Thoughts From the Porch: Another beautiful Spring Day here in Fort Worth so it’s off to the farm. No time to write this morning. Before I go, I just wanted to say I hope you all had a wonderful Easter. We did here at the Joel household! Any time you spend you get to spend a whole weekend with close friends it’s a great weekend!
“Our prayers are answered not when we are given what we ask but when we are challenged to be what we can be.” — Morris Alder
“Easter says to us that despite everything to the contrary, his will for us will prevail, love will prevail over hate, justice over injustice and oppression, peace over exploitation and bitterness.” — Desmond Tutu
Easter symbolizes resurrection and rebirth. May we all live as Easter people today.
Porch time has been nonexistent for the last week. I knew rain was coming over the past weekend (after all, it is the Main Street Arts Festival weekend here and it always rains), so I took advantage of the sunny, dry days to work on Opal’s Farm. We had a ninety-degree day, which is fifteen degrees above average for this time of year. I’m sweating (no pun intended) the heat coming early and fast like it did last year. More severe thunderstorms are predicted for this evening. It looks like desk duty is on for the rest of the day…
I was driving home Monday evening and noticed that Saturday’s rain brought an explosion of color to the landscape. The Bluebonnets have been up for a couple of weeks, but the other flowers seemed unsure as to whether they should make their appearance as well. I guess the weekend storms were the signal. Primrose, One-Eyed Susan’s, Buttercups, and Indian Paintbrush: the list goes on. It amazes me how one day they’re absent and the next they’re in their full splendor. Poof! It’s magical…
Thoughts From the Porch: I got up early this morning expecting a heavy rain, but found dry ground and overcast skies instead. I’m not complaining, mind you, but the weather folks were so insistent it’d be raining this morning, I planned to stay home and work about the house. As it is, I’ll take advantage of the dry weather to squeeze another day’s work out of Opal’s Farm. One can never tell how many dry days lay ahead. Such is Spring in Texas…
I thoroughly enjoy my days
at the farm. It can be frustrating being a “start-up”: money is always tight
(and sometimes non-existent – hint, hint…) and grants are difficult unless you’ve
been around a while. I’m so thankful for partners like the White Settlement
Home Depot store and Team Depot, Zimmerer Kubota, Healthy Tarrant Collaborative,
and Container King for providing the support and tools that make Opal’s Farm a
The first year of farming
is the most difficult. It’s extremely labor intensive. There’s infrastructure
to be built and is contingent on the weather and volunteers to help with the
work. We’ve been blessed with volunteers. TCU student interns are working on
social media, fundraising and marketing. Riverside Arts District has provided
neighborhood support for the farm. I receive calls inquiring, “can I volunteer?”
The answer is a resounding yes. You have no idea how much we love our
Well, I’m off to the farm
again. Before I go, I want to remind you to go to Opal’s Farm Facebook Page or
to make your secure donation today.
Spring officially arrived
this week and I have the sunburn to prove it. I’m not bragging, mind you. I
feel guilty for even mentioning this because I know some folks are still
dealing with the effects of a lingering winter. I lived in Colorado for many
years. Sporadic winter storms could pester everyone until April sometimes. Planting
ones garden often had to wait until May. Heck, I remember going over Monument Pass
in white-out conditions on June 6th. Apparently, it set the record
for latest snow on Colorado’s front range.
If you’re feeling a bit envious of our warmer weather, please know Spring in North Texas can be a bit tricky as we make up the southern end of “Tornado Alley”. Severe thunderstorms are our version of ‘Bomb’ cyclones and blizzard conditions. They just don’t last as long.
The sunshine brought a
busy week to Opal’s Farm. Thanks to Zimmerer Kubota and the tractor they
provided, the plowing is finished, and bed preparation has begun. The first
season of farming is the most difficult simply because all the ‘infrastructure’
must be built (from the ground up – no pun intended). Organic farming becomes
easier with each passing growing season because more organic material is put
back into the soil.
Caring for the soil is why
we call it regenerative agriculture. We rebuild and renew the soil instead of
draining it dry of nutrients through chemical applications of herbicides,
insecticides, and typical commercial fertilizers. Caring for the soil is also
the way we practice stewardship of the creation we get to enjoy. Most
importantly, care brings a bountiful harvest for our community.
Today’s post will be short. The sun is shining, and wet weather is coming this weekend so it’s time to get busy. This afternoon, Texas Christian University (TCU) students working with the Tarrant Food Policy Council are coming out for a photo shoot at the farm. We are so grateful for TCU, their support, and their work to make urban agriculture a success in Fort Worth. I would be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to Dr. Aftandilian’s class for each and every one of his students who are working with Grow Southeast and Opal’s Farm. Thank you, TCU!
Just a reminder – we can’t do it without all of you. WE love our volunteers and donors. You can always donate to Opal’s Farm by going to our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/unityunlimited or directly to http://www.unity unlimited.org. Make sure you note that it’s for Opal’s Farm.
Thoughts From the Porch: I got to see the sunrise this morning. Big deal, you say? It is after several days of rain and overcast skies. I know we’ll be praying for rain in a couple of months, but I have way too much to do to stay at the desk.
A slight chill hangs in the air as a reminder that the official start of Spring, the vernal equinox, is still a week away. Still, the birds are singing and I even saw Bluebonnets peeking through the grass. For those unfamiliar with Texas, Spring comes with an explosion of bright color along side our highways and bi-ways. I know it happens elsewhere, just not like here. Bluebonnets bring vibrant blues, followed by the orange and black of the Indian Paintbrush. Yellows and deep greens fill in the blanks and everywhere is awash with blooms. It makes up for the winter months and reminds us to truly “stop and smell the flowers”.
Facebook will soon be plastered with pictures of people sitting
in fields of blue. That’s a big thing here in Fort Worth. Taking pictures of
loved ones, especially kids, amongst the wildflowers is a tradition for many
folks here in North Texas. Nature provides the perfect background for the best
portraits. The photographs are constant reminders that life is always fresh and
new, even during the coldest of winters.
Each Wednesday I attend the Fort Worth Development Group
(FWDG), a business networking and development group that seeks to “Bridge the
gap between Business and Ministry through cultivating meaningful relationships
in the workplace.” I knew that I needed to network for my writing business even
though I’m painfully shy in new situations. I picked the FWDG because of their Mission
Statement and quite frankly, it was close to my house. Maybe I’d be more
comfortable with like-minded folks despite my fear they would engage in “religious
speak”, but hey, I didn’t have to go back, right?
What I found was a group of business people who really do seek to cultivate meaningful
relationships and help each other grow. It’s not simply lip service. I’ve come
to look forward to my Wednesday meeting, knowing I will leave feeling stronger
in my faith and in my business. Life is fuller and richer when I step out of my
comfort zone. I find new friends and new resources for living well.
My friend Edgar always reminds me that “self-sufficiency is
a lie”, we need something beyond ourselves to live life well. We need each other.
I’m happy to be surrounded and supported by the myriad of people God has
brought into my life. What’s your circle?
Thoughts From the Porch: The last few days have been a preview of Spring in North Texas. It was shorts and tee-shirt weather and even hit the eighty-degree mark. Yesterday morning was a reminder that Winter won’t be leaving for a while yet. Today was the coldest day of winter so far: a mere 25 degrees. I know my friends in Chicago and the Midwest are saying, “what a wimp”, but it drove me to the desk in rapid time so here I sit, coffee at hand and Stevie Wonder on the stereo.
February is the shortest month of the year as far as the
number of days goes, but it seems like it’s unending. Regardless of what a
large furry rodent says about Spring’s timing, February will last for months.
That’s what February does.
The good news about this February is that the ribbon cutting for Opal’s Farm is going well. Invitations are being sent and we’ve had a great response given those who have sent their RSVP. We secured tents in the event of inclement weather (it is Texas…). Thank goodness it fell in an interminably long month. Maybe we’ll get everything done…
As I write this it’s mid-morning here in Fort Worth. I rarely
sleep in and never on a work day. However, I feel into bed quite exhausted last
night. Apparently, I never set the alarm. Even without the alarm I’m usually up
and about by 7 AM at the latest. Today it was well after 8:00. My body said “stop”
and I must have listened, at least subconsciously. It’s taken several cups of coffee
to clear the fog hanging around my head, but here I sit.
Yesterday, Ms. Opal and I had the opportunity to speak to a Food
Justice class at Texas Christian University. Thank you, Dr. David Aftandilian,
for asking us to make a presentation about Opal’s Farm. He also works with the
Tarrant County Food Policy Council and I can’t begin to tell you how much that
work is appreciated. My work with Opal’s Farm has brought me in contact with so
many people who work diligently to improve food justice and access for the
residents of Tarrant County and North Texas.
The greatest difficulty I face when speaking about food scarcity
and access is the time limits imposed by everyone else’s schedule. I easily go
on for hours about these issues for hours. That’s why I’m so passionate about
Opal’s Farm. I have no doubt that everybody would love to resolve hunger and
food injustices, not just in Tarrant County, but everywhere. Unfortunately,
that problems so big that it often seems too abstract to solve. I’m under no
illusions. Opal’s Farm won’t settle the entire problem, but it will make a dent
in it. It’s something tangible. It puts the face of our neighbors, people who
live right here in Tarrant County. It addresses their needs one person at a
I have a friend who’s been in the substance abuse and
recovery field for over twenty years how she managed to stay so positive when
the problem can be so difficult and frustrating. She said her focus was on the one,
not the many, that made her work so important. Like her, I know I can’t “fix it
all”, but I can do something. Farming is the first step.
“If you can’t feed
a hundred people, then feed just one.” — Mother Teresa
Ultimately, Opal’s Farm isn’t about the food it produces nor
the access it provides. Those are the means to an end. The end is serving
people, of transforming lives by being of service, by offering opportunity,
education, and simple human dignity, but it begins with a farm…
Thank you again to TCU for inviting Ms. Opal and I to speak.
Thank you to the college students eager to learn and seek solutions. Thank you
to all the folks who are working to find and create solutions to food
injustices, poor nutrition, and hunger for all our neighbors. Thank you to all
our fellow urban farmers who work diligently to ward the solution. Thanks to
all of you who jump in and donate to become “farmers” along side all of us at
“As we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people
Thoughts from the Porch: It’s the last day of January. It felt like it on the porch. Still, I can enjoy my porch time unlike our neighbors to the north. The record low temperatures remind me how lucky I am to be a Texan where we complain about the cold when the high is in the forties, not forty below. Prayers of warmth are being sent up for the folks in the Midwest. Hang in there, guys…
Being from Texas, I’m
genetically predisposed to be a football fan. Football is most certainly a
religion here. Our football fervor has inspired countless books, several movies
and even a television series, “Friday Night Lights”. Visit any small town on
Friday nights in the Fall and you’ll see what I mean. In the big cities there
are multi-million dollars high school stadiums filled with frenzied fans. Winning
coaches and star players are often held in the same worshipful regard as Davy
Crockett and the heroes of the Alamo. Fans know the stats of every player on
the home team. For a few months of the year, football is king.
When I moved to Colorado in my
early teen years, I was baffled that high school football seemed to take a back
seat to basketball. My dad informed me that football wasn’t revered by the heathens
north of the Red River. Though that might have been true about high school, it
didn’t seem to apply to pro ball. Denver Bronco fans were intense! Colorado had
some redeeming qualities after all!
For many years, my Sunday
afternoons were spent at either the stadium or in front of the television. I
was happy to play Monday morning quarterback with coworkers and friends. God
forbid that I ever miss a Super Bowl, regardless of whether my teams were
playing. I was a football fan!
This coming Sunday is Super
Bowl LIII. It’s unlikely I’ll be tuning in except to see the new crop of Super
Bowl commercials for the year. They’re far more entertaining even if they are
about rampant consumerism. Things have changed over the years. I may see part
of one or two games per season, if I think about it. Watching for a few minutes
seems to be a waste of time. It’s just not the same.
I still make high school games.
I love the school spirit, the energy, and the love of the game. High school
players still play ball because they enjoy it; for the most part anyway. People
still fill the stadium because that’s what we do: support our kids, yell at the
opponents, and then go out for dinner with them after the game. There’s a
certain purity to that.
I don’t follow professional
football much. Not only are the Dallas Cowboys (my favorite team) absent from
the playoffs most years, watching a bunch of prima donnas do put on end zone
theatrics, kind of turns my stomach. It’s far more about money and celebrity than
it is love of the game. Real players and role models are few and far between.
I have mixed emotions about the sport today. The medical community has begun to understand the long-term consequences of the game. It’s not just bad knees and back problems anymore. There’s traumatic brain injury and early onset dementia to think about. I sometimes wonder if allowing my son to play was in his best interests. His college scholarship hopes were cut short by an injury during his senior year.
Despite his injuries, I still
believe in high school football and the purity of the game. He learned a lot
about teamwork, sportsmanship, and perseverance playing ball. Watching most
(not all, mind you) pro players today those things seem to be absent. I have no
desire to give my time or my dollars to such foolishness.
So, this Sunday will find me
working around the house, catching a movie on Netflix, or sleeping in my
recliner. You won’t find me watching the “Big Game” but, if it’s a Friday night
in November, you might just see me under the Friday night lights.