Sunday, May 19, 2024


Last week at this time I was digging a hole. It was three feet by three feet and maybe six or seven inches deep. It was hard work, and immediately my heart was pumping, and my hands around the shovel started to ache. I was standing in a very large field, and it was raining, and I knew that when I finished digging this particular hole, I was going to move onto another. 

How this came about was my husband and I were visiting our son and daughter-in-law and basically jumping into their lives for a few days, and this meant showing up at a farm to help one of their friends with whatever farm-related tasks needed to be done. What needed to be done was dig holes. 

I was working alongside my son, who was using a pitchfork to pull straw off the ground. The point of the holes, the straw, was to get the field ready for planting. Ooh! I said to the farmer when he explained. This is like the lasagna method!

*The lasagna method is an alternative to the more traditional "tilling" method. Instead of tearing up grass where you want to plant, you lay down cardboard or newspapers and make layers with grass clippings and leaves. You do this in the fall, and then later, in the spring, you've got some nice soil to work with. The farmer was using a thick layer of straw, which he'd covered with a tarp. Now, the tarp was removed and our job was: 

1. Fork off the straw.

2. Dig a hole.

3. Add compost from the giant compost pile at the edge of the field.

4. Repeat until the entire field was ready to be planted.

While my son was forking and I was digging, I was chatting with another volunteer, comparing notes about our gardens and what kind of compost we like to use. For example, she likes to use deer hides, animal blood, and dead fish. 

Oh, I said, I use eggshells and coffee grounds, but otherwise, samesies. 

It was mother's day and for various reasons, mother's day is a hard day for me. I was glad to be digging holes in a muddy field and hanging out with my husband and son and daughter-in-law and texting sporadically with my daughter and listening to my new gardening friend talk about how I shouldn't be scared of eating stinging nettles. 

*Stinging nettle is an herb that I have growing in my garden, but now I am afraid to harvest it because like it says in the name, it stings! So, I've been pretty much leaving it alone, but apparently, if you put it in hot water, it removes the stinging, and then you can eat it how you would spinach.  

The trick, my new gardening friend told me, is: Use gloves and tongs. She was pausing for a moment in her digging, and she bent down suddenly and picked up what looked like a rock, Look, it's a beaver skull, she said. 

Well, there's something you don't see every day, I said, and then I went back to digging my hole and marveling at my son who was pitchforking like a pro and stopping every now and then to text back and forth with my daughter. 

When we were all done working, we had a big feast in the farmer's barn. I felt like I had been through something but I didn't know exactly what. Work, rain, mud, and dead animal skulls. But also, a lovely meal with family and new friends. 

Before I left, I asked the farmer if I could have a few of his bean seeds. He jumped right up and returned with a handful. Isn't this what it's all about? he said. 

Yesterday, I dug holes in my own garden. It was sunny and hot and the holes were small and relatively easy to dig. I planted the seeds, and then I ate a big bowl of stinging nettles. Ha ha. I'm joking. I am not quite ready to do that yet, but when I do, you will be the first to know. 


No comments:

Post a Comment