The Fast Seemed Slow

This week at church the teenage youth had a combined activity. It wasn’t going to be anything out of the ordinary…they get together once a month for activities.

The idea for this particular activity was decided on back in January, long before I was asked to be one of the youth organization leaders. However the actual plans for what would be done were never put into place. That was something I had to do.

The theme for the activity was “Fast and Feast”, with the idea being that we would ask the youth, the youth leaders, and any parents that had a desire to participate, to fast for 24 hours and then have dinner together.

Let me just say up front: kudos to all that participated.

There are about 50 youth ages 12-18, (along with 17 youth leaders) in the congregation and about 40 of them decided to participate. I should say that many participated in the feast. I don’t know how many of them actually fasted because we didn’t ask them to account for it. It was supposed to be a personal thing.

Normally we fast from Saturday until Sunday, which doesn’t seem so bad. I figure that being at church makes it easier. So the true test of dedication was going to be due to the fact that we were fasting from Tuesday to Wednesday…a time period when everyone would be interacting with friends and colleagues at work and school. We would be around food. It would be a temptation.

It was bound to be a long day.

When we were ready to sit down together and have our feast, I delayed a little and teased a little about being hungry. But it was only a little bit of teasing because, well, I was hungry too.

We had begun our fast the night before as a group, kneeling in prayer, asking our Father in Heaven to bless us as we fasted. Before eating, we knelt again in prayer and thanked Him for sustaining us and blessing us with a wonderful meal and answers to our prayers. (I wouldn’t be surprised if some prayers were for a good feast, while others might have prayed for time to go by quickly.)

After the prayer we all say down to eat. This all happened one week before Thanksgiving but if you could see what we ate you would think it was a Thanksgiving celebration.

But it was.

After we ate we gave anyone that wanted to, a chance to share any thoughts that they had about their experience of fasting. If they wanted to share a testimony they could.

Although some of the youth said that it was hard, especially with food so readily accessible at work and school and with friends eating in front of them, everyone that spoke said it was worth it. Why? Because they were blessed for remaining strong.

That was the true feast. Yes it was nice to eat the yummy dinner that had been prepared. It was great to see the youth socializing. But the best part was hearing the feelings put into words to describe how they were each influenced by the Holy Ghost. They felt God’s love for them. That is more filling than any food, which is why the Savior is the bread of life.

If you have never tried fasting you should. But do it with a purpose. Otherwise you will just be starving yourself. It is amazing how you can be spiritually touched by doing so. I know I was. I could see that these youth were.

And those 24 hours didn’t last as long, or feel any longer, than I thought they would.

Just another view from a Palmtree.

Not “Labor Day” but “Labor Weekend”

I finally have a minute to sit and relax and I decided to write a blog posting.  It’s the end of a holiday weekend and tomorrow morning I will have to go back to work.  The holiday we celebrated today was Labor Day…a day made into a holiday by the government to recognize the laborer that help make this country what it is.  Or maybe I should say what it was a few years back…before the professional welfare cases decided to make a holiday called “Labor Life” in which they took the rest of their life off work and pulled in a welfare check from the government because it was easier.

Oh wait, I have already digressed.  Let me get back on track.

So it is the end of a holiday to celebrate the labor force.  Many of my friends did something to celebrate the holiday.  Some had a cookout which gave them a couple of hours of enjoyment.  Others went camping which gave them a couple of days of enjoyment.  Me, I spent the weekend laboring.

(Now before I get too far on this, let me point out that I have multiple blogs.  This is the first and maybe only time, that I will share this post on both blogs.  Why do I do that?  Because one blog is about whatever is going on in the world that I want to comment on.  The other is in regards to my measly efforts to grow a garden and be a successful urban farmer.  For those that are all about ROI, it is not to drive traffic to both blogs.)

Now that I am being clear on the blog (or have I confused you more) let me tell you about my garden.  I have had this garden for pretty much the whole time I have lived in this house: 14 years.  For the first few years the garden was small as I was not very experienced at gardening.  I had helped my dad when I was young, but when I was finally the age where I could understand what was going on with the plants, he had decided to stop growing any produce.  So I never really learned all the techniques.  I just planted the easy stuff.  You know, stuff like zucchini, radishes, beets, carrots, corn and a tomato plant.  My garden plot was 6 ft. by 24 ft.  It wasn’t too big and if I had extra room I just planted more corn.

My garden now takes up almost half of my backyard.  Well, maybe more like 1/3, but add in a chicken coop and pen; I have definitely given up lawn space for dirt.  Oh yeah, and weeds and rocks.  Those are the two things that grow the best. (I bet you never knew rocks could grow, but I can show you otherwise.  I wish I could harvest this many potatoes every year.)

Over the years I have conditioned the soil, removed as many rocks as possible, done what I can to keep the weeds at bay, and try my hardest to have a successful harvest.  This year I decided to give up on a couple of easy things because they just weren’t worth the effort.  I tried my hardest to maximize the space possible.  I thought about what I would want to eat when the season was done.  And I also thought about what canning I would have to do so that food wouldn’t go to waste while trying to get another family in the neighborhood to accept an overgrown zucchini.

This year I knew I would need to make more salsa (or at least I thought I would…I found a whole case tonight from three years ago).  And then I thought that it would be fun to make some spaghetti sauce from scratch.

I also wanted melons and since I only live two hours north of the melon capital of the world, or at least Utah, I figured I could have the same success.  So I am growing three different kinds of melon: watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew.

The garden grew and grew.  And the weeds grew even better.  But low and behold, I have produce.  Lots of it.  And I have already given a bit of it away.  And so has my wife.  Yet somehow this was still a labor weekend.  Why?  Because it all decided to ripen at the same time.

So guess what I did?  I didn’t make salsa.  I actually did that three weeks ago while recovering from my gall bladder surgery.  I made 27 pints of it.  It should be enough to last the year, unless we give a lot away for Christmas gifts.

This weekend I did spend a lot of time canning.  On Saturday, I did seven quart bottles of peaches.  I still have enough peaches from the first tree to do 3-4 more bottles.  The other tree will be ripened soon too, but those will either be frozen or made into nectar, or both.

When I was done with the peaches I turned to my jalapeno pepper plants.  There were a lot.  Even after completing all of that salsa I had more peppers than I knew what to do with.  So I decided to make jelly.  My wife and I love it with cream cheese on Club Crackers.  It makes a great holiday treat around New Year’s Eve.  I had red jalapenos and green jalapenos.  I wanted the jelly to look good so I separated the peppers by color.  I made 16 half-pints of red jalapeno jelly and 7 half-pints of green jalapeno jelly.  That is 23 jars total.  The red is hotter and the green is sweeter and they both taste great.

I took Sunday off from gardening labor and had a day of rest.  God created a day of rest from our labors and it happens every week.  I don’t think the government needed to create a holiday for it, but I won’t complain about an extra day out of the office.

Today brought more laboring in the kitchen.  I wanted to make spaghetti sauce and the conditions were just right: I had a day off work and the tomato plants were full of ripe tomatoes.  I put my daughter to work and she was a great helper.  I had her start by picking the tomatoes.  Over 40 pounds worth of the red fruit that everyone calls a vegetable.  They looked great.  We also picked some bell peppers to add to the sauce.

It took two hours to blanch and peel the tomatoes.  It took another six hours to cook the sauce and get it to a point where I could bottle it.  There were 9 quart bottles total so I had to process in two batches (the last batch is processing as I write this).  It was a lot of work.

Yes, it was work.  I labored on Labor Day.  And I loved it. In fact, I loved the whole weekend.  Something about harvesting and canning fills my soul with satisfaction.  In the last three weeks, I have canned about 60 jars of food that will last us at least until next year’s harvest.  It is awesome to think about.  It is a sight to behold.  And it will be nice to enjoy eating, especially in January when there is snow on the ground.

I know gardening isn’t for everyone and neither is canning the harvest.  But nothing beats eating something that you grew yourself.  And the sense of accomplishment when it is canned is just the cherry on top.  Do I feel bad for myself?  Not at all. I am now thinking about what else I can harvest and can.  How about strawberry-rhubarb jam?  How about end of garden relish?  Maybe even some more salsa…just because I have ingredients.  It may be the only Christmas gift you get from me.  Wouldn’t you be lucky?!  I think we all are when we see the success we experience in growing a bountiful garden.

I am blessed.

Just another view from a Palmtree.