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Orange Blossom Special

You may think this piece is about trains, particularly the train from New York to Florida in the 1930’s called the Orange Blossom Special. It was a deluxe passenger train, part of the Seaboard Air Line Railroad. Some of you have tapped your toes to the song by that name written in 1938 by Ervin T. Rouse and made famous by Johnny Cash in 1965. Johnny Cash could make a harmonica sound just like a train whistling and clickety-clacking its way south to where the orange groves bloomed.

But today I’m not writing about trains. I’m writing about orange trees themselves and other amazing springtime growth. Everything is coming alive with wonders of color and vitality. I’m so glad that God chose to make useful plants–like orange trees, blueberry bushes, cabbage and carrots–beautiful as well as tasty. A world of grays and blacks would be pretty dreary. You may have noticed that one commercial on television advertises a product that makes it possible for folks to take in capsule form the colorful fruits and vegetables our bodies need. But to have them right from the bush and garden is the very best!

We have a tiny citrus “orchard.” Two orange trees and three Satsumas are in bloom. Kumquats bloom a little later and even re-bloom later in the summer. I spent a happy few minutes yesterday beside an orange tree just breathing in the delicate, sweet scent and watching bumblebees gorge themselves on nectar. Examining one blossom, I was amazed at the Master’s touch. Each flower displayed five white petals and a center of minute detail: a little crown of golden spikes and a pillar in the middle (known as stamen and pistil), the very beginning of a sweet juicy orange. Some blooms had already dropped off leaving a perfect miniscule orange ready to develop.

Our granddaughter, Candi, was here last night showing me pictures of her very neat and well tended garden. Collards, cabbage, and potatoes stood in perfect rows of green between clean middles. They reminded me of brisk little soldiers in the sunshine prepared for whatever might come. Candi has learned what soil is best for each vegetable and has made good use of garden tools and fertilizer. Her strawberry plants have already bloomed but she, having studied the ways of strawberry plants, has plucked off those early blooms believing that the later ones will produce plumper, more abundant fruit.

My sister, Suzanne, and her husband, Bill, have always depended on their fertile garden on rich creekside acreage. Right now they have many healthy vegetables in the making, such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and potatoes. By the end of the summer they will have canned hundreds of quarts of squash, beans, tomatoes, and cucumber pickles.

Our young blueberry trees are blooming and so beautiful in their simple subdued way, pinkish sprays of blooms promising wonderful fruit. We love to add them to our cereal, make muffins and pies and just eat them right from the branches.

I remember my mother’s joyous gardening. She was never happier than when hoeing, planting and, of course, harvesting her vegetables. The progress of squash vines and tomato plants was often a subject in her newsy letters, how big the yellow squash had grown, how bright red the tomatoes. She was more thrilled over reaping a bucket full of squash, beans, and cucumbers than anyone is over winning the lottery.

Charles’s parents, too, were dedicated gardeners. Papa Graham always planted more peas than they could possibly eat or freeze so they could share with their neighbors. He was a welcome sight in his overalls and billed hat delivering vegetables in the neighborhood and selling them to local businesses. His okra was greatly prized at Holiday Inn and the Farmer’s Market. Growing the best canteloupes, silver queen corn, and zipper peas made him happy. I can just picture him now coming in our back door with a five gallon bucket of green, gold, and red vegetables and another one of freshly pulled corn.

And I must mention our dear brother, Ronnie, and his wife, Diane, in southern Michigan. They moved there from Florida where they grew some of everything. We were afraid their gardening days were over when they moved to the cold north. But no! Their garden could be pictured in “Better Homes and Gardens,” so bright and beautiful, though a little later in the season, of course. And Ronnie is following in Papa Graham’s footsteps sharing buckets of vegetables to family and neighbors.

Not only does God provide us with delicious food–oranges, blueberries, broccoli, cabbage, squash–but the plants and trees at every stage hold their fascination. And He gives us the opportunity of being partners with the sun and rain. We’re enjoying our own tiny citrus orchard and look forward this year to a basket full of oranges (we had only two last year!), eating and sharing Satsumas, and making kumquats into marmalade. Right now we’re delighted with the sight and scent of the sweet white blossoms. Oh, what bliss! How SPECIAL are the orange blossoms!

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