I planted strawberries this weekend. And also some broccoli. It was the first planting for the new year, which means it was damned hard work.
I am sore in muscles I hadn’t heard from since…well, about this same time last year. I was moving slowly and without a lot of enthusiasm today, I can tell you; but it’s a start, and it will get better.
I have to believe that, or all is lost.
The bed where the strawberries went was a mess; that whole side area was, as always at the beginning of the season, covered in weeds that somehow manage to spring up to waist-high in what seems like a matter of hours. Plus there was all kinds of wind-blown debris, plastic bags to leaves and everything between. Toppled over wood. Cardboard boxes from some point when the husband was moving things around in the shed, and skipped the step where he put the boxes back into it.
So they sat out there, in the wind and rain and sun, becoming a nest for earwigs and spiders. Lovely.
A few weeks ago, I hastily turned some almost-finished compost into that bed; yesterday, I finished actually working it in, and topped it off with some of the precious “finished” stuff.
It never ceases to amaze me, compost. I suppose someday it’ll be old hat enough to raise no particular emotion from me, but at present…every time I work with it, I find myself amazed by the small miracle it represents.
It’s not generally very pretty when it starts out. Crushed up eggshells, and onion skins. Grass clippings. Tea bags. Shredded junk mail. Fireplace ash. Apple peels. Bits of pie crust. The bones from a beef roast, burned in the fireplace along with some of the wood from the trees we took out a couple years ago, and pulverized with a mallet. Vines. Weeds. All kinds of crap.
Waste, come right down to it; things that ordinarily would have been tossed into the tote to be put out on the curb on a Tuesday night, to be hauled off to the dump.
Instead, it’s probably gone into the tumbler for two weeks of intense burn-down.
(This gets really hot, comparatively-speaking – breaks tough things down super-fast, so fast that it will go from “almost too full to get the lid on it” to “I thought you said this was full, but it isn’t even a quarter full!” in about a week.)
And then it starts the ride down the bins, from right to left…about a month in each…
(Moving day! Bin two to bin three, please…)
…until it comes out like this.
And that is not only loaded with nutrients, but is of a nearly-perfect texture – it is light, and loamy, exactly the sort of environment that invites roots to stretch out and get cozy. It breaks up the clay that persists in surfacing throughout the yard, prevents it from turning back into the near-concrete it would like to be, locking its precious minerals away from the growing plants.
It’s just dirt. But it’s our dirt, in ways that go beyond deeds and titles.
Now. If I could just figure out how to plant an ibuprofen tree for the backache that comes with all this poetic dirt-making…