Monday, March 30, 2009

feeding the soil

I started this blog last year with the intention of integrating some of my old self, soil, with my new self, mama. We had started a community garden plot after two seasons not gardening (pregnant, moving, baby). With a 1-year old I felt life beyond baby opening up a little. We had a sweet little season last year, and we're still eating the pickles, relish, pesto, and tomatoes that we grew. Although I ended up feeling disenchanted with the community garden model, it was pretty cool watching Sam run around the compost pile and pop sungold tomatoes into his mouth.

This year, I have a dream come true: our own land. It's tiny, it's suburban, it's a front yard on a cul-de-sac. But it's ours! This past weekend, we broke ground. It was a family effort: examining the space with its existing plantings and mulch (a "street tree," no-maintenance shrubs and perennials, self-sowing Cal poppy, a few bulbs, weedcloth, and gravel), determining the best spot for our first bed, stringing out a 4'x8' bed oriented north-south, removing 3 or so inches of gravel and weeds (woohoo), peeling up the weed barrier (no longer functioning), and prepping the bed.

Denis borrowed a truck from work to pick up a load of county compost. Eleven years ago I was regularly hauling loads of Berkeley city compost in the back of a rusty yellow Toyota pickup. I'd stand on that giant pile of converted city yardwaste and shovel it all in, and then shovel it all out again back at the farm, wheelbarrow by wheelbarrow. Well, I did have help usually, but I made it a point to do more than my share. I'd even compete against myself by trying to beat my own time loading the truck. I listened to a lot of Ani Difranco that year, what can I say.

For the next 4 years and a different job I kept shovelling and hauling that compost in pickups and trailers, until I finally reached compost-self-sufficiency and no longer needed it. The truck rides didn't end though; I still pitched and hauled horse manure from a mile away.

All this is to say that I've carried a lot of compost in my day. So when Denis and I disagreed about whether or not to tarp the truck, I came from the position of "I've driven on the highway with loads of dirt dozens of times and I've never needed to tarp it." Call me an ornery farmer if you will (I wish I were), but I underestimated myself. Dozens, yes, but actually over a hundred times. Did he listen? No, he tarped the truck, just like the good citizen he is.

As I watched him shovel our compost onto the driveway with Sam (I was digging the bed at the time), I thought of all the people I've shovelled compost with over the years. So many wonderful folks. There's nothing like getting to know people while moving (literally) a ton of dirt using the strengths of your backs together, and then doing it again and again. Now, here I am, a lot slower and soft-skinned than I used to be, but with the two most wonderful people I have ever known, hauling compost in our very own garden for the very first time. Bliss.

1 comment:

heather said...

One of the reasons for keeping my pick-up was that. Hauling compost.
It's in my future in the next few weeks. Sofia helped me pick out a flower, some onion starts and seeds last weekend. Hoping to get them in the ground soon!
Then a load on 1/4- gravel and more compost to work on the yard.
A lot of shoveling in my future too, only my helper won't be holding a purple shovel like yours yet. Someday though! I'm excited we'll both be sharing gardening with the cousins!