Reaping and Ripping

carrot and glove



let nature be your teacher


In seventh grade sewing class, there was a framed reminder on the wall above the row of sewing machines: Don’t RIP WHAT YOU SEW ~ Pay Attention to What You’re Doing

For twelve year olds making their first projects—and usually in a hurry to get them done—this was a reminder to work carefully or risk ripping out stitches and starting over. The message was, of course, a play on the words, YOU REAP WHAT YOU SOW.   Which is synonymous with “What goes around, comes around” and “Treat others the way you want to be treated.”

My mother often watched and waited as I learned my lessons. I was eight when we got rid of the old sandbox in the backyard and I was given the space for my own 8’x5’ garden. Mom let me choose any five seed packets. I chose a combination of vegetables and flowers—beets, carrots, corn, zinnias and marigolds—but I lost interest in reading the instructions.  I had no patience for planting in neat rows, but merrily mixed the seeds together and flung them throughout the garden. The result was, well, interesting, but we did get a few veggies AND colorful bouquets. Mom smiled and asked, “What will you plant next year, and how will you plant it?”

Two years ago after we removed a dying Aspen tree, I became the 8-year-old gardener again.  After planting our vegetable garden, I had extra carrot seeds, so I combined them with the soil in the hole…and forgot about them.   Several weeks ago, I noticed feathery green tops mixed with the grass where the tree had been.  The result was the 7” long, tough, bug-nibbled carrot in the picture above, surrounded by many smaller bits of carrots. The harvest was colorful and interesting—but after two seasons it was definitely inedible—it was what I had sown but then ignored.


gone with the wind Scarlett O’Hara, in the movie version of GONE WITH THE WIND, knelt in the destroyed field and dug out a withered turnip. She held it up and swore, “As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again.” This should make me feel guilty about my forgotten carrots, but Scarlett didn’t survive by planting more turnips; she survived by marrying men with money. Rich reaping.

Both Socrates and Plato have been credited for the lesson that “The unexamined life is not worth living,” and though my forgotten carrots will not cause my family to starve, I am paying attention to the lesson.  I need to work carefully or risk ripping out mistakes and starting over, and be ever mindful of what I sow.

On so many levels, it’s a good lesson for sewing, gardening…and life in general.

When the tornado destroyed their trees, yard, part of their house and much of their town, young Gannon did what he could--he planted grass seed.

When the tornado destroyed their trees, yard, part of their house and much of their town in 2008, young Gannon did what he could–he planted grass seed.




Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, experiments, gardening, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, movies, special quotations

37 responses to “Reaping and Ripping

  1. There are many lessons here – all planted in rich soil, some edible.

    I did not realize Gannon’s family experienced such devastation. So sorry!

    • I did an “After the tornado and After the rebuilding” blog on the town of Chapman several years ago, Marian. In 2008 Trevor was on duty in Abilene and called Molly and told her to get to shelter, they’d tracked a tornado on the way. Molly grabbed the children and they went to a safe room in the high school across the street. When the F-4 hit, it buckled the doors of the safe room and ended up destroying or damaging almost 2/3 of the community…including their 1892 farmhouse. The anniversary is coming up, and I might add more lessons we’ve learned in the years since.

  2. Marylin, you made me chuckle when I read that you spread your seeds out of impatience. I imagine you dancing through your garden, flinging seeds here and there. Yes, we sure do “reap what we sow”. In Galatians 6:7 (NKJV), it says, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” So let’s continue to reap and sow good seeds everywhere we go. Love the picture of Gannon planting grass seeds. His deep concentration is precious. ❤

    • Galatians 6:7 was the verse that Vacation Bible School chose as its theme when I was 6, Tracy, so I know it well. It should have made me a better and more careful sower of the seeds for my garden. 😉
      Even as a little boy, Gannon charmed us with his sincere efforts to accomplish chores after the tornado, and in almost every thing he did. Including his Picasso-style portrait he drew! ❤

  3. juliabarrett

    I always read every single word of your posts, Marylin. Your brain contains so much wisdom, general knowledge and good sense. I agree. It’s important to pay attention to what we sow, and sew.

    • Aw, thank you, Julia.
      I had known the Reap What You Sow reference from Sunday school for many years; when I saw it on the sewing class wall, at first it didn’t make sense because I thought of the sow rather than the sew. Luckily, I didn’t say anything. The teacher did not like to be questioned about anything. 😉

  4. Nancy Parker Brummett

    Happy planting, Marylin!

  5. I’m so sorry to see the damage from the tornado.
    Don’t RIP WHAT YOU SEW ~ Pay Attention to What You’re Doing – I love this!
    Oh, Gone With the Wind…one of my all time favorite movies.
    Happy Weekend, Marylin!

    • My mother was pregnant with my brother when she first saw GONE WITH THE WIND, Jill. She still had some nausea, and she kept burping during the movie. In the scene where Scarlett dug up the turnip, it made her feel really gassy, and she started laughing and had to leave the theater. Our family has always laughed about this scene. 😉

  6. Gone with the Wind was a favourite book of mine, I read it in 3 days the summer I was 13. I loved Scarlet’s tenacity and resourcefulness. Years later my daughter saw the movie and was shocked that I liked Scarlet. She thought she was spoilt, foolish and devious. Funny how one generation sees something quite differently.

    • You read it in three days, Darlene? Wow!
      I have to say that I liked and respected Scarlet more in the book than the movie, though the grandeur of the movie setting–and the panoramic scene of all the wounded soldiers–blew me away. I agree with your daughter that the Scarlet of the movie was spoilt, foolish and devious, while the Scarlet in the book seemed to have more loyalty and determination, and not just for herself and Tara.

  7. Jane Sturgeon

    Thank goodness Molly and her family were safe and the picture of Gannon is so touching and full of hope. I love your posts and this one is rich in what you plant in your ‘life garden’ Marylin. You plant with such care and love. ❤ xXx

    • Like an 8-year-old child, I still sometimes fling the seeds everywhere in my life, Jane, but when it comes to my family and friends, it is done with love. The tornado of 2008 was terrifying but full of many life lessons for their family and ours, and the blessings far outnumbered the problems. ❤

      • Jane Sturgeon

        ❤ for you all and I am with you on the seed can lead to adventures and surprises… ❤

      • Wouldn’t that be fun, Jane, for us to meet halfway–but not in the middle of the ocean–to mix all the vegetable and flower seeds from both our countries, and toast them with champagne and then merrily fling them everywhere and see what happens? 🙂

  8. I laughed at the story of you flinging the seeds around. I think it is important to be careful, to be mindful, and the rest–but your garden of food and flowers also lends itself to remember to experiment and to let ourselves be spontaneous and creative. It seems to me that’s how many important discoveries and inventions have come about. Sometimes you need to simply fling the seeds and see what happens. 🙂

    • While my mother encouraged spontaneous acts of joy like the way I planted my first garden, she was also a child of the depression, Merril. She followed up with helping me plan and learn better the next year, but before the dementia faded and confused her thinking, she and I often laughed about the way I planted my garden. One year when I was visiting from Colorado during her springtime planting, she and I had a great time flinging seeds around the fringes of her big garden, just to see what would happen. 😉

  9. I am going to two weddings this week, one here in Santa Cruz and one in Germany . Your post is such a great reminder to be mindful, loving ,caring and creative. I will weave some of your wise words into the speech that my niece asked me to give at her wedding . Unfortunately I have to translated into German and that is so difficult .

    • Two weddings in one week, one in California and the other in Germany! Wow, Gerlinde, you’ve got a busy week ahead, but what fun this will be! I hope you tell us about the speech you give at your niece’s wedding… translated back into English for us! 😉 ❤

  10. I kind of like your original approach to gardening of mixing it all up! But valuable lessons too 🙂

    • Colorado has a much shorter growing season than Kansas, Andrea, and there’s still a “mix-up the seeds” need in me when I plant my garden here. In the front flower bed, tucked among bulbs and flower seeds, I always save a few seeds from the vegetable garden in the back yard. This year I planted four beet seeds among the daisies, just to see what would happen. 😉

  11. Marylin, I love to garden and watch the vegetables and flowers grow. I am very much like you, however, in that I do not have the patience to read all of the directions and do precisely what they recommend. Fortunately, whether or not I have followed the directions, my garden has always been fruitful. I am fascinated by the carrot and the size of it. I have not had luck with carrots in our garden…perhaps I should adopt your method for carrot planting. Have a fabulous week and happy gardening.

    • Robyn, this carrot would have been enough to make a full pot of carrot soup, IF if hadn’t been growing for two years in the hole and been gnawed on by all kinds of bugs and even had a worm living on one side! But if this had been after the Civil War and Scarlett had found it in the garden, my guess is that she would have somehow used it. 😉
      You have a fabulous week and happy gardening, too! ❤

  12. Marylin, years and years ago when my kids were young, we had an above the ground pool. It was about 3 ft high. I used to feed all the neighborhood kids slices of watermelon and they would spit out the seeds around the pool. Well don’t you know that a watermelon vine sprouted up in between the stones of the walkway?
    I do remember that we did get one edible watermelon out of the experiment! You never know!
    xo Joanne

    • Joanne, I love the watermelon vine story. And it survived all those kiddie feet stomping around in and out of the pool! I hope you celebrated by having a pool party and picnic, and served the watermelon. Those must have been strong seeds; I would have had everyone spit their watermelon seeds onto a napkin so I could fling the seeds and grow more! 😉 ❤

  13. Jim

    Another powerful message in this week’s post, Marylin. On so many levels over these many years, your blog has sewn seeds of wisdom for your readers to reap. Thank you. Love you.

    • Thank you, sweetie. These are our stories, too, and they’ll be reminders to our grandchildren of not just their great-grandparents’ lives, but also our lives, too. I love you! ❤

  14. I find it very interesting that the carrot didn’t rot or get consumed by worms or pests after 2 years.
    And do I ever remember 7th grade sewing, and having to rip out many a seam. I think I still have my ripper from way back–my daughters all wanted it. Thanks for the memories.

    • Oh, Melodie, there WERE little bite marks and even two worm holes in the carrot, but from a distance it pretty much just looks like a very Big carrot!
      I think we all had the “ripper” on our list of supplies to buy for our 7th grade sewing classes. I remember carefully taking out one side of a long zipper that had caught the fringe of the fabric when I was sewing. That was one of those discouraging moments I’ll never forget; it took me the longest time! 😉

  15. Molly

    After the tornado in 2008, I think that we were blessed by so many generous and kind people! There was a mother and teenage son who had gone to the “command” center in town because they wanted to help! I had put a request in to have someone ( I was thinking a tractor) go through our yard to check/clear broken glass and debris. BUT, this mother and son crawled on hands and knees through our yard hand picking glass and debris! It was a wonderful gift, Grace and Gannon could go outside and play again!

    A few weeks ago when a tornado missed Chapman by 1/2 mile, the farm families that took the hit lost EVERYTHING! I got to pay back some kindness. A mother with s newborn baby and a 5 year old came to our garage sale. They wanted to buy a small tv and vcr. So as I made small talk with them I learn that the 5 year old had lost her tv, vcr and all her “woovies” in the Tornado. I gifted them the tv, the vcr, and a DVDs player. A day later I found all the DVDs from when Grace and Gannon were little, and we found the lady and gifted her those too.

    It truly is the small acts of kindness that get you through a tragedy like that! It restores your faith in humanity!

    ***I love that picture of Gannon planting grass seed!***

    • You have such a gift of gratitude, Molly, and “paying forward” kindnesses to others. You do special and thoughtful things for your students, for your friends and neighbors, and for strangers. It makes such a difference.
      Gannon was such a determined, serious little grass planter; I love this picture, too! ❤

  16. I love your posts Marylin, I always come away with a heart full of warmth, life lessons and food for thought – no pun intended! And coincidentally, my next post is titled ‘Food for thought’! There is nothing like gardening as a wonderful analogy for life itself. I scattered a box of ‘bee friendly’ flower seeds on an empty patch left behind when one of my plants dies last year, and like you with the carrots, I forgot about them. When some started coming up, because I didn’t recognise what they were, I pulled them thinking they were weeds! But then, after realising my mistake just in time, I left them. This early summer so far I’ve had some unusual flowers popping up here and there, all shapes and sizes, but yes, they sure do attract bees so for that I’m really happy! A lesson there somewhere!!! I love the ‘Don’t Rip What You Sew’ quote. And I love that your dear mom watched you ‘carefully’ as you made your own decisions as a child, giving you room to learn from your own mistakes and soar in your own victories. I’ve never grown carrots, so I think your photograph of your homegrown produce, edible or not, is beautiful, and of course, so cute of your grandson helping 🙂 ❤

  17. Oh, Sherri, I’m excited to read your “Food for thought” post! I’m still smiling at your bee-friendly flowers; strangely, this year our flowering bushes haven’t attracted bees, but wasps! I suppose wasps are part of the eco-system, too, but these were very aggressive. Finally they’re moving on.

    You are so thoughtful about my mother and all her struggles, Sherri. She’ll be 98 in 3 weeks but still thinks she’s a girl on the farm. Molly and I have decided we’ll make another trip to visit her and take along hergreat-grandchildren again. She responds to their touches and voices. It’s a long drive, but we just do the best we can.
    Hugs to you, dear friend. ❤

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