Mustard Seed

When I first moved into my house about a hundred years ago, there were two fledgling trees in the front yard. I believe the technical term is saplings; I preferred to call them twigs. Over the course of my tenure, those twigs grew into two beautiful trees; the perfect place for pigeons, bird feeders, and wind chimes to reside. They also came in handy if a stray dog decided they wanted to chase one of the numerous cats hanging around outside.

I need to explain how partial I am to trees. Nobody I know would even consider tearing off so much as a leaf without my permission. I love trees. Several years after Ed came into my life, the sewer acted up. In the course of doing their routing out thing, the plumbers must have hit the tap root on one of the trees. So I watched it slowly start dying. I used to stand in the front yard, praying over my tree. But God had other plans and eventually it died. I still refused to let Ed cut it down. I had thought about spray painting the top of it green and hanging potted ferns all over it, but I gave up on the idea. And eventually after years of storms, all that was left in the front yard was a stump. That finally also went away. And then there was one, and it was on its last legs. (Limbs?)

We got the notice on the door about the brush pickup scheduled for our neighborhood. One thing I could always count on during that period is that Ed and Bill would get carried away cutting stuff down. (RIP, Bill. You are seriously missed, my friend!) Bill, in particular, was extremely dangerous with a chain saw. His theory appeared to be that if there was a stray leaf he could see, then most of the tree or bush had to go. He asked me once what I thought about his trimming job on the rental house bushes. I told him that unless he was planning on super gluing all those limbs back on, it was pointless to complain.

To make a long story short, Ed had Bill cut some limbs off the trees in the back. They were on the roof. I noticed a branch was showing through one of the security cameras. Not that we have that much to secure, but with the cameras I can keep an eye on the dogs and cats. That particular tree was on the side of the house and it’s a Hackberry tree. If you don’t know anything about those trees, they are remarkable.

A few years ago, I thought there was a weed growing up the chain link fence. Because we sometimes get overwhelmed with life and get lazy, we left it alone. Until the trash pickup was scheduled. I decided it was time for that weed to go, since it was pretty much as tall as I was. And, it was growing in the fence. When I went to cut it down, I noticed the weed had bark on it. Okay, I will freely admit I’m not a gardener. No one can kill a plant as fast as I can. I even have some silk flowers in the house on shaky ground. But even with my brown thumb, I know weeds don’t have bark. That’s reserved exclusively for trees. And dogs.

Almost overnight, the weed became a tree. Kind of like a “Jack in the Beanstalk” tree. I figured that in another year I’d be able to climb it and catch a golden goose, so I left it alone. About that same time, I also noticed in the back yard another of those trees. At that time, I had no idea what kind they were. But I was determined to find out.

Ed and I drove to a tree-selling place and looked at all their trees, but no luck. I tried to explain what kind of a tree we had, but they were clueless. I’m pretty sure it’s because I was describing it with fuzzy leaves and weedish looking. Miss Genny’s husband, Simon, is a wealth of information. He’s the one who told me what it was. A Hackberry. He also told me that most people don’t like them because they have a very shallow root system and fall down in high winds. Since ours are growing in the fence, I’m pretty sure the fence will hold them up and they won’t fall.

The trees have little berry looking things on them. Simon told me the birds carry them around. Then they sit on a fence, drop the berry, and voila! A tree. Finally! Pigeons serve a useful purpose other than eating and messing up my car. They’re gardeners, too. So that’s how we got the tree with the branch hanging over the camera.

My birthday was coming up and my wonderful husband did some checking around. He found out that he could have a pretty good-sized tree planted in our front yard. They’ll come in, dig the hole, plant the tree, and all we had do was water it. So that’s what he wanted to get me for my birthday that year. Is that a great present, or what? The “or what” comes to mind for me, since this would cost about $500. I personally think that if you can’t drive it, you don’t spend $500 for anything. Granted, I do spend more than that on other people, I just have a hard time doing the same with myself.

My hubby decided to solve the tree problem himself. He cut the branch off the Hackberry to shove into the ground in the front yard. He figured it would grow. Now, I have a lot of faith, but this is a reach even for me. Shoving anything in the ground and hoping usually doesn’t work. So my solution to the problem was to pull berries off the other tree. I told the other tree what I was doing (yes, I really did) and it obliged by making sure there were really nice ones on the lower limbs. I then insisted Ed get the post hole digger and dig a hole. That took some persuading since his idea wasn’t really that complicated.

He dug the hole and I dropped my handful of berries in there. Then we put the tree limb into the hole and packed dirt around it. Since there was some extra potting soil hanging around, we put that in there, also. As I was watering our tree, I told Ed that we had berries, dirt, potting soil, and water. All we were lacking was one thing. So after I finished watering it, we prayed over our little tree.

Yep, we stood there in the front yard, asking Father to let the tree grow. I told Him I knew this was such a small thing, that if He wanted to, the branch would take hold and we would have a beautiful Hackberry tree in the front yard. At the rate they grow, by next week we would have shade.

It may be true that only God can make a tree, but it’s nice to know that I have a husband willing to lend Father a hand, just so his wife can have a tree in the front yard. I’m also very thankful that it doesn’t have to be a mustard seed we’re planting for Father to work miracles. I have no clue where to find them, and I’m pretty sure putting a jar of French’s mustard in the soil won’t work. When I looked in the security camera, I saw a tree in the front yard where a bare spot was. And I knew, I just knew, that by the next year that same tree would be there, full of pigeons. Because I’m sure God knew I don’t want to move mountains—I just wanted to grow a tree. And He’d make that happen. Ain’t faith a wonderful thing?

Update: Since I am intrinsically an extremely honest person, I feel compelled to admit something here. Our branch died. A horrible death, in my estimation. The leaves all turned black and the whole thing had that droopy-eared Eeyore look. I told Ed we would leave it there anyway since it could serve as a marker for Bill. He mowed our lawns for us. It was a wonderful arrangement. Bill made money taking care of our yards without having to go too far to do so. And Ed and I can be lazy. But Bill was known to mow down the stray plant in his zeal of making our yard beautiful. One rose bush in particular comes to mind, but that’s another story for another day. At any rate, I figured the twig in the ground would let Bill know not to mow around the dead branch. Because underneath the twig were the berries I planted. And by the next year, I planned on hanging a hammock in that Hackberry tree.

Unfortunately, Ed and I must think that God isn’t very good at His job. Either that or we don’t pay much attention to that patience is a virtue thing. We took a walk along the fence line in the back yard and found several small Hackberry trees. They were the perfect size for transplanting to the front yard. Did I mention I wasn’t a gardener? I didn’t marry one, either. So, on a Saturday, we dug up one of the small trees, so we could replace the dead twig in the front yard.

The tree we selected was easily accessible and fairly small. About five and a half feet tall. An interesting little note of nature is that a five-foot sapling will have a root system about six feet deep. The hubby was in charge of digging; I was in charge of bringing him water to drink, hosing down the area where he was digging, and watching him have a heat stroke. Did I mention we did it in the afternoon? In San Antonio in the summer. And Texas dirt normally takes at least one stick of dynamite to make a really good hole. Ed finally decided we had gone far enough and clipped off the rest of the root. His theory being that he had dug below the tap root.

I assumed he was wrong. I was right, because we had yet another dead Hackberry in the front yard. The leaves weren’t black and yucky looking like the last one, but they were definitely dead. And still no little trees springing up from the berries underneath. I planted them along with this tree, figuring that if this didn’t work, I would still have “Plan B.”

Our next project was to plant the really small one we found in the back yard. I had the big debate on whether to do that or just let God do His job, which is tree growing. At this point in our adventure, I was beginning to think we’d get turned into the police for genocide or something since we were killing so many trees. And all because we have no patience.

I’m sure there’s a great moral lesson in here somewhere. Several come to mind about faith and trust in Father to let the little tree grow into a pigeon haven. I’m pretty sure God is just laughing himself sick at our efforts and the berries will sprout into a tree, since the things we plant are doomed to extinction. Perhaps that’s the moral. Leave the tree growing to the professional. God doesn’t need my help.

Yet another update: We finally gave up and bought a tree for the front yard. A beautiful Monterrey Oak, also known as a Mexican White Oak. We had it planted by professionals. I named it Harold. You know, from the CHRISTmas song—Hark the Harold Angel Sings. And we prayed over it. It lasted almost a full year before it died. Woohoo! A new record for us.

So the next step was to go find another Monterrey Oak tree. They are a glorious tree, and in their limited life span in our front yard, they look really pretty. And grow fast in the short time they’re with us. I spent quite a bit of time walking around the tree lot until I found one that spoke to me. Once we got him planted in our front yard, I named him Max, from one of my favorite movies, Viva Max. Since he’s a Mexican White Oak, that seemed appropriate. And we prayed over him. I am happy to report that Max is alive and well. He’s taken over the front yard.

I’m pretty sure I know why. Max is crooked. His trunk leans a little to the right. It goes perfectly straight, and then leans. It’s pretty obvious if you look closely. Because I didn’t want to embarrass him, I waited a few years to do any serious pruning so cars driving by wouldn’t make fun of him. He’s so full of leaves and so tall now, no one would notice his crookedness.

And I think that’s FINALLY the moral of the story. Well, other than the “only God can make a tree” and “stay in your own lane and hire a professional” ones. God takes special care of those of us that are a little crooked and need some extra TLC. Which, in my case, is a very good thing.

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