Slow Theology: Gardening, Faith & Justice

Slow Theology: Gardening, Faith & Justice

Growing our own food enables us to teach our kids the important theological lesson of slowing down. And it enables me to remind myself of this spiritual discipline which I seem to be forever forgetting.

I recently posted some reflection on Slow Church and “coffee theology”, the idea that beauty, rather than efficiency, is more of a kingdom value. And this is something that I really want to teach my girls as they grow up. In a world which values efficiency, fast everything and instant gratification, the 12-14 weeks to wait and watch our food grow are a gift. In the garden we teach our kids the importance of planning ahead, the truth about the variability of life and the seasons, the virtue of patience and slowing down… that beauty (and food) takes time. And this has lasting effects on the way we view the world and interact with it.

I think by slowing down in the garden we are able to engage more fully in issues of justice. By slowing down our food production we begin to engage more fully and even rectify some of the things that are broken in our food system. Unfortunately, the global food system is one of convenience, productivity and profit over worker’s rights and environmental impact.

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Planting: Top 5 Tips for planting Beans

Planting: Top 5 Tips for planting Beans

Beans are really one of my go to crops each year! They are the kind of crop that very rarely fails and even the kids derive plenty of pleasure from snacking on raw beans and picking bucket loads on a hot summer evening.

Beans are great for the soil too. Legumes fix nitrogen back into the soil which is great after ripping out nitrogen hungry plants like potatoes, brassicas and leafy greens.

Here are my 5 Top Tips for growing beans: 

PLANTING YOUR BEANS – Beans are really easy to grow. Make small runs about 25mm deep and drop a seed about every 10cm (I plant 2×1.5m rows). Backfill with a light covering (about 25mm) and press down for good seed contact before watering. Unless it’s really hot and dry you won’t need to water again until shoots appear.

SUCCESSION PLANTINGS – I plant 3 succession crops, once every month, after the initial planting. Some people plant every 2 weeks but I find this gives me too many beans to handle!

DON’T OVER FEED WITH NITROGEN – since beans already fix nitrogen you won’t need to feed them with it. In fact, too much nitrogen may too give you many leaves and not enough beans.

PICK BEANS YOUNG & REGULARLY – Young beans taste better than old woody ones and regular visits to the garden will prolong the harvest.

PINCH BEANS OFF – This is hard when kids are harvesting, but always try to pinch beans off the plants with your thumb and fore finger. Pulling beans can damage the plant, break off entire limbs or even pull plants out of the ground!

Happy gardening!

Peas: Harvesting, Cooking & Eating

Peas: Harvesting, Cooking & Eating

It’s spring and spring means peas! Lots of peas! I planted two crops of “Telephone Peas” but nearly half if them turned out to be snow peas! Luckily I planted as many as I did because we’re still getting plenty!  

  
The peas are grown on a trellis made with wire mesh and tomato stakes. This gives them support with the option of tying more mesh, fencing wire or string between the stakes to keep the trellis going higher. One of the pea crops has grown well over 7ft high but unfortunately recent winds have bought it back down below 6ft.

We harvest peas as we need them, trying to be careful not to let them grow too fat and woody but also trying not to store too many in the fridge. Today, however, the recent warm weather has bought on a flourish of peas and we managed to harvest 2.2kg in one go!   

  
Our kids love eating peas raw and just picking them off the bush while playing in the backyard. But, typically we simply blanche them quickly in the hot water or add them raw into a salad. But one of the nicest ways we have eaten our peas is in fresh summer pasta. 

Making a lovely white sauce we simply toss the pasta with a few fesh peas and some bits of crispy bacon and some torn up mint leaves. The heat from the pasta and sauce cooks the peas just enough while serving! Beautiful! 

But I still reckon my girls are right… straight off the bush is best!   

Dirt in the Blood: 5 Generations of Urban Farmers

Dirt in the Blood: 5 Generations of Urban Farmers

One of the things I remember most about growing up was helping Dad in the veggie patch. We used plant it out, harvest it, prune the citrus trees, tend the chooks! It was great as a kid to be out, learning about nature, and watching as your hard work produced tasty food that you could eat fresh from the garden!!

I am told that my Great-Grandfather was a Market Gardner in south Sydney and his Son, my Grandpa, had a garden which definitely resembled a market garden. It had rows meticulously planted, perfectly straight with string lines and multiple succession crops of peas and the biggest cauliflowers and cabbages I have ever seen in a backyard garden! My Grandpa had gardening passed on to him from his Father and he handed it on to my Dad. My Dad’s love of plants resulted in him studying Agriculture. He even became a commercial agronomist and plant breeder with Yates, all the while growing plenty of our own veggies at home.

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My Dad then passed this love of gardening to me and my sisters. All three of us loved to harvest the beans and broccoli and onions and carrots. We had plenty of fruit trees and passion fruit and I love to collect the eggs. It was a family affair when it was time to plant or harvest the crops in the backyard.

All three of us kids are now grown up with our own kids and we all have big veggie gardens in our backyards. Both of my sisters went on to study agriculture and one of my sisters has even become a Horticultural/Agricultural Scientist in Tasmania specializing in vegetables! You can only imagine what her garden is like!

And now we are all passing on this love of veggie gardening to our own kids. My kids love getting into the Urban Farm, even if is just to collect a few eggs (or catch a chook for fun), pull out a few weeds or get in and plant the next crop! And best of all, like my childhood, they know what raw food looks and tastes like and they know where their food comes from!

Its a multi-generational love of urban farming! We must have dirt in our blood!

– Jono

Dirt Theology: Gardening & Justice

Dirt Theology: Gardening & Justice

I recently wrote a post about how gardening connects me to my theology about creation, restoration, justice and the New Heavens & New Earth. And as I re-read what I published, I saw a gap which I want to address here.

In my previous post I wrote:

As I tend the garden and healthy crops grow and produce food, I am reminded of God’s provision and grace in my life, even now. But I am also called to look toward the time when God’s provision, love and grace will be experienced in abundance!

I realized that this short paragraph, while never intending it to be comprehensive, missed a vital part of my “dirt theology”. I cannot speak of God’s provision and grace to me without considering the call of Jesus to love my neighbour (Mark 12:31).

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As I consider the way God breathes life into the dirt (Genesis 2:7), I am reminded of how God provides and tends and cares for his created world. As Jesus would say, not even a sparrow falls without the Father knowing (Matthew 10:29). His grace and provision abounds in my life from the big things that I seek God’s guidance and wisdom for, to the simple things I take for granted, like the air I breathe and lungs which are healthy and work effectively.

But even at the gardening level, I notice the grace of God. God allows my plants to grow and produce a crop, as indeed he allows many plants in many gardens and paddocks around the world to do the same. None of these plants would grow without the unseen hand of God tending our crops. This is grace, mercy, provision.

As I consider this grace of God, I am left wondering of my duty, my responsibility, as an agent of God, an ambassador to His Kingdom, as one called to work for a glimpse of the World to Come, the New Heavens and New Earth. What must I do with the grace and provision God has shown me? And this stretches even to the level of my own garden which produces a crop only by the unseen hand of God at work.

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This is particularly confronting when I consider issues of justice, food insecurity, domestic & international poverty, famine and starvation. Even in my own neighbourhood there are people who struggle at times to have enough. And yet God has blessed me with food from the dirt in my own backyard.

And this is not even touching issues of a fully functioning body and brain, education and opportunities, and even an income which, by the world standard, places me in the richest few. This is the grace of God.

What is my responsibility as an agent of the Kingdom of God if it is not to share the abundance of God’s grace with those around me? My gifts, my abilities, my education, my opportunities, my career, my wealth, even my own vegetable garden, all these things and more are to be used to give generously of the love, grace, mercy and provision that God has shown me. All these things should be used to promote love, hope, mercy and justice in a world which (at times) can seem so devoid of these things.

At a simple level (related to the very dirt in my back yard) my responsibility in working for justice, love and hope looks like sharing the abundance of produce in my garden with my neighbour. It looks like cooking and eating together and giving generously of the produce that has been grown by the grace of God at work in my backyard. 

It looks like prayerfully considering the plight of those in our world who do not see justice, who do not experience love or mercy or hope. It looks like committing tirelessly to demonstrate in any way I can the love and compassion of God as I seek to work for justice in their lives and their communities.

God’s grace and provision will be experienced in abundance when Christ returns. And while I wait expectantly, experiencing a taste of what is come even now, I will work for justice, seeking to see others experience God’s love, grace, provision and compassion as he works through me.

– Jono

Dirt Theology: Creation, Restoration & Gardening

Dirt Theology: Creation, Restoration & Gardening

Genesis 1-2 is full of dirt! It just keeps popping up everywhere! And God does some incredible stuff with it!

God gathered the waters together so that dry dirt could appear (Genesis 1:9), and he even took a handful of dirt, breathed life into it and created people (Genesis 2:7). But of all the great things that I love about God and His dirt, I especially love this:

And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good… And The Lord God planted a garden. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to sight and good for food. (Genesis 1:11-12, 2:8-9)

God was a cosmic gardener. And he created human beings to be gardeners  of sorts (Genesis 2:15). As a person who loves getting dirt on my hands as I tend the chooks, plant and harvest crops and dig up the soil, I love the link back to Eden. When I’m in the dirt I love the sense that in someway I am connecting back to my true roots, back to the time when things were the way God intended. There is something beautiful about that.


But tending the garden doesn’t just pull me back to my original roots, it points me towards my future, the New Heavens and New Earth (Revelation 21:1). God tells us that one day, when Jesus returns, everything wrong will be undone and everything right will be restored (Revelation 21:5). The Earth will not be destroyed, but restored. Beauty, life, goodness… restored.

This restoration of our relationship with God, one another and creation will once again happen in a garden. The City, the New Jerusalem, will come down but the city will be over taken by a river and a fruitful garden. Eden will be where we find true life again (Revelation 22:1-3).

Scripture plainly teaches that the Kingdom of God is “now and not yet”. We have a taste of life with God now, but it’s fullness is yet to come. And as we wait, we work. We work for a world which resembles the world to come.

When I pull out weeds which are choking my vegetables and stifling growth, I am reminded of my task of working for a restored world. As a Christian I am to be seeking order where there is chaos, life from the dirt.

As I see crops grow from the dirt I am reminded that my God brings life from the ash heap, hope where it is hopeless, life from dust. God is working for restoration of people and a world who are hopeless to save themselves. And he has invited me to join him in that work.


As I tend the garden and healthy crops grow and produce food, I am reminded of God’s provision and grace in my life, even now. But I am also called to look toward the time when God’s provision, love and grace will be experienced in abundance!

As a care for our chooks I am reminded that one day all of creation will be restored. Perhaps I will no longer have to treat lice and mites, but rather I will watch and join in as all of creation, the chooks and plants and even the rocks, sing praise and glory to God our King!

God is a God who brings life from dirt. And one day he will restore even the dirt to be all that he originally intended it to be.

– Jono