Jill FiteThis article written by Jill Fite, Area 9 Education Chair

Growing a garden and directing a handbell choir are very similar activities. Ten years ago, I started both of these things. I had always planted flowers around porches and sidewalks but never had the opportunity to grow tomatoes and okra. I had rung in church handbell choirs but never had to lead the group or plan for an ensemble. My garden and choir were begun with enthusiasm and ambition. Both were moderately successful from the beginning; both generated headaches and sore muscles.

Neither of these pastimes can prosper without constant nurturing. Soil must be enhanced with mulch and fertilizer; new ringers must be recruited and trained. Seedlings must be sheltered from spring winds and frost; beginning ringers must be encouraged and reassured. Weeds grow with abandon in the garden and must be pulled out; wrong notes and shaky form must be eliminated. Water must be carefully and frequently administered; rehearsals must be frequent and carefully led. Plants freeze, get consumed by bugs, dry out or get scorched by the sun, and must be replaced; ringers get sick or move away and must be replaced.

How Does Your Garden GrowThe moderately successful garden and reasonably active handbell choir can sail along year after year. Maintenance is routine; the garden produces enough to fill a freezer, the choir rings in church services through the year. Then something magical happens – the garden and choir expand beyond their original borders. Ringers begin to go to Area 9 events and broaden their perspectives; the gardener takes excess vegetables to the farmer’s market. A ringer goes to National Seminar; squash and peppers win first place ribbons at the county fair. A ringer moves away and rejuvenates a handbell choir in another small church; the garden produces enough to share jelly and canned peaches. The ringers decide to have a fundraiser to help defray the costs of going to Summit 2018; the gardener finds someone who will buy any excess okra.

It’s gardening/ringing season. Onions, garlic, and potatoes are in the ground. Spinach, lettuce, and kohlrabi seeds are planted. Registrations are completed for Spring Ring. Plans are being made for Summit 2018. How does your garden/handbell choir grow?