Bury the Hatchet: Additional Thought on Loving Your Enemies

I recently wrote a post on the blog of The Well Community Church titled “How To Love Your Enemies,” which you can read here. I felt it necessary to add some thoughts lightly playing devil’s advocate, or at least, to clarify when there may be a time for justice rather than what many might feel would be serving as a doormat.

In the article, I argued four main points: 1) on a cosmic scale our real enemies are not flesh and blood but Satan and sin, 2) loving your enemy means preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and repentance to them, 3) we, as Christians, were once enemies of God, so we need to be careful how we treat current enemies, and 4) loving your enemy does not include staying in an abusive relationship or ignoring obvious atrocities. For the latter, see Russia with Ukraine (and others), China with the Uyghurs (also here), and Nazi Germany with the Jews. Don’t forget our own domestic examples either, though that be a loaded gun of a thought exercise. 

I naturally hold a grudge, keep records of wrongs, distrust many authorities, and am generally defensive. All unloving things that need to be repented of often and put to death through sanctification. It is hard to forgive someone when they committed an unjustifiable offense against you, and that is pretty universal. That is what makes Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:43-48 so radical. 

If “Love thy neighbor” is speaking softly, then “Vengeance is mine saith the Lord” is carrying the big stick. These two scriptural truths may be our yardsticks here, the buoys of navigating through these difficult waters. Regarding governmental enemies, such as the examples above, I’ll tackle that in a different post. I’m still processing that and working on how to think about it biblically so I can speak to it faithfully. 

By his providence, God has given civil authorities that should protect its citizens and be a blessing to them, including a working justice system. While imperfect due to sinful human influence, it can and does provide justice and protection in these situations. Use it.

Let’s use some case studies. The obvious place to start is thinking about our “everyday” enemies: that one guy at the office who is dismissive and belittling, that jerk that just cut you off in traffic, speeding through lane changes while you have a baby in the car, or the proverbial Mean Girl. In the grand scheme, these enemies are just petty and annoying, but in the moment they might become sudden arch-enemies. If you can’t get over yourself and your own crap long enough to even just whisper a quick prayer for them and yourself, then we have a much larger issue at hand. Are these offenses really worth hating them in your heart, a sin Jesus says puts you under judgment (Matt 5:21-22)?

Take an abusive relationship for example. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) says 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men experience “severe intimate partner violence” and other examples of domestic abuse, making that an unfortunate relevant thing to think about. 

Loving your abusive domestic partner is not letting them continue to beat you, manipulate you, or use you in some violent way. It is preaching the gospel to them and calling them to repentance, hopefully from afar in a safe place. But trusting in God’s vengeance on your behalf is trusting that God sees everything and will pay it back. It is trusting in true justice. 

By his providence, God has given civil authorities that should protect its citizens and be a blessing to them, including a working justice system. While imperfect due to sinful human influence, it can and does provide justice and protection in these situations. Use it. Make the abuser be accountable for their crimes. Friends and family members of the abused might have to step in here to protect their loved ones. The abuser is an enemy, but they are also in need of the same grace you received if you are a child of God through faith in Christ alone. So loving the abuser is calling them to stop their sin and turn to God, but if that fails then it is time to call upon justice to be done.

Here is another one. I am no fan of ANTIFA and BLM. I think they are enemies to society and communities (see the many riots, looted stores, and scorched downtown Portland as examples). My response as a child of the one true God should not be one of violence against anyone that holds those beliefs, but to preach the gospel of repentance to them. If that doesn’t work, I’ll love my neighbor by protecting them (or my community) from that enemy (which may require violence, though God forbid). And either way, I’ll also trust that God is good and in control, and even in the firestorm of their violence know that they will get theirs and that justice will be done

We could keep going. Justice itself is a gift from God because rapists, abusers, murderers, thieves, pedophiles, poachers, and plagiarists should all be held accountable for their crimes and sins. I really hate the latter three, the Three Ps I call them. As I said in the other article, it is not loving your neighbor to allow crimes to go unpunished, but it is not loving your enemy to wish them to hell either.

If “Love thy neighbor” is speaking softly, then “Vengeance is mine saith the Lord” is carrying the big stick. These two scriptural truths may be our yardsticks here, the buoys of navigating through these difficult waters.

I’m not saying any of that is easy, nor do I deny nuance. I am painting with a broad 2 inch Bob Ross paintbrush here. What I am saying is that there is a time to love your enemy by remembering you too were an enemy of God at one point, and also a time for accountability, justice, and protection. Threats must be ended (correctly and in a God-honoring way) because it is not “doing unto others” to be a doormat to sinful humans, nor is it loving to your neighbor who may be the next doormat. 

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So what happened to the business?

Nothing, and that’s the trouble of it. I learned—or relearned—several things about myself through trying to create a small business.

First, I learned that I don’t think like an entrepreneur, and I don’t really want to. Second, I learned that I may not have the talent, personality, or strengths needed to be a natural at being an active go-getter and driver of commerce. Meh, I say.

Meh

And “meh” is the root of the problem. I lacked the mental discipline to overcome those other things. I did nothing much, and nothing much was the fruit of my lack of labor.

It’s ok to not be an entrepreneur. But it’s not ok to go about life without discipline. Other things took priority, and that’s ok too. Things like making enough income to provide for my family. I became a staff member at my church, and that work took precedence. I worked at a startup for a person who is actually driven to be a good entrepreneur, and that took time.

Watson Abbey Farms isn’t dead though. It still represents everything about my faith, family, community, and ministry calling. I hope to homestead someday, and that starts with my backyard now, but I may never have a market garden and sell my produce at a farmers market. But I will make disciples through the work of the abbey, come hell or high water, as they say.

So thank you to my three customers, all from my church, who loved me and wanted me to succeed. The Ackermans, The Loves, and Randall. It means a lot to me I got to build a BackyardPantry for you.

Onward!

Get Yo Harvest On: Fall Garden Planning, Part 1

What do I plant and when?

This is the biggest obstacle for most people just getting into gardening. Maybe they’ve gone to the big box store and bought a tomato plant, put it in the ground, and then it didn’t produce anything before it died. It is easy to feel defeated and convince yourself you have a black thumb when this happens.

Plants are particular: different species germinate in the soil at different temperatures. So it is important to know when you can start a seed in the ground, or transplant a seedling, in order to maximize your chances of success.

Your county extension office should have resources to help you know what will grow when. Our local extension office in Bexar County has two planting calendars (and a wealth of other resources) available. This one is for spring, and this one is for fall. if you live in the area go ahead and bookmark those now. Here is a sample:

The left column provides the general category of vegetable with the specific varieties that do well in our area. It also tells you if it can be planted by just poking a seed in the soil or if you need to transplant a seedling. Some plants take a long time to mature from seed, so nurseries supply seedlings that they have already started to make things easier. This is the case with tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, etc..

The right columns show the planting ranges for that species based on area. If you are in north Bexar county or higher in the hill country, use those dates. If you are in Atascosa county and south, use those dates. I live in northeast Bexar county, near the border with Guadalupe county, so I use the middle column. These dates are based on temperature. The soil temperature will be too high to plant any earlier than these dates, and if you plant later you will probably have the frost in November kill them before you get anything to eat.

What I’m doing

Right now I’ve pulled up all my squash plants and am about to do the same to the green beans.  They have stopped producing and are just taking space. They get thrown in the compost and I use a machete to chop them up so they’ll break down easier. I’m slowly doing my weeding now and I’m thinking about where I want what for the next season. The tomatoes and peppers are still working, so I’ve left those alone. I’m making a trip to Fanick’s this week to get more and will go ahead and get those in the ground now. Most eEverything else wont get planted till August so I have some time to survey my seed stores and see what I need to re-order. I hated the variety of green beans I sowed this year so I’m going back into my records to see what variety worked better to order those seeds.

Click here to read about my favorite seed companies, and stay tuned for a post on our local and independent nurseries in San Antonio. Part 2 of the Fall Garden Planning series will be how I keep track of when I need to schedule plantings.

When to nuke your garden

San Antonio has two growing seasons with some overlap in winter: Mid-March to July, and August to Mid-Nov. July is mostly a break because it’s just too dang hot to have germinated seedlings try and survive into viable plants. This is when most farmers and gardeners in this area take a break.

For now, let your plants keep going but don’t worry too much about maintenance like pruning or keeping control of anything. Pick what fruit you can, and otherwise just let your plants die off. Those of you with shadier gardens might have a little bit longer period of gathering fruit. For those in full sun, don’t be surprised if everything other than tomatoes and peppers look like this:

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Your lettuces = Sarah Conner’s nightmare from Terminator 2

When to clear
After the July 4th festivities, go ahead and nuke it (except the plants still producing). Clear out the heat stressed and dead plants, the stuff trying to go to seed, the pest-ridden, etc., and put it in the compost if you have it. After that, give the garden a good weeding and make sure you do that early on, like first or second week of July. Try not to disturb the soil too much; just pull unwanted stuff out. Go ahead and turn off the irrigation too. No use in wasting water on bare soil.

Fall bed prep
Fertile soil is productive soil. I apply this organic fertilizer before planting. You can get it at any big box hardware store or one of our amazing family-owned nurseries for around $10. This is also the time to apply any finished compost (if your personal compost piles have not broken down enough you’ll just be adding weeds to your topsoil). Mix the fertilizer and any compost into the top two inches of your beds either by raking your hand across the top or using a small trowel. You do not need to turn the whole bed over.

Next, get a hose or water can and wet the soil. This will help germinate weed seeds already existing in the soil. After a couple of weeks before replanting, pull any sprouted weeds out. The reason you do not want to disturb the bed more than this is so that you do not help germinate too many weeds, which happens when the soil is turned and oxygen and moisture gets to the seed. It also destroys the soil structure.

 

Next post we will talk about fall planting and how to plan out the garden.

What’s Growing: Updates on lettuce

A lot of time has passed since we last updated what was growing. Our backyard is a test garden, where we try out different seeds and varieties, as well as various methods for farming. This is where we fail forward, learning what works and doesn’t work at any given time. Sometimes that is intentional, and sometimes not.

First update is lettuce. We planted this special, and expensive, variety of Salanova lettuce. It grew! At first slowly, and then when I finally locked in our irrigation for that mini-bed and decided to actually weed out all the chickweed that tried to smother it, we got several nice heads of lettuce.

Here is what we learned while growing this crop:

  • The window from maturity to “oh GAWD WHY IS IT SO HOT” is quite narrow, and if you aren’t ready to be on top of it to harvest it and eat it, it wont do that well.
  • That also means you have to want to eat it. Squash and green beans have a variety of culinary things you can do with them. Lettuce has one: salads.
  • Caterpillars love it.
  • Site prep and timing are important. We may need to solarize the soil in the future to help deal with weeds.

Since we aren’t growing for commercial production, and since I commandeered my parents’ landscape beds for this project, we didn’t have the ability to use plastic mulch common with cabbage and head lettuce. However, I also didn’t use any mulch, and the grasses and chickweed that germinated after my initial hoeing certainly threatened the crop.

One of the most difficult aspects of gardening with organic and natural processes is chemical free (or chemical-“reduced” depending on your understanding of organics) integrated pest management. I intentionally didn’t touch the lettuce to see what would happen, for how long, and by what species. No neem oil, no soapy water, and no mechanical removal. While we got several heads of usable (i.e. edible) lettuce we definitely would need to plan ahead and explore options for pest control if we want to move forward with this as a production crop.

 

 

 

Grow Your Own Food: Backyard Pantries

Whether it is a small patio that holds your grill, a large expanse of turf for playing catch, or a landscaped garden to enjoy just being outside, backyards are excellent resources for family. They are also under-utilized resources for food production.

If you have some sunlight, access to water, and a small amount of space, then you have the ability to grow your own food. This is true regardless if you have a small balcony, condo patio, or a large yard of turf.

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Watson Abbey Farms is happy to announce the Backyard Pantry: a raised bed garden kit available to customers in the San Antonio, TX area which include organic soils and fertilizers, plants and seeds from reputable local nurseries and suppliers, water-saving drip irrigation, and installation, available in 4’x8′, 4’x4′, or 2’x4′ sizes designed to fit your growing space.

These kits can supplement your grocery budget by providing affordable and accessible HYPER-local foods, produced using natural practices, right in your backyard. Go grocery shopping by stepping outside.

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And for the many who do not have the bandwidth to maintain a garden along with their work and personal lives, we offer service plans for the spring and fall growing seasons comparable to the cost of lawn care so we can help you grow food where you normally grow turf.

Contact us today at info@watsonabbeyfarms.com, or send us a message on Facebook at facebook.com/watsonabbeyfarms/ for a free consultation and personalized garden plan.

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What’s Growing: My Own Salad Bar

As of Jan 31, 2019, we have Parsley, Malabar Spinach, and Radishes in the test garden.

seed packets
Copyright Matt Watson

Parsley is slow to germinate and needs to be soaked overnight to assist it sprouting. Same with the Malabar Spinach. We very scientifically eyeballed an amount and dumped it into a half pint mason jar with some water. Oddly, the spinach seeds gave off a red pigment to the liquid.

The Malabar Spinach is not a “true” spinach but is more of a vine and can be trellised. They have red stems like rainbow chard, so maybe that has something to do with the red pigment whilst soaking. I’m doing keto right now and spinach gives me a great dose of veggie vitamins without having a ton of net carbs.

Radishes are just about the easiest things to grow, and this heirloom variety is marked as frost tolerant. We have about a month to go before we are out of frost danger in Bexar County, so these should serve us well till then. We also look forward to our Easter Egg radish seeds expected to be delivered in March.

Raised Beds: A Small Garden Solution

Ever notice how every seed packet says the plant grows best in loam soil? Loam is the perfect balance of sand, silt, and clay which allows for the best drainage and soil nutrition. The thing is, most people don’t live in an ideal, well-balanced world with perfect soils. So what happens then?

Here is what we have in Bexar County, Texas:

  • If you live in the middle of Bexar County, say inside the 1604 loop of San Antonio, you have heavy, alkaline, clay soils. It has a high pH and doesn’t drain well.
  • If you live in the northern part of Bexar County, closer to the Hill Country, well, good for you, but your soil is all rock. You might have an inch of top soil.
  • If you live in south Bexar County, closer to Wilson and Atascosa counties, then you have acidic, sandy soil. It doesn’t hold water.

There is a solution that solves all of these problems and more: Raised Beds.

RBs at school garden
Raised beds at a school garden. Copyright Matt Watson

Raised beds are garden beds where the soil has been raised up, and usually held together by some sort of structure. Most of the time it is a wooden frame, but it doesn’t have to be. Potato cages and mounded rows are also examples of raised beds.

They can be made out of anything and fit most anywhere. I mentioned my friend who put a baby swimming pool on his apartment balcony so he could grow his own food. And it worked! I have another friend who used cinder blocks and then planted marigolds and herbs in the holes of the blocks.

 

Here are seven ways raised beds help the gardener grow in all soil conditions:

1. Soil Correction

It is near impossible to change what years of geology has already created. In a raised bed you typically add soil to the frame and can localize where and how much you add amendments and fertilizer. It is prohibitively expensive to truck in soil from the Ohio River Valley and change your entire property, but it’s not that expensive to add soil to a 4′ x 8′ frame. Therefore, your native soils of clay, sand, or rock, are no longer problems.

 

2. Soil structure

Any root vegetable, like carrots, turnips, potatoes, etc., grow down into the soil. If it is rock or compact clay, then they can’t do that. The soil structure needs to be looser, or else you’re going to have stubby little nothings instead of food. On the other hand, you don’t risk damaging soil structure in raised beds because you aren’t tempted to step into the bed in order to pick a veggie, whereas that is A LOT harder to instinctively avoid in ground beds.

 

3. Intensive Growing

Raised beds allow you to grow intensively, which means you can maximize output by planting or sowing seed close together. You can really pack in the plants and have an abundance of food production in a raised bed. This also helps keep weeds down because the close proximity of the plants can out-shade the weed seedlings (because you’ve already picked out the more fully grown weeds, right?) and then they die off.

intensive planting cc by-sa3.0
Example of intensive planting. Copyright SRL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Raised_bed.jpg

 

4. Proper Drainage

Related to soil structure is drainage. Sand has large, coarse particles and doesn’t bind up, so the water easily drains through it. That’s unfortunate when the roots of plants need that water to, you know, live. Clay particles are fine and they bind up really tightly. Then our Texas sun bakes the clay and you basically have pottery urns for garden soil. Soil in raised beds can easily be mixed with organic matter to create proper drainage which allows roots to drink deeply, while not drowning.

 

5. Proper pH

Now for some science: pH measures the acidity of a thing. On a scale of 1-14, with neutral being 7, something is acidic if it measures below 7 on the scale, and alkaline or basic if it measures above 7. There are soil tests you can do to find out the pH of your soil.

Most plants like a balanced pH. They can survive in un-ideal conditions, but you might not be able to get the best out of your acid-loving carrots and potatoes in alkaline soils. Here is a link to the Farmer’s Almanac on pH levels. You see how many vegetables like higher pH soils? Not many. Raised beds let you focus your soil amendments (like lime for acidic soils, or peat moss for alkaline soils) so that you can have the proper balance for your specific growing needs.

 

6. Weed Control

Weeds are going to happen. But they can be planned for and managed. Weeds compete for nutrients that you want in your leafy greens and vegetables instead. This applies to turf grass too. We have a lot of bermuda grass in this region; great for golf courses and lawns, but horribly invasive for your landscape and garden beds. In a raised bed you can control weeds by having a biodegradable weed barrier at the bottom of the frame, and then filling the frame with a quality soil. This means the weeds that do show up are fewer and further in between than they would be if the bed was just tilled up turf in the backyard.

 

7. Space!

Within city limits properties get teeny, and space is limited. When we think of crops, we think of commercial farms with long rows spaced about a tractor tire’s width apart. Most people do not have that kind of space in their garden. Raised beds take up just a limited amount of space. If you use the cinder-block method, then you can modify the bed to fit anywhere like side yards and odd angles made by your fence (just make sure you get enough sun light in those places).

bobby's raised bed
Apartment raised bed. Copyright Bobby “Royal Flush” Kazanski

 

That is seven ways raised beds can help you grow your own food in any soil condition. Let us know if you have used the raised bed method, and if there are other ways they can help the home gardener!

 

 

 

 

What’s Growing: Red Sweet Crisp Lettuce

As of Jan 25 we have a row of Salanova® Red Sweet Crisp Lettuce seed sown in the test garden. We want to see if this will be a good option for a “salad bar” garden. It grows as a head of lettuce, like your romaines and icebergs, but it is a loose leaf lettuce which makes it easy to wash and perfect for quick salads.

This lettuce is a cool weather crop and we are getting it in as early as possible, with new rows sown every other week so we have plenty on hand for a while. At certain points plants will do something called “bolting” which means it puts energy into making seed rather than fruit or leaves. Most of the time it is because it is getting too hot. The heat here in South Texas will hit hard, but this lettuce is supposedly slow to bolt, so hopefully we can produce them into the spring.

Salanova® Red Sweet Crisp Salanova® Lettuce
Copyright Johnny’s Selected Seed

 

Let us know what your favorite lettuce is. Understandably, that is a weird request, but maybe some of you know you like spring mixes over iceberg lettuce and things like that. Others, like me, have never really put thought into having a preferred lettuce because that is the food that your food eats.

1000+ images about My hero Ron Swanson on Pinterest | Ron ...

 

Four Tips for Growing Your Own Baby Food

You do not need a ton of space to grow your own food. A few containers, or some repurposed materials to form a raised bed, can serve you well to grow fresh vegetables. I know one friend who bought a kiddie pool so he could grow food on his apartment balcony.

First Disclaimer: I don’t have kids. But I hang out with a lot of people who do. A few years ago I was having a beer with a friend from church at his house while he was watching his newish son so mom could have a night off. He went to the freezer, popped out a few multi-colored ice cubes into a bowl, warmed it up, and then fed it to his son. My mind was blown.

Which is weird when you think about it because men and women have had to make their own baby food for a lot longer than we have had access to the jars and pouches at the local grocery store. My friend used a bullet blender to puree the same foods they ate, would freeze it in ice cube trays to control serving size, and then would even use this process to introduce new foods to his child, like citrus and salsa (just a dash!).

For some, I get how this isn’t appealing: you don’t even have time to make your own food let alone have the time to make some for your baby. But for others this is a great way to control what your child is eating. You can purchase the food, or if able, you can grow your own healthy and organic food to blend for your baby. And it could potentially save some money. Even though those pouches just cost $1.19-$1.79 each, that adds up a lot over time. If you spent the equivalent amount of money buying the fruit, vegetables and protein yourself, cooking them, blending them, and then freezing them, you could have a lot more on hand for cheaper than the jars and pouches. And less garbage for the recycling center.

 

 

 

Second Disclaimer: I’m not a pediatrician. Obviously follow the nutritional guidelines set by your doctor and whatever works for your family.

There are a lot of sites out there on making the food. Like this one and this one. (I like how the Food Network site suggests veal. I cant afford veal for myself let alone little Johnny.) Here are some ideas about growing your own food:

 

1. Start Small and Scale Up

Like working out, you don’t need to go hard immediately. That is just asking for burnout and frustration. Work your way up by starting small. Herb gardens take up very little space, just a few small pots or planters that fit in most window sills and apartment balconies. Take that idea and move up from there. Get a tomato plant in a container. Next time you mow your yard, take a few moments to start making space where you can for a few containers and a trellis or two for peas. Don’t psyche yourself out of starting because your condo will never look like Jefferson’s Monticello.

 

 

 

2. Raised Beds are Key

We’ll focus on why raised beds are such a key to home gardening in a later post. For now, just know that you can use bricks, cinder blocks, scrap lumber, cedar fence boards, old totes, and 50,000 other things as seen on Pinterest to form a raised bed in your backyard. Fence boards are cheap, as are a few nails. Hardware stores will make simple cuts for you. In this space you can grow intensively by grouping plants closer together which controls weeds and maximizes your production. You will be surprised how many tomatoes, peas, carrots, onions, herbs, etc., you can get out of a 4×4, 3×6, or 4×8 rectangle. Or a kiddie pool.

first raised bed
Doesn’t need to be pretty. First raised beds at our first house. Cedar fence boards are cheap and easy to cut. Copyright Matt Watson

 

3. Grow the Basics

Focus on what you will use all the time. I saw a lot of peas and carrots with chicken in jars at the big box store. I also saw a lot of spinach in things. Depending on where you live, you can maybe even grow fruit like apples and apricots. In San Antonio where we live those are hard to grow. And you probably aren’t growing bananas and cereal grains. So buy what you need to buy, and grow the rest. Spinach and leafy greens are insanely healthy for you and fairly easy to grow, and then you don’t have to worry about all those national recalls.

 

4. Storage

You can get small mason jars at any big box retail store. In fact, you’ve probably walked past them a billion times and never noticed. Make sure you keep those in the fridge or freezer if you aren’t going to go full-prepper and can them. You can also use portion it out into ice cube trays and then collect them in a ziploc. They even sell those baby food pouches that you can fill yourself and reuse.

 

Comment below if you have tried this. Also, what was the craziest food combination you have fed your baby?