when to harvest
In the spring of 2020, I planted an asparagus bed. That was a questionable move. My soil is wrong, and I only kinda-sorta followed the meticulous instructions for preparing the ground. But I needed a pandemic gardening project. I think I’ve mentioned that seeds aren’t my thing. Asparagus roots are gnarly-looking handfuls; plant once and they produce for years. Hopefully.
Asparagus is one of the few perennial vegetables- that is, one of the few that grows back each year without being replanted. The Garden Primer, Barbara Damrosch, p. 269
Of course, it isn’t that simple. I’ve been thinking about Jeff’s teaching, particularly regarding expectations. What does God expect of me, and of New Covenant? What do you expect of me? What do I expect of myself? What does the world expect of us? On and on. Some expectations are reasonable; many are not.
I think that planting asparagus is one of the best investments a gardener can make. It is a crop that asks a great deal of you at first: a lot of space in your garden, a lot of work preparing the bed, and a three-year wait before you can harvest your first full crop. (p. 269)
Three years. That’s how long the owner had been looking for figs on his tree and found nothing. Is three years a long time, or a short time? The NCF leadership team is nearing the end of its 3-year tenure. What were our expectations? Certainly not COVID. Has NCF lived up to expectations as a fellowship during the pandemic? Did we produce fruit? Did our leaves stay green during drought because we were planted by deep streams?
Asparagus spears will soon appear (I hope!) for the third time. In our LT Zoom meeting last night, we noted that March 21 was, for many of us, the beginning of the COVID shutdown. Two years ago. My asparagus bed is not fully mature yet. I dug out The Garden Primer to check if I need to cut down the old stalks. Should I put manure on that bed?
So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.'” Luke 13:7-9
Figs are not asparagus, so there are different expectations. A friend gave me a “hardy fig” last fall, and I know better than to expect fruit from it in this climate. Jesus liked figs, for eating and for parables. Reading The Garden Primer, I am tempted to try ‘Hardy Chicago’ in a pot that I can bring indoors for the winter.
If there is a fruit more sensuous than the fig, I haven’t tasted it yet. (p. 444)
The author’s description is definitely different from the classical church interpretation. Ah, the layers of Jesus’ teaching. Strangely, the “fruit” on a fig tree is actually a mass of tiny flowers growing inside an edible shell. Many figs bear two crops a year, but the fruit is fragile and the seasons are short. The thing about parables is that they aren’t simple metaphors. They are meant to be puzzled over, examined from multiple perspectives, themselves bearing different fruit through various interpretations.
As we journey closer to the cross this Lent, I am reminded that Jesus was cut down after three years of ministry. Maybe he wasn’t bearing the fruit that people expected. Certainly his execution seemed like a fruitless end. Expectations were dashed during those three days in the tomb. It seemed like such a waste.
The work that God is doing in our lives is not always obvious. What bears fruit in the spiritual world may not be immediately evident in the physical world, as Jeff has reminded us. And so we present ourselves to the true gardener- who prunes, fertilizes, and lovingly tends to our growth- that we might produce a harvest of righteousness. A good gardener seems a miracle-worker, coaxing plants to bloom beyond what seemed possible.
We rely on the skills of the master gardener, not on our own abilities. The soil, the fertilizer, the sun, the rain- those elements are all beyond our control. May we place ourselves- and expectations of us and others- in the hands of the Creator of asparagus, figs, and human beings made in the image of God. And may our lives together bear the fruit that God desires.