The Field



What I wouldn’t give for a greenhouse right now.

The warm, humid smell of green things growing is enough to make me happy for a week during midwinter’s freeze. 

I have been known to make friends for the express purpose of visiting their hoop houses in winter, oohing and ahhing over tomatoes in March while breathing deeply the moist earthy air.

In winter, I dream of growing again.

My favorite seed catalog, hands down. Seriously, get this.

Seed companies know this. Delicious catalogs bring hope to my mailbox in January and February, and while the cold winds blow, far away from tedious weeding and watering in summer's sauna, while last year's worries about insects and mildew and blights are a distant memory, I imagine possibilities.

And I buy three years’ worth of seeds.

But in all of my planning and dreaming, I have to watch it. Because right now it's Winter, and it has its purpose too. If I spend too much time looking forward, I’ll wish the time away.

The apple tree on my parents' farm. We've harvested from it for as long as I can remember.


Apple trees know this. In fact, they welcome winter.


Apple trees, like many fruit trees, need a minimum number of cold winter days before they are able to fruit in the summer. If they don’t get it, their system doesn’t reboot and can’t gear up for the major task of fruiting in summer.

Sure, Becky, you say, I know all about taking a Sabbath day.

But I’m not talking about a day off. I’m talking WINTER: hibernation, Moses in the wilderness, Jesus’ 40 days in the desert. A long isolation from growth and a slowing down, spending only what’s necessary with your reserves. Deep rest.

The apple tree doesn't fight winter. Instead, it prepares for it by moving energy reserves to its roots, dropping leaves, and hardening its wood against the cold. If it pretended that winter wasn't coming, stayed supple and tried to keep growing leaves, it would break and die. So it hunkers down in acceptance.

And it knows that spring will come again.

Winter comes in many forms in our lives. Maybe your finances need a reset, or your health is washed out. Maybe it’s time for a career change or a re-evaluation of relationships. But whatever your winter, don’t waste it.

You'll need it, come spring.

What's your winter these days?

The Good Soil
by Becky Noffsinger

This was a bad year for tomatoes in our garden. Early blight made the plants wilt, and the cool damp weather brought on late blight that rotted what was left. We tried spraying a homemade remedy on the plants we had purchased and planted with care, but it didn't make much difference.

Except by the compost pile. To my surprise, this 1.5 pound whopper secretly grew from a lush, deep green volunteer plant that had been to grow near the doorway of the bin. There were cherry tomatoes crowding around too, all completely ignored and left to their own devices and far healthier than the garden plants we fussed over.thegoodsoil

What a difference the soil makes: if we tend to the foundations, what's planted takes root and thrives. If we focus just on the symptoms of our neglect, we come up empty-handed. No amount of medicine can heal the absence of basic need.

I have much work to do if I want my garden to thrive next year. Soon we will clear out all of the unhealthy plants, then load the garden with manure and compost. We'll probably find a new place for the tomatoes to grow next year in order to give the soil time heal. A fresh start.

In the meantime, this beauty's seeds have been saved for next spring. I can't wait to see what happens.

What needs tending in your garden this fall?

Coming to Know

by Charla Burgess

Coming to Know the wild places
Photo Courtesy Stephy Pariande Marzian

The land here grows nothing

But wild.
Those watching might suspect
But it is just a time of fallow rest
After the frost
Of winter last.

Don't think there is not a watching.
A time of acquaintance.
Of coming to know,
As one learns a new lover.
You must taste the sweetness
Of the earth.
Watch the depths
Of light and shadow.
Breathe the musk
Of soil drenched with rain---
Trace the wash over the slopes and contours.

One doesn't just plunge into the earth, but first feels the texture,

The tilth,
Before peeling back the dressings
Of sod and brambles.
The gentle, deep working in
Of loam and nourishment
Coaxes forth the lushness,
The ripe giving.


One must watch,

Before any touch is made on the land.
There must be a
Giving. Nurturing. Tending.
Before dropping to your knees
To plant your future.

Coming to Know: dig in and plant your future

From Becky: Friends show you their poetry. Good friends let you borrow it.

Many of Charla's friends are encouraging her to write a collection of poetry or, at the very least, submit her individual poems for publication. If you agree, please leave her a comment below or share this with your friends.