Joy and Gardening


It’s hard to find words for how much contentment and joy I feel watering the plants in our small community herb garden.

I’m not sure exactly what it is, but I think it has something to do with the fact that it can’t be rushed. I may have 10,000 other things waiting for me on my ‘to-do’ list, but watering the plants takes as long as it takes. There’s no shortcut; I may as well just enjoy it.

Of course, being outside is nice as well, and it’s always good to get out from behind a desk. But it’s especially nice to slow down, to breathe, and to just be. I find that watering the garden relaxes me, makes me feel less anxious, and allows me space to experience that otherwise elusive feeling of contentment (even if just for a moment). This always leads me to joy.

Spending time watering the plants also allows me to be present. I’m there with the plants, and I’m able to notice if they’re healthy, or to check for pests or diseases or nutrient deficiencies. It gives me time to check to see where seeds might be ready for collection, or if there are small seedlings already popping up through the soil. I’m there already, so I may as well deadhead some flowers while I’m at it.

Perhaps I’m pushing it a bit far, but I think what I’m learning from the herb garden also helps me to be a better pastor.

I am, by nature, an impatient person. I’ve got ideas and plans and schemes and I want them all to happen now! I’ve got hopes and dreams for our community, and there never seems to be enough time (or resource, or whatever) to make it all come together.

What I’m learning is that I can’t force it.

I’m learning to slow down; where else do I need to be? I’m learning to be present, to engage fully with the people who are in front of me (rather than already planning the next meeting). I’m learning to notice what’s going on, and to engage in the slow, sometimes frustrating, and always-rewarding work of learning to live together in community.

I certainly don’t have it all figured out just yet. I might go out and water the garden.


Pioneer Plants & The Kingdom of God

When I was growing up, my mate Dave’s dad had the best lawn I’ve (still) ever seen. It was glorious! Now, Dave’s dad was a big, burly bloke, who happened to be a steelworker, and his attention to his lawn was surprising to me. But this lawn stood as testament to the enormous amount of time and effort that he put into it. It was truly immaculate. As far as I could tell, it was the purest, most perfect lawn that has ever existed.

One day, when I went over to Dave’s house, I was horrified to see the whole lawn completely dead. I immediately assumed some sort of sabotage from a lawn care rival down the street, but it turned out that Dave’s dad was convinced that his lawn was hopelessly riddled with weeds and couldn’t be salvaged. His only choice, it seems, was to nuke it and to start from scratch.

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Permaculture & Playful Failure

Sometimes, it just doesn’t work.

Sometimes, no matter how deeply you’ve studied a site — spending a whole year mapping out seasonal changes, the path of the sun, rainfall and water flows, etc., etc. — and no matter how much you’ve studied soil conditions and plant possibilities in order to find the best possible solution, it just doesn’t work.

Sometimes, plants that, on paper, should thrive in precisely the conditions you’ve identified, die with (what seems like) no good reason.

This can be really disappointing and deflating — especially if you’ve spent quite a lot on a particular plant(!).

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Integrated Design & Human Communities

In a permaculture garden, a significant amount of thought is given to how the individual elements work together — all towards the goal of ‘closed loops’ (i.e. self-sustaining systems) and the best possible yields (a system where each element properly plays its part can be incredibly productive!).

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The Power of Observation

This is the second in a series of posts drawing out some of the applications and implications of permaculture principles for life, work, and mission (you can find the first post here: “Food Forests and Change Management”).

In this post, I want to look at the concept (and practice) of Observation — which happens to be the first principle of permaculture (as articulated by one of the ‘fathers’ of permaculture, David Holmgren).

It’s a simple but profound thought: you need to know the site before you start designing your garden/food forest/whatever. If you don’t adequately understand what you’re working with, you’ll no doubt run into trouble later on due to unsuitable plant selection, misplacement of structures, unhelpful drainage, and a whole host of other problems. You need to know the site before you do anything, and then start interacting with it slowly.

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Food Forests & Change Management

I’ve been thinking for a while about some of the natural applications/implications of permaculture thinking (a whole-of-system approach to sustainable living) to all areas of life, and thought I’d tease out some of those ideas here. Of course, thinking through such applications/implications is actually a core part of permaculture thinking — even though it’s most often applied to gardening — so none of this is new. I think, though, that there might be some left-of-field connections that might not often be seen.

The first one concerns ‘food forests’ and possible application to change management or the strategic implementation of a vision.

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Suburban Permaculture as Missional Living

A few months ago I mentioned that I was seeking to focus my attention for 2014 on three streams of thought (and practice), and the interaction and overlap between them. Those streams were missional thinking and practice, the spirituality and practice on nonviolence, and the principles of permaculture. You can find the original post here.

In this post, I’d like to tease out some of the connections—especially in the overlap between missional thinking and practice and the principles of permaculture—by way of an idea that I’ve been thinking about for a number of years now. The idea has not come to fruition for at least a couple of reasons (that I won’t go into here), but I wanted to put the idea out there both as (what I think is) a good illustration of what I’m talking about, and for anyone who might be interested in trying to implement something similar.

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