Thursday, March 5, 2009

Analogy of a Gardener--My own Little Observations. . . .

This is coming as a comment to my daughter's blog ( ) where she shares "a story from the perspective of a farmer's field and how the little leaves are sprouting up happily in the sunshine when suddenly the tractor comes by and dumps a couple tons of manure on top of everything. And our perspective then as the crop is that something really cruddy has happened to us. Then we aren't sure what to do next because we are lost in our perspective of being covered in cow crap (or chicken, because we all know the chicken kind smells so much worse), and we can no longer see the sun and we certainly don't feel like we are growing when we'd just burst out only to be buried in crud again. But from the perspective of the Farmer, we are being strengthened and nourished and in the end will be a much greater crop to harvest. But from our view of things, we always react with feelings fear and avoidance to the sound of the tractor coming.

Having never heard this analogy before, it struck me that after running into my brick wall, I've felt very much covered in chicken shit on top of it all. Being in the refiners fire is a nice thought, but at some point I'm supposed to grow a little here and get my leaves to pop up through to the sunshine again, stronger, but it doesn't seem to be happening. . . ."

I have some thoughts to go along with this analogy--my own little observations from my experience in my own garden and life.

Coming from the gardeners perspective, when we put manure on our gardens, sometimes we actually get more weeds especially if we have used cow or horse manure. Cows and horses eat weeds and those pesky weed seeds manage to survive their digestive systems. That is one reason why chicken manure is a higher quality product to use on the garden. Sometimes also we put too much manure on the garden and it burns the plants we are actually trying to strengthen. And even though the manure can do a great deal to enrich the soil (mostly in adding organic material) the soil can also be lacking in other things that manure can't correct--deficiencies or pests that need other attention.

Sometimes what the soil needs is to lie fallow for a time, allowing the manure and other additives to enrich the soil and give it a rest so in some future time, the soil will be ready to accept new seedlings that will grow and produce an abundant crop.

Also it is interesting that the soil may be depleted with certain crops and yet it will accept others which actually bring back good things into the soil for future use--such as corn which is a heavy feeder versus green beans or peas which put high amounts of nitrogen back into the soil. Corn requires several additions of fertilizer and soil amendments throughout the growing season to produce a high quality and quantity crop. Green beans or peas give their all to produce a bountiful crop and to put good things back into the soil. So the wise farmer or gardener uses the technique of crop rotation so as not to deplete the soil. (This was one problem that farmers had during the "dust bowl" during the 1930's. The farmland was depleted and then winds came and blew off all the top soil.)

Here is another interesting thing about corn and green beans: We could start a total other analogy here. Corn takes so much to get a good crop. It requires good fertile soil, thinning, several applications of fertilizer, but it's yield is only about two ears of corn per stalk. When the growing season is over, the soil is depleted and needs to be built up again. Green beans, on the other hand, need little fertilizer, and aside from building a trellis for certain types, they will continue to produce as long as you water them and pick them. Then they leave the soil better than when you began. I ask myself, am I more like the corn or the green beans. Do I take more than I give? Do I leave things better than they were when I started?

Isn't it interesting that we can apply all these things to our own lives, our own "personal gardens?" Yes, sometimes we get the refining from experiences that the Lord allows us to have to experience growth in our lives as in the analogy of the manure. Because of this we have the opportunity for more and stronger growth in our lives. But sometimes we have more difficult problems that will take more than the manure to make us strong, we need reinforcements--friends, family, faith, etc. Sometimes we need a rest or a change in our thinking, or in the choices we are making, or to look at things from a different perspective. We can gather strength from others which will allow us to continue to grow without getting "burned out." Or perhaps there are people or circumstances in our lives that are actually toxic and are causing us too much difficulty and we need to "weed" them out. Other times we just have to trust in the Lord, the Ultimate Gardener, (isn't it interesting how the Lord uses so many examples of gardening in the New Testament?). The hardest thing is allowing the atonement to work in our lives--allowing the Lord to take our burdens that we are not capable of dealing with on our own. At any rate, it all sounds so easy when we talk about it, but it is a difficult process and one that no one in this life can avoid.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


Recently, I heard something said about the things we say. Are they appropriate? Here are the three guidelines I was given:

1. Is what you are about to say True? If it is not true or if you aren't absolutely sure it is true, Don't say it! Are you embellishing or dramatizing the facts to make it seem more interesting or colorful? If you are, Don't say it!

2. Is what you are about to say Kind? If your words are hurtful, or if they cause another to feel uncomfortable with what you are saying, Don't say it!

3. Is what you are about to say Necessary? Does it truly add to the conversation. If it does not add to the situation, Don't say it! If you are telling something only to bring attention to yourself, or, at the expense of someone else, Don't say it! If you are talking just to talk, Don't say it! Are you saying something to truly help the situation, or are you saying it to make yourself feel better? Are you saying something because you think you will look more important to someone else because of your knowledge or ability? If you are, don't say it! Are you sharing something with someone else that is not your's to share? If you are, don't say it!

These are good guidelines to live by. So many times we want to have the last word. Instead of listening to what others around us have to say, we are waiting to jump in with our "two cents." We have all been around the person who doesn't really listen to others, but is only interested in what they have to say. In contrast, we have also been around those who listen and are more interested in other's thoughts and feelings. They make us feel important and worthwhile because they are more interested in others instead of themselves. We are drawn to those people because they have the ability to help us feel better about ourselves. Most of us need to check ourselves and make sure we are following these guidelines. Most likely, if we do, we will find that we have better relationships with family, friends, business assoiciates and others.

Monday, February 16, 2009


I recently received the Winter 2009 BGS Update from Brigham Young University. This article was on the front page and I thought it was quite profound so I'm sharing it on my blog:

"A mother and her son celebrated as the child completed his 100th day of kindergarten. Early on in the school year, the new students participated in keeping a journal and recorded what they learned.

After 100 days of school, the boy came home elated. He said to his mom, "Do you want to know what I wrote in my journal?" The mom smiled and said, "Tell me." The boy exclaimed, "One hundred days ago I did not know how to read, write, or subtract or add numbers. Now I can read, write, and subtract and add numbers. I love school."

The mother was proud, amazed, and happy to see how exciting this was for her child. Throughout the night and the entire next days she was consumed with the idea of what could be accomplished in 100 days. what could she do if she set a goal and focused effort on it? Could it change her? Could she have a life-changing transformation in 100 days?

The story turned into what is known as "The Next 100 Days." Since that day of discovery, the mother lived life as usual--going to work, watching the kids, taking out the trash--but one thing was different. she had been working toward changing, learning, being something that she had never been before, with a specific goal in mind.

Not someday, sometime, somehow, but rather in "the next 100 days." If 100 days is long enough to take a five-year-old from not being able to read, write, and do math to doing all three, then it is certainly long enough to change some aspect of the mother's life, to reach a goal, to achieve some milestone. In fact, it is long enough for each of us to do something great. If a kindergartner can learn so much in 100 days, then why not you?

Concerning goals, Elder M. Russell Ballard said, "I am so thoroughly convinced that if we don't set goals in our life and learn how to master the technique of living to reach our goals, we can reach a ripe old age and look back on our life only to see that we reached but a small part of our full potential. When one learns to master the principles of setting a goal, he will be able to make a great difference in the results he attains in this life" (M. Russell Ballard, "Do Things That Make a Difference." Ensign, June 1983, 68).

Now what will you do in the next 100 days? What goals can you set and accomplish? Will you complete a course or perhaps even two? will you start on the course on your plan that you have been avoiding and tackle it with strength and determination/ Will you set a renewed goal to get going again. . . after being stalled for some time?

Set goals. challenge yourself. Reaching your goals will give you a feeling of accomplishment and peace. May you do great things this year throughout your life. And may you do great things these next 100 days."

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Healthy Eating and Menus!

In an effort to feed my family more nutritious meals, save money, and to lose the headache of coming up with ideas for dinner, I decided to plan weekly menus. My daughter asked me to send my menus to her, so instead I am posting them on my blog. I could have set this up on a spreadsheet program, but for me it was just easier to sit down for a few minutes at the beginning of each week and plan out a few meals. After a few weeks, I will be able to start repeating my menus.

I picked up a 5 X 7 journal at the local craft store from the $1.00 bin. I divided the first page into grids and planned one week of breakfast and dinner menus. I rarely fix breakfast for my 17 yr-old son and 21 yr-old daughter anymore (they are out the door at different times of the day and take care of themselves as far as breakfast goes) and Jim rarely eats breakfast except on the weekend or holidays, but this gave me a basic plan for myself. I always eat breakfast and it is just nice to have a plan. (You might also notice, I don't eat cold cereal for breakfast. It doesn't fill me up so I end up eating several bowls to be satisfied; it is expensive; I never feel very well after I eat it so it is a rarity that I eat it; I also can't stand it unless it has tons of added sugar.)

I added little notes on each day if there is something out of the ordinary that I need to figure in to my plan. I didn't include lunch since I usually eat something simple or use up the leftovers in my refrigerator. On page two I made a shopping list. My plan is still flexible enough that if it ends up that I don't feel like making what is planned, I can swap it out for one of the other meals. It has helped to avoid the unhealthy foods and the last minute, "Let's order Chinese Food!" So we are eating more healthy and saving money too. Also note that Fridays are Pizza night so we always have pizza. It might be French Bread Pizza, or regular pizza, or on some occasions we will pick up or order a fast food pizza. Here are two weeks worth of my menus.

Monday FHE
Whole Wheat English Muffin w/ Peanut Butter & Banana

Homemade Minestrone Soup Whole Wheat Bread


Hawaiian Haystacks

Oatmeal w/ fruit & almonds

Yakatori Noodle Bowls, Green Salad

Eggs and Toast

Friday--Pizza Night!
Oatmeal w/ fruit & almonds

French Bread Pizza

Taco Salad


Ham, Baked Potatoes Green Salad, Corn
Eggs and Toast

Hamburgers, French Fries, Green Salad

Tuesday MUTUAL
Boiled egg

Tomato Soup, Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Oatmeal with Bananas & almonds

Corned Beef Hash, Green Salad, Carrots

Whole Wheat English Muffins with P/B & Banana

Chili Sauce Chicken, Yams, Green Salad, Green Beans

Friday--Pizza Night!
Omelet with veggies

Homemade Pizza

Eggs & Toast

Tacos (Make sure we have avocados!)

Whole Wheat Eng Muffin with P/B & Banana

Baked Chicken Breast, Sour Cream Potatoes, Green Salad, Veg

Here are a some of the recipes I use for these two weeks of menus:

Spray fry pan with nonstick spray
Fry boneless skinless chicken pieces until brown and cooked through
(You can use either breasts or thighs. Thighs come in smaller portions and are less expensive. A breast is usually large enough for two portions.)
Pour 1 pint jar (or less) of chili sauce or salsa over chicken pieces
Heat thoroughly
Top with Mozzarella or pepper jack cheese
Heat until cheese is melted
(This makes a big pot and some can be frozen to used at another time!)
1 quart tomatoes
1 lb. ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 large potato, diced
2-3 stalks celery, diced
2 garlic cloves
1 qt. water
2-3 large carrots, peeled and sliced
2 8 oz cans tomato sauce
1 can diced tomatoes
1 15 oz can garbanzo beans, drained
1 16 oz can green beans, drained
1 15 oz can kidney beans, drained
1 can beef or chicken broth
1 1/4 cups macaroni (whole wheat) or penne pasta, uncooked
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2-3 dashes Tabasco sauce
2-3 dashes cayenne pepper (more if you like it spicier! I like it to be on the spicy side.)
1/2 tsp thyme
1 Tbsp Dried parsley
1 tsp basil
1 tsp dried oregano
Salt & pepper to taste
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for garnish (opt.)
Puree tomatoes in blender. In a large pot or dutch oven, combine all ingredients except macaroni and cheese. Bring to a boil, then add macaroni and cook 15-20 minutes until macaroni is tender. Garnish with Parmesan cheese.
Rachel Ray's Yakatori Noodle Bowls
Cook 1 pkg Whole Wheat Spaghetti or Soba Noodles.
In a large frying pan or wok:
Spray pan with Nonstick spray or use Canola oil to stir fry:
Boneless Skinless Chicken Cut into Bite size pieces
Peel fresh ginger then grate and add to chicken (I bought a big piece--it had three fingers. Rachel said to peel and freeze, It can be pulled out of the freezer and grated and it works better than fresh. I used one finger of ginger.) When Chicken is done, add:
2 bunches green onion cut into approx 1 inch pieces
1 Can Chicken broth
1/3 Cup Tamari (aged soy) I just used soy sauce
Drizzle with honey (I used about 3 tsp)
Reduce Heat and let thicken a little, then drizzle with Sesame Oil. Pour over drained noodles and mix together. Top with Toasted Sesame Seeds.
This was really good! Rachel Ray had this on her television show. She claimed it was healthy and appealing to children. My family enjoyed it! You can check this and other recipes out on
Even though Homemade French Fries are still filled with fat, they are delicious and easy!
Wash large potatoes thoroughly. I don't peel my potatoes, I fry them with the skins. It is just much easier that way! Cut potatoes into wedges or if you like them smaller go for it. Put potatoes into a dutch oven filled with hot oil. Do not stir too much at first. Wait until fries are starting to get a little crispy or they could fall apart and won't be as appetizing. When they are getting lightly browned remove fries. Drain on a paper towel or napkin. Sprinkle with Salt immediately. Serve. Note: Be cautious. The oil is very hot and can cause serious burns. Also make sure you don't leave while the fries are cooking. If grease spills, it could cause a fire.
These have a fraction of the calories of the original!
Wash and cut potatoes into wedges
Spray potatoes with nonstick cooking spray
Sprinkle with Mrs. Dash or Salt
Place on cookie sheet
Bake at 400 degrees until potatoes are done
Sliced potatoes
Sliced or chopped onions
1 Can Corned Beef
Salt & Pepper
Use amounts that will make enough for your family. Slice Potatoes, onions, add chopped up corned beef, salt and pepper. Add a little water, Bake covered in a heavy pan or dutch oven until potatoes are tender. Serve.