On Soil and Feces
I have developed and intimate and personal relationship with the soil on our farm recently. You see, we broke ground on our first Lifestyles Lane dwelling about a week ago. As I am not a professionally trained construction person I did not know that building things evidently starts with digging really big holes. Over the course of the past several days Geoff, the interns and I have moved over 160 cubic feet of soil. That is a lot of dirt. Also mud and clay. If you know Geoff then you know that his motto is waste not want not, so rather than just throw the dirt away, or pile it casually in the corner somewhere, we transported it across the farm to our backyard. Why? Because Geoff is transforming our backyard into a food forest and the dirt from our construction project will now be formed into an herb spiral, a three dimensional planting bed that optimizes herb growth by allowing herbs to be planted in a geographic and altitudinal orientation that meets their particular needs for moisture and sunlight. Or, in lay man’s terms, a giant dirt castle where the dry old queen rosemary lords over the semiarid thyme and the moisture loving cilantro and flat leaf parsley. It is a humbling moment when you realize you are sweating your but off to get the dirt out of the ground shovel full by shovel full and then you drive it across your farm and sweat equally hard piling it up into a precise pile. As we were making trips a shovel full at a time to offload the dirt from the trailer onto the herb spiral I thought to myself, “I wonder if I am shoveling the exact same dirt I shoveled before? This dirt is getting an extraordinary amount of personal attention from me.” Then I realized dirt is my boss. And “the foreman”.(As I am writing this I twisted my ring and a big pile of dirt fell out onto the keyboard).
Other than being dirt’s bitch, I also found myself at the mercy of fish poo recently. More precisely fish guts. Here at Good Life Ranch we do not use hazardous chemicals or synthetic fertilizers on our plants or animals. Wednesday was garden fertilizing day and we use this product that is basically concentrated fish guts because it is super nutritious for the plants and all you have to do is mix it with water and spray the plants. Unfortunately, it smells like poo. Bad poo. The label even jokingly states (I am assuming they are joking) that the mixture is infused with all natural wintergreen oil to cut the smell. I cannot even imagine the level of poo smell that this stuff would emit if it was not mixed with the wintergreen oil. As we all know, I sometimes smell hallucinate for a day or two after I have been exposed to a particularly nasty smell. This fertilizer is like an LSD flashback for bad poo smells (or so I have heard, I have never used LSD, but there was this kid Jason in high school who used to flashback during Physics, so I’m inferring). I would think I am nuts, but the interns agree that the fish poo smell lingers even after you wash your hands like a million times.
When you spend most of your day knee deep in mud and spraying poo on things the line quickly blurs between the two substances–they are eerily similar after all. Alexa, the intern, observed while standing knee deep in the footer to our Hatian dwelling that she was not sure if her hands were covered in mud or poo. Been there, done that. When you’ve got phantom poo smell in your nose and an unidentifiable greyish/brownish luke warm smear on your hands it is nearly impossible to tell the difference. Farming is nothing if not glamorous. Fear not! We wash our hands multiple times a day, and other than hallucinogenic smells, we are squeaky clean at the end of the day.
The interns continue to impress. They have worked so hard and have maintained completely positive attitudes no matter what we’ve asked them to do. They’ve weeded, they’ve hoed, they’ve planted, they’ve dug, they’ve built, they’ve baked, they have done it all. And they’ve gotten exposure to the local culture. Tuesday and Today the interns and Geoff worked with our Amish neighbor Eldin on our front field fence. Working side by side with an Amish farmer is certainly not a typical experience for kids from San Antonio. I hope Alexa and Cameron are feeling like their internship is worthwhile.
As with all farming endeavors we have had our setbacks. We’ve had to work around several days of rain, the weed eater broke for the millionth time and is leaking oil, and our truck broke down on Tuesday on the way to pick up the fence posts we need to finish the fence. The fence building will hopefully resume tomorrow when we are able to pick up the truck, trailer, and remaining posts.
All in all, life is good.