Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Earth and Life and Dirt

Mixed in with several loads of laundry, shopping, and doctoral project prep, I spent much of yesterday out in our yard, doing the things one does when you're trying to get a garden in order.  I had no idea it was Earth Day.  I was just doing what I needed to do.

I watered and weeded and inspected our two everbearing strawberry patches, both recovering from a relentless assault of voles last fall.  Pesky little varmints.  There's some replanting that will need to happen, but the few survivors seem to be bouncing back nicely.

I trimmed and shaped and sorted, moving the leafy debris to a few piles in the wooded area behind our house.

I circled the periphery of our front yard, and found that five of our six blueberry bushes are budding up nicely, with the largest already going to flower.  The sixth, well, I think it looked too much like a stick to a neighbor's mowing crew.  Oopsie.

I watered and weeded the patch of peas that I started a week or two back.  As I did so, I realized that the soil probably should have been enriched again before I planted.

That implacable, drably tan Virginia clay just isn't giving up its spare nutrients lightly.  It's cracked and dry and hard, even with the good rains we've been getting, and the young peas aren't happy.  I'd done what I could in the fall after I was done with the beans I'd been growing there, turning in organic matter, but it wasn't enough.  We'll see what the crop looks like.

I'll need to do something to that soil, if things are to thrive.  Though I've started composting and have started a new mulch pile in our back yard, the richness of that newly formed dirt won't really hit its stride until this time next year.  I'll need it before that, particularly if I'm going to try for another round of beans on my little plot come mid-summer.

Shoulda started my composting last year, I thought to myself, ruminating on the silliness of buying trucked-and-plastic-wrapped dirt from Home Depot.

So I was thinking about earth, about the complex organic mess of minerals and the former stuff of life, as I climbed up on the rooftop of our house.

Rains were forecast in the afternoon, and with the trees dumping tree-stuff all over the house in the spring, it makes for clogged gutters.  I clambered about on the shingles, popping the wire covers off of the gutters and scooping matter away from the downspout intakes.  In the gutters, there was dirt.  This was not the clay of the garden.  It was a mix of pollen and seed and leaf fragments, blown dust and rain. There in the gutters of my home, it was moist and warm, rich and dark, perfect soil, so close to life that it was almost alive itself.

Because the best earth was once alive, rich with the complex stuff of life.  It takes time, and life's own self-sacrifice.

And you find it in the darnedest places.