Dirt in My Hands

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The older I get the more I think about the people in my family who came before me. My life seems so different from my grandparents and great-grandparents yet I find there are many things that call to me that connect me to them. Dirt is one of them.

It’s springtime here in the Sacramento Valley and it’s always at this time that the dirt just seems to call my name. I long for a shovel and a packet of seeds. Right now we’ve had so much rain, the dirt is too wet to work. How do I know that? Well, some of it comes from personal experience, but I like to believe some comes from the people I come from.

Plants and Roots

I never think about planting a garden without thinking about family members long gone. I’m probably like you. I come from a lot of folks who worked the dirt to feed their families. It seems that dirt is in my blood. I can see my granny in her Oklahoma garden cutting okra off the stem. She kept that red dirt hoed and free from weeds which is quite an accomplishment in the rainy Oklahoma summers.

My daddy grew up on a 160 acre farm where life revolved around the dirt. It was either planting season or harvest. Even in the winter, that dirt kept their garden bounty safe in the root cellar. My granddaddy learned early on to rotate his crops and grew peanuts to enrich the soil depleted from too many years of growing cotton. He was a nurturer of dirt long before his neighbors caught on.

When my kids were growing up and my husband lost his job, it was the dirt on our two acres that once again called my name. There were so many things out of my control, but one thing I could do and that was dig. It was my therapy for sure. I’d grown so frustrated with life’s circumstances, but that all fell away when I had a shovel in my hand and birds singing over my head. I single handedly dug 10 raised beds with nothing but a shovel and a lot of determination. That garden fed us for years. More than that — it gave me back my sanity.

I learned to be very protective of my dirt. No weed killers will touch my good dirt and the proof is in the shovel full. Worms and bugs and living things are there in my dirt. Yes I have weeds, but that’s okay. It means my dirt is thriving. The birds that come can eat anything and not get sick. Every year I have hundreds of lady bugs and praying mantis. You don’t find them in a garden that’s been soaked in pesticides and herbicides. Like my granddaddy, I’ve learned to be a nurturer of the dirt.

Dirt Therapy

The scientific field is catching on to the benefits of digging in the dirt. This article from USA Today touts the many benefits of gardening.

It’s taken them a while to “discover” what our grandparents and great-grandparent knew all their lives. Everything about a garden is food for the body and the soul.

So I ask you to give yourself a treat and if you’re caring for an older loved one, share that treat with them. Even if you have to dig in a really big pot on the patio — get your hands dirty. It’s good for you! While you’re at it, ask your older loved one about the gardeners or farmers from your own family tree. You might find you also have a big connection with the dirt. Most of us would have never have existed had it not been for a family farmer and his or her love of the dirt.

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