I am getting the hang of gardening — slowly. And while my 18th-century kitchen garden is not quite yet the picture of the one in my dreams, the way it is thriving this year amazes me. It also makes me smile. But it’s not just the abundance of acorn squash or the pumpkins and corn that fills me with joy, it is the many God lessons I have learned through toiling in the soil.
I invite you join me for my morning walk through the garden as I share with you the flowers, herbs and vegetables that are growing. And I will tell you why I have kept a garden bed — or two — empty.
It’s been a cold and rainy summer here in Vermont, but I had a task to do: I wanted to inspect the chicken coop and begin getting it ready so that I can move my chickens into their new home. With the weather being on the damp and chilly side, though, I think that move will be delayed another week or so. I want to make sure the chickens are cozy.
But as I was in the coop, I couldn’t help but notice the peace and joy that began filling my heart. It had been a stressful week with writing deadlines, pending projects and, of course, the unexpected death of Fricassee. I am not sure what happened. A few chicken experts I spoke to didn’t seem too sure either. They concluded what a novice chicken farmer really doesn’t want to hear. That is, sometimes a young chicken will die for underlying health reasons we will never know.
The stress and sadness of the week, though, began fading away as I cleaned out the cobwebs and a hornet nest or two in the corners of the coop. I began thinking of the bright tomorrows God holds in His hands. As I sat inside the coop, I felt as if for a second I had escaped the pressures of the world. I felt a like a little girl in a playhouse, sneaking away from doing her chores and relishing in dreaming all the incredible possibilities of “when I grow up.” I also felt a stillness that was healing.
In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus invites his friends to come to a deserted place and rest. I found that rest in the coop. Where will you retreat to renew your Spirit? Will you accept Jesus’ invite?
The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.
While I might not have a huge open hearth to cook over in my 18th-century home, it hasn’t stopped me from dabbling in the art of primitive cooking. I’ve always been a believer that if you dream it — and begin living into the dream — that whatever you envision will come true.
And so, with the absence of an indoor hearth to cook over — and much to my husband’s chagrin — I have been purchasing the tools I need for that dream to materialize someday.
The Dutch ovens are piling up in the kitchen, as are the various sized copper pots to hang from an iron rod. I have the iron spoons, spatulas, forks and ladles, all with long arms to prevent me from getting too close to the flames, hanging near my non-operational fireplace. I’ve also added a slew of 18th-century cookbooks to my reading list. I’m enjoying learning just what a hoe cake is and how delicious it sounds to wash down a piece of cornbread with some cherry bounce or to serve some syllabub — a Colonial whipped cream concoction enhanced with a good amount of sherry — rather than pie for dessert.
For now, any primitive cooking is done outside over the fire pit. Perhaps that is a good thing, as a fire blazing amid centuries-old wood and crumbling mortar is probably not ideal.
For long as I can remember, I have been fascinated with cooking over a flame. There’s just something comforting about gathering around a hearth filled with the smells of food bubbling, broiling and baking over glowing embers. Two years ago, I stepped back in time, entering a village of 18th century homes to master the art of open-hearth cooking. For three nights, I lived without electricity and running water. I even slept on a rope bed that was topped with a mattress filled with straw.
Just a little bit of trivia here. The old saying, “sleep tight” comes from those rope beds as every night, before retiring, if you didn’t want to sleep on a sagging pile of blankets, you would have to tighten the ropes. “Sleep tight” was often followed with “and don’t let the bed bugs bite.” Did I mention my “mattress” was filled with hay? Luckily, there were no bugs biting me.
So for three days I lived in another time. It was heaven on earth! There was another “early living skills” class going on in the printer’s shop the same time my cooking class was being held. Someone in that group had a fiddle. One night, I came out of the hot kitchen and sat on the cool stone step and listened to the sounds of music and laughter filling the air. Dusk descended and slowly the houses began coming to life with just the peaceful glow of candles and fires that were being lit within. I closed my eyes and smiled. This was how I wanted to live. I vowed when I came back to the 21st century, I would fill my days with more candlelight and homecooked meals over a fire.
That vow, though, quickly got broken as the demands of modern living tugged at me. Electric light filled my nights along with blue light from computers and handheld devices. And home cooked meals were replaced with grab and go cuisine.
Today, though, I have renewed my vow to live in the way that truly brings me joy. Today, I share with you my new Sabbath tradition. (They say sharing what you want to commit to is a good way of keeping that commitment as someone will hold you accountable…and so, who out there is going to hold me accountable?)
Rather than having a traditional Sunday dinner, which has also fallen by the wayside for so many families, Mondays will be my 18th-century cooking day. This will be my day to turn off the computers, get the fires outside going and begin making a meal. That is one thing that struck me during my cooking class: The amount of time and energy it took just to prepare one meal. After breakfast was eaten, we didn’t have time to sit around. There was more wood needed to get the bread oven the right temperature if we would to have a meat pie for supper that night. And then there was one dinner in which we didn’t eat till 9 p.m. as the chicken in the metal reflector oven in front of the flames was taking longer than we had anticipated. And then there was the day we burnt the tops of all eight pies … but that is another story.
And so, it is still Monday morning on this the first day of my 18-century cooking Sabbath time. The chicken is roasting nicely. The fresh collard and mustard greens have been picked from the garden and are now simmering down with bacon drippings. Next on the list is to make the spoonbread sprinkled with freshly grated nutmeg and to be cooked over the fire. The fire is being a bit finicky as some of my wood is damp from last night’s storm. But I will make it work. And if I am inspired, I might make a cobbler with the abundance of rhubarb I have.
Well, I would love to share more, but I have a fire to tend to. But I am curious to hear from you. How do you observe the much-needed Sabbath rest God invites us into? And, if not observed on Sunday, what day have you carved out to step back, rest and recharged your Spirit? (If your Sabbath involves cooking, send recipes my way!)
A special treat today. You get to meet Pot Pie here at the farm AND also have a chance to dip your toes in the ocean. Well, not actually dip your toes, but I bring you my special gull friend from North Carolina who reminded me of some important wisdom from above.
Yes, an interesting way to bring you today’s lectionary lesson on the beheading of John the Baptist. 🙂 I hope our time together is a blessing for you. If so, please share Accidental Country Pastor with others.
Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts. Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land. Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other. Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky.
King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.” But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.” For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.” And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.” Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.
Filming for this time together didn’t pan out as I had hoped. It has been cold and rainy all weekend. Still, I was on a mission and traveled to Mount Defiance in Ticonderoga, New York, where in July 1777, British troops positioned their cannons overlooking Lake Champlain, pointing directly at Fort Ticonderoga, where the Continental Army was housed. I did manage to show you around for a little bit, until the wind began whipping and the rain poured down, sending me back indoors at Old Stone Well Farm. But as I drove back home, I began thinking.
In light of the scripture lessons we have for today, I found the name “Mount Defiance” butting up against what God really wants of us. We hear from Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:10 who says, “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” And then I was reading Luke’s Gospel where Jesus sends out the 12 to heal and preach. He tells them take nothing for the journey. Travel lightly and rely on the hospitality of others. Then we have Mark’s Gospel, where those who knew Jesus growing up, question who does he think he is to talk with such wisdom and authority. Isn’t he just a carpenter? Joseph’s son?
Weakness, relying on others, being judged because of where you come from…these are things Americans have fought hard to overcome. Yet, in weakness, God’s strength is great. By reaching out to others, relying on their grace and mercy, we get to see the Divine. And being judged by others, well, it’s time we begin looking beyond our limited vision.
And so, I like to wish you a “Happy Dependence Day,” dependence on God that is.
6 He left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. 2 On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary[a] and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense[b] at him. 4 Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” 5 And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. 6 And he was amazed at their unbelief. Then he went about among the villages teaching. 7 He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8 He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; 9 but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. 10 He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. 11 If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” 12 So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. 13 They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.