The tomatoes and the peppers slipped away from me, slowly but surely, each producing less fruit and fewer leaves. I thought the peppers did much better than the tomatoes but I did get a very late jump on the tomatoes and they were attacked by horn worms. Still, I did manage to prove soil from the mulch pile was very viable. It is rich, black, and heavy dirt that teems with life. Leaves, logs, branches, paper, cardboard, and everything from my house that most people “throw away” that is biodegradable has been put in this pile for a few years now. This was my first time using it in a small farm. The results were quite impressive.
A couple of months ago someone told me there were going to throw away four full sized sets of construction plans so I offered to take the plans for the mulch pile. These are massive sets of plans, each of them four feet by three feet, and about three inches thick with a couple of hundred sheets each. I put them in the pile intact just to let them weaken a bit before I tore them up, but then had an idea.
I clipped the tomato plants down to the ground inside the barrow and then took a one of the sheets from the plans and peeled it away from the others. Usually quite sturdy, after a month in the mulch pile the paper had become less strong and unusually easy to tear. I lay one sheet down, and put the turnip seeds in neat rows on the paper, pressing them down until the paper began to rip a little, and then peeled off another sheet, and sandwiched the seeds between them. I put a thin layer of dark mulch on top of the paper and watered it all down. I like working without gloves when I garden. The feel of the mulched soil is something that I have to feel when I garden. There is a stick not quite decomposed enough, and there is an earthworm who made the trip in, and will live under the garden. Here is a piece of paper, from a recent entry, that I can still read some of the print, and here is thick black dirt, made from it all. I’ve turned trash into treasure and brought food from the earth doing it.
I’m barefoot and wear nothing but a pair of shorts as I work. I want to feel the earth. I want to feel the sun on my back. I want to feel the coolness of the air. This is a reconnection with nature in a way that goes back from the earliest human pressing seeds into the ground and hoping for food. My feet get stung by fireants, and the rocks bruise me, but this is something I want to do. I want to feel the earth beneath my feet. I want to experience gardening with my toes. I want my hands to get dirty. By the double handful I carry the mulch to the old oak stump and mix it with the soil that grew the pepper plants this Summer. I weed out the larger chunks in the soil, and then dig a hole in the mulch to bury them deep. They large pieces will soak up moisture and hold it deep. As cooler weather moves in, the decomposing vegetable matter will warm the roots of my plants. There are earthworms here and all manner of creatures too small to see. I’ve grown them all with what far too many people discard without thought. Here in my tiny garden, with my eyes on expanding in the Spring, lies the beginning of an form of independence that comes with growing my own food. If I can make this work on a small scale, and I have so far, then I can grow more, larger, and better.
The spinach went into rows so I experiment with the carrots and sprinkle the seeds onto the thin paper and put another layer of paper on top. Much on it all, and then water, and then I am done with planting my tiny garden. The tomato vines and pepper plants hitch a ride in the wheel barrow back to the mulch pile from whence they came back in late May. I’ll cut them up and mix them in another day. The mutts dance around me, delirious with the cooler weather. The gardening does not interest them for they are not vegetarians but they do love freshly turned earth. Lucas leaps in the air beside me, reaching up with his nose towards mine, happily bouncing along with me as I push the wheel barrow back to the pile.
Ten years ago, about this time of the morning, the world I knew disappeared in fire and in dust and smoke, and in hate. In the decade since, reason and understanding have mostly taken a backseat to politics, greed, rhetoric, and outright stupidity. Yet also, during the last decade, we have once again seen men and women don uniforms and go forth into horrible places and serve this country with honor. Why do they fight? Why do they go into the foreign lands to be killed in terrible ways and leave the ones they love behind to mourn them? In the long run, they serve because people like me can plant tiny gardens and live ordinary lives. They ensure the rest of us can sow, and harvest, and continue the way of life we have been given for over two hundred years. Evil, in whatever form it takes, cowers before men and women who serve freedom. It retreats in the face of those who would give their lives to protect the innocent. It hides in the dark places in the presence of those who would enter a burning building to save lives. It sinks to the low places whenever a man or a woman will put their life in danger in the name of law and order.
I did not attend a memorial. I did not watch television or listen to any speeches. I put seed into the earth and planted food. I did so, and can do so, because I am free to do so. The men and women who we have put into the fertile earth we sow with honor, and we reap freedom for it. Despite the politics, the greed, the stupidity of the government and the evil perpetuated, we have not run out of heroes in these ten years. With that thought, I am grateful, and I sow my garden with thankful tears.