Today, my friends, I have mostly been digging. Under the perfect warmth of the sun on a clear-skied, late autumn day I have been turning the earth over, forking through some natural fertilizer in the form of ash from our wood-burner and making some holes in which to place individual cloves of garlic that next year will sprout forth and produce whole bulbs. Neat, eh?
I get a real kick out of growing things. The miraculous nature of it all never ceases to amaze me. The physical activity itself I also find a joy. Movement in the open air, what’s not to love? And I’m blessed to live in a really beautiful place with a mostly clement climate so when I take a moment to lean on my fork and rest my aching back I can feast my eyes on fabulous views.
All in all, gardening, for me, is something that feeds the soul as well as (in a very literal sense) the body.
Today’s digging was a particularly joyous affair. The soil was just right. Soft enough to turn over with ease but not so wet that it was sticky and claggy. It was dark and rich and warm and full of life. A fine receptacle for those little cloves that I placed within it with such care.
The reason why the digging and planting was so effortless today and the soil was so perfect can be traced back to a year ago or, in reality, even further. It was a year ago that I covered over what was a weed-infested, brambly patch of earth. First I heaped a layer of compost onto it, then grass cuttings and finally large swathes of black plastic and old carpet, weighted down with rocks and tree trunks.
With life-giving sunlight blocked out the weeds died back. Over time, the nutrients from the compost (a rich, loamy soil resulting from a year’s degradation of our organic kitchen waste) leeched down through the layers of earth, feeding it at its deepest level.
Sometimes, even though it doesn’t look like there is much going on, just underneath the surface the groundwork is being laid. Today’s rotting piece of apple peel may be next year’s loamy soil. This week’s hard-fought labour may make next season’s task effortless. And sometimes, on top of all the hard work and positive intention, we just have to give things the time that they need and to have a little faith that it will all come good in the end.