The chickens were killed, probably by a weasel. Or, in fact—and this isn’t a joke—they might have been scared to death by something chasing them. When I went outside early that morning sixteen months after I’d bought them, they were lying dead on the dry grass in their pen.
The pear trees we planted died, and all but one of the apple trees. It was the worst winter in local memory, and the slender trunks and fragile boughs just didn’t make it through the negative-forty-degree windchill.
We’d spent hundreds of dollars on the chickens and orchard: building the coop, enclosing a grassy run with chicken wire, feeding the chickens, warming their space with a heat lamp through the winter, planting and mulching saplings.
And after the deaths, we didn’t stop. We planted more money in the ground: we plowed a patch of earth larger than our first apartment had been, installed raised beds, surrounded the whole patch with chicken wire to keep the deer and rabbits out, and dropped seeds in the dirt. Snap peas, asparagus starts, bare root strawberry plants. Out in the back, we dug holes for baby pine trees and blackberry bushes.
I tried not to calculate how much money we were spending on plants that might die before paying us back with food to eat. I tried not to think about the fact that we might leave this town before we could taste the asparagus (you’re not supposed to harvest it for three years) or strawberries (which you can harvest in the second year). We might never see the baby trees grow tall enough to give us shade.
What does it mean to invest in a place? Am I making foolish decisions, putting money into this land? The more I think about it, the more I wonder if maybe investment isn’t supposed to be about results at all. After all, when I invest in my neighborhood—donating canned goods and school supplies, supporting the local library—I don’t stop investing when I don’t see results. When I love my neighbor, my love can’t be dependent on getting some result from the relationship. When Adam and Eve were told to subdue the earth, God didn’t say “as long as it seems to be worth your time and money.” And I haven’t given up on church even though sometimes it feels like more trouble than it’s worth.
Maybe it’s foolishness, I think, pulling weeds, stirring compost, mulching, clearing away dead vines. Maybe it’s foolishness to think that how I choose to invest should be based on love, not results. About faithful living, not high dividends. But then, isn’t the wisdom of God always foolishness to the world? I shove a wheelbarrow of compost toward a garden bed and order another batch of seeds, giving up prudence. I’ll choose, instead, a wild, reckless love, which—I hope—looks a little something like the love I’ve known from God.