Keep up with the goings on around the farm!

Keep up with the goings on around the farm!

Friday, April 6, 2012

I Love Dirt!

Life on the homestead is pretty dirty right now. Spring planting and bed preparation has begun in earnest, Adam is bringing home nightly pots filled with transplants discarded from client's homes, spring garlic is finding itself in the cast iron skillet, garden greens are getting tossed in vinaigrette, flowers are popping everywhere! The dirt under my fingernails is now a permanent fixture, alongside blisters, poison ivy, splinters, and an occassional scrape. Inevitably someone needs something from inside and few of us are patient enough to unlace so the floor bears a gritty shine, soap dishes are lined with dirt splashes, the chopping block even sports a few dirt crumbs carried in by radishes and gloves, a pile of dirt-caked overalls and socks linger at the back door too dirty to wait in the hamper for wash day, and dare I speak of the lovely ring around the tub! This is life! I am going to cry when I have to return to school on Monday, once again closed in by four walls and a mountain of paperwork, luckily I work with amazing children and have managed to cultivate the beginnings of a decent school garden, so technically I am still engaged with dirt in my professional life, and so exhausted by being indoors for so many hours a day, that upon my return home I find myself rejuvenated by the possibility to get really dirty before preparing dinner, tubbies, and bedtimes, that I jump right in, weeding with a grin!

What is this love affair I have with Dirt? Could it not be the most amazing substance on Earth? I think of the Native American Folktale, "The Earth on Turtle's Back". I read it recently to my fourth graders who are beginning a unit on Native Americans. I chose the story to illustrate the theme of Survival but as I think about my affair with Dirt, this story comes to mind. Could it be that Dirt = Survival? Quite possibly so. Shall I share a quick version of the story with you, I am glad that you in the beginning there was only water, Sky Woman has a dream that the Tree of Life is uprooted, such a powerful dream must come true Sky Man orders the tree to be pulled up. Curious Sky Woman leans over to see below and falls, falls, falls down toward the ocean abyss. The water animals look up and see this creature falling. They send the swans up into the sky to catch and cradle Sky Woman. Immediately they recognize that she cannot live in the water, clearly her body lacks the appropriate adapations. The concerned animals decide they need to build her a place to land and live so one by one they attempt diving to the ocean bottom to bring up some Earth. Failure after failure occurs, and just as they are ready to give up teeny tiny muskrat says she or he (I can't remember and do no wish to offend...) will do it or die trying. (This is the survival theme I was shooting for with the kids; determination, motivation, etc.) What do you think happens, is little muskrat successful? Do we walk upon Earth everyday? (please don't argue this one with me, even if you walk on concrete most of the day, Earth is hiding below, just waiting for a breath of fresh air.) Yes, muskrat barely makes it to the surface, clutching one handful of Dirt. The ocean animals are all quite impressed, but quickly realize there is no place to put this Dirt. Wonderful, wise old turtle volunteers his or her back for the Dirt. Muskrat's hand lays the dirt on turtle's back and it begins to multiply covering all of turtle. The swans gently lay Sky Woman on turtle's new Earth back. In her clasped hand is the clutch of seeds she grabbed attempting to catch her fall out of Sky Land. She lays the seed in the dirt, and alas life as we know it began. Isn't that a wonderful story? It speaks to so much of why I love homesteading. I want to be an active participant in my family's survival. Is it a lot of work? Yes. Are our goals overwhelming at times? Absolutely. Is it worth it? Hands down the best life I could imagine for my family.

It is such a strange world that we live in now. In so many ways it is so disconnected to what we are, dirt. We can walk down any aisle in a grocery store and pick out just about anything we want, regardless of season, distance, or practicality. One might argue that this privilidge is so healthy, I mean fresh strawberries in December, yeah vitamin C. But is it healthier? Is it really any better, is there really any vitamin C left after the genetic modifications, long journey from Florida, and ripening in a truck? What happened? Have we completely fooled ourselves into thinking that having everything and in quantity at our fingertips is natural or normal? No wonder our student's lack the art of patience! How many have to wait, or resist the oh-so-tempting urge to pick their strawberries before they are ready?

Anyway, back to Dirt. We are what we eat. What we eat comes from dirt. We are dirt. It is our responsibility to care for it. If, anything at all, please start a compost bucket in your kitchen. Delegate a hole in the corner of your yard, or invest in a small home composting tub. Give dirt back what it gave you and I promise you it will not dissappoint you, or your children, or your children's children...

I started this post over a hot cup of tea last night, after a long busy day deconstructing pallets and recycling them into raised potato growing bins, preparing and planting our new addition to the farm titled "Cherry Lane", and scooting the chicken tractor around the yard to all the juicy clover patches. It must have been more exhausting than I realized because when my son asked me to read him some stories before bed, and asked me to snuggle him to sleep, I too drifted off, not to wake until the sun came up. So, I finish this post next to a steaming cup of coffee and a beautifully long list of to-do's for Saturday at the farm, no doubt involving OUR best friend, DIRT!