Tour and Eating What You Believe

Ever heard the phrase “You are what you eat?

It’s true. Your body is literally composed of all the stuff you eat. Don’t think about that too much, because it’s gross.

It’s amazing that people want to have a relationship with their pastor, their doctor, the person who cuts their hair, or even the person who delivers our mail. But the person who grows the fruits, vegetables, dairy, or meats our families consume?

We don’t want to know them. We wouldn’t even like to meet the people who deliver food from the distributor to our grocery store. We are completely relationally disassociated and disconnected with one of the most intimate things about us… our food.

If you are what you eat and you don’t know the people where your food comes from– You probably need to take 4-5 hours and watch some of the amazing documentaries that have come out in the past decade about our food system. You’ll see they at the molecular level most of what you eat is genetically modified corn filler, pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, and other chemicals designed to kill pests on the farm. It’s scary.

Kristen and I decided 2 years ago that we wanted to know where our food came from. Starting in 2010, we made a commitment that 25% of our food budget would go to food we have a relationship with. So we planted a garden. Next, we joined a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. Finally, we committed to going to a local farmers market bi-weekly. (Not only to look, smell, and sample– But to buy and support!)

That’s when we met the Rodriguez family of Escindido and their farm, JR Organics. Joe, Jr. and his wife Joan E are fourth generation farmers in Southern California. Their 80 acre farm in north San Diego county employs their family and about 10 others. We know this because we’ve taken the time to get to know them.

Yesterday, our family went to our second farm tour on their property. It’s one thing to go and get our box full of fruits and veggies but it’s entirely another thing to go to their farm and see how things get into those boxes. Who are the people who do the work? What makes something organic? What is the science involved? What techniques are they innovating?

The day at the farm is amazing. It’s fun to meet people who, like you, are members of the CSA. And it’s fun that they have a tour just for kids and to see them running around the paths between fields in ways children have played for millennia. And, of course, the monster feast they put on is a wonderful reward. It’s one of those days we put on our calendar and circle three times: We wouldn’t miss it.

Now that we’ve known the Rodriguez family for two years and done business with them, here are two things that strike me:

First, their values and hearts are in the right place. They absolutely want (and need to) make money at farming. But their values also shine through in how they make money, how they treat their employees, and especially how they care for their farm. Values and heart pour from everything they do. That’s evident when we pick up our box, eat the food they produce, and it’s on display when we visit their farm.

Second, Joe is off the charts intelligent. Listening to Joe, Jr. give the tour yesterday was an absolute clinic in soft innovation. While Joe doesn’t have a PhD in agricultural science he has a PhD in his land and how to work it and that’s far more valuable to him. Joe knows that how he farms directly impacts his bottom line. (And that how he farms becomes the marketing for his farm.) But he also has to deal with market conditions, the weather, bugs and other pests, and the ever-changing standards of remaining an organic farm. As families listened to his presentation and walked his property yesterday they had no idea how much work, discovery, and science went behind each of the things they nodded their heads to.

Here’s my encouragement– get to know where your food comes from. The net results in our family have been astounding. Sure, we are all eating more healthy. But we are also more aware of the people who produce our food and see how our relationship directly impacts them.

Tips for getting started

  • Grow something, anything. Even if you don’t have room for a garden you can grow something to eat. Maybe it’s a tomato plant in a 5 gallon bucket on your balcony? Or maybe its a square foot garden on your patio?
  • Slice off a piece of your overall food budget for locally produced foods. Our CSA membership costs about $800 per year. You spend it in chunks so it feels like you’re spending more. But, in truth, our overall grocery bills are down.
  • Learn to eat what is in season, not what you see on TV. This has been a fun lesson for our family. We eat what is growing. So we eat lots of citrus when our trees ripen in January, lots of leafy greens all winter, and pig out on tomatoes, cucumbers, and strawberries all summer. And we’ve even had to learn how to cook/enjoy things we never would have purchased in the grocery store. All great things!

What does this have anything to do with my life with Jesus? Everything.


garden illustrations


The last couple of weeks have been stressful. Work stuff piled up as an ever growing to-do list was at war with two very firm deadlines. Stress built, tension built, and I was an emotional wreck. One day last week I started working at 6:00 am and largely sat in the same place steadily working until 10:00 pm. And I didn’t feel any closer to being done than I did before.

I’ve learned that one of the ways I relax is to spend time in our garden. Life can be going a million miles per hour and it all slows when I crouch or kneel next to a bed of vegetables.

The chores of having a garden are fairly simply and repetitive. Fertilize the soil. Plant things at the right time. Water when its dry. Pull weeds. Harvest. Repeat.

The back-to-basics simplicity is what brings me so much joy. Fresh, organic fruits and vegetables are merely the by-product of the primary benefit.

Each weed I pull it releases a little bit of tension. In the past couple of weeks, the warmer weather arriving forced me to water more… which resulted in weeds springing up everywhere. That was perfect! Because I had plenty of tension, frustration, and anxiety to pull out with each weed as well.

Pulling weeds has a strong tie to my life with Jesus, too.

Here are a few things I’m reminded of as I weed my garden:

  • You can’t just weed once per week.It’s better to weed a little bit each day.
  • Weeds like fertile soil just as much as crop producing plants. Where there is growth there will be weeds.
  • Sometimes you have to be gentle when you pull out a weed. It’s roots my be intertwined with roots of a good plant.
  • Some weeds have thorns and smell bad. But others are pretty and you’re tempted to keep them. Don’t.
  • Bugs eat your fruits and vegetables. For some reason they leave weeds alone.
  • Even the best gardeners pull weeds. You never get above it… you just get better at it. And some just get better at hiding the evidence.
  • Weeding the garden is work. It’s an easy skill but it is always going to get you dirty and always going to make you sweat.

What are some other parallels between taking care of your garden and your walk with Christ?

family garden Music Photo

Time Lapse Video: Backyard Hummingbirds

A few weeks ago we hung this little hummingbird feeder. We were amazed to discover that the hummingbirds (who nest in a tree in our backyard) discovered it within hours.

Maybe it makes me sound old or stupid? But I don’t care. I love watching these amazing creatures in my backyard. And I love watching them up close when they are at the feeder.

So every few days we take it down and clean out the little bottle of sugar water, then mix up some more for them. It’s really fun! We can’t believe how tame they are. (You can get like 6 inches from them.) And it’s really cool when they come close or “buzz the tower.

This morning, I thought it would be fun to set up my camera to take time lapse pictures while we went to the farmers market. All told, we captured about 2 hours of pictures… one every 10 seconds. 665 frames.

The video above is the result.

The song, as you may recognize, is from Jars of Clay. It’s called The Long Fall. (click here to buy it on iTunes)

garden hmm... thoughts illustrations

To Eat More, Guess Less

Kristen and I are completing our first year of transforming our backyard into an organic garden. The first year has been full of fun harvests and humiliating defeats.

If we’ve learned anything about gardening in the first year it is this principle: To eat more, you need to guess less.

  • We’ve learned that when we planted things is as important as what we want.
  • We’ve learned how to adapt our watering to the weather as opposed to just setting a timer.
  • We’ve learned how a baby weed is just as dangerous as a major one.
  • We’ve learned that is something gets bigger than you wanted, prune it right away or it’ll take over the garden.
  • We’ve learned that if we want to keep our harvest coming, we need to be patient in spreading out when we plant so it doesn’t all come at once.
  • We’ve learned that planting something in the wrong season really doesn’t work.
  • We’ve learned that your yield is directly proportional to the quality of soil where you plant at.

We didn’t know anything walking into this. So we guessed a lot. And we let our emotions get the best of us a few times.

But heading into the second year, we’ve learned a lot and documented what we did, we hope to eat a little bit more with less mistakes in 2011.

Isn’t this the same as with any other endeavor? You might guess and get something right by accident. But experience always yields a better result.

Books Culture garden Manifesto

Why Americans are Going Local

Yesterday Kristen and I listened to an author, Andrew Potter, describe the American movement towards all things local and eco-friendly as conspicuous consumption.

It felt like an elitist slap in the face.

His book is called, The Authenticity Hoax. (I’ve not read it) You can see the transcript to the Marketplace segment, “The new holier than thou” here.

Basically, the author claimed that the real reason why Americans are going to farmers markets, growing their own food, shopping at locally owned business, and otherwise supporting their local economy is really to show off our wealth publicly. The entire tone of the interview seemed to mock and misrepresent a major shift in public opinion. (For a more reasonable interpretation of the same movement, check out this link in Business Week.)

I couldn’t help but wonder if the author was just a tool or if he was a corporate tool who didn’t understand how inverse relationships work? As people’s distrust in “global” increases, their trust in “local” increases proportionally.

Some examples of inverse relationships in the going local trend

  1. We are social creatures. With access to worldwide communication, its a natural human reaction to seek out local connections. People going local is an inverse relationship to a global society.
  2. Micro-economics makes sense. It doesn’t take a PhD in economics to understand that if I choose going to a local eatery vs. McDonald’s more of my money stays in my community. People eating locally is an inverse relationship to a global economy.
  3. The general public is coming to understand that our food chain is under-regulated and unsafe. As I’ve written about before, thanks to some great documentaries the general public is now aware that corporations are more concerned with profit than public health. People growing their own food is an inverse relationship to a global, unregulated food supply chain.
  4. The food decision wheel is turning more quickly. Each time there is a flaw in the food chain it just emphasized what the general public is thinking already. Bad eggs leads to “I need to buy my eggs from a farmer I can trust.” Now that people understand that most of our corn products are genetically-modified, people are starting to look for products containing no corn product. Every bad news story about food spins the wheel a little faster for people and centrifugal force is tough to fight for long. People trusting local farmers is an inverse relationship to a distrust of mega-farmers.
  5. Conspicuous corruption leads to local consumption. Look at the case of “special foreclosure courts” being set up in Florida to supersede constitutional rights in favor of corporations making a quick buck. This isn’t some conspiracy theorist… it’s the New York Times! Apparently the 7th amendment isn’t the law when courts are busy? No one in their right mind would trust that the government will rule in favor of a common citizen right now. So, people are investing their money in local businesses and things they know they can understand and trust. People investing in local banks is an inverse relationship to our distrust of a global banking society and the governmental corruption it has inspired.

What are other examples of inverse relationships that are leading more and more of us to go local?

Do you think that the shift to local really is conspicuous consumption? Is this just yuppies finding new ways to show off?