The Tip of the Spear

I have asparagus! Over a month ago, I mentioned that I had planted 18 asparagus crowns in a row out on the edge of our yard. Yesterday, I saw the first sign of life from those plants. When I say I have asparagus, I more accurately have only one plant definitely growing, but that is asparagus. I’m confident that the others will come along presently. And some of those that sprout later might wind up producing far more spears for me. Who knows?

Who knows indeed. Last night, I scanned that asparagus trench looking for more of the little fern-like fingers poking up amidst the clover and bluegrass that lap over into the dirt. I didn’t find any more, but I’m convinced that within a few days, more shoots will be above the ground. I’m convinced that by summer’s end, I’ll have all 18 plants growing. Maybe it’ll be fewer, but I have a hope for 18.

Gardening is an act of delayed gratification. You place a seed into soil and wait for it to sprout. You then carefully nurture it, believing that it will grow. When it’s nearly time to set that plant out into the wild, open world of the garden, you expose the plants to the sun for a few hours over several days to harden them off, believing that the sun and the wind won’t destroy them. Then you put them into the garden bed prepared for them, train them up, keep pests off, pull weeds, and, perhaps 80 days later, you begin to pluck fruit.

Some vegetables yield more quickly. I’m convinced that you can plant radishes in the morning and harvest in the evening. Others take nearly the entire season, but all of them require time and hope. You bury something in the ground, you place it outside where all manner of things can attack it, you invest your time in caring for it, and all the while you believe that there will be tomatoes or squash or beans or something good produced. Paul could have been speaking of gardening when he wrote this:

So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.–2 Corinthians 4:18

There’s a parable in my single asparagus plant. I felt joy when I saw that frail, ferny stalk emerging from the soil. That joy, however, is just a tiny glimmer of the joy (and good food) that will eventually follow from that row of plants. More profoundly, all the blessings of today are a down payment on the incalculable riches that await us in eternity.

We plant. We wait. We have hope, and the outcome will be amazing. And until that day comes, at least we can grill some asparagus.

Spears from Pruning Hooks

This afternoon found me on my knees. Was I in my closet taking my deepest thoughts to the Lord? No, I was out in our garden, planting asparagus. Asparagus is a marvelous crop. Plant it once and, properly maintained, it ought to keep bearing for at least twenty years. If that’s accurate, then the 18 plants I placed in the trench today should be yielding spears of goodness until I’m nearly 80.

There’s an old joke about planting. “When is the best time to plant a tree?” “Twenty years ago.” By that logic, the best time to plant asparagus is probably two or three years ago. That means that to have the stuff on my plate this year, I’ll need to hit the market.

To get the new plants started, I had to dig a trench about six inches deep. The hardest part of that was keeping the trench running straight. From there, I separated the plants. They looked like some sort of alien squid creatures, the sort of thing that looks cute in the movies until it fixes itself to your face and sucks your brain out.

I placed those individual plants at 18-inch intervals and covered each with a few inches of dirt. That’s when I found myself on my knees. Once those were planted, I doused the whole row with the hose and waited for the spears of asparagus to appear above ground. So far, they haven’t. Two years from now, I’m hoping to see edible growth.

Had I waited until next year to plant, of course, I’d be looking another year down the road. While my patience is limited, I’m glad that the plants are on the clock now. Ecclesiastes 11:4 underscores the folly of delay:

One who watches the wind will not sow,
and the one who looks at the clouds will not reap.

If that were being written today, might it point to those who watch Netflix or look at the grocery ads? I don’t know.

We find all manner of reasons to delay the things we ought to do. Right now, having been behind on grading for weeks, I’m caught up but facing a writing deadline that will have me at the computer all this week. I finally broke down and bought a new lawnmower today so that I can get onto that job.

But it was that work on my knees that I’ve really been putting off. Now I’m not talking about crawling around the garden but about spending my time with God. If I don’t sow in that manner, I can’t hope to reap.

I have plenty of time for prayer as I wait for the first harvest-worthy asparagus spears to emerge from the soil.