Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Little Background

Our agrarian roots go way back. My parents were both raised in the farming community of Dutchtown, Louisiana. Although after World War II they headed to the oil fields of Venezuela to work, they nevertheless always had a little garden in every place we lived. Mom loved okra for her gumbo, and Dad enjoyed nice juicy homegrown tomatoes.

MIchael's father was raised on a farm in MInnesota. After World War II he studied Mechanical Engineering and Economics in college. He and his bride settled in Ottumwa, Iowa, to pursue a career with John Deere, working to improve tractors. Always in their back yard a little garden grew, and behind their lot there was a 7 acre cow pasture, home to many adventures for the little cowboys and Indians they raised.

Growing up, I always had an interest in the great outdoors. At first I was drawn to oceanography and marine biology, since we lived on the beach of the Caribbean Sea while my father was refinery manager in Costa Rica. The beautiful tropical foliage, the wonderful and colorful bird life in the trees, and even the little land crabs that migrated once a year across the landscape, all fascinated me. In our side yard someone had planted a hibiscus bush and then grafted in many different kinds and colors of hibiscus flowers. 

After moving back to the States, I finished high school one month after my sixteenth birthday and in the fall of that year I enrolled in LSU. My major? General Agriculture. The counselors all advised me to go into agribusiness, but my feeling was that I wanted to grow things and have a cow, not get involved in the big corporations or the competitive world of agribusiness. 

My fellow classmates seemed to all have farm backgrounds, so I was at a disadvantage. For example, for one class we went to a barn to judge sheep. They brought out four sheep and we were supposed to classify them from best to worst. This was my first close up look at a sheep. I had no idea what to look for. So I guessed at my answers. I was wrong.

My Dairy Science class was all about how to run a dairy and artificially inseminate cows. ONe of my fellow students, a Vietnam veteran, was feeling the same uneasiness I was feeling. When would they begin to teach about cows and how to take care of them?

After a year at LSU, I transferred to NLU, a little college in northeast Louisiana, and I changed my major to Horticulture. Here I got to spend time in a green house, and we went out to collect soil samples in the forest, then brought them back to the lab to analyze them. I didn't finish my degree, but I did continue to have an interest in growing plants.

After returning to Venezuela as a missionary in 1988, I met my husband Michael and we began a joyful partnership for life. One of the first things we did in our mountain home in the Andes was to plant a garden. Michael dug the whole thing by hand and then we planted strawberries and a few vegetables. He bent the shovel on the hard ground! We bought chicks, reasoning that a little food production would help the Lord out with our missionary support. Well, the neighbors (an extremely poor family) stole our strawberry plants. One morning our chicks, that were supposed to be all hens, began to crow at daybreak. We gave them to the extremely poor family down the road.

In Russia we didn't have any land to plant on, since we lived in the collective apartment housing of the city of Togliatti for six years. But we thoroughly enjoyed every visit to the small Russian villages in the summer, to eat and drink with our church members and other friends, and enjoy the beautiful Russian countryside. I have to say that if Russia could ever straighten itself out after centuries of the feudal system, bad government, and crazy politics, homesteading in Russia could be a good thing.

In Kazakhstan where we ministered for three years, we again did not have any land to plant on, but we did take advantage of the fresh vegetable markets all around the city of Almaty. Amazing produce, sold by the farmers of the villages surrounding the city, graced our table at every meal. "Sister, buy my apples!" a local Muslim in the market would yell at me. Herbs and spices, the colors of the vegetables, the smells of roasting chicken kabobs, made every trip to the market an enjoyable experience. It was just hard to lug home the bulging mesh bags filled with all the goodies.

Here in Cyprus, we moved to the mountains to be with our Messianic Jewish friends who have a discipleship school and community. They bought 4 and a half acres nearby, so guess who helped set up the garden? That's right! We did. 

In the fall of 2008, we purchased 26 acres in northern MIssouri. This will be our future homestead, Lord willing. Meanwhile, we continue to appreciate God's good earth, and the gifts He gives us through other members of His Body, and the celebration of the Feasts of the Lord together. This agrarian life is good.

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