Monday, April 26, 2010


The hills are brown across the road from my sister's house.  Dirt brown. Brown as upturned soil.  The hill behind her house is also brown. Dun brown.  I've seen these hills corduroy brown, white with drifted snow, velvety green and golden.  Once I made my younger daughter walk across the road and stand in the green waist-tall wheat against the hill.  I took a picture of her and sent it to my then-agent, giving her perspective of what I meant by the tall hills of the Palouse.

When I think of all these hills surrounding RE's home, I always think of them with wheat planted on them.  But of course they aren't always.  Nutrients must be replenished that are stripped from the soil from constant planting of wheat.  So on off years, other, nutrient-replacing crops are planted in fields.  Farmers have to learn a whole lot of science to do their jobs well. Crop management, weed control, soil conservation--none of these are hit and miss propositions.  Careful care is taken so that the seed planted yields not merely the largest but the richest crop.  So, for example, this year, on that dirt brown tall hill across the road peas are planted.  Peas, which grow more slowly, more closely to the earth, and will be in full bloom in June when I am next here in the Palouse.  ("Bring your allergy pills," my sister told me.  She knows that blooming peas are one of my most violent allergies.) And in the field behind this house garbanzo beans are planted.   When I was a child of this country, there were no garbanzo beans around here.  Peas, Lentils, wheat aplenty.  But these days garbanzo beans are a money crop.  See, that's what crop research has done.  Garbanzos yield well, and replenish well, and that's good for everyone. (And I'm here to tell you, I, for one, have come to love hummus--which comes from garbanzos)

The studying of the fields to learn when to plant, what to plant, when to cultivate, when to weed, when to harvest.  Watching and working through a whole year for the singular purpose of a single month.  This is the job of farmers.  The rotating of the crops to get the best yield, to keep the soil as healthy as possible, to keep erosion at a minimum.  Again for the eyes-on-the-prize goal of harvest.  Most of us can't imagine working an entire year and only getting paid once.  But this is the farmers' lot.  And glad for it.  They know, they really know, what they're working for.  They may get bogged down in details along the way, but they don't get sidetracked from their goal. 

I've been fortunate enough to be an observer in this farm world for more than half my life.  And I can tell you that when it comes to the Kingdom, there's almost no better metaphor.  Jesus Himself used it when He spoke the fields being ripe with harvest.  We could do well to pay attention to how farmers watch and are patient with the earth.  And perhaps slow down and take our time with others.  Take time to sow the seed, weed the ground around that seed, water and watch and allow it to grow. Slowly, slowly, slowly.  And keep watching.  Just watching and waiting for the field to be ripe.  The golden wheat turning white before we mowing it down.  The field ripe first.  Otherwise there will be no yield.  Just ask a farmer.  He'll tell you:  Harvest early and there will be no yield.

And God knows an eternal harvest takes time.

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