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Sometimes, we just need three hands.  Our projects get so big that our reach doesn’t span the necessary distance, and the two hands we have been blessed with are full to overflowing. Yet we still need to grasp another rope.  And then you look up and find that your neighbor has shown up to lend you that third hand – a living, breathing example of ‘Love Thy Neighbor’.  It’s even a bigger blessing still when he or she volunteers to sticks around to help you finish the project.

Our new schedule is hectic and doesn’t allow for a lot of extras.  Instead of an extra hand, we really needed four or five extras.  There just wasn’t time this summer to care for a large garden, and we couldn’t ask our neighbors to do all the work for us, so we were forced to scale back temporarily.  In one way, it’s a good thing, as it will allow us to build up the soil in our normal gardening area.  On the downside, there just isn’t enough harvest to carry us through for a full year.  It broke my heart to realize that I wouldn’t have enough time to till and plant a fall garden.  By the time I had the opportunity, the optimal planting time had passed.  So the Country Boy just pulled up the electric fencing and took a lawn mower to the spent garden.  That was a heavy day for my heart.

A couple of weeks later, as I was headed out to feed the chickens, I noticed that there was quite a bit of greenery in the garden area.  At first, I moaned, thinking it was the dreaded pigweed.  Then I got a closer look.  And grinned.  While mowing, the Country Boy must have hit a couple of squash that were well hidden amongst the over-sized green leaves and scattered the seeds within.  Instead of weeds, I had Volunteers!

There is nothing better than those delightful little plants.  Somewhere, somehow, they felt the heaviness of my heart and decided to give me that helping hand I needed.  Okay, well, maybe that is a bit of anthropomorphizing, but it at least sounded good.  And better yet, we have had at least one batch of fried squash to delight our taste buds, with the knowledge of at least two or three meals waiting on the vine.  Those will either be smothered, or sliced and put in the freezer for a tasty winter meal.

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Given the opportunity, many plants will ‘volunteer’.  As in life, there are times when you have too many, like when some herbs come into seed and drop those little pellets anywhere and everywhere you really don’t want them.    Some plants can easily become invasive, with Basil coming to mind.  I love growing mint, but too much of it can choke out any other herbs that are growing around it.  With mints and other plants that spread through the root system, it is best to add ‘fencing’ around the area where you are initially planting it.  Fencing is just some type of border, such as tin or hard plastic cut into strips at least 10” wide and as long as the area you want for your plant to grow.  Sink it into the ground until only about an inch is above the soil line.  Within this area, the plant can spread all it wants to.  The outside area will be somewhat protected from the Volunteers.

Other volunteers are a good thing.  Strawberries are a prime example, although you can’t really call them volunteers.  Strawberries spread by the mother/daughter system.  The mother plant puts out runners, and where it touches the ground, it roots, becoming a daughter plant which will also produce strawberries.  One single strawberry plant cannot provide enough berries by itself.  It needs daughters to help it produce all that is needed.  Similar to the way a Mother could always use a daughter’s help when washing dishes, or doing other household chores.  So much more is accomplished than if trying to do it all alone.

A good rule of thumb before selecting fruits, vegetables, herbs or flowers to plant is to check to see how they grow (especially size and feeding needs) and if they ‘volunteer’ to spread the next year, as well as how diligent a volunteer they are.  With projects, this same principle should always apply.  Is it too big for one person, or should you call a neighbor to help?  For example, I am ALWAYS looking for volunteers to help me clean the chicken coop out.  It is a nasty, messy job at times, and getting it done as quickly as possible is always preferable.  But in all honesty, it isn’t a job that takes two people.  Although the Country Boy is always willing to help, right now we are forced to divide and conquer as much as possible in order to get as much done as we can with the short amount of time available.  Which means I am stuck with chicken coop duty.  Just lovely.

Maybe it is time we all consider volunteering a helping hand from time to time.  Know someone who has been sick?  Volunteer to spend a few hours cleaning house or doing laundry.  Is a neighbor out of town?  Offer to gather the mail, mow the lawn and water the plants.  Love to cook?  Make extra and take it to the family whose husband just lost his job.  Join a community organization and volunteer one weekend a month.  There are so many ways to help others.  And don’t be surprised when they offer to pitch in and help you when it is needed.  And if you really want to help, I have an extra shovel.  That chicken coop really needs a good cleaning!