As the 5th child of 10, I grew up in rural North Dakota on land that was as fertile as my parents. We planted, weeded, harvested and put up crops via canning, freezing, pickling, or stashing in a root cellar. I can’t say I enjoyed every bent-over hour picking long rows of green beans or all the scratches I got from trying to get every ripe raspberry. Nor was I particularly fond of eating too-soft home-canned carrots or popping the sprouts off musty-smelling, mushy potatoes that were being prepped for planting the next season’s crop.
However, those were the negative memories. What I learned through hands-on experience was how to identify seeds and plants, what could and could not go in the mulch/compost bucket under the sink, and the rewards of tending a growing crop through rain, hail, tornadoes, and whatever else nature threw at you. You had to be patient, you had to stay on top of the weeds, and sometimes your bounty was overwhelming. It’s true about locking your cars in August when everyone’s zucchini is going nuts!
Today, my husband and I tend a mountain garden in our back yard at about 6500 feet. Our soil was sand when we started – not even a worm lived there. We have added more “crap” to that dirt than you can imagine. Coffee grounds by the 5-gallon bucket from Starbucks, peat moss by the bale, kitchen scraps that are collected 24/7/365 indoors, dried leaves, and the all-important manure from cows, horses, sheep, chickens, and our favorite – alpacas. If the ‘hood is stinkin’ to high heaven, it’s probably coming from the Campbells’ yard. We’ve worked hard to get soil that remotely resembles what I dug my toes into in Dakota land. And now, 20+ years later, we are still reaping the benefits. Not bragging, but we’re just now finishing our last few carrots from the final harvest in October. Pretty cool, huh?
Now I call my garden time “dates with dirt.” Picking raspberries alone in peak season can be a 1-2 hour process and you might as well muti-task while doing menial tasks, right? So, I let my mind wander, have chats with God, ponder relationships and decisions, and sometimes get profound revelations and word pictures while thinning carrots or transplanting Marigolds or flicking a lady bug off my arm. Less spiritual outbursts occur when spiders, bees or slugs surprise me. Apologies to the neighbors!
Ultimately, working the soil slows down my soul to live in the moment. If I don’t invest the time in our growing plants, the result will be chaos, a waste of water, and limited yield. Like a good relationship, time and tenderness go a long way.