Encouraging Life when you’re chronically sick

My Life Force is interrupted when I am sick. When I don’t feel well my life is greatly reduced. My ability and capacity to think, act and encourage life in plants, pets and family and friends is greatly limited. Love for me is using my life to encourage, support or increase the life of another person, plant or animal.  But in order to do this I must take better care of myself. And this is where researching, planting, tending and eventually eating from the organic perennial plants in my backyard I put into dirt helps.

I always feel better when I am helping to sustain or encourage the life of another living entity.   When I’m feeling the worst its nice to know that I have plants that I have nurtured from seed or sapling in the past into  fully functioning plants. When I look out my window into the backyard and see these plants growing it helps me to visualize a future in which I once again will be able to do the same.  I have hazel nut trees, hardy kiwi vines, a tea plant, asparagus, two avocado trees, and many other types of perennial plants that have endured through my negligence of being sick over the past four months. After only a week or two of attention they are all bouncing back, minus a few.

I know I’m feeling better when I want to plant something new and be responsible for its growth. This responsibility helps me to feel productive even on days when I feel like I’m a giant drain on the world instead of being a contributor to it. My latest project is growing Tree Collard plants. Having a living thing dependent on me is scary. Consistency is something that I am constantly struggling with. But the payoffs are worth the risk. Organic produce I can share, a reason to get up even when I feel my worst, and a tangible reminder that I can impact the world in a positive way.


I’ve studied Permaculture, organic farming, with an emphasis on perennial plants and have never heard of this plant until a few weeks ago. I found out about these amazing plants while reading an article on supplements. The expert being interviewed recommended growing your own organic veggies and mentioned Tree Collards. It didn’t take me long to find the Project Tree Collard website. Their site is full of great information and video tutorials. After reviewing their site I orderdered three of them from their Amazon listing. I found out from past experience its best to start small when trying out a new plant species.


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The Tree Collard plants came as advertised and I planted them the same day in one gallon containers. I’ve had a lot of success using smart pots. My back deck is full of perrenial edibles planted in them. The Tree Coolards are looking great and already growing after a week in the dirt. In year two I should be able to harvest the leaves and enjoy organic “greens” that grow from a tree in my own backyard. The more I read about how scientists, big agriculture and the government work together to skew nutrition science the more I want to consume what I grow. This is one small step in that direction.


I love perennial plants. I think of myself as a perennial person. I am resilient and I keep coming back after not producing anything during the winters of my bouts of small bowel obstructions and pacreatitis attacks. That is why I love nut trees, asparagus and hardy vining fruits that take less inputs, are more hardy than annuals and most importantly produce for years. The Tree Collard checks all those boxes, they produce edible leaves that taste like greens and can produce for 20 years with very little attention and best of all I only have to plant them once.

Growing perennial plants helps to amplify my efforts. I have a limited gas tank and my energy levels from day to day fluctuate wildly. For me anything I can do to get the best ROE (return on energy) I do it. Perennials give me the best return on the investment of my life force I transfer into theirs. It’s a way to plant once and harvest for years or even decades. The Hazel Nut trees I’ve planted should produce for over fifty years. Their life helps to support mine and my life helps to support them. Instead of annual plants which you only plant once and have to replant year after year.

The concept of the Life Force sounds like a hippie-dippie idea and I’m sure somebody else can explain it better. But for me the Life Force is simply the energy that started life, propels life to consume, reproduce and create and inhabits and connects every living creature on the planet. It is a force that we can encourage or we can blunt. When I am sick I feel like my life force is being blunted. My choices are dramatically limited. By dabbling in plants and being able to see growth on them after I’ve reemerged from my latest battle with a small bowel obstruction or a bad pancreatitis attack gives me hope that I can still grow and persevere just like my hardy perennial plants.

I used to think that getting flowers when I was sick was a total waste of money. Now I realize why people do it. Mother Nature, the Life Force or simply the Natural World is a miraculous place that is teaming with growth, new life, and ever-increasing complexity. Flowers and plants are a way to reconnect to that energy, especially when your own Life Force is blunted by disease, injury or intense pain.  If you know someone who is sick I suggest you get them a plant that will last a long time like a “Tree Collard”, a Bamboo plant, or an orchid.

The more I can encourage the Life Force of other living beings around me the more of my Life Force I have to share. It’s not a zero sum game. The more I give the more I have to give. Even when I’m not feeling my best I still want to share my Life Force with others and to help those I love grow stronger, enjoy life more and to live a better life because of my actions and attention. Perennial plants give back what you put in and they endure over years and even decades. They are a great way to mulitply your efforts and have tasty organic food you can share with those you love for years to come.

This week I’m increasing and sharing my Life Force by tending to, watching and documenting the growth of my three new Tree Collard plants. When I’m sick and stuck in bed I feel my life force ebb away. When I don’t have an outlet for my creativity or allow creativity in by listening to or reading positive information I feel a lot worse. I am thankful I found Tree Collard plants from a random article about supplements. My Life Force needs to be shared in order for it to increase. I’m still working on this theory but even if you don’t buy into any of the hippie-dippie stuff science has proven getting your hands dirty, planting and tending the plants, eating organic produce you grow all have a very positive effect upon your health and the health of those around you.

Happy Planting

Brad Miller

If you’ve found gardening helpful in your recovery process please share your experience.

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