The seed catalogs have begun arriving and there’s excitement in the air! The miracle of planting a tiny little thing which can yield a crop and sustain our families is not to be taken for granted (even if you’ve done it all your life). Here in the suburbs, I’m currently cornered into trying to “farm” in deck containers and tiny side gardens camouflaged as flower beds with deer fencing.
My love of gardening began unconventionally as a little girl collecting pieces of colorful broken glass from the soil. I was an Appalachian beachcomber searching in a dirt sea. The story began when my grandpa was a young man and their house burned down when an oil lamp got too close to the wallpapered wall. Fortunately, nobody got hurt but tragically they lost everything. And four generations later the plot where the house once stood became our garden, and the soil would offer up treasures of broken glass…the best had flower designs! When dad plowed, it was a glorious event. Who needs a shopping mall when you have a garden full of broken glass!
Mom has recorded a couple noteworthy family accounts of plowing. I’m sure many families’ ancestor- stories parallel our own. My great grandpa John Balli got his wife as a result of plowing. The Hellers lived on the adjacent farm and John would go help old man Conrad Heller plow his fields. Additional motivation to him being neighborly was the fact that Conrad’s lovely daughter Hulda would come out and drive the horses while John manned the plow. The best things they planted that year were the seeds of love. John and Hulda got married and the rest as they say is history. In the photo, we see John, then an older man plowing with his and Hulda’s daughters. Observers could see his diligent practice of following behind and removing troublesome rocks with a stick.
Plowing was necessary for survival back in the day so it’s understandable how we have another related incident. During the Civil War, when great grandpa Albert Harris was a young boy, he was helping his father plow the steep hillside. He drove the oxen while his dad, James, pushed down hard on the plow handles. They took a break and spoke to a neighbor carrying a sack of corn to the nearby grist mill to get it ground into cornmeal. Suddenly their peaceful break was interrupted by a group of soldiers going down the road across the valley. The neighbor got scared and ran which enticed the soldiers to begin shooting at him. James realized it was better to pretend not to be afraid and just keep plowing! With bullets whizzing past them, he kept saying to his son, “Drive ‘em up, Albert! Drive ‘em up!” The soldiers came across and asked where the man was and when the Harris fellows said he’d gone into the woods, the soldiers gave up their pursuit and simply cut his dropped bag of corn and scattered it.
In conclusion, there is a life lesson from each of these three stories. Firstly, when the Harris house burned they owned a safe for important things, but the door was left ajar and everything was burned. It seems prudent to protect what is valuable in our morals, as even the slightest crack left open can destroy it all. Secondly, just like Grandpa John working the soil on Balli Mountain, life is full of “rocks” that can hinder the growth of plants which can produce good fruit…remove them diligently. And lastly, when we are scared, tired, or discouraged, we need a Father who tells us to keep moving forward. In Luke 9:62, Jesus said about following Him, “No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Be all in. Or in other words, “Drive ‘em up, Albert! Drive ‘em up!”
Janet Cowger- Fliegel