Some seed fell into good soil, and when it grew, it produced a hundredfold.
Jesus teaches about broadcast seeding. He doesn’t need to explain the fundamentals to his agricultural audience, but maybe you could use some background.
Perhaps you can picture the scene from a classic painting: Bruegel, Tissot, Luyken, Herrad of Landsberg, Van Gogh (look for these and more!).
Seeds are scattered by hand, often by the handful. In the dry and rocky parts of Palestine where Jesus told this parable, hand broadcasting was standard. They didn’t have tractors. Even today, rough terrain and limited access to roads, equipment and fuel means most Palestinian farmers plant by hand.
While some seeds germinate lying atop the ground, most sprout when they are underground. Smaller seeds usually need minimal cover, generally twice the seeds’ diameter. Tiny broccoli seeds, for example, shouldn’t have more than a ½ inch of soil on top of them. Large lima beans, belong 1 ½ inches underground.
Lettuce, along with many herbs and flowers, germinates on top of the ground in sunlight. These are the birdseed of Jesus’ story, a gardener’s challenge in every century.
You don’t need a ruler to plant seeds. For tiny and light-loving seeds, use the “sprinkle and tickle” method, sprinkling seeds by hand and tickling the soil to lightly cover some seeds. Tickling keeps your fingers from pressing seeds or soil, compacting them in life-limiting ways.
Seeds that prefer about 1 inch of cover just need your finger up to one knuckle. Press each seed until your first knuckle is even with the ground. Among your family and friends you could match each person with the seed that corresponds with their finger length. A planting party is in the works! Invite your grandkids, niblings, or kids from your church or neighborhood to join you in a planting party in your yard or over video chat and spread seeds, not viruses.
Jesus’ story is for all of us, whether we identify with the sower or the seeds.
God, plant me in your world at the right depth for who I am today, that I may receive your blessings and grow to share them with others.
Broadcast seeding techniques, especially with kids
Broadcast seed technique and permaculture principles
Staying home + minimizing trips to the grocery = start a garden
The best way to start gardening is to grow from your compost pile (or trash can, if you're not composting yet). Pull out all the vegetable scraps you've been throwing away--you can start a garden with that!
In fact, many vegetables and herbs can regrow in water, at least for a few rounds, so if you're home without dirt just find an empty container and get started. We've eaten leeks, green onion, basil, mint, etc for weeks from a scrap that we stuck in a cup of water. Eventually they will run out of energy (unless you add fertilizer) but by then you might be ready to transplant outside or to a pot.
If you eat sweet potatoes, enjoy how easily you can sprout them on a windowsill. We cut off both ends and stick each in water, using toothpicks to keep about 1/3 of the chunk out of the water. First leaves will grow up, then roots will grow down. Keep topping up the water.
In the photo on the right, check out the tall leaves on chunks we started two weeks ago. Our newest starts will look like that soon.
We've had sweet potatoes growing like this all winter. Eventually they suffer since we're not adding any fertilizer (see the yellowing leaves below). You can move them to dirt (inside or outside, weather permitting) and they'll keep producing leaves, and eventually grow more tubers. Trim and eat the leaves - in warm weather you will get a salad a day from your sweet potato plants, and then a fall tuber harvest, too.
Remember victory gardens? Propaganda can be positive! With covid-19 creating health, economic, social and mental stress throughout the world, the impact we have on each other is clear. I don't remember WWII but there are positive patriotic stories of many people doing their small part for the good of all.
WWII propaganda applies directly: start a garden today. Even if you just grow greens in your apartment. When we meet more of our own needs, we put less strain on systems around us. When we have something to share with a neighbor (other than a virus) we increase peace and health. Start folding plant pots from your recycling bin - today. Didn't buy seeds? You can save seeds from (some) produce in your kitchen and prepare them for planting. Onion, leek, lettuce, sweet potato, potato and other plants can be started from scraps of those foods you might have thrown away.
Hospitals are now desperate enough that they're asking us to sew masks at home. Start today even if your local hospital isn't accepting them yet. Use a homemade mask and donate any storebought masks to hospitals. Donate masks to homeless shelters and food pantries and any agencies accepting them in your area. Don't think you have fabric to sew with? What about clothing or bedding that is stained or torn and you're not using anymore? A mask requires a small piece of intact fabric.
Anyone found instructions for homemade face shields? These may be more important for health care workers and anyone doing essential work in the world, protecting even their eyes.
We're not rationing yet, but we may be. Some people are rationing today because they don't have enough money to stock up. This WWII poster needs no updating (other than including people of all genders and ethnicities!) because we can still can! Fermenting is an excellent and easy way to preserve - much easier than canning. Hope you have plenty of salt.
Start some sourdough if you're staying home - you won't even need yeast for hearty and versatile bread dough.
After 11 years of living with dogs, we are now just two people in a house. The utter joy and true challenge of our five dogs (and two cats) filled our lives and homes.
We knew this season would come; Hannah turned 12 on January 1, 2020 and with a heart murmur and history of tumors, we expected she wouldn't be with us for another Christmas.
(Therefore we especially treasure her one Christmas integrated with my side of the family, thanks to my parents for changing the pet rules!)
While we were traveling in February, Hannah was suddenly lethargic, without appetite, with pockets of fluid on her side and then legs. The vet said only hospitalization could keep her alive and diagnose the underlying problem(s), which might be manageable if it was an auto-immune situation. More likely it would be cancer which we wouldn't choose to treat. And hospitalization would cost "a few thousand dollars."
We made the difficult and conflicted decision to euthanize Hannah.
We're grateful that she had a full and comfortable life until her last days. She hiked all over Florida and Atlanta in her last weeks, enjoying her strong, quiet pal Rufus, as well as our dear human friends, too!
We think we waited too long to euthanize Max, hoping he would regain strength to enjoy his last months, but instead he was weak and probably miserable for his final two weeks. We chose euthanasia more quickly for Hannah with Max's lesson.
Maybe too quickly. I've consistently felt ill-at-ease about euthanizing Hannah rather than bringing her back to our friends' home in Atlanta to die at her body's pace. We discussed that option with the vet and asked if she could send us with pain relieving medication. She was honest: no. She could prescribe various medications but acknowledged that they would sedate Hannah and we wouldn't know if she was actually comfortable.
Whether we're accompanying a human or other animal in the dying process, we want to believe they are comfortable. That's what hospice promised (at least when I worked in hospice): we can make your loved one comfortable.
And they're probably lying.
But they can make you more comfortable by making your loved one appear comfortable. I'm glad our one-time Atlanta vet was honest.
But I wish Hannah could have died with Phillip by her side. He was on a video phone call from Mexico, with us by screen, as Hannah died. He was with other dogs we love.
Remember how anxious Hannah was anytime Phillip was away? Now we realize - somehow she knew that she would die when Phillip was away! Sorry we didn't understand sooner, Hannah!
Of course, Hannah wasn't like when Oliver was lighting up her life.
What a looker! He always had his tux on, even when cooling down in a mud puddle.
Phillip and I met (spring of 2015 in Lafayette, IN) because we both love bicycling. We fell in love, moved to Pennsylvania, and a couple weeks before our wedding Oliver died.
We've all missed him ever since. And Hannah never recovered, and was suddenly and extremely anxious when left alone. We tried myriad approaches (thunder shirt, medication, crating, etc) and finally decided to get her canine companions. After all, if she could be left with Oliver for hours at a time all those years, she must just need a dog around.
We met at the right time. As tricky as Sula (my first dog companion) was, she was independent. Phillip and I barely biked together again after Oliver died - maybe we'd never have met if it hadn't been for Oliver's calming presence in Hannah's life.
We adopted elderly, ailing Booker and Max. They'd spent months in a foster home; though this is a popular breed, the medical needs and quirks turned many people off. But as Italian Greyhounds we thought Hannah would like them. Hannah was afraid of dogs unless they are 1) a whippet-related breed or 2) strong, silent pit types. We should've tried the 2nd kind! But we didn't know, and instead hadincredible joy and struggle with the "gray boys."
While Booker acted like Hannah's blanket, he didn't seem to be her comforter, and her separation anxiety didn't change.
We figure we may have gained an hour of away time before Hannah would break her face trying to break out of home (trailer, van, house, etc) but we couldn't enjoy bike rides together, knowing she was in distress.
We kept trying to convince the dogs to ride in the bike trailer.
They were never convinced. Unless a human got in with them, which was not sustainable for fun or the trailer's integrity.
We knew this time would come, when all our dogs are dead and we are left with the choice: adopt again? Between saying goodbye to 5 dogs in 4.25 years and all the people and churches and towns we've said goodbye to in those years, we are grief-drenched. Like sponges, full of water and cannot take on any more. We don't want to stop enjoying people, and know we need time to shed the grief.
In the meantime, we get to love dogs and cats through friends and family. Even in the neighborhood.
Love tends to complicate our values. We wouldn't spend $4,000 on one dog (old or young) rather than spay/neuter 500 dogs with that money. Just like I don't want hundreds of thousands of dollars spent to keep me on life sustaining equipment if I'm paralyzed or have brain damage. Not when 3,000 children die every day because they don't have clean water. But what if Phillip was in the hospital bed and there just might be a chance he could recover?
I hope the solution isn't to stop loving, to have fewer intimate relationships.
But some measure of that choice is right for us. Not to have biological children when so many young people need love, attention, home. Not to buy any dogs or cats when so many need love, attention, home. Including the semi-stray kitties in our neighborhood that we hope to befriend.
Of course, the most gregarious one only loved us for Hannah!
We're trying to stack up as many positive experiences as we can in the "only because we don't have dogs anymore" category. Someday, after enough bike rides, that stack could be half as tall as the "joy from having dogs" stack.