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  • Ross Moughtin

When we need the perfect hoe

Updated: May 11


I have found the perfect hoe. Which is just as well as the current lockdown gives me the opportunity to spend time in our garden, not that I have any choice such is Jacqui’s vision for our particular patch of Aughton. The garden wasn’t in good shape anyway before the builders arrived – but with their grabs, skips and the like they managed to wreck our gardens front and back. Not that we minded – they did an excellent job on the house. So last year – you may remember the blog – we laid new lawns front and back while creating new borders, especially along one side of the house. The lawns, thanks to John and Ian, are doing fine. So this year is the year of the borders, and Jacqui has been single-minded in ordering plants from Hartley’s who deliver them on a regular basis. They’re self-planting in that Jacqui simply places each plant in its pot precisely where she would like it to grow – and then goes inside for a sit down, job done. So I now find myself with the responsibility of looking after 20 yards of borders, making sure the plants are cared for while keeping weeds at bay. The soil has been a challenge through years of neglect and so I am aiming for a fine till. Hence the hoe. Fortuitously I have been asked to look after the tools of an elderly, professional gardener as he recovers from illness (that’s another story), with the permission to use them. This included a strangely-shaped Spear and Jackson implement looking more like a golf club than a hoe So I could buy my own, I uploaded a photo of the hoe onto Facebook to ask if anyone could identify this wonder hoe. Thanks to John Rimmer of farming stock I now know it is called a swoe hoe. And it is brilliant, getting under the surface of the soil and dislodging any weeds. It’s hugely satisfying even though, according to the experts totally unnecessary. Here I quote from Fine Gardening: “Not to be downplayed are the psychological benefits of tillage. It induces a righteous-feeling sweat that makes a clean slate of last year’s mistakes.” Those of you who are using the CofE’s #EasterPilgrim app will know where I am going. Through Eastertide we are working our way through the Lord’s Prayer and we have now reached “Lead us not into temptation,” asking God for his help through those trials which would threaten our trust in him. Today’s theme is Good Soil with an excellent reflection on Jesus’ parable of the sower, as he highlights three different kinds of hardship and distraction in our discipleship. There are those who just never get going as disciples. “Some begin well but, for whatever reason, are not able to bear the trials and tests which come in the early years of faith.” Then those who fall away through persecution or mockery, the hassle of living against the grain. Finally, those whose growth is choked by life’s cares, riches and pleasures which stop the seed from bearing fruit. Far more insidious, we may not even notice how our trust in our heavenly Father is gradually overwhelmed. And the conclusion? Here I quote: “The Lord’s prayer is like a garden hoe, helping us to be good soil.” That’s me every morning going through the garden, looking for weeds, especially those which hide under the various plants. Some you can just see them off just by disturbing them, no big deal. Others you have to lift with their root. I am ever watchful for ground elder from the farmer’s field behind us. For the record it’s not difficult if you hoe every morning. No weed is given the opportunity to develop a root system or entwine itself in a plant. Vigilance is the watchword. The problem, of course, is what will happen to our borders when the lockdown is lifted and once again we have the opportunity to travel. We all know the feeling of coming home and finding the garden overrun. Hours of hard working ahead reclaiming the wilderness. The prophet Isaiah could see what would happen if we stop hoeing: “As for all the hills once cultivated by the hoe, you will no longer go there for fear of the briers and thorns.” (Isaiah 7:24). In establishing his community Bernard of Clairvaux knew a thing or two about resisting temptation and gardening. I guess for him the two went together, both needed hoeing. He taught his followers: “The one weeds out perverse habits with the hoe of discipline.” Clearly he had a thing about weeds. “Learn the lesson that, if you are to do the work of a prophet, what you want is not a sceptre, but a hoe. The prophet does not rise to reign, but to root out the weeds.” It’s no coincidence that it was Bernard who in his day pushed hard for the daily reading of scripture, giving the Holy Spirit the opportunity to search our minds and examine our conduct. You can’t ease up without consequence. So carry on hoeing. #temptation #testing #HolySpirit

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