Sunday, June 14, 2015

Beautiful soil

I am awake very early this morning, though I would like to have slept in. I have heard this early time called "the gray dawn." The air through my kitchen window is cool and clean, and I hear birds chirping, fluting, whistling. This spring I have often felt that I would like to gather bird songs into bouquets like wildflowers on long stems.

My husband does not have to go to work today, and I have great expectations for getting things done in the garden--putting up trellises for my cucumbers and pole beans, laying in a long bed for sunflowers (I use a no till method that involves killing grass with a layer of cardboard and covering it with soil, old horse manure, dead leaves, and any other good stuff I can scrounge up.) There's no other way I'd rather spend  a day. I'm happily obsessed. I am like Uzziah, ancient king of Judah, who, the Bible says, "loved the soil."

I grew up in a gardening family. We never bought fruits or vegetables in the grocery store, but grew them and preserved them in the summer, to eat every day all year round. I didn't like garden work as a kid. I certainly didn't love soil. I hated our compost pile. But I did love things the garden grew. I marveled at the unexpectedly beautiful cabbage plants that opened like giant green roses. I was amazed by the incidental, throw-away beauty of starry potato blossoms.  I rejoiced in Sugar Baby watermelons with my brothers and sisters, eating slice after red slice till my stomach stretched tight. I gorged messily on really ripe peaches. The fuzz on their blushing golden skin was a slight irritant to my own skin, but the dryness and roughness accentuated their yielding, drippy sweetness. I thought of our Mackintosh apples as gifts from God. No human could devise such simultaneous crispness and juiciness or the sweet-tart, winey flavor. (I had never tasted wine, but I felt they must taste like wine.)

Now, with a garden of my (and children of my own to feed), I love all kinds of garden work and I love soil at least as much as what I can grow in it. I love its damp smell and the first moist then dusty feeling of it on my hands and under my feet. I love to push seeds into it, especially when it is fluffy, moist and dark like a good chocolate cake, and press it gently down on top of them. I passionately love manure (really) and the wholesome decay of compost. I love earthworms and their tunnels and the helpful bacteria and all the other underground creatures whose names I don't know. I love my new friend mycelium, the magical underground network of fungus that moves nutrients from plant to plant. We live in a beautiful, intricately designed world, and right now the underground commerce of a healthy soil seems as beautiful to me as the wheeling stars.
UPDATE: Writing this was hard. I had to think determinedly to find words, My experience of soil is more direct and wordless than most anything else in my life. This post has been about a week and half, maybe more, in the making. My husband's day off (in the first paragraph) was quite productive. We hauled in lots of manure, made some new beds and finished off some we had already started. The sunflowers are up now.

Here are a few pictures of my garden.

Baby beets and parsley.

 A jungle of snap peas and tomatoes.

Wee carrot plants. My first attempt at carrots this year didn't come up at all--old seed, I think. The second attempt was scratched away by our chickens. This is my third attempt. You can't see it here but it is protected from chickens and too much heat by an arch of  wire fence covered with white tulle. I've never been good at carrots and I'm determined to make it happen for real this year.

 I'm trying to stretch the season of my beloved arugula by shading it with a thrifted lace curtain.

Nasturtium leaves. I love how they often collect a bead of water right in their center.

Can't wait for tomatoes to get ripe. 

Trying to shade the lettuce a bit. Not sure if tulle will make a significant difference.

Cilantro and onions.

Pretty beet stems.

Cilantro, dill and flowering arugula in a lovely jumble.

I have given up on making art for the summer. I'll probably just be sharing garden pictures for awhile.