Wednesday, 8 March 2017

The Story of a Fig Tree - a parable

A while back, my sister bought me a small potted fig tree; it was her last gift to me before she moved to Australia.  It stayed in that pot for a couple of years and never did much, but still looked healthy.  I decided it probably was root bound so I planted it, in the front garden.  It still didn’t do much and I realised that the spot was probably too dry, but I had no free sunny moist spots, so it stayed.  It just existed, no fruit despite me chucking lot of water at it.   It came with me when I moved here, and I planted it against the shed a really damp spot.  It started grow and produce some fruit, not much only about a dozen a year. Early last year I had to have the shed replaced as it was full of rot.  The builders were going to build the new shed on the concrete base of the old shed.  They asked me if I would mind if they chopped it down as it made the job more difficult, to strengthen their argument they showed me the stem which had a scar of some previous damage.  I agreed and they dug it out.  That was that I thought, but no….

See, nearly high as the shed!

Last September I noticed some fig leaves amongst the mint that I had planted there.  Obviously, some roots had been left in the ground.  Since then I have watched it grow and now in the space of 6 months it is twice the size of what it was after 6 years!  It has heaps of figs on it for me to enjoy early winter! 
I can’t help but think that is a lesson to us.   The above story almost mirrors my life.  I had wonderful role models with my mother and grandmothers and even my dad.  In their different ways my grandmothers epitomised thrift.

My maternal grandmother, was a career woman, but loved vegetable gardening.  Her whole back garden was given over to fruit trees, green house and chicken run, (my grandfather reluctantly was allowed a shed for him to fiddle about in) till the day she had a stroke and had to go into care at the age of 85.  As kids we had to play in the front garden, no room out the back.  I loved to help her weed and be allowed to pick peas etc. for dinner.

My paternal grandmother was a farmer’s wife, but they had retired and moved into town by the time I came along.  She took in a couple of boarders usually young country girls starting their first job. Granddad’s job was the garden and hers was the house.  She was heavily involved with the Women’s Institute, and took part in all their home economic competitions and demonstrations.  She was always cooking, sewing, knitting etc.  I used to love to help her cook.

My mother on her wedding day with both my grandmothers.

My parents were not well off, and we always had vegetable gardens fruit trees and hens to supplement the table.  As kids we had to help, with the garden and housework.  My father was keen on preserves and I loved to help with them, he used to sell the surplus at the local corner store.  I saw my Mum making our clothes and mending, nothing was thrown out.  Although I remember her trying to throw out one of Dad’s jumpers that was very holey, but he would always retrieve it saying it still had wear in it.  Our holidays were at our aunties or grandparents.  Family holidays were a tent near a river or beach and we lived off the fish Dad caught, nothing better than having shellfish or fish cooked on an open fire.

So that was me in the pot!  As a young married I carried on the tradition of thrift, as I was still at university and my husband was just starting out.  I bottled fruit and made my clothes; I think I even made Garth a bomber jacket!  However, the rot set in when I got my degree and we moved to Britain, after touring Europe in a camper van for 6 months we knuckled own and got on with our careers.  We both worked long hours and even longer as we climbed up the ladder.  Food, became ready made, not rubbish, as Garth was type 1 diabetic, so food had to be healthy.  We ate out a lot at restaurants with friends, as dinner parties took up too much time to prepare.  We had holidays in South of France in the summer and Austria, Switzerland and Germany in the winter.  We weren’t totally spendthrift, we still managed to save and invest our money, but only because we weren’t materialistic, we had a modest home and I was not into having the latest furniture and mod cons.  We were your typical 2 income, no children family.  Looking back, I think as a person I existed, I wasn’t unhappy; I was just coasting along following the life Garth wanted.  When I returned to New Zealand, I was a bit happier as now I had family around but something was still missing.

Since I retired 15 months ago, I have found myself again   I have time to garden, do home crafts and to stop and smell the roses.  I feel that this is the time for me.  I am flourishing like that fig tree.  The roots were there for me to take up all my new activities with ease, so thank you family for giving me the start you did.

If the roots are strong, even if troubles and wrong directions are taken, there comes a time that a turn can be made and a transition into a better way can be made easily. 

My heart cries out to the many youngsters these days that haven’t had the basics taught them.  I have friends who bemoan the fact that their children have no idea of how to manage their time and money, or even have the desire to work!  I am afraid I am naughty and usually ask them did they do everything for their said daughter or son, and when they admit they did wait on them I say, there you go! 

The saddest thing happened last week.  I decided to off load some of surplus plums onto the bus driver, Hannah, but she declined saying someone had given her a big bag, so she called out to the other passengers if anybody wanted them, there were several young Mums that screwed up their faces and said no.  One did however say yes and asked what she could do with them.  I said stew them, she looked blank and then said in a little voice how do you do that? Several of the older people rolled their eyes, but, I carefully told her how and she wrote it down on the back of her hand.  When I got off the bus, Jill a friend who had been sitting at the back, said to me, several of the other young Mums were asking the girl who said yes, to pass on the instructions.  I saw the same girl on Tuesday, she said she had stewed them, but put too much sugar in, but would know better next time and then she asked if she could do the same for apples?  I said yes and suggested to her that her Mum could help her to learn more about cooking, her reply was, “Nah, Mum doesn’t cook!”  I suggested Utube , but she said she can’t afford the internet nor a fancy cell phone.  I suggested that library has free internet access on their computers, you know what she said, “Okay, I will do that I haven’t been in a library since I left school.”  Again how sad is that!  These youngsters need the basics not the fancy cooking programs we see on TV.  It makes cooking look too hard and expensive for them.

Wow!  I have gone on haven’t I!  I was also going to post about my budget and menu plans but will leave that for the end of the week!

A tipto make things a bit easier for when it is too wet to sloash down to the veg patch or you don’t have enough space for a full grown garden, plant a bucket or tub with a mix of lettuces and herbs near the back door, really handy for nipping out and picking a few leaves before serving.  This tub has several types of lettuce, coriander, Italian parsley, sage and rocket.


  1. Loved. loved, loved your post, Sharon! I too, had a period of life where I didn't lead the simple life I have now, and also felt like I was just existing. We need to be mentors for the younger generation. I'm surprised at how many times I get a comment about "not knowing how" when I thought something was just common knowledge or common sense. Hope you continue to flourish like your fig tree!


    1. Thank you Jane, I have decided to slip that lass an old cookbook I have with all the basic stuff in. I think a lot of parents have got lazy as assume that the schools will teach them life skills, but with cuts and everything, home economics, art and sport are going out the door.
      Hope you have a lovely day.

  2. What a lovely story about your fig tree and you! Thank you for sharing! I'm sorry to hear you lost your husband and you are recovering from a car accident. I haven't read your blog from the very beginning; I probably should do that! But I am glad to hear that you are flourishing now and I hope you will continue to do so.

    1. Thank you Bless. I really haven't shared this before! It is only now that I feel I can!