Encouragement (for Life as well as the Garden)

Playing With the Hand You’ve Been Dealt

Years ago I heard a sermon that really stuck with me.  The main message was that life can be like a card game. You don’t always get the hand you want, but you have to play with the hand you’ve been dealt.

If something can’t be avoided in life then you have to work with it the very best you can.  You mentally move past the negativeness of it all — and start focusing on the opportunities that come your way.  (And they will come — you just have to be ready for them.)


Pastor and educator Charles R. Swindoll (born in 1934) said that attitude was more important than facts.  I certainly have found that to be 100% true.

Mr. Swindoll  elaborated on that by saying, “The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past…we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable.

The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude…I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you…we are in charge of our attitudes.”

It’s not the inevitable event, but our thought processes of getting mentally past the unavoidable and looking for opportunities —that will shape our world.

An Example of a Reader’s Attitude

A perfect example of this impossible-to-be-defeated attitude was reflected in an email I received the other day from a reader, Lynne.

She had lived 30 years in Manhattan in a high rise apartment building and had “yearned mightily” for a garden.

Lynne continues, “When I moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico six years ago, the first time that I tried to garden here in the high desert, without much water, with lots of wind, poor alkaline soil, lots of gophers gnawing away at anything that managed to grow here, my shovel hit clay soil and caliche (deposit of gravel and sand), and bounced back up…

“My 80 year old neighbor came across the street with a pick axe and a smile, and said: “You’re gonna need one of these pick axes to garden here!”

Well, somehow, through lots of trial and errors, I managed to produce some veggies and flowers in raised beds and containers…which IS the ONLY way that one can garden here…

And I managed to save every drop of water that comes from dishwashing, hand washing, and off the canales (a jutting water spout  on a roof where gutters are not used) when it ‘might’ rain here…

But organic gardening, here we come…

Final Thoughts

Lynne’s spirit and attitude is one that breeds success in spite of whatever difficulties come — and in spite of the inevitable.

I’m going to try to follow her example.


Organic gardening is easy, effective, and efficient — and it’s a lot healthier.


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  • Well, I sure needed this! In the middle of an oil boom here–and I am smack in the middle of it. From a quiet country home to industrial zone and caliche dust (sodium nitrate here) has killed off 47 fruit trees, all assorted berries, etc.etc.etc. Mesquite still grows, of course, so I’ve let it hoping to shield the place to some degree.

    I keep planting, but with little success. Any ideas on this? I have raised beds & plant intensively. That’s my style, anyway.

  • I will shut up about the cucumber-beetle-wilt and the squash bugs/vine borers that have made my mornings a living hell, because my garden is rich and lush and the happiest place on earth. Thank you sharing this note from Lynne… I hope Lynne will continue to share her successes.

  • One thing Lynne likely has going for her is lots of sun. My main challenge right now is a neighbor that allows trash trees, shrubs and vines to grow all the property line and hang over the fence. I am constantly trimming his trees and removing his vines from my fence. I can only get so high though so over time my back-yard is getting more shaded. But I’ll try to keep up the good attitude nonetheless 🙂

  • The life of an organic gardener consists of a series of more or less traumatic failures and successes over the course of a gardening year. In June my neighbor’s potatoes got hit by the late blight, and a plot of mine began to manifest the tell-tale signs of the blight. Then the weather changed, and everyone’s potatoes remained healthy. The neighbor’s potatoes were a total loss, and mine were small but still edible. However, three of my tomato plants began showing signs of the blight. I wanted to pull them out, but my wife began doctoring them with a liquid fertilizer made from comfrey and stinging nettles. These plants regained their health, and the tomatoes are beginning to turn red. The blight may become a threat again as the weather gets more moist and cooler at night.

  • Terry — How awful!! I don’t know enough about your situation to even offer any recommendation.
    Keep us posted. I sure hope things change for the better!

    Virginia — Lynne’s email affected me the same way. Think I too will just shut up about the squash bug/vine borers and cuke_beetle_wilt. 🙂

    Steve — I don’t know that Lynne would think that hot baking New Mexico sun was what she has going for her. A lot different than our Virginia and Maryland sun.

    We too are dealing with neighbor’s who don’t care about the problem their trees, vines, etc. create for other neighbors. Upsetting at times, but keeping on keeping on is about all we can do.

    Millard this is a wonderful story and I certainly appreciate your taking time to tell it.
    I think every gardener is horrified to even think of late blight — and I think everyone has heard that it can’t be dealt with.

    I would love to know your wife’s comfrey and stinging nettle recipe that she used to doctor them.

    Best of luck with this problem. I hope the end of the story will be a happy one also.

    Thanks again.

    UPDATE: Millard — I got to thinking about this. Perhaps you are speaking of early blight. Early blight usually comes late. It is influenced a lot by weather conditions. (Of course, late blight is too but in a slightly different way.) Late blight spores are carried on wind and rain. For more details you may want to read my post on late blight https://tendingmygarden.com/late-blight-know-your-enemy-tomatoes-potatoes/ You might also want to check out the post on early blight https://tendingmygarden.com/early-blight-on-tomatoes-theres-hope/

    Let me know what you think. Thanks Millard.

  • My backyard is also heavily shaded by 50 + year trees from neighbors homes. I’ve been in this home a year now and early on, I wished I had some sun so that I could grow veggies back there but this summer, I saw how beautiful my backyard became when in full resplendent shade garden mode. I do have a small veggie garden on the side of my home where there’s more sun. I’ve made it work (well, work in progress soil wise), recognizing too that all of the massive shade trees in my neighborhood are part of what makes it such an attractive place to live.

  • Good for you Julia! Glad you were able to make at least that small section work for your veggie garden. It would be a shame not to have any. Shade is very lovely — but enough sun to grow veggies makes it perfect. 🙂

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