The Garden Ministry

We commit ourselves... To honor the beauty of creation as life giving for the human spirit, allowing ourselves to be filled with awe and reverence before the wonders of creation.

organic-gardenConsistent with reverence for the Earth is allowing it to remain in its pristine state without pesticides and pollutants. We work a natural garden in keeping with our belief that all of God’s creation are sacred and should be treated with respect and care.  We do this as a model of ways to counter the industrial agricultural industry.

The Garden Mission

We engage in diversified gardening as a model of sound, natural gardening, planting a variety of crops, rotating them regularly, and using the spent plants, weeds, grass and leaves (all rich in nutrients) to fertilize the soil.  Nothing is wasted.  Our natural garden is a good example of sustainability. As a bonus, diversified gardening attracts very few harmful insects and those that do come are quickly repelled by the beneficial insects that are attracted to our flowers.  Gardening in this manner keeps ever before our eyes the wonders of God’s creation: the good relationships and cooperation between the plants and animal life; the diverse dying and rising within a vegetable garden, and the beauty of the plants, flowers and trees.

View the video about our Organic Garden: We Are the Dust of the Earth

The Garden Grows

Our garden area has expanded over the years with the addition of chickens, rabbits, and goats.  The expansion continued with the addition of a Community Garden. We have invited interested people to use some of our space to grow their own vegetables.

The Garden Ministry not only seeks to model organic agricultural principles but also to teach children their connection with earth and to foster a community spirit among adults.

Courses for children such as Hands on Earth Play (ages 4-7), Soil, Worms and Compost ( upper grades), My Grown-Up and Me in the Big Outdoors, and other educational experiences are offered regularly.

Throughout the year rituals and prayer at the times of the equinoxes and solstices gather sisters, friends and neighbors in prayer to celebrate the changing seasons.

The Annual Potluck Picnic gathers neighbors and friends in an outdoor community celebration at the end of the growing season.

This year the building of the new brick oven enabled the initiation of Warm Winter Wednesdays to which all were invited to share freshly baked pizza and pita bread no matter how cold or rainy the weather.

In addition to the vegetables from the organic garden, the chickens provide fresh eggs and the bees give their honey.

Participating in creating irrigation systems, making music, learning about compost, cooking eggs, veggies and wheat are activities that make up just another week at the garden.


Spirituality of Bread Making

The Garden Ministry held its first Spirituality of Bread-Making Retreat with ten of our garden volunteers and friends.  Having had the experience of growing, harvesting, threshing, winnowing, grinding and baking our own wheat, we began by recognizing our profound connection with soil, water, sun, and Earth herself.  As we continued through the process of making bread, we reflected on each step and pondered our connections to seed savers, farmers, bakers and eaters across time and space.  We got our hands involved and kneaded the diverse ingredients into one beautiful ball of dough we prayed that “all may be one.”  We practiced the art of rest as we waited for the dough to rise, and we engaged in meaningful conversation as it rose a second time and baked.  We ended our day together by sharing Eucharist, “fruit of the earth and work of human hands.”  It did become for us the bread of life.

Thoughts From The Garden

I just had the most ordinary, extraordinary, secular, spiritual experience. It was something I do daily, and something I couldn’t live without. It is an activity that I too often forget to notice and yet one that changes my very being and the shape of the world around me.

I ate dinner.

The very act of eating dinner, or breakfast or lunch, for that matter, is one that ought to have me fall to my knees in gratitude. I ought to kiss the ground beneath my feet and the bacteria in my gut with every bite and sip and swallow.

Most days, I’m ashamed to say, the best I can muster is a brief remembrance of the food that I eat. I remember the ‘life, labor, lacking, loving’ as I picture the animal, plant and soil life, as I imagine the hands that toiled in field and factory, as I remember those who lack the food or company with which I am abundantly blessed, and I pray for the meal to nurture me so that I might myself be nurturing. This evening, though, was different.

Tonight, I ate my dinner in the Honey House. First, I collected several leaves of dinosaur kale, a bit of cilantro, a clove of Georgian fire garlic, a small green pepper, and a yellow crookneck summer squash. While this was sautéing nicely in the pan on the hotplate, I visited the chicken coop and thanked the chickens for two beautiful brown eggs. Next, I scooped some wheat berries into our grinder and ground out a bit of flour which I mixed with water until it formed a nice sticky dough. I laid the flattened dough beside the cooking veggies and then flipped it when it was time to scramble the eggs. Before long, my meal was complete, and I sat on the Honey House porch to give thanks.

As my mental image of life, labor, lacking, loving passed through my mind, I pictured the kale, cilantro and peppers growing in the garden. I saw the summer squash in plot number 10, and I considered the garlic in the patch beside the goats. I thanked the garlic plant that sacrificed itself so that I might have life, and I wondered at the other plants that cased their seeds in a form that was just right for me to eat. Of course the chickens came to mind – laying their eggs everyday in exchange for food, water and shelter. I remembered with a smile the amber grass-like wheat that grew in the field on the hill that had now become my bread. An insect of some sort buzzed by my ear, this sound I usually dislike, but it reminded me instead of the pollinators that contributed to my dinner. Most days we can see honeybees, native bees, butterflies, moths, and wasps busily visiting flowers, moving easily from one flower to the next. Under the ground, the immeasurable life in the soil – earthworms, centipedes, ants, fungi, bacteria – lives in mutually beneficial relationship with the plants. I gave thanks for all of those lives too.

By the time I got to ‘labor,’ I began to eat, as my dinner was beginning to get cold (it was quite delicious, I must say!). There were so many hands, I realized, that brought this meal to my table. I remembered the day Marie helped to plant some of the garlic last October. I thought of Ernie whose hands have built and repaired innumerable pieces of this space and of Lis and Rich who are faithful weeders, edgers and mowers. I pictured Linda and Christina who help to clean the chicken coop and Leydi, Joseph and Mirian who give them food and water. All of our volunteers and donors, and all of those who contribute vegetable scraps to our compost pile, Brian B who delivers manure from his horses, and Brian C who turns the piles with his backhoe – every finger lifted helped to make this supper. Mary Lou’s hands touched every part of my meal, beginning with the soil, and I gave special thanks for the hands of my garden partner. How incredible to be nurtured by the hands of people I can name, people I know and love!

As local as this dinner happened to be, I found myself offering thanks across time and space. Who, I wondered, had grown the food that we feed our chickens? Who saved the seeds for the plants that we grow? Who saved the seeds generations ago and who continued the tradition until a smattering reached our garden this winter? As this meal was digested in my body, my physical connection to life near and far, past, present and future, became ever more tangible.

As I rejoiced in the life and labor that prepared my food, I thought of all those whose food comes from a box or a can. I felt sad for the people whose only options for dinner tonight are food products filled with high fructose corn syrup or genetically modified soy, and I grieved for the ones who will have no food for their meal or to feed their children. As I sat in safety, I remembered those fleeing violence or being victimized. As I enjoyed the solitude, I thought of those who are lonely or alone. And so, I prayed. As I enflesh the food I am given, may I also enflesh the prayers on my lips. May the food I eat be transformed into a life that becomes food for others.

At the Passover Seder each year, the youngest one asks the question, “How is this night different from all other nights?” The answer has to do with the food, how we eat it, and the way we remember God at work in our history and our present. We once were slaves, but now are free. At the Last Supper, I imagine the youngest asked that traditional question, “How is this night different from all other nights?” When Jesus broke the bread and shared the wine, a new glimpse of understanding emerged as history shifted again. He entreated us – every time you do this – eat, drink, re-member. The words quietly spoken by the celebrant at mass before the bread and wine is placed on the alter rose up within me as I communed with hands and harvest, plants and pollinators, soil and Spirit. “Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you: fruit of the earth and work of human hands, it will become for us the bread of life.” And my response, “Blessed be God forever,” as I ate.

How different was this night from all other nights! And yet, all I did was eat dinner.

Heather Ganz Bolkas