A Time to Plant: Life Lessons in Work, Prayer, and Dirt
by Kyle Kramer
Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 2010
I admit it. When I received a review copy of “A Time to Plant: Life Lessons in Work, Prayer, and Dirt,” I cringed. A book about back-to-basics living? No, thank you.
In my defense, I do try to be a reasonably responsible steward of the earth. I recycle almost everything, try to limit consumption, give things away rather than put them in the trash, etc, but no one would ever accuse me of being earthy-crunchy. I live in a city. If my family was dependent on my gardening abilities for survival, we would have died a long time ago. Being forced to go camping is my idea of a nightmare. Yet, even with all that working against it, “A Time to Plant” was still well-worth reading.
In 1999, Kyle Kramer, who is the director of lay degree programs at Saint Meinrad Archabbey, “bought a rough patch of neglected ground in a rural corner of southwestern Indiana. . . and committed [himself] to its healing and care.” In the past decade, amid myriad ups and downs, he has honored that commitment. In “A Time to Plant,” he shares the tale of his call to live off the land as well as his more personal story of his spiritual wanderings which finally led him to the Catholic Church and finding the extremely understanding woman who is now his wife and the mother of their three children.
Kramer is an honest man. He tells of his failures as well as of his successes. He shares his darkest hour which came while he was attempting to build a house for his wife and new twin daughters, who were at that time living in a pole-barn apartment. “It was five degrees in the unheated shell of the house as I worked by battery-powered headlamp down in the dark basement, my feet blocks of ice; my ungloved, unfeeling fingers fumbling to measure, cut, and solder copper pipe . . .I sat down on an overturned five-gallon bucket, rocking back and forth in a near catatonic struggle to remember even one good reason why I had taken on this gargantuan, impossible project. . . My prayer was a simple and desperate cry for divine help.” God heard his prayer and slowly, things did begin to improve. His marriage survived and the house was eventually completed.
Those who dream of living a life close to the earth will love this book, although Kramer is the first one to acknowledge that there is nothing simple about living a simple life. His idealistic dreams didn’t get fulfilled quite the way he thought they would be. At times, he grows restless and questions this commitment to one place. Yet, overall, he lives with hope and has the connection to the land he always wanted. He and his family are an inspiration.
For those less agriculturally inclined, “A Time to Plant” offers a great deal of wisdom on vocations and their evolution, as well as what it means to develop a true home. It is a very well-written and thought-provoking book.