Rose and I were planting peas last week when she suddenly stopped and said, “Mama look!” Beside her on a tulip sat three scary-looking bugs with spines on their backs.
My first instinct was to squash immediately, but sometimes the scariest-looking bugs are garden heroes. So I resisted the urge, grabbed Good Bug, Bad Bug and flipped quickly through the pages. There on the ladybug page was a picture of the ladybug larva.
These larva are ferocious… at least if you’re an aphid, mealybug, or other garden pest.
Part of me really likes the sanitariness of pesticides. Just spray and kill all the bugs. Good as well as bad. Then you don’t have to worry whether that bug you see is eating your tomatoes or eating the bugs that want your tomatoes. Then you don’t have to risk seeing a spider busily at work in your garden or risk having a ladybug larva land on your arm.
Doesn’t that sound a bit appealing?
The problem is it would defeat one of my main purposes (and that of most home gardeners) of having a garden: growing fresh healthy food that isn’t covered in pesticide residue. Plus, it completely messes with the beautiful and intricate natural controls that God created to help our gardens.
As I’ve been reading about the bugs that make their homes in our gardens and the beautiful flowers and herbs we can plant to attract the good bugs and scare away the bad, I’ve been struck once again with wonder at God’s amazing creation.
For example, the beneficial hover fly won’t lay eggs on a non-infested plant. If the plant is infested, how many eggs a hover fly lays depends on the pest population. Isn’t that amazing? Beneficial bugs even communicate with one another by leaving a chemical mark on pests that have already been dealt with! (from Good Bug, Bad Bug)
One of my gardening goals is to create an environment that fosters all the beautiful (and ferocious) beneficial bugs.
I still have lots and lots to learn, but here are the steps I’m taking this year.
Learn to distinguish between good and bad bugs:
If spending an hour playing with bugs wasn’t exactly your idea of fun as a kid (it sure wasn’t mine) then this can be a bit more of a challenge, but it’s proved to be quite exciting. When the kids or I come across a new bug, we’ll look it up in Good Bug, Bad Bug or The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control (two new favorites!) before we decide whether to encourage its presence or squash on sight from now on.
Grow flowers and herbs that attract good and discourage bad bugs:
Marigolds, of course, are renowned for their ability to deter aphids and other bugs from around your vegetables (plus marigold roots clear the ground of microscopic nematodes that can reek havoc and the good effect lingers for up to three years!)
There are so many other amazing flowers and herbs to plant too, like nasturtium which “trap” bad bugs (and are edible), pungent herbs whose scent both confuses and deters bad bugs, and a vast variety of flowering plants that provide food and shelter for the good bugs if the pest population drops.
Create an environment that fosters good garden creatures:
Previous owners of our home planted lilirope as a border around the little front gardens. The lilirope filled out into a big bushy mess that I really don’t like. I started clearing it away to replace with a rock border when I noticed beautiful blue-streaked skinks darting into the lilirope for cover. I was clearing away the home of the cute little lizards who feed on snails, slugs, grasshoppers, roaches and even small mice.
Before I clear away the other half of the lilirope, I want to be sure the skinks have another home by planting perennials they can overwinter in and hide from predators.
Many herbicides for treating weeds are toxic to lizards, frogs, and other small garden guests. Avoid using them if possible or seek a child and “pet”-safe natural alternative.
What are your favorite ways to make your garden a haven for good bugs?
[Full disclosure: links to products in this post are my referral links.]
Last summer, as I pulled into the driveway of yet another potential house (with the burden of finding a home resting on my not-so-broad shoulders) I had this stream-of-consciousness “discussion” with God.
“God, I really just don’t know if I like this or not. I mean, this house hunting is kind of a fun adventure, but I really think I prefer the quiet pace of normal life a lot better. And really, I’d much prefer to have Joshua here and, You know, just be his chief advisor. This just seems a bit too adventurous for me, don’t You think? I just can’t figure out if I’m the kind of person that likes this kind of thing or not.”
[Feel free to laugh]
In the middle of this stream-of-consciousness ramble, God quieted my silly heart with the truth that it doesn’t really matter if I’m “the kind of person” that likes this kind of adventure.
If this is the adventure that lies in my path, then I need to ask God’s grace to face it wisely, with joy, whether or not it jives with my personality.
Personality tests are incredibly popular these days and come in every shape and color.
Personality tests are used in hiring and recruiting. They are used for academic research. On an individual level, some people use them for determining careers, shaping identity, and even choosing a spouse.
Learning about different personalities is a fascinating way to understand your husband, children, friends and yourself better. Personality tests are a wonderful tool, as long as we’re careful not to let them control us.
If you get too caught up in defining personalities, it’s easy to try to cram yourself (or someone else) into a box. It is easy to shrug off sin because “well, that’s just the way I am.” It is easy to put a stamp of approval on certain personalities and look down on others. It is easy to whine and complain because “I’m not like ____.”
And that’s just plain wrong.
Personality is a good thing. The good and lovely parts of the many varying personalities are reflections of the ultimate Person: Christ.
But our goal shouldn’t be to become more Type A or Type B, more sanguine or more choleric, or more like the “hand” or the “mouth.” Our goal should be to become more like Jesus and to “attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Eph. 4:13)
Sometimes daily life has such a beautiful steady rhythm to it.
Getting up early is [almost] easy. There is time to read the Bible, exercise, and get dressed before the kids wake up.
There is energy to cover the basics of child-training and homeschooling and then explore the world together. After all the normal housework is done, there is time to pursue goals and cross things of the to-do list.
It’s a season of bounty and blessing.
Then something happens.
Maybe it’s a protracted sickness, or job loss, or tragedy, or maybe even the blessing of welcoming a new child into your home.
Suddenly, you enter a season of survival. Just getting the basics done becomes a struggle and the to-do list sits untouched for weeks.
Follow me over to Little Natural Cottage to read the rest.
Guilt used to plague me when I didn’t have time to start my day by reading the Bible. Maybe you can relate. I believed that Christians should start their day in the Word (and that not doing so was almost sin). Since becoming a mother, there have been so many days when that hasn’t happened.
Many days as I climbed into bed I realized that I’d been busy caring for children since the moment I got up and hadn’t had time to crack open the Bible.
Slowly I learned that God gave His Word to us as a gift, not as something to make rules about reading. As Christians we should love God’s Word, meditate on it, study it and obey it. Nowhere does it say we have to read at least three chapters before breakfast. Manmade rules like these can sap the joy out of the Christian walk.
I’ve realized that just because I can’t always get up before the children to read the Bible, doesn’t mean I can’t immerse myself in the Scriptures. (Of course, these are just ideas. The last thing I’d want to imply is that you should feel guilty if you don’t do these things!)
Read the Bible with your children
Recently we did a ladies’ book study at church. I loved the book, but at one point the author, trying to encourage us to become women of the Word, said it doesn’t take that long to read ten chapters and to give it a try.
The next week a dear mother of three young children said, “I tried. I got up extra early for two days. I was exhausted. I struggled being patient all day and could hardly remember what I’d read. Then I decided to just read the Bible to the children while we ate breakfast. They loved it and I got so much more from what I’d read.”
I thought it was a brilliant idea and started reading the Bible with my children at the breakfast table too. (Joshua often leaves long before the children and I are up.) It has been wonderful!
The children just love having me read the Bible to them and regularly beg me to read more (a hard request to deny!) I have been so blessed to see the Scriptures afresh through their childlike questions and wonder.
Memorize passages of the Bible
Once you’ve memorized a verse or chapter, you can recall it to mind when you’re washing dishes, taking a shower, or falling asleep.
My mother gave me a wonderful gift: dozens and dozens of verses and whole psalms instilled in my mind. It’s a gift I hope to pass on to my own children.
Even busy Mamas can find time to learn new Scriptures. An easy way is to write out the verse or passage and paste it somewhere you are often. Mine is above the kitchen sink. Read through the passage regularly (preferably out loud) and go over a single phrase or verse until you have it down. Keep reviewing until it’s effortless.
Listen to the Bible
Have you ever thought about the fact that most Christians in history didn’t read the Bible, they listened to it? I am ever so grateful for the Reformation and the push it brought to teach children to read and to make Bibles available to commoners.
The fact still remains, that for many believers in the old covenant and many Christians in the first millennia and a half of the church, listening was the way they learned the Scriptures.
Listening to the Bible forces you to concentrate in different ways and, quite honestly, so much of the Bible is simply beautiful when read aloud. Plus, you can listen to a few chapters while folding laundry, exercising, ironing, or gardening (if you have it on a phone/iPod.)
I love Alexander Scourby’s reading (buy the MP3 version for only $11.55!), but there are dozens of free audio recordings available too.
Sing the Scriptures
The Bible is full of music. “Sing to the Lord” is one of the most common commands in the whole Bible. The psalms were originally sung and songs of the saints are scattered throughout the rest of the Bible.
Singing the words of Scripture is one of the most lovely ways to make it part of our lives. There are many individual verses put to music. My friend Jenn shared these favorites resources in her ebook God’s Word in My Heart: Hide ‘Em in Your Heart, Songs for Saplings, Seeds Family Worship, Hidden in My Heart – Scripture Lullabies, and Bible Melody.com
Our family also loves to sing whole psalms that have been put to music. Usually they aren’t word for word, but the paraphrase is incredibly good and captures the psalm amazingly well. They’ve been compared to singing a beautiful and concise commentary on the psalm.
We use the Cantus Christi, a combination of Psalms and hymns (you can also order an audio version that teaches twelve of the Psalms.) Other recommendations include The Book of Psalms for Singing (the most popular psalter) and The Psalter (recommended by my friend Jacinda from Growing Home).
Do you have a quiet time every morning? What other ways do you meditate on the Bible throughout the day?
[Full disclosure: some links to products in this post are my referral links.]