Stephanie Brake
Stephanie Brake
New Zealand 2011-2012
Stephanie Brake earned a Bachelor of Arts in Entertainment Industry Studies from Belmont University with a minor in Spiritual Formation. Volunteer work on a farm in Waipahi, New Zealand will provide an opportunity to dig deeper into social justice, Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) and a host family in the South Otago region. " Read More About Stephanie →

Of Gardening & Rainbows

A part from the farm animals, much of where my time is spent is in the garden. Some of the basics this entails are the following: weed eating the property, watering the greenhouse, weeding the existing beds, creating seedlings, planting seedlings and sprouts directing into prepared ground, planting trees, making eggshell fertilizer, netting berry bushes and young trees, painting signs, forming teepees with stakes and string, throwing food scraps into the worm farm and fencing. Oh, here’s what’s currently growing or being eaten!

Broad bean
Pak Choi
Snap pea
Florence fennel
Spring onion
and many more I’m probably forgetting

Compared to the soil I worked with in Tennessee, this rich stuff is soft and dark and chemical free. It’s easy to manipulate and shape. It hardens well in sunlight and filters rainfall with little to no water logs. I’d be lying if I said I loved doing anything more on the farm than putting my gloves on and using various garden tools, even if I haven’t expressed it as fully to the family. I’ll confess here accordingly. There’s something incredibly melodic about coming in for smoko or lunch and earning dirt stains on your trousers that weren’t there before breakfast. Or replacing your bandana after accidently dropping it in liquid manure. It’s a therapeutic act to use a water can for the greenhouse and to see several days later how the recipients grew a couple of inches.

Which brings me to ask, can you imagine a scenario where there wasn’t a need to go to a supermarket for most of our food needs? Where we simply walked into our backyards (or to community gardens for the city folk) and picked what you needed for dinner or had a local butcher package your meat? That we met and visited the farmer(s) who raised and supplied our produce?

Veggie garden (behind the WWOOFer cottage)


Latest batch of seedlings

Bed to weed

Harvested rhubarb

I’ve been learning about the important components to a successful organic garden, and the elementary ingredients are 1) timing, 2) geography, 3) health of the soil, 4) the presence of worms and bees, 5) the H2O/sunlight/fertilizer relationship and my absolute LEAST favorite… 6) the annoying mood swings of Mother Nature.

Once upon a time I thought the frequent weather patterns in Nashville were bi-polar, but recent evidence would conclude that was an underestimation. It’s more dramatic in the Pacific. For example, from a hostel room in Te Anau, a town on the border of Fiordland, I witnessed and experienced a 24 hour forecast turn from sunshine (around 65 or so degrees) to snow (around 30 or so degrees) and to rain that caused the lake to fog over so much you couldn’t see the dominating mountains on the other side. Then I’d be at Marama walking maybe a dozen or so meters and in an instant, practically without warning, the unforgiving wind challenged me to stay on my feet. Temperatures staying in a small range can’t be counted on either; just because that bit of dirt is dry now doesn’t mean tomorrow won’t turn it into a mud bath or keep your fingers crossed, from moist earth to a frost the crops have to combat.

A clear, moon-lit night

The next morning at dawn

Mount Luxmore & Lake Te Anau

Same scene some hours later (that’s snow, by the way)

So with outdoor conditions like I’ve described, it’s a constant battle to work with and against them. But, when you fight them, continue to push yourself and finally win on a rare occasion, the reward is remarkable. Mother Nature might send you a rainbow to marvel at – when She’s cheery again.

“Triumphal arch, that fill’st the sky
When storms prepare to part,
I ask not proud Philosophy
To teach me what thou art.”
~Thomas Campbell

One thought on “Of Gardening & Rainbows”

  1. Thanks for sharing Steph, that list of things we are growing sounds great when you write it down!
    And this weekend we have added peas, red cabbage, brussel sprouts, a pipino tree and a mulberry bush, and got more seeds going!
    I love the way you link the photos and your experiences – and you are right on the money about the weather! Gis x

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